Both Richter and Kurt choose to paint photographs that reveal some story about their lives. They both make the choice to blur these photographs, thus shrouding the reality of the images. To Richter and Kurt, the photographs have no greater meaning, they are simply. photos from different period in their life that give them comfort. In the film. “Never Look Away,” Kurt learns the phrase “everything that is true is beautiful” from his Aunt Elisabeth. Both of these artists expose the unequivocal truth, but there is no greater meaning that these paintings are supposed to represent. This ambiguity allows the viewer to use their imagination to connect these photos. They are consistent in both their style and in the fact that they are nothing more than a series of photographs to the viewer. When I went to the Holocaust Museum over Thanksgiving break this past fall, I remember a towering room of photographs from a Lithuanian village in which all of its inhabitants were murdered. I remember this being the most powerful thing that struck me at the museum. They represented nothing more than reality; pictures of kids playing in the streets, portraits of doctors, lawyers, bankers, and workers, and the most powerful of which was a baby playing in a swing. These images don’t show photos of the horrors of the Holocaust and if it weren’t for the background information, they are just a seemingly insignificant compilation of family photographs. And in some obscure way, the impact of supposedly meaningless photographs reveals a greater truth, as it allows us as viewers to uncover the truth for ourselves through imagination.
!: I am used to reading historiographical perspectives regarding Germany during the Cold War period that have a western-centric perspective. Meinhof, as a German, is caught up at the epicenter of international politics and points out how the big western players are pursuing their own self-interests while the Soviet Union is making a progressive effort in their policy of “peaceful coexistence.”
?: Why does Meinhof associate armament with aggression? Is this perception warranted?
A Man With Good Manners: A Day in Court with Karl Wolff (1964)
!: I find it interesting how Meinhof almost play’s devil’s advocate, pointing out that Nazi war criminal’s such as Karl Wolff are “society men” with “principles,” albeit wrong ones. Her portrayal of such criminals in a glorified light seems antithetical to her progressive beliefs.
?: Why does Meinhof believe that it is unjust to label someone as “guilty by association” if they contributed to criminal activity?
Human Dignity is Violable (1962)
!: Meinhof makes a convincing argument that “remilitarization and democracy are irreconcilable” due to the fact that “weapons of mass destruction and terror go hand in hand.” This exposes the violable nature of humans and how remilitarization compromises efforts to establish peace and freedom.
?: Is a system of defense essential for a nation? Does this inherently jeopardize peace?
Hitler Within You (1961)
!: Meinhof exposes the taboo subject of discussing Nazi history in 1961 Germany, exemplifying that the students of the past who were participants, whether active or inactive, in the actions of the Third Reich. She points out the fundamental need for students to confront their parents’ history. “As students we must take up a position and not allow the past to rest, and that we must demand answers from the older generation.” (103) I find this argument to be relevant and applicable in virtually any time period. We must learn from past mistakes through confronting history.
?: Why must we confront history even if it does not fit within modern contexts? Do we really learn from the past?
Women in the SDS: Acting on Their own Behalf
!: Meinhof accentuates that inequality against mothers who worked was ingrained in ideology and casted a net over all women, despite socioeconomic and eeducational backgrounds.
?: How did the voices of working mothers with children fit into the liberation movement?
My group came to the unanimous conclusion that translation of Akhmatova’s Requiem done by Anderson was a better overall translation than the one constructed by Thomas. These two translations were strikingly different and oftentimes conveyed different meaning of particular sections of the poem. While Thomas’s translation is more straightforward and to the point, Anderson’s is much more poetic in nature, as it conforms to the conventions of poetry by rhyming and conveying strong emotions through words. These conventions of poetry made Anderson’s translation much more powerful in relaying the meaning of the poem. We inferred that the Thomas translation was more of a direct translation of the original poem. However, as we learned during the translation panel during Robb’s unit on conceptual schemes, we can never truly decipher which translation is more “correct.” One argument against both of these translations is that there are many colloquial phrases and expressions in Russian that do not have an explicit meaning in English. Thus, this illuminates the limitations of the reproduction of a foreign work in conveying the original intended meaning.
