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April 6th, 2014
01:25 am

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Sabaton and the Future of Europe

Listening to one of my favorite Euro metal groups, Sabaton.  They like to do heroic songs about World War II.  Their style of singing is a bit overblown, but it makes me happy that someone in Europe remembers World War II, and -- more to the point -- remembers that there was a time when Evil menaced the world, and Good stood up to it unflinchingly and fought until the Evil was defeated.

Most of Europe's forgotten this, because entirely too much of Europe was on the wrong side, and because the war itself was a culmination of bad decisions that began before even the summer days of 1914, when the greatest civilization the world had yet produced essentially tore itself to pieces for no very good reason, and then made mistake after mistake after mistake, throwing away all the chances they had in the 1920's and the 1930's to repair the damage and reverse the decline of the West.  Mistakes that culimnated in the dark times of 1940-41, where for a while Britain stood Alone against the darkest and most hellish ideology that a race with a long history of producing dark and hellish ideologies had ever produced had yet conceived, taking fearful and crippling blows without complaint to buy the rest of the world the time it needed to arm against its mortal peril.

Those were heroic times, but they were also times in which the last bright flowers of the European West sacrificed themselves to ensure that the world would have any good future.  When peace dawned in 1945, Old Europe was dead beyond all resurrection, its cities gutted, its populations decimated and raped, its noble traditions trampled into the dust by its own leaders, its independent future gone for ever.  Europe paid for her mistakes from 1914-45 with the loss of world mastery, and in the end with the lost of her independence.  Half of Europe was dominated by an ideology almost as dark as that of the Nazis, and the other half was utterly dependent for its continued liberty on the good will and charity of the United States of America.

It must have been terribly humiliating.  I wonder what it would have been like to have been born in 1890, spent my young manhood in London or Paris or Berlin, confident that I was part of something great that dominated the world, and then at age 24 seen everything fall to pieces in the Great War, followed by that brief decade of hope from 1920 through 1929, and then watch everything spiral down again into an even worse hell than I'd experienced before, to end with my family and friends humiliated -- many dead or forced to do horrible and degrading things to survive -- all honor lost forever.  I'd be 55 years old -- just embarking on what would normally be a distinguished old age, but knowing that everything had been ruined forever.

The best place to be would have been London, and even then I would have had to endure two periods of bombardment and slow reduction to poverty by blockade.  In Paris, two episodes of horrid bleeding and four years of humiliating servitude to inferiors, followed by the rise of some of the worst in my society (the Communists) to a political influence they could have only dreamed about before the war.  In Berlin, actual starvation under blockade, a decade of uneasy freedom, followed by terror under the Nazis, with another starvation-by-blockade, followed by the Russians coming through in the terrible year of 1945, inflicting horrid suffering on the civilan population.

And that of course leaves out one crucial capital -- Warsaw.  Oppression by the Tsarists, the hell of the Eastern Front of the Great War, a decade of freedom, a local tyranny, occupation by the Nazis, the chaotic hell of the Rising, followed by occupation by the Soviets.  If I was lucky (unlucky?) enough to be born in 1890 and survive 1945, I might die around 1955, a prematurely-ancient man of 65, despairing in the knowledge that my homeland was doomed to be enslaved forever.

Is it any wonder that Europe has become so pessimistic?  That it has retreated from reality, convincing itself that extending bank loans is somehow a substitute for actual military power, so that they may tot up imaginary assets in the form of loans unlikely to ever be repaid or even maintained, and prattle to themselves that they still rule the world?  That it is being flooded by smirking, malign foreign hordes who openly speak of the joys of beating and raping the natives, while the native expend all their organized efforts in suppressing -- not the invaders, but any natives who are mean-spirited enough to complain about being beaten and raped?

And yet ...

... in so much of the European music coming out now, I sense a spirit of resistance rising, an awareness of a great past, a great culture and heroic struggles, an unwillingness to go down without a fight.  A spirit similar in some ways to that of Charles Martel in the 8th century, at the dawn of Europe's civilization, that now -- even in its twilight -- may make Europe a tougher nut to crack than Vladimir Putin or the near-mindless leaders of the Muslim mobs imagine.

Hitler thought he was the wave of the future, of a post-Enlightenment Europe which would sweep over the world and convert it all into his dark dream, and his dream was broken against an England that was too stubborn to admit that it had been defeated, that fought and fought and fought until the tyrant's horrified generals realized that they were burning up the margin of military superiority they needed to defeat the Soviets, until help could come from abroad and Mordor fell beneath the hammerblows of the RAF Bomber Command and the USAAF, the slow strangulation of the blockade, and the treads and wheels and boots of the avenging armies which closed on it from all sides.  So did Lenin and Stalin, and their dream is now dust, living only in the mind of a capering fool temporarily occupying the White House.  Even Putin has abandoned it and returned to an older Russian Imperial model.

