What happens when a monument outruns its historic epic? Should it be destroyed, altered, or remain unchanged? One of the biggest critics of monument building, Lewis Mumford, said that by allowing architecture that has no meaning for the living, we are paying homage to the dead, and as a result turning our cities into tombstones. However, in my opinion, monuments of outdated significance should not be subjected to destruction. Just because they are no longer compatible with modern views, their historical significance should not be willingly forgotten.
Part of the problem I see with a desire to destroy monuments that represent old and outdated views or ideologies is that they are often monuments that are symbolic of what we consider as “bad”. Thus, whereas we have an inclination to revere monuments we see as “good”, we reject and want to destroy those we see as “bad”. But when we start to pick and choose and discern bad from good for ourselves, we run into a conflict to contradictory views, and while there may be a general consensus as to which one is good and which one is bad, it doesn’t warrant that the “bad” monument should be destroyed. If, as a society we are going to allow a particular view, then we must allow competing views as well or else we are guilty of hypocrisy and censorship. The same holds true for destruction of monuments. In my opinion, we cannot justify the destruction of a monument we perceive as “bad “ with reasons and arguments. While they our arguments may be valid, they are not sufficient causes to revere one monument more than the other. For instance, if a modern community (that is mostly Christian) wants to erect a monument to God or Jesus or one of His Disciples, they are completely within their right to do so. They breach their rights however when they forbid other monuments from being built because they represent conflicting views. Similarly, they too breach their rights when they destroy monuments that represent conflicting views. If, for example, there is a small following of Judaism or Satanism within the predominantly Christian community, they too have the right to have monuments symbolic of their beliefs even though they challenge Christianity.
The Monumento alla Vittoria faces the aforementioned dilemma. Mussolini had it built on an abandoned monument site in Austria to symbolize their victory in World War 1. It became symbolic of the fascist movement, which is no longer fitting with modern Italy.
The solution agreed upon was to alter, not destroy, the monument. In a play on history, a ring was added to one of the monument’s pillars as to poke fun at the idea of Fascism wherein the individual was wedded to the state. What right did the government and organizations that spear-headed the effort have to change the monument? Since it was impossible to confer with Mussolini, they took it upon themselves to determine what the monument would stand for. The monument was changed because of one reason, and that is that the powers at be in Italy did not want anything to associate them to Fascism. However why should this warrant the change (and an ugly change if I do say so myself) to the monument? They had no right to put the ring on the monument. They could have expressed their view by building another monument, or constructing a sign outside the monument that expressed their discontent with what the monument stands for. All of these viable options were disregarded simply because Fascism is outdated.
The historical significance of the Monumento alla Vittoria was smeared, degraded, and vandalized by modern society because its message didn’t coincide with the current views society values. What this is then, is trying to rewrite history. By changing and destroying monuments we consider “bad”, we are literally taking away the physical manifestation of history in exchange for a view that better suits modern society. There are other ways to voice discontent for a certain view or ideology without censoring it or destroying it. Thus, in response to Lewis Mumford, I think that our cities are becoming tombstones because we destroy old monuments. The views they harbor are killed, and replaced with ones we agree with.