The world is a playing field. It’s a serious game we have going on here—but still, playing field. In the precursor to this piece, we took a very nostalgic journey down the memory lane that is our childhood and found this fact to be true. The rules guiding the lives we are living now—us all humans interspersed throughout this tiny world; this world as it is now and as has been since time immemorial—have been no different from the rules that guided our lives as children. When the thick veil of the so-called human civilisation is removed, we find this same skeletal framework of ‘the survival of the fittest’ at the core of our human ecosystem.
The world is nothing but a jungle—a civilised jungle, if you will. Yes, owing to our age-old, unfounded sense of self-importance, we, as humans, would like to prefix the word ‘jungle’ with ‘civilised’. Even though we know this fact to be true: the rules guiding the human ecosystem are no different from those prevailing in the animal kingdom.
All embellishments removed, I daresay, what we have on our hands is a global jungle—a global playground. Once born into it, you rescind all rights of abstaining from play—this is compulsory play. God, like your mother, has forced you down onto this playing field. Play it well, and you get your place at the high table. Play it badly, and you are, potentially perpetually, doomed to the role of ‘child’—a mini human doomed to doing others’ bidding; a puppet for the puppeteers; a minor actor in this epic drama we call a world—a world orchestrated and directed by fellow humans.
Let us go through today’s piece systematically. Let’s begin first with an inquisition into morality…
There is a Glitch in the Matrix
There indeed seems to be a glitch in the matrix. Because—pardon me if I’m wrong—but hasn’t the very core of our various world religions been this: ‘be good to one another’? Do unto others what you want done unto you—this is plainly stated in the Holy Bible, for one. There are variations of this same message contained all over various religious works. And like any good law, this religious law, this law of nature, comes with some form of punishments or rewards attached, forcing humans, as inherently animalistic as we can be, to compliance. The understanding then is, one is rewarded heavily for doing good; they are punished for doing bad. As simple and straightforward as that. I mean, this is fair, is it not? Can you imagine what our world would be if there hadn’t been any semblance of this rule entrenched in the fabric of society? Can you imagine such a world? Oh, the massacre!
But what is it that human experience has shown us? To our shock, don’t we see some people who have committed nothing but evil upon their fellow humankind, prospering on here and there? There must certainly be some sort of glitch in the matrix, mustn’t it? Because why is reality defying the dictates of this very, very natural law—the law that says evil is punished, and good rewarded? Has God, the Chief Legislator, Judicator, and Executioner, forgotten this vital provision in His own body of laws? Or does She have something up her sleeve? It is hell, right? That thing God has up Her sleeve… It is hell, isn’t it? These people may sometimes escape—supposedly escape—punishments in this world, but they are certainly headed for this otherworldly, this perpetual punishment called Hell. That is the case, isn’t it?
So, there you go, the matrix is restored—the order of life is restored. Indeed, this natural law remains: evil is punished, and good rewarded. The human brain, a staunch advocate for order and peaceful living, finds its way of restoring this sanity. And the ultimate restoring ingredients are these: Heaven and Hell.
But wait, let’s look at this matter closely. There is no denying the fact that we each crave this reward, this promise of good living now. We each crave punishments for those who wrong us now—not postponed into an extra-terrestrial dimension, but now! And by ‘now’, we mean ‘now’. We want to experience this ‘good for good’ and ‘bad for bad’ in this very world we find ourselves in—this very physical world of ours, the only one that we have ever known. It’s all well and good, these promises of a better world in the afterlife, but that should not prevent us from enjoying same right here, right now. Because, after all, didn’t God Herself—Her son, Jesus actually—during His brief stay in this same world some two thousand and twenty-three years ago, find His leg placed on the lap of a staunch admirer…Didn’t this leg of His find itself doused with expensive perfume…? And when questioned on this supposed worldly, ‘wasteful’ act, didn’t He, in justification of it, say something along the lines of: “The poor will always be with you…”
The poor will always be with you, so feel no scruples about enjoying the fruits of your labour; feel no scruples about enjoying the admiration of fellow humankind for living a worthy life. Feel no guilt about receiving ‘good for good’ in this very world. These are the words of the Messiah, not mine.
I know, there are a whole lot of similar texts to be drawn from the Bible alone… I can only imagine the wealth of information contained in other religious texts—texts that give a stamp of approval to this fact: for each good done, we are each deserving of reward; for each bad, bad…in this very life, not postponed into oblivion.
This fact is true of nations too.
To Be Ready
Before entering this devilish war, these countries were alike on these fronts:
First, they each had empires—groups of nations within their hold, extending far beyond their territories.
During this era of the 20th century, the concept of nationhood was limited to these nations. Other groups of people in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, Australia, and Europe itself, were held as colonies, condemned to doing the bidding of these nations. The vast nation of Russia, the largest nation of the era (still is) and one of the largest empires of the period, had its empire extending across Europe to Central Asia, all the way to the Americas. Britain, the largest empire of the time, had colonies spreading from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and to the Americas. The then emerging superpower, the third largest colonial empire of the era, Germany had its own share of colonies, from Africa, to islanded Samoa, and the Micronesian islands. So did the joint nation of Austria-Hungary, an empire which had its imperialistic efforts concentrated in Europe itself. France, the second largest colonial empire of the time, had colonies in the Americas, West Indies, Africa, Asia. The late-to-the-war USA had for years before the war, had its own fair share of what one could call an empire—an empire existing within its own self, slaves who did its bidding.
