Saturday, 10 June 2017

Tolstoy and the British election


I don't think the British election result was Corbyn's great achievement. It was caused by decisions of millions of people made not quite but almost despite him. It was a battle that was won and lost by ordinary people, largely on social media. The same to some extent is true of Trump's victory, though he is more intelligent and substantial than Corbyn, obviously. Everyone agreed Brown was unelectable yet he almost won in 2010 despite his faults. In fact election victories like military victories are are caused by millions and millions of causes as Tolstoy describes in this passage from War and Peace:

To us, their descendants, who are not historians and are not carried away by the process of research and can therefore regard the event with unclouded common sense, an incalculable number of causes present themselves. The deeper we delve in search of these causes the more of them we find; and each separate cause or whole series of causes appears to us equally valid in itself and equally false by its insignificance compared to the magnitude of the events, and by its impotence- apart from the cooperation of all the other coincident causes- to occasion the event. To us, the wish or objection of this or that French corporal to serve a second term appears as much a cause as Napoleon's refusal to withdraw his troops beyond the Vistula and to restore the duchy of Oldenburg; for had he not wished to serve, and had a second, a third, and a thousandth corporal and private also refused, there would have been so many less men in Napoleon's army and the war could not have occurred.

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