Monday, 24 October 2011


I have never been to Libya.  The closest I have been to knowing something about that country is that a friend spent her childhood there before the coup that brought  Gaddafy to power, and another friend, with whom I worked in Latvia, went on to work in Libya c couple of jobs later.  Both of them had things to tell me  about the country, thanks Sarah and Calum.  But I have been following events there with huge interest, as i am sure most people have.  What has happened there is momentous.  A civl war sparked by the growing resistance of the people to dictatorship, ending with the unseating of that dictatorship with the help of European forces, especially those of France.  A war, not in Europe but near its southern edges.

I have been puzzled though by the fact that over recent months, whenever I have talked with family members in the UK they have not mentioned these and similar events.  Not once.  None of them.  Are people really not interested when a war is being fought?  Not even a faraway war.  Libya has Mediterranean beaches, and I hope to have a holiday on them before I die.  The UK media report these events extensively, and my family in the UK presumably see that coverage.  Can readers tell me why no-one mentions these things?

I have mentioned these matters from time to time. Tthe only response I had, to a mention of the sight of the dead Gaddafy, which i posted on Facebook the other day, was from a relative I don't know at all well, my cousin's son, whatever relation that makes him to me, who said he wasn't upset by the pictures because he was glad the dictator was gone.  Pretty much my sentiments too.

When I visited my mother in the UK last year she reminisced about "the war" as people of her generation and a slightly older one call the Second World War.  Interestingly, too.  She was evacuated to Sussex from London at the age of 12,with her sister.  Later her family was bombed out of their home in Peckham and rehoused in Eastcote, west London, which is how I came to be born in that part of London.  As part of that conversation I happened to say that war in Europe did not end with the defeat of Hitler.  The Cold War kept a kind of peace in Europe for more than 40 years, then after its end in the 1980s there was a new war in Europe in the 90s, with millions dead and the longest siege in history, in Sarajevo.  I had to remind my mother that that war had even happened.  She did a kind of wave of the hand that I have seen before, as if to wave away the knowledge, because it "didn't really count".  She even said to me that the war in former Yugoslavia was "not the same" as the Second World War.  No, of course it wasn't, no-one said it was, which makes the remark interesting.  But how, when Europe is a smaller place than it was in the 1940s (when Czechoslovakia was "a faraway country of which we know little" rather than a place you could go to for your stag weekend) can people who are not ignorant, who read the news and who think about what is going on in the world, at least from time to time, be so unaware that there was a major war in Europe less than 20 years ago?  And not wish to think about that, but to wave away the knowledge that it happened?  This is not to criticise my mother: I believe a great many people think like this.  I did not give the war in Europe enough thought myself when it was happening.  I am not sure why not.


Anonymous said...

War isnt' real to most people - rightly or wrongly - unless it is happening in their backyard or town or village and they have their own air raid shelters.

War anywhere else is happening in a foregin country. The little Englander mentality is extremely dominant - still. Can't ever see that altering.

Saul said...

"Can readers tell me why no-one mentions these things?"

Have you any distant memory of how ordinary people live in the UK or was it completely erased when you entered the euro bubble ?

Anonymous said...

Those of us born in the years just after the 2nd World War heard a considerable amount from our parents, neighbours and teachers who experienced the bombs, served in the forces or survived the camps. We played in the air-raid shelters and bomb-sites, and saw TV programmes and hear the radio on the war.

The Iraq war was used by newspapers and broadcasters to push out Blair, and the Stoppers had links to Al Qaeda.

Only the Prov. IRA had links with Libya. Cameron is safe thaks to Clegg.

Anonymous said...

I am interested in last Anon's comments.
I was born in 1954 - 9 years after war ended.

It played absolutley no part in my life whatsoever as a child growing up. My parents and their friends didn't talk about it - I never saw an air raid shelter or heard about rations or camps. School games and play never dealt with war or Nazis or Germans. It was another world. At school, neither my O nor A level syllabuses dealt with it.Vietnam was the war that punctuated my childhood. And my grandfather had served in World War 1 and very occasionally talked about it.

My husband was born in 1947. He is extremely interested in the 2nd World War and has got lots of books about it - and about Hitler etc. My first husband was born in 1949. He had books about it too. Not me.