Saturday, 25 November 2006


I was a child in the 1930s, and grew up during WW2. I remember Munich in the autumn of 1938. Even though the crowds cheered Neville Chamberlain waving his piece of paper and announcing “peace in our time”, most people realised that war was unavoidably looming. For too long, many adhered to the ostrich position and maintained, with the “Daily Express”, that there would be no war in Europe. But my family were not among them.

Not all the appeasers were fools or cowards. The older generation had been exhausted by WW1, and the younger – my parents and their contemporaries – had lost many relatives and friends in the senseless carnage of the Western Front. Nobody in Britain WANTED a war. But well-intentioned gestures like the pacifist Peace Pledge were futile – as my wise grandmother said, you don’t leave your front door unlocked when you know there are burglars prowling around.

What I remember most vividly was the growing sense of storm clouds gathering which would very soon make it impossible for anyone to go on living their lives as they wanted to. It was very disturbing for a little boy whose family had quite enough troubles already without a war. The right-wing blimps who thought that Hitler wasn’t such a bad chap really – he was just instilling some badly-needed discipline, but sometimes went a bit too far – and the deluded lefties who toed the Comintern line and continued to vociferously oppose the “imperialist capitalist war” right up until Hitler invaded Russia in 1941 were all hopelessly muddle-headed. Whatever one’s retrospective view of Winston Churchill, it was he and his small band of supporters who got the truer picture.

So, having lived through that, is it surprising that I have a dreary sense of déja vu in these post-9/11 years? In some respects, the mistakes of the West’s leaders have been even worse and more crass. Instead of bending every effort to swiftly capture Al Quaeda’s leadership and put them on trial before an international court, the Bush Administration, with Tony Blair trotting poodle-like behind, fell right into the elephant pit which had been dug for them, and launched the absurd “war on terror” which looks like going on for ever and getting nowhere fast. With their extraordinary doctrine of “pre-emptive intervention” in failed states where they perceive a democratic deficit, they remind me uncomfortably of that other unsavoury duo, Hitler and Mussolini, rampaging around Europe and Africa in the 1930s and ‘40s.

The Pandora’s Box of Muslim hostility which they have opened by their crass invasion of Iraq will take many years to close, if it ever does. The curbs on our traditional civil liberties since 2001 are the worst since the Tory repression after the Napoleonic Wars. And while in no way wishing to “demonise” Islam, I find it very hard to see how it is going to be possible to lessen the current active hostility of Islamic extremists, and the passive resentment of even more peaceably inclined Muslims, towards our traditional way of life and adherence to a degree of free speech and behaviour which is antipathetic to them.

What I am seeking – I hope not in vain – are constructive ideas as to how we are going to get ourselves out of this mess. No “Yah, Boo, it’s all the other lot’s fault”, please!


zola said...

Not in vain Anticant. Hope shows through all the time. As Ivan illich once said more hope and less expectation. You shine a light on that one.

anticant said...

Those are comforting words, Zola. And many thanks for nudging me to dig my burrow. Looks quite pretty, doesn't it? I think I am going to have a lot of fun furnishing it.

Re your other comment, dunno about Wikipedia.

zola said...

Antiquekant ( SuzyQ calls you that and i thought it fun - which this lark must be sometimes)
I doubt that you needed much nudging.

By the way i am labelled as a semi-invlaid now ( and semi-retired ) but still work to pay those bills. My pension does not go that far.

But i want to work. I need to work.
Wikipedia? No matter.