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Source: (consider it) Thread: An audit of our Monuments?
simontoad
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Here's a Guardian Australia article about monuments in Australia that are said to tell an incomplete or erroneous story about our past.

The immediate issue are monuments to people in Queensland who were involved in the 'blackbirding' of Pacific Islanders to that State to work as laborers in the sugar cane industry. Blackbirding is the forced resettlement of people to Australia. I'm not certain what the arrangements were, but I think they were pretty close to slaves, if not actually bought and sold.

Another issue are statues around the country which refer to the European settlement as 'discovery' of Australia.

It used to be that a political issue in the USA would percolate through to us in a few years. This one seems to have arrived almost instantaneously, although it has been percolating here for a while.

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The opinions expressed above are transitory emotional responses and do not necessarily reflect the considered views of the author.

Posts: 1006 | From: Romsey, Vic, AU | Registered: May 2014  |  IP: Logged
Ian Climacus

Liturgical Slattern
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I'm all for an audit... If plaques are saying Cook, or Janszoon, was the first to "discover" the continent or such-and-such a place they need to be corrected. Whether that means "first European" is added to the plaque, or the statue is taken down, seems to me to be more about the person and the impact they had on the original inhabitants, or indentured Pacific labourers, or whomever it was.

It's only taken us almost 230 years...should not take a bloody year more.

I do confess I struggle to understand Aboriginal culture and spirituality, and do not pay as much attention as may be expected; understanding Chinese or Middle Eastern culture and history comes more readily to me [probably given where I grew up and those I was/am friends with]. But I do understand at least that they were dispossessed, hunted down and killed, treated worse than animals and given no rights. And if seeing bloody great statues, or offensive/untrue plaques, in prominent, or even out-of-the-way places, is calling to mind and to the present past sufferings I think the conversation on what should happen to them must start.

I've heard arguments it is tearing down history and a plot to get us to forget our past. Tearing down, possibly; but I'm sure kids will continue to learn about Hartog, Cook, La Perouse, et al.; and maybe future generations will be better informed about Aboriginal history, and Pacific Islander history, than I am.

[ 25. August 2017, 05:53: Message edited by: Ian Climacus ]

Posts: 7372 | From: Albury, Australia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
simontoad
Ship's Amphibian
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Yeah I'm with you Ian. I was hoping someone like Miranda Devine might respond [Biased]

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The opinions expressed above are transitory emotional responses and do not necessarily reflect the considered views of the author.

Posts: 1006 | From: Romsey, Vic, AU | Registered: May 2014  |  IP: Logged
Ian Climacus

Liturgical Slattern
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Be careful what you wish for.
[Biased]

Posts: 7372 | From: Albury, Australia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Og, King of Bashan

Ship's giant Amorite
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I found this quote from the article to be interesting:

quote:
Writing in the Australian, Keith Windschuttle said Australian history did not warrant comparison to the transatlantic slave trade and criticised Indigenous Australian journalist Stan Grant’s call to amend the epigraph of Sydney’s statue of Cook.
So basically, it wasn't as bad as the trans-Atlantic slave trade, so... what?

I once made similar a public statement in an argument against changing the name of a campus organization to be gender-neutral, after a black student expressed support on the grounds of having experienced discrimination himself. And I feel pretty shitty about making it 15 years later. I'm the last person who should be telling people of other races or gender what they can feel is important.

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"I like to eat crawfish and drink beer. That's despair?" ― Walker Percy

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L'organist
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And while we're at it please would the British monarchy stop referring to its heir apparent as Prince of Wales. The only smidgeon of Welsh blood in the last thousand years was that provided by Edmund Tudor to Henry VII. Frankly it would make more sense for the heir to the throne to be titled Prince of Scots.

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Rara temporum felicitate ubi sentire quae velis et quae sentias dicere licet

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wabale
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The problem of statues wouldn’t be so bad if we were not as adults using the knowledge of History we acquired as children. The History we learn at school tends to be a version of what might be called ‘the national narrative’. If we’re lucky we will have had History teachers who introduce different points of view, and, if we’re very lucky, teachers who encourage and train us to look at historical evidence and think about it for ourselves.

