Archive for February, 2010

“tomorrow is a lovely day”

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

In my later years I confess to galloping sentimentality. I tear up when the Star Spangled Banner is sung at baseball and football games. I tear up at scenes in old movies like Casablanca (when Paul Henreid leads the night-club band in La Marseille to upstage the Nazi brass, when Claude Rains says “I’m shocked, shocked, there’s gambling here” as the casino clerk hands him his winnings, or “Round up the usual suspects,” after Humphrey Bogart shoots the nasty Nazi officer).

Songs, poems and quotations from long-ago pop into my head. An Irving Berlin song from the Great Depression days did that yesterday. I think it should get a revival today.

“If today your heart is weary

and every little thing looks grey

just forget your troubles and learn to say

tomorrow is a lovely day.”

If our parents and grandparents could appreciate that sentiment in the 1930s we can take heart and sing along today. Tomorrow is even more likely to be a lovely day now that the threat from Marxist-Leninist ideology is on the ash-heap of history. Even though the 21st century challenge from Radical Islam is strong and real, it is not in the same league.

There is an irony though. Free-market democratic states won the cold war against command-economy communist states. By their example they even converted formerly desperately poor command-economy-leaning countries like India, Indonesia, Chile and Brazil and into free-market tigers now on the way to prosperity. Yet today within the advanced democratic countries some left-leaning critics seem to be still fighting a lost battle under different names. The Marxist-Leninists lost the 20th century cold war but some activists today are rephrasing some of the issues in that war as wholesale condemnation of western corporations, of western life-style consumerism, of free trade, of globalization, and of free-market capitalism.

Fortunately I don’t think this new challenge will fly any better than the earlier Marxist-Leninist one did. But it is there.

So … what’s to be done? To me the best advice is to keep in mind that tomorrow will be a lovely day if we stick to what worked so well in the past century–free-market global democracy.

Part 10: What’s to be Done?

At the beginning of the 20th century in 1902 Vladimir Lenin wrote a short book, “What’s To Be Done?” In it he gave his recipe for making Russia (and then the world) communist. The key, he wrote, was small tightly-controlled intellectual leadership that would use any and all available means, including extreme violence, to gain power. Fifteen years later his organization, the Bolsheviks, did gain power in Russia and proceeded to give birth to the world’s first communist country, the Soviet Union of Socialist Republics. Within a few decades communists controlled over one-third of the world’s people in countries on all continents (except Africa). By 2000 the cold war had ended and only one-half of one percent of the world is still controlled by true-blue Marxist-Leninists in two small countries, North Korea and Cuba.

At the end of the 18th century, a small group of patriots led by George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson gained power by free elections in the new world of America and established the world’s first (even though flawed) modern democratic government, the United States of America. Within the next two centuries democracies became the world’s most admired, successful and imitated countries. By 1940 democracies made up about one-third of the world’s peoples mostly in Europe, North America and Australia. By 2000 democracies were the governing system for more than sixty percent of the world’s peoples on all continents (including Africa).

In the 20th century the free-market democracies led by the United States won the cold war against command-economy Communists led by the Soviet Union. Today in the 21st century the free-market democracies are being challenged by Radical Islamic theocrats that use suicidal terrorism as their preferred weapon, as well as by some western activists who bitterly oppose globalization and denounce consumer-driven economies.

So … “What’s to be done today?”

As for the Radical Islamic challenge, a US military strategist, Eliot A. Cohen, has pointed out key features that the new war against Al Qaeda shares with the cold war against the Soviet Union. “It will involve a mixture of violent and non-violent efforts; it will require mobilization of skill, expertise, and resources, if not vast numbers of soldiers; it may go on for a long time; and it has ideological roots.”

There are differences of course, in the ideological roots and in the source and depth of their power, and those differences are important in deciding “what’s to be done?”

The communist challenge during the cold war was based on a Marxist-Leninist ideology that viewed the U.S. as a greedy capitalist imperial power. Marxists, however, actually admired our western standard of living, our consumer-rich way of life, our scientific and technological prowess and even some of our democratic freedoms. For all their secrecy, their love of violence and their repressive instincts, they saw themselves as competitors in the modern world. They just thought they were more modern, more scientific and more progressive than we were.

The Radical Islamic fighters also view the U.S. as greedy and imperial. They agree with the communists that state and religion should be one and the same. They just have a different religion. Communist law and ideology are based on a secular religion as laid down in Karl Marx’s Das Capital. Radical Islamic law and ideology are based on Allah’s revelations as found in the Koran (as interpreted today by radical imams.)

Unlike their communist cousins, however, Islamic radicals reject modern western society and values. They see modern western life styles with their consumer-driven economies as decadent and destructive. They claim modern western education is sinful, not liberating. Education, say Radical Muslims, should be confined to men and then primarily, if not solely, to the study of the Koran. They deplore women’s rights and women’s education as sacrilegious and deeply offensive. They look on science (especially biology and the social sciences) as threatening to dogmatic religious beliefs. In Iran, Afghanistan under the Taliban and some other fundamentalist Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa, Radical Muslims even see humor and music as threatening and sinful

To Radical Muslims, all other religions are inferior. Believers in any other faith in fact are guilty of blasphemy and fit only to be conquered and/or destroyed in the name of Allah. Insults to the prophet Mohammed are to be punished by death. As are many other crimes like blasphemy, adultery, fornication and homosexuality. And like communists, the Radical Muslims see their religion as international, the only true religion, the only way to achieve justice in this world and paradise in the next.

It is true that in the past Christianity too was sometimes intolerant, utopian and opposed to some of the same things that Radical Islam is today. In time, prodded and altered by the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment a few centuries ago, Christianity mellowed, modernized and often participated in progressive movements. Not only participated, but led. Some branches of Christianity in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, for instance, nurtured and inspired leaders in the democratic quest for compassion, equal rights, universal education, civil liberties and better health care in modern welfare states of Western Europe and North America.

