Nucleus of the Matter: the Quark editorial on the migrant crisis

“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in” – Matthew 25:35

In 1914, we extended our arms to Belgians fleeing from war-ravaged countryside amidst the might of the imperial German army, tearing up fields and shelling villages for a stalemate. In the 1930s, we welcomed refugees fleeing from the authoritarian shackles of the National Socialists. In 2015, we walk away?

Read the comments under Telegraph articles, or pretty much anything which could possibly be related to immigration or asylum. It’s disgusting. People putting their selfish wants before these people’s needs.

It’s time. If you think it’s time to act, time to stop hiding from the legions of hostile inhospitability and racism, time to come and nail our colours to the mast of history, please sign this petition. You could be saving lives.

Our generation has emerged into the adult world as the vanguard of the future. Let’s not begin by denying other people theirs.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/105991

(Headline image comes from The Independent)

Precedent politics

“They being subservient would be revolutionaries so as to be equals, they being equals would be revolutionaries so as to be mighty” ~ Aristotle

A slightly unhinged social outcast paces the room, desperately trying to reconcile himself with his extensive debts, both financial and social. The progressive downfall of his aristocratic family removed one source of renown and income, whilst moral degeneracy, unwise connections, filicide led a great deal of improbability about external loans.

What Lucius Sergius Catilina did have was indignation. His loss of status in the social wolf pack of the Roman republic drew out a rebellious sentiment within him, and his base desire for power and importance drove his activity. By attracting a crowd of robbers, muggers, parrides, fraudsters, thugs and by indoctrinating his principles into teenage boys, Catilina slowly built up the imperium he so violently craved.

This was a time of economic and political instability in the republic, and out of this was to grow first the Caesarian dictatorship arising from the first triumvirate and then eventually the empire out of the second triumvirate.

There isn’t a great amount of detail from the ancient sources, perhaps because no coherent economic theory existed then, but it is clear that Rome’s economy was not very healthy, bringing about a decline in the standard of living et cetera.

Perhaps spurred on by this economic downturn, many contemporary politicians and social figures were disenchanted with the way the republic was run, with the aristocratic faction holding too much sway over decisions and poor provisions in place for the various social classes within the republic and affiliated states.

Catiline preyed upon this sentiment, drawing in titans of Roman society and politics into the folds of his ‘conspiracy’. Amongst these were Julius Caesar, the archetypical populist.

Sallust’s version of Catiline’s first speech to his gathered group, whilst made up, does indeed have Catilinian flavourings to it. He incites his audience to fury by pointing out the numerous homes of the wealthy compared to the debts of those present, the privileged positions held by the powerful compared to the social obscurity of those present, the harshness and hatred with which those present were regarded by the prominent. As a populist, he manipulated common contemporary fears and mixed them with his own base ambition and lust for power.

Catiline’s feminine, aristocratic name belies the violence deployed in his putsch, thrown when Cicero was consul and targeting him, at least according to Ciceronian sources. Rising in the senate, amidst great uncertainty as to the extent of Catilina’s popularity, Cicero famously made an impassioned and highly effective speech debasing this quasi-revolutionary, beginning with the daring attack, “How long, Catilina, will you abuse our patience?”, playing on the tense and drawn-out progression of the second Catilinian conspiracy.

This speech had a dramatic effect on Roman politics and historiography thereafter. Cicero was declared the saviour of the republic, and Catilina and his companions were forced out. All the accounts take their information from Cicero, most notably Sallust, himself a bit of a wrongdoer trying to worm his way back into social favour and eternal remembrance with his historical works.

This was also an important training period for Caesar, allowing him to refine his political acumen and giving him an invaluable experience to be retained in mind for his later political career, not least the estimation of Cicero’s capabilities.

One of the primary purposes of studying Latin is to study the precedents of modern-day life and to apply them, just as with history. The deeper context and understanding provided by linguistic study affords a more complete picture of the implications of the texts, such as Sallust’s bellum Catilinae (The War of Catiline).

The Catilinian conspiracy is important not only for its implications in classical politics, but in terms of a precedent for its successors. Many parallels can be drawn between the Catilinians and certain modern parties – see if you can draw them.

This article was composed in semi-Sallustian prose which works much better in Latin than in English.

Lest we forget

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70 years ago, thousands of British, American, Australian, New Zealander, Indian and Canadian soldiers streamed onto beaches formerly frequented not by troops but by tourists. A patchwork of nationalities, they united in the hope of quashing conclusively the fascist regime which threatened the liberty of humanity.

