A Tale of Two Statues (The Struggle for Liberty in the Long Term)

 

Thomas Sowell has often stated that it would be nicer and easier if the left-wing/unconstrained vision of the world were true. Social welfare programs could make poor people not poor, peace would be easy to make through treaties and government wouldn’t be corrupt if only the right people ran it. Overall, I think that’s true. I’d like it if mankind were less corrupt and more competent, which is the basis of the unconstrained vision. But Dr. Sowell has said time and again that no matter how much we wish something to be true does not make it true.

In a similar fashion, with an unhappy view of the fallenness of this world, I believe that now is the time for the Hong Kong people to nonviolent protest in Hong Kong even though those protests will fail in the short-term. Some will have their careers deeply curtailed and some will possibly join the long and evergrowing list of Chinese who have died for Chinese liberty.

I don’t relish the various degradations of violence that the Red Chinese employ against peaceful demonstrators, but the Hong Kong Chinese have a better opportunity for nonviolent protest than any Chinese in the mainland. Most importantly, the Hong Kong people still have a free press, and they can report on the protests. If someone gets run over by a tank, their name will be heard around the world. Hopefully, President Trump and the Pope mention their name. Additionally, enough protests will put the lie to the people of Hong Kong that the Chinese Communist Party is based on the consent of the governed. When state schools start teaching how great the CCP is, the students will remember the protests. The teachers forced to propagandize this historical refuse will remember the protests too.

The Red Chinese will simply be unable to cover it up. That can’t be said of the systematic oppression and exploitation of the Uighur minority and Christians of all racial backgrounds. The Hong Kong Chinese and their media outlets have not been beaten down for decades by Communism.

In some ways my advocacy for these protests reminds me of the Easter Rebellion in 1916. The Irish republicans knew that they couldn’t win, but they decided to fight anyway in order to make a statement against imperial tyranny in order to give courage to the next generation of Irishmen. This resulted in 485 people dying in the combat and the leaders being executed by court martial. The Easter Rebellion was based on liberal principals that advocated for the equal treatment of Protestant and Catholic as well as representative government, but war is a horrible enough thing to start especially when you know you can’t win. Moral complications aside, it seemed like it worked, and the Rebellion did move the Irish mind against a foreign illiberal imperialism.

A striking physical manifestation of this is a bronze statue of the legendary hero CuChulain in the General Post Office of Dublin.

It’s a very pretty Georgian building.

The General Post Office of Dublin was the Headquarters of the Easter Uprising and CuCuthlain was a mythical Irish hero who died fighting a losing battle in Ulster. He tied himself to a stone (some stories say he tied himself up with his own entrails) in order to die standing on his feet. His enemies dared not approach him until a Crow landed on his shoulder.

I saw the statue when I visited Ireland and for whatever it’s worth, I was quite impressed by it. The depiction of him still holding onto his shield and sword despite his obvious exhaustion had something of the legends of the Spartan three hundred about it. While I am no expert on Ireland or on sculpture, I must observe that people tend not to make sculptors that don’t mean something to them.

It fact it reminds of another popular statue that we will probably see more of in recent times.

The goddess of democracy was hastily constructed to protest the restrictions of liberty by the Chinese government during the Tiananmen Square protests. She prominently holds the torch of reason which is an enlightenment symbol of reason defeating darkness.

Moses had to wander in the desert for forty years and he could not see the promised land. Booker T. Washington had to see segregation blight the American South after reconstruction, and it took centuries for the Irish to gain a liberal and representative government. In the short-term, protesting, even dying, in Hong Kong won’t matter much. In the long term it might free China. We don’t know and we can’t know. But it’s worthwhile to say what is right and wrong because without Truthful speech we are all lost.

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There are 8 comments.

  1. Front Seat Cat Member

    The pictures speak louder than words – the boy touching the piece of the Statue of Liberty makes my eyes sting with salty tears. Has there ever been a time when communism worked – when the people prospered – these kids who are willing to risk their lives, the Davids – against communism and repression – Goliath, deserve our wholehearted support, even if our own president or government isn’t more forceful in support. I hope Trump will take a stand and not just a Tweet. As always, Michael Ramirez pencils an immortal picture….

    May God bless and protect Hong Kong and its people.

    • #1
    • August 14, 2019, at 4:22 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne Post author

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    The pictures speak louder than words – the boy touching the piece of the Statue of Liberty makes my eyes sting with salty tears.

    That is not the Statue of Liberty but the Goddess of Democracy. (I updated the post to make it clearer.) It’s easy to confuse them because the Tiananmen goddess of democracy is based on the Roman goddess Libertas from which the Statue of Liberty in America is also based on.

    My favorite depiction of Libertas is her blessing Benjamin Franklin. Notice that she is depicted with a liberty pole and a hat that was given to manumitted Roman slaves called pileus. The picture on the bottom is a more French depiction of the Roman goddess Libertas. The fasces (a Roman stick representing political power) and legal documents are both present in both drawings as well as greek wreaths.

    • #2
    • August 14, 2019, at 5:10 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor

    A wonderful tribute to the people of Hong Kong, Henry. May they, over time, be victorious!

    • #3
    • August 15, 2019, at 6:04 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. WillowSpring Member

    Posts like this are why I love Ricochet – very well written (doesn’t hurt to quote Sowell) and taught me something.

    I saw the Ramirez cartoon and liked it, but I thought the figure was the Statue of Liberty. I probably saw the Goddess of Democracy back then, but didn’t make the connection. Thanks for that lesson.

    Your main argument is well argued and convincing.

    • #4
    • August 15, 2019, at 9:53 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. James Lileks Contributor

    The liberty cap was once quite popular on South and Central American money. Not so these days; at some point, it ceased to be a commonly understood symbol. The rod, though, isn’t a fasces, is it? I think it’s a vindicta, the stick they used in the ceremony to free the slave. It had other purposes – a symbol of the office.

    Perhaps the fasces is a bunch of bundled vindicta with an axe blade added; I defer to Roman history gurus for that one. 

    • #5
    • August 15, 2019, at 2:11 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne Post author

    @jameslileks

    At times that stick thing did have an axe. I’m pretty sure that it’s called a fasces stick.

    File:Apotheosis of Washington - Close up of George Washington (6881712763).jpg

    • #6
    • August 16, 2019, at 7:50 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. James Lileks Contributor

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    At times that stick thing did have an axe.

    Alone, unbundled? Never seen that. The picture of GW in heaven shows a traditional fasces, which is different from the single stick used with the Liberty Cap. 

    I’ll fight you on this one! Pistols at dawn, sirrah! My seconds will call on you!

    • #7
    • August 16, 2019, at 11:36 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne Post author

    I’m pretty sure that Jonah Goldberg referred to a fasces as sticks bundled together without the axe. I must have words with him before we duel. 

    • #8
    • August 16, 2019, at 1:19 PM PDT
    • 1 like