Tag Archives: Braveheart

“BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH”

One hundred years ago, on this day, March 15th, the “ides of March,” Czar Nicholas II of Russia, under pressure, abdicated, ending the dynasty that had ruled Russia since 1613.   The end result was not the liberal democracy that many hoped for, but, rather, seventy years of communism, a period far worse than anything under the czars. When the czar abdicated, nobody could have foreseen the ultimate outcome. The czar himself brought attention to the fact that the day was the “ides of March,” the day Julius Caesar was assassinated, changing the course of Roman history, ending the Roman Republic, replacing it with the Roman Empire.   The term became popular through Shakespeare’s famous play, “Julius Cesar.”

Today, March 15th, The Netherlands is voting for a new government. It’s the first time ever that Holland has received this much media attention.   Once again, an uncertain future awaits the country and the European Union; that is, if Geert Wilder’s ‘Party for Freedom’ makes significant gains and goes on to form a government.   Mr. Wilders has been labeled Holland’s Donald Trump.   He’s a populist, who wants to restore his country to what it was, ending the multiculturalism that has fundamentally changed the country.   In addition, he wants to leave the EU.   He also wants to ban the Koran and Islamic schools and has called for the closure of all mosques; and end the wearing of burqas and hijabs, requiring people to wear western style clothing.

The election result is likely to have a profound effect on France and Germany who hold elections later this year.   If a populist government comes to power in the Netherlands, then, maybe populism will see gains in the two biggest European countries, France and Germany.   This could make 2017 as significant a year as 1989 and 1848 in European history.   Change is in the air.   But, as with Russia a century ago, the future of change is unpredictable.   Sweeping populism may sweep away the European Union, but what will replace it?   Will liberal social democracy be replaced by more nationalistic forms of government?   Could a swing to the right in the Netherlands lead to similar swings elsewhere on the continent?   The European Union, which turns 60 in ten days, may have to go back to the drawing board.

It’s not just the election that is making news in Holland.   For over four centuries the Dutch, once a great maritime power, have had a peace treaty with Turkey.   But now, the two NATO members are going through a verbal conflict that could easily get out of hand.   The basic problem is immigration.   Millions of Turks live in Holland, Germany and other EU countries.   The Turkish president wants to send members of his government to speak to these Turkish citizens, so that they will vote for Mr, Erdogan in a referendum that will grant the president more powers.   Naturally, Holland does not want the Turkish election to be conducted in Holland.   Allowing Ankara to do so would expose the lie that Muslims are assimilated and are, in fact, Dutch.   They are not, identifying primarily with their own religion and culture, not with that of the host country.

A Turkish government minister was not allowed to address a rally in Holland.   Consequently, relations have been negatively affected.

The Netherlands isn’t the only European country that’s hitting the headlines internationally.   The United Kingdom is also in the news.

It’s taken nine months for the groundwork to be laid for Britain to activate Article 50 and apply to leave the European Union.   It’s been a rocky road, with members of Britain’s ruling elite doing everything possible to undermine the will of the people, expressed in June’s Brexit vote.    The unelected House of Lords was the final hurdle.

As if invoking Article 50 is not difficult enough, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party picked the same time to demand another referendum.

This time, she believes the Scots will vote to leave the United Kingdom as the majority of Scots voted to remain in the European Union.

In effect, what Ms. Sturgeon wants is to replace English domination with German domination.   Ignorant of history (except possibly watching “Braveheart” over and over again!), Ms. Sturgeon has no problem replacing London with Berlin.

When the UK completes its negotiations with the EU settling Brexit terms, Ms. Sturgeon’s Scotland will have to act quickly and apply to use the euro.  It will also need massive amounts of aid as Scotland has needed English financial support ever since it voted to join the union with England, over three centuries ago.

Scottish loyalists will have to get used to shopping with a new currency  – and won’t even be able to stay home and watch the BBC!

 

 

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HOLLYWOOD IS NOT IN THE BUSINESS OF TEACHING HISTORY

Patriot

Hollywood is adding to US foreign policy woes at an incredible rate. No less than four current movies are causing upsets in various parts of the world.

