Before I begin, let me say that my own hands are clean. My family background is mostly Swedish and none of my known ancestors was ever involved with slavery of mistreatment of darker-skinned people. I have nothing against black people per se and judge individuals more by the content of their heads than by the skin covering them. Indeed, I have known a number of blacks whom I considered friends.
But what a mess the George Floyd incident, as unfortunate as it was, has grown into! It seems that every time one turns around, there’s another protest incident involving not only black people but also whites and others who think (wish?) they were black. The slogan of the day has become, “black lives matter,” as though brown, yellow and white lives did not count for a fraction of a ha’penny. To me, LIFE matters, although I see rather less than no hope that that will ever become a slogan.
Such things are not new. Is anyone besides me old enough to remember who Stokely Carmichael was? The purported founder of the “black power” movement that cast such a pall over the 1960s, that’s who. Among other things, their clenched fist / raised arm salute was frighteningly reminiscent of what was symbolic of a certain other group only some twenty years previously.
The difference is that now all non-blacks seem to be running scared, falling all over each other in a rush to issue (hopefully) conciliatory statements and, astonishingly, to change the way they run their own lives and businesses. Even the Uffizi gallery in Florence, home to many acknowledged art masterpieces, is setting some of those aside in order to make way for a “black presence” display. Even the producers of The Simpsons TV program have announced that they will no longer have black characters voiced by white actors. (Just wondering: does this mean that some white actors will lose their jobs as a result?) To me, such fear-inspired overreactions are just plain wrong! So far as I know, such things do not constitute any part of the political demands of any black groups. I suppose much may have to do with wishing to avoid having masses of unruly people who just happen to be black gathering in front of ordinary business places and defacing those premises with graffiti or whatever. I fail, however, to see that as much of an excuse for cowardice.
So much for real democracy!
Worst of all, various groups have taken to pulling down or destroying statues, including some with no apparent relation to slavery, and other monuments. Whatever could they be thinking? Even here in the USA, where many statues in the South are likely to represent Confederate officers, they still reflect part of our history. Yet even a certain University is now backing down and removing the Rhodes statue, notwithstanding that a fair number of blacks have benefited from the scholarship that still bears the Rhodes name. Will the removal of such pieces somehow make blacks’ lives better? Or is this all intended to make the perpetrators merely feel better, being out of sight equating to being out of mind, at least for those with weak minds. Forget about any artistic value that statuary may have! Why not destroy all statues and plunge us into Muslim-type aniconism?
I can’t help thinking that, if there are any living descendants of the subjects of such destroyed statues, they should sue the destroyers thereof. My own reaction to any who dared to threaten, destroy or deface any property in which I have an interest would be rather more harsh.
Investigation of police misconduct and regulation of police action is another matter for another day.
16 thoughts on “Destroying History and Civilization”
What a refreshing change, Cog, to read your opinion on a world that seems to be in a muddle. Destroying our history and our cultural heritage, here and in America lest it offend, seems to be somewhat Orwellian. It happened good or bad and should be preserved. Viewing the past, and making moral judgements about slavery or Imperialism by our current moral standards seems to be somewhat revisionist. Would it not be preferable to educate children to understand history and this is also the shared history of our events whatever ethnicity, white or black. Where will it end? Here we’ve gone back to the Romans, with howls of protest about statues of those dastardly slavers. As to what set this off, is indeed another topic. It started in America. From my view in England, and with due respect to our colonial cousins, it is an import we could well do without!
Good day, Cog. ” My family background is mostly Swedish and none of my known ancestors was ever involved with slavery of mistreatment of darker-skinned people.” Perhaps, but you Scandiwegians did a fair amount of raping and pillaging to the detriment of the melanin-challenged folk good old Blighty. I reckon it was from your lot that we Anglos learned the propensity for invasion and exploitation.
Araminta: Thanks. Few ever seem to consider my rants “refreshing.” I must admit that I’m baffled, though, as to why defacing/destroying statues has become such a pastime, no matter how badly reasoned such activities are. I mean, assailing the memory of *Winston Churchill*!!! The last time I checked, vandalism was still a crime. I do hope that it won’t be spread about that the ancient Romans weren’t altogether nice people. If that happens, the contents of our museums would no longer be safe. There are all too many who seem to go through life looking for something that they can claim offends them in some way. They just haven’t caught onto me yet.
