W-19  Impressionist & Abstract Art

          700-703, 918 box


R-20  Romantic/Victorian Test


F-21  World War I



M-24  World War II & Holocaust

          #2, 936-939


T-25  20th-century Science

          897, #3






          In the last half of the 1800s, Western nations became empires by seizing Africa and much of Asia.  England, France, Germany, Belgium, and the United States all joined in the scramble.  Most of the empires lasted about seventy-five years from 1885 to 1960.


          After Napoleon, Europe enjoyed a century of relative peace.  True, frequent little wars popped up in the colonies, but they stayed far away, and only the colonial masters had guns.  People forgot how horrible war could be,


          By 1900, the whole available world had been divided up.  Any nation that wanted more land would have to take it from another.  So each country began piling up arsenals of the latest technological weapons--just in case someone else started any trouble.  Furthermore, each country began lining up its friends and signing treaties of mutual defense.  With everyone ready for war, it only took a small spark to set it off.


          That spark came when a spy from the small country of Serbia assassinated the crown prince of Austria-Hungary.  Austria sent soldiers into Serbia.  Serbia called on Russia to honor its defense treaty.  Russia had treaties with France and England.  Germany supported Austria.  In just a few days, all of Europe was involved in World War I.


          Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria formed one side, with Finland joining later.  On the other side were England, France, Russia, the United States, Japan, and some small nations.  Later, Italy joined in and Russia dropped out.


          At first, the German side seemed to be winning.  But the war dragged on for four years.  It became far more mechanical than anyone had expected.  Men on horseback with swords found themselves being bombed from airplanes.  Thousands died in the trenches.  And poison gas left others suffering for the rest of their lives.


          An English soldier, Wilfred Owen, described the reality of the front lines in these words:




"O Jesus Christ!  I'm hit," he said; and died.

Whether he vainly cursed, or prayed indeed,

The Bullets Chirped--In vain!  vain!  vain!

Machine-guns chuckled,--Tut-tut!  Tut-tut!

And the Big Gun guffawed.*                                                 *horselaughed


Another sighed,--"O Mother, mother! Dad!"

Then smiled, at nothing, childlike, being dead.

            And the lofty Shrapnel-cloud

            Leisurely gestured,--Fool!

            And the falling splinters tittered.+                                        +giggled


"My love!" one moaned.  Love-languid# seemed his mood,       #exhausted

 Till, slowly lowered, his whole face kissed the mud.

             And the Bayonets' long teeth grinned;

            Rabbles of Shells hooted and groaned;

            And the Gas hissed.





What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

      Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

      Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.@                                              @prayers

No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,

Nor any voice of-mourning save* the choirs,--                               *except

The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;

      And bugles calling for them from sad shires.*             +home counties


          On Christmas Eve, 1914, German soldiers at many places along a hundred-mile stretch of the front line invited the English, Belgian, and French soldiers to join them for Christmas carols.  They exchanged gifts, and arranged several soccer games the next day.  The ordinary soldiers' peace lasted about a week, until generals on both sides could rush fresh troops to the front line.


          Eventually, the German leaders realized they could not keep the destruction out of Germany much longer, so they surrendered before they were defeated.  This came as a cruel surprise to the German people, for their government propaganda had told them they were winning.


          After four years of suffering, European leaders wanted to take revenge on Germany at the peace conference.  Only President Woodrow Wilson of the United States tried to set up a system for lasting peace.  He gave in on many points, yet did get other nations to promise they would come together in a League of Nations to prevent future wars.  But after his triumph in Europe, Wilson came home to learn that the United States senate refused to join the League of Nations.  Without American coöperation the league had little power.







          One observer commented that the "war to end all wars" was followed by the "peace to end all peace."  For the victors of World War I blamed Germany for starting the war, and demanded that it pay for the damages.  Actually the arms race and alliances of many nations had led up to the war.  But Germany lost and was told to pay.  Inflation soared out of control in Germany.  It took a suitcase full of money just to buy groceries.  An item which had cost a dollar cost one trillion dollars a year later.  Lifetime savings meant nothing.  Then the opposite happened: world depression.


          The Great Depression began in the United States where times had grown so prosperous that people borrowed far more money than they could repay.  Suddenly panic set in, and lenders demanded their money back.  People who could not pay on time went bankrupt.  The same panic and bankruptcy spread across the world.


          All over the world, ordinary citizens grew angry at the way life was treating them--especially in Germany.  Then a man appeared who told Germans who to be angry at.  He claimed it was Jews and Communists who had caused the problems. He was a picture postcard painter from Austria, named Adolf Hitler.  He made a deal with business leaders to be appointed prime minister of Germany.  But he wanted total power.  The German people voted him all the power he wanted.


