To the victor, the hubris of success

In a little over one years time, the majority of Europe, and to a lesser degree the rest of the world, will mark the anniversary of an event that like a few other moments in human history is seen as the founding moment of the era that follows it. Examples of such epoch defining moments would be the Greek victory over the Persians at the battle of Salamis which ushered in the Greco-Roman dominance of the classical world and the (re)discovery of the Americas by Columbus and all the implications of that moment. The event that I make reference to here is  of course the First World War. Pursuant with a casual browsing of history or the detailed study of the very same topics, I am sure that both amateur readers and academics would agree  with me that in a  long history of pointless, wasteful, mindless and utterly barbaric violence unleashed by mankind, the First World War must rank as the pre-eminent example of just how stupid mankind really can be. The reason I draw the readers attention to this impending anniversary is that already quiet rumblings are being heard and seen in the media about how the anniversary itself should be marked, for example with Britain’s leading toilet paper poopooing the nasty liberal left  for not wanting to blame the war on any one nation. The form that the commemoration of such an event takes is critical as it will ultimately define for many their relation to the historical crisis which swept Europe more clearly than the a long lost relative ever could, they may have missed out on experiencing trench foot or the horrors of Gallipoli first hand, but people can still be manipulated by the emotions that a ‘fight for freedom’ evokes.

That the events should be commemorated is a certainty in my mind. I know of course, pacifists with an extreme bent in that direction may say point out the horrors of war and such and argue that due to these reasons that war is never something to be remembered or celebrated. Of course, you will note that in my sentence above I used the term commemorated rather than celebrated, as I believe the notion that certain right wing pundits are spouting that the anniversary of the First World War should be celebrated to be morally reprehensible. It is a firm belief of my own, that those whose lives were wasted by high command on the fields of Europe should be remembered for their role in ‘protecting’ the country. However I feel the need to highlight what I believe is a troubling political climate in which the anniversary will begin as I fear that the misuse of history will be highly likely when the moment comes for it. It is a notable lesson of history that political elites are happy to evoke moments or characters from history in an attempt to garner support for their own ends that otherwise would likely not achieve any great deal of support from the average member of the public. examples of such appropriations of history would include the Napoleonic adoption of Roman iconography in an attempt to link the two great empires, the title that the early Ottoman sultans took of “Sultan of Rum” which demonstrates their desire also to identify themselves as the logical progression of the legacy of Rome or certain Nazi’s identification with the Teutonic order of knights as paragons of Germanic Christianity. Such appropriations are very widespread throughout history and that this is so should come as no surprise as it is an easy task to adopt the stories of history, certainly an easier task than both creating mythologies for people to identify with and have them become widespread whilst still alive.

Whilst the practice of appropriating moments from history is widespread, this is not to say that doing so comes without its problems. Central among the issues such a practice churns up in its wake is that more often than not, the individuals doing the appropriation are the wealthy, powerful and educated elites who as a class of humans are not noted for the general inclination towards extreme philanthropy. Indeed, often the appropriation of history is done out of extreme self interest in making those without power, without money and without the full knowledge of the ugly realities of history do not what they want to do and believe to be in their best interests but to do things which otherwise might seem abhorrent to them. I would also highlight for the reader that the appropriation can also be very non-specific in nature with those doing the manipulating of history evoking nothing more than a general theme, an example of which being politicians in Britain arguing that austerity is nought but a trifle compared to the dark hours of the Blitz which our parents and grandparents experienced.

Now that I have highlighted the way in which history has previously been appropriated I will now explain my specific concerns about how I fear the history of the First World War might be misappropriated as the anniversary approaches on two different fronts. My first concern is that the government will turn the commemoration of the event into a celebration. There is a distinct possibility that the current UK government, a beleaguered and endangered animal if there ever was one, will be keen to turn the anniversary into some form of jingoistic lovefest where all sense of proportion and dignity will be abandoned in a shameless attempt to curry favour in the lead up to a general election. The reason for my concern about the government appropriating the legacy of the First World War is basically centred around my belief that the war itself was an unmitigated disaster that claimed at the lowest estimates 15,000,000 lives and lead directly to an even worse war which claimed, again at minimum, 40,000,000 lives. If the government can find cause to celebrate in amongst all those corpses then it would simply further my belief in the current governments absolute moral bankruptcy. However the problem does not end there I fear, my own squeamishness about celebrating large scale death aside, I believe we are on a slippery slope when governments believe that death and wars are something to celebrate. When you think about it, there is a logical line of progression between celebrating past deaths for a ‘good cause’ and a willingness to directly cause deaths for a good cause. I assure the reader that however positive their impressions of the human race are, the philosophical distances between celebrating a war as having achieved a purpose and a willingness to start wars and end life on massive scale aren’t that far apart. All of this might be hot air on my part were it not for the fact that large areas of the world are already on a knife edge and its difficult to tell how little a government need rock the boat before the whole thing capsizes.

My second concern, and if I am to be entirely honest, a much greater concern at that is that the misappropriation will not be committed by the traditional elite who are usually responsible for such actions. No, my concern is that the misappropriation here will come from ‘street level’ and that if this to be the case that the general public might be all the more susceptible to it. The concern specifically is that a certain movement (read EDL), that is already paramilitary in style, will attempt to align itself with the hordes of British ‘tommies’ that were slaughtered in the defence of ‘freedom’ and gain a lot more credence in the public eye for its shameless and inaccurate appropriation of history. I mean the reality that Muslims, amongst all of the composite religions that were practised throughout the Empire, fought as bravely for a lesser share of the reward would surely fry circuitry among Britain’s leading street thug group were it widely known. By aligning themselves with the ‘tommies’ who fought for freedom against the barbaric German Hun, that the EDL will gain a certain amount of credibility in the eyes of the person who buys into the myth of the Great War and nationalism as a whole. The thought of the EDL gaining anything resembling credibility should worry the reader as it does me. The extremely violent xenophobia it preaches is a curse on all our houses and threat such lunacy poses will only grow with such a movement co-opting the legacy of the First World War. You have been warned …

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Let us not forget

In my efforts last week, I returned to a time honoured subject upon which I have often waxed lyrical as it is a subject close to my heart- the occupation of Palestine and the subsequent illegality of many actions committed by the Zionist entity which monopolized power in the state of Israel since its founding in 1948. In last weeks post I focussed in particular on how Zionism as a movement has been particularly effective in monopolizing support for itself in the media primarily through omission and distortion of facts and heavy-handed bully-boy tactics that might make even this man quiver…

The sole reason that anyone in the UK should willingly pay a licence fee.

