Ich Will den Kaiser Zurück

48 thoughts on “Ich Will den Kaiser Zurück”

  1. My grandfather served at the frontline in both the Winter War and the Continuation War. He made certain that I was never to believe any warmongers nor “heroic” stories.

    He told me what the “heroism” of fighting 1 man against 10 men using first world war surplus riffles and bottles of petrol against modern tanks sometimes in minus 40 degrees celsius really was like. He told me that they avoided occupation at a huge expence that only can be justified if we think about the alternative of being occupied by Stalin&Co with the murdering of millions it would have resulted in. It wasn’t heroism. It was a pure fight for survival against impossible odds where he just like most soldiers never really believed he had a chance of coming out the other end……… and somehow he was among the lucky ones who survived with most body parts reasonably intact.

    He also told me what it was like to go home once the war was over, traumatized and worn down in a bombed out and totally bankrupt country with one fifth of the population refugees and many more homeless after the bombings. Then somehow rebuild a life.
    My grandmother said it took her some 10 years of marriage to coax him past the worst stages of what people now call post traumatic stress. That was the normal situation in every young-ish family in those days. There was no need for a diagnosis. Everybody knew what “having been to war” meant. They just had to cope with it each man in his own way.

    Grandfather knew right from the start of the Continuation War that the warmongers lied and the Nazis were wrong and bound to loose. That is even recorded in contemporary writing. He said that apart from the occasional Nazi weirdo and a bunch of not too clever professional officers and a few little knowing youngsters the entire army knew it and most of the home front too. However they all realized that Finland was caught between Stalin and Hitler and riding it out was the only bleak chance of not ending up in death camps in Siberia.

    So…… I have learned a bit of what war is about. It is a shame for our civilisation that people still can be talked into going to war where they creaste all that destruction for themselves and others……… except in the sort of dire emergency I described.

    Nowadays there are plenty of lies afloat. Spread by professional liars to young people who just don’t know and often loose track of reality in a flood of lies.
    Most of us in my generation who have that direct tie to reality are generally trying in out own way to stem the tide and we may be able to do so for 40 years at best…… but in the long term that will not be enough……. we really need to band together and really do something to create a lasting PEACE!
    Thanks for your effort Johnny!

    Greetings from Finland

    1. Nazis or Communists? The Finns didn’t have many good choices. The Norwegians were occupied, the Swedes had no choice but the let Germans pass through. Finland hated the Reds so much they held their nose and joined the Nazis.

      I lived with a Russian family in Leningrad for a summer as I traveled shortly after the Berlin Wall fell. They had a dacha near Ladoga Lake along the Finnish border. I was told the territory used to be part of Finland and it was given to Russia after the war. The Finns also paid their war debt, unlike most other countries. Later I had Finnish friends who said their grandparents walked back toward Helsinki to be on the Finnish side of the new border and had to start life all over again.

  2. North Korea has convinced me that the only thing that can stop nuclear war is a nuclear war. After its over, the people who are left will do whatever is necessary to stop anyone from playing games with nuclear weapons.

    I just hope the U.S. isn’t in it, and has enough food to survive the aftermath. But I no longer believe the U.S. can stop it.

  3. Like a number of other commenters, I just want to say: Wow, what an excellent and thought provoking post; a brilliant departure from your usual (also excellent) fare.
    Thank you.

  4. The photo titled “Greeting of the Marriage Officiant” makes me think either they thought that greeting from the civil servant was silly or that they wanted to memorialize it with pride. I just don’t know. Many Austrians weren’t all that enamored with the Anschluss.

    I am with you on the pendulum swing… and it scares me to think a lot of people don’t realize what side they might be on.

  5. Sobering post. Yeah, the amnesia is growing stronger with every generation, particularly because so few Americans have experience with the military.

    My family is Army. My dad served during Vietnam but didn’t see combat. My brother was part of Desert Storm I. My sister was sent to South Korea. All of them are staunchly anti-war and anti foreign intervention, even though they differ politically.

    I didn’t serve but I do remember Vietnam being the recent past and the Cold War. Along with the crime wave of the 80s/90s, it seemed like the potential for violence was a bit closer to the surface back then.

    All that stuff is ancient history now in U.S. terms. A young, well educated co-worker of mine recently expressed admiration for violent revolution in the streets. “That’s the way change happens..”, he says. For some reason, I thought of the LA Riots. Reginald Denny getting his head bashed in with a brick on live TV. He didn’t get the reference and it made me feel old so I dropped it.

