“The freest intellects are not those beginning with unaided reason but those firmly bound to a story of ideas through time.”– Eldon Eisenach
The bondage of trust between successive generations, whereby we undertake the task to empathise with their socio-political landscape, provides the most basic conception of history. This bondage is absolutely crucial for the stability of a nation as fundamental values are passed down, hence providing a stable basis to allow further theorisation to consider the most compatible national structure for society. Recent disconcertment regarding memorials neglects not only this bondage connecting generations but also a sense of context, the bedrock of history. Perhaps most clearly displayed through the anger projected over the Melville Monument, commemorating Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, justified by his influence in delaying the abolition of slavery. In context, Dundas’ piecemeal approach was motivated by the desire to prevent massacres akin to the 1791 Saint-Domingue slave revolt occurring elsewhere through seeking a route that would circumvent this. Yet the context is heedlessly ignored, and all those considered offensive are placed on a “hit list”. This positions us in the dangerous territory of ignorance, to destroy historical monuments for the reason that in a contemporary sphere we find them disagreeable we break the bondage of trust and we leave history bare to distortion.
But perhaps this is part of a wider trend, the growing subconscious acceptance of “progressive” ideology in society. The embracement of “progressive” ideology by the “elite” has facilitated the “trendy” connotation associated with “wokeness” and progressivism. Unfortunately, leaving many muted as opinions to the contrary are associated with “low status” and stupidity. Or even further, the loss of your occupation as NBA broadcaster Grant Napear experienced after resisting the BLM trend, stating that “all lives matter.” For, historically, fear is more efficient than enlightenment.
It isn’t news that progressivism has no care for the maintenance of tradition, if anything individuals are made to feel guilty for its prolonged preservation. And this intolerance is, unacceptably, projected onto the elderly population (both living and deceased). From being blamed for “ruining the lives” of the youth to being told that their opinions are best left “in the past rather than the present”, the elderly have perhaps suffered the most as terminology comparable to “tradition” are considered obsolete and as such heavily stigmatised. Consequently there has been an exponential rise in overwhelmingly negative attitudes, as substantiated by the report conducted by “Centre for Ageing Better” as older people are increasingly seen as incompetent, hostile or a burden on society. The failure of politically potent institutions to reject the hostile nature of “wokeism” has subsequently stimulated this “culture conflict”, but to call it a “conflict” is generous in itself. For if not played carefully, the only clear player in the race will win.
Hence the assault on statues is reflective of the New Left’s “woke” rejection of sustenance. Most plausibly exhibited through the focus on Churchill due to his symbolic authority for the British nation, in 2002 he was voted as the ‘Greatest Briton’ in a large-scale BBC poll, and the notion of continuity. As leader of the Conservative Party for fifteen years and a figure, deservedly, extolled as the key to national survival, the New Left’s energy was, comparatively, directed toward an assault on the sustenance of national culture. For statues are more than “a piece of stone” and it is more than likely that the Left recognise the destruction of a statue to be an acute political measure. To project a contemporary concern onto an object effectively animates the stone itself, hence the attempts conceal the significance of the destruction must be countered.
The history of art supplies multiple examples in which images are treated as though they are living. Historical materials give individuals of the past a voice, we learn from their folly and their acumen. Artefacts evidence absent countries, inaccessible places. To attempt to silence the bodies that absorb tradition threatens to undermine the very foundation of our society, and perhaps that is the route “progressives” wish us to take.