So too the modern dreams of the tyrants may face stiffer resistance at the last than they expected, and one day the bombs will fall on Tehran and Mecca and Medina, and the screaming mindless multitude be sent back to dust before the cool technical men manning the consoles of the drones, the expert drivers and gunners in the tanks, and the modern mechanical chatter of the machine-guns.

But, first, the West will have to remember that resistance is possible.

And that's where music comes in.  For our dreams are expressed in music.  And the music of today is far from nihilistic.

There is still hope.  Even in Europe.

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From:tagryn
Date:April 6th, 2014 11:15 am (UTC)
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"I wonder what it would have been like to have been born in 1890, spent my young manhood in London or Paris or Berlin, confident that I was part of something great that dominated the world, and then at age 24 seen everything fall to pieces in the Great War..."

Sidenote to your main point: given the mortality rates of WWI, on top of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, your odds of surviving to that point as a male of prime soldiering age weren't that good. The odds of surviving without being maimed in some way (physically or psychologically) were even worse. At the very least, the circle of friends you grew up with was probably gone by the time you hit your mid-20s. That kind of hell probably contributed to WWII, in that it made the leaders who remembered the Great War reluctant to confront fascism early on for fears of sparking another war.
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From:jordan179
Date:April 6th, 2014 11:38 am (UTC)
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I had that thought myself when I was writing this. Between two wars and the real-life inspiration for Captain Trips, there is a good chance I wouldn't have lived through that whole period, especially if I started out anywhere but Britain. Another factor in Europe's suicide would have affected me -- I'm of Jewish birth, and one of the consequences of Naziism and World War II was that most of European Jewry was wiped out. Since the European Jews disproportionately provided Europe's philosophers, scientists, doctors and other intellecutal professionals; and since most of the surviving Jews emigrated to America or Israel, this pretty much sealed Europe's fate -- by 1950 or so, Europe no longer had the human capital to recover its former glories, even if the Soviets had been unable to hold down the East.

And me, of course, anywhere but Britain I'd probably have wound up dead. And if I'd been in Britain, witnessing years of pointless self-torture after 1945 (the British kept wartime rationing in effect for half a decade after the last U-Boat stopped attacking British commerce), I would have emigrated to America.
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From:vakkotaur
Date:April 6th, 2014 02:55 pm (UTC)
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I had ponder a similar thing at time, of someone born in the USA in the mid-1920s... growing aware of the world just as the Great Depression hit.. becoming an adult just as the USA got into WWII.. going thought the deepest depression and biggest war in history.. and surviving.. well, post war.. 1950s.. Space rockets, Atomic Power, antibiotics.. and those without a Depression or a big war.. everything had to seem pretty easy after that and optimism all but inevitable.

A few weeks ago I mentioned this to a friend of my mothers... who joined the Army in 1940 to escape the farm.. His comment? "That's right."

Edited at 2014-04-06 02:55 pm (UTC)
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From:gothelittle
Date:April 7th, 2014 11:49 pm (UTC)
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My grandmother was born in the mid-30's. She remembers living with her parents in an upstairs room of a duplex with both halves owned by family. (As in, two families in one unit and at least one, maybe more, in the other)

She told me a story about one of her cousins, a teenaged boy, who died after being caught in the city (they lived just barely on the outskirts) by a bunch of young toughs and set on fire. They took him to the hospital right away, but he did not survive.

I guess it's just my own weirdness that the first thing I thought was that it was interesting that such a poor family, during the Great Depression, before Medicaid and such, was nevertheless able to obtain immediate health care for a serious injury.

She turns 80 this year and says she can still remember the smell of burned human flesh.
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From:ford_prefect42
Date:April 8th, 2014 05:22 am (UTC)
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The fucking delusion that a lack of socialized medicine means that people in distress are allowed to die is a genuinely sick one.
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From:mckavian
Date:April 6th, 2014 12:48 pm (UTC)
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"It must have been terribly humiliating. I wonder what it would have been like to have been born in 1890, spent my young manhood in London or Paris or Berlin, confident that I was part of something great that dominated the world, and then at age 24 seen everything fall to pieces in the Great War, followed by that brief decade of hope from 1920 through 1929..."

With how Europe 'recovered' from WW1, it may have been an odd blessing that you never saw the rest of what happened.
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From:x_eleven
Date:April 7th, 2014 07:16 pm (UTC)
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"Half of Europe was dominated by an ideology almost as dark as that of the Nazis..."

Almost? Really?

The idiot-ology of the Nazis is dead and buried. Sure, you have skin-heads and other people strutting around in look-alike uniforms, but no one takes them the least bit seriously. They're not in the gov't, have no position of power and influence. The Soviet Union may be gone, but commies, com-symps, fellow travelers, and useful idiots still abound in gov't, mass media, and academia.

Between Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, &c, they make Hitler look like a piker in the democide dept.