  6. I’m 70. Was a hippie radical in the late 1960s. The image now is the late 1960s were peace, love, and pass the bong, man.

    Yeah, it was that. It was also leaders being murdered (JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X.) When Martin Luther King was assassinated 150 cities burned that night. Leftie radicals blew things up. There were huge anti-war and civil rights protests. It all culminated in a president resigning in disgrace. Things got really really tense and many thought the center would not hold.

    It did hold. We got through it. We’ll get through this strange days too.

    1. Yes and no. The upheavals of the 60s and 70s were part of a cultural pendulum swing. The counter-culture and rebellions were possible because of relative peace and prosperity. The pendulum has now swung to the other side – the same side as the 30s and 40s. We’ll see…

      1. You don’t think today is a time of prosperity (not sure about the peace)? Unemployment is down, wages are going up even for the working classes, and stock market is up. Certainly it can be tough for the young to achieve the dream of a home of their own with a yard, etc., in the Bay Area, but, as you often point out, it is achievable in much of the country. Today is a far cry from the ’30s.

    2. Well, in fairness to the kiddies born since 2000, the eldest of whom (unbelievably) are now young adults, WW2 is as far back in history for them as the last of the Indian Wars on the frontier were for us.

      1. Even worse…kiddies born since 2000 have no actual memory of 9/11, the galvanizing moment of the previous living generations’ lives. Most of our veterans of the ongoing SW Asia conflicts were highly influenced by 9/11; one of my sons is part of a good-sized group of high school friends that had a 100% rate of joining the services, other than the Dreamer who wasn’t eligible. They were all in middle school in 2001.

  7. Well if nothing else this appears to be your most commented-on post ever, Mr. J.

    Lots of commenters have talked about war, in its various forms. I dunno. I seem to recall more deadly conflicts in the 60s and 70s than today……even taking SE Asia off the table. But at 60 I am probably older than most of you, have a pretty good repository of memory, and make the mistake of reading a fair amount…..=)

    You nailed it at the end with hyper-complexity. I would (and do) worry more about that than stray bullets. If you ever stop to think about the extraordinary and fragile inter-connectedness of EVERYTHING…..too many cards, too many table legs, too many “….one false move….” possibilities.

    Can we really keep all these plates spinning, even as we add to them every year? Is it possible to keep SOME spinning, while cutting our losses and letting others crash to the floor……..or is it “once one hits the tile, they all do.” (i.e. the Kuntsler Scenario).

  8. I suspect this is what “The Fourth Turning” is all about – no one left alive that remembers the horrors – so off they go to repeat them.

  9. My family and personal history is such that I have great apprehension regarding the ignorance of history that I see in the world today. Especially when I look around and notice that by and large those of us in this country seem to be leading frivolous and meaningless lives with no real thought for the long term.

  10. Perhaps the only reason we have not had nuclear war is that those who push the buttons would die along with the rest of us. We can’t count on rational behavior indefinitely though.
    Your post gave us a great perspective, a good slap of reality, a reminder that our way of life is more fragile than we think. This perspective complements your other posts concerning sustainability, about trying to see the wave coming and riding it out.
    I am also concerned that most of our leaders have not been through catastrophes. I would think that surviving catastrophe would make them more restrained and skeptical. I remember reading somewhere that after the war Eisenhower flew from Germany to Moscow to meet with the Russians. He ordered the pilot to fly low so he could see the effects of the war. He did not see a single intact building for over a thousand miles. Of course, the Russians knew all about this. Maybe this is why we survived the Cold War.
    We always hope there are a few grownups in the room.

  11. Thanks for writing this. When you consider this reality with the rest of your writing, it really feels that countless lives are at risk. You normally point out that the collapse of old systems and places takes time. War can destroy everything very quickly.

    What is different today is how reliant most people are today on things that especially susceptible to what a modern global war would bring. Namely food, water, and electricity. The cyber warfare of such a conflict could easily disrupt or destroy modern supply chains and critical infrastructure. No army. navy, or air force needed to inflict incredible damage to your enemy. In the 1930s a lot of people were like the Austrian grandmother, or at least knew how to live in such a way or have family that did. Not so much today. The need people have for things to continue like normal combined with the drive for efficiency over resilience is dangerous systemic risk.

    A scenario I fear is where there is a quickly escalating conflict. Cyber attacks against a nuclear power are effective and that power thinks that their second strike capabilities are at risk. What do they do?

