Sunday, January 11, 2015

1936 vs 1941 : modern and postmodern kids' birth dates mere 5 years apart

This shaggy shaggy dog story is really - eventually - about climate change, but for now lie back and try to imagine two senior citizens, raised in the same small North American city.

They share roughly the same social class, religion and ethnicity - are even almost identical in age, one will be 80 in presidential election year 2016, the other will be 75.

But their views on such issues as the reality of human-caused global climate change (or the failure of most corporation boards to reflect the fact that the majority of humanity are women) could not be more different.

The child born in 1936 is the climate change denier, a member of the pre-war generation (The Greater Generation) and still a very firm believer in modernity and scientism.

But the child born in 1941 is the first of the post-war generation, the Boomers, a postmodern believer that we are collectively much better off with more diversity of opportunity for all.

Why should this particular and highly peculiar gap of a mere five years so separate these two kids --- even today ?

After all ,why does the child born in 1936 share more social views with her parents born in 1912 , 24 years earlier, than she does with the boy born in 1941 born only five years after her ?

And why does the boy born in 1941 share more social views with his great-grandson born in 2003, that is someone born 62 years later, than he does with the girl born only 5 years earlier ?

Let us go to the city hall of that small city and look there at the several dozen photographs of the young men killed in WWII, hanging along an honored wall.

One name in particular sticks out : a aircrew member killed in a tragic late wartime bomber crash landing in the UK, caused by wintertime bad weather over the North Sea.

Because while this particular teenager's story is known to both our formerly small kids , it is also known immensely differently by each : making one modern and the other postmodern.

Intellectually, the boy born in 1941 can stare at the face of this dead teenager from his own hometown and intellectually feel the tragedy for the boy, his home town sweetheart , his family, friends and neighbours.

But that is it - no real emotion link to this dead teenager : being born in late 1941 left our 75 year old with no personal memory whatsoever that he can tag as distinctly WWII-ish.

Yes, he does remember some events as far back as when he was three (in 1944) but nothing about them says they were wartime events of childhood.

But the little girl born in 1936 was one of the next door neighbours of the teenager killed in the bomber crash landing.

He was part of her earliest memories and when he went away to war, he became her one personal link to an immense social event that otherwise remained so distant and foreign to her.

His tragic accidental death, two months before the European war's end, hit her very very hard and it took years for her to make some sense of this seemingly meaningless death.

For his bomber was taking part in one of the very last mass bomber raids. Flak and fighter resistance from the Germans was very low and the raid was seemingly ordered only 'to move rubble about'.

So combat casualties on this raid had been unusually low and almost all would have returned safely but for a few bombers being so hardly affected by a patch of North Sea winter weather that they arrived over their home airfield almost out of fuel and with some of their instruments frozen up.

His bomber had made a pretty messy crash landing.

All the crew were more or less 'battered but alright', except for two badly injured members. One of the injured, him, died out his injuries two weeks later.

The details of his death arrived about the same time as VE Day.

Now scholars have mostly focused on researching WWI's wartime and post-war emotional response to tragic - useless seeming - deaths such as this teenager's.

What they have showed is that families and friends can only become reconciled to the tragic deaths of war youth if these deaths can be shown to have been useful, as well as heroic.

Invariably, the personnel at the scene of any wartime combat or accident death conspire successfully to ensure that the family learns only that the youth died bravely, stoically, heroically.

No one but them ever learns about the rear gunner hopelessly trapped in the crashed bomber, crying and balling for his mother like a baby in the horrible moments before the flames engulfed him.

But was his death useful ?

The usefulness of any and all war deaths is much more public - lies much more in areas we all free to debate.

Now the teenager's plane had taken part in two earlier bombing raids .

They had encountered heavy flak and fearsome jet fighter attacks - bomber casualties had been high and it took immense bravery for the teenager to go back a second and third time.

These raids had at least been aimed at important and as yet un-targeted war factories, even if the bombs as usual had mostly fallen on near by civilian streets.

In the mind of  the young girl born in 1936, if the Allied Strategic Bombing Campaign (including the A-Bomb) can be believed to have both won and shortened the war, then the death of her teenager next door neighbour helped to both win and shorten the war.

He died - yes : but not in vain.

So her criticism of the Allied operations of WWII must be limited, to limit her emotional costs, to what military types call the areas of tactics and operations, not strategy.

Let us switch to WWI because this sort of limited modernist criticism is much better known there.

So a grieving mother in 1924 can explain : 'my son died - bravely - in the mud of Passchendaele - yes the stupid generals should have stopped it much earlier - but this offensive was very a necessity, to give the badly weakened French army time to regroup'.

The British strategy goes unquestioned but operationally - it is okay, even in right wing circles, to ask, 'did it really need to go on and on and on?'

So conservatives historians still share this British mother's viewpoint about 1917's Passchendaele debacle.

But it is possible to accept at least part of the contrasting French view.

After the failure of the Nivelle offensive led to a widespread French Army mutiny/trade action, most of the French leadership preferred to at long last to take up the usual German response to setbacks : go on the defensive and wait for a more opportune moment to attack.

In this case, to wait for millions of fresh (white) American troops and thousands of highly effective Renault FT tanks (the world's first modern tank).

A third view point (mine !) is to say that the French and English empire could have quickly defeated the German Empire on the Western Front, if only they had introduced much more of their colored colonial troops there - from India in particular.

WWI went on and on, in truth, because London and Paris would rather lose to (white) Germans than to win thanks only to efforts of millions of their dark subjects.

We only dare publish such heretical viewpoints about the total strategic uselessness of Passchendaele today because almost no one is left alive with enough energy to get highly emotional about besmirching the sacred memory of a remembered uncle killed in that battle.

Note well my exact words : very few today personally knew the dead of WWII.

After all, to be twelve in 1917 and have a crush on a twenty year old killed at Vimy one must be 110 in 2015.

One day such will be true also about WWII - but for now it is not.

To claim that old fashioned 'Willy and Joe' boots on the ground, not high tech big science Captian America planes in the air, actually won WWII will never be popular with hundreds of millions emotionally invested in seeing their friends and relatives as heroes in a war that Allied scientism won.

And it is WWII era scientism (denying any inability of Man to quickly fix any climate change problem that Mother Nature might throw up) not an inner denial of possible climate change happening today, is what is stalling real efforts to reduce CO2 output...

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