Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Nazis to the Right of me, Antifa on the Left... here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Okay, it's The Guardian - what did you expect? Common  sense? Rationality? Respect for the vast majority of people who don't share their bizarre views? Of course not - you expect its writers to support any proposal, no matter how deranged, whose sole purpose is to upset anyone who doesn't read the Guardian, work for the BBC, go on demos, doesn't think all white people are racist, doesn't despise Judeo-Christian culture and doesn't hate this country, its people, its traditions and its history. I've tried my best not to swallow the bait...

...during this whole, sorry, statue-toppling saga - but I've finally succumbed.  

It's not the usual suspects - left-wing journalists, politicians, entertainment industry types and academic institutions - wildly virtue-signalling over the latest liberal "issue of the month" that's been peculiarly upsetting, post-Charlottesville. One expects them to excrete unmitigated tosh. Here's the spectacularly unfunny comic actor and writer, Seth Rogen:
We get it Seth - just like, wow, yeah, this shit's like so fucked up, right? And, of course, there's nothing surprising these days about cowardly, craven, pantywaist adults caving in to students' demands the instant the ignorant little bastards so much as threaten to throw one of their hilarious toddler tantrums:
"There, there, my little precious - don't cry. You're safe now. It was just a bad dream. Daddy made those mean old statues disappear..."

No, it's not those wankers who upset me. It's when people I expect to be vaguely on my side of the argument turn traitor that I have to take another blood-pressure pill. For instance, I almost pebble-dashed the Telegraph with my morning porridge when I read the following paragraph in an article by a young-looking chap called Daniel Capurro:
As for General Lee and his fellow Southern leaders, they should be seen for what they were: traitors who took the United States into a conflict that cost it more lives than any other war. That deserves no monuments.
That may be a reasonable conclusion - but there is absolutely nothing in Capurro's piece to justify his use of the word "traitor", just as the number of lives lost in the ensuing conflict has nothing to do with the rightness or otherwise of the Confederate cause. Slavery is mentioned, of course - but there's no reference to the issue of states' rights, or to the opposing argument that Abraham Lincoln's troops illegally invaded states which had seceded from the union, which was their legal right. I have no particular views on these questions, but I've read convincing arguments on both sides from academics, none of whom seek to defend slavery in any way, and none of whom give the impression of being white supremacists. Slavery was a truly repugnant institution, which needed to be brought to a halt as quickly and as completely as possible - but to pretend that the Civil War was only about abolition, and that this alone justified the means used to crush the South - and justified the punishment meted out to white southerners after the war during Reconstruction - strikes me as either naive or dishonest.

As for Robert E. Lee, he seems to have been an extraordinarily honourable and courageous man and a superb military commander. He could have fought for either side. He wanted the union to survive, but he had to make a choice between loyalty to the federal government and loyalty to his state. This meant something quite different from having to choose between, say, one's loyalty to Lancashire and one's loyalty to the British government. He evidently made his choice out of a sense of duty, and with a heavy heart. For a journalist on one of Britain's leading conservative newspapers to airily dismiss him as a "traitor" - without backing up the assertion - strikes me as sloppy and cheap.

Mind you, when it comes to cheapness - not to mention naivety - conservative politicians weren't far behind:

But then, Sajid and Mitt, you grew up, went to college, read some books and studied some history, and it rapidly became "pretty obvious" that some Anti-Nazis could be just as repellent as their Nazi enemies, and that Antifa thugs and Neo-Nazi thugs are essentially two sides of the same unlovely, violent, intolerant, totalitarian coin. In order to oppose Nazism, you don't have to hand a free pass to Antifa. Being opposed to the actions of Black Lives Matter doesn't mean you don't believe that black lives matter. The furthest you could go would be "Neo Nazis: bad, Most Anti-Nazis, good". Unfortunately, a sizeable proportion of those who counter-demonstrate against Neo-Nazis don't inhabit a morally different universe from their supposed foes. I learned that as an adult. It was pretty obvious.

Anyway, back to those pesky statues. What's really behind the "Topple" movement is the desire to destroy history:
Indeed. We're already quite a way down that road.