Along with other units in Italy and on the eastern front, they started the long push to Berlin. By less than a year, that threat had ended, and a new one had emerged.

It is estimated* that 4,000 Allied troops died on this day, and 9,000 of the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) foe, a sacrifice never to be forgotten.

Despite the massive advantage held by the Germans, the success of Operation Fortitude – a deception operation arranged mainly by the British armed and secret services to persuade Nazi high command that the Normandy landings were fake and the real invasion was to come near Calais – helped to keep Allied losses a great deal lower than what they perhaps might have been.

Lancaster bombers of 617 (Dambusters) Squadron dropping thin strips of tin foil to mimic the radar signals of an entire fleet, double agents transmitting a web of false information about a huge ghost army under General Patton poised to invade the Pas de Calais and another in Scotland for Norway and inflatable or wooden tanks, Spitfires and transport trucks – Fortitude was an ingenious solution to the problem of German coastal strength.

Deception was a favourite technique of the British war machine by now. To help the troops invading Italy, MI5 produced an elaborate scheme to convince the Axis that the invasion would come not from Sicily – the obvious point – but from Sardinia, Corsica and Greece. To do this they floated the partially preserved body of a dead tramp into the Mediterranean, clutching a briefcase filled supposedly with documents proving the points of invasion meant for Allied generals in Africa, and identity naming him as a military courier. The Spanish, whose government was also fascist and – despite official neutrality – was inclined more to the Nazis – collected the body and the documents, and passed them onto German agents who photographed them and sent them to Berlin. Operation Mincemeat was swallowed whole & the invasion of Sicily was much easier with few of the enemy present.

You will have heard of the man who claimed to have imagined up the ‘dead tramp’ scheme, Ian Fleming, but you probably won’t have heard of Juan Pujol Garcia. This Spaniard was a dedicated advocate of democracy and freedom and, upon being rejected for espionage work in Madrid by the suspecting British, began to work for the Germans, gained their trust and made up an entire network of sub-agents active in Britain whilst still living on the Iberian peninsula. With the British afraid of this ‘super’ agent detected through German messages decoded at Bletchley Park, they eventually found him to be on their side and brought him to Britain, where he continued his invaluable work until 1945. Not only did his ‘network’ provide the ‘information’ for the Norwegian and Calais landings, but also helped the British to round up every single German agent in the country and feed their enemy with the wrong information.

During the 1942 desert battle El Alamein between the Allies’ Montgomery and the Axis’ Rommel, but on a smaller scale, trucks being disguised as tanks and driven about different parts of Egypt to dupe Axis reconnaissance ‘planes whilst the real tanks moved swiftly round to attack Rommel from where he was least expecting it.

That same Rommel, defeated in northern Africa, now wielded the highest command post in northern France, awaiting an Allied invasion after that of Sicily had meant the capture of Rome a few weeks before. Yet at the most crucial time he was at home, celebrating his wife’s birthday, the Nazis having completely swallowed Fortitude.

By the time he returned and the Nazi high command had realised it was indeed the real invasion, it was much too late. The road to Berlin was begun, and Rommel was forced to commit suicide.

Despite being Germany’s most popular general if not public figure, Rommel was connected to opponents of the regime – the 20th July plotters – and was made to poison himself to prevent negative harm coming to the regime from executing this popular man. Others in the Wehrmacht – Stauffenberg, the bomber, and Schlabrendorff (from whom we know much of the opposition thanks to a bombing raid destroying the courtroom in which he was to be sentenced) – as well as in the secret services – even the head, Canaris – endeavoured to destroy the regime.

They failed, and the implications of their failure on 20th July led to huge repercussions across Germany. But Hitler underwent significant psychological damage, a damaged arm linking him now physically to Wilhelm II, the emperor who brought Europe to war the last time.

On 30th April, newly married Hitler shot himself, and on 8th May, victory in Europe was assured.

The veterans now gathering on the beaches of Normandy did a huge amount to win the Allies the war, but those behind the scenes, the deception plotters of MI5 and MI6 and the military underground to Hitler’s regime, also deserve our recognition.

Lest we forget.

 

It is said that Abwehr (German equivalent of MI5 & MI6) resistance to Hitler, run primarily by Wilhelm Canaris, Hans Oster and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, may have saved a significant number of Jews and of Nazi opponents by hiring them and shipping them into neutral territory to make good their escape, in addition to communicating Nazi plans to the Allies, swallowing deception plans and fiddling troop sighting reports to make the Wehrmacht put the wrong number of troops in the wrong place. This is very hard to investigate or prove. I am currently researching the extent to which the Abwehr harmed the Nazi regime, so if you are an expert on the subject, I welcome your comments on the subject.

