Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pride and Prejudice

I’ve been depressed of late and have come to the conclusion that it stems from reading the London newspapers. Surely there must be something cheerful to report from that formerly sceptred isle, set in a silver sea?

Pride, they say, comes before a fall and it does seem that national pride has become subservient to prejudice, perhaps to be followed by a fall, as the Romans found out to their cost.

It’s a well known fact that the British have long regarded their self-denigration as a rather loveable characteristic of their race, but now the self-criticism, formerly a subject for jokes, has become rather more serious.

National pride is at its lowest ever ebb – and pride stems from leadership. This was brought home to me as I was reading an excellent book entitled ‘Blitz’ by M.J. Gaskin. The title is a bit misleading for the story deals with one night in the Luftwaffe blitz upon London, that of the heaviest and most damaging raid of Sunday, the 29th. December 1940. Rather as people can remember where they were when JFK was assassinated, I know exactly where I was on that winter’s evening. I was sheltering under the porch of our house to the east of London, watching the holocaust and occasionally taking cover when it came uncomfortably close.

Mr. Gaskin’s book is admirable in that he not only recounts the details of that night but expands it to include large chunks of the history that are so often neglected by lesser historians. But most importantly, he manages to convey the atmosphere of pride, that often repressed emotion, that Londoners felt by being subjected to their ordeal.

And much of their pride stemmed from their belief in the leadership of one man. A difficult, opinionated, magnificently flawed writer and politician who had been pitch forked into leadership after his warnings had been discounted for so many years but who was now there, leading from the front.

It was a people’s war, not a politicians. And it could be summed up by an incident quoted in the book.

The police are remonstrating with a couple of East End ragamuffins, telling them to take cover. “It’s not your bloody war,” shouts one of them, refusing to go.

A leader depends for support, not so much on the decisions he makes, Churchill made some epic blunders, but on the probity of his actions.

Comparisons are odious, but particularly odious would be the comparison between the present incumbents in government office in the UK and some previous administrations. Make that any previous administration.

When Churchill sent men off to fight for his and their country (in those days, ownership of the country was shared between politician and people), he did so knowing full well the hazards, having taken part in the last cavalry charge in British history.

His successor, Clement Attlee, once described rather unfairly by Churchill as ‘a sheep in sheep’s clothing’ had not only seen action during the war but had been wounded for his pains.

And, until the present group of mafia took over, few would have doubted the integrity of any government of any party.

Now, it seems, we cannot be too sure. Politicians are, by nature, a slippery bunch but not often have they turned out to be so self-interested and blatantly deceitful.

And it’s this lack of moral compass that leads to crime and such unedifying spectacles as that of the looters on Branscombe Beach. If government can do it, why not the people?

But I have the cure for my depression. I’m going to read for the umpteenth time, ‘Three Men in a Boat,’ Jerome K. Jerome’s wonderful saga of a trip up the Thames written in 1888 and as fresh now as it was the day the ink was still wet.

As Churchill once said to his staff at a low ebb during the war when he had been savagely attacked by Clement Attlee over some matter, “Well, let’s cast care aside and not bother about Atler or Hitlee, ” before going off to watch a movie.

I suggest you forget A. Blair and Co. and read ‘Three Men in a Boat.’

For my part, I think I’ll stop reading the papers.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Mic hael said...

becoming one of the most ??sort?? after locations in Europe, both for business and for residence.

Have you noticed how these ??sought?? of errors creep in when you are typing and yet not when writing by hand? I do it frequently myself and have always wondered why this happens.

12:27 pm  

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