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Ghazala

The Great War was a grim necessity

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voltaire60
39 minutes ago, PhilB said:

We all know what is intended when the term Revisionist is used in reference to WW1 but you correctly point out that it's really an inappropriate name. What might be a better name for the so called Revisionist view?:unsure:

 

   "Alternative"   or "Different"    it's the connotation that "revisionist" means that is the most up to date view, the best researched view that bothers me.  For most stuff- inc. a fair bit of Great War, the best that can be said is that it spurs further work and helps to "illumine" topics of interest. But it's a dangerous game -too easily done (though not by Gunga Dinn), that "revisionist" torpedoes all that has gone before. It's a word like "critique" that all too often implies that a superior outcome  arises if a view is labelled "revisionist" or that a later writer's "critique" displaces the previous model. Frankly, a lot of "revisionist" stuff doesn't get to the starting blocks of good history in terms of legwork, study,etc to arrive at where the previous historian was. "Revisionist" is too often a word of lazy history dominated by "alternative" agendas of what History is about. "Revisionist" comes with no warranty as to quality.

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PhilB

But, as you say, all Revisionist views are alternative or different - what name (that we could more appropriately use) would typify the current Revisionist view?

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Muerrisch

Gunga Din, as a member of 64 posts please note that none of us are looking for a fight. You appear to know a fair bit of the relevant subject matter, so do others who have been around here for a reasonable length of time. I suggest that you cool it and hang on in ........ you and we might learn something even in disagreement.

 

At last  this is a thread that has engaged my attention sufficiently to tap a few keys ........the first such since March.

 

a few points to oil the cogs, or clog them:

 

"the vast majority of the population thought the Great War worth fighting", This is unknowable now, and it was unknowable then, but until the casualties of First Ypres were counted the proposal is probably sustainable by anecdote which demonstrates that most of the women and a lot of the men had few reservations. After that, the alternatives to fighting on were even less attractive, even if taken out and looked at occasionally.

 

As early as 1907, and allowing for the improvement in the army since the Boer War, it was made clear to British politicians that a continental war would involve the whole nation [conscription was a dirty word] after six months.Thus Mr Richard (later Viscount) Haldane, Secretary of State for War:  

... The Government should have ready this force of six divisions and four cavalry brigades and keep it alive through regular machinery for six months, and after that the nation should be prepared to do its part. That aid should come, through channels which should be provided for it beforehand, to the support and the expansion of the professional Army of the country. ...   ... After six months, drafts are found by the ordinary machinery of war.  ... with the wastage of war one feels that at the end of six months the resources of the War Office may be at an end with that amount of men, and then an appeal must be made to the nation itself. (Hansard 25th February 1907).

 

And lastly I call to mind our Treaty obligations to Belgium. I rather fancy that our politicians of those days had a better concept of honour than today's.

 

If the Somme and Passchendaele are to be mourned, then the 100 Days are to be celebrated.

I am, after all, writing this in English, not as a subject of the Kaiser's descendants.

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David Filsell

I seem to recall that we had an obligation to Belgium. We met it. It was government decision. A majority decision. 

Some volunteered some of did  not.  The government decided on conscription. 

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Terry_Reeves

 

38 minutes ago, David Filsell said:

I seem to recall that we had an obligation to Belgium. We met it. It was government decision. A majority decision. 

Some volunteered some of did  not.  The government decided on conscription. 

David,

 

You say it was a majority decision,  I presume you mean  one taken by parliament. If that is the case I would point out that the decision to go to war was not voted on but authorised by an Order in Council after consultation with the King.

 

As a general point regarding the rest of the rubric "imperfect democracy" read the article in the link below, particularly the figures about voting eligibility.  It is a Wiki document but clearly well researched:

 

http://tinyurl.com/yalnlua8

 

TR

Edited by Terry_Reeves

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Medaler
7 minutes ago, Gunga Din said:

 

Muerrisch

 

Does one need a requisite number of posts to have a qualified view? ..and if so what is that number? Clearly more than 64 in your view, so I would be grateful to know exactly what  the required number of posts is to have a valid view. Quality not quantity is my maxim, and in the context of the OP I disagree with the professor's claim that the "vast majority" of people supported the war and offer the dismal recruiting stats of 1915 as evidence.Notably the Prof does not provide any evidence, but I am open to changing my view in the light o new evidence. 

 

On the existing evidence I don't believe the "vast majority" did have this view. I can't prove it but that is my view. 