As this current wave of nonsense started in the USA, I might, if given to such things, feel just a tad guilty that it has spread to other places. Actually, I darkly suspect that much of it has to do with this (expletive deleted) Coronavirus. The masses simply haven’t liked being made to stay in their burrows and, once the lid is even partially taken off, they come out swinging.
Sipu: Alright, I’ll leave the pillaging to others but I’m keeping the raping. Even though what was done in Britain was more gratuitous than in other places. Today’s Scandihoovians seem to have forgotten even the concept of “thralldom.” But a good idea is a good idea, regardless of its origin. A few years ago, there was an article in one of the British newspapers entitled, “22 countries Britain has never invaded.”
Cog, I read a report about one idiot – meant to be some sort of advisor to the Met too – who said that some thought Churchill was racist while some thought not. She herself, she said, hasn’t met the man! Some of this statue destroying seems to be based on ignorance more than anything. In Bratislava there is a life size statue of Stalin and the hands are painted, and regularly repainted, red. Seems to say it all.
Can anyone explain this “taking the knee” to me. The first time I saw it, I couldn’t understand why the guy was paying homage to his country’s flag by kneeling, a sign of respect and humility. I thought the intention was to disrespect the flag.
I do hope the Rhodes foundation will stop forcing money on black students. What a dreadful insult.
Hi Sheona. With respect to Rhodes, as you can imagine this is fairly close to home, what really got my goat the other day was an article in the Daily Mail that casually stated that he had built his diamond empire using slave labour. Rhodes was born in 1853, twenty years after slavery had been abolished throughout the British Empire, including South Africa. The actual slave trade had ended about 25 years before that. Rhodes paid his native workers, as did all miners. These natives came from right across the Southern African region to earn relatively good pay. Inevitably, perhaps, there was a huge problem with theft and so there was very strict monitoring of their behaviour and they were locked up in enclosures over night to prevent them running away with their loot. But they were not forced to work. Truth of the matter is that they would work for a few months and then go home with their wages and stay there until their money was spent.
This easy distortion of the truth, either deliberate or careless, is deeply troubling.
Rhodes was an extraordinary man, and while he was by no means perfect and made at least one terrible mistake, he was a man of great honour, loyalty and vision. His downfall was his involvement in the disastrous Jameson Raid, an event the consequences of which were very far reaching. Even then his intentions were to choose the lesser of 2 evils. If the foreigners who had come to Johannesburg to mine for gold had successfully overthrown President Kruger’s South African Republic, aka the Transvaal, as was quite possible given their numerical superiority, philosophical differences and general antipathy, they would have put in place a regime that would have been hostile to Britain. This was something which Rhodes, who had the blessing of the Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, was anxious to avoid. Rhodes felt that he had to control the ‘inevitable’ coup. It went horribly pear-shaped and was a major cause of the Boer War that followed. Further it contributed greatly to the animosity felt by Britain towards the German Kaiser, who had publicly taken the side of Kruger against the British.
During the early days of the Rand gold rush, his advisors and partners pleaded with Rhodes to leave Kimberly, where he had amassed a great fortune and come to Joburg to buy up claims. Had he done so, his wealth would have been increased immeasurably. Instead he chose to stay where he was to be with his close friend and personal secretary, Neville Pickering who was dying and whom he nursed for 6 weeks. While there has been considerable and understandable speculation that the two were ‘intimate’, there has never been any substantial evidence that Rhodes was homosexual; quite possibly he was asexual. Ironically, given the woke world in which we live, had he been recognised as being gay, it may have absolved him of all his colonial guilt and his Oriel statue may have withstood the assault of the BLM brigade.
With regard to the riposte to BLM, that All Lives Matter, I am increasingly leaning towards the sentiment that No Lives Matter. In the scheme of things, I think I may be right.
In certain areas of Britain it seems that black lives don’t matter at all to other blacks who stab and shoot them. Do we see anyone worrying about them?
I’m still of the opinion that all lives matter, be they skyblue pink or bumbee tartan.
Sipu: Thanks for keeping the record straight on Cecil Rhodes. I hoped we could count on you for this. So many of today’s troublemakers will believe whatever suits their purpose of the moment, whatever they want to believe, true or not.
