“The Fog of War” five lessons from Robert Macnamra

Five Lessons

note: These comments are for WWII inclusive




“Belief and seeing are both often wrong.”

            Agree. They are always wrong; the real difference comes from perspective.


“Proportionality should be a guideline in war”

            Disagree. In order to win, it may be necessary to destroy the enemy’s moral and this may not be possible to do with a proportional guideline.


“Rationality will not save us”

            Agree. The smartest most intelligent calmest person will be completely irrational under the right circumstances.


“Emphasize with your enemy”

            On the Fence.  On a policy level, empathy should play a part. Once a war is in progress, however, empathy may cause hesitation to inflict the necessary damages.


“Maximize efficiency”

            Disagree. Historically efficiency causes many side effects and by-products. In war we may call these collateral damage or unnecessary civilian deaths.

World Finance

I’m very tired of everyone trying to explain what is going on in the global economy. To which everybody else simply responds “Well if you know what is happening, then fix it!”.  This doesn’t seem like the best way to approach the problem. If consumers could help in some way (other than not taking out bad loans) then we should tell them what to do, otherwise keep the mob in the dark. The more the average person knows, the less they understand, and the more they panic. A person can be rational, reasonable, and capable of not acting like a fool.  People on the other hand are crazy, irrational and prone to stampedes.

Money doesn’t exist, it’s just one way to measure value.

Fahrenheit WWII 2002

Fahrenheit WWII                                        






















   There is no construction without destruction—Chairman Mao


The elements that can provide a satisfactory explanation of the actions exhibited by the police force in Ordinary Men and those of the Red Guards are strong deeply rooted motivations.  It is important to understand both the mindset of these killers as well as the process by which they acquired what we might call extreme moral flexibility, followed by the most extreme violent actions.  Through propaganda, appealing ideals, and force, Hitler and Mao made themselves into subjects of worship.  These cults of personality[1], accompanied by legitimate promises of economic prosperity were one of the most important aspects of the eventually large-scale brainwashing success.  The historical legacy of the two countries is also significant because the history and cultural myths of China and Germany were used very efficiently to influence the people who would follow the causes.  Going even deeper into the possible explanations for the actions that to most seem inexplicable, the most primal instincts of human beings cannot be discounted.  In terms of human evolution, it is only recently that man has evolved from the hunter.  This is to say that not long ago humans had to kill animals in order to eat and in order to protect themselves.  Most people to not have qualms about killing an animal if it serves a purpose and so by dehumanizing the Jews or presenting nationalists in China as a life threatening force, Hitler and Mao were playing on some of the most basic human instincts.  Germany and China created a receptive audience and using propaganda and force; controlled this audience, but more importantly controlled people by using their almost subconscious desires and fears to create a group of people who were capable and in most cases willing to commit genocide.

          There were two main ideological differences in the propaganda put out by Germany and China.  Germany romanticized the past in order to create a sense of unity among the Christian Germans and to put the blame for present problems on the impurity represented most clearly by the Jews.  China took the opposite position by presenting the old world as corrupt and unequal while presenting the revolution as the solution to the problems caused by this old system.

          China used highly effective propaganda in the form of “Big Character” posters and “Quotations from Mao” to give impressionable students a goal they could believe in and fight for.  The first important and even sensible idiom is that everyone must have faith in the Party in order for the revolution to succeed.[2]  This is a normal expectation as a component of success in any government, that the party in power should have the people’s support.  The rhetoric that follows this stipulation, however, leaves no room for dissent.  Mao states that “Classes struggle, some classes triumph, others are Eliminated” and it is also made clear that people who do not support the party are the class to be eliminated.  This no doubt instilled a great fear in many people but for those who would become Red Guards, it was a rallying call.

          The most significant part of the Chinese brainwashing program was the “cult of personality” created by and around Chairman Mao himself. An important step in creating the cult of personality was the destruction of religion because there were idols that could compete with Mao.  The chairmen wanted the people of China to worship him so as to have complete control over mind and body without any interference.  This image of Mao as the great leader and even savior was carefully created and was not restrained by any dissenting realities.  Chairman Mao wanted to be the inspiration and the leader, more like Lenin than Stalin.[3]  Like President Bush’s town meetings, the Audiences for events where Mao appeared was carefully chosen so that the most enthusiastic crowd possible could be shown to the rest of the country.