Can the same thing happen with Islam? One can be forgiven for hoping so. Remember, once it was Islam that was the world leader not only in science, in art, in music, and in architecture, but also in tolerance!

Lenin answered his question of “What’s To Be Done?” by bringing to reality a small tightly disciplined organization of intellectual leaders and terrorists. We, in the 21st century democracies, must counter the challenge of Radical Islam in a different way. Rather than a small group of intellectual leaders and terrorists, we will need the patience and power of a vital working mass democracy, free people committed to a free press, free markets, free enterprise, free trade and free politics. The same power of example and patient strength that won the cold war against communism can serve us well in the war against Islamic terror. Like Truman we may need to “contain” the terror first, but we need not be satisfied with détente. Instead we need to have the faith and power to believe that in the long run the winning strategy will turn out to be “We win, they lose.”

Sometimes victory may require military force just as the Cold War did. President Obama said as much in his speech accepting Nobel Peace Prize in 2009: “Make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”

In the long run former President Reagan’s words in the cold war against communism can apply equally well to our struggle against Islamic terrorism: “What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term—the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history.”

To achieve that final victory our strongest ally is our ideology of freedom, especially when magnified by the electronic revolution. Cell phones, television, satellites, and computers helped the western democracies expose the weakness and sterility of Marxist-Leninist ideology in practice. Those same tools can and will expose the strengths of western democracy and the weakness and sterility of radical Islam.

What we do not need (but will get anyway since we are and must continue to be a free society) are radical “fellow travelers” in the west who undermine our strength and muddy our goals. Folks like the professor at Rutgers who said after the 9/11 attack: “We should be aware that the ultimate cause for 9/11 is the fascism of U.S. foreign policy over the past many decades.” Or the professor at the Univ. of Massachusetts who claimed: “The American flag is a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and oppression.” Or the famous Harvard linguist, Noah Chomsky, who claimed that “if the Nuremberg trials were applied, then every post-war American President would be hanged.”

Or indeed the only-too-many celebrities and ordinary citizens who claimed that “we had it coming.”

These Radical Islamic “fellow travelers” may not agree with the religious and violent side of the terrorists, but they often do agree with the enemy’s denunciation of western values and culture. As some of the young “new-left” used to chant on elite campuses of the 60s, “Fee, fi, fo–Western Civ has got to go!”

We need to patiently and firmly answer: “No. Not so!” We need to keep building upon and improving western civilization and it’s most successful product so far–free-market global democracy.

If we stick to that task, in their last days Osama bin Laden and his radical Islamic brothers in arms will find their reward is not a bevy of virgins in heaven but the same ash-heap of history now occupied by so many sadly and tragically misled Marxist-Leninist fighters.

“If today your heart is weary

and every little thing looks grey

just forget your troubles and learn to say

tomorrow is a lovely day.”

For those of you who have stuck it out and read the entire 10-part series I can only say, thank you for listening. I will do the same for you if you care to write your opinions or comments.

Bill Stonebarger, Hawkhill Owner/President

P.S. To get a long range perspective on these issues see our 6-part program DEMOCRACY IN WORLD HISTORY.

From EDUCATIONAL MEDIA REVIEWS ONLINE, Univ. of Buffalo, NY

Democracy in World History

2006
Distributed by Hawkhill Associates, Inc., 125 Gilman St., Madison, WI 53703; 800-422-4295
Produced by Bill Stonebarger
Directed by Bill Stonebarger
DVD, color, 194 minutes (6 DVDs, approx. 30 minutes each)
Sr. High – Adult
American Studies, Economics, European Studies, History, Middle Eastern Studies, Political Science

Reviewed by Michael J. Coffta, Business Librarian, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Highly Recommended

Date Entered: 6/18/2007

This voluminous work sets out on the daunting task of discussing hundreds of years of the evolution of democracy in a swift manner without seeming cursory. Democracy in World History accomplishes this with a balance of detail, analysis, and identification of overarching themes related to strings of significant world events. The series does an excellent job in demonstrating linkages of events and movements. It also does a superb job of examining common threads among different civilizations. For example, it makes comparisons between Roman and medieval and industrial civilizations in the context of slavery. The viewer never feels overwhelmed by jargon, but is skillfully acquainted with terms such as Divine Right, human rights, industrialization, enlightened despotism, etc. The most notable aspect of this series is its overall consistency. The narration has the feel of a grandfather’s storytelling. Casual references, such as referring to microbes as “beasties,” and the like give this series a relaxed but informative tone. Make no mistake, however, that this is a rigorous rendering of the history of democracy. Scripts for each DVD are available on the Hawkhill web site. www.hawkhill.com.

Not simply a recording on a disk, the filmmaker has taken full advantage of the medium, by including a good deal of interactivity on each DVD volume. “Guided Questions” (usually in multiple-choice format) provide instant feedback and links the learner back to the portion of the “movie” with the information pertinent to the question.

This is an outstanding body of work, and is highly recommended for high school audiences and higher. It is important to note that while the volumes are interrelated, they also stand independently as solid surveys of the historical eras.

P.P.S. And please don’t forget our big 2010 sale. 70% discount on all DVD titles, 90% discount on all VHS tape titles. See: www.hawkhill.com

“it was no accident”

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Where were you on 9/11? I was about to play a weekly round of golf with some buddies at a local municipal golf course. The television in the club house was tuned to the news and I saw an airplane hit the World Trade Center. On first glance like many people I thought it was some kind of weird accident. The golf pro who had been watching longer said to me “it was no accident.”

Part 9: The Rise of Radical Islam

More were killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon than in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that began the Second World War for the United States. The aggressors on 9/11 were foreign but they were not Japanese imperialists or communist radicals. They were Islamic radicals from a hitherto obscure group called Al Qaeda, led by an equally obscure Islamic radical named Osama bin Laden. The group and the leader are no longer so obscure.

