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Thread: Looking at history with a modern lens

  1. #1
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    Looking at history with a modern lens

    I think it's important to have a discussion about some of the issues going on in this country and beyond in an adult way with a degree of nuance which standard social media platforms don't provide.

    How do we feel about views, actions and comedy which rightly or wrongly were widely viewed as acceptable at the point they were expressed being retro judged today?

    Some things are fairly easy to evaluate, slave traders shouldn't have statues in their honour, but what about Churchill who had a clearly racist outlook in the early part of the 20th century, BoSelecta being seen as racist along with The League of Gentlemen? Baden Powell who in inventing the Scout movement has benefited the lives of millions whilst having unsavoury views on race, homophobia and being a Hitler fan? Today I see the German episode of Faulty Towers has been removed from Gold whilst people are going after The Inbetweeners.

    You can't move forward without learning from the past, but how far do you go? Britain's history is mostly unsavoury by today's standards, do we airbrush it or accept that those individuals were of their time?

    I like to think I'm fairly progressive in my outlook, but I'm not sure some of the reactions we've seen this week are appropriate. How do others feel?

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    If something hurts people than I can certainly see why it should be recognised and efforts taken to remove the pain. Hadnít really thought about Baden-Powell until I read this earlier today:

    https://twitter.com/baddiel/status/1...831139328?s=21

    In general why shouldnít we make efforts to reduce pain and hurt for others.
    )

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    I'd be inclined to leave historical art alone unless it's overtly racist. For example the Major and Basil are the butt of the joke in the Germans episode whereas some of Lucas and Walliams stuff just laughs at black people.

    Statues - take down those whose actions directly caused harm rather than those who might have read Mein Kampf and thought bits of it were alright.
    When asked to name her greatest achievement Thatcher replied: 'Tony Blair and New Labour.'

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    As TP had eluded to you have to be sensible enough to realise in certain comedies the racists where the butt of the jokes and some where as some other things are more cut and dried, if we never have to see the black and white minstrel show or Jim Davidson again, that's not a bad thing. The problem is tearing down statues etc. is just symbolic and obviously doesn't erase the harm done in previous times.(in fact, in the short term it's been counter productive, how many more people now know who Edward Colston is compared to a month ago ?) The problem is you've got the danger of the narcissism of taking offence by proxy, you are already seeing celebrities attempting to clear their own conscience rather than make a contribution in the right direction (Yes Keith Lemon).
    The issue you have, whether you agree or not, is previous era's had different sensibilities and regardless of our perfect gift of hindsight that cannot be changed, even back in Edward Colstons days, how many people thought what he did was abhorrent or how many people thought 'he's doing alright for himself'
    As an aside, one of the most shocking things I learnt , a few years ago, was concerning the Enoch Powell speech (I was only two at the time) was how widely it was well received, there was only one dissenting voice in the audience in fact the Gallup Organization took an opinion poll at the end of April and found that 74 per cent agreed with what Powell had said .

    That makes me sad, sad in my heart because that was in my lifetime.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul View Post

    As an aside, one of the most shocking things I learnt , a few years ago, was concerning the Enoch Powell speech (I was only two at the time) was how widely it was well received, there was only one dissenting voice in the audience in fact the Gallup Organization took an opinion poll at the end of April and found that 74 per cent agreed with what Powell had said .

    That makes me sad, sad in my heart because that was in my lifetime.

    During the process of my dissertation I wrote about Powell and learnt about the Smethwick election in '64 was run on a campaign slogan of "if you want a 'N' for a neighbour vote Liberal/Labour" the Cons gained Smethwick from the Shadow Home Secretary in an election Labour won. I asked my supervisor how to proceed and if I should include such language in my work or say it without saying it. He said while it's uncomfortable I needed to keep it for the sake of authentic reality. I think that can be transferred to what we see now. Obviously statues of slave owners should go but plenty of people/companies ended up on the wrong side of things without the benefit of hindsight. Siemens has a dedicated page on their website renouncing the work they did for the Third Reich and their exploitation of concentration camp detainees.

    Agree with your second point too. My own lifetime moment was at a relative's house not long back, she was watching Strike It Lucky on Challenge as they do, so from the mid-late 90's... Barrymore was pulling at his eyes and saying "herrow!" to an Asian contestant, the audience were howling but my jaw was on the floor that this was acceptable and it was barely 20 years ago.

    I think comedy has, as a rule, developed (ing) a "don't punch down" principle. In that attacking minorities or women or trans etc under the guise of comedy won't wash. Those comedians who don't evolve end up on the margins, as a kid Jim Davidson was on prime time BBC Saturday night television (Big Break) but the vile prat is thankfully nowhere near today. Indeed, there's a reason LoG, Little Britain stopped getting renewed. I expect Al Murray to get the treatment at some point but like the famous Fawlty scene it's not taking the piss out of other nations but Little Englanders and their response(s) to them.

