August 24, 2017

Gandhi next for public desecration

Gandhi next for public desecration

Andre Walker argues that if the only people that could be publicly venerated were those who were universally admired, then no one would be celebrated at all.  

America has always been a trailblazer. Whether it be Silicon Valley technology or a subprime debt disaster, last week’s U.S. news is this week’s global news. The latest export from America is the removal of controversial statues, and the world has responded with their own figures of hate.

It began with the protests in Charlottesville over the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee, a man whose popularity isn’t what it once was—not least because he commanded the Confederate Army, a bunch largely blamed for racial tensions that still blight America today.

The Guardian followed up by demanding Nelson’s Column in London be pulled down because Admiral Horatio Nelson was “a white supremacist.” His monument has stood in Trafalgar Square since shortly after his victory over the French Navy in the 1805 battle.

The victory established him as a key figure in popular culture, in part because he was killed shortly before the moment of victory. His contribution to the slave trade appears far more difficult to establish. He was not a vocal opponent of it, unlike many of his contemporaries.

But should Britain beat itself up over the slave trade? It was one of the first major powers to abolish it, and the practice had largely died out on the U.K. mainland by then anyway. After abolition, the Royal Navy fought a war against slave ships in the Atlantic and freed huge numbers of people who had been kidnapped in Africa.

Pulling down Nelson’s Column would wrongly imply that the average Brit has something to be ashamed of on this issue. We do not.

The removal might also backfire: A survey of children in Trafalgar Square showed that most thought the column was a tribute to Nelson Mandela. So much for our once proud education system!

Perhaps The Guardian should turn its attention to Oxford, where hypocritical Rhodes Scholars are trying to demolish the statue of their own benefactor: Cecil Rhodes. Luckily for Cecil, most students appreciate his contribution to their university and the authorities have declared him safe—for now.

If Rhodes’ Scholars removing Rhodes seems odd, then the students and professors at Ghana University have an even more controversial choice of demolition: Mahatma Gandhi.

A petition garnering online support says the leader of the Indian independence movement was a racist who supported class divisions through the caste system. He was an Asian Supremacist, apparently.

His statue was erected in the university in 2016, after it was donated by the Indian government as a symbol of cooperation between the two countries.

It has been causing “outrage” ever since, despite Gandhi’s worldwide fame for pacifism and inclusivity. The demand to get rid of him highlights how fast this whole statue demolition thing could escalate.

Ukraine has some public art it wants rid of, too. In fact, the country announced it has completed the removal of a whopping 1,320 Soviet Era statues. It would be wrong to suggest this process had anything to do with America. The statues in question are in the Western part of the country; the Eastern part was invaded by Russia in 2014.

Moreover, the Soviet Era was an unhappy period for Ukraine, during which it suffered appalling hardship. Thus, the country has also renamed streets and parks to remove mention of communists. Many places have been renamed after Ukrainian heroes, however a Lenin Street in Zakarpattia was renamed Lennon Street in a tribute to the Beatles lead singer.

This global process of statue removal reveals an underlying problem: You cannot demolish a statue because of a change in taste or because some people dislike the person in question. If statues could only be erected to people everyone liked, then none would be built at all and all existing statues will eventually be demolished.

However, there are some people that ought not to be venerated. I cannot imagine an argument in favour of leaving statues of Hitler up in Germany.

Russia may have happened upon the answer to this question. The country has moved most of their communist era statues into one area, fallen monument park. The idea is the public can see the old statues but they are no longer making a statement by being in prominent positions.

A very sensible solution indeed.

4.40 avg. rating (87% score) - 5 votes
Andre Walker
Andre Walker
Andre Walker is lobby correspondent and columnist for the New York Observer. He covers the work of the British Parliament and Prime Minister. Before joining The New York Observer he was part of the team that established Breitbart London.
  • ale bro

    more detail available in this article
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/12/british-history-slavery-buried-scale-revealed
    it’s interesting that widows used slave ownership as a route to financial independence.

  • manofthepeepl

    That site doesn’t seem to recognise your figures. As far as I can see compensation of up to £20 million (which may equate to £17bn today?) was shared among 3,000 claimants. The GB population in the 1830s was around 16 million, so about 0.018% owned slaves.

  • ale bro

    i can’t quantify it but the slave compensation records are available http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/slavery-or-slave-owners/
    the 46,000 british slave owners received £17BN in compensation from the UK government

  • manofthepeepl

    Can you define ‘a lot’ for us? 1% of the population? 0.5%? 0.01%? A couple of hundred? Or are you just making this up?

  • Ken

    So, you claim that the confederate army, which was disbanded over 150 years ago, is responsible for racial tensions in the US today, and offered no evidence to support this tenuous claim.