The immediate response to the 9/11 attack on America was an international outbreak of sympathy with the United States. A headline in the leading French leftist newspaper in Paris read: “We are all Americans now!” On the other hand there was jubilant dancing in the streets of many Arab and Islamic countries now that Bin Laden had struck such a deadly blow to the “Great Satan” America.

In their attack on the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, the Islamic radicals demonstrated their contempt for capitalism, free trade, western values and democratic ways of life.

Not too long after the attack there came another response both in Europe and in some literary, academic and leftist circles in the U.S. that reminded one of the similar anti-American, pro-Soviet and “controllable Marxist” statements of fellow travelers in the cold war era in the U.S. and Western Europe.

In response to the attack prominent novelist Normal Mailer, for instance, added his insult to our injury when he said of the twin towers: “They were like two huge buck teeth and now that they are down the ruins are more beautiful than the buildings were.”

In response to the attack on the Pentagon, a professor at the Univ.of New Mexico was quoted as saying: “Anyone who can blow up the Pentagon gets my vote.” A professor at Rutgers piled on: “We should be aware that the ultimate cause for 9/11 is the fascism of U.S. foreign policy over the past many decades.”

A radical activist in Seattle was quoted as approving the goal and the methods of the terrorists but mildly complaining: “Why couldn’t they have picked a weekend when there wouldn’t have been so many people there?”

A significant number of other celebrities and ordinary citizens claimed that “we had it coming.”

Comments like these from American intellectuals suggest to me that maybe the German Enlightenment philosopher, Georg Hegel (a thinker Karl Marx got some of his ideas from) was right when he said that “the only thing we can learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”

It is certainly true that American foreign policy has not been mistake-free. The chasm, however, between the American foreign policy “mistakes” compared with the hideous crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong and other communist and fascist leaders is too vast for any rational person to take claims like the above seriously.

To understand this “war on terrorism,” this war against Al Qaeda, this war against radical Islam, we need to go back not one hundred and sixty years but over a thousand and five- hundred years!

Following (and contributing to) the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D. it was the Christian vision that triumphed in the western world. A hundred years later an Islamic vision, founded by a prophet in what is now Saudi Arabia named Mohammed, challenged the Christian world. And thus it was that over a thousand and five-hundred years ago—fifteen centuries ago—followers of Jesus and of Mohammed, Christians and Muslims, laid the religious foundations for rich civilizations that still flourish today in the 21st century.

Both Islamic and Christian civilizations were dominated by strong monotheistic religious ideas that had a common origin in the Jewish Biblical lands of ancient Israel. Neither Christianity nor Islam encouraged the pursuit of earthly happiness since both religions preached the ultimate importance of salvation, life after death. Both Islamic and Christian civilizations, on the other hand, could lay claim to fostering ideas that eventually would lead to modern democracy’s belief in the “inalienable rights” of individual human beings given them by Islam’s Allah or by Christianity’s God and not to be abrogated by human rulers.

This was the theory. In practice both Islamic and Christian civilizations were strongly aristocratic and maintained some of the same class distinctions and tyrannical rules bequeathed by the Roman, Greek, Jewish and Arab civilizations from which they grew.

Both Christianity and Islam honored a strong warrior class as essential to the civilization’s survival and power. Both were founded in an agricultural age and saw wealth in terms of land, shepherds, laborers and gold. Both believed in a jealous god and fought many barbaric wars through many dark centuries trying to prove their religion was the one true religion, their god the one true god.

One difference was the way they viewed government. For Christians religion and state were not the same. Jesus said “give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” In matters spiritual, the Pope in Rome was supreme. In  matters secular, nobles and kings in small feudal kingdoms throughout medieval Europe and western Asia ruled by divine right, but separate from the supreme spiritual authority.

In Islam, on the other hand, religion and government were never separate. They were one and the same. Since all of life must be governed by the laws of Allah, not of men, no distinction was made between religion and state. Islam did not have priests or a Pope, but it did have religious leaders called caliphs who ruled supreme in both temporal and spiritual affairs in all the provinces of a vast Islamic Empire that once extended from Spain in the West to what is now Indonesia in the East.

There were other differences. Islam did not condemn slavery and Islamic countries for many centuries considered slavery natural and ordained by Allah. Islam did not believe that women should be accorded equal status, rights or privileges as men. Islam did support science and technology so long as it did not infringe upon religious dogmas and throughout the Middle Ages – the time roughly between 600 and 1300–Islamic countries were world leaders in medicine, in agriculture, in astronomy, mathematics and physics.

Islamic countries also placed a higher status on trade. The Prophet Mohammed himself, founder of Islam, had been a merchant. In medieval times Islamic countries also tended to be more tolerant of Jews and of Christians (they called them “people of the book”) within their borders than the Christian countries were toward Jews or Muslims within their borders.

While they did have peasants and serfs, Christian kingdoms for the most part did not have slaves — though there were exceptions. Gypsies, for instance, were enslaved for hundreds of years in many eastern European Christian areas. Men and women from Africa were purchased or kidnapped in Africa by Christians and by Muslims for hundreds of years. Hundreds of thousands of these Africans were forced to become slaves and were transported to North and South America, to all the Caribbean Islands, as well as most of the countries in the Middle East and Asia by Christian and by Muslim slave-traders. When they arrived in their new country they were forced to work on plantations as slave-laborers in Christian, Muslim, Hindu and other religion-dominated communities.

Jews, while not enslaved, were often persecuted, outlawed and even murdered by Christians in times of great natural disasters like the Black Death or in times of great religious and military zeal like the Crusades of the 11th to the 13th centuries.

Though all ancient and agriculturally-based civilizations were male dominated, most historians agree that Christian kingdoms gave a somewhat higher status to women than did Muslim, Chinese or Hindu Kingdoms.

