(It's difficult to introduce certain subjects about this century without injecting my own viewpoints on them. If my choice of words offends you, maybe we can work out a different wording. Then again, I will not change some of my statements.)
More people have lived and died in the Twentieth
Century than in all of previous human existence combined. Consequently, more history has been generated during this period than in any previous period you care to name. It's very difficult to summarize this in
If there is one common thread running through the history of the Twentieth
Century, it is
LESSONS NOT LEARNED
with a heaping side order of
Becoming the thing you hate.
The dizzying progress of technological advancement has allowed more people
to live their lives with some measure of happiness than before; technology
may be rewriting the assumptions of Thomas Malthus but that may also
be self-delusion as the world's population continues to grow at an exponential
Sadly, this century is also filled with more unspeakable crimes, hatred,
brutality, and tragedy than any previous period. This is a considerable
statement considering what happened during the centuries immediately before
this, but most of the sins of the world were committed in the Twentieth
Beyond the banal causes of horror prevalent in previous times, the Twentieth
Century was dominated by people killing for ideas.
Of course, ideologies often being just window dressing for "you have something
I want", people all too often talked past each other and trivialized, were
deaf to, or otherwise failed to address their opponents' viewpoints.
The double-edged sword of nationalism (with its sister ideologies,
jingoism and racism) was a constant throughout the century. It
was the engine for many of the Twentieth Century's achievements, but also
much of the Twentieth Century's misery. The end of colonialism
checked the arrogance of many Western countries; oppressed peoples all
over the world refused to take the lot in life handed to them; nationalist
movements created many new sovereign states which allowed a few more people
to take control over their own lives, for a while at least. Unfortunately,
former oppressors frequently viewed the loss of their ability to bully
as "oppression" and justified reaction and renewed brutality
this way. Not only that, many formerly oppressed peoples fail to learn
the lessons of their oppression, and they identify the wrong people as
the oppressors, or even turn into oppressors themselves. Thwarted nationalism
led to terrorism, a cycle of revenge and reprisal, and a self-induced
mental slavery that is difficult, if not impossible, to throw off.
The Olympic movement was once based upon a great ideal for realizing
the worth of everyone regardless of nationality, but is now a cesspit of
Fortunately, a few people have embraced ideas that value the worth of
every human being. Will enough people do that?
Western Civilization tore itself apart; The Great Game stopped being
a game and descended into the horror of World War I.
As if not enough blood had already been shed, unresolved issues and lessons
not learned from World War I blew up into the even greater horror of World
War II. This war was occasioned by the spread of fascism through several Western countries, with the tacit approval of industrialists and politicians in those countires and others. By far, the most destructive, evil fascist movement was the National Socialist Party in Germany, led by Adolf Hitler. The Nazis committed the single greatest crime of the century, The Holocaust.
The Cold War developed as competing power blocs (NATO and the Warsaw
Pact) eyed each other warily from other sides of the globe; they jockeyed
for position (without regard to the untold death and misery their moves
cause) until one side collapsed from exhaustion.
Much discarding of monarchy and other trappings of feudalism, replaced
with democracy for some and totalitarianism for others.
The birth and eventual breakup of The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
The emergence of China from its feudal stagnation and the colonial land
grab that made possible. But then came The Great People's Cultural
The emergence of India, Israel, Ireland, Iran, Vietnam, Algeria,
Czechoslovakia, Indonesia, Egypt, and others through their own devices,
some more savory than others.
The re-emergence of Poland, then its betrayal and partition.
The emergence of Turkey from empire and the horrible
secret it wishes to forget.
The setting-up of states such as Iraq, Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique,
South Africa, and many others by colonial fiat.
The spread of United States influence throughout the Americas, and the later overthrow of that influence in Cuba.
A secret war in Laos and the descent of Cambodia into chaos and the killing fields, thank you Richard Nixon.
For a while, the laissez-faire capitalism monster was put in check
as the laws of supply and demand began to favor people exploited for their
labor. Some organized themselves into unions and were able to realize a
bit more of the value of their toil. Some took this too far; while
attempting to rewrite the social contract they created the monster called
The wanton extraction of natural resources prevalent in the Nineteenth
Century rose to a fever pitch, but people also began to realize that this
was not sustainable, that it destroyed much of what is good about life.
The environmental movement was born. So were other ideologies, masquerading
as "environmentalism", that were more about the unfulfilled desires of
their adherents than the preservation of the quality of life on Earth.
Here is a convenient index for any nodes about individual
years of the twentieth century. People who want to fill in content behind the links might follow this link for suggestions on how to proceed.
1900 - 1901 - 1902 - 1903 - 1904 - 1905 - 1906 - 1907 -
1908 - 1909
1910 - 1911 - 1912 - 1913 - 1914 - 1915 - 1916 - 1917 -
1918 - 1919
1920 - 1921 - 1922 - 1923 - 1924 - 1925 - 1926 - 1927 -
1928 - 1929
1930 - 1931 - 1932 - 1933 - 1934 - 1935 - 1936 - 1937 -
1938 - 1939
1940 - 1941 - 1942 - 1943 - 1944 - 1945 - 1946 - 1947 -
1948 - 1949
1950 - 1951 - 1952 - 1953 - 1954 - 1955 - 1956 - 1957 -
1958 - 1959
1960 - 1961 - 1962 - 1963 - 1964 - 1965 - 1966 - 1967 -
1968 - 1969
1970 - 1971 - 1972 - 1973 - 1974 - 1975 - 1976 - 1977 -
1978 - 1979
1980 - 1981 - 1982 - 1983 - 1984 - 1985 - 1986 - 1987 -
1988 - 1989
1990 - 1991 - 1992 - 1993 - 1994 - 1995 - 1996 - 1997 -
1998 - 1999
19th Century - 20th Century - 21st Century
You will notice that I have included the year 1900 in the twentieth
century, as I have little patience for pedantic statements about a year-counting
system which missed the event it supposedly starts from by six or seven
years. Although I expressed a willingness to be invited to millennium
parties, no-one obliged. But if you insist, here's a link to 2000.