The other day an editorial piece appeared in one of the papers saying that, as soon as a protest movement seems to be getting off the ground, the “woke” leftniks move in with the intent of taking the movement over and bending it their own cause.
It grieves me that I can only agree with you regarding “No Lives Matter.” We can only agree with Darwin regarding the behavior of these people.
Sheona: Ditto my last previous paragraph. According to the AP, the tally for the just-past holiday weekend in Chicago was 17 deaths, including a 7-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, and 70 more wounded. Can you guess the ethnicity of who was shot by whom?
I am strictly of the ‘No lives matter’ school. the world is hideously overpopulated and needs a damned good Darwinian culling of about 50%. Human expansion into wild creature territory has led to nearly all these pandemics where disease jumps from species to species. I hope they continue so that the world and all its denizens have a reasonable chance of survival, nor just us!
Mongolia sounds hopeful! a nice round of Bubonic plague so aptly named the Black Death! Needs to get on with it. No doubt China will see it gets to Chicago!
All splendid theatre from the vantage of my greenhouse!
What a world we live in, what a society we have! Accountability, responsibility and just plain common sense are being lost at an ever increasing rate. It’s not only the police who need to be held accountable for their actions, it’s also the public, many of whom feel free to infest the beach at Bournemouth and other places – maskless, of course.
What brought all this on? An AP report that the descendants of a man whose statue was removed, beheaded and tossed in the water are pressing for its repair and return. The man in question was Hans Christian Heg, who, according to Wikipedia, was, “a Norwegian American abolitionist, journalist, anti-slavery activist, politician and soldier, best known for leading the Scandinavian 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment on the Union side in the American Civil War.” Another statue destroyed at apparently the same time was of a woman pointing toward the horizon as an embodiment of the state’s “Forward” motto. To the best of my knowledge and belief, neither of these statues can in any way be linked to the George Floyd case.
The great-great-grandsons of Colonel Heg, who was a dedicated abolitionist, have called the destruction of his statue “shocking,” “senseless,” “thoughtless” and “a dumb thing to do.” I would not have been so polite.
Apparently the State has scheduled a meeting to discuss the cost of restoring the Heg and “Forward” statues but, in my not-very-humble opinion, it’s not the taxpayers of the State of Wisconsin who should bear that burden.
Let the police do what they should really be paid for (other than abusing and killing presumably innocent blacks) and launch an investigation to identify and charge at least some of the individuals responsible for that act of wanton vandalism. Then make *them* pay. If they have no funds of their own, sentence them to a lifetime of public service work.
To borrow one of Yul Brynner’s recurring lines from *The Ten Commandments*, “So let it be written, so let it be done!”
Having read about the death of Pop Smoke, an African American rapper, I’m waiting for BLM to do something, something useful I mean. Come on Markle, the guy was practically a neighbour, living like you in someone else’s house. His violent death was caused by African American violence. Does that sort of black life not count then? The police have arrested five suspects, but no one else seems to have said “boo”. Too busy destroying statues that have nothing to do with black lives? Lewis Hamilton, for all his pretentious posturing, has not returned to the UK to start protesting in those areas where black lives seem cheap if you’re in the wrong gang or “diss” the wrong person. Didn’t Henry Ford say there was only one shade of black? BLM, which is doing itself no favours, seems to disagree.
Sheona: I’m afraid that’s nothing new. To me, the death of a rapper is no great loss, whatever his race, but the fact that the crime was committed by some of his own is a major irritant. The police finally got off their collective rear end to clear out that “CHAZ” -» “CHOP” area in Seattle *after* there were a number of incidents involving black-on-black violence.
But wait, there’s more. Here’s a sad news story as it was reported:
What was omitted until much, much later in the reporting game was any mention of the driver’s race. Wanna guess what he turned out to be? His two victims, whose faces were shown early on, were both white. In fact, I’d refer to the poor girl who died as “whiter than white,” fair-skinned and blonde (dyed pink). What do you think, should we start a new movement called “WLANNM” (White Lives Ain’t No Never Mind)?
It’s troubling that BLM seem to be adopting the raised clenched fist gesture. I wonder how may of today’s lot remember the “Black Power” movement of the 1960s and all the trouble it caused, for “them” as well as “us.” Looking further back in history makes me wonder what’s next, black uniforms?
Goodonyer, Bristol City Council. You removed that Jen Reid statue by Marc Quinn and didn’t take a year and a day to get around to it.
