Statue wars: what should we do with troublesome monuments? Watch

Spirithorse
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The global protest movement to tear down urban memorials that reinforce racism is rewriting the very story of our cities. Should any monument be safe?

Read more in this article here and tell us what you think?

Are there any statues near you that you think should be removed? If so why?
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fallen_acorns
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simple guide to how we remember people:

1, if someone was considered a great person in their own time... and died a great person. Remember them fondly

2, if someone was considered a bad person in their own time... and died a bad person. no statues, tear them down


Hitler, etc. Fall into category 2
A lot of the current statues that are being proposed to take down, fall into category 1.

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The reason to follow this rule is simple:

A person can only live to the rules of the time they are in. They can only conform to the moral code that exists for their time, and expecting them to do otherwise, and condemning them for not.. is impossible. Its like me asking you to conform to a moral code that will be invented in 50 years time, that you can't even imagine now...

you cant do it. All you, or I, or anyone can do is live to be the best person based on what society now believes makes a person good. None of us can guess where the futures going to go, so to judge us based on it is both illogical and unfair.

Just follow this simple rule, and it clears up a lot of problems. The bad tyrants and evil figures, who were bad within their own time, and the moral code that existed than... sure, never make statues of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, etc. Churchill though? considered a great man in his own time, but doesn't conform to today's moral standards... keep.

I don't care about making people feel included or stopping them feeling uncomfortable. History isn't there to make all feel included or comfortable. Its there to reflect the reality of the time, not hide parts that make us feel bad. It should make us feel proud, guilty, worried, ashamed, remorseful, thankful, and the whole range of emotions.

(the only exception to my rule, is if recent information has been discovered that wasn't known during the persons life. Lets say X person was considered great, and died great.. but then 50 years later, they found that he was a mass murdering child rapist.. had they known that during his time, he would have been condemned.. so in that case, sure - tear down the statues)
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(also.. no problem at all with putting plaques, explaining historical context on monuments. If that's what people want, then that's fine... just don't remove it!)
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londonmyst
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I don't agree with attempts to erase the darkest chapters of history by hiding statues out of sight or the social attitude that past history must conform to the demands of modern life.
A part of learning from the mistakes of the past means difficult conversations, then coming to terms with the most unpleasant pages of history and assessing the impact upon both the specific era in question and modern day cultural heritage.
Just as Japan and Germany have done post WW2.

There's no such thing as a perfect past or perfect person.
Adding extra content such as brief biographies or signs that discuss the controversial elements would be a lot more helpful than playing move and hide musical statues whenever the political temperature gets too high or the music suddenly stops..
Trying to sanitize history by removing statues of objectionable people or people who have been deemed to hold controversial opinions has the potential to make every statue objectionable on some basis- then expanding this attitude to encompass libraries/museums/galleries/businesses/street signs.
Erasing people from history was tried by the ancient egyptians, early church and many modern day scandal beset charities/companies.
It always fails in the long term.
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Drewski
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If you remove history you don't learn from it.
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PQ
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I'm all in favour of removing some fuddy duddy old statues into museums/similar to make space for new statues. The 4th plinth project showed that there's a huge wealth of ideas and variety for public art created by artists today, add in the annual sculpture trails (the lambananas in liverpool, aardman statues in bristol etc) in various uk cities etc etc....it's a real shame that the current government and the media doesn't see the value this has and instead focuses on the "tragedy" of removing something celebrating slave traders
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fallen_acorns
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(Original post by PQ)
I'm all in favour of removing some fuddy duddy old statues into museums/similar to make space for new statues. The 4th plinth project showed that there's a huge wealth of ideas and variety for public art created by artists today, add in the annual sculpture trails (the lambananas in liverpool, aardman statues in bristol etc) in various uk cities etc etc....it's a real shame that the current government and the media doesn't see the value this has and instead focuses on the "tragedy" of removing something celebrating slave traders
what if the the figures of your new sculptures, are viewed as badly in a few hundred years, as the slave traders are viewed today? Remove them then, and replace them with newer ones? keep a constant refreshing of history in place.. removing the old, and adding the new.. a collective amnesia of our past, because it makes us feel more comfortable in the present?

I am all for adding new statues - and I hope they will be judged reasonably in hundreds of years time, in the same way that we can judge statues hundreds of years old now.

(also, moving to museums, won't stop the movment to destroy the statues.. museums themselves have been under protest for housing statutes, as noted in the OPs article)
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PQ
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(Original post by fallen_acorns)
what if the the figures of your new sculptures, are viewed as badly in a few hundred years, as the slave traders are viewed today? Remove them then, and replace them with newer ones? keep a constant refreshing of history in place.. removing the old, and adding the new.. a collective amnesia of our past, because it makes us feel more comfortable in the present?
That's how things happen - fads and trends come and go. Public art is part of that and reflects it. As long as historical monuments aren't being destroyed just moved to storage I don't see a problem. Historians and the public can still view those items kept in archives but we're not queueing for a sandwich underneath a celebration of slavery either.

