Murky Waters

Do you remember when that statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down? You must have, it was surely the high point of the Bush-Blair war in Iraq. The day that they thought, “It’s all downhill from here.” Little did they know.

Well, the same thing happened in the UK at the weekend. In Bristol, only about fifty miles from me, the bronze statue of a prominent slave trader was pulled down and dumped in the harbour.

I can understand that what a slave trader might have done is so repulsive that someone might want to pull their statue down. I share their repulsion. Many statues in the UK are related to our infamous history. I don’t buy the argument that it is destroying property. Whose property? Especially bronze, melt it down and use that for something useful. But I think there is a better way.

The point is, do you want people to be reminded of the past, to be aware of the past, or not? It worries me that while the present generation might well find the statue repugnant, by destroying something, there is a danger that future generations will not even know about slavery. If anything, add a commentary to make the link even more apparent.

Absolutely, these statues were first erected as celebrations, but I prefer to think of them now as reminders.

Author: Mister Bump UK

Formerly Stroke Survivor UK. Designed/developed IT systems for banks, but had a stroke in 2016, aged 48. Returned to developing from home, plus do some voluntary work. Married, with a grown-up, left-home daughter.

18 thoughts on “Murky Waters”

  1. I think you’re right. We have a statue of our king, who is not known for all peaceful actions and that statue gets written upon.
    We need to remember our past, the lovely but also the dark portions.
    I remember a statue in Berlin in remembrance of the Holocaust which depicts the suffering of people and not the persons who made the people suffer.
    Maybe a transformation of the statue would be a better idea.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I hate the abuses that have been committed for centuries. Some humans have made enormous profit out of mistreating other people. The slave trade was amonimable. The conditions in cotton factories in the North of England were atrocious. We go to museums and see monuments of mighty world rulers who were despicably cruel to prisoners of war and poorer people.

    The UK is in a horrid situation were the enormous wealth accrued by cruelty and oppression furnished money to pay for hospitals and libraries and universities. In some ways we still benefit from what previous generations built using money gained through wicked acts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it kinda makes you realised that you are privileged, from the moment you draw breath. But what can you do, if somebody built a new school or hospital? You’re not gonna say “no, thanks”. I think the most we can do (as individuals) is to be aware of it. I think the government can do more, but that’s another post…

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      1. These issues are multi-layered and compacted by centuries of wealthy people doing what they wanted to make more without being regulated.

        But this is why I have an issue with nationalism or anyone whose tone reflects ideas of superiority of one nation or culture above another.

        I keep on hearing there needs to be more in terms of education. We were taken as kids by our school to the Liverpool Maritime Museum to see exhibitions on the slave trade and our teachers spelt it out to us that huge riches were gained, but horrendous brutality and suffering on people from West Africa.

        We love seeing National Trust houses and the beautiful architecture of older buildings in our big cities….but often they were built/funded on the backs of others who lived in deplorable conditions.
        Too many times in history greed and profit came before love and respect for others. Some have wanted to appear superior and when they gained wealth viewed it as a blessing.

        It makes all the decisions governments make on immigration even more hard to swallow. When in some ways it’s as if people are being told, “no you can’t come and work and live and benefit from services here”, you can see why it’s hard to swallow that some have a “stop letting people into the country” mentality.

        I have Chinese friends who have had verbal abuse throughout the passed few months.

        The horrific abuses of the past and the more modern atmosphere of perhaps exclusion, verbal and other forms of discrimination and not recognising that divisions are not acceptable…well the task to being people together is an enormous one.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s a difficult one, I don’t think you’d want a statue becoming a shrine to somebody. The are museums dotted across northern Europe commemorating aspects of WW2 whose presense is not at all controversial, so perhaps that is the correct approach? Even remaining bits of the Atlantic Wall, say, out in the open, are regarded just as “there”. My daughter was fascinated by them when she saw them, so maybe they serve as a good way of introducing somebody to the subject?
      It’s good to hear a different view.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, we have some here too. Unbelievable, especially in Europe, where sites like Auschwitz have been preserved. These people are free to visit there, actually feel the bricks and mortar. I wonder how they rationalise something like that? Except, of course, they rationalise it as being acceptable because they support the policy.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s like here in the southern US, where we fought the Civil War in part to end slavery in the Southern states. While they were fighting for a cause that wasn’t right, the generals of the Confederacy served with honor and distinction and are still considered to be heroes in the South. There are always protests to remove statues and other reminders of them, even though in a very real way they were American heroes, and still deserve to be remembered. Not too far from me is Stone Mountain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_Mountain), into which is carved a memorial of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. Its past is somewhat checkered (chiefly because of the part that the Ku Klux Klan played in the history of the mountain), and there have been calls to remove the carving. I think that would be a great loss, not because the cause for which they fought was a just one, but because these were men who fought with distinction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That makes sense. @LSAAttitudeOfGratitude came out with a good comment, basically that you wouldn’t reallt want something becoming a shrine to somebody, so I suppose in that sense it’s a difficult call. She specifically talks about Hitler.

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    2. Just on the subject of the Confederacy, I was quite surprised to learn that some places here, my own city of Liverpool in particular, were staunch supporters of the South, even offering financial aid. I mean, you don’t tend to think that the UK was at all involved, but it made perfect sense. Because these cities profited so much from the South’s plantations and system of slavery.

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      1. Hi Mr Bump. Sorry it took me so long to respond. Had a birthday week this week and I sort of avoided social media.

        What you wrote hit so close to home. We frequently have student protests and a new phrase we’ve gotten use to is decolonization (gotten used to it, but I don’t think ANYONE including the students who coined the phrase really knows what it means!). With our protests, statues and even art works (which are regarded as symbols of not only apartheid but of colonization) were destroyed…. some burnt and some just pulled down, and perhaps I’m just insensitive or ignorant, but I didn’t see the point.

        I guess people need an outlet for their frustrations?

        Again it could be ignorance, stupidity or stupidity on my part but being destructive in any way or form in my very humble opinion is counterproductive to what anyone what’s to achieve (if your intentions are to build something) 🤷🏾‍♀️

        But I know that my opinion is not popular. As a South Africa born and raised in apartheid, I think I’m no stranger to protests. I think destruction and violence are what people resort to in general because that’s what gets them a response. Whether it’s a good or a bad response probably doesn’t even matter to them as much as the fact that they have gotten attention. But attention is not the solution or rather, doesn’t resolve anything…. just like violence and destruction does not resolve anything

        But what do I know 😊 Aluti continua Comrade. I’ll stick to what I know and just keep on blogging instead 📝

        Liked by 1 person

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