    That’s when I gave up on this piece. If you want to spout nonsense, at least try to back it up.

  • The British, or at least a certain type of them, have an odd relationship Trafalgar, which was an indecisive battle at which our Admiral died. It is not remembered in France as having been a great defeat. But Nelson never committed treason, as Robert E. Lee did. That is the point.

    “He who controls the past controls the future.” And that was why, between 60 and 100 years after the Civil War, statues and other elaborate monuments were put up to commemorate long-dead men who had committed treason against the United States. Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. But neither of them ever committed treason against the United States. Lincoln was a racist towards the African-Americans, and he was a genocidist against the Native Americans. But he never committed treason against the United States. FDR interned the Japanese-Americans, and Truman nuked the Japanese. But neither of them ever committed treason against the United States.

    Are you starting to see the point? There would not be a statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College, Oxford if he had waged war on the British Empire. There would not be a Stalin Road in Colchester, or a Stalin Avenue in Chatham, if Stalin had been on the other side in 1945. (There would not be much else, either.) This is not about slavery. It is not even about the memorialisation of the recently fallen, which the Confederates were not by the time that these things were erected. This is about treason. And as such, it is a crossroads moment for paleoconservatism as surely as it is for the Trump Presidency.

    Before anyone starts, in the words to me yesterday of Alex Nunns, the Labour Left’s pre-eminent present chronicler of itself: “John Lilburne himself would pull down the statue of Cromwell, if he were not 350 years dead.” The proposal to erect it nearly brought down the Liberal Government of the day. It went up only because the Liberal Unionists decided that making a point against the Irish Nationalists was even more important than making a pro-Tory one. So they voted for it against the ferocious opposition both of the Irish Nationalists and of their own Tory allies. It is pointedly not inside the Palace of Westminster, and not a penny of public money was spent on putting it up even where it is. In fact, it exists only because of a donation by the Liberal former Prime Minister, Lord Roseberry. He then gave an address at its unveiling. But almost no one knew that that was why he was the speaker. His donation had had to be made anonymously.

  • Tony in Southwark

    Soviet monuments in the Eastern Bloc were overtly imperialist statements of conqureed peoples.
    The row in the States is an attempt to undermine the pride Southerners have in themselves and is Virtue Posturing by the Searchers for Victimhood.
    Nelson is a hero against the Bonapartist Imperialist regime which sough to introduce slavery, not only in its former Caribbean colonies but acrtoss all o Europe – one might have an argment for demoloshing his Mausoleum in Les Invalides.
    I ask the Virtue Poseurs of the UK this Question about statues of alleged White Supremceists : If the likes of Nelson, Wellington, Pitt, Peel, Castlereagh, Gladstone, Disraeli, Fisher, Beattie, Churchill etc what sort of World do they think we would be living in for non-Whites if these had been unuccessful in promoting western values?
    Followign this, if these men were unsuccesful do these Virtue Poseurs think they would be living in a world of independent Nation States in the four continets and that the Capital city of the alleged White Supremecists would have statues of Gahndi, Nehru, Bolivar and Mandela?

  • Landphil

    Yes, Nelson’s Column is a tribute to Nelson Mandela who once went to a fancy dress party dressed as “Nelson”.

  • Landphil

    Ho diddly ho.

  • Landphil

    Gandhi was a lawyer – that’s surely enough to get any statue of him pulled down.

  • obbo12

    If you think taking down statutes is justifiable then there is a case for Gandhi to go. The success of Gandhi was to turn Indian independence from a chattering class issue to a mass movement. Gandhi did this by creating a specifically Hindu vision of an agrarian independent India, complete with caste divisions. Unlike the liberal myth, Gandhi was very much a canny political operator, willing to appeal to a basket of deplorables if it suited his purpose.

  • Stephen Lundy

    Putin is erecting statues of Stalin in Russia and establishing a cult of Stalin.

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/08/16/soviet-union-terror-josef-stalin-popularity/556625001/

  • History is written by the winners, and the left are sure enough of their victory to start trying to erase ours.

  • ale bro

    yeah – don’t forget the Irish slaves!

  • markbrev

    He didn’t say in the U.K., he said “on the U.K. mainland” – big difference.

  • ale bro

    “the practice had largely died out on the U.K.” – i’m not sure about this – a lot of UK citizens owned off shore slaves

  • Paul Williams

    It’s odd that the far Left haven’t been calling for the removal of Mao’s statues in China. He’s only responsible for killing about 40 million of his own citizens. Ah, but he’s ‘of the Left’, so that exonerates him instantly.

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