Book Reviews & Thoughts
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
What really resonated with me was how catastrophe is a partnership; it requires all parties to act in sync, a beautiful dance of destruction. Viewing the consequences of this nexus of interactions amorally and externally, it seems like the absolute chaos was intentional, like each party had a secret script, culminating in the most destructive conflict in human history.

Chamberlain 's fear of another World War blinded him enough to enable another one. Hitler 's message of anger and self-righteousness came right when Germany hit rock bottom, at the exact moment they were most receptive to it. The Japanese civil authority had been wiped out by the military authority, and the Kanto Army was expanding into Manchuria, in an attempt to create a Japanese Autarchy, threatening Russia in the east and forcing it to ally with Germany. The United States drew inwards, in an attempt to go back to its past foreign policy of isolationism, at the exact moment that isolationism would enable German expansion. And Japanese mis-interpretation of American culture opened Japan up to a two-front war, in effect saving Russia from a two-front war that it could not survive, and no continental power (apart from Prussia) has ever survived. With so many parts, this ballet fell into place so perfectly, to create calamity on an unprecedented scale.

The book shows in great detail how Hitler 's message resonated with the Germany people, and played on anger directed at Western Europe for their crippling reparations that had added insult to injury and had prevented Germany was recovering WW1. It showed how the Jews were used as a national scapegoat to direct the insecurity of losing the WW1 elsewhere; Germany would have won WW1 if the Jews had not betrayed Germany, without them Germany would now win. Germany 's chain of territorial acquisitions also illustrated the failings of a continental strategy (i.e territorial expansion): in effect it is a ponzi scheme. In order to fuel the war machine more and more foreign wealth is needed. Once Western Europe had been taken, Germany acquired poorer and poorer territory and the ponzi scheme began to collapse, just as Napolean 's expansion a 130 years before. Consequently the initial momentum that Germany had, fueled by conquering wealthy Western Europe at a low cost, was stalled as the Germany moved into poorer areas at a higher and higher cost, until the war became another war of attrition. In a sense, Russia 's very poverty became a passive defense that made a continental strategy for an invading force too costly to maintain for an extended period of time.

While Americans see winning WW2 as a forgone conclusion, this is a case in which hind-sight is completely blind; the world order was on the brink. The vast majority of the German military was fighting in the Eastern front, and the vast majority of the Japanese military was fighting in China. The United States, while fighting a two-front war, also opened up a two-front war for two continental powers (Germany and Japan), illustrating that maritime powers can fight two-front wars while continental powers cannot. Had Russia or China folded, the US would have faced the full brunt of the German or Japanese war machine, and the cost in human life would have far exceeded 400,000 deaths. The US was saved by its geography and by timing (ironically, thanks to the Japanese, for attacking the US and for allying with Germany, forcing the US to come into both theaters simultaneously). By the end of the war, by default only two powers were still standing: the US and USSR. Everyone else was out for the count. Germany was divided and leveled. Japan was firebombed to the ground. The UK, home and abroad, had been crippled. France and Italy were the battlegrounds of the war, and were out for the count. In effect, an ideological vacuum was created in previously colonial spaces, a vacuum that the US and USSR attempted to fill, culminating in the Cold War.

Our current era was borne out of the dance of destruction that was WW2. While the possibility of a two-front war had always kept Russia at bay, the destruction of Western Europe and Eastern Asia enabled Russian expansion, one that the US attempted to contain, creating the Cold War, and enabling the sober possibility of world destruction. WW1 showed that the colonial Gods could bleed, WW2 killed the God, and Europe lost all of its colonies, signaling the death of the empire on which the sun never sets, the UK. Computer technology was created for calculating artillery trajectories, breaking the Enigma Code, and enabling the atomic bomb, creating a new technological paradigm and culminating in the Internet. Israel was formed in response to the Holocaust, profoundly shaking the Middle East. In short, WW2 shaped the future of Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. The book makes this profoundly clear.

Black Skin, White Masks
In Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon discusses the psychological impact that European colonialism has had on Africans in the French Antilles and more broadly in Africa and the United States. To Fanon, colonialism represented an inquisition, insofar as forcibly imposing a foreign culture and a foreign yoke onto Africans. The yoke of the African is a perception of self, not of biological blackness, but of subconscious cultural Whiteness.

Inextricably within the concept of Blackness is Whiteness. These two concepts act as oppositional binaries. As Whiteness epitomizes Civilization (i.e. European Civilization), Blackness is associated with both cultural and biological inferiority. For the young black French Antillean, French comics and schooling first impose a sense of Whiteness, his lessons are forever talking about 'our ancestors, the Gauls,' identifies himself with the explorer, the bringer of civilization, the white man who carries truth to savages, a lily-white truth. (126) Years of schooling crystalliz[es]... an attitude and a way of thinking and seeing that that is basically white, (126) inculcating in black Antilleans an identity and default reverence of Whiteness.

Conversely black Antilleans are brought up with a fear and loathing of Blackness. This Blackness, representing non-Civilization, non-culture, and by extension non-humanity and Otherness is instilled in one's perception of the black racial epidermal schema.(92) In school, in stories of savages told by white men, he always thinks of the Senegalese... there was a lack of awareness that was at the very least paradoxical… the Antillean conducts himself like a white man. But he is a Negro.” (126) Moreover, a phobia of Blackness is inculcated, for a “phobia of Negroes is to be afraid of the biological... [because] Negroes are animals. (144) For Europeans, infused in this phobia of the biological is sexual desire. Sexual desire is associated with sin and therefore animalism. Thus, infused in Blackness is sexual desire and a fear of one's own animalism; Blackness represents (among other things) an externalization of White guilt originating from their own sexual repression.

When placed in contact with Europeans, the black Antillean is deprived of self-respect by a contradiction between their subconscious sense of Whiteness and conscious sense of Blackness. Fanon discusses two different means that force a conscious recognition of one's Blackness: the [W]hite gaze(90) and use of language. The White gaze is both a European's perception of the black Antillean, and more importantly a black Antilleans' conscious reflection on their own Blackness. The first forces the second; when Fanon encounters the gaze in France, it forced him to cast an objective gaze over myself, [I] discovered my blackness (emphasis added), my ethnic features; deafened by cannibalism, backwardness, fetishism, racial stigmas, slave traders, and above all, yes, above all, the grinning Y a bon Banania. (92) The White gaze forces Fanon to recognize his own Blackness, and produces within him a sense of Shame. Shame and self-contempt. Nausea.(96)

Utilization of language also forces such recognition of one's Blackness. To Fanon, language is the foundation of culture, and to speak it is to above all assum[e] a culture and bea[r] the weight of a civilization. (2) While Creole is the language of the slave, French is the language of the master, and to learn French well is to be almost white.(4) Instead, white Europeans condescendingly speak pidgin with the black Antilleans, imprisoning the black man and perpetuating a conflictual situation where the white man infects the black man with toxic foreign bodies (19); a conscious understanding of his own Blackness. Thus the black Antillean is trapped in Blackness by their own upbringing of Whiteness, unable to reconcile the subconscious and the conscious.