Thursday, January 09, 2014

1960s version of history

An odd piece on the Today programme this morning about the First World War.

It just repeated the 1960s peacenik view without any attempt to interrogate those views.

Of course all war is to be regretted.  Of course the loss of millions of young lives is a matter of great seriousness.  Of course political leaders must be held accountable for the decisions they take, including where necessary trial for war crimes (I'm thinking of Tony Blair and his Labour colleagues).

But it is intellectually bogus to extrapolate from those general ideas and say that the First World War was a pointless conflict, that the people who died were mere dupes and drones, that the British victory in that conflict was not a magnificent achievement worthy of commemoration and indeed celebration.

We need to recognise that in the 1960s there was a cultural coup that effectively hi-jacked interpretation of the Great War and propagated the now all too familiar view that it was an imperialist war that exploited the working classes.  This 1960s version of history was a product of its time and needs to be junked.  It had nothing to do with the serious examination of history but was a leftist peacenik subversion that interpreted "peace" as supine passivity to the ideological expansionism of the Soviet Union and saw the whole of history as the inevitable progress of humanity towards communism (an idea all the more laughable now that communism has utterly failed and is dead and gone).

And can the media please stop quoting Harry Patch as some kind of distillation of the armed forces who served in the First World War.  Old codgers at the end of their lives are not the most reliable witnesses of what happened eighty years previously.  And in any case, he was just one person among many millions.

It is offensive in the extreme for descendants of people who died in the Great War to hear Harry Patch saying the deaths were "not worth it".  Not worth it compared to what?  When you think of the bovine lives that most of us (including myself) live, can we really say that our existence is so superior to those who died in that conflict? 

Compared to the idealism, courage, and self-sacrifice those young people displayed, are we really saying that the mindless consumerism, cynicism, and over-indulgence of life in 2014 is "worth" more? 

And in any case, do we not owe everything we now enjoy to the victory achieved in 1918?

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