Tag Archives: winston churchill

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.

A Nation of Shopkeepers

Is it just sour grapes
When the lover of England exception takes
To the portrayal of his land
As a place where shoppers stand
In fractious line,
Oops, sorry I mean having a rare old time,
Getting and spending
In the never ending
Consumerist dance?

If by chance
One ponders on Elgar
Or Churchill with his cigar,
The lover of his country surely does think
How this ad would turn them both to drink.

Forget ancient oaks that russle,
In the fresh English air.
No one seems to care
And it is consumer muscle
I fear
That is celebrated here.


Book Review: Eugenics And Other Evils By G K Chesterton

I recently read Eugenics And Other Evils by G K Chesterton, http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0082XCCNK?ie=UTF8&ref_=oce_digital_UK. Chesterton wrote at a time when eugenics was gaining ground. Politicians ranging from Will Crooks on the left (Crooks was a member of the British Labour Party) and Winston Churchill (at one time a Liberal but later a Conservative) advocated eugenic measures while intellectuals such as the Webbs joined in championing such ideas.

In essence Chesterton argues that old-style capitalists/individualists such as Cobden and Bright had believed that the capitalist system would in time uplift the condition of the poor through increased prosperity. As time went on it became apparent that the condition of the mass of the population was not improving. The wealthy members of society became alarmed by what they saw as the deteriation in the quality of the population and the stubborn problem of pauperism so became receptive to the arguments of the advocates of eugenics. Likewise many on the left embraced eugenic measures out of a belief that social planning of which eugenics should form an integral part could improve the condition of the working classes.

While Chesterton rejected capitalism as it existed at the time of writing he was no fan of socialism either. He saw both systems as seeking to control people. In his view capitalism denyed the poor property by paying them insufficient wages thereby preventing the accumulation of property. Socialism on the other hand saw property as the cause of social evils and actively saught to limit or prevent it’s accumulation. Chesterton advocates a middle course in which property is widely distributed thereby enhancing the independence of the population and uplifting the condition of the poor. Widely distributed property rather than eugenic measures are, in Chesterton’s view the answer to the widespread pauperism which he condemns in Eugenics and other Evils.

So what where the eugenic measures which Chesterton attacks?

In 1912 the British Parliament passed a bill allowing for the separation of “the feeble minded” from the rest of the population. The term feeble minded was not well defined and led to the confinement in institutions of everyone from the genuinely mentally ill to those with minor learning difficulties and unmarried mothers. Pauperism was seen by many eugenicists as a disease the cure for which was to prevent so far as was possible the breeding of those afflicted by it.

In the UK there was no mass sterilisation programme despite it’s advocacy by many eugenicists. However in the United States organisations such as the Eugenics Records Office under the leadership of Charles Davenport and Harry Laughlin played a leading role in persuading American states to introduce sterilisation programmes under which those with various forms of disabilities and unmarried mothers (among others) where sterilised. Nazi eugenicists modelled the German eugenics law on the law drawn up by Laughlin although in Germany, unlike America sterilisation lead on to mass killing of disabled people under the Action T4 Programme.

After World War II eugenics fell out of fashion as a consequence of the atrocities committed under the Nazis but also due to advances in science which showed flaws in eugenics (E.G. few now believe that the poor are poor due to genetic defects).

Chesterton wrote Eugenics and other Evils in 1922. Given the abuses committed in the name of eugenics his book was remarkably prescient.