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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Winston Churchill quotes

The other day someone told me about a conversation that was supposed to have taken place between Churchill and German ambassador von Ribbentrop in 1937. Von Ribbentrop said, "Remember, Mr. Churchill, if there is a war, we will have the Italians on our side this time." To which Churchill reportedly replied, "My dear Ambassador, it's only fair. We had them last time."

One of Churchill's better known quotes is, in response to a disapproving lady, "I may be drunk Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly." (I had always thought this incident actually happened, but as it turns out, it's something Churchill claimed that he said, which means it may have just been a line he came up with after the opportunity passed.)

Another famous Churchill saying which I've heard any number of times was one which I mistakenly thought was from Mark Twain: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

Churchill was always known for his wit, but if you look up his quotations, they seem to fall into three fairly distinct categories.

The first category are those that sound like something that might be uttered by a football coach -- or maybe Tony Robbins, or Joel Osteen. That Churchill said them in reference to war, rather than a sport, gives these quotes a little more gravitas, however:

Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Never, never, never give up.

Continuous effort -- not strength or intelligence -- is the key to unlocking our potential.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

Kites rise highest against the wind -- not with it.

Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.

We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means inspiration and survival.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

I never worry about action, but only inaction.

The second category have the sort of punny, take-a-common-expression-and-reverse-it quality that makes them sound as if they might have come from Oscar Wilde:

We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.

"No comment" is a splendid expression. I am using it again and again.

I am easily satisfied with the very best.

He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.

In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.

I always avoid prophesying beforehand, because it is a much better policy to prophesy after the event has taken place.

Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.

There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.

I'm just preparing my impromptu remarks.

But his best quotes are unmistakably Churchillian, and those are the ones with which he leaves the football coaches and Oscar Wilde in the dust:

The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.

You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else.

I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.

If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time -- a tremendous whack.

I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.

A state of society where men may not speak their minds cannot long endure.

(Boy, is that one ever topical.)

An appeaser is one who will feed a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

There is no such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion.

This report, by its very length, defends against the risk of being read.

Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.

A fanatic is one who won't change his mind and won't change the subject.

War is mainly a catalogue of blunders.

If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce.

It was the nation and the race dwelling around the globe that had the lion's heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.

I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.

My wife and I tried two or three times in the past 40 years to have breakfast together, but it was so disagreeable we had to stop.

Baldwin thought Europe was a bore, and Chamberlain thought it was only a greater Birmingham.

A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him.

When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home.

A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.

Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace and those who make a good peace would never have won the war.

Battles are won by slaughter and maneuver. The greater the general, the more he contributes in maneuver, the less he demands in slaughter.

Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed.

If the Almighty were to rebuild the world and asked me for advice, I would have English Channels round every country. And the atmosphere would be such that anything which attempted to fly would be set on fire.

The best Churchill quotes combine a wry worldliness, occasional self-mockery, and a little bit of acid.

And here's what Churchill had to say on the subject of Muslims:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.

Kudos to Mark Caplan, who recently pointed out (after "Rhodes must fall") that Churchill was right about Muslims. I had never thought of women in Islamic society as slaves before, but that's not an entirely inaccurate description. That concept ought to get more airtime in the current discussion of immigration. 


Anonymous said...

I love Winston Churchill. He had a brilliant mind. He's right about Islam, it's a barbaric, dreadful religion.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
He was brilliant, no question.

Smallberries Worldwide said...

"A fanatic is one who won't change his mind and won't change the subject."

Also very topical in light of the Left's inability to discuss pretty much anything logically, calmly or rationally.

Gilbert Ratchet said...

"Clement Attlee is a very modest man" "Yes, and he has much to be modest about."

"If I were your wife, I'd put poison in your tea." "If I were your husband, I'd drink it."

When the rotund Queen Tupou passed by where Churchill was sitting, she was followed by a small boy. Churchill was nudged by a companion who pointed to the small boy and asked, “Who’s that?” “Her lunch,” Churchill grumbled.

John Craig said...

Smallberries Worldwide --
True enough.

Another one which will undoubtedly remain topical is, The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter."

Mark Caplan said...

Thanks for the kudos.

My favorite line in Churchill's eloquent, honest, and wise condemnation of Islam is "No stronger retrograde force exists in the world."

When barraged with such criticisms as Churchill's, apologists for Islam trot out the Islamic Golden Age in Medieval Spain as proof that Islam is not irredeemably brutal, repressive, and intolerant. Supposedly the Moors ruled Southern Spain with a light, kindly touch, allowing Jews, Christians, and Muslims to form one big, happy, Kumbaya-singing family. To those of us with a basic comprehension of Islam's history, tenets, and sacred texts, the history of "Al-Andalus" always sounded far-fetched.

A professor of history at Northwestern University looked into the matter in great depth and recently published The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain (2016). Although I haven't read the book, I read his earlier article with the same title. The article begins:

The existence of a Muslim kingdom in Medieval Spain where different races and religions lived harmoniously in multicultural tolerance is one of today’s most widespread myths. University professors teach it. Journalists repeat it. Tourists visiting the Alhambra accept it. It has reached the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, which sings the virtues of the "pan-confessional humanism" of Andalusian Spain (July 18, 2003). The Economist echoes the belief: "Muslim rulers of the past were far more tolerant of people of other faiths than were Catholic ones...."

