It would appear as though we have returned to an age of religious zeal, fuelled by the pathological doctrine of political correctness. What started with the tearing down of statues of Confederate soldiers in the United States has, like any malady, begun to spread internationally. Just a couple of days ago, an article published in The Guardian, called for the toppling of Nelson’s Column of Trafalgar Square in London. Now it has reached the shores of Australia with its ‘take no prisoners’ style campaign, the sights of which are set firmly upon none other than our own figures of history.
The fuel of this undoubtedly iconoclastic and vicious campaign is political correctness. Where, however, does this end? The removal of the statue of Captain James Cook in Hyde Park would be disastrous, for two reasons, the first of which is the fact that there would undoubtedly be no end. It would certainly be unsurprising if, for example, there are calls for Queen Victoria’s statue outside her eponymous building to be torn down, and the building renamed. She is, after all, synonymous with empire and imperialism. But then, as Majid Nawaz, British Muslim author and activist, brilliantly argues, why stop there? Our own Elizabeth II, for some years, also reigned over ‘empire.’ The truth is that this Stalinist erasure of history quite literally has no end, for if we allow emotion rather than reason, feeling rather than fact, to dominate the way we judge the past, then there really can be no logical conclusion. There will always be something to be deemed offensive, thereby ensuring that there will always be another group that feels offended. The bulk of labour for the White House, to call upon another example, was also provided by African-Americans, both free and enslaved. Shall it be reduced to rubble as well? In fact, the Union Jack flew in the imperial dominions, will there be calls for it to be torn off flagpoles too? Perhaps it should be replaced with a monochrome red; just remember to superimpose the hammer and sickle.
Perhaps, even more dangerous than the lack of any foreseeable end to the chaos is the actions of these politically correct ideologues, which displayed a flagrant disregard for democratic process by taking the initiative to destroy a public monument on their own accord, by force. If indeed statues and monuments are to be removed, it must be the result of a democratic process, whereby the relevant council or government is guided by those people by whom it was elected. It comes as no surprise, however, that those at the forefront of this argument behave in this manner, given the continuous legitimisation of violence, force, and disregard of the due process of law by leftists. We need only look at Antifa, which swims in the irony of its own name.
As a student of history I am often asked why it is that I am passionate about a subject that ultimately concerns itself with the past. Why on earth should we go to such great lengths to analyse the actions and events of eras long gone? Excuse the cliché, but the logical answer is because “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This quote epitomises the sort of sentiment that should inform the debate concerning whether or not any statue, plaque, or monument should be removed. Whether it be a statue, plaque, or monument, these are all physical reminders of the complex and, yes, sometimes shameful episodes in the history of our great nation.