(!) “When I say the intellectual life, I mean to include also a large part of our practical life, because I should be the last person to suggest that the two can at the deepest level be distinguished” (Snow, 3). I find it interesting that Snow finds one’s intellectual curiosity intertwined with the ways in which we act and think in daily life. It seemed that part of his argument lies in the idea that the paradigms which govern the two types of scholarship inherently influence one’s perception of the social world. (?) Why does Snow conflate academia and morality/social awareness as determined by one another? This conveys the message that “intellect” and Western thought are necessary to have a personal life of value with awareness of the human condition.
Theories I recognized: Game Theory, Plate Tectonics, Einstein’s Relativity, Evolution, Schrödinger’s Quantum Theory, and Heliocentrism
Experiments I Recognized: Eratosthenes, Mendelian Genetics, Marie Curie, Newton’s Optics, and Pavlov’s Dogs
(!) Although the work is entitled Black Girl Linguistic Play, it does not feature any dialogue. This implies that bodily movement is a realm of language on its own. Using the culturally tied dances as a replacement for verbal communication provides power to the African American dancers. The work conveys that black women should be able to embody the joys of childhood and innocence with one another, not as a trivial game, but rather as an inseparable part of living and thriving.
(?) Since Brown was so invested in the audience’s interpretation of her work, and how she was able to convey her message through movement, does she alter/tweak the performance based on the audience’s interpretations? Would the audience’s responses ever change how she viewed the work herself?
?: Birns writes, “place, as a dramatized landscape, becomes an alternate axis, complementing, and perhaps outflanking, that of time” (pg 20). What it is it about place that transcends time, and how do the drawings and photos Lemon documents connect past with present?
!: “They forestall a premature healing, a rushed reconciliation, ‘The horror is gone’, Lemon observes, ‘But am I making peace?” (pg 22). When we visit memorials, Birns makes the point that coming to some cathartic conclusion on our experience casts away a history we still participate in. Perhaps remembering and healing are ways we clean our hands of further responsibility.
?: On page 102, Schneider discusses the tradition of separating memory versus history. What is the distinction between the two, and can memory only be historical if it is collective?
!: Schneider implies that archiving first depends the destruction of the object, so that it can be immortalized in history. “I have discussed this parricidal impulse as productive of death in order to insure remains.” (pg 105). This relates to Birns’ idea that we ultra-memorialize the past in order to put it behind us.
Pages 120 and 121 within John Lewis’ March 2 depict a SNCC protest at a segregated swimming pool in Cairo, Illinois in 1962, and a subsequent hit and run involving a young African American girl. The left side uses the rule of threes, broken into three horizontal panels. Although, this format is interrupted as a small square panel of Danny Lyon, a white photographer, appears in front. Lyon’s presence in the foreground suggests that the action of the white photographer takes precedent over the protestors in the first panel. The four African American protesters in the middle panel cannot rise to the public eye with legitimacy until they are photographed through the lense of Lyon. This middle panel is also drawn in a different style than the rest of the comic, using a lighter grey tone compared to the stark black and white shown throughout. Thus, the photograph, as powerful and shareable as it may be, is dulled of the raw nature of the event. The simple “click click” of the camera cannot capture the following events portrayed on the right, likely a sentiment that Gourevitch and Sontag might comment on. Consequently, the right page does not use text narration, instead the only audible sensation is the screech of the car with a widespread use of black and white color contrast. In the first panel on the right, the driver is in shadow while the young girl is standing with her face in the light. The smoke shrowds out the crowd behind them, so that the dismal race relations of the entire city become embodied in the staredown between the cowardly man whose face is never shown and the brave young girl. Her eyes are illuminated by the headlights and her arms are open wide ready to brace the impact of pure hatred. As the following page shifts to a different time and location, the occurrence at Cairo disappears from national memory as there was not a photographer to capture it and legitimize her suffering. The girl’s lifeless body flings across the page and the vroom sound effect dissipates down the corner. These pages heightened feelings of anger I felt towards white Americans for inflicting such pain, especially as this comic creates a juxtaposition of innocence and evil, light and dark, and fear and passion.
