I was saddened to read that many of the African soldiers and carriers who served with the British Army in east Africa during the First World War were buried in unmarked graves (“No graves, no dignity. How Britain dishonoured its African war dead”, Focus). The acknowledgment by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission of its past unequal treatment is at least a start in redressing the balance.
However, while it may be true that memorials in east Africa do not give the names of individuals who fell, the situation is not the same in at least one southern African former colony: Nyasaland, now the independent state of Malawi. In the old colonial capital, Zomba, lies a memorial to men of the King’s African Rifles who fell in the war.
The roll of honour starts with the names of the British commissioned and non-commissioned officers killed, but is followed by a long list of local men, headed “African Rank and File”, with each soldier given his name, rank and number, as on countless memorials throughout France and Belgium.Advertisement
If the individual graves were not marked, at least the sacrifice of these local men was duly commemorated.
Ventnor, Isle of Wight
In our often-divided times it is important to pause and reflect on the things that we share. This Remembrance Sunday, 75 years on from three pivotal battles of the Second World War – Monte Cassino, D-Day, and Kohima and Imphal – we should consider how soldiers from Britain and its allies from across the Commonwealth nations, the US and the free armies of Europe fought side by side to overcome adversity.
We welcome this autumn the Remember Together initiative from British Future and the Royal British Legion, which brings communities together to mark our shared heritage. This history of service and sacrifice encompasses the stories of the Polish and Caribbean airmen who helped defend our skies, being marked in Boston, Lincolnshire; and the commemoration in Leicester of the 2.5 million-strong army from undivided India that fought for Britain in its hour of need.
It is a message that we should share far and wide across the UK – that remembrance belongs to us all.
Rt Rev James Newcome, bishop of Carlisle; Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi to Reform Judaism; Imam Qari Asim, chair, Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board; David Lammy MMP; Neil O’Brien MP; Jamie Stone MP; Rt Rev Martyn Snow, bishop of Leicester; Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, former chief of the defence staff; Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, High Commissioner for Pakistan to the UK; Seth George Ramocan, High Commissioner for Jamaica to the UK; Catherine Davies, head of remembrance, Royal British Legion; Sunder Katwala, director, British Future; Amandeep Madra, chair, UK Punjab Heritage Association; Jasvir Singh, chair, City Sikhs; Cllr Dhruv Patelfounder and director, City Hindus Network; Hanka Januszewska, director, Polish Heritage Society (UK)
A better way to run business
Elizabeth Warren is right in championing stakeholder capitalism (“Elizabeth Warren’s project is to remake capitalism. What can our politicians learn from her?”, Comment). But reform in the US, as in Britain, faces many challenges. The self-serving doctrine of “shareholder primacy” has to be exposed for what it is. The existence of executive-dominated unitary boards will resist cultural and institutional change that is designed to transform the way corporations and board directors operate. This is a fundamental obstacle to progress.
My research over the years has examined stakeholder governance frameworks that have flourished in northern European jurisdictions for well over a century. Corporations in those jurisdictions are required by law to appoint and operate with independent supervisory boards. These boards reflect the interests of all stakeholders, including employees and shareholders. They oversee the activities of the executive board of management. This has fostered a very different style of corporate stewardship and corporate responsibility.
Sad to say, these important differences are not widely understood or appreciated in English-speaking countries.
The inner-directed nature in which corporate jurisprudence has evolved in both the US and Britain has created a powerful smokescreen. This has distorted our view of what wider purposes corporations have the potential to serve if they are governed appropriately.
Richard Tudway, principal, The Centre for International Economics
Burgess Hill, West Sussex
On tonight’s menu: influence
It was a welcome and thought-provoking article from Kevin McKenna regarding elected public servants “supplementing” their salaries with “consultant” fees (“If we bar politicians from lining their pockets in office, we might trust them”, Comment). He mentions the £100,000-a-seat Conservative party dinners and what diners might expect to get, over and above a good meal.
It reminded me of a 2011 Vanity Fair article by Joseph Stiglitz: “During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s – a scandal whose dimensions, by today’s standards, seem almost quaint – the banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5m he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence. ‘I certainly hope so,’ he replied.”
Why do people migrate?
In writing about the deeper causes of the tragedies of Grenfell and Purfleet, Kenan Malik rightly refers to a “tendency to focus on the proximate causes of social tragedies and downplay more distant issues” (“From Grenfell to migrant deaths, we fail to see the deeper causes of tragedy”, Comment). In the case of Purfleet, should we not be asking why people are leaving Vietnam and what can be done to encourage them to remain at home?Advertisement
In 1980, the Brandt report, aptly entitled North-South: A Programme for Survival (the outcome of research led by Willy Brandt, former chancellor of then West Germany), reflected on why there was such a disparity between the rich north and poor south. Surely we should be asking ourselves whether our 0.7% of GDP going to the Department for International Development is sufficient and whether it is properly targeting those countries and communities from which so many migrants are taking the irregular migration route and risking their very survival.
Dr Nick Maurice
Across the autism spectrum
I read with interest Joanne Limburg’s article “Is my autism a superpower?” (New Review) She makes some interesting points but I have to shake my head when I read: “I usually define myself as ‘autistic’ because I don’t recognise any essential difference between myself and non-speaking autistic people.” My son, in his early 20s, has a diagnosis of autism and complex/severe learning disability, attended special schools and will almost certainly never be independent.
Limburg, on the other hand, has had considerable success as a writer, has an Oxbridge degree and postgraduate degrees and teaches creative writing at a university. If those are not “essential differences”, what are? This “no essential difference” argument is frequently found in discussions around autism: it is not only risible, it is pernicious, in effect blurring and obliterating the very different experiences that people face. Similarly, I don’t find it at all helpful to read about Chris Packham’s experience of autism, or Greta Thunberg’s; these people have an unusually high level of visibility and they are highly articulate, both things that privilege them over the vast majority of the population (autistic or not.) It is estimated that 75% of people with an autism diagnosis also have a significant learning disability: where are they in this discussion?
Death and the maiden
I was shocked to read that the discovery of a female Viking warrior “challenges long-held assumptions that Viking warrior heroes such as Erik the Red left their women at home” (“It’s Erika the Red: Viking women were warriors too”, News). Shocked because there is clear documentary evidence that women were found among the warrior dead in battles against the Byzantines in the 10th century; even Saxo Grammaticus, the Christian who bowdlerised the Norse Sagas for references to strong and warrior women (preferring to describe them as “witches”), managed to let a few references through.
Viking warrior women were widely called shield maidens (skjaldmær), so the obvious conclusion is that the women were in there, right in the thick of it, in the shield wall along with everyone else, as the forehead gash of “Erika” and, indeed, the weapons with which she was buried openly attest.