A right royal display of self-serving sympathy

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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You see, the thing to remember about a genuine expression of sympathy is that there is no need – indeed, no excuse whatsoever – for using the circumstance to express one’s personal opinions on at best tangentially related matters.

For example, if somebody were to tell you how they and their family suffered terribly under the Nazis one should under no circumstance take this as your cue to compare
contemporary world leaders, Putin, say, to the diabolic architect of their dire misfortune.

Hard to justify, and for one good reason. Actually, in the case of long-anointed future heads of state asked to represent their ‘subjects’ overseas, TWO good reasons.

First and foremost, although glib Hitler comparisons have long been part of the Western political discourse – usually deployed when grooming the herd for conflict – it would be erroneous to believe this tack has grown any less offensive through frequent repetition.

The clear and eternal danger is that unless the leader thus smeared does measure up to Hitler in terms of deeds done, one succeeds only in insulting the intelligence of those on the receiving end.

Add direct personal experience of Nazism’s worst crimes against humanity into the mix and, it could be argued, one also seems somehow to actively diminish their woes.

King Leopold II, Stalin, Mao
Zedong, Johnson/Nixon, Pol Pot, Suharto, any of these and other men (sorry lads, always us so far) who have systematically killed by the million, any of these, possibly, you could maybe get away with.

Buy why would you want to ‘get away with’ anything in the course of expressing genuine sympathy?

The reason applying solely to aforementioned rulers-in-waiting is even more blindingly obvious.

We – by which I mean the nation, state, whole show – have to deal with these freshly smearedfigures.

One need not regard Putin as a saint – a fool’s errand if ever there was – to grasp that this will be quite complicated enough without high profile apparently apolitical figures sharing their ill-thought out views willy-nilly across the globe.

And to be honest, you can sort of see how the leader of a nation which lost more than 25,000,000 lives during WW2 (including Putin’s own brother), approximately 30 times the total number of UK and US deaths, might now be unwilling to give any amount of retrospective backtrack a sympathetic hearing.