          The appearance more than the actions of the chairman was used to demonstrate his devout following. Like President Bush’s town meetings, the audiences for events where Mao appeared were carefully chosen so that the most enthusiastic crowd possible could be shown to the rest of the country. As the most impressionable demographic was indoctrinated, a threat to the party was a threat to Mao which was in essence a threat to one’s survival. Mao became, in the eyes of the Red Guards, so important, that for him or the party to fail would be like the death of the nation created in part by these Red Guards.  If the revolution failed then the class to which the Red Guards belonged would be the one eliminated.  This perceived threat, along with the support for the Red Guards, created a group that projected their fears and even petty resentments on others with little provocation[4].

          Examining the motivations behind the police in Ordinary Men is much more difficult for three main reasons; the atrocities were carried out during wartime, there is little exposure of anti Jewish propaganda and the police being interrogated do not give many clues as to their mindset.  Nonetheless it is clear that for centuries in Europe there was an open and widespread hatred of the Jews.  Hitler and his propaganda crew capitalized on this existing animosity by presenting the Jews as not only as the enemy in the war but also as subhuman beings.

No one should believe that the large majority of Battalion 101 was simply following orders in wartime, that they were “political and moral Eunuchs”[5] and had no personal philosophies regarding the extermination of Jewish civilians.  Using more direct methods than the Chinese, the German government complimented military training with “Ideological Education” which reinforced the necessity of the extermination and the Jews’ status as subhuman.[6]  These ideas however dully presented (opinion Browning), were repeated every week and seemed to be aimed at destroying any mercy on the part of the enforcers.  Words like “soulless” were used to describe the Jews in the course of education and it was also made clear that they had started the war with Germany and so put them ideologically on the level of a pack of scavenging dogs.[7]

When the time to kill came around, Battalion 101 used their education by further dehumanizing their victims.  The Jews were shaved and stripped so their appearance could more conform to the picture painted by such informative lectures like “Maintaining the purity of German blood”.[8]  These measure were an unconscious effort on the part of the Germans to ease the moral strain that one might expect when murdering large numbers of innocent people.  The Jewish populations were transformed from normal Europeans into a uniform, naked enemy, so that looking at them would prevent the Battalion from identifying with their victims and thus being unable to carry out their orders.  This idea of aesthetic brainwashing is shown clearly in many of the cases where the police refuse to kill as ordered.  A member of Battalion 101 might not kill, at least personally, someone who came from the same hometown or who had worked for the policeman.

          The men of Battalion 101 and the youths of the Red Guards did what they consciously believed was their duty. There were so many strong and approved justifications for the atrocities they committed so as to virtually eliminate dissention even without punishment.  The German police were not disciplined for refusal to take part in genocide and the youths of China did not have to join the militant Red Guards.  Peer pressure no doubt played a part in the execution of these acts but is in reality a background motivation because in the end the actions of others can not erase one’s own moral standing.  Using different but both highly effective methods of indoctrination, Nazi Germany and Communist China influenced certain people to the extent that they abandoned original thought with regards to the humanity of their fellow man.

Word count 1417


















[1] Cheek p.206

[2] Cheek p.173

[3] Cheek p.206

[4] Cheek p.210

[5] Browning p.150

[6] Browning p.177

[7] Browning p.179

[8] Browning p.177

Empire and Nationhood by Heiss–2003

Empire and Nationhood                       


The sources used by Mary Ann Heiss in Empire and Nationhood are successful in providing credible background for her statements regarding  British and American sentiments during the Iranian Oil dispute. The lack of sources from Iran means that it is a largely a two, instead of three sided account of the events.  She creates a detailed picture of the negotiations from a western viewpoint using largely the correspondences of Great Britain and the United States while the viewpoint of the Iranians is pieced together from secondary sources and public announcements.  The cultural bias of the western representatives is commented on, so although there is a record of Iranian negotiations, they are biased and often indignant descriptions by diplomats.

          The overview of the Anglo-Iranian Oil crisis draws on many secondary works and a few books or articles written by people involved or living in Iran at the time.  The secondary works are for the most part written by western historians whose titles do not suggest an evenly balanced perspective.  For example the official history of the British Petroleum Company is cited a few times and many of the books are primarily concerned with the cold war.  Iran was certainly important in the cold war but focusing on it might tend to show the perspectives of those fighting the war rather than that of Iran, which was a chess piece in the games being played between the US and the USSR.