“The Interview” has received a lot of attention.   I have not seen it and would have had no interest in seeing it, if North Korea’s paranoid regime hadn’t flipped out over the movie, blaming the US president personally for its showing. (When you’ve grown up in a country where the “Dear Leader” decides everything, it’s not surprising that people think the US president plays the same role in America!)

The movie revolves around a comedic attempt to assassinate the leader of North Korea. Along the way it makes fun of the more comical aspects of the regime.

As the US has never had good relations with North Korea anyway, Pyongyang’s anger can largely be ignored. But other movies are also a problem.

“American Sniper” has been labeled racist by Muslims who see the conflict with ISIS as a continuation of the clash of civilizations between the “Christian” West and the Islamic world. The movie tells the true story of the US military’s greatest sniper, who killed over 200 people during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As all his victims were Muslims, he, therefore, must be a racist. Don’t look for logic – it’s not a strong point with people who grew up in the Middle East.

“Unbroken” is also a problem, this time with the Japanese. Conservatives in the country are upset over the way Japan’s troops are portrayed in the film, which again is a true story, telling the story of Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini’s experience in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in WWII.   It’s not the first movie to depict the horrors of life in a Japanese POW camp.   They had no respect for prisoners as their own military culture taught that fighting to the death was preferable to surrender.

The truth is the truth. No apologies need be made for “American Sniper” or “Unbroken”, assuming they stuck to the truth.

Even “Exodus” has been quite controversial, thousands of years after the event. My wife and I didn’t like it. Nor did the Egyptians who said it was “inaccurate,” that Jewish slaves did not build the pyramids and that the depiction of ancient Egyptians was not accurate. Although the depiction of the plagues was interesting and imaginative, and Christian Bale played a convincing Moses, the parting of the Red Sea and receiving of the Ten Commandments were much better in the 1956 version, when special effects were more primitive.   Perhaps the downplaying of the commandments reflects changing societal attitudes in the interim decades.

In Egypt, ‘Censors objected to the “intentional gross historical fallacies that offend Egypt and its pharaonic ancient history in yet another attempt to Judaize Egyptian civilization, which confirms the international Zionist fingerprints all over the film,” the statement said.

The ministry said the movie inaccurately depicts ancient Egyptians as “savages” who kill and hang Jews, arguing that hanging did not exist in ancient Egypt. It said the film also presents a “racist” depiction of Jews as a people who mounted an armed rebellion. The ministry said religious scriptures present Jews as weak and oppressed.

The statement also objected to the depiction of God as a child, which also drew criticism in the West.’  (Seattle Times, December 28th)

Hollywood has always had a problem with religion, rarely depicting biblical events with any degree of accuracy. “The Ten Commandments” (1956) was one of the better biblical movies, with considerable input from Josephus.

But Hollywood has also had a serious problem with history. I cannot think of any historical movie made in Hollywood that was 100% accurate. “Braveheart” has been labeled the most historically inaccurate movie ever made, with 87 historical inaccuracies, according to one website. Another Mel Gibson movie, “The Patriot” got the prize for the fourth most inaccurate movie in history. Amongst other things, the movie depicted British soldiers burning down a church with people in it. The film was set during the Revolutionary War.   British soldiers have never burned down a church full of worshippers, never at any time in history. If they did, they would be court-martialed and severely punished. But it made for great entertainment!

Mel Gibson defended these movies by saying, “We are not in the business of teaching history. We are in the business of providing entertainment to make money.” (The quote is a paraphrase heard on NPR many years ago.)

At least he was honest. Perhaps his anti-semitic rantings owe their origin to the same ignorance of history!

Hollywood has always had a problem with history.

Exactly a century ago next month, what is considered the most influential movie in American history, premiered. “The Birth of a Nation” was an anti-black, pro-KKK movie that led to riots in cities across America. The film was set during the Civil War and Reconstruction and blamed African-Americans for the problems that plagued the US during this period. The NAACP tried to get the film banned. The movie was the first motion picture screened at the White House, then occupied by President Woodrow Wilson.