 

GD

 

Sorry, but I'm going to come back with my view that the timing of this "vast majority in favour" position is crucial. I am pretty sure that nobody at the time that war was declared was putting their hands up to volunteer for a "grim necessity", because they didn't know that it was going to pan out that way. I certainly however believe that the mass of public opinion was ill-informed, because of the huge raft of evidence that popular thinking believed that it was all going to be over within 4 months. What happened to recruiting stats in 1915, after a degree of reality had set in, is not remotely relevant to public opinion during August of the preceding year.

 

I would also again seek to make the point that "I think we are going to war for the right reasons" is a completely different statement to "Where do I sign?". For the majority of the population to be in favour of the war they only had to tick the first box, not the second one.

 

Mike

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voltaire60
12 hours ago, Gunga Din said:

 

 

 Your aggressive and patronising nature is not in the spirit of the GWF. I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

 

All references are to what is commonly known as "Statistics" or SMEBE or to give it the full title "Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire During the Great War. 1914-19120".. as I suspect you know. And if you bothered to read my posts properly you would have known. It is a standard reference for most people with even a modicum of knowledge of the Great War, and your historical posts would indicate you are familiar with this reference material.

 

You asked a question to which I gave a very detailed answer and you did not have the grace to even thank me. 

 

Gunga Din

 

    Thank you. "Standard" or not, then it really should not be for me to guess. If you quote a source, then have the grace to say what it is. Basic history- give accurate and full references to a quoted source.

   SMEBE is a good but not infallible source. It's collections of statistics are what the government wanted to put out there in the public domain. There is not much controversy over the figures themselves (save, on a continuing basis, the casualty stats.) but what statistical series were included and how those statistics were compiled is an ongoing quest. Part of a much larger movement in  History that questions the construction of the vast series of British statistics, esp. from the 1830s onwards-registration of BMD,etc and the great spurt in collecting and publishing the stuff- much of which revolves around facing up to the problem that there is a huge amount of it, so where does one start?  On various issues, the politics of constructing stats. is a subject of much recent research- the queries about the levels of crime in Victorian England-that murders, for example, were only logged and investigated up the level of the local police budgets, means that a Disraelian approach to veracity must be taken-    " .............. and statistics"

       For instance, POW stats. in SMEBE for the earlier part of the war are pretty much non-existent.   Trying to work out the number of British POWs taken up the end of 1914, let alone before the Germans were stopped on the Marne is hard work to the point of futility from SMEBE.  For what reason?  In terms of historiography and "myth", then we have the episode of Dunkirk in the Second World War. yet the circumstances of the Great War are strikingly similar-  a BEF despatched to the Continent, which is basically destroyed in short order when the German offensive begins. A "revisionist" approach to comparing what happened in 1939-45 and then back-tracking to 1914-1918( a la Fischer)  suggests there is a case for describing the destruction of the BEF as a "1914 Dunkirk"- not only in the number of prisoners taken compared to army strength but also the significant losses of materiel-the latter I believe to be very understated for 1914.

  

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Medaler
14 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

 

    A "revisionist" approach to comparing what happened in 1939-45 and then back-tracking to 1914-1918( a la Fischer)  suggests there is a case for describing the destruction of the BEF as a "1914 Dunkirk"- not only in the number of prisoners taken compared to army strength but also the significant losses of materiel-the latter I believe to be very understated for 1914.

  

 

A compete aside.................

 

Very interesting. I've never looked at it that way before, but the more thought I give it the more credible it seems. In the end I don't know enough about the real Dunkirik to take issue with the analogy, but its quite compelling. I do think we need to be cautious about interpreting a previous event in terms of something that happened later, but it makes for a very interesting comparison.

 

That's why I love coming here - every so often somebody makes me think in a different way - thanks!

 

Regards,

Mike

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David Filsell

As I understand it, seeking an order in council follws is a government decision to approach the king -  a democratically elected government. The key was our responsibility to defending Belgian authority. That was a democratically elected govermental pledge.

 

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AOK4
1 hour ago, David Filsell said:

As I understand it, seeking an order in council follws is a government decision to approach the king -  a democratically elected government. The key was our responsibility to defending Belgian authority. That was a democratically elected govermental pledge.

 

 

Some serious research has been done into the 1839 treaty by Hans Andriessen f.i. which has shown that the UK was not obliged to defend Belgium in case its territory was violated by any country.

For those who understand Dutch, see https://historiek.net/was-groot-brittannie-verplicht-om-belgie-te-hulp-te-snellen-in-1914/49251/

 

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David Filsell

Well well. So a whole new view on the topic in a language I do not understand and I assume peer reviewed. Let me take a step back and simply state that the view seems to wipe years of accepted belief by historians far more knowledgable than I. If indeed it the author is correct, let us accept that if no legal obligation actually existed, most certainly the government seemed to think that had a moral obligation to intervene to protect Belgium's continued independence. Will that do you?

