Turning a Blind Eye
Did you watch the wonderful opening ceremony of the Olympics? The director, Danny Boyle, took many different - and distinctive -- bits of British culture and wove them together in a glorious, colorful tapestry. There was J.K.Rowling and Mary Poppins, Paul McCartney, and even the Queen and James Bond. And at one point we had a bird's eye view of London, Big Ben and Trafalgar Square with its metal lions and a statue of Lord Nelson. And the commentator kept saying: "I wonder if people around the world can understand all these cultural references." So why is there a statue of a one-eyed, one-armed Lord Nelson on top of a 52-meter pillar in the middle of London? What did he do? And why do many people consider him one of Britain's greatest heroes?
Horatio Nelson joined the British navy at the young age of 12. With the help of some influential friends and relatives, he rose quickly through the ranks. He was an outstanding sailor and repeatedly distinguished himself with displays of bravery, coolness and fine judgment. At this time Britain's main enemy was France; in various actions against the French,Nelson was blinded in the right eye and lost one arm. In the late 18th century, the French leader Napoleon decided to invade Egypt and cut Britain's vital commercial route to India - thus economically weakening Britain. Nelson's task was simple: to thwart Napoleon's plan. With a fleet of only 14 ships, Nelson located the French in Abukir Bay, near Alexandria in 1798. The Battle of the Nile was about to commence. In a daring and brilliant move, he sailed into dangerously shallow water to attack the French from behind. He then fired cannonball after cannonball into the French from their unprotected rear. The French fleet was destroyed and Nelson became the idol of England.
As well as a great tactician, Nelson was quite a character. In his own words: 'I could not tread these perilous paths in safety, if I did not keep a saving sense of humor.' His humorresulted in an interesting contribution to the English language during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801. Nelson's fleet attacked ajoint Danish-Norwegian flotilla and fought his way bit by bit up a narrow and difficult channel. Admiral Hyde Parker,worried that Nelson could not win, signaled the British fleet to retreat. The message was sentby flags, and one of Nelson's officers, a man named Foley, informed his commander of the admiral's order.
'You know, Foley,' said Nelson, putting his telescope to his blind eye, 'I have only one eye, and I have a right to be blind sometimes... I really do not see the signal.' Nelson went on to win the battle, and his playful humor resulted in anew English expression 'to turn a blind eye' meaning to pretend not to notice something.
e.g. i) Some neighborhood children were stealing from the apple orchard. The owner turned a blind eye because he knew they were poor and hungry.
ii) The teachers are turning a blind eye to smoking in school.
iii) The manager is turning a turn a blind eye to bullying in the office as he doesn’t want to deal with the bullies.
Nelson died at the Battle of Trafalgar, on 21st October 1805, hit by a French sniper. It was the defining battle of his career. Twenty-seven of Nelson's ships faced a joint French-Spanish fleet of thirty-three vessels. It was an overwhelming victory for the British. 18 ships were sunk, 6,000 sailors were killed or wounded, and over 20,000 taken prisoner. The British lost no ships. Nelson's actions at Trafalgar influenced global politics for more than a century. His victory established the British navy as the most powerful in the world, andNapoleon was so stung by his defeat at Trafalgar that he never initiated another naval campaign.For the Spanish, the defeat was even more catastrophic. Without ships, Spain was cut off from its Central and South American colonies and their riches. Unable to send military reinforcements,Spain began a slow withdrawal. Many of those colonies, today's Latin American nations, can trace their independence back to Spain's crushing defeat at Trafalgar.
With this in mind, you may look up to Horatio Nelson with new respect next time you visit Trafalgar Square. Without his victories around the world, in Copenhagen and Trafalgar, today's geopolitical map would be very different.