Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Down with Nelson's Column!

I have just been watching one of the news channels, and was somewhat amazed to discover that a social historian is advocating the removal of Nelson's statue in Trafalgar Square because of his racist attitudes. She also argued that statue of Clive of India should be removed as it is an affront to people from South Asia. In addition the statues of Cromwell (it offends Irish Catholics) and Winston Churchill (he apparently caused the death of three million Indians from starvation as a result of his policies) are targets for removal.

I suspect that this was 'news' because of recent events in the US ... about which I will not comment as I regard that as something the Americans have to sort out for themselves. What surprised me was that the social historian did not mention some of the other statues that can be found in central London. Generals Napier, Havelock, and Gordon (to name but a few) all helped to expand the British Empire, but were missed off her list.

All this has put me in mind of George Orwell's comment in his book 1984:
'He who controls the past, controls the future. He who controls the present, controls the past'.
History is a powerful tool ... which should be used sparingly and with great care ... and not by people who do not understand how powerful a tool it is.

38 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. The Good Soldier Svjek,

      I have my doubts ...

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. I think it is one who bends the facts to support ones own viewpoint. Sounds Public Sector to me.

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    3. Jonathan Freitag,

      You might well think that ... but I couldn't possibly comment ...

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. This seemed apt https://reaction.life/karl-marx-must-fall-ahead-admiral-nelson-surely/

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    1. Nigel Drury,

      That article puts the news item I saw into context, Thanks for sharing it.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. "History is a powerful tool ... which should be used sparingly and with great care ... and not by people who do not understand how powerful a tool it is." She probably does understand which is why she is doing it. Her 15minutes of fame. Will there ever be a backlash, I wonder.

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    1. Nobby,

      I suspect that she understands how powerful a tool history can be, but not how to use it with great care.

      You are right; she has had her fifteen minutes of fame, but at what cost? As to the possibility of an ill-informed backlash ... I suspectt that there might well be.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. "Ill informed"? I don't think that backlashes are necessarily ill informed.

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    3. Nobby,

      I probably didn't make myself clear when I wrote that comment.

      The description 'ill informed' was meant to refer to opinions that might be expressed on both sides of the argument by people who are either very selective about the historical 'facts' that they use ... or who have no historical understanding whatsoever of the period they are commenting about.

      I'm still not sure if I have been that clear, but I think that you will be able to understand what I mean. The nuances of the comment are somewhat lost when written down and not spoken face-to-face.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. Oh brave new world...
    One I feel only tangentially connected to as I wonder whatever next!
    Alan

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    1. Tradgardmastare (Alan),

      I am tempted to say 'welcome to my world'; As I get older I feel increasing out of step with what I see going on around me.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Yes, that about describes it for me ass well. And much of what I observe, I prefer to remain out of step with. Horribly constructed sentence, yes, but you get the idea.

      Best Regards,

      Stokes

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    3. Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke (Stokes),

      Turning the comment on its head, perhaps the world is out of step with us, and not the other way around!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. Can we take down the statue of Nelson Mandela then? Some would call him a terrorist. I saw the so called 'Social Historian' as well, what a load of old tosh. She looked of North East African descent to me. Maybe you could ask her why Africans sold other Africans as Slaves amounst themselves and the Colonial powers? Slavery is a horrible institution, however you cannot put modern morals onto earlier people's opinions. I think slavery is still not illegal or outlawed in Morocco for example.

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    1. Simon Jones,

      I have no idea of the historian's origins, but slavery is a somewhat emotive historical issue.

      One of the reasons why I stopped teaching history and moved into other subject areas was the fact that the Year 9 syllabus covered the topic ... and was historically incorrect. Basically what it said can be summed up as being white = slaver and slave owner, black = slave. There was no mention of the fact that the British Empire abolished slavery some time before the American Civil War, or that the Royal Navy engaged in anti-slavery patrols, or that Arab slave traders operated in East Africa well into the late nineteenth century.

      When I challenged the 'facts' we were supposed to teach, I was told by my Head of Department that we could be failed by Ofsted if we didn't stick to the syllabus.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. We must always endeavor to undermine this guff. I always did when I was a teacher.It is a war we are in, with tactics and strategy.

