Eliminating War?

 

Today is the 100th anniversary of the armistice, ending fighting in the Great War. It is the concluding centennial observance of a war that started in 1914, with the United States of American entering the war in 1917. Entering the war, there was talk of ending the threat of German militarism, ascendent since the Franco-Prussian War. In the face of the industrialized slaughter, the horror of the trenches, and with faith in man’s ability to mold more perfect institutions not yet confronted with the far larger horrors to come, people dreamed of a lasting peace. The phrase capturing these aspirations was “the war to end all wars.”

We see now, as the people, who first heard those words, knew by the 1930s, that the phase is as mockingly empty as the ancient cry, recorded in Genesis 11:4

“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” (NIV)

Technology was supposed to offer such deterrence, as to prevent war. Alfred Nobel is claimed to have sought an explosive so terrible as to ensure mutual annihilation of those who dared use it.

According to the Austrian countess Bertha von Suttner, Alfred Nobel, as early as their first meeting in Paris in 1876, had expressed his wish to produce material or a machine which would have such a devastating effect that war from then on, would be impossible. The point about deterrence later appeared among Nobel’s ideas. In 1891, he commented on his dynamite factories by saying to the countess: “Perhaps my factories will put an end to war sooner than your congresses: on the day that two army corps can mutually annihilate each other in a second, all civilised nations will surely recoil with horror and disband their troops.” Nobel did not live long enough to experience the First World War and to see how wrong his conception was.

Perhaps that vision was imperfectly realized in the hydrogen bomb and the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, yet war went on under the nuclear umbrellas.

Expertly designed institutions were supposed to save humanity from future slaughter. The Weimar Republic and the League of Nations were the institutions thought to represent the very best minds, after World War I. The League of Nations was ardently advanced by an American president, Woodrow Wilson, who had risen from academia. There he had written “The Study of Administration,” providing justification for taking governance, out of the hands, of what his class considered the ignorant masses, into the hands of technocrats—like himself. Read these 27 clearly written pages, and you will see the height of his ambition for the better ruling of the world.

The United States Senate was not so enthralled, with the idea, of a super-sized mutual defense entity, that could drag America back into wars, not of their choosing.

On September 16, Senator Lodge called up the treaty for consideration of the full Senate. On November 15, the chamber was still considering the treaty when, for the first time in its history, the Senate voted to invoke cloture–or cut off debate–on the treaty. Four days later, the Senate took up Senator Lodge’s resolution of ratification, which included fourteen reservations to the treaty. The Lodge resolution failed on a 39-55 vote. The Senate then considered a resolution to approve the treaty without reservations of any kind, which failed on a 38-53 vote. After 55 days of debate, the Senate had rejected the Treaty of Versailles.

The Weimar Republic was constructed by men who were the product of German universities, then seen as leaders in all manner of science, including “political science.” The Weimar Constitution was, on its face, a remarkable achievement:

This constitution made the Weimar Republic one of the most democratic and liberal political systems of its time. It provided for universal suffrage, contained a limited bill of rights and offered a proportional method of electing the Reichstag.

Yet, both the Weimar Republic and the League of Nations failed. The Germans were not done with making their way in the world by military, rather than commercial, force. Nor were other nations done with enlarging their territories or spheres of influence by force, or the threat of force.

And so, the “war to end all wars” became a bitter joke. And the disillusionment, in the seemly vain loss of so many, may have signaled weakness to those spoiling for a rematch. Yet, that disillusionment was not necessarily the whole truth of public opinion. See this remarkable BBC presentation, The Long Shadow: Europe After World War One, for a remarkably objective presentation of how this played out in Great Britain.

At a century’s distance, our views are conditioned by the eventful intervening years. Yet, on this occasion, it is right and proper to stop and acknowledge the enormous sacrifices and the heroes, known and unknown to many. We humans may never eliminate war, but pray that we never fall, lurch, or march into such butchery, such wholesale killing of one another, again.

There are 33 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    The question is not if another war on the scale of the Great War will happen again, but when. We are living on borrowed time.

    • #1
    • November 11, 2018, at 12:14 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  2. Richard Easton Member

    Mike "Lash" LaRoche (View Comment):

    The question is not if another war on the scale of the Great War will happen again, but when. We are living on borrowed time.