I'll leave you with the poem, "Lee in the Mountains" by Donald Davidson, a member of the Southern Agrarian group of poets. It centres on Robert E, Lee's post-war role as the president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, between 1865 and his death in 1870. Reproducing this poem does not imply support for the aims and ideals of the Southern Agrarian movement, or, indeed, for the institution of slavery, or for the cause of white supremacy. Glad to have cleared that up. I just happen to think it's a good poem:

Lee in the Mountains
by Donald Davidson

Walking into the shadows, walking alone
Where the sun falls through the ruined boughs of locust
Up to the president's office. . . .

                  Hearing the voices

Whisper, Hush, it is General Lee! And strangely
Hearing my own voice say, Good morning, boys.
(Don't get up. You are early. It is long
Before the bell. You will have long to wait
On these cold steps. . . .)

                  The young have time to wait

But soldiers' faces under their tossing flags
Lift no more by any road or field,
And I am spent with old wars and new sorrow.
Walking the rocky path, where steps decay
And the paint cracks and grass eats on the stone.
It is not General Lee, young men. . .
It is Robert Lee in a dark civilian suit who walks,
An outlaw fumbling for the latch, a voice
Commanding in a dream where no flag flies.

My father's house is taken and his hearth
Left to the candle-drippings where the ashes
Whirl at a chimney-breath on the cold stone.
I can hardly remember my father's look, I cannot
Answer his voice as he calls farewell in the misty
Mounting where riders gather at gates.
He was old then--I was a child--his hand
Held out for mine, some daybreak snatched away,
And he rode out, a broken man. Now let
His lone grave keep, surer than cypress roots,
The vow I made beside him. God too late
Unseals to certain eyes the drift
Of time and the hopes of men and a sacred cause.
The fortune of the Lees goes with the land
Whose sons will keep it still. My mother
Told me much. She sat among the candles,
Fingering the Memoirs, now so long unread.
And as my pen moves on across the page
Her voice comes back, a murmuring distillation
Of old Virginia times now faint and gone,
The hurt of all that was and cannot be.

Why did my father write? I know he saw
History clutched as a wraith out of blowing mist
Where tongues are loud, and a glut of little souls
Laps at the too much blood and the burning house.
He would have his say, but I shall not have mine.
What I do is only a son's devoir
To a lost father. Let him only speak.
The rest must pass to men who never knew
(But on a written page) the strike of armies,
And never heard the long Confederate cry
Charge through the muzzling smoke or saw the bright
Eyes of the beardless boys go up to death.
It is Robert Lee who writes with his father's hand--
The rest must go unsaid and the lips be locked.

If all were told, as it cannot be told--
If all the dread opinion of the heart
Now could speak, now in the shame and torment
Lashing the bound and trampled States--

If a word were said, as it cannot be said--
I see clear waters run in Virginia's Valley
And in the house the weeping of young women
Rises no more. The waves of grain begin.
The Shenandoah is golden with a new grain.
The Blue Ridge, crowned with a haze of light,
Thunders no more. The horse is at plough. The rifle
Returns to the chimney crotch and the hunter's hand.
And nothing else than this? Was it for this
That on an April day we stacked our arms
Obedient to a soldier's trust? To lie
Ground by heels of little men,

Forever maimed, defeated, lost, impugned?
And was I then betrayed? Did I betray?
If it were said, as it still might be said--
If it were said, and a word should run like fire,
Like living fire into the roots of grass,
The sunken flag would kindle on wild hills,
The brooding hearts would waken, and the dream
Stir like a crippled phantom under the pines,
And this torn earth would quicken into shouting
Beneath the feet of the ragged bands--

                                                The pen

Turns to the waiting page, the sword
Bows to the rust that cankers and the silence.
Among these boys whose eyes lift up to mine
Within gray walls where droning wasps repeat
A hollow reveille, I still must face,
Day after day, the courier with his summons
Once more to surrender, now to surrender all.
Without arms or men I stand, but with knowledge only
I face what long I saw, before others knew,
When Pickett's men streamed back, and I heard the tangled
Cry of the Wilderness wounded, bloody with doom.

