Monday, June 21, 2021

Cancelling Enid Blyton Will not Make Racism Go Away

The Cancel Culture Is Mostly Performative And Brings About No Real Change

Britain, a nation best known for its shameful imperial past and then conveniently forgetting they colonised over 200 nations, stripped them of their wealth, enslaved its people, made them fight their wars, now wants to cancel Enid Blyton to cleanse its heritage. I had to spend a large amount of my time counselling irony from climbing the Tower Of London to jump off it.  Sure, Blyton’s portrayal of black characters was problematic. They were depicted mostly as criminals. Sambo, the Little Black Doll, is hated because of his “ugly black face,” and doesn’t even have SRK and  Fair and Handsome  to come to his rescue! But I still couldn’t stop rolling my eyes at the  ‘cancel culturists’ and wonder about the kind of glasses they are wearing that prevents them from seeing Enid Blyton was a product of her times that valorised Winston Churchill. This is the same man who referred to Indians as beastly people with a beastly religion. Described Palestinians as barbaric hordes who are little but camel dung without a hint of shame. I’m sure Enid Blyton chose to be blissfully unaware that Churchill was no better than Hitler, both having masterminded a carnage as brutal in the name of white supremacy. 

So why just stop at demanding the removal of blue plaques for Enid Blyton and Rudyard Kipling, commemorating their historical significance! Cancel blue plaques for the entire nation that has yet to return Kohinoor to us and  left us with Victorian morals that deems almost all human desires as immoral and a stuffy bureaucracy that prides itself in red tapism. Though I still think their most unforgivable crime is plundering so many nations for their spices and still making shockingly bland food. 

I feel terrible for Ms Blyton. Imagine having to battle the guilt of dying five decades too early and not being able to apologise for being so unkind to black dolls! I am now having to revisit all my childhood memories that’s still stuck in The Enchanted Woods, idolising Nancy Drew and getting cheap thrills from Amelia Jane’s antics and expunge the black parts from it. Though I am not sure if my well meaning aunties who never missed a chance to tcch tcch about my dark skin during my growing up years and then look soulfully at my hopeless future were influenced by Enid Blyton’s evil machinations against the coloured lot.

Since political correctness demands I cancel her as an author of any merit, I am now trying my best to be pissed off with her. I am so mad at her for instilling a deep desire in me to look for kind old men who looked like Mr Pink Whistle, whose only mission in life was to help children in distress but not before plying them with lemonade and other goodies.  How dare she give us Moonface in The Magic Faraway tree who stuffed his mouth with big chunky toffees and was then unable to say anything but ‘ooble ooble ooble! My molars still haven’t forgiven me  for plying them with half a dozen toffees and then trying to have an intelligent conversation with my creaky ceiling fan!!

She really had no business giving wings to our imagination and making us look forward to the library period in school so that we could borrow some more books of hers  and take flight from our dreary middle class upbringing. 

Image courtesy- Google 

As a children’ writer who primarily wrote for white kids, had she educated them on racism and xenophobia along with English values, we wouldn’t have to put up with generations of racists who think it's perfectly okay to turn brown skinned people away from their restaurants. We wouldn’t have to wonder if the museum staff was especially rude to us because of our skin colour or bad manners. But be perfectly okay addressing men and women from the North East as chinkis! And laugh loudly at Sardar jee jokes. 

Maybe it’s time we all accepted that oppressed can be oppressors. The victim can also be a perpetrator. 

Many of the former colonies of the British empire like the white settlers in New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, America slaughtered the indigenous to take over their lands. Indian society still thrives on oppression of its marginalised. 

Yes, change is how we evolve as a society. Adulting is about discovering your favourite kaku is an insufferable sexist and that your childhood idols were flawed. But this growing culture of cancelling anyone who doesn’t ascribe to your worldviews and pouncing on them in droves and shaming them is doing more harm than good. People have forgotten how to be authentic and are now focussed more on saying the right things. And when their true personas emerge, their actions seldom match with their politically correct bytes.  

Some of the greatest minds of this century were flawed. Their contradictions were shocking and difficult to come to terms with. But does that mean we negate the influence they’ve had on shaping our present and popular culture? Of course not! 

Cancelling Enid Blyton and her likes is mostly performative - a modern version of Gladiator games.  It pretends a few blue plaques revoked can make racism go away, though in reality it is still thriving. It manifests in news headlines, rich countries refusing to share vaccine technology with poor brown nations. It exists in the white savior complex, a popular trope. Focus on that instead. Recognise you are no better and leave the dead alone.