!: It is interesting that poets continued to produce work that put them in a dangerous position due to the communist government’s tough crackdown on political dissent.
?: What purpose did writing serve when it could not be published or shared with a larger audience during the time of Stalin’s terror? Did it serve a “revolutionary” means or was it simply a manner for coping with an individual’s struggles?
Ivan Pavlov: discovering classical conditioning in dogs
Robert Millikan: precise value of electron’s charge
Robert Plaine: starfish and keystone species dynamics
Scientific Theories I recognized:
Evolution by natural selection
!: “The number 2 is a very dangerous number… attempts to divide anything into two ought to be regarded with much suspicion.” (p. 9) This quote connects to Unit 2 when we mentioned conceptual schemes and the tendency to construct categorizations as a mental shortcut. The problem with division into two is that this is bound to create conflict of some kind. For example, wars are most often fought between two distinct sides. Division into two inherently leads to polarized views and methods of thinking. This idea is of particular relevance in its similarities to the current US political climate. Our bipartisan system has led to a growing divide between Republicans and Democrats. Rather than meeting in the middle with political moderates, we have seen the rise of political extremists on both the left and the right side of the spectrum. These wide disparities lead to “gulfs of mutual incomprehension,” which is an extremely complex issue in our contemporary society that has no clear, definitive solutions.
?: Our modern society has a heavy emphasis on the importance of a college degree. This has led to a hyper competitive educational atmosphere which forces individuals to focus their studies on highly specialized areas. The concept of declaring a major is essentially declaring one’s field of specialization. Is the divide in understanding between scientists and literary intellectuals rooted in our system of education as a whole? Do the societal benefits of specialization outweigh the gap in understanding between these polar groups?
Camille A. Brown’s “Black Girl Linguistic Play” exemplifies a duality of themes relating to both the specific experiences of black women with oppression in addition to the universal reality of childhood. She does an exquisite job blending these two components together in a manner that can relate to people universally. The most important thing I took away from the play is the significance of individuality and healing through open dialogue confronting adversity head on. This performance really solidified my understanding of the interconnections between dance and sociopolitical issues. At the end of the performance, I was left with one pressing question. We have a seemingly innate tendency to categorize different conceptual schemes in order to simplify our understanding of the world we live in. This can be very useful in some phases of life, however the impact is damaging when we categorize people based on their racial and cultural differences. My question is this: How can we escape the tendency to associate certain characteristics with large groups of people? This dance confronted this question head on and provided me with a warm sense of hope.
!: On page 19, Birns describes the role of the body as a “distilled history that is a vehicle to communicate historical information” through performance. History is most commonly analyzed through the lens of writing, however writing is not tangible, and cannot be felt in the same manner that performance can. Performance through mediums such as music, dance, and art infuse history in a unique way.
?: On page 19, Birns exemplifies that “he cannot include all of his research in what the public sees in the theater,” accentuating the limitations of performance in its expression of history. He goes on to express that the final performance is embedded with a profound, underlying meaning. Performance does not convey history in the explicit nature that writing does, which begs some questions: Can performance sufficiently communicate history? Does the raw emotion conveyed through performance outweigh its limitations in unequivocally describing history in the same manner writing does? Can it carry the same power as written history through its deeply rooted meaning?
!: In the opening paragraph, Schneider describes how the mainstream, ephemeral perception of performance “limits ourselves to an understanding of history predetermined by a cultural habituation to the patrilineal, West-identified logic of the Archive?” I have always viewed performance in the ephemeral sense and this unit has forced me to confront my preconceived notions of the relationship between performance and history. The long standing societal construction of the Archive has been shaped by western systems of thought and fails to incorporate performance as a historical artifact. For millennia, performance with the body has been a universal way to express meaning and convey feelings and emotions. It is not limited to the west, and is found in every culture around the world to some extent. This illustrated to me how western systems of thought have shaped the notion of “archival artifacts” and how others have been excluded and silenced in the process.
?: On page 105, Schneider challenges the habitual western tendency to connect the ephemerality of performance with “disappearance.” Can performance be materialized in the same manner that written documents can? Is it possible to use performance as a tool for understanding history?
