IT’S ALL HISTORY NOW.


Readers who’ve been with me for a while might remember my long digression on “The Great War” some years ago here:
http://kitchenmudge.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/these-honored-dead/

We’re now approaching the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of that war.  As with any such round number coming around, there might be quite a few essays about it circulating soon.  Let’s see if I can get a jump on them.

The U.S. made a pretty big deal last year about the 150-year anniversary of Gettysburg, and I guess that’s to be expected.  Europe and the Commonwealth can be expected to make a much bigger deal about the Great War than Mercans will.  It’s a more relevant
thing to them, for some fairly obvious reasons.  So maybe I’m filling a little gap here, just for my friends, pointing out this watershed in Western history.

FreeTradeThe basics are covered in that earlier digression, but let’s expand a little.  In fact, let’s just jump over a few centuries.

The early eighteenth century had a great war in which the question to be decided was:  “Will France control western Europe?”

The early nineteenth century had a great series of wars over the question:  “Will France or Britain dominate the western hemisphere?

The early twentieth century had The Great War,  a contest over “What state, or alliance, will control most of the world?”  As it developed, the question became, “Will Europe survive this at all?”  Those questions were so big they required a whole additional war twenty years later.

..

ozymandiassmallIn the early twenty-first century, the questions are:  “Will the planet be habitable a century from now?” and “Does anyone in our government have any shame left at all?”

So, as I sit here looking at my grandfather’s dogtag from WWI, let’s just think of the world then and now, and see where it leads us.

THEN
Most of world nominally ruled by monarchs claiming “divine right”.

strangewomenswordslargeNOW
Most of the world nominally ruled by some kind of “republic”

washington-as-zeussmall

(Washington as Zeus, in case you don’t recognize it).

jobcreatorsmall

.


.
THEN

Plutocrats called the shots in most governments

.

.

.

.

protection700billion

 

.

.NOW
Kleptocrats call the shots in most governments.
.

.

.

.barbariecivilisationsmall

.

.
THEN

European empires had no shame about ruling most of Africa and much of Asia outright..

.

.

Austeritysmall.

.
NOW

Corporate empires still rule most of the world, under the guise of “governments” that act as enforcers of “property rights” and “free trade”.

.

.

.

,

gentrifysmall..

.
THEN

The U.S. hardly had any foreign policy at all, having been content with westward expansion through most of its history.

.

.

.

john-mccaininternationallaw.
NOW

The U.S. still has no foreign policy to speak of, only favors done for the rich under whatever principles speechwriters make up for the occasion.

.

.

poilusmall.

.

THEN
The French could be called many things, but never “cowards”.

.

.

Frenchsurrendersmall
.

NOW
Any foreign government failing to cater to a U.S. President’s whim is smeared in the msm.  No truth necessary.

.

.

.

Arizonapaperssmall

.
THEN

Most people had no need for any identification document, not to mention a driver’s license.

NOW
Well, you know.

.

.

.
THEN

If they had any reason to suspect you, the government could intercept your mail, tap your phone, or have you watched.

downloadedsongssmallNOW
Any number of “private sector” employees, not to mention the government, not elected or appointed by anyone you’ve heard of, can access your bank accounts or gather any information they please about you without leaving their desks.  You don’t need to be suspected of anything to be ruined.  Your only defense is getting lost in a crowd of millions of potential victims from whom they can choose.

Oh yeah, and there’s this:

incarcerated1920on,

don'tbeascabsmall.

.

THEN
Labor unions were violently suppressed.  People organized and struck anyway, even in the middle of the Great War, at the risk of their lives.

.

.

.

.

workethicteabag.

.

NOW
Labor unions are suppressed with brainwashing and outsourcing, workers are confused and apathetic.

.

.

.

.THEN
Radical programs put forth by communists and socialists consisted of things like Social Security, a graduated income tax, regulation of financial markets, and the right to organize.

MayDaypole

bankershousewinssmall.

NOW
Though nearly all governments would be called “socialist” by earlier standards, the benefits we all paid for are decried as “entitlements” (exactly what they are), and income tax can be avoided with a PO box in the Cayman Islands.

.

.

.

THEN
About 14% of the U.S. population was foreign-born.

futureAmericans

.complainimmigrantsmall.

.

NOW
About 13% of the U.S. population is foreign-born.

.

.

.

THEN
First movie starring Charlie Chaplin released in 1914:  Making a Living.  Early expression of what became his “Little Tramp” character later.  Notice the handlebar mustache, not the one Hitler copied out of admiration.

NOW
I Googled in vain to find a movie releasing in 2014 that seemed worthy of remark.

hangingwhat.

because'MericasmallTHEN
Eighty years of women fighting for the vote would finally come to fruition during and soon after the war, somewhat later in the U.S. than in Germany and Russia.

NOW
Women and all classes can vote, but most people don’t bother.

.

.

TRserpents.

.

THEN
A strong showing by a “progressive” third-party candidate for President in 1912.

.

.

.

sawbigcatsmall.

NOW
Progressive third-party candidates bravely run, hopeless against repressive election laws and ossified habits of the media and electorate.

,

.

suppressiondelabsinthesmall.

.

.

THEN
The U.S. was moving toward alcohol prohibition and, along with several European countries, had recently banned absinthe.  Federal controls on opiates and cocaine were first passed in 1914.

