Toppling of a statue

Who would have thought the toppling of a statue of a man few would have heard of not until his statue was toppled and ditched in a harbour would have caused such a furore?

Keith Parkins
Jun 8 · 5 min read
WE —  Yevgeny Zamyatin
WE —  Yevgeny Zamyatin
We — Yevgeny Zamyatin

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. — Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

The past is never dead. It’s not even past. — Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner

At this moment, many people have stopped living. They do not become angry, nor cry out; they merely wait for time to pass. They did not accept the challenges of life, so life no longer challenges them. ―The Fifth Mountain, Paulo Coelho

Destroying what we do not like is what religious fundamentalists and fascist regimes do. Deface statutes, blow up ancient Muslim statues, burn books and so on. History must be rewritten no memory of what was the past.

At the weekend during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled and dumped in the harbour.

Where do you wish to start next?

Burn down all the buildings in Liverpool and Bristol, all built on the wealth of slaves and sugar?

A three way trade, slaves to the Americas, sugar to England, industrial goods to Africa.

Bones of slaves were used to whiten the sugar.

Let’s burn down Tate and Lyle.

Do we burn The Monk? Incredible novel written by an MP and owner of a slave plantation.

Maybe Winston Churchill next. He was the first to drop chemical weapons on civilians. On the Kurds, long before Saddam Hussein.

What about all those Kings and Queens and Barons. Surely they must go.

Then what about Norman Castles and Cathedrals.

Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral must go. Symbols of Norman oppression of an Anglo-Saxon population.

Tear down Hadrian’s Gate, demolish Library of Hadrian. And let us not forget statues of Roman Emperors, ancient Greeks.

Then there is the Berlin Wall. Demolished, used as an example. Except it is not and has not. It was demolished because it separated East Berlin from West Berlin. People were killed trying to cross the Wall. Sections and fragments still remain. In the shadow of one section, an exhibition documenting Nazi atrocities.

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Wander around East Berlin. The size of the cobble stones, embedded with the cobblestones. Brass with names. Each one a Jew who lived in the house and was executed. At first not noticed. Then see so many. Chilling.

I never saw again.

In East Berlin, tucked away, a statue of Rosa Luxemburg. Few will have heard of her, the nearby square is named after her, with words laid in the ground. A Marxist philosophiser and revolutionary. Executed. Should she go, should she be toppled?

In WE we have OneState. There is no memory of the past, no history, other than OneState was victorious. There is no Freedom. Freedom is chaos. Elections are held, but the outcome is known, the elections are held in public, why vote in secret unless got something to hide, something to be ashamed of, dissenters are taken away.

In OneState, life is regulated by the Table of Hours, arithmetic precision replaces free will.

Slavery has not gone away. There are more slaves traded today.

Eat chocolate or drink coffee from a big corporation. It was as likely harvested by slave labour.

Support local indie specialty coffee shops that source coffee direct trade, the best coffee cherries picked, growers paid a fair price.

Buy chocolate from bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers, traceability, transparency, quality. Not fat and sugar which is what a bar from a corporation consists of, it may look like a chocolate bar but it ain’t.

Buy sweatshop clothes?

Support slow fashion, style, not fast fashion, sourced from sweatshops, worn today, thrown away tomorrow.

Yazidis were captured as slaves, sold on the Arab slave markets. These markets are thriving, little has changed. It was Arabs who sold slaves to the British, in turn sold to them by Africans.

When the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled, it was not a spontaneous reaction of Iraqis, they were holed up fearful to go out out. It was a staged photo opportunity with tanks positioned at the roads leading into the square.

So what do we do with Edward Colston?

We fish him back out of the water. We stick him back on his plinth.

The difference, we add information about his life, that he was a slave trader.

It was not a shrine, people did not bring flowers and offerings. Though it is now in danger of becoming a focal point, a symbol for racists to rally around.

Many will say restoring the statue will cause outrage and they will probably be correct. Direct that outrage at burning down the system.

In 2018 the then Lord Mayor of Bristol Cleo Lake removed a portrait of Edward Colston from her office saying she “simply couldn’t stand” the sight of him as she worked at Colston Hall.

She did not destroy it, burn it, dump it in the harbour, she put it into storage as part of the heritage of Bristol.

Then there is Operation Legacy.

When government tells you not to protest, you know what to do, you flood the streets.

Two suggestions for the Edward Colston statue.

Jeremy Vine has suggested floodlight resting in its watery grave.

Banksy has suggested restore to it plinth with addition of sculptures of protesters dragging to the ground.

Either suggestion, would need explanation why and the background.

What happened in Bristol has triggered a worldwide movement to remove statues.

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Freedom Festival 2018 / Freedom Festival
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Freedom Festival 2018

Hull has Freedom Festival to celebrate the legacy of anti-slavery pioneer William Wilberforce.

Light on a Dark Mountain

The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic.

Keith Parkins

Written by

Writer, thinker, deep ecologist, social commentator, activist, enjoys music, literature and good food.

Light on a Dark Mountain

The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.— The Dark Mountain Manifesto

Keith Parkins

Written by

Writer, thinker, deep ecologist, social commentator, activist, enjoys music, literature and good food.

Light on a Dark Mountain

The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.— The Dark Mountain Manifesto

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