What have Cecil Rhodes and Donald Trump got to do with each other? On the face it, not a lot and not much more than any other random pairing one might wish to come up with? Yet also, and as some readers will have spotted, both characters are controversial, have attracted loving and loathing alike, and are very much in the news at this time. I mention these two characters as they relate to something I regard as undesirable that is happening in our culture at this time that we ought to be aware off before it is too late.
Much of what I am about to write has already been said in my earlier blogs (e.g. check out here, here and here) but as is often the case new angles present themselves and I was sparked into writing this after listening to arguments being presented for and against removing a statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University, on today’s Radio 4 “Today” program (2hrs, 37mins in) and reading an article with the intriguing title: “Cologne exposes a crisis in our continent, yet parliament is debating Donald Trump”, all of which got me thinking about what is happening, why it is happening and what should be happening, concerning attitudes to these two men, as well as the wider implications of untoward reactions toward them.
Regarding Rhodes, the reason why he is in the news is there is a growing group of those who wish for his statue to be removed because they regard it as offensive. Rhodes epitomised nineteenth century British colonial aspirations in Southern Africa and has been accused of being racist, an oppressor of black Africans and one of the architects of the despised South African apartheid regime, although supporters would cite that he was a man of his times, aided in the civilizing of Africa, created some of its wealth and pertinent to this discussion was the inaugurator of the Rhodes scholarship that has enabled some of the worlds leaders to study for free at Oxford University (some incidentally going on to dismantle some of the worst effects of colonization). In making some of these points, Lord Chris Patton argued that if universities were to persist in actions like these, not only should they be thinking of other actions for the sake of consistency but in doing so they would gag free speech and go against us having an open society and encourage free debate and dissention, something Oxford has long taken a lead. He pointed out how the likes of Nelson Mandela, a principle player in removing apartheid, recognized Rhodes contribution. Elsewhere, “Lord Patten warns against ‘pandering to contemporary views’ over statue row”.
Going back to the article, this refers to two stories in the news (although the article made the point the Cologne story might have been suppressed as embarrassing, but for social media that meant it got covered). The Cologne story related to the sexual attack on women on New Year’s Eve, in Cologne, by Muslim refugees. The Trump story related to the forthcoming Commons debate whether to stop Donald Trump entering the country on the basis he has been inciting hatred, including toward Muslims. In the article, the author talks about two other controversial figures that have attracted a similar reaction as has Trump. These are the cultural commentator, Katie Hopkins and EDL founder, Tommy Robinson. Without endorsing any of these characters, the author argues that rather than ridicule or demonise these people that more attention should be given to considering some of the points they have raised.
As I recently remarked, the abandonment of our judeo-christian heritage has left a moral vacuum, which like all vacuums demands to be filled. It seems to me there are two contenders. Firstly, there is the unholy alliance between secularists and religionists of a more liberal ilk, united in attaching high importance to more liberal values as equality and tolerance (except for those who disagree on these points). Secondly, there are the Islamists, albeit not yet of the more radical variety, who are growing in number and influence. The first group is likely to oppose the likes of Cecil Rhodes and may well support the removal of his statute and the gagging of those who do not share their liberal values, including Donald Trump. Many in the second group, will be continuing in their quest for making more inroads for the cause of Islam and welcome it when government see them in a more positive light than does Trump. While I have no doubt most Muslims would distance themselves from the behavior that has been seen in Cologne, I doubt whether our government or those identified in my first group truly understand Islam.
My question is what type of society do we want? Sadly, I find this question is often skirted round when listening to debates on all sorts of subjects that affect this country. Having a fair and open debate on matters that concern people and a free flow of ideas, including those of religion or non religion, has long been a British value. By dismantling Rhodes statue or denying Trump entry into this country, we will be denying this. Sadly, when we look at practically every country in the world where Islam is the dominant religion, we see minorities being oppressed. What is often not understood or admitted by followers of Islam, is it is more than a personal religion but covers all aspects of national life, whether a person is a Muslim or not, and arguably goes against every freedom we enjoy in the West; freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion. Despite my strongly held views, this is not the type of society I want any more than the type of society liberal fascism is trying to impose given the way those who fall foul of their ideology are treated.
There is much about Rhodes and Trump that I don’t like. Equally, there are things they have said, done or stood for that I do like. I say, keep Rhodes statue where it is and allow Trump into the country!