In England Michael Gove, when he was Education Minister, made a concerted attempt to change the History that was being taught to one particular (conservative) narrative. He affected to believe that Florence Nightingale was being replaced in the syllabus by, God forbid, Mary Seacole! Although his efforts to write his own syllabus failed, he did succeed in politicising the teaching of History, and while I was busy writing to my MP about it I noted that similar battles were going on in Australia, and in a different way in the USA.

History teachers (and perhaps in the case of the USA also history books) need to be free to present multiple interpretations of the past, and a balanced point of view, where this is appropriate. We can then as adults reserve our wrath for the one or two statues that really deserve it.

Posts: 55 | From: Essex, United Kingdom | Registered: Jan 2017  |  IP: Logged
Ian Climacus

Liturgical Slattern
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Statues graffitied

Not sure that is the way to go. I suspect Miranda Devine and her right-wing colleague will have a field day here. Lefty vandals! Dirty do-gooders desecrate monument (can't think of a d synonym).

Posts: 7372 | From: Albury, Australia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
simontoad
Ship's Amphibian
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yeah, this is a skirmish in the History Wars for sure. I saw on the telly today a bloke from the right-wing Institute for Public Affairs saying that Winschuttle (noted defender of British Heritage) wanted the 'discoverer' plaques to remain, but put the correction on a second plaque. In that way, the perspective of the settlers would be preserved. (grrrr)

L'organist, I'm not responding to your thing about Wales, because I'm not sure if you're joking or not.

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The opinions expressed above are transitory emotional responses and do not necessarily reflect the considered views of the author.

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Dark Knight

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quote:
Originally posted by Og, King of Bashan:
I found this quote from the article to be interesting:

quote:
Writing in the Australian, Keith Windschuttle said Australian history did not warrant comparison to the transatlantic slave trade and criticised Indigenous Australian journalist Stan Grant’s call to amend the epigraph of Sydney’s statue of Cook.
So basically, it wasn't as bad as the trans-Atlantic slave trade, so... what?

I once made similar a public statement in an argument against changing the name of a campus organization to be gender-neutral, after a black student expressed support on the grounds of having experienced discrimination himself. And I feel pretty shitty about making it 15 years later. I'm the last person who should be telling people of other races or gender what they can feel is important.

Windschuttle is an Australian historian who denies the facticity of the stolen generation, and claims that other historians have over-emphasised the extent of colonial genocide carried out against Indigenous Australians. He is the equivalent of a holocaust denier.
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Og, King of Bashan

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I had my suspicions, but hadn't bothered to google him.

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"I like to eat crawfish and drink beer. That's despair?" ― Walker Percy

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simontoad
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quote:
Originally posted by simontoad:
yeah, this is a skirmish in the History Wars for sure. I saw on the telly today a bloke from the right-wing Institute for Public Affairs saying that Winschuttle (noted defender of British Heritage) wanted the 'discoverer' plaques to remain, but put the correction on a second plaque. In that way, the perspective of the settlers would be preserved. (grrrr)

L'organist, I'm not responding to your thing about Wales, because I'm not sure if you're joking or not.

I'm not happy with what I said about Wales. My wife has made bagels today, and she was calling upon me to test them as I was writing that bit.

Essentially, l'organist, the experience of the Welsh under English rule is analogous to the experience of indigenous Australians I suspect, especially the attempts to eradicate Welsh culture.

Also, grrrr was shorthand for: This is hardly an adequate solution. The perspective of many settlers was that Aborigines were in the way of their chance to finally build some wealth for themselves and their kids, and they had better shove off somewhere else or get shot/poisoned. It is important to remember this perspective, but not to honour it.

[ 26. August 2017, 04:15: Message edited by: simontoad ]

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The opinions expressed above are transitory emotional responses and do not necessarily reflect the considered views of the author.

Posts: 1006 | From: Romsey, Vic, AU | Registered: May 2014  |  IP: Logged
Marama
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quote:
Originally posted by Og, King of Bashan:
I found this quote from the article to be interesting:

quote:
Writing in the Australian, Keith Windschuttle said Australian history did not warrant comparison to the transatlantic slave trade and criticised Indigenous Australian journalist Stan Grant’s call to amend the epigraph of Sydney’s statue of Cook.
So basically, it wasn't as bad as the trans-Atlantic slave trade, so... what?


