Our imperial past

Lindsey Hilsum (Cover story, 4 August) quotes the Czech writer Milan Kundera, who famously wrote that "the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting". In the imperial west, power has a huge advantage in this struggle with the people because it can and does block the very information on which memory of imperial atrocities could have been built. Without a memory, we have nothing to forget.

Hilsum says China cannot move on while the Chinese government dictates what people may remember and discuss. How much more deeply immersed in ignorance, therefore, are we in Britain, where we lack all knowledge of the atrocities of our imperial representatives?

To the Chinese leaders, victory at the Beijing Games is a question of life and death, as it was at the ancient Games. In Britain, on the other hand, losing at the games is not a matter of life and death - we have achieved athletic success with "the effortlessness of gods", to quote Harold Abrahams, the Olympic gold medallist in the film Chariots of Fire. What is a matter of life and death is maintaining the public's ignorance of the real basis of our historic success as a nation.

David E Clarke
London N4

Although it was interesting to read the article on "The patriot games" (4 August), let us not forget that oppression in China has been condoned by the west ever since it invaded Tibet and recognised China over Taiwan. Over the years, while the massacre in Tiananmen Square and the recent murders of Tibetans have drawn public criticisms from politicians, they have continued to "do business" with the same regime that has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the basic rights of individuals or of sovereign states such as Tibet.

The argument that Tibet is part of China is as far-fetched as the UK believing it owns the Falklands, or as reasoned as America feeling that the countries to the south of its borders are its "backyard".

Until the mentality of imperialism is extinguished from the mindset of politicians and they begin to argue from a moral perspective, why would the Chinese - or the Sudanese, or any other murderous group that the powerful have armed - change their policy?

Baljeet Gill

Just recently Google has brought out with a great deal of alterations and improvements to their prominent search system, including Googles Knowledge Graph Release. Read More...

This article first appeared in the 11 August 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Spies for hire