Christian civilizations in Europe were dramatically changed by three important happenings, that for the most part did not happen in Islamic countries– the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. In the Renaissance some of the values, arts and sciences of classical pagan civilizations of Greece and Rome were reborn in Christian versions. In the Reformation the Christian world split into two major parts, Catholic and Protestant. Subsequently both of these parts split into the many variations that still thrive today. And then in the Enlightenment, especially in England, new secular values and ideas of science and democracy came to the western European and North American continents that also, with many variations, still thrive today.

Islamic civilizations too changed over the centuries, but for the most part the changes were reactionary rather than progressive. Islamic countries, instead of entering the modern world, have tended to retreat back to a medieval world-view where Islam was still dominant and was aggressively much more powerful on the world stage. Today that reactionary movement in Islam, funded by new oil wealth, has awakened with renewed ferocity and suicidal power in what some call Radical Islam.

Be clear–Radical Islam is not the same as the Muslim religion, today or yesterday. Indeed some predominantly Muslim countries like Turkey, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan and parts of India are changing in a positive way and seem to be moving haltingly to enter the modern world of western democracy. And there are individual leaders in all Muslim countries who are moderate in their views and offer hope that Islam itself will change and accommodate itself to the modern world just as Christianity did two or three hundred years ago.

It is dangerous, however, to delude ourselves that the radical terrorists in so many Muslim countries are simply a small “criminal” group that can be handled the same way we handle criminal groups in the West—by patient and effective police work and normal jury trial procedures. Their leaders are a relatively small group it is true. So were Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and the other Bolsheviks when they pioneered the communist cause that led to so many heinous crimes in the Soviet Union, China and the world.

Indeed, the Osama bin Ladens of the early 21st century have much in common with the Bolsheviks of the early 20th century in their messianic zeal, their cunning, their utopian visions, their intellectual power, their demand that state and religion be one and the same, their fierce intolerance and their wholesale embrace of violence. These Islamic radicals do not have the conventional armies that the communists could rely on once the Soviet Union came to power, but they do have a weapon the communists did not have – a plentiful supply of suicide volunteers. And in the 21st century chaos of the Middle East and Southeast Asia they are dangerously close to having nuclear weapons that would enormously magnify the power of their suicidal volunteers.

Also, like pre-revolutionary Russia, the ordinary citizens of many Muslim countries today—over a billion human souls—are in many cases poor, uneducated and exploited. As such they provide rich soil for demagogic leaders. Not to mention the fast-growing populations of more educated Muslims in the Middle East, in Asia, in Europe and in America that offer still richer soil for education in terror. Remember, the terrorist leaders themselves, like the Communists before them, rarely come from the poor. Much more typically terrorist leaders and suicide bombers come from the educated middle class or the wealthy.

Stay tuned for Part 10: What’s To Be Done?

There follows excerpts from a reviews in School Library Journal of one of our newest programs that came out of our trips in the late 20th and early 21st century and relate to the Rise of Islam:

Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment (Democracy in World History Series) video or DVD. color. 31 min. with tchr’s. guide. Hawkhill Assocs. 2006. video, ISBN 1-55979-171-3: $89; DVD, ISBN 1-55979-172-1: $109.

Gr 10 Up–This film describes how the ideas and philosophies of the Renaissance and Reformation gave rise to the Enlightenment ideas of human rights and self-government, resulting in the revolutionary era that created modern self-governing democracies. It briefly reviews the origins and development of the Renaissance and Reformation, and discusses how they transformed traditional medieval cultural beliefs about science and technology, religion and philosophy, and personal property and liberty, and encouraged the new ideas of the Enlightenment. The film also describes the contributions of some of the most important scholars and philosophers of the era, and examines how the beliefs and philosophies of the Enlightenment affected the American and French revolutions and created non-revolutionary change in other countries, notably England. Attractive visuals include period art and portraits and live-action footage of the locations discussed in the narration.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Junior High School, MO

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

billjane@hawkhill.com

P.S. We still have our 2010 sale. 70% discount on all DVDs, 90% discount on all VHS tapes. See: www.hawkhill.com

who’s got the last laugh now

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

A friend here in Madison, now retired from teaching social studies in a local high school, volunteered a few years ago to critique the script of a new sound-filmstrip series I was producing on THE TOTALITARIAN STATE. In the script I included the story of President Reagan giving a speech in Florida where he famously called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” My teacher friend wrote in the margin “my students would laugh this out of class!”

He and his students were not alone. Activists like Helen Caldicott promised to emigrate from the U.S. should Ronald Reagan become president. She was convinced a nuclear war would result. Students at my friend’s school, as well as the faculty at one of the nearby University of Wisconsin branch campuses were unanimous (nor a single dissenting voice!) in opposing Reagan’s cold war policies and pronouncements.

Part 8: Why the Cold War Ended?

How can you explain this amazing turn of events, the most surprising political and economic events of my lifetime?

Some think President Reagan’s policies had much to do with the final Soviet collapse. The theory goes that the Soviets (like all communist countries) had always spent a far larger portion of their budget on military expenses then we did and now they could no longer compete with the U.S. militarily or economically after the Reagan-initiated U.S. military build-up. And with the “Star Wars” threat they realized they were even more behind on the electronic front and would never be able to catch up.

Some think that while the perestroika and glasnost policies championed by Gorbachev were needed for the Soviet economy, in the end they proved fatal to the Soviet system. These scholars point out that tyrannical systems do not collapse when the tyrants have total control, but they often do collapse when reformers try to soften and change the system. That seemed to be true in the Soviet case. Lenin and Stalin kept power because they were so ruthless. Gorbachev lost power because he tried to rule without terror.

Probably the most important causes of the collapse were internal. Marx had claimed that contradictions within the capitalist system would inevitably lead to its collapse. Ironically it was the communist systems instead that gave birth to contradictions that led to their own collapse. While free-market capitalist systems around the world were bringing greater wealth and real progress for workers, command systems like Marxist-Leninism were bringing greater poverty and real oppression for workers.

