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A few words of enlightenment | Letters To The Editor | – New Castle News

Posted: December 5, 2020 at 7:58 pm

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A few words of


Again, I would enjoy shining a few words of enlightenment with the priest, pastor, Apostles and the Sunday school teachers.

As we know, our world is all about history and truth. Do you know about the following dates on church history? In the first century, the first Christians in 33 AD on Pentecost, descent of the Holy Spirit up on the disciples preaching of St. Peter in Jerusalem conversions, baptism and aggregation of some 3,000 persons to be the 10 Commandments.

Also, St. Stephen was stoned to death. St. Paul was converted and baptized and beheaded between 64-67 AD. In 42 AD, St. James the Great was the first apostle to die and beheaded in 44 AD.

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At Antioch, the followers of Christ were called Christians for the first time. In 107 AD, St. Ignatius of Antioch was martyred and was the first to use the expression, The Catholic Church. In 165 AD, St. Justin, an importantworker was martyred at Rome. In 382 AD, the Canon of Scared Scripture, the first of the inspired book of the Bible. In 382 AD, St. Jerome translated the Old Testament and New Testament inot Latin. His work is called theVulgate version of the Bible.

There wasnt a Protestant religion until the 15th and 16th centuries. Now, we have 435 different ones.

Peter Panella

New Castle

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A few words of enlightenment | Letters To The Editor | - New Castle News

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December 5th, 2020 at 7:58 pm

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‘Finding the Heart Sutra’: Alex Kerr finds humor at the heart of wisdom and enlightenment – The Japan Times

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On the list of things you can do to spark joy (to use a phrase that has infiltrated the zeitgeist), few people would think to include writing a book.

From conception to writing and revisions, right through to publication, when the final product ends up on a shelf (virtual or real), its a lengthy and often lonely journey thats riddled with a full spectrum of emotions. A way to spark frustration, more like.

Finding the Heart Sutra, by Alex Kerr 304 pages ALLEN LANE

But against those odds, author Alex Kerr thoroughly enjoyed the process of writing his new book, Finding the Heart Sutra. Thats probably because the book is dedicated to exploring an age-old Buddhist sutra that muses on wisdom and enlightenment, and its been a project in progress for the better part of 40 years.

I had such fun with this book Kerr tells me from his home in Bangkok. Hes been in the Thai capital since late March, and most likely will be there until March 2021. Its the longest stretch of time hes been away from Japan in decades, and hes itching to be on the road again. Particularly the one back to Japan, where he has lived more or less full-time since 1977.

Writing while having fun is a new experience for Kerr. Readers of his books on Japan, including Lost Japan and Dogs and Demons, would have found heavy doses of anger and finger-wagging from his iconoclastic takes on Japans destructive path over the past 50 years.

But, Finding the Heart Sutra is different for many reasons. For one, Kerr found humor in his subject.

You can see it as a poem, as a great philosophy, as a Zen meditation, as a mystical path, as a spiritualist power, but you could also see it as a joke, Kerr says.

Take, for example, one of the sutras most famous stanzas:

The material world does not differ from emptiness.

Emptiness does not differ from the material world.

The material world is itself emptiness.

Emptiness is itself the material world.

The first reading is gobbledygook, youll never get anything out of it, Kerr says with his trademark forthrightness. Its this tendency to call a spade a spade that makes Kerr a compelling writer and well-suited to write an ode to a Zen masterpiece. While there are likely many scholars of the sutra that would take exception to describing the sacred text as comical, Kerr is insistent:

Kerr the calligrapher: Sprinkled throughout Finding the Heart Sutra are Alex Kerrs brush strokes of Chinese characters from the ancient Buddhist text. | COURTESY OF ALEX KERR

Its ridiculous, he says. Its humorous and outrageous, and so on top of everything else, I treated it as a joke with punch lines.

Key to Kerrs approach is that he writes for the reader who is not steeped in Buddhist knowledge. In essence, what hes done with Finding the Heart Sutra is taken a wide-angle lens to an ancient verse, zoomed in on the significance of each character and deployed anecdotes and liner notes to unpack the gibberish.

What Im trying to do is, one by one, phrase by phrase, and sometimes kanji by kanji, get deep into (the sutra). What does this thing really mean and what have they said over 1,000 years about it? Kerr says.

