The longing for a hero is unsatiable and deep rooted in the human heart and it is so easy to be seduced by the story tellers when they present us with one. The way the media make heroes out of people who have done pretty much nothing is contemptable, especially when they are dropped just as quickly as they are raised. I guess, a few weeks ago, few people knew, or would have known anything at all about our new “hero”, now addressing the packed houses of commons, with MP’s, kitted out in their Sunday best, neat suits and suspicious looking yellow and blue school ties, packed on the benches, on the steps and in the aisles. It was one of these pictures that seemed to be saying something momentous, but I wasn’t quite sure what it might be. There he was in the grandeur, the golden kitsch of the presidential palace, with all the power and trappings of his embattled state, but declaring in his green tee-shirt that he was really just one of the people. For once English was not the lingua franca of the world and the members had to press their headphone close to the ears to hear the faltering translation. The quotes from Hamlet and Churchill seemed obtuse at first but the message was clear. “We are not going anywhere, we are not backing down. If you want a fight, bring it on” and with it a plea to our friends, to the west, to Boris, “stand with us in our time of need.”
Now I know it is far more complicated than that. International relations and disputes are never simple. There are no good guys and bad guys. There may be wars that are just, but they end up in unredeemable horrors. Such is the human condition. In many ways it is easier, for us, to sit on the poles of the argument. It is easy to be a straight down the line hard-nosed, no-nonsense hawk or a pure and whiter than white dove, but in the middle is the reality and that is where we live. It was what I really appreciated about Christopher Hitchins, having just read his memoirs “Hitch-22”. I would disagree with him on just about everything, especially his dogged and foolish dismissal of all that belonged to God, of eternal life and the spiritual realm. In his story he doesn’t waste any opportunity to take a side swipe at anything that suggests there is more than this life. But he made a genuine effort to grapple with the issues of war and peace of appeasement and intervention and when it may be morally right to use power, even military power, for good. I don’t think he really resolved the conundrum. “’A map of the world that did not show Utopia’ said Oscar Wilde ‘would not be worth consulting. I used to adore that phrase, but now reflect more upon the shipwrecks and prison islands to which the quest has led.”
So once again the UK and the west are faced with that dilemma to intervene or not and is this the time? Zelensky seemed to be saying “this is the time” not just for us but for you too, for, behind the call to stand with us, was the latent message that the game is up. The values that you once held dear and your ancestors fought and die for are about to be lost. If you cherish, if you value anything that is good, if you benefit from and enjoy freedom and democracy and wealth and high levels of health and prosperity and education and civility, consideration, honesty and integrity there will come a time when you will have to fight for it. Despite how it might look, after years of peace, it is not a given.
Zelensky may only be a paper hero, manufactured by the media and he may disappear from view just as quickly as he came onto it, but this might be the hour and he might just be the man.