The mountains, once I said, in the little room
At Richmond, by the huddled fire, but still
The President shook his head. The mountains wait,
I said, in the long beat and rattle of siege
At cratered Petersbyrg. Too late
We sought the mountains and those people came.
And Lee is in the mountains now, beyond Appomatox,
Listening long for voices that will never speak
Again; hearing the hoofbeats that come and go and fade
Without a stop, without a brown hand lifting
The tent-flap, or a bugle call at dawn,
Or ever on the long white road the flag
Of Jackson's quick brigades. I am alone,
Trapped, consenting, taken at last in mountains.

It is not the bugle now, or the long roll beating.
The simple stroke of a chapel bell forbids
The hurtling dream, recalls the lonely mind.
Young men, the God of your fathers is a just
And merciful God Who in this blood once shed
On your green altars measures out all days,
And measures out the grace
Whereby alone we live;
And in His might He waits,
Brooding within the certitude of time,
To bring this lost forsaken valor
And the fierce faith undying
And the love quenchless
To flower among the hills to which we cleave,
To fruit upon the mountains whither we flee,
Never forsaking, never denying
His children and His children's children forever
Unto all generations of the faithful heart.


  1. On second thoughts, Chavez atop The Column might look more contemporary. Corbyn would approve.

  2. Odd, my first comment appears to have been obliterated by the above. Maybe I try and do everything too fast.
    I was wondering where will it all end.
    As well as statues the renaming of streets, squares, stations, pubs, and more-anything guilty by association, could follow into the dark grey world of the abyss.
    An Orwellian future awaits.

  3. When he was mayor of London, old commie, Ken Livingstone wanted a statue of Nelson Mandela to be erected in Trafalgar Square. Anyone that suggested it would be inappropriate was immediately accused of racism; the knee jerk reaction of the alt-left.
    He actually made the point that having Horatio on his column and Mandela below him showed the beginning and end of the British empire.
    Old Ken also went to Africa and made a sniveling, stomach turning, apology for the slave trade. Without a shadow of doubt this was an unspeakable stain on the conscience of humanity. However, apologising to Africans, whose ancestors kept the horror going long before and after Britain's shameful activity, was dishonest. Well, he had his own electorate in mind, I'm guessing.
    And if we're talking of taking down the statues of those who have brought mayhem and misery to untold millions, how about we start with Karl Marx?

  4. Just outside New Delhi, in an abandoned park where the 1911 Coronation Durbar was held, is an overgrown garden full of old statues crumbling away as the years go by. These were British colonial era statues removed from their plinths in the centre of Delhi after independence in 1947. If you know where to go, you can still wander round admiring these abandoned memorials to forgotten generals and viceroys.

    I like to think that the Indian authorities decided that while they didn't want prominent reminders of the past all over their capital, they also didn't want to give unnecessary offence by tearing the statues down ostentatiously and destroying them.

    The iconoclasts of the hard left might be interested in the Russian response to this sort of thing. When the Estonian Government decided a few years ago to remove a statue of a Russian soldier supposed to symbolise the liberation of their country by the Soviet army, they woke one morning to find that none of the state IT systems was working due to a foreign 'denial of service' attack.

    1. You remember Estonia being brought to its knees in a matter of days with not a shot fired, ex-KCS, and so do I but apparently we're wrong – "This is how a lot of myths were created," remembered Pärgmäe.

  5. Her parents moved in a year or so after us and for the next 15 years Afua was the little girl next door. Very bright, she will have spotted all the problems with her Nelson thesis. Like coherence. Wikipedia tells me that she now works for Sky. I.e. for the unacceptable-to-the-Guardian Rupert Murdoch. Surely consistency demands that his empire be pulled down, not supported and certainly not supported by Afua of all people.

    It's tricky. It's tricky now and it was no doubt tricky in Nelson's day, too. Tricky for Nelson, who had a record of being quite nice to black people, and tricky for the Brits – should they really put up a statue to someone just because he saved the country from an imperialist tyrant with colonies in Africa and the West Indies?

  6. Indians had no past until 1947. India was not a country.
    What the British Government's cartographers and political theorists created had its pre - Independence origins in an agglomeration of territories with mutually unintelligible languages and cultures.

  7. Why is the media promoting Antifa?