Posts tagged Napolean

“All the Kings Men” and other thoughts on History

Watched the movie “All the Kings Men” starring Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Sean Penn and Kate Winslet. We thought it should have won some Oscar awards from the Academy, but they didn’t pocket any back in 2006 when it first came out.  However, the author of “All the Kings Men” was awarded a Pulitzer in literature, Sean Penn Warren for this tail spinning novel.  The actors’ performances of the fictionalized character brought out the real life of Louisiana politician Huey Long and those people who were affected by him and his outrageous politics in the early 1930s.

“All the Kings Men” reminded me of the movie I watched years ago that was based on newspaper giant Hearst, Citizen Kane, but that’s another blog.  For now I am struck by quotes about history and the retelling of true historical facts that come out differently once authors get a hold of the rich material that is out there to mine.  Lately I’ve been reading through my Ukrainian students’ stories about their grandparents and ran across this quote that a student used and am trying to make sense of it.

“To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity.”  Roy P. Basler

I’m not sure what Basler meant by this because to my mind “truth” and “ultimate myth” don’t go together.  I’m not so good with dealing with ambiguity since I like things black and white.  Napolean was known to have said something similar:  “History is a myth that men agree to believe.” So Robert Penn Warren got a Pulitzer prize in literature but in poetry as well. Noone else has accomplished this honor but watching the movie about the Kingfisher seemed to show poetic justice in the end.  I’ll need to read the original book written by Warren to see how closely the movie followed the original score.

“Historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory, for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living, constantly remake.” by Robert Penn Warren

I can understand this quote by Robert Penn Warren when he says this:  “The past is always a rebuke to the present.” This follows closer to what I think and what Agatha, a Ukrainian student of mine wrote, perhaps a translation from Russian or Ukrainian language:

Old wine is tastier,

Old remains – more valuable

Old runner is more experienced,

And old scientist is wiser…

I suppose Oscar Wilde has it right when he is known to have penned:

Any fool can make history,

But it takes a genius to write it.

The following quote credited to someone is a bit more my speed, “Information is nothing without proper interpretation” as I plod through all the stories written by my former Ukrainian students about their grandparents.  Sobering and it fits with this anonymous quote: “History must be written of, by and for the survivors.”

That’s why I keep blogging so that people can be aware of what happened in the Soviet Union’s past. It wasn’t pretty and quite different from what most dishonest historians in today’s universities would have their impressionable students believe. I would agree closest to this quote attributed to Kenneth Stampp about history for having lived in Ukraine and Kazakhstan for a total of ten years. “With the historian it is an article of faith that knowledge of the past is a key to understanding the present.”
Instructive to know what happened in the past and not to let the victors always tell their version, the victims who seemingly have been silenced have a different take on what really happened.

I’ll end with this last quote by Robert Penn Warren: “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.

 

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Sobering News from my taxi driver

Another day like yesterday but not as bad, I’m ready to go home and just “vedge” out with a DVD after eating wild rice, vegetable soup.  Not as cold in Astana today which makes everyone seem friendlier.  My faithful taxi driver Yaheya took me to work today and he never fails to bring up world news.  This morning he talked about the tragedy in Moscow where there were 35 dead and about 180 wounded after an explosion in the airport.  I think I got the numbers right. This conversation with Yaheya was all in Russian and sobering for my early morning going to work thoughts.  I pity the Russian families who are dealing with this latest sad tragedy.

Here are some other thoughts that are a bit more uplifting, if they are true:

Apparently Albert Einstein once said if he had one hour to save the world, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.  I do believe we need a solution to this terrorism that stalks many airports and also our schools and universities.  Our world has been turned upside down by hate-crazed people who want to plague others with terrorist tactics.  I wonder how Einstein would have solved this problem of terrorism?

Did Napolean really say this about what he does about problems?  “My genius is that with a quick glance, I cover all the difficulties of a situation, but at the same time all resources to overcome these difficulties and that is the reason why I have superiority over others.”  I think this little man was an egoist, as my students like to write.  I’d say ego-maniac would be more descriptive of Napolean.

