World View: Germany Commemorates the Firebombing of Dresden

Bombing of Dresden, Germany, WWII
Wikimedia Commons/labeled for reuse

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Germany commemorates the firebombing of Dresden
  • What’s the value of a human life?
  • Generational Dynamics and prolactin

Germany commemorates the firebombing of Dresden

Aftermath of the bombing of Dresden, February 1945
Aftermath of the bombing of Dresden, February 1945

On Thursday, 10,000 people joined hands along the Elbe River commemorating the tens of thousands of people who were burned alive on February 13, 1945, when the Allies firebombed Dresden. In the space of 23 minutes, hundreds of bombers dropped some 3,000 high-explosive bombs and 400,000 incendiary bombs. The city center was vaporized. The fires sucked up all the oxygen, so that those who weren’t burned to death died of suffocation. The fires could be seen 200 miles away, and the temperatures reached so high that glass melted in cellars.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the firebombing of Dresden is looked at as part of the “explosive climax” of a generational crisis war. Non-crisis wars almost always end indecisively, as in the case of America’s Korean and Iraq wars. (The Vietnam war ended decisively as a victory for Vietnam because, although it was a non-crisis war for America, it a crisis war for Vietnam.)

There are many events that contributed to the explosive climax of World War II, but the following three are perhaps the best-known:

  • The landing at Normandy beach, where tens of thousands of American soldiers were shot down like fish in a barrel.
  • The firebombing of Dresden, where tens of thousands of people were burned alive.
  • The nuclear bombing of Japanese cities.

What these three events have in common is that they illustrate something that happens in a crisis war that doesn’t happen in a non-crisis war: As the war approaches an end, the value of an individual human live drops to zero, and the only thing of value is the survival of the entire society and its way of life.

This happens to every society, every nation, without exception at the climax of a generational crisis war. When a society becomes desperate enough, they will take steps so horrible that the traumatized survivors will spend the rest of their lives feeling guilty about them and perhaps even regretting them, while the younger generation growing up later will have no such regrets. Reuters and Deutsche Welle and BBC

What’s the value of a human life?

I wrote about this a lot when the Sri Lanka civil war was approaching a climax in 2009. The civil war had been going on over two decades, and as far as I know, every analyst and journalist in the world was predicting that the war would continue for many more years. However, in January 2008, something changed that made it clear from the point of view of Generational Dynamics that this war had transitioned into a generational crisis war that would soon reach a climax. As I wrote at that time (see “Sri Lanka government declares all out war against Tamil Tiger rebels”), the army suddenly committed itself to defeating the LTTE (Tamil rebels) by the end of 2008.

We can bring the war against the LTTE to a turning point once we are able to destroy the LTTE capabilities to operate in bunkers and forward defense lines.

What followed during the next year was very dramatic. The LTTE purposely embedded itself in the civilian population, so that the army could not attack them without killing civilians. The army ferociously attacked the LTTE, even when civilian lives were at stake. What happened was that the value of a civilian life had dropped to zero for both the army and the LTTE, and the only thing of value was victory.

Today, there are calls for the Sri Lankan army to be charged with war crimes, to which my response is that if Sri Lanka’s war is a war crime, then the firebombing of Dresden is also a war crime — something that some German activists would agree with.

Regular readers of this daily Generational Dynamics World View article may wonder how I select topics and what things I look for. In my mind, I’m constantly trying to measure how much the value of an individual human life has become, and I tend to choose stories that indicate either that the value remains high or that the value is going lower. So, for example, yesterday’s story on Europe’s search and rescue program for migrants crossing from Libya to reach Italy is really a story about how important it still is to Europeans whether desperate refugees drown in the Mediterranean Sea.

Obviously, the most recent examples where the value of a human life is zero are terror attacks by the likes of Boko Haram, ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Even within that domain, there are differences. The Charlie Hebdo bombing in Paris was bad, but not as bad as the slaughter of 2000 people by Boko Haram that was occurring in the same time frame. ( “10-Jan-15 World View — Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre”)

And it is not always Muslims who are the perpetrators. In “5-Apr-13 World View — Meiktila, Burma, violence has echoes of Kristallnacht”, I wrote about the wild, frenzied attack by Buddhists on Muslims that killed dozens and reduced an entire established community of 12,000 Muslims– including homes, shops and mosques– to ashes and rubble. In that article, I compared the slaughter to 1938’s Kristallnacht, which was a prelude to the Nazi Holocaust.

I’ve written several times about the Central African Republic and its generational crisis war currently in progress between the Muslim tribes and the Christian tribes. Both sides are committing atrocities, and this war will not end until there has been an explosive climax that all survivors will regret for the rest of their lives.

A reader recently wrote and asked me:

John: Which country will be the first to use a nuclear weapon?

