Friday, June 28, 2013

The "Absolute Destruction" .... of germs and insects

I don't mean germs and insects as metaphors for 'Hebs, Commies or Japs' --- I mean real life insects and germs in relationship to the modernists' much anticipated day when these tiny pests were no longer are around to bother mighty Man.

No longer around, period : their absolute destruction ensured.

Isabel Hull's multi prize winning book "ABSOLUTE DESTRUCTION" works best when it gets down to her thesis as to just why the Imperial Military of Germany was so particularly brutal, particularly against innocent civilians, in its heyday from 1860s to 1920s.

We always knew the Huns were brutes, we just never knew why.

 She shows that the German military elite was relatively unrestrained by German parliamentary opinion or general German public opinion - unlike the case with the equally bloody-minded British military, which was sharply restrained by critics back home, particularly during the Boer War.

I like her thesis , crassly enough because it fits my own thesis so well.

My thesis is that all the ideologies of the early 20th century, seemingly so different from each other at the time, a century on all look like subtle variants of one overarching modernist world view.

'Bigger is better' and 'Might is right' were the flavours of the day.

But just how all these (very hasty) ideologies actually played out in real time very much depended on how strong the opposing pre-modernist thought patterns (Christianity, basically) still were --- in different societies and in different decades.

As is well known, Imperial Germany exalted the reified State over the individual enormously and its constitution ensured almost that there be almost no civilian oversight of the military.

The same idea was slavishly taken up by the German Army worshipping Japanese militarists 50 years later.

The military in both nations thought only of winning wars by the total destruction of the enemy (every single last member of the enemy society if need be) ---- never thinking how to handle the resulting peace.

Or reflecting upon whether anyone could ever ensure the total destruction of anything but a tiny opponent.

To the Japan and Germany empires, it mattered little that their opponents, consisting of the British, French, American, Chinese and Russian empires, are all empires that were vastly bigger than their own empire.

Bigger, each in isolation, let alone all banded together.

But the Japanese and German elites felt that human brainpower and sheer willpower would surmount any material or spatial deficits.

When it came to thinking of their human opponents, let us quickly say that the the other empires were not anywhere as stupid as the Japanese and Germans, not by any means.

The Soviets and Americans had no plans to wipe out every last member of other nations.

(Other political parties' entire membership - yes, maybe !)

But when it came to viewing the total destruction of bugs and microbes as do-able, all the modernist ideologies proved just as naft-headed as the Axis.

After all, it was the 1930s head of the British MRC , an equivalent of today's American NIH, Edward Mellanby, who looked briefly at the new Sulfa drug and opined expansively he could see a day soon when there would be no more infections or hospital beds assigned to them.

(Just as bacterial resistance to the new Sulfa was proving him wrong wrong wrong.)

Equally daft was the American Surgeon General ,  circa 1967, claiming we can close the books on infection thanks to antibiotics ----- just as bacteria began resisting them wholesale.

And how many experts saw DDT as the way to get permanently rid of endless bugs and insects that caused diseases and ate crops ?

Like the collectivity of individuals that was the Russian Empire, bacteria and insects as a vast collectivity are just too big a target for us humans to ever permanently beat.

Like the rich and the poor and the big and the small, they will always be with us, in eternal commensality.....

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