The microaggression panel served as both an informational session for students unaware of the action, and as a sort of reflection for those with the shared experience. While I had heard the term prior to the panel, I did not actively think about the microaggressions happening around me, nor was I conscious of my ability to inflict such pain upon another. Microaggressions were defined as statements that are not intended to be harmful, but which take on a cumulative effect, and are based on stereotypes that communicate the power imbalance taking effect in our system of institutional racism. Microaggressions are often individually small scale statements, yet they carry the message that even small differences in appearance or nationality are enough to make large scale divides. These sentiments are frequently carried out by close friends, thus minorities are attacked by those whom they placed trust in and believed were outside of the racist system. In analyzing a microaggression, the underlying effect is that because you are different and unlike me, you are unamerican and do not belong. As minorities look to authorities to uphold their desire for belonging, too often those in power either look the other way or worse, contribute to the feeling of inferiority. Thus, we must strive to create allyship by consciously refusing stereotypes and mindfully viewing others as equal beings. Bystanders must call attention to acts of microaggressions not only to overthrow a system of ingrained racism, but to encourage a sense of belonging for minorities. As long as society refuses the humanity of some, minorities will always be on the other end of both micro and macro aggressions. At some point it becomes not their responsibility to overcome the hatred, but the responsibility of the oppressor to realize their ignorance.
Prior to John Kasich’s entrance onto the stage, the Duke Performance Center became packed with Davidson students and community members, all equally eager to hear from the former Governor of Ohio. With a conservative politician speaking to a largely liberal institution, anticipation rested on the minds of many in the room. I wondered whether the political polarization so often found in the media would become actualized in that moment, if the remaining time saved for questions would yield an altercation rather than academic discourse. I questioned if Kasich would share genuine sentiments, or dilute his opinions to appeal to the audience of young college students. Although, as Kasich spoke, his message was not to sway the audience towards conservatism. He opened the evening by urging the audience to enter every discourse by first actively acknowledging the other’s humanity, something reminiscent of Quillen’s first unit in this course. This was especially pertinent for me, as I entered the evening with the rather negative preconceived notion that there was some kind of barrier preventing a conversative speaker from delivering a meaningful message at a liberal university. Taking his sentiments to heart, I should have begun the night aware of our differences on the political spectrum, but first concerned with our shared humanity. I disagreed with some of his points, such as his insistence upon grassroots efforts which seemed like a way to overlook making actual legislative change. But, I walked away from the talk with a greater appreciation for Kasich, and his ability to speak to the students in the audience as active bodies who may evoke change on an international scale.
Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells, prominent African American writers, both discuss ways in which the white ruling class subjugated African Americans during the Jim Crow period. Wells describes and criticizes lynching, the practice of hanging and tortuing the accused as a punishment, namely against young black males. Lynching, as Wells states, was motivated by a fear of “negro dominiation.” Often times, African American males were unjustly accused of violence against white women, perpetuating a stereotype of white purity and black criminality. The ultimate goal of lynching was to instill fear into the African American community and dehumanize its members by taking away their right to due process. Wells argues that in order to remedy this problem, Americans must “see the defect in our country’s armor” and take steps to dismantle it. Terell, on the other hand, writes about segregation in public spaces, and the inability for African Americans to gain sustainable employment. As a woman, she argues it was even more difficult to find employment in the few fields women were allowed to enter. This form of Jim Crow was born not only out of fear that African Americans, just as equally equipped, would succeed in society, but also out of the white community’s desire to maintain superiority. Prevented from securing education or employment, Terrell might argue that segregation in this way was just as oppressive as lynching, both undermining the livelihood of African Americans. She ends by rejecting the hopelessness that African Americans so often felt. She claims that giving up, accepting a life without education or a career is an affront to the capability and brilliance that African Americans hold. The common root for these forms of oppression seem to be both fear and a desire to exercise power over others.
