Boston artist Steve Mills - realistic painting

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Statues, History And Reality

Published on The Brussels Journal (

Statues, History And Reality

Created 2010-07-23 10:17
How modern concerns can produce a faceless past. More about the Polanski case. Why they can “do what they want”. An analogy that is none. Is equality served if, regardless of their differences, all get the same?

1. A presumably overlooked news item tells that in Bradford (VA, USA) a memorial for WW2’s leaders has been built. That FDR, Churchill is part of the exposition is normal. Equally appropriate would be Chiang Kai-shek or even de Gaulle. Others that did not head major countries could also be nominated.
Not surprisingly, there is no mention of Chiang who after the war lost the mainland to Mao. China’s current rulers would object to the inclusion of a man that, even in the darkest hours believed that Fascism and National Socialism is predestined to lead to a global war. Chiang also opined that this war would end with the Axis’ defeat.
This note does not pertain to the exclusions from the honor roll. It has to do with one that is included. That one is Joseph Stalin. The trio to be displayed in Bedford includes besides the obvious Churchill, Roosevelt also Stalin.
If WW2 is worth to be remembered then it is because of the defeat of National Socialism and Fascism. (Departing from propaganda, the terms refer to two different forms of totalitarian collectivism.) Contrary to what the average person might feel, the war did not end with the defeat of totalitarianism. After cooperating with Hitler, Stalin’s system became only accidentally an ally of the democracies.
What a memorial that includes Stalin commemorates is a phase of the war and its ultimate victors. With this, the constellation at the outset is politely overlooked. The display ignores that by the time of its conclusion, the conflict it was not about freedom against dictatorship.

2. Another statue-story. This one comes from Transylvania. In a town called by its inhabitants Nagybánya, a relief sculpture has been installed. That this was allowed is a positive sign regarding the treatment of a minority. The rubber band of generous tolerance snapped when Nagybánya decided to display an effigy of King Stephen (1000-1038), also known as “The saint”. The man is a medieval oddity. As a chieftain, by force he converted the Magyars to Christianity. Through that, he rose to be a King. Both the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope recognized him: Stephen’s state became an accepted member of “Europe”. Before his death, he shrewdly donated his lands as a fief to Holy Mary. That made his successors her vassals –and independent of the Empire and the Church. Romania is one of the countries some of whose rulers still have a problem with anything that recalls 1100 years of Hungarian history. Therefore, the monument is allowed to stand as an expression of multiculturalism. However, the King’s face and the traditional symbols of rule had to be chiseled out of the original.
Faceless and empty handed, the sculpture represents more than a clever way to defang something one could not forbid. As it stands, the memorial is a ridiculous outgrowth of repressive ethnic hysteria. The bizarre truncated figure in stone cannot hide the explosive issues that become memorialized through the abomination.

3. The Polanski case still occupies minds. Charged with admitted statutory rape, the filmmaker skipped bail in 1979 and fled to France. About a year ago, responding to an American request, the Swiss arrested him. After months of house arrest in his chalet, the Federal Councilor in charge of “Justice” has ordered his release. Her explanation is revealing. She had to find the politically optimal solution that had a passable legal justification.
This is a remarkable approach by a country whose rewarded trademark used to be reliability, predictability and stability.  This decision is, together with the way bank secrecy is abandoned, a further symptom of giving up a traditional advantage while inching in the direction of the status of a banana republic. Ms Widmer-Schlumpf’s action creates two laws. One is for everybody, and the another one for folks that make good films. This behavior has a local explanation.
The lady’s election into the government which is also a collective presidency explains much. It came about after she deserted her own party and with the help of the Left. Her re-election is problematic. The “cultural workers” that support any law-breaking if it feels good, dominate the Left wings of all parties.  Not unlike Hollywood’s luminaries, they stand behind Polanski. Their support is the kind of PR that could reward Ms Schlumpf with another term.
The case ending with the refusal to extradite has an American aspect. Polanski claims that he had a deal in LA.  His 40 odd days in psychiatry were to be the extent of his sentence. Skipping bail might indicate that at the time he thought otherwise. Polanski alleges that a protocol exists that confirms his version. Even if it was not its business, Bern had requested from Washington the protocol. LA has never heard about the request from the US’ Department of Justice. Given the silence, the Swiss released the detainee. This raises questions. What is in the protocol? Is it accidental that California was not notified? Do we have to do here with the collusion of the willing? Why did it take thirty years to demand Polanski’s arrest by the Swiss?
4. People scandalized by the action of their governments tend to conclude in resignation “they do what they want”. This is partly wrong. The governors can only act the way they see fit and to defy the “general will” because they get re-elected. Responsible for that are individuals that do not follow public affairs and have no idea the performance of the institutions of governance. If they vote at all, they overcome their lack of information and their reluctance to instruct themselves, by supporting the parties that their parents and grandparents favored.
5. A conversation overheard in French. The subject is Iraq and especially Afghanistan. The Soviet Union could not win in Afghanistan. Even if she had millions of soldiers, she failed. Now the US is repeating the Soviet experience. Apparently, he likes the idea.
The popular thesis deserves attention. The analogy might be pleasing but it is limited by selective facts. It ignores that the USSR was failing as an economy and stressed as a political system. Given the political control of the economy, there is a cause and effect relationship here. This is not exactly the case with the US and –whatever it is worth- NATO. On the other hand, if the US fails, it will be due to her fading will to fight now and not later. For Moscow, Afghanistan controlled by hostiles did not represent a threat, which is the case with America. On the other hand, the Soviets did not lose because they lacked the determination to pursue their cause.
6. The population of Hamburg, -a member of the German federation- has, in the first referendum held there, rendered a verdict over a proposed school reform. The case is of general significance. Throughout the industrialized world, public education is a cause of concern. Dropping standards are the reason. Second, there is a growing awareness that the governing class, the parties’ establishments, the media and art elites and the like, are on one side of a barricade. Meanwhile, on numerous specifics, the people they claim to represent –and that tend to reelect them- man the positions facing these.
Hamburg’s opinion makers made a decision. The proposition: the system that after four years or elementary schooling, separated pupils according to proven abilities leading to either a college or a trade-oriented track, should be replaced. One education for all, because “all people are equal”, should be the norm. (Even the mentally disadvantaged should be taught in the same class as normal achievers.) The time to be spent together was to be extended from four to six years. It was assumed that the measure meant to prepare the total abolishment of the college preparatory track.
Apparently, the average person understood that putting the gifted, the average and the limited in the same program would not benefit all. Even in education, the convoy principle applies –its top speed equals that of the slowest vessel. A vote held on July 18th rejected the reform. Significantly, opinion polls suggested a “yes” vote. While during the polling people reacted according to the dictates of PC, in the voting booth folks did what they thought was right. As a result, not only the “reform” but also the political class had lost yet another battle. The upshot makes you think about what would happen if Swiss-style direct democracy would be introduced and the public could regularly express its opinion on specific issues. Therefore, the question is how accurately our official democracies express the people’s will.

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