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    3. James James,

      At the time I was working in London in a school which had a small but very vocal - and powerful - Socialist Workers Party clique. Trying to counter their malign and distorted political influence on the curriculum was a major long-term battle that I took my part in. When the government introduced the new History curriculum, it was one fight I knew that I could not win ... and changed my career course.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  6. Yes, it's ridiculous, but typical of some elements of the media. Are we to deny our own history in case someone is offended?
    Interestingly, Orwell also warned that:
    'the most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.'

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    1. Duc de Gobin,

      Orwell wrote a lot that is very pertinent today, and I have often mused that his concept of Newspeak was the blueprint for modern political 'correctness'.

      So much of the media seems to be very 'lazy' and to pander to the lowest common denominator ... and yet its consumers are quite capable of far more sophisticated thinking and understanding than they are often given credit for.

      Some years ago I used to regularly eat breakfast in a nearby cafe. I bought my copy of The Times, and read it over breakfast. One day one of the other regulars - a builder - asked to borrow my newspaper as he had not bought his copy of The Sun. He read it ... and then started to talk to me about how much more news there was in it than there was in his usual newspaper, and how much more he understood about several contemporary events as a result. The next time I saw him he was reading The Independent ... and talking quite animatedly to his workmates about the news.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  7. I don't think it is necessarily wrong to have the conversation around this. The question has to be 'why are the statues there?' In the US one of the most important considerations is the social atmosphere when the statues were being put up - the statues of confederate leaders tended to be put up at times when whites were trying to assert their dominance, and therefore the purpose of many of them will offend people (I'm sure there are many who would disagree with me on this, but I stand by the evidence I have). But the purpose of Nelson's statue is to commemorate an important victory in a major war, as are the statues of Churchill. Nobody put them up thinking 'this will show the slaves and Indians who is in charge around here'. We shouldn't be offended when other people are offended by historical personages, but offer constructive and rational debate that emphasises what it is we are really commemorating in these statues.

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    1. Natholeon,

      One could argue that statues are erected by various 'people of power' to commemorate other 'people of power', and that they are done so at a particular time in history when it reflects the current political situation. It follows therefore that one could argue that toppling or removing such statues at a later date is merely reflecting the change in the political situation.

      That said, statues are a very visible reminder of that previous political situation, and one only has to think of the removal of the statues of Lenin and Stalin after the collapse of communism and - more recently - that of Saddam Hussein to see their significance ... but removing a statue does not remove the past nor guarantee that the future will be better.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. The statues are part of Britain's national identity. Multiculturalism policies are about undermining that. I say give these forces of national obliteration the finger.

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    3. James James,

      The historic statues are important, and I think that they should remain in place as reminders of our past.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  8. Interesting that she did not include Ghandi in her hit list. The said gentleman's views seem often to have been'racist' by today's somewhat exaggerated standards.

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    1. Barry Carter,

      A very interesting comment ...

      All the best,

      Bob

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  9. I unfortunately saw this smug women last night on Channel Four, and immediately 'bit' and posted on my blog. Thinking about it this morning the women had succeeded in her aim. It is pretty clear all she was looking for was notoriety, and perhaps her fifteen minutes of fame by poking at the sensibilities of the silent majority of this country. I read her article in the Guardian which confirmed just how little she knew about Nelson. Her and unfortunately many left wingers like her are simply looking for 'victimhood' by continually poking at ordinary citizens who simply want to get on with life. Luckily for her she isnt living in the South of the USA, where less educated but far better armed ordinary people would gladly shoot her. As someone else has posted, tearing down that statue of Nelson Mandela has more relevance given his propensity to use violence to topple a legitimate government. Of course that would never happen, and would give the left wing the vapours.

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    1. Robbie Rodiss,

      Your reaction to this social historian's TV appearance seems to have been similar to my own. I subsequently read her original article and I was not impressed by what I read,

      I had hoped that the constant sniping at historical personalities who were now seen as 'unacceptable' by certain segments of our political spectrum was over, but it appears that I am sadly mistaken. Perhaps the answer is to remove ALL statues ... but I'd rather that they remained and people were given the level of education that enable them to make their own judgements about them.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  10. We are in an era of increasing political correctness and increasing censorship, notably on-line. Someone, for example, in Germany, was sentenced to six months in jail for noting the link between Muslim leaders and Hitler.

    Recently an Australia reporter of partial Aboriginal ancestry said that a plaque on a Captain Cook statue should be erased.This is because it said he discovered Australia when people lived here. The fact that Cook mapped the whole East coast of Australia (something impossible for the Aborigines to do) and that Australia was until then largely unknown to the rest of the world was not even considered by this halfwit.

