Final Response: On Tyranny This

My reading of “On Tyranny” made me see this short novel as almost a culmination of the things we learned this semester, in particular his 9th suggestion regarding language. This course is heavily focused on helping us develop the blog form of writing, which in the modern age can have a large impact on the conception of democracy.

Snyder tells his readers to “think up their own ways of thinking”, which is a hallmark of democracy and what we know as freedom of speech. In the modern age, blogs such as this one are vital in broadcasting our opinions when the rest of the world doesn’t seem to listen.

This can be controversial as well though, because blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, and more can also be drowned out as informal or irrelevant. Due to the openness of social media everyone having a voice means that those with legitimate arguments can be drowned out or ignored due to the actions of those who de-legitimize blogs as a platform.

Language is historically what makes or breaks people in power. Hitler was known for how well-spoken and careful he was with his words. Trump is known for not being as well-spoken but uses language that will rally his demographic of followers. How we use language determines how we are remembered.

So in our modern age, what is the value in a personal opinion? If our voice gets lost in the masses, why should we try to be heard?

In my opinion what this book and this class has helped me develop the most is the value in making your voice heard. You might get lost, but you can never know if it will be you who starts a change. Democracy is not perfect, but the most valuable part of it is the ability to have a voice and not be just a face in the crowd.

 

Sweeper: Europe’s nostalgia

Our discussion this week was centred on Europe and the rise of the far-right. It was particularly interesting how we talked about a nostalgia that many Europeans have who grew up under fascism.

Those who grew up under fascism rules, such as Hitler’s or Mussolini’s, can remember a time when they were guaranteed peace from their leaders so long as they follow the rules set forth. As long as you weren’t apart of an “enemy” religion or group it was easy to live an uneventful life.

This can also be seen as dependence. Like the dancing bears analogy, these people forget how to live without an iron hand telling them what they are worth.

And why shouldn’t they be nostalgic? If you weren’t Jewish or an immigrant then you have nothing to fear and a peaceful future ahead of you.

The speech by Vikor Orban we read is reminiscent of this. While the Prime Minister did not grow up under a fascist rule, his dislike of the liberals is clear. He blames liberals for supporting immigration and promoting a the “European dream” for refugees seeking asylum. It can be read that he thinks this European dream should be reserved for Europeans and not promoted as possible for unwanted immigrants.

Immigration in Europe is a tough subject due to the millions that have fled war and settled there. Although many welcome them, an equal number reject them. It can be seen that those who reject them are worried about being overrun by immigrants and lose the life they know and are comfortable in.

First Response: Brexit

Our readings and videos this week focused on the rise of the Brexit movement and why/how such a movement could have come to pass. What I found interesting was the anti-immigration sentiment within Britain that has been around since before the “river of blood” speech. As history students, we know that Britain is probably the largest exporter of immigrants since the Early Modern Era. Canada, America, and others were once considered “British Colonies” and as a result our most prominent populations are white, all with claims to British or UK heritage. Do you think that the British past will play a part in the British image in the future? Do you think that Britain still considers their past as “colonizers” their ‘great past’?

Brian Lewis’s speech was particularly interesting as he navigated the strategies the British government uses to gain support for their movements, such as allying themselves with the Gay/Lesbian community for political gain as opposed to genuine support. Do you think these communities will see through political schemes such as this? The British population was almost perfectly divided over Brexit, as Brexit won by approximately a 1% lead. Do you think minority populations were in favour of Brexit? Or do you think persecutions of the past have made them wary of all government?

My final question is this: What is the future of Britain? Will their government lean towards the less democratic?

It was a democratic vote that won Brexit the day. Should choices that affect the country on an international scale be left in the hands of the voters?

Fear Itself

American president Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Time and time again this quote has proven true. The Cold War is a prime historical example of fear taken to the extreme. When looking for a modern example, look no further than your smartphone

There are hundreds of things you should be scared of and it’s always there, all the time, thanks to 24-hour coverage by social media. In the past, horrors of war or other events came at a much slower pace. Today, the use of smartphones has enabled us to have the world at our fingertips in an instant. But should this wealth of knowledge make us scared?

When used by politicians, the answer is yes. We should be scared because that’s how they make us like them. The idea of fear tactics isn’t new and it will never go out of style. A politician’s only promise that he or she needs to uphold is to protect the people. Protection and security is our most primal instinct and we are drawn to those who keep us safe.

