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This was an early battle of WWI and the “first battle of Ypres” occurred at the end of “The Race to the Channel.” I have read a bit about the First World War but it really comes home when you are standing the place that consumed the British youth in 1914 to 1918. The First Battle ended the Race to the Sea and began the trench warfare of the next four years.
We visited the “Sanctuary Wood Museum today, and I took some photos of the trenches which were preserved all these years by then owner of the small cafe where we had a beer.
These trenches are the originals preserved by the property owner who probably has cleaned out debris over the years. The owners of the cafe are the children of the original owners of the property who preserved these relics. Their museum has many objects no doubt excavated from the fields around.
The bodies of 21 German soldiers entombed in a perfectly preserved World War One shelter have been discovered 94 years after they were killed.
The men were part of a larger group of 34 who were buried alive when a huge Allied shell exploded above the tunnel in 1918, causing it to cave in.
Thirteen bodies were recovered from the underground shelter, but the remaining men had to be left under a mountain of mud as it was too dangerous to retrieve them.
Nearly a century later, French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave on the former Western Front in eastern France during excavation work for a road building project.
The road building has been suspended for now but every construction project in this area uncovered evidence of war dead. Today we visited an enormous memorial for the war dead whose bodies were never recovered. It is called the Menin Gate Memorial and the names of 54,000 dead are posted on the walls representing most of the dead from the Ypres Salient who could not be identified.
The sheer number of dead whose bodies were destroyed, or lost, is staggering.
The city of Ypres (pronounced by our hosts as “eep” has been rebuilt as it was destroyed in the war.
The cathedral was rebuilt from a stump of the tower. The bottom 20 feet to so was protected by rubble and is in better shape. The entire city was rebuilt completely.
The city is surrounded by British war cemeteries of which there are about 150, each with about 500 to 1,000 graves.
One grave that particularly interested me was that of Sir William Osler’s only son who was killed by shrapnel while serving as an artillery officer in 1917. His fathers friends had tried to save him and his last words, reflecting many young men who were wounded, “Surely this (wound) will get me home. ” His last words.
Today, we arrived at Brussels and will do some touring tomorrow of the Waterloo Battlefield. We passed on the road one of Wellington’s battle fields from the 18th century.
The TV tonight is all about the “refugees” which we saw a few of today in Brussels.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 6th September 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I will be in Britain in three days and have been concerned about what I will find. We have already changed our plans a couple of times. Originally, we were going to Greece, a trip I had planned for years to see certain things I always wanted to see.
All across the Old Continent we are seeing massive flouting of law and order as thousands, tens-of-thousands, maybe more, of so-called refugees flood into Europe and then slosh about from one country to another looking for the best deal. The UK has become a particular target as “refugees” try to make their way to Britain’s generous public benefits. Recall that in a fit of Euro madness the leadership of the UK, traditionally the sole repository of common sense and hard-eyed realism in Europe, agreed enthusiastically with the construction of the absurd Chunnel, putting thereby an end to one of the country’s historic defenses, the sea. What would Drake and Nelson have to say about that?
That Chunnel has become, as one very non-PC English friend told me some years ago in a bar in Sri Lanka, “France’s garbage disposal.” The issue, however, goes beyond the Chunnel. The “refugees” or “migrants” arrive by the thousands every day at Heathrow and quickly claim their benefits–all in line with deranged leftist Labour’s deliberate plan to change the nation’s demographic composition. As almost anybody who has visited London recently can tell you, that most wonderful of cities is now not so wonderful, and has lost its Englishness.
I’ll be there Thursday and will post some observations. We have already decided to avoid the “Chunnel” and the Eurostar train to Brussels.
This is an invasion and I am very worried about it. The Sunday talk shows did the same thing the newspapers do, talk about how we “have an obligation” to these people. Maybe Obama has but I don’t. Iraq was stable when he was elected. I don’t think there was ever a chance to make Afghanistan stable in a modern sense and I was opposed to that occupation back to 2009.
