‘To be born English is to win first prize in the lottery of life’ – Cecil Rhodes.

23On one hand, this quote by one of the great Victorian empire-builders could be seen as an affirmation of imperial supremacy; on the other, it could be seen as a celebration of certain democratic liberties that enable the British to question the status quo, fight for their rights and embrace free speech without fear of imprisonment, contrary to many European nations in the nineteenth century. Two-hundred years on, a western sense of democracy that Britain has always regarded as one its great international exports has once again been implemented into societies with no previous history of it, but the consequences of this implementation have been pretty disastrous.

Sticking the colonial flag in a foreign field and establishing the same political and social structures of the mother country, run by trained ex-pats from the mother country itself, is one thing; imposing such structures and then expecting natives with no prior experience to make them into a success independently is different. The naive failings at the heart of twenty-first century colonialism have spawned an extreme antidote that has stretched much further than the Mau-Mau ever managed.

Intolerance of anyone who doesn’t share their nihilistic worldview and of symbols representing the old order has become a hallmark of ISIS or whatever the media chooses to call them today – and labelling them a Death Cult isn’t going to strike much fear into western hearts, especially those who recall the early 80s Goth band by the same name. ISIS don’t merely declare war on the west; they also declare war on their own religion, seeing their interpretation of Muhammad’s preaching as purer than the rest, as though each different branch of Islam was a soap powder and the ISIS brand washes whiter. To prove this, they behead their perceived enemies and also destroy the monuments erected to Islam in a more enlightened past. And to criticise that faith in any medium is regarded as the signing of one’s own death warrant. Speech isn’t free; it costs – and the price is life itself.

Bar the beheading bit, all of this resembles another crypto-fascist crusade taking place at the moment, one that would be horrified by the comparisons whilst simultaneously reinforcing them. Just as the far-left and the far-right have more in common with each other than the moderate wings of their respective ideologies, ISIS share a kinship with the secular militant Puritans currently polluting the campuses of this country and those across the pond (not to mention certain corners of the Labour party), indoctrinating a generation with intolerant fanaticism.

When Muhammad Ali addressed a gathering of the Ku-Klux Klan in the 60s as a Nation of Islam representative, his presence wasn’t as incongruous as it might seem; both extreme groups shared the belief that black and white should lead separate lives. Both ISIS and the nameless coalition of blinkered Feminazis and ultra-PC serial censors that devote their time to being permanently offended are united in their aim to destroy the democratic right of free speech, free thought and free opinion.

ISIS regard homosexuality as an abomination; the Puritans regard heterosexuality as an abomination. ISIS attack anyone who dares to disagree with their brand of Islam; the Puritans attack anyone who dares to disagree with their demands on behalf of everyone who isn’t a straight white male. An ISIS aim is to eradicate evidence of a past that promotes a different perspective on Islam; a Puritan aim is to eradicate evidence of a past that promotes a different perspective on democracy. ISIS would rather resort to the blade and the bomb than negotiate with the enemy; the Puritans would rather resort to online vendettas than negotiate with the enemy. ISIS create a climate in which everyone is afraid to criticise the Koran; the Puritans create a climate in which everyone is afraid to criticise any non-white, non-male individual or ‘community’. ISIS monopolise public perception of Islam so that anyone who questions it is in bed with Donald Trump; the Puritans monopolise public perception of liberalism so that anyone who questions it is in bed with Donald Trump. ISIS exploit the political naivety and limited life experience of their recruits; the Puritans exploit the political naivety and limited life experience of their recruits. ISIS infantilise their followers by inspiring a childlike slavish devotion to a celestial father figure and promising a Paradise abundant with virgins; the Puritans infantilise their followers by inspiring a childlike inability to cope with an opposing opinion and promise panic rooms to recover from taking offence. Both absolve their disciples from adult responsibility and the ability to utilise reason by inculcating an unswerving belief that their actions are justifiable because opposition is wrong.

The current target for Oxford wing of the secular militant Puritans is Cecil Rhodes. Yes, that’s right – someone who’s been dead for almost 114 years. There clearly aren’t enough living and breathing ‘villains’ around to get angry about today. The Puritans see Rhodes as embodying everything they find offensive, an old-school imperialist at the vanguard of the British Empire; a man of his time whose beliefs are at odds with contemporary thinking, as could be said of most that made their mark in previous centuries. In other words, an utterly irrelevant objection. They have honed in on a statue of Rhodes and a plaque dedicated to the man who bequeathed the majority of his estate to Oxford University and established the Rhodes scholarship, something many students from former colonies have benefitted from. They want both removed because they find them offensive, just as ISIS want all historic monuments to Islam removed.

This isn’t necessarily new. I recall attacks on a statue of Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris in the 80s, made by those who hadn’t lived through six years of war and had no concept of what the Luftwaffe had done to this country’s major metropolises and the people who lived in them; my great-grandmother, then in her 90s, responded to the graffiti sprayed over the head of RAF Bomber Command’s statue with barely-concealed contempt. Harris died as late as 1984, whereas Rhodes is a man nobody alive today will have known.

If we’re going to start taking offence at statues of long-dead men because their outlook doesn’t square with contemporary mores, then why not remove statues of Washington or Jefferson, early US Presidents who made a handsome profit from plantations manned by slaves? Where does one stop and how far back does one go? Ask ISIS; they took offence at the ancient antiquities of Nimrud and destroyed them. Best keep an eye on Stonehenge, then; those scum druids sacrificed innocent women, children and transgender eunuchs, so why are we still allowing the scene of their offensive crimes to stand?