  12. I go along with what a very smart man said about WWI and II. That this was the culmination of “Centuries of murderous and brutal warfare to establish the State system.” That is countries, borders, and central governments. And the only reason that there was not another round over the next twenty to thirty years is that “technological advances (nuclear bombs) would bring about totally unacceptable destruction”.
    That is not to say that all has been sweetness and light since the 1940s. The same conflicts continue on at,a slightly, lower level. Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Congo, Somalia, Guatemala, Venezuela, and so on, are still being fought over for the same reasons as centuries ago. Control of land and resources.
    The notion seems to be that if enough people are killed the rest will shut up and obey.
    Probably things will continue as they have been for many decades with many relatively small conflicts. Of course there could be a moment like the assassination of the Archduke leading to oblivion.
    BTW I have read that some in Iraq say that “It was better when Saddam was running the country.”

  13. Beautifully written and thoughtful.

    I happened by coincidence to look the other day at photos of Jews beaten and women raped by Polish/Ukranian/Germans in Lviv, Poland (now Ukraine). People were chased by bat wielding mobs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lviv_pogroms_(1941) I wonder what brings humans down to the level, of well, humans.

    I realize that this is not the only atrocity in the long history of the human race. But we live on much thinner ice than we think.

    Today we believe something on Twitter because a celebrity or a president said it, without proof. Angry mobs of online tweets seem to show that something is real. But much of the time it is not.

    Worse, we are full of self-righteousness about “our side” and what we think we are (honest, empathetic, inclusive, tolerant). Yet our intolerance for the truth is what will kill us in the end.

  14. Wow Johnny that was a powerful post, i will suggest that you have a gift for this and even though urban growth issues et al are important, please continue to write about much more serious issues facing planet earth and it’s inhabitants. Please.

  15. Yes, a lot that’s happened between 1914 or 1945 and 2019 must seem like ancient history to a 20 something. On the other hand, the leadership in some critical countries have experienced bad times first hand and probably aren’t inclined to a repeat performance. Case in point, since you mentioned Meng Wanzhou, a lot of the senior Chinese Leadership was personally affected by the Cultural Revolution. Not quite WWII but still an instance of collective madness and chaos that will shape your outlook. Iran’s leaders also come to mind.

    For what its worth I’m a 50 year old Canadian/American of Indian origin currently living in Hong Kong. I experienced the tail end of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution firsthand but that one was so calm nobody outside Canada likely noticed.

    I’d like to be optimistic but Franz Ferdinand is an apt reminder that we could be in for a global learning experience. It took WWI, the chaos afterwards, and WWII to shape a generation invested in keeping the peace. Threats like global warming & resource scarcity are real, but too close to a slow boiling pot to cause collective action.

  16. Johnny,

    People continually forget the past. This is just human nature. However in the last number of years – let’s say since the 1950s – it seems like there has been a concerted effort to immediately discount anything that happened since we last slept: “Whatever! That was so 2 months ago. We were young and stupid then. Let’s have a growth mindset and move on!”

    Somehow there is no acknowledgement that true progress involves learning from the past and bringing those lessons with us on the journey. Your young friends are simply responding in the manner they have been taught by society. It takes someone willing to swim against the current to insist on learning from these ancient tragedies and wading through the pain involved in order to do so. It is a good and even essential exercise, but unfortunately there is little market for it.

    The same way we’re surprised by the first snowstorm of the season, it seems the general population always has to have some sort of apocalypse before they’re finally ready to sit down, shut up and listen to wisdom like the messages you’ve been sending with your blog posts.

      1. Part of the issue is the centrally controlled education systems in most countries. Japan doesn’t teach about their abuses in WW2 and home schooling, while allowed, is not widely practiced; Germany doesn’t allow home schooling at all. Children are only taught what the State wants them to learn and that is not a good thing (IMHO).

        Russia remembers the abuses of both the Great Patriotic War and the Soviet rule that followed for so long. I’ve read that many more Liberal groups here in the West are somewhat mystified by their lack of success at taking root in Russia. But they don’t realize that many of the Soviet teachings were brought to the West and exist here now, in various forms. Russia has seen the results of our societal/political efforts, and they don’t want to suffer them again.

    1. “However in the last number of years – let’s say since the 1950s – it seems like there has been a concerted effort to immediately discount anything that happened since we last slept…”

      I wonder how much of this has to do with the supremacy of pop culture, which is essentially youth culture. When I look at the media, I see a set of institutions that privileges hot takes over factual reporting and interesting analysis and doesn’t really care how well those takes age. The biggest sin in the media isn’t being wrong; it’s being seen as not savvy.

