Friday, April 22, 2005

What's the History Department Coming to?

What's the History Dept coming to? A good essay was graded B- and a sucky one an A?!

I had an appointment to meet Prof Farrell this afternoon at 1pm. I decided that since I was at home most of last week and quite some time before, I'd collect all my term papers from the History department when I finally go back to school. So, it was fated that I was going to collect all my papers this afternoon, right before 1. I walked into the general office and squatted down in search for my that EU2219 paper.

Really, it might not have pissed me off that much if EU2219 and HY2242 aren't place like on the bottom most shelf. EU2219 is also known as HY2241, so I guess they went side by side, at the bottom most shelf.

I can't find that EU2219 paper. And that HY2242 paper was right at the bottom so I was pissed mad and freaking out. And my that wonderfully written HY2242 paper got a B-. So that made me even more freaked out than I already was. I mean, what a wonderfully written piece of work kena penalised so badly cos I misinterpreted the question?! What's wrong with me? And I hell thought that was my most accomplished piece of writing ever produced by my hands.

Well, to be fair, my tutor wrote this, "A pity you misunderstood the question, otherwise it reads like it would have been a better essay that you are capable of." Yes, I'm just so good that she can't give me a C, so a B- is adequate. wahaha~ How am I supposed to know?!

I once said that I'd be putting up all my A- and A essays online here, but I'm so pleased with my field trip report that I want to put it up here too even though it scored a lousy B-... Can I? Well, this IS my blog, I get to do whatever I want on it, so I say CAN! hahaha~ yup... What follows is the essay that I love so much but my tutor don't:

What stands out most from this experience: human barbarity or human endurance? Why?
(I misread that "this experience" was the field trip, but apparently it meant the Jap Occ. Damn.)

The Japanese Occupation of Singapore was a watershed event to the people who came under Japanese rule and suffered under the hands of this imperialist power. This field trip enhanced the brutality of the Japanese imperialists through their sub human treatment of people, yet brought us hope in humanity by the various heartening stories of human endurance of the Prisoners of War and the interns during this time period. As this field trip covered several places, the extent of which demonstrates human brutality or human endurance is different. In Chinatown, it was the barbaric acts of the Japanese and their dehumanising treatment of the residents that stood out. However, despite poor working conditions, and amid stories of the survival and more deaths of prisoners and inmates of the war, there is generally a more touching description of the people living in their own world of Changi. Rationally, I would like to think that both stood out equally significant for this field trip, but as a human being with feelings and emotions, I think that human endurance had a greater impact on me than human barbarity. After all, most people like to think more into the positives of humanity rather than the negatives.

Indeed, in the first stopover at Chinatown, Japanese barbarity seems to have been more striking and horrifying as stories of the Japanese dehumanising the local Chinese by forcing them to live in cramp spaces under poor living conditions. The Japanese also performed the ‘Sook Ching’ where “all Chinese men between 18 and 50 years old, and in some cases women and children, were ordered to report to temporary registration centres for interrogation and identification by the Kempeitai and their hooded informants”[1]. What followed was an “indiscriminate and bloody purge of the Chinese and many Chinese males including innocent ones, were taken away to be massacred”[2]. It was horrifying to hear these acts of the Japanese as they presented themselves as superior to the other races. Even a simple act of slapping a local for no legitimate reason other than being disrespectful towards the Japanese was painful to hear as it was physical and mental abuse of the locals.

It was also nauseating to hear about the Japanese usage on psychology on the Chinese. The Japanese made use of human fears and cultural instinct to bully their way about and get what they wanted. For example, in the Sook Ching, the Japanese made the Chinese gather for hours without telling them what was happening, inducing them to fear for the worse.
[3] This was also used by the Japanese on the Europeans as I later found on in the next stopover at the Padang. The European prisoners-of-war and interns were also made to gather for hours under the hot sun at the Padang without any reason being told to them and made to wait. This can be considered a dehumanising act as the Japanese did not even give these people the power of knowledge. Their mental torture on the people can be seen as a form of civil barbarity which can have a stronger and more lasting impact of pain on the people than physical torture.

