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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Islam, the State, the cult of Gay and Queer, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, 'Science', Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion....a nice variety for the human-hater, amoral, anti-rationalist to choose from.  It is so much fun mocking them isn't it ?

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Book Review: Paul Johnson's 'Churchill'.

168 pages. Viking Press, 2009. Johnson at his lucid best.

by StFerdIII




Paul Johnson is a former Thatcher speech writer, and professional historian and word-smither. He has written works of magnificence on everything from ancient Egypt, America, Jews and Christians, to works on 'heroic historical figures', including this recent book on Churchill. Whether you are a Churchill 'novice' or well acquainted with the most important Briton in history, Johnson's book is a necessary read. He lays out the career, the failures, the successes and most importantly – the lessons – from the great man's career as the enclosed list highlights.

I have taken what I deemed to be some of Johnson's more interesting and lesser known appraisals of Churchill and listed them below. This is what might be claimed to be unique facts or insights. It is thus not a list of Churchill's career but some interesting facets thereof. All are correct, historically validated and yet many would be either news or a reaffirmation of facts once forgotten for even the most ardent of Churchilliana buffs. Many more could of course be added from Johnson's work, but one gets the idea from the items below:

Lessons for life:

“Churchill wasted an extraordinarily small amount of his time and emotional energy on the meanness of life: recrimination, shifting the blame onto others, malice, revenge seeking, dirty tricks, spreading rumours, harboring grudges, waging vendettas.” [p. 164]

“...Churchill never allowed mistakes, disaster – personal or national – accidents, illnesses, unpopularity, and criticism to get him down.” [p. 164]

Written word output:

“I calculate his total of words in print, including published speeches, to be between 8 and 10 million. There can have been few boys who made such profitable use of something learned at school. In that sense, Winston's education, contrary to the traditional view, was a notable success.” [p. 11]

Party politics:

“He was not a party man. That was the truth. His loyalty belonged to the national interest, and his own. At one time or another he stood for Parliament under six labels: Conservative, Liberal, Coalition, Constitutionalist, Unionist, and National Conservative.... at last he got a safe seat he could hold in all seasons, Epping in Essex...which he retained for thirty-five years...” [p. 23]

Inspirational leadership:

“So the first true victory Britain won in the war was the victory of oratory and symbolism. Churchill was responsible for both.” [p. 117]

On war:

“Churchill was never a warmonger as his enemies claimed. On the contrary: he warned against it just as urgently as he warned against unpreparedness for it – the two were indivisible. But Churchill was sufficient of a realist to grasp that wars will come, and that a victorious one, however dreadful, is preferable to a lost one.” [p. 21]

His favorite era:

“..Churchill later admitted that he relished the years before the First World War more than any other period of his career......In fact it was an age of turbulence, and that is one reason Churchill enjoyed it so much.” [p. 34]

The 1910-1913 Liberal-welfare state reforms:

“Churchill's reforms were not his work alone. For the first time he demonstrated his wonderful ability to galvanize civil servants into furious activity and dramatic innovations, and his equal skill in bringing to Whitehall brilliant outsiders....” [p. 29]

Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty in World War One:

“The senior admirals regarded Churchill with horror, Junior officers, petty officers, and ratings saw him as a hero, especially after he improved pay and conditions....He looked into everything and everyone. He often worked 18 hours a day, and absorbed the new technology of naval warfare with impressive speed....He began the historic switch from coal to oil, and in the process laid down a new class, the Queen Elizabeth, of huge, oil-burning ships. He created the naval air service, and begged his ship architects to design him aircraft carriers.....and ..into the oil industry by investing in Persia and creating the great Anglo-Persian oil company [now BP].” [p. 38]

The failed Dardanelles operation of 1915:

“If Asquith had then appointed Churchill supremo of the operation (and told him to replace Fisher), the campaign might still have succeeded. But he did no such thing. He was already thinking of forming a coalition with the Tories and knew they would require Churchill's departure from the Admiralty as part of the price.” [p. 53]

Minister of Munitions in 1917 and his direct impact on ending the war:

“This was a brilliant move, [PM George appointing Churchill to run the Munitions Ministry in 1917], and Churchill rapidly made himself one of the most efficient departmental ministers in British history....In a short time of fanatical hard work Churchill made it simple, logical, and efficient.....the vast quantities of heavy artillery, mobile cannon, and machine guns Churchill sent played a notable part in the slaughter inflicted on the German divisions, which attacked in March 1918....The German army began to bleed to death – the prime cause of their plea for an armistice in November 1918.” [p. 58]

Israel:

“...when in 1922 the House of Commons showed signs of turning against the whole idea [of a Jewish national home], he made one of his greatest speeches, which swung MPs round into giving Jews their chance. Without Churchill it is very likely Israel would never have come into existence... It is not given to many men to found, or help preserve, one new state: his score was three (Iraq, Jordan, Israel).” [p. 63]

Churchill's poor tenure as Chancellor in the mid 1920s:

“Churchill's tenure of the exchequer had more serious consequences in a field where he might have been expected to be more sensible: defense. Here he changed his persona completely......taken a lead in the government's adoption of the Ten Year Rule, an official assumption there would be no major war in the next ten years....It meant Britain emerged from the twenties seriously underarmed for a world power.” [p. 81]

Churchill's Far East folly:

“Churchill's blindness to the power and intentions of the Japanese [during the 1920s and 30s] extended to the vulnerability of the new base being built at Singapore....it must be admitted he was a prime author of the British debacle in the Far East in 1941-42.” [p. 82]

Churchill the uninformed stock investory:

“....(his broker) had been investing his funds 'on margin' (something Churchill did not understand), so he not only lost all his money but had to buy himself out of the mess....Instead he redoubled his writing output, negotiating fresh contracts and lecture tours. He earnings rose to over 40.000 pounds, an immense income in those years.” [p. 85]

Mein Kampf:

“Churchill had read Mein Kampf and believed it represented Hitler's plain intentions. So did Hitler.” [p. 91]

Aid to Greece in 1941:

“By coming to the aid of Italy in Greece, Hitler was forced to postpone the invasion till the second half of June 1941, which in practice made it impossible for him to take Moscow and Leningrad before the winter set in....Moreover, his attack on Crete with his prize paratrooper forces proved so costly that he banned their use in the Russian campaign, a serious handicap as it turned out.” [p. 121]

Genetics:

“How much Winston inherited from his father, good or bad, is a matter of opinion. Mine is: not much. Indeed there was little of the Churchills in him. They were, on the whole, an unremarkable lot.” [p. 6]

Personal finances:

“Income should be expanded to meet expenditure.” [p. 26]

His drinking:

“Despite this, his liver, inspected after his death, was found to be as perfect as a young child's. Churchill was capable of tremendous physical and intellectual efforts, of high intensity over long periods, often with little sleep.” [p. 5]

His historical importance:

“No man did more to preserve freedom and democracy and the values we hold dear in the West. None provided more public entertainment with his dramatic ups and downs, his noble oratory, his powerful writings and sayings, his flashes of rage, and his sunbeams of wit. He took a prominent place on the public stage of his country and the world for over sixty years, and it seemed empty with his departure.” [p. 3]

This book is a gem in the library of Churchilliana. Johnson is a realist, a man proud of Western and English history, an erudite scholar who wades through an ocean of material and encapsulates in a few words what academics take a volume to tell. Any and all books by Paul Johnson stimulate the mind and inform the brain. One can't ask for more than that of any writer.

 


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