Thursday, October 6, 2011

Randolph Bourne: The War and The Intellectuals

Randolph Bourne was an American journalist. His article The War and The Intellectuals was published in a literary journal called The Seven Arts in June of 1917, a few months after the United States entered the war. In the article, Bourne wrote critically of the intellectual class and their backing of the war.  
 "If our intellectuals were going to lead the administration, they might conceivably have tried to find some way of securing peace by making neutrality effective. They might have turned their intellectual energy not to the problem of jockeying the nation into war, but to the problem of using our vast neutral power to attain democratic ends for the rest of the world and ourselves without the use of the malevolent technique of war. They might have failed. The point is that they scarcely tried."
Bourne felt that the intellectuals of the age should have tried harder to find a solution for the problems in Europe that wouldn't result in war. He thought that American neutrality should have been used to resolve the issues at the root of the war.
 "We go to war to save the world from subjugation! But the German intellectuals went to war to save their culture from barbarization! And the French went to war to save their beautiful France! And the English to save international honor! And Russia, most altruistic and self-sacrificing of all, to save a small State from destruction! Whence is our miraculous intuition of our moral spotlessness? Whence our confidence that history will not unravel huge economic and imperialist forces upon which our rationalizations float like bubbles?"
Bourne disagreed with the "reasons" that America went to war. He saw those reasons as rationalizations and excuses made by intellectuals who were not strong enough to stand up against the tide and push for the unpopular anti-war agenda. He did not think that those excuses would hold up under deeper scrutiny.
"The case of the intellectuals seems, therefore, only very speciously rational. They could have used their energy to force a just peace or at least to devise other means than war for carrying through American policy. They could have used their intellectual energy to ensure that our participation in the war meant the international order which they wish. Intellect was not so used. It was used to lead an apathetic nation into an irresponsible war, without guarantees from those belligerents whose cause we were saving."
Again, Bourne thought that the United States should not have entered the war. He thought that we should have used our distance and neutrality to bring about a peaceful resolution to the war. He did not think that the intellectuals effectively used their intelligence to diplomatically resolve the issues behind the war. 
"There seems no choice for the intellectual but to join the mass of acceptance. But again the terrible dilemma arises,  – either support what is going on, in which case you count for nothing because you are swallowed in the mass and great incalculable forces bear you on; or remain aloof, passively resistant, in which case you count for nothing because you are outside the machinery of reality."
 Bourne saw war not as a foregone conclusion, but something to be fought against relentlessly. He understood why so many intellectuals went along with the war. He saw that they thought fighting against it was hopeless and that being for the war would at least keep them free and from being persecuted. But still, he argued against it. He argued that war was not the solution, but the bigger problem. He was disappointed in American intellectuals for going along with the war and he fervently tried to dissuade them from that path.

Conscience and Compulsion John Dewey 1914

Dewey believed that the mixed feelings regarding the war were all due to the moral upbringing of the youth during the time. He believed the war to be necessary and inevitable, but also knew that the beliefs the youth were raised with lead to the confusion of the time.

Dewey goes on to say that it isn’t strange that thousands of the youth were perplexed and morally confused with the idea of war. The youth grew up surrounded by Pro-Peace ideals. The clergymen didn’t even discuss politics as it was so closely related with “the struggle for Economic power”. They were raised by parents that had strict ideals on war and taught those theories to the children, and as he states it was a “penalty” that was due to the upbringing and unusual moral emphasis that focused on the emotions and morals rather than the Specific purposes. War was a crime because of murder, and “The belief that by NOT doing something, by keeping out of war our responsibilities would be met.”

A quote that best explains and summarizes his overall idea is as follows….

…The denial of the efficiency of force, no matter how controlled, to modify disposition; in short the inveterate habit of separating ends from means and then identifying morals with ends thus emasculated…are the source of much of the perplexity of conscience from the idealistic youth has suffered.”

Dewey states lists some specific situations that lead to this moral hatred of war...

The bad aftertaste from the Spanish American War,

The Contentment generated by successful industrialism,

The General Humanitarianism,

The gradual substitution of calculating rationalism for the older romantic patriotism”

As per Dewey, “ all of these things and many more fell in with that general spirit of Good Will which is essential America, to create a sense of war as the Supreme Stupidity” . The youth of the time grew up with the ideals of war being a moral tragedy and looked at war with disgust. It seemed to be the murder “and murder of a peculiarly stupid sort”. This being said, of course the youth was confused on whether to join the war and be loyal to their country or if it was wrong to join the war, and go against their morals. As Dewey puts it “How could wrong so suddenly become right?” President Wilson was Illustrating war as something that was necessary in order to keep the peace. He made the war to be almost, Morally necessary. While on the other hand the youth were now being told to go against everything they were raised to believe was right. The youth were now being told that in order to have peace they need to go to war, and this idea was the most perplexing to them.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"The African Roots of War"

BY: W.E Burghardt DuBois

In the article, 'The African Roots of War' W.E. Burghardt DuBois explains the role that Africa played in causing World War. Many people saw Africa as this place so removed from World War but the Scramble for Africa was exactly what lead to war.

"Nearly every human empire that has arisen in the world, material and spiritual, has found some of its greatest crises on this continent of Africa,..."

