I’m glad Casey over on the IPMI Forum is commenting on The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larsen’s portrayal of the Brits and Germans during the period that began the Second World War. I commend the book to all. Casey was struck by the devastation of the bombing of Coventry. It was certainly one night of hell. He points out the resilience of the British People. However, I think it goes beyond that.
The book, I reviewed here, shows that leadership and the coming together of the government, all sides and all parties, is most important. When Churchill was elected Prime Minister he brought leaders from all parties into his government and they worked side by side to defeat a common enemy. He knew that these were bright people, misguided perhaps from his point of view, but people who could help him lead his country.
I’m sure that he would have been puzzled at the way our ‘leaders’ fight over every little decision, and spend an inordinate amount of time playing to the media rather than actually solving problems.
Churchill himself (as did the King and Queen) would risk life and limb to go out and understand the horrors the people were experiencing first hand. He would be seen as a leader, as would the members of his government.
Casey points out that we need to be resilient. And that we may have tools today unknown in 1940, that would help in that goal.
Resilience and courage comes from within. It comes from believing that what you are doing is right and being ready to fight and die for that belief. Throughout their history, Brits have fought and died for what they believed in, for self determination, freedom, and the rule of law. The Farmer in the field, the train driver in the underground, the member of parliament, they all believed that there was more to living than warmth and comfort.
How many of our leaders truly understand the pain and suffering brought on by their decisions? How many have actually spoken to shop keepers who have lost their livelihood, to baristas and hair cutters thrown out of work, and in many cases out of their homes. How many of our leaders have every had to build a business, or make a payroll?
Churchill knew that to lead, to make decisions that affected the lives of his countrymen, he had to understand what they felt, and was able to use that resilience and strength to see him through horrendous decisions and the darkest of times. He didn’t do it alone, he did it with the love and support of millions of people who he knew, might the next day cease to exist.