On history, free speech and self censorship

History – It Makes Us – Forgive often, forget never, learn everyday

(history, tragedy and free speech)

The blogger Raedwald ( http://raedwald.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/yalta.html ) has an interesting article on the Yalta Conference and he said the words If you really want to piss-off a Pole, just say ‘Yalta’.. ‘ For those who don’t know, (and with current British History teaching can you assume anything) the Yalta Conference was held in the Crimean resort of Yalta in February 1945 and the result of this conference dictated the future shape of the post world war two world and especially Europe.

If you really want to piss-off a Pole, just say ‘Yalta’. Even today, Poles view the US and British betrayal of their nation with a resentment so deep-seated it’s hard to get them to even talk about it without half a litre of Zubrowka and apple juice under their belt. Roosevelt, with all the ardour of a Labrador bitch in heat and all the intelligence of a Rottweiler, offered his crippled frame for Stalin to abuse at will, and with it the freedom of the whole of western Europe.

These men Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin who played with the future of nations like a tipsy gambler at a poker game were not even evenly matched as Stalin had the home advantage and the free allies made mistakes.

The upshot of Yalta was that the Poles ended up as victims of Stalin. For most of a lifetime, Poland was held in the grip of a vicious regime which oppressed the Poles right up until the end of Communism in Europe.

I don’t think that the Poles will forget that betrayal and to be frank I don’t blame them, our politicos screwed up. Stalin probably wouldn’t have needed Poland as a protective buffer against Germany as the Germans were utterly finished. It took great cost of blood but they were finished and no threat to the Soviets. Roosevelt was health wise on his last legs, Churchill was tired and Stalin was more wily.

Half a continent was enslaved because of that meeting. Even great leaders make errors and the free Allies did so badly here in its ultimate effects that it must be acknowledged that the Poles could have and should have been allowed to be free and neutral and not thrown to the soviet wolf. However, power mad ideologies like Fascism and Stalinism make their own rules and don’t abide by the accepted norms of other more reasonable patterns of thought, and make light of treaties and promises (which should give us a clue in how to deal with such dodgy ideologies in the future). The Poles lost out because we didn’t see that and trusted too much the honeyed words of a tyrant with the blood of millions on his hands.

It can therefore be seen and must also be remembered that politicians and civil servants mess up, sometimes in spectacular ways, either on the battlefield or the debating chamber or in policymaking. They must therefore be constantly watched to make sure that they mess up less than they do in such tragic and awful ways as shown by the results of Yalta for the Poles. To keep politicians to account needs a free society, history has proved that. The Poles lost their freedom lets make sure that we do not lose ours.

Whatever the detailed reasons, the Poles suffered and that must be remembered. It is as much a part of the make up of the modern Pole as similar tragedies that happened to other nations became part of their make up. Often we’re partially the sum of our tragedies as well as our triumphs. However, I DO remember the Armenians which is why I ask people to look at the histories of both their own nation and those of other groups that they may come into contact with or have knowledge of. A knowledge of history is key.

The knowledge of a nation’s history both your own history and those of others teaches us about both ourselves and the other nations among which we live and, as well as being a delight in itself, will also help a person to understand the world better as well as indicating where there are likely to be historical-cultural problems like ideological clashes and aggression.

History is key to understanding why and how we got here and also a guide to how to act when faced with threats and opportunities because similar things may have happened in the past.

We must look back and out as well as in especially with regards human history so as to be informed about previous and current situations and to help us prepare for the future.

This brings me to the subject of free speech and why I have invoked the tragedy of the Poles in all this. Hopefully any future for the UK will have free speech in it but free speech doesn’t look after itself free citizens have to look after it and use it or it dies. For the Poles their freedom was wiped out in the stroke of a pen but here we sadly see how various speech codes in the UK are chipping away at free speech gradually and sadly to many outside their scope of awareness.

There is a great difference between being polite about a person or his particular group and censorship and language control. I’m not saying that people should be abused for their race or that the racial and exclusionary words ‘nigger’, ‘kufar’ et al are acceptable in society they are not, and are to my mind rightly not acceptable in everyday discourse. Both these terms divide and dehumanise which I don’t agree with. But a persons ideology or culture should be a matter for fair and open debate. For example: I don’t detest Anjum Chowdury the Islamist loon because he’s asian, I detest him because of his ideology. It’s the same as how I don’t detest Nick Griffin because he is a nominal Christian, or white or whatever, again, I detest him because of his ideology.

As Martin Luther King said you should look not at the colour of a persons skin but rather look at the content of a persons character. However what has happened in the west as regards multiculturalism and its speech codes in recent decades goes far beyond rules of basic politeness and has caused both an erosion of free speech and the growth of a culture of self censorship which may dangerously stifle necessary debate if there are future or current problems with certain individuals or groups.

This culture of self censorship is similar to what could be found throughout the communist regimes of Eastern Europe. If you want a feel of the period and an echo of what the paranoid headspace must have been like then try the film ‘The Lives Of Others’ 

We need honesty and we need knowledge to make free societies work. If you haven’t got the knowledge then get it, this is a lucky generation with a library on the desktop. What’s your excuse for lack of knowledge?

If you haven’t got the honesty to see that there are problems in our society that need to be addressed then maybe you should get a job as a diversity officer, or a politician, or a snake oil salesman.

Some may think I’m putting too much emphasis on history but it’s a knowledge of history that informs our future. The fears and our hopes that we all have are based on historical knowledge and precedent and this knowledge allows us to hopefully avoid the problems of the past re occuring in the future. If we forget what has happened in the past the words such as ‘Never Again’ become hollow and meaningless.

My contribution to the fight for free speech is to learn and encourage others to learn. The nation that doesn’t know its own history is ripe for conquest not by armies but by ideas, not all of them good ones. As 20th Century History has sadly shown.


Thanks for Raedwald for inspiring this post with their Yalta post.