#Rhodesgate and what it says about us

2015-04-06 18:33

What defines a society? Is it really the statues or rather the physical representations of potential greatness to which that society should aspire?

To answer this question for myself I looked at two first world countries for the answer. The United States and The United Kingdom - after all, anything with the word "United" in it can't be all bad. Yes, I looked at their statues. Now, before you to throw your computer to the ground in indignation, or worse still, necklace it, let me gently make my point.

Let's start with the United Kingdom. The capital city, London. One of the most often quoted historical figures is Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill served as UK Prime Minister for two terms, 5 years apart. For the number of notable things he said, one could be forgiven for thinking he was minister for much longer. He is quoted to this day and his words still hold relevance. His quotes are inspiring, sensible and sometimes humerous. He has everything from Champagne to schools to museums and parks named after him. He has cigars named after him. He has streets named after him in Norway and around the world. He was made an honorary citizen, his honours list is longer than our own Madiba's (I know, I was shocked too!) Yet, as great as this man was, his world famous quotes do not appear in his home country.

Okay, let's leave the UK there and move over to that great icon of Democracy, The United States of America.

Stopping in the capital city, Washington D.C., we take a walk down alongside the Potomac river. There are numerous statues that adorn Washington that lie close to the Potomac. At the iconic Lincoln memorial, there are Lincoln's quotes everywhere relating to the ideals for the American people to live by.

So who cares and how does it relate to South Africa today?

If one looks at British society, you are either British or you're not. If you are, people like to know your history just to be sure. If you're not, you never will be. In the United States, the society is made up largely of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Mexico, Ireland, Italy and almost every other place too. The statues and memorials are not just pretty artworks. The quotes are saying "These are the principles for which we stand. Agree to abide by these and you can be part of us". Anyone can join and be accepted in an American society, with or without your family heraldry.

South African statues and memorials also bear quotes from the leaders of the time. I agree that the likenesses and representations of racist ideologues should be removed however are we not throwing the baby out with the bath water? Rhodes as an icon has much to offer our youth; he was a man who was ambitious, had dreams that would benefit all Africans and just like Mandela, he stands out in our history and amid our modern society as a beacon for what we can achieve. At least if we aspire to it.

Without these tributes to truly great people, in any country, who remain our icons? Our leaders? Lord, help us! Our sports stars? sure, pass me that doping test. The Kardashians?

That's all I have to say on the matter. Oh, and the guy in the red shirt who has been singing supporter songs since I mentioned the word "United", you can sit down now. I'm a Liverpool supporter.

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