Churchill > Obama

2009 March 2

So I’ve been reading Winston Churchill’s The Second World War, and it fucking owns. For anyone fascinated by World War II — and who isn’t? — I highly recommend dedicating a significant amount of your life to reading this massive tome. Maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, since I’ve actually only read the first book (about half) of the first volume of a six-volume work, but not one minute of it has been tedious or boring. Churchill’s prose is damned impressive, and the personal light he is able to shine on the events leading to the breakout of the war is enthralling and at the same time immensely depressing. The amount of times the Allies blew chances to force Hitler to hesitate if only for a moment is disheartening even today.

But this obviously is not what this post is about, as the title above should imply, it is about how Churchill’s eloquence was on a plane of awesomeness not often seen — or perhaps more accurately, heard — in this world. I just wanted to post an example here, in reaction to the aftermath of Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler at Munich in 1938:

All is over. Silent, mournful, abandoned, broken, Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness. She has suffered in every respect by her associations with France, under whose guidance and policy she has actuated for so long…

I do not grudge our loyal, brave people, who were ready to do their duty no matter what the cost, who never flinched under the strain of last week, the natural, spontaneous outburst of joy and relief when they learned that the hard ordeal would no longer be required of them at the moment; but they should know the truth. They should know that there has been gross neglect and deficiency in our defences; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road; they should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.” And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless, by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.

That is bloody brilliant. And I’m sure it seemed even more grand in a British accent.

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  • Justin

    yo dude, Im reading The Dialect of Enlightenment by Adorno and Horkheimer. Its an ethics book, and deals with how the enlightened world came to allow Nazi Germany to be, and even makes the claim that fascism was the logical dark end of western enlightenment. Its kind of a bitch how its worded (translated out of German) but some of the stuff it deals with, specifically concerning mass deception is really interesting, and surprisingly relevant. You seem busy with The Second World War, but if you feel like some difficult but extremely interesting reading, I very much recommend.

  • CajoleJuice

    Doesn’t sound too high on Western civilization, although sometimes I feel the same way. I’ll keep it in mind, but I really shouldn’t be reading anything other than actuarial study guides for the next two months.

  • Lila

    I’ll read you the passage in a British accent if you want :P

    But yeah Churchill’s prose is amazing and I really want to read the books, this excerpt has made me all the more excited to do so!