Wednesday, September 02, 2009

70 years

I'm not a great student of history, so it was only as a result of the news yesterday morning that I was aware of the significance of the day. 70 years ago yesterday Poland was invaded and the Second World War became inevitable.

As we travelled to Canterbury, Ally and I talked about it. We discussed how inevitable it was and what contributed to it. Was Russia's non-aggression treaty with Germany significant, was Poland's relationship with Germany important? How much influence did the Allies treatment of Germany after the first war affect the precipitation of the second?

All big questions to which I certainly don't have a definitive answer. But I do know this, that if we take a small and narrow view of history, we rarely get the big picture, and that seems to lead to much faulty thinking and rash decision-making. The problem is that we seem to be living in a narrow view society. We have 24 hour news and yet it's filled with 30 second summaries. We may get the facts, but we don't seem to get the time to reflect on those facts.

At the moment the news is filled again with the events surrounding the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. I'm not sure I would have wanted the responsibility for making that decision. How do you decide? Do you go for the simple legal approach of a conviction and sentence, do you go the compassionate approach of being gracious towards a dying man, which do you choose? I really don't want to start a debate, but given the pictures of his welcome home and the way those pictures have been used, it makes you wonder how much of a martyr he would have been had he died in a British prison.

All very difficult.

Of course we can't go back and see how history unfolds against the backdrop of a different set of decisions. We just have to live with the consequences of the decisions we've already made.

It's always easier to lead from an armchair.

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