In Kielce, a small Polish city about 80 miles north-east of Krakow, there is a statue of Miles Davis. Life-size, in dark glasses and long coat, it captures the genius lost in the moment. It is, naturally, very cool. And a bit surprising. There is also one in his hometown of Alton, Illinois.
Plans were revealed a couple of weeks ago to erect a statue to Little Richard in Macon, where he grew up. I hope, like the Georgia Peach, that thing will be wild!
There is a statue of Andrei Tarkovsky outside the All-Russian Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. Oddly, the monument looks more like the Dutch master Johan Cruyff than the Russian filmmaker. Which takes us down a wormhole of contemporary stars, particularly footballers, not rendered in their best light. Ronaldo has fallen foul particularly of this. Let’s catch up on this conversation over a pint.
The point here is that it is more than possible to erect public memorials that celebrate people who brought joy and betterment, rather than those responsible for oppression, profiteering and murder.
The horror of George Floyd’s killing has precipitated a movement that can only end with positive change. It is shameful it took another black man to be killed, but finally the ground has shifted too much to go back. In the US, those grasping to contain and prevent what is happening, or to point fingers at anybody rising up, already feel like relics. When you scratch the top of endemic racism you begin to see structural economic problems. Thomas Piketty, the French economist who has asked questions about inequality for a long time, talks about a “fear of the void” from those at the top of “inequality regimes”. Those few profiting by containing and pressing down on the many are terrified of what will come when that is swept aside. It’s all profit and control. I see no problem in fixing that.
Why not ask why a statue is where it is? Why not ask why roads are named as they are? And go further
In Britain, what started as a support for the Black Lives Matter movement and against US injustice, grew into a more universal quest, and has now led to questions about shared history, representation and what makes us what we are. This challenge to orthodoxy is to be celebrated. One of the worst reasons for continuing to follow a course of action is ‘we’ve always done it that way’.