Secondly, this is the early 20th century we are talking about here… Industrialisation was almost two hundred years old. And these nations, being the starting points of this impactful economic revolution, had reaped, in varying degrees, the enormous gains afforded by the quick and effective production characteristic of industrialisation.
Take Britain, For Instance…
Britain, the birthplace of industrialisation, was naturally an industrial giant of the era. The pioneering strides made in the mechanisation of the production process had catapulted the nation into such position of power, having empires and investments across the globe. And having vast colonies spread across the globe meant free or cheap labour and raw materials. Having robust industries meant that this nation, using cheap labour could convert these cheap raw materials, through the process of industrialisation, into highly competitive refined products—products which were consumed by citizens and exported to other nations. Industrialisation hadn’t only made production more productive, but transportation too. So, trade among nations was largely enabled. British industries prospered famously. Naturally, Britain became the financial capital of the world; the Bank of England was the world’s foremost financial institution. The country was the world’s leading net creditor—having vast investments in nations across the world.
Russia was then even more of a mammoth than it is today. Without counting its colonies abroad, this country’s territory made up about one-sixth of the entire earth’s landmass, making it the most natural-resource endowed nation of the time. It had a population of 128 million—very huge for the era—making it the most populous nation of the time. Industrialisation wasn’t its strongest suit, however. Perhaps due to the abundance of human resource capital to transform its enormous natural resources into finished products, the mechanisation of the production process never became a matter of dire urgency for this nation as it had been for other European countries. Necessity had spawned an inventive streak in Britain, starting from the 18th century, and culminating in industry as we know it now. But this industrialisation streak, spreading across the rest of Europe, hadn’t found a good footing in Russia.
And it was in this state of massive human resource capital combined with relatively tame industrialisation that the Russian Empire entered the war in 1914. And it was this subpar performance in industrialisation that caused this huge nation to, at times, send its large army on foot, unarmed, with the order to make use of anything they could grab, as weapons. Met with a largely innovative and industrialised warfare, this huge country was to face a crushing defeat to the relatively tiny Germany—in its very first battle of the war. And the defeats didn’t stop there.
Russia was to go into the war, a perceived superpower due to its sheer size (having an army of a whopping 1.5 million men, the largest in the world); it came out of the war personally defeated, exposed for what it is, an archaic empire in an innovative world; an agrarian nation in a diversified, industrialised world.
Germany was a quick emerging giant. This relatively new, relatively small Balkan nation had closely studied Britain. It had witnessed as the islanded nation had turned sand into gold with industrialisation. Of course, ambitious Germany wanted its share of this technologically fuelled glory of exponential economic growth. Headed by an ambitious, petulant King, this country was to voraciously make great strides in industrialisation. Needing large human resource and natural resource capital to feed its industries, it was to join superpowers like Britain in the scramble for territories abroad. Kaiser Wilhelm—the emperor—was bent on giving to his country and people their ‘place in the sun’ as noted in his foreign policy. Bolstered by a sizeable population—a population of over 58 million—and a conscious industrialisation agenda, the German nation prospered.
By the start of the 20th century, the country’s steel production, for instance, had surpassed Britain and was second only to the USA’s. Coal production in the country increased, offering much-needed fuel to power industries. Foreign investments were at an all-time high; prevailing free trade meant wide and lucrative markets for German goods. And it was in this state of robustness, productiveness, efficiency, and preparedness that Germany entered the war in 1914. It was in this state of industrialised stronghold that convinced this relatively small nation that it could take on two neighbouring giants—Russia and France—at a go in a war. And as we know, it sure did lend an embarrassing defeat to enormous Russia, and gave France, Britain, and Belgium combined, one hell of a fight on the Western Front.
Lucky / Ready USA
When the war began, it had been some 140 years since USA’s independence from the British Empire. Yet, this nation had flourished famously, having weaned itself off its colonial overlord. By the era of the early 1900s, the country’s gross national product (GNP) was second only to its former colonial head. Having size and industry going for it, this nation was indeed a formidable force during the early 20th century. It wasn’t the world’s foremost superpower—no, not yet. That position was still held by its former boss, the British Empire. Yet, it was one of the most industrialised nations in the world, having one of the world’s largest economies.
But in the period immediately before the war, this budding nation was in fact, going through a recession—a recession spawned by another European war, the First Balkan War (1912), a war which had dealt a devastating blow to many of the world’s economies. This recession was to inspire the setting up of the US Federal Reserve in 1913—a body which was tasked to take charge of the country’s monetary system and stabilise its economy; an institution which was to consequently play a vital role in USA’s economy during the war, and remains same all these years after the infamous war. But here we were, in 1914, when an even greater war—greater in scale and devastation than any of the Balkan Wars so far—had kickstarted. If these small Balkan Wars could help weaken this nation, miles and miles away, one could only wonder what the Great War would do to the country of America…
Further weaken it?
No, that’s not what happened. You see, most times, when two lions fight, the elephant gets to rule the jungle. Granted, it is still the grass that suffers in this scenario. But picture this, the lion no longer king of the jungle, but the elephant. Why? Because the lion is busily engaged in endless, pointless battles.
This was the case for the United States of America…
[To Be Continued]