Even though Victoria’s goldrush city of Ballarat is purported to be the state’s largest inland city, it is safe to say that it has more than its fair share of statues and monuments which honour heroes, icons, royalty, poets and goldfield pioneers. So abundant are they, in fact, that the Ballarat Information Centre has thought it prudent to compile an extremely helpful self-guided historic statues walking tour for the curious visitor who would like to delve deeper into the city’s impressive array of bronzes, busts and bandstands which line the main boulevard.
Three years ago, when some delinquents decided to daube the statue of Captain Cook in Sydney’s Hyde Park with the words ‘No pride in genocide’ and ‘Change the date’, I went to Ballarat and made a short, slightly tongue-in-cheek film for the Institute of Public Affairs entitled A Politically Correct Walking Tour of Ballarat based on the aforementioned brochure.
The upshot of the film was that by the time the history erasers had finished with its statues and monuments, Ballarat would be completely bereft of any visual reminders of the men and women who made the city what it is today. It would be as if they never even existed at all. The city would be left with nothing but a depressing parade of empty plinths and miserable patches of grass where tributes to the brave had once stood.
These days, the film’s conclusion does not seem all that far-fetched after all. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time until the usual suspects in Australia decided to join the ‘topple the racists’ crowd currently sweeping across the US and UK by coming up with their own list of early settlers, explorers and colonial administrators which they believe should be destroyed on the grounds that each and every individual who has been immortalised in stone, marble or bronze was a racist.
This list is not particularly discerning; anybody will do. In Adelaide, the statue of the city’s founder Colonel William Light, who, if you are going to play the identity politics card, was half Malaysian, has twice been vandalised with ‘Death to Australia’ and ‘No pride in genocide’. Charles Cameron Kingston, the 20th premier of South Australia between 1893 and 1899, has also been targeted for his support of the White Australia policy, even though he pushed to give votes to women and to extend workers compensation. Captain Cook, also on the list, had of course died before the First Fleet arrived on the shores of Botany Bay in 1788.
Facts do not matter to this movement which chooses emotion and superstition over reason, caprice over common sense and barbarism over civilisation. We have seen the masses on the streets of London and Bristol, whipping themselves up into a frenzied state of blind fury, persecuting stone and metal for the real and imagined sins of those so depicted. It is an expression of a moral revulsion at the supposed racism and ideas of cultural superiority displayed by our forebears. This behaviour is not just solely emotional, but to some extent it is also tactical. By tearing down or vandalising statues, the movement is declaring ownership of the present because it has taken control of the past through defacing it or erasing it. It is stating to the world in no uncertain terms that it is now the master of our destiny as it has the power to shape the future.
What we are seeing in the heart of the West itself is a cultural revolution to remove the very symbols that embody the essence of Western civilisation, by a minority in the West who hate their own countries. When vandals graffitied the busts of former prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott, they were basically advertising their animosity towards Australia.
These modern-day Jacobins, who are proudly ignorant and dismissive of history, would like to replace what we have now, which are the values and institutions of Western civilisation, with ideological and whimsical group rights. At the moment, all they are offering us is a combination of violence, anarchy and iconoclasm.
Everything has to go in a Rousseau -type purge where we can return to a native state of noble savagery in the false hope of a utopia. As the late Sir Roger Scruton put it, ‘everything that does not conform to the egalitarian goal is to be pulled down and destroyed. In this way, “social justice” becomes a barely concealed demand for the clean sweep of history that the revolutionaries have always attempted.’
One of the troubles with this particular revolution, as with all revolutions, is that it has no discernible end. Once Ballarat is shorn of its statues and monuments, what will the mob turn to next? Paintings and books? According to a manifesto issued by a US architecture think tank, it will be buildings.
In its letter entitled ‘Un-making ARCHITECTURE: An Anti-racist architecture manifesto’ which was published in the Architect’s Newspaper, the authors claim in Marxist prose that ‘buildings are never just buildings.’ Rather, these structures are ‘part of an apparatus that rewrites, white-washes, legitimises, standardises and erases a history of genocide, destruction,and racism while maintaining the status quo.’
Our buildings, the piece proposes, are pretty much the same as statues and monuments because they are both ‘avatars shaped after leaders of regimes of death, racism, and colonial exploitation.’ Buildings ‘recreate the effect of the monument, albeit at a different scale: train stations, palaces of colonial administrators, bridges, camps, fortresses, stadiums, and also buildings for schooling, endowments, and museums.’ What is more, the architects who are responsible for these racist structures are, according to the article, ‘trained as yes men and women’ as their ‘vocation mostly exists and subsists as an appendix of hegemonic power.’ Buildings it seems, are racist too.
Ballarat should watch out. While it does not boast a fortress, it does have wildly named Old Colonists’ Club, which, if the mob gets its way, will undoubtedly be the first to go.
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Dr Bella d’Abrera is the Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs.
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