So far the UK has resisted the craven surrender to the Left that in the US has resulted in nothing less than a cultural purge of the South — something historically associated with tyrannical regimes such as Nazi Germany or Stalin’s USSR, and unworthy of a free democratic nation.
It does not need rehearsing that the stories these symbols tell – whether of Cecil Rhodes in South Africa or Robert E Lee in the US – are more nuanced than the angry protesters fed on false resentment would have it. But even the fact that slavery was more than a Southern problem – a Northern States one too – is really beside the point.
Western history has much to teach us, but lessons good and bad (from which reflective Western civilisation has uniquely continued to learn) are lost when their physical symbols are erased and intolerance takes over. This cultural cleansing, this dangerous new form of intolerance, is debasing America’s people and setting a dangerous precedent for civil liberties.
Here in the UK, universities and towns from Oxford to London to Bristol, are under siege from the angry Left. The BBC, shame on them, gives a nearly permanent platform to the Leftist extremists who want to tear down Nelson’s column; and now it seems that even Cromwell (love him or hate him) is on the hit list. The British Museum too is under attack for its ‘Empire’ connotation.
We could engage in tit for tat, such as ‘Can we rip down Marx while we are at it?’ Although there certainly is an argument for that it is too easy and would sink us to the level of Left. As Daniel Frampton has observed: ‘Instead of replaying the gallantry of the past, which is perhaps too much to live up to, those such as Afua Hirsch participate in a game of mock heroics that requires little, if any, effort or sacrifice, allowing them to play the hero without being exposed to any of the inherent risk. It is an intoxicating mixture that has come to define the Leftist ethic.’
If there is a war to be waged, then, it must be against the conceit of our own age, not the supposed deficiencies of the past. Far from representing the evils of yesteryear, we need to recognise and make known more of those who stand for some of its most impressive ideals.
This is the challenge The Conservative Woman has set its brilliant team of writers. Who should be celebrated in stone? What statues should go up celebrating great individuals’ contributions to the emergence of British classical liberal thinking? Who has made the most significant contribution to the British constitutional order, or sustained our Judeo-Christian culture and heritage by serving others and protecting the weak, or by developing an idea that greatly materially improved our lives? And in doing this, who displayed courage and self-sacrifice? Who are the people that every British child should be taught about and learn to respect, if not regard with awe?
We could not start with a more apt nomination today – the journalist who raged against injustice, a man without whom the free press, this website and so many others, might never have come to exist. The man whose name is indelibly associated with freedom of speech, William Cobbett, who was once described by Samuel Johnson as the greatest Englishman.