Saturday, 26 March 2011

Winston Churchill

There's a rather wonderful program on Radio 4 (the radio channel I usually complain about the most :)) called "Churchill's other lives", showing the different enthusiasms of Churchill's life: Painting, Films, Horses (?), Money etcetc.

We all know about his role as a war leader. He was unapologetically proud of Britain's imperial history and (I imagine) must have believed in the rightness of our culture, as he saw it. Not a good start for UK lefty-liberals in 2011, whose creed starts with the wrongness of Empire and seems to proceed all the way to saying that the English are therefore more evil than anyone else. 

I'll write separately on that, except to point out firstly that people can persuade themselves of the moral virtues of anything (look at Empire-builders or lefty liberals), but also something that seems to stand out about the man. His humanity.

For all his naivety and Conservatism, he had more than his fair share of personal courage, believing himself destined by fate for great things. He seemed assured that bullets (in the hail of battle) were unlikely to bring him such a prosaic death before he had done his life's work. The lucky chance that kept him alive must have strengthened his self-belief all the more in this regard. I think this sense of destiny - and the vision he had of a "Great" Britain, must have been at the core of him (he doesn't seem to have been deeply religious)

I've heard criticisms, & negative views. These generally came from various lefty friends who wanted to denigrate him for reasons of their own political alignment, and have always been rather petty. I don't think I've yet heard anything about him that fundamentally soured my opinion of the man. I don't share his world view, but I still think that as a national hero (for the second half of the last century) he wasn't at all a bad choice.

Stories are very important to us. They are nearly always oversimplified (and sometimes purely fantastic or fictitious) versions of events. As historical scholarship perhaps they will not do. So if that discipline were done properly it might kill heroes and myths forever. But the power of stories to motivate people, the power of myth to give people belief, can't be forgotten. Exactly that belief is what makes us capable of amazing things.

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