    Our globalist friends claim that the structures set up at the end of WW2 prevented a direct clash between the US and the Soviet Union. Skeptics of globalism assert that MAD and some luck were the drivers. There was no general war in a Europe between 1815 and 1914 yet it lacked a UN or a NATO type structure.

    • #2
    • November 11, 2018, at 2:54 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Fantastic post. Thanks.

    • #3
    • November 11, 2018, at 5:53 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. Full Size Tabby Member

    A price of having these global institutions like the UN or the League of Nations seems to be that internal country problems fester. Tens of millions of people were killed while we didn’t have a “war” with the Soviet Union. Currently, hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of people are being killed in de facto wars that never get resolved because the UN doesn’t want to acknowledge, since an actual war has to end with a “winner” and a “loser.”

    So far (in my view), commercial trade is the most effective deterrent to war. But, because human nature is human nature, there will always be bad strongmen who seek control, and sometimes people (maybe with the help of a good strongman) have to beat the crap out of them.

     

    • #4
    • November 11, 2018, at 6:08 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. Valiuth Member

    The problem of violence has a solution that on the national levels many nations have implemented. What we lack at an international level is the effective rule of law to bind states and enforce peace. Absent an arbitrating institution with superior levels of force all we have is personal violence to settle our disputes. 

    In the absence of Law you always have violence. 

    • #5
    • November 11, 2018, at 7:38 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. RightAngles Member

    There will always be war because there will always be human nature. Those who believe they can put an end to it (we used to call them Hippies) by making protest signs or placing a flower in the business end of a soldier’s rifle, and liberals who think if only we float enough candles down a river and show them we mean them no harm, they will like us will get blown up right along with the rest of us.

    The best thing we can hope to achieve is deterrence. We do that by being the strongest and most feared and most armed. There will still be wars because humans will always be warlike and have a need to conquer and be on top. But when you’re the Superpower, at least the wars won’t happen on your soil .

    • #6
    • November 11, 2018, at 8:40 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Richard Easton Member

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    The problem of violence has a solution that on the national levels many nations have implemented. What we lack at an international level is the effective rule of law to bind states and enforce peace. Absent an arbitrating institution with superior levels of force all we have is personal violence to settle our disputes.

    In the absence of Law you always have violence.

    I don’t trust any international institution or Law.

    • #7
    • November 11, 2018, at 10:47 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  8. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    This is a great post, Clifford. In a strange case of synchronicity, I was thinking along similar lines in the shower this morning, as the centennial of Armistice Day had me pondering the Great War.

    I believe that Andrew Klavan has opined that the culture of Europe died in WWI. Douglas Murray has a similar thesis in The Strange Death of Europe, which I’ve heard him express as the culture of the Continent finding itself in the state of Icarus, had he survived the fall. Like the story of the Tower of Babylon, the myth of Icarus is about hubris.

    I wonder if the cause is not deeper. Your thesis, if I’m understanding it correctly, is that the extraordinary cost of the Great War required it be justified by an extraordinary lofty goal, the elimination of war itself. This should have been obviously unrealistic, in light of human nature, but it was the narrative that the culture of Europe adopted. The return of war a mere 20 years later, with even greater terror and destruction, led to wholesale disillusionment.

    What do you think was the source of the hubris itself?

    My suspicion is that it was the naive, utopian ideas of Enlightenment and Progressive thought. But this conclusion is in keeping with my personal views and biases toward a Christian Conservative outlook, so I’d like to read some contrary views.

    • #8
    • November 11, 2018, at 1:06 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    At the time, there was not only a rising belief in man’s mastery of all things through scientific progress, but also a strong Social Gospel movement, continuing from the 19th Century. This movement was connected with secular Progressive government reforms, alcohol prohibition, women’s suffrage, labor law, and public school reform.

    You can see the two threads together in Woodrow Wilson, I believe.

    Some claim the Scopes Trial marked the point at which the secular Progressives (Clarence Darrow) signaled they were done with, no longer needed, the religious Progressives (William Jennings Bryan).

    • #9
    • November 11, 2018, at 3:20 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Mike "Lash" LaRoche (View Comment):

    The question is not if another war on the scale of the Great War will happen again, but when. We are living on borrowed time.

    In the long term, I fear you are right, but may the long term be a bit longer, and the loaned time not be called just yet.

    • #10
    • November 11, 2018, at 3:38 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. dnewlander Member

    I’ve always wondered about Alfred Nobel. Dynamite is basically nitroglycerin stabilized in clay, right? So I don’t think it’s more powerful than nitroglycerin alone. It simply makes it safer.

