A kind of “deconstructionism”, whereby human freedom claims to create everything starting from zero, is making headway in today’s culture. The one thing it leaves in its wake is the drive to limitless consumption and expressions of empty individualism. Concern about this led me to offer the young some advice. “If someone tells young people to ignore their history, to reject the experiences of their elders, to look down on the past and to look forward to a future that he himself holds out, doesn’t it then become easy to draw them along so that they only do what he tells them? He needs the young to be shallow, uprooted and distrustful, so that they can trust only in his promises and act according to his plans. That is how various ideologies operate: they destroy (or deconstruct) all differences so that they can reign unopposed. To do so, however, they need young people who have no use for history, who spurn the spiritual and human riches inherited from past generations, and are ignorant of everything that came before them”.Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti n.13
In the wake of black lives matter protests, there’s been a lot of attention given to many statues. What do we do with our lovely statues of less than lovely people?
Firstly, we should acknowledge that statues aren’t merely a historical record, and taking them down is anything but erasing history. It’s insane that people (including the PM) even try to make this argument. Adolf Hitler had a significant effect on our history, but we don’t give him a statue. We use statues to celebrate and immortalise those we hold up as heroes. They’re usually raised up for us to literally look up to.
With that out of the way, what do we do? I think we should obviously remove statues of bad people. People who we don’t want to celebrate any more. People like Bristol’s Edward Colston, merchant, philanthropist, slave trader and Tory MP.
What about, say, Winston Churchill? Churchill was a hero for the British war effort, but also a terrible racist, and arguably responsible for the deaths of millions of Indians. He was incredibly racist, even by the standards of his day (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_views_of_Winston_Churchill). Should we continue to uphold him as a hero?
I think we need to acknowledge that Churchill played two different roles in two different stories. In one he was the hero, and in the other he was the villain. Does one story discount the other? Not entirely, but they can’t be neatly separated either. Was he a hero? I think it’s ok to say, “yes, but…”. Was he a villain? It’s ok to say “yes, despite…”.
In this, I think that Churchill epitomises the ambiguity of the British empire itself. An empire that did do much good, but also much evil. It’s ok to say it was both. I think the empire was more bad than good, but it’s ok to acknowledge and celebrate the good, so long as we also recognise the evil.
So should we take Churchill’s statues down? Would we be throwing out the baby with the bathwater? I don’t know. We’d take them down if he was a pedophile, so maybe we should take them down for him being a horrific racist; it’s maybe just a question of how much it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Can we celebrate him despite his racism and if we can, is that a bad sign about us?
I don’t know. Maybe Churchill doesn’t make the cut, and maybe he does. Maybe we have to learn to accept the contradictions of history and of life, and not be too quick to resolve them. If we have the patience to hold them in tension, we can learn and we can grow. The crucial thing is for us to learn, and learn from, both stories. History is complicated and the world isn’t neatly separated into good people and evil people. We need to grasp this if we are to make any progress.
God bless you!
Today is the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, and so I figured I’d share his writings. St Francis was truly amazing, and left his mark (which was really Jesus’ mark on him) on the world.
If you don’t know much about him, here is Wikipedia on him, and here is Catholic encyclopedia on him.
Also, here is Pope Francis’ homily in Assisi from today, and here is his words in an address he made in Assisi, where hew tells Christians to strip themselves of worldliness. I am sure Pope Francis will be absolutely incredible, following in his namesake’s footsteps (today literally).
God bless you.
Yesterday, the news was full of people celebrating Obama‘s re-election. People were celebrating having given their power to a proven and unrepentant liar, who is responsible for the deaths of many innocent people, who legalized unending detention for those suspected of future terrorism, while overseeing the definition of terrorism expanding. People were celebrating having submitted their power to a violent liar [violence is government’s nature, dishonesty is representative democracy‘s nature].
It is a strong delusion they are under. It reminds me of the Aztec ritual of human sacrifice.
The Aztecs believed that they needed to feed the gods human sacrifices in order to give the universe sustenance. So people were regularly killed to keep the gods alive and looking after them.
You would think that even once the people were convinced that it was a necessary evil, they would begrudgingly accept, and try to feed the gods as little as possible. But instead, it was made an honour. When the Christian Spaniards came over, they were ridiculed for their horror at the practice. The victims went through a series of elaborate rituals beforehand, including leading songs and dances, blessing children, and hearing people‘s petitions to the gods; all before they had their still beating heart ritually torn out (no exaggeration). When the Spaniards attempted to free them, some would indignantly reject being released and demand to be sacrificed.
What’s the link between this and democracy? Well, democracy is all about sacrificing your power and freedom (life?) to politicians (gods?), in order to sustain “order“ and avert “chaos“. Even if you accept the madness of this sacrifice to feed our world system, it at least should never be loved or celebrated. (The parallels can also be seen in rituals such as national service)
A big question is, where do these deceptions come from? Who convinced the Aztecs to sacrifice their lives, and citizens to sacrifice their freedoms? Peter Kropotkin explains it brilliantly for the state in the state: its historic role but if you don’t want to read the whole book (it’s very good), basically the state took freedom by force, then claimed they were responsible for every good thing, and everything that was failing was because the state wasn’t big enough. I imagine the same thing (more or less) happened with human sacrifice.
Now the really important question is, how do you save the victims who are still worshipping the gods? The Spanish conquered and, I assume, outlawed the practice. The Aztec population was decimated by the Spanish, and those left were thoroughly oppressed.
But, more hopeful, there were victims who didn’t go quietly. Some cried and pooed themselves on the way up. They weren’t sacrificed to the gods, but were killed to the side, while mocked by the crowd for being unmanly. I expect many eventually became Christians.
And, it is estimated that voter turnout in the U.S. election has fallen since 2008, and is falling elsewhere in the world as well. I take that as great news.
God bless you.
[I‘ve complained enough about democracy as a whole now. I‘ll try to shut up about it for a while, and only be constructive or specific in my complaints.]
[My information about the Aztecs is from year 5 history, and Wikipedia (the two agree). If I was wrong anywhere, please correct me. Thank you.]
P.S. do not link this idea of sacrifice with the Christian idea of dying to self. Dying to the sinful self is good for you, and brings joy and freedom. I talk about this (more or less) here.
God bless you.