First of all, few reputable historians would take much notice of anything Windshuttle says.

The South Sea Island trade (from the Melanesian islands to Queensland, and also to Fiji, Samoa and other places) was not the same as slavery; it was an indentured labour system, which means it was time limited, and people were paid (if not much). Quite how coercive it was has been much debated - in its early stages islanders were definitely seized by traders, later there is evidence that more islanders entered into contracts voluntarily (many signed up several times). It was however exploitative - pay and conditions were often appalling. Most Islanders were repatriated in 1904 as part of the White Australia policy; many however then wanted to stay (ah Irony!) as they were by then settled in Qld. Around 1000 were allowed to stay, at least as many more 'melted into the bush' (many into Aboriginal communities, into which they were intermarried).

I'm not, as a historian, keen on knocking down statues, as they are part of what someone once thought important. I'm not averse to a few supplementary plaques being attached to tell the other side of the story.

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Marama
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I'm a bit appalled that Windshuttle agrees with me about supplementary plaques - oh dear!

But Mary Beard (I think) put the same argument about the Rhodes statues and others - we need to know such people have been revered, and we need to reflect on why this was. This may be uncomfortable - but hiding/ demolishing /denying imperial triumphalism and colonialism is not the answer. I can understand why Aboriginal people and other colonised people might want the statues removed, but I thinks it's a bit of a cop out for the colonisers. It's a bit like removing all signs of their sins.

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Og, King of Bashan

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quote:
Originally posted by Marama:
I'm not, as a historian, keen on knocking down statues, as they are part of what someone once thought important. I'm not averse to a few supplementary plaques being attached to tell the other side of the story.

Obviously, there are people who still thing they are important. When you have a statue in the middle of town or a park, it indicates some sort of societal endorsement of the sentiment behind the statue. Some people may see it as nothing more than a relic, but for others, it's a real source of hurt- a sign that your neighbors don't care about your history. A few plaques don't seem to solve that- you still have the statue in the middle of the park, just with a little note that some people whose ancestors aren't important enough to get statues of their own think this guy wasn't all that he's advertised to be.
quote:
Originally posted by Marama:
I can understand why Aboriginal people and other colonised people might want the statues removed, but I thinks it's a bit of a cop out for the colonisers. It's a bit like removing all signs of their sins.

You want a sign of the sin of the colonizers, you don't have to look further than the staggering difference between the lives of Aboriginal people and the lives of white people in Australia.

One of the concerns that you hear from black people in the United States is that the recent uptick in interest in removing Confederate statues among white allies will distract them from other important concerns, including police brutality, opportunity gaps, and mass incarceration. The statues are seen by many black people as a monument to the system that still keeps them down. Taking down the monuments, or somehow contextualizing them, won't solve the overlying issue of white supremacy.

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"I like to eat crawfish and drink beer. That's despair?" ― Walker Percy

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Kaplan Corday
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A list of questionable statues in Australia must include those of Al Grassby, one of the nastiest, slimiest characters to ever sit in Parliament, and his leader Gough Whitlam, for his racist vilification of Indochinese asylum-seekers.
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Marama
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Yes, I hear what you are saying, and I don't disagree with any of it.

I just would prefer to further interrogate these statues and similar rather than knock them down. History is not simple - and obliterating things which were important - for whatever reason - tends to make it so. Perhaps we need some more monuments which tell different stories.

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Marama
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Sorry, the above was addressed to Og.

To KC - I think Whitlam deserves a statue because he did a great deal more than vilify the Indo-Chinese. But he wasn't perfect. Surely that's the point - no-one is, so any figure who is admired by many - and that would include Whitlam - still has less admirable qualities. Perhaps statues should not be to individuals

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Boogie

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I'd simply put them all in museums with plaques about their histories, good and bad.