    That would seem to be the exact opposite of Nobel’s claims.

    • #11
    • November 11, 2018, at 4:15 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    I’ve always wondered about Alfred Nobel. Dynamite is basically nitroglycerin stabilized in clay, right? So I don’t think it’s more powerful than nitroglycerin alone. It simply makes it safer.

    That would seem to be the exact opposite of Nobel’s claims.

    He was apparently talking about the next theoretical step, as dynamite had already been used in war. His father was in the “things that go kaboom” business, and Alfred Nobel advanced his father’s work, until, later in life, he became concerned about where destructive technology was going. The link in the OP is to the Nobel Prize organization, with an evenhanded summary of his life’s work.

    Alfred Nobel’s direct involvement in the war materiel sector did not come about until during the later stages of his life. It was also at this time that his interest in the question of peace came into practical expression. His thoughts on war and peace were set out in many years of correspondence with the Austrian peace partisan and authoress of the famous anti-war novel “Lay down Your Arms”, Bertha von Suttner.

    • #12
    • November 11, 2018, at 4:29 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    At the time, there was not only a rising belief in man’s mastery of all things through scientific progress, but also a strong Social Gospel movement, continuing from the 19th Century. This movement was connected with secular Progressive government reforms, alcohol prohibition, women’s suffrage, labor law, and public school reform.

    You can see the two threads together in Woodrow Wilson, I believe.

    Some claim the Scopes Trial marked the point at which the secular Progressives (Clarence Darrow) signaled they were done with, no longer needed, the religious Progressives (William Jennings Bryan).

    To the extent it is still remembered, it is frustrating to see the Scopes Trial cast as liberal v conservative, rather than a fight between two strains of progressivism. I wrote about the real Scopes Trial some time ago on Ricochet.

    • #13
    • November 11, 2018, at 4:51 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Gumby Mark (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    At the time, there was not only a rising belief in man’s mastery of all things through scientific progress, but also a strong Social Gospel movement, continuing from the 19th Century. This movement was connected with secular Progressive government reforms, alcohol prohibition, women’s suffrage, labor law, and public school reform.

    You can see the two threads together in Woodrow Wilson, I believe.

    Some claim the Scopes Trial marked the point at which the secular Progressives (Clarence Darrow) signaled they were done with, no longer needed, the religious Progressives (William Jennings Bryan).

    To the extent it is still remembered, it is frustrating to see the Scopes Trial cast as liberal v conservative, rather than a fight between two strains of progressivism. I wrote about the real Scopes Trial some time ago on Ricochet.

    Thanks for the reinforcement. Outstanding post. I need to get in the habit of searching on Ricochet for references, before the broader internet. This, of course, happens after WWI, after the Weimar Constitution, and after the U.S. Senate had rejected the Treaty of Versailles, which would have made the U.S. a member of the League of Nations.

    I commend, again, the linked BBC video in the OP. It runs about 45 minutes. Gets at the subtleties of elite and popular attitudes in Great Britain during the Great War and after.

    • #14
    • November 11, 2018, at 5:33 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. James Lileks Contributor

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):
    I believe that Andrew Klavan has opined that the culture of Europe died in WWI.

    He’s certainly not alone – in fact, it seems blaringly obvious. If you want to define “Culture” as the usual products of artists, the work that came out after the Great War was a raw, bleeding, ugly howl, as if the very idea of beauty needed to be repudiated in light of what had happened. But before the war, they’d been leading up to it. All the old standards and styles were dissolving, anticipating a new type of art, leaning into the ugliness, eager for the old order to die. It’s as if there was a great unspoken and unslaked appetite for the destruction of everything, with the belief it would be purifying and clarifying, and the tired century could be stowed in the crypt along with the others.

    A culture bored with its successes and accomplishments doesn’t become suicidal, but it becomes curiously acquiescent to its murder.

    • #15
    • November 11, 2018, at 10:05 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  16. James Lileks Contributor

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):

    Your thesis, if I’m understanding it correctly, is that the extraordinary cost of the Great War required it be justified by an extraordinary lofty goal, the elimination of war itself.

    I think they retconned that in towards the end. At first it was revenging the Hun who’d raped Belgium.

    This should have been obviously unrealistic, in light of human nature, but it was the narrative that the culture of Europe adopted.

