Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A review of “The World Hitler Never Made”

I finished The World Hitler Never Made by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld. It is a history of the genre of alternative histories of World War Two since the 1930’s. It was a pretty good read. I enjoyed that it gave an overview of a large swath of story-lines from the 1930’s on.
Rosenfeld’s book covered four major types of alternative histories; they are 1. What would have happened if the Nazis had won world war two 2. What would have happened if Hitler had never been born? 3. What would have happened if Hitler had lived and stood trial, and 4. What if the Holocaust was either completed or never happened? Rosenfeld analysis of these four areas leads him to conclude that the way Nazism is portrayed in alternative histories has changed from one of moralizing the allied cause and demonizing the Nazis and Hitler from the 30’s to 60’s to one that normalizes them in fiction from the late 60’s to present. He views this change as being caused by general disenchantment/concentration on the Cold War and a stripping away of American innocence caused by the Vietnam War.
I learned a few interesting things in this book; for example, in Pat Buchanan’s book A Republic, Not an Empire he argues that the United States should not have entered World War Two, because the USSR and Nazi Germany would have exhausted himself. He also relativizes the Holocaust, basically saying Stalin killed many more people than Hitler, so the Holocaust wasn’t enough of a reason to step in. He also points out that we didn’t enter World War Two to stop the Holocaust.
Though I think we were justified in fighting the Nazis, I do think Buchanan brings up an interesting question that is brought up a few times in this books, basically was the Soviet Union any better of an ally than the Nazis would have been? And on a much broader scale this book brought home to me that the Soviet Union was a very nasty entity. I knew this of course, but by the time I was involved in understanding ideas of nation in any way the USSR was breathing its last gasps of breath. I was always more worried about a mutual nuclear exchange (I remember doing nuclear drills at my school in Brussels) than by an invasion by the Soviets.
Another thing that this book made me think about was the larger debate between "the Great Man theory" and "Structuralism." The Great Men camp argues that individuals can shape and form history in a real big way, the Structuralist argue that overarching forces, not individuals, shape history; if a Hitler hadn’t arose someone else would have. I, kind of surprising myself, fall to the Great Man end of things. To be honest this conclusion is mostly based on earlier contemplations of this issue in "The Foundation" series by Isaac Azmov. On top of that is an overall na├»ve belief that one person can change things (for better or worse).

Monday, November 14, 2005

November Newsletter

Chris at St. Marks Newsletter 3
The wonderful program that has made this whole thing possible: Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM)
A few weeks ago St. Mark’s was left completely empty. If Vikings had made the trek from Norway to England they could have sacked it without any trouble. We took a staff vacation day, all loaded into the scooby-doo van and went to the East Coast to look at Castles. We saw Castle Acre, and another castle the name of which I have already forgotten.
We followed a guided radio tour and looked through the ruins of an old Friary. We heard about how the Queen of England of the time betrayed the king and with his best friend, her lover, killed him. We stood on parapets from which we could see the sea. It was beautiful!

Remembrance Sunday:
Similar to Veterans Day in the States the day the Armistice, ending World War One, was signed, November 11th, is remember. Everyone in England wears poppies and the Queen attends a solemn ceremony. The Sunday after Remembrance day is Remembrance Sunday, where the churches commemorate this day and a parade happens.

