Speaking to The Guardian, Neil MacGregor, the former director of the British Museum, has bemoaned Britain’s narrow view of its own history, calling it “dangerous and regrettable” for focusing almost exclusively on the “sunny side”.
Speaking before the Berlin opening of his highly popular exhibition Germany – Memories of a Nation, MacGregor expressed his admiration for Germany’s rigorous appraisal of its history which he said could not be more different to that of Britain.
This selective view is not just confined to our history but also our recent past and, worst still, our present.
In Afghanistan in 2012, we were all guilty of earnestly pronouncing progress and proclaiming ‘cautious optimism’ for the future. None more so than the Department for International Development (DfID). Even last week, Priti Patel, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary claimed ‘The UK’s presence in Afghanistan over the last decade has helped improve security and… improved the lives of Afghans significantly’.
It’s interesting that MacGregor contrasts the British approach to history with that of Germany. In September 1941 Joseph Goebbels wrote: ‘The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.’
Modern Germany does not shy away from its Nazi past but, while it may or may not have been true at the time, Goebbels’ assertion now seems uncomfortably prescient.
SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.
A JOURNEY OF LOVE, SERVICE AND ADVENTURE. EXCELLENT!
A MODERN WARFARE LITERARY CLASSIC! OUTSTANDING READ.
ENTERTAINING, THOUGHT-PROVOKING AND COMPULSORY TO READ.