Monumental destruction


Rushen Abbey, Ballasalla, Isle of Man

In 1536, Henry VIII of England began his infamous “Dissolution of the monasteries” in which he disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland. One casualty of this process was Rushen Abbey in the Isle of Man, which was dissolved in 1540. Today, the romantic ruins are a magnet for tourists who can enjoy a presentation of the abbey’s history followed by a strawberry tea in the restaurant, and perhaps some wedding photographs.
On 21 June 2017, the retreating forces of ISIS destroyed the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul with explosives. The mosque was built in the 12th century by Noureddine al-Zanki, a famed commander and a contemporary of Saladin, and was a significant holy site in Iraq.
On 12 August 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacist protesters descended on the town to protest against the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee. The bronze statue has stood in a public park in the town since 1924. The white supremacist protesters were met by anti-racist protesters, violence was used by both sides, and the event culminated in a car being driven by a white supremacist protester into a group of anti-racist protesters, killing one and injuring 19 others.
Three monuments in three countries, with apparently little in common. And yet…
On this blog I generally try to avoid commenting on foreign affairs. Goodness knows, we have enough domestic crises of our own to worry about, with loose sheep on the mountain road, horse trams obstructing traffic on Douglas promenade, and Ramsey Pier falling into the sea, and we don’t have time to worry about goings-on in far away countries about which we know little, like the United States. However, there are worrying similarities between these three events which I felt were worthy of comment.
In all three cases, monuments were destroyed or slated for removal for basically ideological reasons. Henry VIII wanted to consolidate his power as both Head of State and Head of the English Church, and the Catholic monasteries, with their allegiance to the Pope, stood in the way of that and had to be removed. ISIS destroyed the mosque because it held symbolic importance to them: its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi used it in 2014 to self-declare the “caliphate” and to let it fall into enemy hands would have been unthinkable. They have destroyed numerous other monuments and historic sites for being insufficiently aligned with Sunni Islam. The statue of General Lee symbolises freedom of speech and racial segregation to the white supremacists; to the anti-fascists it symbolises racial oppression and abuse of human rights.
Cycles of ideological tolerance and intolerance come and go, and I don’t think the time we are living in now is much less tolerant than previous times – yet. Some pretty unpleasant things were done in the name of ideology in medieval times. For example, here on the Isle of Man in the 18th century, if you solemnised marriage without a licence you were liable to have your ears nailed to a post and subsequently cut off while still attached to the post. Read all about it here:
However, there are signs that the pendulum may be starting to swing back from tolerance towards intolerance. The statue of General Lee has stood in its current place since 1924, and the al-Nuri mosque since the 12th century, and nobody had thought of removing either of them until now. That suggests that what is happening now may be different from what has gone before.
It may seem presumptuous for the Isle of Man (pop. 83,000) to be giving advice to the United States (pop. 323 million) about ideological tolerance, but I’ll try anyway.  General Lee was apparently a talented and brave soldier who rose through the ranks of the Confederate army to become one of its generals, and then general in chief. He was also a cruel slave owner who encouraged his overseers to severely beat slaves captured after trying to escape. He appeared to have a confused moral stance on slavery, writing in a letter to his wife that slavery was “a moral and political evil.” Like many other historical figures, he had contradictions, imperfections and inconsistencies, and a moral compass which was probably not unusual for the period of history he lived in, but different from our own. For better or worse, he played an important role in history, and he can’t be airbrushed out of history by removing his statue.
So my diplomatic Manx solution to this problem would be to leave Lee’s statue in place, and to erect opposite it a matching bronze statue to the Union General Ulysses S. Grant, to whom Lee surrendered in 1865. As far as I know, there are statues to Grant in Washington and New York but none in Virginia. There you are, problem solved, mine’s a pint. Now I’ll get back to sheep herding.
Slaynt vie, bea veayn, beeal fliugh as baase ayns Mannin


Beware of the Sheep

4 thoughts on “Monumental destruction

  1. My only comment would be that, while there were probably white supremacists there, I know people personally who were there who are in no way white supremacists yet they were there to protest the removal of the monument. I do know also people who are separatist or tribalist in nature. If you don’t share their cultural values and mores they simply don’t want to be around you. But they don’t think they’re better than others either, for the most part. I’m sure statistically speaking, some probably do, but I haven’t heard about it.

    Most of the people who were there just don’t want our history erased. It’s our HISTORY. If it makes you uncomfortable; well, then think about the lessons of history that statue/monument brings to mind and try not to propagate those in your own life and society in the future. No one there was a slave, no one there owned slaves, and one side wasn’t starting the violence (hint: they were the ones wearing the polo shirts). Please read, watch more than what main stream media is spoon feeding you. There are many many blogs and videos that show a much different view.

    The author of the two articles I’m going to link to is a BLACK nationalist/separatist. And he has written two of the most intelligent articles on the issues and the incident that I’ve read.

  2. As as a citizen of the US, I appreciate the view of others. Recently I have had two occasions to be in Canada. We met and talked with Canadians of different political views and they are shocked and somewhat afraid at our widening gap among our citizens and the violent attitudes, both physical and ideological, that accompany any discussion. Be assured that many of us are also dismayed by what we see as an unraveling of our society and at such a rapid rate.

  3. I’m somewhat dismayed by your reference to people who want to preserve Western civilization as “white supremacists.” The use of such a term seems uncharacteristic of someone who has a brilliant grasp of so many other subjects. Perhaps our two different perspectives come from a broader (or more subtle) difference — not over little matters such as the 20,000 Muslim honor-killings per year, but from what (compared to my own) would be a rather “lite” (vs “light”) view of the world. Maybe a matter of watching mainstream news-media too much, rather than painstakingly seeking more in-depth information. I don’t know. Or too much adherence to the Kunstler-Orlov-Greer world-view — what I call the Pollyanna Principle, a.k.a. if 4 billion die of famine before the end of this century, I’m sure they won’t suffer, God will just whoosh them up to heaven. But I fear I digress. Time for me to get back to white-supremacing, while there’s still a chance of diminishing the globalist brainwashing. Oh well, I suppose I indulge in a little name-calling myself at times.

  4. I always enjoy reading your posts and hope you continue to write. I am deeply concerned about the increased anger and intolerance in our society. It’s as if common sense has become obsolete and has been replaced by irrational rage. It not only involves the larger issues but there are also more arguments between people over the simple things. Courtesy and respect are being lost. I call it “fracturing.” I live in a very small farming community. In the past our community members worked together as a family. If one farm needs a tractor, someone was there with one. Over the past few years I have advocated for closer bonds. Instead there has been additional fracturing — neighbor against neighbor over the smallest disagreements. It’s as if the anger outside our tiny community has been infiltrated by the increased violence in society as seen on the media. Because we are farmers, we experience the effects of global warming first hand. I see it in how the plants grow, I feel it in the moisture content in the air, and I know when we eat our garden veggies, because our plants have less nutritional value. Gardening now takes more skill and experience than it did 10 years ago. At nearly 70 I am grateful for every bit of time I’ve put in gardening to be able to make the changes my family needs in consideration of global warming. Increased anger in society doesn’t help us discern and solve our problems.

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