          The sources that contribute to the descriptions of the strained relations leading up to the rise of the nationalization movement and the rise of Mossadeq are a mix of British and American correspondences and books concerning the rise of Mossadeq and the political situation in Iran before him.  This chapter, “too little too late” shows the greatest balance between eastern and western sources used.  The difference is that the sources from the Middle Eastern perspective are written long after the events took place while correspondence on the part of the western diplomats give a more accurate sense of the feeling at the time.  Authors whose names indicate Middle Eastern heritage are significant because they are referenced sparingly once Mossadeq is prime minister.  This may have something to do with the secrecy Mossadeq afforded himself once in office.  Also, the remainder of the book is largely an account of the negotiations between Mossadeq and representatives of England and the US.  This means that presently we can look at the negotiations because there is a record of the internal consultations on the western end but we do not know the full extent of the pressure and constraints put on Mossadeq by political entities and public opinion.  A dispatch from the state department to someone involved with debating Mossadeq on a key point shows the reasoning behind the American position while the reasoning behind the Iranian posture can only be guessed at.

          Another reason for the one sidedness of the documentation is that for the most part, it was a Prime Minister talking to a diplomat who is already biased against the PM. Mossadeq had the power to make concessions so the political motivations behind his actions have to be derived from the situation in Iran.  We have such a good record of the western motivations because American and British agents were constantly conferring with each other and their respective governments.  It is unlikely that Mossadeq communicated with his advisors in writing and probably kept the details of his situation secret.

          An important factor with regard to documentation that is not discussed in the book is the fact the Tehran at this time was chock full of spies.  Channels of communication are never one hundred percent secure so information that was considered sensitive would be unlikely to be sent by telegraph for example.  The author demonstrates the general fears of the US with regard to soviet interactions in Iran, but the specific threats, real or perceived, are not revealed.  The author mentions documents relating to the MI-6 and CIA inspired coup that are withheld but only touches upon why the US thought the USSR would automatically take power in Iran if the economy were to fail.  There is certainly logic behind the containment policy in Iran but because there is little mention of popular Iranian sentiment regarding communism aside from the actions of the Tudeh party, the policy seems to stem mainly from American paranoia.

          The only primary sources that voice the position of Iran are the Correspondences between his/her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the Persian government, and related documents (concerning the oil Industry in Persia, February 1951 to September 1951) (Concerning the joint Anglo-American proposal for a settlement of the oil dispute, August 1952 to October 1952)  The problem with these sources is that they were most likely documents that could be made public and were, if it suited a political aim.  Most of the negotiations were done without the public knowledge or proposals were made informally at first with the reaction often eliminating the need to present them formally.  What we can see in these formal documents are the last ditch efforts by Briton to save face by standing behind proposals they knew would be rejected.

          It is clear that the United States was integral in the dispute between the Iranian Government, the AIOC and the British Government but the records taken from the national Archives verses the ones taken from the Public Record Office show that the available American records are more concise and therefore less accurate.  The documents from the Public Record Office in England include minutes, memorandums and other immediate sources.  These kinds of sources, if unaltered, are likely to be the most accurate and the most revealing.  The record of the Secretary of Defense should in contrast be far less revealing and is certainly not cited as frequently as the Foreign Office correspondence.  These American sources are not likely to contain information that could be considered inflammatory.  That is to say that the United States would not be likely to make information public that could add to the hatred of the US by Iran.

          The author does a satisfactory job of filling in the blanks created by the lack of Iranian primary sources.  She gives a reasonable assessment of the political situation in Iran based on western perceptions that were probably fairly accurate because of the strategic concerns in Iran.  The memoirs of Mossadeq may have helped to explain some of the pressures he faced in Iran but even a person’s memory of their own actions cannot be trusted as fact.  While the author does not attempt to analyze individual Iranian sentiment for lack of material, it would seems possible to find a primary source written by an Iranian who was not Mossadeq or the Shah.  She does a good job showing the shift from British to American domination of the Iranian oil as well as their reactions to the nationalist movement.










Review Bibiography


International History Review v. 21 no. 4 (Dec. 1999). Mejcher, Helmut, reviewerhttp://metaquest.bc.edu:4000/sfx_local?sid=HWW:ACIT&genre=article&pid=%3Can%3E199901501686015%3C%2Fan%3E&aulast=Amuzegar&aufirst=Jahangir&issn=0026-3141&title=The+Middle+East+Journal&stitle=Middle+East+J&atitle=Empire+and+nationhood+(Book+Review)&volume=53&issue=1&spage=138&epage=140&date=1999&ssn=winter—There was an error with the Factiva server when I tried to print this review before class but I had read it with the paper.

