Brief lives – the tragedy and beauty

I recently compiled a new post – Famous people who died early.

Jimi_Hendrix_1967These are a diverse selection of famous people who died tragically early, but at the same time achieved much in their short life-pan. It includes famous celebrities of the Twentieth Century – James Dean, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, but also poets and musicians, such as John Keat, Wilfred Owen and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

One thing that is hard not to notice. Famous film stars and musicians were much more liable to dye early. It was hard to find a scientist or famous author, who died early. But, famous celebrities, seem to have a higher likelihood of passing away early.

Part of this is simply a reflection of the nature of their area of influence. Perhaps several immensely talented scientists have died early. But, they never had the time to develop their theories. Scientific discovery can be a life-long process. It can takes years of studying and experimentation to make progress. Many great scientists have achieved much in the evening of their lives.

With the film and music industry, a star can be born over-night. By their early 20s, pop and film stars can be very famous.

Another issue is the lifestyle. Many tragically early deaths in the music industry are related to drug misuse. The entertainment industry seems to be more prone to encouraging unhealthy lifestyles where drug use is more common.

Sportsmen who died early are quite rare – unless they met with a tragic accident, such as Aryton Senna or they suffered from drug misuse themselves – such as the Italian cyclist Marco Pantani.

Read On…

Would you fight in the First World War?

August 2014 is the Centenary of the First World War – a dreadful war which cost the lives of millions of soldiers and civilians. An estimated 9 million soldiers were killed and countless more civilians.

canadian-troops-over-top1-first-world-war

First World War

The first thing is to feel grateful that we didn’t live through such an appalling catastrophe, and waste of human life. War is undoubtedly man’s greatest tragedy and the emotional suffering of this ‘Great War’ is incomparable. I’m glad I didn’t have to make the choice that many young men of the 1914-18 period did.

However, if we could go back in time, would you fight for your country of birth or would you be a conscientious objector?

Would I fight for Britain?

I am British, and have often thought about this question.

Firstly, I believe the British Empire was wrong. Britain had no right to be ruling in India, African countries, parts of Asia and parts of the Middle East. I would not fight to save the British Empire because I would support the independence movements in Ireland and India.

If I joined the British army and found myself in India or Ireland, I would feel compromised because I wouldn’t want to be party to supporting an Empire which denied the democratic rights of the inhabitants.

However, the First World War wasn’t primarily about promoting the British Empire. Most soldiers were sent to the Western Front to fight the German army.

Defence of Belgium and France

Sometimes, the First World War is portrayed as a senseless war where we fought for no reason. However, in 1914, there seemed to be a certain moral necessity for Britain to be involved.

Although the causes of the First World War are complex and multifarious – in August 1914, Germany were invading Belgium and France. This violated Belgian neutrality and also French borders. Britain had signed a guarantee of Belgian independence, and should Belgium request support from an invading army, Britain had a treaty obligation to support.

This makes it very difficult not to join the British war effort. It is true, Britain was fighting for self-interest. We didn’t want Germany to dominate Europe, we wanted to protect our trade interests and also the rule of international law. But, it wasn’t entirely selfish. It was wrong for the Germans to invade Belgium and France. In that sense, the First World War could be seen as a defensive war against an invading army.

If Britain had stayed neutral, it is very likely that ultimately Germany would have defeated the French and occupied both Belgium and France. Germany was not a democracy but ruled by an autocratic military state and powerful Tsar. A military victory would arguably have strengthened the militaristic tendencies within Germany and the occupation of France and Belgium would have violated the rights of the Belgians and French.

German atrocities

German atrocities were definitely exaggerated by the Allied powers. Yet, they did occur. Belgian civilians were shot. The Germans did sink neutral shipping with civilians on board. It is inevitable that an invading and occupying army commit atrocities; another reason why the invasion of German forces needed to be opposed.

The Allies were definitely not blameless; for example, there are reports of shooting German prisoners of war soon after capture. But, when an invading army occupies a neutral country and kills innocent civilians – it becomes hard to refuse to fight.

The senseless nature of the conflict

In August 1914, there seemed to be a clear case for war. If the Allies had prevailed by Christmas – defeated the German army, reigned in imperialistic ambitions and restored the continent to peace – we may look back and think ‘What a wonderful war.’

But, the First World War didn’t end quickly and decisively. For the soldiers in the trenches it seemed a senseless slaughter with lives needlessly sacrificed for inevitable failures. Sitting in a London coffee shop, it is easy to say the war was justified. But, when you are drowning in the mud of Ypres with death and destruction all around you – many soldiers (on both sides) started to ask – is it really worth it? Why are we fighting? They just wanted to go home.

“the old lie:
dulce et decorum est
pro patria mori”

- Wilfred Owen

The long and bloody conflict meant the initial idealist aims seemed lost in the mud and death of the trenches. Both sides became increasingly desperate in their quest to win. The media was used to whip up hatred of the other side. People of German descent were abused in the street and there was a growing intolerance of any dissent from the official line.

Even if you see a moral justification for fighting for Britain, it is impossible not to sympathise with the horrors of the soldiers and their desire to just see the war end.

The difficulty is how could Britain have ended the war in 1916, 1917? It would have essentially meant giving into German demands and allowing the German army to occupy France. The death would have stopped, but it leaves a militaristic regime controlling most of Europe.

It is like a terrible Hobson’s choice – both continuing to fight and stopping fighting had terrible consequences.

Conclusion

I admire the courage of conscientious objectors. But, at the same time, I am not a pacifist. I do believe war can be justified to protect your country from an invasion.

I dislike the patriotic vitriol that was created in Britain and (all participant countries). Yet, despite that there were still reasons to fight for Britain.