There's a difference between housing, storing and displaying artefacts. That's something that curators, archivists and historians all understand.

There's some marvellous memorials/plaques etc in Blandford to the ******* brothers who rebuilt it http://www.dorsetlife.co.uk/2009/03/...andford-burnt/
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ThomH97
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Leave the statue there defaced, maybe also as an outdoor urinal. That works for everyone then. The person is remembered for what they did (wrong) and everybody gets to make a mess on it.
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fallen_acorns
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(Original post by PQ)
That's how things happen - fads and trends come and go. Public art is part of that and reflects it. As long as historical monuments aren't being destroyed just moved to storage I don't see a problem. Historians and the public can still view those items kept in archives but we're not queuing for a sandwich underneath a celebration of slavery either.
Moving something that's entire purpose is to be seen and to be remembered.. into somewhere where it can't be seen or remembered by the public - is the same as destroying it.

If I take a film, bury the only copy deep underground, and let no one find it and stop everyone from ever watching it. I haven't destroyed it, its still there.. but to all practical purposes I have achieved the same effect.

the only way it differs is if you leave the option for it being unveiled again in the future - which I can't see as ever being an option.

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serious question though:

How far would you go to not 'celebrate slavery' - considering the country you (presumably) live in, in its modern form is built on slavery and colonialism entirely. One thing the OPs article had spot on, was that it pointed out that statues are just the tip of the iceberg.. you can go larger, to buildings built on the back of slavery and celebrating its successes.. whole towns and cities that exist in their present state because of slavery.. you could even argue that the UK wouldn't exist at all right now, if it were not for slavery..

so what should we do? If we start to destroy all traces of slavery because anything that exists that celebrated or came from the successes of slavery is painful to us - should we just destroy large parts of our country entirely? hide them all away for the historians? knock them down, re build them? give it all away? a whole lot of buildings are going to be the first thing to go.. and then the cities and streets will have to follow.
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CoolCavy
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Don't blink
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PQ
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(Original post by fallen_acorns)
Moving something that's entire purpose is to be seen and to be remembered.. into somewhere where it can't be seen or remembered by the public - is the same as destroying it.

If I take a film, bury the only copy deep underground, and let no one find it and stop everyone from ever watching it. I haven't destroyed it, its still there.. but to all practical purposes I have achieved the same effect.

--

serious question though:

How far would you go to not 'celebrate slavery' - considering the country you (presumably) live in, in its modern form is built on slavery and colonialism entirely. One thing the OPs article had spot on, was that it pointed out that statues are just the tip of the iceberg.. you can go larger, to buildings built on the back of slavery and celebrating its successes.. whole towns and cities that exist in their present state because of slavery.. you could even argue that the UK wouldn't exist at all right now, if it were not for slavery..

so what should we do? If we start to destroy all traces of slavery because anything that exists that celebrated or came from the successes of slavery is painful to us - should we just destroy large parts of our country entirely? hide them all away for the historians? knock them down, re build them? give it all away? a whole lot of buildings are going to be the first thing to go.. and then the cities and streets will have to follow.
Do you really think removing Rhodes statues will result in entire cities being removed?

I grew up in a city that was built on the profits of slavery. We learnt about it in school, had trips to the city's slavery museum to learn more and understand how appalling it was. It's still the case that former slave owners were compensated for their "losses" when slavery was abolished....and the slaves got nothing. Obviously I don't want my city destroyed - I want public recognition that the wealth that built it came from buying and selling human lives. The people who should be commemorated aren't the slave owners and brokers - they're the people who had their freedom stolen from them and their lives destroyed. IMO my city has done that recognition pretty well so far but there's always room for improvement. removing monuments from public display doesn't mean moving it to somewhere where it is "hidden". Archiving doesn't make something inaccessible, and leaving monuments in prominent places doesn't lead to discussion about the past. The Rhodes statue has been in Oxford for over 100 years - his actions were not discussed by many people at all until the idea of removing the statue was raised. Obviously just leaving it up isn't improving awareness or understanding of history:rolleyes:
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fallen_acorns
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(Original post by PQ)
Do you really think removing Rhodes statues will result in entire cities being removed?

That's not what I said.

My point was that, just going by the idea of 'removing celebrations of slavery' is not enough - you need far more nuance and distinctions than that, if your going to decide what should and shouldn't been allowed in public. If your only objection, or at least the only one you gave until that point was that it celebrated slavery - my question was what do you want to do about everything else that celebrates slavery? or was built by slaves.. or came form the profits of slaves etc.

