I trekked down to the Virginia Science Museum yesterday with my girlfriend and another friend I suckered in to joining me. When we arrived at “Lunch Break Science” just before it started and one quick look at our surroundings yielded the startling and humoring fact that we were the only cats there under the age of 60 save for the presenter and the host. The man giving the lecture was Jeff Ryan, the Regional Sales Director at Abakus Solar USA, and he gave a talk on Solar 101 and Solar Policy in Virginia. The crux of it all was that solar is pretty awesome and is really efficient. However, the perks in place in Virginia are awful so it really isn’t financially advantageous for someone to install solar panels on their house unless the truly care about the environment and want the peace of mind that they are using clean energy.
The senior citizens around us munched on their stuffed mushrooms, bags of chips, and other strange lunch foods that the older generation tends to eat and bombarded Jeff Ryan with completely pointless questions ranging from how long it would take to pay off their solar panels to solar projects in third world villages. There were a lot of them asking questions and making statements that appeared to be simply to demonstrate to the other croakers and Jeff Ryan that they actually knew a lot about solar energy. Also, they kept asking questions about installing stuff in their houses, but thats a pointless objective considering most of them would die before it paid off. It was a pretty informative talk with regards to the different kinds of systems you can get installed, the crowd was amusing, and it was fun to get off campus between classes.
Professor Laszlo Zsolnai of the Business Ethics Center at Corvinus University of Budapest gave a lecture on “Responsible Leadership and Reasonable Action.” I Found Professor Zsolnai’s lecture strikingly relevant to our discussion earlier this semester while we read “Collapse,” specifically the chapters on environmental system failures and the damage done to the environment by big business.
Professor Zsolnai believes that business today is extremely self centered and too focused on self enhancement. He emphasized the damage that focusing on short term goals like quarterly results has on other important factors like ecology, the freedom of future generations and the development of humans. Professor Zsolnai included three ideal businesses in his presentation that have devoted themselves to a greater degree of sustainability. He emphasized the fact that these organizations measure their success not simply in financial terms but also by looking at external factors like how they are impacting the environment and their surrounding communities. Professor Zsolnai spoke about rationality versus reason and mentioned that “business activities should pass the test of ecology, future generations, and pro-socialness to be qualified as reasonable.” I found it kind of ridiculous to suggest that companies should begin to measure their results through the seemingly immeasurable metrics that Professor Zsolnai advocates for. I think that businesses can do a whole lot of good and have been changing their actions in response to society’s realization of the climate change issue.
Nan Keohane’s lecture on leadership was very interesting. One of the thing’s that interested me the most was her reference about leaders needing to “lead from behind.” I had never really though much about this concept, solely because the concept of leadership evokes images of progress and an individual setting examples for another group not necessarily steering them from the back. When I really did think about it, this concept made a lot of sense and reminded me of something my Marketing teacher had said last week.
When talking about success, he drew the prototypical pyramid with the pinnacle representing the highest form of achievable success. He asked everyone if this is how we though about it and without really giving much though to it everyone agreed. He then drew a new pyramid except this time it was inverted so that the pinnacle was now at the bottom and the width was increasing as you moved up towards what was normally the base. He explained to us that this is what the pyramid looks like when you’ve reached that pinnacle of success. He contested the “typical” version because it makes it seem like as a leader, everyone is working under you. In reality, he said, when you become a leader you have the weight of the entire organization on your shoulders and you’re responsible for all of those people below you, which is why he inverted the triangle. This analogy rang home during the Nan’s lecture because of her own analogy to shepherds guiding and steering their sheep from the rear. In order to be a successful leader, you must continue to associate yourself with the class of people you’re leading, not place yourself on a higher pedestal.
Much of Trevor-Roper’s work focuses on the structure of power in Nazi Germany. He spends a tremendous amount of time describing “Hitler’s Court,” the many individuals who would often become victims to Hitler’s rage whilst hoping to remain among the party’s elite. A lot of the text discusses the jostling of “number twos” with the impression that Hitler’s days were limited.
