Counter-militarism graffiti has been found on and around Glasgow monuments which celebrate British colonialism and empire. The graffiti which appeared last week is an image of a red remembrance poppy and the words ‘Remember: Militarism is Murder, Colonialism is Theft’.
The counter-militarism slogan can be seen at the 1888 ‘Doulton Fountain‘ in Glasgow Green which elaborately depicts four colonies of Britain; Australia, Canada, South Africa, and India. Above these four scenes are four foot soldiers, representing the Black Watch, Grenadier Guards, Royal Navy and the Irish Fusiliers, above these are four female ‘water carriers’, and finally Queen Victoria stands on the apex. Plaques dedicated to soldiers of the Great War surround the monument.
One of activists, ‘Asha’, said “These monuments glorify a shameful past of slavery, racism and militarism. Our act is one of remembrance for the people who suffered due to the violence of British imperialism, including civilians and soldiers. WW1 was a colonial war, and this fact has been hidden behind a veil of nationalism, jingoism and ‘Poppy memorabilia’. As Remembrance Sunday is approaching we feel it’s important to ask; what are we encouraged to remember? And in turn, when does remembrance itself normalise and conceal the brutality of the British war machine?”
As well as other locations in the city, the graffiti can also be found at the Lord Roberts monument in Kelvingrove Park; a tribute to Roberts (1832-1914) who fought in many wars and battles of colonial conquest during Queen Victoria’s reign. Lord Roberts participated in the punitive British Expedition to Abyssinia in Ethiopia (1863, 1867-1868) the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880), and the Second Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa. There, he invented a strategy of control using a lethal combination of ‘scorched earth’ policy and concentration camps. This incorporated the mass burning of farms and relocating local populations to concentration camps where 28,000 women and children died due to lack of sanitation and care. Lord Kitchener succeeded Roberts in this post and continued the use of concentration camps.
Roberts, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for being wounded while brutally quashing the Indian Mutiny of 1857, went on to become the commander-in-chief of the colonial Indian Army in 1894. The monument, which was unveiled 100 years ago in 1916, heralds military power as a symbol of Britain’s virtue and civility.
Another of the activists, ‘Jo’, commented “There are statues like this all over the country. If we are unwilling to face up to Britain’s history of colonialism, murder and theft then we shouldn’t be surprised when the far right emerges, like it is now. We act with respect to the dead and want to challenge the imperial present.”
These monuments were erected before the ‘War to End All Wars’ had drawn to a close, and those who designed them would not know the horrors of industrialised killing of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. By highlighting how colonial violence overseas was transformed into legacies of glory and heroism at home during the Victorian era, these activists hope to encourage critical thinking around the use of memorialisation and the growing militarisation in today’s era.
-Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori-
the facts are undeniable, yet the Establishment is manipulative and , with memories of the Great War fading and being deliberately distorted by historians, the “official” myth that British wars have always been noble endeavours which demand uncritical support must be resisted ever more strongly.
Particularly important to shed light on the 2nd Boer War and its disgraceful episodes and “leaders”, since the enemy then was white , even European, and very “godly”; gold was the driving force for imperialist skullduggery; the press played a shameful role in inciting militarism.
Would recommend “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” film c. 1943 for an insight into how similar the toffs in England and the Kaiser’s Germany were. Nothing much has changed.
Bravo. This is exactly right.
We must do all we can to ensure that our media, our schools and universities tell our ancestors’ perversions as they were. It is not just our ancestors but present day people engaged in killing, house demolitions and torture whether in Iraq, Occupied Palestine, Libya and their war-criminal bosses such as ACLBlair multi-millionaire backed at every turn by his lawyer wife swanning about the world with no justice for the people he has killed and the million of lives he has devastated.
My heart leaps at these courageous acts and at the excellence of the truthful words. These say what I feel in my marrow.
I had intended writing a piece joining Remembrance and the Forgetting but I am spending most hours fighting for OUR NHS. I will find time. It will be a sequel to that which I wrote immediately after the 2005 Cenotaph service –
The paramount war criminal bowed his head then. And he was there again with other criminals last Sunday. You have noted there is NO shame in him or in many of the public.