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Britain and the 'Good Savage'

An Investigation

Britain and the 'Good Savage'
Photo by Alvaro Polo on Unsplash

It is well documented that Britain does not have a good history with diversity. When I say 'history', I do not mean five or ten years' ago, I mean actual history. Imperialist Britain saw the rise of the Empire and then, the eventual fall. But the strength of the civil vs. savage argument is still there. The point of the Victorian stance was that if the British army went over to these particular countries (Asia, Africa etc.) they would be able to civilise the savages. Since then, there has been discussion of whether this is still going on without explicit movement. This rhetoric of what a 'good' immigrant is whether they be first, second or even third generation - some of the white-British make it clear that though you were born here you will never be one of them.

Or will you? Is there a way of being a ‘good savage’ in their eyes - a ‘good immigrant’ in the eyes of the select members of particular political groups in white-Britain? Yes there is. Let’s discuss how:

Adherence to the ideas and maxims put forward by white-British conservatism creates a social murder of cultural difference. This is exactly what these people want. Statements like “(insert Asian or African sub-culture) cannot be compatible with western ideas…” have been spoken by more than one political commentator on the subject and, with gaining notoriety, these people have managed to get away with stating that white-British culture is (and I quote verbatim) ‘better’ than other cultures. The way in which therefore, the ‘good savage’ can exist is to simply discard the culture into which they were born regardless of where they were born geographically. Therefore, instead of upholding your own culture, you uphold someone else’s whilst actively discarding and almost discouraging the one you were born into for the sake of appearing ‘good’ and ‘civilised’. They are one and the same thing as the ‘civilised savage’ of the Victorian Imperialist era of the Empire.

If this is the case, and we are being actively discouraged from supporting cultures which the right winged conservative commentators believe do not belong in this country then we are left with a culture which is not at all as diverse as it has become in the last five to ten years. It has a knock-on effect and thus, we walk into a world which pretty much kills diversity in all forms bar the colour of someone’s skin - which ironically seems to be the very problem they were initially arguing about but disguise it as cultural rhetoric to make it seem less racially insensitive. In fact, it is just as racially insensitive - if not more so since the history of that culture is being completely disregarded by people who have not studied, analysed or even read academic texts describing the nuances of said cultures involved.

The second thing that makes the ‘good savage’ characteristic is being well-educated. Ironically, most of the people who make the ‘good savage’ argument about immigration and that Britain should only accept immigrants on a points-based system are also those who are uneducated themselves as they do not have a clue about immigration law. The well-educated degree-holding immigrant is often someone who is also financially able to afford the necessary education in order to hold those accolades. What I mean is that normally, in these countries such as: India, Pakistan, South Africa etc. you have to pay for certain better educational systems such as school and/or better universities obviously (as in Britain) cost more money. Not having the financial stability in order to get to these means that a ‘good education’ by the standards of the racially insensitive white-British would be unattainable and therefore, immigration in their eyes would be unwelcome. However, if this were truly the standard by which immigrants were accepted into Britain, there is also the question of the work of the average man/woman. The cashiers, health-care workers, lorry drivers etc. would be at a loss since a lot of these jobs employ people who originally came from other countries as well. The question is not the value of the education of the individual coming over to the British economy, but rather where you draw the line about education and how worthy it is. If this were so, then the value for the lower-skilled work would be higher since there are far more people employed by that sector than the higher-skilled work in which educational accolades are required.

But is this a form of the ‘good savage’? Yes. The reason for this is that the British education system sees itself as of higher value than other educational systems around the world, even the ones in the west and therefore, assumes that the ‘savage’ from the east must therefore reach a particular standard to be entitled to life in this country. This standard is set by those who are complicit in the institutionally racist idea of being ‘civilised’ in comparison. In the grand scheme of things however, it has been shown that degree courses from certain universities in Turkey, Egypt and other countries are more respected as these universities are more difficult to physically be accepted to study in. This does not matter. The fact that matters is that however well educated these people are from these universities, they must still be judged on how ‘valuable’ they are to the British economy before they come to live here and by the sounds of that now, this is a terrible and very racially discriminatory idea. It allows for people to be judged not only on their education, not only their financial stability but also how worthy their particular subject and even race are to the people of white-Britain - thus automatically excluding people who are indirectly seen as a ‘threat’. We all remember when President Trump put a blockade on anyone arriving from Islamic-based countries no matter upon education, financial stability etc. This sort of behaviour would allow this to happen in the UK and that simply cannot be allowed on the basis of it is inhumane.

