As we have seen now the rise of the Brexit from the European Union, I ask you: What do you think is the future of Europe? Will it remain united or break apart?
The Cold War was the most dangerous period in human history. In it the United States adopted a the policy of containment, which stated that the best way to deal with Communism, was to prevent its spread, and contain it the areas in which it existed. It was premised on the idea that confrontation only aided its appeal and reinforced its belief that the capitalists were out to get them.
This raises an interesting question, is this a policy we should adopt it today in regards to the spread of radical Islam and ISIS? Should it be contained? Or it should it be attacked in an attempt to drive it out? Is radical Islam so different than communism than this is not possible? Or are they similar?
Where to begin with World War Two? What is its story? Its enduring lesson? Is it our enduring achievement? Were those who fought in it,lived throughout it, our "Greatest Generation"? Is its story the tales of heroism in war? Is it the vicious carnage that the most destructive war in human history wrought upon the world? Surely many think so.Examine the index for World War Two movies on The Internet Movie Database and you will see scores movies made from every angle. You can find WWII movies from the Soviet Union's perspective, Germany's perspective, the American perspective, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, and Canadian perspectives. Most of these movies deal with the battles, the great and the small ones, the ones with worldwide significance, and the one's so specific to tiny country, county, or village. These movies are filled with reels upon reels of violent death, destruction, murder, mayhem,but yet they are also filled with tender moments. Moments of sublime kindness and care, of minuscule minutes of reprieve before that last big push into war and that unknown country that haunts us all.
For me though, World War Two is all about hate. Hate of the enemy, the other, the one who does not think like me, act like, talk like me. It is of the brutal machinery of industry, of Krupp's and General Motor's factories producing tools of destruction, brought down on a single man,woman, or child. It is about the absence of conscience. Both sides int he war committed atrocities; the firebombing of Dresden the massacre of Polish officers in Katyn forest, the firebombing of Tokyo, the Bataan Death March, the Rape of Nanjing, the Shoah.Yet we, the victors, rationalize our actions in the name of liberty and freedom. In that we fought a "just" war; for the goodness of humanity,not for petty territorial ambitions. We memorialize our dead in national monuments and days of remembrance. And we take on the pain of others....
The Holocaust (or the Shoah) has evolved. We have built monuments, memorials, and remembrances in our cities. We set aside, curriculum time in our schools to instruct on its intricacies.We test on it. (I have always found it interesting that here in the United States we lack a National Slavery Museum, but we have a National Holocaust Museum.I have always wondered whether Germany has an American Slavery Museum?But I suppose that is topic for another blog.) After the war, many nations signed on to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,which at its core meant that "never again" would we allow such a tragedy to occur. "Never again" would the world stand idly by and watch a group of people wiped out. Yet we have.....
Since WWII, the world has watched genocides in Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia, Bosnia , and Kosovo. Some today even argue that the violence between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims(which has no historical precedent, and is recent phenomenon, with Shi'a and Sunni Muslims living side-by-side for most of their history)in Iraq is a new "ethnic cleansing." Yet we don't act. Why? Why have we chosen not to act? Why have we allowed hate to grow and foster right under our noses? Why do we sit idly by and let this happen? Would this be "just" war like WWII? Can war be just? Are all wars immoral? Does Hate have free reign in the world? I ask this because World War Two is the most filmed event in human history, but I wonder what its moral is;its lesson for us to learn? And did we learn it? And how can we apply its lessons to the future? Or is just a war to be entertained by? For actors and directors to make movies and History Channel specials on?
"God is dead," or so said Friedrich Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and in many ways the Victorian age justified this claim. During the Victorian era, Europe reached the apogee of its power and influence, creating new world empires that altered not only the political boundaries but also the cultural norms of almost every civilization. For many, this was the triumph of European values, of secularism, of scientific advancement, and of cultural superiority in the arts (or so it was thought).
Sciences such as anthropology developed not to explore human development but to justify European physical superiority, modern medicine, and psychology developed to understand the mysterious world of disease and cure them(opium was often prescribed for pregnant women to "calm the nerves"). In this fit of smugness and arrogance, Europe brought the world to heel, dragging back captives to look at and observe in world fairs (most notorious was King Leopold II of Belgium who would capture native Africans from his personal fiefdom in central Africa [the modern nation of the Congo] and bring them back to Brussels to live in a mock African village for all to see, with the predictable results of rain forest people being forced to live on the same line of latitude as Buffalo).
Almost all of Europe relished their elite status, but to achieve this position, religion fell the wayside, ethics, and morals became difficult to define; all was possible, yet just a bit elusive, but it could be conquered with just the right knowledge.
