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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Flash Points of India

I just completed reading, with great interest, a new book titled: FLASH POINTS, written by George Friedman. The book begins with a detailed narration of how the Jewish family of George Friedman escaped from Hungary during 1949 to Vienna – to escape the communists – when he was just six months old and how the family landed in the U.S.A subsequently, crossing several borders – his mother first in New York and his father later in 1952. The modern-day European Union was crafted in large part to minimize built-in geopolitical tensions that historically have torn it apart. Friedman, attempts, mixing rich history and cultural analysis that its design is failing. FLASHPOINTS narrates a living history of Europe and explains its most volatile regions.

No continent is as small and fragmented as Europe. Europe today consists of fifty independent nations (including Turkey and Caucasus). Europe’s population density is 72.5 people per square kilometer. The EU’s density is 112 and Asia is 86. Europe’s geography means it can’t be united through conquest. It means that small nations survive for a very long time – with long memories that make trust and forgiveness impossible. The map of Europe in 1000 is similar to the map of 2000. Europe has been a place where wars repeated themselves endlessly.

Europe is divided into borderlands, where nations, religions, and cultures meet and mix, but they can also be the places where the wars are fought. These are flashpoints. In World War I and II all the borderlands in Europe became flashpoints that sparked and set off fires that grew and spread. There is frequently a political border within, but the borderland itself is wider and in many ways more significant. The most important borderland divides the European peninsula from the European mainland, the West from Russia. There is another borderland between the French and German worlds, stretching from the North Sea to the Alps. The Balkans are the borderland between Central Europe and Turkey. The Pyrenees range of mountains in the southwest Europe are the borderland between the Iberians (of Spain, Portugal and Andorra) and the rest of the Europe. There are even smaller ones surrounding Hungary, where Hungarians live under the rule of Romanian and Slovakian states. There is even a water border – the English Channel, separating the Britain from the continent.

Europe rebuilt itself with difficulty and with help from its victors and, was given back its sovereignty by the actions of others. Europeans ceded their empire, their power, even in some ways their significance, to the principle that they should never again experience the horror of those years nor live on its precipice as they did in the Cold War.

The Institution, created to ban their nightmares was the European Union. Its intent was to bond European nations so closely together in such a prosperous enterprise that none of its nation members would have any reason to break the peace or fear another. Ironically, Europe had struggled for centuries to free nations from oppression by other nations and make national sovereignty and national self-determination possible.

The question is whether the conflict and war have actually been banished or whether this is merely an interlude, a seductive illusion. Europe is the single most prosperous region in the world. Its GDP collectively is greater than that of the United States. It couches Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Another series of wars would change not only Europe, but the world.

I had always wondered why in India we can’t make history lessons as interesting as the description about Europe’s Flashpoints goes about in this book. My impressions about ‘History’ as an academic subject was: history was dull, mundane, mere statement of facts (whether true or false) without giving an opportunity to the student to introspect and interpret history. As someone said, ‘History is the lies of the victors and the self-delusions of those defeated.’

The book is revetting, thought provoking and makes history, engrossing to read about.

Reading the book: FLASHPOINTS, I was subconsciously driven to compare India as we see it today and Europe and to introspect on the flashpoints as applicable to India. The arguments I would put forth are:

                                                                                        ...... to be continued

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