15th October 2008
Some time ago I wrote a book called 'Je ne regrette rien', which explored how people's minds and political attitudes can change, particularly during times of conflict and war. In France in 1940, before the tides of war swung the allies' way, the then President (Philippe Petain) went with the views of most of the country at that time in thinking that Germany was going to win. Better to side with Hitler then, if France was going to survive. Then everything changed, including people's attitudes. It was interesting, therefore, to read a recent story about the family of a Jersey man shot by the Nazis after joining the French Resistance. The descendants of John Soyer have now been invited to Brehel in Normandy, where he is buried, to commemorate his heroic deeds during the Resistance. The family had been tracked down by a 92 year-old lady, who had helped M. Soyer all that time ago. The residents of Brehel organised a flag-lowering ceremony in Normandy in M. Soyer's honour and renamed an apartment block in the town Residence John Soyer. As Petain himself would have said: how war and conflict change things! It's as if every so often someone stirs around the whole mixing-bowl world with a giant spoon, changing our mindsets in totally different directions. I wonder if the current conflation of serious economic downturn plus the possibility of the first black US President, will have the same effect on us all, changing our views in previously unimaginable ways. We'll just have to wait and see.