Gourevitch seeks to understand why the international community held an indifferent, approaching on anti-Tutsi, stance. He mentions that the United States’ refusal to enter the word genocide into conversation, and the French’s intervention on behalf of the Hutus, is contradictory to the opposing actions taken during the Holocaust. Gourevitch sees the “Never Again” slogan adpoted at the Holocaust museum as an affront to the lives lost in Rwanda (152). As the world sat back while a genocide occurred, there seems to be a pervasive idea that horrors committed on European soil are inhuman, requiring immediate action; yet suffering anywhere in Africa is inevitable. This is a sentiment that Sontag mimics as well. The Rwandan Genocide seemed to affirm the rest of the world’s belief that poor countries will act with a violence that Europe and America are somehow removed from, without a responsibility to act. Sontag makes this most clear through the use of face in photography: “The more remote or exotic the place, the more likely we are to have full frontal views of the dead” (70). The less respect we hold for a nation and its people, the more comfortable we are to make the ravages of violence and human casualty visible. Yet, this perpetuates a continual loop as we can then cast Rwandans aside as savages, no longer holding the burden to aid. Sontag and Gourevitch both seem to agree that the Rwandan Genocide was ignored due to the Euro-centric world’s predjudiced attitudes towards African nations. Sontag brings a new perspective to the table through the lense of photography. The person behind the camera holds the fate of the subject.
Before attending the passport workshop led by Tintin Wulia, I was unsure of the significance that an American passport holds. Upon entering, I chose a country at random out of the container and received the Maldives. This act was symbolic of the random chance anyone has at being born in their native country. One has no say in where they are born, and many times that lack of choice places individuals in situations of financial struggle and political violence. This arbitrary phenomenon, where one is born, also provides those in positions of privilege, such as American citizens, with an unfair level of superiority bestowed upon them at birth to enter most countries on a whim. For example, in the Maldives, my passport was ranked 51st. This means that although I can enter many countries, I am still limited in where I can travel and freely live. One can be categorized as dangerous, unsafe, or a threat based on something they cannot choose. This kind of system unfairly attributes place of birth with human value. To assume that one born in the Maldives has any less right to live in America, for example, than a Canadian citizen is to make a moral judgement about their worth. As humans we all cohabitate on the Earth, so we must look beyond boundaries.
In Chapter 1 of Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others, she begins by recounting Virigina Woolfe’s assertion that war is perpetrated by men. Although she moves on from this point, Sontag uses this example to draw focus to whose perspective we are speaking about in talks of war, especially in the viewing of photos. She questions Woolfe’s notion that photos capturing the destruction of war are concrete evidence for the denouncement of war. By changing one’s perspective, Sontag argues that parties on either side of war find justification for their actions of violence. In viewing what Sontag calls “generic” images, the same photo can be used by both sides of the war, giving the caption power over the image. Individuals can justify these actions of violence because, for the most part, we are taught to believe that violence can serve a cause.
Photographs of war cannot always speak for themselves, as violence is often committed in society, the feelings we derive from such images vary based on which perspective we take.
Within this chapter, Sontag claims that photographs which display casualties and harm to the body hold a sexual nature. The physical attraction, or desire to gaze, forms an inner struggle. We feel strongly urged to observe atrocity, yet we are repulsed by the very thought of such an occurrence. Some facet of our consciousness fights against our own nature. This may in part be due to a “love of cruelty” as Sontag puts it. Humans derive pleasure from witnessing pain done onto others. Sontag clarifies that this pleasure does not come from the actual suffering, but our own desire to escape weakness. Additionally, when humans living with relative privilege engage with violence at a distance, through photos, there is a sense of indifference. This is created as violent images circulate all of the time and feelings of helplessness overcome our compassion. Yet, Sontag points out that sympathy is entirely the wrong response to have from the outset as it prevents us from recognizing our indifference and role in the turmoil found elsewhere in the world.
It is our nature to find a subconscious pleasure in the pain of others, but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to become complacent; instead we must aim to feel discomfort to prompt a reflection of our own role in others’ struggles.