In contrast to the increasing prosperity of the free-market democratic world in the late 20th century, it was  becoming increasingly obvious to leaders (and to citizens), of communist countries in the late 20th century that their system was not working. They were falling further and further behind in technology, especially in computers and electronics. They were having trouble growing enough food to feed their populations. Their manufactured goods were shoddy, scarce and plainly inferior to the goods coming out of western factories. More and more of their citizens were becoming educated (a good thing!) but that very education enabled them to see how far their society was slipping behind. They did have better housing after the Khrushchev reforms in the 60s. Instead of many families sharing small rooms communally as they had to do under Stalin, single families now often had private apartments where they could talk to one another without fear of being denounced by informers and sent to gulags-or worse. And talk they did. With perestroika and glasnost in the 80s, more of the leaders (and citizens) could now travel to western countries and see for themselves how far behind they were at home. The new leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev was also much more reluctant to use the KGB or brute military force to suppress dissent. And perhaps most important of all, the rapid explosion of new electronic means of communication that were difficult to censor—cell phones, computers, television and the Internet was making contrasts all the more obvious to more and more people in all countries of the world.

Underlying the direct causes there was and is a basic flaw in communist and socialist theory about human nature. Free-market capitalism assumes that humans usually act in self-interest and that diversity of talents and rewards leads to progress for all, so long as private property, free trade and free markets are given a chance to work their magic. Democracy insists that the individual human being has rights and privileges that must be acknowledged and protected, that freedom of speech, of religion and of the press are essential to a civilized society. On the whole both democracy and capitalism say self-interest, diversity of talents and individual rights are good things. And finally both democracy and capitalism are pragmatic, not utopian. That is, they are open to change and to new ideas and do not have a grand fixed vision-of-the-future, nor a dogmatic set of rules on how to get there.

Socialism, on the other hand, tends to be utopian. It envisions a future where everyone is equal and near-perfect justice is the norm. Socialism assumes that humans are equal and altruistic by nature and can and will be their natural good-seeking selves once capitalism is abolished. Socialism stresses that community needs should take priority over individual rights, that private property should be strictly limited if not abolished, and that there should be equal outcomes as well as equal opportunities. (In communist Cuba today, for instance, a brain surgeon and a day laborer receive the same salary–as well as the same ration cards.) Socialism asserts that people can and should be unselfish, that they should sacrifice their private concerns for the public good. And socialism preaches that in the future a new man and a new woman freed of petty greed and self-interest and dedicated only to the common good will emerge.

This socialist dream is inspirational to many people and may even have worked passably well for religiously-motivated people and some voluntary communities in the past and present. When applied to an entire society however socialist theory tends to destroy incentives for economic, scientific and social progress. Where it has been tried in entire countries (for more than half a century) instead of leading to equality and altruism it has led more often to apathy and alcoholism. It has restricted innovation and compromised art. In the end it has only been able to take and keep power by coercion. After 70 years of experimentation on state-wide levels and despite the over 100 million victims who paid with their lives, the socialist utopia seems today more remote than ever.

An old joke makes the case: a socialist orator preaches to the crowd “Comes the revolution we all eat strawberries and cream!” A little guy in the front row objects “But I don’t like strawberries and cream.” “Comes the revolution, damn it, you’ll eat strawberries and cream.”

What lessons, if any, does the cold war have for the 21st century?

Stay tuned for Part 9: The Rise of Radical Islam

For a long range perspective on all of the issues discussed in this COLD WAR script I recommend our best-selling new program: DEMOCRACY IN WORLD HISTORY. Here is a recent review from EDUCATIONAL MEDIA REVIEWS ONLINE, Univ. of Buffalo, NY

Democracy in World History

2006
Distributed by Hawkhill Associates, Inc., 125 Gilman St., Madison, WI 53703; 800-422-4295
Produced by Bill Stonebarger
Directed by Bill Stonebarger
DVD, color, 194 minutes (6 DVDs, approx. 30 minutes each)
Sr. High – Adult
American Studies, Economics, European Studies, History, Middle Eastern Studies, Political Science

Reviewed by Michael J. Coffta, Business Librarian, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Highly Recommended

Date Entered: 6/18/2007

This voluminous work sets out on the daunting task of discussing hundreds of years of the evolution of democracy in a swift manner without seeming cursory. Democracy in World History accomplishes this with a balance of detail, analysis, and identification of overarching themes related to strings of significant world events. The series does an excellent job in demonstrating linkages of events and movements. It also does a superb job of examining common threads among different civilizations. For example, it makes comparisons between Roman and medieval and industrial civilizations in the context of slavery. The viewer never feels overwhelmed by jargon, but is skillfully acquainted with terms such as Divine Right, human rights, industrialization, enlightened despotism, etc. The most notable aspect of this series is its overall consistency. The narration has the feel of a grandfather’s storytelling. Casual references, such as referring to microbes as “beasties,” and the like give this series a relaxed but informative tone. Make no mistake, however, that this is a rigorous rendering of the history of democracy. Scripts for each DVD are available on the Hawkhill web site. www.hawkhill.com.

Not simply a recording on a disk, the filmmaker has taken full advantage of the medium, by including a good deal of interactivity on each DVD volume. “Guided Questions” (usually in multiple-choice format) provide instant feedback and links the learner back to the portion of the “movie” with the information pertinent to the question.

This is an outstanding body of work, and is highly recommended for high school audiences and higher. It is important to note that while the volumes are interrelated, they also stand independently as solid surveys of the historical eras.

Bill Stonebarger, Hawkhill Owner/President

P.S. Don’t forget our 2010 sale: 70% discount on all DVD programs, 90% discount on all VHS tapes. See our website: www.hawkhill.com

“We win, they lose”

Monday, February 15th, 2010

By the time Reagan was elected President I was learning more about history and I was travelling more to learn about the history of science and of politics in other countries and cultures. I traveled to the Soviet Union (and to Czechoslovakia) in the cold war days of Leonard Brezhnev. Twice later I visited the Soviet Union with my wife Jane and son Andrew (a specialist in Russian language and culture). On one our trips in the middle of an icy winter we watched the Soviet flag come down and the Russian flag go up over the Kremlin. That was New Years Eve, 1991.