      1. You could reverse engineer that as well. What do people watch and what do they tune out? Cheerleaders in short shorts sell. Long dry conversations about technical yet important issues? Not so much. Some programming attempts to convey information in an entertaining way (that’s essentially the mission of public television and radio) but it’s a niche market for a self selecting population. Tits and ass are so much easier to produce and sell.

        1. I’m not sure how true this is anymore. Look at how many people read your blog and I haven’t seen any short shorts yet.

          Here’s a better example. Lots more people have heard of McMansion Hell than have heard of this blog. Why? I don’t think it’s entertainment value. I find this blog way more entertaining. I think it’s because McMansion Hell has a certain snarky, sharability about it that this blog doesn’t. For a lot of people, taking glib shots at other people’s consumption choices is what passes for social commentary, but it’s really got way more in common with the dynamics of the high school cafeteria.

          1. LOL. I’d wager that most people who read Johnny’s blog also look at McMansion Hell occasionally. But definitely not the other way around.

            I have been making a recent conscious effort not to click on ANYTHING that mentions the Kardasho-Jenner combine, nor the Duchess Markle’s dysfunctional American clan. But I’m not totally immune to consumer culture.

      2. That’s definitely true, but I think it goes even further than an emphasis on what’s new and progressive. I think it’s moving toward the point where anyone who insists on historical truth vs. what we feel about the past right now will be looked at as the enemy.

  17. Just to save others a few minutes of language research: Google translate says “I want the Emperor back.” I found another use of the phrase (in 2012 Spiegel OnLine article which Google also helpfully translated from German for me). In it, Sibylle Berg laments cultural changes brought by the Internet, and she reminds us of the great-great-grandparents who looked at the destruction wrought by World War 1&2 in Europe and remembered a better time.

    1. By the way,… Sibylle Berg’s main point is that the Internet gives us the tremendous freedom to do whatever … the corporations that control the Internet want us to do. That’s worth some meditation, too.

  18. Americans have amnesia about events 20 years ago. Because we have no shared understanding of facts, we are susceptible to propaganda, which is unyielding. Our phones are a one party state, and a collective social guillotine. I worry more and more about an American Civil War, one between the Good Whites and the Bad Whites, with the newly arrived looking on in bewilderment.

    1. I’m trying to place myself in one of your categories… I’m not convinced my fellow Americans will think of me as a 100% Good White. I’d prefer not to think of myself as a Bad White. But I don’t qualify as a New Arrival.

      Perhaps like the Civil War and the Revolutionary War (which was actually just another civil war really…) the largest single group was the nonpartisan caught up in the middle. “I don’t own any slaves. Even if I wanted one they’re too expensive. And I’m not really interested in getting killed over the situation one way or another.” No moral high ground. Just a desire to not get killed in the crossfire.

  19. Hi,
    I am Indian living in Germany. In India we currently have right wing government, they have been blaming the socialists (who ruled for long time) throughout last four years. They(both socialists and right wing) also keep on blaming British rule which ended in 1947 long before our generation was born. People are confused about the narrative they are being fed… they identify with the so called Hindu identity but don’t want just that.
    As I understand the world/life scarcity of resources is the only problem we have everything else is distraction.

      1. There is always a fresh generation who is still figuring out themselves and are vulnerable to gimmicks. They somehow end up falling in one of the basket(identity) which is derived from the past 20-30 year’s narrative.
        I think society will slowly understand that politicians and ideologies do not have solution to their problems. Pragmatism is the only way out of it. Science and technology will be able to solve the problems but will still be out of reach for masses.

        1. I’ve decided that technology can solve problems, but each new tech patch tends to create new problems. The biggest problem we have at the moment is hyper complexity.

            1. Climate change is a side effect of industrialization. Past civilizations became hyper complex without industry and they created different side effects.

          1. My main problem with the “science and technology will solve our problems” view is that our problems are in the human heart, not in material that we can manipulate via science and technology. I’ve said this before: every “great plan/leap” to “fix” the world we live in will be defeated by human nature.

        2. “I think society will slowly understand that politicians and ideologies do not have solution to their problems.”

          I love this comment and hope it proves true. However, people seem to need some kind of religion (an explanation for why the wheel of life keeps turning as it does or should turn by our hand) and hence the love for politicians and ideologies. We might not be able to shake it.

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