In an age when few people read anything in depth, preferring to spend their time with electronic gadgets, including TV and DVD’s, movies are perceived as fact.   But they rarely are. If you want to know the facts, you have to read and do the research.

The 1960 John Wayne movie “The Alamo” was made with two historical advisers during production. One of them walked off the set saying, “there isn’t one minute of historical accuracy in this film” but it hasn’t stopped people watching it in the last 55 years.

Hollywood has a responsibility to strive for accuracy. It can be done. Good movies can be made while maintaining accuracy. “To Kill a King” is a prime example. This is a British movie about the English Civil War, the execution of the King and the subsequent Republic under Oliver Cromwell. The film was lauded by historians as the most accurate historical movie ever made.

Sadly, it’s hard to track down. Perhaps, after all, people are not interested in facts – they just want to be entertained!

COUNTDOWN TO DISUNITY

Scottish Nationalism

Paul Johnson, the prolific British historian, made the following very perceptive observation about his own country:

“Disunity has always proved fatal to the Offshore Islanders.”

The offshore islanders he was referring to were the British. He wrote a book of that name in 1972, the year before Britain entered the Common Market (now the EU). The book was a history of Britain’s relationship with the European continent.

Great Britain is facing that same disunity in exactly nine days.

September 18th is the date of the Scottish referendum, when people residing in Scotland have an opportunity to vote on independence from the United Kingdom. The vote will be legally binding.

It’s a countdown to chaos.

This all started with “Braveheart,” a movie about William Wallace, a Scot who was executed by the English in the late thirteenth century, over 700 years ago. The fact that the movie has been labeled the “most historically inaccurate movie ever made,” with 87 historical errors, doesn’t alter the fact that it stirred emotions in people of Scottish descent around the world.

When the new Labour government led by Tony Blair took over the reins of government in 1997, they gave both Scotland and Wales their own national assemblies, a parliament that was designed to appease the Scottish and Welsh nationalists. The British of all people should know that appeasement never works – all it did was fuel the nationalist fires, particularly in Scotland.

The Scottish National Party is led by Alex Salmond, who has been described as the most brilliant politician in Britain. He has seen opinion polls progressively move in his favor – the vote is set to be really close.

Only residents of Scotland can vote. Sean Connery, the first James Bond and an ardent supporter of Scottish nationalism, cannot vote because he now resides in the Bahamas. However, 120,000 people from various EU countries can vote because they live in Scotland. This includes thousands of Germans who may see an opportunity here to take Scotland into the eurozone and orient it more toward Germany and the continent.

16-year-olds can also vote. These are more likely to be influenced by the emotion of the movie and have no personal experience of history and the benefits of the Union.

Only nine days before the vote, there is still no answer to the big question of money. What currency will Scotland use? A preference has been stated for the British pound but London says this will not be possible as it would mean that two national governments would be trying to control the currency. The logical alternative is the euro. An independent Scotland would have to apply for membership of the EU and all new member countries must adopt the euro. This could mean instant austerity as Scotland depends on England for 10% of its expenditure.

A precedent here is the Republic of Ireland, which broke away from the UK over 90 years ago. For some time it had to maintain close financial ties with London but today Ireland is very much a part of the eurozone. Ireland’s national government is increasingly subject to Berlin, which calls the shots. Even road construction signs have “Achtung!” at the top, reflecting closer ties with Europe’s new superpower.

“Don’t let me be last Queen of Scotland” ran the banner headline in yesterday’s Daily Mirror, a British national tabloid. The Queen is said to be very concerned about the kingdom breaking up. Following the announcement of the Duchess of Cambridge expecting a second child, Prince William said he was mostly concerned at the international and domestic situations at this time, a clear reference to ISIS and Scotland, two separate issues.

The Scottish leader professes to want to retain Queen Elizabeth as Head of State. But this may not last. When southern Ireland broke away from the UK in 1921, the Irish Free State retained the British monarch as its own king. But, in 1949, they severed the tie with the crown and became the Republic of Ireland. In more recent years, it has been able to distance itself further from London, thanks to closer ties with the EU and membership of the euro currency.