Diplomatic History v. 23 no. 3 (Summ 1999). Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs, reviewer. http://www.blackwellsynergy.com/openurl?genre=article&issn=0145-2096&date=1999&volume=23&issue=3&spage=559




Effects of colonialism upon Native Americans–1997

Effects of colonialism upon Native Americans


The question of intrusiveness by European powers upon newly “discovered” Native Americans is not a question of which colonial style did or didn’t damage the lands they stumbled upon, but who comparatively was the most harmful.  Focusing on Spain, England, and France will show how deep the impacts of colonialism were.  For example, one of these three countries’ languages is spoken in the majority of North and South America.  Limiting the time frame to the beginning of the colonial period, Spain emerges as the most violent, opportunistic, and ultimately harmful power to colonize the Americas.  They accomplished this feat by utilizing all the assets of found land, particularly free labor.  England used methods that were initially less intrusive on Native American communities and the bulk of genocidal behavior in North America was committed by the United States at a later point.  France was the least intrusive of the three because they sought the consent of natives before declaring them subjects of the French crown.  The free, undeveloped lands of the Americas were ravaged by many nations in the period followed their revelation to Europe, but none was more savage in their domination than the Spaniards.

          England pursued the technique of sending people to settle on new lands and the idea of living in a place as supposed to ruling in a place made English settlers initially the least intrusive. This is not to say that the English had great respect for Native Americans and wanted to live side by side in a diverse community, rather they just didn’t view the indigenous people as conquered.  English settlers established authority the same way their lords had done, by making fences and planting gardens.  This concept is common to all the colonial powers because all “These historic cultural assumptions stemmed from three fundamental things: ‘everyday life’, a common colloquial language, and a shared legal code”.[1]  These three things are important in understanding the way in which different countries behaved in the new world and the subsequent impact on the native population.

          The building of a settlement, starting with a house, was the first and most important thing English settlers did when coming to a new land.  Communication with the natives and acquisition of resources always came second.  Establishing what was meant to be a permanent object, such as a house, showed a clear “intent to remain”[2] that communicated to the natives the intentions of the English.  The Native Americans could have seen these acts as a non-violent encroachment of territory but one that didn’t set off any alarm bells.  With the large amount of uninhabited land in North America, the natives might have foreseen a peaceful cohabitation.  This peaceful cohabitation was not an English aim, but served to pacify the indigenous people and block their knowledge of the inevitable.  The English house in the new world gained both a strong foothold and a delay of real communication with the natives.

          The English system of acquiring ownership of land is the first example of native subjugation and sets a trend whereby a large settlement can be established without force being immediately necessary.  Following the age old laws established in England during enclosure which stated that “when property was not fenced voluntarily, local and even royal officials demanded that English settlers put up fences”[3], and so colonists were quick to demonstrate ownership over specific tracks of land.  The other way English colonists showed ownership was by using the land they claimed for planting a garden or crops.  This was particularly important because becoming self-sufficient by providing their own food relinquished any dependence on native peoples.  It was then very simple to plant settlers and watch them grow over the land.  The garden was therefore a perfect metaphor for the English, not only because they as a people were enamored with it, but also because it reflected their style of conquest perfectly.  Once this “planting” began, the detrimental effects on the native people became more evident.  Indigenous lands became a part of England and because the English did not recognize any Native American claim to land, the natives had to move to accommodate the settlers, or try and fight for their land.  Given the technological advancements of the English over the natives, it was often the former option they pursued.

          The French took possession of unencountered land with the aid of an alliance with indigenous people, whether the natives were aware of it or not.  French colonists decided that it would be good for the crown, Christendom, and the natives themselves if the natives would respond favorably to a French declaration of dominion.  To this end “French speeches persuaded the natives whose emotional responses clearly registered approval”[4].  This “approval” could really have been any numbers of emotions on the part of the natives.  The French came in with lots of pomp and gifts, threw a party, and then proclaimed that the general good mood existed because French rule had begun.  All this was simply a way to legitimize colonialism because of course there was no way for the natives to understand any of the French speeches.  The assumption of an alliance with the natives was very harmful to the natives simply because they had no idea they were now subjects to a new king and also a new religion.  The only thing natives knew was that there were new and silly looking people in town, creating a dangerous atmosphere as the French started to rule their new “subjects”.  Seeking “at least the appearance of approval for their political authority in the new world”[5] was an act staged for the benefit of rulers in France as supposed to one for the benefit of Native Americans.

          The intricate processions and ceremonies the French undertook in a new land were necessary for the French to be legitimate, but did nothing for the indigenous people, save putting on a good show.  The ceremonies were put on for the same reason the English made fences, because that is what everyone did in France.  Processions of prestigious people in France were important in “creating and cementing the political power of French monarchs (among others)”[6].  This carried over to the mentality of colonists who had to first show their authority before exercising it.  The problem again was the language barrier between colonists and natives, making the French ceremonies useless as a declaration of power and dominion, except in their own minds.  In fact the ceremonies could only have added to confusion and misinterpretations, however impressive.