This quote talks about how Africa has contributed to every place in the world in one way or another. DuBois point out how many scientific findings and even the religion of Christianity began in Africa. The nature resources of Africa had so much potential for expanding wealth that other nations rushed there in hopes of becoming rich.

"Yet in a very real sense Africa is a prime cause of this terrible overturning of civilization which we have lived to see and these words seek to show how in the Dark Continent are hidden the roots, not simply of war to-day but of the menace of war to-morrow"

The scramble for Africa was full of murder, rape, lies and theft. People knew that Continent was being robbed blind but those who weren't participating decided to look the other way. America and Britain went into Africa and took billions of African people which left them helpless to victimization by other nations.

Once in Africa the different nation looked to justify there presence by calling natives child-like and barbaric they said they stayed only to help civilize the people. Who were they to walk away from a people in need they said it was 'The White Man's Burden' to help out these people who couldn't help themselves. They said they were there as missionaries to give these people religion and stop them from being lazy by giving them meaning full work to do.

The attitude of superiority and divine right over other as well as the need to exploit other is what leads to the development of the color line.The citizens of France, America and Britain were no longer excepting the low wages and exploitation handed to them by the wealthy class. Europe had experience a revolution called The Enlightenment and European citizens were no longer excepting the inferior treatment. Unfourtanately thej obs that these nations had Dark Continents (i.e.:Africa, Asia, West Indies and Central America) doing were jobs that the took away from their working class.

"resultant jealousies and bitter hatreds continually fester along the color line. We must fight the Chinese, the laborer argues....We must keep the Negroes in their places, or Negroes will take our jobs."

The feelings and thoughts expressed in this quote is what would eventually lead to war and DuBois foresaw it. He warned that if peace was to be kept the reason for war would have to be eliminated. In order to avoid war the exploiting nation would have to extend the democratic attitudes to the Dark Continents not just their native lands.

When presented with the idea of Universal democracy it was said to be impossible they felt like if they left Africa, Africans would be unable to take care of themselves. I ask what were Africans doing before Eurpean influence? Were they not businessmen, farmers, parents and providers..

Well DuBois was right eventually the dishonesty, jealousy and the need for more power, laborers and resources would lead to the Exploiting nations going to war with each other.

John Dewey - "Conscription of Thought"

Who was John Dewey?
John Dewy (1859 -1952) was a well known American psychologist, philosopher and educator. His philosophies, ideas and teachings have had a great impact on education today. Not only did Dewey make contributions in the fields mentioned but he was also a major inspiration for several movements that shaped the twentieth century. He was a social critic and a political activist who wanted a liberal and progressive democracy.

What is John Dewey's "Conscription of Thought"?
In 1917, John Dewey wrote the article "Conscription of Thought". The article was mainly about the United States and their involvement in World War I. The War began in 1914 when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by the Serbs.

The United State had decided to stay neutral and not join the war. One of the events that started changing the mentality of neutrality was the Sinking of the Lusitania which killed 128 Americans and the Zimmerman Telegram. There seemed to be a split in the country. Some which were opposed to war and others that supported our entry into WWI. Dewey mentions in his article that

"There is probably no one in the country who was not aware that many persons among us were pro-German, in their sympathies; that there were others who were opposed to all war, and yet others who whom this war was unpopular, and others who centered their hostility upon the policy of conscription"

In his article he begins to talk about why people should not oppose our involvement in the war. He supported the United States joining not because he wanted to help the Allies win the war but because he felt that

"We shall have missed the greatest contribution which the war has to make to our future national integrity"

He believed if the United remained neutral,
"We shall have taken a step forward in overcoming a physical and territorial isolation from the world, but shall remain as provincially separate as before in thought and interest."

According to him, we managed to keep our self from the war, we managed not to get in debt and keep our men safe but in the end we also managed to make our country look weak. Which means that the "Big Powers" of the world who viewed us at a lower level before the war, will continue to view us as a weak country because we did not help in the effort to help them win the war.

John Dewey knew that World War I would bring about a great change not only in Europe but to the world. He knew that this war would be historic and the only ones missing from this historic moment would be the United States if they decided not to join the war.

It would not be enough for the United States to remain neutral and try to come to a peace agreement with the rest of the world that was fighting Dewey believed that ultimate American participation
"...should consist not in money nor in men, but in the final determination of peace policies which is made possible by the contribution of men and money"

All in all, John Dewey thought that if the United States joined WWI, we would not be helping the war by helping the Allies win but we would be also doing ourselves a favor by being a part of history. Joining the War would be the United States break through performance which will makes us a bigger and better country. We will gain acknowledgement and support from other countries but also will unite our county and most importantly will show the rest of the World that the United States is a force not to be reckon with.

"Above all we shall have missed the great experience of discovering the significance of American national life by seeing it reflected into a remaking of the life of the world. And without this experience we shall miss the contribution which the war has to make to the creation of a United America"

"Conscription of Thought" - First Published in New Republic 12 (1917): 128 -30

John Dewey - Johnson, James Allen. Foundations of American education: perspectives on education in a changing world. 15th ed. New York: Merrill ;, 2010. Print.