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What is the intellectual framing of the UK statues debate? Show more Show less
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In June 2020 Bristol protestors rioting against the murder of George Floyd tore down a statue of Edward Colston. Having hauled it from its plinth, they eventually abandoned the statue in the city's harbour. Hundreds of onlookers gathered to watch, viewing this as a momentous step in the fight against racism. Colston is known as the man who built Bristol. He bequeathed his enormous fortune to the city upon his death. 300 years on, the scale of his legacy is visceral in Bristol's landmarks and architecture, and the names of its schools, concert halls, streets, restaurants, pubs and cathedral. Yet, his fortune was built on slavery, leading many to argue that the statue props up institutional racism in the UK. Since Colston's toppling, activists have circulated lists of hundreds more controversial statues they say must be removed to end racial inequality. Others call this type of campaigning problematic. They view the destruction of monuments as historical whitewashing. For them, this trend is an affront to British history that does not confront the real issues at play. So, who are these groups, what do they think, and why?

"This crisis is an attack on the state!" Show more Show less

This is not a fight about history. Nor one about injustice. The battleground here is the nation, and how it is being systematically undermined by a vigilante mob. If we give in to this brutish idealism, we lose our most precious possession: Britishness.
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The crisis is an affront to the British values we hold dear

Tolerance, free speech, and a plurality of opinion are at the heart of what it means to be British. Our long and complex national history cannot be reduced to either right or wrong. This historical illiteracy is overturning British ideals and replacing them with a wilfully ignorant culture of fear.

The Argument

The idea of liberty for all is the value that has been at the heart of British society since King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215. It was what drove Britain to be the first major country to abolish slavery, to be one of the first to extend civil liberties to all and not just to the wealthy, and to be one of the first to give women the right to vote.[1] This fundamental British belief in liberty stems from the idea that all are equal and all deserve the right and the platform to voice their opinions, regardless of what it is, because, without this guarantee of liberty, a country would easily fall to tyranny. The statues crises happening right now is not new; it is simply the latest case of a fanatic obsession with who was on the right side of history and who was on the wrong. It was the obsession of the Taliban when they destroyed Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, the obsession of French revolutionaries who destroyed the monuments and portraits of the French nobility, and the obsession of the Soviets who had their predecessors' images and history erased. Just like before, the current uprising represents an uprising against the nuances of history, and the fact that people aren't always the violent oppressors the left paints them out to be. The left wants to silence alternate versions of history and any celebration of those who they don't like because they refuse to accept the fact that people can be multi-faceted and both good and bad at the same time.[2] This is an uprising against our most fundamental British values, and the liberty of people to be remembered differently and to be discussed differently.

Counter arguments

There is a difference between liberty and what is right. British liberty is a deceptive illusion because it never truly existed. It was not British liberty when Edward Colston profited off of the selling of people's freedoms, and it was not British liberty when Cecil Rhodes colonized and plundered people of their property. If British values matter, they should always matter, not just when it is convenient for people to talk about them. To take down the statues is to enforce liberty for everyone who has been oppressed by throughout history. It gives them a chance to repair their story and be the victors for once.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] English liberty is a fundamental value that applies to everyone in British society and means that their voice and their ability to defend and celebrate someone's legacy is legitimate. [P2] The religion of wokeness is mob-like and taking away everyone's rights to celebrate and like who they want to.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] English liberty is idealistic and untrue because it never existed for the people that were oppressed by the very figures memorialized in these statues. [Rjecting P2] It is not mob-like fanaticism if you are fighting for the right side of history and for actual English liberty.

References

  1. https://i2i.org/the-english-tradition-of-liberty-under-law-is-a-gift-to-us-all/
  2. https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/06/social-justice-statue-topplers-aggrieved-name-changers-iconoclasm/
This page was last edited on Thursday, 17 Sep 2020 at 21:30 UTC

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