Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The War That Ended Peace

Why do wars happen, despite desires to live in peace? The question is answered in THE WAR THAT ENDED PEACE: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan, an award-winning historian, PhD Fellow of the Royal Society, and professor of international studies at Oxford. Read by Richard Burnip, this 32 hour epic of audio non-fiction tells what led to WW1, as crowned heads of Europe failed to support general expectations for a prosperous future in the 20th Century, allowing events to swing instead toward the hell of trench warfare and mustard gas. MacMillan offers up a deep and compelling education on the whys of war, which are many. Rampant expansionist Capitalism, often cited by the liberal left as being a cause, did not play a direct role in WW1. It was instead militarism and patriotism that mostly did the deed, as the ethnic nationalism that Einstein decried exploded like a firestorm, and sent young men in droves to sign up and then die with their indoctrinations of fear and hatred of outsiders. For years before the war there had been (as there is today) a glorification of military virtues and war heroes, especially from the conservative right. Then, as now, says MacMillan, terrorists plagued societies with random violence, while sports and the Olympics were espoused to prepare young men to fight, to encourage nationalism, and for nation states to perceive each other as rivals in a "survivor takes all" game. This fomented ethnic racial tensions between German and French peoples or between Celtic and Slavic peoples, each side not only feeling superior, but also being told that the other side needed to be "brought down." All that it needed was one match to be dropped. And it was all supported by Social Darwinism, a widespread belief that only the strong deserved to survive, and that violent conflict was nature's inevitable way to cull the inferior. Such beliefs next led to the rise of Hitler, who glorified the idea of the Overman or √úbermensch, an ethnically pure Super Reich Man before whom the world must be forced to kneel. (And nearly everyone on the flag-waving German team said, "Play ball!") This devastatingly prescient cautionary history is intricately researched and relevant to politics as played today, the battle lines drawn between any and all possible groups or cliques of humans who don't see the fallacy of their jingoistic delusions (of grandeur.)  AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH



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