Page 50 displays a portion of a phone call in which Diane Nash confronts James Farmer in hopes of gaining his support to continue the Freedom Ride, despite the fact that it was met with immense violence in Alabama. Farmer points out that continuing the Freedom Ride “may be suicide” and that the riders “could be massacred.” While Nash acknowledges the risk of continuing the movement, she states that “We can’t let them stop us with violence… if we do the movement is dead.”
At the top of page 50, Nash demonstrates a stern look of determination as she stares out of her window. In the center of the page, the picture moves outward from Nash’s window. She appears as a silhouette and the viewer can no longer see her face. Although her identity is no longer apparent to the viewer, the newfound aspect of anonymity enhances the power of the graphic’s message. This accentuates the significant impact of seemingly mundane moments on the progression of the Civil Rights movement. Individually, such moments are hardly noticeable and altogether ordinary, yet collectively they are profound, possessing the power to alter the course of history. The individuals in the Civil Rights movement who refused to give up the fight had a substantial impact on the progression of African Americans societal standing. Even though their names may not be remembered today, their impact resonates loudly and eternally. The collective voice of these individuals who persevered and stood up against oppression is symbolized at the bottom of the page with the loudspeakers. The loudspeakers provide a transition from the scene with Diane Nash into the future with Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, foreshadowing the profound influence of people such as Nash on the progression of Civil Rights. Page 51 depicts the author, congressman John Lewis congratulating Obama on his election, illuminating the vast social progress that African Americans have achieved. However, Obama’s phrase, “I need your prayers,” expresses that there is still work to be done in the fight to eradicate racial inequality.
These pages stood out to me when reading through March: Book Two due to the fact that they exemplified the profound impact of each individual who contributed to the Civil Rights movement through civil obedience and combattal of oppression. The graphic did an excellent job conveying the importance of sacrificing for equality in order to espouse change and hope for future generations.
“The system doesn’t care about us. It’s about numbers and filling prisons.”
I was blessed to have the opportunity to hear Raymond Santana speak at the Lily Gallery. Santana was a member of the group of five New York teenagers who became notoriously labeled as the “central park five.” On April 19, 1989, the lives of Santana and four other boys who he had not previously known were changed forever. The boys were falsely accused with the brutal rape and beating of Trisha Meili, a woman who was jogging through Central Park. Early in the talk, Santana recollected the profound fear he experienced when he was arrested. He did not know what to expect and was overcome by a mix of emotions that I could never imagine. The boys were coerced by the police into confessing to a crime for which they were innocent due to the shady and unlawful intimidation tactics that were utilized to invoke fear into the young men. The story of the “central park five” exposed the blatant corruption of our justice system in addition to the alarming power of media in manipulating the general populace.
“We are the example of what happens when the system doesn’t care about you.”
The story of the “central park five” illuminates the vast rift between humanity and our justice system. Santana recalled the tactics that the police used in their deliberate effort to break him. Intimidation and lack of access to food or water for 36 hours are two notable examples of the police’s abuse of power in Santana’s case. Santana exemplifies how the police did everything in their power to break the young men and coerce them into committing to a crime for which they were innocent. Santana and the other boys gave fingerprints, blood samples, and hair samples in order to determine whether their DNA matched the crime scene. After it was discovered that none of the DNA samples matched the crime scene, the prosecution was supposed to reexamine the investigation. However, this never happened, and Santana was sentenced to 10-15 years in prison for the rape of Trisha Meili. Santana told the Davidson student body that “his story was the example of what happens when the system doesn’t care about you.” His false charge forced him to fight against injustice in the criminal system in an effort to narrow the divide between humanity and the justice system. The system that was created to protect him turned its back on him.
“The media controlled the narrative of our story.”
Santana highlights the role of the media in invoking fear and anger into the general public through accusatorial journalism. Over 400 articles were written about the “central park five.” These articles categorized them as “super predators,” “wildin teenagers,” and many other derogatory phrases that were used to dehumanize the convicted teenagers. “The media controlled the narrative of our story,” Santana states. The media swayed the public into believing that these innocent teenagers were “monsters.” Using language that dehumanizes individuals can have catastrophic outcomes. In this case it transformed the human into a convict, relegating his identity to a statistic in a justice system that perpetuated injustice. The conjunction of a corrupt justice system and the media’s attack on the boys made the group of kids “the most hated on Earth,” as well known journalist Ken Burns stated.
