Malazan Empire: New Essay by Steven Erikson - Malazan Empire

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New Essay by Steven Erikson About the proposed change to the World Fantasy Award Statuette

#41 User is offline   worry 

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 10:25 AM

Churchill's statue should be broken down into pieces and those materials used to build latrines. His bones should be ground into paste and spread with manure in an admixture.
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#42 User is offline   Andorion 

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 01:26 PM

View PostMob, on 28 December 2015 - 10:14 AM, said:

Erikson's reasoning is flawed. In fact, his argument is lazy and dishonest in construction.

I'll come back to that in a moment. But, something similar is currently happening at Oxford University, in that there is pressure to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College. Rhodes was a rampant late nineteenth century imperialist with racist views. There are even calls for the statue of any historical figure, anywhere, with a racist view to be taken down and replaced with a plaque describing their prejudice. On that logic, Winston Churchill's statue outside Parliament in London would need to be removed.

Whitewashing the past doesn't achieve anything. Nor does deliberately cutting society loose from its historical moorings because we now dislike certain components of the past. Doing so is positively dangerous. It is cultural vandalism. And we invite our own removal from history when values shift once more.

Lovecraft was a great writer. Acknowledging that doesn't mean endorsing his other opinions. Wagner was a wonderful composer, and people are able to celebrate that still while being repulsed by his deep anti-Semitism.

And Erikson is being, frankly, lazy and dishonest in how he assembles the argument. If my students did this in an essay, I would skewer them.

First, he labels those who disagree, or who focus on 'historical context', as being 'apologists'. 'Apologists' is a very loaded phrase. Tossing it around is an easy, and lazy, way to win an argument because of its pejorative connotations. It is like crying 'racist'. Erikson then doubles down on it by writing that 'those who seek to apologise for the beliefs and actions of those in the past invariably do so in defence of the egregious and the objectionable'. So Erikson sees those who disagree as 'apologists' acting 'in defence' of Lovecraft's views.

This is nonsense. The people disagreeing with Erikson are not 'apologists', nor are they acting in defence of Lovecraft's opinions. He knows this, as well. Functioning adults should be able to grasp that someone from the past achieved x whilst still having view y that is now deemed unpleasant/illegal/repulsive etc.

And whitewashing human prejudice against the Other is doubly ridiculous because it is one of the few things that the human species has consistently been good at! It is laudable, valuable and right to try and curtail this in contemporary society. But to reduce the cultural value of the past on these grounds is preposterous beyond belief.


I would greatly welcome a debate about Churchill's political legacy. His role regarding India was horrific. Millions dies in the great famine of 1942/43 specifically due to his policies. In fact the idea of plaques giving both sides of the story about these Imperialists strikes me as a brilliant notion
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Posted 28 December 2015 - 06:31 PM

For those who are not familiar with Churchill being directly involved in the food-moving-around that killed 4 million people: https://en.wikipedia..._famine_of_1943

To pull down the statue of Churchill may be a bit much as he was crucial to the British war machine of the 1930s and 1940s. However, there should be context provided of his bad/evil decisions as well as celebration of the good things. His attitudes towards the Indian peoples and the South Africans were terrible and resulted in the disruption and/or death of millions and millions of people.
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Posted 28 December 2015 - 07:06 PM

I like the idea of keeping the statues for their historical significance and also adding a plaque or other note explaining how completely shitty they were as human beings and the general death toll and amount of suffering caused by their actions. Like the slaveowner in Bristol, England, with his name on everything from all the donations he gave the city. Also more statues of less shitty people. Basically remember and recontextualise the past.
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Posted 28 December 2015 - 07:29 PM

View PostIlluyankas, on 28 December 2015 - 07:06 PM, said:

I like the idea of keeping the statues for their historical significance and also adding a plaque or other note explaining how completely shitty they were as human beings and the general death toll and amount of suffering caused by their actions. Like the slaveowner in Bristol, England, with his name on everything from all the donations he gave the city. Also more statues of less shitty people. Basically remember and recontextualise the past.


a world where plaques giving both sides of the story. Sounds like an absolutely atrocious idea. How will we ever go about stiring up feelings of national pride and weave the narrative that we live in the greatest nation and whose heroes with no flaws and without peer.

it might actually get people to think about history.What an awful notion.
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Posted 28 December 2015 - 07:54 PM

The statue comparison is a dishonest one. The decision being made is not to tear down the existing Rhodes/Churchill statues, but to stop constructing and giving away new ones.
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Posted 28 December 2015 - 11:33 PM

View PostSalt-Man Z, on 28 December 2015 - 07:54 PM, said:

The statue comparison is a dishonest one. The decision being made is not to tear down the existing Rhodes/Churchill statues, but to stop constructing and giving away new ones.


