Tuesday, 8 April 2014

History and mindless cock-waving; never the twain shall meet...

Schools continue to teach what seem like completely random and sudden occurrences that have no basis; this provides some people with a slightly askew perspective. Attacks on the U.K are a shining example of this; if you are in school then the Vikings, the Spanish Armada and the Normans all attacked simply on the basis that they are a bunch of pricks. As if the Vikings just went waaarrrg at some point, sailed over here and started twatting people on a whim, the Spanish were just here because good and evil are real and the Spanish are not to be trusted, not in anyway due to the cult of Protestantism intrinsically clashing with the cult of Catholicism.
Vikings: They'll bum you because that's what they do.

The Independent article by Patrick Cockburn is definitely a victim of this mode of thought; http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-vikings-were-feared-for-a-reason-9241032.html the article is under the impression that raids were what Vikings did as part of their basic existence. The concept of the Vikings being directly comparable to the SS is one point made in this article that I don’t think has not been made before; I would suggest that there is a reason for this, in fact there might be more than one.

This is an example of isolationist history; taking historical events and placing them without past, cause or future, this has been used in recent months on The Great War which was portrayed as a clear battle of good and evil that lacked any real origin other than the misdeeds of the cruel.

Let us stride fourth and cast off these trousers of naivety and be gently caressed by the warm summer wind of knowledge; people act and react to environment and circumstance, so what were the circumstances of the Vikings?

Who was in the U.K at the time? The Anglo Saxons, an icon of Englishness that crawled from the ocean onto Brighton pier as a long distant ancestor of the millipede they were not; like everybody else here they came from somewhere else, in fact the same as everybody everywhere they came from somewhere else. People were from somewhere else before the imaginary lines that indicated where they were actually from had been imagined.
English people: Always been here mate, always. 

 This of course does provide us with a comparison between the SS and the Vikings; they were both the owners of legs.  

The occurrences around a certain people depend upon the people around them and their actions; the Christian Francs were on the move, and had attacked areas of Germany and Scandinavia; this is why Vikings had a great number of boats, because everyone else had lots of boats. Take into account the method used was a form of raid and the raiders pillaged. There was a Christian raid on Friesland, north-west Denmark in 734 ad; where as the Viking raid on Lindisfarne was in 793 ad, this provides a context for behaviour and a history for the occurrences.

In 768 Charlemagne took his position as the Francish king; he proved to be very pious and less than patient when others were not quite so fervent, this meant that the expansion of the empire brought compulsory Christianity. This was demonstrated in the massacre of Verden, near contemporary Bremen; 4500 people were forcibly baptized and, once the holy water had rolled off their purified heads, the heads were removed. Saxon refuges fled to nearby Denmark and the Vikings were aware of the massacres and rapes that were taking place during what had become a guerilla war.

Charlemagne: Proper shifty. 
 King Widukind of Saxony visited the Danes for moral and, he hoped, practicable assistance; this was news in Norway as once an area was absorbed into the Franco Empire all power was taken from the resident leaders and Charlemagne applied new laws, leaders and faith. The threat of abolishment spread across Europe and Denmark allied with Norway; it was not feasible that one of the two countries could separately succeed in defeating the Franco army.

Another alliance formed in 793; that between the Christian Francs and the English, in 793, which rings a bell as it was the same year as the raid on Lindisfarne. What was Lindisfarne after all? Not simply a Christian structure, but a Franco Christian structure.

The eleven monks that were killed was an atrocity, but compared to the four thousand five hundred at Verden and the associated power grab in Saxony it was minuscule; and the previous massacres had given the Vikings a good idea what Christian conquerors had the capacity to be like.

I now refer directly to the essay by Patrick Cockburn: Before I refer to what it contains I shall refer to what it does not, any history of history or to use another term, context. The fact that the Vikings attacked due to being violent and, for want of a better word, rapey, is puerile and mindless. The fact that they killed monks because they were barbarians and this is simply what barbarians are prone to doing is as foolish as labeling the outbreak of The Great War was the result of Germans doing what Germans do.