Sontag claims that when others are shocked at others’ capacity for evil, they are exhibiting naivety. When viewing images of horror, we should instead embrace the evil to stay vigilant for our own capacity to hurt others. Finding discomfort in photography prevents us from reconciling our pain, instead we must retain the trauma and remember what we see. Sontag mentions that some people may look down upon photos for putting distance between the act and the viewer. However, Sontag rebuttes that viewing an atrocity up close provides the same distance and chance to look away as that of a photograph. Sontag finds solace in the fact that distance from an act, through photographs or live observation, provides the opportunity for reflection.
While some may criticize photography for placing distance between viewers and violence, Sontag instead believes that a similar distance occurs in the regular viewing of violence, a distance that is needed to realize the potential for evil that lies in all of us.
- Hannah Arendt, born in Germany in 1906, worked in Nazi-occupied France to rescue jewish youth with the organization Youth Aliyah.
- As an advocate for the jewish cause, she was the Executive Director of the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction organization
- Arendt was imprisoned in a detention camp in France, but escaped to New York in 1941 where she went on to engage in literary discourse on the rampant anti-semitism of the period.
- Her seminal works include The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, and On Revolution.
- Published in 1951, The Origins of Totalitarianism aimed to find the origin of the evil within dictatorship. She notes that it is not the causes which are important, but the way elements such as anti-semitism became ingrained into the culture and government. Larger evils may be composed of smaller factors we ignore, but once piled up, problems arise.
- Adolph Eichmann, born in 1906 Germany, became a member of the Austrian National Socialist Party.
- As Sergeant of this organization, he headed forced migrations which evicted 110,000 Austrian Jews between August 1938 and June 1939.
- As Lieutenant Colonel of the Gestapo, he played a role in the transportation of over 1.5 million jews to “killing centers,” or extermination camps.
- Eichmann escaped from American detention, but was later kidnapped by Mossad agents and put on trial in Jerusalem in 1961 based on the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators’ Punishment Law.
- The Eichmann trial used survivor testimony as a key factor, which enabled conversation and an escape from the taboo.
- He was sentenced to death in 1961.
Banality of Evil:
- Arendt was commissioned to write a piece on the trial of Eichmann for The New Yorker where she uses the phrase “banality of evil.”
- By this she means to call attention to the difference between the terrible acts committed by Eichmann and the fact that he is just one man. Evil is not rooted in individuals, but rather preys on those who lack guidance. Eichmann feared to live with his own leadership, so he chose to blindly follow a bureaucracy that encouraged these acts. Eichmann was not evil, but weak. He lacked the strength to find his own path, and thus this led him to serve as a small piece in a larger evil.
The importance of speaking one’s perceived truth lies in the fact that the thoughts we share shape others’ experiences. When Frankfurt defines bullshit, he describes the act of talking without regard for the truth, speaking solely to shape others’ perception. In doing so, the speaker then puts into existence their own version of the truth, one that may conflict with reality. On the opposite end of the bullshitter, lies the listener who has been fed deception under the guise of truth. The listener’s reality has been unwittingly impaired. We must accept that we play a role in shaping others’ reality, after all what is reality if not the cumulation of human existence and the surrounding natural world. Just as translators have a responsibility to portray the intended message of the author, we too have a responsibility to portray our raw experiences without care for how we may be percieved. The source of bullshit is the desire to appear in such a way that will yield respect or attention from others. We must collectively stop allowing the perceptions of others to guide our lives. Live for yourself, embrace the authenticity of your human experience, and subsequently we may begin a revolution.
In James’ Pragmatism lecture he claims that a reality is something that we can only “glimpse at, but we never grasp it.” He seems to believe that, in line with pragmatism, there are no universal truths that we may claim with certainty. Originally, I agreed with this idea because our unique human experiences alter the reality we see. But, are we not all living in the same physical world? How much do our unique perceptions and experiences alter our view of reality? What can we consider universal, and are there some truths that we all share? Even though our perceptions vary and our communities produce different cultures, it seems that there must be some uniting truth.