Tag Archives: history

Empire

The wind is getting up.
Should I put
Kipling aside
For his pride
In empire?

Should I apologise
And lower my eyes
For seeing empire
In all it’s complexity?

The Romans to Britain came.
Should Italians apologise
And lower their eyes
With shame?

You may say
“The Roman Empire
Was not all bad”.
But you would be mad
To put your head above the parapit
And admit
The same
Of Britain’s imperial past.

A certain class
Would look aghast
And cry “shame”
And label you
With a name
Untrue.

Mud sticks
And many men
Seal their lips.
Whilst a brave few
Say what they
Believe to be true.

In Defense of Churchill

It appears to be the latest fashion to attack those who can no longer defend themselves, including the great Winston Churchill. I was recently involved in an event during which one of the participants labelled Churchill as a “war criminal”.

Whilst Churchill did, as with all of us possess faults, he was no “war criminal”, nor can one equate him with Hitler as some remarkably stupid people have done.

Below are a couple of interesting article which counteract some of the accusations leveled against Churchill:

https://winstonchurchill.hillsdale.edu/white-supremacy/. (An article about Churchill’s alleged white supremacist views).
https://openthemagazine.com/essay/churchill-a-war-criminal-get-your-history-right/. (An article by an Indian historian in which he argues that Churchill was no “war criminal”).
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/17/eugenics-skeleton-rattles-loudest-closet-left. (An interesting article which mentions Churchill’s support for eugenics. However the main point of the article is to highlight the left’s (including the Fabian Society’s) support for eugenic measures. I find it interesting that those who criticise Churchill are (for the most part) silent on the advocacy by many Socialists of eugenics policies in the early part of the 20th century. Double standards?).

Statue of Black Actor and Poet Alfred Fagon Defaced in Bristol

On 9 June, I wrote a post entitled “In Defense of our Monuments”, (please see https://kmorrispoet.com/2020/06/09/in-defense-of-our-monuments/). In that article, I argued that people should be judged by the standards of their time, and condemned the actions of those who damage our monuments.

Last Sunday the statue of Edward Colsoun, a Bristol slaver, was thrown into the harbour. Now we hear that the statue of black actor and poet Alfred Fagon has been covered in a corrosive substance (possibly bleach) and an assessment is being made to determine whether it can be repaired, (please see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-53011774).

The BBC reports that “Anton Phillips, an actor and friend of Mr Fagon, said following the “dumping” of the Colston statue it “doesn’t surprise me”.” Sadly it doesn’t surprise me either. Indeed, at the time of writing my post “In Defense of Our Monuments”, I was fearful that something of this nature would happen. However I took the decision not to mention my concern lest someone happening on my post took it into their heads to target monuments erected to non-whites.

Damage to monuments is wholly unacceptable irrespective of whether they celebrate the lives of white or non-white people. I unreservedly condemn the defacing of the Fagon statue (as I do that of Winston Churchill). To rephrase the old quotation, “vandalism begets vandalism”, a fact which those who defaced Churchill’s statue, and threw Colston’s into Bristol harbour, should have considered before embarking on their criminal damage.

Anyone who damages our monuments should be subject to the full force of the law. Heavily fined and/or imprisoned. Its simply not acceptable for thuggery of this nature to take place in the UK.

In Defense of our Monuments

(If you have not read this post, https://kmorrispoet.com/2020/06/08/thuggery/, you may wish to do so prior to reading the below).

Back in 2016, I composed my poem Rhodes, in response to the demands of Oxford students that the statue of Cecil Rhodes should be removed from Oxford University. A recording of me reading that poem can be found below. My apologies for the less than perfect quality of the recording.

The ongoing demonstrations by Black Lives Matter has led to renewed calls for the statue of Cecil Rhodes to be removed from the campus of Oriel College. And the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has announced the establishment of a Commission to examine whether landmarks such as statues should be removed from the streets and squares of London. (See https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/uk-statues-protest-movement-scli-intl-gbr/index.html.

As reported by CNN (please see the above link), protesters daubed, “was a racist” on the statue of Winston Churchill, whilst others placed a plaque on the 18th-century Scottish philosopher, David Hume accusing him of racism.

Churchill was a product of his time and (as with many other men and women of all political parties and walks of life) undoubtedly held views which would now be considered racist. He did, however lead Britain through World War II and was an artist and author of some distinction. Consequently to mindlessly brand Churchill as “was a racist” shows the crass stupidity of whoever took it into their tiny head to vandalise the statue of a great war leader and prime minister. Churchill was much more than a “racist” and I’ve nothing but contempt for the person or persons who saw fit to deface his statue.

Turning to David Hume. Hume was one of the greatest thinkers of the Enlightenment. To single out his “racism” whilst disregarding his philosophical achievements beggers belief. As with Churchill, Hume was a product of his age and should be viewed in that light.

I wonder where all this will stop. In the city of my birth, Liverpool there have been calls (I suspect by a tiny minority) to have Penny Lane renamed due to it having gained it’s title from a merchant with interests in the slave trade, James Penny. The University of Liverpool has already bowed to student pressure and renamed Gladstone Hall, due to the association of the 19th-century prime Minister’s family with slavery, (see https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-mayor-joe-anderson-responds-18391938).

