The Commonwealth Games opened in Birmingham on July 28th led by Sir Lenny Henry who doesn’t come from Birmingham, he’s from Dudley, but for the London elite perhaps all the towns in what they tend to call ‘The North’ are the same. Strange that they couldn’t find anyone famous enough and of the right ethnicity – non-white, actually from Birmingham to do it, but everyone loves Lenny. Olympic swimmer Tom Daley was interviewed, telling the BBC that he’s getting entangled with a jumper, a woollen one as part of his ‘knitting project’. He’s there to represent what seems to be the most important aspect of the games in 2022; promotion of LGBT+ rights.
The ‘Pride’ flag will be carried into the arena and flown until the show ends on August 8th. ‘It sends a message to those Commonwealth countries that do not have that inclusive policy,’ said Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries to Radio 4 Today, talking sympathetically of nations who haven’t yet seen the light and still don’t approve of gay sex. She said that the FO is now too busy talking about Ukraine rather than tackling the recalcitrant attitudes of African leaders about sodomy.
Gay rights has nothing directly to do with athletics but apparently it’s the most important issue they raise. Rather a puzzle as we’ve had it hammered into us for years that white western people cannot tell poorer post-colonial countries how they should think or what they should do. That is a ‘no no’ called neo-colonialism. That sin also takes the form of economic and cultural imperialism such as conditional aid to influence a developing country instead of the previous colonial methods of direct military control or indirect political control.
Cultural colonialism is now a much-studied academic subject; the duplicitous desire of wealthy nations to control other nations’ values and perceptions through media, language, education, religion, and sport for their own economic advantage. We also have post-colonialism theories in philosophy, political science, literature, history including film, where there can be no study without looking at the colonial past and its legacy.
British education is particularly geared to tackle the ‘post-colonial mentality’ harboured unconsciously by most white people. This influence is frequently referred to as ‘educational neo-colonialism,’ as western paradigms tend to shape and influence educational systems and thinking causing educationalists in non‐western countries to ‘borrow’ ideas which appear effective in a very different cultural context than their own. This is now seen as detrimental to indigenous culture and heritage, yet, as I know from teaching, Africans who insist on their children learning by-rote, respecting the teacher and adopting a traditional Christian outlook are seen as failing in a major way to be western enough, a paradox, as is their refusal to tolerate gay sex when told to, which the current Birmingham games hopes somehow to tackle.
Awareness of the ‘Post-colonial mentality’ has also warned us about the ‘White saviour complex’ where misguided whites try to rescue people in distress in poorer countries. In less enlightened times the charity Comic Relief was immensely popular and raised £1.4 billion for desperately poor people. Then in 2019 journalist Stacey Dooley published an Instagram picture of herself holding a black child while visiting Comic Relief projects in Uganda. Her moral mistake was obvious to everyone and such things had to be stopped! Last year the charity announced plans to modernise its international appeal films for Red Nose Day by scrapping ‘white saviourism’ and images of poverty overseas in favour of local stories that ‘empower and preserve the agency of their subjects’. Sir Lenny Henry, life president and former trustee at the charity, said Comic Relief had gone through an ‘evolutionary process’. In future the charity would ‘no platform,’ donor-centric fundraising that perpetuates ‘poverty porn’ and reinforces ‘white saviourism’.
The CofE is also meeting this week for its once in a decade Lambeth Conference, bringing together Anglican churches all over the globe, and they will also be discussing the alphabet people. Nothing to do with religion but now a pressing issue for the church in the west, as opposed to the church in Africa. In 2014 schism loomed when several large African churches put up determined opposition to any reform and helped unite traditionalists in a large faction ready to break away from the more liberal churches in Britain and America. ‘We cannot allow our time and energy to be sapped by debating that which God has already revealed in Scripture,’ said the then Archbishop of Kenya. They just won’t be told you see, perhaps having read too many critiques of colonialism.
Some of us share the archbishop’s frustration at so much time spent on LGBT rights and wonder why what was once a personal matter is now so profoundly political and divisive, but perhaps that hardly matters as the future may be African; according to figures from the World Christian Database, in 2008, the majority, fifty-five percent of the world’s Anglicans live in sub-Saharan Africa; while only thirty-three percent of them live in Britain. That number is now much lower. According to the CofE’s own estimate, church attendance during this decade has dipped to approximately 1 million, about four percent of the population.
The wider UK population may also be influenced by more socially conservative attitudes due to immigration. In London the proportion of people identifying as religious is sixty-two percent, compared with fifty-three percent outside. According to a report, Religious London: Faith in a Global City, Londoners are nearly twice as likely to say sex before marriage is at least sometimes wrong, twenty-four percent compared to thirteen elsewhere, and are more likely to say the same about same-sex relationships, twenty-nine percent compared to twenty -three percent. Another paradox then; in the heart of what was once an evil global Christian empire, the people once ruthlessly colonised are having their say about what people should believe and how they should live; and no white liberal can disagree with them – without becoming themselves one of the colonialists they detest.