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2014 and the ghosts of 1914

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As the New Year dawns, memories are reawakening of another New Year, exactly a century ago, the dawn of 1914 when millions of people were drifting towards the abyss as if in a dream.

On that New Year’s Day few people imagined what lay in store. One hundred years had passed since the Battle of Waterloo and the memory of war had faded – at least in Britain. The war in South Africa had been a mere skirmish and had ended in victory. The Empire upon which the sun never set seemed assured in its worldwide supremacy.

Across the Channel, it is true, things were not quite the same. Memories of the Franco-Prussian war and the German occupation of Alsace-Lorraine still remained. The General Staff longed for revenge, but on the streets of Montmartre the cafes were bustling and war did not seem an imminent prospect.

For most of the 19th century the Bible of the bourgeoisie was Liberalism, the political expression of a firmly-held belief that the rise of capitalism was a guarantee of human progress. Most of the countries of Western Europe had passed through a period of economic prosperity that seemed as if it would last forever. The new technology—the telephone, the steamship, the railroads had played a far more revolutionary role in pulling the world together than has the Internet in our own times.

Peace and prosperity were regarded as the normal state of affairs: “today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today”. Many believed that Europe’s economies were so integrated that war was impossible. The rapid development of science and technology were proof of the steady march of progress, a cast-iron guarantee of the superiority of Western Civilization. Yet in August 1914 that beautiful dream ended in a horrific nightmare. Reason became Unreason. Europe and the whole world plunged into a macabre dance of death.

Overnight everything turned into its opposite. Modern technology, from being a potent agent of progress, became transformed into a means of producing the most devilish means of mass destruction, creating unprecedented havoc on a terrifying scale. In place of free trade, protectionist barriers were erected everywhere. In place of Liberalism and democracy there was militarism, censorship and dictatorship in an open or disguised form. At least nine million people lost their lives in the Great Slaughter.

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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