Whatever their origin (ignoble or noble), street names, monuments etc become part of communities, interwoven into the fabric of society and we should be wary of simply removing them merely because a vociferous minority clamour for us to do so. Its often said that “he who shouts loudest gets heard”. This is, unfortunately often the case even when the person (or persons) shouting loudest are not representative of the wider community or of society.

Most inhabitants of these islands rightly admire Churchill and are attached to their locality (including street names and monuments). Unfortunately the vast majority do not tend to get heard, partly owing to the disinclination of many people to become actively involved in politics. Sadly this often means that the loud mouths (such as the person or persons who vandalised Churchill’s statue) get heard, whilst the silent majority do not.

The British Library and Legal Deposit

A few days ago, I received a receipt from the British Library, confirming that my “Selected Poems” has been added to their shelves/catalogue.

Under UK law a copy of every publication, published in the United Kingdom, (print and electronic), must be provided to the British Library, and to 5 other UK libraries on request.

The responsibility for furnishing copies rests with publishers which, (in the case of self-published authors) in effect means that they must provide their published works to the British Library and (if requested to do so) to the 5 other UK libraries.

The above system (which is known as Legal Deposit) helps to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage for the benefit of authors and readers alike.

You can read more about Legal Deposit here, https://kmorrispoet.com/2017/03/10/legal-deposit-for-self-published-and-other-authors/.

The paperback edition of my “Selected Poems“, (which is held by the British Library) is available from Amazon and can be found here, https://www.amazon.com/Selected-Poems-K-Morris/dp/1688049800

I Have Sat Round the Open Pub Fire

I have sat round the open pub fire
And discussed the rights and wrongs of empire,
And the ends
Of men
With friends.
But when
I walk through fallen leaves,
The ends
Of men
I truly perceive.

The Allerton Oak

As someone who was born in the city of Liverpool, I was delighted to learn that Liverpool’s Allerton Oak has been crowned Tree of the Year.

The BBC reports that the tree predates the Norman Conquest of 1066, and legend has it that a medieval court was held under it’s spreading branches. You can read the BBC article here, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-50141031.

I am a lover of all trees and, in particular oaks. You can find my poem “The Girl and the Oak” here, https://kmorrispoet.com/2016/01/03/the-girl-and-the-oak/.

If Gandhi Was A Racist, Who Then Shall We Honour?

Back in 2016, Oxford University announced that it would not bow to the demands of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, and the statue of Cecil Rhodes would remain, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-35435805.

The Rhodes scholarship enables students to benefit from funds left in the will of the late Cecil Rhodes, irrespective of skin colour. However, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign contend that Rhodes was an “imperialist” and a “racist” and his statue has no place on the campus of Oriel College, Oxford.

I smiled with wry humour when I learned that radical students at Manchester University are objecting to the erection of a statue of Gandhi on the grounds that he described black people as “savages” and “dirty (amongst other offensive terms of abuse), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/17/manchester-council-urged-reject-mahatma-gandhi-statue-racism.

Let me be crystal clear. I did not smile at the offensive words used by Gandhi. Racism is wrong and should be condemned in the strongest possible manner. We all share a common humanity and skin colour does not define the value of a person, as value inheres in us all by virtue of our common humanity. Why then the reason for my wry smile? If Gandi can be attacked, who, then deserves a statue erected in their name? Please, someone show me the individual (living or dead) who is so saintly that they deserve a statue.

Both Rhodes and Gandhi where products of their time as, indeed are we all. In times to come those of us (including myself) who enjoy eating meat may be viewed by posterity as uncivilised, cruel individuals who predated on the inocent animal kingdom. Who, then will erect a statue to one of the meat eaters of today, irrespective of their charitable deeds, literary talent or whatever?

Will the vegetarians of today (or the future) be considered worthy of statues? What about the non meat eater who is a serial adulterer and treats his wives with utter contempt. If he is a great artist will his poor treatment of his wife be overlooked and a statue be erected in his name? Or will the policers of morals jump up and down and say “over my dead body”?

As Hamlet remarks, “treat every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping”. I answer few, if any of us, for we are all imperfect humans, living in a complex and imperfect world. So, no, Rhodes statue should not fall and those agitating for it to do so should find something more useful to do with their time.

Kevin

Book Banning

An interesting post on the subject of book banning, https://ckbookspublishing.com/2019/09/27/book-banning-is-it-right/.

As someone who read history and politics at University College Swansea, I am aware of (and concerned by) works which deny (or greatly downplay) the horrors of the holocaust. Long before the rise of the internet, pamphlets such as “Did 6 Million Really Die?”, and “The Hoax of the 20th Century”, peddled the wholly erroneous and poisonous view that the Nazis had no plan to wipe out European jewry. However, since the birth of the World Wide Web books such as this (previously available in back street bookstores or via mail order only) can now be obtained with the click of a mouse. Indeed much of this material is freely available online.

In my view the best way to deal with such unhistorical rubbish is to shine the lense of truth on it, rather than ban such works. Whenever “literature” of this nature has been exposed to proper examination it has been revealed for the trash that it is, (see, for example the various court cases in which holocaust deniers have been proved to be peddlers of untruth).

Also, by banning an idea, one risks making it “sexy”, and one may (albeit unintentionally) help to foster the view that “the establishment” (whoever they may be) have something to hide. So no, book banning is not the answer.

Kevin