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Do we owe the ideals and wisdom that make our world to the glorious few, or to the patient anonymous many?The question has only to be posed to be answered." The question which was so rhetorical to Churchill was, he knew, answered very differently by others.Had this happened, Churchill believed, the changes brought in the name of Progress—of Science, of Democracy, and of Equality—might have been less revolutionary, less bloody, and more salutary than any we have in fact known.
The orders they issued dominated a reality whose own highest purpose was to be dominated by them.
Two of Churchill's multi-volumed masterpieces—The World Crisis and Marlborough: His Life and Times—are devoted to demonstrating the obverse and the reverse of this theme.
The underlying theme of nearly all Churchill's writing between the two world wars was just this: the scale of life in the modern world is too large for human virtue to control.
The great commanders, from Caesar to Cromwell to Marlborough to Napoleon, could comprehend the entire battlefield from a single point upon it, and by the penetration of their genius grasp upon the instant the totality of its changing relationships.
It is a complaint against the conscious and unconscious, voluntary and involuntary collectivization of life and thought.
It is a complaint against a world in which "the resolves and deeds of individuals" have become more and more insignificant, if not illusory.It was in the western democracies that there first appeared "enormous numbers of standardized citizens, all equipped with regulation opinions, prejudices and sentiments, according to their class or party." The Russian Bolsheviks only carry "by compulsion mass conceptions to their utmost extreme." "The Communist theme aims at universal standardization." Not standardization, but "universal standardization," with compulsion, is what distinguishes Communism.Under Communism the "individual becomes a function: the community is alone of interest: mass thoughts dictated and propagated by rulers are the only thoughts deemed respectable." Yet Churchill was not unaware of the evils of spontaneous conformity generated by the leveling tendencies of non-Communist modernity."Is human progress the result of the resolves and deeds of individuals, or are these resolves and deeds only the outcome of time and circumstances?Is history the chronicle of famous men and women, or only their responses to the tides, tendencies and opportunities of their age?He does not really say that it does not exist; on the contrary, he finds that this is the kind of world which, in ever increasing measure, we find ourselves inhabiting. Churchill looks at this aspect of the modern world much as Coriolanus looked at Rome.Rather than submit to it, or acknowledge its power, he will banish it.Marlborough was representative of the great commanders of the past.The World Crisis narrates the failure of a world in which great commanders no longer command.n the night of the tenth of May, 1940, on the eve of the ill-fated Battle of France, Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain.As he went to bed, he tells us, at about 3 a.m., he was "conscious of a profound sense of relief.