by Jeanie Lo
Is rearmament necessarily a bad thing?
Is maintaining peace always good?
Joe Wright’s Academy Award-nominated film, “The Darkest Hour” raises some good questions on whether maintaining peace is always a better solution to deal with “evil.” Is mediation, including mediating with a ruthless dictator, always better than war? Are self-isolation and neutrality the most effective method to protect oneself?
In the film, Winston Churchill called for Britain to remain engaged in World War II once he stepped into the shoes of British Prime Minister. Though Churchill had the support from his rival party, the Labor Party, support from his own Conservative Party laid in the hands of Churchill’s predecessor and the Leader of the Conservative Party, the disgraced Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain believed Britain should pull itself out of the war before Nazi Germany could invade the country; Europe would fall, but at least Britain would retain her freedom. And so Chamberlain and his allies called for peaceful negotiation with Hitler with the help of Mussolini — satisfy the beast, in exchange for a prey’s freedom.
Churchill did not trust the beast. There were no rooms for fair and trustworthy negotiations when the opponent’s sanity was in question. Churchill believed that if Britain were to appease the devil, for the time being, the devil would still bite back later. After all, we all made the mistake of thinking we could strike a deal with the devil before we realize the devil does not answer to anyone but itself.
It remains in our popular belief that if America didn’t enter World War II, the Axis powers might have won the war. Yet we cannot forget America only entered the war two years after the war started. Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the majority of the country wanted to stay neutral. The country employed a protectionist stance. Despite constantly asking for help from U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt, Churchill could not get America on his side. If Churchill didn’t keep the stream of force (no matter how weak) against the Axis power of Germany, Italy and Japan by fighting on, there would not have been a queue for America and Russia to step in and defeat them. We would not have been able to retain to freely the freedom we treasure and regard as our natural human right. (The Amazon TV series “The Man in the High Castle” gives us a visual presentation of this possible dystopia — a world in which the Nazis rule the western world.)
During the Vietnam War, pacifism became the universal answer to violence. Even now, we seemed to have inherited the idea of “peace and love” could be the solution to all things evil. Martin Luther King Jr. championed peaceful civil rights protests, while Gandhi called for nonviolent civil disobedience. Yet without Lincoln’s charge for the American Civil War, King might have still been a slave without the chance for education and literacy — both critical components to his eloquent and persuasive speeches that mobilized so many African Americans to fight racism. Without a reasonable British empire (who, although colonized and abused many countries, still managed to govern and develop them without measures of severe terror) Gandhi’s protests and hunger strike might not have left any dent on the British Government’s decisions. Coming from Hong Kong, a former British colonized city, I was able to enjoy bilingual education, have freedom of speech and press and have a multicultural experience resulted from the city’s international commerce industry. I lived in a city that was able to preserve its native language and develop its own unique identity and freedom. My point is: colonialism is not pure evil.
History is read based on perspective and interpretations. It is full of moral ambiguities. There is darkness in light, and light in the darkness. Values we regarded as the utmost and purely good might not always be the best solution to every given situation. We handle each crisis with solutions created specifically for that unique problem. There’s no one size fit all, magic formula. Violence, generally regarded as bad, should be our last resort to conflict; but we must be ready to exercise that undesirable option when needed.
I’m not an advocate for war; I’m not an advocate for hate. I believe in the pursuit of peace and the power of love. But sometimes to bring light to the world, we must draw power from our dark side – the key is not to let our hidden darkness take over us. Don’t be like Anakin Skywalker who allowed darkness to control him, be Luke that drew anger and emotions from within to bring Darth Vadar to the good side.