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    To be fair on Fawlty I read it is only temporarily down while they edit out the Major saying Ďn....rí. Thatís entirely correct.
    )

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    I personally think the statues should remain, to remind us of the errors of previous generations.

    Watching the Portillo series about Empire is quite uncomfortable - whilst I am extremely proud to be British, some of the things we did while empire-building were truly abhorrent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jabbawolf View Post
    I personally think the statues should remain, to remind us of the errors of previous generations.

    Watching the Portillo series about Empire is quite uncomfortable - whilst I am extremely proud to be British, some of the things we did while empire-building were truly abhorrent.
    I've learned more about Colston in the past few days than I had in the previous 44 years. Statues are a huge mark of respect - they should be taken down and placed in museums.
    When asked to name her greatest achievement Thatcher replied: 'Tony Blair and New Labour.'

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    Looking at history with a modern lens

    This is the guardian, so will be dismissed out of hand by some - but is an interesting read:

    Fighting over statues obscures the real problem: Britain's delusion about its past https://www.theguardian.com/commenti...about-its-past

    The argument for keeping statues, original built to honour people, to remind of the evil they did seems like tosh to me - if we want to remember the evil Colston did a statue of a slave would be more appropriate
    )

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    And I assume you would rather Auswitz be levelled and the statue of an emaciated Jew there instead ?
    Why they will qualify: Nuno Espirito Santo is actually a tactical genius.

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    Looking at history with a modern lens

    Unless Iím a massively mistaken Auschwitz is not a statue of a person?

    Edit, in response to your edit - statue of Ďemaciated jewí from Auschwitz
    )

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    My biggest concern is examples on the boundaries of acceptability being used as straw men by the usual right wing mouthpieces to detract from the real issues of historic and current racism.

    Until Tredman pointed it out I wasn't aware of the reason for the Faulty Towers episode being pulled, the inference from the headlines was it was the German characterisation, that's not by accident.

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    This always happens though, of course some people take things too far, but most people do not. People look for an excuse - letís ignore the fact that in 2020 we are still celebrating slavers because some idiot complains about the Inbetweeners.

    Itís a a useful hook for the bigoted to use to ignore their prejudices.
    )

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    No intention of being frivolous or funny at all unlike your glib "Unless I’m a massively mistaken Auschwitz is not a statue of a person" I was questioning your thought process as I think most statues are of people who are either products of war or of our imperial past ?
    And as for you newspaper article I think its the usual broad brush of one sided view, I don't think anybody with any knowledge on the subject denies the atrocities that went on but there is no mention of the Commonwealth and the 54 states that are happily still part of the 'Empire' some of whom have even voted to stay in the meantime ?
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  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Towner View Post
    My biggest concern is examples on the boundaries of acceptability being used as straw men by the usual right wing mouthpieces to detract from the real issues of historic and current racism.

    Until Tredman pointed it out I wasn't aware of the reason for the Faulty Towers episode being pulled, the inference from the headlines was it was the German characterisation, that's not by accident.
    This. We don’t need to be having debates about statues now, those who express their outrage about the destruction of our history seem to be the same people who would rather talk about anything else than black lives matter. Anger and action is a powerful force for change and whatever is happening now and for however long it goes on will create change good and bad. If we lose a few statues or TV programmes along the way I won’t shed any tears.
    No.

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    No-one is too old to learn something, and if we're now able to look back on history and realise that people were 'celebrated' for things that nowadays really shouldn't be celebrated, is it not a good thing that we can learn why?

    I'd never want to erase history, but I do think it's important to learn from it and if need be, to amend how and why public pieces are put on display. I do not agree with wanton violence or vandalism, but I certainly don't think that a lot of these statues should be celebrated in the year 2020.

    I also think this is an entirely separate point of view from a lot of people condemning the removal of such pieces. A lot of posts I've seen on social media are from people who will never attempt to learn, or improve their knowledge of such things and are instead driven by their desire to be outraged without looking to understand why people think differently which I find very sad. I agree with TSB regarding the BLM aspect.
    "The trouble with quotes on the internet is that it's difficult to determine whether or not they are genuine" - Abraham Lincoln

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    Don't you find it sad that compassion and understanding are not considered powerful forces for change ?
    Why they will qualify: Nuno Espirito Santo is actually a tactical genius.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul View Post
    No intention of being frivolous or funny at all unlike your glib "Unless Iím a massively mistaken Auschwitz is not a statue of a person" I was questioning your thought process as I think most statues are of people who are either products of war or of our imperial past ?
    And as for you newspaper article I think its the usual broad brush of one sided view, I don't think anybody with any knowledge on the subject denies the atrocities that went on but there is no mention of the Commonwealth and the 54 states that are happily still part of the 'Empire' some of whom have even voted to stay in the meantime ?
    Most people living in those 54 states think nothing of the commonwealth, if they even know it exists. The fact that the British see it as a matter of pride, after mau mau, Amritsar, bengal etc, rather than a method to make amends is rather sad.
    )

