Cancelling Russia

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Dr Ann Jones

One of my favourite radio shows is called “What the Duck?”. The host is Ann Jones, a naturalist, and every week she addresses odd, extreme and downright quirky things in the natural world. In her most recent show she investigated whether any of Aesop’s Fables were scientifically as well as morally sound. Could, for example, a tortoise really win a race with a hare?

This moved me to pull down my copy of the book and browse at random. I came across the fable of The Wolf and the Lamb, which I offer below in condensed form. The moral is “Any excuse will serve a tyrant.” How apt at this moment!

The good guys (to lump a multitude of countries into one geopolitical category) have not reacted to Putin’s invasion very cleverly or courageously. The Ukrainian people’s own ferocious defence of  their national sovereignty stands in stark contrast, as does President Zelenskiy’s leadership.

Aesop’s Fables: The Wolf and the Lamb

But I am appalled by recent reports of Western institutions’ “cancelling” Russian books, music and art.  Putin and his coterie are our enemy, not the Russian people and certainly not Russia’s rich contribution to the cultural life of the world.  

Putin has lied to his people and to his own army.  True, he is mining a rich vein of nationalism and fear born of past invasions from the west, but few Russians would have supported the brutal assault on peaceable fellow-Slavs if they had known the truth.

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THE WOLF AND THE LAMB (CONDENSED)

A wolf is drinking at a brook and sees a lamb paddling a little way off. Wanting a reason to eat the lamb the wolf says, “How dare you stir up the mud while I’m drinking?!”

The lamb replies, “But I’m downstream of you.”

“Huh,” said the wolf, “I bet it was you saying bad things behind my back a year ago.”

“A year ago I was not born,” said the lamb.

“Then it must have been your father, which comes to the same thing!”

And the wolf leapt on the lamb, killed it and ate it.

History Repeats Itself

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Mark Twain is reputed to have said, “History doesn’t repeat Itself, but it often rhymes.”  Seeing and hearing President Zelenskiy addressing the world, pleading for meaningful help to resist Putin’s vicious assault on his country, I realised that this was a repeat performance of Emperor Haile Selassie’s plea to the League of Nations to save Ethiopia from MussoliniClick here to read a full transcipt.

That was in June 1936.  The League of Nations did nothing.  Mussolini created his colony of Italian East Africa.  Fast-forward to April 1945: Mussolini’s corpse was hung upside-down in a public square in Milan, and three days later Hitler shot himself.  But during those nine years unimaginable crimes against humanity were committed; millions died; and much of Europe and Japan lay in ruins.

This is more than a rhyme.