Author Archives: Haley McFly

Final Letter

What makes a successful society?

To Whom it May Concern–

When I received the project assignment for second semester that required a detailed inquiry of how I make connections and orient my thoughts, I realized that its openness allowed me to choose any topic that I had a previous desire to learn about. At the time, I had been noticing that a great number of events or situations in the news about either social, political, or international issues were completely foreign to be. Anytime that I happened to see a political cartoon on the internet that made no sense to me I would get a sinking feeling that I was unaware of so many things that were taking place in the world. That was why, for my project, I had decided to look at some of the history behind these things in order to not only understand what was happening, but be able to contribute my own opinions and insights on the occurrences around me. Because many of the issues people were discussing had to do with what was best for society and if some nations were declining, I decided to investigate what truly made a successful society and to do that by beginning with the beginning of civilization in itself with the book Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. Ultimately, my research led me to have a greater understanding of the balance of power between nature and man, the common citizen and the governmental leader, and the general public and its rulers.

When I began to read Diamond’s book, I had expected my project to focus on the physical factors such climate and environment that would have caused one society or civilization to develop better than another. However, while these were certainly things I considered and read about in my first book, my thoughts tended to drift toward the influences human behaviors had on a community’s growth. One concept that Diamond mentioned that I took particular notice of was “Whenever some scientist claims to have discovered ‘the earliest X’…that announcement challenges other scientists to beat the claim by finding something still earlier,” meaning that the scientist’s desire for recognition would propel him to always look for something older and more impressive than what the last person found. This reminded me of a TED talk that I watched called “Where are the baby dinosaurs?” in which Jack Horner explained explained that many of the already existing different species of dinosaurs have so many common similarities in body structure that they could actually be of the same species at different age levels and that the scientists’ desire to have the credit for finding a new dinosaur overpowered their desire to further investigate. This was a crucial revelation for me because it demonstrated that people have not only an impact on the future, but on the past as well. By misinterpreting events that have happened, people have the power to change history by transforming how it is seen. This insight also made it clear that I needed to further explore human motivations and actions in the development of civilization. The human aspect then became central in my research which led to a narrower focus and a deeper study of more recent history. Because of this, I watched the first episode of Mankind: The Story of All of Us to see how difference in audience and the author’s purpose can change how the information is represented. However, despite my shift in focus, I still wanted to see what the main components of a prosperous nation were. To do this, I realized, I was not able to simply look at the rise of empires because a society starting does not mean it will last. To find an accurate answer, I had to also look at the collapse of these same empires. That was why I chose to read Revolutionary Russia, 1891 – 1991: A History by Orlando Figes because it gave me a closer look at the rise and fall of the Soviet union which allowed me to zoom in and examine the specific people and behaviors that led to different actions in the nation.

Because the beginnings and ends of a society cannot be truly separated because the collapse of one often means the rise of another, understanding the tools for this transition is vitally important to seeing how both ends happen. Some of the biggest and most effective tools that I found were revolutions. After reading how the Russian Revolution played out in Revolutionary Russia, 1891 – 1991: A History, I outlined the pattern that I noticed that fit these events and that I believe can be applied to other insurgent movements as well. My pattern, however, does not really demonstrate how a movement is fostered and then executed, but rather what it develops into after its acquisition of power. The first step of the process can be labeled as extreme revulsion for the type of government and leaders it just replaced. This means that the new government goes against anything that vaguely resembles the previous rule and results in policies that are completely opposite of what had existed. However, the second step—the economic and societal failure of the system—shows that striving for the opposite of a broken system does not result in a prosperous system. The reason for this is the assumption made by the revolutionaries that the old government was completely evil and wholly faulty. However, there is hardly ever time where no piece or policy of a government worked because, after all, if it lasted for any amount of time, something had to have operated with a relative amount of success. So even if just one part of the old system functioned properly, the flip of the entire system would mean the piece that worked before now does not. That is why such extreme governments do not last because clinging to one side means missing important necessities that come from the middle, but that leads us to the third step. The third step is the realization that remaining on one side of the spectrum does not allow success, and then compromise. The movement or new government will likely see that sticking to their ideals in every issue leads to problems and will make slight concessions that make it inch back toward the middle ground. The acceptance of some of these old policies as compromise push the movement farther and farther away from its beliefs until the system looks scarily similar to what it did before the revolution.

This template of course cannot be applied to all revolutions however I did find some that fit my mold fairly well. The first was the Bolshevik regime which began with completely socialist policies, but adapted them in small ways to lead to an overall more oppressive system than the last had been. I confirmed this after watching the American film Doctor Zhivago about an upper class family experiencing the revolution. All of the perceptions that the movie displayed had to be taken with the knowledge that it was made by Americans during the Cold War, but it was still an interesting tool for evaluation of my process. However, as I did model my template after this Russian government, I had to look for other outside situations that also followed the steps. This led me to watch the movie Danton which was set in post-revolutionary France about a once important revolutionary, Georges Danton, who no longer agreed with the methods of his movement. When they arrest him for speaking out against the revolution he claims “They’ve established a new dictatorship worse than the old,” and the film ends with the leader of the movement that had Danton killed listening to his nephew recite the ideals of the revolution all the while knowing that he had contradicted each one with his actions. I felt like this was a fairly good example of my pattern because it showed the human tendency to lean toward power and away from justice as the leaders would do in the pattern.

Overall, the study of revolutions and the duration of societies led me not to a direct answer of what components really must be present for a civilization to be successful, but to a new knowledge of human behavior and a way to seek patterns and connections in the way events play out which was ultimately a goal of mine at the beginning of the semester. While I know that I will continue reading and learning in order to further my knowledge on different topics, I believe I am currently more capable of registering the events around me and making my own judgments on them because of my research for this project.

-Haley McGeorge

What makes a successful society?

Works Cited

Final Project Part 1

Final Project Part 2

Separate Presentation

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Final Blog Post

Short Visual Media

Horner, Jack. “Where Are the Baby Dinosaurs?” TEDxVancouver. Vancouver. Nov. 2011. TED.Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Slutkin, Gary. “Let’s Treat Violence like a Contagious Disease.” TEDMED 2013. Apr. 2013. TED. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Books and Print Media

Diamond, Jared M. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W.Norton, 1998. Print.