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    Quote Originally Posted by tredman View Post
    Most people living in those 54 states think nothing of the commonwealth, if they even know it exists.
    How do you know this ? I know for certain Canada, Australia Fiji and New Zealand have pretty big giveaways on their currency / flags
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    The "standards of the time" defence that is so often wheeled out doesn't really stand up to scrutiny. With regards to slavery, it should be borne in mind that before the 1830s, less than 3% of the British population (8 million) had the vote. No-one who didn't own land, no women, no poor people. So "standards" were very much in the hands of a very few powerful white men. And even then there was a powerful abolitionist movement and widespread recognition that slavery was morally repugnant and barely defensible legally. In fact slavery was actually made illegal in Britain in the 12th century. Statues such as the one of Colson were erected as a way of cementing that empirical power and ensuring the standars of those few white men remained predominant.
    I learned last night that it wasn't very long ago that the British government actually stopped paying reparations (or the debt incurred by it) to those who were forced to give up their slaves after abolition. Unbelievable!

    "Standards of the time" doesn't hold up for popular culture either once you ask "whose standards?" The British media has long been a bastion, again, of a few powerful white men and it's only very recently that BAME, female, and other under-represented groups have been seen on our screens in any number. (Remember the fuss about the disabled children's TV presenter?)
    While a lot of white people may not have batted an eyelid at the many blackface on TV, I doubt most black people were so cheerful about it. But they didn't have a voice so it went unchallenged.
    As a child growing up in the 70s and 80s I can remember that the B&W Minstrels were seen as being an offensive anachronism even then. And I don't think the black kids at my school who suffered appalling racist abuse as a matter of course were particularly happy about "the standards of the time". In fact, I know they weren't because I'm still mates with one of them and he has explained what it felt like.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul View Post
    How do you know this ? I know for certain Canada, Australia Fiji and New Zealand have pretty big giveaways on their currency / flags
    3 of those are hardly typical of the rest of the commonwealth, but still quite regularly have debates on changing their flags. Fiji seemingly only kept it as the couldnít afford to change it:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...k-flag-british

    The empire and its remnants are nothing to be proud of, the best we could do is to help countries rebuild after we stripped them of their economic wealth. Instead we demonise the (non-white) people of the commonwealth as scrounging asylum seekers and terrorists.
    )

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    On the colston statue, if it was to celebrate him, why was it erected 120 years after he died? It wasn't erected as a tribute following his passing etc.
    Which makes me wonder who made the decision to have the statue, and why.

    My initial reaction was one of shock to some of the scenes we are seeing. My second reaction was fear that this is going to be another hugely divisive issue within an already fragmented society within which we live.

    The honest answer to the OP, is I don't know. I'm not sure I understand enough to comment. 2 friends and I meet 3-4 times a year for food and a catch up, and the last time we met (november) the majority of the 3-4 hours we spent together was me asking them to help me understand white privilege. I think we merely scraped the surface.

    One thing I come back to, is akin to jabba's post. A lot of my outlook on life is around trying not to apportion blame, but resolve the issue. You can learn from the subsequent postmortem. That said, there is definitely merit to reviewing what statues are where, and whether this is the appropriate place to have them.
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  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul View Post
    Don't you find it sad that compassion and understanding are not considered powerful forces for change ?
    They are.
    No.

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    My nieces husband is black and they drink in Lichfield a lot, they have actually had people tell them to their faces that it's f#cking disgusting what they're doing and how it shouldn't be allowed.

    This was a follow on to LJ's post
    Why they will qualify: Nuno Espirito Santo is actually a tactical genius.

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    Weíve had worse, but people are on the whole polite.
    )

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    I'm sorry I don't know your situation ?
    Why they will qualify: Nuno Espirito Santo is actually a tactical genius.

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    My wife is black. Tbf the politeness thing might be partly because Iím a lot bigger than most people.
    )

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    My two pennies, for what they are worth, removing statues makes a great political point but does nothing to break down inequality within society.

    Removing racist TV shows, should happen and editing out of racial slurs is appropriate and helps to reduce normalisation of inappropriate linguistics.

    In my opinion, more of an impact than either of these two things would be to start teaching what British colonialism did to the world and how it created racial inequalities within the UK and across the globe.
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    Tredman It does help if you're a giant ! I think with the niece it's more that I think the opinion of the twats is that her husband is defiling a white woman, to be fair it's not very often as they have a large friend group in the area but it does happen.
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    Growing up just outside Lichfield and spending by formative drinking years there I can attest to it being or at least was full of entitled wankers. The whole place is one large superiority complex

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