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Terry_Reeves
2 hours ago, David Filsell said:

As I understand it, seeking an order in council follws is a government decision to approach the king -  a democratically elected government. The key was our responsibility to defending Belgian authority. That was a democratically elected govermental pledge.

 

 David, The Treaty of London was signed in 1839. The majority of people in this country did not have the vote then and even by the outbreak of WW1  a large proportion were still in the same position. The use of the word democracy is somewhat problematic I would suggest.

 

TR

 

 

Edited by Terry_Reeves

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Medaler
51 minutes ago, Terry_Reeves said:

 David, The Treaty of London was signed in 1839. The majority of people in this country did not have the vote then and even by the outbreak of WW1  a large proportion were still in the same position. The use of the word democracy is somewhat problematic I would suggest.

 

TR

 

 

 

Not problematic at all, so long as you don't confuse democracy with universal suffrage - and public opinion (as in "most people were in favour") is different again.

 

Mike

Edited by Medaler

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Terry_Reeves
52 minutes ago, Medaler said:

 

Not problematic at all, so long as you don't confuse democracy with universal suffrage - and public opinion (as in "most people were in favour") is different again.

 

Mike

How can you have a real democracy without universal suffrage? The fact is that the majority of people in the UK who would fight this war had no say in committing to war. That is an inescapable fact. 

 

TR

Edited by Terry_Reeves

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Medaler
1 hour ago, Terry_Reeves said:

How can you have a real democracy without universal suffrage? The fact is that the majority of people in the UK who would fight this war had no say in committing to war. It is an inescapable fact. 

 

TR

 

A question for the ancient Greek's perhaps? The term applies to "one person, one vote" and majority rule - eligibility to vote is a different issue. The problem is that the meaning has has changed over time - but we still do not have universal suffrage even now.

 

You are 100% right in what you say about "the majority of people in the UK who would fight this war had no say in committing to war." - but that wasn't how things were done then. Interesting to note perhaps that the fairer half of the population didn't have a vote then - but that maybe that was only just because they wouldn't actually end up doing any of the fighting. You may think that a highly sexist statement - but that is how it was then, and we shouldn't judge "then" by the standards of "now".

 

That is all however different to "public opinion", you don't need the franchise to have an opinion.

 

Mike

Edited by Medaler

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David Filsell

It was what it was. Then. Like slavery, like lack of decent doctors, like five and a half day weeks, like etc etc.  Get over it. Fact is the British government then, made a moral decision then, legally. The rest is fairies on the heads of pins stuff. 

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Terry_Reeves
28 minutes ago, Medaler said:

 

A question for the ancient Greek's perhaps? The term applies to "one person, one vote" - eligibility to vote is a different issue. The problem is that the meaning has has changed over time - but we still do not have universal suffrage even now.

 

You are 100% right in what you say about "the majority of people in the UK who would fight this war had no say in committing to war." - but that wasn't how things were done then. Interesting to note perhaps that the fairer half of the population didn't have a vote then - but that maybe that was only fair because they wouldn't actually end up doing any of the fighting. You may think that a highly sexist statement - but that is how it was then, and we shouldn't judge "then" by the standards of "now".

 

That is all however different to "public opinion", you don't need the franchise to have an opinion.

 

Mike

Mike,

 

1. You can't have one person, one vote without  eligibility to vote. 

 

2. The reason the franchise was limited  was because it suited the ruling elites. 

 

3. The fight by women for the vote started well before the  war. What the war did was to hasten their their enfranchisement. Let us not forget that women played a huge part in the war, not just through nursing but the tens of thousands who worked in often dangerous conditions in the muntions factories.

 

4. The Russian revolution caused many of the middling classes to fear the same might happen here when the troops came home. Enfranchisement was in part at least, seen perhaps as one way of preventing that. In the event there was no revolutionary spirit amongst the troops nor indeed the rest of the population. Most were simply war weary and wanted to get in with their lives.

 

4. 

 

 

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Terry_Reeves
40 minutes ago, David Filsell said:

It was what it was. Then. Like slavery, like lack of decent doctors, like five and a half day weeks, like etc etc.  Get over it. Fact is the British government then, made a moral decision then, legally. The rest is fairies on the heads of pins stuff. 

The British government didn't make a moral decision, it made a decision that suited their  political interests. If Germany had not been seen as a threat to the Empire, then  I would suggest that they might not  have bothered. Don't be fooled by the "poor little Belgium" propaganda. After all it was Palmerston who in 1848, after the Treaty of London was signed said "'We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies." Perfidious Albion and all that.

