In a thought provoking piece, Brian Greene ponders on the stupid wars that have swept away so many lives over the last 100 years or so.
He asks why it took the Allies so long to intervene militarily to stop Facism.
Well, arguably the Allies would have went to War much sooner to stop the rise of Facism but for the fact they’d just been through the nightmare of the Great War that saw several Empires crumble and others crippled. Neither the leaders nor their peoples could stomach another fight. And some leaders made the brutal mistake of thinking Hitler might be appeased. He might settle for a chunk of Austria. Ok then a bit of the Czech Republic. Etc. And no one, of course, would have imagined how insane the German Nazi regime would become. Sadly, then it was a case where the stitch in time didn’t occur.
But men have been stupid for as long as two balls have hung between human legs. That’s us: stupid (And that's why I find the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey so powerful. In a scene depicting human ancestors, one of the apes, you'll recall, discovered that a bone could be used as a tool - a weapon. The little fucker clubs the shit out of another ape. In a magnificent sequence he throws the bone in the air, and we follow the rotating bone higher and higher. Cut to a man made space station.) .
The Horror of the 20th Century was immense because the stupidity hadn't gone away, yet we developed the means to wage total war. Nice combination!
If we have to discern one shred of a silver lining behind that horrid cloud that was the 20th century, it is this: we weren’t quite stupid enough to start a thermonuclear war. But we came damned close.
Oh, and the 20th century proved something else - which wouldn't have pleased the fathers of the enlightenment. None of our rights, or social contracts, or freedom, can apply a brake on runaway stupidity when leaders hunger for war and power. The whole enlightenment edifice melts ways, and the demos, blind and gullible follow on, into one horror after another.