I grew up in a city that was built on the profits of slavery. We learnt about it in school, had trips to the city's slavery museum to learn more and understand how appalling it was.

Good

It's still the case that former slave owners were compensated for their "losses" when slavery was abolished....and the slaves got nothing.

Except their freedom. Its worth remembering that until that point slavery was a near constant across all human civilizations and societies. When you expand your scope wider to our development as a species, the abolition of slavery - is an absolute miracle, and one of the best things that western society has contributed to the world.

Obviously I don't want my city destroyed - I want public recognition that the wealth that built it came from buying and selling human lives.

What better way than using the monuments as educational tools? rather than hiding them away for only historians to see. Teach children that morality and societal ethics change over time, and that whilst these men were once considered great, now we view their actions differently.. and teach them that one day, their own actions may be viewed differently by their great great grandchildren.. its a healthy lesson to teach kids, that morality is not fixed.

The people who should be commemorated aren't the slave owners and brokers - they're the people who had their freedom stolen from them and their lives destroyed.

I would have no problem with statues being created to remember slaves.

IMO my city has done that recognition pretty well so far but there's always room for improvement. removing monuments from public display doesn't mean moving it to somewhere where it is "hidden".

Normally it does - museums are already under attack for displacing work that is problematic, place it anywhere more out of the way than a museum, and its 'hidden'

Archiving doesn't make something inaccessible, and leaving monuments in prominent places doesn't lead to discussion about the past.

It can do, if they are presented and labelled in the correct way. No one is expecting them to lead to national conversations every week.. but a good educational plaque, and when families walk past, and kids ask their parents what it means, and who he was.. the parents can read the plaque, and explain the historical significance of the figure and how he fits into contemporary morality.

The Rhodes statue has been in Oxford for over 100 years - his actions were not discussed by many people at all until the idea of removing the statue was raised. Obviously just leaving it up isn't improving awareness or understanding of history

Or maybe that's because racial tensions hadn't been ratcheted up to the point where people were feeling that the presence of a statue was an assault on their very being. Look at racial tensions over the past 100 years, they go in cycles.. we get a period of intense conflict, followed by a period of calmness and resolution after progress demanded was made. During the period of peace, the demands and goalposts are shifted, new boundaries are set... and within the scope of these new boundaries, people begin to feel oppressed again, and conflict picks up. Slowly the boundaries shrink from vastly important life-altering factors, to small daily annoyances.

Its why we have better race-relations than ever in empirical terms, but when polled, minority youth communities feel more persecuted now than they did in the 90s.

So to the Rhodes statue.. the reason it hasn't been discussed, is not because statues can't lead to discussion - but because the climate had never escalated to the point where we required a discussion about statues until now.

And even now, the controversy around removing has only sparked one discussion:

"should we remove statues"

Not any actual discussion about slavery or history...
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PQ
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"It's still the case that former slave owners were compensated for their "losses" when slavery was abolished....and the slaves got nothing.

"Except their freedom."

that's a really horrible thing to say.
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fallen_acorns
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(Original post by PQ)
"It's still the case that former slave owners were compensated for their "losses" when slavery was abolished....and the slaves got nothing.

"Except their freedom."

that's a really horrible thing to say.
why? and be specific.

Its the most significant thing - when slavery was abolished, they received their freedom back. You said they recieved nothing.. trivializing completely how monumentally significant of an even it was to have a mass abolishion of slavery, and to have on mass, slaves given their freedom back.

Beyond monumental, its historically unprecedented up until that point.

Thats the thing with slavery - when its taught and discussed, we focus on what we did as a western country, as if it started with us.. we caused it, and then by fixing it, we righting a wrong that we made in the first place..

In the scope of history though, it doesn't look like that at all..

Every - and I mean every - great human civilsation was built on slavery.

Anciet greeks - yep
Anxiet romans - yep
Ancient egyptions - yep
Chinese - yes
Japanese - yes
the great african civilsations pre-colonialism - yes
native americna societies - yes
Arabic empires - yes
etc. etc. etc.

Its not that the west was built on slavery... the world was built on slavery.

For it to be ended, and for slaves to be given their freedom back, is the one of the single best and most monumental things that has happened in human civilisation.

And yes it was given - it was not taken.. which is even more miraculous.. it wasn't gained by revolt or violence or taken by force.. it was given through moral development leading the slave owning countries to develop in such a way that they realized what they were doing was wrong.

In the scope of our history as humans, its miraculous.

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so explain to me, in detail, why pointing out that they were not given 'nothing' - but instead they were given the most important thing in their lives back.. is horrible?
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