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Roaring into Chaos

The Interwar Period – 1920 > 1940

   

            In 1900, Europe awed the world.  Their military and economic dominance gave weight to the argument that it was the preeminent civilization on the planet.  It made sense.  If the richest, most technologically advanced, most feared countries all resided west of the Caucasus Mountains, the accepted belief was that their political and economic systems, their values and their culture were likewise superior.

            But then they blew themselves up, and in the decades after Versailles, the nations of Europe not only had to rebuild their shattered infrastructures, but also the confidence of their people.   The masses had trusted their leaders.  Their politicians, their captains of industry and their spiritual guides had all promised that obedience to the state ensured peace and prosperity. World War I fractured that trust, opening all institutions and authority figures to criticism.

            Millions recovered from the wounds of war, questioning if capitalist giants pushed war for their own profit, if democratic leaders truly spoke for the people, if the media was merely the puppet of authority figures, if there even was God.

            The 1920s and 1930s became an era of experimentation and polarization.  Democracy had failed.  Was communism or fascism the solution?  Capitalism had failed.  Should industry then be turned over to the masses or to the government?  God hadn’t answered prayers.   Would science have the answer?  Foreign alliances only exacerbated a regional conflict in the Balkans.  Was isolationism and protectionism the path to peace?

            Factions emerged promoting their agendas, and for every group that was pro-something, another would pop up that was anti- the same thing.  These factions might debate ideologies, or they might take their disagreement to the streets.  In many cases, these factions created outright movements, leading to philosophical revolutions at the highest level, where dictators could prescribe and enforce universal behavior, philosophy and even ethnicity.

            For some, the 1920s meant unprecedented rights.  When America passed their 19th Amendment, they became one of the final Western countries to grant voting rights to women.  Over the next decade, these same women expanded their political independence into the social sphere.  They started wearing more revealing clothing, smoking and drinking with the boys, going out with the girls unescorted and behaving a lot less “ladylike.”  Women became celebrities on the Silver Screen Nickelodeons (guess how much it cost for a movie ticket?), their voices could be heard by radio across nations, and they started not just entering, but influencing, fields seen before as solely the domain of men.  Women like Amelia Earhart completely ignored gender norms, pushing the limits of what society believed possible for a woman, setting and then breaking dozens of aviation records before finally meeting her end somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.   Even in Turkey a nation only recently escaping the social conservatism of the Ottoman Empire, female novelist Halide Edip became not only a spokeswoman for gender equality, but also...