 Film

Clifton, Dan, dir. “Inventors.” Mankind: The Story of All of Us. History Channel. 2012. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.

 Experience

Snowmachining Trip

 Books and Print Media

“Real History versus Guns Germs and Steel – Anthropology 2.5.” Living Anthropologically. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

Figes, Orlando. Revolutionary Russia, 1891 – 1991: A History. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

 Short Visual Media

Diamond, Jared. “Why Do Societies Collapse?” TED2003. 14 Mar. 2015.TED. Web. 01 May 2015.

 Books and Print Media

News.com.au. “NASA Predicts the End of Western Civilization.” NY Post. N.p., 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

 Film

Doctor Zhivago. Dir. David Lean. Perf. Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. MGM/United Artists Entertainment, 1965.

Danton. Dir. Andrzej Wajda. Perf. Gérard Depardieu. S.n., 1983.

  1. As I read and seeked information for my project, I found that I had researched two different cases in history: the beginnings of civilizations and the collapse of these societies. This caused me to categorize the events I studied and the information I gathered into beginnings and endings which ultimately becomes the pattern. However, the overarching factors that I determined that work to form a community are extremely similar–if not the same–as those that cause will cause it to fail. So for my project and letter, I plan to examine the ways that these factors can make or break a society. While many of the factors are environmental and geographical, I will be focusing mostly on the human response to these things rather than the specific statistics or facts of a category like food or natural disasters. The reason for this is that while Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies provided geographical information to engineer an answer to why some initial civilizations developed faster than others, it also demonstrated how people react to certain things and how their actions can determine their fate. A pattern of these human behaviors can easily be applied to more modern situations in which politics and human relations become more relevant.

 

  1. I began with the book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and the initial question of the book: why did some societies in some areas develop faster and deeper than those in other areas? The beginning of the book talked about some of the basic information about history in order to build a platform to work off of. However, looking back through my notes, I see that the things I seemed to notice the most were not related to specific items or certain concrete advantages that certain people had, but the pieces that discussed human tendencies. One thing I took note of was the desire of scientists to find the oldest human in order to win the quest for the hardest item to find. This is an idea I discussed in my first blog post and related to Jack Horner’s explanation of the lack of juvenile dinosaur fossils. This led to a minor consideration in the people’s role in our view of history, but I considered this concept more in depth later on. Another thing I noted on a sticky note was the role of customs in the Maori violence against the Moriori in the New Zealand area. One of the Maori commented that there was not a concrete reason why he was performing such actions except that it was “in accordance with… [their]… customs”.  This again pushed me more into considering the people’s mindsets’ and behavioral patterns in development. But I had kept reading and writing the words “development” and “civilization” without any clear parameters to define these terms with. That was when my system for judging “development” was formed during my personal experience. This system is not precise or perfect gave me something to work off later. I also chose to watch the first episode of Mankind: The Story of All of Us (a series aired on the history channel) so I could compare its version of the beginning of civilization with Diamond’s. The television program’s version was a bit oversimplified and seemed to emphasize the wrong points. However, this portrayal that was created with a different audience in mind than Diamond’s book and served to demonstrate the power of people to influence our memory of history.

While researching more background about the topic of Guns, Germs, and Steel, I found several reviews and critiques for the book itself. One in particular broached an idea that helped to split the flow of my research on societies. The author claimed–among other things–that Diamond did not put enough emphasis on the human choice aspect of history which–as I previously stated in a post–I was going to need to add another book that could provide a narrower view the evolution of a society which led me to choose to read Orlando Figes’ Revolutionary Russia, 1891 – 1991: A History that would show the rise and fall of the Soviet society in Russia. This book gave me quite a few ideas about the construction of revolutions among other things which are mostly stated in number four with my insights and realizations.

After reading about a more specific example, I wanted to broaden my perspective once more and I found an article about a some studies performed by NASA and what they could mean. In the beginning, the first thing I noticed was the description of some items that could be considered luxury and I immediately recognized them as what I refer to as embellishments. It continued by mentioning the pattern of all great empires falling some specifically stated were the Roman Empire, Han, Mauryan, Gupta, and the Mesopotamian Empires which were also technologically advanced. The technology factor was something I had not directly considered in this semester project, but some of the ideas from my last semester project could carry over.

In effort to see another depiction of a topic I was reading about, I watched an American movie made in 1965 called Doctor Zhivago about a middle-class general practitioner and poet during the early revolutions in Russia and WWI. It was interesting to see something from the perspective of a well-off family other than the politicians and peasants perspectives I had been reading in my book. Everything had to be taken with the knowledge that it was made by Americans during the Cold War time period, but it was still interesting to see another portrayal. I also wanted to test my revolution process theory and again see how people manipulate events to change how people view history so I decided to watch the movie Danton which was made in 1983 about one of the original French Revolution leaders, George Danton.

 

4.

  • Humans need only the four basic necessities of water, air, food, and shelter and everything they do that is not in effort to provide these things are expendable and “embellishments”.
  • Development (from a western perspective) can be measured through these “embellishments” in the people’s lives.
  • Powerful leaders can create history, but history can also generate powerful leaders.
  • An imbalance of embellishments can engender unrest, however the denial of the basic needs will a guarantee a dramatic response.
  • People in the present can influence the past just as much as the future by portraying history differently.
  • There is a common revolution pattern that often occurs after a major overturn of the government which I will lay out in detail in the letter.
  • A common enemy or a bigger threat can unite people, however, if this is the only string tying them together, these good relations are only strong enough to last until the threat is resolved. Two examples of this can be found within the Russian Revolution.
    • The first is during the civil war when the Red army of the Bolsheviks was pitted against the insurrection, white army. During this time–despite their discontent with the actions of the Reds–they united with the Bolsheviks because the white army would have taken their land that they had recently acquired after the revolution.
    • The second example is actually shown in several steps. Before the end of Imperial Russia, it was the revolutionaries that wanted more power given to the people against the Tsarist regime. However, after the Tsar was overthrown the socialist revolutionary party broke down into the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. The Mensheviks had control of the government that was established after the end of imperial Russia, but the Bolsheviks united to knock them out of power and take control during the October Revolution. With the Mensheviks out of the equation and after the civil war was won, the Bolshevik party remained joined only because of their obedience to Lenin who was the face of the Bolshevik party. While Lenin was still alive, a bitter rivalry festered between Trotsky and Stalin. After Lenin died, Stalin slowly turned the party against Trotsky and soon he was the main figure behind the government of the country.

