Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Churchill - sometimes scarily prescient.

The tide of history has a nasty habit of turning very subtly. I have recently been reading a book I have long had, but which needed lots of concentration and time to attack (over 1,000 pages) and is a slightly different take on the history of the peoples of the British Isles. Naturally, some aspects discussed are covered by the writings of one of the giants of world leadership, Sir Winston Churchill, and I find it interesting to cross refer to what he said on some aspects of the history covered by Norman Davies in his account, The Isles. There are some surprising agreements between what Churchill suggested would come to pass and what Davies is chronicling. 

So it was a bit of a surprise this morning to receive an email from a friend, one of those in constant circulation, with something from Churchill I have just read about as an 'aside' in the book by Davies.

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries!  Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.  The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.  
A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity.  The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Muslims may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.  No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.  Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.  It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome ..." 
Sir Winston Churchill; (Source: The River War, first edition, Vol II, pages 248-250 London).

Unbelievable, but the speech below was written and delivered by him in 1899 when he was a young soldier and journalist.  It probably sets out the current views of many, but expresses in the wonderful Churchillian turn of phrase and use of the English language, of which he was a past master.  Sir Winston Churchill was, without doubt, one of the greatest men of the late 19th and 20th centuries. 
He was a brave young soldier, a brilliant journalist, an extraordinary politician and statesman, a great war leader and British Prime Minister, to whom the Western world must be forever in his debt. Perhaps most remarkable of all, he was a mediocre scholar at school and at Sandhurst, but his powers of observation, and ability to absorb the essence of cultures, history and complex situations gave him an ability to rise above mere education. In a sense he was a polymath, his interests wide and his knowledge encyclopedic.  He was a prophet in his own time.  He died on 24th January 1965, at the grand old age of 90 and, after a lifetime of service to his country, was accorded a State funeral.  We are unlikely to see his like again.

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