    Can’t blame them for that, can you? It wasn’t human nature that had caused the war, as they saw it, but the System – Kaiserism, militarism, interlocking treaties, monarchy, lack of national self-determination, etc. These things had been established by men, and hence could be undone by men who took a supranational view of humanity, and were not bound by the structures that got everyone into the mess. 

    What do you think was the source of the hubris itself?

    My suspicion is that it was the naive, utopian ideas of Enlightenment and Progressive thought. But this conclusion is in keeping with my personal views and biases toward a Christian Conservative outlook, so I’d like to read some contrary views.

    The problem with the schools of thought you mention? They assume too much – innate human goodness, widespread adoption of transcendent values – and discount the historical record as a document of postlapsarian scrums and struggles awaiting the revelation of Progressive ideals. Naive and utopian as they may have seemed, there was an appetite for systemic rethinking of Western Civ, because it was obvious to all the bright people that Western Civ had shat the bed and screwed the pooch. Fire sale on cultural self-conceptions: everything must go. Christianity got swept out along with the other traditions, because the fields of France had been turned into charnel houses under His watch, no providential hand had stayed the men who charged out of the trenches to mechanized death, and the remnant echoes of previous religious wars smothered the message of Grace under a stifling quilt of sectarian strife and political opportunism. 

    Progressive ideas were tall and firm and shiny in an era where everything else had been cut to ribbons. They hadn’t been tried so they had no record of failure. 

    • #16
    • November 11, 2018, at 10:22 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    I think they retconned that in towards the end. At first it was revenging the Hun who’d raped Belgium.

    Yes, and this was apparently Mr. H.G. Wells’s meaning of the phrase. They meant, early on, to end the Prussians’ ability to indulge their taste for martial affairs, by beating them soundly.

    • #17
    • November 11, 2018, at 10:40 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    So, the early usage of “the war to end [all] war[s],” might be like Woodrow Wilson’s “[t]he world must be made safe for democracy.” Both aimed at Prussia and the Kaiser as the problem.

    In that speech, seeking a declaration of war, he also proclaimed the Prussians had placed spies inside our country before the war. Lots of people ended up arrested and detained. A very Progressive policy.

    • #18
    • November 11, 2018, at 11:35 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. I Walton Member

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    The problem of violence has a solution that on the national levels many nations have implemented. What we lack at an international level is the effective rule of law to bind states and enforce peace. Absent an arbitrating institution with superior levels of force all we have is personal violence to settle our disputes.

    In the absence of Law you always have violence.

    And always will. Only a hegemon can enforce international law. We tried to build a world of law with the UN and the post war institutions but it worked only to the extent we became the hegemon with overwhelming power and actually tried to improve the world. The latter gradually turned us into a policing power and that gave rise to war as well. Decentralization works better than centralization at the national level and there is little reason to believe that even more remote power will do better. The best way to avoid global war is to keep the US, (a status quo power that flourishes with peace and commerce), overwhelmingly more powerful than any other and to keep it’s own governance as decentralized as possible so that the accumulation of remote interests does not take that apparatus in the wrong directions. Nobody has crafted better notions about these matters than our own founders.

    • #19
    • November 12, 2018, at 4:26 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  20. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):

    Your thesis, if I’m understanding it correctly, is that the extraordinary cost of the Great War required it be justified by an extraordinary lofty goal, the elimination of war itself.

    I think they retconned that in towards the end. At first it was revenging the Hun who’d raped Belgium.

    I agree. Lincoln did the same thing during the Civil War, with the Emancipation Proclamation and Gettysburg. Obviously, slavery was a significant cause of the Civil War in the first place, as it was the underlying reason for secession, but ending slavery was not the original justification for the war itself in the North.

    In both cases, it was the tide of events that initially escalated the conflict into war, and the narrative developed later.

     

    • #20
    • November 12, 2018, at 10:08 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    What do you think was the source of the hubris itself?

    My suspicion is that it was the naive, utopian ideas of Enlightenment and Progressive thought. But this conclusion is in keeping with my personal views and biases toward a Christian Conservative outlook, so I’d like to read some contrary views.