I found the thoughts of Himmler, perhaps one of the more hopeful would-be heirs, to be confusing. Himmler and his assistant attempted to negotiate with Count Bernadotte, almost fulfilling Hitler’s role as head of state while Hitler was very much still alive. The book then focuses on the ramifications inherent in Hitler’s recognition of these events. I, however, was puzzled with Himmler’s thought process. At one point, Himmler is said to have been hopeful that the Allies might join what remained of the German army to push back the Soviets and limit their advance into central Europe. A fan of alternate history, I was intrigued by this thought. In hindsight, could this kind of action prevented the ensuing half century of cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union? I read this realizing that possibility but puzzled by Himmler’s belief that the Allies would be accepting of the new Nazi Germany sans Hitler in order to wage a new war against the Soviets. I then reminded myself that Himmler was also among those who relied heavily on astrologers for comfort and aid in decision making and this in some way explains his thought process.
Although more unrelated to this class, one thing that constantly popped into my mind while reading this book was where Hitler and his staff would be located in Dante’s “circles” or cantos of hell. For those who haven’t read it, Dante divides his hell or inferno into nine circles that each have individual levels. That levels are categorized by different types of sin spanning from less severe at the top towards the most severe at the bottom.
The seventh circle of hell houses the violent and is divided into three rings. The middle ring is where suicides and profligates are sent and transformed into thorny bushes with their physical bodies hanging from them. Now I fully realize Dante’s Inferno was a work of epic fiction and this blog post is not designed to debate at which level of hell Hitler sits and what his punishment is. That’s an ideological debate for another time, and another class; however, I bring it up because when I read about Hitler’s atrocities, I naturally think about where he ranks in terms of mankind’s most evil men. Now that he’s been dead for over half a century and his impact on the world has been detailed in depth and scrutinized by men like Hugh-Trevor-Roper, how does he “stack up” per-say against some of the most evil humans in the history of our world? I know this is broad and extremely subjective but it’s something I frequently thought about in reading the book.
I went to a talk the other day about how children develope mentally and socially. I had never really been taught anything about this topic so it was all very interesting to me. I learned that so much of a child is developed by the time they are 2 years old just by seeing and listening to what goes on around them. At this point in their lives they are not even very capable of speaking but they can start to understand some things that are going on. I also learned that the brain needs a feeling of safety in order to learn. I thought this was very interesting, and it made me think of children that live in bad situations and maybe in orphanages. These children living in bad situations may be scared to go home everyday or scared to walk down the street alone. Having something like that constantly on their mind would severely impact their ability to learn while they are in school.
Another thing I learned was that children develope socially based on how their parents or caregivers handle their intense emotions. This was very interesting to me because I would have never thought about that as being the biggest thing that affects a child socially. Based on how gaurdians handle these emotions allows kids to become either more comfotable around other children and adults or less comfortable around them.
I really liked this talk and I think I learned alot about this subject that will be useful for me in the future when I am thinking about having my own family. I think a class like this should be taught to all new and future parents so that they know that everything they do effects their child in ways that they would never imagine. I think if more people took the time to learn how children develope we would be able to make sure that the children get what they need at the ages they need these things in order to develope better. These are what seem to be small things but in the big picture they are actually very important.
The ending to this book outlines the facts of Hitler’s final days, attempting to dispel any myths or conspiracies that depict him as living past this point. I had never really considered Hitler’s death prior to this book. I never thought twice about the fact that his death was a suicide; I had never really studied his life and death the way we did in this book, and I just figured that this was an inevitable end to someone who has caused so much detriment to a society. Maybe he had realized mistakes or maybe he just was in over his head, but I never considered why he ended his life the way he did. However, after reading this book, I do find it rather interesting that he chose to commit suicide. Hitler’s ability to lead was undoubtedly strong and the fact that so many people were still under his power and manipulation even throughout his evident defeat adheres to this ability. Hitler not only continued to maintain a plethora of loyal followers at this point, but even after his death his followers continued to be under his control. They carried out his final wishes that he outlined in his will, and attempted to honor his leadership. The power of his leadership is why I find it interesting that Hitler committed suicide instead of going down with his people.
