Chapter 13 the changing world of the superpowers: the contemporary western world

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During the late 1970s and early 1980s in particular, concern about terrorism was widespread in the United States and many European countries. Small bands of terrorists used the killing of civilians (especially by bombing), the taking of hostages, and the hijacking of airplanes to draw attention to their demands or to achieve their political goals. Terrorist acts gained much media attention. When Palestinian terrorists (known as the Black September) kidnapped and killed eleven Israeli (iz-RAY-lee) athletes at the Munich Olympic games in 1972, hundreds of millions of people watched the drama unfold on television. Indeed, some observers believe that media attention has caused some terrorist groups to become even more active.

Why do terrorists commit these acts of violence? Both left- and right-wing terrorist groups flourished in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The major left-wing groups were the Baader-Meinhof (Bayder-MINE-hof) gang (also known as the Red Army Faction) in West Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy. They consisted chiefly of wealthy middle-class young people who denounced capitalism and supported acts of revolu­tionary terrorism in order to bring down the system. The Red Army killed prominent industrial and finan­cial leaders in West Germany. The Red Brigades were experts in "kneecapping," or crippling their victims by shooting them in the knees. Right-wing terrorist groups, such as the New Order in Italy and the Charles Martel Club in France, used bombings to create disor­der and try to bring about authoritarian regimes. These groups received little or no public support, and author­ities were able to crush them fairly quickly.

Terrorist acts also came from militant nationalists who wished to create separatist states. These terrorists received much support from local populations who favored their causes. With this support, these terrorist groups could maintain their activities over a long period of time. Most prominent is the Irish Republican Army (IRA), whose goal is to unite Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic. It has resorted to vicious attacks against the ruling government and innocent civilians in Northern Ireland. Over a period of twenty years, IRA terrorists were responsible for the deaths of two thousand people in Northern Ireland.

International terrorism has remained commonplace


Global Terrorism Terrorist acts have become a regular feature of life in the second half of the twentieth century. A growing number of groups have used terrorism as a means to achieve their political goals. Such groups exist around the world: urban guerrilla groups in Latin America; militants dedicated to the liberation of Palestine; Islamic fundamentalists fighting against Western influence in the Middle East; and separatists seeking independent states, such as the Basques in Spain, the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Quebecois in Canada, and the Sikhs in India.

International terrorists, however, did not limit their targets to their own countries. On May 30, 1972, three members of the neo-Marxist dapa­nese Red Army, who had been hired by the Pop­ular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, opened fire at Tel Aviv's Lod Airport in Israel, killing twenty-four people, chiefly Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico. The goal of the terrorists was to hurt Israel by discouraging people from visiting there.

International terrorists have been well aware that they can maximize publicity for their cause by appearing on televised newscasts. By killing eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, the Palestinian Black September terrorist group gained a television audience of more than 500 million people. In 1975, rebels from the South Moluccas hijacked a Dutch train in order to publicize their demands for indepen­dence from Indonesia.

in the 1980s and 1990s. Angered over the loss of their territory to Israel by 1967, some militant Palestinians responded with a policy of terrorist attacks against Israel's supporters. Palestinian terrorists operated throughout European countries, attacking both Europeans and American tourists. In 1983, a Lebanese terrorist blew up U.S. military barracks in Lebanon, killing 241 U.S. Marines and sailors.


State-sponsored terrorism was often an important part of international terrorism. Militant governments, especially in Iran, Libya, and Syria, aided terrorist orga­nizations that made attacks on Europeans and Ameri­cans. On December 21, 1988, Pan American flight 103 from Frankfurt to New York exploded over Lockerbie (LOCK-ur-bee), Scotland, killing all 259 passengers and crew members. A massive investigation finally revealed that the bomb responsible for the explosion had been planted by two Libyan terrorists. Both were connected to terrorist groups based in Iran and Syria.

Governments fought back by creating special anti-terrorist units that became effective in responding to terrorist acts. The German special antiterrorist unit, known as GSG, for example, in 1977 rescLied ninety-one hostages from a Lufthansa airplane that had been hijacked to Mogadishu, in Somalia. In a daring raid at Entebbe (en-TEB-uh), Uganda, in 1976, a force of Israeli paratroopers freed a group of Israeli citizens who were being held hostage by a group of Palestinian ter­rorists. Counterterrorism, or a calculated policy of direct retaliation against terrorists, also made states that sponsored terrorism more cautious. In 1986, the Reagan administration responded to the terrorist bombing of a West German disco club that was popu­lar with American soldiers with an air attack on Libya. Libya had long been suspected as being a major spon­sor of terrorist organizations.


1. Locate:

(a) Iran,

(b) Libya

2. Define:

(a) women's liberation movement,

(b) environmentalism,

(c) counterterrorism

3. Identify:

(a) Simone de BeaLivoir,

(b) Chernobyl,


(c) Green movements,

(d) Baader-Meinhof gang,

(e) Red Brigades,

(/) state-sponsored terrorism

4. Recall:

(a) What inequalities led increasing numbers of women to demand more equal treatment in recent years ?

(b) Why did the fall of communism lead to a greater realization of the need for protection of the environment?

(c) Why did many foreigners migrate to Western European nations in the 1950s and 1960s?

(d) How have some Europeans reacted to the large number of foreign workers living in their countries?

(e) Why do terrorists often act to gain media attention?

5. Think Critically: Why may the decline in birth­rates cause problems in the future as older people live longer lives?


Intellectually and culturally, the Western world during the last half of the twentieth century has been marked by much diversity. Many trends still represent a con­tinuation of prewar modern developments. New direc­tions in the last two decades, however, have led some to speak of a postmodern cultural world.