The only thing is, for my money you treated it far too nicely. I’d much prefer to have seen it beheaded and thrown in the water. The lady of the house thinks that would be descending to the level of the rabble who pulled Edward Colston’s statue down, but I ask: what other sort of behavior would that type be likely to understand?
I’m really getting fed up with those destructive demonstrators and am tempted to adopt their raised-right-arm gesture – only, in my case, without the clenched fist but with the middle finger extended.
I’ve followed all the comments here – and, as I suspected, the Charioteers have already said everything that I would say.
As Alexander Pope said in the early 18th C ‘The proper study of Mankind is Man’. I’m not too certain that he meant it in quite the same the way as I see it. As a historian I believe that we all need to know exactly where we have come from before we can work out how we can get to where we want to be without making the same mistakes we have made in the past. And that means that we have to look at how the people in the past thought.
That is no longer being taught and neither is tolerance for other people’s opinions. Unfortunately, like so many things ‘history’ has become politicised and has been taught as though those in the past wilfully disregarded 20th / 21st Century philosophy rather than acting under the mores of their own times.
If I had one wish, I would dearly love to live long enough to see how people in 200 years time write about this era. It ‘ain’t gonna happen’ and I am going to go long before then! But I have trust enough in humanity to hope that there will be huge backlash against the tyranny of thought that the minority with exceedingly loud voices are trying to foist upon us.
I, needless to say, will continue to say what I think – and I’m sure that many others will do the same.
They’re still at it, trying to destroy history.
The current issue involves the proposed renaming of a tertiary street in Bellingham currently known as, “Pickett Road.” They’ve already succeeded in having a brass plaque removed from a modern bridge that replaced the one built by one George E. Pickett.
The name “Pickett” is, of course, most closely associated with the ill-fated “Pickett’s Charge” during the battle of Gettysburg in our Civil War. Pickett was the Confederate general who led the charge (acting on orders) and I gather that the resulting huge loss of his troops’ life haunted him all the rest of his life. But simply because he served on the “wrong” side leads many to demand removing his name from anyplace in the City of Bellingham where it may now appear. Those advocating such action clearly have, at best, an incomplete knowledge and understanding of American history.
George E. Pickett was, first and foremost, a professional soldier. He served the United States of America with distinction in the Mexican War and, later, in the “Pig War” in the San Juan Islands. He oversaw much-needed development and construction in the Bellingham area, including the bridge from the modern replacement of which his name has now, lamentably, been stripped.
Although a native of Virginia, he was not a keeper of slaves and, to the contrary, became known as an opponent of slavery. He was not a racist and, indeed, married a Native American woman of the Haida tribe.
At the start of the Civil War, it was a sense of duty to his home state of Virginia that led him to travel, with great difficulty, from Bellingham to Richmond, where he joined the Confederate Army, and to Washington, DC, where he formally resigned his commission in the Union Army. Nothing more than that, driven by nothing other than loyalty to his birthplace.
So, then, is the very name “Pickett” to become yet another victim of today’s “cancel culture?” Can history legitimately be amended, forgotten or hidden? Surely “out of sight, out of mind” cannot be good public policy. The one place in these parts that they can’t touch is the Pickett House, which is privately owned by an historical society and on the national register of historical places.
These “cancel” types would forget at their peril that “what goes around, comes around.” What if, some years in the future (probably well after my time), people started pulling down statues of, say, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Just some food for thought.
Someone has had a far better idea than mindlessly tearing down statues! Looky here:
Now maybe I can relax just a bit.
There are those who understand that ‘the past is a different country’ and that those living in the 21st Century have no more right to judge past eras than those living in the future should judge us without understanding the full context of our mindset.
Future generations may well condemn us because this generation is destroying the idea that few humans are a mixture of both good and evil – or, in my opinion, limited by the philosophy of the era in which they live. I was going to say that they see history only in terms of black or white – but that age-old saying has probably become politically incorrect! I trust my readers here not to do that – but to take its original meaning.
The ‘woke’ generation only see ‘the evil’ in the actions of men (not too many were women!) of the past who did what we consider wrong but also did great good. What a miserable lot the present ‘woke’ generation are! I sincerely hope that their legacy of trying to stifle knowledge is condemned in the future.
I read the article – sounds like a great idea to me.