Iraq was always a better bet than Afghanistan because it is a rich country and had a modest middle class already. In fact, I think Iraq has a good chance to become the most successful Arab state. On the other hand, I think Afghanistan is a very risky situation.
During Afghanistan’s golden age which consisted of the last king’s rule, the country consisted of a small civilized center in Kabul while the rest of the country existed much as it did in the time of Alexander the Great.
Frankly I think we should have given up on Pakistan.
I will post some comments and photos from Europe later this week. I’m sure we will enjoy our trip and my friends assure me that things are not nearly as bad as the newspapers say. We’ll see.
Arthur Koestler, himself a former Communist, wrote about closed intellectual systems:
A closed sysem has three peculiarities. Firstly, it claims to represent a truth of universal validity, capable of explaining all phenomena, and to have a cure for all that ails man. In the second place, it is a system which cannot be refuted by evidence, because all potentially damaging data are automatically processed and reinterpreted to make them fit the expected pattern. The processing is done by sophisticated methods of causistry, centered on axioms of great emotive power, and indifferent to the rules of common logic; it is a kind of Wonderland croquet, played with mobile hoops. In the third place, it is a system which invalidates criticism by shifting the argument to the subjective motivation of the critic, and deducing his motivation from the axioms of the system itself. The orthodox Freudian school in its early stages approximated a closed system; if you argued that for such and such reasons you doubted the existence of the so-called castration complex, the Freudian’s prompt answer was that your argument betrayed an unconscious resistance indicating that you ourself have a castration complex; you were caught in a vicious circle. Similarly, if you argued with a Stalinist that to make a pact with Hitler was not a nice thing to do he would explain that your bourgeois class-consciousness made you unable to understand the dialectics of history…In short, the closed system excludes the possibility of objective argument by two related proceedings: (a) facts are deprived of their value as evidence by scholastic processing; (b) objections are invalidated by shifting the argument to the personal motive behind the objection. This procedure is legitimate according to the closed system’s rules of the game which, however absurd they seem to the outsider, have a great coherence and inner consistency.
The atmosphere inside the closed system is highly charged; it is an emoional hothouse…The trained, “closed-minded” theologian, psychoanalyst, or Marxist can at any time make mincemeat of his “open-minded” adversary and thus prove the superiority of his system to the world and to himself.
In debating with “progressives,” one often encounters this kind of closed-system thinking: there is absolutely no way you are going to change their minds, whatever the evidence or logic. (I don’t think this is true of all “progressives”–otherwise the situation in America today would be even more grim than it actually is–but it’s true of a lot of them.)
But what are the “axioms of great emotive power” in which “progressives” believe? It is pretty easy to write down on one sheet of paper the basic beliefs of Christianity, or of Marxism, or of American Democratic Republicanism. The fundamental tenets of Naziism…Nationalism, Socialism, anti-Semitism, etc….were well summarized by Joseph Goebbels in this pamphlet.
I find it difficult to summarize today’s “progressive” belief system. It does not seem to be a coherent intellectual system, not even a faux-coherent intellectual system such as Marxism. But it clearly appeals deeply to millions of people, and has largely pervaded many if not most institutions, ranging from academia to popular media, throughout America and Western Europe.
So let’s try to identify these axioms. What are the things in which one must believe if one is to be a good “progressive”? Please try to be maximally objective and to maintain emotional distance, as if you were describing the religious beliefs of a lost tribe in South America or a band of Christian heretics in the Middle Ages, and try to separate the intellectual content of the belief system from the emotional drivers of those beliefs.
Yesterday I was talking to my mom and she said the news from the States and the things “your funny critters” (pretty much how mom refers to governments in general!) are doing remind her of the Spanish occupation of Portugal.
