Things that go beyond the small utilities of our lives
That's one of the things statues can provide. Something beyond the small utilities of our lives. I'm not necessarily in favour of keeping all statues exactly as they are. No-one believes everyone who has a statue deserves one or that there aren't people without them who ought to have them.
But there are other ways of dealing with this. Right now, we have violence and criminal damage instead of democracy and the rule of law. However correct the arguments for greater justice are, they are not good arguments of illegal behaviour. Someone nearly died when a statue hit them in America recently.
Churchill is a case in point. It cannot be right that we would not have a statue of Churchill. He was for Five Days in May (great book, do read it), the one man preventing the surrender of Britain to the Nazis. No Churchill, no allied victory. So sure, give the man a plinth.
He was also a disgraceful racist and was directly responsible for a terrible famine in Bengal in 1943. They don't teach you that in schools. In fact, they don't teach anything like enough about the nasty side of the empire, whatever it's good deeds.
So maybe we keep the statue but start telling children that Churchill was complicated, that he did some of the best and worst things anyone of his political generation did. And that as well as defeating the Nazis, he killed four million Indians.
The streets of Indian cities were lined with the emaciated bodies of the dead, yet in response to an urgent plea from the Indian secretary of state for emergency shipments of food, Churchill is reported to have only responded with a peevish telegram asking why, if food was so scarce, Gandhi hadn't died yet
Similarly, the statue that got taken down in the docklands. Why can't we add to the inscription? I saw that statue last year and learnt something from it. Next time, rather than learning something new, I simply won't learn anything at all.
The up-shot of removing statues in this way is that we will be left with more of the small utilities of our lives and less of what goes beyond that.
That isn't the solution to the problem we have.
p.s. If you don't know about the Bengal famine, this is an excellent Malcolm Gladwell podcast on the subject. It changed the way I think about Churchill.