The third thing that creates the view of the ‘good savage’ is the way in which the immigrant adheres to the way in which British values support ‘freedom’ and accepting the way in which ‘Britain is already diverse enough’, playing on conflicts already on course. This is often put forward by arguments and conflicts presenting themselves between two groups of average people. For example: during the early times of British immigration in the 1960s and 1980s, Hindus and Muslims already had animosity for each other at a level as the Indian/Pakistani divide was in the recent memory of the ageing population at this time. The white-British weaponise this, choosing the side that is normally more financially stable - in this case the Hindu Indians. Therefore, the Hindu Indians would be more acceptable as immigrants to Britain and thus, would become more acceptable if they actively reject the influx of Pakistani Muslims. Over the years, as the ageing population remembering the separatism of India and Pakistan began dying out, the younger population such as myself honestly stopped caring. As a part of a generation in which finding people of my own kind (Hindu Indians in Britain) has been difficult because of the diaspora of financial stability between rich and poor Indians around Britain, I have since made friends with Muslims and I honestly do not think that any Indian or Pakistani, Hindu or Muslim person honestly cares about the history anymore. We are all friends with each other in this country. The question is: why? The answer is simple. We are both in similar, but not the same positions. We are both generational immigrants and thus, both have similar experiences of being viewed as second class citizens in a country we were born in. We are no longer the generation of people who were originally in conflict and so, the conflict has vanished. However, white-British people still see the Indians and the Hindus as being ‘better immigrants’ than Pakistanis and/or Muslims. This is purely down to the media representation of them.

This brings us on to the fourth and probably most obvious one and that is how the media represents the ‘good savage’. The ‘good savage’ is normally presented as the one who is successful, charitable, proud to be British etc. they support their own pacifism towards their own cultures and have embraced something else. Another way in which they can do this is by presenting some ‘savages’ as more successful in the sense of finance, education and even things as simple as the nuclear family structure. For example: there is a key difference between the way in which the media speaks about Hindus and the way the media presents Muslims. Hindus are people like Rishi Sunak - the man who comes from a very rich family, married a very rich woman and basically came from and is going into the nuclear family. He is financial stable and his English language is impeccable. He is well-dressed and heavily educated (due to his financial stability). He has embraced British values as far as going to work in parliament. However, the way in which the media seems to speak about the current MP of London is strangely different. They do not talk about the fact that he does not come from a financially difficult background, they do not talk about his family or his wife, kids etc. or where he is financially. They do not talk about his education or his home life or his acceptance of British values and the good of the country. Instead, many people seem to blame him for his lack of focus on violent crime rather than compiling his focus on all the different mediums in which different forms of abuse can take place. They blame him for his ‘stupidity’ when it comes to the COVID-19 situation of London and they constantly word things in the media and newspapers that would make him look unstable at least and at most, they would make him look wrong for the job. But even if we go down the line to the everyday Hindu or the everyday Muslim - Hindus are normally presented as educationally better, more integrated and ‘the better savage’ as they have become more accepting of British values. Whereas, the Muslims are normally presented as poor, as uneducated, as almost sub-human. Personally, I find it disgusting to see even though I am a Hindu myself.

In conclusion to all of this, I believe that there are ways to shake off your own personal want for being the ‘good savage’ by showing that you understand the way in which the white-British have created this hierarchy in order to sort how valuable an immigrant actually is to them. Once you get into the BIPOC people who actually live here, then you get into where the person lives (their postcode and its value - people in big cities presenting more financial stability are often more valuable), what job they have (people on benefits are seen as low value even though they may have a part time job or a disability etc.), people who contend to religious ideologies are often seen as low value if they do not match the white-British reductive Christian ideologies and also people who have variant names (a name even sounding too difficult to pronounce can often be seen as low value as they have normally traditional names representative of the culture they belong to). Once we recognise how these are unfair and discriminatory these are and how this hierarchy benefits and discourages certain groups of people we can then discard the white-British rhetoric of how some people ‘refuse to integrate’. They are going to refuse if you are constantly refuting their worth in your society. This is something that is not up for debate, the perpetrators often are the ones who claim the rules and so, they are accusing others of not coming towards them instead of acceptance being the key problem. Here’s the example: I’m holding a knife and I’m telling you that I think you’re a terrible human being and I hate you, but then again I’m accusing you of being scared to come towards me even though I’m spewing hate your way. Naturally, you won’t come towards me because you are scared you will be harmed. Yet, you won’t move because you belong in the space you are standing. You will just stay over there, where you are because it appears that neither of us are moving though we both exist in the same room. You will not ever come near me even, if in our senior citizen age, I invited you - promising not to hurt you. You are still going to be very vigilant, are you not? Well of course you are. And now, we have come to our conclusion. Intolerance leads to separation.

Annie Kapur
Annie Kapur
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Annie Kapur

Film and Writing (M.A)

Focus in Film: Adaptation from Literature, Horror Filmmaking Styles and Auter Cinema

Author of: "The Filmmaker's Guide" series

Twitter: @AnnieApprox

IG: @AnnieApproximately

See all posts by Annie Kapur