          Spain was the most destructive influence on the natives they encountered because they “created a fully ritualized protocol for declaring war against indigenous peoples”[7].  Instead of a slow encroachment on native territory or a formalized agreement with them, the Spanish stated bluntly that the land and the people themselves were subject to the rule of the Spanish crown and of the pope.  It was also made quite clear that failure to acknowledge Spanish authority would result in death and warfare.  Spain also had different aims than the French or English in that they wanted the native people to work for an increase in Spanish wealth. They were therefore more directly involved in changing the formerly peaceful lives of the people they encountered in the new world.

          The Requirement was a speech read to the indigenous population upon the arrival of Spanish explorers in unknown lands, expecting and enforcing a submission to Catholicism and the crown of Spain.  In this statement, it is expressed that the lands found were actually given to Spain by the pope and so the occupation and use of these lands was perfectly legitimate as long as the requirement was read to the people.[8]  The Requirement was most likely as confusing to the natives as the French speeches and processions were, but the consequences were much more severe for non-obedience.  An important idea in the requirement was that Catholicism was to be spread as well as the knowledge that the natives were now subjects of Spain.  This means that not just the way of living for the Native Americans had to be changed upon punishment of death, but also their way of thinking about the world.  Though the killing of Native Americans was no doubt harmful to their society, the change in ideals is even more harmful to a culture in the long run.  The Spanish did not force all natives to convert because this would hurt tribute incomes, as Catholics did not have to pay tribute.

          This tribute system was not only a strong incentive to conversion but was also “the economic basis of Spanish colonial rule over indigenous peoples of the new world”.[9]  Spain was the only colonial power to impose such a tax, as well as later requiring the natives to work for the conquistadores.  This shows a unique approach to the goal of all colonies; the greater acquisition of wealth for the home country.  This particular technique of immediate and forceful subservience to a new religion and country, taxes, and forced labor was almost as harmful as simply making everyone into Catholic slaves.  Thus Spain set out to make a fortune and if the people of the new world had a problem, they would simply be executed.

          The destructive impact of colonialism on Native Americans in North and South America was evident with all European incursions, none being more detrimental than the rule of the Spanish.  The misleadingly benign settlements of the English and the confusing ceremonies of the French certainly led to many native deaths and displacements, but the greatest change in indigenous culture as a whole came from the actions of Spain.  It is really the intent to change the natives’ way of thinking that was most harmful because even the initial deaths and servitude could be overcome and freedom could be returned, but the destruction of native beliefs and language is something that can not be fixed. 


[1] Seed p.4

[2] Seed p.18

[3] Seed p.21

[4] Seed p.43

[5] Seed p.62

[6] Seed p.50

[7] Seed p.70

[8] Seed p.69

[9] Seed p.82


                                      Hurl My Soul From Heaven



Heaven and Hell, along with words that represent one or both of them are used frequently throughout the play and have significance  because of their connection to the state of mind of the person who uses them.  Some important instances come from both Othello and Iago.  Iago uses contrasts like heaven and hell to push for his goals while Othello uses them to describe his own state of confusion.  Iago makes convincing arguments to several different people all to the ultimate end that is the destruction of Othello.  Othello himself often feels torn and confused by the suspicion planted by Iago and as his conflict grows, so does the way he expresses it.

 References to light and dark as representations of heaven and hell come up when a dark act is happening presently or has just passed.  Iago uses the light and dark, the base and noble to incite the greatest possible misery and to further his plans. The lines where he is telling Brabantio about his daughter and Othello again show his skill in pulling people’s emotions in the ways he wishes (p.13).  These lines are very carefully crafted to incite the greatest possible anger in Brabantio. The contrast between black and white gives Brabantio the struggle between heaven and hell and Iago also tells him that his daughter is in the process of losing the battle to the dark side.  Referring to Othello and Desdemona as animals expose the vulgarity and baseness of what they are doing, two things that would make any father angry if his daughter were involved.  This is not to say that all fathers are angry at the thought of their married daughters having sex, but the way Iago tells it, “An old Black ram is tupping your white ewe” brings a vulgarity that would not be there had Iago not wanted the phrase to have a shock value for Brabantio.[1] The lines are also meant to make Brabantio angry because they are insulting to his daughter as well as making her a victim.  Even though she is “white” and thus somewhat good, she is still referred to as a common dirty animal.  Judgment of Desdemona is implied in these lines and it is a hard judgment of someone who would copulate with an “old Black ram”.  Iago paints a picture of Desdemona that any father would be ashamed of, but since these acts are happening right now, he also gives Brabantio hope that he can stop his daughter.[2]

