Last Sunday evening my daughter gave an outdoor party for her family. It was a rewarding occasion. Her three children were there, with their boyfriends and girlfriends. All highly educated, all in good jobs – and an atmosphere of shared love, which allowed for argument, humour and teasing. It was a boon for an old man who likes to think that the meaning of his life is best expressed in the quality of his descendants.
The weather was perfect, but the evening wore on and the chill of dusk gradually replaced the sun. And then, because I let my mind wander, I remembered the scenes from photographs or reconstructions of, say, 1912. Then, it would seem, the sun always shone, the women were always beautiful – and the great British Empire gave us riches and absolute security. But they did not watch the sun; they were not ready for the darkness.
The first World War seems to have started by a series of chances triggered by an assassination in a far off country. Over a brief period old jealousies, old enmities and old fears led to increasing confrontations which led step by step to the utter darkness of 28th of July 1914. And in the cocoon of that war lay the egg of a second war a generation or so ahead. And, after this war, armaments were developed which could destroy whole countries in just a few hours. We chose the temporary safety of bluff at the risk of almost inconceivable calamity. Perhaps we didn’t choose, it happened because we did not know how to stop it happening.
We all read the news. We see an insoluble Middle East, largely born from our greedy mistakes, we see great nations – who, working together, could repair the world – uneasy, suspicious and raising the stakes. We see a minor Far Eastern nation threatening us with the weapons we invented. We see globalisation turning into dog in the manger. The tensions between the bourgeoisie and the hard left show that we have not yet learned the painful lesson of Marxism or the injustices which made it possible..
“The past is another country, they do things differently there.” No they don’t. They do exactly the same, while thinking that the outcome will be different. You will not be surprised that as the sun went down over that gay party of young people, I was frightened of the night to come.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.