Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Pulling The Thread

No senior politician- to the best of my knowledge- has yet come out in support of the citizens who tipped Edward Colston into the drink. The Prime Minister calls them "thugs". The Home Secretary splutters. The leader of the Opposition says the statue's removal should have been achieved by "democratic means".

By which he means "with the approval of the establishment"- which would be perfectly acceptable if the establishment could be trusted to get a move on. But the fact is that the authorities in Bristol have been dragging their feet over this issue for years. They have been asked, petitioned and prodded to remove the damn thing and put it in a museum- and they have done nothing. If it had been left to them it would have remained on site for perpetuity.

Just a few trouble makers trying to rock the boat. String 'em along. Fill in a form, fill in lots of forms, set up a committee, consider its report...

Eventually they'll get over it.

But they didn't get over it. And in a moment when emotions were running high- the people (that's demos in Greek) showed up with ropes and did the job on behalf of the authorities. Bing, bang, splosh. Job's a good'un.

Democracy in action.

Bad men only get to do bad things on a large scale with the approval, support, connivance and blind-eye turning of the people around them. Colston didn't run the slave trade single handed. He wasn't even the big boss. Who was he working for? Why here's a hint: the company of which he was chief executive was called The Royal African Company. That "Royal" in the title wasn't just a rococo swirl; it meant the royal family was involved- specifically the two Stuart brothers Charles and James who were successively kings of England. James- as Duke of York- was the one most heavily implicated. Slaves "belonging" to the company were branded with the letters DY- which stood for Duke of York.

There aren't many statues of James hanging about. He got himself chased out of his kingdom for reasons other than his being a mass murderer and human trafficker but if there are any still standing I think it's high time they took a bath.

And here's one of the reasons why the authorities dug their heels in over Colston. Once you start pulling on a loose thread there's no knowing what damage you'll do to the garment as a whole. In this case the thread is Colston and the garment is the National Myth (in which we are always on the side of the angels) with especial reference to the good name of the City of Bristol. So the thread has already led us to the Royals. Pull a little harder and up come the names of the worthies who invested in Colston's venture- and they include many great political and aristocratic names- and some that are honoured in the culture- like the philosopher John Locke and the diarist Samuel Pepys. Carry on pulling and you might find yourself thinking that there's little that's "great" in Great Britain that isn't tainted by association with the evil of slavery.

As Balzac wrote, "behind every great fortune lies a great crime."

And the inheritors of that fortune are rarely happy to have it found out.

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