In response to Adam Habib’s article, the  “lynching” of statues provides an opportunity to investigate what the originals actually did (“Angry activism needs to be balanced by public deliberation”, June 25). For example, I understand that the Poole Harbour statue of Lord Baden-Powell in Dorset, UK,  is now in protective custody as alleged racism and proximity to water makes it vulnerable. Erected for the centenary of the first Scout camp, it looks towards Brownsea Island, where this took place.

Baden-Powell might have become just another retired colonel had he not to some extent engineered the siege of Mahikeng. During the course of 217 days, his leadership exploits were sensationalised in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper as “The Wolf that never sleeps”, by the world’s first female war reporter, Sarah Wilson, Winston Churchill’s aunt. The over-the-top London celebration of Mahikeng’s relief spawned a new word, to “maffick”.

More popular outside the army than within, Baden-Powell, with a scouting book already published and incorporating ideas from his US friends Fred Burnham and Ernest Thompson Seton, founded the Boy Scouts movement in 1908. His sister Agnes founded the Girl Guides shortly thereafter. Given his celebrity status, the twin movements were an instant success and millions of youngsters around the world have had the opportunity to imbibe their updated Stoic philosophy and, through gaining badges, find purpose for their lives. In a congratulatory letter to a newly minted Eagle Scout, Steven Spielberg said making an eight-minute movie for his photography merit badge had led to his future career.

The destructiveness of statue lynch mobs illustrates a lack of both philosophy and purpose. In today’s materialistic world, such preoccupations are treated with derision. But they will return, and when they do, I hope the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides are around to propagate them.

James Cunningham
Camps Bay

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