by Bodwyn Wook
The picture of a retired Roadmaster is from: http://www.theredlondonbus.com/
And, here is a charming videogramme, from the Internet Archive:
It is a product, from 1950, of the British Colonial Film Unit; and, ’twas directed to the viewing attention of Dominion and Empire non-white visitors, to England: the goal being socialisation, specifically to the norms of lower-middleclass public life and behaviour. And, for a wonder, the visual document does not reek with the presumption by the English state in 1950, of extant ‘racist’ notions anywhere at all in English society; phantasies of ‘superiority’ (whether caucasoid or otherwise) to be corrected by main force of fiat; which suspicion of ‘racism everywhere’ (although never in all quarters) does suffuse and soil so much of to-day’s post-modern ‘new’ Labour discourse; or propagandistic jabbering, eg.
Whereas the Negro young men for a fact are cleanly and decently clad; they do not propound in loud voices any factitious doctrines, for instance of alien monotheisms; and, nor do they utter any documents, brochures, pamphlets & cet: inciting the public to the bringing in of female circumcision, or any special protective taxation of christians and the Jews. They state no lewd corollaries. When they divert themselves by playing with the small white child, then they neither grimace and make faces; and, neither do they roll their eyes or make any peculiar gestures; nor are there asserted guttural vocalisations audibly.
In like fashion, the white passengers comport themselves politely as a well-dressed assemblage and singularly good-natured panel of gracious ogres who, only recently, have successfully concluded a hellish war to their advantage and, hence, need give themselves no airs. They hobble their admittedly villainous inclination to sturdy native racialist sentiment; and, they make no demonstrations not conducive to public order. Although one or two of the mature males in the customary way of their ascendant classes discretely wield coiled dog whips, or peculiarly limber rhinoceros canes, they do not display in any wanton or minatory fashion these adjuncts of a private persuasion or affection. They do not stand and thrust their bellies. They neither place their heads together and mutter among themselves, in confidential husky voices; and, none demur when the black Africans, far from the tabooed females and traditionary violations of their own people, banter over-freely with the young mother: whose husband plainly is on duty in Malaya, with the forces. No one makes signals with their fingers. The conductor, a man of the lower orders and 8th Army veteran, subdues impulsive racial epithet; and, he is courteous as is the driver: when the Negro students are standing to make their way to their seats and to debark, the latter, a social agnate of the conductor although he served rather in Burma, does not apply the brakes harshly. Only one small gaffe mars the proceedings. Through a kind of psychological displacement of ire and cheated superiority-feeling baulked of its prey, the conductor when confronted by the stout white gentleman not quite off the mark with his fare, hisses venomously into that worthy’s rather waxy ear. Indeed, you may choose, now, to re-run the videogramme and to read his lips for yourself:
‘Camel!’ and ‘…odious porpoise!’
So this is, altogether, a nostalgic and affectionate portrayal, of some of our better days; and, of our good old English way of life: long before all of to-day’s irksome post-contemporary ‘British’ chatter.
[Bodwyn Wook all text-rights reserved 25 January 2009]