“Reading a book means gaining an author’s lifetime experience.” I would agree with that and I have also heard it said that usually a person who writes has only two books to write. One on his particular topic and another on himself (autobiography) when he becomes famous with his first topic.  All other books that follow are the same theme and formula.  I suppose there are those authors that try different genres but that is what I read somewhere.

I like the following quote of what Prophet Mohammed said:

“If you are concerned about next year, plant rice.

If you care about 10 years, plant a tree,

If you worry about centuries, raise educated children.”

I’m glad I have my PDP students, they are working hard on their final project.  I worked out a tentative schedule for the rest of the time we have together this year.  I will miss these dear students but I feel that I am planting a harvest of good seed with these very active teachers who will sow more seeds with their pupils.

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“Opposition to fur drops with the temperature” and other quotes

What does the above quote have to do with anything in Astana, Kazakhstan?  A LOT!!! We are experiencing very cold temps and lately I have seen some very lovely furs worn by women.  We had a somewhat mild fall leading up to the Christmas and New Year holidays and now THIS.  My husband and I arrived to Astana about a year ago at this time.  It was insufferably cold but those of us who survived, have something in common in our survivor society.  “We prevailed” despite the cold weather and we will do so again.  That’s what keeps us going when the temps plummet.

That’s also the way Minnesotans think and that is an eternally safe subject to talk about because there is so much material to discuss.  Therefore, I love wearing my fur coat in Astana when it gets cold and I need to find a proper fur hat like all the other Kazakh ladies in Astana wear.  I want to go “native” so to speak and that would do it.  So those people out there who oppose fur don’t live in a place that drops to 20 or 30 below zero.  These same people and I know among my readership there are many, will wear leather coats or shoes or carry leather bags but for some reason disdain fur!  Let them live in a climate where the temperature continues to drop!!!  I’d like to know what they would do then.

On to other quotes I picked up along the way, this one by Nelson Mandela “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Here’s a Latin proverb: Errarum humanum est = “He who makes no mistakes, makes nothing.”

A Kazakh proverb: “A friend says the truth even if it breaks your heart, but an enemy says what you want to hear even if it is a lie.”

Henry Ford supposedly said: “Don’t find a fault, find a remedy.”

Napolean said “Ability is nothing without opportunity”

Charles Marice was quoted as saying: “I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of one hundred lions led by a sheep.”

F. Dostoevskyi wrote: “The main distinction between a human being and the person, is the ability to have one’s own opinion.”

Abai, the noted Kazakh philosopher and poet said: “You are one brick in creations of our world, so find that place on the wall intended for you.”

What do any of these quotes have to do with the title? Nothing, I just like them and wanted to share with my reading audience.  Maybe we can all agree on the truth of these quotes? Yes?

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Teacher-Leaders = “Initiative People”

Napolean is quoted as saying: “There are two levers for moving men: Interest or Fear.”  I believe some people in our university are regrettably using the latter rather than the former.  Napolean was also known to have said:  “He who possesses information rules the world.” That is what our university business should be all about, to possess and access information in order to help move the country of Kazakhstan ahead to be one of the top 50 countries in the world in the next decade. 

 

One Central Asian student recently wrote, “I have seen many leaders throughout my life till today – most of them still use the old fashioned style of leading – threatening – they probably understand the word “leadership” only as a position or a power over a group of dependent people.  They should never use threat or other bossy actions even though they have inherited their position from their fathers.”  Another student from the same country pointed out “Good leaders should obey their own rules.”

 

Many examples of bad leaders abound and consequently countries or universities suffer because of this sad fact.  I respect what President John Quincy Adams wrote about leaders:  “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  Another positive example is from H.J. Seymour:  “Leaders are the ones who keep faith with the past, keep step with the present, and keep the promise to posterity.”

 

In my case as a teacher in this Central Asian university, I want to be known as a candle – a teacher who burnt her life in order to give light to other people.  I’m glad there are fellow teachers who also share my view of being a teacher-leader in their classrooms.  However, there are teachers and administrators who lurk about using fear and intimidation to coerce people into action.

 

May we have more “Initiative People” or good leaders at our university in Kazakhstan.  I wish it GREAT success for the sake of the future of the country.  Two more quotes from famous men:  “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”  Sir Winston Churchill  “If you think you can or you think you cannot, you are right.”  Henry Ford 

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