Monday, July 06, 2020

Hume

I see that people have started actively demanding that the Scots stop commemorating Dave Hume due to his racist footnote, as a petition has been put together for the University of Edinburgh to rename David Hume Tower. Given how thoroughly ugly David Hume Tower is, I'm not sure it isn't already an insult to Hume to have named it after him, but so it goes; it was inevitable at this point. The rumor going around is that some people are thinking that the Hume statue on the Royal Mile should be removed, too, although I've seen no formal proposal for it.

Of course, Scots have no moral reason to be ashamed of memorializing an important Scot to whom all Scotland and Edinburgh in particular owes a debt; but, also of course, the motivations behind the dememorialization are not themselves primarily moral either, as I have previously argued.

There has been a lot of bold prophesying in recent years about the death of the modern liberal society, about how liberalism, whether in its left or right varieties, is on the verge of being replaced, but (s I have noted before) the modern liberal society often handles threats not aggressively but passive-aggressively, by co-option and deflection, and I have been almost in awe at the efficiency with which both have been achieved, again and again, the past several months. What precisely is it that renaming David Hume Tower will contribute to police reform? Not a single thing. How much will racial equality be furthered by it? Not one iota. Early recognition that it is the politicians and the courts that are most responsible for the kind of situation that led to the death of George Floyd has completely evaporated, deflected into an increasingly tenuous memorial hunt which many politicians have then co-opted themselves by pretending that they were not the people being protested but somehow entirely on the side of the protesters -- a co-option that seems largely to have worked. It has been remarkable. It also has the unfortunate side effect that almost nothing will actually be done that is not purely symbolic -- if even that. A number of things just seem to be designated as relevant by fiat.

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