    The problem with the schools of thought you mention? They assume too much – innate human goodness, widespread adoption of transcendent values – and discount the historical record as a document of postlapsarian scrums and struggles awaiting the revelation of Progressive ideals. Naive and utopian as they may have seemed, there was an appetite for systemic rethinking of Western Civ, because it was obvious to all the bright people that Western Civ had shat the bed and screwed the pooch. Fire sale on cultural self-conceptions: everything must go. Christianity got swept out along with the other traditions, because the fields of France had been turned into charnel houses under His watch, no providential hand had stayed the men who charged out of the trenches to mechanized death, and the remnant echoes of previous religious wars smothered the message of Grace under a stifling quilt of sectarian strife and political opportunism.

    Progressive ideas were tall and firm and shiny in an era where everything else had been cut to ribbons. They hadn’t been tried so they had no record of failure.

    I think that the breakdown of Christianity in Europe generally, and in Britain particularly significantly preceded WWI. I submit that this breakdown was the cause of the hubris and naivete of the progressive movement.

    My principal source is CS Lewis. The quote is rather lengthy, so I’ll post it separately below.

     

    • #21
    • November 12, 2018, at 10:38 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    The following is from C.S. Lewis’ essay The Decline of Religion, originally published in 1946:

    The ‘decline of religion’ so often lamented (or welcomed) is held to be shown by empty chapels. Now it is quite true that chapels which were full in 1900 are empty in 1946. But this change was not gradual. It occurred at the precise moment when chapel ceased to be compulsory. It was not in fact a decline; it was a precipice. The sixty men who had come because chapel was a little later than ‘rollers’ (its only alternative) came no more; the five Christians remained. The withdrawal of compulsion did not create a new religious situation, but only revealed the situation which had long existed. And this is typical of the ‘decline in religion’ all over England.

    A footnote explained that ‘rollers” referred to a practice at Oxford by which “those students who did not wish to attend the morning chapel service were required to report to the Dean five or ten minutes before the service and have their names put on his roll-call. Thus the ‘rollers’, who did not go to chapel, had to be up before those who did go.” Lewis then continued:

    In every class and every part of the country, the visible practice of Christianity has grown very much less in the last fifty years. This is often taken to show that the nation as a whole has passed from a Christian to a secular outlook. But if we judge the nineteenth century from the books it wrote, the outlook of our grandfathers (with a very few exceptions) was quite as secular as our own.

    Lewis then discussed the works of Meredith, Trollope, Thackeray, Dickens, and Scott in the Nineteenth Century, before concluding:

    I am anxious here not to be misunderstood. I do not mean that Scott was not a brave, generous, honorable man and a glorious writer. I mean that in his work, as in that of most of his contemporaries, only secular and natural values are taken seriously. Plato and Virgil are, in that sense, nearer to Christianity than they.

    Thus the ‘decline of religion’ becomes a very ambiguous phenomenon. One way of putting the truth would be that the religion which has declined was not Christianity. It was a vague Theism with a strong and virile ethical code, which, far from standing against the ‘World’, was absorbed into the whole fabric of English institutions and sentiment and therefore demanded church-going as (at best) a part of loyalty and good manners and (at worst) a proof of respectability. Hence a social pressure, like the withdrawal of the compulsion, did not create a new situation. The new freedom first allowed accurate observations to be made. When no man goes to church except because he seeks Christ the number of actual believers can at last be discovered.

    • #22
    • November 12, 2018, at 10:40 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. The Reticulator Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):
    I believe that Andrew Klavan has opined that the culture of Europe died in WWI.

    He’s certainly not alone – in fact, it seems blaringly obvious. If you want to define “Culture” as the usual products of artists, the work that came out after the Great War was a raw, bleeding, ugly howl, as if the very idea of beauty needed to be repudiated in light of what had happened. But before the war, they’d been leading up to it. All the old standards and styles were dissolving, anticipating a new type of art, leaning into the ugliness, eager for the old order to die. It’s as if there was a great unspoken and unslaked appetite for the destruction of everything, with the belief it would be purifying and clarifying, and the tired century could be stowed in the crypt along with the others.

    A culture bored with its successes and accomplishments doesn’t become suicidal, but it becomes curiously acquiescent to its murder.

    If you know of any good historical books that analyze this theme, I would be interested. I am very familiar with the idea that the notion of “progress” came to an end with World War I, but not so familiar with the idea that the idea of progress was overripe and starting to spoil before the war started. Though I suppose some of Marx’s writing could give an early clue. (I have read Marx only in quotations by others.) 

    I don’t care to read much in the way of political essays unless they are well grounded in specific places, people, and events.

