Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saturday V-Day & Sundrily Mel Brooks & World War II

Let's get V-Day out of the way first ~
Love doesn’t have to be on Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t have to be by the time you turn eighteen or thirty-three or fifty-nine. It doesn’t have to conform to whatever is usual. It doesn’t have to be kismet at once, or rhapsody by the third day.
It just has to be.
In time.
In place.
In spirit.
It just has to be.

~ David Levithan,
"How They Met, and Other Stories"

We've experienced a flurry of Mel Brooks-ness recently. First we saw him as a guest on Bill Maher's Real Time. He had no trouble stealing that show. What struck me, particularly, was the way he acknowledged Maher's three round-table guests, referencing something complimentary about each one - not many of Bill's special guests bother to do more than give t'others a nod. Next, few days later, we saw HBO's presentation Mel Brooks Live at the Geffen - good show! Its star took us through his long and varied career quip by quip. Brooks, born in 1926, still looks well and, as we used to say in Yorkshire, certainly "has all his chairs at home". He's multi-talented, seems like a warm-hearted guy. He acknowledged his pianist, by name, on several occasions throughout the show - another nice, graceful touch, like that during Maher's show, and one that speaks volumes about Brooks' personality.

I ran into Mel Brooks again, a few days later, as I watched this Video at Eschaton blog:

Lots of of LOLth there, it reminded me a lot of Monty Python, but more extravagantly staged.

That video led us to investigate the movie from which it was taken - History of the World Part I. We searched ROKU, but none of the usual suspects, Netflix, Amazon, etc. have it on offer. Strange! Among available movies of Mel Brooks we hadn't already seen, was To Be or Not to Be. We watched it. It's a fun take (who knew there could ever be one?) on the invasion of Poland by Hitler and the Nazis. Mel Brooks stars in the film with his late wife Ann Bancroft.

The theme of To Be or Not to Be coincided with my reading, earlier in the day, an article by Gary Corseri: War is the Failure of Humanity. It's an interesting piece. I wouldn't quibble with its main thrust - that humanity's many failings include its predilection for war and violence. Yet I felt strongly enough about one point to comment.

Corseri's paragraph quoted below rankled:

The destruction of Europe with war enabled the Marshall Plan where US contractors and bankers made billions in profits funding and rebuilding Europe after WWII. England, that escaped invasion by the Nazis, also had a hand in this rebuilding.

England escaped invasion? No it didn't "escape", our Royal Air Force fought the Battle of Britain to prevent it. We didn't escape anything. Our cities were bombed night after night later on! Dang!!

Anyway I commented calmly:
I agree that no war is good, but, as James commented, some wars are necessary - especially World War II. People in the USA might see it differently from people like me; I was born in Britain in the year war was declared. People in parts of Europe over-run by the Nazis will feel the same...we'd all say that WW2 against Germany was absolutely necessary. Hiroshima and Nagasaki - not so much though.

Tom Brokaw tends to be a bit over-enthusiastic about it all, Churchill was right : "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few", referring to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force pilots who were at the time fighting the Battle of Britain, the pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe with Britain expecting a German invasion.
I'm as anti-war, anti-drone, anti-violence as anyone yet cannot ever say that WW2 wasn't necessary.
To which the author of the original article, Gary Corseri, responded:
Thanks for your comment, annui.
Historians have argued these matters for centuries--even millennia. (Was the Trojan War "necessary"? For whom? For what?)

I'll go out on a limb here and say that WWII was NOT necessary! WWII, like most wars, was "engineered" by both sides. The Brits, French, and, to a lesser extent (that time!) Americans set the stage with the punitive Versailles Treaty. While Americans were enjoying the "Roaring 20s," German children were starving to death. While Brits lived in relative comfort, the British Empire was committing all manner of sins in India; and the French were equally sinful in "French Indochina." The Europeans and the Americans had surrounded Japan (with "coaling stations" and then with military bases) and the Japanese were seeking advantages in collapsing China. Meantime, the Brits were playing Russia against Germany, trying to figure how to play murderous Commie Stalin against anti-Zionist Hitler. (The long-delayed Normandy invasion was no doubt delayed so that Germany and our "ally" Russia could do as much damage to each other as possible--i.e., millions killed!)

There is an old Life magazine I have seen, a couple of years before the outbreak of war, in which Mr. Churchill is very laudatory of the accomplishments of Herr Hitler and Signore Mussolini!
Should we suppose that controlling the Middle East after WWII was not a major factor in the way alliances were formed and the war prosecuted?

The fact is, average citizens know little or nothing about the machinations of their "leaders" until it's too late. As General Smedley Butler wrote, "War is a racket."

I wrote a fair bit in my article about the American Revolution--because Americans think they have got a good background on that from their high school days. As an antidote to much of that particular nonsense and to the nonsense of "necessary wars" in general, I recommend, "A People's History of the American Revolution" by Ray Raphael.

I responded again also referencing a very good comment from "johndamos" (well worth a read, by the way).
I'd like to thank Messrs Corseri and Damos for their thought-provoking words, which will propel me to further investigation on this topic.
While there's no denying that manipulations went on behind scenes, without which World War 2 could have been avoided - at least on the scale it reached - due to the kind of leader Germany had, Hitler, it still seems to me that war became inevitable. Hitler, initially, might have appeared reasonable, a man even admired by other leaders in his efforts to pull Germany back from the devastations of World War 1, yet he had horrendous plans and aims. Had Germany's leader been of a very different ilk, World War 2 might not have been necessary.