One way he gets at the heart of the sutra was to highlight its relationship with calligraphy. Sprinkled throughout Kerrs book are brush strokes of Chinese characters, all of which are taken from the Buddhist text.

Thats critical, Kerr says. Its the essence of the Heart Sutra, because its been involved with calligraphy from day one.

It also provides readers with a new view of the author: Kerr the calligrapher.

A few years ago, while interviewing Kerr in his home in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, I noticed beautiful hand-drawn characters on display and later found out much of it was written by Kerr.

The original plan was for it to be a visual book, Kerr says. He was meant to be the calligrapher while French novelist Marguerite Yourcenar would write about the sutra. That plan, hatched in the 1980s, never panned out; Yourcenar died in 1987, but Kerr never stopped thinking about and re-reading the Heart Sutra.

Finding the Heart Sutra: Guided by a Magician, an Art Collector and Buddhist Sages from Tibet to Japan by Alex Kerr

The sutra is short, which magnifies the significance of each character. Kerr reproduces it in English, Japanese and Chinese. It comes in at under 60 lines, many of which are just two characters long.

Kerr says the brevity of the sutra is why it has survived for so long and influenced so many. As he writes in the book: The Heart Sutra is so short you can recite the whole thing in about a minute. Its a haiku of wisdom, wisdom you can carry in your back pocket.

Its also intense; it covers a lot of ground in what it surveys, especially emptiness, which the sutra arrives at almost immediately.

You have to be aware of the emptiness, Kerr says. One of the things I harp on a lot about in this book is equanimity so that you can rise above all the nonsense and the troubles. Because you have to realize these things are small, they are blips in the cosmic scheme of things, and so are we. Then you can find a bit of peace.

Someone asked me what they should do after finishing the book. I said they should read it again. This is a book you can read and read again.

Much like a poem you can ponder again and again. Each time it says something new or different. Or nothing at all. And thats OK, too.

Alex Kerr discusses sustainable tourism and Finding the Heart Sutra in episode 74 of The Japan Times Deep Dive podcast. Listen now at

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The enlightenment of Guru Nanak, and a glimpse into his global Udasis – The Indian Express

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New Delhi | Updated: November 30, 2020 10:03:46 am

Written by Harminder K.,

Around the year 1485, a 16-year-old boy named Nanak moved to Sultanpur Lodhi in Punjab, where he lived for the next 14 years. Each day before sunrise, he would go for ablutions by the Kali Bein, a seasonal rivulet, accompanied by Mardana, the minstrel boy and his to-be lifelong companion. One day, to Mardanas surprise, Nanak plunged into the river but didnt surface. Mardana waited and waited and then rushed to the town to seek assistance. Everyone thought that either Nanak had drowned or had been washed away in the river, which was in spate.

Nanak was then working as a storekeeper for Nawab Daulat Khan, governor of Jalandhar Doab. When the Nawab learnt about the incident he rushed to the spot and asked the fishermen to throw their nets in the rivulet and find Nanak. All efforts failed. Then, suddenly on the fourth day, Nanak appeared in town. Khan heaved a sigh of relief and there was great rejoicing among his friends and relatives. But by now Nanak was a completely changed man. His face was radiant and there was divine light in his eyes. He was perpetually in deep reflective thought.

As word about Nanaks return spread, people started thronging the place. They asked him where he had been, but Nanak remained silent. People said he was in the water for many days so he was out of his mind. But Nanak did not respond. After a day passed, he said: Na koi Hindu, na koi Mussalman (There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim. Each time he spoke, he repeated these words. The Janamsakhi (literally, life story or biography) describes the incident as a communion with God, who gave him a cup of nectar to drink and charged him with the mission in the following words:

Nanak I am with thee. Through thee will my name be magnified. Whosoever follows thee, him will I save. Go into the world to pray and teach mankind how to pray. Be not sullied by the ways of the world. Let your life be one of praise of the Word (naam), charity (daan), ablution (isnaan), service (seva) and prayer (simran). Nanak I give thee my pledge. Let this be thy lifes mission.

ALSO READ |Happy Gurpurab 2020: Guru Nanak Jayanti Wishes Images, Status, Quotes, Wallpapers, Messages, Photos

The mysterious voice spoke again: Nanak he whom you bless will be blessed by Me; he to whom you are benevolent shall receive My benevolence. I am the Great God, the Supreme Creator. Thou art the Guru, The Supreme Guru of God. Nanak is said to have received the robe of honour from the hands of God Himself who revealed to him the Divine Reality.