(I meant to post another chapter of this yesterday – but spent all day at a book event in a mall, and came back exhausted and suffering from an allergic reaction to dust, possibly mold in the AC ducts, and exposure to a LOT of people)
Christmas in Greece barely rates, in intensity it falls somewhere between Arbor Day or Valentines’ Day in the United States: A holiday for sure, but nothing much to make an enormous fuss over, and not for more than a day or two. But Greek Orthodox Easter, in Greece—now that is a major, major holiday. The devout enter into increasingly rigorous fasts during Lent, businesses and government offices close for a couple of weeks, everyone goes to their home village, an elaborate feast is prepared for Easter Sunday, the bakeries prepare a special circular pastry adorned with red-dyed eggs, everyone gets new clothes, spring is coming after a soggy, miserable winter never pictured in the tourist brochures. Oh, it’s a major holiday blowout, all right. From Thursday of Holy Week on, AFRTS-Radio conforms to local custom, of only airing increasingly somber music. By Good Friday and Saturday, we are down to gloomy classical music, while outside the base, the streets are nearly deserted, traffic down to a trickle and all the shops and storefronts with their iron shutters and grilles drawn down. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been planning trip to Greece for months. Back in January, I decided to wait until the Greek monetary crisis was closer to resolution. Finally in May, I made reservations for September. I even posted my plans here.
Greece has overwhelmingly rejected Europe’s latest bailout package, plunging the country’s future in the Eurozone into jeopardy.
With most of the votes counted in a referendum that will shape the future of the continent, the ‘No’ campaign has a staggering 61 per cent of the vote – 22 points ahead.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande called for an EU crisis summit to find a ‘solution’ for Greece, with leaders set to meet in Brussels on Tuesday.
Thousands of anti-austerity voters took to the streets in celebration as the leader of the pro-EU ‘Yes’ campaign resigned, with an official announcement of the final result imminent.
But German politicians warned of ‘disaster’ as they accused Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of ‘tearing down bridges’ between Greece and Europe.
Another source of pleasure has been the novels of Mary Renault, the pen name of Eileen Mary Challans. Sh wrote a series of historical novels which won awards and which provided a more intimate view of Greek society in the classical era. Some of her novels provide a more sympathetic view of homosexuality than I have found anywhere else but that is not the attraction. Her history sounded like something written by one who lived it.
Another favorite novelist is Helen MacInnes who wrote novels of adventure set in and after World War II. Two of them were about places in Greece and one of those, Mykonos, is a favorite spot.
Her novel describes this harbor and, while a new cruise ship terminal has replaced some of her story, the harbor looks just as she described it.
The story, titled “The Double Image” describes a tiny square in the town that sounds exactly like this one looks.
For years articles about everything from family leave to medical benefits started with the premise that
The United States is the only modern Western economy that doesn’t do or provide “X” for their workers
Thus the premise was the our economies were roughly equivalent and the USA was “mean” or “backwards” because we didn’t provide all those benefits and worker protections that the other countries were (apparently) able to absorb.
In the Sunday Business of the NY Times we can see where this has finally led, however – in an article about retraining European workers titled “Fake Jobs with Real Benefits” this is the end statistic:
But in a reflection of the shifting nature of the European workplace, most are low-paying and last for short stints, sometimes just three to six months. Today, more than half of all new jobs in the European Union are temporary contracts, according to Eurostat.
These jobs don’t have the famous protections for working mothers and stay-at-home dads and for medical benefits and pensions and everything else; they just set you up for a few months at a time and can just not renew your contract for any reason, including if you are legitimately hurt or ill. These are the ruthless “McJobs” that have been decried for years in the USA.
In parallel, Spain is now lurching into a political crisis similar to what is happening in Greece. Here are some statistics on Spain per this Foreign Policy article:
The Eurozone as a whole is a disaster. Whereas the United States’ economy is nearly 10 percent larger than it was seven years ago, the Eurozone’s is 1.5% smaller. And Spain is faring even worse; it’s economy is still 5 percent smaller. Nearly one in four Spaniards, and one in two young people, are unemployed. In the European Union, only Greece’s unemployment rate is higher. Many people have dropped out of the labor force (or immigrated to countries where there are jobs to be found). A lost generation is in the making.
