Den store mand og tiden

Diverse — Drokles on February 13, 2018 at 5:36 am

Jeg synes (endelig, efter mere end 12 år, indleder jeg en blog med den formulering) at kunne se en tendens til, at store personligheder, bliver mindsket i tidens film og serier. Denne eller hin store kunstner var faktisk en simpel narkoman, havde bøvl i privaten eller spøjse vaner. En hvilken som helst film eller serie om Dronning Elisabeth den første - måske med undtagelse af Shekar Kapurs Elisabeth fra 1998, der mere retteligt burde have heddet Lord Walsingham Renser Ud - fokuserer på hendes frustrerede kærlighedsforhold til Leicester Citys træner, i stedet for at betone det singulært mest interessante ved hendes liv, nemlig at hun rejste en nation i knæ og sendte den på vej til at erobre Verden. Og Hello Josephine.

Den seneste film om gode gamle Winston Churchill, Darkest Hour fokuserer på de dramatiske dage fra Chamberlain træder tilbage til Churchill holder sin berømte ‘Vi skal kæmpe allehånde steder og vi skal aldrig overgive os!’ tale. I filmen kommer Churchill i tvivl, svajende mellem, hvad der er let og hvad der er rigtigt, er det kongen og hans kone, der holder sammen på ham. Filmen udtrykker denne tvivl i en scene, hvor den vægelsindede Churchill tager metroen til parlamentet for at holde sin ‘vi skal kæmpe’ tale. Her taler han med almindelige pendlere, der viser sig at være ganske patriotiske og ivrige efter at give Hitler en dragt prygl. Flere af deres udsagn, bliver til Churchills berømte ord. Sådan skal vi tro gårsdagens pendlere tænkte og talte. Sådan skal vi tro Churchill var. Og sådan skal vi forstå historiens gang.

Problemet med den scene er ikke så meget at den er fri fantasi - en film har en hvis varighed og poesi er i stand til at fortælle sandheden. Problemet er at den lyver. Churchill var ikke i tvivl om nødvendigheden, selvom han kunne tvivle på sejren. Og denne distinktion er vigtig for, hvad der lå bag hans enestående handlekraft. Ved at lade Churchill og hans taler være et ekko af folket bliver Churchill til en populist, der rider på bølge af folkelig kampgejst.

Kunstnerisk kan man sagtens eksternalisere en persons indre konflikter og det er en god ide samtidig at vise Churchill, som en folkets mand. Og publikums følelser kan engageres gennem emotionelle virkemidler, som i Apollo 13, hvor det er et langt drama, både i den uheldige rumkapsel, hvor stemningen mellem astronauterne er på kogepunktet og i Houston, hvor teknikkerne hektisk improviserer løsninger, der kan rense luften for CO2 og klemme et par ekstra minutter ud af de flade batterier.

Men selv om den mission i sandhed var et regulært drama, hvor alt hvilede på en knivsæg, så var der ingen konflikter, ingen panik og ingen improviserede løsninger. Det VAR mænd af den rette støbning, som gik til opgaven med rettidig omhu. Alle eventualiteter var der tænkt på og lavet procedurer over og alle var koncentrerede, professionelle - og bemærkelsesværdigt rolige. Og her er det grangiveligt svært at skildre et stort drama, gennem stoisk rolige professionelle, hvis fremtoning, stemmeføring og handling indgyder tillid og sikkerhed - for kan man tro på det, når man selv ved hvor let man bliver bange? Så filmen drejer på nogle faktuelle knapper, for at få dramaet i den rette emotionelle proportion og vi er stadig benovede over, hvor godt vores, endda virkelige, helte klarede skærene.

I et storpolitisk drama, hvor vi allerede ved at det ender med den anden Verdenskrig, er der rigeligt af konflikt og masser af patos i Churchills ord til at holde publikum på kanten af sædet. Så det er uforståeligt at man vælger at spænde vognen for hesten og lader folket føre Churchill. Churchill red ikke på en bølge. Modstanden mod krig i hans regering og i Parlamentet afspejlede ganske godt, den generelle stemning, en forhandlingsløsning er gerne at foretrække. Demokrati er kompromisets kunst, civiliserede mennesker finder en løsning i mindelighed. Men de tøver også med at indse, når bedrageren står foran dem.

