28 June 2007

What If...

Yesterday I wrote about the Valkyrie controversy. The film itself is about Operation Valkyrie, the attempt by some German army officers to kill Hitler in 1944. The question is "What if they had succeeded?". The obvious answer is it would have been a good thing. The war in Europe would have ended sooner and many lives would have been saved.

The not-so-obvious answer is that it's a good thing the assassins failed. Why? Consider what had happened before. When Germany suffered major reverses in World War 1, a revolution broke out (in November 1918) that deposed the Kaiser, established the Weimar Republic and ended the war. Then in the 1920s and 30s the Nazis were able to come to power with the propaganda that the country had lost the war because it had been "betrayed" by "November criminals". We know what happened next.

Something similar might have happened if Hitler had been assassinated. A new generation of ultra-nationalists might have used it as an excuse to start World War 3. Instead Germany was beaten fair and square. With the result that after 1945 it has been a peaceful and responsible nation. Now if only they would stop getting so worked up over Tom Cruise...

27 June 2007

Who's Afraid Of Scientology?

This is ridiculous. Germany has banned the filming of Valkyrie because Tom Cruise is a Scientologist. Apparently Germany does not recognise Scientology as a religion. Who gave governments the right to certify what is a religion and what is not? It says Scientology is just a cult out to make money. That charge can be made against every religion. And banning the film shoot because of the actor's religion? Imagine the uproar that would have erupted if Steven Spielberg had been denied permission to shoot Munich because of his religion.

Whatever happened to religious freedom? I can't believe this is happening in a "liberal Western democracy". But then we are told Germany-Scientology affair is a special case. After its Nazi experience, Germans are supposed to be extra-sensitive about "extremist" cults, which they consider Scientology to be. Some 70% of Germans are hostile to Scientology.

18 June 2007

End Of History

I haven't read the book; I have only been reading about it. Since it came out in 1992 it has been hailed as a "post-Cold War classic", even by those who disagree with it and by those who like to think they have penned similar 'classics' (such as Samuel Huntington and Thomas Friedman).

My knowledge of the book till now rested only on the reviews I had read. All of them had merely talked about the central thesis of the book - that human history has come to an 'end', with democracy and free market as the supreme political and economic systems. Recently I read the essay that gave birth to the book and the introduction to the book. I was astounded to find out that the reviews had forgotten to mention a very basic point - that Fukuyama's entire argument rests on Hegel's theory of history. The good professor is a Hegelian!

I am still coming to terms with this. A book based on GWF's philosophy becomes a bestseller in America? Since when did German idealism become cool in the English speaking world?

Anyway, has history really come to an 'end'? I don't have the qualifications or the knowledge needed to tear this theory apart. Wiser men have done it. I would only say that it is arrogant and presumptuous to think we have ended history. Every generation must have felt the same way - that they had ended history by evolving the perfect political, economic and social systems, with no 'contradictions' left to 'resolve'. A man like Fukuyama would have written a book like this even if he had lived in 4th century Pataliputra, 7th century Xian or 19th century London. And yet, history keeps marching.

15 June 2007

The Meaning Of Life

That's the name of literary critic Terry Eagleton's new book. He writes, "The meaning of life is not a solution to a problem, but a matter of living in a certain way." It is not an idea but a behaviour, "not metaphysical, but ethical." Funny, I had come to the same conclusion. Great minds think alike :-)