Toppling Statues

I’ve been wondering about statues. Evan stood next to the seated 19-foot white marble Abe at the Lincoln Memorial last week. Lincoln looks worn and tired after the war even as he stares stonily towards a distant horizon with resolve. The world’s tallest statue was completed in India a couple of years ago. It is a statue of Vallabh Bhai Patel, a freedom fighter and founding father. That it was built in recent times is as amazing as its size – three times taller than Liberty. In the US and England, we are busy toppling statues of people who were once heroes and are today recognized as being boobs. Morals change faster than statues erode.

U.S. troops pulled down a giant statue of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein hours after coalition tanks rolled into the center of Baghdad. At school, you learned history from a book, or a computer, or a television. You did not learn it from a statue. Statues don’t educate, they celebrate.

I gave an AI at writesonic.com the above paragraph (taken from two different articles on the internet) and asked it to write me a blog post. It asked me some simple questions and had me select from a few options and 30 seconds later I have a blog post. I’d like to think the AI isn’t as good as me yet (and I recognize that I’m not very good). In the Conclusion section she seems to have gone off the rails. And she does like to drop names. But in the near future, passable essays will be written by AIs. What does that mean for writers and consumers of text? Should Evan practice writing or coding?

Anyway, here’s what writesonic’s AI produced.

What happens when you Remove a Statue: A Thought Experiment

– written by an AI

U.S. troops pulled down a giant statue of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein hours after coalition tanks rolled into the center of Baghdad. At school, you learned history from a book, or a computer, or a television. You did not learn it from a statue. Statues don’t educate, they celebrate.

When a statue disappears, so does the history that it represents. Then comes a gap in our collective memory that would never have happened had the statue not been there in the first place. I was speaking to a Muslim student at a U.S. college who told me how horrified she was to hear her grandparents and great-grandparents call the U.S. a criminal empire that killed and displaced millions in the name of “freedom and democracy” in Iraq. Most Americans are not as familiar with Saddam Hussein as they are with our vice president, Dick Cheney, who told his staff to forget the new Iraq. “Let’s not lose the old one.” Saddam has been dead for seven years. Osama Bin Laden for more than a decade.

What happens when you remove a statue?

They are removed, defaced, or destroyed. The person might be made a martyr, as in the case of the Chinese terrorist, Guo Boxiong, who was made a martyr by the Chinese for refusing to do his duty in World War II, or the South African apartheid martyr, Steve Biko, who was made a martyr by the South African government. The journalist Roger Cohen uses the phrase “cultural cleansing,” which I agree is a bit of a misnomer. He means “the destruction of ethnic identity,” which is one approach, but I disagree. People have always been motivated by identity, but the reason we insist on education is to increase understanding.

Conclusion

Dionysus, the goddess of wine, came out of the mist and carried the pallbearers of Virgil to the valley of the dead. In the Grove of Kousoul, the remains of those who have conquered death and returned to life are re-enacted by the god. Many goddesses and goddesses-in-training are cast into the underworld, but Dionysus will ensure their victory over death. Because Greek mythology and its myths make the world, it seems myopic to not at least acknowledge that it exists. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than watching the moon fill a dark sky. We do not know what we do not know. The moon is majestic and elusive and impressive and helps me appreciate the power of the earth.

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