Harry’s Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It, by Harry Leslie Smith
Need a reality check? Then this is the non-accusatory read for you!
|As ‘Black Friday’ quickly approaches, with people already camped out to get first dibs on the latest bauble or gadget, I thought you might enjoy this perspective on life until you pick up your credit card bills next month. J|
‘As one of the last remaining survivors of the Great Depression and the Second World War, I will not go gently into that good night. I want to tell you what the world looks like through my eyes, so that you can help change it…’ ~ Harry Leslie Smith
In November 2013, 91-year-old Yorkshireman, RAF veteran and ex-carpet salesman Harry Leslie Smith’s Guardian article – ‘This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time’ – was shared almost 60,000 times on Facebook and started a huge debate about the state of society.
Now he brings his unique perspective to bear on NHS* cutbacks, benefits policy, political corruption, food poverty, the cost of education – and much more. From the deprivation of 1930s Barnsley and the terror of war to the creation of our welfare state, Harry has experienced how a great civilisation can rise from the rubble. But at the end of his life, he fears how easily it is being eroded.
Harry’s Last Stand is a lyrical, searing modern invective that shows what the past can teach us, and how the future is ours for the taking.
Harry Leslie Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression, a second world war RAF veteran and, at 91, an activist for the poor and for the preservation of social democracy. His Guardian articles have been shared over 60,000 times on Facebook and have attracted huge comment and debate. He has authored numerous books about Britain during the Great Depression, the second world war and postwar austerity. He lives outside Toronto, Canada and in Yorkshire.
*Note to copy writers: While your trendiness is noted – converting most everything into a mnemonic – the problem being that only you and a handful of others know what the hell you are talking about. Communication is still a two-way process.
Review by Gerry Burnie
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and Harry Leslie Smith represents nearly 100 years of history in his seminal book, Harry’s Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It [Icon Books, June 5th 2014].
Browsing some of the reviews already published, I notice that the majority of them make some reference to disregarding the opinions of seniors as being outdated.
Overlooking the other issues with this way of thinking (e.g. stereotyping), it is also illogical. Who best to ask other than someone who has ‘bin der, and done dat’?
This is Leslie Smith’s point as well, and so, in a non-proselytizing way he sets out to tell you his story: from first fighting a war against tyranny, and subsequently the battles to win old age retirement benefits, social assistance for the poor, and universal health coverage, to name a few. No sooner had these been achieved, in whole or part, when the entire scenario changed with the social revolution of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Old, tried and true standards, were tossed in favour of mass consumerism that the corporations quickly embraced with an array of slick new gadgets to addlepate the public even more – a world of never-ending bliss with the newest model of automobile, TV, or smart phone.
Individuals like Leslie Smith, having been raised according to stricter standards, could see the banality of all this, of course, but as the other reviewers have already noted, his opinion (and others) were considered outdated and irrelevant in the face of such wonderful entertainments and gadgets.
To his credit, Leslie Smith does not assign blame to any one or group; rather he lays out his observations for everyone to see, in terms everyone can understand, together with his manifesto for the future.
This is inspirational reading. It is like sitting down with ‘the old man of the mountain’ for a chat about the real realities of life that seemingly are lost on modern society. Highly therapeutic and recommended. Five bees.
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Interested in Canadian history?
Want to learn more? Then visit my new page: In Praise of Canadian History. It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Thalidomide! Canada’ tragedy.
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