I 1940 var folket ikke ivrige efter krig, det er de sjældent. De ved godt, hvad krig koster, hvem der skal kæmpe den og hvad man kan miste - de havde 20 år forinden ofret en generation i skyttegravene. Sejrherrerne vil ikke have revanche, de vil have ‘aldrig mere krig’, som nogle håbede ville blive resultatet af blodsudgydelserne. Folk holder af hverdagen. Det er derfor det er så heroisk, når de endelig sætter i bevægelse, fordi de indser nødvendigheden ikke kan forhandles.

Og Churchill tvivlede ikke på nødvendigheden. “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it now!!!” formanede han i slutningen af 30erne sin regering “Hitler constitutes the greatest danger for the British Empire!”, som Klaus Wiegrefe skriver i Spiegel. Og “[a] furious Hitler publicly berated Churchill as a “warmonger”". Churchill havde læst tilstrækkeligt Mein Kampf til at han i 1939 kunne skrive at “the Third Reich represented an unprecedented “cult of malignancy”".

Darkest Hour menerat kunne påvise en tvivl i mødereferaterne fra den engelske regerings krisemøder i maj 1940, der endte med at England erklærede Tyskland krig, mens flåden desperat forsøgte at få resterne af de engelske ekspeditionsstyrker hjem fra Dunkirk. Og det er rigtigt at møderne, der forløb over flere dage, registrerer skiftende og modstridende udsagn fra Churchill. Men det er forkert at læse en politisk forhandling, hvor Churchill søgte at få et konsensus bag sin strategi, som en tvivl - det kaldes forhandling og overtalelse - og “[t]he Duke of Marlborough’s descendant was on his own”. History Extra skriver

The ensuing discussion at the meeting would finally pitch Halifax and those who supported him – a large proportion of the ruling Conservative Party – full force against one of their own: Churchill, whose stubborn will to fight on alone seemed, to Halifax, impervious to reason and hard evidence and against the country’s best interests.

Når Churchill tilsyneladende indrømmede at en forhandlingsløsning, med Musollini som forhandlingsleder, var det med betingelsen, hvis det kunne lade sig gøre. Det kunne det selvsagt ikke, men man skal have sin opposition derud, hvor de selv indser, at de tager fejl, hvis man skal have dem med i ens konsensus.

The War Cabinet convened again the following day, 28 May, to once more discuss the issue of Italy. Lord Halifax spoke first: “We should give a clear indication that we should like to see mediation by Italy.” But Churchill said he felt it was “clear that the French purpose was to see Signor Mussolini acting as intermediary between ourselves and Herr Hitler” and that “he was determined not to get into this position”. Halifax – surely thinking ‘here we go again!’ at yet another row-back from Churchill – disagreed strongly with this suggestion. Churchill continued, stating that he believed “the French were trying to get us on to the slippery slope… The position would be entirely different when Germany had made an unsuccessful attempt to invade this country.”

Was Churchill, having agreed to consider a peace deal, now adding a new caveat that it should be pursued only after a failed German attempt to invade Britain?

The idea that Britain, without an army (as it now looked), was equipped to repel a German invasion (which looked likely) was a notion that Halifax did not even want his name linked to.

The argument continued, with Churchill adding that: “Signor Mussolini, if he came in as mediator, would take his whack out of us. It was impossible to imagine that Herr Hitler would be so foolish as to let us continue our re-armament. In effect, his terms would put us completely at his mercy. We should get no worse terms if we went on fighting, even if we were beaten, than were open to us now.”

Halifax was understandably infuriated. He could not fathom what Churchill felt was “so wrong” in the proposed idea of mediation. Chamberlain, sensing this frustration, came in on Halifax’s side, saying: “It was clear to the world that we were in a tight corner, and [I] did not see what we should lose if we said openly that, while we would fight to the end to preserve our independence, we were ready to consider decent terms if such were offered to us.”

Faced with losing Chamberlain’s support to Halifax, Churchill returned to his rhetorical roots and stated: “[T]he nations which went down fighting rose again, but those which surrendered tamely were finished.”

Churchills rationaler er en afvisning af enhver tanke om kompromis. At forhandle om sin egen undergang er værre end end at møde den i kamp, for når man kæmper har man muligheden for at vinde. Churchill havde netop skrevet en biografi om Marlborough - der aldrig havde deltaget i et slag han ikke vandt - han vidste at Halifax og Chamberlain var til fals for slesk tale og billig portvin. De skulle forarbejdes indtil deres tilhængere kunne se at de var på det gale spor

What to tell his peers, then? Should he listen to them or instruct them? And how much persuasion to apply when the price his listeners might pay, if persuaded, is their own blood?

