Thursday, September 19, 2013

WWII was a conflict within nations and within INDIVIDUALS ... as well as between nations

War ,to give it a quick definition, is a violent conflict conducted between nations, not between individuals.

But the intensity of commitment with which individuals and groups within any nation fight in that nation's war can vary immensely --- perhaps never more so than during WWII.

(We are not considering the rare case when a citizen is in total non-compliance with their nation's war decisions, by becoming a complete conscientious objector or a traitor.)

The existing WWI paradigm ,within which all existing history on that war has been written to date , never denies that each nation had a somewhat divided mind between 1931-1945 on various war issues.

Still writers accepting of that paradigm tend to focus exclusively on the nation against nation conflict and - I claim ! - seriously distort what was really going on and what was truly fundamental in a 'long history' view.

These writings tend to limit the war's big moments to a military battle between the modern age's various ideologies : liberal capitalist democracies versus race (Japan, Germany,and Italy's fascism) and class based (communist Russia) dictatorships.

There is no denying that for the world's population living inside the modern age bubble seventy five years ago , it was the differences between the various strands of modern thought that so dominated their minds.

But what excuse have we historical-minded authors , living seventy years after that bubble began breaking, to be 'captured' by our protagonists' ways of thinking ?

Historians like to claim lots of time is necessary between historian and event to render the beginnings of an objective assessment of it.

Isn't seventy five years (and more) time enough to look anew at WWII ?

To see it no merely as a Modern war, but in fact the last Modern war, and the beginnings of the post-Modern world ?

If we look again at the three big Modern ideologies : liberal capitalist imperialism, fascist cum racial imperialism and communist imperialism, we could today try to see that what they had in common , as opposed to what divided them.

What they held in common was an exclusivist or imperialist worldview that divided all the world into those deserving and those undeserving of the basic rights of humanness.

Does it really matter now, except in the details, whether or not their 'undeserving' included blacks or Jews or well off peasants ?

A Leningrad communist harshly criticizing another young communist for sharing her ration with her dying grandmother, saying the grandmother can contribute nothing to the struggle against the Nazi siege, but that young girl could and she needed all that food to keep up her strength.

A Nazi plan to kill off all German mentally challenged children in taxpayer-supported institutions so that their hospitals and staff could be used instead to look after moderately wounded soldiers capable of returning to the front.

An Allied medical establishment ( take your pick : America, the UK , Canada or Australia ) callously saying SBE was not 'a war disease' and so wives dying from it must be denied life-saying penicillin, so erring husbands with VD can return to fight on the front-lines.

This modern age utilitarianism and instrumentalism run wild - can you really tell its practitioners apart,  without a label ?

But there was an individual-based counter-reaction against it.

People all over the world between 1931 and 1946 began to internally wrestle with the morality of a exclusivist versus inclusivist worldview.

Admittedly tiny in numbers at first when it came to open rebellion against the Modern worldview, this critique came to centre on the idea that wartime penicillin should be offered to all and any.

We do know it received widespread public support, from August 1943 onwards,  at a time when the polls said that most peoples' hearts were still hardened against treating the Jew or black as fully human .

SBE, a rheumatic heart disease, was primarily a poor person's disease : the people who got it tended to be the poor among the visible minorities and immigrants.

The world's daily press correctly sensed it first.

They sensed the widespread public support for the idea these young patients with SBE should be saved, war or no war ---- number one by making a lot lot lot more penicillin than had been produced during the 15 years to date.

By 1949, the once-radical change was complete and modern exclusivity was being replaced plank by plank by our current post-Modern inclusivity.

So, for example, the  idea that it was right that enemy children should die because members of the Allied population had cut their penicillin for illicit gain was now widely viewed by film-goers as the ultimate of all possible evils,  as indicated by the viewer love of  a film that still ranks in the top ten of all time : "The Third Man" .

If only Henry Dawson was still around in 1949, to see what change in the public morality that he had wrought ....

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