And the governmental statistics are sobering:
Spain still has the largest fiscal deficit, as a share of the economy; in the entire EU: 5.8% of GDP last year. Public debt as a share of GDP rose by more last year than anywhere else in the eurozone and is set to top 100 percent this year.
The few remaining permanent full-time jobs are often in the governmental sector; this is closely linked to corruption. In Spain the corruption of the ruling parties contributed to their drubbing in local elections.
The net of all this is that comparing the USA to Europe is now mostly a fools’ errand. Not only has growth and productivity stalled across most of the EU, the cherished benefits that are held up as the “gold standard” are accruing to fewer and fewer workers as the young frankly have no work at all and many of the adults that do work are on these short term contracts where those protections rarely apply.
Whether or not the USA should enact various protections to our workers is a good question, with pros and cons on both sides of the ledger. However, the blanket statements that we are the last modern economy to not do “X” should be tossed in the dustbin of history, because it doesn’t apply anymore.
If the measure is passed, Catholic churches will continue to decide for themselves whether to solemnise a marriage.
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Eamon Martin, has said the church may look at whether it continues to perform the civil side of solemnisation if the change comes in.
I think this is where all this is going. The alternative is to see the Church attacked for the tax exemption, which may happen anyway. Many mainline Protestant churches are seeing membership collapse as the clergy swings far left and gets into the gay lifestyle.
Nicole White and Pam Renouf were looking for engagement rings a few months ago and eventually landed at Today’s Jewellers in Mount Pearl where the couple said they were given excellent service and great price for their rings.
“They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same-sex couple,” Ms. White told Canada’s CBC news. “I referred some of my friends to them, just because I did get good customer service and they had good prices.”
A friend of the couple went in to the store to purchase a ring for his girlfriend and saw a poster that read “The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let’s keep marriage between a man and a woman,” CBC reported May 16.
The friend took a photo of the poster and sent it to Ms. White, who said she had no idea about the poster until that point.
“It was really upsetting. Really sad, because we already had money down on [the rings], and they’re displaying how much they are against gays, and how they think marriage should be between a man and a woman,” Ms. White said, CBC reported.
They demanded their money back. After much pressure, they got it and the Jeweler paid for his beliefs. So much for “equality.”
‘When the crocus blossoms,’ hiss the women in Berlin,
‘He will press the button, and the battle will begin.
When the crocus blossoms, up the German knights will go,
And flame and fume and filthiness will terminate the foe…
When the crocus blossoms, not a neutral will remain.’
(A P Herbert, Spring Song, quoted in To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne)
On May 10, 1940, German forces launched an attack against Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Few people among the Allies imagined that France would collapse in only six weeks: Churchill, for example, had a high opinion of the fighting qualities of the French army. But collapse is what happened, of course, and we are still all living with the consequences. General Andre Beaufre, who in 1940 was a young Captain on the French staff, wrote in 1967:
The collapse of the French Army is the most important event of the twentieth century.
If it’s an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. If France had held up to the German assault as effectively as it was expected to do, World War II would probably have never reached the nightmare levels that it in fact did reach. The Hitler regime might well have fallen. The Holocaust would never have happened. Most likely, there would have been no Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.
This campaign has never received much attention in America; it tends to be regarded as something that happened before the “real” war started. Indeed, many denizens of the Anglosphere seem to believe that the French basically gave up without a fight–which is a considerable exaggeration given the French casualties of around 90,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. But I think the fall of France deserves serious study, and that some of the root causes of the defeat are scarily relevant to today’s world.
First, I will very briefly summarize the campaign from a military standpoint, and will then shift focus to the social and political factors involved in the defeat.
An article in an aviation magazine pointed out that this summer will mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. As a matter of perspective, it’s interesting to observe that the length of time separating the US Civil War from the Battle of Britain is the same as the length of time between the Battle and today.
