Wednesday, 27 March 2013


Sir Winston Churchill was a very great man. Under his leadership he united Britain during World War II. If you think times are tough now, try to imagine your husband/ brothers/ sons going off to fight overseas, your wife/ sisters/ daughters working labouring in farms or factories and the kids getting sent away to the countryside to live with complete strangers, and in the background the constant fear of bombs, chemical warfare and invasion.

The fear of financial collapse/ peak fossil fuels/ climate change has not reached that level, because for most people it is not yet upon us. Only when you reach rock bottom and are facing stark choices for survival can the reality be truly felt, understood and responded to.

It is interesting to look at history. Everyone who lived through the war knew someone killed in battle or left homeless from bombs. Many witnessed terrible scenes and were put in grave danger. But if you talk to people who lived through it and see their faces as they remember, the impression is of unity, camaraderie and sense of purpose. Now I’m no historian and I am only just starting out researching more about the decisions which led to victory, but to me one of the key things was leadership.

“So they [the Government] go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.” Sir Winston Churchill (Hansard, November 12, 1936)

In this quote Churchill could quite easily be talking about the government we have right now, but looking at the dates, he was talking about the British government before war broke out. If the government then was as ineffectual as the government is now, then how did they manage to turn things on their heads in a short space of time, to unite a country and win the war? And if it was possible to turn everything around then, surely there is a chance that we can do so now?

I put to you that it is all about leadership. It is about rousing speeches, strength of character, determination, making tough decisions and never giving in. Some bloggers on the subject of future collapse have already written off the political players in their country. In the UK, the strength or weakness of our leaders will play a big role in our future, and could potentially have a positive influence on other countries too.

“When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.” Sir Winston Churchill

I am not in the least interested in politics and I am certainly not a supporter of the conservative party. What I did find remarkable at the last election however was how people had so easily forgotten the Thatcher years and what the Conservatives stood for. Talking to people I knew, they just voted for the party with the perceived most charismatic leader. There really wasn’t much charisma on offer at the last election, but David Cameron was clearly at the advantage of his opponents.

The point of course is that people want a real leader, someone who has opinions, ideas and strength of character, to lead us out of troubled times. I am not saying he is the next Churchill, but Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) seems to have a lot going for him. Incredibly recognisable and well-known already, the spotlight from the Olympics gave Boris further opportunities to shine. His Olympic speeches were rousing and memorable, and compared to Boris, David Cameron’s were pretty dull (Don’t remember Dave making any speeches? You were probably getting a cuppa whilst he was on!)

What I find even more appealing is that he survives scandals. There are Western leaders who have been surrounded in scandals that have been their undoing. There may be hidden agendas and manipulation at work behind some of these scandals, but it would take a lot to tackle Boris to the ground.

If there is an election and Boris is in it, he could potentially win on charisma, regardless of policies or party. I’m not sure that this would be an entirely bad thing. We need someone who can rouse the masses and call for a united effort, when the going gets tough. Someone who is not afraid to talk directly to the people, rather than through the press. I’m not saying that the kind of policies that could ease our transition are the kind of policies that Boris would necessarily support, but I do believe that a point will come when there is no choice but to act on energy shortages and climate change, and that is when a vocal respected leader at the helm may be of significant benefit.

During the war there were lots of unpopular policies to introduce in order to hold the country together, many of them affected the richest people in our society. For instance the government enacted the Emergency Powers Act, which among other things, gave them powers to take land that was not being used productively and redistribute it. It is not the farmers who aren’t in the business of being productive, but the rich with their formal gardens, pony paddocks, golf courses and hunting ranges. The manor house nearest us was used by the army during the war and, like many others, was in such a state of disrepair by the end of the war, that it was too expensive to keep. It was demolished and the rubble used in the building of the M1 motorway. Looking back now, this seems like a tax on the rich, all be it in the name of the war effort.

It is very interesting learning about the policies during the war years. Taxing the rich is not something that is very popular with the conservatives these days, but really we don’t have the luxury of avoiding it any more. Improving equality could result in a more stable society, and this was something that was recognised during the war. Rationing, women’s wages and taxes were some of the ways that equality was improved. This was a preventative measure, to ensure smooth running of the country without internal issues, such as strikes, protests and riots.
“Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong-these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.“ Sir Winston Churchill (Speech, House of Commons, May 2, 1935)

I will write more of this in another blog, but I have still got more research to do first. Next blog will be a continuation of the 90% reduction theme.

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