#BTEditorial – Lord Nelson and the Knights of the ‘wrong’ table

The defacement of the statue of Britain’s greatest naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson, has raised some interesting issues. That criminal act in the heart of Bridgetown – and it is a crime under Barbados’ laws – found curious support from some circles and rightfully drew condemnation from others.

The statue was erected in 1813 when Barbados was a British colony as a tribute to Nelson eight years after his death. Irrespective of being the descendants of African slaves or British colonisers, we cannot rewrite history whether it damns or absolves Lord Nelson of being a racist or slave owner. Any decision to remove the statue must be made by Government and perhaps should have been made on the occasion of November 30, 1966. But to break the law in furtherance of an emotional goal simply cannot be the ideal response in civilized Barbados.

We have had some theses from some seemingly erudite personages justifying the defacement of Government property. Some with letters before and behind their names have sought to compare apartheid in South Africa and the activism against that heinous system with the defacement of the statue. Academia in Barbados has never been so exposed as prone to moments of naked folly.

While we abhor any racist practices that might have been associated with Lord Nelson, do we now traverse the island and remove every vestige that links us to our former colonizer, whether that connection is nominal, economical or political? Do we rename our hospital? Do we rename those streets whose titles indicate a tie to British royalty? Do we rename those schools whose titles suggest a colonial association? And what about those academics, politicians, businessmen and professionals who bask in the glory of titles associated with – like Lord Nelson – Great Britain? While some spout rhetoric from their mouths, they hold fast to their bosoms the Order of the British Empire, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Knight or Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire or their Knight of Saint Andrew. Why should Lord Nelson’s statue bear the brunt of the cleansing? The annual hurly-burly surrounding the statue would suggest that it remains the only symbol of our oppressed past.

But that is one side of the equation. There is another more dangerous side of the argument that sends the wrong signals to those who might believe that academic qualifications equate to divinity and that the voice of a university is the voice of God, if you may. It sends the wrong signal to the impressionable, the gullible and the simply ignorant, when persons in high office give tacit, veiled or open support to criminal behaviour by coating such conduct with historical rhetoric. This is not South Africa. There is no Apartheid here. There is no dictatorship here. There is no institutionally sponsored racism here. But there is the rule of law here.

We are sure that with some historical reference and reasonable assessment, many of those who run afoul of the law could present plausible excuses for the crimes they commit each day. But wait! They already do! But because their issues do not – on the surface – relate to questions of race, class, reparations or perhaps hegemony, they are unlikely to find support for their criminal deeds in the land of the literati. But what is the difference between defacing Lord Nelson’s statue and the office of the British High Commission? Regardless of where one sits at the table, to deface either is wrong.

One can debate decisions made at the CARICOM level to remove symbols related to our colonial past from prominent placements in our towns and villages across the Caribbean. We believe those in favour can and have produced understandable reasons for their stance on the removal of all ‘Lord Nelsons’ from across the region. Those who subscribe to the view that our history is our history and cannot be rewritten or made more palatable by tearing down monuments make equally valid arguments. But surely, we cannot right past injustices by giving succour to present wrongs.

30 Responses to #BTEditorial – Lord Nelson and the Knights of the ‘wrong’ table

  1. Simon Gooding
    Simon Gooding December 14, 2017 at 4:14 am

    ..Ha…Buhbaydus people….wanna pampalamin about takin down Lord Nelson statue.. wanna should also stop gavin students Rhodes Scholarships. its a shame to see the Caribbean goverments still do such a thing in the name of education…….its a disgrace to have these both racists oppressors…human traffikers as part of our history…..

    Reply
    • Epaphras D. Williams
      Epaphras D. Williams December 14, 2017 at 6:14 am

      The average person doesn’t even think about Cecil Rhodes and make the connection to life and times in Southern Africa

      Reply
  2. Tony Webster December 14, 2017 at 4:44 am

    The moving finger writes history. Your moment, is not cast in stone…err….bronze! Surely MY cast-in-stone is better than YOUR cast-in-stone? Where shall we place a bronze likeness…of Fruendel? Esther? Chris? Are they also not worthy saviours?

    And MY bible’s truth’s are better than YOUR Biblical truths? Or YOUR Quoran’s truths?

    BTW….what’s the state of play in the D.R.C …..today? Mogadishu? P-O-S? Truth only, please.

    Reply
  3. hcalndre December 14, 2017 at 4:59 am

    @ BT: Before removing Lord Nelson, they should remove the British handles from before and after their names. Even removing Nelson, Barbadians will always have that mother country behavior and beliefs in them because its in their DNA.

    Reply
  4. Sheldine Dyall
    Sheldine Dyall December 14, 2017 at 5:04 am

    Nelson move already don’t waste no more money on him.
    Why not try to change how the black massa treat worker.
    Some of the worst managers are from my own dark race. Why not do a survey and get the feel back.

    Reply
    • Epaphras D. Williams
      Epaphras D. Williams December 14, 2017 at 6:22 am

      Straight out of the apartheid mentality!! They make life so hard for line staff as they love the smell of white butt.

