Coffee Thoughts: Why do undergrads love WWII?

Why, academic historians ask, do undergrads love WWII so much? Aren’t there more interesting classes and more nuanced paper topics?

The answer is simple: moral clarity

Between all the HBO bodice rippers and the cynical histories with their complex grunge antiheroes… the undergrads are craving for a simple story with moral clarity.

You see, young people are willing to put up with hell, to suffer, to live when every day feels like a fight, if there is a point to it all. If there are forces of light and darkness, and the darkness does not prevail.

And they want stories that tell them that. Preferably true stories, that can promise them their life is part of the same.

Yes, the evolutionary psychologists can tell us that we humans just want impose order on chaos, it’s all contrived, our brains forcing patterns where there was none. Apparently we just desire it, to construct from the random facts of reality a “story” with a beginning, a middle, an end. Thus “history” is made.

But if that is all it is, then why do we want it so bad? Like the deep/universal grammar already in the newborn infant’s brain — doesn’t the desire alone indicate something?



One thought on “Coffee Thoughts: Why do undergrads love WWII?

  1. It’s funny you mention this, because I’ve been on a slight WWII kick lately and watching the 2001 (HBO!) miniseries “Band of Brothers,” thinking about the portrayal of America/soldiers and if it would have been different post-9/11. Have you seen it? I’ve been wondering whether it’s something you’d enjoy watching…

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