The sole reason that anyone in the UK should willingly pay a licence fee.

After much deliberation this week I have decided to continue casting an inquisitive spotlight over the actions and beliefs of Zionism in an effort to make clear, for any readers who have not already made their mind up, the moral repugnance of Zionism as a philosophy. In particular this post will focus on the main means through which practitioners of this peculiarly vile philosophy have demonstrated their bankruptcy in terms of morals – the distortion of the history of the Holocaust. That anyone would distort a tragedy of such size as the holocaust to secure for themselves benefits of any kind speaks a great deal already, but when you take into account how Zionism as a movement has continually served to distort the holocaust to serve its own ends at the expense of many of the other victims of the Nazi’s exterminatory policies then I vehemently believe you really have come face to face with evil.

I hope that as I progress through this post, the problems this image poses will become increasingly clear

I hope that as I progress through this post, the problems this image poses will become increasingly clear

I recognise in proceeding along this road the likelihood that I may upset some people,  and it is perhaps with something of a heavy heart that I do proceed knowing that but to defend my decision I will bring the readers attention once more to a quote which I have utilised many times by Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu which more articulately describes the situation than I could ever hope to – “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Further to this I would like to make clear that my aim is not to diminish the suffering of the Jews who were killed during the holocaust but to illuminate the vast scale of slaughter that was equally committed against other minorities who today do not remain free of the common prejudices of many people across the world. With these caveats out of the way please feel free to read on at your own discretion to find the body of my argument.

The first problem in arguing for recognition of the other victims of the Holocaust is that the very definition itself is tied up in the political wrangling that surrounds how we record this event. Eminent historians, who have officially recognised that many groups alongside Jews were targeted, presumably due to the immense political pressures placed on anyone who specialises in the Holocaust academically have resorted to offering almost Orwellian definitions of the nature of the Holocaust. It pains me to repeat these capitulations (in my view) or whitewashes in one case by historians who otherwise command the utmost respect but below are a sample of statements on how leading historians define the events of the Holocaust:

  • Timothy Snyder states that “The term Holocaust is sometimes used in two other ways: to mean all German killing policies during the war, or to mean all oppression of Jews by the Nazi regime.”
  • Donald Niewyk and Francis Nicosia offer the opinion in The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust that the term is commonly defined as the mass murder of more than five million European Jews. But alongside their definition presented there, they offer the platitude that “Not everyone finds this a fully satisfactory definition”.
  • Martin Gilbert in stating the number of victims of the Nazi Holocaust only cites the figure for Jewish deaths.

This might sound like semantics to those not particularly interested but the way we define the holocaust is of critical importance. It is demonstrably clear that in two out of three of the cases I have listed above that the author, while acknowledging the facts that there were other victims of Nazi exterminatory policy, is towing the official line in only recognising Jewish victims as the ‘official’ ones. There is no logical reason why the ‘other’ victims of the Holocaust are defined separately and so it logically follows that they should be recognised as victims of the holocaust and not victims of some separate yet less hideous atrocity. In defining the Holocaust for myself, I lean very closely to the first term described by Timothy Snyder above when he says that the Holocaust is taken ” to mean all German killing policies during the war”. In choosing this as the definition I believe to be the clearest representation of historical fact, I conducted an analysis of my own as to the intentions of Nazi extermination policies firstly, towards the Jews of Europe and the secondly, towards all other persecuted groups. In studying the intentions of Nazi policy in attempting to wipe out these groups it is eminently clear that the Nazi intentions were the same in both cases,  the intentions being namely:

  • To clear land otherwise occupied by undesirable groups to make way for its settlement by ethnic German populations and also in liquidating undesirables freeing up their property, homes, financial resources etc for use by German population. 
  • To maintain the fabled blood purity of the ‘Aryan’ race by destroying all potential ‘pollutants’ which could potentially pollute the blood of the vaunted German race.
  • To maintain the ideological purity of the Nazi vision for its empire by destroying all potential ‘pollutants’ who might challenge the ideologies valued in the public sphere of the vaunted German race.

Taking the above facts as truth, we can see that the policy of extermination of various groups all served the same ends and therefore it makes complete sense that the the attempts to exterminate undesirable groups should be classed together as a singular event in history. The current approach is incorrect in my opinion as it breaks up the attacks by the Nazis against the different undesirable groups into distinct atrocities as if separate and distinct motives informed the crimes when as I have demonstrated above the reality is that the exact same purposes were at work in every case. 

When wondering how to define the holocaust in a much more non-specific way then my definition would be that it is amongst a group of events in human history that are uniquely troubling in their vileness and also provide the perfect retort to every drivelling idiot who sees something that warms the heart and says something like this “faith in humanity restored.” I mean how can you ever hold any faith in humanity when members of the human race, albeit deranged fanatical fascist ones, enacted a deliberate policy to systematically slaughter whole parts of the human race, how dense does it make you that someone giving up their seat on the bus or the train makes you think humans aren’t irreversibly damaged on a philosophical level?  The critical reason that we must recognise the multitude of groups who were targeted alongside Jews is that if we fail to do so, we commit an act almost as hideously vile in denying the recognition to victims of such an atrocity. In the words of one notable holocaust survivor, when speaking about the victims of an altogether separate genocide, to deny the victims the recognition they deserve is to kill them a second time. By failing to acknowledge properly the ‘other victims’ of the Holocaust we effectively say that their suffering is less significant than that of the Europe’s Jews. This is an issue of critical important as ultimately since the Holocaust if only one positive end has been reached, it is that popular prejudice against Jews is no longer a commonly held value whereas those victims who have not received the proper recognition for their suffering still face much discrimination to this day which is justified in many of the same ways as the hatred of Jews was justified in Nazi Europe.

