SAP sponsored event: Honour and Admiration after War and Conflict

We honour and admire friends, teachers, artists, sportspeople, and intellectuals for who they are as people and the acts they perform. We also honour and admire politicians and combatants for their conduct before and during war and conflict. We give them medals, build statues in their honour and even (in the case of Winston Churchill) put their faces on our banknotes.

But when is such admiration appropriate? Churchill, for instance, is widely admired for his leadership and actions during World War 2. And yet Churchill was guilty of atrocities. For example, in 1943 he denied the pleas of British officials in Bengal for direct supplies of food to the region whilst famine, caused by Britain’s imperialist policies, raged. Millions died as a result.

Indeed, many of those who continue to be honoured have committed atrocities. Cecil John Rhodes, whose wealth funds the Rhodes Scholarship, continues to have a statue at the Oriel College, Oxford, despite the fact that Rhodes was an English supremacist who contributed to the deaths of tens of millions of people as part of his colonist campaigns and policies in Africa. And many states in the United States of America continue to have statues of Confederate generals who fought to keep slavery legal.