Unit 8 Post 2 – Jake Matthews

Reality is a difficult thing to grasp, because the details of any particular moment or event only exist in the records and memory that persists in archives or in the minds of those present. There is a disconnect between reality and any recollection of that reality, as the nature of recollection entails that details are altered and affected by how those details are shared; memories change depending on emotional states, wording of a story drastically changes interpretation of facts. Art is a prime example of this phenomena, as it is said that every painting is somewhat of a self-portrait of the painter, as on some level, no matter how minutely or unconsciously it was done, the painter has influenced their depiction with their own thoughts and feelings. A photograph is a rare example of a medium which perfectly captures the details of an event; an unedited and unaltered photograph is a flawless memory of something’s truth. It is a captured and contained still image of reality at a given moment. There is a consistency in the photograph, in that it captures a perfect replica of its subject. Even though people can still view photographs and see different things from it (focusing on different aspects of it or applying themselves to it somehow), there is a more consistent baseline in several people’s interpretations of a (for example) photograph of a flower than there would be in several people’s memory of said flower. Painting a photograph is an artist’s recreation of how they perceive that photograph, though it is altered by the painter, it is more consistent with the reality of the subject depicted than a painting of the subject itself would be. This consistency is as important to the painter as to the viewer, as a stronger sense of consistency in a work forms a stronger connection between which ideas are shared.

The paintings of Meinhof capture one person’s interpretation of those pictures, particularly in how they accentuate certain features of the photographs, such as the smoothness and softness in Youth Portrait, or the varying degrees of gritty reality in the various versions of Dead. The record of one person’s interpretation of that pain is a powerful tool, as it is more emotional than the picture might be on its own.

Unit 8 Assignment 1 – Jake Matthews

! & ? on Ulrike Meinhof

“New German Ghetto Show” (1960)

! – Interesting connection to McCarthyism!

? – Is modern social media a defense mechanism against the annulment of anonymity?

“Hitler Within You” (1961)

! – “Co-existence rather than war” must be response to National Socialism, rather than sandbox games; poignant!

? – Is restricting a government’s power to commit “political terror” truly the “only possible response to anti-Semitism?

“Human Dignity is Violable” (1962)

! – Nuclear armament is incompatible with democracy; too much strength becomes uncontrollable!

? – “Only democracy can guarantee human dignity,” is it really a guarantee? Or is it only a true democracy when it does?

“Women in the SDS: Acting on Their Own Behalf” (1968)

! – The paradox of the working woman feeling that she should not fight for equality, and the woman at home being unable to fight for equality; misery on both ends.

? – Could the problem be solved by dispelling the myths of productivity being based on sex? Or are those myths the excuse for a more ingrained greed?

“Columnism” (1968)

! – The “outrageousness” of the columnist is what gives them such influence!

? -Opportunistic for a paper to use a columnist to get profit; but isn’t that what powers the free press?

! & ? on The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum

! – This kind of foundationless slander is the antithesis of Freedom of the Press, as the Press only has meaning in journalistic integrity.

? – Is it possible to have private press that isn’t corrupt like this?

! & ? on Baader-Meinhof Komplex

! – Both sides see each other as violence personified; they’re more similar than they realize.

? – Is it justified to use violence and fear to bring about change? Or is that oppressive in its own way?

AKHMATOVA POST – Jake Matthews

I chose the Thomas translation, and my group and I discussed that the Thomas translation has a more biting and dark tone, whereas the Anderson translation is more conversational and accommodating to the reader. In particular, there is a lack of humanity, or a feeling of emptiness that permeates the Thomas reading, and we discussed how this emptiness is symbolic of the depression and hopelessness that the Terror inspired.

! – Interesting that poets were so highly regarded, yet were persecuted rather than coerced into cooperation.

? – Why the negativity towards those who left; is it bad to abandon a country that has abandoned you?

Unit 6 Assignment 2 – Jake Matthews

! – The individual condition is tragic, but that does not mean that the social condition has to be! “Each of us is alone: sometimes we escape from solitariness, through love or affection or perhaps creative moments, but those triumphs of life are pools of light we make for ourselves while the edge of the road is black: each of us dies alone.” (6)

? – Why was Dickens the author that became the cornerstone of literary analysis in the minds of scientists? “We thought that discovery, that Dickens had been transformed into the type-specimen of literary incomprehensibility, was one of the oddest results of the whole exercise.” (12)

On the theories side, I recognize the concept of Plate tectonics (Alfred Wegener and J. Tuzo Wilson), Special relativity and General relativity (Albert Einstein), Evolution by natural selection (Charles Darwin), and Heliocentrism (Copernicus).