Now that I have made clear my opinion on how the Holocaust should, and hopefully one day will, be defined, and also made perfectly clear the reasons recognition of the other victims of the Holocaust is vitally important, I will begin to demonstrate the scale in which other minority groups were targeted by the Nazis, which should leave the reader in no doubt that we must recognise the fact that the Holocaust was much wider reaching in its scope than current definitions recognise.

  • The first group that I believe need to be included in the total cost of life’s that the Holocaust reaped as opposed to being listed as victims of some other arbitrary atrocity is the Poles. The decisions that carried the Nazi armies onto Polish soil in 1939 were exactly the same as those which informed the change of policy towards Europe’s Jews. The decisions that informed the ethnic cleansing of both groups from conquered territory revolved around clearing ‘Lebensraum’ for Germans and so it makes sense that the the killing of both groups falls under the same category of crime.
    The same practices that we instantly recongise as associated with the specifically "Jewish Holocaust" were used to equally ill effect to identify and massacre Poles throughout the Second World War.

    The same practices that we instantly recognise as associated with the specifically “Jewish Holocaust” were used to equally ill effect to identify and massacre Poles throughout the Second World War.

    It is true that the Poles as a general rule were persecuted as vigorously from the outset of the war meaning that they were less victims of the gas chambers and more victims of the gun but this does not diminish in any way the scale of the casualties suffered by Poland with approximately 14% of the polish population (5 million including Jews) lost at the hands of the German forces. It is also worthy taking into account that of the roughly 6 million Jews that were killed in the Holocaust as we currently recognise it that approximately half would have been Polish Jews so there is a definite argument to be heard in the notion that if we are to subdivide the Holocaust into separate atrocities that instead of subdividing it by group targeted that we should instead group the targeted populations and divide by theatre of the the holocaust. Instead then of dividing the Holocaust up into the genocide committed against Jews and that committed against Slavs, we should perhaps split the Holocaust up into the Holocaust as waged in Poland, that waged in the Ukraine, that waged in Belgium etc. Such an approach would arguably be preferable as it takes into account that within a country there was no real hierarchy of murder and that each group was targeted on an equal basis and it also would help to make clear that the Holocaust was waged very differently throughout Europe with Jews originating in France receiving much less brutal treatment than those from the Eastern Bloc and Soviet countries.

  • Another group which has arguably been white-washed  even further from the officially recognised victims of the Holocaust are Soviet POW’s. Unlike the Jews and Poles who formed a potential physical corruption of German blood in the mind of the Nazis, the Soviet POW’s who ended up in Nazi hands were persecuted and exterminated on account of the perceived ideological danger that they created for Germany as Communists had formed one of the many groups that the Nazis were persistently opposed to in Germany and this carried on into their occupation of Europe. Alongside the purposeful targeting of Soviets for ethnic cleansing along Ideological lines it is also true that the treatment of Soviet POW’s was also informed by one of the chief aims of the Holocaust which was to reduce the burden on limited resources and free these up for the German population – fair treatment of the multitudes of Soviet POW’s that were captured in the early stages of Operation Barbarossa would have entailed a massive logistical effort for the Germans which would have been extremely difficult to maintain in a war environment. This disregard for human life combined with the ideological hatred of Soviet prisoners ultimately saw between 2 and 3 million die in the early stages of the war. That the savagery unleashed was intentional and not purely an accident in the fog of war was probably to some extent proven by the fury that was unleashed against the Germans after the Soviets halted the German offensive and returned one of their own onto German Soil. Further proof that the treatment of Soviet POW’s was a genocidal behaviour on the part of the Nazis is provided by the disparity between the number of Western prisoners from Great Britain and the US who were killed after capture and the number of Soviets who were killed. From a total of 231,000 British and American prisoners captured 8300 died whereas in the case of the Soviets around half of the roughly 5 million prisoners died in German captivity.
Vast swathes of captured Soviets would have been an all too common sight on the Eastern Front.

Vast swathes of captured Soviets would have been an all too common sight on the Eastern Front.

  • Another group that I believe should be included and is often recognised but as I have already mentioned, only recognised in the context of their own separate ‘Holocaust’ called the Porajmos, is the Romani and Sinti people. In more common parlance (and racist for that matter) we know the Romani and Sinti as Gypsies. That they were targeted by the Nazis was not something that was well recognised before the 1980s but since then the record has begun to recognise that atrocities were committed against these people as they too were defined much in the same way as other groups who were targeted as ‘undesirable’ and ‘dirty’. One problem that complicates the recognition that these people deserve is that genocidal policy regarding them differed from country to country (in my opinion adding further weight to the need to subdivide the Holocaust not by groups targeted but by country. That the policy differed from country to country does not however change the fact that there was a reasonably large population of Romani in Europe at the time and where they were targeted they were exterminated on a large scale .
    A map of countries showing the number of Romani prior to WW2.

    A map of countries showing the number of Romani prior to WW2.

    In the debates that have raged since the end of the Second World War, the number of Romani/ Sinti victims of the Holocaust has been placed as low as 130,000 by Niewyk and Nicosia and on the other hand by a specialist in Roma studies, Ian Hancock the number has been placed as high as half a million possibly even one and half million. Hancock argues that whatever the figure that proportionately as many if not more Roma and Sinti were killed in the Holocaust than even the Jews and so it is markedly noticeable that their suffering receives so little attention in most accounts of the Holocaust.

