There is a programme sometimes broadcast on the BBC fronted by a man called Michael Palin, which explores the world through his tolerant, engaged and curious eyes. He meets with every kind of man and women regardless of colour, orientation, creed and location and celebrates their unique way of articulating what it is to be human. It is a beautiful, engaging and involving picture of mankind on the planet and he sees the world as I like to see it. It is not always so.
Adolf Hitler stands in that small group of people most consider without redeeming features. Somehow this wild and evocative orator gave a section of his society a sense of vision and purpose, at a time when his country was struggling in horrific social quicksand. His sickening eloquence gave enough people a sense of purpose and “Hope,” it seems, was more important than the details of his innate vulgarity and thuggish agenda. The “civilised” looked on in mild confusion, unsure what polite people did under these circumstances. However diseased his premise, his vision mined a rich seam of alienation among social exiles and the newly minted destitute, He harnessed their frustrations like no one else.How could that happen ?
As Tennyson wrote so lyrically
“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
To a defeated nation, mired in depression and weighed down by the sanctions imposed on it by the victorious allies, his driven, purposeful voice seemed like a beacon of hope and purpose. Those in power or the “Inner circle” thought they could harness and handle ” this vulgar corporal.” They were wrong.
You and I are far too sensible, individually and collectively, to repeat such mistakes are we not. Sadly that has always been true and always been false. Man repeats mistakes and rises from the ashes to repeat them once again like waves pounding on some indifferent shore we call our future.
In the Middle East, there are waves of violence and terror spreading across the region, the result, in part, of the complacent solutions placed on it by the Western World with that sanctimonious sense of knowing “the greater truth” that so many other regions find insufferable. Once again, in horrific tones, fanatical zealots are preaching a mixture of hatred and religious and racial cleansing with an energy which is sucking disillusioned youths living marginal or questioned lives in Western cities, to leave their homes and families and join this new crusade to “cleanse the world of the unpurified” whatever that means to succeeding generations.: to harness their previously undiscovered anger and resentment to a “Holy War”
Once more, as “well-bought up people” wring their hands and try to find a “meaningful dialogue” with these uncouth being from another culture, the hatred and sense of vindication and release felt by these young men and women, again horrifically expressed makes itself felt.
Now some young man from London, possessed by fearsome visions of a different religious and social order slits the throat of that brave and admirable journalist who risked everything to tell the truth and stayed to pay the cost. In Gaza and the Western Bank the rights of one peoples are thought to be secondary to another and where, “Not compromising and giving ground to these inhuman monsters” is the thought on both sides of the negotiating table. We wonder where and how it can all end.
It is only after the volcano has finished its eruption that we can move in and start to repair the damage. It is only after the violence stemming from deep frustrations, hatred and bigotry has exhausted itself, that quieter and more healing souls can move in and exercise their compassion.
Some politicians have called for “calm with calm” but “Calm” will never be the long-term bedfellow of injustice. How I long for some figure like Ghandi to rise up out of the masses and, refusing to react to constant provocations, make the moral case for change and solution without violence, but with increasing volume, until even the most inflamed and hate-filled soul is shamed into looking for a better more forgiving way . Without the presence of his kind, and selfless shaming vision he bought to bear on British India, we are in the grip of smaller strategic minds whose “final solutions” allow for nothing but the destruction of those who oppose them.
“All I have is a voice” said W. H, Auden on the eve of the Second World War, before adding sadly, “There is no such thing as the State and no one exists alone; Hunger allows no choice to the citizen or the police; We must love one another or die.” Millions were to die before mankind remembered the message so many have once more forgotten.