Wilfred Attenborough’s letter about Cecil Rhodes was mostly very sensible. But the opening sentence stuck in my craw (‘Cecil Rhodes will be a hero to few of the Citizens of this country’). Admittedly it would be improved if ‘country’ were changed to ‘university’, but the implication would still be that the few must be stupid or vicious.
As it happens, I am not much given to hero-worship. Worshippers of Ghandi, for example, always seem to me childish. Nor do I care whether many or few agree with me. The few are so often right. But whatever Rhodes’ faults (I prefer people who have faults) I admire his vigorous and visionary life, passed under the constant threat of imminent death. I sympathise with his aims if not always his attitudes.
Conversely, I deplore the well-meaning creatures who in effect handed over Southern Rhodesia to Robert Mugabe and, through weakness or ignorance, congratulated themselves on a job well done. However I remember that in the Boer War most liberals were on the side of the Boers, and I allow myself to smile.