From the “Central Park Five” to the “Exonerated Five”
In December 2002, after 13 years in prison, the men were finally exonerated after Matias Reyes confessed to the crime. However, the hatred directed towards the “central park five” was still deeply ingrained in the general public. The damage caused by the corrupt justice system and the media was irreversible by the time the men were exonerated. Many people still firmly believed that they were guilty. However, Santana expresses that Sarah Burns, the daughter of Ken Burns, “became an angel” for the five men. She worked diligently to uncover the truth and never judged the men. She was a gleam of hope for the “central park five” and illuminated that good journalism was not dead. In 2012, Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon released a documentary that Santana described as the turning point in their case. The documentary finally uncovered the truth that the justice system and media had turned on its side. A few years following the release of the documentary, the men were invited to appear on the Oprah Winfrey show. Oprah told them, “you are no longer the central park five, now you are the exonerated five.” Ever since the truth surrounding his case has been revealed, Santana has been traveling the nation to make his story heard in the hopes of espousing change for the better. At the end of his speech, he called on us, the Davidson student body, to fight criminal justice because “we need all hands on deck” if we’re going to defeat a system that “has been winning for years.” When asked by a student what it would take for him to rest easy feeling like his job is complete, he . stated, “even though we never get to sit under the shade of the tree, we still plant seeds.” This quote reminded me of the evolution of conceptual schemes over time. When a system turns its back on part of humanity, we must plant new seeds and change paradigms for the progression of the human family.
“Even though we never get to sit under the shade of the tree, we still plant seeds.”
Going into the MacBeth play, I was unfamiliar with the plot and did not know what to expect. The acting and stage management was phenomenal and I was very impressed by the acting, as they did an exemplary job portraying raw, genuine emotions. I had difficulty following the plot during the play so I decided to do some research afterwards. I discovered that many aspects of the play were cut or shortened in order to condense it into 90 minutes. They did an excellent job condensing the play in such a manner that captured the essence of Shakespeare’s original plot. Furthermore, I was very impressed with the stage design and the trap doors. These captivated the audience and I felt that the play was very engaging and exciting for the audience, especially during the battle scenes, which were choreographed magnificently. Lastly, the improvisation skills of the actress who had to take over for Laura was very well done. I could not imagine memorizing the lines for a rather major part in three short days. Usually, Shakespearean plays do not excite me, but this was an exception. The students did an incredible job in their production of MacBeth and I look forward to attending more student productions throughout my next four years at Davidson.
Mary Church Terrell was an early civil rights activist who was born to former slave parents in 1863 in Memphis, Tennessee. I struggled to find any information regarding her religious affiliations, however from her article, What it Means to be Colored in the United States, it can be inferred that she was Christian. Both of Terrell’s parents were successful small business owners. Her affluent background provided her with unique opportunities that most African Americans did not possess the means to achieve. Her parents exemplified the importance of education and Terrell attended Oberlin College in Ohio. Her activism was sparked in 1892 in response to the lynching of Thomas Moss, a black friend of Terrrell who was lynched by white men because his business competed with theirs. This incident provoked her to take an active role in the anti-lynching campaign along with Ida B. Wells. While Wells’s work was centered on the unjust, mob mentality nature of the lynching of black men, Terrell dedicated her life work to the notion of racial uplift. This concept supported the belief that black people could contribute to the end of racial discrimination by advancing their position in society through education, work, and collective activism. Terrell believed that racial uplift could gain black’s the recognition and respect from their white counterparts, which was fundamental for the dissolution of racial discrimination. In 1896, she founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). The official motto of the group was “lifting as we climb.” This echoed her sentiments that individual success among members of the black community would contribute to their collective rise in societal status. Terrell furthermore promoted women’s suffrage, as she believed that the right to vote would elevate black women’s societal status. She stated that she belonged to “the only group in this country that has two such huge obstacles to surmount… both race and sex.” Women constituted the focus of Terrell’s activist work due to their lowered position in society.
