Friday 17 January 2014

Nelson's Pillar

I've ranted on before at how easy it is to pile honorary degrees and other cost-free titles on people who already have them.  There are so many people who are, within statistical error, just as good/successful/interesting but who would take a little more effort to seek out for getting a scroll and a free dinner. That's one issue.

Another is that certain people are so far beyond reproach that any negative associations are greeted with anger and incredulity.  In the 1960s John F Kennedy was one such person in this SE corner of Ireland. We didn't find out about his opportunism and serial shagging until later.  Another is Nelson Mandela who, like Charles II before him, last year spent an unconscionable time a-dying, and a quite disturbing amount of time unburied while family, natal village, political associates, the ZA Government, Bono and others jockeyed for their peripheral position in the media frenzy.  Thus when the Heads of State of US, UK & DK made themselves a selfie at Mandela's funeral, it was greeted with 'shock' and 'horror', as if nobody had ever cracked a joke at a wake.  Or more relevant to my argument, the sense was that, at Mandela's funeral, everyone had to be seen as serious if not actually weeping.

In Britain they get exercised about different parochial matters that we do here in Ireland - it is a different parish after all. So it was a couple weeks later that I heard about a Conservative MP who seemed to some to have behaved badly.  Always game for some blimp-bating, I followed the story up in the local rag and found that, just after Mandela died a month ago, the said MP Bob Blackman tweeted “Proud to have supported preventing Brent Labour Party’s illegal attempt to use Mandela for party political stunt in 1990 Brent elections.” Back in 1990, many left-of-centre people were outraged (yes yes 'shock' and even 'horror') that then Councillor Bob "Blackguard" Blackman had checked them from offering Nelson Mandela the "freedom of the borough" of Brent. As if that was something that Mandela would value: "First Prize a weekend in Brent, Second Prize two weekends in Brent, anyone?".  What Blackman had actually been saying was that, while he had the highest regard for Mr Mandela, whom he considered a statesman, he thought it was a cheap-and-easy stunt to offer him the keys to a fairly shabby suburb of London. But they would not be denied, and in June last year, as The Great Man continued his long slide into oblivion, the Brent Councillors unanimously agreed to give Mandela his scroll.  He was too busy dying to come and accept it in person.  He has accumulated so many awards and honours that they don't fit on his primary Wikipedia entry.

A couple of days ago, the Committee for The Naming of Park Benches in Dublin saw sense and decided not to name the Dublin Spire after Nelson Mandela.  This, despite the fact that it was really close to the Dunne's stores branch where a dispute about selling South African oranges in the 1980s had been a major boost to the public's appreciation of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.  The Spire, for those who don't live in Ireland is a brushed stainless steel needle 120m tall in the very centre of town. It was erected about ten years ago to general acclaim.  The airspace had been empty since 1966 when the IRA blew up a previous monument called Nelson's Pillar because it had a statue of the admiral on top.  I feel that one reason for not calling the Spire after 'our' Nelson is that it would look like a tawdry bit of a pun without any real thought about the historical associations, which are both murky and tenuous.  A bit like the uber-cool kids in Diva cynically calling their cat Ayatollah.

Which gives me the excuse to creak out an ancient joke (I have three):
Q: What's black and sits on Nelson's Column?
A. Winnie
That'll get me a Fatwa from the ANC.  I hope their hitman will pause long enough so we can get in a selfie together.


  1. apparently, naming the Spire after the older Nelson came as a bit of a procedural necessity for the of the "rules" or procedures of the said naming committee is that the person needs to be dead for 20 years...I know Mandela was dying a long time...but our SA Nelson still did not qualify

  2. They were joshing on Newstalk that the exception to the 20 year rule should be made in favour of Dublin's Own - Bertie Ahern. Surely they could name a bollard down on the quays after him?