Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Apocalypse: World War One (2013)

     Apocalypse: World War One (2013) A sderies of one hour documentaries made by cobbling together contemporary movie footage to illustrate the story of the Great War. The footage has been digitally enhanced as much as possible, including adding colour and sound. The result is a pretty good account of the war as it unfolded, with emphasis on the mistakes that guaranteed both horrifically stupid slaughter and a continuation of the conflicts in another Great War a generation later, as well as the many local and not so local horrors that still bedevil international politics in our own time. A good introduction to the history of the 20th and 21st centuries, in other words. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in a middle- or high-school history class.
     The story overall is depressing: 8 million civilians and 4 million soldiers died, as best as can be estimated. Worse, it’s clear that the war began and was continued because a bunch of mostly old men thought they could realise their dreams of empire. Or more accurately, so that they could validate the illusions of their own importance. When people justified their actions by referring to their country's “legitimate” interests, or its “rightful” place among the nations, they were really talking about their egos. Schoolyard politics is all it really was: boys play these games and grow out of them, but the emperors and others of their class did not.
     Worst of these was Kaiser Wilhelm II, a classic example of the Paranoid Ineffectual Male, who believes that everyone is out to diss him, and compensates by trying blow them all up. The glory and honour that these wimps were pursuing was at bottom their fear that others in their circle of idjits would not “respect” them, ie, acknowledge that they were superior. Which of course they weren’t, and they knew it, so they tried to prove their superiority by going to war. The same insane value set underlies calling murderous Alexander of Macedonia “the Great”.
     It’s significant that these people were either incapable of doing real productive work, or unwilling to do it. So they had no real purpose in life. If you neither make stuff that other people want, nor provide services that other people need, you are useless. That whole class of bully boys were useless. Unfortunately, too many of the rest of us buy into their insanity and agree to go kill each other to prop up those fragile egos. We also have fragile egos, a terrible need to validate our self image by seeing it reflected back to us in the fear and loathing of those whom we would oppress. It’s also significant that these people need to have fancy uniforms and “decorations” to prove that they are important. Anyone who needs that kind of crap needs psychiatric help.
     A good series, useful as a reminder of what humans are capable of when they surrender to a delusion. **½

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