Friday, April 22, 2011

1939-1945: the second WORD war.....

That is not a typo: I am interested in the abject historical neglect of the extent to which WWII was a war fought by words as well as by weapons .

No popular audiences wanted the war, so every leading nation at
war had to woo a large number of audiences.

First it had to deal with the concerns of its domestic population - civilians at home and their 'boys' under arms overseas.

Then your allies - their governments and their restless domestic audiences.

The neutrals - you hoped to move them to allies or away from your opponents to at least true neutrality.

Your opponents' domestic population and maybe even their military and elite.

The occupied people and one's colonial  populations were extremely important.

A moment's attention would lead one to quickly see the need to divide all these big populations into many subsets, each with their own unique concerns and need for unique messaging.

I tend to think very "election-ly" about everything , so I tend to see the war as a six year long election campaign fought between three major political parties (and a lot of lesser ones) for the hearts and minds of the world's electorate.

Each party laid forth its claims of virtue and attacked the others' shortfall between their virtues claimed and their very sorry failings in practice.

The three parties?

The ANGLO SAXON Atlantic Charter (Four Freedoms) Party , the GERMAN SAXON New Order Party and the JAPANESE SAXON Co-Prosperity Sphere Party....

A "glass-half-full" history of WWII

My book was inspired by an important poll of Americans seeking to determine the most important news story of the entire 20th Century.

In 1999, over 36,000 American men and women told the Newseum and USA Weekend magazine that the single most important event of the 20th Century involved a little boy and a baby girl and happened on a tiny island not far off the American coast back in the 1940s.

Actually the men and women divided by gender - the men pointing to the baby boy as story number one  and the women saying the baby girl was the most important.

The men , backed up by tenured, professional, important historians, said that WWII ended in a BANG, and gave a downcast glass-half-empty account of the war's end.

By contrast the women looked up from the diapers and said the war ended hopefully with a WHIMPER, and in their view the glass was half-full.

I too take this view and decided to write a green revisionist history of 1939-1945 that sees the outcome as more hopeful than not.

My view of WWII may owe more to Alexander Pope and Francois
Rabelais than to the academic Dunces of my own era but so be it....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

a Modernist is anyone who has never changed a diaper...

Hitler, Stalin, Mao,Tojo -  do you think any of those utopian dreamers ever changed a diaper?

WWII through a female-oriented lens...

I am not a female.

My most extensive bout of diaper changing was over 35 years ago, when I routinely changed diapers on adults with mental ages of one or two, in a mental hospital.

Never been a parent.

But neither did I grow up a privileged upper middle class male, waited upon hand and foot while I floated above it all , exalting in my profound thoughts.

Pause here for loud guffaw from Rebecca....

I had led a frugal life, living on a very small income and working at a variety of manually-oriented jobs.

I am very aware of the ability of material limitations to prevent grand ideas ever coming into actual existence.

And I have an ingrained respect for street smarts - be they from adults with a mental age of one or two, from infants with mental ages of one or two, or even when coming from the very humble-seeming bacteria.

Most think that World War Two was the apogee of modern science.

I ,and Adorno, disagree.

I see it was the time when Modernity was finally given its oats and told to 'go for it' .

Modernity then proceeded to 'go postal' and tore itself apart - on the inside .

It took thirty more years for Modernity to start to show its scars --- and it is still not dead yet.

I am here to help kill it - before it kills all of us and all of the Earth...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Modernity: a definition

A modernist is anyone who can claim, with a straight face , that there is a fixed gene for capricious human creativity, without immediately bursting into laughter.

A modernist, in other words, is an eugenicist - not sometimes but all the times and always.

In the 1960s, it was possible to claim that only the Nazis were eugenicists and since they were anti-modernist, eugenics and modernity were thus, ipso facto, poles apart.

The 1970s and 1980s had scholars detail the extent to which eugenicists were common in every nation and in every form of ideology. In particular, world cultural figures of the first water were shown to be avid eugenicists.

The 1990s had scholars like Christina Cogdell demonstrate that popular or 'assumed' eugenics was endemic among the educated classes in America  and around the world until t least the end of WWII - eugenics being more 'simple common sense' than a formal organization you had to pay a membership fee to join.

I think  21st century research will suggest will move beyond the most advanced scholarship to date.

It will move beyond claiming that eugenics was a major branch of the broad church of modernity to state that it was its only dogma : modernity was eugenics ; eugenic was modernity...

Too many defensive histories of WWII ; too few explanations...

This blog and its eponymous website were created because I believe that there has been far too few books written about World War Two.

At first, or even second glance, this seems to be a totally untenable position to defend.

'Glut' is the usual word used to describe the mini-industry of books, movies and TV shows produced about WWII.

But I hold that all the books about the war, to date, have come in two (distinctly biased) thirty five year long 'chunks'.

The first 'chunk', produced during the war itself and on until the late 1970s, were written by participants, middle aged or older in 1940, who had started and sustained the war but who were too old to actually fight in the foxholes.

(These people were born mostly between about 1885 and 1900.)

Their books defended the specific positions and decisions they and their allies had taken during that war.

