Brutality of World War II

As World War II progressed, millions of civilians were killed. Not only Jews and other human beings considered subhuman by the Holocaust, but people were being killed by the Allies too.

Fotothek_df_ps_0000010_Blick_vom_RathausturmFor instance, the bombing of Berlin. England in the beginning of the Battle of Britain was overwhelmed by the German Luftwaffe, who were bombing British factories, railways and other military targets with tremendous effectiveness in preparation for an actual land invasion. Churchill ordered the indiscriminate bombing of the German city of Berlin. Hitler then retaliated by bombing British civilians, especially in London.

Later on, as the war had already been about won, a bunch of refugees as well as the wives and children of German officers were all gathered in Dresden, a great cultural center. The Allies decided to bomb this city, and they dropped hundreds of incendiary bombs to create a fire storm, which destroyed most of the city, and killed at least 25,000 of the citizens of Dresden, and unknown numbers of refugees.

The Allies eventually by the end of the war had by far the better air force, and they resorted to terror bombing, or the bombing of innocent civilians in order to intimidate them into pressuring their governments to end the war.  Even though it did not have this effect, the bombings were continued until the end of the war. This bombing of insignificant targets resulting of tens of thousands being killed for absolutely no reason.

Even more notorious was the destruction of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As far as the Allies were concerned, Japan was no longer a threat, and the entire might of the American war machine was aimed at it. Its Emperor was already considering surrender, and even if there had been an invasion, the starving and weaponless Japanese would of been easily crushed without much resistance. Regardless, negotiations were denied until the completion of the first atomic bomb were complete, and then, on August 6, 1945, the first bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Both bombs killed at least 130,000 Japanese women and children in total.

Not to say that the Allies are any worse than the Axis. The Nazis carried out systematic extermination of various groups, especially Jews and the middle class, as did the Soviet Union. The Japanese carried out horrendous acts in China against the civilian population there.

hiresimagesfromworldwarii2528212529So, overall, World War II, more so than World War I, birthed the idea that civilians are also targets; they are held responsible in the same way as their leaders for the war, and are killed along with whoever else stands in the way of the State. Though inexcusable, this is regarded as somewhat OK. Today, entire weddings of people are killed to get one suspected terrorist, 12 of whom are supposed to have taken down all of NATO and, without any flight experience, hijack planes and kill 3,000 people and destroy entire buildings full of records of illegal activity. It sounds more like the State doesn’t care a bit about human life so long as they get what they want.

So, was one side any worse than the other? Not at all. Both Roosevelt and Hitler believed that they were superior to other races, and viewed human life as cheap. They threw bodies at each other until the one who could build better weaponry and had more bodies could destroy the most land and kill the most people. And that people, is war.

For war is essentially the health of the State. – Randolph Bourne

Arguments in Britain for the Abolition of Slavery

As England neared its abolition of slavery, different arguments were presented by those of the public who wished to end it.

  1. John Locke helped introduce the idea of Natural Rights
    John Locke helped introduce the idea of Natural Rights

    Human Rights – This argument pointed out the ideas of Locke, the Levelers and other philosophers who have spread the idea that human beings have natural rights; you own yourself, and so you have a right to live and keep the fruits of your labor.

  2. Humanitarianism – Humanitarians pointed out how inhumanly the slaves were treated, both in their voyages and in their labors in the New World and elsewhere. Though it did not necessarily entail the end of slavery on its own, it did help people to realize the evils of slavery.
  3. Economic – This argument pointed out that the economy of the day would be just fine without slavery; in fact, it was being harmed by it. Slaves didn’t always have to work year round; on the off seasons they were an economic burden to their owners. Slaves also didn’t work efficiently, as they were being forced to work with no reward.
  4. National Security – In England at the time of the Abolition of Slavery, one of the arguments in support of slavery was that the sailors taking the slaves from Africa to the New World were obtaining valuable experience, and would thus be more capable if called upon to defend Britain, when in fact they were being decimated by disease and hardships.

Any one of these arguments would probably not of been powerful enough to persuade those with special interests in the slave trade to quit and start something more economically productive. If you presented the Natural Rights argument alone, for example, but slaves were still thought to be economically essential, you wouldn’t go very far. But with all of these arguments together, England finally ended first the slave trade, then slavery itself.

The Industrial Revolution

Iron and Coal, by William Bell Scott

The Industrial Revolution was a period from 1760 to as late as 1840, and marked a rapid advance in economic prosperity and production as well as population in Europe.

For centuries, thousands of people tilled land for their knights, nobles and kings and then handed over a portion of their meagre production to the said knights and nobles, or if you possessed the skills necessary, fashioned weapons, shoes, or other such goods slowly and by hand for those who could afford them. However, with the Industrial Revolution, many goods, such as cloth and the clothing made from it, could be mechanized and made exceedingly faster and cheaper to produce, creating a boom in production. Innovations like the steam engine could be used to power machinery in the factories or move goods and people around much faster and more efficiently than in the past.

James Watts Steam Engine
James Watts Steam Engine

However, not all have supported the Industrial Revolution, claiming that the working conditions were terrible and forced people to slave away for hours in factories, many times losing limbs due to the unsafe machinery. What they fail to realize is what conditions were like before the revolution. Nearly the entire population had to produce food, and they could barely produce enough for themselves, let alone afford to sell food to workers making goods in the cities. Famines and pestilence kept populations low, and the remaining people suffering. With the introduction of machinery, suddenly far less were needed to grow food, and more could go the cities and produce better clothes and tools that made the rest of society wealthier. Overall, the standard of living for most people were improved, not harmed, and we are still experiencing the benefits of this today.