However, as this field trip focused on the Japanese Occupation in Singapore and the lives of the locals during this internment, there is more emphasis placed on how the locals got through this ordeal rather than their tortures by the Japanese even though that was also covered as we had not visited any of the Japanese holding areas for the torture of suspects. We did visit the Changi beach though, which was the place in which “tens of thousands [of people] lost their lives during the Sook Ching operation to purge suspected anti-Japanese civilians within Singapore’s Chinese population”
[4]. Still that was about the mass killings of the Chinese without regard of their lives and could not be really serious to be considered as human barbarity. What struck me more was the stories of some men miraculously living through this ordeal and escaping from death.[5] What these men went through to remain alive was an act of human endurance as they pitted themselves against the harshest conditions of survival to come out a better person.

Although in the field trip we visited the memorial for the Japanese Occupation before the Changi War Museum, I would like to talk about the latter first as it appears more logical chronologically, but their relevance is still in close relationship with each other and both really typified a positive outlook in life and war.

Although the prisoners-of-war and the European civilians detained in the Changi Prison were treated as subhuman by the Japanese, them being able to keep their lives through this internment then return back to their Western way of life after the war showed that they were able to take humiliation into their stride which is one of the most difficult endurance in human nature. Thus I am in full respect of these subjugated people. Life is Changi Prison might be far from rosy, but little has been described of its brutality and harshness while much has been mentioned of how people survived it. Many of the survivors of this internment wrote diaries and memoirs about their lives during that time period, and that a Museum has been built in memorial of them signifies this strong character of humanity. This could be seen in the case of Stanley Warren and his murals in the Changi Prison. Despite being afraid of reliving the captivity and cruelty, Warren still agreed to restore the murals after much persuasion and resonating that this could be made as a tribute to all his friends who departed him during that period. This act of Warren being able to stand out after the war to relive the horrors in memory of his friends was also another deep act of human endurance.

The building of the memorial was an act to keep in memory of “those of our civilians who were killed”
[6] during the Japanese Occupation and not in memory of the brutalities of the Japanese imperialists during their occupation, hence I would argue the more protruding human endurance of this field trip. Although it can also be argued that the memorial is but a “new politics of memory in the service of nation-building”[7] I would think that it was only in the Japanese Occupation that the four races in Singapore had a common history and suffered a similar fate, thus it was necessary that we use this memory to build up unity among our nation, in that despite us being of what race, we still have a common endurance against an outside enemy. After all, the significance of the four pillars of the memorial is our four races and them being together, our unity as a nation despite difference.

This is not the first time that I visited these places as mentioned above in the field trip, but this visit heralds a different motive and in turn I had a different feeling after visiting these places. It could be because of the research done for this report that concreted my views and which gave me a more in depth knowledge of the significance of these places. Still what struck me was that after hearing the story of Stanley Warren over and over again each time I visit the Changi War Museum for field trips, his story, and that of other prisoners-of-war, never fails to touch me. Hence, it might also be due to human feelings and emotions rather than rational thinking that I think that human endurance stands out more than human barbarity in this experience.

[1] On a slab of stone in Chinatown describing the Sook Ching.
[2] Oral History Department Sook Ching (Singapore: Oral History Department, 1992), pp2.
[3] Lee Kip Lin “Lee Kip Lin” in Sook Ching (Singapore: Oral History Department, 1992), pp3-7.
[4] On a slab of stone in Changi beach describing its history.
[5] Yap Yan Hong “Yap Yan Hong” in Sook Ching (Singapore: Oral History Department, 1992), pp11-15.
[6] On a dedication of the memorial.
[7] Diana Wong “War and Memory in Malaysia and Singapore: An Introduction” in War and Memory in Malaysia and Singapore, ed. P. Lim Pui Huen and Diana Wong (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2000), pp6.

What a wonderful piece of writing~

Okay, back to that EU2219 paper that I was missing. I was so freaked out after leaving the general office but I had to get to meeting Prof Farrell at 1, so I headed down the corridor and I passed by Dr Clancey's room! Dr Clancey is my tutor for my EU2219 class, so I knocked on his door hoping that he could answer my questions to where the hell is my damned paper, but there was no answer.

It was pretty normal not to get a response, so I wasn't that freaked out with that. I went straight on to Prof Farrell's room.

