Tag Archives: britain

Darkest Hour – Why People Need to Watch It, Why Politicians Need to Make Decisions and Accept Consequences

Hey 3.5 readers.

I reviewed it last year, but Darkest Hour has been on HBO, so I’ve been watching it constantly, leaving it on in the background whenever it is on while I do other stuff.

I don’t think people really understand the bind England was in at the height of World War II.

First, and I don’t mean to dump on the French, but France screwed the pooch.  Part of me doesn’t blame them.  It’s easy for backseat drivers almost eighty years later to say, “I would have fought those Nazis!” but for the people who actually had the Nazis coming for them, I get why they surrendered.

The problem is the Brits had sent their army to France on the idea that it would be better to back the French up and stop the Nazis in France before they reached the French coast, thus gaining access to the English Channel.

So…with 300,000 British troops in Dunkirk, on the coast of France, the Brits had to make a decision.  Negotiate a surrender or lose the Dunkirk troops and lose the United Kingdom.

Amidst this backdrop, Sir Winston Churchill has been recently named Prime Minister.  Churchill is wise and experienced, having served in war himself, but also intelligent, having written a number of books.

Unfortunately, personality wise, he’s boorish and considered a buffoon.  He drinks non-stop, he’s chubby, overeats, smokes too much, and doesn’t have much of a filter to hold back from offending people.

Here’s why people need to watch it.  It really illustrates why politics suck.  They really do. Essentially, it’s all just a big game played by scheming scoundrels, all trying to get something done, everyone prepared to take the credit for a job well done but also trying like hell to avoid any blame.

The problem is that anything worth doing comes with good and bad consequences.  No matter what you do, there’s always room for celebration and blame.  You’ll never avoid a bad consequence unless you hide in a closet for the rest of your life.

Churchill understands this.  As a former military man, he understands war is hell and victory can’t be wrapped up in a nice little package.  He has been haunted by the failure of Gallipoli, where under his command, Brits died in World War I.  Throughout his life, his political rivals hold it over his head.

At any rate, while Churchill maintains that surrender to the Nazis is not an option, he is henpecked by politics all the way.  Parliamentarians Neville Chamberlain (the previous prime minister) and Viscount Halifax, constantly try to browbeat Churchill into negotiating “peace” with Hitler, though Churchill knows “peace” is code for surrender and a UK under Nazi rule is an unbearable idea.

Sorry to be longwinded.  Halifax and Churchill want to surrender.  They have a point.  Why risk so many British lives?  Defeat looks inevitable.  To save 300,000 army men in Dunkirk, Churchill must sacrifice 3,000 to draw the Nazis attention and buy some time for civilian ships to reach Dunkirk and pick the Army up.  Halifax argues why sacrifice 3,000 when defeat is inevitable?

So, here’s the thing.  At any time, parliament had the ability to boot Churchill and name a new prime minister.  Halifax and Chamberlain know this.  Churchill knows this.  Not in so many words, but he basically tells his detractors, “Come at me, bro.”

If Halifax and Chamberlain want to surrender to the Nazis, they can make it happen.  They can go to parliament and make the case.  Tell them that Churchill is a dick who is going to get us all killed and it would be better to be a Nazi subject than to be dead.  Halifax and Chamberlain can say they’d be willing to become the prime minister and do the surrendering.

By that they don’t want to do it.  They believe strongly in surrender but they do not want the blame for it.  They feel Churchill is a dummy that they can push and bully into surrendering, make him be the fall guy, harass him into giving in and then when all the Brits are in leiderhosen, staring at a swastika flag flying over Buckingham palace, then Halifax and Chambelian can stand around and be like, “Well, Churchill’s the one who surrendered!”

Churchill suffers a great deal of internal anguish until….SPOILER ALERT…he gets out of the office and gets around London, talking to common folk.  Do they want surrender?  No.  Would they rather die in an invasion than let Hitler win? Yes.

LESSONS:

  1. If you’re a politician and you think you are right, you MUST be willing to stand up and push your idea yourself.  It’s understandable that Halifax and Chamberlain fear Britain will lose, but if they felt that way, they should have stood up and been willing to wear the, proverbial “I support surrender” badge.
  2. If you’re a politician under pressure to do what you think is wrong, you must seek out what the people think and hopefully, they’ll support you even if what is right might lead to a bad result.
  3. The people have to be willing to support leaders in doing the right thing even if it results in a bad end.

