Friday, 26 December 2008

Madagascar

No, not a film review. I saw it in the schedules, but it’s not really my sort of thing. The actual place, however, is one of a few that seem to turn up in my thoughts rather a lot despite my never having been anywhere near them (Portugal is another one).

Not only might I have some family connection through the Jacobite involvement in the admittedly unsuccessful Swedish attempt to found a colony there, but the Pacific features and language there, a part of the British rather than the French Empire until as late as 1870, very probably go a great way to explaining the Pacific features of many of my own relatives from Saint Helena.

Neither of these things can be proved. But the former is perfectly likely. And the latter strikes me as practically certain, since unlike the African, Indian or Chinese ancestors written (with Europeans) on my relatives’ faces, Pacific Islanders were never slaves, indentured labourers or coolies.

(The settlement of Madagascar is completely astonishing: people speaking a language in which ninety per cent of basic vocabulary is shared with one spoken all the way over in Borneo presumably just kept on sailing until they hit dry land. Breathtaking.)

We have lately seen the death of Lord Lauderdale. I am, of course, quite partial to such people as former Presidents of the Church Union and former Guardians of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, provided that they are either as old as he was or actually dead. I can come close to forgiving them even for having been Monday Club MPs in the Sixties, and even for having sired Olga Maitland. And in Lord Lauderdale’s case, I can forgive pretty much anything, because of his role in that thing so very ahead of its time, the Expanding Commonwealth Group.

It is time to revisit the possibility of some sort of relationship with every country or people having no dispute with any of the Queen’s Realms and Territories, and desiring to take a Christian stand against globalisation, American military-industrial hegemony, European federalism, Islam, and the rise of China, all of which are closely related.

There are many places where we might start. Once again, there is our dear old friend, Portugal, which like us had endured government by unrepentant Hard Leftists whose tactics (but only tactics) have turned to cultural decadence, pro-Bush warmongering, and the EU. And with Portugal comes her own little family of former colonies.

But we could also do a lot worse than to start in the old Jacobite émigré stomping ground from which we helped to people at least one of our remaining Overseas Territories. That is not least among the reasons why we need to reopen our embassy there, and to resume overseas aid to Madagascar. After all, don’t we need the friendship of one of the largest islands in the world, and that quite heavily populated, right in the midst of the battle against Indian Ocean piracy?

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