 

By the way, I don't need "to get over it".  If you want to join in a debate that's fine, but make sure you know something about the subject first.

 

TR

Edited by Terry_Reeves

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MikeMeech
19 minutes ago, Terry_Reeves said:

The British government didn't make a moral decision, it made a decision that suited their  political interests. If Germany had not been seen as a threat to the Empire, then  I would suggest that they might not  have bothered. Don't be fooled by the "poor little Belgium" propaganda. After all it was Palmerston who in 1848, after the Treaty of London was signed said "'We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies." Perfidious Albion and all that.

 

By the way, I don't need "to get over it".  If you want to join in a debate that's fine, but make sure you know something about the subject first.

 

TR

Hi

 

The 'greatest' threats to the British Empire had been (and were?) France (in Africa) and Russia (India), the 'success' of German Foreign Policy was to get Britain to become 'allied' to those two countries.  The German imperial possessions in Africa and Far East were not seen as a particular 'threat', nor were the Italian possessions in Africa.  It appears it was more the German's perceived 'threat' to Britain from its actions in Europe, particularly its Fleet build up which again appeared to be directed at Britain, that probably worried the British Government rather more.  Germany right up to the outbreak of war was, I think, Britain's best trading partner, indeed the Royal Navy was buying armour plate from the Germans.  Although France and Russia did supply most of Germany's food and fodder imports, hence a few problems for Germany when the war became long and not short.

 

Mike

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Medaler
55 minutes ago, Terry_Reeves said:

Mike,

 

1. You can't have one person, one vote without  eligibility to vote. 

 

2. The reason the franchise was limited  was because it suited the ruling elites. 

 

3. The fight by women for the vote started well before the  war. What the war did was to hasten their their enfranchisement. Let us not forget that women played a huge part in the war, not just through nursing but the tens of thousands who worked in often dangerous conditions in the muntions factories.

 

4. The Russian revolution caused many of the middling classes to fear the same might happen here when the troops came home. Enfranchisement was in part at least, seen perhaps as one way of preventing that. In the event there was no revolutionary spirit amongst the troops nor indeed the rest of the population. Most were simply war weary and wanted to get in with their lives.

 

4. 

 

 

 

1. You can't have one person, one vote without eligibility to vote. 

 

Sorry, not sure what you are driving at here. You assuredly can have one person, one vote in a society where not all people are eligible to vote. Like we do now. Try voting if you are under 18 or serving a prison sentence.

 

2. The reason the franchise was limited  was because it suited the ruling elites.

 

Well, that is one view. You could however view the process of moving to mass suffrage (we still don't have the universal version) as evolution. As a process brought on by enlightenment. You could also argue that it was a retrograde step. After all, what is the point of everyone having a vote if they don't have an informed view of how to use it? Is it sensible to enfranchise the masses before educating them? The big conundrum is how you get people to vote for what is right and just, as opposed to being motivated purely by self interest. That is the big problem no matter who is and is not eligible to vote.

 

3. The fight by women for the vote started well before the  war. What the war did was to hasten their their enfranchisement. Let us not forget that women played a huge part in the war, not just through nursing but the tens of thousands who worked in often dangerous conditions in the munitions factories.

 

Who are you accusing of forgetting that women played a huge part in winning the war? What I said was that, given the constraints of the time, they were never going to find themselves fighting in it. Their role was in many ways decisive, but were they out there bayoneting the Bosche? - erm, that would be a "no".

 

4. The Russian revolution caused many of the middling classes to fear the same might happen here when the troops came home. Enfranchisement was in part at least, seen perhaps as one way of preventing that. In the event there was no revolutionary spirit amongst the troops nor indeed the rest of the population. Most were simply war weary and wanted to get in with their lives. 

 

The same worries were expressed at the time of Napoleon and the French revolution. It all goes back to your view of history. The Marxist historians would have us view the past in terms of a power struggle between the ruling elite and the proletariat. The problem is that it's history with added spin.

 

Mike

Edited by Medaler

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Terry_Reeves
30 minutes ago, MikeMeech said:

Hi

 

The 'greatest' threats to the British Empire had been (and were?) France (in Africa) and Russia (India), the 'success' of German Foreign Policy was to get Britain to become 'allied' to those two countries.  The German imperial possessions in Africa and Far East were not seen as a particular 'threat', nor were the Italian possessions in Africa.  It appears it was more the German's perceived 'threat' to Britain from its actions in Europe, particularly its Fleet build up which again appeared to be directed at Britain, that probably worried the British Government rather more.  Germany right up to the outbreak of war was, I think, Britain's best trading partner, indeed the Royal Navy was buying armour plate from the Germans.  Although France and Russia did supply most of Germany's food and fodder imports, hence a few problems for Germany when the war became long and not short.

