As I’ve made quite clear in a previous text, I am opposed to the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign, and am opposed to the radical revision of history in general. It is not in spite of Rhodes’ zealous attitude towards colonialism and his galling and excessive national and racial chauvinism that I make this stand, but in fact due to it. The history of the world is the history of divisive and complicated characters that made both great advances and terrible, unpardonable blunders. As Solzhenitsyn wrote, “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being”. History is not made up of heroes and villains, good causes against evil causes, exploitation of one class of beings against another. Every one of us, regardless of our standing and accomplishments, our estate and allegiances, is capable of the most unspeakable evil if we ever lose sight of our own moral frailty, fallibility and wretchedness. The history of the previous century perhaps more than any other is the clearest indicator of that. It is important that we maintain our awareness of colonial history, and the best way to do this is to not white-wash it from history!
Cecil Rhodes statue at Oriel College, University of Oxford
Cecil Rhodes must stand, and I say this in the same spirit that I say (as an anti-communist) that Lenin must remain standing in Russia, alongside Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible. Columbus and Napoleon must stand too. However far on the side of evil (or good) one might judge these agents of history, they stand as signifiers of the reason why we are where we are today, and as a testament to the fact that the world as we know it stands not on the backs of heroic ordeals and philanthropic postulations alone, but on the struggles and hardships of countless slaves and sufferers, and on the exploits of complex, incongruous and paradoxical personae everywhere. As fallen creatures, flawed and impure, we owe it to our children that we never become ignorant of our tragic predicament and inheritance; “we are the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).
I was motivated to write this after discovering an excellent article on this subject from The Common Sense Post, which I happened upon after searching for the twist on words that lends it’s title to my own post and the article Cecil Rhodes must stand in the face of the new iconoclasts from the aforementioned blog. Highly recommended article, and too short to pass up on. Special thanks to author Sam Powell for the inspiration.
Have a look at my longer polemic on this subject, thoughts on the removal and destruction of statues and monuments if it interests you any further.