The archetypal fighter planes of the Battle of Britain were the Spitfire, the Hurricane, and, on the enemy side, the Messerschmitt 109. Here are some recent pilot reports on what each of these aircraft is like to fly:
It is now possible to take a ride in a Spitfire–allowing this apparently required some regulatory changes on the part of the British CAA. Here’s one company offering such flights. For pilots, it’s possible to get Spitfire training at Boultbee Flight Academy. I don’t think anyone is offering rides or training in the Hurricane or the 109…very few 2-seat versions of either were built, apparently–so if you want to fly one of these, you’ll probably have to buy one. Here’s a recently-restored Hurricane for sale.
As an interesting historical irony, Israel’s first fighter was a version of the Messerschmitt 109.
I swear I am not trying to be the Cassandra of this blog but some things just jump out at me. A Richard Fernandez column today did that as it agreed with a post of mine on my own blog from several days ago.
ISIS has been luring thousands of Westerners to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. The number of Americans who have traveled to Syria is still relatively small — in the neighborhood of 150 people — and a thin slice of that group, perhaps as many as two dozen Americans, are thought to have joined ISIS.
In the discussions at the White House this week, one city has focused minds: Minneapolis-St Paul. It had been ground zero for terrorist recruiters in the past, and is fast becoming the center of ISIS’ recruitment effort in the United States.
The young man pictured above is one of many young black men, many recruited in prison, who have committed these actions.
Over the weekend, the FBI announced that it would treat Islamist Alton Nolan’s alleged beheading of Colleen Hufford, 54, as a case of workplace violence. That despite the fact that Nolan’s Facebook page contains a picture of Nolan giving the ISIS salute, multiple pictures of Osama Bin Laden, a screenshot of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, and a quote reading, “I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smile ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them.”
The replacement for Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” is named Trevor Noah. His Twitter stream has revealed some…interesting…”jokes,” like this one:
South Africans know how to recycle like Israel knows how to be peaceful.
Apparently, the Israel-is-an-aggressor meme has oozed its way into the popular consciousness to the degree that Israel is stereotypically non-peaceful in the way that dogs stereotypically dislike cats. I expect this sort of thing will go over quite well with the audience (generally left-leaning, I feel sure) of The Daily Show. They will also probably like this one:
When flying over the middle of America the turbulence is so bad. It’s like all the ignorance is rising through the air.
…although perhaps this won’t go over as well coming from a non-American (Noah is South African) as it would coming from a suitably hipsterish American.
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled Yemen by sea Wednesday as Shiite rebels and their allies moved on his last refuge in the south, captured its airport and put a bounty on his head, officials said.
The departure of the close U.S. ally and the imminent fall of the southern port of Aden pushed Yemen further toward a violent collapse. It also threatened to turn the impoverished but strategic country into another proxy battle between the Middle East’s Sunni powers and Shiite-led Iran.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies believe the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, are tools for Iran to seize control of Yemen and say they intend to stop the takeover. The Houthis deny they are backed by Iran.
1. The Greeks don’t pay taxes (tax evasion is chronically high)
2. The Greeks don’t keep their money within Greece (they move it to havens both to protect it from taxation and to earn higher returns)
3. The Greeks don’t invest in their own governmental debt (it is Euro-zone and international entities)
The article compares Greece with Japan – while Japan has much higher levels of debt, the Japanese debt is funded by Japanese individuals, companies and government entities and they have only 5% of their debt in the hands of outsiders.
I never thought about the issues in this manner but it makes sense; the Greek people “know” that it will turn out badly if they trust their poorly run and corrupt government and make their own individual decisions about how to hold their money. Why would other countries and investors “invest” in a government that their own people have no faith in (when it comes to “putting your money where your mouth is”, so to speak).
(This is a post I wrote in 2009, on the occasion of Obama’s visit to the city of Dresden. Today Instapundit notes that today is the 70th anniversary of the Dresden firebombing, and says “The Nazis opened a can of whoop-ass, and this is one of the things that came out. The world would be a safer place if their modern-day equivalents were more afraid of the same fate.”)
