Thursday, May 13, 2010

Questioning Authority

While visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina in June, 1914, the heir to the Austrian Empire and his wife were assassinated. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany urged his Austrian ally, Franz Josef, to attack Serbia.

Jim Murphy begins his book, Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting, by showing how World War I began even though "...there was no evidence that the Serbian government had been involved in the assassinations."
"On July 28, the Austrian army marched to Serbia's border and set up its artillery. As this was taking place, Kaiser Wilhelm picked up the full text of Serbia's reply to Austria's ultimatum. Incredibly, he hadn't bothered to study it before, preferring to let his advisors read and interpret it for him. What he read astonished him so much that he hastily scribbled in the margin of the Serbian reply: 'A great moral victory for Vienna; but with it every reason for war is removed... On the strength of this I should never have ordered mobilization.'

"Wilhelm then shot off an urgent message to his foreign diplomat in Austria in an effort to avert war. But it was too late. Austrian artillery began shelling Serbian troops on July 29, setting other armies in Europe into rapid motion."

Gregory Bateson argues convincingly, In Steps to an Ecology of Mind (pages 469-477), that the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, "led fairly directly and inevitably into World War II." Neither world war should have happened. Just like Iraq.
The author describes trench warfare: "...two parallel trenches - one held by the Germans, the other by the French, English, and Belgians - from fifty to one thousand yards apart stretched from the North Sea coast all the way to the Swiss border, a total of over 475 miles."

As Christmas approached, soldiers in the trenches on both sides sang Christmas carols. And they ended up exchanging Christmas gifts with each other, disregarding their orders.

I'd tell you the whole story but Jim Murphy does such a wonderful job. He has won many awards for his books, and deserves the Newbery Medal for this one. Reading Truce gives one hope. Maybe peace is attainable. The warmongers don't fight - why listen to them?

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