  • One last group that I will identify as having suffered tremendously as a result of the Holocaust for the exact same reasons as all other groups, therefore qualifying them as victims of the Holocaust, is Homosexuals. Targeted from a very early period in Nazi history, a large number of Homosexuals were at some pointed targeted by discrimination by the Nazi authorities, although the proportion is difficult to ascertain as it is obviously easier to hide manifestations of sexuality than it is to hide race or membership of communities. Records show that around 50,000 homosexual men were targeted and of those around 15,000 ended up in concentration camps were they were subjected to an unusual level of torture and suffering relative to most other groups which speaks volumes about the level of hatred being just the same if not worse in some ways than that shown to other groups. A leading Scholar Rüdiger Lautmann believes that the death rate of homosexuals in concentration camps may have been as high as 60% and that would certainly on a surface level appear to sound correct when the camp guards ‘interests’ are taken into account. The recording of Homosexuals who were targeted was ultimately complicated by the fact that Homosexuality remained criminalised in post war Germany and so the the reality is we will probably never know the true extent to which the Holocaust exterminated Homosexuals.

I have decided for the sake of brevity to end my identification of other groups who should equally be recognised as victims of the Nazi Holocaust there. Given more time and space I would also identify Slavs, Peoples with disabilities (both mental and physical),  Religious minorities such as Jehovahs Witnesses, Non Europeans and enemy nationals as other groups equally worthy of identification as having been targeted for extermination in the Holocaust. The reason I plumped for three of the four groups was I discussed above  was quite purposeful on my part. The reason was to demonstrate that while as a result of the recognition of their suffering during the Holocaust, Jews have been able to put an end to popular prejudices against themselves as a race, in the case of Poles, Romani and Homosexuals who are not really recognised as a victims of the Holocaust despite the historical facts, common prejudices against them remain relatively widespread throughout Europe. There are two other reasons also why I believe it is critical that we acknowledge and recognise  the other victims of the Nazi Holocaust that I will now briefly explain. Firstly, by only acknowledging the Jewish suffering  that took place in the Holocaust, we have allowed Zionist elements within Judaism to claim the status as the sole victims of the worst atrocity in history which they have used as a smokescreen to commit ethnic cleansing of their own, and continuing to this day that status as sole victims is being used to avoid all criticism in all forums. By acknowledging that actually there were many other victims of the Holocaust we remove that status of sole victim, which has been used too often as an excuse by Israeli elites to commit morally reprehensible acts, whilst still recognising the massive suffering of the Jewish people that came about as a result of the Holocaust. The second reason that I believe it is important that we recognise the other victims of the Holocaust is that to not do so is to diminish the scale of the atrocity committed, especially when we take into account that when the other groups are counted amongst the victims the death toll of the Holocaust doubles, and therefore to prevent its proper recording in History which serves no-one.

Through continual manipulation of the historical facts, Zionists as a movement have exploited a tragedy which their people endured, and exploited it past all interpretations of good taste or even just plain taste. In doing so they have escaped culpability for many crimes against humanity and international law whilst diminishing the suffering of others who were equally persecuted in the darkest days of humanity. By reclaiming the Holocaust as an event which crossed ethnic divisions we remove this excuse. In removing this excuse we live in hope that by removing the Holocaust from the sole ownership of the Zionists who cradle it for all of its political worth that we remove its use as a political tool and instead allow it to become a solemn moment in history from which we learn a lot of lessons about why our common prejudices are and have always been wrong.

The tortured rhetoric of escalation.

Ninety-nine years ago a war began in Europe which did more to define the borders of the Middle East than any other event in history. That war was World War 1, and in a round about way it defined the borders of roughly 8 countries out of a conservative estimate of 16 in the wider region. In defining these borders, it must surely rank as one of histories greatest follies that no inhabitants of any of these countries were involved and that such arrangements were  ultimately made with only the view points of one Englishman and a Frenchman take into account. Imagine China and Japan dictating the borders of European countries ? Are we to assume they would create borders with the other countries’ interests at heart or we would fall down on the side of the most probable response and assume that if one country was asked to define another countries borders that it would do so only in its own interest. History teaches us many things and perhaps an overarching theme to what we can learn by studying the past is that benignity in politics is as good as non-existent. I highlight this particular viewpoint of mine to make clear from the outset for the reader my views on the disastrous effect the purely self-interested policies of the French and British empires had on the middle east and further, continue to have as we can see in the rapidly escalating crisis in Syria. In defining borders in the Middle East, the gentlemen Sykes and Picot had two ingredients with which they worked, land and people. Land is easy from the point of view of a someone tasked with making a nation, it does not protest to the arbitrary lines scribbled across it by the cartographer and without the intervention of people those lines might well last an eternity in quiet peace. Humans are a little different, they do protest the arbitrary lines that cut them off from friends and family and surround them with different ethnic groups and religions and often the results of humans doing so is an incredibly bloody affair. Anyway back the matter in hand, when Sykes and Picot made their borders they operated on a policy of divide and rule with regards the people by empowering minority ethnic groups to hold disproportionate amounts of power at the expense of the majority. when discussing the middle east many often bemoan the fact that seemingly the region is cursed with what seems an inherent taste of violent conflict with both internal and external enemies and depending on the commentator themselves, they will offer any number of potential reasons for this supposed quality. What these arguments about the violent nature of the middle east miss out is that for comparison we always think of our own countries in the west which as a result of events in the past are generally ethnically and culturally homogeneous whereas the middle east in a word is far more heterogeneous in all ways. this heterogeneity is a direct result of the Sykes-Picot agreement and World War 1 and we are seemingly seeing its side effects emerge more and more on a daily basis in Syria, but the the trouble does not end there as the destabilizing effect of the conflict seems to be escalating previously small civil conflict in almost all neighbouring countries, primarily Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey so that we are on the verge of watching another region burned over as a result of the follies of the west. I will now discuss a briefly the emerging situation in each of these countries and highlight the points of concern.