Dresden, once known as “Florence on the Elbe” because of its beauty and culture, is now best known for its destruction by British and American bombers in February of 1945. “Dresden” is the name of a haunting movie, originally made for German television, about a love affair in the doomed city.
Dresden is of course also the German city that Barack Obama intends to visit–for reasons best known to himself–during his current trip to Europe. It seems like this would be an appropriate time to review the film (which I watched a couple of months ago via Netflix) and to use it as a springboard for discussion of the Dresden bombing and of the WWII strategic bombing campaign in general.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the film. I’ve tried to minimize the spoilers, but some are inevitable.
Anna Mauth is a nurse in a Dresden hospital. Although she hopes to attend medical school and become a physician, she has put these plans on hold in order to assist her father, Dr Carl Mauth, who runs the hospital–which is heavily overloaded and constantly short of supplies. Anna’s fiance, Alexander Wenninger, is a dedicated young physican but just a bit of a pompous prig. Her sister, Eva, is a horrible little Nazi enthusiast, glorying in her affair with a Gauleiter’s adjutant and luxuriating in the special privileges she is able to obtain through this relationship. Anna’s best friend, Maria, is married to a Jewish man, Simon Goldberg–and she holds his life in her hands, because it is only by virtue of the marriage that he has been–thus far–protected from arrest and shipment to a concentration camp.
What has changed for the Jewish people over the past 75 years isn’t that we have ceased to love the countries where we live. It is that we are no longer compelled to bet—with our lives—that our love will be requited.
Last year I reviewed quite a few books, including several that IMO are extremely important and well-written. Here’s the list:
The Caine Mutiny. The movie, which just about everyone has seen, is very good. The book is even better. I cited the 1952 Commentary review, which has interesting thoughts on intellectuals and the responsibilities of power.
To the Last Salute. Captain von Trapp, best known as the father in “The Sound of Music,” wrote this memoir of his service as an Austrian submarine commander in the First World War–Austria of course being one of the Central Powers and hence an enemy to Britain, France, and the United States. An interesting and pretty well-written book, and a useful reminder that there are enemies, and then there are enemies.
That Hideous Strength. An important and intriguing novel by C S Lewis. As I said in the review, there is something in this book to offend almost everybody. So, by the standards now becoming current in most American universities, the book–and even my review of it–should by read by no one at all.
The Cruel Coast. A German submarine, damaged after an encounter with a British destroyer, puts in at a remote Irish island for repairs. Most of the islanders, with inherited anti-British attitudes, tend toward sympathy with the German: one woman, though, has a clearer understanding of the real issues in the war.
Nice Work. At Chicago Boyz, we’ve often discussed the shortage of novels that deal realistically with work. This is such a novel: an expert in 19th-century British industrial novels–who is a professor, a feminist, and a deconstructionist–finds herself in an actual factory. Very well done.
Menace in Europe. Now more than ever, Claire Berlinski’s analysis of the problems in today’s Europe needs to be widely read.
A Time of Gifts. In late 1933, Patrick Fermor–then 18 years old–undertook to travel from the Holland to Istanbul, on foot. The story of his journey is told in three books, of which this is the first. This is not just travel writing, it is the record of what was still to a considerable extent the Old Europe–with horsedrawn wagons, woodcutters, barons and castles, Gypsies and Jews in considerable numbers–shortly before it was to largely disappear.
The Year of the French. The writer, commentator, and former soldier Ralph Peters calls this book “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century.”
It appears that once again, Sgt. Mom has to bring out the Mallet of Loving Correction that she has shamelessly copied from John Scalzi, and explain the whole concept of ‘freedom of thought’ and its fraternal twin, ‘freedom of expression’ to the inhabitants of those (mostly but not always) quarters of the world usually known as ‘Islamic-run hellholes.’