Recent Trends in Art and Literature

For the most part, the United States has dominated the art world in the second half of this century. American art, often vibrantly colored and filled with activity, reflected the energy of the postwar United States. After 1945, New York City became the artistic center of the Western world. The Guggenheim (GOO-gun-HIME) Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, together with New York City's numerous art galleries, promoted modern art. They helped determine artistic taste not only in New York City and the United States btit also throughout much of the world (see "Our Artistic Her­itage: Modern and Postmodern Art in the Western World").

The most significant trend in postwar literature was the Theater of the Absurd. This new form of drama began in France in the 1950s. Its most famous example is Waiting for Godot (1952), a play written by Samuel Beckett, an Irish author who lived in France. In Wait' ingfor Godot, it is at once apparent that the action on the stage is not realistic. Two men wait for the appear­ance of someone, with whom they may or may not have an appointment. No background information on the two men is provided. During the course of the play, nothing seems to be happening. Unlike in traditional theater, suspense is maintained not by having the audi­ence wonder, "What is going to happen next?" but by having it wonder, "What is happening now?"

The Theater of the Absurd reflected its time. After the experience of World War II, many people felt that the world was absurd or even meaningless. This belief gave rise to a new philosophy, called existentialism. This philosophy was chiefly the work of two French writers, Albert Camus (KA-M[oo]UH) and Jean-Paul Sartre. The beginning point of the existentialism of Sartre and Camus was the absence of God in the uni­verse. The absence of God meant that humans had no fixed destiny. They were utterly alone in the universe, with no future and no hope. As Camus expressed it:

A world that can he explained even with had reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity.3

According to Camus, then, the world is absurd and without meaning. Humans, too, are without meaning


lodern and Postmodern Art in the Western Worl

Abstractionism, especially abstract expressionism, was the most popular form of modern art after

Jackson Pollock found it easier to work with his huge canvases spread out on the ground. Here a photographer catches Jackson Pollock at work in his studio in Long Island., New York. Do you believe Pollock's paintings will be as famous two hundred years from now as those done by the impressionist painters or Picasso? Why or why not?

World War II. The excitement of American artists with abstract expressionism is evident in the enor­mous canvases of Jackson Pollock (PAWL-uk). In such works as Pollock's Lavender Mist (1950), paint seems to explode, assaulting the viewer with emotion and movement. Pollock's swirling forms and seemingly chaotic patterns broke all the usual conventions of form and structure. His drip paint­ings, with their total abstraction, were extremely influential to other artists. The public, however, was at first hostile to his work.

The early 1960s saw the emergence of pop art, which took images of popular culture and trans­formed them into works of fine art. Andy Warhol (WAWR-HAWL) was the most famous of the pop artists. Warhol took as his subject matter images from commercial art, such as Campbell soup cans, and photographs of such celebrities as Marilyn Monroe. Derived from mass culture, these works were mass produced and deliberately "of the moment," expressing the fleeting whims of popular

and purpose. Reduced to despair and depression, hu­mans have but one ground of hope—themselves.

The Revival of Religion

Existentialism was one response to the despair created by the apparent collapse of civilized values in the twen­tieth century. The revival of religion has been another. Ever since the Enlightenment of the eighteenth cen­tury, Christianity, as well as religion in general, had been on the defensive. A number of religious thinkers and leaders, however, tried to bring new life to Chris­tianity in the twentieth century. Despite the attempts of the Communist world to build an atheistic society


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In the 1980s, styles emerged that some have referred to as postmodern. Postmodern artists believe in using tradition, whether that inctudes other styles of painting or raising traditional crafts-manship to the level of fine art. Weavers, potters, glassmakers, metalsmiths, and furniture makers gained respect as postmodern artists.

Another response to modernism has been a return to realism in the arts. Some extreme realists paint with such close attention to realistic detail that their paintings appear to be photographs. Their subjects are often ordinary people stuck in ordinary lives.

1. Describe the characteristics of modern and postmodern art.

2. How do modern art and postmodern art reflect the times in which they were created?

3. What is your reaction to the Warhol painting? Give specific reasons for your opinion of this work of art.

*■ And^ Warhol's painting 100 Cans was done in 1962. h is a large painting, 72" X 52", and is photographic in nature. What does it reveal about American culture and civilization?

and the attempts of the West to build a secular society, religion continued to play an important role in the lives of many people.

One expression of this religious revival was the attempt by Christian thinkers, such as the Protestant Karl Barth (BART), to breathe new life into tradi­tional Christian teachings. In his numerous writings,

Barth tried to show how the religious insights of the Reformation were still relevant for the modern world. To Barth, the imperfect nature of human beings meant that humans could know religious truth not through reason but only through the grace of God.

In the Catholic Church, attempts at religious renewal came from two popes—John XXIII and John


* Pope John Paul II is a popular world traveler. In 1987, he visited Chile where he was greeted by this young girl at a Catholic church just outside Santiago.

Paul II. Pope John XXIII reigned as pope for only a short time (1958 to 1963). Nevertheless, he sparked a dramatic revival of Catholicism when he summoned the twenty-first ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. Known as Vatican Council II, it liberalized a number of Catholic practices. For example, the mass could now be celebrated in the vernacular languages as well as Latin. New avenues of communication with other Christian faiths were also opened for the first time since the Reformation.

John Paul II, who had been the archbishop of Cra­cow in Poland before he became pope in 1978, was the first non-Italian pope since the sixteenth century. Pope John Paul's numerous travels around the world helped strengthen the Catholic Church throughout the non-Western world. Although he alienated a number of people by reasserting traditional Catholic teaching on such issues as birth control and a ban on women in the priesthood, John Paul II has been a powerful figure in reminding Catholics of the need to temper the pursuit of materialism with spiritual concerns.
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