Turkey:

Turkey flag

While I have included Turkey here in my analysis, it is true that of the three countries I mentioned Turkey as it stands has remained relatively free from conflict but none the less there are worrying signs present in the political landscape and further Turkey has many of the ingredients necessary for a civil conflict of it its own. The first point of concern I believe that we should pay attention to is the way in which turkey has involved itself in the Syrian conflict. Turkey has from a very early point in the conflict declared its support for the rebel factions in Syria and has allowed the setting up of a Syrian government in exile amongst its own borders, all of this on top of Turkey having been the primary safe haven for refugees fleeing the conflict. This of course is the official state of affairs but if the rumours many have heard on the grapevine are to be believed then attacks by rebels against the Syrian government forces have been launched from Turkish soil. Further to this another rumour circulating is that after stray mortar shells landed in Turkey that the armed forces used this a pretext for launching raids across the border aimed at their perennial enemies, the Kurds. From all of this evidence we can see that Turkey has become embroiled in the Syrian civil war much like the Gulf Arab states, although unlike the countries of the Gulf, turkey shares a border with Syria that could quite easily facilitate the spread of conflict from one country to the other.  In recent weeks we perhaps had a inkling of this process of the conflict spreading beginning when 2 suicide bombs were detonated in a town on the Turkish border with Syria that killed 43 people. The official story, which I believe should be taken with a pinch of salt bearing in mind the number of stories that haver turned out to be false such as the Syrian governments supposed use of chemical weapons, was that the bombings were carried out by groups linked with the Syrian intelligence service. I feel the Syrian rebels a more likely culprit as they stand to gain much more from the conflict escalating in terms of other governments committing military forces to the conflict or failing this at least an increase in the amount of financial and/or technical support that they will receive from the coalition of countries allied against the Syrian regime. Either way, whoever you believe to be responsible for the bombing the fact remains that the conflict appears to be being waged by neighbouring proxies which does not bode well for peace in Turkey itself. While part of the problems then of turkey stem from the conflict in neighbouring Syria, there are aspects of the Turkish political landscape that may well lend themselves to the fomentation of civil conflict independent of anything going on in neighbouring Syria and it is my concern that a combination of Turkish problems alongside the overspill from the syrian civil war may see the country burn. The main troubling ingredient present in the Turkish landscape is the sizeable Kurdish population whose relations with Ankara have never been particularly jovial as a result of the long history of persecution of the Kurds by the Turkish government and in recent weeks a peace deal of sorts has been signed between the two parties. All it would take is for this deal to break down, which history has shown us in the form of previous truce agreements is likely, and combined with the severely militarised climate of south eastern turkey I would not like to hazard a guess as to what the consequences might be other than to guess that whatever they are they will not be pretty. Ultimately of all the countries I discuss in this article, Turkey is the least likely to suffer but this is very much dependent on how long the conflict rages on for in Syria. If the Syrian civil war ends relatively soon then it is easy enough to see Turkey avoiding any crisis but if the war continues indefinitely then Turkeys level of involvement will only increase commensurate with the age of the conflict.

Lebanon:

Lebannon flag

Of three countries I discuss in this post none are more closely interconnected with Syria than Lebanon is. The history of the relationship between the two countries has seen the countries at each others throats on more than one occasion and it has also seen them being the closet of allies. Lebanon has all of the essential ingredients to precipitate the spreading of the conflict into another country. Firstly there is a large bastion of support for Bashar present in Lebanon in the form of Hezbollah who are a formidable fighting force and are in all likelihood loathed by the Islamist rebels in Syria as it is a Shia Muslim group. Hezbollah’s presence in Lebanon could easily escalate any emerging crisis especially if they are targeted by rebel groups laying low in Lebanon itself which is a significant possibility being as suicide bombings have been conducted in Lebanon since the start of the conflict in Syria with many citing rebel groups as the party responsible. Another factor that makes Lebanon a likely candidate for an overspill of the conflict emerging is the polarisation along sectarian lines of much of Lebanese society. For fifteen years the world saw Lebanon torn apart by brutal sectarian conflict which again like much of the conflict in the middle east was a result of the borders arbitrarily drawn in the carve up of the middle east after world war 1 which placed minority’s in all of the positions of power in many countries. The Lebanese civil war was a particularly bloody affair as it moved away from any meaningful conflict with clear aims towards a conflict of retaliation and reprisal massacres and were the Syrian civil war to spread across its neighbours border then there is no reason to believe that the same would not be true again. Much like Turkey however, the ultimate deciding factor is how much longer the conflict in Syria continues for but unlike Turkey the likelihood that the Syrian civil war  will escalate to the point where its neighbour becomes involved is significantly greater. Another element present in the case of Lebanon is that it has become something of a hub for gulf money making its way into the hands of Syrian rebels and naturally this presents us with the likelihood that alongside this money coming into the country that a far more destabilising import is also entering Lebanese territory in the form of gulf Salafists and other fundamentalists which does not bode well for stability in a country that has never had a particularly strong track record for peace.

Iraq:

Iraq flag

Iraq is very much the odd one here as it is recent history is unfortunately full of conflict so it perhaps seems a bit confusing for me to include it in a list of possible countries that the Syrian civil war may spread to but something serious is in motion in Iraq which seems to very clearly linked to the conflict in Syria. The case of Iraq would always be a problematic one for suggesting it as a place where an Arab Spring type revolution or conflict might take place as its history in the lead up to the region wide event was so fundamentally different with the invasion in 2003 and then many years of sectarian conflict and near enough outright civil war. All of the above being true alongside the Arab Spring that we heard about in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia was an identical movement of protest against the current corrupt regime in Iraq which I can only assume was neglected from the media because they didn’t accept stories coming from Iraq that didn’t involve people being murdered aimlessly by suicide bombers. While a peaceful protest movement aimed to some degree at the liberalisation of the Iraqi political sphere was a great positive for the political landscape there, from very early on the movement become somewhat bogged down in Sectarian divisions with much of the protesting being carried out by the Sunni minority who felt (legitimately) that they had been marginalised by the Shia-Kurdish alliance in government. The main area in which these protests took part was also the predominantly Sunni areas west of Baghdad (Sunni Triangle for those who feel the need to use US army terms at all times) and so what I feel that we can observe in the case of Iraq is a genuine movement for political reform like in all of the other Arab Spring protests which was subverted by sectarian causes much the same as in Syria. Of course that being said one thing that Syria had in its favour before the start of its respective uprising was that it had enjoyed peace within its own borders since the Hama uprising in 1982 whereas Iraq has pretty much literally been torn apart by the sectarian divisions created after the ousting of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Iraq like the other two countries I have already discussed has been closely connected with Syria in a number of ways since the beginning of the crisis in 2011 such as hosting a large number of refugees who in a bizarre twist of fate decided that they were indeed safer in Iraq were they had fled from in 2003 than they were in Syria in 2011. Another way in which the countries were closely interlinked was that it was reported that amongst the more hard line Islamist elements fighting in Syria were many of the same who had terrorized large swathes of the Iraqi population previously.  Alongside the training that Iraq had provided them with into how to effectively terrorize civilian populations it is also probable that it provided them with a lot of military equipment and perhaps most importantly of all it provided them with a safe haven in the form of the Syrian-Iraqi Desert, a rather inhospitable area which due to the climate is policed A) ineffectively or B) not at all (you choose). This border region will be one of the key factors that could drag Iraq into civil conflict as it has been used once before as a base of resupply for insurgency movements desperate to avoid being traced and it is likely that if its not already being used by Rebels in Syria then it will be soon enough. A further reason I believe that Iraq is standing atop a dangerous precipice at this moment in time with it looking increasingly likely to follow Syria’s example is that much like in the case of Syria in 2011,  prolonged peaceful protests have unfortunately not resulted in any massive changes to the system in Iraq and so violence will come to look more and more like the only solution to the problem. There has been a spike in the last month or so in the number of suicide bombings throughout the country and according to an article published in The Indepedent written by their Iraq specialist Patrick Cockburn some Iraqis believe their civil war has already started. whether that is true or not, the likely scenario is that the porous border between the  current sectarian hell-hole that is Syria and the  recovering sectarian hell-hole that is Iraq will only lead to more blood being spilt. Iraq is probably level with Lebanon in terms of the likelihood that it will become a theatre of the Syrian civil conflict but because of its past experiences you have been warned that what you can expect will be a hell of a lot uglier than the worst of Syria’s fight so far.

Rationalism over nationalism

The illustrious Dr Johnson once uttered the words “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”. While it is true that the context of the whole conversation was never recorded so the meaning of Dr Johnson’s quote is uncertain, we can take him at his word which is what I fully intend to do in this weeks update. I intend in the coming paragraphs to show why I have struggled in the past to buy into nationalism and further, to argue that we might all be better served if we gave up on nationalism in favour of the far more sound ideal of rationalism.

I’m not sure at what point in my life I realised I was deeply troubled with the idea of buying into a nation and giving said concept my unwavering support. I admit to having attended international sporting events or to watching them on TV in the past and feeling a shiver of the spine as a result of hearing my countries national anthem sung although reflecting on this I fear the spine tingling may have been more the result of hearing in excess of 60,000 people singing the same song which is an inherently powerful experience. The clue here was probably that the anthem is sung in a language I cannot speak or understand rendering the idea that I felt some connection with the lyrics nonsensical, and on further reflection I also imagine the subconscious effect of feeling the need to conform to the crowd behaviours has a tremendous impact. Besides sporting events I don’t ever really recall feeling much towards my nation, I never enjoyed dressing up like a twat to celebrate my countries patron saints day, for anyone who thinks im exaggerating on that front, see below ….

The point at which lampshades gained sentience.

The point at which lampshades gained sentience.

I also never remember feeling any great love for the history of my nation, everywhere else on earth seemed more interesting and less mundane frankly. All of the above being true, I do not remember at which point I decided I felt contempt for the farcical notion of national pride as opposed to the general uncertainty about the idea of a nation and feeling love for it that marked my childhood. I think perhaps the crux of this issue of mine revolves around my becoming aware of politics and realising that a lot of the people I lived around were firstly, just short of mollusc in the brain department and more importantly not a bunch of people that I planned to cling to in times of crisis or otherwise. It probably won’t come as any great surprise that the way in which I came to realise that I did not identify myself with the same notion of nationality as my peers was through hearing their constant boasting about the characteristics of their proud nation while concomitantly denigrating every other nationality on earth as lesser than their own. Considering the amount of times I heard someone accuse the entire Polish nation of being job thieves and petty criminals or heard another moron slander the entire “muslim” nation as terrorists I’m constantly in a state of shock that I ever left my ears attached to my head. Evidently the more time waxing about the greatness of ones own nation the less time spent realising that history is very rarely as compartmentalised as the most ardent nationalists would have us believe.

I think my main bone of contention with the whole idea of nationalism is that I understand how arbitrary the notion of a nation is and I cannot bring myself to identify with other people purely because of arbitrarily drawn lines on a map. I share the same chemical make-up and basic DNA structure with every other human being on this earth right now so I cannot comprehend why I should feel a greater deal of affinity with people spread throughout my country than I do with the rest of humanity. If nationalism was more focussed on conceivable and smaller spaces then perhaps yes I could bring myself to feel that I do hold more in common with my locality than I do in difference with them. Of course this is not the case with nations often constituting gigantic areas of space with hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, living within them and still the myth is continually perpetuated that it is normal to feel affinity with someone who lives hundreds of miles away but within the same border yet unnatural to feel that self same affinity with some one who lives ten miles away on the other side of a line haphazardly drawn on maps at some point in the last 300 years. In summary my central problem with the idea of a nation is that is based on nothing but baseless presumption.

