Tuesday, 10 July 2012
Protect Our National Heroes
I think of English History as a wood of mixed broadleaf trees, the heroes that tower above the rest of us, the equally necessary undergrowth, brambles, bracken, bluebells and other flowers. Marxist history passed me by; I'm an instinctive Whig viewer of history. Arguably, it's a romantic rose-tinted way of looking, an Our Island Story view with a good dollop of 1066 And All That on top. It's a good way to appreciate the overall span of progress - which, evey good Whig historian kno is not continuous but retreats and advances like waves on the beach as the tide ebbs and flows. I then plait onto that thread books on specific events, biographies and subjects until sometimes the original thread is as thick as a treetrunk (a thick one). And I can wander at will in the wood, looking around, sometimes at the canopy, sometimes at the ground. What a splendid, diverse heritage we have.
But some people believe that certain heroes should be cut down because they do not meet the moral requirements of the present day. Well I can find fault in everybody except myself, naturally, but I know that no person can ever be perfect and allow them to grow on upwards. Sometimes I revise my opinion on characters I hitherto thought little of, like Clement Attlee who has shot up recently in my history wood.
If our heroes are demoted then pretty soon we will be in a history version of that scene in A Man For All Seasons:
William Roper:So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
Because, without our heroes of the past and present we have nothing to look forward to and the optimistic bluebell wood of our heritage that inspires us to do great things turns into the muddy wreck pictured at the top of this article and we might as well pull the duvet up and stay in bed or live in Belgium - only joking, I know about several famous Belgians.