This is not to ascribe anything glorious or virtuous to Britain's empire. In this respect, perhaps the English novelist George Orwell said it best:
"A dull, decent people cherishing and fortifying their dullness behind a quarter of a million bayonets."
Indeed, rather than anything to be proud of, the British Empire — as with every other empire there has been — was an exercise in domination and exploitation dressed up as a benevolent mission to spread civilization and progress. In the process of doing so, the economic, social, and political development of the peoples and nations exploited was impeded, a fact that should not be forgotten when we look at the state of the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean today.
All over the UK, grand monuments, statues and buildings dating back to the colonial era are irrefutable evidence of the injustice that underpinned the British Empire, which thankfully for its countless victims is now no more than a dark chapter in world history.
However the point is this: a country and ruling class that once boasted of controlling a quarter of the world and ruling the waves is, in light of Brexit (British exit from the EU), exposed as a third rate power struggling to retain any vestige of respect or "great power" status on the global stage.
Consider the evidence: sterling has plunged to a 31 year low against the dollar; companies based in the UK are signaling their intention to relocate overseas; and there is now the very real prospect of a UK constitutional crisis as the leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, threatens to bring forward another referendum on Scottish independence, if Scotland is ripped out of the single market against the will of its people, a decisive majority of whom voted to remain in the EU.
It is clear by now that Theresa May's predecessor in office, David Cameron, who called the referendum on Britain's continuing EU membership, did not even bother to draw up a plan on what the country's exit would look like in the event it came to pass — not even so much as a sketch on the back of an envelope — proof that these are not leaders but buffoons in positions of leadership.
When it comes to finally exiting the EU, Theresa May has yet to make a decision on when Article 50, the provision within the Lisbon Treaty beginning the process of exit, will be invoked. Still to be determined also, four months after the referendum, is whether Britain will come out of the EU but remain part of the single market?
If so, what about free movement, a condition of membership of the European single market? Up to now, neither the French nor Germans are interested in making any special provision for the UK when it comes to free movement; and from their point of view why would they, given the dangerous precedent Britain's exit sets when it comes to the stability of an economic union at the heart of Europe that once seemed so solid, strong, and permanent? Well, not anymore.
So, yes, the Brexit debacle confirms that Britain and its people are suffering a crisis of leadership.
The Eton and Oxbridge "born to rule production line" of the nation's ruling elite is undeniably broken, perhaps irretrievably.
Who could possibly argue otherwise when someone as clownish as Boris Johnson can be appointed British foreign secretary? This is a man so utterly lacking in influence and respect that when he issued a call for public demonstrations outside the Russian embassy in London recently, just one person answered the call and duly showed up.
Not that British foreign policy was worthy of anything more than derision prior to Johnson's appointment. The mission to deliver democracy in Afghanistan in conjunction with the US after 9/11 has only succeeded in delivering corruption and boosting the opium trade.
The war and occupation of Iraq, rather than liberate its people, delivered them into the arms of chaos and carnage, while the destruction of Libya qualifies as a crime of such magnitude it will be written about centuries hence.
And all this before we even get to Syria and the ongoing efforts to make a distinction between good terrorists and bad terrorists, thereby helping to prolong the conflict and, with it, the inordinate suffering of the Syrian people.
"Sir, I shall not defeat you — I shall transcend you," Disraeli, who founded the Tory Party, once famously quipped to an opponent.
If only today the British people could transcend political leadership that is dragging them and their country into the gutter.
It is a rudderless ship being steered by a captain without a compass, either moral or actual.
To paraphrase the US abolitionist Wendell Phillips' famous put down of Abraham Lincoln, "Britain in 2016 is a first rate second rate power." Moreover, it is one being led by third rate politicians.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.