1916: it’s about the present and the future …

Sunder Katwala is general secretary of the Fabian Society, He’s also a second generation Corkman, who was born and raised in Britain with Indian heritage through his father. He argues that Wheatcroft and Morrison have have in their quite separate ways sought to bring the complexity of the post 1916 narrative of the island down to brash certainties which ignore the cultural complexties that have risen in the intervening years. Read him at Comment is Free.

An alternative approach makes us products of our histories, and of the mutually defining contacts between them, but not prisoners of what we inherit. At its best, this can root patriotisms which are the more secure for not needing to falsify their own pasts. These can, in turn, provide the foundations for a secure and rooted internationalism. It may sound like some post-millennial fantasy. But it is not a new idea. As Sunil Khilnani says of Nehru’s post-Independence idea of India:

Indianness was constituted out of internal diversity, but in Nehru’s vision it was equally an international identity. Nehru turned around the language of victimhood: instead of portraying India as a martyr to colonial subjection which had to turn inwards to find and repair itself, he affirmed India as a self-confident actor in international politics. The decision to remain in the Commonwealth, but as a Republic, is only one instance of this sensibility, of Nehru’s commitment to an idea of a layered past, and of his refusal to purge or purify historial connections. Equally it showed an unsentimental determination not to be enthralled by this past but to adjust it to suit India’s present interests.


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