100 years ago today the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated, kick starting a series of events that would trigger the War to End All Wars. (Today, his legacy lives on through an eponymous post-punk revival band.)
His assassination no more caused World War I, of course, than firing on Fort Sumter caused the American Civil War. The pieces for war were in place, just awaiting a hand to strike the match.
The series of events following the assassination are truly astonishing in their utter stupidity and nonsense. This is true of almost every major event in history, but the European Imperialists really out kicked their coverage on this one.
World War I didn’t end all wars, as we well know, but it completely changed the world and it completely changed the United States.
As such an important event, it truly boggles my mind that we spent all of 15 minutes learning about it in my high school American History class. We spent about as much time on the Vietnam War, so clearly learning about history as something that lives and breathes and affects us now as much as it did when it happened just wasn’t the point of history class in school.
The nonsensical, illogical thinking behind the events that caused the War to happen are exactly what we need to be teaching in school. There’s a certain inevitability to human beings making stupid decisions, but how can we ever recognize those stupid decisions as they’re happening if we don’t learn what they looked like 100 years ago?
I can’t help but smile and laugh a little bit to myself when people proclaim that history is nothing more than a set of dates and facts to be committed to memory so a test can be passed.
Because history isn’t facts. History is fluid. It changes and evolves. We sculpt it to fit the way we understand the modern world. Decisions that made sense 100 years ago look utterly ridiculous to us today.
It absolutely fascinating to read about how the assassination is viewed and how the interpretation of the assassination has changed in the past 100 years, being filtered through the ever changing prism we call The Present.
World War I was inevitable. Not just because Europe was ready to get all Rambo’ed-up and fight, but because the world itself was changing and the Old World Order no longer fit.
There’s an inevitability toward violent, destructive change. There’s an inevitability toward the humans involved doing it as stupidly as possible.
Maybe it’s a little silly to wish that we were taught how to look at events of the past critically and apply the lessons to our thinking about politics and foreign policy and voting decisions.
I rail against the willing ignorance of the masses, even though it’s inevitable. Because to think that we’re important and that we can master human nature and change the very essence of our existence is perhaps the most inevitable of all the terrible human traits.