People Strong Enough and Well Informed


Any New Year resolutions yet unbroken? It’s a serious question because with only 10-days gone in 2016 the rolling thunder and consequences of continuing economic woes, plus news that rogue nation North Korea acquired for Christmas wrapped hydrogen bomb, have combined to make champagne supported resolutions to drink less and exercise more, fragile and inconsequential.

Recession, faltering economies and never ending wars and rumours of wars are hardly new; neither is the daily fanning of their threatening flames by media which, in all its forms, revels in disaster – and fear.

It is said that today “the people” often behave like legendary Lemmings who, while far from suicidal, tend to mass-migrate from time to time following their leaders into hazards with huge fatalities an inevitable result. It is an unfortunate truth we “the people” when badly led do indeed trend that way.

A few days ago I was reminded of the words of Herman Goering, one of the Nazi monsters who led an entire nation to its Lemming-like destruction. Goering, who committed suicide shortly after his trial at Nuremberg, a trial during which he was asked how “the people” of Germany felt about World War Two. It’s worth, considering the world’s immediate past and ever present troubles, reading his response – carefully:

“Why of course people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or fascist dictatorship, or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifist for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” 

Couldn’t happen here? We would never respond so blindly to wild rhetoric from politicians or the happy regurgitation of that rhetoric by media. Our leaders may dwell on our fears and try to scare us to death with tales of pending disasters when they should be calmly and consistently educating us in ways to avoid them or how to handle them when they prove inevitable, but we would never blindly follow them over the edge of the cliff.

It would help if political leaders softened the rhetoric and opted for calmly stated truths rather than party survival platitudes, promises and pretty photos. In times of trouble – and we are in them – we need calm, confident voices. We need assurances not jingoistic flag waving. We need – politicians, press and “the people” – to remember what leaders like USA President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in one of his famous radio “fireside chats” in 1938 as the world watched Europe swarming like Lemmings toward destruction. He calmed his fearful nation with the assurance: “The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over its government.”

Time, I think, for Canadians to embrace the simple promise “to protect” from governments, federal, provincial and local. A pledge “to inform” from media which today prefers entertainment to information; and for “the people” to demand the education it needs to be well enough informed “to maintain its sovereign control.”

And to never forget how easy Goering said it was, with the aid of a Lemming-like media, to go astray.


  1. Goering, I believe, was speaking of a form of crisis management which most leaders employ from time to time to either deflect criticism or to increase their powers. The most cynical practitioner of crisis management right now is President Putin.

  2. I wish the people of Canada have the sense to stand up to the government in the event they try to bring us into a unnecessary war. Good words hope people are listening.

  3. If only the American people could pull their heads out of the sand. History has given us many lessons, it is time to pay attention. Excellent commentary, Mr. Hume.

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