It is significant to understand here that in medieval Hindustan, though the Muslims were the main persecutors of the Hindus and the Sikhs, Nanaks words, There is no Hindu, there is no Mussalman, was meant to disregard the conflict with them in the spirit of a spiritually aroused person, one who bears ill-feelings towards none. The Revelation, therefore, was the culmination of a spiritual direction his childhood and youth had taken. When he reappeared, he provided a new spiritual and humanistic message of oneness of humanity that would go out to millions in his lifetime and in the centuries to come. Guru Nanak saw God as One Reality, Ek Onkar.

His vision of the world was of an all-embracing, all-inclusive humanism. It was his divine calling that impelled Nanak to spread this message of God. Soon after his enlightenment in 1499 Guru Nanak set out on his journeyswhich were recorded as udasis by eminent Sikh saintsto spread his vision of the divine. He visited the equivalent of nine modern countries or more in todays global map comprising India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iranon foot, travelling for 21 years. Dressed in a loose, flowing shirt, armed with the light of truth and zeal of a missionary, he started his journeys first within Punjab in 1499 and then to the east in 1500, followed by travels to the south, north and west.

There are many stories from his travels that demonstrate how he stirred human consciousness so that people could connect with God and live life truthfully and honestly. The Guru first went to Saidpur (now Eminabad in Pakistan), then walked through jungles and wilderness and arrived at an inn run by a person called Sajjan, meaning gentleman. Ironically, though, Sajjan was a robber and a murderer. He had built a mosque and a temple for prayers of passing travellers and an inn for their stay. But that was only a cover. He beckoned travellers into his inn, waited for them to sleep and then robbed and killed them.

ALSO READ |Happy Guru Nanak Jayanti 2020: Gurpurab Wishes, Images, Status, Quotes, Messages, and Photos

When Nanak went to his inn, Sajjan looked at the glow on the Gurus face and thought he was a prosperous trader, travelling in the garb of a recluse to avoid being waylaid by robbers. He waited and waited for Nanak and Mardana to retire. Instead of going to bed, Nanak sang a hymn to the tune of Mardanas rabab (rebec).

Tinned copper so bright and lustrous, When rubbed, appears a surface inky black. Its impurity by washing shall not go, despite washing a hundred times. Those are true friends who are ones companions of the way; And when their reckoning is called for, instantly render it. (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 729)

Sajjan understood the import of the Gurus hymn. He begged forgiveness, gave up his evil ways and became a true man of God. He converted his inn to a dharamsal, a place for religious worship. This became the first major centre the Guru set up for the congregation of his disciples. It is no mean achievement that during his lifetime, Guru Nanak was able to set up dharamsals from Assam in the east to Iraq in the west.

Nanaks travels are full of stories of how he endeared himself to people and made disciples. Most of these were recorded in Janamsakhis and are now oft-recounted. One among them was fakir Bahlol of Iraq, who sat at the foot of the platform where Guru Nanak sat for a discourse, and spent 60 years of his life remembering Nanak. The Guru is still remembered in the many places he visited with many names, each adopting him as their ownBaba Nanak, Wali HindNanak Qandhari, Nanak Pir and Lama Nanak Nnak. Such is the power and influence of this saint.

(This article is part of Saha Sutra on, an online open resource for Indian arts, culture, heritage and history.)

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December 5th, 2020 at 7:58 pm

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slowthai, punk prophet of Britain’s austerity generation, is on a strange trip to enlightenment – Document Journal

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slowthai, punk prophet of Britains austerity generation, is on a strange trip to enlightenment By Camille Sojit Pejcha Share Facebook Instagram Facebook Shop POPULAR RESEARCH

Text by Camille Sojit Pejcha

Photography by Markn

Styled by Alice Lefons

Set design by Afra Zamara

Posted December 2, 2020

The rappers unlikely rise to fame provided a window into the British struggle for national identity. For Documents Fall/Winter 2020 issue, the Brexit Bandit explains why hes now looking inward for answers

Yeah, I have quite crazy dreams, slowthai laughs, flashing me his famous gap-toothed grin and flicking his cigarette. Hes not referring to dreams of stardom, but the kind of dreams that keep you up at night, where things arent quite what they seem and the symbols keep getting stranger. He describes dreams of being someone else, dreams of tsunamis, dreams he desperately tries to rejoin after waking to find out how they end, and one particularly strange interlude involving his father at a KFC in Thailand.