WW II was a total cock-up from beginning to end. Yeah, we won the war, but lost the peace. Letting Stalin swallow up Eastern Europe, become a world threat, was a terrible mistake that should never have happened.
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From:ford_prefect42
Date:April 8th, 2014 05:16 am (UTC)
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Like.
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From:jordan179
Date:April 8th, 2014 06:42 am (UTC)
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I know that it's a close judgement call, but I think that the reason why Communism was able to kill more people than Naziism is because it was not as evil an ideology. Here's the reason why:

Evil is inherently destructive, including self-destructive. Or to quote Tolkien: "Oft evil will doth evil mar." A philosophy which is extremely evil has a disadvantage in surviving and spreading compared to a philosophy which is less extremely evil.

Think of an evil ideology as a parasite upon whatever civilizations host it. The more evil the ideology, the greater the strain upon the host civilization. A sufficiently evil ideology will burn up its host so rapidly that it is unable to survive long enough to accomplish the maximum harm. The ideology that accomplishes the maximum harm is one on the "sweet spot" (probably different for every civilization) between rate-of-harm and years-and-population-available-to-harm.

This may be viewed as a nightmare parody of the Law of Supply and Demand -- call it the Law of Malice and Loathing. A sufficiently evil ideology will be loathed by too many people to be widely applied: for intstance, an ideology that says "kill 99% of all humanity" will be opposed by such a large percentage of humanity that it is unlikely to become popular enough to take power or retain power for very long, hence it will fail to kill very many people. By contrast, an ideology that says "inconvenience 0.001% of humanity" is very likely to be accepted and applied for a very long time, but won't hurt very many people because its targeting is very limited. The ideology, however, that says "kill 10% of all people" may very well remain in power for a long time, and hence have an opportunity to kill a heck of a lot of people.

Naziism was a foul ideology whose adoption essentially made Germany the enemy of the vast majority of the world's population, with the predictable result that within 6 years of adopting the philosophy Germany was at war, within 9 years of adopting it at war with the majority of the human race, and within 12 years of adopting it had been extinguished as a sovereign state by the alliance formed in reaction to its malignity. Communism, while also foul, required the killing of a smaller percentage of humanity per year in those states which adopted it, and hence managed to last for up to eight decades in at least one country (Russia) which adopted it. This gave it many more years to kill people, and an advantage over Naziism in spreading.

See?
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From:x_eleven
Date:April 10th, 2014 05:15 pm (UTC)
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"See?"

Basically what you're saying is that Communism is more saleable. It promises sunshine, gumdrops, lollipops and unicorn farts for all. Nat'l Socialism had no such appeals to universalism.
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From:jordan179
Date:April 11th, 2014 12:02 am (UTC)
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Yes, precisely. Communism was ultimately more destructive than Naziism because its (ostensible) goals were (marginally) less evil -- it attracted more useful idiots and hence lasted (and got to kill) longer.
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From:jordan179
Date:April 8th, 2014 06:56 am (UTC)
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WW II was a total cock-up from beginning to end. Yeah, we won the war, but lost the peace. Letting Stalin swallow up Eastern Europe, become a world threat, was a terrible mistake that should never have happened.

Indeed -- and this was in part FDR and Truman's faults, because they trusted the Soviets way too long and listened to Churchill way too little, at least in 1944-1946 (the key years). On the other hand, it was also to some extent unavoidable. Short of credibly threatening or waging war on the Soviet Union starting around 1944 or 1945 -- an act which would have been horribly unpopular everywhere in the West -- we had almost no power to force Stalin to withdraw from the parts of Eastern Europe his armies had actually occupied.

It is true that the Soviets were exhausted at the end of World War II. But it is also true that we were exhausted, though not as greatly. The effort -- including political -- of waging the war was immense, and postwar nostalgia for wartime unity papers-over important political rifts on the home front, which the leaders of 1944-46 could not so casually ignore.

"We" here means "America." Britain was almost and France just as much exhausted in 1945 as was the Soviet Union. A continuation of World War II against the Soviets starting in 1944 to 1946 would have inflicted immense suffering on our European Allies as well as serious inconvenience to the American Home Front, and would have been politically unpopular everywhere.

As for nuclear options -- In 1945, we made three atomic bombs. We used up one in a test and the other two against Japan. Our production line was very limited in 1946. We could have carried out a few atomic airstrikes against the Soviet Union in a hypothetical continuation of the war, but not enough to knock them out of the war, unless we were fortunate enough to kill Stalin himself (difficult to do because he would have spent most of his time in a deep bunker and/or in hiding as soon as he knew that we were serious about fighting him). Eventually, we might have been able to damage the Soviets sufficiently to force them to sue for peace or at least cut their supply lines, but it would not have been rapid -- the nuclear arsenal of the 1950's simply did not exist in the late 1940's.
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