“The global rise of the far-right,” Nikolaos Paramythiotis, Campus Event Commentary

Cass Mude’s lecture on the 6th of February provided a very interesting insight into the rise of the far-right in Europe and in a global level. The Dutch political scientist pointed out that the rhetoric of the far-right today is characterized by populism, that generates hatred among the society and distrust for the political and economic elites. The main characteristics of the far-right today is its heterogeneity and normalization. As for the latter, far-right movements tend to adjust their ideologies in accordance to a society’s prevalent views and social norms, in order to make it more attractive. At the same time, the yearly exposure of many societies around the globe to far-right ideologies has led to viewing it merely as something unpleasant rather than unsound or illogical.

Finally, Mude makes a distinction between the extreme right and the far right. He supports that the views of the extreme right are so distant from social norms that their fallacy is widely understood. On the other hand, it is the radical right that poses a real threat, because by distorting and radicalizing values already in the core of society, its views do not seem so extreme and the attraction of an increasing portion of the population towards it is more likely.

Unit 8 Assignment 2 by Lydia Catterall

Gerhard Richter’s “October 18, 1977” series has one consistent theme: confusion. The blurred nature of each piece conveys to the viewer a sense of disconnection from reality, as though one cannot focus on the world around them. It makes the paintings seem almost unreal, like a hallucination or a dream. Upon closer inspection, it seems that the unfocused confusion in each painting is not a disconnect from reality, but rather a reflection of the state of reality in the moment the photograph was taken. The era in Germany from which the photos arose was filled with disorder, with voices of the government presenting a story that did not align with the reality of the country. With the addition of Ulrike Meinhof and her fellow revolutionaries making waves in the news, few people knew what to believe about the world around them. The paintings represent this blurred sense of reality in Germany during this time. For instance, the photos titled “man shot down 1” and “man shot down 2” are some of the most blurred in the collection, for the death of Baader showed that the reality he fought for went unachieved and the reality presented by the government was farther from the truth than ever. 

In particular, the paintings of Ulrike Meinhof’s life become increasingly blurry as her state of mind deteriorates. The paintings depicting Meinhof in her youth are only slightly fuzzy, indicating an era of stability in her life. The “confrontation” paintings, depicting Meinhof in prison, are so blurred it’s difficult to make out many details. This suggests Meinhof felt highly unsure at this point in her life, not knowing if or when she would be released from prison.

Unit 8 Assignment 1 by Lydia Catterall

  • The Baader-Meinhof Komplex
    • ! – It’s interesting that Meinhof and Gudrun abandoned their children for the cause. 
    • ? – Were all the rebels in it for the cause or for the thrill?
  • The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
    • ! – It’s shocking how quickly her life went downhill. 
    • ? – What is the significance of accusations turning an innocent woman into a criminal?

The Cake Commentary – Lydia Catterall

The Cake was truly an emotional journey. For long stretches it was highly comedic, but sporadic sobering interludes made me sympathize with every character on stage. This surprised me, since I thought I wouldn’t feel any sympathy for Della, the middle-aged southern baker who doesn’t want to make the cake for her young friend’s lesbian wedding. However, Della’s character was more full of inner conflict than she was full of hate, torn between a motherly love for this girl and her heteronormative idea of romantic love. Additionally, Della’s acceptance progressed throughout the play, to the point where she couldn’t bring herself to attend the wedding but put thought and effort into making their wedding cake. I was impressed by the choice of the playwright, the director, and the actor portraying Della, all of whom humanized the character as opposed to villainizing her. Painting Della as a human trying to change shows that opinions are not divided in the polar opposite way we so often imagine. 

Carson Stenroos, Unit 8 Assignment 1

Shadows of the Summit Pointing West:

!: I didn’t know there were multiple summits of world leaders, especially 15 years after the war had been over.

?: Has NATO had significant roles in foreign policy since after the war?

Hitler Within You:

!: I had never thought about the generation growing up after World War 2 and also having to deal with the consequences of things that happened during the war.

?: Can someone uninvolved with the Third Reich but still supporting it be punished as helping with the Holocaust?

Human Dignity is Violable:

!: I think it is interesting that the text says democracy is the ONLY form of statehood that can ensure human dignity.