          Heaven and hell as metaphors are closely connected with the concept of baseness, which Iago also uses to aid his plans. Iago exemplifies this technique as he tries to break up Othello’s Marriage. p.127, act 3 sc 3 Ln. 150 Although he appears to be attempting to dismiss Othello’s inquiries, Iago’s language reveals he is actually trying to further Othello’s curiosity.[3]  Iago is warning Othello about the danger that may come if he does express his “vile and false”  thoughts. Ln.159. Calling the place where these thoughts don’t go a “palace” seems to be an effort to convince Othello not to listen.  He does not imply that such a “Palace” exists, but contends that not talking about such matters would be more pleasant.[4]  Iago compares the torment Othello would have to sitting in court where the “vile thoughts” of Iago would continuously run though his head.  However, Iago is actually making sure that Othello will hear him and be interested because with each assertion of the ideas’ foulness, Othello will only want to hear them more.

           For much of the play, Heaven and hell are invoked to push someone towards one or the other, but as Othello becomes more and more distraught about his suspicions, he brings the two extremes together to show the growing conflict in his mind. P.149.”All my fond love thus do I blow to heavan”Ln.505  Othello’s anger here is extreme as he shows the change in his heart from love to blind violent rage and puts this change on a much larger scale by giving up his old love to heaven and finding his new emotions in hell. He relinquishes his love to heaven and follows only with “Tis gone”. The statement is powerful because it stands alone in the stanza as a two word line in the middle of more regular ones[5] and also because it is such a simple statement and thus has a strong sense of finality to it.[6]  Othello then commands “Black Vengeance to take over his heart and rule it with “tyrannous rage”.  He commands these things to come out of “hollow hell” and because he has given up his heavenly love, this shows an about face from the light to the dark.  In the end Othello reveals that the plague has become a real poison overloading his “bosom” and heart. This contrasts with what he has been doing in the rest of the passage, where he has been almost actively trying to get his love out and the poison in.  This shows that he still wishes to be allied with heaven as supposed to hell, but is unable to do so because of the circumstances.  Othello’s change of heart is dramatic and although he has an active role in the change, he is still confused by the battle between his former heavenly love and the poison that is destroying it.

          Iago uses these two extremes very effectively to accomplish his goals while Othello’s references seem only to further confuse him.  Iago succeeds in getting Brabantio to rush furiously at Othello and also turns Othello on his own wife with the use of heaven and hell as tools for making an argument.  Othello talks about heaven and hell at first to describe his conflicting emotions about his wife’s suspected infidelity, but is still confused even after he has killed Desdemona. Looking at her dead body “this look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven”p.259, Othello is still unsure about his place in the cosmos as a result of the act he has just committed.  He is even further conflicted as his grief overflows with “O Desdemon! Dead, Desdemon! Dead! O, O!”p.259.  In the end, Othello’s descriptions of oscillating between the good end and the bad end reflect his madness very well because who could be sane moving from one extreme to another? 


[1] Catherine Brewster

[2] Catherine Brewster

[3] Ethna Riley

[4] Catherine Brewster

[5] Catherine Brewster

[6] Catherine Brewster

Conflict in Ireland–1995

                                      Conflict and Cultures    



The conflict in Ireland, while having many similarities with the current conflict in the Middle East, has a much better chance of coming to a peaceful solution.  The first and most prominent reason for this is the fact that the cultures in conflict in Ireland are very similar while the Israelis and the Palestinians are extremely different.  The animosity between the Protestants and the Catholics was probably very strong when England split from the Catholic church, but now seems to be more of a result of the conflict than a reason for fighting.  This is not to say that the Protestant/Catholic line is not the main battle line drawn by both sides, just that the closeness of the religions makes it easier to cooperate.  The Palestinians and the Israelis, however, have vastly different cultures with very distinct histories.  The conflict in Ireland is also centuries old, meaning that the native Irish people who were kicked out of their homes have been dead for hundreds of years.  Due to the closeness in culture and being neighbors for so long, the Irish Catholics and the Protestant English/ Irish are able to compromise better than in the Middle east where the battle lines are much more distinct.