That is an interesting question whose answer cannot be predicted. The countries with nuclear weapons are: US, Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea. Once a world war starts, any one of these countries might be the first, if the people in that country panic and decide that nothing is more important than victory. By the climax of the war, every one of those countries will have reached that conclusion, and every nuclear weapon will have been used. My estimate is that, by the time the war ends, some 3 billion people will have been killed, leaving about 4 billion people to rebuild the world. At that time, the survivors will vow never to let anything like that ever happen again, and will take all the steps they can think of to keep that vow.

Generational Dynamics and prolactin

The discussion above of nuclear weapons is the kind of article that divides people. I have often been puzzled by other people’s reactions to my web site. Some want to read it every day, others absolutely can’t stand it, and can’t stand me as a result. Ten years ago, friends I have known for years treated me as a harmless kook, but now, as the world worsens and one generational theory prediction after another has come true, those friends now shun me. This is similar to the mythical Cassandra, whom I’ve written about many time. I’ve also been puzzled why, after 12 years, there’s no other web site in the world like mine.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard something that provided some insight. There was a BBC World Service show called “Why Factor,” with the subject “Sad/Gloomy Music.” It turns out that some people can listen to sad music and really enjoy it, while other people listen to sad music and absolutely can’t stand it.

This observation seemed stunningly similar to the reactions to my World View articles and my web site.

The only “happy” music sample they played during the show was “The Beatles – I Want to Hold your Hand.” They played samples of a number of “sad” music songs:

Billie Holiday – Gloomy Sunday
James Taylor – Riding on a Railroad
Joni Mitchell – River
Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out of My Head
Johann Sebastian Bach – Prelude in B minor, number 24
Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka – La Separation
Felix Mikhailovich Blumenfeld – Etude Sur Mer
Arvo Pärt – Spiegel Im Spiegel
Djivan Gasparyan – I Am Outcast By You
The Rankin Family – Chi Mi Na Morbheanna
Oliver Mtukudzi – Neria
Víctor Jara – Te Recuerdo Amanda
M.R Shajarian – Rain
Chris Isaak – Wicked Game
Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings

According to the show, the last in this list is the most popular sad song among the show’s listeners.

The show described the differences in chord structure between happy and sad music, but unfortunately, I know nothing about music and didn’t understand, which is too bad.

However, according to the BBC show, the differences in music are also generational: In the 1960s (the generational Awakening era), most popular music had the “happy” chord structure, while in the 2000s (the generational Crisis era), most popular music has the “sad” chord structure.

This opened my eyes to a whole new slant on the generational changes in music. In my 2008 article, “The nihilism and self-destructiveness of Generation X”, I wrote about the generational changes in the lyrics of music since World War II, and I quoted some Gen-X lyrics, such as the song “Mr. Self Destruct” by Nine Inch Nails.

However, the concept that there are “happy chords” and “sad chords” and that they differ by generations goes beyond lyrics and was quite new to me.

One personal note: For my whole life, I’ve always loved Great Band Era music, 1935-45, and I still have a large record collection of Great Band Era songs. I’m going to guess that most Great Band Era music had the “sad” chord structure, and I’m going to guess that that’s the reason I like it a lot more than most popular music, and I’m going to guess that my enjoyment of Great Band Era music is related to my being able to do this World View article every day. I also love original cast recordings from the 1930s-50s, and the reason may be the same.

Returning to the BBC program, there is a theory having to do with the hormone prolactin. Prolactin has to do with milk production in pregnant women, and has no known normal function in men. However, according to the show, some research shows that men and women who like sad music have an excess of prolactin, and those who hate sad music don’t have enough prolactin. So maybe what makes me unique is that my blood is overflowing with prolactin. And also, maybe the people who read my World View articles have more prolactin than average, and those who can’t stand them have less.

According to Prof David Huron of Ohio State University, quoted in the program:

The research shows that for ordinary sadness, when we’re in that state, we are our most deadly realistic in our self-appraisal. It has beneficial effects on judgment, on memory, all sorts of cognitive benefits that happen from being in a saddened state.

Since the World View articles are the most “deadly realistic” analyses around, then this is the theory how I can write these articles every day: I have a good analytical ability, I have just the right education, and, most important, I have too much prolactin in my blood. If this theory is true then, Dear Reader, that’s why I’m able to write these articles every day. And for similar reasons, that’s why you read them every day.

Here’s a comment from a reader:

I have a sister who sees the world through rose colored glasses. I have ceased to attempt to give her insight, or guidance into where we are headed. She prefers, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, to see the world as a “nice” place, where someone will always arrive in time to save her, and those she cares about, from evil.

My suggestion: Both of you should be tested for prolactin levels.

BBC World Service – Why Factor – Sad Music and Podcast (mp3)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Germany, Dresden, Normandy, Japan, Sri Lanka, Tamil Tigers, Boko Haram, ISIS, al-Qaeda, Taliban, Myanmar, Burma, Kristallnacht, Central African Republic, BBC World Service, Why Factor, prolactin, David Huron, Ohio State
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