Friday, 3 January 2014

In response to Mr. Gove.

Michael Gove has stated that we need to learn about the history of the Great War in the right way; but from the perspective of whom?

The idea that Britain before the Great War was an icon of liberty is a bizarre one, only someone without any level of rationality and the tiniest concept of the history of the country could possibly entertain it.

If you observe the traditional version that the war began due to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, which was a catalyst and is reasonable place to start, but once a modicum of thought has been applied to it, it was clearly not the sole reason for global conflict. 

Control of the Middle East played a large part; the new warships both England and Germany were building in a race against each other were in great need of oil. Germany desired a train line into what is now modern day Iraq and the British would not allow such a project. 

The tensions between key members of the house of Saxa Coberg were also key to the conflict; Is Michael Gove under the impression that the people ruling Germany and the people ruling England were actually differing families?  That the British were good and Germany bad? This puerile thought process does not apply to any historical conflict; if reviewing the battle of Hastings one does not say that the noble king Harold was cruelly defeated by William the bastard. This is because we are fully aware with the benefit of hindsight that they only fighting over power, with elements of ego, and were both Scandinavian anyway.    

Gove refers to the ‘ruthless social Darwinism of the German elite’ who, as previously mentioned, are the same family as the German elite; what with Kaiser Wilhelm being the grandson son of queen Victoria, the first cousin of King George and the second cousin of Tsar Nicholas who was temporarily in charge of Russia. This in itself disables the goodies and baddies argument, but it is not the only indication that this was not the case.

You do not need to study history or Machiavellian thought to know that empires generally are not good at fighting for truth, liberty and honor, but none the less quite good at fighting; the 19th century was just as war-some as any other period. We were still fighting the French at the start of it, which ended with the largest ever turnout of British troops at that point, they fought on the Somme. We moved on to fight the Russians in the Crimea, which was a notably murderous affair even for a war. We fought the Boer because of a shitload of gold, simultaneously inventing the concentration camp and committing genocide. A young Winston Churchill was a war reporter there at the time.
Churchill: A firm believer in
Eugenics, which is what Gove
is accusing the Germans of. 

The late 1800’s saw the British invade Afghanistan, only it was not called an invasion, we were freeing the people and we were there to install a friendly government. The motive behind this was because Russia might try and invade India through it, which would be rude as it clearly belonged to us. The British lost a lot of men and failed completely due to an insurgency of anti British troops and a memorial was put up in Reading.

 The chances of all these wars being just, or indeed noble, are very slim, in fact in a historical context we know that they were not. The chance that they all led up to a great war which was just does not follow logic or common sense. Gove actually said something clever recently; that history is not taught in a way that allows for a comprehension of consecutive events, which is a problem, because that is what it is. One fucking thing after another was a particularly good answer to the question; what is history? But as any one who is allowed to go to the shops by them-self is fully aware; one fucking thing happens because of the fucking thing that happened before it.

 Gove puts forward the idea that the well informed populace went on to defend King and country, and attack his cousin; they were committed to defending the western liberal order. The volunteers that joined up in 1914 were all around or under five foot tall; this was due to malnutrition which indicates how the working class lived. Many joined because there was food and many surviving private letters confirm this was the case.

Part of the English literature curriculum goes cross curricular with history in the tenth or eleventh year of secondary school, this involves the contemporary poetry of the great war. This clearly demonstrates the existence of anti war feeling at the time; Wilfred Owen would be a key example of this. We know that the British authorities kept public opinion and that of the soldier’s on the front separate for the reason that they were very similar. King George was concerned that things might go the way of the Romanovs; he didn’t want what happened to his cousin to happen to him.   

Looking at the battles that have taken place on the Somme River; if a peasant archer at Agincourt had not attended, would victory or loss affect his circumstances at home? It is hard to see how it would. This can just as easily apply to an infantry man not at Waterloo or a Tommy who decided that Kitchener probably didn’t need him all that much. The British troops in Afghanistan in the 1800’s certainly would have benefitted from not being there, but would victory matter to them if they were not?  which raises the question of the ones still there.
Waterloo: Another battle of the Somme. 
The assumption that we won being the best possible outcome is bizarre from a historical standpoint; obviously it may have been as we cannot predict what may have happened. However the Second World War is direct result of the first; the treaty of Versailles caused the Weimar hyper inflation, in turn leading to poverty and suffering on a massive scale. We lied to the Arabs, did not return their land as it was also promised to the Jews, causing a major conflict which is still very active in the present day. After world war two we divided India and those two countries have fought bloody wars ever since.

 We are very aware in the 21st century that good people don’t come from one country and bad people another, yet this is the history that Gove appears to want to us to teach and exactly the kind thing more commonly believed by the poorer elements of society at the turn of the twentieth century. It is precisely this false knowledge that makes it so easy to send them to fight in a war that would not affect them in its absence. It is the propaganda that allows a person to change their name to Windsor and pretend they are not related to the person they are sending everyone to fight because they have fallen out with their fucking cousin.

Taking British students to the Somme and informing them it is where brave and noble Tommies beat the nasty Germans will benefit no-one. Michael Gove says he sees patriotism as a virtue, and we know who that is normally a virtue of, but is he vicious or simply completely unaware of what he is talking about?      

The concept of history having goodies and baddies has no place in modern culture or thought; that a grown man in charge of education can miss the point of learning history by such an extensive margin, while in the process of telling everyone how he thinks people should learn it is startling.

The reason we should not teach Gove’s happy flag waving version of the Great War is because it isn’t true; I think it might be the only reason we need.