 

*(BBC News)

In-tin-Peran-dence?

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Today, something sizeable is changing in British politics and it isn’t Boris Johnson’s hairstyle. Today, the UK officially has a new native ethnic minority: the Cornish Celts. Despite 2,200 complaints registered about Cornish mumblings this past week*, there is a distinctly more positive sound regarding this latest development.

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury responsible for announcing the legal protection of the Cornish today in Bodmin, is the MP for Inverness, Nairn Badenoch and Strathspey, a region also notable for breeding separatist sentiment. Happily I am well acquainted with both Cornwall and the Scottish Highlands, having spent roughly 3.84% of my life so far in each place.

These two regions are fairly similar. Both have had a rather illustrious history of anti-governmental feeling, which today translates into lobbying for independence/devolution/further recognition. In 1497, thousands of Cornishmen put the security of the Tudor dynasty in doubt as they “swarmed through southern England”** in a rebellion initiated by “swingeing taxation and and corrupt officialdom”. The pretender Perkin Warbeck (masquerading as the younger of the Princes in the Tower) landed in Cornwall, following the gruesome executions of the rebellion’s leaders subsequent to their defeat at Blackheath outside London, and preyed upon the airs of revolt to summon thousands more Cornishmen to his standard and snatch the rosy complexion from England. Unfortunately for him, Henry (VII) was this time far better prepared and inflicted a massive defeat at Taunton with his “vastly superior forces”. During the English Civil War, Cornwall was a firm royalist support base. Throughout much of documented history, the Cornish Celts have resented centralised governmental influences since a certain faction believe themselves to be different.

The Highlands of Scotland underwent huge deprivation during the 18th century as a result of their support of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the 1745 Jacobite uprising (in addition to a less well-known one led by his father 30 years before). Despite comprehensive victories on the path to London, they were defeated (comprehensively) upon their retreat at Culloden, which lies in Alexander’s constituency. Even today there is no little pride in this involvement, a romanticised view owing in no small part to Sir Walter Scott. The banning of tartan, bagpipes and any demonstrations akin to Jacobite/Highlander pride, twinned with the Highland Clearances***, have not, it is fair to say, aided amiability between Westminster and the Highlands through time. Again, there exists a certain faction who believe themselves to be different.

Ever since the Act of Union in 1707, with the monarchies of England and Scotland having been united in 1603 (and Ireland and Wales already taken under the English regal fold prior to that), Westminster has endeavoured to unite the United Kingdom. Inevitably, certain factions will always feel that they are unheard and that they are being compromised. For the Highlands, with Scottish devolution in 1999, there has to some extent been a lessening of that pressure. But, since “Devo-Max” is off the cards, September will tell us whether or not a centralised London government bears the confidence of the people it represents and governs. For Cornwall, recognition as not being English now clearly marks them out as different. The Scots, Welsh and Irish – the most prominent native ethnic minorities – all have devolved parliaments and governments; after years of persistent lobbying and petitioning headed by Cornish MP Dan Rogerson, will this be the first stone towards devolution?

The Cornish are predominantly a Celtic race, and the language is strikingly similar to both Welsh and (less so) to Scots and Irish Gaelic. These races sometimes believe them to be the true Brits – after all, the original “British” were Celts, and their descendants are now largely believed to be the Welsh and Cornish, driven into the corners of the island by invading Angles, Saxons and Jutes. If these minorities, with their roots in the soil of ancient Britannia****, have gained recognition or devolution, will the English get a devolved parliament? Certain factions favour this, too. Perhaps this symbolic move by the coalition also signifies their respect for difference and diversity within one union of peoples, a move to dissuade the Scots from voting with Salmond in September.

So, exactly what does this mean for now? It means that the government will actively strive to protect the Cornish from racial discrimination, whilst making extra room for Cornish views during legislative discussions and promoting Cornish pride. Maybe St Piran’s Day (5th March) will be more widely celebrated, the pasty tax abolished and the legend of King Arthur revitalised. And maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a new parliament in Falmouth.

As I opine, we ought to stick together. As David Cameron often says, diversity enriches our union, and to break it up for every faction who desires a better deal for themselves would be like getting a divorce because one person wants Crunchy Nut and the other Special K. There is room to buy both; there will always be room, provided we respect each other’s opinions and include them in valid and open discussion, which the new status of minority will help to ensure.