No, this is quite spectacularly wrong. It is founded on a basic misunderstanding of what Erikson said and the boundaries of his position.

Erikson's whole argument is, after all, explicitly predicated upon moral absolutes, and a vehement rejection of what he calls 'bullshit' contextual arguments. For Erikson, it's a simple matter of right and wrong - as judged by contemporary standards - and selectivity is 'bullshit' or being an 'apologist'.
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 12:00 AM

That's quite an imperialist position. If I say I'm honoring you, and to accept that honor you must accept a statuette of a person who hates your guts and thinks of you as subhuman because he happened to be good at his job, you are the one making the imposition. You're telling someone to put this thing in their house (or wherever), ignore every vile thing about him for the sake of a particular aptitude, and they should feel like you've done them a service. That is a simple matter of right and wrong (both in moral terms and simple correctness of the facts). "Apologist" is the euphemistic way to refer to someone who does that.
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 02:04 AM

View Postamphibian, on 28 December 2015 - 06:31 PM, said:

For those who are not familiar with Churchill being directly involved in the food-moving-around that killed 4 million people: https://en.wikipedia..._famine_of_1943

To pull down the statue of Churchill may be a bit much as he was crucial to the British war machine of the 1930s and 1940s. However, there should be context provided of his bad/evil decisions as well as celebration of the good things. His attitudes towards the Indian peoples and the South Africans were terrible and resulted in the disruption and/or death of millions and millions of people.



View PostIlluyankas, on 28 December 2015 - 07:06 PM, said:

I like the idea of keeping the statues for their historical significance and also adding a plaque or other note explaining how completely shitty they were as human beings and the general death toll and amount of suffering caused by their actions. Like the slaveowner in Bristol, England, with his name on everything from all the donations he gave the city. Also more statues of less shitty people. Basically remember and recontextualise the past.


Exactly. Keep the existing statue by all means. But highlight both sides of the story. If Churchill hadn't lost the election of 1945, India's history might have been darker.

If anybody wants to know more regarding this aspect of Churchill I would recommend this
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 02:14 AM

View PostMob, on 28 December 2015 - 11:33 PM, said:

View PostSalt-Man Z, on 28 December 2015 - 07:54 PM, said:

The statue comparison is a dishonest one. The decision being made is not to tear down the existing Rhodes/Churchill statues, but to stop constructing and giving away new ones.


No, this is quite spectacularly wrong. It is founded on a basic misunderstanding of what Erikson said and the boundaries of his position.

Erikson's whole argument is, after all, explicitly predicated upon moral absolutes, and a vehement rejection of what he calls 'bullshit' contextual arguments. For Erikson, it's a simple matter of right and wrong - as judged by contemporary standards - and selectivity is 'bullshit' or being an 'apologist'.





Let me illustrate why I disagree with you. I am Indian and in academics specifically history. Now let us suppose there is a scholarship/research grant being awarded from Britain in the name of Churchill. For me the substance of the grant would be extremely welcome, but I would never be able to ignore the racial/imperial connotations tied up in the award.

In this case, while Lovcraft's ideas may in fact be explained by context, and I think arguments have been given upthread about why that may not be entirely true, we must recognise that an award of his bust can carry resonances of those attitudes, and these resonances seriously damage any chances of inclusivity within the fantasy community.

There would still have been some argument if his attitude had not made its way into his writing, because after all the award is about writing. But it did. After that, I really don't see how the Lovecraft bust can be defended
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 02:55 AM

That's still a top-down view of it though, and over-forgiving. If someone (individual or entity) says they're honoring you with a Churchill scholarship, they're lying to you. What they're doing is honoring Churchill and coercing you into being a participant through your financial need. You technically have the option to refuse, of course, much in the way a small business owner has the option to refuse to pay Mr. Gambino for "arson insurance".
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 03:10 AM

View Postworry, on 29 December 2015 - 12:00 AM, said:

That's quite an imperialist position. If I say I'm honoring you, and to accept that honor you must accept a statuette of a person who hates your guts and thinks of you as subhuman because he happened to be good at his job, you are the one making the imposition. You're telling someone to put this thing in their house (or wherever), ignore every vile thing about him for the sake of a particular aptitude, and they should feel like you've done them a service. That is a simple matter of right and wrong (both in moral terms and simple correctness of the facts). "Apologist" is the euphemistic way to refer to someone who does that.


