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Book Review: For All Mankind

February 27, 2018

 

This month was taken up with work commitments and Chinese New Year, hence I only managed to squeeze in one book. This book was one I grabbed by chance on a secondhand bookstore trip in London, near Victoria Station. (A narrow little space full of dusty tomes and pre-loved volumes, and the most wonderful dry smell of pages and words, all crammed into shelves and shelves and shelves that were near bursting.) (I love old bookstores.)

 

For All Mankind was written by Leon Blum in 1941 while in prison. I am not a student of history, hence I hadn't known who he was. For the uninitiated, Blum was the first Socialist premier of France, and he was Jewish. He was premier at the time Nazis were steadily gaining power and Hitler began attacking and conquering many parts of Europe.

 

All of these I learned after I had completed his book. The writing is old-fashioned - the book itself is yellowing and the book jacket suffered water damage - but the thought behind every word still new and applicable to our day and age. He was undoubtedly a scholar of French history in all its bloody and unhappy glory, and yet he held hope in his heart that France could do better and be a model to the world, just as her revolution was a model to many other nations.

 

Despite what must have been a depressing and bleak time for his nation and his people, Blum nonetheless maintained throughout the book a firm belief that democracy of all political regimes is the only one aiming for peace among all people.

 

It could not have been otherwise; tyrannies are by nature aggressive, just as democracy is pacific.

 

We all know how WWII ended, but Blum at the time of writing didn't. I find that inspiring, to believe so strongly that peace can be attainable, that people want peace. And as I look at the world around us today, I think perhaps I should keep the same faith in humanity. It is harder than ever to be positive, but if Blum managed to do so in prison while a tyrant was literally killing millions, I think I can do it too.

 

Nothing established by violence and maintained by force, nothing that degrades humanity and is based on contempt for human personality, can endure.

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