Century Marks

Century Marks


Thirteen years before the outset of World War I Jan Bloch (later known as Jean de Bloch) predicted that a major war in Europe would be devastating and that it would only end when one side was exhausted. Although he couldn’t foresee the deadly power of the machine gun, he predicted trench warfare: the increased range of smokeless rifles and use of magazines would mean combatants wouldn’t be able to reach other, bringing advances to a standstill. His predictions elicited skeptical responses. One British admiral observed that the prospects of huge casualties hadn’t stopped countries from going to war before. Bloch, a banker and important figure in Russia’s railroad system, called for arbitration to settle international conflict (History Today, May).

Critical perspective

Early in his career Billy Graham was invited to preach at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Aware that he was speaking to critical liberals, Graham declared, “I’ve got it right here in the Bible.” Douglas John Hall was a student at Union then, and the budding theologian heard Graham speak. Hall thought to himself, “that Book that you think you’ve got would not even make such a claim for itself. . . . That Book at every point utters a polemic against the entire human project of possession . . . and (this above all!) the possession of Truth, with a capital T” (Hall, Waiting for Gospel, Cascade).

A child shall lead them

Hannah Robertson, a nine-year-old from British Columbia, took the microphone at a McDonald’s shareholders meeting and rebuked CEO Thompson: “It would be nice if you stopped trying to trick kids into wanting to eat your food all the time.” Hannah had the backing of her mother, who writes a food blog, and the activist group Corporate Accountability International, which is pressuring McDonald’s to stop marketing to kids and to serve more healthy food. Hannah said that she wrote most of her speech herself (NPR, May 23).

Marital advantage?

Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that it will lead to a further weakening of the institution of marriage. But some research shows that there are strengths in same-sex marriage from which heterosexual couples could learn. Same-sex couples tend to be happier and have less conflict, and they are more likely to share equally in household chores and childrearing. Because they don’t have fixed gender roles to follow, same-sex couples have to do more negotiating to make the relationship work. “If a genderless marriage is a marriage in which the wife is not automatically expected to be responsible for school forms and child care and dinner preparation and birthday parties and midnight feedings and holiday shopping, I think it’s fair to say that many heterosexual women would cry ‘Bring it on!’” says Liza Mundy (Atlantic, June).

Earn to give

Jason Trigg, a recent MIT graduate in computer science, may represent a new breed in his generation. He’s taken a job at a Wall Street hedge fund company to make as much money as he can—so he can give away as much as he can. His favorite charity is the Against Malaria Foundation, which estimates that a $2,500 donation can save one life. Trigg, who lives with three roommates, figures he can do more by contributing to good causes than by actually working in them. Rather than going on a mission trip to dig wells in Africa, he can contribute funds to have more wells dug. Trigg attributes his career choice to philosopher Peter Singer, who regards earning-to-give as the most ethical career choice (Wonkblog, washingtonpost.com, May 31).