For the experiments, I recognized Gregor Mendel’s work with genetic inheritance and fuchsias, and Ivan Pavlov’s experiments with classical conditioning on dogs drooling over food and other conditioned stimuli.

Black Girl Linguistic Play ! & ? – Jake Matthews

! – It was so amazing how relatable the piece was, the memories it brought of childhood play were vivid reminders of the commonalities that all children share before society inflicts biases and conflicts upon them.

? – Was the point of the piece to raise questions regarding the innocence of children and how it is lost over time?

Unit 5 Post 1 – Jake Matthews

Schneider:

! – Performance as memory captures the essence of what happened, not the literal image of the original scene; like the translation discussion!

? – “Performance is the act of recomposing remains;” is it given new life, or is it desecrated?

“The archive is habitual to western culture” (100)

“‘Body to body transmission’ disappears, is lost, and thus is no transmission at all.” (101)

“Death appears to result in the paradoxical production of both disappearance and remains.” (104)

Birns:

! – America’s ahistorical nature is paradoxical with its ultra-historical self-image!

? – Is it true that every repetition of an iteration adds meaning to the action?

“Even in our postmodern times, the Romantic or modernist, ideology of the magnum opus as the peak of a creative process that is otherwise immaterial to it, has kept its grip on the way we think about art.” (19)

“The undertow of stereotypes that play against the somberness of King’s martyrdom remains even in the wake of the wounds of history.” (21)

“These occurrences of inhumanity cannot easily be chronicled in conventional narrative leading to cathartic reparation.” (22)

Campus Event Commentary – Back the Night, Jake Matthews

The showing of Back the Night was a unique experience for me, as I have rarely been exposed to media that left me with such uncertainty regarding such a sensitive subject. The play told an interesting story that played off of several stereotypes and common themes that are brought up when discussing sexual assault on campus, and it subverted these expectations in ways that shocked me and left me conflicted as to how I felt about the characters. The characters felt fleshed out and had multiple layers to their personalities and motivations throughout the play, and the students acting out these roles did a fantastic job of portraying the emotional turmoil and internal strife that fuels the characters. The play left a lasting impression in my mind that still leaves me questioning how society should handle issues of sexual assault and how people use the publicity of the topic to achieve different things.

Campus Event Commentary- Macbeth, Jake Matthews

The showing of Macbeth was a delightful experience. I have not seen many plays before, but I deeply enjoyed seeing Macbeth. The gripping tale of a man’s gradual descent and downward spiral from being the pinnacle of humanity and virtue to a deranged, treacherous murderer speaks volumes as to the nature of humanity’s lust for power and the pain of loss. It grapples with notions of fate and the tumultuous nature of the human condition in a compelling and visceral way, and its messages have stuck with me since I saw it. Every aspect of the play’s production was superb, from the set design to the excellent combat choreography, and adaptation decisions such as the persistence of the Weird Sisters throughout the play made this adaptation of Macbeth fresh even for viewers who were familiar with the story. In particular, I appreciated the extremely talented acting shown in the play which allowed me to fully acknowledge and understand the emotional and moral struggles that the characters underwent.

Campus Event Commentary – President Quillen Moral Inhabitants Lecture, Jake Matthews

President Quillen’s moral inhabitants lecture was an insightful discussion of the importance of letting people get their stories out so that they can be heard by the general population. While there is merit in scholarly research into the struggles and wants of a person or a people group, there is no substitute for hearing stories directly from the concerned party. Only through the exchange of stories is it possible to connect to someone (and that person’s struggles) on a deep, humanized level. The ability to receive a person’s story is an important and powerful tool, as it open’s up the vast possibilities of world views and situations that one can understand and therefore be sympathetic towards. Despite the immense power and importance of storytelling, it is important to remember that stories are by their very nature products of human thought; any story told is influenced by the speaker, with details being modified (whether intentionally or otherwise) to get a certain point across.

Unit 4 Post 2 – Jake Matthews

The context of this page is that the Freedom Riders are spending the night in a bus depot under order of the local police department. This is typical of the abusive and controlling scare-tactics that the police have implemented to make the Freedom Riders feel powerless, but this instance is the first in which a new danger has emerged. The Ku Klux Klan has been mentioned several times up to this point, a looming threat that haunts the Freedom Riders with all the inevitability and destructive power of death itself. The very mention of the Klan and the violence that they are capable of has served as a significant obstacle in not only the course of this story, but the civil rights movement as a whole. To finally see the Klan standing outside the building, a massive mob of shadows standing amongst the police, creating a barrier between the Freedom Riders and the Greyhound Buses that are the crux of their current protest, is a dramatic and terrifying reveal that allows the reader to grasp a faint understanding of the terror that the Freedom Riders themselves must have felt.

