Time Capsule #20
Stoic texts, the Treaty of Versailles, and how Malcolm X learned to read.
Happy Mother’s Day to the moms out there.
I have returned to my original plan of making this a history/philosophy newsletter: today, I provide a short summary of the post-WW1 Treaty of Versailles, a pivotal moment in international politics and one that would have long-lasting global repercussions.
✏️ Sowing the Seeds of Resentment — The Treaty of Versailles
Germany at the end of the 1st World War was in a desperate situation. Despite the conclusion of hostilities on the Eastern Front with the Soviets in late-1917/early-1918, morale both on the front lines and the homefront was crumbling. Civilian strikes crippled war production, mutinies in the German navy reflected low troop morale, and civil uprisings during the German revolution of November 1918 would eventually lead to the Armistice (Remembrance Day) and abdication of the throne by Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Vengeance was in the air for the Allied powers. France alone lost 1.3 million men, including 25% of Frenchmen aged 18-30, as well as 400,000 civilians, in addition to the widespread devastation and occupation of French lands during the war. Britain, too, lost many men and almost went into bankruptcy during the war. Whilst some favoured a policy of reconciliation, public opinion favoured harsh penalties to prevent a possible repeat of the greatest war in human history. The “Big Four” leaders of the Allied Powers — Woodrow Wilson of the USA, David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France, and to a lesser degree Vittorio Orlando of Italy — dictated the peace terms. The Central Powers — Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey — were barely included in the peace negotiations in Paris.
In the end, the imposed peace treaty would completely cripple the German people. Germany lost large swaths of territory and was stripped of their colonies in Africa and China, had their military severely limited and “basically neutered”, were forced to accept full responsibility for the war under the “war guilt clause”, and were demanded to pay $33 billion dollars in damages (worth roughly $430 billion dollars today — virtually an unpayable sum of money).
The post-war years in Germany would be more than difficult. Hyper-inflation would see their currency almost completely devalued, resulting in the complete loss of life savings for many of the populace, and the widespread resentment of the treaty would provide fertile ground for the growth of nationalist parties such as the Nazi party. Whether this treaty was the cause of the 2nd World War is widely debated, but one thing is for sure: it certainly didn’t prevent it.
📸 Photo of the Week
Phone, wallet, keys, mask.
📖 Book of the Week — The Enchiridion by Epictetus
Another foundational text of Stoicism alongside Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, the Enchiridion, or Handbook, is a collection of sayings and advice from Epictetus recorded by his disciple Arrian in the early 2nd century AD. Epictetus was born a slave in modern-day Turkey, where he studied philosophy and taught it in Rome after gaining his freedom.
For Epictetus, philosophy was not only a field of study but a way of life. He preached the Stoic ideals of individual responsibility, acceptance of the uncontrollable, and pursuit of reason, knowledge, and virtue.
Don’t demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.
💭 Quote of the Week
Let it go, or be dragged.
~ Zen proverb
🔭 Sunday Best
The Nuclear Family — an essay on the changes in family structure over the centuries.