I don’t support the British Empire, and many actions of Britain in the First World War (such as promising the Arabs a homeland in return for fighting against the Ottoman Empire – show how Britain could be deceitful and ignore democratic ideals when it felt like it.)

Yet, however, many failings Britain had – the alternative of a militaristic Germany dominating Europe was much worse.

Would I fight for Germany?

If I was born in Germany, I would like to think I would be a conscientious objector. I believe following orders and fighting for your Fatherland is no excuse for supporting an illegal invasion. There are greater ideals than nationalism. Your country isn’t right, just because you were born in it.

Citation : Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of William Shakespeare”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 18th May. 2006

Related

Ingrid Bergman Quotes

ingrid bergman

“I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have lived my Life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say. ”

― Ingrid Bergman

“It’s not whether you really cry. It’s whether the audience thinks you are crying.”

- Ingrid Bergman

“Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.”

― Ingrid Bergman

“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.”

― Ingrid Bergman

“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.”

― Ingrid Bergman

“Getting old is like climbing a mountain; you get a little out of breath, but the view is much better!”

― Ingrid Bergman

Read On…

Pope Francis’s 10 happiness tips

1. “Live and let live.”

2. “Be giving of yourself to others.”

3. “Proceed calmly” in life.

4. Have “a healthy sense of leisure.”

5. “Sunday is for family.”

6. Be “creative” with young people and find innovative ways to create dignified jobs.

7. Respect and take care of nature.

8. Stop being negative. “Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy,” he said.

9. “The worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes.”

10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars,” he said. “The call for peace must be shouted.”

- 28/07/14 | Spanish version

Related pages

- Biography Pope Francis

Thomas Jefferson Quotes

“Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”

“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

“The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.”

“The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”

“No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.”

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

“Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”

“The god who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.”

“In matters of style, swim with the current;
In matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

“What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? ”

“I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

“I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others.”

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

“Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one. “

 

Quotes on Thomas Jefferson

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

John F Kennedy - Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere. April 29, 1962

“The essential qualities of Thomas Jefferson were clarity, luminosity and vastness. Clarity, luminosity and vastness – these the Declaration of Independence embodies. Jefferson was the most divinely talented man of his time.”

- Sri Chinmoy

Related pages

Was the the First World War justified?

August 2014 is the Centenary of the First World War – a dreadful war which cost the lives of millions of soldiers and civilians. An estimated 9 million soldiers were killed and countless more civilians.

canadian-troops-over-top1-first-world-war

First World War

The first thing is to feel grateful that we didn’t live through such an appalling catastrophe, and waste of human life. War is undoubtedly man’s greatest tragedy and the emotional suffering of this ‘Great War’ is incomparable. I’m glad I didn’t have to make the choice that many young men of the 1914-18 period did.

However, if we could go back in time, would you fight for your country of birth or would you be a conscientious objector?

Was there any justification to the First World War?

Would I fight for Britain?

I am British, and have often thought about this question.

Firstly, I believe the British Empire was wrong. Britain had no right to be ruling in India, African countries, parts of Asia and parts of the Middle East. I would not fight to save the British Empire because I would support the independence movements in Ireland and India.

If I joined the British army and found myself in India or Ireland, I would feel compromised because I wouldn’t want to be party to supporting an Empire which denied the democratic rights of the inhabitants.

However, the First World War wasn’t primarily about promoting the British Empire. Most soldiers were sent to the Western Front to fight the German army.

Defence of Belgium and France

Sometimes, the First World War is portrayed as a senseless war where we fought for no reason. However, in 1914, there seemed to be a certain moral necessity for Britain to be involved.

Although the causes of the First World War are complex and multifarious – in August 1914, Germany were invading Belgium and France. This violated Belgian neutrality and also French borders. Britain had signed a guarantee of Belgian independence, and should Belgium request support from an invading army, Britain had a treaty obligation to support.

This makes it very difficult not to join the British war effort. It is true, Britain was fighting for self-interest. We didn’t want Germany to dominate Europe, we wanted to protect our trade interests and also the rule of international law. But, it wasn’t entirely selfish. It was wrong for the Germans to invade Belgium and France. In that sense, the First World War could be seen as a defensive war against an invading army.

Read On…

The socialism of George Orwell

A look at the Socialist beliefs of George Orwell. Also, a look at his writings on Soviet Communism.

George-OrwellGeorge Orwell was a fascinating figure and brilliant writer. He was an idealist, who is best known for his work in warning of the dangers of totalitarianism (whatever its political form) This can be seen in the two classics 1984, and Animal Farm. Orwell was also a committed Socialist who sought to promote a more egalitarian and fairer society.

Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.

George Orwell, “Why I write” p. 394

Firstly, George Orwell was definitely a democractic Socialist. He stated this consistently throughout his life from the mid 1920s to his death in 1950. It is true that he wrote a compelling account warning of the dangers of totalitarian state. But, Orwell always maintained that just because you severely criticised Soviet style Communism didn’t make you any less a Socialist. In fact, Socialism as Orwell understood it, stood for all the values – democracy, liberty, equality – that Soviet Communism rejected. Orwell believed that only a truly democratic Socialist regime would support liberty.

And the only regime which, in the long run, will dare to permit freedom of speech is a Socialist regime. If Fascism triumphs I am finished as a writer — that is to say, finished in my only effective capacity. That of itself would be a sufficient reason for joining a Socialist party.

- George Orwell, “Why I Joined the Independent Labour Party”:

Homage to Catalonia

Orwell detested Soviet style Communism a belief strengthened when he ended up fighting Soviet backed Communists during the Spanish civil war – Orwell went to Spain to fight against Fascism and for the Republican movement. As a member of the ILP, he joined a fraternal Spanish party – POUM – a small Marxist / Anarchist Socialist grouping who had strong utopian Socialist ideals. Orwell loved their utopian Socialism. Read On…