 

  1. I believe that a prezi presentation will be the best way to convey my thoughts because there were many different directions that my thoughts traveled in, but they all relate in one way or another. Prezi will make the visual for the information more  graphical than linear which I think is necessary in order to properly demonstrate the interconnections between all of my ideas and research. I will also more than likely add either voice recordings that can be clicked to be played or make a video of the screen as I go through the presentation. I think that it will be easier to express some of the more abstract concepts and patterns I have found.

-Haley McGeorge

Citations:

Books

Diamond, Jared M. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W.Norton, 1998. Print.

Figes, Orlando. Revolutionary Russia, 1891 – 1991: A History. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

During this quarter, in addition to looking at the beginnings of civilization itself through Jared Diamond’s book, I examined the collapse of a society and type of government in Orlando Figes’ retelling of the end of the Russian monarchy. Although the development of civilization is not the same thing as the rise of a society or empire, some basic human features can still be found in the analogy even with the big differences between farming and a revolution.  The way that Diamond explains it, the development of agriculture was a combination of conscious and unconscious decisions made by humans as well as certain floral and geographical features to produce the outcome of a new way of life no longer based on nomadic hunting and gathering. One of his examples of these different factors was a human picking the biggest strawberry on the bush because it was  worth more time and effort than a smaller one would be and unintentionally redistributing the seeds from this strawberry into a place where it could grow . His tone suggests that this shift in food production had a certain inevitability to it, that it was always going to happen, but the correct collisions of factors over this period of time made this change occur during this era.  Figes demonstrates that the situation of the Russian working class would not be able to remain the same because of certain factors. The tenuous atmosphere also was a result of certain calculated and uncalculated decisions made by workers, politicians, and leaders. As is human nature, each individual in this group wanted something that was bigger and better than what they had. They were all reaching for the strawberry which they did not know could result in a dramatic change in the course of their history.

One of the ultimate differences between the food production shift and the Russian Revolution was the condition of the people at the start of these movements.  The nomadic hunter-gatherers did not know that their method for living could be improved upon so we can only assume that they were content with their lot in life and only decided to change when –almost by chance– they discovered a new way to live. On the contrary, the angst at the beginning of the revolutionary period in Russia was the result of the people knowing that they were not achieving their full potential and that something needed to be fixed. However, in order to fully understand what was wrong with the Russian government system, we need to further determine the origins of the angst of the Russian citizens at the time. While reading through the problems that the people had and the unfair treatment they were receiving, I realized that i could use my method for analyzing the degrees of civilization from my previous post to explain the people’s anger and desire for change. The problem was not simply that the Russian peasants and working class were lacking in embellishments (people in third world countries have poor lots as well but haven’t needed a revolt), but that the government and upper classes had a copious amount of them. It was this imbalance of embellishments and power between the lower and upper class that created the unstable and turbulent atmosphere. However, this still does not completely explain why the revolts were beginning at this time instead of much earlier when the same imbalance existed. The reason is most likely that at this point, citizens of western nations were no longer in the same state as the Russian citizens so the Russians saw that better was not only possible but common in other places. This knowledge of existing conditions came with increased literacy which is why in the development of anything it is necessary that people have the ability to know the full circumstances of which things are being made.

Yet, while we can say the revolution was due to the lopsided distribution of embellishments, we can break down the causes to something even more basic. The pattern that I noticed throughout this section of the book was that there were two things that really sparked anger within the people: an empty stomach and broken pride. Because food is one of the four basic necessities, people are more likely to protest when they do not have it. One specific example was when the strife extended to the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Navy. Figes summarizes the concept  well when he states, “The mutiny began with a piece of maggoty meat.” The rotten meat had been shown to the doctor on board, and he had proclaimed that it was fine to eat. The sailors approached the captain with the matter, but the captain had the speaker shot and killed. The sailors revolted and were able to take control of the ship and sail it to a town full of rebels where they were treated like heroes. Figes explains that “the mutiny had been a minor threat. But it was a major embarrassment to the government” because it demonstrated that the revolution had made it to the center of the of “its own military machine”. The major reaction of both parties to the meat indicates the power of hunger as a catalyst for action. The pride element asserts itself both in the first revolt in 1905 and the second in 1917. The Russo-Japanese war lasted from 1904-1905 over disputes over land in Manchuria and Korea. During this time the Russian government put out propaganda portraying the Japanese as “puny little monkeys, slit-eyed and yellow-skinned, running in panic from the robust fist of a Russian soldier.” This propaganda boosted morale and created a great sense of nationalism, but when the Russians lost to the Japanese in 1905, the people’s pride fell as did their trust in the government. The posters and images had made the Japanese into a weak enemy so–to the Russian citizens–the defeat was a crushing blow and they blamed it on the government. In this case, propaganda had actually worked against the government and it would do so again in 1917 during WWI with  the anti-german mood and the Russians were suffering badly on the front. At this time, rumors and slander was also spread about the royal family due to their German heritage and their relationships with the  controversial figure of Grigorii Rasputin. It did not matter whether the information was true because “In a revolutionary crisis it is perceptions and beliefs that really count.” The war hysteria made it easy for people to believe what they heard which in addition to  the disaster on the front stirred up rebellion against their government. The let down of emotions and the absence of food have the potential to make the people forget their loyalties and recognize their oppression.