This isn't the first time I've read opinions such as Mr Corseri's regarding World War II. It's easy to review, revise and criticise from a safe, relatively comfortable place in the late 20th or 21st century. Thinking on the topic over the past few days, I've come to the conclusion that Mr Corseri was mixing two ideas. War is certainly a failing of humanity's innate nature - always has been, always will be. Sadly, though arguments can be made against any war, there are times when it has to be acknowledged that dire failings of humanity have to be confronted, especially so when facing a national leader who plainly had aims to rule the world, rid it of any group of which he didn't approve, and by insanely horrendous means; and when that leader had a powerful military and the wherewithal to bring his aims to fruition. Humans of steadier natures could not simply stand by and let it happen - could they? Manipulations had, no doubt, taken place. Manipulations have been with us always (another dark facet of human nature), but once the manipulated aim bears fruit - what...? It's impossible to say that a war, such as the war against Nazi Germany wasn't necessary, it was necessary for nations to defend themselves, manipulated or not.

There's a point here that I've not quite been able to articulate... what is it? Is it that, due to the human predilection for violence, and their other predilection for manipulation, war, though a failure of humanity becomes inevitable and, for those at the sharp end, regrettably necessary. I guess it comes down to what lies behind the word "necessary".


mike said...

I think that war is a peculiarity of the natural world here on Earth. Most species exhibit the proclivity to claim territory and expand the boundaries as needed, if for no other reason than to exclude, but typically for resource acquisition. Where species aggregate into groups, there is the natural selection of hierarchy. It's all called survival of the fittest and for eons victors have been successful via brute force.

We modern humans find ourselves at the crossroads of recognizing a higher self and society devoid of selfish intention, yet we grapple with inherent, core self-interest that becomes justified and rationalized as beneficial to all. All to often the intellect is overridden by culture and history, ie religion, race, and prior conflicts.

All historic conflict was born from previous ashes. All historic conflict has been riddled with assessment. The viewing of the past leading to the present is qualitative and never quantitative.

I'm Native American and I have a one-sided view of the origins of the USA, the war against Native Americans. I've been told by so many "that was then, this is now". There are many contemporary legal issues still on the plate for Native Americans, primarily treaty retractions by the US government and (mis)management of land "given" to the Native Americans. Poverty, health, housing, education, and discrimination are some of the extant societal issues that many non-indigenous Americans view as welfare or gratuitous.

Happy Valentine's to one and all:

“We're all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness — and call it love — true love.” Robert Fulghum, True Love

R J Adams said...

I totally agree with you. It's fine to suggest that had things been done differently after WW1, WW2 may not have occurred, but hindsight, as we all know, is a wonderful thing.
Like you, I'm very anti-war, but in some cases there's no alternative. I happen to believe the next one should be against ISIS - though with NATO, not just America with a bunch of dubious Arab nations with double agendas in tow.

Twilight said...

mike ~ "We're all a little weird...." Yep - we truly are, both individually and en masse. We have within our DNA the urge for violence and the urge for peace - the trick is to get the latter to overcome the former and that's a trick we have yet to learn.

I can understand how you must feel about your Native American heritage, the wrongs of the past inflicted by newcomers, their leaders and military.

Hope you've had a pleasant V-Day - we tripped over to Wichita Falls TX, had a nice light lunch at a German restaurant (a Reuben & a streudel)
and a trot around a couple of antique stores. Lovely weather for Feb - 77 degrees or so, but tomorrow brings another blue norther down on us for a few days, temps will drop a lot, maybe even a touch of snow by Monday.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~ Yes hindsight is 20/20, history's revisionists can be a wee bit irritating at times.

Yes, I think there'll be another "big one" but not yet a while, and it's likely to be an East-West thing, I suppose. Or perhaps US-Russia? That one would be the last for a very long time. That's if internal water wars don't step in first and cause some other calamity.

mike (again) said...

I think I asked you previously if you had seen the world's smallest skyscraper...think you said you hadn't. If you're still there, check it out! It would make a nice residential home...I like the look of it.

I read about it in:

"Back in 1919 during the height of the oil boom, a slick oilfield landman originally from Pennsylvania raised $200,000 in capital to build what investors believed would be a high-rise office building that would tower over the city and surrounding landscape, a symbol of Wichita’s rapid growth and bright future.

Alas, when the brick building went up, it looked like a shoebox standing on one end. Realizing they had been hoodwinked, the investors filed a civil suit, but when the judge inspected the blueprints (which the investors had to admit they had examined before writing their bank drafts), he had to take judicial notice that the plan called for a structure 480 INCHES tall, not 480 feet. Having failed to read the proverbial fine print, the investors took a bath while the scam-artist builder took a train ride back East."

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ No - I forgot ! Next time I shall try hard to remember. We hadn't been to Wichita Falls since last summer - I recall you telling me about the smallest skyscraper now though. (My dicky foot, and winter, had got in the way in the meantime and fogged my memory) :-) Not still there, it was just a day trip, back before dark.