2.I: Introduction

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How did society get divided into a political “left” and “right” that see the world so differently?  Why are we surrounded by so many more technological wonders than our great-grandparents were?  Do giant corporations control the world?  Whatever happened to the traditional nuclear family?  Is the human species on the verge of self-destruction?   

Chapter Two is organized around the three predominant threads of “modern” history:  the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the world wars.  Enlightened “free” countries rejected the divine right of kings and replaced it with popular sovereignty.  The emphasis was on class or national rights in the 18th – 19th centuries and individual rights after WWII. Liberation from kings is only a first step, though.  Self-rule necessitates a never-ending debate about our own ends and means.

In the Industrial Revolution, engines powered by fossil fuels greatly multiplied the speed and scale of labor.  Machines made better machines.  Some of these machines were designed to automate or accelerate routine operations, a branch of technology that led directly to computers.  Industry has progressed exponentially, and it has radically affected all walks of life in unanticipated ways.

We have all studied the world wars – the largest of all time – in history class.  They still strongly haunt us, and we still tend to think about them in terms of nationalist good-vs-evil propaganda.  What were the wars really about?  How could anyone possibly accept such large-scale violence, and what does this say about human nature?  The wars permanently changed the world; have we learned to prevent WWIII?    

The final section examines modern society from the perspective of ordinary people.  From urbanization to universal human rights and that head-spinning decade of the 1960s, new lifestyles changed the world from the ground up.  This was the period when “we the people” stole the show.

Continue to Section 2.II:  The Enlightenment And Its Revolutions

  1. American flag by Clker-Free-Vector-Images, https://www.freeimg.net/photo/20128/rossflag-flag-historic-earlyflag .  Steam engine by ArtsyBeeKids, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/locomotive-steam-engine-industrial-5658936/  .  Napoleon image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images, https://pixabay.com/vectors/napoleon-napoleon-bonaparte-33073/ .  Revolution fist by Anne Fonda, https://pixy.org/102055/ .  Karl Marx image by OpenClipArt-Vectors, https://pixabay.com/vectors/karl-marx-portrait-man-beard-2026379/ .  Darwin “A Venerable Orang-outang” image by anonymous (public domain), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Editorial_cartoon_depicting_Charles_Darwin_as_an_ape_(1871).jpg .  Airplane by Clker-Free-Vector-Images, https://pixabay.com/vectors/biplane-red-wings-aviation-canvas-304935/ .  Computer image by OpenClipArt-Vectors, https://pixabay.com/vectors/mainframe-cluster-servers-computers-146403/ .  Nuclear explosion image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images, https://pixabay.com/vectors/explosion-nuclear-cloud-mushroom-309529/ .  UN seal public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:UN_emblem_blue.svg .  TV image by Meridith Nalls, https://pixy.org/371038/ .  (All accessed, saved, and / or archived Feb. 2021)
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