Friedrich Franz Karl Hecker

Those crazy Germans. Today's random Wikipedia article discusses a German revolutionary who went by the name of Friedrich Franz Karl Hecker:

Friedrich Franz Karl Hecker (September 28, 1811 - March 24, 1881), German revolutionary, was born at Eichtersheim in the Palatinate, his father being a revenue official.

He studied law with the intention of becoming an advocate, but soon became absorbed in politics. On entering the Second Chamber of Baden in 1842, he at once began to take part in the opposition against the government, which assumed a more and more openly radical character, and in the course of which his talents as an agitator and his personal charm won him wide popularity and influence.

But did he use this influence for good or for evil?

After the death of his more moderate-minded friend Adolf Sander (March 9, 1845), Hecker's tone towards the government became more and more bitter. In spite of the shallowness and (sic?) his culture and his extremely weak character, he enjoyed an ever-increasing popularity. Even before the outbreak of the revolution he included socialist claims in his programme.

The revolution referenced is, of course, the failed Revolution of 1848 which swept into Germany (and much of Europe) from France after the abdication of King Louis Phillipe:

The 9th to the 11th of April was secretly spent in preliminaries. On April 12 Hecker and Struve sent a proclamation to the inhabitants of the Seekreis and of the Black Forest to summon the people who could bear arms to Donaueschingen at mid-day on the 14th, with arms, ammunition and provisions for six days. They expected 70,000 men, but only a few thousand appeared.

The grand-ducal government of the Seekreis was dissolved, and Hecker gradually gained reinforcements. But friendly advisers also joined him, pointing out the risks of his undertaking. Hecker, however, was not at all ready to listen to them. On the contrary, he added to violence an absurd defiance, and offered an amnesty to the German princes on condition of their retiring within fourteen days into private life. The troops of Baden and Hesse marched against him, under the command of General Friedrich von Gagern, and on April 20 they met near Kandern, where, although Gagern was killed, Hecker was completely defeated.

Like so many other disillusioned Germans who left Germany in 1848 (to the great benefit of the United States), Hecker found better luck across the Atlantic:

[H]e won some distinction during the Civil War as colonel of a regiment which he had himself raised on the Federal side in 1861 and 1864. It was with great joy that he heard of the union of Germany brought about by the victory over France in 1870/71. It was then that he gave his famous address at St Louis, in which he gave animated expression to the enthusiasm of the German Americans for their newly-united fatherland. He received a less favourable impression when he visited Germany in 1873. He died at St Louis on the 24th of March 1881.

The failed revolutions of 1848 were a pivotal turning point in 19th century history. While Wikipedia has several good articles devoted to the revolutions, there are also several books that might be of interest: Priscilla Robertson's Revolutions of 1848 and Jonathan Sperber's The European Revolutions, 1848-1851 both focus on the revolutions themselves, while the indefatigable historian A.J.P. Taylor's The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918 traces the aftermath through the end of World War I. All seem worthwhile.

Teach-In & Ding-a-Dong

teachinOf course everyone has heard of ABBA, makers of magical music and winners of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with their first big hit "Waterloo". But how many are familiar with the group that followed in the footsteps of greatness and won the song contest in 1975? If you can't seem to place them, don't worry. You are in luck. Today's random Wikipedia article has more than you need to know about Teach-In:

Teach-In were a group who won the Eurovision Song Contest 1975, representing the Netherlands. The victory was particularly notable because they were the first contestants to perform that year; it is generally considered an advantage to be last on stage.

Teach-In were Gettie Kaspers, Chris de Wolde, Ard Weenink, Koos Versteeg, John Gaasbeek and Ruud Nijhuis. The band was formed in 1967, with a different line up as in 1975. Singer Getty joined the band in 1971, when they got their first recording contract with producer and composer Eddy Ouwens. In 1974 the band had three top 15 hits, after which their Eurovision entry was recorded. "Ding-A-Dong" won of course, which resulted in a chart entry in nearly every European country. Teach-In toured Europe for the next two years, but the success took its toll when the band split up in 1978. Getty tried a solo career, but that wasn't successful. In 1979 Ruud Nijhuis and Koos Versteeg reformed the band, this time with two new female singers. After three more hits the group split up again. In 1997, news came that the original line up (with Gettie Kaspers) had re-recorded some of their old hits and had plans to tour again.

Teach-In's "Ding-a-Dong," who can forget it? Especially with lyrics like these:

When you feelin' alright, everything is up-tight
Try to sing a song that goes ding ding-a-dong
There will be no sorrow when you sing tomorrow
And you walk along with your ding-dang-dong

I can't even count the number of mornings I've woken up with that song in my head. Alright, so I've never heard of this band or this song. But it sounds catchy, right?


For those of you too frightened or lazy to check out the random Wikipedia article function yourself, I have good news. I am going to make the "Random Wikipedia Article" a semi-regular feature of this blog. Today's entry is Tonatiuh:

In Aztec mythology, Tonatiuh was the sun god. The Aztec people considered him the leader of Tollan, their heaven. He was also known as the fifth sun, because the Aztecs believed that he was the sun that took over when the fourth sun was expelled from the sky. According to their cosmology, each sun was a god with its own cosmic era. According to the Aztecs, they were still in Tonatiuh's era. According to the Aztec creation myth, the god demanded human sacrifice as tribute and without it would refuse to move through the sky. It is said that 20,000 people were sacrificed each year to Tonatiuh and other gods, though this number is thought to be inflated either by the Aztecs, who wanted to inspire fear in their enemies, or the Spaniards, who wanted to vilify the Aztecs. The Aztecs were fascinated by the sun and carefully observed it, and had a solar calendar second only in accuracy to the Mayans'. Many of today's remaining Aztec monuments have structures aligned with the sun.

A while back I started reading Chester Starr's A History of the Ancient World, and while that text (or at least the early chapters I've finished) is focused on Near Eastern civilization, it makes some effort to demonstrate interesting contrasts and similarities between separately evolving civilizations. That is to say, questions arise about whether certain social or technological advances (say banking or masony, to throw out a couple of Civilization references) were created independently within different civilizations, like Egypt and China, or whether knowledge of the advance was transmitted from a single inventing civilization to the others.

I am reminded of that text by this discussion of the Aztec sun god because the interconnectedness of religious belief is an area of great interest to me, though I've failed to follow up on that interest with any real study. Chester Starr's text provided some insights into how Judaism was influenced by the myths of older civilzations. And I have a high school level awareness of the symmetries between the Greek and Roman gods.

The text about Tonatiuh demonstrates, I think, that eerily similar creation myths and god systems have developed in rather disconnected parts of the world. It's not surprising that the Aztecs should worship a sun god, just as the Egyptians did, but it seems notable and worthy of some attention. I am going to go browse Amazon for a book or two that might be on point.

UPDATE: Alright, my browsing at Amazon has led me to a Joseph Cambell tetralogy called "The Mask of Gods." In particular, it seems that the first volume in the series, Primitive Mythology, is most relevant to the questions of origin that most interest me. It is also good to know that there are three sequels should my curiosity in the area continue.