Tag Archives: in defense of our monuments

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.