One of the biggest dissimilarities between the two books I’m reading is that Jared Diamond does not seem to place much value on the contributions of specific figures throughout history. For instance when describing Francisco Pizarro’s conquest of the Incan empire, Diamond did  not believe that the actions of neither the Incan leader or Pizarro himself affected the outcome of the situation and the same feeling of inevitability came up as if an individual’s decisions–no matter the station of the person–could change the outcome of the conflict. However, Orlando Figes seems to believe that certain figures during the Russian Revolution swayed the outcome dramatically. Of course part of this difference has to be attributed to the fact that Diamond’s focus is much larger and more indistinct than Figes’ , but it still begs the question can particular leaders determine the direction of history? I think this relates back to nationalism and the ideology of the people because we know that the beliefs of the people–true or not–can influence a movement or government, so we have to consider what builds this ideology. A lot of times an individual with the proper eloquence in speaking and enough force to follow through with action is what creates such an ideology. Figes states that “It was not Marxism that made Lenin a revolutionary but Lenin who made Marxism revolutionary.” Lenin’s total commitment to the cause and the change turned an idea into insurgency so is this proof that individuals can transform the course of history? Figes also claims that “Trotsky…was the real force behind the Soviet. He framed its resolutions and wrote editorials for Izvestiia.” Trotsky, in this assertion, reminded me of Thomas Jefferson during the American Revolution. Most people–or Americans at least–would agree that Jefferson with his rhetoric and George Washington with is military talent and charisma filled important roles in the success of America’s separation from Great Britain, but would there have been someone else that could have taken the role as scribe instead of Jefferson or commander to replace Washington that would have done an equal job? My question is do these leaders influence the course of history because they used unique talents to make a difference or was history always headed in one direction and it created roles that demanded to be filled as time passed? The best answer I can give is a mix of both because to only say one or the other would be ignoring major components of history. Situations do tend to create roles for a person to fill as seen by many power vacuums during crises, and the way a person fills them can probably fall on a pattern, but the choices a leader makes are unique to them so it cannot be too formulaic. The most prominent reason I have to say that an individual can make a difference is because I cannot say the Holocaust still would have happened if Hitler had been accepted into art school and had not gone into politics. Both books provide an interesting perspective on the plight of mankind and the repeating sequences of actions that people follow which hopefully will provide me with more insight into what the future holds as well.

-Haley McGeorge

Technology Editorial Final Draft

At 10:30 on a Sunday evening, one of the most frustrating and crushing sights in the modern age filled my drowsy gaze. A small black and white tyrannosaurus rex with a large, cumbersome nose and tiny, thin arms appeared on the bright screen, indicating that Google Chrome could not open my chemistry help page due to issues with the internet connection. In the utter despair that often accompanies complete hopelessness, I double tapped the space bar on the keyboard and watched the small dinosaur run and jump over a cactus with each click of my key. This sequence of events is not an uncommon occurrence for me nor for many students attempting to do late night research, but, upon further consideration, this small digital figure proposed an interesting complex that represents the technology debate as a whole. While it could be that this dinosaur and its accompanying game was simply an attempt from the Google company to be clever and unique, it also serves as a  demonstration of human dependence on technology for a distraction. Whether it’s a distraction from frustration, boredom, or frustration due to boredom, this game shows how technology has become integrated to fill even the shortest amounts of time, denying people their full potential for a fulfilling existence and not allowing for free thought and creativity that makes the time worth it.

When I was younger, it was customary that when my family and I arrived at a restaurant the hostess would ask how many children there were and distribute the corresponding amount of kid’s coloring sheets and menus to our table. Coloring in the olives, navigating the mazes, and circling the correct combinations of letters in the word search on these sheets proved a good way to occupy me until the meal came while the adults held sophisticated conversations about the housing market and the best times of year for fishing. The reason for this difference in activities can be found by analyzing the way that children think versus the way adults do. To a child, life is in the events that are the biggest, most exciting, or simply necessary like receiving the food at a restaurant; the in between stages are not moments of their lives, but obstacles to get around to the parts of life that matter to them. The adults, however, with their more experienced view of the world, were able to realize all the time spent doing anything was precious because every moment combined to make their lives. Because of the shorter attention spans of children that results from the mindset that only certain periods of time matter, these activities were perfectly acceptable, and now, with evolving electronics and their software, kids have exchanged the placemats and crayons for electronic devices such as iPods, smart phones, or tablets. However, the shift in the atmosphere of eateries is not due to the entertainment medium of the children changing, but to the fact that the adults are often engaging in the same electronic games rather than in personal conversation. This shows that they have reverted to the less mature view of life that is generally held by children because the time in the intervals between large events no longer are cause for celebration through interaction with others, but rather something to be wasted. However, the question still remains why these games or social networking sites are not good uses of time.

Ideas often are composed unexpectedly from a combination of inspiration and creativity and for this reason, most people view creativity as a vital part of keeping society progressing and improving through ideas. With the increasing dependence on technology for entertainment, people simply have less time to be innovative. In his essay “A Reunion with Boredom”, Charles Simic claims that boredom results in more creative ideas and a more grounded sense of reality. This “boredom” that he speaks of is a result from the absence of technology and a deeper connection with the outside world. This is the reason that the childlike method of ignoring periods of time because they are not as prominent as others is unsatisfying. Van Gogh found inspiration for greatness looking up at the stars even though it was not a large event or even necessary so although they may not be exciting or hopeful at the time, these small moments better connect us with the world and give meaning to our lives in the small way that big occurrences can overlook. But now that we have established the importance of the in between times, we need to establish why technology cannot always be an effective filler for these moments. In her article “Creativity on the Run”, Diane Darrow quotes Paul Torrance by saying that creativity is “the process of sensing problems or gaps in information, forming ideas or hypotheses, testing, modifying these hypotheses and communicating the results. This process may lead to any one of many kinds of products — verbal and nonverbal, concrete and abstract.”  By this definition, creativity is being able to find solutions to problems and modify those solutions to the particular circumstances. However, a commonly held belief is that creativity should create something unique so the only place that people can encounter the situations that present a challenge–where they have to make their own tools and discover their own resources–is in the real world. While it’s true that some technological games can present a consumer with a puzzle that they have to engineer a solution for, they restrict people to the boundaries of someone else’s thought process. By only allowing them to follow the same tracks that the designer did, people are not being given the opportunity to reach their full potential. However, this also broaches another problem with technology as a promotion for ingenuity. Torrance’s definition first states that creativity is “the process of sensing problems or gaps in information,” which indicates that the first step of being creative is to recognize the issue.When consumers are given a game that requires them to think about a dilemma, the simple existence of the game tells them there is an issue so they are not forced to register the problem on their own first. This missing step means they are not as aware and knowledgeable about the problem and are more likely to follow the movements designed by the makers of the game and not find a unique solution that would allow the process to be labeled “creative”. The outside is the only place people can truly be “creative” and reach their full potential for coming up with new ideas because there are no restrictions by other people.

