Twenty Minute Topic Episode 40: Rewriting History

 

Statue of Edward Colston - Wikipedia
The statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, now toppled

“THE PAST is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” So reads the opening line of L.P. Hartley’s novel ‘The Go-Between’, published in 1953.

Last weekend saw ‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters in Bristol tear down a statue of Edward Colston, a philanthropist who supported and endowed schools, hospitals and churches, especially in Bristol and London, in an era when the state couldn’t be bothered with such things. However, much of his wealth was as a result of the slave trade, and protesters took the law into their own hands by toppling the statue and throwing it into the harbour.

Is it right to judge people’s actions in centuries past by the standards of today? Marcus Stead and Greg Lance-Watkins discuss the weekend’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests and the tearing down of statues.

Has mob rule and police inaction replaced law and order? Why were mass gatherings even tolerated at a time when we are under clear instructions to socially distance for the sake of not spreading the COVID-19 virus?

What does this all mean for the future of statues of other controversial figures, including Horatio Nelson, Sir Thomas Picton, Sir Cecil Rhodes and even Sir Winston Churchill?

While George Floyd’s funeral was taking place, ‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters gathered around the statue of Nelson Mandela in London. But as Mandela himself openly admitted, his own track record was far from perfect. Should statues of Gandhi (a racist in earlier life), Desmond Tutu (an anti-Semite), and Muhammad Ali (who held unpleasant views until he embraced moderate Sunni Islam in the mid-late 1970s) be torn down?

Do the protesters have a point, or is this just the latest attempt by the woke brigade to posture and virtue signal, even if it means endangering public health by causing a second wave of COVID-19 infections?

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