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Baptist Trainfan
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Which is very much what has been don in the Eastern Bloc countries: e.g. Statue Park in Budapest, which I've been to - an amazing place.
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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Og, King of Bashan:

One of the concerns that you hear from black people in the United States is that the recent uptick in interest in removing Confederate statues among white allies will distract them from other important concerns, including police brutality, opportunity gaps, and mass incarceration. The statues are seen by many black people as a monument to the system that still keeps them down. Taking down the monuments, or somehow contextualizing them, won't solve the overlying issue of white supremacy.

No, it won't. You do also hear some black people talking about how big statues of slavery-defenders in their colleges and courts don't exactly make them feel welcome.

Both things are true.

I tend to agree with you that statues can become a distraction, especially when the statue-fest starts going after George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

The confederate statues are something of a special case - they really weren't put up to commemorate some hero or other, but were largely put up in response to some move or other to improve the lives of black people. They were, quite literally, erected to say "n-word, stay in your place".

Yes, George Washington owned slaves, but his statues weren't erected to promote slavery or oppress black people. Most of the confederate statues were quite explicitly erected by racists dreaming about the days back on the plantation.

For me, that makes a difference.

Also on pragmatic grounds, you're likely to get a lot more agreement amongst white Americans about taking down confederate monuments. Removing statues of the first president sounds like a much harder battle to fight; it might be tactically sound to fight battles with bigger payoffs first, even if your ultimate goal is to get rid of Washington statues too.

But I'm not black, I don't suffer from racist oppression, and my recent ancestors weren't enslaved. I don't really get to tell people who are black what they should be upset by.

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Og, King of Bashan

Ship's giant Amorite
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This is an interesting angle on the situation in the United States, from one of the anthropology curators at our (fantastic) local Museum of Nature and Science.

Since 1906, American Presidents have had the power, under the Antiquities act, to preserve "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest" from destruction by branding them national monuments. (It's sort of a sub-species of National Park.)

Both Obama and Clinton used this power to preserve pretty large swaths of land in the Western United States. The land contains beautiful scenery, ancient cliff dwellings, and petroglyphs, among other things that are considered of historic or scientific interest. They also contain potentially valuable oil and gas reserves, and grazing land.

Trump has instructed his Interior Secretary to look at many of these monuments, and to make recommendations for where they can be scaled back to allow more private, profit-oriented use of land.

Now obviously there is a lot going on with this decision, and I suspect that Trump's major motivation is appeasing the oil and gas and cattle industries in the West. But it is impossible to not see the tension between Trump complaining about erasing history on the one hand when Confederate statues are being discussed, and being willing to remove protections for important native historical sites on the other.

It's a total "gotcha" question. But I do kind of wonder what Windschuttle would say if there were ever a conflict between the mining industry and a group who wanted to protect an important Aboriginal historical site. Is history actually important to him, or is it just certain kinds of history?

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wild haggis
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Every generation and nationality has their own view of history, seen through their own period and perspective. There is no such thing as pure history. Even dates are chosen by someone for some reason (whether it is the odious Mr Gove or someone else).

I am conflicted about statues etc. If we take them down we run the risk of forgetting these people and the bad, as well as the good they did. And often repeating the forgotten bad.

There are a lot of statues around London and I haven't the foggiest about some of the folk and what they did. It spurns me on to find out about them.

As time moves on we can re-interpret events retrospectively. Maybe it is good to look at that statue and reflect and make the decision it should not happen again. Do we cut bad things out of history and only celebrate the good - and forget and repeat the mistakes of the past? Difficult this one. We run the danger of the old Soviet block and some modern nations of editing history to fit our own perspectives and that history becoming a lie.

I think the problem is where a statue is regarded almost as a god and a good example to follow, when what the person stood for is evil.

When we lived in London, every year I used to go and put flowers on the statue of Raol Wallenburg (look up the story of this magnificent man if you don't know it).
But statues of Queen Victoria, Mrs Thatcher, Winston Churchill, etc. made me stick my tongue out, make a rude face and think - well you may have been famous but you didn't always do good.

Maybe that is the wisest way of treating the statues of those, once famous, that now we have questions about, rather than pulling them down and forgetting the evil ........let's learn from them and resolve never to do the same.

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wild haggis

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