BOTTOMLINE: Politics is the game of how decisions are made and unfortunately, making a decision is like a hot potato.  A decision, and the ensuing responsibility, is passed around and around.  No one wants the potato when it’s burning hot.  They only want it when it is warm and smothered in sour cream and bacon bits.

Politicians push each other to decide how they want, but they won’t make the decisions themselves for fear of backlash if the decision goes wrong.  If it goes right, they can say they supported it.  If it goes bad, they can say they avoided it.  Meanwhile, the people are schizophrenic.  They’ll shout to do this or that and if it works out, great and if not they complain.

Churchill made a decision.  He said we’re going to fight the Nazis.  He knew it could lead to certain doom.  He decided it would be better to risk seeing the UK bombed into the ground and conquered, its citizens dead,  if there was a chance the island could be saved and Hitler beaten back.

In a stirring scene, he shouts, “I will take full responsibility!”  No one else around him was willing to.  That’s what politicians need to do.

Deciding to fight the Nazis could have easily lead to the total destruction of Great Britain, just as deciding to not fight them could have lead to thousands of years of subjugation to Nazi rule.

All decisions have consequences.  I can tell you in my personal life, my biggest failing has been putting off decisions, avoiding that role of the dice and letting life pass me by rather than to just get in the fight and find out what happens at the end.

Bottomline is Halifax and Chamberlain weren’t willing to accept the consequences of the decision they wanted to be made.  They wanted a surrender, but they didn’t want to go down as the dorks who surrendered.  Meanwhile, Churchill wanted victory, but had that led to ruin, he most likely would have stood up and said, “Well, hey I tried.  Sorry fighting the Nazis didn’t work out.”

OK I’ll stop ranting.  I just see this a lot even today.  Politicians fight and demonize each other but when it comes to, you know, actually writing and passing a law that backs up their vitriol, they rarely do it.  “You should do what I want!” but few, if any, are actually just willing to step up and make it happen, put their name on a decision and accept the credit if it goes well and the blame if it goes bad.

 

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#31ZombieAuthors – Day 5 Interview – Perrin Briar – Three Zombie Series and Counting

perrin briar

FIND THIS ZOMBIE AUTHOR ON:

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My guest today is Perrin Briar, the prolific British author behind a number of zombified book series, including:

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Blood Memory – Jordan, who’s suffering from a six year gap in his memory, leaving him with no recollection of how a zombie outbreak started, joins the crew of the ship, Haven, but a shipwreck complicates matters.  The crew will have to leave the safety of the sea and step out onto land, where zombies aren’t the only monsters they’ll have to face.

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Z-Minus – Infected by a zombifying virus, a father decides to use his last hours of life to get his daughter to safety.

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Swiss Family RobinZOM –  A send-up of the 1812 classic novel authored by Johann David Wyss, now with zombies!

Previously, Perrin has written for BBC radio, and worked in the production and development departments of the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me, Perrin.

NOTE: BOLD = BQB; ITALICS = Perrin

Q.   I love Swiss Family Robinson so much that when I saw you’d written a zombified adaptation, I had to get in touch. What motivated you to take this classic and throw hideous undead creatures into the mix?

A.   I really wanted to write a story about people surviving on an island. But there were already lots of books with that concept, so I wanted to add a unique spin to it. I was going through a list of books and films about surviving on an island, when I came across the classic Swiss Family Robinson stories. I like the idea of taking something we’re all familiar with and putting a twist on it in (hopefully!) a full and exciting way. I read the original books and watched the film and TV adaptations to get ideas, get a feeling for the characters, the tone etc, and took what I thought were the most interesting parts, and then developed them into a series of novellas. There’s a lot in my books you won’t find in the original (zombies being the obvious one!) and things in the original you won’t find in mine (the originals were morality tales to teach the author’s kids about the value of religion in their lives). I wanted each book to feature a different perspective of survival, and so far the response has been great. There will be a total of 11 or so books by the end.

