This article is part of a special on psychological bullying with particular focus on political-religious supremacism. Previous article – Spin Doctor: The Blood Of Dictators
Winston Churchill gave some glorious speeches in his career. This is not one of them. It is average, by his standards…
But it is prescient. Delivered in November, 1934, it pinpointed the threat posed by Nazi Germany, forewarning everyone of the ills facing Britain should they pretend there was nothing to worry about.
Lately, Winston Churchill’s speeches are popular among the BNP (British National Party), the EDL (English Defence League), and other far-right wing nutters and racist thugs looking for ways to validate their hatred toward foreigners, minorities, or whoever irks them..
I will address the idiocy of the nationalist, racist front, which thrives on mindlessly exploiting speeches like these for its own purposes, in a coming article (Spin Doctor: The Threat Of Thuggery).
For now, let me use the speech to make my own case. Because there is a case to be made, like it or not. Let the bigots not scare us away from these gems, which have much to offer when referred to with reason, logic, and critical thinking (instead of hatred).
So, what am I talking about? Something to do with WWII? No. I’m simply going to make a point on something I find truly threatening, like Churchill once did. His speech, with all its timeless eloquence, and with a few select modifications, brings it to light.
What is this thing that troubles me so, you ask, urging me to resort to a Churchill speech to point it out?
Let’s play a game and find out. A paraphrasing of the speech follows…
Note: I’ve changed a few words to adjust for the new facts and circumstances, which should make the analogies more fitting to today’s circumstances. The changes are marked in bold font. The question is, is this a ham-fisted attempt to twist new meaning into an old address? Or does the message bear reason?
Many people think that the best way to escape war is to dwell upon its horrors and to imprint them vividly upon the minds of the younger generation. They flaunt the grisly photograph before their eyes. They fill their ears with tales of carnage. They dilate upon the ineptitude of generals and admirals. They denounce the crime as insensate folly of human strife. Now, all this teaching ought to be very useful in preventing us from attacking or invading any other country, if anyone outside a madhouse wished to do so, but how would it help us if we were attacked or abused ourselves. That is the question we have to ask.
Would the belligerents consent to hear Lord Beaverbrook’s exposition, or listen to the impassioned appeals of Mr. Lloyd George? Would they agree to meet that famous South African, General Smuts, and have their inferiority complex removed in friendly, reasonable debate? I doubt it. I have borne responsibility for the safety of open society in grievous times. I gravely doubt it.
But even if they did, I am not so sure we should convince them, and persuade them to go back quietly to their affairs. They might say, it seems to me, “you are rich; we are poor. You seem well fed; we are hungry. You have been victorious; we have been defeated. You have valuable assets; we have none. You have your industry; where is ours? You have had the past; let us have the future.” Above all, I fear they would say, “you are lost and weak and we are faithful and rising.”
After all, my friends, only a few hours away by air there dwell a great number of people, who are being taught from childhood to think of Submission as a glorious exercise and living in the name of God as the noblest fate for man.
There is a religion which has abandoned all its liberties in order to augment its collective strength. There is a creed which, with all its strength and virtue, is in the grip of a group of ruthless men, preaching a gospel of intolerance and racial pride, unrestrained by law, by parliament, or by public opinion. In that country all ’ungodly’ speeches, all critical books and opinions are forbidden or suppressed, and their authors rigorously imprisoned. From their new table of commandments they have omitted “There shall be no compulsion in religion,” and “Say to the disbelievers, ‘To you, your beliefs, to me, mine.’”
It is but half a century since these neighbors of ours rose to claim the future of the world with their radical interpretations of their gospel. Now they are arming with the utmost speed, and ready to their hands is the equally lamentable weapon of suicide attacks on civilian locations, and at arm’s length is the new lamentable weapon of fission, against which our armies are no defence, and before which women and children, the weak and frail, the pacifist and the jingo, the warrior and the civilian, the front line trenches and the cottage home, all lie in equal and impartial peril.
Nay, worse still, for with the new weapon has come a new method, or rather has come back the most brutish method of ancient barbarism, namely, the possibility of compelling the submission of nations, both one’s own and foreign ones, by terrorizing their civil population; and, worst of all, the more civilized the country is, the larger and more splendid its cities, the more intricate the structure of its civil and economic life, the more is it vulnerable and at the mercy of those who may make it their prey.
Now, these are facts, hard, grim, indisputable facts, and in the face of these facts, I ask again, what are we to do?
Does it resonate? Or is it baseless alarmism? Pass swift and reflexive judgment at your own risk.
For a typed transcript of the original speech, click here.