The French Revolution

The Estates-General of 1789

In 1789, an Estates-General was recommended by the nobility and agreed to by the French King Louis XVI. The Estates General was composed of three bodies; the First Estate (the French clergy), the Second Estate (the nobles), and the Third Estate (mostly constituted by lawyers). For centuries, each of the Estates were given one vote. Each Estate voted within itself and then presented its vote against the votes of the other two, and if a proposition had two out of three votes in its favor then it would pass. Often times the Third Estate was outvoted by the other two Estates. It felt that this was unfair, since the Third Estate didn’t just represent a mere third of the nation but by far the majority. And so the Third Estate sought to have a resolution passed giving each estate a fair vote for the people it represented.

The Tennis Court Oath
The Tennis Court Oath

Eventually, after being allowed to have more delegates but the same one vote, the Third Estate separated itself from the rest of the Estates-General, and set itself to creating a French Constitution. Though the King actually agreed to this move and ordered the other estates to join the Third, a guard of soldiers had set up post in front of their usual meeting house and refused to let them enter. Believing that this was a sign of the King turning against them, they took an oath together to never quit until they had given France a new constitution. This event is known as the Tennis Court Oath, and was a major turning point in the French Revolution.

Following this turn came a series of principles and ideas, many taken from the American Revolution, though not always in its pure form. The rights of the people were supported, the abolishment of the feudal system, and many other changes were proposed.

However, this mostly peaceful Revolution took a violent turn. After raiding the Bastille, a frenzied populace killed the French King and then set up the Committee of Public Safety. This body eventually led by Maximilien Robespierre killed thousands by drowning, the guillotine, the sword, bayonet, etc; this period being popularly known as the Reign of Terror.

Jesus and His Message

Jesus raises the widow of Nain's son Luke 7:14-15
Jesus heals the widow’s son

Throughout his ministry, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and went around proving his divinity by healing sickness and casting out demons from those who were afflicted by them. This was a major bone of contention with the religious leaders of Israel, who considered his claim blasphemous, despite his proving his power over death several times, such as when he brought the widow’s son back from the dead.

But, in reality, the real bone of contention with these leaders was his power and prophetic  announcement of the Kingdom of Heaven. The High Priest and the Jewish Council held power under the Romans, and they held Jesus as a threat to power. Even Pilate knew they were jealous of Jesus, and acknowledged that Jesus was “King of the Jews”, their leader and Prince, and the Centurion who nailed him to the cross declared “Truly, this is the Son of God!”.

The Morality of the Greek Gods

In Ovid’s poems of the gods and the history of Rome, the gods are immoral and relentless in their domination of mankind. In the story of Arachne and Minerva (Athena), Arachne was the greatest weaver in Greece, and challenged Minerva to a weaving contest. Minerva accepts, and Arachne beats her. Minerva, instead of accepting her defeat, destroys Arachne’s work and turns her into a spider.

Apollo and the Satyr
Apollo and the Satyr

In all of the other stories, we see the same pattern. In the story of Jupiter and Io, Jupiter is a lusting brute who cannot control his lust and incurs his wife’s anger repeatedly. In the story of Apollo and Satyr, the Satyr challenges Apollo to a music contest, but Apollo was decreed to have won, and Apollo flayed the Satyr alive. Thus, we see that the gods are unfair and extremely brutal in their retribution towards mankind’s rebellion, and they’re all morally lacking in some way; Jupiter lusts for women, Apollo and Athena for pride and their place in the hierarchy.

Should We Look Favorably on Ancient Rome?

In Livy and Ovid’s poems about Rome, they have an optimistic view of the situation. Sure, Rome was a mighty empire, but is it worthy of positive review? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

Map of the Roman Empire
Map of the Roman Empire

Rome, even at the height of its glory, was a very base and corrupt nation. Its politics were screwed, and the very ones who claimed they were protecting the empire were actually causing its steady downfall. Taxes were always high, and the tax collectors always conniving to get whatever they could for themselves. Such a greedy political structure could not last for long. The Empire relied on loot from the nations it conquered, and when they had bled these dry, they either had to expand further, or collapse as a nation. This ensured the steady advance of the Empire until it could no longer defend its massive borders against those without.

As we then come down the social pyramid we meet the wealthy patricians, who kept themselves apart from the lower classes of Romans, and kept large slave holdings. These were the ones mostly running the system, and they always gained in war and peace at the expense of the poor.

The Roman Arena

We then come to the masses; those who made up Rome’s manpower and formed its tax base. They had even lower morals than the patricians, and were always screaming for blood at Rome’s countless arenas, always seeking entertainment given by the wealthy, who were more than willing to bribe the populace with some of their wealth in order to get the people’s support.

So, despite the fact that Rome was the mightiest empire that ever existed, most of the time it didn’t have the moral stamina that permits nations to thrive; its economy relied on slaves and loot brought in from conquered peoples; its masses screamed in applause as men forced to fight one another bled to death in honor of some rich patricians wedding or birthday; such were the people that ensured Rome’s demise. Should we look favorably on such a barbaric culture? I think not. Even as we should admire the advancements in writing and building given to Western Civilization by the Romans, we should also spew out its infamy and eternal shame that led to its own inevitable self-damnation.