Ultimately, technology can be a tool to aid in the enhancement of life, but in order to enjoy the given time to the fullest extent possible, one cannot use technology to elect which parts of life to live and which to ignore. The world can give inspiration in the most unexpected times, but it will not be found in Candy Crush.

-Haley McGeorge

Technology Editorial First Draft

At 10:30 on a Sunday evening, one of the most frustrating and crushing sights in the modern age filled my drowsy gaze. A small black and white tyrannosaurus rex with a large, cumbersome nose and tiny, thin arms appeared on the bright screen, indicating that Google Chrome could not open my chemistry help page due to issues with the internet connection. In the utter despair that often accompanies complete hopelessness, I doubled tapped the space bar on the keyboard and watched the small dinosaur run and jump over a cactus with each click of my key. This sequence of events is not an uncommon occurrence for me nor for many students attempting to do late night research, but, upon further consideration, this small digital figure proposed an interesting complex that represents the technology debate as a whole. While it could be that this dinosaur and its accompanying game was simply attempt from the Google company to be clever and unique, it also serves as a  demonstration of human dependence on technology for a distraction. Whether it’s a distraction from frustration, boredom, or frustration due to boredom, this game shows how technology has become integrated to fill even the shortest amounts of time, denying people their full potential for a fulfilling existence and not allowing for free thought and creativity that makes the time worth it.

When I was younger, it was customary that when my family and I arrived at a restaurant the hostess would ask how many children there were and distribute the corresponding amount of kid’s coloring sheets and menus to our table. Coloring in the olives, navigating the mazes, and circling the correct combinations of letters in the word search on these sheets proved a good way to occupy me until the meal came while the adults held sophisticated conversations about the housing market and the best times of year for fishing. The reason for this difference in activities can be found by analyzing the way that children think versus the way adults do. To a child, life is in the events that are the biggest, most exciting or simply necessary like receiving the food at a restaurant; the in between stages are not moments of their lives, but obstacles to get around to the parts of life that matter to them. The adults, however, with their more experienced view of the world, were able to realize all the time spent doing anything was precious because every moment combined to make their lives. Because of the shorter attention spans of children that results from the mindset that only certain periods of time matter, these activities were perfectly acceptable, and now, with evolving electronics and their software, kids have exchanged the placemats and crayons for electronic devices such as iPods, smart phones, or tablets. However, the shift in the atmosphere of eateries  not due to the entertainment medium of the children changing, but rather that the adults are often engaging in the same electronic games than in personal conversation. This shows that they have reverted to the less mature view of life that is generally held by children because the time in the intervals between large events no longer are cause for celebration through interaction with others, but rather something to be wasted. However, the question still remains why these games or social networking sites are not good uses of time.

Ideas often are composed unexpectedly from a combination of inspiration and creativity and for this reason, most people view creativity as a vital part of keeping society progressing and improving through ideas. With the increasing dependence on technology for entertainment, people simply have less time to be innovative. In his essay “A Reunion with Boredom”, Charles Simic claims that boredom results in more creative ideas and a more grounded sense of reality. This “boredom” that he speaks of is a result from the absence of technology and a deeper connection with the outside world. This is the reason that the childlike method of ignoring periods of time because they are not as prominent as others is unsatisfying. Van Gogh found inspiration for greatness looking up at the stars although it was not a large event or even necessary so although they may not be exciting or hopeful at the time, these small moments better connect us with the world and give meaning to our lives in the small way that big occurrences can overlook. But now that we have established the importance of the in between times, we need to establish why technology cannot always be an effective filler for these moments. In her article “Creativity on the Run”, Diane Darrow quotes Paul Torrance by saying that creativity is “the process of sensing problems or gaps in information, forming ideas or hypotheses, testing, modifying these hypotheses and communicating the results. This process may lead to any one of many kinds of products — verbal and nonverbal, concrete and abstract.” By this definition, creativity is being able to find solutions to problems and modify those solutions to the particular circumstances. While it’s true that some technological games can present a consumer with a puzzle that they have to engineer a solution for, they restrict people to the boundaries of what someone else already thought the answer was. By only allowing them to follow the same tracks that the designer did, people are not being given the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Ultimately, technology can be a tool to aid in the enhancement of life, but in order to enjoy the given time to the fullest extent possible, one cannot use technology to elect which parts of life to live and which to ignore. The world can give inspiration in the most unexpected times, but it will not be found Candy Crush.

-Haley McGeorge

Citations:

Books

Diamond, Jared M. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W.Norton, 1998. Print.

Figes, Orlando. Revolutionary Russia, 1891 – 1991: A History. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Article

“Real History versus Guns Germs and Steel – Anthropology 2.5.” Living Anthropologically. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

While continuing reading and researching the origins of civilization and the rates of development in different parts of the world, I realized that–in order to fully understand the different factors of what makes one society progress differently than another–I would have to first define the terms “civilization” and “developed”. Dictionary.com defines a “civilization” as an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry, and government has been reached.” In theory,“culture”, “science”, “industry”, and “government” seem like good factors to consider when deciding where a country ranks on the development scale, but often it’s difficult to relate them to the people in the places themselves. When these factors are not easy to see and their effects are the only thing shown, how does one tell which society is more “developed” or “civilized”? There are times where the answer is fairly clear. For instance, these two pictures.

poverty_2226036bsuburbia

Even without context the majority of people would take one glance at each picture and immediately claim that the society on the right is more advanced. A person’s reasons would likely be that the houses in the photo on the left are poorly built, rusted, and could be potentially dangerous, but the houses on the right are on a well paved suburban street, are surrounded by green plants, and are much bigger than the ones on the left. The children are also better clothed and appear to be coming home from school which is something we cannot determine from the picture on the left.

Because of the stark contrast of the physical conditions in the first two pictures, the more developed place is clear, but often we do not get the aid of a picture and at times images can be misleading so real examples may not be as easy to judge.