      Reply
  5. Valerie Knight
    Valerie Knight December 14, 2017 at 7:15 am

    The government needs to send out a strong message that vandalism of any sort will not be tolerated by dealing harshly with any perpetrators. We cannot rewrite history.

    Reply
  6. Mario Andrew Williams
    Mario Andrew Williams December 14, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Tourist cleaning up our own island, sewage flowing in our streets, our currency under threat of devaluation, our hospital falling down, the government selling off our assets and all your reporters can think to report on is taking down Nelson?!!!

    Reply
  7. Sue Donym December 14, 2017 at 7:39 am

    This editorial displays a profound naivete.
    First, the writer has fallen victim to the notion that anyone agreeing with the push to remove the statue is – or should be – against all things British. Let me ask: if one rejected the idea of a statue to “Buddy” Brathwaite or Mark Harding, does it follow that the person should denounce all things Barbadian?

    You asked the difference between defacing Nelson and the British High Commission. One stark difference is that the statue will always be an unchanging representation of Nelson – despicable flaws and all; the British High Commission could well today represent forward thinking policies, promoting the development of people of all races and financial means… at least they would hardly make public declarations to the contrary (as did Nelson)! In any case, some consider the Nelson incident more like a victimless crime – more to draw attention to the inappropriateness than to obstruct living persons.

    As to the comparisons to South Africa, it is actually the ideas of similarly thinking people that saw us become a colony – but are you saying that protest is never needed until we reach the stage of an apartheid era South Africa? I hope not!

    The reference to academics as attempting to manipulate the ignorant is at once demeaning to the educated and those less so.

    For the record, not everyone that supports the idea that Nelson is not a model of humanity, necessarily makes a case for the form of protest used.

    But please, go ahead and accept the prize for the most simplistic argument. Persist, if you will, with a comparison between the egregious wrongs of slavery and colonialism – against millions -with a few splashes of removeable paint on a statue.

    Reply
  8. Sue Donym December 14, 2017 at 7:47 am

    By the way BT, that little gem in your editorial, reminding us that government is charged with certain decisions, is particularly moving, coming from a publication that daily admonishes or seeks to influence government policy. Ironic. Amusing, really, if we must remind the press how government is meant to function in a democracy – as opposed to a dictatorship.

    Reply
  9. Sir Frank Alleyne December 14, 2017 at 7:55 am

    The editorial comment is well justified. It is disingenuous to employ the morality of the twenty-first century to rewrite history of colonial past. Barbadians need to guard themselves against the rhetoric of bluffers and charlatans who are devoid of a moral compass. Academia does not provide one with a moral compass. We would do well to recall the mantra of CLEMENT PAYNE.”EDUCATE DON’T VIOLATE”.

    Reply
    • Sue Donym December 14, 2017 at 9:46 am

      @Sir Frank Alleyne, neither should we conclude that academics have no moral compass. This was not a discussion about who is so endowed. Those who understand the history are well justified in providing the context so that we are all placed to have a meaningful discussion.

      Reply
  10. jrsmith December 14, 2017 at 8:31 am

    What the hell difference its going to make removing Nelsons column… Dont take our problems out on a statue ,its our politicians who are the ones need to be sorted out , they are the ones who need to be remove , that lot who is causing us pain daily doing nothing………..
    All of these minor issues that the people hang into ,is why the politicians is getting away with murder , doing what they like when they like and treating our people like ****e ………..

    Reply
  11. Ivy-anne Duke December 14, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Sue Donym, you seem to be missing the point of what this article is driving at, whether you are doing it deliberately or not. The writer from my reading is not supportive of Nelson statue in town, what he or she is against are people breaking the law (defacement of government property) in 2017 Barbados for whatever cause they might have and academics or anyone ele supporting criminality because of their historical perspectives. If you accept such actions, where does it stop?

    Reply
    • Sue Donym December 14, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Not only have I not missed the point, @Ivy-anne Duke, I clearly understand the entire tone and implications set from the first sentence. I, on the other hand am more realistic about the meaning and effects of more subtle symbolism (the paint) as much as I am aware of the nuances in speech which suggest that only fools would support any form of civil disobedience. That kind of thinking gives holier than thou support to the ‘mature’ thinking of living with the symbolism of evil, over doing the smallest deed that goes against the grain.

      Reply
  12. Othneal December 14, 2017 at 9:30 am

    This “Editorial” is an act of journalist cowardice. What is the identity of the author? What is his or her agenda? This is a race significant subject. What is the race of the author? This is important as the perspective presented betrayed a subjectivity that carried not a scintilla of sympathy for the memory of our African ancestors. Every descendant of slavery carries that sympathy – gene in their DNA. That is the reason why the Nelson’s Statue evokes such an emotional response in genuine Barbadians.
    We can do little about relieving their suffering. What we can do is try to give them dignity in death. Nelson’s Statue does nothing to dignify the memory of our ancestors. It does nothing to dignify us.
    Well said Sue Donym.