It doesnt surprise me that slowthai has a vivid fantasy life. Just before our Zoom interview, I took in his latest offering: the surreal music video for feel away, his single featuring James Blake and Mount Kimbie. It starts with slowthai proposing to his partner in the maternity ward; then the perspective switches, and he is revealed to be the one pregnant. His fiancee runs off with the doctor while he labors with their baby, and the video ends with his severed limbs being served as cake at their weddinga reference to the viral meme of people cutting into seemingly ordinary household objects, only to discover that they are in fact hyperrealistic cakes.

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For a small-town boy with a modest upbringing, the past year has been a whirlwind. Since the release of his first studio album Nothing Great About Britain in 2019, slowthai performed live on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, was nominated for the Mercury Prize, and headlined shows across the US and Europe. When the Bajan-British rapper wasnt onstage, he was courting controversy with a grin, dubbing himself the Brexit Bandit and going viral for holding up the fake severed head of Boris Johnson during his Mercury Prize performance. On tour, slowthai earned a reputation for delivering frenetic, politically charged shows that often ended with him stripped down to his boxers and thrown into the crowdwhen he wasnt spitting in mouths, that is (Yeah, I think I mightve started coronavirus, he chuckles when I bring up the fan request.)

Now, slowthai (real name: Tyron Frampton) is back at his family home in Northampton, a town in the East Midlands region of England. With a pandemic raging outside and touring on pause, he has spent the past months hanging out with his mom, playing video games, and smoking weedjust like any other 25-year-old. Of course its a bit boring by comparison, but I think being back and seeing my friends and family allowed me to come back down to earth, he tells me. I can just chill, eat good, have a laughand I can make more music than I would have if I was constantly flying everywhere or getting drunk all the time.

I ran out of money and I was sleeping on studio floors and just recording. Every second I got I was trying to make a song. I think when you have nothing, thats when you start to grow and get good, because youre out of your comfort zoneyou know this is either it, or it is nothing.

With his copious tattoos, grill, and bad-boy charm, slowthai is the latest in a long line of British musicians to question the status quoyet the rappers acerbic wit and bracing social commentary, paired with a mix of grime and hip hop beats, puts his sound in its own lane. In Nothing Great About Britain, he draws on his own experience growing up under austerity politics to render a searing portrait of Britains crisis of identity, springboarding from critique of economic inequality to lampooning political figures with sharp-tongued dexterity that keeps you on your toes. Even though the picture he paints is dark, slowthais anti-authoritarian sentiment and comedic edge evoke a battle cry rather than a lament: In one song, he derides the monarchy with gusto, taunting the Queen of England in a mock-bourgeoisie accent (I will treat you with the utmost respect only if you respect me a little bit Elizabeth, you cunt); in others, he references experiences with racial bias (Wont hire me, then they hire you / Fire me but dont fire you) and his career prospects as a working-class youth (Teacher said, What you gonna be when youre older? / Drug dealer, what else can I do?)

Before he started gaining traction as an artist, slowthai was a self-described little shit doing what we all do: making it work. He describes a mix of soul-crushing retail jobs, a brush with addiction, and a desire to go against the grain (Think to myself, somethings gotta change / Lower class, but my class is so fucking flames, he raps.) I was selling weed, trying to make money. Then I ran out of money and I was sleeping on studio floors and just recording. Every second I got I was trying to make a song. I think when you have nothing, thats when you start to grow and get good, because youre out of your comfort zoneyou know this is either it, or it is nothing, he tells me.

slowthais rise to stardom coincides with a broader shift in Britains music scene, with distinctly multicultural subgenres like grime, garage, and drill broadening the UK soundscape. Throughout our call, he is quick to acknowledge his good fortune, expressing gratitude for the support of his community and the people who believe in him.

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Its not just his own modest upbringing that earned him a reputation as a champion of the proletariat. In 2019, he earned loyalty across the UK with a budget tour, charging only 0.99 for tickets and asking his fans where to go. Though the 99pence tour originally focused on often-overlooked small towns like the one he himself grew up in, popular interest led to a 5 tour of larger venues. Community has always been pivotal for slowthai, who takes aim at the monarchy in Nothing Great About Britain in order to draw focus back to the working-class people at the countrys heart.

The music hes been working on over quarantine represents a pivot away from Brexit politics, but involves the same humanist outlook. People inspire me to be better, so I want to inspire them to be better, because were all in it together. This song, and this whole album, are about growth and self-development, he says. Do you want me to play you some stuff?

Sitting on the sofa in his family home, slowthai plays me his new music. He is alternately playful (Thats just me being a saucy little fellow!) and candid, walking me through the inspiration behind each track while chain-smoking cigarettes. I think, through isolation, weve realized how much we actually need each other. This one is about appreciating what youve got, he explains, referencing societys newfound respect for the national healthcare system. When COVID started, everyone was clapping for [the NHS]and I dont disagree with that, but considering theyve done generations of good work, I dont see why it takes a pandemic for us to congratulate or thank the people that are pushing for us.

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While slowthai still believes in the need for widespread political reform, his new music has more to do with creating positive change in himself. I wanted it to be about duality, so its split into A-Side and B-Sidethe first bit is chaotic and edgy, the things we put out to the world, or what people see us as because they dont know us on that personal level, he explains. I recorded it while I was going through tough times in my life, with my mental health. I wanted to ventso the A-Side is just me expressing myself, getting angry at everything thats making me feel down. And then, the B-Side is about me being like, Is this what I wanna do? and realizing that this stuff isnt helping me, its just holding me back. Its about searching for the answers in yourself. Youre either gonna sit there and cry about it or you are gonna go out and live life and do your best, and try to be better for yourself. You should improve because you want to improve, not because people expect it of you.

I cant help but sense hes referring to his own brush with cancel culture earlier this year: an infamous incident at the NME Awards that started as banter with comedian Katherine Ryan and culminated in an altercation between himself and a male audience member who shouted that slowthais lewd comments were misogynista sentiment shared by critics on the internet and social media. Ryan, who was presenting the award, took to Twitter to respond. He didnt make me uncomfortable. This is why we need women in positions of power. He opened his mouth like any heckler coming up against a COMICnot a womana COMIC, she wrote later that evening. Even so, the incident spurred some serious self-reflection for slowthai, who later requested that NME forward his Hero of the Year award to Ryan instead. In a public apology to Ryan, he wrote: You are a master at your craft and next time Ill take my seat and leave the comedy to you. To any woman or man who saw a reflection of situations theyve been in in those videos, I am sorry. I promise to do better. Lets talk here.

I believe a lot of people whore on Twittercaught up in the moment, saying negative shittheyre lost themselves, theyre just fighting because they feel like thats the one place they have a voice.

My whole thing with [cancel culture] is, why dont you do something positive and try to teach the person where theyre wrong, or how things could be presumed a certain way? he remarks, after sharing a track inspired by the experience. Strangers on the internet are so fast to push people into a corner and label someone they dont know. I believe a lot of people whore on Twittercaught up in the moment, saying negative shittheyre lost themselves, theyre just fighting because they feel like thats the one place they have a voice, he says. All you can do in life is learn from something. Anyone who knows me knows what Im about, knows what I stand for, knows who I am. You cant hate someone whos trying to do everything for their family and trying to push and be the best version of themselves.

slowthai tries to make himself accessible to fans, often responding to messages and encouraging people to reach out and vent to him about their problems. I try to treat people the way I want to be treated. If they took the time out of their day to message, who am I not to take time out of mine to message back, and speak to them, and make sure theyre okay, he says. Its a familythats what Im aiming to create. I actually just spoke to this girl, who told me she came to my show and posted it on her story; this guy whos a fan replied, and from that they started dating. Now theyve been together for a year and a half, and just moved into a house! If they decide to get married, Im getting ordainedIll be the one to do it, he jokes. Things like that make it ten times more worthwhile. Even taking the time out to mention that to methat this was a prominent memory they made togetherthats sick. After an hour or so of chatting, Im beginning to understand the depth of his conviction that its the people, not the government, that make Britain great.

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The conversation turns to his own family life and his relationship with his mother Gaynor, to whom he pays tribute in his song Northamptons Child (Youre the strongest person I know / Made us happy even when you felt down / Always other people first / But Im thinking for you right now.) One of his tattoos is similarly dedicated to her: Sorry Mum, spelled across his chest. As much as shes my mum, shes been a friend to me more than anything, slowthai says, a fact he attributes in part to their small age difference; Gaynor was only 16 when she had him. Even when she knew I was going through a phase, she just wanted to let me be who I wanted to be. She understood that I just gotta decide for myself. When I ask what she thinks of his newfound fame, he laughs. Shes funny. Out of everyone, she always knows things before I do. Even though shes not on the internet all the time, she makes it her mission to find out everything. And then whenever Im tweeting some mad shit shell be like, What does this mean? Not today Mum, relax.