 I shall now refer to what is in Patrick Cockburn’s essay in regard to Viking atrocities: The pro-Viking lobby claim this is exaggerated stuff and there is no proof of such Viking atrocities. But the absence of evidence is scarcely surprising. The invaders, themselves illiterate, were so destructive that almost no writings survive from the conquered Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

What exactly is the pro Viking lobby? I doubt very much they have meetings or a news letter; This echoes more of the corralling of contradictory opinions into one subconscious happy place where disagreeing parties have a set agenda and one conspicuous eyebrow.

More worryingly, the idea the lack of evidence indicating in no way indicates the lack of occurrence. The Saxon refuges spread the word of atrocity quickly enough through Denmark and Norway, despite, as Mr. Cockburn maliciously points out, the populace being illiterate. The lack of evidence does not mean the necessary lack of occurrence, but it most certainly does not mean the opposite. It sounds like some sort of anti Viking lobbying, which would exist for no reason whatsoever.

Magical sky picture: If England and Germany are the holy Roman Empire
then you can see why others would be nervous. 
Unless of course one of the institutions of the time were still in existence and felt that Christians should not be seen to be behaving in a barbaric fashion.

Historical isolationism is a wobbly misleading strut of unnecessary contemporary patriotism; the idea that we were fighting a just war is absurd in the era of conquest within which the Viking raids took place.

 The direct comparison between the Vikings and the SS is a peculiar one that is not in anyway substantiated; especially if you one looks closely at the comparisons of religious genocide; if one were to make a comparison between the SS and one of the involved parties of the Viking raids whom would it be between?

There are some comparisons between the time periods; Charlemagne was reimaged under the Third Reich as a German hero.

In closing; the idea that the Scandinavians should apologies for the behaviour of the Vikings, which was over 1300 years ago, is bizarre. It certainly wasn't any contemporary residents of Norway that killed any monks.

I am very certain that there are far more recent events that need to be apologized for, preferably ones of which the perpetrators, victims, or both are still alive and there is in fact some evidence of wrongdoing.

History should be taught as what it is; a series of connected and motivated actions by people as capable of conceptual thought as any modern day resident; history is very prone to the biased elements of its own sources, but without context it is open to contemporary bias and can easily be used as mindless cock-waving patriotism that it very rarely genuinely supports.

Friday, 3 January 2014

In response to Mr. Gove.

Michael Gove has stated that we need to learn about the history of the Great War in the right way; but from the perspective of whom?

The idea that Britain before the Great War was an icon of liberty is a bizarre one, only someone without any level of rationality and the tiniest concept of the history of the country could possibly entertain it.

If you observe the traditional version that the war began due to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, which was a catalyst and is reasonable place to start, but once a modicum of thought has been applied to it, it was clearly not the sole reason for global conflict. 

Control of the Middle East played a large part; the new warships both England and Germany were building in a race against each other were in great need of oil. Germany desired a train line into what is now modern day Iraq and the British would not allow such a project. 

The tensions between key members of the house of Saxa Coberg were also key to the conflict; Is Michael Gove under the impression that the people ruling Germany and the people ruling England were actually differing families?  That the British were good and Germany bad? This puerile thought process does not apply to any historical conflict; if reviewing the battle of Hastings one does not say that the noble king Harold was cruelly defeated by William the bastard. This is because we are fully aware with the benefit of hindsight that they only fighting over power, with elements of ego, and were both Scandinavian anyway.    

Gove refers to the ‘ruthless social Darwinism of the German elite’ who, as previously mentioned, are the same family as the German elite; what with Kaiser Wilhelm being the grandson son of queen Victoria, the first cousin of King George and the second cousin of Tsar Nicholas who was temporarily in charge of Russia. This in itself disables the goodies and baddies argument, but it is not the only indication that this was not the case.