We did a lot of traveling outside this country in the 80s and the 90s to get information and video for new programs in science and social studies. Included were short, and some longer visits to Tanzania, Mali, Morocco, South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Costa Rico, Panama, Cuba, Mexico, Canada, Turkey, Greece, Scotland, Ireland, England a well as many countries in Eastern and Western Europe.

At the turn of the century Jane and I took a three-month trip around the world. We stopped for three weeks in China (Shenzhen and Yunnan Province). We also had enlightening stops in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Finland, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Russia and England. Video from this trip now highlight our new programs on Democracy as well as our science programs. Some highlights of our science-oriented trips were: Darwin’s home in Down, England; Louis Pasteur’s laboratory in Arbois, France; Mendel’s monastery in Brno, Czech Republic; John Dalton’s school and home in England’s lake country; Marie Curie’s laboratory in Paris; and the Tilt River in Scotland where James Hutton first discovered that the earth had slowly changed over millennia from natural forces.

We learned from these foreign trips a new understanding and respect for people everywhere. Contrary to what many say, we never experienced anti-American sentiment, even in Muslim countries like Mali, Morocco and Turkey. On the contrary, the ordinary people we met in all of these varied countries went out of their way to be helpful to us “ugly” Americans.

Part 7: “We Win, They Lose.”

The Cold War took still another turn when Carter was succeeded by a popular former actor, union-activist, governor of California, and outspoken anti-communist politician, Ronald Reagan. Reagan had always been ambivalent about the “containment” policy and lukewarm about “détente.” He especially hated “MAD” and set as a goal for his administration abolishing all nuclear weapons. When asked by a reporter what his theory of the cold war was, he said, “We win, they lose.”

A few years after Reagan came to power in the U.S., the Soviet Union also had a new leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev came from a different mold for a Soviet premier. He was relatively young. He realized that the command economy of the Soviets was not working and they were falling further and further behind the western democracies. He also was aware that the severe restrictions on freedom of speech, publication and openness were severely handicapping their economic and political progress.

To repair these defects he pushed a two-part program of reform called “perestroika” and “glasnost.” The first was supposed to reform the economy by introducing more incentives for production and the second was supposed to soften the repression by introducing more openness. In the end neither perestroika nor glasnost worked as planned but instead probably contributed to the failure and then to the final collapse of the communist world movement.

Reagan and Gorbachev met three times to attempt breakthroughs in the cold war competition. Reagan championed what some called a “star wars” concept. The idea was that the US would pioneer in anti-missile rockets that in theory could shoot down any nuclear armed missiles before they arrived at their targets. This, Reagan felt, would make the MAD strategy obsolete. He even offered to share the technology with the Soviets and hoped that this would make all nuclear arms obsolete.

Gorbachev did not agree. (Nor did many experts in the U.S. and Western Europe.) Nevertheless some think the very threat of anti-missile technology along with a U.S. military build-up was an important key to the final winding down of the cold war and the virtual demise of communism on the world stage.

I traveled to Russia in the communist days and saw for myself the dreariness, the empty grocery shelves, the ugly apartments without a single flower on their decrepit balconies, the extreme dearth of stores and restaurants, the churlish behavior of clerks and the despair and alcoholism of so many ordinary citizens. What I could not see, of course, were the still crowded and still viciously inhuman slave-labor camps (gulags) that writers like Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Isaac Babel told the world about in first-person accounts of their imprisonments. These gulags were common not only in the Soviet Union but also in China, in Vietnam, in Korea, in Cuba and indeed in all Communist nations then and now. (I travelled to communist Cuba a few years ago and got the same impressions that I did in Russia of communist days. Walking in Havana, for instance, I noticed not only the extreme decay of most buildings but in every block I saw an armed soldier keeping watch over the population. They say one fourth of Cuban men are in the military services!)

In 1987 Reagan travelled to Germany and gave a speech in front of the Berlin Wall that contained a challenge most of his advisors thought inadvisable:

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Two years later to the surprise of almost everyone in the world the East Germans did just that. They tore down the Berlin Wall. Some of it with bare hands! And just two years after that to the further astonishment of all, the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist.

During this same time in the late 80s and early 90s all of the formerly satellite communist countries overthrew their communist governments and became either free-market democracies or non-communist authoritarian states with more freedom than they had under their communist tyrants.

The cold war was over. The West had won.

Astonishment indeed! For most of the 20th century many people east and west believed that communism was the wave of the future. Ten years after the Second World War ended between one-third and one-half of the world’s people lived under communist rule. Most people in the western democracies, including myself, thought it highly unlikely that the cold war would end in any of our lifetimes. And yet it did end. Suddenly and unexpectedly!

And not only in Russia! In different ways before the 20th century ended Marxist-Leninist Communism as well as socialist-dominated economic systems were also on the way out in China, in Vietnam, in India and in South America (Venezuela, going the other direction, seems to be an exception today). Some, like China and Vietnam, still cling to the name “communist” for their government, while dramatically changing their economic base to a free-market capitalist one. After controlling over one-third of the human population in the middle of the 20th century, the only true communist states left in the 21st century are two small countries with less than one-half of one percent of the world’s population, Cuba and North Vietnam.

Stay tuned for Part 8: How and Why the Cold War Ended.

There follows excerpts from reviews in educational journals of some of the programs that came out of our trips in the late 20th and early 21st century:

GLOBAL WARMING helps science teachers bring complicated issues involved in science, technology and society into the classroom. Arousing curiosity and exploration of controversial views, the interviews provide controversy, wisdom and some surprises. We found GLOBAL WARMING to be an excellent introduction to the nature of science and scientists, and recommend it as a valuable addition to science courses.” FOCUS, Journal of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA.

