I have a lot of weird interests. One of them is to imagine, as best I can, what it was like at some crucial moment in history, wondering if it was possible to know you were at a crucial moment in history. It seems to me that smart people, for example, would have known that the attack on Fort Sumter was ushering in war. In fact, lots of Southerners knew this and warned against it. Still, even the smartest did not foresee the bloody mayhem that was to follow. If leaders on both sides could have foreseen Antietam, would they have gone to war?
But what about the average guy? The people running ports, shipping operations, teaching school and so forth had access to newspapers. They knew about the world and the events that were happening in their country. Did they know, when news of Sumter got to them, that their world was about to be convulsed? That everything they knew was about to change and that in a decade they would live in a foreign country?
A good test of all this is World War I. The Austro-Hungarian government waited three weeks following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, before issuing its formal response to Serbia, which comprised a harsh ultimatum that could never be accepted. The men in charge of European affairs knew perfectly well what would happen if war broke out in the Balkans. Even the dimwitted Kaiser understood the enormity of the situation immediately after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Yet, the ultimatum was issued.
The leaders of Europe also had the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War as examples of the bloody madness of modern warfare. They knew war in Europe was suicide, even if they did not fully understand what was coming. The Franco-Prussian War had close to a million casualties. Simply adding in the machine gun and the howitzer had to mean millions of dead. They had to know this, yet they moved ahead with war anyway.
The Great War is so interesting because it is full of examples where it is nearly impossible to understand how the actors could be so stupid. Obviously, hindsight prejudices us, but even accounting for that, it is hard to understand many of the things that were done by allegedly smart people. The example that always comes to my mind is how the French dressed up their officers so they were easier to see on the battlefield. They wore red pants and white gloves.
It’s hard for us to understand these things because the people of 100 years ago believed things about the world we no longer believe. In fact, we no longer remember many of the things they believed. The Kaiser was ruler of a new country and he believed Germany was ready to take its place atop the world order. National pride drove the Germans, but it also drove the response to the Germans. This is unfathomable to us today, but its inverse is all around us.
The Muslim invasion of Europe is irrational in every way imaginable. The obvious answer to this problem is for France and Germany to come to the aid of the periphery, particularly those countries in the south and south east. This is not the Mongol Invasion of the 13th century. These are economic migrants sensing weakness so they are making a run for the border. A modest amount of resistance would end the flood.
Such a move by France and Germany would do wonders for the strained relations within Europe. This is a common issue that could show the benefits of working in concert to solve continental problems. Instead, the Germans are trying to commit suicide and demanding everyone else join them. The result is new strains to an already strained relationship. Hungarians, Poles, Czechs and Slovaks are not awash in blood guilt so they see no reason to follow the German lead.
Doing the sane thing would require self-respect and that is as alien today as the national pride of a century ago. Angela Merkel’s popularity in Germany and Europe is due, in large part, to her ability to express national shame better than anyone else. It is an integral part of her appeal as the German leader. Elites all over the West envy her ability to figuratively grovel on behalf of the rest of us at the feet of the third world.
Nationalism is usually the blame for the two world wars. Excessive national pride, filling the void of religion, drove sensible men to slaughter each other by the millions. There was simply no other way to beat that belief out of them. The sin of nationalism could only be cleansed by the blood of the nationalists.
What about the sin of excessive, compulsive all-consuming shame? That certainly seems to be driving otherwise sensible people to the brink of madness. Germany is a country of 80 million with about 2 million Muslims. They are taking in another million and history says that these millions will anchor another four to five million through family reunification. Will that be enough to satisfy German shame? Or will it take tens of millions more?
The answer, of course, is there is no number high enough that will lead the Germans, at least the German elite, to say the sins have been paid. For the German elite, the sins of their ancestors can only be cleansed with the blood of their countrymen. The invitation of tens of millions of Muslims to settle in Germany is a slow motion human sacrifice. What’s unknown is if the German people will go quietly.
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