An interesting notion about the Western definition of “developed” came to me on my family’s trip to a cabin in Willow a couple of weeks ago where we spend time riding our snowmachines. We had been out on the trails for a while and my dad suggested that we go to the campground where we fish during the summer. As my knowledge about the trails and the area was limited to about the ten yards in front of the cabin’s porch, I agreed to follow him wherever he wanted to go. The ride there was uneventful except for the few bumps which the poor suspension in my sled made painful. When we arrived, my dad slowed to a stop and I pulled up next to him. He dismounted and came to talk to me about where the path was that led to the fishing river and how much snow was piled on the picnic tables, but he said one thing that make me rethink my entire view of our trip: “I might need to put more gas in the tanks when we get back to the cabin.” The reason that this struck me as strange was not because I was unaware that the machines ran on gasoline, but that we rode enough miles that the tank might need refilling. To me, gas was a precious resource that you put in a car to get you from point A to point B and should be conserved because at all costs because of its cost. More importantly, if you were to use gas to get somewhere, there should be a purpose for going. This then made me realize that we were riding for no other reason than because it was entertaining. This pointlessness weighed on me and I felt slightly like a hamster running in a metal wheel. Upon further consideration, I realized that nearly all activities that occupy an amount of free time were not necessary because truly the only things  living creatures need are water, food, air, and shelter and the only necessary actions are the ones that provide those things. Of course, those actions look different for humans than any other animal and can vary a lot depending on someone’s life. I decided to refer to these obsolete activities and items as “embellishments” because they in no way detract from life and would appear to improve it, but in the end are superfluous. However, from a Western perspective, these embellishments seem like a good way to measure development because often we cannot do or have them if we are too busy trying to acquire the four basic needs. An example would be when the American middle class began to receive better pay and more free time in the early twentieth century. Going out on the weekends and engaging in recreational activities was becoming popular, but it is important to distinguish between these embellishments and the actual development. Americans having more fun was not the progress, but the result of the changing labor systems and growing middle class that were the real advancements of the country. However, there are also more modern examples of why the unnecessary things signify the most vital conditions. My family sponsors a child that lives in Burkina Faso in Africa and we often exchange letters with him talking about different things. Some of the letters are on a template and one of the questions that he answered on the paper was “what is your favorite activity?” He wrote his response in the blank next to it which someone translated before its postage and it said “the laundry”.  A child’s favorite activity or thing to do is generally something like “playing soccer with my friends” so it broke ours hearts to read that because it showed that his embellishments were not anywhere near what a child’s should be and that reflected the poor state of community and the lack of development that it should have. In other words, the components of the lives of the average citizens reflect the true state of the nation or place itself.

In the main argument portion of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond demonstrates how agriculture was the most significant factor in the establishment of advanced cities and societies and how it grew to become more popular. While doing some online research, I found an editorial about the book called Real History versus Guns Germs and Steel in which the author claims that Diamond does not give his reader an accurate depiction of history or a rounded perspective on the question he is attempting to answer. The author, Jason Antrosio, states that the book “is a one-note riff. Whatever there is to be explained–guns, germs, or steel, as well as writing, military power, and European imperialism–everything is about early adoption of agriculture, the big domestic animals, and the longitudinal gradient facilitating trade and interaction. Diamond has lots of cool stories and anecdotes, but it always goes back to the same factors.” When I found this article, I was slightly confused with some of Antrosio’s assertions because while I agree that the focus of the book is food production, returning to the same factors and using stories as evidence creates a stronger case for Diamond and certainly does not weaken his argument. In the beginning of human history, farming was what allowed people to create things like the “guns, germs or steel” and “military power”–at least according to Diamond’s claim–so the relation of those things back to agriculture is not only logical structure but a natural one as well. Antrosio also states that “The Jared Diamond of Guns, Germs, and Steel has almost no role for human agency–the ability people have to make decisions and influence outcomes. Europeans become inadvertent, accidental conquerors. Natives succumb passively to their fate.” This statement I agree with more because, at times, Diamond seems to lose some of the human aspect to his stories and recounts. However, in writing a book that encompasses such a long period of time and focuses on the biggest picture of the first development of human history, a loss of some personal touch is to be expected. However, this did make me realize that if I wanted to connect to modern society a bit more and link the previous progressions of nations and societies, I was going to have to find a recount of something more recent and specific. For this reason, I chose to read a book called Revolutionary Russia by Orlando Figes because he concentrates on the entire duration of the Soviet Union. I thought that zooming in on the rise and fall of one empire could help me focus on some smaller factors that might make it easier for me to relate Diamond’s work to today.

In the beginning of this book, Figes describes the conditions that became the ingredients for the start of a revolution. He explains the incompetence of the Tsar, the public’s desire for more power, the development of socialism, and the addition of a strong rebel leader all combine to create an uneasy atmosphere and inspire action. This complex of features seemed familiar to me because it resembles another situation that would happen a few decades later. After World War I, the German government became powerless as it was unable to fix any of the economic issues caused by the reparation Germany had to pay the Allied Powers. This economic travesty cause widespread panic and anger in the German people who felt cheated by the Treaty of Versailles, and another leader with a strong desire for power and a certain ideal rose up. While Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin had nearly opposite political policies, they both gained power in the same type of situation. As a whole, these two events are very different, but because they have some similarities and they are both societies that were powerful, but ended in failure, it was an interesting enough pattern to write down. To continue, I plan to find more opinions on what makes a well-functioning society/civilization and continue finding examples of some that succeeded and some that failed to determine some factors that may apply.

-Haley McGeorge

Citations:

Book

Diamond, Jared M. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W.Norton, 1998. Print.

Lectures

Horner, Jack. “Where Are the Baby Dinosaurs?” TEDxVancouver. Vancouver. Nov. 2011. TED.Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Slutkin, Gary. “Let’s Treat Violence like a Contagious Disease.” TEDMED 2013. Apr. 2013. TED. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Television Series

Coates, Chelsea. “The World Wars.” The World Wars. History Channel. 26 May 2014. Television.

Reflection:

In Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, the author combines a retelling of the history of the development of mankind with his own experience in New Guinea to discern the factors that help societies grow and explain the gaps between the progress of different civilizations in different places. He intends to dispel the belief that genetics and mental  intelligence determine why some African and South American communities still rely on the small village typesetting rather than the complex city areas in Europe and North America to find the real reason for the different types of lifestyles. However, before he can make a conclusion of this magnitude, Diamond has to prove why an answer to the explain the divide needs to be found and why his explaining the brutal history is not the same thing as endorsing it. He asserts that “Understanding is more often used to try and alter an outcome than to repeat or perpetuate it” and “[people who seek out knowledge of issues] seek to use their understanding of a chain of causes to interrupt the change” (17). His claim and specific reference to a chain reminded me of a lecture that I watched in my creative writing class last year.