Several components of the page’s illustrations illuminate the reader as to the gravity of the situation. The unabashed horror on the faces of the Freedom Riders as they peer outside the windows is unmistakable; they are desperately afraid that they are going to die at any moment.The Klansmen are silhouetted against the night sky and the buses. This glorifies the buses as a righteous source of light that can deliver them from harm if they can only be permitted to reach them, which is both a literal fact of the scenario as well as being symbolic for the effects that the Freedom Rides could have on ending segregation as a whole. The Klansmen are demonized by giving them the visage of shadowy monsters, barely distinguishable from one another as they stand like one massive monstrous creature, their shining eyes like a pack of wolves watching a dying animal. The lack of dialogue in this page, the minor amount only used to say that the Klan is more of a concern than lack of food or sleep, shows that the threat of the Klan is so great that it needs no introduction or explanation.

Unit 4 Post 1 – Jake Matthews

Mary Church Terrell was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1863 grew up in a financially stable, conservative, religious household as the daughter of two former slaves. Her activism began when an old friend of hers was lynched. Terrel focused on the notion of racial uplift through community activism and equal opportunity.

Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and was granted freedom via the Emancipation Proclamation. After losing her parents and brother to yellow fever, Wells had to work as a teacher to support her family. Her activism and news reporting focused both on lynchings and on economic inequalities and segregation.

These expressions of violence both stem from systematic oppression of African Americans as at the time there was stringent competition for labor work, and Southern whites felt entitled to these labor positions.

Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell took part in anti-lynching campaigns and strongly supported women’s suffrage. Both believed that granting women suffrage would serve to empower the African American race, since granting African American women the ability to vote would increase the number of African American voters.

Unit 3 Assignment 3 – Jake Matthews

There are several common themes between We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families and Regarding the Pain of Others. Most obviously, they both recount various war and genocidal atrocities and discuss the merits of recounting them. To be more specific, both texts focus on the humanization of both the victims and the perpetrators of atrocities. Chapter 9 of We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families follows several survivors of the Rwandan genocide and recounts the struggles that the went to so that they could save themselves and others. These stories get highly personal, with the writing of each section changing to reflect the differing mindsets and values of the subject of the section, and with Gourevitch drawing connections between the actions of the people in the stories and themes that have been previously established in the text. Likewise, in Chapter 4 of Regarding the Pain of Others, Sontag recounts how the nature of photography captures the image of a person’s death and suffering, but does not capture their identity, thus collections of photographs taken of prisoners awaiting execution remain anonymous, but the photographer is well-known. Interestingly, both authors also raise the point that the perpetrators of atrocities should not be remembered as monsters or demons, because this blinds us to the fact that human beings – just like us – have, can, and will commit these horrible acts. Another connection between the texts is that both address how impossible it is to truly understand the suffering of others; no matter how many stories or photographs one studies, one will never comprehend what it is like to live in constant fear, or the horrible feeling of numbness that comes from accepting death.

Unit 3 Passport Assignment – Jake Matthews

The make your own passport event was an educational one that made me contemplate the struggles of stateless people in a way I never considered before. In the exercise, I was randomly assigned as a stateless individual, meaning that I had no official citizenship to any nation. This random assignment paralleled the fact that no one chooses to be stateless, it is just something that happens to them, usually just by being born. I received reading materials about a stateless person who had a difficult time growing up in a country which afforded her no rights or protections, and how her status meant that she could not get a visa to travel back to her place of birth to visit her family. The experience educated me in the struggle of being stateless, and I have increased compassion and understanding now of this issue.

The front of the Chinese Travel Document that I was given in lieu of a passport.
The inside of the travel document.

Unit 3 Assignment 2 – Jake Matthews

Chapter 1: Men are the creators and the profiteers of war, but all people are the victims of war. War can never be abolished, it is only hoped that genocides and as many wars as possible be prevented and that the perpetrators of war crimes be brought to justice. Photographs of the destruction of war serve to remind people that war ruins lives, and that there is no war that is “another person’s problem;” we must all take responsibility for war. To use citizenry as targets in a war is to make the war a political matter of fear and tyranny. The victims of war, and the photographs there of, are the fuel of the militant. Violence is not always the wrong path. There is always more suffering from war than what is recorded.

War is an inescapable facet of human nature, because despite the constant evidence of the pain and the destruction it sows, humanity is addicted to reaping it.