 

Mike

Mike

 

I don't disagree with you on that.

 

TR

 

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David Filsell

The facts are, w hatever your views, all your knowledge and fact, right wrong or maybe, the decision was made by the ruling government to go to war alongside France an Russia. It was a war we did not start, and did not want. All your largel political musings do not make a jot of difference to reality.

 Enjoy yourselves. Off to bed where I can enjoy sleep full reality.

Edited by David Filsell

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Terry_Reeves
42 minutes ago, Medaler said:

Well, that is one view. You could however view the process of moving to mass suffrage (we still don't have the universal version) as evolution. As a process brought on by enlightenment. You could also argue that it was a retrograde step. After all, what is the point of everyone having a vote if they don't have an informed view of how to use it? Is it sensible to enfranchise the masses before educating them? The big conundrum is how you get people to vote for what is right and just, as opposed to being motivated purely by self interest. That is the big problem no matter who is and is not eligible to vote.

Mike 

 

I find the suggestion that the vote could be refused until the masses were educated a bit patronising I'm afraid.  Let's not forget that by the mid 1850s we had become the world's first fully industrialised nation the success of which relied largely on the skilled labour of the of the working class. I also have difficulty with "getting people to vote for was is right and just". Who to say what is right and just?  It was the politicians who made up their minds was was right and just, and they told the public their version of events. With out a vote, large numbers of the population had little or no chance to find out what was really going on nor to hold the politicians to account.   

 

TR

18 minutes ago, David Filsell said:

The facts are, w hatever your views, all your knowledge and fact, right wrong or maybe, the decision was made by the ruling government to go to war alongside France an Russia. It was a war we did not start, and did not want. All your largel political musings do not make a jot of difference to reality.

 Enjoy yourselves. Off to bed where I can enjoy sleep full reality.

I think you just lost you case Mr Filsell.

 

TR

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Muerrisch

Terry, I struggle, valiantly but unsuccessfully, to understand your:

"With out a vote, large numbers of the population had little or no chance to find out what was really going on"

 

The link between enfranchisement and enlightenment seems tenuous or non-existent.  Surely one can be well-informed [by the standards of the day] without the vote, or ill-informed with the vote.

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Medaler
1 hour ago, Terry_Reeves said:

Mike 

 

I find the suggestion that the vote could be refused until the masses were educated a bit patronising I'm afraid.  Let's not forget that by the mid 1850s we had become the world's first fully industrialised nation the success of which relied largely on the skilled labour of the of the working class. I also have difficulty with "getting people to vote for was is right and just". Who to say what is right and just?  It was the politicians who made up their minds was was right and just, and they told the public their version of events. With out a vote, large numbers of the population had little or no chance to find out what was really going on nor to hold the politicians to account.   

 

TR

I think you just lost you case Mr Filsell.

 

TR

 

"I find the suggestion that the vote could be refused until the masses were educated a bit patronising I'm afraid." I am really sorry, but I can't see why you have a problem with that concept. I think the root of it may lie in some over estimation on your part of the level of sophistication required by a "skilled labourer". In my neck of the woods the vast majority finished their formal education at 14 years of age. Huge numbers of them then went on to menial and comparatively low skilled jobs. They were Coal Miners, Railway Engine Cleaners, Shop Assistants and the like. They were most emphatically not artisans, highly skilled craftsmen or administrators. The term "skilled labour" is perhaps a bit misleading. For the vast majority there was labour a plenty, but little skill beyond being able to perform highly repetitive physical tasks with some degree of deftness and efficiency. The main benefit of the Industrial revolution was surely that mechanisation had removed the need for labour to be highly skilled? I suppose it could be that you don't think education is important, but I don't seriously think that to be the case. The young lads here may have been experts at getting coal out of hole in the ground, but that is pretty much all that their formal education had equipped them for. On reflection I think you may have it backwards. It was not that the franchise was withheld because they lacked education, it was more a case that they did not have the franchise and therefore there was no obligation to equip them for it.

 

I am also unsure why you have issues with "right and just". It's about the concept of using the vote responsibly to the point where an individual will vote for the good of others, rather than to the detriment of others and solely for self benefit. The franchise is not just a right, it carries responsibility. During the early part of the 20th Century it was not a right held by many and, by extension, held no responsibility for that high proportion of the population that did not have it. Would you pass a loaded revolver to a six year old? Of course you wouldn't. At the very least you would seek to educate him first, it would be a moral responsibility to do so.

 

Have I just dug a bigger hole or cleared things up?

 

Mike

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