The Scottish independence referendum will take place on 18th September 2014.

*Jamaica Inn

**Thomas Penn, Winter King

***during which sheep were considered more valuable than the native Scots, forcing mass emigration to the US and Canada since the land was requisitioned by English landlords

****from a linguistic point-of-view, it’s also intriguing that “Britannia”/”Britain” and “Brittany”/”Bretagne” are so similar, given that genealogists believe the Cornish to be ethnically the same as Bretons

He’s back, and so’s the debate

If you’ve ever attended a History lesson in the United Kingdom, chances are there’s one name in particular at the forefront of your mind when I mention the word “Germany”.

In an effort to scrub out right-wing political extremism, successive post-war governments and school boards have consistently included studies of the Second World War in primary and secondary schools, meaning that the majority of the UK population is well aware that Hitler arranged the murder of 6 million Jews and was an Austrian sociopath bent on taking over the world.

All this is good. It’s good that every generation is taught the evil of fascist dictatorship, and it’s good that it is despised practically universally in this country. As a successor to wartime propaganda, Nazi inclinations seem to have been completely eradicated after they appeared fashionable amongst certain groups in the 1930s.

What isn’t so good is the concrete view some schoolchildren now hold not only of the subject but of Germany in general. Professor Sir Ian Kershaw, renowned expert on the Nazi period, once said in an interview that they have “never seen a German, they’ve no idea who Germans are, they just know they do terrible things to people called Jews (and don’t know in reality who they are either)”.

The heavy emphasis is wrong. It’s actually harmful*. In-depth exploration of the Nazi period is almost non-existent – it improves at GCSE, and then again at A Level, but for the majority of our population, Hitler remains a monster to be feared and despised, not studied and analysed.

Reading the dictator’s own words alleviate this issue. “Mein Kampf” is available in translation and many excellent biographies, of which the best is Sir Ian’s “Hitler” (2 volumes, “Hubris” & “Nemesis”), explore what are left of contemporary documentation and other sources to analyse how the National Socialist Worker’s Party of Germany got into power, stayed in power and misused that power. Various television programmes, such as “The Nazis: A Warning From History”, “Auschwitz” and “Hitler’s Dark Charisma” also try to make good this educational deficiency.

In Germany, the situation is different. The government is terrified of a neo-Nazi resurgence (as is natural), and the Hitler salute, the swastika and Nazi uniforms have all been illegalised, along with strict security at places such as Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial & Jewish Museum, and the non-existence of plaques marking the location of Hitler’s birth (Braunau-am-Inn in Austria) or bunker (Berlin). All sensible. However, “Mein Kampf” is also inhibited – reprinting is banned and only existing copies may be distributed – which only adds in the large part to the mystery of Hitler. Germans of a certain age cannot even name most of the prominent Nazis due to the subject being strictly off the curriculum for several years.

In 2012, Timur Vermes made his first foray into fiction. The cover is mostly plain, but includes a sweeping forelock of black hair and the book’s title arranged in a specific way on the front. Priced originally at 19.33, “Er Ist Wieder Da” (literal translation: “He’s Back) is a satirical imaginative work, documenting Hitler awakening on a patch of ground in Berlin in 2011 and re-launching himself into the political establishment through an unusual route. This Hitler is not taken seriously; everyone thinks him to be an impressionist, leading to him becoming a talk-show star and YouTube sensation.

It came out in English on 3rd April this year, titled “Look Who’s Back”, to a varied reaction from the press and critics. Some say it’s offensive to his 11 million victims, others that it’s good to poke fun at him. According to Vermes himself, it’s part of the natural progression for such a figure to be regarded. First he was shunned, then despised with secret terror, and now he must be made fun of to remove the element of mystery from his figure. Although this model is of Germany, it relates to the UK too. We need to be able to conquer him again: to remove the feeling of dark mystery currently surrounding the Nazis for the majority of people by openly laughing at him.

“Er Ist Wieder Da” is cleverly written, entertaining and thought-provoking. At points it does go too far (for example at one point when Hitler contrasts inefficiency with the efficiency of the trains deporting Jews to the extermination camps), but on the whole it is a sound idea which hopefully will herald a fresh approach to the way society presents Hitler to the younger generations.

 

“Look Who’s Back” is published by Maclehose Press Quercus.

*or, as Sir Ian puts it, “of very doubtful value”.