     

    • #23
    • November 12, 2018, at 10:40 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. dnewlander Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):
    I believe that Andrew Klavan has opined that the culture of Europe died in WWI.

    He’s certainly not alone – in fact, it seems blaringly obvious. If you want to define “Culture” as the usual products of artists, the work that came out after the Great War was a raw, bleeding, ugly howl, as if the very idea of beauty needed to be repudiated in light of what had happened. But before the war, they’d been leading up to it. All the old standards and styles were dissolving, anticipating a new type of art, leaning into the ugliness, eager for the old order to die. It’s as if there was a great unspoken and unslaked appetite for the destruction of everything, with the belief it would be purifying and clarifying, and the tired century could be stowed in the crypt along with the others.

    A culture bored with its successes and accomplishments doesn’t become suicidal, but it becomes curiously acquiescent to its murder.

    If you know of any good historical books that analyze this theme, I would be interested. I am very familiar with the idea that the notion of “progress” came to an end with World War I, but not so familiar with the idea that the idea of progress was overripe and starting to spoil before the war started. Though I suppose some of Marx’s writing could give an early clue. (I have read Marx only in quotations by others.)

    I don’t care to read much in the way of political essays unless they are well grounded in specific places, people, and events.

     

    I think there was a perfect storm of basically religious apathy (across Europe… it took a few decade to cross the Pond) and technology, both military, but also in the visual and audio arts. Imagine being an okay stage actor in the era of film. Imagine being a portrait or landscape artist in the age of photography. Imagine going from an age where one’s influence was entirely local to basically global in a generation. There’s no wonder art turned to Surrealism and Impressionism and, later, modernism. A few managed to bridge the gap successfully, but many, many others could and did not. Without a grounding in Faith, where did they get their strength?

    • #24
    • November 12, 2018, at 10:57 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. RightAngles Member

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    I think there was a perfect storm of basically religious apathy (across Europe… it took a few decade to cross the Pond) and technology, both military, but also in the visual and audio arts. Imagine being an okay stage actor in the era of film. Imagine being a portrait or landscape artist in the age of photography. Imagine going from an age where one’s influence was entirely local to basically global in a generation. There’s no wonder art turned to Surrealism and Impressionism and, later, modernism. A few managed to bridge the gap successfully, but many, many others could and did not. Without a grounding in Faith, where did they get their strength?

    Yes, it has to be hard to be in a profession just when everything changes. Imagine being a buggy-maker or bridle factory when the Model T came out. My father was an advertising illustrator in the 1950s, and then suddenly everything was photography. So he learned that and kept going. You either get on the train or get run over by it.

    • #25
    • November 12, 2018, at 11:32 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):
    I believe that Andrew Klavan has opined that the culture of Europe died in WWI.

    He’s certainly not alone – in fact, it seems blaringly obvious. If you want to define “Culture” as the usual products of artists, the work that came out after the Great War was a raw, bleeding, ugly howl, as if the very idea of beauty needed to be repudiated in light of what had happened. But before the war, they’d been leading up to it. All the old standards and styles were dissolving, anticipating a new type of art, leaning into the ugliness, eager for the old order to die. It’s as if there was a great unspoken and unslaked appetite for the destruction of everything, with the belief it would be purifying and clarifying, and the tired century could be stowed in the crypt along with the others.

    A culture bored with its successes and accomplishments doesn’t become suicidal, but it becomes curiously acquiescent to its murder.

    If you know of any good historical books that analyze this theme, I would be interested. I am very familiar with the idea that the notion of “progress” came to an end with World War I, but not so familiar with the idea that the idea of progress was overripe and starting to spoil before the war started. Though I suppose some of Marx’s writing could give an early clue. (I have read Marx only in quotations by others.)

    I don’t care to read much in the way of political essays unless they are well grounded in specific places, people, and events.

     

    I recommend C.S. Lewis, specifically God in the Dock, which is a collection of his essays. The essay that I quoted above is from this collection. They are political essays, but I think that they may be well-grounded as you specify. 

    • #26
    • November 12, 2018, at 11:43 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. The Reticulator Member

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):
    I believe that Andrew Klavan has opined that the culture of Europe died in WWI.

