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Posts Tagged ‘Virtue signalling’

IMAGE | Med monoton regelbundenhet dyker det upp artiklar och böcker som hävdar att det nu är dags att slå håll på ”myten” Winston Churchill.

New Statesman 9-15 January 2014

Alla dessa försök till historierevidering innehåller nästan alltid några gemensamma komponenter.

Författaren försöker t.ex. alltid antyda att ingen tidigare har gett den ”sanna” och ”oförfalskade” bilden av Churchill. Tydligen har sanningen om mannen, politikern och statsmannen alltför länge varit dold bakom den officiella bilden av Churchill – en bild som ingen vågar ifrågasätta.

Detta sätt att argumentera håller inte för en närmare granskning. Få politiker har nämligen varit lika kontroversiella som Churchill. Han var ifrågasatt under hela sin politiska karriär.

En annan ingrediens i dessa försök att förändra bilden av Churchill är att framhäva, inte bara hans politiska felberäkningar och misslyckanden, utan även att hans politiska åsikter inte längre ligger i linje med dagens etablerade konsensus.

Att studera Churchills politiska åsikter är naturligtvis historiskt intressant men ganska missvisande när man skall bedöma hans samlade insatser.

Med tanke på att Churchill var född 1874 (!) borde det inte förvåna någon att hans åsikter inte låg i linje med vad vi tycker idag. Det omvända skulle ha varit betydligt mer uppseendeväckande.

Churchill skulle knappast varit mer än en historisk kuriositet om hans åsikter hade överensstämt med dagens politikers.

Frågan är om han ens hade varit en identifierbar historisk person om han hade avviket alltför mycket från sin egen tid. Hade vi då ens kunnat finna några historiska spår av honom i dokument och arkiv? Sannolikt hade han aldrig blivit vare sig parlamentsledamot eller premiärminister om han haft åsikter som inte gjort honom valbar.

Många gånger liknar kritiken av Churchill vad man idag kallar ”virtue signalling” Poängen är att visa, d.v.s. signalera, vilken god människa man själv är. ”One of the crucial aspects of virtue signalling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous”, skriver mannen som myntade begreppet.

Ett exempel på detta är Simon Heffers artikel ”Why it’s time to debunk the myth of Churchill” i New Statesman. Rubriken säger allt. (I papperstidningen: ”The Churchill myth”.)

Ingenting av det som Heffer skriver om i artikeln är överhuvudtaget nytt för den som studerat ämnet. Alla exemplen beskrivs i de flesta historiska verk och politisk biografier om Churchill som publicerats under de senaste femtio åren.

He had an unfortunate knack of finding himself on the wrong side of too many arguments, over things that usually did not require the benefit of hindsight to be understood.

[…]

At the khaki election of 1900 he began his political career, as a Tory. He left for the Liberal Party in 1904 when the Tories, under the influence of Joseph Chamberlain, who had left the Liberals in protest against the Irish home rule bill, started to move towards protectionism. That was fair enough: but moving back to the Tories after the collapse of the coalition in 1922, when the Liberal Party had divided, imploded and been eclipsed by Labour, was widely regarded as an act of outrageous cynicism, not least by those whom he was rejoining. Churchill deployed his considerable wit to gloss over this episode – “Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat” – but a bad smell lingered in the Tory party for some time because of it.

[…]

Once the Conservatives were pushed out of office in 1929 he began his “wilderness years”, and adopted resistance to Indian self-government as one of his main causes. It was at this stage that he described Gandhi as “a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace . . . to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor”. Such rhetoric turned Baldwin against him and ensured he did not serve in the National Government that Baldwin formed with Ramsay MacDonald in 1931.

[…]

Despite a record of failure and misjudgement that in any other politician would offset even the most considerable achievements, Churchill in death has become largely untouchable by all, apart from those who are dismissed as mavericks and sectarians. The myth keeps us from an honest interpretation of our history in the first half of the 20th century. The false and romanticised picture we have of him, created by his reputation from 1940-45, is a huge obstacle to true understanding.

In one aspect of his life, when the man met the hour, he was as outstanding as anyone in British history has been. In all others he was just another politician on the make, firing out opinions at random in the hope that one, now and again, would hit the target. He had a bellicosity that in all circumstances other than 1940-45 could be intensely dangerous, and that had its downside even in the fight against Hitler.

But we would best understand his indisputable greatness, and our enduring debt to him, by realising how his achievements came in spite of, not because of, his parti­cular character. The myth is too much. It is more important than ever to examine the reality of his life and works, and to try to get him in a true perspective.

Tidskriftsomslag: New Statesman, 9-15 januari 2014.

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