?: The profits of war never outweigh the losses, but does that mean it is never the right idea to declare war?

Columnism:

!: I’m surprised that columnists aren’t influenced by the editor when making their part of the paper.

?: How well have Germans been allowed to write what they want and how they want it? Has that been restricted in the past or now?

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum:

!: I didn’t realize the power the officers had to be able to get into and go through someone’s house if they wanted.

?: How did a strict law enforcement effect the privacy of citizens at the time?

Baader-Meinhof Komplex:

!: I could not believe how much crime the RAF got away with before the main leaders were thrown in jail.

?: What would the RAF have looked like if their leaders made it back out of jail and continued on with the movement?

Unlikely (2019 film) Commentary – Lydia Catterall

Every Davidson College student should watch Unlikely, a film about the challenges low-income students face in college. Prior to this screening, I thought I knew about the adversities facing low income students, since the majority of students in my high school faced these struggles. My school had a graduation rate of about 60% each year – my freshman class had around 1200 students, and I graduated with a senior class of around 750 students. I naively assumed that if a student made it to college, they would be fine. Unlikely showed me that the struggles of low-income students have a firm grip in the college experience. It especially hit home because one of the students telling his story in the film graduated from a high school in my public school system. I realized many of the students from my high school who I’d assumed had a straight road to success were struggling far more than I’d realized. I’ve caught glimpses of these struggles at Davidson – every now and then, a student voices their difficulty with maintaining a job or multiple jobs, meeting scholarship requirements, and keeping their grades up all at the same time. However, I think the extent of economic privilege at Davidson creates an environment in which those who are struggling with these issues feel afraid to speak about them, which is why every Davidson student should watch this film. All students need to be aware of the struggles of low-income students on campus so we can create an environment that is more responsive to their needs.

Unit 7 Post by Harrison Sparks

I prefer the requiem which includes the Header “Instead of a foreword”

I like how the text is spaced out to create pauses, I feel like this contributes to the dark mood of the poems and the imagery. It makes it more as if it is being said through breaths in the cold air it describes rather than the other version that seems to rhyme more clearly and has a bit more of a flow to it. This more prominent rhyming, and also less strategic spacing gives the poems more levity than they should have in my opinion. While I can agree that the rhyme schemes in this version help it flow more, and even make it sound more natural and probably more like the original in Russian, the spaced out and grim words which most often do not rhyme in the version I chose create the mood and meaning much better towards what they are portraying.

!: Reign of Terror poets really seemed to represent the mindset of the general populace

?: What works were lost as a result of persecution?

“The Soviet Union through Jewish Eyes,” public event commentary, Nikolaos Paramyhtiotis

The lecture ‘The Soviet Union through Jewish Eyes” conducted on the 20th of February 2020 provided me a truly interesting insight into the Jewish prosecutions within the Soviet Union and the power that photography possesses to distort reality. A major focus of the lecture was the unknown, relatively to the Holocaust, genocide that took place within the borders of the Soviet Union, whose victims were the Soviet Jews. This was interestingly connected to an analysis of the power of photography to form public opinion.

The lecturer brought as an example the posting of images portraying dead Soviet soldiers and grieving women in the newspapers in order to shift public opinion away from the atrocities happening against their Jewish neighbors, calling the Soviet people to focus their hatred on the Nazis that were killing their compatriots. Another example had to do with the publicly distributed images of the Soviet victory in the Battle of Berlin, that brought World War II to an end. In this instance, the most suitable image taken had to be processed, as it also included a Soviet soldier visibly wearing two watches in his hand. This proved that he had engaged in looting activities and at least one of the watches was in his possession as a result of that, something that did not fit the narrative of the Soviet government about the integrity and honesty of all its soldiers. Overall, it was an amazing lecture that helped me develop a fuller understanding of the factors often hiding behind photography, because of its power to shape public opinion.    