By the 1980s most were dead or in their mid eighties and their publishing careers were over.

Then starting around 1980, we got a second glut of books - this 'chunk' written by people who had been teenagers in 1939 and so hadn't started or run the war but who, thanks to their frontline bravery, finally ended the bloodshed.

These people had been born between about 1914 and 1929.

They stoutly defended their nation's overall goals during the war, while feeling free to criticize specific activities - after all, they had been too young to actually order any of those 'wrong-in-hindsight' decisions.

Now the youngest of them, in turn, are in their mid eighties and their publishing efforts have almost fallen silent.

What is most notable about all these books, in both chunks, is their defensive cast.

All these authors somehow sensed that the generations who hadn't been participants in the war failed to see it as a clear cut case of Good against Evil.

But I think that in the course of assembling a quick argument to dismiss such an absurd claim, all of these authors found some merit in the later generations' case.

They were then reduced to defending ,or explaining away, actions that were hard to condone in normal times, as regrettable actions taken at the nadir of a Total War they felt they were losing.

I will be 60 this year and came of age when the Cold War, let alone the Second World War, was at its moral ebb.

Seventy years of distance from the wartime deluge of propaganda should allow me and others of my generation (and younger) to finally seek explanations of WWII that do not, in advance, seek to explain away actions taken by any side or person in this conflict.

Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think I would be writing about WWII - growing up, that seemed as something for grandfather's and father's generations to do.

I came at the war obliquely after a lifetime of interest in Eugenics and Modernity - Eugenic Modernity, for short.

One should always strive to see that Eugenics and Modernity in America, Russia, Japan and German had a mixture of things they did or believed in common and a mixture of things they did or believed differently.

But after 70 years of books focussed on the differences between Communism, Capitalism and Fascism one does long for and hunger for a bit of balance and redress where their similarities are also compared and evaluated.

Fair is fair.

My bias in advance:

I see World War Two as a war that the educated in America, Japan,Russia,Germany (and in all other countries) had predicted would come, should come, must come : a biologically-scientifically proven battle that must take place between 'the fittest of the fit societies' for survival.

A war between humans, with the world present only as an inert backdrop.

That is not to say that most of them also didn't fear and dread it and wish it won't happen.

It is just that, as Richard Overy claims in his book "THE MORBID AGE", they expected it was about to happen because modern science had proven it had to happen - it was in our genes.

Evolution, Natural Selection,Progress , Genetics had all foredained it would be so.

So by June 1940, the ground rules for this drama had been laid out.

Against a totally inert backdrop of Nature, six huge military empires (the British Empire,America,German-occupied Europe,Russia, Japan and China) would fight it out over six vast continents - and as it turns out in a neat trick in symmetry, over six long years.

A mind war (martial spirits), not a material war (motor spirits).

In the beginning, Japan and Germany , tiny nations with few natural resources but abundant will-to-power in science and warfare, bested the bigger empires.

Did their military or scientific vigor falter during the war, leading to their defeat?

Few military men who ever directly engaged the forces of those two comparatively small nations felt that the Germans or Japanese fighters could be bested by the Allied side, one on one.

Our will-to-freedom simply couldn't reliably best their will-to-power.

This view is held by virtually all the world's public -  that the average German or Japanese soldier, as individual fighters, were fiercer than Allied soldiers, on average.

So perhaps Allied Science bested Axis Science. Much of the public -at least the older public - still believes this.

Interestingly, few scientists or historians who have studied the matter, do so.

So we are left with the consensus view that while Blitzkreig wars strike hard and fast, they also strike short.

That is to say, that the Japanese and German Blitzkreig in the Spring of 1942 fell short by only conquering about 8% of the world each, when what they really needed to do to be ultimately successful was to conquer about a half the world each.

Specifically German troops had occupy Britain and Japanese had to occupy Australia and both had to have met in Tehran and at the Urals Mountains by Spring 1942.

Under these conditions, America would have to resign itself to dominating the Americas and the southern half of Africa, but not seriously attempting to defeat Japan and Germany.

But the land and naval Blitzkreigs only conquered about one sixth of the world's surface and eventually the resources of the other five sixths defeated the Axis in a long slow war of attrition.

Thus accepting that the human factors failed to explain the ultimate defeat of the Axis ( the Allied morale/courage and scientific ability not being better enough in themselves to defeat the Japanese or Germans ) , the consensus view is forced back upon a material explanation for the war's outcome.

A explanation, from our best educated, for the outcome of the war that is totally at variance with the explanation for the start of the war, again from the world's best educated.

The Germans and the Japanese didn't lack ambition - they planned and agreed to meet in Tehran and on the Urals.

 They bested all the human enemies they ever met.

So why did they fail? Why did Tojo, Hitler and Mussolini, ham actors all, fail to chew the scenery?

Why did the scenery prove much less than an inert backdrop, why did the scenery end up chewing the actors ?

Now I include such ham actors as Churchill and FDR, Portal and Hap Arnold and all those other Allied proponents of a swift Air based victory.

This because if the German armoured tank based Blitzkreig failed to deliver what it promised and the carrier & landing craft based Japanese Naval Blitzkreig failed to deliver, so did those B-17s and Norden bombsights and their Aerial Blitzkreig.

