25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Was Powell a racist?,
This review is from: Like The Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (Hardcover)I must take issue with a previous reviewer, who feels that Powell must have been a racist to have made the speeches where he raised racial issues. But as Powell himself pointed out, these were issues of great concern, and NOT to speak out would have been a dereliction of his duty as a citizen and representative of his constituents.
Powell had the ability to see through a lot of cant and get to the crucial issues and consequences. To bring up one set of consequences for discussion is not to suggest that it will happen, must happen or should happen, and Powell himself pointed this out. But if someone foresees problems ahead, it is a responsibility to present them for consideration and discussion. The almost inevitable downside of this action is to be portrayed as advocating the very consequences that one is warning against.
Has what Powell feared come to pass? In part, yes. The above reviewer clearly forgets things like the race-based and anti-police riots of the early Thatcher years. It is easy to look around Europe and see the disappearance of national sovereignty. (It may be one reason why the IRA and the Basques more-or-less gave it up, as even if you get a separate state, that whole notion disappears in the new Europe.) Powell's fear of the US becoming a major, almost dictatorial, world power has partly come true under Bush. Where else in the 21st century would a nation decide that it had the right to pre-emptive invasions on mere suspicion? Further, the nature of Britain and British society today is most certainly not like Britain in the mid-1960s, and a part of that is a consequence of immigration. And Political Correctness still holds significant sway.
So why didn't Powell get it exactly right? One obvious factor is that he was dealing with a very complex society in transition, and predictions are very difficult. Second, he was looking at the more dire consequences, not for sensationalist purposes, but because they were a possibility and needed to be discussed. Third, the mere fact that he did get the topic into discussion, meant that some people did think about it, and that may have mitigated some of the consequences. Finally, I think he overlooked the homogenising effect of the school system.
Many immigrants have a tendency to cluster together, simply because it is something familiar and safe. This was a concern of Powell's, that segregation was happening in an unplanned way, but happening nonetheless. But the next generation has a tendency to move away from their parents and into the mainstream. Schools help this process by providing phenomenal peer pressure from the students, rather than any intent of the system. The result is the assimilation/integration that Powell wanted, but the net result is not the original society. With the different inputs and the changing times, the result is a new society. It's not just immigration, but also the information age, the age of globalization, and the closer ties with Europe. The next generation of childen of the children is more closely integrated again. And Britain has another advantage, in that it is actually quite accepting of immigrants in many ways, perhaps far more than many other countries, and that seems to be in the culture. (No, it's not universal, but collectively it is better.)
I have watched the process in Australia and the US, as well as the UK. I can see where Powell was coming from, and what he saw. I also know why he spoke out: he personally had no choice, and he had the courage and integrity to do it and face the consequences. But Powell was always his own man, in the best sense of the term.
This biography doesn't really do Powell the man justice. But it does give insight to one part of his mind and gets part of his thinking out for discussion. I hope that history is far kinder to Powell as time goes on than it has been to date.