          The Irish who were forcefully displaced by the English in the early 1600s were not put into refugee camps and that is not only a stronger base for grievance but also one that many Palestinians can still remember.[1]  By the time the Irish Catholics were strong enough to separate themselves, at least partly, from England, there was no suggestion or goal to kick all the Protestants out and move back onto the land their ancestors had been kicked out of hundreds of years ago.  The recent Irish Catholic grievances have more to do with being second-class citizens and under the thumb of England.  Both of these problems were much easier to approach because the Irish Catholics were asking for a lot less, in terms of what their enemies could gives them, than the Palestinians are fighting for.

          The Catholics and Protestants in Ireland have been living together for so long that despite the anger they have for each other, they have the same culture and much of the same history. “Ninety percent of what could probably be defined as culture is common in our society”—Eamonn McCain talking about the different cultures in Ireland[2]. Facing an enemy of the same religion, particularly in battles that involve civilians, does make a difference in how badly you view them and this in turn changes the way one would approach peace.  This is significant even if the only difference is that the IRA buries it’s dead in the same way the Loyalists do.  While the Israelis and the Palestinians do coexist in close proximity, their cultures and religions are very different.  “The Middle East is a mosaic of peoples, religions, languages, and cultures”[3], this is true even without Israel because the Middle East has so many independent countries and conflicting Muslim sects.

          There is a ceasefire in Ireland right now because two close cultures found a way to live in peace for now.  The war in the Middle East is escalating because the conflict is relatively new and the enemies are strangers.  At the present time the Palestinians do have stronger grievances and while Ireland was oppressed by England for much longer, the assimilation that happened made and end to the problem come a lot easier than it will in the Middle East.

[1] http:://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/facets.htm#chap2

[2] http:://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem//kerr.htm

[3] THE ISRAEL-ARAB READER. Yitzhak Shamir: Israel’s role in a changing Middle east. P.426

Freedom in Faith–1996

                                      Freedom in Faith


The version of freedom given by the Bhagavad Gita is based on the idea that true freedom can only come with hard work, sacrifice and prayer.  Learning to be disciplined is one of the most important steps in freeing oneself from the bonds of attachment.  To be disciplined, one must choose understanding over action, for “pitiful are the men drawn by fruits of action”.   “Disciplined by understanding”, one can attain the freedom that is escaping from the cycle of rebirth and “reaching a place beyond decay”.  Understanding as supposed to action is only one of the things that will lead to eternal freedom and must be combined with other ways of acting.

          To make one’s thoughts sure, they must get rid of desire and become indifferent to the urges that everyone else is controlled by.  When someone has given up attraction to pleasure, they can become “a sage whose thought is sure”.  The reason destroying cravings and attachment is so important is because “brooding about sensuous objects makes attachment to them grow; from attachment desire arises, from desire anger is born”.  Therefore, relinquishing attachment not only frees the mind from its worldly bond but also prevent anger and the loss of understanding that comes with it.  An important exercise in freeing oneself from desire is to deprive oneself of food. Approaching the world without desire and with discipline leads to serenity and eventually inner peace, something that seems akin to complete freedom of the mind.

          To become a man of discipline involves self-deprivation and perhaps even more importantly, meditation and devotion to Krishna.  “Perfect joy comes to the man of discipline” because he sees and loves his self and has his mind free of attachment and full of devotion to Krishna.  People are not free because the self is not free and is still attached to objects in the world.  Fortunately there is a method outlined in the Gita that can free the self from the bonds of worldly attachment that cause so much misery and false understanding.

          Jesus chooses man’s complete freedom over his eternal happiness because he values faith over blind obedience.  The Inquisitor, however, believes that men are “like sheep” and has “vanquished freedom and have done so to make men happy”.  The inquisitor makes the argument that the church is giving men what they want and need, something that Jesus denied them when Satan tempted him. Jesus is offered miracle, mystery, and authority by which to command the faith of man but he refuses all three in order to maintain freedom of faith.  Jesus could have fed all the people in the world but then they would have followed him only for the sake of food. He could have shown himself to be the Son of God by falling from a cliff and surviving, but then man would have followed him with blind faith based on a miracle.  He could have also ruled all the kingdoms of earth but would have had to bow to Satan.

          The inquisitor contests that Jesus is only offering salvation to the few and the multitude of weak people will never find salvation in heaven. He claims that people do not understand the freedom being given them and would be much better off with bread or being unified under a leader.  The inquisitor intends to take that which the devil offered Jesus and make the church rule the world and feed the people.  He is doing this because “nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and human society than freedom”.  The inquisitor states that man, in his freedom, is not happy and still desires bread, something to worship, and a ruler.  The church aims to give man all three in return for the worship and power given to the church.

