Coffee with Churchill

[This is an automatic translation of the original post in Spanish and has not been edited yet.]

Last week a group of young people came to protest with harangues and songs at Blighty, a cafe in the Finsbury Park area here in London. These were students who lived in the area and wanted to demonstrate against the insensitivity of the establishment that, according to them, celebrated violence and racism. Such allegations are not to be taken lightly, and the news quickly spread to the media. That a group of people protests against this place can make think that it is a dark corner of a bad death, where shaved heads go to conspire acts of vandalism and destruction towards racial minorities. However, this image could not be further from reality.

Blighty is simply a delightful themed café that revolves around several of this country’s symbols: Union Jack flags, iconic London Underground signs, some photos of the Queen, and of course the image of Winston Churchill. The latter appears in several portraits of the Second World War, and his name serves to baptize on the menu the specialty of the house: a “full English breakfast” with all the law, which brings British bacon, fried eggs, Cumberland sausage , Yorkshire pudding, beef marrow, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, beans in tomato sauce and whole wheat toast.

In Blighty there are perhaps some romantic references to that still great United Kingdom of the first half of the 20th century, and its relationship with the Commonwealth countries. But first and foremost, Blighty is a neighborhood cafe that is well lit, serves a decent menu, and provides an appropriate atmosphere for carrying a book and reading for a while.

However, protesters believed that the decoration of the place “celebrated colonialism” and that it was inappropriate to promote the image of the British leader since “Churchill was racist”. In the videos of the protest that circulate online, it is difficult to understand what the protesters’ arguments were, however one of them wrote an article that more calmly reflects their position.

Essentially, the protesters wanted to emphasize Churchill’s negatives and very specifically his disdain for the British colonies. A key point of his argument is that Churchill with his policies would have facilitated the terrible famine of 1943 in India, in which three million people died.

It is still paradoxical that the same book that thoroughly studies these events of ’43 and that served as a reference to the protesters to condemn Churchill for his alleged racism, says explicitly: “it was not so much racism but rather the imbalance of power inherent in the Darwinian social pyramid which explains why famine in India could be tolerated while rationing of bread was considered an intolerable deprivation in the UK during the war. ”

Saying then that “Churchill was a racist and therefore he killed three million Indians” is one of those riot of our times, in which he seeks to reduce complex historical events to a monochromatic vision in such a way as to align them with the early whoever has the microphone. Questioning the narrative of history, reinterpreting the past through how we understand and live the present is an exercise that must be done with care not to decontextualize events simply so that they fit the current political agenda. But go tell that to these nervous kids, or Trump, or the rest of the reactionary lunatics that abound on this planet.

And yet, from all this somewhat ridiculous episode, I am delighted to have read the article that Chris Evans, owner of Blighty, wrote in The Guardian as a result of these events. Evans, instead of going off at the ready against the clueless protesters, or treating them as a group of ignorant brats (as maybe I’m doing it), is genuinely conciliatory. He admits that Churchill was a controversial figure and clarifies that in his little cafe he does not applaud the many barbarities that he said against the Indians or Africans. He is alarmed by the threats that the protesters suffered, after the scandalous right-wing press undertook to crucify them. And he invites the protesters to have a coffee with him to exchange points of view.

Without just that, a chat over a coffee, whatever it takes to resolve our differences!