"The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise"

John Craig said...

Gilbert --
I'd heard that second one, but hadn't realized it was Churchill.

Hadn't heard the Queen Tupou one, that's quite funny. (I had to look up Queen Tupou, those Tongans do get huge.)

John Craig said...

Mark --
That makes sense. People generally don't act out of character, unless it's an act, and I suppose neither do religions.

Jokah Macpherson said...

My favorite Churchill quote, probably apocryphal but in character, is the conversation where the punchline is "What you are, madam, has already been established. We're just negotiating price."

John Craig said...

Jokah --
What that Churchill too?! I've heard that line many times, but had had no idea it had originated with him. He's turning out to be like Shakespeare, the original source of a lot of familiar phrases.

Mark Caplan said...

One funny thing compared to the present is that, although Churchill wrote the text, a radio actor impersonating Churchill delivered some of his most memorable speeches. Today, of course, it's the opposite: the politician reads the speech written by his team of professional speech writers.

"Finest hour for actor who was Churchill's radio voice"

John Craig said...

Mark --
That is ironic. One thing that article barely alludes to is Churchill's speech impediment. I just happened to be reading about Churchill the morning and found out that he had a "lateral lisp" (whatever that is) for his entire life, and ha dentures specifically made to help with that. He was also said to have stuttered as a boy, but that is disputed:

Mark Caplan said...

I have to believe that if Churchill were in power today, he'd force Kim Jong-un to abandon his nuclear program with one well-targeted epigram.

Anonymous said...

If you want the opposite, stupidity, google Von Ribbentrop, the Nazi foreign minister.
He was tested during the Nuremberg trials and scored and IQ of 129 (but adjusted for the flynn effect it may be lower now, since IQ has been rising they had to readjust it every decade or so to keep 100 average) yet he was incredibly stupid.

His childhood teacher called him the most brainless boy in his entire class.How he could become the foreign minister of Nazi Germany is a mystery, and to be so stupid with an IQ of 129.

Hitler even couldn't stand him. His defense lawyer said he should be hanged for being so stupid. Here is a huge example from him trial, the Judge was questioning him on bullying the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia into appeasing.

Sir David Maxwell-Fife.:
‘What further pressure could you put on the head of a country except to threaten him that your army would march in and your airforce would bomb his capital?’

Joachim Von Ribbentrop: ‘War, for instance’

The entire courtroom erupted in laughter and his co-defendants sitting on the bench slapped their palms against their faces.


John Craig said...

Ga --
When I first read your comment (I knew nothing of von Ribbentrop's personality) I thought that maybe he had Aspergers, which tends to make people literal and would explain the comment you quote, "War, for instance." But then it occurred to me that maybe he was feigning stupidity at the Nuremberg Trials in order to be able to escape punishment, a sort of innocent-by-reason-of-stupidity pose.

Then I read the Wiki article about him, which says this:

Ribbentrop was not popular with the Nazi Party's Alte Kämpfer (Old Fighters); they nearly all disliked him. British historian Laurence Rees described Ribbentrop as "the Nazi almost all the other leading Nazis hated". Joseph Goebbels expressed a common view when he confided to his diary that "Von Ribbentrop bought his name, he married his money and he swindled his way into office".

And that makes him sound like a sociopath. So I'm not sure. Maybe he really was just stupid; and I did read that quote from his schoolteacher, but it's possible that that teacher just said that because he disliked him personally. But there's possible conflicting explanations there, so I'm just not sure.

Anonymous said...

He was a sycophant and praised Hitleraround him hoping to gain his approval. (It just made him hate him even more) I wonder if he was an unintelligent histrionic rather than a sociopath.

Another funny part was also during the trial. I don't remember it so clearly. The Judge asked him about the foreign policy of Nazi Germany, to which he said he did not know. The Judge said he was the chief minister of policy so so he should. He just replied he just never bothered to know what it was his entire career. His co-defendants on the bench face-palmed.

Yes, the "Von" was added to his surname deliberately for his image, this fits the profile for being a histrionic (which they called a hysteric back then, Langer in his OSS report said Hitler fits the profile for also having hysteria).

To me, from what I can deduce, a histrionic/hysteric is a person who acts to be like a narcissist out of vanity lacking strong pride in oneself.

For Hitler's case, Langer noted Hitler's "rages" were forced and possibly to compensate for a masochistic feminine nature common to the German male people, one he wanted to suppress, out of a desire to be a brute unlike the unartifcial brutal nature of a Stalin/Mao/Leopold II type. (Okay okay, This was the 40s, they said weird stuff)

As for "Von" Ribbentrop, What I don't get is how he stayed at the top in his position to the end. He sucked at manipulating and charming people, people couldn't stand his stupidity when they met him, so that couldn't have been it. Besides, Hitler absolutely despised him, he could have kicked him out any time, but didn't.


John Craig said...

Ga --
I think of "histrionic" as acting out in various ways which are calculated to draw attention, like the Antifa crowd. Ribbentrop's adding "Von" to his name is merely ordinary pretension; I'd file it under narcissism.

Daniel B said...

I also liked:

"Democracy is the worst form of government excepting all the others that have been tried."

John Craig said...

Daniel B --
Yes, good one. I'd heard that before, but hadn't realized it was from Churchill.