Basically, Prof Farrell totally freaked me mad by saying, "You better try and get [Dr Clancey] cos if he never received your paper you'd get zero for it." Imagined a person already kena stunned then now kena pushed down the mountain. wahaha~

Secretly, I harboured some hopes that Dr Clancey never received my paper and upon me finding out about that, I'd offer to rewrite one for him. Not that I've a lot of time, but I just thought that paper I submitted sucked. Sucked big time. I wrote it half asleep. I wrote it at the very last minute. I didn't even bother rereading it. I didn't even do any research for it. I just whacked in whatever that came into my mind. Basically, that was the worse paper I thought I written. Worse than my TS1101E paper which I got a C for, I thought at the time I submitted it.


Before I say the but, I continue with my story. I was so freaked out by what Prof Farrell said that I can't really remember what he commented about my essay for him, so noticing that my mind was already gone, I left his office and immediately sat at the reception area and typed an email to Dr Clancey. I was so freaked out that I clicked on the wrong button. I was supposed to click on the button that would change Dr Clancey's email address into his name, but instead I clicked on the high importance button. And I didn't know how to remove it. Then I thought, heck, I'm already freaking out, doesn't this call for HIGH IMPORTANCE? So, I delibrately left it there and didn't attempt to see if I could remove it. My email is as follows:

-----Original Message-----
From: me
Sent: Friday, April 22, 2005 1:18 PM
To: Gregory K Clancey
Subject: My paper has gone missing
Importance: High

Hi Dr Clancey!
This is Joan Ang U040708W from your EU2219 tutorial for even Thursdays 2-4pm. I tried collecting my term paper, but I can’t find it. This is freaking me out, so I’m sorry if I’m sounding a bit incoherent. Did you receive my paper? Is my paper graded? Did I get a grade for it? How?


PS: Really sorry if I’m sounding a bit freaked out, but I’m indeed very freaked out.

Yes, I was that freaked out.

After typing that email, I had wanted to leave, but I thought of trying out my luck of meeting him again, so I went back to his room and knocked on his door. I wasn't expecting anything, so when I heard his voice saying "come in" I was pretty much freaked out in surprise.

I still went in and I didn't know what to say. I think I said something like this, "I've just sent you an email. I came by just a while ago and you weren't in. I can't find my paper. I'm sorry, but I'm pretty freaked out now. Oh ya, I'm Joan. I... I..." You get the idea...

Then he said, "You are Joan right? Papers do get missing sometimes. Don't worry, I've graded your paper, I've the records here. In fact I was just about to send you my reply to your email." I looked over at his computer screen. Yea... He was replying to some email. Pretty much completed and just about to click on send.

Then he said, "Don't worry, you got an A."

"An A??? Are you sure???"

"Ya, an A."

An A for that shit paper I did so hurriedly?! I was so dumbfounded that I didn't know what to say. Then I was like, okay, thank you and wanted to leave, then he asked me, "Do you still want me to send you my reply?"

I was like "huh?"

And he answered his own question, "I think I'll still send it to you." Then as he was talking to me, he clicked on the send button. So there I saw that email floating across some invisible wireless thingie into my computer.

This is his reply:

Dear Joan,

I'm sorry if your mid-term is missing. This sometimes happens, particularly late in the semester when papers have been on the shelves for awhile. Students are not always careful to keep discrete piles apart, and as the weeks go by, stray papers migrate.

I can give you your grade, however, which was an 'A'.

Take Care,

Greg Clancey

Okay, he sounded so nice about it that make me think was there really a need for me to freak out in the first place?

Yup... So that's about the main story...

You know, when I promised that I'd put up all my A essays, I did mean so, if they were good. I'm now thinking should I really put up this essay anot? Cos I really think it sucks. Well, anyway, what other people think might not be what you think, maybe I'm just a natural in writing EU papers? LOL! So, my essay... Don't shoot me if you think the same way as I do regarding the essay, shoot Dr Clancey...

Was `the Great War’ inevitable? That is, were global conditions such that a major conflict had to happen?