All of the above having been said it is not for me to attempt to force my lack of affinity for national compatriots on other people. On the other hand, the beliefs I do intend to force on other people is that if they feel the need to define themselves according to the lines drawn on a map around them then they need to start facing up to the ugly realities of what people living in amongst those squiggly lines have done in the past as well as championing the good things that originating from their nation. Just to demonstrate that there are two sides to everything, including the legacy of any particular nation I’m going to play a little game now. I’m going to pick some countries whose history I understand fairly well  and offer one aspect of that countries history as championed by nationalists from that country and counter balance this with some of the more negative parts of that countries legacy:

Mexico

Positive – The birth control pill.

Negative – The complete state of lawlessness that now  grips large parts of mexico as a result of the drugs trafficking to the USA which takes place there.

USA

Positive – Arguably the worlds first and most thriving representative democracy.

Negative – The invention and use of the Atom bomb on civilian populations to cause the capitulation of Imperial Japan.

China

Positive – Compasses.

Negative – Rampant over-population which is drastically increasing strain on the worlds environments.

Germany

Positive – Sellotape aiding countless housewives and office monkeys in their day to day dealings

Negative – The Nazi party which went on from a bit of internal repression to starting the worst war in History

UK

Positive – Association football, the worlds greatest sport

Negative – the Bengal famine, The Irish Famine, The Ethnic cleansing of Nova Scotia, The creation of the majority of the Middle-East’s client kingdoms borders and hold on power and last but not not least ….

Gove most Sad

Michael Gove

I’m not saying that the UK is worse than any other country I mentioned, I simply feel the need to draw attention to more of the negatives associated with my country as it is myths about how amazing Great Britain is that I have to listen to on a daily basis. We can see here from my little exercise above that for every positive aspect of a countries there is an equal and opposite negative aspect to the legacy that if you feel national pride by rights you have to accept. Ultimately I cant force my views onto people much as I might try but I can suggest after this brief discussion on the topic of nationalism that we would all be served better by adopting a far more rational approach to how we view history and arbitrary borders than seems to be the norm now.

Houses of history and the irresistible march of progress

Much has already been speculatively said about the revolution that will begin when 3D printing migrates from being a niche hobby to a mainstream practice. The commentaries discussing it often focus on the industrial and legal ramifications of this innovation being as it has every potential to sound the death knell of traditional industry, doing away with mass production and ushering in a host of political changes. It is undeniable that however wide the scope of uptake of 3D printing is that it will have massive repercussions that will echo throughout history much like the printing press before it. Although it is arguable that an unhealthy amount of the discussion of the potential of this technology has focussed on its predicted impacts on consumerism to the detriment of the other likely ramifications. In this post I will attempt in my own way to remedy this by discussing a potential usage of the technology that I feel could one day dramatically alter the way we engage with our culture and history as a species for good.

To begin with I will attempt to offer the briefest and least jargon heavy explanation of the fundamental principles of 3D printing possible. The reason I aim to do so is as much for my own benefit as the readers, the tendencies of  the tech and science communities to assume that the general public get the same thrill from technical terms as they do is one of its biggest PR failings and will only serve to hamper the growth of this revolution in coming years. Perhaps the best summary of 3D printing I found while researching this post was written by Spencer Thompson at The Guardian in an article discussing the need for regulators of all forms to be wary of measures that could strangle off this industry in its birth if not careful, the article in its entirety can be found here. When discussing the technology Thompson had this to say in summary:

“what is 3D printing exactly, and why should we be so excited about it? It allows people to download designs from the internet and turn them into physical objects, building them up layer by layer. Enthusiasts are already making dollsguitars and – more sinisterly – perhaps even guns, and the technology is advancing all the time. Recent advances mean you can now 3D print in metal and bio-materials, prompting some aerospace and medical firms to make specialised parts with them. This list of uses will only keep growing.”

This summary perfectly highlights both the promise and the threat that is inherent in this technology although again the focus tends towards industrial ramifications at the expense of other possible ramifications. Before I begin my own discussion of the possible effect 3D printing may have on the consumption and recording of human history and culture I will say a little more about the technical process that it entails so as to make clear for the reader how this industry differs from traditional industrial processes and why it is that 3D printing is so revolutionary.

Taking the basic description of 3D printing from Wikipedia as my start point, the difference the entry offers between traditional industry is that the traditional model is reliant “on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (subtractive processes)” . The 3D printing industrial method however “is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes” according to digital template.  It is this very critical difference between additive processes and subtractive processes that is reason that it is such a revolutionary idea. Traditional industry  with its subtractive process is by definition wasteful as it takes a certain amount of any given substance and from this crafts a product discarding what is left over. Even in cases where the discarded material can be used for other means it can only be used a certain amount of times in a highly specific number of ways. The technical aspect of 3D printing that makes it so as revolutionary as Gutenberg’s printing press is that it is an additive process meaning that it only ever uses the necessary amount of material to make things which in a world increasingly aware of its own limited resources is truly ground-breaking.

That this process will come to thoroughly alter the world in which we live is not a contention that I am willing or plan to argue with, as to do so would be utterly futile. Make no mistake about it – this technology will have political ramifications equal in nature to the printing press which similarly challenged the monopolies that certain aspects of European society enjoyed before its introduction. The effects on traditional industry and specifically the power and wealth of the owners of big industry are likely to be drastic, and unlike the printing press which challenged only small albeit powerful aspects of society, 3D printing will affect the whole world in a way that few existing technologies have or ever will.

That is as long as they aren’t simply used just to make bongs for video game fans.

To grasp the scale of how revolutionising the effect of the technology might be in years to come lets conduct a little experiment. Look around the room you sit in while you read this post and count the number of truly unique items in it, the likelihood is that almost everything in that room was mass-produced and that the unique items number so few that they can be counted purely with fingers. As a process for all its positives in terms of personal economy mass production is a process which clearly favours the rich and powerful in society who can afford to build consumer goods on an assembly line at the expense of artisans in every field in every community who may now finally see a chance to produce unique goods which aid them to pay taxes and directly benefit localised economies more than corporations ever could.

