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Flower power, unloaded.

By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.

OVER THE YEARS here, we’ve discovered that cupcakes are fascist, statues celebrate slavery, museums are imperialist, art galleries promote sexism, being a traditional Christian is homophobic, patriotism is racist and so is the word picnic, Thomas the Tank Engine is a patriarchal chauvinist, and not wanting to be blown up by Muslim terrorists is Islamophobic. The list of proscribed views, words, actions and institutions replicates with such energetic malignancy it can be hard to keep up.

 That malignancy has now spread to places. First up was the good old British countryside, exposed by the National Trust as a festering arena of colonialism haunted by the ghosts of African slaves. Not long afterwards, the BBC chipped in, carrying on its incessant campaign to denigrate its fee-payers and their nation, when Ellie Harrison, one of the presenters of Countryfile, bemoaned the racism of rural Britain. The countryside is racist, she complained, after another presenter, Dwayne Fields (POC/BAME), had echoed a DEFRA report that some black and ethnic folks felt rural Britain was not for them because it was a “white environment.” Whether any of these people had suffered any rural racism is not apparent, but these days all you need is for someone to claim they feel “uncomfortable” and you’ve proved your accusation.

Comments by people both black and white about the non-existence or non-experience of said racism notwithstanding, Ms Harrison continued her lecture by insisting, “There is a big and crucial difference between being not racist and being anti-racist.” This is a standard soggy left technique to put you in the wrong: if you don’t join in publicly with the goody two-shoes in declaring yourself anti-racist, then you’re probably a bit racist.

Present arms: BBC’s James Wong, social justice warrior.

Having taken care of smearing the nation’s countryside dwellers, they then moved into the urban environment to have a go at gardeners. Cue Mr James Wong, garden designer, ethnobotanist and, inevitably, BBC presenter, who startled us with his statement that “UK gardening culture” has racism “baked into its DNA.”  This he educed from the following:

          1. I was once asked to present a planting concept for E London to a room of (100% white) critics.
          2. Feedback was that international planting “didn’t fit the area” and I “should do native wildflowers”
          3. The site was founded by Romans & an immigration epicentre for +2,000 yrs

There is no one more racist than an anti-racist, and Mr Wong’s imputation that the critics, being “100% white”, are by the very nature of their whiteness, bigots, is a common example of this.  The mental processes at work here are so minimal and predetermined that no thinking is required. All is done by producing the correct words, hence white = bad, international = good, immigration = good.

Mr Wong also deploys the Mary Beard Manoeuvre: by claiming London as Roman in origin and the product of immigration he eradicates the very idea of a native Britishness (and remember, British/English = bad, foreign = good). He hasn’t considered the fact that the Romans were invaders, not immigrants, and invasion = bad because it’s, like, colonialism, yeah?  That tiny step of logic proves a step too far for right-on celebrities and professors alike. We’ve been here before.

Just to make sure that we have got the message, we are admonished against “the fetishisation (and wild misuse) of words like ‘heritage’ and ‘native’.” We have to switch from Mr Wong’s tweets to an article he wrote earlier for the Guardian to get an idea of what he means: heritage and native, he says, are “often used as a byword for ‘better'”. That’s it. Well, I never. People think their own stuff is better. It’s odd, though, that Mr Wong doesn’t appreciate how this supposedly xenophobic attitude doesn’t stop them from buying, planting and enjoying foreign flora, any more than it stops them from turning curry into their national dish.

At the heart of this angst is the belief that everything is — or should be — political. Mr Wong poses his question:

While I absolutely understand that in a world of increasingly polarised and angry politics, plants might seem like an essential escape, why it is that gardening is not considered to be like any of the other art forms that are shaped by, and also shape, the political world around us?

We understand of course that “political” in the mouths of lefties and luvvies means strictly leftwing politics. Any other use is verboten. So naturally when he wants gardening to be political he wants it to promulgate the current views on racism and colonialism. There is no reason any of the arts should be political in this way, and neither should gardening. Most people don’t read novels or watch plays and dramas or listen to music in order to get a political message. Neither do they garden for one. When he overheard people complaining about politics being dragged into it, they were right.

As many are finding out, politics of this kind poisons everything it touches. When we tend our dwarf mulberry tree or Japanese Maple we don’t give a damn about whether they were the imports of colonialism or a result of an acquisitive British sense of superiority. If Mr Wong wants gardening to become nothing more than an exercise in cultivating floral manifestos of equality and diversity, then let him stick to his own. Our gardens may prove to be our last refuge from the prod-nosed zealots. 


suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet and writer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire. A Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Lincoln University (2005 – 2008), his poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent book is Albion Days (perennisperegrinator press). Sucks to Your Revolution is a collection of his Fortnightly columns.

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