Nan Keohane was a very interesting woman. She was very confident in her ability to get up on stage and talk to a room full of people. She even made us all laugh a couple of times. She was the former president of Duke University. She came to talk to us about two different types of leadership, the leadership out front and the leadership that is more behind-the-scenes when dealing with social and political movements. She gave us her definition of leadership to start off with. This isn’t exactly word for word but it is pretty close, “Leaders define and declare goals and bring together members of the group to reach those goals”.
The first type of leadership she discussed was the leadership out front. This was the type that she said was typically seen with male leaders because of their biological make-up that makes them want to be out front leading the pack. These types of leaders generally are either loved, hated, or feared, but they are never ignored, which to me means that there is something to be said about that. If your ignored as a leader you are not doing your job correctly, regaurdless of how people feel about you as a leader is different. If they feel a certain way about you, regardless if it is a good feeling or a bad feeling, you are still having an affect on the peoples lives you are leading which is what you are suppossed to be doing.
Next Nan moved on to talking about the leadership behind-the-scenes. The first thing she said about it was that this kind of leadship role was more so seen with women becuase they did not have to be out in front leading the troops to battle, they could work from quieter spots and not be put up on too high a pedastal. Women seem to prefer a low key style of leadership. Nan gave an example to explain this a little better. She said a behind-the-scene leader sort of looks like a hearding dog, meaning that they lead from the back of the flock. The sheep always get where their suppossed to go not because they are following someone in front, but because they are being lead from behind.
I thought this all was very interesting. I actually looked at myself a little bit after and realized that she was probably right because I might rather take a leadership role where I am not the center of attention all the time, but still make sure that everyone in my group is progressing and moving forward towards our goals. I enjoyed the talk and I think I learned alot about leadership and a little bit more about myself as well.
We spent a lot of time in class discussing truth and fiction, and the subjective roles they play in the compilation of both this story and Skloot’s novel on the Lacks family. We have criticized people for claiming truth when it might be there, and have criticized people for not having truth where it should have been. I believe that Trevor Roper concluded this novel the way that Skloot ought to have concluded it, recognizing that the ongoing Hitler myth phenomenon may continue to live out in his pages. However, do we think this serves as a safety net for himself, or an excuse to write something more entertaining, like we have accused Skloot of doing.
I just want to point out how fascinating it is that we have spent classes upon classes, hours upon hours reading a novel about this man, Hitler. I love that humanity is so fascinated about a man who is caused so much wrong. Don’t you think that we would shudder at the name of someone so awful, who committed these crimes, kind of like “Lord Voldemort” for Harry Potter? Why do we want to know everything about his life, every detail, what his interests where, who his family was, etc?
The ending ofThe Last Days of Hitler was designed to dispel and discourage any contingency myths about Hitler possibly being alive and living the end of his days out in some refuge. Hugh Trevor-Roper made it a point to talk about the facts. The facts were what made this book and he made sure to point that out in the end. So what are the facts?
Trevor-Roper tells us that Hitler was a strategical genius, a propaganda mastermind, and was able to make the whole world look at him. How the world refers back to Hitler is obviously negatively, but Hitler was a great man for Germany from the late 1930s to the mid 1940s. There are arguably few men that could resurrect a country with so much destruction and so many restrictions that Germany had to deal with in 1939.
So what legacy did this book portray? Obviously it was not trying to cover the deeds of the Holocaust and the war crimes enacted by Hitler’s Court. However we don’t see the accomplishments and brilliant military strategies ignored. Hitler is still portrayed as a good leader for his cause when you turn through the pages of this book. He was crazy in comparison to the rest of the world, but amazing for the Nazi party. I’m sure there is no question that Hitler was portrayed as a monster and forever will be portrayed as such. However, what would Hugh Trevor-Roper’s facts about Hitler the man have indicated should Hitler have won?