This post not sponsored by Nike.

This post not sponsored by Nike.

This being true however does not change the fact that too much of the dialogue on 3D printing focusses too heavily on the industrial and economical implications of its widespread adoption. The aim of this post is to argue that one use I recently thought of for 3D printing could have equally tremendous implications for educational and cultural reasons. The title gave a small clue as to the brain wave which overwhelmed me recently much as moments of seemingly divine inspiration are wont to do.

Museums, they’re one of my favourite places to visit whenever I have the opportunity.  I’ve been fortunate enough to travel in my years on earth and central to every trip that has had a inalterable impact on me as a person was a visit to a museum which in some distinct way changed my view of the world that I held before entering the building. From Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, a late Roman church turned mosque turned museum which is arguably the world’s most beautiful ugly building to London’s Natural History Museum which in no small part caused my obsession with dinosaurs that devoured whole days of my childhood at a time – museums have had a irretractable impact on me as a person. How positive this impact has been on my personality of course is open to interpretation, however one concrete notion that I take from the influence museums have had on me as person, that I feel is inherently positive, is that I have a great love of and appreciation for history and why it is worth studying.

All of my above feelings on the topic of museums being true, I do at the same time recognize some issues with museums that trouble me greatly. These conflicting emotions lead me to see a way in which 3D printing could potentially be utilised to serve cultural and educational purposes and solve the flaws of museums as we conceive of them. I’ll begin this section of today’s update by firmly establishing what I feel the main flaws of museums are before moving onto a discussion of how 3D printing could be used to alleviate these issues.

The first issue that I have with museums is that for all their appeal I feel that they still retain a somewhat elitist air about themselves as institution that stems from their history often as the pet projects of rich philanthropists. That the appeal of museums is one that offers more to the upper and middle segments of economic and class groupings ultimately works for museums as an institution with such patrons able to pay or donate towards the upkeep of such facilities.  But let us not forget that in reality business is more often than not a reciprocal relationship rather than unidirectional and so even if museums “work” as a business when viewed from their own perspective this is not reason enough to protect the status quo. If the stated aim of a museum is to inform and educate society then what value is an institution that exclusively informs patrons who in all reality have the finances to be able to educate themselves independently while neglecting the class of people who due to economic circumstance would otherwise be unable to do so. Even in cases such as like here in the UK were entry to the largest and most popular museums is free there are still barriers to entry that hamper people in lower classes from accessing museums. One of the major barriers to entry is the location of many popular museums with world class collections which are often in national capitals meaning that travel and perhaps accommodation are requirements to visit them, again only serving to price out those who might gain the most from a visit to such sites. One way in which museums in the past have attempted to meet this challenge head on is by having travelling collections often arranged around a theme which move from museum to museum in order to allow more people the chance to see their artefacts although despite perhaps the best of intentions such travelling collections rarely make it to regional museums and instead simply rotate around world capitals.

The other problem I have with museums, specifically here in Britain, is their hoarding of artefacts which once perhaps were in danger of damage or destruction to lack of care or civil strife in their country of origin but no longer are. The main culprit which springs to mind in typing that last sentence is the British Museum which contains numerous artefacts that arguably can safely be returned to other countries museums and whose hoarding is so in spite of any notion of decency actually has been detrimental to international relations between Britain and various other countries. Examples of artefacts which are housed in the British museum that have been requested for repatriation include the Elgin Marbles (Greece), Rosetta Stone (Egypt), Benin Bronzes (Nigeria) and statues from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (Turkey). The supposedly enlightened thinking of saving such artefacts from destruction may have once been true but they ring false in the modern day and age.

Greece wants these back even though only one has got a head ...

Greece wants these back even though only one has got a head …

Now that I’ve established what I feel the flaws of museums are I will now offer what I see as one possible and fairly simple alternative to their current behaviour that would incorporate 3D printing and remedy these issues – printing duplicates of existing artefacts. By scanning the dimensions of existing artefacts into data form and then printing these and perhaps painting them to make them completely identical to the original artefacts museums could solve their two biggest flaws by allowing museums and perhaps even schools and universities too all over the world to own copies of the most important cultural and historical items from human history which in turn helps by freeing up the original artefacts up for repatriation to the national museums of the countries they originate from. By utilising 3D printing to catalogue and recreate historical artefacts museums would truly democratise the experience by allowing far greater swathes of humanity access to its history, fulfilling to a much greater degree their aim to educate people in the illustrious history of mankind. Some may argue that because the duplicates are exactly that – duplicates – that they would hold no appeal, my counter argument is that when you view items in a museum the history of the item itself is actually a very secondary quality. The more important quality the item possesses by far is that it is a representation of mankind’s evolution as a species and ultimately copying the item retains the items value as a representation of mankind’s progress being as the original item is only ever a representation of such an idea and therefore is a perfectly worthwhile act in my mind.

Even if you are vehemently antagonistic to my ideas as I have worded them above then please consider another scenario which I feel couldn’t fail to win you over. 2000 years from now the earth is literally ending as a result of mankind’s utter disregard for its environment although humanity is safe as we have finally mastered interplanetary travel. In this situation in an attempt to preserve the most important elements of human history are we really to load rockets with the contents of the world museums knowing how much fuel it takes to lift just 1KG into orbit or might we benefit from carrying simply the scanned data of the worlds museums on a hard-drive  and then printing them upon arrival.

Hardly classifiable as carry-on luggage is it ?

Hardly classifiable as carry-on luggage is it ?

However we feel about the idea of duplicating historical artefacts we can surely see at this juncture that we have at hand in this precise moment in history a technology which will aid in the fight to preserve and protect human history as museums have strived to do in more recent years and I fear we would be foolish to dismiss it out of hand without seriously considering the rewards to reaped from its utilisation.