If there is one thing I believe to be hardcoded into our psyche, into our very DNA, it is our ability to hold reverence for what came before. Even the most city-dwelling, simple-minded youth who screams and shouts curses every time his parents take him to a museum or show him an ounce of the countryside will one day find something from a hobby he enjoys or find an artist in the genre he likes that predates even his own birth and he will be able to enjoy it. He will be able to develop an admiration for how this thing or person is a link in a long chain, a chain which is continued today by those such as himself. Humans can look at anything and have this same epiphany. How a medieval castle inspired a WWI Fort, how one artist went on to inspire another, etc. This is important because it represents one of our oldest traditions as a species, ancestor worship, our veneration of what came before. From this spawns tradition and our veneration of what has been achieved by those who came before and our recognition that they found an answer to a question or solution to a problem. “Tradition is democracy for the dead” as G.K. Chesterton so rightly put it.
These notions however have been whittled away however by a deluge of attacks from all manner of groups and institutions. They are part of what I call the “Cult of New”. We used to see the effects of this erosion only as part of a wider culturally subversive attack, but in recent days we have seen them go fully on the offensive, calling for the removal of anything that they consider to be an attack on themselves. To explain what we live through currently, however, I must explain partly where this sentiment comes from. Many will talk about how demographic shifts have had an effect on attitudes that lead to calls for the removal of certain parts of our history, but there is certain conditioning that has been used to affect the wider populace as well and it is a result of corporate greed.
Take the music industry for example, what was once simply an art that was enjoyed from the alehouse to the opera is now a multi-billion dollar empire that seeks to expand its grip on our minds in whatever way it can. With ease of listening comes a great competition to see who can be in our ears for the longest time on any given day because there is money to be made. So in an effort to attract attention, great emphasis is made on finding new talent and finding what will be the next new genre to take the world by storm. It is much easier for them to monetise what is new unless it is a brand such as The Beatles which they will exploit long after the members have died. Another example is the fashion industry, which needs to be selling you the latest look to turn a profit. The clothes won’t last, but they’re not meant to, they want you to be buying what’s hot this season by the time it rolls around.
All of this means we live in a society that encourages the destruction of the old to make way for the new. It is this feeling that has culminated these past few days in the desecration of statues all over the UK by angry mobs. In a perfect world, I would love to be able to say that protestors are correct and that local communities should have discussions and then eventually local referendums on if a statue should be removed for not representing their community. If anyone thinks this will stop at slave traders, however, think again. Like anything else in society, they would try to convince you that because it is old is worthless and “outdated”. Once you give in to the demand, they will do it again until you say no. First, it was Colston, then it will be Sir Robert Peel and one day it will be Alfred. Don’t ask yourself when it will end, ask yourself how can I help stop it.