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Readers’ comments: By looking back we honour and learn


In response to Chris McGovern: Remembrance? No, our valiant years are being erased,

PierrePendre wrote:

The main reason the two world wars are airbrushed from the history taught to children is the enforced unification of the mythical European ‘family’. I doubt whether one in a million ever equated their Brexit vote at the referendum with the ‘them and us’ thesis cited by Toynbee.

There is certainly a ‘them and us’ attitude to Europe but it has deeper historical roots even than Polly Toynbee, who must be nudging Methuselah nowadays, and is based on the fact that our cultures, while capable of co-existing constructively, are different in important ways.

There are very inconvenient problems for Europhiles and liberals if the world wars are tucked away and forgotten at the back of history’s sock drawer. If no WW1, no Versailles. If no Versailles, no Nazi party. If no Nazi party, no Hitler. If no Hitler, no WW2 and no Holocaust. And no motive to build ‘Europe’.

Hitler, fascism and the Holocaust are the cornerstone of modern liberalism and its conceptions of evil, but how can this mean anything to children if they are not taught why Germany and its neighbours went to war twice during the 20th century with catastrophic consequences which still afflict us today?

Why, our children might ask, do the modern mainstream parties see the resurrection of Hitler in every political movement to their right? Why is Donald Trump a reincarnation of Hitler and not Stalin who was the other half of two criminal ideologies run amok?

All this Hitlerism without a comprehensive and truthful understanding of the background is as meaningless as the cult of hatred of Goldstein that Orwell depicted in 1984. Hitler lives on because he fulfils a need but he can’t do that as some abstracted bogeyman who accounts for the noises in the attic.

Roy Davey-Jenkins wrote:

‘It’s fine to shake tins for veterans – but surely last year was the time to say goodbye to all that, to look ahead not back’ (Polly Toynbee).

Leaving aside the crass nature of her utterance and the gross, cold indifference and ingratitude that it demonstrates, I want to challenge the ‘either/or’ mentality that she promulgates. Why is it not possible to look back AND ahead? Why does she think that looking back will be a drag on moving forward?

The reality (when did any leftie ever live there!) is totally different. By looking back we honour, by looking back we learn, by looking back we steel ourselves for the future, we draw fresh inspiration to march on.

The Bible says it well of course: ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses’ (those who lived before us) ‘let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us’ (Hebrews 12:1).

The future is greatly helped, not hindered, by considering the past. Those who died can still play a positive role in our lives, but only as we remember them.

Allowing them this continuing role in our hearts is the best way to honour them.

DJM wrote:

Polly Toynbee.

Do any other two words in the English language drip as much condescension and grievous entitlement?

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