King’s Chapel:
Viktor and I went to Cambridge’s King’s Chapel with our Time for God friends, Ruby, John, and their daughter, to see Ruby sing in The Nelson Mass and Sea Changes.
Viktor liked the Nelson Mass, because it fit the chapel (have you seen this chapel, it's amazing, the ceiling is giant, white, and spidewebed. Beautiful!
I preferred Sea Changes because it told a story. It was about this town that was washed into the sea bit by bit until even the church with its grand old bell falls in. Later a fisherman and his crew sail over that spot and can hear the bell. You could hear the story flowing from the sounds and the songs. I was impressed!
I’ve rediscovered an old friend from my childhood, the public library. I remember summers as a child when my dad used to take me to the Laramie County Public Library and I would raid the Goosebumps books, the Redwall series, and occasionally sneak into the Modern Classics, Science Fiction, and History sections.
The Saffron Walden Library is wonderful. It has a small Classics section, and some very good Religion and Philosophy books. I have currently checked out The Changing Faces of Jesus by Geza Vermes, a Dead Sea Scrolls expert, and The World Hitler Never Made by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, a history of alternative histories of World War Two.
Aside from books the Library has also provided me with a new social life. I’ve joined their book club "Novel Approach." I am the youngest member by decades and the only male. We meet once a month at someone’s house, discuss the book of the month, drink tea, and eventually start talking about the current state of England. It is quite an experience. The books we read seem to be Chik-lit, so I’m getting to read about how middle aged family women feel. Definitely a new experience. We’ve read three books so far Fruit of the Lemon (it is about a Jamaican woman trying to find her roots), Book Club (the story of how the lives of a group of women who all attend the same book club interconnect), and now we are on The Last Family in Britain (about a Laborer Retriever who tries to keep his family together despite the pressures of modern life) . Lemon was good and Family is excellent, Book Club, we all agreed, was a banal stinker.
Guy Fawkes:
I experienced something totally new this month. Actually I experienced two totally new things. The first one, Guy Fawkes Day, brought about the second, Culture Shock.
Guy Fawkes Day, on November 5th, is a day were the British Celebrate the foiling of a Catholic plot to blow up Parliament headed up by Guy Fawkes.
At this stage they celebrate the day by shooting off fireworks and burning bonfires. In Saffron Walden they burnt an effigy of Parliament.
We burnt our bonfire and later Jon Viktor and I went to see the local festivities. As I stood, solemnly watching Parliament burning in effigy and the fireworks going off, I was in culture shock. It was the 4th of July, but it wasn’t. All I could think about was home. I said allowed, in distant wonder, "man, it looks like when the British burnt the first White House," before I realized it was not a particularly tactful thing to say surrounded by the attacker’s ancestors.
As the bombs burst in air I thought about my American brothers and sisters in Iraq, under bombardment. And as the effigy burnt down the skeletal leavings reaching up like the remains of the World Trade Center. Quiet hidden tears came. Basic raw patriotism bubbled up in me. It was quite a moving experience to feel like I was home, yet know that I was actually in a far off land.
The United Reformed Church:
I may have already said this, but I’ve found a home at the URC. Its quite an interesting little church, it was the first dissenter church in Saffron Walden. They currently plan to build a joint fellowship hall with the Salvation Army. The members of the URC are on the older end of things, as is the populace of Saffron Walden in general and so they were very pleased when I said I would help them with Pilots, their Tuesday night youth group. I guess they figure I am closer to the children’s ages than I am to theirs, so I can relate to them. My first time working with the Pilots was good. They were making sheep from cotton balls and a sheep’s head fell off. I performed an emergency sheepectimy and things turned out all right.
At this point you are probably thinking, man all Chris is doing is playing in castles, writing, going to concerts, and reading a lot. That’s not all. In November St. Mark’s tends to have a lull in guests. That doesn’t mean there is a lull in work though. We’ve cleaned and sorted pretty much everything in the college and re-painted every door in the college and several walls as well. On top of that we’ve inventoried the whole place from top to bottom. I spent one day simply counting and categorizing the types of dishes we have here at St. Mark’s!
A very short story:
(an homage to The Last Family in Britian)
Many people wonder why Saffron Walden is so peaceful. Some say it is because of the homogeneity of its people, others say it is because of its closeness to Cambridge, others says it is because of the patronage of Lord Braybrook, still others say it is because of its traditional British values.
We dogs know better. Saffron Walden is peaceful because they still own dogs, and not these little yippy things either, but large, loyal labs. We make sure our people have a routine, walks twice a day, stick fetching at least once a week, keeps them from getting funny ideas. Saffron Walden is in fact so dog friendly that many families are blessed with not one, not two, but three or four dogs!

"Joy to the World"

The ELCA is busting out some Christmas Cheer!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Concert at King's College Chapel

Last night Viktor and I went to Cambridge with our TGIF friends Ruby and John to see Ruby sing in the Nelson Mass and Sea Changes. Vic liked the Nelson Mass, because it fit the chapel (have you seen this chapel, it's amazing, the celing is spidewebed. Beautiful! I prefered Sea Changes because it told a story. It was about this town that was washed into the sea bit by bit until even the church with its grand old bell falls in. Later a fisherman and his crew sail over that spot and can hear the bell. You could hear the story flowing from the sounds and the songs.