Unintended consequences

I failed in my intention not to watch the royal wedding. I didn’t want to switch on the TV because I knew that, if I did, I would be glued to it throughout. My wife did want to switch it on because she knew that she could just dip in and out of it at will. Which she did, while I sat watching for hours on end.  

I then prolonged my afternoon as a patate de sofa by watching the FA Cup Final, which prolonged the pleasure as well. The only team I dislike more than Chelsea is any team managed by José Mourinho. I particularly look forward to the post-match interview with Mourinho when his side has lost, and to seeing which of his vast repertoire of graceless excuses he will offer. So it was a good day all round, if a self-indulgent one.

Much has been made of Meghan Markle, as was, being mixed race, with a black mother descended from slaves. This, it is said, is appropriate for a country in which about 10% of births are now of mixed race, and a much higher proportion will be in the future. I salute Prince Harry for his courage. It is all very well saying that something like this ‘ought to happen’, but it took two very special people to make it happen, just as it took one very special person to become the first mixed-race President of the USA.

The fact that there now are so many people of mixed race in America and Britain is due principally to slavery, in one case, and to Empire, in the other. One institution of unmitigated evil, and another of highly ambiguous morality at best, have combined to produce, two hundred or more years later, the possibility of transformative change.

To some extent, the phenomenon of mixed race societies would have happened anyway, enabled by ease of transport and communications and the global economy. But only to some extent. It is striking that the other countries with high black and/or Asian and mixed-race populations (e.g., France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Brazil) all have an imperial past. Those countries without such a past (e.g., Poland and Hungary) still have populations that are ethnically homogeneous, as their leaders never tire of ‘boasting’.

If the founders of Empire and the traders in slaves had been told that what they were doing in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries would lead inexorably to their own countries becoming racially diverse, leading to a growing prevalence of mixed-race relationships and an exponential increase in children of mixed race, what on earth would they have said? Because it has been inexorable. One thing, passing through assorted prisms on the way, has led directly to the other.

Of course, not everyone welcomes these developments. Racial purists will have hated the wedding. Pompous royal historians have attempted to rationalise their shock by saying it is all much the same as medieval monarchs choosing spouses from other European countries. Really?

But contrary views can be disregarded because they are irredeemably out of date. They belong in the past. There is no way back to the world the proponents of such views would prefer. I hope that most of us don’t want to go back, but instead to embrace a world in which, to put it bluntly, racial origin has been trumped by sexual desire.

The law of unintended consequences has gained another huge victory. As has the axiom that out of the very worst things in life can come the very best. That recognition is full justification for an afternoon on the sofa.