Once a week in creative writing, we would watch a TED talk online and answer questions about it to increase our critical reading abilities. The one in particular that I thought of while reading Diamond’s justification was about a man who worked fighting epidemics like tuberculosis, cholera, and AIDS in Africa only to come back to the United States and find gun violence spreading like the diseases he was treating in Africa. Gary Slutkin saw the violence in Chicago spread through the minds of the people, specifically adolescents, and how the exposure of one person to gun violence would submit them to performing the same actions. His perspective on the issue revolutionized the method for making safer cities by focusing on the individual and reforming the mindset of the person before you have to condemn them. I remember thinking that this demonstrated how the big problem of people who try to unearth and fix the real problems in the world is not that they miss the trouble, but that they treat the symptoms rather than the disease. The main focus of problem solving has to be the mindsets of the people because fixing the world has no effect if you forget the individuals that live in it. I also think that this proves Diamond’s assertion that you have to understand the full embodiment of something before you can make a move to change it.

After proving why he needed to write the book in the first place, Diamond moves on to tell the history of the evolution of the first human beings. He explains that so far the earliest human fossil has been dated about 1 million years ago, but that scientists argue that there could have been earlier human beings. He then introduces an idea that I found particularly interesting, “Whenever some scientist claims to have discovered ‘the earliest X’…that announcement challenges other scientists to beat the claim by finding something still earlier.” I found this quite humorous when reading it and thought of another TED talk that I had watched some weeks before while procrastinating called “Where are the baby dinosaurs?”. In his lecture, Jack Horner explained that many of the already existing different species of dinosaurs have so many common similarities in body structure that they could actually be of the same species at different age levels. The reason this possibility has not been investigated much is that the scientist who found the bones would rather name a new species and take the credit for the new discovery than claim it as younger version of something someone else had already found. I’ve found that the pride that is found in both Diamond’s and Horner’s example is not only understandable but a common trait among humans in the form of a desire to be liked and admired by others. Any time my brother performs his best old Scottish man’s accent or someone makes a joke in math class I can see how the desire for acknowledgement can affect a person’s actions, but wonder if this type motivation is always destructive to progress as in Horner’s case or if sometimes it can–and has been–a motivation for achievement above the average. While Diamond mentions this factor in a negative tone, it could have possibly been a key feature in the development of the technologies we have now. After all, these self-servant tendencies inspire competition between companies that create our technologies. Although money is also an incentive, the desire to be the best and recognized as such generates a type of impetus that can drive creativity and progress.

In the next section, Diamond describes the Spanish takeover of the Inca empire in Cajamarca which he claims is a textbook example of the results of the conflicts between people of the old and new worlds during this era. Some of the several factors that he demonstrates as the reasons the Incan people were at a disadvantage were the steel weaponry of the Spanish, disease causing civil unrest some time before the attack, the Incan people’s and their leader’s naiveté, and the Spanish horses. These are not factors that answer the overall question of the book, but do serve to display the short-term causes of this history. The mobility gained through horses is something I find intriguing because the Spaniards were faster, swifter, and could travel farther because of them and yet the advantage horses provided is something often overlooked. Mobility is a deciding factor in battle and when I read about the horses, I was reminded of the World Wars TV miniseries that the history channel came out with at the end of the last school year. There was a segment on General Robert Patton and his first battle in Mexico against Pancho Villa and other bandits. While running an errand to buy corn, he and his team heard about a possible location of some of Villa’s consorts. They decided to investigate, found three bandits, and shot them with a machine gun they had strapped to their car. This was the first time that weapons had been motorized which was revolutionary to the traditional methods of running war. Coincidentally, later Patton became the leader of a tank–mobile, armored guns–brigade that helped break the stalemate in western Europe. By WWII, mobility came in the form of aircrafts and brought a whole new type of warfare to life, showing this aspect was still relevant centuries later. Diamond’s description of the effect of horses was remarkably similar to the description of the effect of these mobile weapons during WWI in the History channel series which is why this scene came to my mind while reading. Horses and many other resources that the Spanish held allowed them to prevail over the Inca even they were outnumbered by 400 times. The new technologies are often the deciding factor in collisions of any kind and so I expect to see more of this trend in the remainder of the book. However, the effects of technology inside and outside of war are very contrasting so I will continue to consider the features that a successful society should have through use of historic and modern examples.

-Haley McGeorge

Semester 2 Project

Diamond, Jared M. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998. Print.

Americans, today, often criticize the government, society, and the increasing dependence people have on technology. National and international events have caused global controversies on the way that a country and society should be run, each side of which insisting it has the logical, moral, or practical solution to the prevalent problems. Personally, I have found it difficult to sort through the invalid arguments and pink slime in the media to find accurate information of current events that will help me form my own opinions on the issues. I also find myself reluctant to contribute my personal views due to the fear of not being well enough read on the topics to construct a valid judgement. Since no one can directly tell me what to believe or how to look at an issue, the only way to for me to take an accurate assessment of current situations is to use knowledge of the past to predict possible outcomes in the future. The book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond discusses the foundations and developments of societies and what made different regions progress at different rates and in different rates. I plan to look at the actions certain populations took that led them to success or failure and how those concepts can be applied today. However, the most unique and beneficial concept that I found in the book so far is that success and failure do not exist separately and that the popular definition of “civilization” is not necessarily urban development and technological advancements. Because the present world is a result of past decisions and human ingenuity, it seems impossible to understand our surroundings without first knowing the origins of the first formal communities, making Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies the perfect starting point for my project.

-Haley McGeorge

Semester 1 Reflection

1. What are your strengths in this class? What have you done well? What kind of material, reading and/or writing, do you feel most confident completing? What do you plan to do to sustain these strengths? My strongest area of both writing and reading is  analysis as in the Benjamin Banneker essay, Declaration comparative analysis, and the Orwell paragraph. I am better at the writing when it involves determining the strength and structure of someone else’s claims rather than when I have to create my own arguments especially under time pressure. Finding evidence in an author’s writing that serve his purpose and particular word association within the text is much easier for me than finding support for my own argument. In order to maintain my ability for analysis, I will read more nonfiction works which will help me to see arguments and determine their quality.