The global conditions set in the early twentieth century were such that if a conflict was to break out, it would escalate into a major conflict. This was to happen as the Great War, or the First World War as it is called now. However, the outbreak of the Great War was not necessarily inevitable even though global conditions pointed to a major conflict. This is because these global conditions of imperialism, nationalism, militarism, social Darwinism, realpolitik, European rivalries, the Alliance System, and improvements in technology, had been in place in Europe for a period of time but they enjoyed a period of relative peace and stability. I think that individually these global conditions would not lead to a major conflict but the addition of these conditions together created a genuine setting for a major conflict waiting to break out. Still, even though the global conditions pointed to an outbreak of a major conflict, I do not think that the Great War was inevitable as it was the events leading up to war that caused the widespread outbreak of a general war, without an ignition there was no excuse for the outbreak of war, nobody at that time thought that the war they were going into would drag on to a total war in a scale as large as the great war.

Examining the global conditions of the early twentieth century, we see the height of imperialism as one of the settings that was a cause of European conflict. Lenin attempted to explain this imperialism theory and used it to explain the outbreak of war as he thought that the capitalists from the imperialist nations “were always pressured to improve profits” and to do so they had to “seek cheap inputs from colonies”.
[1] Lenin thought that eventually the major capitalist powers would lead to war as they wanted to grab more colonies.[2] However, before the Great War, no European power had fought another power in war over a colonial theory on their homeland, so even though European conflict might have arisen from this imperialism, it would not have been able to lead to the Great War based solely on this reason. Hence, this would only heighten possible tensions that might have led to a conflict between two neighbouring counties, but nothing on such a big scale as the Great War.

The early twentieth century also saw the height on nationalism on top of imperialism. As the different ethnic groups in the small Balkan states saw the successes of Germany as she was unified, these nationalist groups too wanted independence of themselves, and however, this alarmed the bigger states at that time who wanted to establish hegemony over those areas. This led to the various European nations taking sides, with a different small Balkan state which only increases the soured relationship between the various major powers, but this would not have led to the breakout of a major conflict involving those European powers as their priority was still at home. Nationalism was also seen in the major European powers as they each saw themselves superior than the others. It might be that only by going to war with each other that they could legitimise their superiority. This was in conjunction with the rise of the notion of social Darwinism at that time. This survival of the fittest theory suggested that it was only through war that the fittest could prevail, still it would have to take more than a nation to send their men to war. The Great War unlike other wars previously was an outbreak of war involved almost the whole of Europe.

Another reason that might brewed up conflict was the rise of militarism especially in Germany in which the navy was “vigorously built up” at the end of the nineteenth century.
[3] As the large scale armament was carried out, other nations were forced to carry out similar plans for fear of becoming backward when compared with the Germans. Even the British with the biggest naval fleet then was also pressurised into keeping on innovating to make her military power even stronger to be able to curb the growth of might of the Germans. However, even though this naval race created serious conflict between the states and it was only through war that they exercise the usage of their armament, both sides had claimed to have armed themselves from each other in defense. An improvement in the level of technology also brought in devastation that made the Great War great. With improvements made to the machines guns, they can now kill more people faster and more effectively, still this not necessarily meant that with these new weapons the nations are obliged to wage war with each other immediately.

I think the most plausible argument for a major conflict to break out in Europe would be due to the Alliance System in place. With the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance, “Europe was divided into two opposing camps that became more and more inflexible and unwilling to compromise”
[4]. As long as one member nation enters a war, the other nations would be dragged into the war under treaty terms, hence any war fought would not be a regional war but a European war fought among the member nations of both camps. However, it is not true that the Great War was inevitable due to this Alliance System as the treaties of alliances are mostly defensive treaties and actually used to discourage each other from war. These alliances are only loosely based and there is no obligation for a member country to join in mobilisation if war occurs. This could be seen in the case of Italy. Even though Italy was in the same alliance as Germany and Austria, when war broke out in 1914, Italy was hesitant to join the war, and when she finally did join the war, she joined in on the side of the alliance system.

I think that the outbreak of the Great War was caused by the events leading toward the war instead of the global conditions then. The immediate effects from the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand was the mobilisation of troops of the various European countries, the war just swept by following the mobilisation as war plans made no room for any hesitation of the troops. War escalated rapidly due to the global conditions but the global conditions did not directly lead to the outbreak of war. For example, the Alliance System led to more countries mobilising for war, but war did not breakout due to the presence of the Alliance System. By this time, the Alliances System, a system devised from Bismarck’s legacy of Realpolitik which was to “seek ways to cooperate, conferring on disarmament, colonialism, and various specific controversies”
[5]. In fact, this Alliance System was supposed to maintain peace, but had created a bipolar balance of power in Europe between the Entente Powers and the Alliance Powers. It was due to this balance of power that pitted two strong opponents against each other in the Great War. Militarism and the advancement of technology also worsened the conflict between the two opposing powers. They did not ignite anything that might have led to war, but without these two ideas, war would not have been so destructive that it might not have been a Great War.

