The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword
In Swastika Night, by Katharine Burdekin, Alfred and the Knight have a conversation on the origins of the German state and how that knowledge has been shared throughout the years. The Knight stated that, “This book of von Wied proved that Hitler was God, not born but exploded, that women were not part of the human race at all but a kind of ape, and that everything that had been said and done and thought before Hitler descended was the blackest error of subhuman savagery and therefore must be wiped out.”1 The Knight goes on and says that was accomplished by eliminating things such as history, psychology, and philosophy. The Knight also spoke of the contrast between von Hess and von Weid describing that as, “Von Hess was all for telling the whole truth about the history of Germany and the history of the rest of the world. For, says he, surely, apart from any question of right and wrong, the truth is sufficiently glorious. But von Wied thought not, and he was willing to have his own great work destroyed so long as it was accompanied to the pyre by the other records of mankind.”2 This section raises some interesting questions. First and foremost, I think of some of the current education trends in the United States and elsewhere around the world. There always seems to be reports about some school district or state who is purchasing textbooks that have stripped or placed a small emphasis on certain points in history. Certainly sometimes it is the effect of crunching an incredible amount of information into a specified timeframe, but it has to raise a question of why certain things are left in textbooks and taught, while others are removed and discouraged. One thing that has always bothered me, and was reminded of during this reading, was how the Vietnam War was taught in high school (just one example). In Swastika Night, the Knight states that, “And Germany was beaten, absolutely defeated. Von Hess doesn’t mind admitting that, but for von Wied that was part of the Memory he was afraid of.”3 Similarly, I feel like in the typical high school textbook, it teaches of the Vietnam War as anything but a resounding defeat. Also, watered down textbooks typically gloss over the nastier parts of war, such as atrocities that were committed by the United States which if were included might make more students question why those things occur in the first place. This scene just really reminded me of the power that books, and what is included or removed in books, can have. I am rambling on a bit now, so I have included a clip from Indiana Jones to make up for that. Enjoy.