Step Change

Tear the statues down
put them in a museum
have their achievements weighed
against their modern moral faults
Give them context
It feels wrong to venerate
values we no longer share

Tear the problematic statues down
it’s time to move on
They’ve had their light
they’ve had their vaunted praise
let them slip into the past
I don’t want to walk beside
the likeness of a slave trader
on my morning commute
despite their pigeon-shit coat
that always makes me smirk

Tear the statues down
The older folks may say it’s a pity
the folly of an ignorant youth
but times; they change
often abruptly
and sometimes it’s appropriate
to force a step change
to send a message
Like scientists reevaluating theories
based on new research
Shouldn’t we reassess
elevated heroes of the past

Tear the problematic statues down
let’s build new ones
better ones
let them inspire hope and unity
and in 100 years, if they must fall again
then so be it
History is not lost because of it
books will go on, museums go on
providing that all-important context
for those who seek it…

[2020]

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13 thoughts on “Step Change”

  1. I thank you for a well written and thoughtful poem. I completely agree that there are statues that need to be removed and also agree with you that a museum would be the best place to house them; where we hope that people will try to learn from the evil and mistakes of past generations. I struggle however, to condone the methods used to remove Colston’s statue. Violence affects everyone in this country, especially the vulnerable. Perhaps the young can accept it as an acceptable bump on the road to progress, but one man’s symbolic and harmless act is another’s recurring nightmare and to the elderly and vulnerable it can have long reaching psychological effects. Violence can only be condoned when every other means of protest has been exhausted. Britain has maintained itself as a democracy while many others have failed, and if the protesters had organised themselves properly with the same dedication they chose last weekend, they easily could have engineered a debate in the commons through the Petition Parliament scheme, by simply creating a petition that asks for a change to the law or to government policy. After 10,000 signatures, petitions get a response from the government. After 100,000 signatures, petitions are considered for debate in Parliament. If there had been one I would gladly have signed it, I have signed many, and it would have been an opportunity for a much larger group of people to show their disapproval of Colston than the mob that bravely wobbled the statue down the road, clearly not overly bothered about social distancing or the NHS. So instead of an act of history, we had an act of vandalism. I feel it was a lost chance to unite the country in a common cause, which could have sent exactly the same message that now reverberates through many a worried city hall, but not in a way that now takes much needed focus away from a country crippled by Covid. The problem is that people don’t want to make the effort and go through the proper channels. What we got was symptomatic of the why-wait credit card society we live in, and a knee-jerk response to events in America. I certainly don’t accept Marvin, the less than marvellous mayor of Bristol’s argument that he couldn’t have brought the matter up in the previous 4 years because he was black. He needs to take some lessons from Dianne Abbot. I’m not her biggest fan, but at least she’s not afraid to speak her mind. There are many places in the country named after unsavoury historical figures, including Colston Hall, the concert hall in Bristol, which I notice is anxiously looking to change its name before some bright spark again takes the law into their own hands….sorry for the rant, I enjoyed the poem, but the events in Bristol touched a nerve. My daughter works there and she’s got a 5 month old baby, and uncontrolled crowds and babies aren’t a good fit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Paul, thanks for your comment – this is exactly the kind of debate and insight I long to receive 🙂 I wrote the poem as a direct response to another poem I’d read decrying the toppling of the statues as purely an act of vandalism. I completely agree, they should be removed by the authorities after public consultation rather than ‘torn down’ as I clumsily suggest in the poem. I think there had any initiatives to remove the Coulson statue and the Rhodes statue in Oxford (where I used to live). I do think there is a vocal portion in this country who would oppose the statue removal as an attack on history and ‘political-correctness gone mad’ and I, personally, don’t agree that it is. There has to be a step change sometimes. I don’t think there’s any debate about a need to end racism and the removal of shrines to people whose views are no longer aligned with modern morality seems reasonable to me. And yes, the protesters and their lack of social distancing and adequate precautions during the pandemic is very worrying for everyone particularly those at high risk. That sounds like the subject for another poem sometime… 🙂 Thanks again for stopping by and commenting, I really appreciate it. Looking forward to reading more of your work. Tom

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Don 🙂 I used to get so frustrated at not being able to write political poems (or hating the ones I wrote) but it has gotten a little easier these days. It’s nice to look back on reflect on moments of history when I look back through my writing.

      Like

    1. Thank you! I keep seeing people espousing that removing statues is somehow denying our history. I think, stick em in a museum. At least there, people can learn more about the people. Rather than having these altars of worship and glorification lining our streets. Anyway, cheers! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! I keep seeing people espousing that removing statues is somehow denying our history. I think, stick em in a museum. At least there, people can learn more about the people. Rather than having these altars of worship and glorification lining our streets. Anyway, cheers! 🙂

    Like

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