You do not need to study history or Machiavellian thought to know that empires generally are not good at fighting for truth, liberty and honor, but none the less quite good at fighting; the 19th century was just as war-some as any other period. We were still fighting the French at the start of it, which ended with the largest ever turnout of British troops at that point, they fought on the Somme. We moved on to fight the Russians in the Crimea, which was a notably murderous affair even for a war. We fought the Boer because of a shitload of gold, simultaneously inventing the concentration camp and committing genocide. A young Winston Churchill was a war reporter there at the time.
Churchill: A firm believer in
Eugenics, which is what Gove
is accusing the Germans of. 

The late 1800’s saw the British invade Afghanistan, only it was not called an invasion, we were freeing the people and we were there to install a friendly government. The motive behind this was because Russia might try and invade India through it, which would be rude as it clearly belonged to us. The British lost a lot of men and failed completely due to an insurgency of anti British troops and a memorial was put up in Reading.

 The chances of all these wars being just, or indeed noble, are very slim, in fact in a historical context we know that they were not. The chance that they all led up to a great war which was just does not follow logic or common sense. Gove actually said something clever recently; that history is not taught in a way that allows for a comprehension of consecutive events, which is a problem, because that is what it is. One fucking thing after another was a particularly good answer to the question; what is history? But as any one who is allowed to go to the shops by them-self is fully aware; one fucking thing happens because of the fucking thing that happened before it.

 Gove puts forward the idea that the well informed populace went on to defend King and country, and attack his cousin; they were committed to defending the western liberal order. The volunteers that joined up in 1914 were all around or under five foot tall; this was due to malnutrition which indicates how the working class lived. Many joined because there was food and many surviving private letters confirm this was the case.

Part of the English literature curriculum goes cross curricular with history in the tenth or eleventh year of secondary school, this involves the contemporary poetry of the great war. This clearly demonstrates the existence of anti war feeling at the time; Wilfred Owen would be a key example of this. We know that the British authorities kept public opinion and that of the soldier’s on the front separate for the reason that they were very similar. King George was concerned that things might go the way of the Romanovs; he didn’t want what happened to his cousin to happen to him.   

Looking at the battles that have taken place on the Somme River; if a peasant archer at Agincourt had not attended, would victory or loss affect his circumstances at home? It is hard to see how it would. This can just as easily apply to an infantry man not at Waterloo or a Tommy who decided that Kitchener probably didn’t need him all that much. The British troops in Afghanistan in the 1800’s certainly would have benefitted from not being there, but would victory matter to them if they were not?  which raises the question of the ones still there.
Waterloo: Another battle of the Somme. 
The assumption that we won being the best possible outcome is bizarre from a historical standpoint; obviously it may have been as we cannot predict what may have happened. However the Second World War is direct result of the first; the treaty of Versailles caused the Weimar hyper inflation, in turn leading to poverty and suffering on a massive scale. We lied to the Arabs, did not return their land as it was also promised to the Jews, causing a major conflict which is still very active in the present day. After world war two we divided India and those two countries have fought bloody wars ever since.

 We are very aware in the 21st century that good people don’t come from one country and bad people another, yet this is the history that Gove appears to want to us to teach and exactly the kind thing more commonly believed by the poorer elements of society at the turn of the twentieth century. It is precisely this false knowledge that makes it so easy to send them to fight in a war that would not affect them in its absence. It is the propaganda that allows a person to change their name to Windsor and pretend they are not related to the person they are sending everyone to fight because they have fallen out with their fucking cousin.

Taking British students to the Somme and informing them it is where brave and noble Tommies beat the nasty Germans will benefit no-one. Michael Gove says he sees patriotism as a virtue, and we know who that is normally a virtue of, but is he vicious or simply completely unaware of what he is talking about?      

The concept of history having goodies and baddies has no place in modern culture or thought; that a grown man in charge of education can miss the point of learning history by such an extensive margin, while in the process of telling everyone how he thinks people should learn it is startling.

The reason we should not teach Gove’s happy flag waving version of the Great War is because it isn’t true; I think it might be the only reason we need.