Book Review of “The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century” by David Reynolds

Posted: August 10, 2016 in Book Reviews
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The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth CenturyThe Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although the author’s style is dense – by that I mean lots of information packed into a tight, but multilevel structure that requires a certain kind of deep, concentrated reading/comprehension ability that I believe has tragically been completely lost except to all but a few of us in this technology-driven (entangled) age when our attention/comprehension spans have been diminished to mere skimming, at best, and no-context, 5-second, twisted, spun, and completely made-up out of thin air sound bites, at worst – this is an incredible and comprehensive look at the global legacy of World War I on the 20th century and, in fact, here today in the 21st century.

The structure of the book is what helps logically frame each of the effects – and the legacy – of The Great War on the geopolitical, financial, military, social, and moral outcomes that have cascaded with increasing momentum throughout the entire world since 1914 through this day and will continue to cascade with ever-increasing momentum bringing us closer and closer to complete annihilation of everything on the planet, including the human race.

It’s that big in terms of everything on the globe that it either directly or indirectly touched and changed, great and small, from what seemed in 1914 to simply be a small-time assassination – the Archduke and Duchess of Austria – by a radical minority group – Christian Serbian peasants who were severely oppressed and mistreated by their Muslim overlords – in an obscure town – Sarajevo – in an obscure Austrian territory – Bosnia/Herzegovina.

Just reading the previous paragraph should give us all a glimpse into the ever-present effects that World War I, which was ignited by these assassinations in June 1914, has had and will continue to have on the way the world thinks and works throughout its very fabric.

Like the Great War itself, the insider’s view of these inner workings is violent, horrific, and tragic, fueled by the greed, the lust for power and control, and self-interested gains with no regard, care, or concern for the cost, humanly (we are just expendable fodder and the only usefulness we have exists as long as we have money, blood, and life to give, but it doesn’t mean we matter at all to anybody – we are simply the pawns who are anonymous and expendable in the power broker’s – politics and finance lead the pack – never-ending game of chess) or otherwise.

It’s often hard for us as individuals to back out to the big-picture reality of the world we live in and understand that we, as individuals, are not even a blip on the radar of those who seek to control the world through humanly-devised political, financial, military, societal, and, yes, even religious systems whose sole aim is oppression, conquest, and destruction until there is at long last one human being left standing who can declare themselves the definitive King (or Queen) of the Hill.

But that is the overarching long shadow that the Great War casts over its aftermath.

Having said that, however, doesn’t mean that each one of us doesn’t have the responsibility to reject everything this shadow casts and dare to be different, by acquiring knowledge that doesn’t come from the prejudicial and mostly-untrue “reliable sources” that clamor for our attention day and night through their many words and their attention-getting outrageousness.

It is foolish and ignorant to fall for most of what we hear and see in snippets all around us, because it is garbage and trash that has nothing behind it, but is simply intended to enslave us to a system of lies.

Each of us has the responsibility to know and learn, through rigorous work and discerning through all the information what is actually true and what is actually false (this means not taking someone else’s word or interpretation of the past and adopting it as our own, but actually finding out for ourselves from credible original, authentic, and genuine sources), about the past, to understand the scope of the past, and to know how it affects the present and the future.

Then we need to apply that to our own lives and how we live them.

In many ways, what we face in life is a system that is no different than what an insect faces with a spider web.

The web is beautiful, intriguing, and looks perfect. It’s tempting for an insect to want to get closer to examine it and maybe just alight on one of its strong bridges for moment to rest and admire it.

Suddenly, from nowhere it seems, the spider who built the web appears. It is bigger than the insect and the insect suddenly has an inkling that it needs to leave. It tries, but it can’t move because of the sticky substance on the bridge it has attached itself to, which now entraps it and condemns it to certain destruction because there is no way out.

Our responsibility to knowledge, understanding, critical thinking, and discernment, as opposed to chosen ignorance and being captivated by “pretty things” and the beguiling lies that often appeal to the baser nature of our hearts (we try to hide these and present a different face, but the very choices we make reveal them even if we don’t realize it) is the only antidote to being lured into and trapped in this spider web that will destroy us.

That is the point of history. And World War I is actually recent history, even though it’s many years before our lifetimes, when we think in terms of the whole history of humans. Because its effects and legacy impact our lives, collectively and individually, to this day, and will continue to do so, it is imperative that we understand how we got from there to here.

For those of us striving to be quintessential leaders, the imperative is even more critical and urgent, because if we do not learn the lessons of the past and reject the long shadow they cast over our lives individually and collectively today, then quintessential leadership disappears, while unquintessential leadership remains the status quo and even more deeply entrenched.

Each of us makes these choices thousands of times a day. 

What road is the cumulative effect of our choices leading us down?

View all my reviews

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