In response to an FT article by Michael Skapinker on 13th January 2016, entitled 'Taking down Rhodes’s statue would be a futile gesture'
When I was in my twenties during the seventies I was a musician. I played benefit gigs for 'Rock against Racism' at the time when an organisation called the National Front were doing their best to spread poison in black communities.
I also have a copy of Mein Kampf on my bookshelf. A while back someone asked me why a person of my mentality would want a book written by an insane and narcissistic sociopath. My reply was that reading the writings of a man who would burn mine is an expression of who I am, not a validation of who he is. Know your enemy was another thought I had at the time.
My main point is that if we are going to start taking down history and expunging people we don't agree with - who makes that call? Anyone that actually wants to make that call on behalf of others will not be getting my vote.
But if these folks get the votes to do it, so be it. But I hope they don't start thinking that democracy is about anything other than free speech. If they do, they're on a slippery Rhode (pun intended).
A fellow reader replied:
But a statue is hardly value-neutral is it? A statue isn't objective or history. It's a memorial or celebratory object that exists today. The whole "you can't erase history" argument on this is a complete red herring.
'You can't erase history' is not the argument I'm making.
I don't look at a statue and think 'what a great guy', I look at a statue and ask myself 'what is this telling me about what life was like then?' It's a different mindset. Neither am I saying you or anyone else is wrong. I'm saying beware censorship - it leads to dark places. But like I said, if you can get enough people to agree with you, without twisting anyone's arm or suppressing free speech, take it down.