In the age of smartphones, everything we think we should fear is instantly available. Which means there is plenty of material for a politician to work with. Donald Trump is the world’s leading example in using fear as a tool. Fuzz Hogan, a contributor to the website Behavioral Scientist, says that “Last year’s election in the United States, whichever candidate you preferred, showed how powerful fear could be in rallying citizenry in unhealthy ways.” He describes how our response to fear has changed with the advancements in technology. Our brains once only had to fear what was in front of us. The introduction of global fears has left us in a type of drunken smog where we don’t know which threat is the real one to our person.

So of the thousands of things to be scared of, which ones should we actually fear? The threats that get extensive media coverage are the ones that we pay the most attention to. It’s easiest for political leaders to focus on foreign affairs, because the people they are rallying are less likely to have a personal stake.

It seems as if our focus on foreign countries has made us forget about our struggles at home. Recently Parkland High School in Florida, USA was the victim to a mass shooting. In America, school shootings are more common then they like to admit and so many of them get swept under the rug when a foreign country can be forced into priority.

Lots of Americans like their guns and lots of them do not. It’s a divided country that kills more of its own people than foreign extremists do. So why the lack of change? Events likes these that happen on home soil certainly get plenty of media coverage. The witnesses to these events, however, don’t control this media. It’s hard to be overheard amidst the terrified talks of foreign nuclear threats.

While social media is rapid, what is often misunderstood is the new generation’s aptitude for it. Those who remember the cold war also remember a time before smartphones. In their case, they can remember when worldwide news wasn’t readily available whenever they wanted. Because of this, the older generation isn’t used to handling this wealth of information. The youth of today who can text before they can talk are the ones whose voices will be heard amongst the chaos. As Steve Denning, a contributor to Forbes magazine says “They are at home in the world of social media and at ease with mobilizing support among strangers.”

The younger generation doesn’t fear a war that can’t kill them. Like our ancestors, they fear the threat that is right in front of them. Social media is a second nature and they are able to see the difference between real threats and ones used for political gain.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This will always be relevant. Generations have come and gone that knew fear, but our current one is a unique kind to be born into a constant, global state of it.

 

 

OP-ED: An American Renaissance

We all know the slogan: “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”. But where’s the appeal? Why the slogan hits home with so many people is the call to a ‘greater’ past. It’s the idea that America was once perfect but this was lost over time.

Anyone with a smartphone can Google ‘American history’ and find out that this past isn’t golden. But Trump’s call to a greater past implies that America lost something it used to have. “Looking back” is a strategy used in all kinds of places. Most notably in politics, but even subtly in places like malls and TV. It’s a trend that’s been used globally for centuries as a way to appeal to individuals on large scales.

In a way, Trump’s signature slogan is a call for an American renaissance. Renaissance is French for ‘rebirth’. It’s been mainly used to describe the years during the 14th-16th centuries when Europe saw a great burst of cultural, economical, and scientific change. This rebirth was sparked by the same nostalgia that Trump appeals to. Europe looked back at ancient Greece and Rome as their ‘great past’. The Europeans wanted to “MAKE EUROPE GREAT AGAIN”.

But Trump never labels a specific era that was the American great, and he doesn’t need to. When Trump tells people to “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”, he’s not addressing American history. He’s appealing to each person with a past that they miss. Many people want to think that they would never be swayed by such vague promises. But it happens everyday, whether we know it or not.

Older generations are nostalgic for their youth. Many think that our current generation has ‘lost’ something that is making us act unruly. Author Svetlana Boym says in her book The Future of Nostalgia that “nostalgia appears to be a longing for a place but is actually a yearning for a different time – the time of our childhood, the slower rhythms of our dreams.”

Boym also states “the fantasies of the past determined by the needs of the present have a direct impact on the realities of the future.” Pride for the past is a powerful emotion, and people will filter out the bad parts in favour of the good. Maybe a person hates ripped jeans. In their mind, making America great again would be to ban them. Trump doesn’t need to give specific examples. We fill in the rest ourselves.

Trump is first and foremost a businessman. His gut tells him that the past sells. If you’ve watched the Netflix show Stranger Things or been to Urban Outfitters then you’ve been attacked by nostalgic propaganda. Steve Olenski, a writer for Forbes magazine, explains in his article Nostalgia Sells that we live in a fast-paced world and “many people have looked back to simpler times and been attracted to products from that past that remind them of when life wasn’t so complicated.” In other words, the past is safe and predictable. Trump promises a future that is exactly that. He uses nostalgia to sell himself and his promises to his customers, who in this case are the American people.