    The fact is that the sanctimony of the left wing forces in America is one that copy cats in Australia and Britain have sought to emulate. There is, as Trump noted, no end to it. And it won't stop with 'inappropriate statues' because it won't be long before those of the 'approved' type will also be vandalized by the right wing forces.

    The fact is there is more than one way to see the past and this childish attack on statues needs to be stopped.

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    1. James James,

      I was unaware of the incident in Germany that you mention in your comment.

      When I was taught to write a history essay, I was told to present both sides of the argument before coming to a conclusion. Nowadays you just present your conclusion, spout a few supporting facts, and rubbish any counter-arguments.

      We need a return to balanced discussion about our history and a rejection of unbalanced and poorly-substantiated views.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  11. Just a few comments from the US. We are judging the past using our 21st century morals. I can only image what future generations will say about our morals, and what monuments will be torn down in the future. We must remember that the statues being romped now in the south were erected but veterans to honor their leaders (right or wrong). At the end of the war, the US government tried to reconcile without harsh terms. Once soldiers took the oath of alligence, they were free to return home. One must also remember that the USA banned the exportation of slaves in 1806. There was a Senator known as a liberal firebrand, who once was a ranking member of the KKK. Many building are named after him. Should his name be stricken from such building because of his past?
    In the end I do hope these statues end up in some large park where people who want to see them can, just as I think statues of Lenin, Stalin, Saddam Hussain, and, yes, even Hitler should have ended their days. They are historical figures and we should be able to look them in their bronze eyes. Should the classic ancient Roman statues of Nero and Caesar be destroyed? By the way, I cringed and couldn't believe that the US military command stood by when the Americans toppled the statue of Saddam Hussain in Bagdad,.

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    1. Jhnptrqn,

      Your comment pretty well encapsulates my understanding of the situation with regard to the erection of post-ACW statues ... which is why I refrained from making a comment about what is happening in the US.

      I'd certainly visit a 'disgraced persons statue park if one was created. As far as I can see it would be no worse than visiting a metal and/or stone version of Madam Tussaud's Waxwork Museum.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  12. Bob,
    Cannot resist to add: I happened the other day to see a TV News Report which told of a Local Victorian Council - Voting to END 'AUSTRALIA DAY'....and they totally passed it! Much to the vexation of our Prime Minister! ....lets not kid ourselves- these minority RAT BAGS are a danger to our very existence! Cheers. KEV.

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    1. Kev Robertson,

      It sounds as if Australia - like the rest of the world - also has its fair share political oddballs! One can only hope that the electorate will remember this vote at the next local election.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  13. One should look at this from the positive side: Someone raises an issue about a statue, and it is an opportunity to have a debate, and indeed discuss why we have such statues commemorating certain people or events. The outcome could very well be (without much debate :-)), that the statue is fine as it is. The opposite - people being reluctant or afraid raising issues they might have about statues, or streetnames, or names on buildings, would be far worse. E.g., here in Belgium, discussions about statues for king Leopold II (Congo ...) are still considered a taboo (although some cracks are appearing).

    We currently have a debate about streetnames, named after a writer who was on the good side during WW1, but collaborated during WW2. You can imagine that comes with a lot of baggage.

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    1. And my home town changed the name of one of the main squares, named after Maréchal Foch after WW1, to the name of an important figure in the town's recent history. People objected as well. Not because they knew who Foch was, but because it would be too much hassle to change addresses ;-)

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    2. Phil Dutré,

      Debate is good ... but unfortunately some of those involved in the current round of debates refuse to listen to what others are saying, and would rather just shout them down.

      In post-Franco Spain they have been renaming streets and squares for some time. I can remember when every town had a Plaza de Generalissimo and Calle des Alferez Provisionales ... but I doubt if any remain. That is very understandable ... but there is now pressure to demolish the monument in the Valley of the Fallen, which I suspect they might regret in the long-term. It may well contain the mausoleum for Franco, but it was built by slave-labour and serves as a monument to them as well.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    3. Phil Dutré,

      Being practical people, I can see why Belgians might well object to the change of name on the grounds of the expense involved,

      In our area the local council likes to name roads after local dignitaries (usually former councillors!) ... most of whom nobody has heard of!

      All the best,

      Bob

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