Tag Archives: oxford university

The White Rose Opposition to Hitler

Oxford University has hosted a reading of the pamphlets, produced by the White Rose student opposition movement to Hitler, (in English translation). All of the White Rose’s members were executed by Nazi Germany.

You can listen to English readings of all of the pamphlets, together with introductory comments, here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqhoCj5MXzo&feature=youtu.be.

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.




Rhodes is in his grave
Long since.
Oxford students wince
And call
For his statue to fall,
Yet continue to take the cash
Of one they would consign to history’s trash.

We all have feet of clay.
How easy it is to judge
And bear a grudge
Towards those who have passed away,
For the dead can nothing say
To mitigate
The hate
Of callow youth,
So convinced are they of their own rectitude and truth.

It is easy to look back through an opaque
Glass and take
The high moral ground.
‘Tis a truth throughout history found
That yesterday’s hero
Will into the garbage go
For they were not “progressive” (although they thought themselves so).

Do those sitting in student bar
Congratulating themselves on how far
We have come, ever pause,
look beyond the self-applause
And ponder
On yonder
Setting sun.

I agree with the historian Mary Beard that the attempt to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oxford is a dangerous attempt to erase the past, (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/mary-beard-says-drive-to-remove-cecil-rhodes-statue-from-oxford-university-is-a-dangerous-attempt-to-a6783306.html).

Superintelligence By Nick Bostrom

Nick Bostrom’s “Superintelligence” sounds as though it will make for interesting and perhaps, at times somewhat heavy reading. The author, an Oxford Professor, looks at the future of artificial intelligence and what will happen when (he thinks that it is inevitable) machines attain greater levels of intelligence than we humans. Will they still want us around and what (if anything) can people do to mitigate against the potential dangers of superintelligence.

For Bostrom’s book please visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0199678111?pldnSite=1