See here, we in the western world are known for a good many things – some of them good, some of them bad – but one of them is a sense of logic, and another is the freedom to speak our thoughts, suppositions and criticisms on any matter. Openly, freely, and through any medium available to us … without fear of prosecution by the forces of law and order. Unless, of course, we are inciting violence … umm, which to put it plainly, you guys seems to have a problem with. Actually, some of our own very dear Established and Housebroken Lapdog Media have a problem with that too, but that is an issue for another day.
In France, criticism of Islam can get you prosecuted. Basically, we are seeing the return of laws against blasphemy–and not only in France–but with this difference: I don’t think ever before have governments forbidden criticism of a belief system that is not held by the majority of their citizens, or at least of their ruling classes
The longest night, the shortest day, the turn of the year – and I think likely the oldest of our human celebrations, once our remotest ancestors began to pay attention to things. They would have noticed, and in the fullness of time, erected monumental stones to mark the progression of the sun, the moon, the stars, the seasons, the light and the dark and all of it. The farther north and south you go from the equator, the more marked are the seasonal differences in the length of day and night. Just north of the Arctic Circle in the year I spent at Sondrestrom Greenland, those mid-summer nights were a pale grey twilight – and the midwinter days a mere half-hour-long lessening of constant dark at about midday. It was an awesome experience, and exactly how awesome I only realized in retrospect. How my ancestors, in Europe, or even perhaps in the Middle East, would have looked to the longer days which would come after the turning of the year; the darkness lessening, sunlight and warmth returning for yet another season of growing things in the ground, and in the blessed trees, when the oxen and sheep, and other domesticated critters would bear offspring. And the great primitive cycle of the year would turn and turn again, with the birth of the Christ added into it in due time. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Helen on 27th November 2014 (All posts by Helen)
Happy Thanksgiving from this side of the Pond. We are all very envious of a holiday that has all the good things of Christmas and none or, at least, very few of the bad ones.
And for those brave souls who, sated with turkey and pumpkin pie, would like to read something about the situation over here, I have a couple of links: one to a blog posting about Owen Paterson, a fairly senior back-bench Conservative MP (Cameron should never have sacked him from the Cabinet) calling for British withdrawal from the European Union and another one on a different blog that concentrates on the fisheries issue on that speech and its importance as against the presence of two UKIP MPs in the House of Commons. Hope they will not spoil the festivities.
As Jonathan pointed out here, one problem with the blog format is that worthwhile posts tend to fade into the background over time, even when they might be of continuing value. One approach I’d like to try is Theme roundups, in which I’ll select a number of previous posts on a common topic or set of related topics, and link them with brief introductory sentences or paragraphs. At least initially, I’ll focus on my own posts.
The posts in this first “theme” roundup focus on the nature of the politically-dominated society, ranging from the effects of extreme political correctness in America and Europe today to the nature of life under absolutist totalitarianism.
Stasiland. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, author Anna Funder traveled to the previous East Germany to interview both those who had lived under Communist oppression and the perpetrators of that oppression.
The Nature of Dictatorships. Thoughts from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, maker of the excellent film The Lives of Others, which is set in Communist East Germany.
Eric Hoffer on the destruction of individualism. “Even in the freest society power is charged with the impulse to turn men into precise, predictable automata. When watching men of power in action it must be always kept in mind that, whether they know it or not, their main purpose is the elimination or neutralization of the independent individual – the independent voter, consumer, worker, owner, thinker – and that every device they employ aims at turning man into a manipulatable ‘animated instrument,’ which is Aristotle’s definition of a slave.”
Bitter Waters. A Stalin-era Soviet factory manager writes about his experiences. Describing the chaos into which the Russian lumber industry had been thrown by Soviet central planning: “Such is the immutable law. The forceful subordination of life’s variety into a single mold will be avenged by that variety’s becoming nothing but chaos and disorder.”
Rose Wilder Lane. The author and political thinker describes a debate she had with a Russian village leader, back in 1919 when she was still a Communist, about the centrally planned society. “It is too big – he said – too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man’s head, and one hundred heads together do not make one great big head. No. Only God can know Russia.”
