Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cesar Agustin Castillo circa 1907 Mexico City
Cesar Agustin Castillo Circa 1910 Heidelberg, Germany

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Future of History by Wanda Hartzenberg

The definition of history is quite simple and clear. It is the study of past events, particularly in human affairs. History based on it's very definition is a human construct and as such it is open to interpretation as well as being a very subjective experience. Ask any pupil anywhere and they will assure you that;
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” And depending on their age etc they might even tell you that this infamous quote was coined by Aristotle long before the term coined became part of the universal franca lingua. 

You need not be a physicist to understand that if your dealing with a construct which is greater than it's parts then you are dealing with parts or elements. The elements of a construct such as history itself is however something best left to philosophers. If, for some reason, you however find yourself at gunpoint and must give the basic parts or constructs that makes up history as a whole then you might be served by this fun little acronym I found on a blog

P= Politics. Who governs whom. Colonialism, Adolf Hitler....this list is as obvious as it is long. 

E= Economics. Who is the Jones's and why do we need to keep up with them?  Oh they have oil. We want oil. The Great Depression. Again, long and really scary. 

R= Religion.  Here let me borrow from Alice in Wonderland -- off with their heads. Religion, yes even the lack thereof shapes ideology. Ideology shapes beliefs which shapes EVERYTHING. 

S=Social.  Rosa Parks sat down in a bus seat and changed the world. It was a social act of defiance not a political one that changed the face of the USA. 

I=Intellectual. Can anybody think off a more obvious choice here than Albert Einstein?  

A=Art.  The Beatles song Helter Skelter fueled Charles Mansion's delusions over a supposed impending race war. The rest, as they say, is history. 

So now that we know what history is made off we also need to understand that history is made by change. A change in the status quo on a level that impacts the masses is needed for a historic event to be classified as an event. 

The plain that dropped the first atomic bomb is the The Enola Gay a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, named for Enola Gay Tibbets, the mother of the pilot, it became the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb code-named "Little Boy" during the last stages of WWII.  

Now even though a song was written marking the name of said Boeing B-29 into pop culture for generations to come and the code name of the first ever atomic bomb to be used in war fare is part of most school curriculums, none of the facts above would have had any relevance if it was not linked to a change impacting on the masses. For the first time ever, an atomic bomb was used as a weapon. 

So history is a human construct centered around events of change. These events can be for the greater good of mankind such as the Slavery Abolition Act 1833
In the UK. It can be an event that shakes the very foundation of the human psyche,
such as the hi-jacking of Sabena Flight 571, where the casualties were very low but the impact internationally rivaled that of a tsunami. 
Sometimes the events are subtle, like Naderev Sano, a member of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, whom in 2013 "in solidarity with my countrymen who are now struggling for food back home" went on a hunger strike. He accomplished little but his act raised international consciousness on a plight of millions. 

Sometimes the events are both legally and morally far into the grey area such as actions taken by the Sea Shepard Nature Conservation Society; on the one hand activists, on the other classified as eco terrorists. 

As a human construct centering around human experiences marked by specific events, history is nothing more nor less than the experience of one human in a certain point and time. 
Therefore to paraphrase Edmund Burke, yes it turns out this famous saying cannot be found anywhere in Burke's writing in the form known to all. 
 History is not as set in stone as we all think...
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" 

Remember, your future will soon be your history. Nothing explains your role in life better than the Butterfly effect. Fly!  
Hi. My name is Wanda Hartzenberg and I am a native South African. I still live in Pretoria where I was raised as a child. I used to think of myself as somebody that pushed the boundaries but not till late last year did I really decide that I need to push myself harder to really see what I am made off. As little as two and a half years back on this very same blog I promised that I am a reader. A very passionate reader at that but that I would never venture into the world as a writer. Half a year later I made myself a liar. My first collaborative work for a charity was published as The Struggle Of Me, a YA novel about fitting in when your home life is at best dysfunctional. 2014 my first solo short story based on true events was published as Suicide Song. This story is still very close to my heart as I

have stood next to grave sides of so many friends who could not cope with life any longer. I have since joined forces with our very own Catalina writing joint magazine articles based on history for an online magazine; The Inflectionist. It seems the more I push myself the more I realize that I mistook rebellion for growth and now in my early forties I see the error of my youthful ways. I honestly cannot tell you where I see myself in 10 years time but I do know by then this bio will be nothing but the foundation of where I started from as a writer and a reader. Because let's face it, nothing beats a good book.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015


