There is a civilized way to defuse statues when they become embarrassing.
Every statue depicting politicians is embarrassing if you ask me. Why do humans build statues to other humans – not to mention rulers? Building a statue to someone who made life better would mean inventors, artists, scientists, educators and medical professionals. Politicians are always power-seekers by definition – and there is nothing to celebrate about that.
Not to mention that even the holiest of nurse could have done something controversial in his life and even the most talented artist could have held unacceptable (and stupid) views – as they often do. No individual is without fault – so no individual should be worshiped.
We should know better by now.
But of course the supply of politicians who have an un-containable ambition to rule over other humans is inexhaustible. And they all want to leave their little marks on the world – so there will always be monuments, statues and ceremonies dedicated to them, throwing dust in our eyes on our own money.
But later, when the dust settles and we are no longer high on propaganda, all we will see is a statue to a power-hungry politician we used to think was better for some reason. And we will be ashamed to remember.
And if we are smart and sober, we will silently get rid of those statues. (And hopefully, stop building new ones.)
But until then the monuments that are already up should be somehow dealt with. And an angry mob tearing them down only victimizes them, as it triggers hysterical love for said politician in other groups. Don’t give old power-seekers that renewed attention. And don’t let those with a softer mind start looking for counter-intuitive excuses and justifications for old politicians and dictators – just because the dictator cannot be all bad, right?
So unless you are the euphoric population of a city who just got rid of a nasty dictator that killed your family and took away your economic control, don’t perform cathartic acts of statue demolition. Do this instead.
Visit the Memento Park in Budapest
“The way Hungary treated this sensitive topic is to be considered exemplary even in international terms.”
Árpád Göncz, President of Hungary (1991-2001)
We call it the “Statue Park” and that’s what it is. Shortly after the bloodless, revolution-less regime change of 1989, hideous communist statues of dictators, mass murderers and their not-at-all innocent ideologues have been methodically removed and transported to an empty plot near the city limits – opposite a new golf club.
They can be visited there by Western tourists who want a cheap thrill (“How awful…“) before returning downtown to eat their foie gras dinners on a Danube cruise. They can be visited by school groups who need to see what not to do again, and even artists and filmmakers who need a historic throwback shot. In the meantime the statues don’t bother the victims of authoritarian oppression.
In the words of its designer:
“This Park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described and built up, this Park is about democracy. After all, only democracy can provide an opportunity to think freely about dictatorship.”
Sadly, we still haven’t stopped building new statues, even to long-dead politicians, and always to stoke contemporary political sentiment. But that’s the topic of another lament.
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