Independence for Scotland is the logical, though sad, end to the British Empire. In the last 70 years the British have given independence to over 50 countries. It’s as if history is in reverse. Following the full union of Scotland and England in 1707, the British Empire grew in leaps and bounds. In the last seven decades it’s fallen apart even more rapidly. Now Scotland seems set to leave the union with England, with potentially disastrous consequences for both.

Even if the vote is to stay in the UK, it will not be long before there will be a demand for another vote. The nationalists won’t stop until they achieve their goal, which is complete and total independence.

COULD A MOVIE DESTROY A COUNTRY?

braveheart (1)

The movie certainly stirred up passions, especially for present day Scots and those in the Scottish diaspora.

But the movie made it to the top of the list of the ten most inaccurate movies ever made.  According to the list there were 87 historical inaccuracies in the movie.

Now, I have to admit I did not watch it a second time to check off the long list of inaccuracies.  I remember coming out of the theater with my wife in 1995, saying they got at least three things wrong – I obviously missed the other 84.

But, inaccuracies aside, “Braveheart” stirred up the passions of nationalist Scots who are disillusioned with their political and economic ties to the rest of the United Kingdom.  A referendum is to be held in September, 2014, to vote on breaking away.  The referendum is timed for just after the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Banockburn in June 1314, a battle won by Scots against an invading English army.  No doubt passions stirred by commemorative events will make a “yes” vote more likely.

Added to which, the voting age has been dropped to 16, which will also help the “yes” vote, as young people tend to be more emotional and less inclined to vote with their pocket books, as they may not have any money!

And, if the vote is “yes”, money will be Scotland’s biggest problem.

Not only does Scotland rely on London for 10% of its revenue, it shares a common currency in the British pound.

After independence, the Scots will have to renegotiate membership of the European Union, something which Westminster has already promised for the UK as a whole.  It is quite possible that Scotland could remain in the EU while England and the rest withdraw!

Scotland would likely need financial assistance from Brussels during a time of transition and would have to join the Euro as all new members are required to do.

It doesn’t end there.

The relatively minor details will also be challenging.

If Scotland leaves the UK, it will no longer receive BBC programming.  The BBC is financed by a license fee, which all households with televisions must pay.  With the money from that fee the BBC has made some outstanding programs over the years (as well as a lot of rubbish!).  Scottish television viewers could not possibly afford television of that quality themselves as their population is only 5.3 million, less than 10% of the total UK population.  That’s just one example of how life would change!

It’s not just the makers of “Braveheart” who were ignorant of history – most people are generally.  Forgotten in the emotion of the moment will be the history of the last few centuries.  Constant friction existed between England and Scotland for centuries, with Scotland often aided by continental powers, particularly France.  England had the same problem to the west, with Ireland.  A separate Scotland could eventually lead to a resurgence of those same security concerns, particularly if Scotland joins the EU while England withdraws.  It was only after the Scots and the English became one unitary kingdom that the whole island was secure.  The struggle to unite the two kingdoms took a long time – it was over a century from James VI of Scotland becoming James I of England in 1603 and the Act of Union in 1707.

The Scottish parliament voted itself out of existence in 1707 throwing its lot in with England, partly so that Scots could benefit from the English (then British) Empire, especially in trade.  One influencing factor was that Scotland was almost bankrupt following the financially disastrous Darien Scheme.  But the Union certainly benefitted both the Scots and the English – Scots contributed disproportionately to the British Empire militarily.

With the empire gone, the benefits of remaining in the UK may not be so evident but England is richer and helps subsidize government expenditure in Scotland.  That would end with the dismantling of the UK.

Sadly, many in England would be glad to see Scotland go, as it would save the tax-payers money.  This, however, would be very short-sighted.  Again, it shows a woeful ignorance of history.

Hopefully, there will be more debate before the final decision is made.  But that debate will need to have more historical basis for people to make an educated and responsible vote.  A strong united island of Great Britain (the name for the union of the two countries; the United Kingdom is the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) has been of historical benefit to Europe.  The British have often had to stand up to a powerful European despot trying to conquer the continent.  A divided island will be weak and at the mercy of any future more powerful European neighbors.