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The War of the Worlds and the End of History

We are at the apex of a major cycle of history. Historians call this phenomenon "the end of history" meaning that the current generation thinks it has the whole world figured out. For example, the United Kingdom has grown from 1.5 million square miles in 1800 into a global empire of 11 million square miles. They figure they are doing something right, but an "end of history" implies that the situation will last forever (like when politicians claim they have ended the business cycle). Deterioration follows and eventually the conquerors become the conquered because they no longer believe that they have the moral right to defend themselves. The worst can be avoided if people are paying attention, so to get their attention, H. G. Wells publishes, War of the Worlds. The Martians invade Earth and wipe out millions with a heat ray. Although it is a great story, there is a philosophical undercurrent. Religion is portrayed as a comfort to the mindless. (In the movie, War of the Worlds 2005, the mindless clergyman is replaced by a mindless survivalist.) Then the comfort of the military is overturned by the technical innovations of the Martians. Unfortunately, the public refuses to wake up. 19th century blind optimism is about to hit the brick wall of the 20th century. [1]

"...across the gulf of space, ... intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment."
--The War of the Worlds, Book 1, Chapter 1. [2]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
16 years later, World War 1 began. They called it The Great War or The War to End All Wars, but countries used the war to send their undesirables into a meat-grinder. By the end of the war, cynicism reigned. What were the first signs of deterioration? The bicycle, the electric light and the telephone. The leap in technology was like "the Martians landing." With freedom of movement and communication, parents lost control of the next generation. The electric light allowed a night life to develop and cities gave young people anonymity. We dream of the good old days when the world was a better place, but that world only exists in our minds. Our parents were struggling to adjust to change just as we struggle today. We can dream, but there is no going back. The way out is forward... as always. [3]

"Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain!"

Theodore "TR" Roosevelt is the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and he wants to kick Spain out of Cuba. He also wants to kick Great Britain out of Canada! (Smile politely. Say nothing and walk away.) TR has devised several plans for the Navy in case the Cuban break from Spain spins out of control, but he foreign policy of the United States is to do as little as possible for as long as possible. Yet, near the end of January, the USS Maine is sent to Havana... just in case. Everything is fine until February 15th when a massive explosion pushes the keel of the Maine above the waterline, and into the bridge. (It is forgivable if you shout something inappropriate right now.) Three-fourths of the crew are killed instantly. The "yellow journalist", William Randolph Hearst, has been faking up lurid stories to build readership and to create a war in Cuba. (See the movie, "Wag the Dog".) The official investigation blames a submarine mine for the explosion. Later theories blame firedamp which is the off-gassing from a type of coal fuel. By April, the Spanish-American War is on. TR resigns his post and forms the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. The press calls them "The Rough Riders". TR leads his men across open ground to take Kettle Hill (often misreported as San Juan Hill). TR will receive the Medal of Honor, posthumously in 2001, for his actions in that battle. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Did Theodore Roosevelt deserve the Medal of Honor? I think not, but he never said that he did. He gave effusive praise to Parker for his skillful use of the Gatling Gun to back them up. He was brave, no doubt, but the press blew it all out of proportion. It is difficult to explain why TR wanted a war with Spain, but the idea fit in well with his 19th century adventurer personality. He should have been a naturalist, but in those days (and this is going to sound ridiculous) the country was focused on what we would call lesser government corruption like giving minor jobs to friends or trash pickup issues. TR got caught up in political reform and made a name for himself. He became Vice President and then President after McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist. (Anarchists got a very bad name due to a series of spectacular assassinations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.) [9]

In Other News

  • The negative of the Shroud of Turin is made. You've seen the picture a hundred times. [10]
  • Annie Oakley promotes women in combat. She suggests that women sharpshooters could aid in the Spanish-American War. [11]
  • Pierre and Marie Curie discover radium. Marie Curie will become the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize. [11]
  • Ferdinand von Zeppelin builds his airship. Several gasbags in a thin-skinned framework are used to push people around... sort of like Congress. [11]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1898, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, The. Touchstone. ISBN 0684844419. “In 1800 the British Empire consisted of 1.5 million square miles and 20 million people. By 1900 the Victorian empire upon which the sun never set included 11 million square miles and 390 million people. In the course of European expansion, the Andean and Mesoamerican civilizations were effectively eliminated, Indian and Islamic civilizations along with Africa were subjugated, and China was penetrated and subordinated to Western influence. Only Russian, Japanese, and Ethiopian civilizations, all three governed by highly centralized imperial authorities, were able to resist the onslaught of the West and maintain meaningful independent existence. For four hundred years intercivilizational relations consisted of the subordination of other societies to Western civilization.” 
  2. (1898) War of the Worlds, The. Retrieved on 3 November 2016. “No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.” 
  3. Zeitz, Joshua. Flapper: Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern. Broadway Books. ISBN 9780307523822. 
  4. Spanish-American War - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 5 January 2015.
  5. USS Maine (ACR-1) - Wikipedia. wikipedia.org (November 14, 2016). Retrieved on November 14, 2016. “The cause of Maine's sinking remains a subject of speculation. In 1898, an investigation of the explosion was carried out by a naval board appointed under the McKinley Administration. The consensus of the board was that Maine was destroyed by an external explosion from a mine. However, the validity of this investigation has been challenged.”
  6. Edmund Morris. The rise of Theodore Roosevelt. Modern Library. ISBN 0375756787. “And on 26 March, Roosevelt publicly confronted Senator Hanna, one of the last holdouts for peace, at a Gridiron Club after-dinner speech which had the whole capital agog. "We will have this war for the freedom of Cuba," he insisted, and smacked his fist into his palm. Then, wheeling and staring directly at Hanna, he said that "the interests of the business world and of financiers might be paramount in the Senate," but they were not so with the American people. Anyone who wanted to stand in the way of popular opinion "was welcome to try the experiment." Hanna's porcine neck turned purple, and his knuckles tightened on the arms of his chair, as applause filled the room. "Now, Senator," said his neighbor dryly, "may we please have war?”” 
  7. Fisher, Louis (August 4, 2009). Destruction of the Maine (1898) (PDF). The Law Library of Congress. Retrieved on November 14, 2016.
  8. Wag the Dog (1997) - IMDb. imdb.com (November 15, 2016). Retrieved on November 15, 2016.
  9. Wikipedia: Battle of San Juan Hill - Wikipedia, accessdate: November 15, 2016
  10. Shroud of Turin - Wikipedia. wikipedia.org (November 15, 2016). Retrieved on November 15, 2016.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 450-451, 452-453. 

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