Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What the Brits really think about the rest of the world

They are not wrong actually, especially about Africans.

"[they have] a maddening habit of always choosing the course of action which will do the maximum damage to their own interests."

London (AFP) – Thais have no culture and are all driven by sex; Africans are self-destructive, and Nicaraguans are dishonest, violent and alcoholic -- at least according to some of Britain's top diplomats.

The undiplomatic parting shots of British ambassadors over the years, in final dispatches to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London before leaving their posts overseas, were revealed in a BBC programme aired Tuesday.

The top diplomats' "confidential" assessments, designed to give London a "full and frank" picture of countries around the world, are not normally supposed to be published beyond the higher echelons of the FCO.

But the BBC winkled some of them out of Whitehall using Freedom of Information legislation, while others were released under a 30-year National Archive rule.

Sir Anthony Rumbold, who served in Bangkok from 1965-67, did not mince his words when reflecting on his Thai hosts.

"They have no literature, no painting and only a very odd kind of music; their sculpture, ceramics and dancing are borrowed from others, and their architecture is monotonous and interior decoration hideous," he wrote.

"Nobody can deny that gambling and golf are the chief pleasures of the rich, and that licentiousness is the main pleasure of them all," he said, adding: "The general level of intelligence of the Thais is rather low, a good deal lower than ours and much lower than that of the Chinese."

In the same year Roger Pinsent, the FCO's man in Managua, let rip with his real views on Nicaragua.

"There is, I fear, no question that the average Nicaraguan is one of the most dishonest, unreliable, violent and alcoholic of the Latin Americans," he wrote.

The High Commissioner to Nigeria, Sir David Hunt, wrote back to London in 1969 that Nigerians had "a maddening habit of always choosing the course of action which will do the maximum damage to their own interests."

"They are also not singular in this. Africans as a whole are not only not averse to cutting off their nose to spite their face; they regard such an operation as a triumph of cosmetic surgery," he added.

Elsewhere, Brazil was described as "damned badly run," while one ambassador to Ottawa described then Canadian premier Pierre Trudeau as "an odd fish," saying he seemed like a "well-to-do hippy and draft dodger."

The FCO itself -- which ended the traditional valedictory missives in 2006 -- doesn't escape criticism.

Dame Glynne-Evans, writing as she finished her posting in Lisbon in 2004, said her bosses in London were sometimes "pompous and infuriating."

Sir David Gore-Booth, leaving India in 1998, wrote: "One of the great failures of the diplomatic service has been its inability to cast off its image as bowler-hatted, pin-striped and chinless, with a fondness for champagne."

But Thailand came in for the most colourful comments in the first episode of the BBC radio series, "Parting Shots."

The British ambassador's leaving missive described the then Thai foreign minister as "vain, touchy and disputatious," adding: "His obsessions about liberals, about the French and about Cambodia sometimes make one wonder whether he's altogether sane," while conceding: "He's not altogether entirely repulsive."

Sir Anthony does have a few good words to say about the Thais, however.

Despite their faults, "it does a faded European good to spend some time among such a jolly, extrovert and anti-intellectual people," he said, praising their "excellent manners... fastidious habits (and) graceful gestures."

"If we are elephants and oxen, they are gazelles and butterflies," he added.

3 Opinion(s):

Viking said...

liberal idiots will hate this of course...
My grandad, who fought in WWII, only ever had respect for Sikhs and Gurkhas and that's about it.

Vanilla Ice said...

Ah but Thailand is a wonderful place to relax; perhaps even retire.

FishEagle said...

@VI, a life of privilage treating you well? Lol!