Ida B. Wells was born into slavery amidst the Civil War in 1862 in Mississippi. After losing both of her parents to yellow fever, she moved to Memphis in 1878. She was baptized in the methodist-episcopal church. Wells played a central role in initiating the anti-lynching campaign after one of her friends was unjustly lynched. She turned her attention to the fundamental issue of “white mob violence” in conjunction with the numerous unjust lynchings of black men that occurred throughout the country. She published her beliefs regarding racial inequality uncensored in a Memphis press. She received substantial backlash, including numerous threats for her articles. The threats became so bad that she was forced to move to Chicago in 1893. Wells traveled internationally in her career in order to shed light on the use of lynching to suppress black people socially and politically in the hopes of raising awareness to racial issues in the United States to foreign audiences. She furthermore openly confronted white woman for blatantly ignoring the issue of lynching. Ida B. Wells does not propose any concrete solutions to anti-black violence, but her courage to expose the issues of lynching and oppression allowed for a broad audience to view her perceptions.
Reading the works of Sontag and Gourevitch together accentuates a powerful connection, as both texts provide a commentary on how “we” collectively, the fortunate individuals who cannot relate to the terrors experienced by the victims of violent atrocities, implicitly react to depictions of violence from a distance. This is a touchy subject that is easily ignored due to the fact that it reveals the vast disconnect between the living and the dead in addition to some dark aspects of human nature. In Regarding the Pain of Others, Sontag explores the powerful impact of photography, as a camera is the only thing that can “catch a death actually happening and embalm it for all time” (Sontag 59). Despite our greatest efforts, it is impossible to imagine ourselves in the positions of the people in photographs “who know they are condemned to die” (Sontag 60). All we can do to alleviate the troubling feeling of viewing horrors outside the realm of our imagination is to sympathize and imprudently ask the rhetorical question, “How could humans do this to one another?” Gourevitch’s work forces the reader to grapple with the answer to this repeatedly asked question. He examines the perspective of the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide, compelling the reader to consider the power of propaganda in dehumanizing the enemy in addition to the powerful nature of fear in breeding conformity. These factors help reveal the troubling fact that all human beings are capable of being convinced to commit violent atrocities given the right circumstances.
In our interconnected modern society, the increased availability of violent images through various forms of media has contributed to a rise in desensitization. Our daily exposure to such images has clouded our perceptions of reality, thus expanding the divide between “our” existence and the existence of the victims of violence. If exposure to violent images only amplifies our lack of understanding and imagination, then what is the purpose of studying violent images? And why are we perpetually drawn to horrifying images depicting the violent ramifications of war? Sontag states that “we can’t truly imagine what it [war] was like. We can’t imagine how dreadful, how terrifying war is; and how normal it becomes” to those who live it (Sontag 126). The importance of studying violent images lies not in understanding the experience of those in the photograph, but in uncovering what these photographs reveal about ourselves. Gourevitch and Sontag presented an external depiction of violence in the hopes of forcing the reader to dig deep into their inner conscience and morality. Violent photographs serve as a mirror, and through that mirror we may uncover inner truths that have the potential to end the perpetual cycle of violence.
Paragraph: In Chapter 1, Sontag explores Virginia Woolf’s 1938 work Three Guineas to examine the complex concept of the renunciation of war. Virginia Woolf published this novel in response to a letter from a British lawyer who posed the question, “How in your opinion are we to prevent war?” Sontag accentuated Woolf’s analysis of this question through the lens of photography. She contends that there is a general consensus regarding the horrifying nature of gruesome photographs depicting the outcomes of war. However, while people share horror and disgust in response to these atrocious photographs, they often arrive at different conclusions about what the photograph is depicting. For example, some may view such a photograph as a “call for peace” while others may view it as a “call for revenge.” Furthermore, photographs displaying the outcomes of war are often used as propaganda against an enemy, even if the photo depicts an act that was perpetrated by their side. This reveals the duality between shared horror of the outcomes of violence and differing interpretations of violence depending on personal backgrounds and opinions. Sontag explores Woolf’s work due to the fact that it highlights the fact that photography may not supply proper evidence for the renunciation of war due to differing interpretations depending on personal context.