Without an ignition, it was highly possible that the Great War would not have broken out. This ignition came in the form of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. However, it has also been argued that due to the extreme heightened tension prevailing in Europe at that time, it was only a matter of sooner or later that a major war would break out. The assassination served merely as a catalyst tool and even without this catalyst it was also possible for the Alliance power to search for another excuse to launch war. I think that without this assassination, the tension building up among the different state might have ease up a little as time goes by. During the two Balkan crises, there was also a legitimate reason for the major powers to wage war with each other, but they did not hence I think that it was not necessarily that the Alliance powers wanted to go to war that they finally staged a war as they could have easily found an excuse to intervene in the politics of the Balkans. However, according to Duiker, he thinks that it was due to the Balkan Crises that led to the Russians vowing to revenge the Germans for invading one of his protectorates as the Russians were weaken from the Russo-Japanese War and were not in the position to win battles
[6], it was however only after the crises that Russia slowly began to prepare it troops for war.

Finally, it is understood that general sentiments at that time had not expected the war to drag on for five years, most people thought that war was to be swift and victorious and not a war such as the Great War. It was only forced by circumstances that the war took a turn for the worse and became a long bloody stalemate involving most of Europe. Indeed I would agree that the global conditions were so that a major conflict, ie the Great War, would occur sometime, but it is not inevitable as another major conflict could have taken the place of the Great War.

In conclusion, I think that the global conditions of the early twentieth century had set a stage for a major conflict to happen, but not necessarily for the Great War to occur, hence I do not think that the Great War was inevitable. Without he trigger incident of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, despite imperialism, nationalism, militarism, social Darwinism, realpolitik, European rivalries, the Alliance System, and improvements in technology, the Great War could still have been prevented of happening. Of course, some might say that tension and rivalry in Europe had already reached saturation point and even without the assassination, Germany would still be able to find some other excuse just to launch war. Even if this was possible, the idea of war before it was launched was greatly different from its outcome. No one expected that the war would turn out as devastating as this war, and thus I would not see it as “inevitable”.

[1] C. Warren Hollister, J. Sears McGee, Gales Stokes The West Transformed: A History of Western Civilisation (Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers), p.941
[2] Ibid
[3]C. Warren Hollister, J. Sears McGee, Gales Stokes The West Transformed: A History of Western Civilisation (Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers), p.953
[4] William J. Duiker Twentieth-Century World History (Thomson: Wadsworth), p.65
[5] C. Warren Hollister, J. Sears McGee, Gales Stokes The West Transformed: A History of Western Civilisation (Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers), p.942
[6] William J. Duiker Twentieth-Century World History (Thomson: Wadsworth), p.65

Note: This essay is very much unlike my normal essays. I usually write essays using Arial, but this is in Arial Rounded MT Bold, to make my font look bigger. And it's footnotes weren't in the same font like how I usually like them to be, it was in the default Times New Roman font cos I was so pressing for time that I didn't change it. I think I only finished the essay like 15 min before heading for the lecture.

My father thinks that someone stole my essay cos it was an A essay. he thinks that it must be some super kiasu person who goes around stealing A essays for their own reference. WTF... If is it indeed so I really hope that that meanie-o of a person will get eaten up by my essay man~ If that person really want my good essays, just get it from my blog la, idiot...

This is Joan's musings for the day~ Super long post~ But most of it is copy and paste... And I don't think I want to add in more interesting stuff cos nobody would read my blog until this sentence, so I guess I'll wait till the next time ba... (vote for me! heehee~)

Postscript: This should be my longest ever post sia~ I did a word count, just to spite my sis that my blog is wordier than hers. Hers amounted to 1037 words and mine, a mouthgobbling 4789 words! Okay... This should be expected cos I added in 2 essays each about 1400 words. But even if you minus 3000 words from the total, it'll be 1789, still wordier than my sis... haha~ And really, anything more than 800 words in a blog entry, is A LOT! Actually, most of my entries average at about 1100-1200 words... Oh well...

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