Q. Have fans of the original Swiss Family Robinson book received it well?

A. Yes, the response has been really great. I was at first concerned the readers wouldn’t like what I did to the classic, so I only wrote one novella to test the waters. If the response was good, I would write the rest. Thankfully, people liked it and started asking about more in the series.

Q. Let’s talk about Z-Minus. Chris Smith hasn’t been much of a father. When he’s infected with a virus, he has eight hours to live before he turns into a zombie. He’s left with a hope that he’ll be able to spend the last bit of life he has left getting his daughter Maisie to safety. As a plot device, does it raise the stakes for the reader when time is of the essence and not a single minute can be wasted?

A. Yes, I think so. There are lots of TV shows and films that use the same device and it always ramps up the tension – mostly because the reader knows that at the end, the character will turn into a monster, but they’re willing to sit through the action until that moment happens. They know it’s coming, but not how it will happen. I originally had the idea for Z-Minus while thinking about how to create a new twist on an old idea. Usually zombies Turn within a few seconds or minutes of being bitten, so I thought it would be fun to play with that and extend it to eight hours, and see the gradual change coming over the characters.

Q. Also in Z-Minus, Chris has to race to get Maisie to a rumored zombie cure. In most zombie books/flicks, if you get bitten by a zombie or get a whiff of a zombie virus then boom. That’s it. You’re a zombie. Sorry. Thanks for playing. I think it’s creative that you went against the grain here and provided your protagonist with the hope of a cure. Does that add to the suspense, knowing there’s a chance at survival?

A. Book II of the Z-Minus trilogy was actually the original idea I had for the whole series. I felt it upped the ante. After all, if you only have a few seconds after being bitten to be Turned, there’s nothing you can do to save yourself. Whereas if you have 8-hours, anyone would do anything to get their hands on the cure, assuming it exists. The closer you get to the cure, the closer you are to turning into a zombie, and the weaker you are.

This concept is weaved throughout the Z-Minus trilogy. You’ve described Book I and II above, Book III raises the tension even more when Chris has eight hours to get Maisie to a science research vessel off the coast of Brighton so they can harness the cure in her blood before it disappears for good. But the cure has endowed her with other unforeseen powers too.

Keeping-Mum-Ebook-Updated-SmallQ.   Can we talk about Keeping Mum? The premise is that Peter and Kate Loveridge have to convince the tax-man that their mother, Hetty, is alive for one more week, lest they lose their entire inheritance. So Peter dresses and acts like his mother and then a variety of hi jinx ensue, namely his mother’s old flame comes into the picture. Sounds hilarious. Where did you dream up the idea for this one?

A.   It’s actually based on a real concept. We have a ridiculous law in the UK which is that if parents give money, property etc. to their children, then if the parents survive for seven years after the date of giving the money, the kids don’t have to pay inheritance tax on it. I knew there was a story there somewhere, but at the time I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then, a couple of years later I read a news article about a brother and sister in the US who were dressing up as their mother to draw her pension money every week even after she had died. It’s hard to have sympathy for characters who do this kind of thing, and for relatively little money, but what if it was for a large amount, and their anti-government parents actually wanted their kids to do it? That was interesting to me, so I married the two ideas into one.

Q. Some of your books, like Z-Minus show a serious side while books like Keeping Mum are funny. How do you balance the serious and the humorous when many authors usually choose to go in just one direction or the other?

A.  I feel every book exists on a kind of slide rule of various attributes. One slide rule is serious vs. humorous. Some are super serious without any humor, others hilarious and ridiculous. I think the best stories have elements of both. Where a story is on the slide rule depends on their genre, tone, pace etc. Keeping Mum is a comedy, but it’s dark – these guys have stuck their mother in a deep freezer for their own purposes, after all! Whereas Z-Minus and Blood Memory are dark, but with some lighthearted moments. Swiss Family RobinZOM is somewhere in the middle. I mostly balance them by the tone, how it feels, and how I want the reader to feel while reading my books. I often delete entire scenes or sequences if I feel they don’t fit the tone.

And listening to the right kind of music helps a lot!

Q. Perrin, thank you for your help. Before I go, do you have any advice for my friends and I on how to survive the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?

A. Yes. Get into space! (Another idea I’m currently toying with!)

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