In this edition ‘The Big Collaboration’ has explored campus opinion on whether it is right to remove or deface monuments, statues or landmarks for political purposes. Our Editor’s have introduced a new ‘on the fence’ option for those who may not have strong opinions for either side.
The results have shown that 52.5% of students who completed the survey said yes, 17.5% said no and 30% said they were on the fence regarding the issue.
Perhaps not ‘right’ but it is fair/understandable. Personally, I think it is much more of a problem to have, for example, statues of slave owners, and celebrating their supposed contribution, than it is to remove or deface these for the terrible things that person has done. I don’t think it is morally any different defacing a statue than it is to, for example, write an article about it. It just makes more of a political statement.
Often statues glorify historical figures without acknowledging or recognising the damage they did to cultures, communities or people, effectively washing their history. Defacing these statues informs people of the real damage people such as Churchill caused and removing the statue of people like Colston in Bristol aims to show how we have culturally moved past events such as colonialism and slavery and these are things we are not proud of. Maintaining such idols isolates communities who have been affected by such events and implies we are proud of how we profiteered off of others with no consequence.
If they have a negative reason for the statue being put up and now in a modern light it’s obvious they shouldn’t be glorified.
Statues are not mere historical sights, without any political implications. They have implicit power implications. When a statue towers above the people below, it signifies that the person in the statue is an important figure to be watched or learnt from (and more). Therefore, it has a clear political purpose. If this political purpose is unsatisfactory or discriminatory, therefore making the statue not of someone we must look up to in our society, then it should be right to take it down. This is why the statue of Stalin in Prague was taken down (in part).
I don’t think that we can move forward or move away from things that are wrong, if there are monuments representing that wrongdoing, in big cities that are supposed to be facing toward new ideas. It’s representing an old world and being a constant reminder of that, which is like a roadblock in the way change can be felt. This is why museums exist, after all, we can preserve the past and look at it with a critical eye, but having it as a still active part of our cities is wrong. so I support defacing problematic statues, why should people have to look upon these problematic statues like they are something superior to behold?
Comment Print Sub-Editor
Statues being removed proves that we are progressing as a society. When many of these statues were erected, it was during a time of oppression, and the people honoured actually gained their fame through awful methods. Take Edward Colston (whose statue was torn down in Bristol), he was a slave trader who is said to have imported tens of thousands of slaves. Not only that, but the statue was erected during a time of civic unrest in the 1800s and aimed to unite Bristolians irrespective of growing class divisions in the period. This is similar to the confederacy statues built during the time of Jim Crow. For black people in Bristol, the statue’s presence was a constant reminder of him being honoured for the mistreatment and violence against their ancestors. Removing statues doesn’t mean we erase history. In Germany, statues of Hitler were removed but we still all know who he is. You can recognise history and historical figures without honouring them and their legacy.
Statues memorialising certain figures who’ve caused suffering to others is offensive to these groups. For example, I believe that the vandalism of Columbus statues is warranted when you consider his responsibility for the enslavement and deaths of thousands of indigenous people. He shouldn’t be commemorated for such atrocities.
Outdated and offensive (colonial histories etc). Current and offensive (upholding ecocide etc).
Print Production Editor
The ability to separate history, politics and daily living is a privileged position. For many people the effects of historical institutions and figures of colonialism and oppressive regimes still control so many aspects of their place in the world today. When we suggest statues are more important than people, we are only upholding the legacy of harmful pasts.
Statues are not in place simply as a ‘reminder’ of the past, this is way too neutral. Statues and memorials are there to honour people and events; there are many aspects of history (British history in particular) which should be remembered but not honoured. We can still learn about things that have happened and people who have existed in ways which do not very literally put them on pedestals
News Print Editor
I think statues serve more as a celebration of a historical figure rather than as an educational tool. It’s not right to erase controversies from history as we can take lessons from what others have done, but removing statues that many people find hurtful is not erasing history.
The defacing and removal of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol captured far more attention than the monument did when it was simply left standing.