2. What are your weaknesses in this class, either academic or behaviorally, or both? What are your biggest challenges in this class? My greatest weakness is writing under time pressure. I’m a slow, methodical writer and I often make adjustments as I’m writing so writing an entire essay by hand in forty minutes is extremely difficult for me. Even in my strongest area I have issues completing my thoughts about the author’s argument in a decent amount of time. Because of this, my in-class write about Marquart’s characterization of the Midwest had good information about the use of a particular word or phrase in a paragraph, but not good transitions or an apparent theme. My problem with timed writing probably has something to do with my tendency to procrastinate which was also an issue last semester. Although I do seem to be best at analyzing, I often have problems determining the author’s larger purpose and seeing symbolism in pre-twentieth century writing. Synthesis is also difficult for me because it is a lot of information to process in a short amount of time and requires my own arguments and experiences. The literacy and education synthesis were my worst essays because I didn’t combine the given evidence with my own so they both came out choppy and inconsistent.

3. How do you plan to adjust your approach to this class to become more successful and to improve on your weaknesses? In order to improve my writing under pressure and procrastination, I am going to hand write more frequently and practice actively reading to become quicker at analyzing. I’ll also consider buying a planner to be more organized. As I said in the first answer, I’ll also read more nonfiction and form my own opinions on the subjects which will hopefully improve my ability to write synthesis and argument and possibly also give me evidence to use in future essays. If I had read more articles and information on the literacy topic, I could have possibly made a stronger case.

Chapter 9: The End of the Cold War and Chapter 10: Aftermath. Pages 229-292

In the ninth section of the book, Fink illustrates the events and causes of the end of the Cold War as well as the fall of the Soviet Union. Her description of this era is mostly centered around the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev because of his radical reformation of the policies within his country and his determined strives for peace. Fink shows that Gorbachev’s actions intended to create friendly relations between his nation and the West and rebuild his country while keeping a communist system actually caused the collapse of the Soviet Union and eastern communism.

In chapter 9, Fink says “Thus within three years the former Andropov protégé had totally transformed Soviet policy, replacing its messianic Marxist creed with a radical internationalism,” (page 236) and “German reunification, forged by Bush and Kohl, represented a third significant marker in the end of the Cold War and another setback for the Soviet Union,” (page 247).

In my last post, I discussed the major effect Reagan’s strong stance against the East had on the development of peace, however, Reagan’s actions would not have made such an enormous  impact without the new Soviet leader on the receiving end. At the time of “the former Andropov protégé[‘s]” rise to power, the economy of the Soviet Union was deteriorating at an even more rapid rate than it had been in the past and the quality of life of the citizens was a problem that was getting difficult to ignore so Gorbachev knew that some serious changes had to be made. His policies of perestroika and glasnost opened up Russia’s economy and allowed for some small private businesses and somewhat capitalist systems to be implemented. His goal was not to become more like the Western free-enterprises, but improve the lives of the people and repair the Soviet’s communist system. Gorbachev was also interested in restoring good relations with the West because he knew that his policies wouldn’t work without the aid of the United States and the West. He approached the Reagan and the other leaders with appeals of peace to eliminate a lot of the arms stocks. Over time, he proposed plans to get rid of nearly half of the nuclear weapons stockpiles. His approaches for peace to the West, however, were met by a resistant President Reagan (and later President Bush). Gorbachev recognized the hesitance and aggression from the West and had to prove his motivations with more concessions and compromises. Although maybe not apparent at the time, these concessions were sacrifices of more pieces of communism and acceptances of more parts of capitalism. One of these, specifically, is stated in the second quote. In October 1990, the GDR (East Germany) ceased to exist and Germany was once again united under one government. As the Eastern portion of Germany had been communist and controlled by Russia, the loss of it under unification was a significant loss for the Soviet Union. Around this time, resistance groups were beginning to gain more power and make it difficult for many of the Soviet territories to remain under communist control so Germany was just one loss in the Soviet Bloc.

In the tenth section of the book, Fink describes the conditions of the world after the “end” of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. After the imminent threat of communism crumbled with the destruction of the Soviet Union, the United States had no reason to fight with Russia for control in outside countries so many of the proxy wars ended. However, the sudden abandonment of the communist cause in these outside nations caused chaos and soon there was a need for intervention.

In chapter 10, Fink states “as the crisis in Yugoslavia demonstrated, post-Cold War Europe still lacked a unified voice to implement a common foreign and security policy on its own,” (page 280).

This quote shows how the conflicts did not stop after the end of the Cold War, but simply had a different issue behind them because they were no longer an ideological battle but inside struggles for power with the lack of a Superpower to regulate them. This particular quote references the dissolution of Yugoslavia, but similar clashes existed in Africa and Asia as well. The focus of U.S. military operations shifted from the threat of communism to the threat of terrorism from the Middle East (Al Qaeda).

Several factors at the end of the 1980’s combined at just the right time for the struggle between the two largest nations to come to a close. The new leaders of the time, bringing fresh perspectives and approaches to the situation in combination with the exhaustion of the Soviet people, the failing communist control in its territories, and push for reunification in Germany by chancellor Helmut Kohl forced the communist era to its limit. People generally consider the end of the Cold War to be the collapse of the Berlin wall, but in reality the fall of the wall took Gorbachev slightly by surprise. The end actually had begun with Gorbachev and his appeals for peace and was official with the end of communism and the Soviet Union. Although some of the actions taken by Vladimir Putin resemble that of the former Russian dictators like Brezhnev and Khrushchev than Gorbachev,  I believe that there will never be a clash with the same turbulent and fearful atmosphere again because of what Batyuk said “the Cold War was fundamentally about ideology not geopolitics.” It was the contrast ideology that scared Americans and pushed us into forceful actions to stop Soviet expansion. However, the tension between nations do not simply vanish and Russian transgressions cannot be ignored so if a conflict (although not caused by political ideology) were to begin, it would be vital that the American leader take a firm stance as President Reagan and Bush did. Many recounts show that soldiers of the Vietnam didn’t understand why they were fighting and many people consider this to be one of the major reasons the Vietnam war was one of the United States’ biggest failures.  In any conflict it is important to recognize your stance on an issue so you are able to hold your ground and that is what Reagan and Bush did and it is one of the reasons the dark period of the Cold War is in the past.

-Haley McGeorge (Sorry it’s so long)