It is not certain that Churchill knew full well what he would tell them. But as he walked he began to form an idea. He must reveal that a peace deal with Hitler has its advocates and has indeed been under consideration. It was even possible that Hitler was behind the Italians’ overtures, sending out a subtle signal of readiness to talk. Out of all this, he must discern the mood of his ministers, before publicly disclosing his own.

“I have thought carefully in these last days whether it was part of my duty to consider entering into negotiations with That Man [Hitler]. But it was idle to think that, if we tried to make peace now, we should get better terms from Germany than if we went on and fought it out. The Germans would demand our fleet – that would be called ‘disarmament’ – our naval bases, and much else. We should become a slave state, though a British Government which would be Hitler’s puppet would be set up – ‘under Mosley [Sir Oswald Mosley, British fascist] or some such person’. And where should we be at the end of all that? On the other side, we had immense reserves and advantages. And I am convinced that every one of you would rise up and tear me down from my place if I were for one moment to contemplate parley or surrender. Therefore, he said, ‘We shall go on and we shall fight it out, here or elsewhere, and if this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.”

When on the brink of defeat, Churchill – speaking from the heart – summoned all the skills in his arsenal and produced a masterful display of rhetoric, one that we must assume took its shape in the orator’s head in the fleeting moments before expression, too late to edit it.

What it meant was this. He had decided. Decided no longer to sit on the fence. Decided to pre-emptively quash any campaign of support Halifax might be attempting for his ‘European Settlement’. Decided to risk the Foreign Secretary’s resignation, and with it a no confidence vote against himself. Decided, on balance, that it was better – despite all the valid and powerful and moral arguments against – to fight on, returning to his original position, but now with a full sense of the poor odds, the dangers, the costs, possible sacrifices that lay ahead. His countrymen and countrywomen must risk death; be ready to choke in their own blood.

“Churchill had outflanked his opponents” konkluderes der. Churchill var en stor retoriker, men retorik var et redskab til at nå et mål og ikke blot tomme fraser fra højstemte pendlere.

“Resolution personified, Winston Churchill” siger Dave Davis i en samtale på NPR med Candice Millard om hendes bog Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill. Millard fortæller at Churchill “wanted to be in the most difficult, most dangerous battles he could find”. I kamp med pashtunske krigere, der slagtede løs på hans enhed, red Churchill rundt på en hvid pony, der var købt ind, for at fremhæve ham selv på slagmarken, overbevist om sin egen udødelighed. “I do not believe the gods would create so potent a being as myself for so prosaic an ending” citerer Millard ham for at skrive hjem til sin mor. Som journalist under Boerkrigen i 1899, var han ombord på et tog med britiske forstærkninger til fronten, da det blev afsporet og briterne faldt i et baghold

And the first two cars are thrown off the tracks. Several men are killed and horribly wounded. The man right next to Churchill has his arm blown off.

And then they’re stopped and they’re surrounded by just this hailstorm of shells and bullets. Winston Churchill, 24 years old, one of the few civilians on the train, takes over the defense of this train. He immediately jumps out, running back and forth, shouting orders to people, and even more extraordinary, they listen to him. You know, this is a train full of uniformed soldiers who have their commander, his friend, Aylmer Haldane, right there. And even Haldane listens to Churchill and says, absolutely, that’s the way to go. And every man who makes it out alive credits Churchill’s resourcefulness and bravery for saving their lives.

DAVIES: Right. And of course, this involved trying to decouple what’s the movable part of the train from the cars that have been blown off the track…

MILLARD: (Laughter) That’s right.

DAVIES: …Trying to get the engineer to maneuver it into place and move the derailed cars out of the way so that what’s left of the train can escape all while, you, know gunfire is raining down. And he’s moving about in the open, taking charge. It was really quite a moment.

MILLARD: It’s his instinct to take charge. Everybody else sees that. They see his confidence. They see his courage. And it happens in a heartbeat, and it works.

Tidens forhold til store mænd afspejles i den forrykte forskrækkelse for alting Trump. Ja, han skulle nævnes igen - men i det mindste halder det ikke om klimaet. Endnu.
Se hellere Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years med Siegfrid Farnon fra 1981 episode 1, 2, 3,
4, 5 (herunder), 6, 7 og 8

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