Thursday, February 22, 2007

Some encouraging thoughts

No, there is nothing in today’s news stories (such as they are) to encourage anyone and the weather is so-so in my part of the world. Nevertheless, encouraging thoughts are needed and I have found some in a book I finished reading recently.

On another forum I said that John O'Sullivan's book "The President, the Pope and the Prime Minister", subtitled "Three Who Changed The World", will be the must-read book for all conservatives with a small "c". Conservatives with a big "c" do not seem to read anything these days.

Actually, it will be the must-read book for everyone who cares about liberty, twentieth century history and the last great battle that was waged against an evil system. That includes a lot of people. The book is already out in the United States and is due out in Britain in April.

Bringing his story to the end, O'Sullivan has this to say about his three protagonists and their reputation:
Yet will such a post-religious people be able to comprehend them? In all three cases – Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul – it is a spiritual element that best explains them and their achievements. All three, in subtly different ways, taught and embodied the virtue of hope.

John Paul’s sermons and speeches in Poland were injunctions to people not to despair in the face of overwhelming force, but instead to hope in God and trust their fellow man.

Reagan preached confidently of a coming age of liberty that would bring about the end of Communism. Thatcher believed in “vigorous virtues” that, once liberated from the shackles of socialism, would enable the British and people everywhere to improve their own lives. In very different styles, all were enthusiasts for liberty.

In the late 1970s they encountered difficult practical problems ranging from inflation to religious oppression to Soviet military power. Worse, the problems had coalesced to form a nightmare in people’s minds. A nightmare is a more intractable problem than the separate difficulties that compose it because it paralyses the will with despair.

John Paul, Reagan, and Thatcher all tackled the problems before them in a commonsense way; more important, they all were confident they would win. They drove out despair with hope, they dispelled the nightmare. With daylight the problems had become manageable. Eventually they were solved.
Alas, not all problems were solved and the British still have not shaken off the shackles of socialism. Another nightmare has overwhelmed us. Nevertheless, those are encouraging words, with which I prepare myself for this evening when I shall hear a talk on present day Russia. I need all the encouragement I can get.


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