Why Study WWII in the 21st Century?

This had better freaking get me into the Normandy Scholars Program

I believe that studying war is an effective way to learn about human tendencies and thought processes, and because World War II was the most seminal war in human history, it offers more insight about human nature than any other war. World War II forced evolution onto militaries and economies, changed the mentalities of individuals about government, and called into question the benevolence of humanity. It changed the way that countries interact with each other, and it shifted the traditional balance of power away from Western Europe, bifurcating it to the east and to the west, to the United States and to the Soviet Union. The war helped recover the despondent economies of countries around the world, but it was the ensuing post-war recovery that left unforeseeable, lingering effects that went beyond economic reformation. The creation of a Jewish state, the U.S. presence in Japan, the contraction of Germany’s borders and the expansion of the Soviet Unions’—these events molded the future state of global relations. The Second World War erupted simultaneously with a flood of destruction and creation, reforming the power landscape and birthing a new mindset of what humanity is capable of—both fantastic and terrible.

               World War II, and all war for that matter, offers itself as a petri dish for historians to study how humans act. War presents scientists with a unique medium in which to study human actions that no other animal provides, and it illuminates the cavernous capacity humans have in them to inflict suffering and despair on each other. Studying human behavior in war is similar to studying the behavior of someone in their created dream. In a dream, the dreamer acts how he wishes because he created the dream and is not bound by worldly mores or morals. In war, humans have created an object that does not exist in nature and therefore is not bound by its rules; war belongs to humans. We are free to create and change the rules and codes of war because it is our creation, and so what better way is there to study the unadulterated human mindset than to study a pure, human creation like war?

By studying World War II, we can learn how a charismatic man, or a powerful group of men, can manipulate millions of people into dying for intangible ideas like patriotism and nationalism. Although the world around us has changed, our human nature has not. Politicians still send their constituents to die for the same reasons they did thousands of years ago, and soldiers fight for their lives with as much obedience and hatred as they always have. “Civilized” and uncivilized men are mirror images when their lives are at stake. Where and why we fight might change, but the creatures behind the action remain the same. By studying the archetypal war—World War II—we can vivisect the human conscience and shed light on the incredible mystery of our veiled but ever-present savagery.

Why Study WWII in the 21st Century?

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