The idea of the Commonwealth is old-fashioned and out-dated.
These are the facts: the Commonwealth is made up of 53 separate countries – nearly a quarter of the world’s land – and the member countries have a combined population of about 2 billion people (nearly a third of the total number of people in the world). And these are countries that used to be ruled by Britain.
How old fashioned! A group of countries held together because of an interest in something that happened years ago – like people who are enthusiastic about steam trains or collecting fossils.
The British Empire more or less finished by the end of the Second World War, though it was in the years between the First and Second World Wars when former countries of the Empire began to declare their independence from Britain. What was left of the British Empire became known as the Commonwealth in 1949.
As well as having a fondness for a pleasant old lady who lives in a palace in London, member countries in the Commonwealth have signed up to a charter – a treaty – which states “that our strength lies in a shared language, culture and the rule of law; and bound together by shared history and tradition; by respect for all states and peoples”.
But if you look at the history of the British Empire, you will find battles, bloodshed, slavery, seizing of land by force or dishonesty, and behaviour that certainly wasn’t respectful of “cultures, languages and tradition”. There are plenty of countries whose own languages have been replaced by English. Even in New Zealand, despite the Treaty of Waitangi, there are still on-going disputes about returning traditions, culture and land to its rightful owners – things taken by the British when they colonised Aotearoa.
It’s fantastic that every four years athletes from these countries can compete, and enjoy opportunities for international sport that some may otherwise not have. The level of competition is high, and it’s certainly inspiring to watch these contests on tv, and for the people of Glasgow it’s honour to host this year’s games.
But that’s about it…
The Commonwealth is, in the 21st century, something that is looking backwards when the world is looking forwards.
Article written by Ben Egerton
[colored_box color=”green”]This is an opinion-based article designed to provoke debate, discussion and further inquiry
amongst your students:[/colored_box]
[colored_box color=”yellow”]Critical Thinking Challenges:
1. The Commonwealth is about history. Why is knowing about, and celebrating, history so important for our future?
2. There is strength in unity. What is the Commonwealth united about?
[colored_box color=”green”]Practical Tasks:
1. There are many organisations made up of groups countries in the world that are united for common purposes and goals. Research some of these organisations. Which countries are part of them? What do the organisations set out to do? How are do the organisations work for good or to change the lives of people?
2. This article takes the position that the Commonwealth is out-of-date. Research into the history of the Commonwealth (and the British Empire) and argue against this position – how is the Commonwealth relevant and important in the 21st century?
[colored_box color=”red”]Have Your Say: