I chose to analyze the panel at the bottom of page 73, which depicts the freedom riders disembarking their bus in Montgomery, Alabama. When viewing this illustration, what first jumped out to me were the crowds. The wide angle and birds eye views captures dozens of people found in two main groups: a racist, white mob encircling the freedom riders’ bus, and the freedom riders, huddled together out of fear. The scene’s inclusion of so many people conveys the chaos and danger of the event, in a way that a book or even a photograph couldn’t; it would take pages to describe everything going on in this instant, all the dialogue, all the actions, all the people, and a photograph is limited by reality; the photographer would be standing on the ground, plus the dialogue would be lost. The scariness and destruction of the event is unmistakable, but there is hope in this picture as well. The tight cluster of freedom riders, poised to run, or fight, or hold strong, is inspiring. Their strength in the face of such violent bigotry is hard to imagine, but this picture does a good job of conveying it. The fact that this is an illustration allows the author to optimize every part of the scene to convey its most powerful aspects (and bias, too). This illustration also does a good job of showing what is happening, but also what isn’t happening; no one is there to help, perhaps a result of the bystander effect. Although this picture inspires me and demonstrates the strength and commitment of the freedom riders, its strongest effect might be the disgust it invokes in me at the mob. It makes me want to distance myself from any part of the mob; the hate they show is disturbing, and their mob mentality is shown through the wide angle of the scene.
Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) and Ida B Wells (1862-1931) both opposed violence towards black people in America at great personal risk. Mary Church Terrell explored and fought to change the system of oppression that is America. She was a champion of civil rights and universal suffrage in particular. Ida B Wells focused on a more specific and brutal form of oppression; lynching. She made note of the power of lynching not only as a punishment to the individual, but also its role as a threat, or display of supremacy to the people. Although they focused on different styles of oppression, their works go hand in hand because of the parallels between them. For example, Terrell and Wells were both devout Christians; they bolstered and justified themselves with this strong faith to fight for justice for the most oppressed group in American history. Additionally, they both focused on women, but in very different ways. For Terrell, women were black; she talked about the extreme prejudice that black women face in their daily wives. Wells talked about women differently; she explored the power of the white woman, especially as it related to lynching black men.
Gourevitch’s book describes the Rwandan genocide as a situation where a bewildering storm of media and politics obscured the most urgent aspect of the event: that human beings were suffering extremely and unfairly. Sontag’s “Regarding the Pain of Others” is an attempt to make sense of the nuances of the portrayal of human suffering in general; how it can be over complicated and used for personal and political gain. Chapter 11 of Gourevitch’s book speaks particularly about how the inaccurate and (perhaps) overly sensitive portrayal of the genocide (by both media and governments) enabled the genocide to rage on for much longer than it may have otherwise. Chapter 4 of Sontag’s book talks about how exactly this portrayal occurs. Sontag can tell us so much about the general hazards of portraying human suffering accurately. We are reading these books together because this information from Sontag, although powerful on its own, is strengthened by Gourevitch’s accounts of Rwanda; it shows what is at stake if the portrayal of human suffering is done haphazardly.
Traditionally, photographs of war, specifically the suffering that war causes, have been considered to inspire the same emotions in everyone; a disgust, derision, sadness, or any other negative feeling. Furthermore, it was thought that these negative feelings would lead anyone who saw these photographs the same conclusion; that war is bad, and should be avoided. However, Sontag, in this chapter, argues the opposite. She says that photographs can cause people to hate war, but they can cause different people to desire war (revenge), or, astoundingly, to deny war. Photographs by themselves are not effective in conveying the same point to everyone; they are raw information that can be processed in countless different ways.
Photographs seen by different entities with different experiences and different motives do not convey the same meaning to each entity.
There is a difference in general human experience between suffering as a product of coincidence and suffering as a product of intentional wrath. The latter is viewed as more legitimate, more painful, more important to acknowledge, and, maybe, to stop. So important is it to acknowledge this, that sometimes photographers forget their job, or reinvent it, perhaps. Is it ethical to stage photographs of war?
Some of the most famous photographs of war were staged; are they less important or meaningful because of this?
There are lots of implications/nuances when it comes to viewing photographs of war; guilt, responsibility, cowardice, etc. We have an interest in the morbid; Sontag uses the example of rubberneckers on the highway looking to catch a glimpse of blood in car accidents. Is this curiosity wrong? Does this enjoyment of seeing suffering make us numb to the reality of war? How can we avoid this?
We have a morbid curiosity which means that the significance of accounts of suffering is often lost on us.
A sign of maturity and growth is the knowledge that suffering exists. Furthermore, after a certain point in life, ignorance to this suffering is criminal. The acknowledgement of suffering is important because suffering needs an audience.
“Remembering is an ethical act.”
- “The Banality of Evil” could also be said as “The Normality of Evil” or even “The Unoriginality of Evil”
- In “The Banality of Evil”, Hannah Arendt makes comments about humanity’s natural tendency to be evil (https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/02/07/hannah-arendt-the-banality-of-evil/)
- She comes to her conclusions after witnessing the trial of Adolf Eichmann, who was an important figure in the execution the Holocaust (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eichmann_in_Jerusalem)
- Arendt, in reporting upon this trial, sees truths that seems mutually exclusive. She knows that Eichmann has committed heinous, awful, and inhumane acts. However, Eichmann does not seem to be a psychopath, or an evil mastermind; he is disturbingly average (https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/the-grossly-misunderstood-banality-of-evil-theory-1.5448677)
- As the trial continues, Arendt continues to see the normality of Eichmann; he uses unoriginal cliches to defend himself; he expresses no legitimate, self-made sentiment to justify his actions (https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/the-grossly-misunderstood-banality-of-evil-theory-1.5448677)
- The disturbing truth that Arendt chooses to explain this is that evilness is not exceptional, it is normal it be evil. It is exceptional to be good (https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/02/07/hannah-arendt-the-banality-of-evil/)
- She connects these points and this truth with the concept of totalitarian governments as a whole (https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/02/07/hannah-arendt-the-banality-of-evil/)
- She says that these governments firm when the dictator is able to take away all humanity from his followers; into the empty space where the humanity was, the dictator is able to inject his own ideas, desires, prerogatives, etc, replacing humans with robots (https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/02/07/hannah-arendt-the-banality-of-evil/)
“Strong” cognitive relativism, as Appiah puts it, is the theory that different conceptual schemes can have different truths that are equally legitimate but mutually exclusive. Section 9.6 seeks to disprove this theory. Appiah does this by introducing two hypothetical scenarios. The first scenario relies upon the assumption that a perfect translation of a sentence from one language with its own conceptual scheme leaves us with an equivalent sentence in a new language with its own conceptual scheme, taking into account the different conceptual schemes that each language carries. If cognitive relativism was true in this scenario, then there would have to exist a sentence in one of the languages that was both true and false at the same time. The second scenario rests upon an entirely different definition of perfect translation; that a perfect translation between two languages is a sentence that has the same meaning relative to only one of the conceptual schemes. This makes cognitive relativism impossible as well, because it shows that truth is not always related to a conceptual scheme.
The best way to get people to care about truth when they speak or write is to show them the power that it has. This starts at caring about truth when listening or reading. Knowledge and language is power, and, hopefully, people have enough empathy to see that when they spread “untruths” or bullshit, they take away power and the right to reason from other people. However, it may be a little idealistic to rely upon empathy to keep people interested in the truth, so I raise the following. Reason is one of humanity’s most powerful tools. When you take away reason from other people by disregarding the truth when reading and writing, those people become dangerous because they are misinformed. They develop the world in the wrong direction, because what is true to them is not “the Truth”.
Option 3: The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that the native language and/or primary language of a speaker influences the way that the speaker thinks. This includes the way that they process sensory input, the ways that they reason, and what they have the ability to think about. A simple example of the way that this hypothesis might work can be found in the Yupik language. The Yupik language of the indigenous Alaskan people has between 40 and 50 words for snow. This allows for these people to process and see snow in a more complex way than speakers of other languages. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has come up in class twice in the past week; first with the movie Arrival. The aliens arrive on Earth with the purpose of helping humanity by giving them their language. Their language is nonlinear; sentences have no beginning or end, and all characters are based upon the unending shape of a circle. Becoming fluent in it makes thought nonlinear, and actually gives organisms control over time. This example is, admittedly, from a fictional movie, but it is an extreme demonstration of how the hypothesis might work. Another example can be found in one of the readings for Tuesday, Borges’s “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”. The society Tlön has no science, only psychology and philosophy, and this is due in large part to their language. They don’t have nouns, only modified verbs and adjectives, and this influences their reliance on self.
In Angela Davis’s “Recognizing Racism in an Era of Neoliberalism”, she criticizes neoliberalism for its false assumption that history is no longer pertinent. I did not know what neoliberalism was until I encountered it in this passage. However, after learning about what it meant to be a neoliberal, and after reading Davis’s criticisms of the ideology, I felt that her points could spread much farther than just to criticize neoliberalism. I feel that her beliefs regarding the importance of history could apply to everyone in the United States. History can explain almost all of the unfairness in this country. If the original source of this unfairness can be determined, then eliminating the unfairness itself becomes much easier. This can apply to racism, but also to almost every other facet of inequality that exists in the United States today.
Two Other Authors:
- Audre Lorde and John Locke
- What does it mean to be human?
- Free market versus regulated enterprise?
- How does history shape the present?
“I therefore took it into my hands with all the expectation, and read it through with all the attention due to a treatise that made such a noise at its coming abroad; and cannot but confess myself mightily surprised that in a book, which was to provide chains for all mankind, I should find nothing but a rope of sand; useful perhaps to such whose skill and business it is to wise a dust, and would blind the people, the better to mislead them; but in truth not of any force to draw those into bondage who have their eyes open, and so much sense about them, as to consider that chains are but an ill wearing, how much care soever hath been taken to file and polish them.”
I chose an excerpt from paragraph one of John Locke’s “Two Treatises of Government” because I really struggled to understand it initially and felt great satisfaction when I figured it out. I also like how important this passage is to the rest of “The False Principles and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, and His Followers, Are Detected and Overthrown”; it talks about the issues that Locke has with Robert Filmer and his philosophy of divine right.
This philosophy is what incensed John Locke to write “Two Treatises of Government” in the first place. Understanding why Locke wrote what he wrote can help us determine what exactly his goals were, and can even help us find more, deeper meaning within his essay. It can also help us find faults in his reasoning. This can help us apply his ideas to modern government, without the side effects of anachronistic
I’m not sure that this passage actually answers any specific questions from our lectures on Thursday, but it does help clarify some topics that were discussed. The concepts and connotations of paternal and patriarchal authority were pretty unclear to me at the end of our Thursday afternoon lecture. After learning a little bit more about them in chapter six of “Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government”, they were starting to become more clear. After closely reading my selected passage and finally understanding the personal beliefs of Locke and Filmer, the significance (and fallacies) of these authorities become much easier to see, especially with patriarchal authority, which goes hand in hand with divine right.
*For the record, I realized that this is not actually from the required reading. I mistakenly read the first paragraph of the first essay before realizing that I should have been reading the second essay. However, this passage was the one that stood out most to me and I believe that it still relates to the topics discussed in our lecture.
How does human identity contribute to a “humane society”?
I interpreted the term “humane society”, used by Morrison in his passage, as a society without hate. In this society, no voice is unheard and everyone lives in harmony amongst one another.
Morrison, Stevenson and Brooks all agree that human identity can both unite people and divide people. Without human identity, there is no hate, but neither is there true kinship.
Morrison disagrees with Stevenson and Brooks on the importance of identity, though. While Stevenson and Brooks argue that a humane society needs there to be some sort of reconciliation between the good and bad things that identity carries, Morrison doesn’t seem to think that human identity is the most important factor. He believes that education and non-conformity are the crucial ingredients for a humane society.