Monday, November 05, 2007

Whadda you going to do?

I am sure that most people, at some point, try to take the big view of things. That is, back off from the day to day and try to see where you are going. On the other hand, maybe most people don't. In any case, in spite of Godwin's Law, many bloggers continue to find similarity between the march to Fascism in Germany and what we are going through in the United States today (try Googling Hitler + Law). Then there are interesting tidbits like the review of a new work in the New York Review of Books on the life of the Emperor Augustus, and how the long Republic was converted into an Empire. I even alluded to the end of the Roman Empire in a recent post. Maybe it is a sign incipient change when we start grovelling in History.

So, let's go hog wild, since one can easily do so in Herodotus. There are more than enough risings and fallings in there to go about (even if most of us only know him from "The English Patient"). How about the magnificent Mughal Empire which is only 400 years past(I would direct you to "The Root and the Flower" by L.H. Myers for this one). The analogy I find most interesting at the moment is the pre WWI Empires of Britain and Germany. It has been years since I read Buddenbrooks, but its aura of middle class certainty that permeates the novel, the thought that they were the center of the Universe, resonates fairly strongly today, at least with a broad swath of American culture. Barbara Tuckman's "The Guns of August" followed by Doblin's "November 1918" bookend the War to End All Wars. Follow that with "The Black Obelisk" by Erich Maria Remarque and a course can be charted from high hubris (look in the mirror) to a nation of the destitute. No matter that the Germans rose again to suffer even more ignominious defeat, they still had a country that had not been levelled by nuclear weapons. I doubt we could say that would be our fate.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention "A Man Without Qualities" by Robert Musil. The whole thing (Vonnegut's grand fallon) is there if you can find it.

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