Life in the fully politicized society. Michelle Obama explains what Barack Obama wants to make you do, Sebastian Haffner writes about those 1920s and 1930s Germans who needed to have “the entire content of their lives…all the raw material for their deeper emotions” delivered gratis by the public sphere, and Ayn Rand paints a vivid picture (based on personal experience) of the dreariness of living in a society in which everything is political.
The bitter wastes of politicized America. “The best way to hold a large group of people together is to make them feel as if everyone else is out to get them. The most effective political adhesives are distilled from hatred and distrust. People who disagree with your agenda are “attacking” you or “robbing” you…When the government controls everything, there is no constructive relief valve for all this pent-up tension. It all boils down to a “historic” election once every couple of years, upon whose outcome everything depends. They’re all going to be “historic” elections from now on. That’s not a good thing.”
Deconstructing a Nazi death sentence. The text of the justification for the sentence passed on three members of the White Rose resistance group provides useful insight into the totalitarian mind. (The link to the transcript in the post doesn’t work anymore; use this instead)
Defying Hitler. This important and well-written (but mis-titled) memoir deals mainly with the social environment in Germany prior to the Nazi takeover, but the latter part of the book demonstrates what life was like under a new totalitarianism that was rapidly tightening its grip. The section about the author’s father–who was given the choice of either endorsing political opinions he did not share or losing his pension and being reduced to destitution, along with his family–is painful to read and is unpleasantly reminiscent of certain recent events in America today.
Posted by Helen on 18th November 2014 (All posts by Helen)
The lunchtime meeting today had been organized by the Henry Jackson Society, the Left’s particular bugbear, in the House of Commons (luckily in one of the committee rooms where the acoustics were good and the mikes worked). The guest was the eminent academic and commentator, Professor Walter Russell Mead and his topic was an obvious riff on a once highly influential book by Professor Francis Fukuyama: The Crisis in Europe: the Return of History and what to do about it.
As one would expect, Professor Mead gave a very cogent and exhilarating analysis of the many problems the world is facing today but, as a journalist from Die Welt pointed out, we have all heard a great many depressing talks and read a great many even more depressing articles of that kind recently. What did Professor Mead think were some of the answers?
Professor Mead’s main solution was (and, to be fair, we were coming to the end of the session but, to be equally fair, that was supposed to be part of the presentation) that the US should restore its interest in Europe and re-engage in a dialogue with its European partners. Or, in other words, as he said the Lone Ranger, having ridden away, should now return (no word of how Tonto might feel about that).
The European Union, Professor Mead explained, was American foreign policy’s greatest accomplishment; it had been one of the aims of the Marshall Plan (some stretching of history here), had been supported diplomatically and politically throughout its history but has, to some extent been left to its own devices in the last few years. The US underestimated the difficulties European weakness and lack of cohesion will cause to it. Having, as it thought, defeated the bad guys (twice, presumably), knocked all the European heads together, the US announced that it will do what the European had always said they wanted and that is leave them all alone. Apparently, that is not what the Europeans wanted deep down and it is time to recognize this fact.
We’ll be over, we’re coming over
And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.
Well, that’s fine, except that it would appear that it is never going to be over, over here. We saw that when Yugoslavia disintegrated into a series of wars in the nineties, the EU though the egregious Jacques Poos announced that “this was Europe’s hour” only to plead with the Americans to come back and sort the mess out after all. It seems that they will have to come back again in the sense of taking greater interest in this pesky little continent and its pesky problems.
Is that really the answer? Obviously, as an Atlanticist and an Anglospherist I want to see a continuation of the existing links between certain European countries and the United States, adding Canada, Australia and New Zealand into that network. But would a greater involvement by the US in the EU’s problems really help anyone? Somehow, I doubt it.
I got a little carried away with my blogging and had to put up two posts on Your Freedom and Ours on the subject of Professor Mead’s presentation, the discussion and my own opinions. So here they are: Post 1 and Post 2.