                                                                                                          © M.C.V.Egan/W.Hartzenberg
History is filled with colorful characters that are both a patriot and a traitor. It is simply a matter of perspective as one country’s freedom-fighter is another’s rebel. In some cases one countries terrorist is also ultimately its savior.
Today with so much information available to so many we may well see a trend in which much of generally accepted history is questioned. An interesting example is that of American General Benedict Arnold (1741-1801).
A historical plaque found on a London building not far from the American Embassy states the following; “Benedict Arnold, American Patriot resided here from 1796 until his death on June 14th, 1801”. The plaque is not one of the usual official blue ones.
Benedict Arnold was a General in the American Revolutionary Army. Acting upon a loyalty to England and planning to surrender the fortifications under his command to the British, this was revealed before he succeeded. Thus Arnold was forced flee and join the British Army where he was given the title of Brigadier General.
In America any traitor is commonly referred to as a Benedict Arnold.  The plaque was placed by a private citizen and distant relative of Benedict Arnold who after researching his ancestor, felt strongly that Arnold was misunderstood. The descendant, an amateur historian is of the opinion that Benedict Arnold’s intentions were in his heart of hearts for the good of America.
With a good deal if not most of the important original documents from The American Revolution housed in the British National Archives at Kew, as well as documents from all other ex-colonies and surely countless amateur historians perusing documents in person or on-line we may well encounter more and more plaques and monuments with conflicting opinions.
They have of course always existed, to Catholics Britain’s Sir Thomas Moore is a Saint and a history of strong prejudice excluded Catholics in the UK from even the right to vote on The Isle until 1829 when the political climate changed and Parliament passed the Roman Catholic Relief Act.
So much that we take for granted as accepted and the norm today has contradictory and even violent roots in the past. Exploring the historical perspectives from several sides of a story can raise as heated a discussion as current political discussions of the day.
Koos De La Rey a guerrilla fighter against the British during the second Boer War was rallied around as a folk hero by native South Africans. De La Rey was so daring in his attacks that Afrikaners whom, prior to visibility were impartial started to stand up and fight with him one man by pure force of will turned the tide of a war. Villain to Britain and Hero to South Africa.
Possibly one of the most famous terrorists in the world, Nelson Mandela served a 27 year long sentence for acts of terrorism as defined in The Rivonia trial all the while fighting against a political system focused on racial segregation. A life time after his conviction for terrorism Madiba left prison to become a hero to all, a President of a nation united. An icon.
So this is the question; If history is owned by the victor? Then who is to say that today's traitor won’t become tomorrow’s hero?


Friday, January 2, 2015

War of the Oil Worlds Take to the Airwaves

                                                © M.C.V. Egan /W. Hartzenberg 

Going against the Mexican Supreme Court ruling and Cabinet, on March 18th 1938, the then Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas took to all of the radio waves in his country and announced to the Mexican people the enactment of ‘Oil Expropriation’. The foreign countries affected fought hard in the Mexican courts to secure their very profitable oil interests. The case carried from court to court until reaching Mexico’s highest court.

Invoking Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution of 1917, President Cardenas bypassed all arguments and suggestions and took an enormous risk against large foreign interests. Up until then, only international companies drilled for oil in Mexico. The countries affected were primarily The United States, The United Kingdom and The Netherlands.

Mexican workers were well aware that they were being paid far less than their international counterparts and voiced their resentment by engaging in strike actions which disrupted production and caused widespread unrest. Mexicans in general felt that Mexico saw no real profit from its own national resource whilst other countries benefited from their oil and labor. The combination of these two facts emboldened Cardenas to embark on a path never before traveled.

The now famous radio broadcast on the evening of March 18th, 1938 was inadvertently interrupted and as the broadcasting problem was being resolved the airways carried a Mexican song with rather ironic lyrics asking to be forgiven for behaving with audacity or boldness. (Yo pido a la concurrencia que perdone mi osadía).

President Cardenas decision was as popular in Mexico as it was unpopular in other countries. Mexicans, it is reported arrived in droves and donated anything they could to help the government survive the transition from foreign owned oil fields to domestic ownership. Women gave their jewelry, anything and everything of value to help Mexico. This sense of unity and nationalism carried Mexico through the transition.

This was no easy feat as in retaliation an international boycott of Mexican oil was imposed. Mexico’s newly formed national company PEMEX (Petroleos Mexicanos) survived the international boycott, which in 1938 with the world not particularly united is rumored not to have been honored by the Germans. Understandably once WW II broke out any question of boycotting oil was forgotten, with recorded sinking of oil tankers by the Germans when Mexico sold to the allies.

To date Mexico’s oil industry, which has seen difficult times is owned by the Mexican government, but of late there seems to be the possibility of change and a welcoming of the foreign interests that were repudiated over seventy-five years ago.