Even with the wholehearted support of his mother, his family life hasnt been without struggle; his little brother Michael John, who had muscular dystrophy, passed away just after his first birthday (something he alludes to in lyrics, and has spoken about on social media.) The aftershocks of this loss were deeply felt by his family, and in the years since he has publicly written about the impact his little brother had on his life. Im doing everything in my power to live for him and also make him proud, wrote slowthai in one Instagram post, revealing that feel away is dedicated to him.

I never want anyone to feel like Im up here and theyre down there. If someone is a fan of my work, that just means we appreciate the same things. It dont matter who you are or what you do, your color, your creed, sexual orientation; as long as you connect with it.

slowthai struggled with anger management after his brothers death (Youre lucky Im not as big as you / Ill punch you till my hands turn blue, he says on Northamptons Child, addressing his cheating stepdad.) Today, he is embracing music and writing not just as a way to express aggression, but as a site of vulnerability (Ive been writing poetry, he tells me when I ask how hes keeping entertained during quarantine.) The razor wit and raw, anarchic edge that launched him into the spotlight are still present, but this new album marks the beginning of a new era for slowthai: one defined by introspection, self-awareness, and personal growth. Im not religious, but I used to be. I asked for the Bible for my birthday, he explains, laughing at my astonished expression. The title of this next song is an anagram for Pray Until Something Happens. Its just something my family always said to me.

Over the course of our conversation, what surprises me most is slowthais genuine desire to connect: He reciprocates every question I ask him (Where am I from? What have I been up to during quarantine? What are my weird dreams like?) and when he falls silent, its not out of awkwardnessits because hes listening. I never want anyone to feel like Im up here and theyre down there, he says of his fans. If someone is a fan of my work, that just means we appreciate the same things. It dont matter who you are or what you do, your color, your creed, sexual orientation; as long as youre feeling it and you connect with it. Thats what lifes about, its about meeting people and helping each other, so the next generation learns from our mistakes, or things weve done, so then they push it, he says.

While slowthais anti-authoritarian spirit and dynamic stage presence invite comparison to the punk luminaries of decades past, its his unremitting drive to connect with the people and communities around him that strikes me as authentically subversive in todays individualistic landscape. In the fraught political climate of 2020, its easy to revert to tribalist arguments and moral policing that only sows division. slowthai knows what its like to be disenfranchised, but he also knows how to capture this frustration in a biting lyric and use it to rally people around a shared cause. His unlikely rise to fame provides a window into the British struggle for national identityyet as much as slowthais shows are a mosh pit of raw energy and anti-government sentiment, they are also a testament to the power of community and the peoples dedication to a better future.

slowthais forthcoming album TYRON will be released February 5th, 2021.

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Jacket and pants by 6 Moncler 1017 Alyx 9SM. Sneakers Tyrons own.

Jacket by 6 Moncler 1017 Alyx 9SM. Pants Tyrons own.

T-shirt Tyrons own. Jacket and pants by 6 Moncler 1017 Alyx 9SM.

Jacket and harness by 6 Moncler 1017 Alyx 9SM.

Jacket and pants by 6 Moncler 1017 Alyx 9SM. Sneakers Tyrons own.

Jacket by 6 Moncler 1017 Alyx 9SM. Pants Tyrons own.

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slowthai, punk prophet of Britain's austerity generation, is on a strange trip to enlightenment - Document Journal

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December 5th, 2020 at 7:58 pm

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How cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad mark a return to the propaganda of the Middle Ages – Middle East Eye

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France, and indeed the whole world, were rightly shocked by the barbarous murder in October of schoolteacher Samuel Paty at the hands of an 18-year-old Muslim refugee from Chechnya.The alleged reason for the crime was that Paty, while teaching his students about free expression, showed infamous cartoons denigrating the Prophet Muhammad.

That horrendous crime was quickly followed by an even more brazen one: the murder of three people inside the Notre-Dame cathedral in Nice.