Where Trump falls short is his lack of connection to the much younger generation. If we guess that America’s ‘downfall’ began on 9/11 then we need to account for everyone born after that. The “MAKE AMERICAN GREAT” business falls flat with his audience who can’t remember 9/11 because they were too young and weren’t around to know a better America. This smaller generation is mostly filled with people who can’t vote yet, including the children who were born into the Trump presidency. We can’t deny that how these kids are raised will have an effect on their opinions of him. Trump, however, will need to begin changing his selling tactics if he wants this generation on his side. It will be nearly impossible to demand people remember a past that wasn’t theirs.

Trump’s American renaissance is already going down in history but it’s too early to tell what the long-term effects will be. Since these next few years will one day be our past, it raises the question of exactly how many of us will be nostalgic for it in the future.

 

 

Torture and the Media

From my reading of the texts, the main conflicts arise from how torture and uncomfortable topics are handled in the media. From Ayress’ public account of her rape and torture to the archived methods of torment in Villa Grimaldi.

It’s clear that the media was not afraid to publicize these stories (although the articles are too short to fully explore this idea). I want to know more about the publication problems that were encountered. Were there oppressive censorship laws? Did journalists seek out victims or were they too afraid of the regime to bother?

Finchelsten’s chapter What is Populism in History talks about how populism governments make themselves appear to be outside the regular government, and that those who opposed to the “real” nation were the “real” bad guys. What was the journalistic opinion? Were the South American journalists targeted? Or were non-latin journalists the only ones available? Like how Ines Antunez snuck out Ayress’ memories and sought the help of foreigners.

Finally, who’s choice is it to publicize the discussions of rape? These stories do not hold back on garish details when it comes to how the prisoners were tormented, but what did they omit (if anything). It was talked about in the readings how there were potentially pornographic responses to the instances of rape. Were journalists within their right to ask about these stories if they knew they had happened? Victim’s were tortured through physical and verbal abuse regarding their sexuality, so is it ok to ask them to relive these tortures for the sake of a complete narrative?

America Reborn

We all know the slogan: “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”. But where’s the appeal? Why the slogan hits home with so many people is the call to a ‘greater’ past. It’s the idea that America was once perfect but it was lost over time.

Anyone with a smartphone can Google ‘American history’ and find out that this past isn’t golden. But Trump’s call to a greater past implies that America lost something it used to have. “Looking back” is a strategy used in all kinds of places. Most notably in politics, but even subtly in places like malls and TV. It’s a trend that’s been used globally for centuries as a way to appeal to individuals on large scales.

In a way, Trump’s signature slogan is a call for an American renaissance. Renaissance is French for ‘rebirth’. It’s been mainly used to describe the years during the 14th-16th centuries when Europe saw a great burst of cultural, economical, and scientific change. This rebirth was sparked by the same nostalgia that Trump appeals to. Europe looked back at ancient Greece and Rome as their ‘great past’. The Europeans wanted to “MAKE EUROPE GREAT AGAIN”.

But Trump never labels a specific era that was the American great, and he doesn’t need to. When Trump tells people to “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”, he’s not addressing American history. He’s appealing to each person with a past that they miss. Many people want to think that they would never be swayed by such vague promises. But it happens everyday, whether we know it or not.

Older generations are nostalgic for their youth. Many think that our current generation has ‘lost’ something that is making us act unruly. Author Svetlana Boym says in her book The Future of Nostalgia that “nostalgia appears to be a longing for a place but is actually a yearning for a different time – the time of our childhood, the slower rhythms of our dreams.”

Boym also states “the fantasies of the past determined by the needs of the present have a direct impact on the realities of the future.” Pride for the past is a powerful emotion, and people will filter out the bad parts in favour of the good. Maybe a person hates ripped jeans. In their mind, making America great again would be to ban them. Trump doesn’t need to give specific examples. We fill in the rest ourselves.

Trump is first and foremost a businessman. His gut tells him that the past sells. If you’ve watched the Netflix show Stranger Things or been to Urban Outfitters then you’ve been attacked by nostalgic propaganda. Steve Olenski, a writer for Forbes magazine, explains in his article Nostalgia Sells that we live in a fast-paced world and “many people have looked back to simpler times and been attracted to products from that past that remind them of when life wasn’t so complicated.” In other words, the past is safe and predictable. Trump promises a future that is exactly that. He uses nostalgia to sell himself and his promises to his customers, who in this case are the American people.