          Anti-Communist dictatorships were sprouting up in other countries too.  They ran their countries with businesslike efficiency.  They called their system Fascism.  Mussolini in Italy, Franco in Spain, and Salazar in Portugal became Fascist dictators.


          Writers about political parties like to talk about "left wing" and "right wing."  The names come from the seating arrangement of the French parliament back during the revolution.  Here is what they mean:  To the left are the liberals--who want changes for the betterment of man.  Generally, liberals trust governments more than they trust armies and business.  At the far left are the Communists, who want the government to run everything for the benefit of the people.  To the right are the conservatives--who want to hold on to the best ideas which have worked in the past.  Generally, conservatives trust armies and business more than they trust governments.  At the far right are the Fascists, who want the army to run everything like a business for the benefit of the people.  But in practice, the two extremes have both been undemocratic in the twentieth century--and look confusingly alike.


          Hitler corrected the wrongs of the peace treaty by seizing the lands which had been taken from Germany.  Then he grabbed all of the German-speaking nations around him.  Finally he just boldly invaded most of the other nations of Europe.  His army moved with such lightning speed that it conquered countries before the other side could organize.


          In his racial prejudice, Hitler gathered blond blue-eyed couples and mated them like thoroughbreds in the hope of creating a race of superheroes, When Italy and Japan joined him in World War II, he made the Japanese people honorary members of the white race.


          Germany, Italy, and Japan formed one side in World War II.  Since Russia had just gobbled up Finland, that democratic little country also joined the German side.  On the other side stood forty-six nations--especially England, Russia, the United States, China, and what was left of France.


          The second world war was much larger than the first--with one main battle area spread across Europe, and another spread across the Pacific Ocean.  Hitler tried to bomb England out.  But the English found courage in the words of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Hitler turned his attention to the Soviet Union.  There he made the same mistake as Napoleon.  The Russians retreated and made a stubborn stand just outside Moscow.  Millions of Russians died while the severe winter destroyed much of Hitler's army.  Germany crumbled.  With enemy armies invading from all directions, Hitler gave orders that his body be burned, and shot himself.


          Then the horrors of the war began to be known.  The winning armies found concentration camps where the Jews and anyone who spoke against Hitler had been rounded up and killed in large gas chambers.  Six million Jews died in those concentration camps.  It was not the largest mass murder in history, but it was the largest in Western history.  (See Volume I, Chapter 36.)


          Japan continued the war until the United States hit it with the first atomic bomb.  A quarter of a million people died in a few seconds, and hundreds of thousands of others became mutilated for life.  A few days later, a second bomb exploded, causing more death and suffering.  Japan surrendered, and World War II ended.  Fifty million people had died during the war.  (For the Japanese part of World War II, see Volume III, Unit V, Chapter 4.)


          After the bombs and guns stopped roaring, after Hitler stopped screaming, after Churchill stopped reassuring, a small voice became heard in the world.  It was the diary of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who had hid with her family in Holland.  They were discovered and she died of tuberculosis in a concentration camp.  A couple of weeks before she was captured, she wrote these words about what had gone wrong with the age of Realism:




            "For in its innermost depths youth is lonelier than old age."  I read this saying in some book and I've always remembered it, and found it to be true.  Is it true then that grownups have a more difficult time here than we do?  No.  I know it isn't.  Older people have formed their opinions about everything and don't waver before they act.  It's twice as hard for us young ones to hold our ground, and maintain our opinions, in a time when all ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when people are showing their worst side, and do not know whether to believe in truth and right and God.


            Anyone who claims that the older ones have a more difficult time here certainly doesn't realize to what extent our problems weigh down on us, problems for which we are probably much too young, but which thrust themselves upon us continually, until, after a long time, we think we've found a solution, but the solution doesn't seem able to resist the facts which reduce it to nothing again.  That's the difficulty in these times: ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us, only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered.


     It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out.  Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.  I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.  I see the world gradually being turned into a   wilderness.   hear the ever approaching thunder, which will      destroy us too, l can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again,


            In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.







          A poet called the 1950s "the "Age of Anxiety.''  The description fit, for both the United States and Russia held the secret of the atomic bomb.  Russia had swallowed up the lands it freed from Germany: Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and East Germany.  They all became Communist states which took orders from Russia.  The United States began producing weapons until it had enough to destroy the whole world three times.  And Russia was racing to catch up.  For the first time, man had the power to completely destroy himself and his world.


          Just as before World War I, nations piled up weapons and lined up their friends.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), and the Warsaw Pact tied most of the world into the "cold war" between the United States and Russia.  And as before World War I, citizens on both sides fired themselves up with patriotism.  One American senator expressed the mood: he said that if the whole world were destroyed except for two people, he wanted to be sure that those two were American.


