Thursday, December 31, 2015
A symbolic attack on the past
Symbols of the British and French colonial pasts are being criticized, with a demand that reminders of the past be erased. Some comments below the following news report
The student who called for the removal of Cecil Rhodes' statue at an Oxford college previously said French flags should be taken down because they are a 'violent symbol' akin to the Nazi swastika.
South African student Ntokozo Qwabe, who is on the prestigious Bachelor of Civil Laws course at Oxford University, led the Rhodes Must Fall group which has demanded Oriel College remove the statue of the colonialist.
Now, it has emerged that Mr Qwabe has previously called for the French flag to be removed because he believes it is a symbol of violence much like the Nazi swastika.
Following the terrorist atrocities in the French capital last month, Mr Qwabe wrote on Facebook: 'You can miss me with the buffoonery of changing Facebook profile pictures to violent imperial flags & hashtaging [sic] 'prayers for Paris' I will silently pretend to but not kneel to carry out.'
'I refuse to be cornered by white supremacist hashtagism into believing that showing my disgust for the loss of lives in France mandates identifying with a state that has for years terrorised - and continues to terrorise - innocent lives in the name of imperialism, colonialism, and other violent barbarities.
'I do NOT stand with France. Not while it continues to terrorise and bomb Afrika [sic] & the Middle East for its imperial interests. We will not end terrorism by choosing the terrorist our subjective sensibilities and popular propaganda normalise.'
He later clarified in a post written on his open Facebook profile, which said: 'For those who were on the receiving end of French colonial and imperial crimes in the name of the French flag, the flag means the same to them as the Confederate flag does to those who were on the receiving end of the crimes committed in its name.
'It means the same to them as the flag/symbols of Stalin Russia do to those on the receiving end of the crimes of that establishment; it means the same to them as the Nazi flag does to those on the receiving end of Nazi crimes. I could go on and on.'
Then, speaking to the Sunday Times Qwabe described Cecil Rhodes as being a 'racist, genocidal maniac' who was 'as bad as Hitler.'
Supporting a campaign to remove the French flag from universities, Qwabe added: 'I would agree with that in the same way that the presence of a Nazi flag would have to be fought against.'
Mr Qwabe's student campaign, called Rhodes Must Fall Oxford, says Rhodes paved the path to apartheid by introducing discriminatory land ownership and voting rules.
It is inspired by the Rhodes Must Fall protest movement that began on in March, originally directed against a statue at the University of Cape Town which commemorates Cecil Rhodes.
The campaign for the statue's removal received global attention and led to a wider movement to 'decolonise' education across South Africa.
Rhodes was one of the era's most famous imperialists, with Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe and Zambia – named after him.
Mr Qwabe is one of 89 current Rhodes scholars who benefit from the colonialist's legacy, which brings foreign students to Oxford at a cost of £8 million a year.
After being accused of 'breath- taking hypocrisy' for accepting a scholarship, Qwabe argued that he was simply taking back a portion of what was originally looted by colonialists from Africa.
'It's completely, completely disingenuous to say I have somehow benefited from Rhodes,' he told Channel 4 News, going on to talk about pioneers such as Rhodes being 'able to murder a lot of people and make a lot of money from it'.
Most of the above is somewhere between exaggeration and outright lies. Cecil Rhodes looted nobody. He was a mine owner who paid his miners better money that they had ever had before. Most were originally subsistence farmers with no cash income. Without him and other businessmen like him, there would have been no mines.
It is true that he believed in white racial superiority but just about everybody in Britain and Europe did in those days. But he killed or injured no-one because of his racial beliefs. If he was a "genocidal maniac", how come he was buried with full native honours by the Ndebele chiefs in what is now Zimbabwe? For the first time ever, they gave a white man the Matabele royal salute "Bayete".
He negotiated with Africans via their chiefs. He did not go about killing them. He was basically just a very clever businessman
The objection to the French flag is part and parcel of Leftist "anti-colonial" rhetoric. The Left instinctively hate both the present and the past of the societies in which they live. But their objections to colonialism are quite pointless, as all the major colonies were given independence years ago. They are re-fighting old battles.
It is true that by modern standards, there were some things in the colonial era that were objectionable but there were benefits too. When the British left Africa, they left behind them well-organized countries with democratic institutions, a capable bureaucracy and an impartial judiciary. But after independence, that soon decayed into corruption, near anarchy and all sorts of bloodshed.
Generally speaking, the colonial era was a time of rapid civilizational and economic advance for most people involved in it. But you will never hear a Leftist saying that. If you look to the Left for a balanced account of anything political, you will not find it.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).