Three separate Blitzkreigs - three separate failures that crossed the Allied-Axis divide.

Why did they all fail?

These are some of the questions I hope to raise and hope to begin to answer.

There have been many accounts of the world war, I hope this one is a GREEN account - one that looks at least as much as the world's part in the war as we have given the humans' part in the war to date.....

Saturday, April 16, 2011

WWII was supposed to be the triumph of the PROFESSIONAL will-to-power

WWII was supposed to be "THE GOOD WAR" for modern science; its beginnings coinciding with the beginnings of that love-in for Utopian modern science that was the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940.

Ironically and appropriately, it was in a New York City university and hospital itself that these hopes were dashed six years later.

Until quite recently, most universities and hospitals (including these particular institutions) were founded by a particular church denomination and there was a documented religious
impulse behind the creation of these quasi-temples of God.

As is well known, modern science claims its beginnings from when it threw out the preachers (and their God and God's animate Nature) from these buildings and made them temples of science instead.

God's World and God's Nature ceased to be seen as full of animate biology (unpredictable tigers) and quasi-animate matter  (unpredictable earthquakes or monsoons) --- it all became inert matter that is never consumable, but merely, and eternally, transformable and utterly predictable.

This new temple was clearly for a new religion : "The-People-Of-The-First-Law" , ie the human-flattering First Law of Thermodynamics.

But in fact, these new - professional - scientists (amateur scientists had been around for millenniums) only fully succeeded when they threw the parishioners out of the temple as well.

Sir Charles Lyell, the Godfather of modern science, overthrew the preachers by convincing enough of the upwardly mobile professional middle class that there was no further need to hire preachers to make supplication to God for mercy when overwhelmingly immense catastrophes suddenly hit.

Under this uniformitarianist and gradualist view of the Universe, disasters still happened - but they happened only locally and only briefly and came with lots of warning ---- professional,full time, well funded, scientists thus had lots of time to mitigate the damage
----and to earn a full pension while doing so.

This was science at its most leisurely and at its most dignified - scientists who never sweated.

We can date this event with confidence - by no coincidence , it happened in the aftermath of the First British Reform Act when the  urban upper middle class came to share power with the rural land-based aristocracy.

Exactly when non-renewable ,dead, coal began to replace renewable life-and-land based biological energy as the engine of the modern economy.

Science became the (new) sinecure and a well paid, high prestige, job-for-life --- sort of like being a Canadian senator, a British member of the House of Lords or a member of the American NAS : a new professional degree-based aristocracy to replace the old land-based aristocracy.

But if disasters hit only infrequently, why hire a whole bunch of well paid professional scientists to deal with something that only happens briefly, infrequently, and probably only in a small section of somebody else's country ?

Professional scientists took heed of this view and answered that all those pioneers who had cleared the land, built their own homes and raised their kids unaided were revealed as dangerous amateurs:  actually these were only jobs that only trained professionals could be relied upon to do right.

DIY and self-reliance (aka subsistence farming) were bad,bad,bad --- old fashioned and out-moded.

So today, you can actually get a PhD in grief-counselling because ordinary people, the parishioners of years ago, can not be trusted to cry over the death of their own child properly --- and none of us  stand up and complain about this insult upon the average human being !

No global catastrophe was too big for the scientific professional
(because asteroids simply didn't drop out of the sky) just as no personal catastrophe was so small that an ordinary person could be trusted to deal successfully with it on their own.

Martin Henry Dawson was a modern scientist who at the height of WWII - the war of science - successfully challenged these twin dogmas of science.

Ironically he was not religious - apparently far from it.

But perhaps unconsciously, he smuggled both God's animate Nature and a big role for the amateur laity back into a leading Temple of Science, New York's Columbia University.

Scientists in all the warring nations and all the neutral states of World War Two tried to work up a sweat about what would happen if the (stars and stripes) (hammer and sickle) (swastika) suddenly replace the normal flag flying over the scientific institution where they worked.

But they couldn't - as Operation Paper Clip and its ilk revealed, smart scientists (even evil smart scientists) will always land on their feet, under what ever regime takes over.

But Dawson's efforts threatened the jobs and prestige of all science and he has never been forgiven for his transgressions, no matter how much us laity might applaud his efforts....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

WWII is a war the World won (and human hubris lost)

"Nature Bats Last" is hardly a catchphrase that originated with me.

But it is seems always to have been used in a non time-specific manner .

At least until I started this blog and website.

My unique take is this:

that World War Two marked both the high point
and  the beginning of the end for Modernist Science :
that is to say 1939-1945 marked the apogee of Modernism.

But because History is written by losers with money and tenure, WWII has been played out, for the last 70 years, as an unalloyed triumph of Allied science and modernity with the nothing-if-not
-scientific German Nazi and Tojo-era Japanese elite recast as anti-modernists.

Adorno never bought that and neither do I.

But because Mother Nature can't speak, someone has to step forward tell her side (the winner's side) of the story .

 Not seeing anyone else coming forward, I offer myself.....