Chapter 6: There is a sexuality in death, and the violation of pure flesh that is depicted in war photographs. People crave gruesome sights; more than that, we fetishize violence and cruelty. There is also a beauty in suffering, an exaltation of religious proportions in the pain and despair of torturous barbarism. It is easy to be apathetic to suffering, so long as there is no immediate danger to oneself, the rest of the world is easily dissociated from. Indifference comes not just from overexposure, but also as a response to fear. Compassion for suffering quickly wilts if not put to use, and cynical apathy soon follows. Sympathy is an illusion in complacency that makes one avoid the guilt of allowing atrocities to happen.

As sickened as we may be by the death and destruction of war, we are also enraptured by it, and complacent to despise it while lying to ourselves that we are unaffected and powerless to do anything about it.

Chapter 8: There is a positive aspect in broadening one’s understanding of the depravity and despair that wickedness has created in the world; it is an aspect of maturity. No adult has the right to be ignorant to pain of this manner. Pictures remind us that people are capable of horrible atrocities, often even voluntarily. Memory is our only link with the dead, and it is an ethical act to remember, but memory must be limited in order to reconcile and move on. Mass media has increased the spread of information regarding war and suffering, this creates the illusion that there is more suffering than in the past. Certain images are propagated more than others because they are more interesting and therefore sell better, and people can easily change the channel and ignore whatever they wish. People need to think critically about the why and who of what they see, not just stew in their own moral disgust. The frustration of being unable to change the world leads to people resenting the spread of the images. There is no moral flaw in seeing atrocities and contemplating them, as a function of the mind is to absorb information and pass judgements and make decisions based on that information.

There is no moral flaw in seeking out photographs that widen one’s view of the world, even if what one finds upsets them.

Unit 3 Assignment 1 — Research post; Jake Matthews

Source on Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil:  https://aeon.co/ideas/what-did-hannah-arendt-really-mean-by-the-banality-of-evil

  • Hannah Arendt reported for The New Yorker in 1961 on the war crimes trial of Adolph Eichmann.
  • Arendt concluded that Eichmann was not amoral, sadistic, or evil; Eichmann committed evil acts simply out of a desire to advance his career.
  • Arendt said that Eichmann’s focus on his own goals and career advancement caused in him a lack of empathy that made him unable to realize the extent of his actions, in a manner comparable to the protagonist from Albert Camus’s The Stranger.
  • Arendt’s idea that there was a banality of evil said that evil can exist without evil intention as a result of simple ignorant apathy that causes one to not consider their actions’ consequences.
  • This faced criticisms from other philosophers; Mary McCarthy said that the lack of conscience seen in banality of evil made the doer a monster, Alan Wolfe said that too focus on the banality of evil took away from the monstrosity of one’s evil deeds.
  • Arendt described the acts of the Nazis as being akin to the pure evil of Hell itself, and agreed that Eichmann deserved the death sentence, but her idea of banality holds that he was not wholly evil, he just carried out evil.

Source on The Origins of Totalitarianism:

  • Sought to explain why European populations were amenable to totalitarianism, as an attempt to better understand what Arendt went through in the Holocaust.
  • Anti-semitism, race-thinking, and new imperialism laid the groundwork for nationalism, which can be used as a facet in totalitarianism.
  • Totalitarianism is characterized by Arendt by their emphasis on achieving new goals as quickly and efficiently as possible, which is attempted via the establishment of new canon and ideas that often disregard tradition.
  • Often totalitarianism accomplishes this via the use of terror (and propoganda to produce it) to focus the nation into the singular goal of uniting for self-defense, in this way the government gains unity and control by creating a common enemy.

Source onAdolf Eichmann:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Eichmann

  • Was a traveling salesman before the war, lost his job in the Great Depression.
  • Steadily progressed through the bureaucracy of the Nazi party, from Heinrich Hemler’s SS to the Austrian Legion, to the SS Sicherheitsdienst where he worked in the section concerning Jewish affairs.
  • Was sent to Vienna and Prague to completely rid the areas of Jews, then was transferred to the Reich Security Central Office’s section on Jewish affairs.
  • Eichmann was the chief planner and coordinator of the “final solution,” or the identification, assembly, and transportation of European Jews to extermination camps.
  • Eichmann was captured after the war, escaped a prison camp in 1946, dodged in and out of the Middle East for a decade before settling in Argentina.
  • Was arrested by Israeli secret service agents in 1960 and had a special trial in Israel, which was controversial due to cries of ex post facto justice.
  • Eichmann’s defense of himself was thus: I was following orders, I am not an anti-semite, I simply handled transportation of the operation as I was instructed. My office had nothing to do with any gassings, torture, or death. I’ve never even read Mein Kampf.
  • Eichmann was sentenced to death, the only death sentence an Israeli court has ever issued. He was hanged on May 31, 1962, and his ashes were scattered at sea.