Thursday, April 4, 2013

Under the Sky so Blue

2:25 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
Today we--yes, the royal we--are playing hot lava. Anywhere that the sun is not shining is the hot lava, and must be avoided at all costs. The only exceptions are class periods, and getting my coffee cup refilled.

I find the sunshine most conducive to thought, including thoughts which should have occurred to me some time ago. Today, in particularly, it was just something regarding my research, which I really grasped for the first time. I had previously realized that Austrian national identity was poorly defined prior to the end of WWII and the Austrian Victim narrative. I had failed to reconcile, however, the real import of this. Austria is almost completely a post-WWII concept. The Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Hapsburg dynasty was a broad collection of regions, united under a central bureaucratic mechanism. Within that Empire, regions  ethno-cultural likeness were organized into provinces; there was no Austria, as such, but Tirol, South Tirol, Salzburg, and Vienna, amongst numerous smaller entities.

The connection between these provinces broke down with the collapse of the Empire the borders of Austria were drawn rather arbitrarily, and there were almost no impetus toward a unification. Austro-Fascism was an attempt at achieving national unity, but suffered from minority support, even among Austrian Fascists, many of whom preferred a Pan-Germanistic union.

The disunity of Austria is further shown at the end of WWII. It was not a given that Austria would reunite as one, although we treat it that way now. Tirol, particularly, debated on whether to acknowledge an "Austrian" authority, or to assert Tirolean sovereignty. Similar discussions permeated the political spheres of the time.

Germany, and the Anschluss, entered at the very height of Austrian Ego-permeability. The vacuum left behind the Hapsburg Empire remained unfilled until the time of Adolph Hitler's annexation of his homeland to a "Greater Germany," and I am of the mind--though this must remain always a speculation--that a Nazi victory would have lead to the contented erasure of separate Austrian identity from a broader German identity. The Nazi defeat, however, left Austria in the ruins of a second fallen empire, and a second economic depression.

The shift of fortunes which came with victim-hood and the Marshall Plan could not have been more perfectly timed. It coupled economic recovery with a distancing from the idea of Greater Germany, and security against a clearly hostile Soviet Army.

One might question how this resulted in Austria, as opposed to a federation of Austrian provinces, which was the Allied plan originally. The answer lies in necessity. Too large a part of the Austrian population had been complicit in campaigns of Nazism, both foreign and domestic, and in addition, some provinces were much guiltier than others: South Tirol is pterhaps the one place where any credence might be lent to the idea of Austrian resistance to Nazism. But to punish some and not others would have damaged any attempt to create Austrian unity, which--due to recent developments--had become a source of preoccupation for the West, which was swiftly coming to desire an independent and neutral Austria.

I am of course alluding to the Cold War and the threat of extended Soviet influence in middle Europe. The Allies, or those of republican constitution, recognized the utility of a strong buffer nation between the communist satellite-states and the impressionable and often idiotic peoples of Italy and Greece.

In order to create such a nation, it was not expedient to cause any division amongst  the provinces. The so called victim-hood of the provinces, then, was to be cast as a corporate martyrdom of the Austrian people: whole and undivided.

The provinces readily excepted this story: first, because it absolved them of their wrongdoing; Second, because it came with generous economic aid; and third, because it was a shield against soviet occupation.

What I had previously underestimated, was the malleability of the Austrian Persona, and that it had failed to take shape after the Great War. The legacy of Austrian-wictimhood may thus be considered, not as the termination of an identity crisis beginning with the Anschluss, but as the final resolution of the identity crisis left by the fall of the Hapsburgs.

There are the attendant issues of never being able to deal with the Austrian war-criminals properly, leading to celebration of Austrian service in the Wehrmacht, and ultimately Waldheim--along with who knows what other cultural disease, but it remarkable how fast the victim narrative allowed them to coalesce. They went twenty years before the Anschluss without figuring it out, but it took them months after the end of WWII to solve the problem. Remarkable.

I suppose it is nearing time for class. Time to make an end of it and enjoy these last few minutes in the sun.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Meanderings which began with a Realization that I really had no Time for Blogging, but that I similarly had no Will to do Research.

10:30 PM Posted by Patrick 2 comments
To controvert a meme: Summer is Coming.

That is quite fortunate, because I am simply a tad bit tired. There is only so much heavy academic literature one can read before it is time to cut it with a healthy dose of talking animals. Although, I have come to believe that it is not the literature itself which is so stuffy, but rather, that it is the knowledge of coming graded work which renders the otherwise pleasurable suffocating. A prime example of this would be the work I am doing for my senior seminar. I find the topic fascinating, and I still get the familiar chills down my spine each time I discover something particularly weighty, but as the semester drags on, I come to view it more as plain drudgery, not because the topic has lost merit over the course of my studies, nor because my expanded knowledge on the topic makes each new discovery any less triumphant, but merely because I realize that the time will be coming when this is no longer just for me, and when I will have to yield up the sum-total of all of my work--imperfectly represented in my writing--for a grade.

