It has been announced that the good British people are the world’s leading perpetrators of horrors and will need to start paying out their slavery reparations right away. This is good news for all those on the receiving end of the payouts. It’s almost like winning the lottery. Everyone loves receiving free money from the government so it’s good to see reparations being promised. This might seem a bit unfair to any British taxpayer who has never personally perpetrated any horrors, but that’s too bad. They should have thought of that before choosing to be descended from horrid slavers and colonisers. Most people would agree that it’s only fair and just to make recompense for doing something bad even if you didn’t do it. The fact is that you live in a world where horrors occur, and that makes you a joint perpetrator of horrors. The balance of the world must now be restored. Time to pay up!
The Revd Dr Michael Banner said that Britons were the “leading perpetrators of the horrors” of slavery and that the “question of making recompense for them has to be faced”.
It’s not yet clear how this will work. A few questions need to be answered. For example, what is meant by ‘Britons’? Do Britons have to be white to be guilty of perpetrating horrors? Will there be an exemption for black Britons? Do Britons have to be rich in order to incur liability for the perpetration of horrors? Or will poor Britons also have to pay up for any ancestral horrors that they didn’t commit?
Most likely, to make it more fair, it will be funded from taxes and become a national institution that could be called Our Reparations. The Royal Family could go out on their doorsteps every week, with all their children standing in a row, to clap for Our Reparations. HMRC could volunteer to collect our contributions through payroll taxes. It would not cost very much. Taxes would only have to go up the slightest little bit, you wouldn’t even notice. And anyway if you’re a Briton then paying higher taxes is the least you could do to account for your horrors. It’s a tax designed to heal all Our Wounds so you should be proud to help with the national healing effort. It’s a matter of national pride finally to wash away the stain of colonialism and make us all whole again. Think of it more like paying the Wages of Sin and earning your redemption.
He argued that the paying of reparations does not amount to “a demand for a pile of cash”, but instead “proposes a more holistic healing of the wounds of colonialism”.
It’s not clear exactly what the nature of these colonial wounds might be but we can all agree that free money is very effective in the holistic healing of wounds. Accepting free money might cause black people to suffer some very serious self-esteem problems, because sitting on a pile of reparations that you didn’t earn, which you have extorted from innocent white folk by guilt-tripping them, is not really an achievement of which you can justly feel proud. But what is self-esteem, or pride, what even is the value of one’s soul, when the opportunity arises to seek vengeance for historical grievances that occurred hundreds of years ago?
Now all that remains is to quantify the claim. The wounds of colonialism are likely to encompass the entire population of Africa which is now over 1.216 billion. That sounds like a lot of reparations but it’s nothing to panic about. We’ve been assured that it is not a demand for a pile of cash. It’s about doing the right thing, showing penitence for the horrors you perpetrated, doing your bit to make the world a fairer and more equal place.
It will be just like the White Man’s Burden all over again, but this time instead of forking out to fund an empire the good British taxpayers will be forking out to fund reparations. The Age of Empire has ended. The Time of Reparations has come. Here comes the new reason to pay out money to fund overseas adventures. Just like the old reason to pay out money to fund overseas adventures, but this time with social justice added.
The case for British reparations is often supported by saying that it’s exactly like the Germans paying for the holocaust. A spurious comparison, because:
1. The two situations are not alike (no, Churchill was not exactly like Hitler but nice try); and
2. It is always wrong to make people pay for crimes they did not commit. Unless you personally have a slave or a colonial serf locked up in your basement you have nothing for which to account.
Why do Germans who did not commit crimes have a moral duty to “work off” the past? To make the question more pointed, suppose a German born after the war finds out that his father or grandfather committed crimes. Why does this taint him as well, so that he needs to atone for this sordid past by denouncing his family and engaging in breast-beating discussions and demonstrations? The young German has done nothing wrong and is not responsible for the crimes of others. Of course, he should not become a Nazi, but this is so because he ought not to embrace morally wrong views. It is not a matter of his relation to the crimes of other people.
Finally, it is worth mentioning the ‘set-off and counterclaim’: a convenient little legal remedy that permits you to present whingers who come at you with a reparations claim, trying to shake you down for free money, with an invoice of your own. This could include items such as:
a claim for the return of all the foreign aid and social welfare payouts you have funded for the past eleventy-one years;
repayment of all the Third-World debt that has never been repaid;
all the overseas scholarships;
compensation for all the missionaries and explorers who were killed or eaten by natives or wild beasts;
infrastructure left behind at independence (wouldn’t apply to the Belgians, they removed all the light bulbs and towel rails before fleeing the Congo);
and countless other wealth transfers paid by the British Empire to its needy little colonies that frankly should be called in at this stage.
This originally appeared on WanjiruNjoya.com.