          But people had faith in the new science.  They developed more and more sophisticated systems for detecting and destroying weapons.  To people in the rest of the world, it began to look like the rich and powerful nations such as the United States and Russia were terrorizing and victimizing all of the smaller and poorer countries.


          The United Nations was an experiment which worked far better than the League of Nations ever had.  The big powers continued to put their faith in their bombs, but the U.N. managed to keep several small wars from becoming World War III.  The United Nations made great strides in attacking world problems such as hunger, overpopulation, illiteracy, and human rights.  Many European nations combined into a Common Market, making it easier for business to flow across their borders.  The Renaissance ideas of nations and patriotism did not seem useful any more.  Just as religious ideas had united Medieval Europe, now scientific ideas became international.  The idea of "one world" began to look like a possibility.


          The atomic bomb which terrorized the world had grown from the scientific discoveries of Albert Einstein.  He was a Jewish mathematician who fled from the persecution of Hitler's Germany.  He revealed the tremendous amounts of energy stored in the atom, with the formula E=mc2 (energy equals mass multiplied by the speed of light squared).  The atomic bomb operated by fission--splitting the largest natural atom, uranium.  But it caused great clouds of deadly radiation which drifted all over the world.  Then scientists learned how to make a safer but much more powerful bomb by fusion--joining two of the smallest atom, helium, to form a hydrogen atom.  Einstein felt extremely sorry to see his discoveries used for such destructive purposes.  He pleaded for peace and helpful uses of atomic energy,


          Einstein also discovered the theory of relativity.  He explained that even time and distance were not exact; it all depends on where one is and how fast one is moving.  In outer space, time slows down and things change size.


          Since Freud, people could not be sure how much of their experience was real, and how much was just the mind playing tricks on them.  Now Einstein said that even things which could be measured were relative.  Realism began with a search for the solid truths.  It ended with the awful realization that no truths were very solid,


          This was more reality than some people wanted, They looked for something firm to clutch to--like old-fashioned religion.  But another mathematician, the English Bertrand Russell, applied scientific logic to religion.  He found no proof of a god, but like a true scientist he kept an open mind.  He was an Agnostic.  An Atheist insists there is no god; an Agnostic says there is no evidence of god so far, but the idea is still possible--even if not very likely.




            God and Immortality,* the central dogmas+ of the Christian religion, find no support  in science.  It cannot be said that either doctrine is essential to religion, since neither is found in Buddhism. (With regard to immortality, this statement in an unqualified form might be misleading, but it is correct in the last analysis.)  But we in the West have come to think of them as the irreducible minimum of theology.#  No doubt people will continue to entertain these beliefs, because they are pleasant, just as it is pleasant to think ourselves virtuous and our enemies wicked.  But for my part I cannot see any ground for either.  I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God.  I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction.  The Christian God may exist; so may the Gods of Olympus,@ or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon.  But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them....


            Fear is the basis of religious dogma, as of so much else in human life.  Fear of human beings, individually or collectively, dominates much of our social life, but it is fear of nature that gives rise to religion....  If the world is controlled ­by God, and God can be moved by prayer, we acquire a share in omnipotence.*  In former days, miracles happened in answer to prayer; they still do in the Catholic Church, but Protestants have lost this power.  However, it is possible to dispense with miracles, since Providence+ has decreed that the operation of natural laws shall produce the best possible results.  Thus, belief in God still serves to humanize the world of nature and to make men feel that physical forces are really their allies.#  In like manner, immortality removes the terror from death.  People who believe that when they die they will inherit eternal bliss may be expected to view death without horror, though, fortunately for medical men, this does not invariably happen.  It does, however, soothe men's fears somewhat even when it cannot allay@ them wholly.


            Religion, since it has its source in terror, has dignified certain kinds of fear and made people think them not disgraceful.  In this it has done mankind a great disservice: all fear is bad.  I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego* will survive.  I am not young, and I love life.  But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation.  Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting.  Many a man has borne+ himself proudly on the scaffold;# surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man's place in the world.  Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own....


            Nature, even human nature, will cease more and more to be an absolute datum;@ more and more it will become what scientific manipulation has made It.  Science can, if it chooses, enable our grandchildren to live the good life, by giving them knowledge, self-control, and characters productive of harmony rather than strife.  At present it is teaching our children to kill each other, because many men of science are willing to sacrifice the future of mankind to their own momentary prosperity.  But this phase will pass when men have acquired the same domination,* over their own passions that they already have over the physical forces of the external world.  Then at last we shall have won our freedom.


*eternal life






#on their side




#execution platform

@given fact




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