That remark, made during a discussion on effects and solutions of climate change, still rings in my ears. But I can't think of any real pessism. Warnings are frequent. But reactions are always optimistic, one way or another.
Sir Winston Curchill springs to my mind, who gave his "Blood, toil, tears, and sweat" speech in 1940, at the early stage of World War II. Churchill was neither an optimist nor a pessimist. He expressed realism, recognising the enormity of the task ahead. He saw no other choice but to fight for victory, even against the tendency of some of his war cabinet members who were inclined to making a deal with the enemy - a deal of which Churchill believed the enemy would not honour.
Excerpt of Churchill's speech of 13 May 1942: (part audio)
"I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.
You ask, what is our aim?
I can answer in one word: Victory.
Victory at all costs — Victory in spite of all terror — Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."
(Sources; text and audio complete) Churchill was well aware of the difficulties ahead and, not wanting to raise false hope, he entered notes of caution and warning.
But 2007 is not 1940.
Our present-day opinion leaders are caught in an positivist mind-set - result of a post-worldwar-2 development in which everything seemed possible: unlimited economic growth and technological developments.
But they only know something of a very tiny sector of the world but have no view of the total. Our leaders are lost in illusions about the hard environmental facts.
Churchill's speech of 13 May 1942 |
Sir. To form an Administration of this scale and complexity is a serious undertaking in itself, but it must be remembered that we are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history, that we are in action at many points in Norway and in Holland, that we have to be prepared in the Mediterranean, that the air battle is continuous and that many preparations have to be made here at home. In this crisis I hope I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today. I hope that any of my friends and colleagues, or former colleagues, who are affected by the political reconstruction, will make all allowances for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act. I would say to the House, as I've said to those who have joined the government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat." (audio)
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, "come then, let us go forward together with our united strength."
(Text transcription as originally read by Churchill)
Complete speech, as spoken in mp3 audio
Winston Churchil - Speech as prepared in writing
various famous speeches
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