July 2nd, 2020

Scattergun Observations On Statues And Stuff

A bust of Haile Selassie got bashed up yesterday in a London park- nothing to do with BLM, everything to do with things that are currently going on in Ethiopia that I don't pretend to understand. It was a lousy piece of sculpture- and didn't even look very much like its subject...

I have spent most of life cherishing the vestiges of the past- but now I'm in revolt against my earlier self and could wish we had fewer of them.

History can be a drag. I don't mean boring, I mean a heavy weight we're chained to and have to pull around after us. Like a drag anchor.

One of the reasons Adam and Eve were so light-hearted and frolicsome in their garden was that they didn't have any bloody history. They lived in the moment because there weren't any former moments to be feeling nostalgic or guilty about.

So much of our history is to do with war and oppression. So many of our statues commemorate violent and oppressive men.

What does it profit us that we are reminded every time we visit Trafalgar Square that there there was once an encounter at sea  in which one group of systematically brutalised men fought another lot of systematically brutalised men and thousands of them were killed and maimed?  The British won, the French went down: what does any of that matter now?

Every culture apart from our own had the good sense to paint its statues- so at least they were colourful.

As an article I was reading this morning pointed out (though it had occurred to me quite independently) you won't find many statues of Hitler in modern Germany. Does anyone complain that by making a clean sweep of them we were erasing history?

Is Hitler forgotten because we no longer display his statues?

Statues aren't so much about remembering as honouring. And most of the people whose statues are on display are of people we no longer particularly wish to honour. I don't know what there is to be said in favour of Haile Selassie except that he was a king.

Kings are things that most of the nations of the earth have had the good sense to be rid of.


An online friend and I (I won't name them because this gets posted in more than one place) were talking about silly statues and I promised (when things had cooled down a bit on the statue front) to post a picture of my favourite.

As a piece of craftwork it's actually rather impressive, but, really, beloved ancestor, if you're going to be pictured striking an ecstatic pose in diaphanous robes wouldn't it be better if you first removed your wig?

For the record this is the effigy of Sir John Thornycroft, who died in 1725. It's the work of a London sculptor called Andrew Carpenter- and is on display in St Mary's church, Bloxham, Oxfordshire.