It seems a little ironic that the 'rivers of blood' metaphor, apparently inspired by Virgil, was coined in the late sixties by Enoch Powell, a British Tory MP whose constituency in the West Midlands was absorbing huge numbers of immigrants from the Commonwealth. The standpoint was one of pure common sense and did not emanate from a racist in the current meaning of the word.
I remember the speech, how graphic it was, how daring, how delivered with the laser eye of a zealous evangelist. The outcry that followed stemmed from a gut fear that, far from seeking to reform the Government's (shame-faced?) attitude to the Colonies, Powell would be a catalyst in causing the very thing he warned against. Some said he was a true prophet - and it is clear now that, in terms of numbers, his predictions for the millennium were no exaggeration, even somewhat conservative. Others claimed he was a madman. Still others, that he was just the Prime Minister the country needed! - one who spoke with the courage of his convictions and did not allow gritty issues to be smothered by diplomatic waffle. Since a high regard for courtesy in society has diminished, we don't perceive any intrinsic value in the art of politics as a means of redressing a balance. In these days of 'spin', it is wholly equated with hypocrisy.We are neither as humble nor as mature as we once were in that respect.
Powell himself was a charismatic man, full of symmetrical contradiction, as all interesting people are. His beliefs were passionate, his causes heartfelt. He fought for his country in every sense of the word and appears to have enjoyed a stable domestic life. Espousing the cause of the Ulster Unionists, he was posted to Northern Ireland as has often been the case with embarrassing politicians of integrity.
It is noteworthy that after the Birmingham Pub Bombings in 1974 by the IRA, which gave rise to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, Powell warned of passing the bill in haste and under the immediate pressure of indignation on matters which touch the fundamental liberties of the subject; for both haste and anger are ill counsellors, especially when one is legislating for the rights of the subject.
Those words smack of a timeless Greek philosophy beyond national boundaries.
Powell was a messenger. And we all know the fate of the messenger. His devoted service to the country was never publicly recognised. But maybe, because his intentions were humane and his drive sure, his legacy has not been misappropriated but has helped to enable us to live, overall, in peace with diverse ethnicity. (That multi-racial Britain seems to be letting go her native culture is another issue for another day.) It's true we've become hidebound by political correctness and are in supreme danger of creating the mayhem we want to avoid. You can't turn round in Britain without treading on someone's toes. But we have managed to avoid 'rivers of blood' on the scale envisaged by Powell.
We don't have the luxury of the wide open spaces of the American continent. Unlike Americans, we aren't congenially non-judgmental. We don't even have a Dream of one democratic race from all corners of the earth under one firmament, we only keep giving quarter and let nature sort it out by emigration, disenchantment and death. Yes, we whinge, but our only hope is the goodwill that should be rightfully accorded to every person in our path. That remains the level on which we are fully enfranchised.
We are at liberty to disarm. Nothing is inevitable.
Causes Rosy Cole Supports
World Vision, International Prison Outreach, Salvation Army, Emmaus Project, Poor Clares, DogsTrust, BUAV (against animal testing) WWT (Wildfowl &...