When I propose that South Africa put all offensive statues and historical edifices in a park, why would anyone imagine that I propose such a thing because I defend the long-dead ideas of Cecil John Rhodes?
Firstly, I’m not a time-traveller. I don’t spend any part of my day imagining that I live in Victorian England when his ideas were zeitgeist of the day. Truly, when I have toothache, I don’t go to a barber to have my tooth pulled, and when I need career advice, I don’t go to a phrenologist.
Secondly, out of all the strands that go into making up my DNA, not one of them is pulled from Rhodes’ way-gone dreams.
I can’t track back as far as the time when we all came from a common ancestor in Africa, but at the furthest I can get, none of them would have hitched themselves to his little red wagon.
- Not my forebears that were chased off the little land they had in Warwickshire because they were Catholic
- Not my German forebears who fled to Africa because they were Protestant
- Not my Scots forebears who fled the same way because they were being harried by the English
- Not my Cockney forebears who worked 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, just to stay alive
- And not my Afrikaans forebears who suffered what everyone else suffered during the Boer War
I look at them slowly – each one – and I can’t see any who’d miss the statue of Rhodes.
Sure, every single one of them had to live in a world where the history of the Catholic church, the Protestant Church, England, capitalism, communism and even colonialism were etched, sketched and carved out all over the place. Whether they looked at those monuments with disdain, wondered at their beauty, were revolted by their meaning or didn’t even know what some of them meant – none of them have left me a record, so I don’t know.
As for me, apparently I’m genetically wired to cope with hardship, and to know that extremism is what really lies behind war: no matter what ideology you cloak it in. They didn’t fall for it, and nor do I.
As I read this back to myself, I wonder how it is – in the information-age of Google – that you can know so little about me, about so many like me? Then I realise: it’s because I haven’t told you.
Now I have.
This is The Thinker by Auguste Rodin – it’s not political, just art about humans. (image from http://www.tipeez.com)