'History is not just a set of facts but a series of questions, a mode of inquiry that seeks to comprehend and put flesh on dates, events and places, to understand and include all possible perspectives...' - Julia Baird
One of the easiest ways to put 'flesh' on a date, event, or place, is to erect a statue. Is there any more literal representation of a time (and all its values and ideologies), than a figure (from that age) standing proud and forever, physically, in a particular place for all times to come? History is written (and erected) by those with the means to do so. Usually, the 'winners.' The majority, the rulers. To think of the Roman Empire is to think of its architectural might, at home and abroad. The ruins of today remind us of this. They stand, still, across much (if not all) of the ancient Roman world. To think of that time (and that place) is to think of its figures, now faded white with years, that line museums, still, to this day. Arms aloft, in triumph. Sculpted, sometimes, according to the stylings (and political intentions) of the time. But always, it seems, with one clear message. Remember. Remember what we have done. Remember what we can do. A positive message, if you're an ancient Roman. Positive also, perhaps, if you were in their good books. But with an empire so large, that comes into contact with so many different cultures, there is going to be dissent. And when there is dissent, these symbols, these reminders, fall. When there is dissent, statues fall. And there is the point. Understanding (or at least studying) the dissent of a time is vital to understanding how a society or culture (or, parts of them) thought and behaved. If a statue is the most literal representation of a time, then the dragging of it down must also be its equal representation. The for, and the against. No state exists statically. There will always be other opinions, there will always be those that disagree. The tearing down of statues across our world today is not the removal of history. It is our history. Figures rise, and figures fall. Times change, and so do thoughts. Understanding that chaotic flux is one of the keys to understanding humans. From Rome, from before Rome. To today. And those that look back on our time will understand that these acts were indicative of a largely cohesive body of thought. To change 'our history', or who 'our history' remembered. It reveals us, to us. It reveals those of us that argue against the pulling down of statues as much as it reveals those pulling them down. It reveals those that order them to be protected, and those that turn a blind eye to them bring removed. Everything, everything is an indication of where and how we exist. Where, in time and place. How, in time and place. The Meroë Head of Augustus at the British Museum is an example of this. The head, part of a larger full-body statue, was removed from its place and taken back to the Kushite capital of Meroë, where it was buried below the stairs of an altar to victory. The symbolism here is plain. The dissent, of the Kushites towards the Romans, is plain.
As it is for us today, and the ripping down of our monuments. Dissent seems to carry a negative connotation. Perhaps rightly so, but it also seems by definition to be in favour of the majority. The winners, the rulers. Dissent is healthy. We know that, even by only looking inwards at ourselves. Our thoughts themselves are very often dissenting of our own outward actions. Do we expect more of a collective, than we do of us as individuals? The Kushites had had enough of Roman order. We today, have had enough of much of what rules us. Mass violence, poisonous bureaucracy, white supremacy. Passion will make us go too far. As it always has and always will. Perhaps some of the figures torn down will be unjustly ripped from their place of remembrance. But it is all, all indicative. It is all history. Relevant link - https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1911-0901-1 B. C. Taylor