Historical monuments, statues or landmarks tend to commemorate and honour specific dignitaries of the time. In most cases, the dignitaries happen to be part of an elitist class that upheld their values via oppressing other minority groups in society. It is unfair for residents today to uphold those values that arose out of injustice. For example, defacing statues that honour colonialists – what purpose do they serve in the 21st century? To be proud of injustice is wrong on all counts and frankly, ridiculous.
I think removing statues of people whose values and actions shouldn’t be celebrated is fine, I think we have a tendency as British people to overlook and turn away from ugly truths in “great people”. I feel at the very least if a monument isn’t to be removed a plaque or statement of disclosure should be added to not condone the bad and explain the good. For example a statue of Winston Churchill may state celebration for his triumphs and leadership in the war, but disclose his inflictions on imperial India and state the monument is not in place to condone those actions which caused suffering and famine to so many.
As a nation we’re incredibly uncomfortable about confronting our past, I think it’s why there was such a visceral backlash to the Edward Colston statue being torn down. It was made into an issue of “protecting history” because the truth of the matter (that Bristol was venerating a mass murderer) is difficult to reconcile with our self-image of a Liberal democracy.
They are shameful parts of our history that should be challenged. Edward Colston shouldn’t be remembered as a ‘product of his time’ ; he made the choice to enslave thousands of innocent people, which meant Bristol prospered. The fact that modern Britian was built by slavery and colonialism shouldn’t be ignored for the sake of a statue – its not only wrong but blatantly ahistorical.
For a more recent example, Van Gogh thought the whole point of art was to “teach us to see”. And while arguably misguided, the defacing of the sunflowers undeniably brought attention to the issues at hand. Nobody can enjoy art on a dead planet.
The art is most likely made before the political issues came to light, it’s somewhat offensive to the artist and their families to deface something unrelated.
I understand why it has been done in the past, however it doesn’t make it right, the recent occurrence with the Van Gough painting is completely backwards for two reasons. One, wasting food to send a message about food waste is silly, and Van Gough has nothing to do with the message, it’s the buyers of the paintings they are targeting in their message, so they should be throwing soup at them instead of an innocent frame.
They are a part of our history and unless they are offensive I do not believe they should be defaced
Whilst they may be representative of a corrupt, oppressive or unfavourable part of history. I believe it’s more damaging to simply try and remove that part of history from life’s narrative rather than use these monuments etc. to promote conversations about these troubling times to stop them from happening again. We cannot simply remove an unfavourable or uncomfortable part of history.
ON THE FENCE
Because it was correct at the time period when it happened
If the monument is related in some way to the cause. EG Van Gogh painting has nothing to do with oil.
I think it is sometimes a good thing, especially in order to draw attention to the cause you are doing it for. Eg, the statue of the men in Bristol who was removed for being involved in the slave trade. There is no need to have a monument for what he was involved in or to have a statue of a man like that who oppressed so many. However, with the people protesting about oil and throwing soup over the Van Goff painting, as much as that also draws attention to the movement, it seems quite disrespectful & will make more people infuriated rather than also to join the movement.
Put these things in museums to preserve a realistic historical narrative but remove offensive people from public commemoration
I feel like it is part of history but also not for supporting horrible people so I am on the fence
Because sometimes the monuments are too insensitive and backward to be publicly displayed.
Statues relating to historical figures who held values which do not align with modern society should be removed from public display because there is no reason for these people to be celebrated or commemorated. As young people it is easier for us to feel this way, especially towards figures such as Winston Churchill, because we do not feel the emotional connection that older generations do- particularly when they deem him as part of British ‘heritage’. It nonetheless does not make it right for these figures to retain their prominence.
While I believe this, I don’t think it is right to deface or remove monuments which are not related to the cause of the activism. Take the statue of Tom Moore recently being covered with liquid faeces in a protest against UK Private Jets, or Van Gogh’s Sunflowers being covered in tomato soup by Just Stop Oil. It is obviously a media stunt to draw attention to the cause, but it just seems to annoy people more than gain actual supporters.
Ultimately, if there is no political relation between the subject and the act, then surely it cannot be seen as anything but vandalism?