Granted, I am yet to receive a poor grade on any paper that I have written, but in every single case I have found my own finished product insufficient. It frustrates me to no end to spend a semester reading exemplary research, only to turnout something that I do not feel entirely pleased with. Now, I might have touched on something previously unexplored in my current work, but even then, I hardly feel like my brief acquaintance with the topic is sufficient for me to posit something new in a confident manner: even when I dare to be original, doubt lies in the wings.

When it comes right down to it, I can tolerate mediocrity from others, but when I find it in my own efforts, I hate it, quite passionately. More than that, it makes me feel ashamed. Failure could mean that you are just not quite good enough in your person, which is itself a horrible thought, and one I've always tried to cut out of the calculations. It might also signify that I simply did not try, which is sometimes the case.

The one that really gets me is option the third: failure through inadequate means. The means in this case are primarily time and access to research material. There is nothing more frustrating than turning out a weak paper because of insufficient access to the desired research materials. I remember doing an African research paper for one professor, which came out merely ok. This result stemmed from greater than anticipated difficulty in getting my hands on the sources I wanted, many of which simply were not readily available to those who did not speak Spanish or Portuguese.

I suppose my problem is rooted entirely in ego. I, much like everyone else, do not object to being respected by my betters, and confident though I generally am in my abilities, there is always the possibility that I will offer up something which leads a professor to puncture my inflated view of self.

It is the constant danger  to my ego, then, which I find so tiring. People have wondered before, why I spend so much more time and effort than is necessary on the little things. While the main part of it is that I do indeed prefer to do a good job for it's own sake, and for the feeling of having done something worthwhile, there is always an element that voraciously desires acclaim.

Here is the odd thing: I cannot think of another field, outside the academic, where I feel quite the same drive. I really do not feel the need for the acclaim of my boss, nor have I particularly needed to worry about securing the affection of my family: that is in the bag, and what drive I feel rises more the desire to make them happy. I do not particularly care for the acclaim of strangers; I always find it a little awkward. Nope, just my professors, and maybe--from time to time--my pastors.

Perhaps there is a certain level at which my desire, then, is tied in a way to the way I experience it with my family.

My professors (I have been fortunate) and my pastors have looked to my care and growth: the pastors, theologically; the professors, academically--okay, the pastors get academic motivation kudos too. As these people have poured their time, efforts, and talent into my development, I am aware, to a certain extent, that what I do, say, write, etc, reflects on them as well. Poor theology reflects poorly on my pastors, and poor academic work reflects on my professors. And as I work and live with these people, gratefulness and a certain measure of affection naturally grows, and it feels like the height of ungratefulness not to repay their effort with the validation of their work which comes with the success of the student.

I would not have any mistake on my part read into as an inadequacy in my teachers; I am more than capable of making my own mistakes. I compare the difference in my attitude in Political Crimes and Trials, or even my Music for the Listener class, in both of which I had great respect for my professors, with my attitude toward my English writing course, where I felt a certain antipathy for the instructor. My effort and attention to detail where much greater in the former.

H'anyway. That was totally a tangent that carried on much longer than expected as I explored it. Entschuldigung.

The reason why it is so good that summer is coming, is that I will be glad of the time that I haven't had in awhile. Between work and school I leave the house 7 days a weak, for between 8 and 15 hours (looking at you, Friday) a day. My time on campus is largely spent on research and other homework, 'cause I'm an insufferable little streber, equipped with a genuine interest in history. Other time on campus is spent talking to people, sometimes for school, but largely social. A decent chunk is also spent just walking around, trying to draw meaning from/reconcile/order everything that I have just read; have to understand something before you write about it, dontcha know.

These routines grow old, and the reality is that I see a lot less of any people who fall outside of that sphere of those whom I see at school; this can even include people who go to IPFW, as our schedules are not always compatible. So there are some people who I just haven't really talked to in awhile; people who I should give a phone call at the very least. But that can wait. There is blogging to be done.

My upswing in social feeling is still going pretty strong, but it is hard when I have to choose between spending time with my peoples, or else getting a couple hours of downtime after a long day at school, work, or both. I need time to spend with my peoples, when I am not already burnt out by sleep shortages, or by work. There are such people, M'aiq has been told, who unwind by surrounding themselves with throngs of people. Alas, I am not one of them. Don't get me wrong; I like the people, but I prefer them when I am well rested and fed.

More than anything, I am ready for some sunshine. I have been reduced to something pale and pasty; like some kind of weird albino. It is only a matter of time before women and children start screaming at my approach. I wonder that my eyes have not yet lost their color. I just want to spend time by the pool, get my color back, and do some gardening.

Is there a point to any of this rambling? Yes, on the one hand, it is a necessary outlet for my whining, which would otherwise fall on those dear to me. I have also written it to say: bear with me. I might be a little hard to get a hold of for the next month--or else not so pleasant as I should be, in the cases that you do--but spring is coming, and with spring comes time, and with time? Well, only the summer will tell.