.

NOW
The U.S. is moving toward legalizing cannabis and outlawing tobacco.  The ban on absinthe has been largely lifted.

.

.

.

kidsreadingTHEN
People read.  A lot.  Popular writers could be A-list celebrities.  Getting published was a big deal; the only way to enable thousands of people to read your stuff.

NOW
Any idiot can, and does, self-publish for free.  Who knows if anyone reads 1% of it?  (self-referential statement, of course)

causeofdeathsmallTHEN
Male life expectancy in the U.S. was about 52 in 1914.  It was normal to die at any age, of random bacterial infections, influenza, measles, syphilis, tuberculosis, etc.

NOW
Much greater life expectancy, while most medical expenses are incurred in the last few months of life, often wiping out family fortunes.  (Or you can prevent the formation of any fortune by paying extortionate insurance premiums.)

.

childsoldiersmall.

THEN
European armies fought it out to the end, with ten million dead on the battlefield.

NOW
Americans don’t notice or care about 100,000 Iraqi dead, but are unpleasantly surprised to hear of 4,000 American dead in the invasion and occupation.

.

.

Some of the above were just included as cultural markers, for entertainment value, but I can’t help focusing on the last two entries.  If anyone now, in any situation, were to suggest that ten million dead is a bearable price to pay for ANY political proposition, they would be laughed out of the room, or ought to be.

whenIwasyourage.That brings up an old trope:  the “When I was your age…” thing.

The deeds of our ancestors are often told in ways that make them seem godlike, and that must be why each Greek polis had a god for its mythic founder.

But there are some real stories of sacrifice of which I have no reason to doubt the literal truth, and war provides the some of the more obvious ones;  times when the ordinary soldier MUST have known that following an order was suicide and just did it anyway.  Not one or two crazies, but by the thousands.  Fredericksburg, Pickett’s Charge, and Cold Harbor come immediately to mind in U.S. history.  WWI had too many to count.  Ataturk said, with no hint of shame, to his out-of-ammunition troops:  “I’m not ordering you to fight, I’m ordering you to die.”, and they did.

torturingsmall.

.

.

.

As mentioned above, we don’t need to look at war for huge sacrifices.  The women’s suffrage and labor movements 100 years ago suffered quite a few deaths, tortures, and imprisonments to bring about things we take for granted now.

.

.

.

deathwingssmallCould the shorter life expectancy have something to do with it?  Maybe, if it was considered “normal” to die young, the chance to die FOR something was more welcome? Hell, I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.  But when you’re in conflict with people who’ve given up hope for long, comfortable lives, it’s like the proverbial fistfight with an ugly person:  nothing to lose.  Hmmm… could that have any relevance to the “war on terror”?  Nah…

Are we just wimps nowadays?  An athlete is called a “hero” for entertaining us.  A salesman is a “hero” for getting you a good deal.  Even our myths are kinda cheap:  How is Superman a “hero” when almost nothing can hurt him?

It kinda makes me wonder about how Obama’s failure to act like a progressive is sometimes “explained” by pointing out a fear of assassination.  (one example:  http://mondoweiss.net/2013/06/reneged-progressive-promises.html  You can find many more by Googling)

Now, tell me if my logic isn’t working here…

politicslikessmallWhen you decide to become a public figure to the degree of running for the highest office in a major country, isn’t a risk of assassination one of those things you just take for granted?

By the time you run for President, you’re pretty well “all-in”.  That’s going to be the rest of your life, and what your life amounts to, right?  You KNOW you’re going to look like those before & after pictures of LBJ or Clinton, and that’s if you’re lucky.

Can you see Andrew Jackson or Teddy Roosevelt changing policies out of fear of assassination? See:  http://www.history.com/news/shot-in-the-chest-100-years-ago-teddy-roosevelt-kept-on-talking and http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/andrew-jackson-narrowly-escapes-assassination

So…

Is this a real explanation, or just a smear on Obama when you see such articles?  Do you all find it believable that we have a head of state who’s not ready to die?  Are people generally more credulous that fear of one’s own death is a good excuse for making policies more deadly to the whole society?  Whether you find it credible or not, just the fact that such an idea could be expressed widely says something about our culture now.  (Personally, I think Obama is doing just what he intended all along:  bail out Wall Street, strike a nefarious deal with the insurance companies, and otherwise muddle through, with the help of Republicans making him look good.  But that’s just me.)

thisgirlbraversmallPoverty kills.  Climate change kills.  Poisoned food & water kill.  Lack of medical care or anything to do with public safety can kill.   Ignorance kills.  The deaths add up to hundreds of millions… and public officials might fear for their personal safety?

Yeah, well, we get the government we deserve.

Not claiming to be anything special here.  What I gave to my activism is time, the stuff life is made of, but I only got a couple of (not-too-credible) death threats the whole time.  I certainly never invited them.  Not quite ready to die myself, but didn’t we once expect a little more from people who presume to make decisions for us?

I guess that’s all history now.

history-channel

This entry was posted in politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to IT’S ALL HISTORY NOW.

  1. Darius Sarrafi says:

    Your best rant so far. I agree. If you accept the job of taking care of your nation, you should not be afraid of assassination. Obama is either a coward or a traitor. Take you pick!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s