Sentence: Sontag studies Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas to illustrate that although there is a general consensus that photographs displaying the outcome of war are disgusting and horrifying, such photographs interpretations differ depending on context and individual’s preexisting beliefs.
Paragraph: In this chapter, Sontag explores how people react to depictions of violence in photographs and the media and how these reactions have a tendency of defying logical reasoning and conscience. She exemplifies how people feel an obligation to look at pictures of violence. This obligation is largely inexplicable and profound. Violent images produce a complicated range of emotions that may seem inappropriate and even morbid under a scope of reasoning. Human beings appear to have an implicit “attraction to violent sights,” and may use these as a “perennial source of torment.” In a sense, “love of cruelty is as natural to human beings as sympathy.” Sontag’s chapter concludes with the idea that apathy and allure may be more natural reactions to violent images due to the fact that compassion is an “unstable emotion.” Violent images resonate stir with our emotions and cause an inner conflict between desire and disgust.
Sentence: People look at violent images to appeal to their imagination and desire of curiosity, and as a result, such images produce a complex range of emotional responses.
Paragraph: It is ignorant, immature, and a sign of moral defectiveness to refuse to acknowledge the horrors that humans have the ability of inflicting on one another. Sontag argues that humanity possesses a responsibility to understand what humans are capable of doing, and willingly, enthusiastically, and self righteously do to other human beings. Those who refute violent images often present the argument that it is unjust to view suffering from a distance. However, the deliberate avoidance of such images does not allow the mind to grapple with the role of violence in human nature.
Sentence: It is important to acknowledge the fact that humans have repeatedly inflicted pernicious acts of violence upon on another in order to derive a deeper understanding of the existence of violence.
Last night I attended a talk by UNC-Chapel Hill professor of history Malinda Maynor Lowry discussing the effects of the War on Drugs on her native tribe, the Lumbee Indians. I was interested to learn that the Lumbee tribe is the largest tribe east of the Mississippi. They have been self-governed under a constitutional system for many years and have continued to thrive throughout all of the racial tensions that have occurred in the south over the past few centuries. Lowry’s talk was centered on the corrupt nature of the War on Drugs and its deliberate targeting of minority populations, in addition to the Lumbee people’s continual struggle for self-determination in the modern age.
Lowry recalled being a highschool senior back in 1988 when Lumbee politician Julian Pierce was mysteriously murdered in the time leading up to the election for Superior Court Judge in rural Robeson County, North Carolina. Pierce was a notable Lumbee activist who promoted decreasing legal penalties for the sale of illegal drugs, due to the fact that this legislation disproportionately affected the minority populations of Lumbee Indians and African Americans. He exposed the blatant inequality that the “War on Drugs” perpetuated and expressed strong disdain for his opponent, District Attorney Joe Freeman Britt, who utilized harsh legislation, voter intimidation, and police brutality tactics to discriminate against minority groups. In Britt’s 14 years in office, he had won 40 death sentences, thee most by any prosecutor in American history. The death of Julian Pierce was tragic to the proud Lumbee people, who were continuing in their ongoing struggle for self determination and recognition from the federal government. Pierce represented a beacon of hope to the people and his death had a lasting impact. At this time, Professor Lowry was attending a private high school in Durham, where she was the only Lumbee student. Many of her white friends had asked her how she felt about the murder of Julian Pierce. She was very frustrated by it and viewed it as a racial attack against the Lumbee people. Later, upon further study, she realized that Pierce’s murder illuminated far deeper issues. Issues such as police brutality and disproportionate incarceration of minorities for drug related crimes are still very prevalent in our society to this day and she provided a thoughtful insight into these complex problems, accentuating how our legal systems are at the root of the problem.
“Banality of Evil” and the Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Arendt coined the term “banality of evil” when explaining the case of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1961
Court psychiatrists at the trial found Eichmann to be a normal man without any psychiatric disorders, yet he had committed violent crimes under the Nazi regime
Arendt concluded that people who commit evil acts are not necessarily twisted monsters, but oftentimes ignorant to reality and rationality
She contends that good has depth and can be radical, while evil does not possess depth; it is simply a failure to think
“[Evil] defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.”
This concept of “banality of evil” can be seen in the Stanford Prison Experiment