“Yamato: the drummers of Japan” Campus Event Commentary, Nikolaos Paramythiotis

A truly unique performance that I was fortunate enough to attend this semester was by Yamato: the drummers of Japan, on the 22nd of February 2020. The excellent technical ability and unbelievable sense of rhythm of the Japanese drummers became apparent from the moment they stepped on stage and truly left the audience stunned in its entirety. What was even more entertaining was their effort to mingle this traditional art form that they were performing with well-worked elements of farcical comedy, that indeed caused great laughter among the audience. Their ability to flawlessly combine the sound of the drum each of them was playing at the moment into creating a sense of perfect harmony, despite the great noise characterizing the whole performance was really amazing. It was a truly magical performance that let the viewer loose to travel with the sound of their drums and provoked his or her imagination. What is truly amazing, is how this performance essentially managed to draw elements from their country’s ancient tradition and transformed it into something universally appealing that allows them to share their cultural heritage with the entirety of the globe.   

Bryan Stevenson Lecture Commentary – Lydia Catterall

I found it impactful that Stevenson did not sugarcoat the issues around which his speech centered, such as explicitly telling the crowd that people of color will have a harder life than white people. I think one of the persistent problems in this country is white people thinking that issues surrounding racism have been solved. Stevenson seemed to target this perception in his speech. All his stories clearly demonstrated the remaining racism in the United States, and the wide range of situations he spoke of show how far the reach of racism extends. At one point Stevenson told the crowd that the Civil Rights Movement is over-celebrated, which was a call to recognize the reality we live in and how it still needs to change. Following the hard truth of his stories, Stevenson urged the crowd to have hope. I felt very much called to action by the end of the speech, with Stevenson’s message that so much needs to improve, but there is hope that this change can happen. 

Food Sovereignty Lecture – Andrew Denny

This lecture took place in the Hurt Hub on Feb 3, 2020. This lecture contained a panel of three members of the Cherokee tribe and a lawyer and professor from the University of Arkansas affiliated with the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative. They spoke about how the Native American’s food sovereignty has been threatened by actions from the federal government. The three Cherokee woman remarked at how difficult it has become to harvest native foods such as ramps. They claimed that the federal government has enacted strict regulations on how and when they are able to grow and harvest these crops. These regulations have made it nearly impossible for the remaining Cherokee people to grow ramps, leading them to almost disappear from North Carolina. The lawyer explained that he along with the rest of the Food and Agriculture Initiative has worked with the Cherokee people in North Carolina and other tribes across the country to help them settle disputes with the government. The federal governments have placed laws that have also affected how different tribes have been able to harvest traditional food such as salmon, bison, and wild rice. He went on to demonstrate that in nearly 60% of counties Native People are the most food insecure.

The Cherokee woman went on to describe recipes from the restaurant they own down near Asheville, NC. The bean bread they described sounded especially good. However, they remarked on how these recipes are becoming increasingly rare because they aren’t being passed on down to future generations.

This panel taught me a lot about what food sovereignty is and how it is an important issue on tribal lands. I think in the age of supermarkets we take for granted how easy our access to food is. Many tribes across this country are suffocated by governmental policies that make it difficult to grow traditional foods they have been growing or hunting for centuries.

Bryan Stevenson Lecture 1/28

By: Caison Gray

I attended the Bryan Stevenson lecture. I was very excited to witness Mr. Stevenson speak after our trip to Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Stevenson did not disappoint and gave a lecture that I believe truly mattered. I believe Mr. Stevenson’s goal of the lecture was to provide students with ideas and information that could not only help them confront and understand racial injustice, but to move forward and counteract racism’s harmful effects.

In order to make his lecture truly make an impact, Mr. Stevenson broke it up into four points. The first point highlighted the importance of becoming proximate. Mr. Stevenson elaborated by stating how you cannot work against ideas and institutions if you do not confront them personally. It is impossible to help people that you do not understand or interact with. The second point highlighted the general narrative surrounding race that currently exists in America, and how it needs to be changed. The idea that there is a difference between white people and nonwhite people started as a justification for slavery and has existed in America ever since. We must work to change the narrative in order to begin moving forward. The third point highlighted the importance of hope in dark, difficult times. Becoming negative and giving up is the easy route, but having hope is the way to create a positive change. The final point highlighted the fact that in most situations, you must be prepared to be in uncomfortable situations in order to move. Creating change requires saying and doing thinks that feel uncomfortable and difficult.

