Back in my early twenties I'd tell myself that, should something akin to the Spanish Civil war occur, I should go there and do... well, something- just like that lost generation. Now, in my thirties, a clear-cut fight between common people fighting for their freedom against a Fascist oppressor has emerged and my 'something' has failed to emerge.
It's hard not to feel I've let my younger self down. OK, so he was naive and full of that pomposity only inexperience can breed, but dammit, the zitty goofball had a point. Of sorts.
So what happened to that spirit of '36 anyway? Who swigged it all down? Gadaffi's regime shells civillians, tactically mass rapes and openly declares 'we will find you shivering in your cupboards and will show you no mercy' and the British left actually debate whether intervening is right or not. To the best of my knowledge, not one of 'em has even talked of dropping their blog roll and picking up a gun, or even a band aid. The very notion is absurd- picture an International Brigade composed of Starbucks-lolling Mac users and assorted Twitterati. Try.
The conformist modern liberal understands Iraq war= Bad thing (I'm ambivalent at best myself, though it would be deluded to believe it had no effect on the 'Arab spring') then see's another bunch of Arabs and a dressed-up dictator and western fighter strikes and, and...
Freezes, goes utterly mealy mouthed. I've seen it. Finally, someone always says 'Of course, its all about oil in the end' and everyone breaths an inward sigh of relief. But in the case of Libya, its a tattered hymn sheet that blots out the tears of the mother and the screams of the child.
Yes, it is very probably about oil. But, more to the point, its about a people starving for freedom and being served bullets. I don't know about you, but I'll happily take the former if the latter is rectified. Even at the expense of not looking hip.
That's the problem with the modern British left (of which, despite this post's appearance, I count myself part of)- loves a cause, detests a responsibility.
But anyway, here's to Spain's International Brigades, who came from the factories and fields, the offices and universities, to fight- perhaps foolishly- for principles their nation's governments ran from until it was too late. Sad, but if you begin to type 'Battle of Ebro river' into Google or Wikipedia, 'Battle of Endor' comes up long before it.