Residing in a perpetual present, where there is nothing remaining from the past to offend or upset that present and where language, thought and behaviour are all subject to stringent monitoring, seriously undermines the prospect of a future in which mankind can progress and develop as it always has done bar those moments when it is overwhelmed by dark forces. After all, nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition.

© The Editor


  1. As an historian, or even as a sentient and moderately intelligent human being, I find the destruction/removal/erasure of these historical monuments an total and unmitigated abomination.

    Regarding Harris, I feel that he should be judged by the ‘standards’ of his time not ours. In so doing he would still be found guilty as charged. The only real difference between a ‘War Criminal’ and hero is whether or not they find themselves on the winning or losing side of a war.


    1. Harris aside (who I used as an example merely because I remembered the damage done to his statue) I think that’s the problem with this trend, judging everyone or everything from the past by the standards of today.


  2. Maybe the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square is a sign of what’s to come, if people persist with this notion of reassessing yesterday’s achievements from today’s perspective (and nevermind what tomorrow’s might be!).

    It seems unlikely that any of those mill owners brazenly gazing down across a Northern town square – or railway men whose names were memorialized by the city they had helped develop – could possibly survive an internet-search into their past (followed by the inevitable bloody petition); fornicators, shysters, corrupted & corruptors, one and all…

    (And don’t even think to look into the actions of the military men, the religious leaders, and most certainly not the aristocracy!)

    The Spanish ‘clean up’ started a few years ago – an apparent attempt to remove all trace of Franco from public-life. I have mixed feelings about this, as, for example, in the case of a plaza I was reading about the other day that had happily existed for a few hundred years, bearing its own name until a new one was imposed from afar: ‘plaza General Franco’. The neighbours unsurprisingly continued to call it by its former title, and now, after a few decades, it has officially reverted to what it always really was; this seems justified.

    On the other hand, the tearing down of any and every statue or monument – and there ARE rather a lot of ’em! – seems to be an act of denial by a country of its own true history.


    1. One thinks of St Petersburg being renamed Petrograd and then Leningrad before reverting to its original name again; in such cases, there is indeed justification for change. But even if a statue remains, neglect is often as notable as removing it altogether. A couple of years back, I took some photos of statues hidden away in a Leeds park that once stood outside the Town Hall – Wellington, Peel and Queen Victoria – all in need of a good scrub. In a way, the ignorance of the students passing them en route to the university is probably a blessing. Curiously, a friend of mine in Canada sent me a photo of the Queen Victoria statue in Ontario and it looked as though it had been sculpted the day before. Funny how ‘the colonies’ have more awareness of the past than the mother country!


      1. That would be Woodhouse Moor/HydePark. I can recall a cold morning long ago, early/mid 90s, pre the riots, having trudged from my student digs in Hill Top Place, up Hyde Park Road, along Moorland Road to be greeted by the sight of the statue of the Duke of Wellington, nothing unusual there, except that overnight his boots had been painted bright red! He could often be seen sporting a road cone for a hat, worn at a suitably jaunty angle! I could not help but raise a wry smile, “Well old fellow, at least you’ve done with Napoleon.” I thought to myself, “I’ve got to spend the next two bloody hours being lectured to about the administration and governance of Piedmont and Savoy under his regime!”

        P.s. Being for the benefit of anyone interested, the grave of Pablo Fanque is in the nearby St. George’s Field, formerly known as Woodhouse Cemetery, but the Hendersons are not there, nor is Mr Kite!

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      2. His boots still were red when I took the photo! I’d heard Pablo Fanque was buried somewhere round there, though I’ve never located it. There once was a cemetery on the park, though no longer. John Betjeman visited it in 1968, as seen at 19:29 on here…


  3. Yes that is the same cemetery and it is still there. As Betjemen rightly says it is in the middle of the University. At the very end of the cemetery clip, when both he and the camera pan across to “The New.” that is the university’s Henry Price Residences with its distinctive “Brutalist” concrete stairwell and water tower, on Clarendon Road, that you are looking at, literally just the other side of the road from the Duke of Wellington’s statue.

    To find the former cemetery, now known as St. Georges Field, the name it actually had before it became a cemetery in 1835, do the following. At the Duke’s Statue face the uni campus, turn left up Clarendon Road heading towards Woodhouse Lane. On your right will be the aforementioned Henry Price Residences, they terminate in the Brutalist stairs/water tower that we saw in the Betjemen film. Just past this and it’s small car park turn right into the “Cemetery Road” entrance to the University, don’t worry, both it and St. Georges Field are open to the general public. Continue down Cemetery Road and you will soon come to Cemetery Gates, where there is a Blue Plaque. Go through the gates and you’re there!

    Fanque’s grave is one of the small cluster to the lefthand side of the chapel/mausoleum. The quickest way to find it is to look for the headstone of “Susannah Darby” Fanque’s first wife, he was born William Darby, Pablo Fanque was his stage name! She was killed in an accident while Fanque’s circus was at King Charles Croft in Leeds, now the site of “The Core” shopping centre. Fanque’s tombstone lies at the foot of his wife’s grave and is a more modest affair. Also interred in their grave is a daughter who died in infancy.

    I hope that this may help you to find it, all the best and good hunting! 🙂

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    1. Thanks for the directions! That’s brilliant. I remember when I first saw the Betjeman documentary, I instantly recognised the brutalist edifice you refer to, but couldn’t work out where the cemetery was! I’m not too far from there, so can easily make the trip. Cheers!


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