    He’s certainly not alone – in fact, it seems blaringly obvious. If you want to define “Culture” as the usual products of artists, the work that came out after the Great War was a raw, bleeding, ugly howl, as if the very idea of beauty needed to be repudiated in light of what had happened. But before the war, they’d been leading up to it. All the old standards and styles were dissolving, anticipating a new type of art, leaning into the ugliness, eager for the old order to die. It’s as if there was a great unspoken and unslaked appetite for the destruction of everything, with the belief it would be purifying and clarifying, and the tired century could be stowed in the crypt along with the others.

    A culture bored with its successes and accomplishments doesn’t become suicidal, but it becomes curiously acquiescent to its murder.

    If you know of any good historical books that analyze this theme, I would be interested. I am very familiar with the idea that the notion of “progress” came to an end with World War I, but not so familiar with the idea that the idea of progress was overripe and starting to spoil before the war started. Though I suppose some of Marx’s writing could give an early clue. (I have read Marx only in quotations by others.)

    I don’t care to read much in the way of political essays unless they are well grounded in specific places, people, and events.

     

    I recommend C.S. Lewis, specifically God in the Dock, which is a collection of his essays. The essay that I quoted above is from this collection. They are political essays, but I think that they may be well-grounded as you specify.

    I’ve read the God in the Dock collection at least twice, and I highly recommend it, but I’m interested in works that give as many historical examples and illustrations as possible. 

    • #27
    • November 12, 2018, at 12:46 PM PDT
    • Like
  28. Richard Easton Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):
    I believe that Andrew Klavan has opined that the culture of Europe died in WWI.

    He’s certainly not alone – in fact, it seems blaringly obvious. If you want to define “Culture” as the usual products of artists, the work that came out after the Great War was a raw, bleeding, ugly howl, as if the very idea of beauty needed to be repudiated in light of what had happened. But before the war, they’d been leading up to it. All the old standards and styles were dissolving, anticipating a new type of art, leaning into the ugliness, eager for the old order to die. It’s as if there was a great unspoken and unslaked appetite for the destruction of everything, with the belief it would be purifying and clarifying, and the tired century could be stowed in the crypt along with the others.

    A culture bored with its successes and accomplishments doesn’t become suicidal, but it becomes curiously acquiescent to its murder.

    If you know of any good historical books that analyze this theme, I would be interested. I am very familiar with the idea that the notion of “progress” came to an end with World War I, but not so familiar with the idea that the idea of progress was overripe and starting to spoil before the war started. Though I suppose some of Marx’s writing could give an early clue. (I have read Marx only in quotations by others.)

    I don’t care to read much in the way of political essays unless they are well grounded in specific places, people, and events.

     

    I recommend C.S. Lewis, specifically God in the Dock, which is a collection of his essays. The essay that I quoted above is from this collection. They are political essays, but I think that they may be well-grounded as you specify.

    I’ve read the God in the Dock collection at least twice, and I highly recommend it, but I’m interested in works that give as many historical examples and illustrations as possible.

    Schaeffer’s “How Then Shall We Live” may be helpful.

    • #28
    • November 12, 2018, at 1:59 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. The Reticulator Member

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    I recommend C.S. Lewis, specifically God in the Dock, which is a collection of his essays. The essay that I quoted above is from this collection. They are political essays, but I think that they may be well-grounded as you specify.

    I’ve read the God in the Dock collection at least twice, and I highly recommend it, but I’m interested in works that give as many historical examples and illustrations as possible.

    Schaeffer’s “How Then Shall We Live” may be helpful.

    I’ve read that, too, and probably still have it on my bookshelf along with others of his books. It does have some historical illustrations, but I’m interested in one that goes more into specifics. Fussy, aren’t I?

    • #29
    • November 12, 2018, at 2:06 PM PDT
    • Like
  30. Richard Easton Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    I recommend C.S. Lewis, specifically God in the Dock, which is a collection of his essays. The essay that I quoted above is from this collection. They are political essays, but I think that they may be well-grounded as you specify.

    I’ve read the God in the Dock collection at least twice, and I highly recommend it, but I’m interested in works that give as many historical examples and illustrations as possible.

    Schaeffer’s “How Then Shall We Live” may be helpful.

    I’ve read that, too, and probably still have it on my bookshelf along with others of his books. It does have some historical illustrations, but I’m interested in one that goes more into specifics. Fussy, aren’t I?

    Paul Johnson’s Modern Times would give you more specifics (it’s less theological in nature).

    • #30
    • November 12, 2018, at 2:24 PM PDT
    • 1 like
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