A guest post by Alan Knox.
Alan lives in California where he studies Sociology at the State University. He formerly from Burringbar NSW and attended Murwillumbah High School.
Today is a very significant centennial. It was on Sunday, June 28, 1914 that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Archduchess Sophie, were assassinated in Sarajevo. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was a nephew of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph.
Mankind has felt the results of those assassinations ever since. Exactly a month later, on July 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia. Within another week, many of the Great Powers and some minor powers had become involved in the war.
Great Britain and the British Empire entered the conflict on August 4, 1914. World War One was the great tragedy of the twentieth century, for two reasons. Firstly, it was unnecessary. Secondly, it was the cause of all the terrible events that followed: the Great Depression, Nazis, Communists, World War Two, the Holocaust, the Cold War, Zionism, the Zionist-Palestinian conflict, terrorism.
So mankind is STILL paying the price of World War One! In 1914, Europe had enjoyed a century of relative peace, since the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the Congress of Vienna of 1814-1815. Indeed, in 1914, there had been no wars in Western Europe since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. Some historians call that period of peace in Western Europe following the Franco-Prussian War “Bismarck’s peace” after the wise Otto von Bismarck, the first German Chancellor. For more than a century immediately prior to 1914, mankind appeared to be approaching a Golden Age as a result both of material progress facilitated by the Industrial Revolution and of improvements in mankind’s behaviour such as the widespread abolition of chattel slavery and advances in social justice.
However, in 1914, mankind took a gigantic step backward, a gigantic step from which we have not recovered and may not recover. Family ties failed to prevent the disaster of 1914. Indeed, the crisis of that year sent German Emperor William II, Queen Victoria’s first grandchild, to war against his first cousin King George V of Great Britain.
The carnage that followed was unprecedented. Fearsome new weapons were introduced to the battlefield: the tank, the airplane, the flame thrower and, perhaps most terrible of all, poisonous gas.
At least one of my great-uncles, Bill Greenhalgh (Royal Australian Army), was a victim of a poisonous gas attack on the Western Front. He survived the gas attack and the War. However, he suffered from breathing problems for the remainder of his life. He lived until my early childhood. Another of my great-uncles, Albert Tripcony (Royal Australian Army), lost his life on the Western Front and is buried in the War Cemetery in Villers-Bretonneux. His brother Vincent Tripcony (Royal Australian Army) also served on the Western Front, was wounded in the jaw and thigh but survived the War and lived until 1975. So, a century to the day after it all started, are we any wiser?
I see little if any evidence of it. We humans are a dysfunctional species. Mankind continues in his extremely dangerous downward spiral that began that sunny Sunday in Sarajevo exactly a century ago. As the conflict was breaking out in 1914, Sir Edward Grey, who passionately attempted to prevent it, observed, “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”.
No doubt, he foresaw the cultural, moral and spiritual damage to mankind that the coming conflict would cause. Some traditionalists, including Pat Buchanan, fear that World War One was the beginning of the end of Christian civilization.
Some decades ago, I read Carl Jung’s books “Modern Man in Search of a Soul” and “The Undiscovered Soul“. In one of those two books, Jung points out that World War One revealed how fragile civilization is.
Sir Edward Grey was correct:
The lamps were not lit again in his lifetime. Will they be lit again in our lifetime? Will they be lit again? Will we recover from that gigantic backward step we took in 1914? Let us hope so! Let us strive to light the lamps again! Let us strive to recover from that gigantic backward step we took in 1914! Let us strive to bring about, at last, that Golden Age that mankind appeared to be approaching for more than a century immediately prior to 1914! Very best wishes to all!