The question I have for you is, is God dead? Does religion temper our choices? Guide us to be better people? Allow us to be moral individuals, with our choices informed by a sense of right and wrong? Or was Nietzsche right? Do we no longer need religion in our lives? Have we evolved beyond it? Left it behind as a remnant of an ignorant past? Would its elimination allow us to move beyond debates on stem cell research, abortion, and same-sex marriage? And end conflicts like the "War on Terror" and our struggle with Islamic fundamentalism?
**Addition, the New York Times Magazine had an interesting article entitled "Darwin's God" and I thought it might interest some people. It has a real connection to the issues we have raised in class about genetics, anthropology, and religion. Check it out.
"The Great War." "The War to End All Wars." "The War to Make the World Safe for Democracy." World War One is known by all of these names, yet I feel none of them some it up best. While the war itself was a tragedy, I think perhaps what characterizes the war best is its aftermath, and what was not done in it. After the war we see the birth of worldwide communism with the USSR, we see the creation of the modern Middle East with the "mandates" of Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon, and we see the rise of fascism in Italy. Many of the world's prescient issues stem from the decisions made at the end of the war.Would there today be an Iraq war if Britain hadn't decided to carve out a Middle East that placed Sunni Muslims and Shi'a Muslims in conflict for political power? Would we have an Arab-Israeli conflict if Britain had not issued the Balfour Declaration? Would there even be a War on Terror? If the Great Powers had chosen not to punish Germany, would there have been a Hitler and World War II?
These questions are the great guessing games of history. (Heck, I don't think there would be a History Channel or Military Channel without these wars, for what else do they show but World War Two footage?) But the bigger issue here is the law of unintended consequences. I don't think any of the people that lived during that time could have foreseen the results of their choices, but that is why it is important. We have all made choices that at once seemed like good, rational choices, but, in the end, have come back to haunt us.
So I ask you to share what you think are some good choices now, but down the road will come back to haunt us. These choices can be personal ,general, political, and/or social stories. I ask that you not make them up (keep it respectable, do not humiliate other students both in and outside of the class [as in "I heard so and so did this..."]), and really think about choices. What are good ones and what are bad ones?How do you determine them? What guides people? Money? Power?Self-interest? Fame? Love? Choices are difficult, but it is important to understand why we do (or have done) what we do.
It is quite remarkable that Japan was the only non-European nation that industrialized. Other nations around the world all fell victim to the machinations of the imperial European states, either becoming colonies or divided into spheres of influence, where Europeans gained extraterritorial rights. Japan though, did not.
The question is why? Why is it Japan that adopted and adapted to Western forms? Does this reveal a deficiency in others? Or is it that Japan simply choose to why they didn't? Why is it that some change, while others don't? Is it a function of culture? Religion? Economics? Politics? Or something else?
President's Day is coming soon, and it makes me think. What is the true meaning of nationalism? Is it supporting the President? Or is it complaining against the president? Can you be a nationalist and complain about your country?
Romanticism, an artistic and literary movement, that was both a reaction to the Enlightenment and an expression of nationalistic feelings, was wrapped in the mystique of the unknown and ethereal.
Today, we have soaring divorce rates, single-parent families, and many say romance is dead, with such developments as Match.com, Facebook, TV shows such as Rock of Love Bus (I and II), The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Catfish, Tinder, and personal ads. With celebrity couples, almost as soon as they are married, many in the media begin a countdown to their divorce, with some getting divorced in record time (Kim Kardashian). Yet, Valentine's Day cards, candy, and gifts appear on the store shelves soon after Christmas. Queen Latifah and Dr. Phil counsel us every day on how to be romantic and treat our partners, with the various magazines and pharmaceutical companies advertising their various tips and products to help us along. Children's clothing has become more suggestive, causing schools and institutions to legislate dress codes for girls (and boys, but to a lesser extent) that would have made most people uncomfortable twenty years ago to discuss in public.
Is romance dead?
The French Revolution changed France and Europe forever. The question is, was it worth it? Was the violence that ensued justified by the changes that it brought about? If not, does that mean any revolution that leads to the loss of life is not justified? If so, when is revolution justified? If ever?
One of the key ideas of this unit is a split developed between popular and elite culture in the early to mid 18th century. This split centered on such issues as entertainment, language, religion, and alcohol.
Do you think there is a similar situation today in the 21st century? Are there popular and elite cultures today (PBS vs. Honey Boo Boo)? If so, what are they? Who/ what determines which culture is elite or popular? Is it based on class, ethnicity, or some other consideration