    Reply
    • Sue Donym December 16, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      Thank you, @Othneal

      Reply
  13. Elaine Vanhuis
    Elaine Vanhuis December 14, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Well said.

    Reply
  14. The truth December 14, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    I agree with this editorial. It is a shame academics promote vandalism.

    Reply
  15. Ivy-anne Duke December 14, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    oTHNEAL! Really! what type of logic is that? “This is important as the perspective presented betrayed a subjectivity that carried not a scintilla of sympathy for the memory of our African ancestors. Every descendant of slavery carries that sympathy – gene in their DNA. That is the reason why the Nelson’s Statue evokes such an emotional response in genuine Barbadians.” Are you suggesting that if one has sympathy for those slaves subjected to the worst possible treatment in a bygone era that in 2017 that justifies committing vandalism today? And that the likelihood is that one is not black, or must be non-black, not to support defacement of Government property. Do you realise that it is the descendants of slaves raping black women, robbing and killing black men, pillaging small farmers, molesting little black children? Are they justified in these things because in days of slavery white massa raped black girls or brutalised black men? And Othneal, how would you deal with the descendants of black African conspirators who contributed to their kind being enslaved?The time some of these academics spend on their gobbledygook they could go and plant a few trees or vegetables or give private unpaid lessons to a few descendants of slaves.

    Reply
  16. Othneal December 14, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    @Ivy-Anne Duke, I am glad that my comments evoked such emotion in you and your peers. How such emotions stifle objectivity.
    Ivy, have you not heard of the suffragettes. As a female, you and your sisters owe them a great deal. I suggest that you and all who belly ache about ‘vandalism’ study Emeline, Christabel, Adela, Sylvia Pankhurst etc. Who, through civil unrest and sacrifice gained suffrage for. Some times the end justifies the means. Ironically, a statue of Emeline Pankhurst can be seen in central London.
    Your second point, yes, Africa sold her children into slavery. Those African Chiefs culpable of such ignorant barbarity never professed to be God fearing. Unlike the hypocrites among the Muslim Arabs and European ‘Christians’ who took advantage of African nativity.
    Your third point. Whose behaviour were those black men emulating? Do you know that, for shere masochistic pleasure, slave owners and their Overseers used to force male slaves to rape and abuse females, it wouldn’t matter if they were close family relatives.
    I rest my case

    Reply
  17. Nathaniel Samuels December 14, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    This is one of the best editorials I have read recently and I agree with the sentiments–wholeheartedly.

    Reply
  18. Commander Ralph W Talma Royal Navy (retd) December 14, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    1. What an excellent article. It is sad to see the character of a fellow Royal Naval Officer being besmirched and his statue defaced, and even sadder to note that Barbados is no longer happy – by implication – to be called Little England.
    2. We are supposed to learn from the past not hide it or try erase it.
    3. Be careful people, climate change could well make you seek the help/aid od the RN/UK before you know it.

    Reply
  19. Sue Donym December 14, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Thank goodness that we no longer live in the times that the monied and the titled tell us when and what to think.
    In an interesting twist, history will show that on November 29, 2017 some person placed some paint and a placard at a site in Broad Street. Will we try to erase that or will we acknowledge and learn from it?
    So what if the time should come that we need help from the UK… history also has recorded that the UK have helped themselves to much of our ancestral lands and centuries of labour.

    Reply
  20. An Admiring Canuck December 14, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    The irony of Barbados
    Moving to become a republic, removing the Queen as head of state, while the Royal Family welcomes the descendant of an American African slave as a Duchess, into the Royal Family.
    Focussing on the symbolism of a statue, of an internationally important, historical figure, with a real attachment to Barbados and the Carribean , Lord Horatio Nelson, perhaps because he is white? is depressing.
    If Nelson’s statue is removed, Barbados is no longer Little England, it is just “little”.
    The more some attempt to erase Barbados’ history, the more risk it will become a non descript unimportant cruise ship destination for tourists who care nothing for its people or shared history with Britain.
    A statue of Bussa and Nelson can coexist in Barbados with both reflecting the past truthfully, with honesty and reconciliation as their goal.

    Reply
  21. Tristan December 15, 2017 at 3:50 am

    Yes, rename everything!!! Don’t stop at the schools, rename the hospital, roads and anything that has a social impact in our country that reminds us of slavery. Our ancestors lived and died shamefully, must we be reminded of this at every turn? The way I see it is we don’t even know if we are going or coming, or our head from our ass.

    Reply
  22. Tristan Layne December 15, 2017 at 4:07 am

    Yes, rename everything!!! Every school, hospital or road that reminds us of anything to do with slavery. Our ancestors lived and died shamefully by the hands of the British. It is time to be truly INDEPENDENT.

    Reply
  23. MIIB December 15, 2017 at 8:36 am

    @ Valerie, you can’t rewrite it of course it is not the god white christian thing to make ammends?

    Reply

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