          Jesus and the Gita are similar in that both attachment great importance to the freedom of faith.  The Gita telling one to abstain from food in order to become disciplined is akin to Jesus refusing to feed all the people of the earth in order to make them stronger and free. The inquisitor, on the other hand, is more concerned with the happiness of man on earth, because only a handful will actually gain access to heaven.




The characteristics of a Totalitarian system that make it possible for large groups of people to be first dehumanized and consequently slaughtered are the ones that replace a persons individual morality with the state’s. The first thing to note is how much the state could influence the individual’s personal ideas and beliefs. Belief in Stalin and the ideal communist society gave one the excuse that all these atrocities were for the greater good. This, and the fact that going against the grain was likely to get someone killed are the more superficial influences on the average person. Rational self-interest and belief in the communist system may explain why people asked to commit horrible acts did so, but does not explain why so many of the people committing these acts were almost unaffected by them. “This man who was responsible for one of the most devastating evils in the history of humanity stood before the court a profoundly mediocre, indeed common, human being” (Todorov p.124). Such is the case of Stalin’s close advisor whose wife was killed by Stalin while he said nothing and did nothing. Faith in the party and in its leaders does not by itself lead to the kind of mass abandonment of morality that ended in genocide during the Nazi and Soviet regimes.

The large-scale dehumanization under these regimes was made possible largely from the average person’s own morality being replaced by the morality of the state. The individual’s ideas about murder, betrayal, and sympathy are replaced by the values of the ruling party through fear of the enemy of the state and most importantly, a war mentality. The totalitarian view is obsessed with defending itself against the enemy, be it an internal or external one. The idea that “The obligation to destroy an internal enemy of the state, Eicke said, is in no way different from the obligation to kill your adversary on the battlefield” (Todorov p.127) makes the people of the state into soldiers and thus promotes the betrayal of anyone not totally on board with the system. This also erases any sympathy for the enemy, even if the enemy is in this case, a neighbor.

These “enemies” were further dehumanized by their confinement and treatment by the state, making it even easier for the individual to kill them or just turn a blind eye. One prominent moral idea that the state tried to eradicate from public consciousness was sympathy for the victims. This was done by promoting hardness and indifference through jokes about murder and cold pragmatic language about death, “Addressee relocated to the cemetery” (Glover p.259). The victims or what the state would probably call traitors were not just made into animals, but extremely dangerous ones. They were dangerous to the cause of attaining of the perfect communist society and they were most dangerous to anyone who helped them or even knew about them. Rational self-interest was what let people pretend not to see but it was the strongly imposed values of the state and the idea that the state was infallible that allowed people to turn a blind eye to the nature of their own actions.

my sixth grade report on WW1

The Cause of World War I:  Imperialism



      Imperialism was the main idea behind the conflict that was World War I. Imperialism in Europe was the mentality that most European powers held towards expansion. It consisted of holding colonies and spheres of influence in order to achieve economic and military dominance in the world. There was mounting tension in Europe because of the desperate scramble for land and dominance. The power in Europe was divided unequally between different countries, and everyone wanted something that someone else had; whether it be a large neighborÕs land or a small piece of land. This imperialist conquering led to stressful themes in the countries of Europe.


      Militarism was a direct result of imperialism. The equivalent of nationalism for ones country, militarism was the devotion to the military. The people believed that having a strong military was essential to being a strong country. The people wanted to expand their land, and because of this desire, they needed a strong military. Thus, if they wanted a strong country with land, they needed a glorified military power. The military power became great in the countries. They had many well trained soldiers that they mobilized to get ready if any of the other countries decided to attack. Because all of these countries had very strong armies that were all mobilized for war, there was a lot of tension on the lines of potential attack.


      Rival alliances were also a reaction to imperialism. When war and battles were a possibility over land disputes, many countries made alliances so that they would have support if war broke out. There were two main alliances: Italy, Germany and Austria, vs. France, Russia and Britain. Although Italy ended up fighting on the other side, these were still two very significant forces against each other. Because the group power of each individual country had increased, any small battle that broke out, would create a huge war involving many strong countries. Thus there was a lot of tension between the opposing sides.


      Considering there was so much tension between all of the countries in Europe , it was not a surprise that a major war broke out. The themes of imperialism, militarism and rival alliances were not new to the people of Europe, but the dynamic of militarism combined with the rival alliances of the countries, presented a combustible recipe for disaster. Because imperialism is an essential part to the success of a country, and it was that that caused militarism and rival alliances, World War I was not only inevitable, but was caused by a fundamental element of the countries themselves.