THE GENE presents a stimulating history of genetics from Mendel through recombinant DNA. The video does not make the error of trying to teach too much in too brief a time. Part one, ‘Monsters to Mendel to DNA’ presents genetics in a historical context, and part two, ‘What Is a Gene and How Does It Work’ conveys some of the current excitement in molecular genetics. The technical information (simple Mendelian genetics, the structure and replication of DNA, the function of RNA, and a strategy for cloning DNA) is clearly laid out. … the lively narration conveys much excitement, and the music by Michael Stonebarger is both interesting and pleasing … The teacher’s guide’s suggestions for investigation and discussion are unusually intelligent.” John B. Ferguson, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY in AAAS Science Books and Films.

“This video is well done and informative (EVOLUTION) …It would be a good introduction for a high school biology class. The producers have done an excellent job of describing evolutionary theory. They trace the development of natural history from the time of the ancient Greeks to that of Charles Darwin, and quite a bit of the video is devoted to Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle.” Douglas Vonderheld, The Science Teacher.

THE ATOM traces man’s search for the ultimate unit of matter, from Greek philosophers to the present concept of the atom. The series strength lies in just the right combination of history, science and application. The choice in historical portraits, notebooks sketches and historical laboratories sets the scene for the explanation of scientific discoveries. These discoveries are then shown in applications from genetics to nuclear physics to video games. The series is current and fast moving. It can be used in group or individual instruction. Libraries would find THE ATOM a useful resource for science literacy, resource for review material. In addition, science classes would find the video appropriate as either introduction or review material.”  Nancy Moreau, Physics Dept. Roy C. Ketcham High School. Wappingers, NY in Library Journal.

”I am writing to tell you of my appreciation of your video THE ATOM. I have used it in classes ranging from lower level introductory science through chemistry. It is well received at all levels.” Greg Presnall, Princeton High School, Princeton, WI.

Bill Stonebarger, Hawkhill Owner/President

P.S. Once gain, don’t forget our huge 2010 sale: 70% discount on all DVD programs. 90% discount on all VHS tapes. See our web site: www.hawkhill.com

change of view

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

This intro is going to be a bit longer (and more controversial) so fasten your seat belts.

By the late 1970s I was still left-liberal politically. I did not like Richard Nixon. I supported Jack Kennedy and the “Great Society” of Lyndon Johnson. I emphatically supported the civil rights laws of 1964 that liberated African-Americans from a sea of prejudice, as well as the earlier Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education (1954) that declared segregated schools unconstitutional. And indeed I support today laws and executive decrees that will give equal rights and privileges to homosexuals in the services and in civilian pursuits.

While I was never an activist, I did work a bit for Jimmy Carter. I got a press pass when he was running for President and flew on his campaign plane along with high profile newsmen like Sam Donaldson and Ed Bradley. I had a personal interview with Carter and then made a sound-filmstrip called “How To Get Elected President.” It was a huge flop. Sold maybe 5 copies! I don’t blame Carter for that. It was not one of my better efforts.

I confess this now because it was about that time that I began to be disillusioned with left-liberal democratic views and by the time Ronald Reagan come onto the stage, I had been converted to a more free-market libertarian, unapologetic pro-American, point of view. Many people are not aware that Reagan himself began his political career as a liberal democrat. He was also a strong union supporter and was president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Part of my change in political views was due to the heavy amount of reading I was doing then in history, science-society issues and politics. Much of this reading was at odds with the views I had held since college at Antioch. Some of my change was no doubt a reaction against the “new left” that grew powerful in the Vietnam years and after. This “new left,” it seemed to me, was and is not progressive at all. Often they seem to sponsor a rejection of science and technology; promote an irrational fear of nuclear power and genetic engineering; encourage a general disgust with modernity; condemn out of hand  “corporate America”; mock middle-class values and life-styles; glorify primitive ways of life (see the new hit movie AVATAR), and make environmentalism into a virtual new religion. (As an aside here, note how many of these dubious directions resemble Radical Islamic complaints about the “Great Satan America.”)

Maybe it was my growing up experience in WW2 but I also could not stomach the extreme anti-American fulminations of people like Jane Fonda, Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Noah Chomsky, Allen Ginsberg, et al. To say that Ginsberg’s famous poem “Howl” was not a favorite of mine would be an understatement. When he wrote that first line, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” I could have forgiven him if he meant folks like Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. I don’t think he did.

Part of my change was also due to the increased radicalization I began to see in the environmental movement. I always have considered myself an environmentalist and still do. Like most every thinking person, I want to see our air, earth and water in a non-polluted healthy state. I want to protect wilderness and save endangered species. The very first production of Hawkhill was in fact an environmentalist poem called SPACESHIP EARTH. I stand by its facts and sentiments.

I don’t really know how it happened but by the 80s and 90s environmentalism began to take on the spirit of a radical new religion. While environmental activists, like communists before them, claim to be “scientific,” I (along with many scientists!) do not always see it that way. Much of the time they seem to me to be competing to see who can scream loudest that pollution is at an all time high getting worse day by day, that natural resources are disappearing so fast it makes your head swim and that populations are exploding so much that soon, as Paul Ehrlich solemnly pronounced in 1967 “hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.” And it is all the fault of greedy corporations and hedonistic consumers.

Does no one have the guts to say “the emperor has no clothes”? Yes, we have some problems with pollution and resources and population but these problems are manageable, are being managed and the environment today is much healthier than it was fifty years ago, a hundred times healthier than it was a hundred years ago! And we have managed this without destroying the goose that lays the golden eggs – that is, the system of free market capitalism that both new left and many environmental radicals love to hate.