Where Trump falls short is his lack of connection to the much younger generation. If we guess that America’s ‘downfall’ began on 9/11 then we need to account for everyone born after that. The “MAKE AMERICAN GREAT” business falls flat with his audience who can’t remember 9/11 because they were too young and weren’t around to know a better America. This smaller generation is mostly filled with people who can’t vote yet, including the children who were born into the Trump presidency. We can’t deny that how these kids are raised will have an effect on their opinions of him. Trump, however, will need to begin changing his selling tactics if he wants this generation on his side. It will be nearly impossible to demand people remember a past that wasn’t theirs.

Trump’s American renaissance is already going down in history but it’s too early to tell what the long-term effects will be. Since these next few years will one day be our past, it raises the question of exactly how many of us will be nostalgic for it in the future.

 

Sweeper: Mirror Mirror

Our discussion this week was not very fruitful as our group went off the rails due to a lack of reading. Our discussion became a heated debate regarding race and white privilege, a topic that has modern relevance but was not the focus of Lewis’ novel. From my own reading of It Can’t Happen Here, what I found interesting was the relevance the novel has to tactics used by politicians today. President Windrip in his novel seems fictional upon first glance. As you read, however, and ‘hear’ him speak you can almost believe the promises he makes. Like Trump, Hitler, and other politicians (not necessarily just the ‘evil’ ones too) there always seems to be an appeal to ‘traditional’ values. American, German, even Canadian nationalism is a tactic often exploited. Lewis’ understanding of the use of national pride was his key point to make on how dictatorships can arise.

It was discussed how this novel appealed to academics and uses language that is borderline satirical. While I agree that it was designed for a more high-brow audience, I believe that Lewis wrote it with the intention of anybody being able to pick it up and put yourself in Jessup’s position. Like the novel/TV show The Handmaid’s Tale, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that these sort of things could emerge. While academics dissect novels, the everyday reader digests them and will ultimately make comparisons between the book and their own lives. I believe that Lewis knew the different ways his book could be read and designed it to have multiple purposes.

First Response: The German women

Hitler’s Furies presented many accounts of women during the Nazi regime. The author, Wendy Lower, tells us that this book is not a full account of women during World War 2, and she only focuses on a select few women who she was able to gather more full profiles on.

Lower’s main focus in her book was on how women affected the progress of the Holocaust. I question what other forms of killing these women may have influenced beyond the extermination campaign. Women caught up in fascism may have had other deadly effects. Are there any accounts of the women who were genuinely ignorant of the Jewish extermination? Many women may have ratted out their neighbours, who could have been Aryan Germans, for other crimes not affiliated with racism.

Lower gives a brief account of the era in which these women were raised in. What she doesn’t do, however, is delve into more detail on the childhood of each individual woman. Each woman is given a brief introduction, but the book is mainly focused on their rise to Nazism and the after effects. Were there specific childhood experiences for each woman that would have contributed to her conversion? Is it fair to claim that the era in which these women grew up in is a justifiable account for why they followed Hitler? Lower’s reasoning for female Nazi’s can be summed up as: a desire for adventure, youth, idealism, marriage, and money.

Finally, what about the older women? This book focuses on the youthful women, but fails to discuss any older women and if they contributed to Hitler’s cause.

Sweeper: What is Nationalism?

This week we looked at the idea of Nationalism and how different groups will use medieval examples as symbols for their cause. Dr. Marc Saurette lent us his wisdom on medieval examples of chivalry, and how the context of the middle ages has made them a heroic symbol. One of our readings for this week paid particular attention to the extremist group the Ku Klux Klan, or the KKK. The KKK is known for seeing themselves as heroes and have adopted the idea of being ‘New Crusaders’, like those from the medieval past.

The first responders this week dedicated a lot of attention to the KKK reading, most likely because it was both the shortest, most comprehensible, and the most relevant reading assigned for the week. With the rise of Donald Trump, white nationalism groups such as this have made a profound return to the public eye. This made us begin to think about our own national identity, as the majority of our class is or most likely identifies as white. In Canada, however, we have a very large multicultural population to consider, many of whom are throughly Canadian. This has lead us to wonder what Canadian nationalism is and if we have one like other countries do. This transformed into our questioning of what nationalism is and how it develops in countries, and what the difference is between a constructed nationalism and a natural nationalism. Our questions kept leading to more questions and our group realized that like our questions, nationalism too has many branches which splinter. There is no one answer to the question of nationalism, but we would love to open this discussion to the class and hear your opinion.