Exactly.

And say you're a recipient of the award who is part of a racial group that Lovecraft hated... and you know that. What do you do? Refuse the award because you're not white and it would be weird to have a bust of a white supremacist in your home? Take the award and just grit your teeth?
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 03:23 AM

Furthermore... why was the bust of Lovecraft in the first place? Wasn't he more a horror writer? I don't mean to split hairs, but he's not the first person who would come to mind if you told me the award was "a bust of an influential fantasy author."
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 04:46 AM

View Postworry, on 29 December 2015 - 02:55 AM, said:

That's still a top-down view of it though, and over-forgiving. If someone (individual or entity) says they're honoring you with a Churchill scholarship, they're lying to you. What they're doing is honoring Churchill and coercing you into being a participant through your financial need. You technically have the option to refuse, of course, much in the way a small business owner has the option to refuse to pay Mr. Gambino for "arson insurance".


That's actually my point. That money would be needed and precious. But the chalice would be poisoned. Having an award like that is an insult to the awardee. Especially when the sad reality is many researchers would have to swallow the insult because the money is a major career boost
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 05:01 AM

All right. I suppose my concern would be -- through even something as minimal as diplomatic language -- leaving any space whatsoever for the notion that the chalice was poisoned inadvertently. But that's probably not worth splitting hairs over.
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 05:15 AM

View Postworry, on 29 December 2015 - 05:01 AM, said:

All right. I suppose my concern would be -- through even something as minimal as diplomatic language -- leaving any space whatsoever for the notion that the chalice was poisoned inadvertently. But that's probably not worth splitting hairs over.


If you are wondering about it being on purpose or not, and keeping in purpose this is a discussion on a hypothetical issue, I would look at the institution governing the award. Corporate/financial institutions or even trusts may not have the requisite contextual knowledge to see the problem, but if its an academic institution like a research foundation, then they should definitely know.

To relate this example to the issue at hand, Which body controls the World Fantasy Awards? If you are presiding over an award with that kind of name and repute I think some knowledge of not just fantasy, but the socio-cultural issued currently affecting it is extremely necessary.
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 01:27 PM

View PostAndorion, on 29 December 2015 - 02:14 AM, said:

View PostMob, on 28 December 2015 - 11:33 PM, said:

View PostSalt-Man Z, on 28 December 2015 - 07:54 PM, said:

The statue comparison is a dishonest one. The decision being made is not to tear down the existing Rhodes/Churchill statues, but to stop constructing and giving away new ones.


No, this is quite spectacularly wrong. It is founded on a basic misunderstanding of what Erikson said and the boundaries of his position.

Erikson's whole argument is, after all, explicitly predicated upon moral absolutes, and a vehement rejection of what he calls 'bullshit' contextual arguments. For Erikson, it's a simple matter of right and wrong - as judged by contemporary standards - and selectivity is 'bullshit' or being an 'apologist'.





we must recognise that an award of his bust can carry resonances of those attitudes, and these resonances seriously damage any chances of inclusivity within the fantasy community.



I'm afraid I disagree. Inclusivity in this case stems from merit, i.e. what people have done to be nominated for an award.

And the Lovecraft award is a mark of his excellence as a writer. By definition, it does not extend to anything else about the man.
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 03:02 PM

Maybe to you the Lovecraft award does mean only that he was a good writer and that they're recognizing good writing, but to other people, being given a statue of Lovecraft means something else - particularly his virulent racism.

So for the many people who are saying it means something else and the few people who say it means only this, which side should dictate the future of the Lovecraft statute?
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#59 User is offline   Illuyankas 

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Posted 29 December 2015 - 03:27 PM

Obvious solution, make it a Cthulu statue
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Posted 29 December 2015 - 09:06 PM

View PostIlluyankas, on 29 December 2015 - 03:27 PM, said:

Obvious solution, make it a Cthulu statue


that's actually....

a really good idea.
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