Part of my change in views was also probably due to personal contacts and interviews with left-liberal scientists on the one hand and with more libertarian conservative scientists on the other. In these interviews I began to see the left-liberals lacked  reasonable evidence-based answers to important science and society issues like climate change, resource depletion, pollution, environmental protection, genetic engineering, biotechnology and population growth. I’m talking about interviews with people like Jimmy Carter, Howard Odum, Eugene Odum, Amory Lovins, Stephen Schneider, Thomas Lovejoy and Jeremy Rifkin. In contrast I also interviewed experts with more conservative, contrarian and libertarian leaning views who it seemed to me did have evidence-based answers to some of these same problems. Scientists like Richard Lindzen, Bernard Cohen, Richard Burgess, Ken Zweibel, Marion Clawson, Sally Ride, Bruce Ames and the late economist Julian Simon. The contrast was between these two groups was often striking.

Part 6: Detente:

The next president to be elected after Richard Nixon (Gerald Ford, vice-president under Nixon served as President after Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal) was a relatively unknown peanut-farmer from Georgia named Jimmy Carter. Carter was elected on a pledge to “cool” the cold war and he tried to do just that. He claimed that “anti-Communists” were exaggerating the threats and in the end were harmful to the long term interests of the U.S. and the western world. “We are now free of that inordinate fear of communism,” he said in an address at Notre Dame University in 1977, “which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in that fear. I’m glad that that’s being changed. … Now I believe in détente with the Soviet Union.”

After Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s crimes in 1956 the Soviet Union did seem to many observers to be mellowing. Some called it a “thaw” in the cold war. The Soviets were apparently no longer sending such massive numbers of prisoners to slave-labor camps. If anything the communists under Mao Zedong in China, however, were accelerating their campaigns of terror and bloodshed. Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” in 1958 to 1961 cost many millions of Chinese citizens their lives. And then in 1966 to 1976 Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” brought still more chaos, misery and death. Some scholars claim the total death toll in China surpassed 60 million from these disastrous utopian campaigns. Sixty million! (And in America I knew personally fellow travelers who were still defending Mao as a great improvement over Chiang Kai-shek.)

New gulags were also being established in Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea. (In Cuba, for instance, we can give credit to Castro for advances in literacy and health care, but even today one quarter of adult men are in the active military and thousands of men and women are in political prisons, including men whose only crime is being homosexual.)

A theory of détente had been championed first by President Nixon and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. It was later adopted and expanded by President Carter. Détente was also a favorite theory of many intellectuals in the US and Western Europe. In the Soviet Union it was called “peaceful coexistence.” (As with most everything in the Soviet Union this was of course a whopping lie. They never really gave up their utopian goal of making the whole world a communist paradise. Just as Stalin had preached a “common front” when it suited his purposes, peaceful coexistence for the Soviets was a way to calm the imperialists while they worked assiduously to destroy them. As Lenin once said “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them!”)

The basic idea of détente was that we should try to understand and live with two systems in the modern world, communist dictatorships and free-market democracies. Each was felt to be legitimate and each could and would live side by side for the foreseeable future.

The “détente” theory was severely strained by Soviet actions in the late 20th century in East Germany, in Hungary, in Czechoslovakia, in Poland, and in Afghanistan. In East Germany in 1961 the communists built an ugly wall to separate East Berlin from West Berlin and prevent citizens of the communist side from fleeing to the freedom side. In 1964 a freedom threat in Hungary sent Soviet tanks into Budapest to suppress any deviations from communist dogma. In 1968 Czech reformers were threatening to replace the communist government with a democratic one. The Soviets felt threatened again and sent Soviet tanks into the Czech capital to violently put down the “Prague Spring.”

In 1979 Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in a futile effort to support their communist allies who were then in power. (In the case of Afghanistan the U.S. supported Muslim insurgents with critical arms and supplies that helped lead the Taliban come to power. This support came back to haunt us in the 21st century when some of the same Muslim fighters, like Osama bin Laden, attacked the U.S. on 9/11.)

And finally in Poland in 1980 an increasingly powerful trade union movement, Solidarity, was seen as a mortal threat, so the Soviets ordered the subservient Communist government to squash it with any means necessary including military might.

Throughout all of these late 20th century events many experts in the U.S. were still supporting détente. Steven Cohen, for instance, a leading Russian scholar at Princeton University, wrote in the late 1970s that “there was no alternative to détente.” As it turned out, there was an alternative. That of our next President, Ronald Reagan.

Stay tuned for Part 7: “We Win, They Lose.”

In the meantime you might want to read the following review in School Library Journal of Part 1 of our best-selling series DEMOCRACY IN WORLD HISTORY.

Democracy in the Ancient World (Democracy in World History Series). video or DVD. color. 26 min. (closed captioned). with tchr’s. guide. Hawkhill Assocs. 2006. video, ISBN 1-55979-169-1: $89; DVD, ISBN 1-55979-170-5: $109.

Gr 7 Up–As the initial component of a six-part series that covers the development of democratic societies from early man to the current day, this program establishes a strong foundation for those studying the topic from both societal as well as political perspectives. This segment covers the evolution of political structures throughout the world from tribal societies through the period just before the Renaissance. A nicely balanced combination of still photography, live-action video, clear graphics, and a crisp narration offers an excellent summary of the development of democracy. Too often this philosophical basis of governmental structure is overlooked in favor of more routine examination of its organization. Particularly noteworthy as well is the inclusion of contributions and conflicts from non-Western cultures and the dramatic role that religion has played in the development of democracy. The DVD version includes an interactive component of guided questions (aligned with National Standards) for either a class or individual students to undertake after viewing the program; incorrect responses result in references to particular portions of the presentation where the correct answer may be found. A mastery quiz is included on the DVD as well as in printed format.–Dwain Thomas, Lake Park High School, Roselle, IL

Bill Stonebarger, Hawkhill Owner/President

P.S. Once gain, don’t forget our huge 2010 sale: 70% discount on all DVD programs. 90% discount on all VHS tapes. See our web site: www.hawkhill.com