Mr. Stevenson emphasized the fact that we are facing an epidemic of incarceration. Bryan Stevenson said “I represent the broken. I come from a broken system.” Determination and persistence is required, especially from the young people, if we want to make a change to the narrative.

“Sebastian Meyer” Commentary: by Alec Stimac

Questions from Interview with Sebastian Meyer:

  1. Background on the one photo.
  2. Why did you choose to make it the cover of your book?
  3. Where is the line when placing oneself into another’s journey? Do you ever feel like a hinderance to the experiences of others?
  4. What does it mean to you to be a storyteller? What narrative are you trying to create?
  5. How should we respond to photographs of suffering?
  6. There is no war without photography. What does it mean to be a moral witness?
  7. How do you humanize these issues and ensure dehumanization does not occur when showing dead bodies? Human dignity? 
  8. Institutional identity vs. individual identity of subjects you photograph
  9. Who’s deaths and stories are still not being told? What is the community doing about that?
  10. How are you filling in the gaps of history? How are you adding to the narrative written by people of privilege? 
  11. Have you ever lost faith in your work? When did you know it was going to create change? What does it mean to you to see humanity at its worst?
  12. We do not suffer enough when we see those images….what would you say to that?
  13. Must everything be turned into a spectacle to be real? Is there hope within images of pain?

Answers:

“I had to figure out how was I going to visually tell this story.” 

“An inanimate object has a very poignant and moving story behind it. More visual, less writing. I took 100 photographs that day but choose this one because it is graphic, not bloody, but visually appealing. Glass catching light in a certain way. Looks like a painting more than anything else, appealing/pulled in by its attractiveness then it becomes less appealing.”

“The repercussions of publishing photographs of people in anyway, depends on the response you want to create.”

He was able to go find the family of the dead man he took a photo of, which is rare for photographers to be able to do. 

Not intent on change because that is not really his job as a journalist.  

“Audiences differ widely. All the parts of who you are inform your relation to that photograph. It is impossible for me to know the infinite numbers of audience members and how they will react.” 

“I have the story I am trying to tell. Your reaction is your responsibility.” 

“I am telling a story. Nonfiction story. Its subjective, what I include and exclude from the story.” 

“History is such a long arc; journalism is short history. I don’t think in terms of history, I think of the story. ” 

“Human beings love stories where you have the good guy and the bad guy. The reality is, a lot of times the bad guy was the good guy to somebody else or at a different time. And a lot of times the good guy is the bad guy in somebody else’s life. “

“We struggle with this [dilemma] as American citizens, how do we go to war somewhere else? Are we the good guys? Are we the bad guys? Are we somewhere in the middle? “

“Life is not as simple as that. Our greatest heroes were not great people. “

After covering war stories, he realized there is a performative nature to it. People want to perform for the camera. People model themselves off of images of war they have seen before to look like the hero. 

“Photos make you stop and linger over a moment. The photograph is a total fabrication. Every one of these pictures is taken at the very, very slowest at a 30th of a second. You do not see the world like that. You also don’t see the world 2 dimensionally. You are hearing, smelling, seeing at the same time. But this is what it looked like if you stopped. It needs to be seen as such. It allows you to stay on the visual while your brain does other things. “

You stop for the moment. 

 “We look more closely as a photographer. “

Janki Kaneria: Navigating Criminal Justice Reform during COVID-19 – Bryan Tran

This campus commentary was held by Davidson’s Pan-Asian Student Association on Youtube Live during our current COVID-19 outbreak. Janki Kaneria is currently an assistant public defender at the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office.

Something that I did not realize to be so drastically different was the difference in changes by state. Kaeria went to UCLA for law school and talks about a very shocking difference she found in North Carolina compared to California. It was shocking to me that soliciting alms was a crime in NC, which means you are arrested for begging for money. “criminalizing homelessness”

Something that spoke to me during her Q&A was being not only a person of color but a women of color in Criminal Justice. Dealing with all of the microaggressions and doubt, I feel as with the adversity Kaeria had to push through was moving. I also find it quite ironic that we seek to find justice and equality but lack that on an even on a macro level.