France, instead of taking targeted measures against the guilty parties and those who might have aided them, has instead gone down the now all-too-familiar path of blaming what it believes is an unreformed Islam and a backwards Muslim community. It stands on the cusp of adopting sweeping legislation that, while broadly threatening the civil rights of all of its citizens, will undoubtedly impact Muslims most negatively.

These responses come against the backdrop of President Emmanuel Macron declaring that Islam is in crisis all over the world, and that his government would launch an aggressive campaign to combat what he calls Islamist separatism. In justifying his muscular approach towards Islam (and not just towards Muslims who commit acts of violence), Macron sees himself as defending the ideals of the Enlightenment and sharing them with the benighted Muslims of France.

There is substantial evidence that an important number of prominent European intellectuals of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were, if anything, Islamophiles

Contrasting the enlightenment of Europe with the barbarism of Islam is a central trope of Islamophobes, whether in Europe or North America. Yet, this dichotomy could not be further from the historical truth surrounding Europes Enlightenment, and even its Renaissance. Both were characterised by a repudiation of the fanatic hatred of Islam and Muslims that the church in the Middle Ages had preached, in favour of a much more balanced appreciation of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

Indeed, there is substantial evidence that an important number of prominent European intellectuals of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were, if anything, Islamophiles.

Two recently published books confirm this point. The first is Faces of Muhammad, a book that narrates how European perceptions of the Prophet Muhammad evolved from the figure of the crude imposter propagated by the Catholic church during the Crusades to a religious reformer, glorious leader, and anti-clerical hero to many figures in the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

For Americans, the Enlightenment tradition of honouring the Prophet Muhammad manifested itself in his presence in a frieze at the Supreme Court honouring the great lawgivers of mankind.

The author of Faces of Muhammad, historian John Tolan, notes that the rise of humanism through the Renaissance and the Enlightenment allowed Europeans to begin to appreciate the Prophet Muhammad as a historical figure of immense significance, rather than simply as a threat to the church.

In addition, English historian Noel Malcolms recent book, Useful Enemies, chronicles the transformative effects that the Ottoman Empire and Islam had on European political imagination.

European travellers to Ottoman territories in the 15th and 16th centuries, despite the often crude anti-Ottoman and anti-Muslim propaganda that prevailed in Europe, were duly impressed by the empires religious tolerance; the orderliness and security of its cities; its highly disciplined military; the civic spirit of its well-to-do citizens; a reasonably effective, impartial and speedy judicial system; its reliance on merit as the metric for promotion; and the independence of the state from the religious class.

The increasing encounters of Europeans with the Ottomans and the Mamluks, at leastuntil the conquest of Egypt and Syria in the first quarter of the 16th century, left their traces among the most important European political thinkers of the Renaissance, including the celebrated Florentine political writer Niccolo Machiavelli and the French political theorist Jean Bodin. France played an especially important role as a site for resistance to crude depictions of Islam by virtue of the alliance between Ottoman Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and French King Francis I.

These positive encounters with Islam and Muslims in turn inspired European thinkers to imagine ways in which they could transform their own societies. So great was the attraction of the Ottoman model to 16th-century European political writers that, according to Malcolm, it produced a backlash at the hands of Catholic intellectuals, who sought to shore up support for the Hapsburgs in their struggle against the Ottomans.

Their campaign led to the invention of the trope of Oriental despotism in an attempt to subvert the attractiveness of the Ottoman Empire in the eyes of Europeans.

The values of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment amounted to a repudiation of traditional Christian hostility towards Islam and its Prophet

What these two books unequivocally demonstrate is that the values of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment amounted to a repudiation of traditional Christian hostility towards Islam and its Prophet, and the adoption of a spirit of respect - and even admiration - in its place.

While certain conceptions of freedom of expression might compel a state to permit denigrating portrayals of the Prophet Muhammad to be circulated freely (although anyone with knowledge of French law knows that this is not true for France), in no way can such images be viewed as compatible with the ideals of the Enlightenment; rather, they represent an atavistic return to the crudest propaganda of the Middle Ages, and deserve to be so treated.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

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You Go Girl!: The Commercialisation of Feminism – Mediummagazine

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As a result of the extensive reach of online mass media, political movements and public awareness of diverse social issues are becoming more widespread in society. There are infinite possibilities for the public to inform themselves on eminent global topics. Not only is this a way for people to educate themselves, it also provides an opportunity for organizations to raise money and for political groups to advocate for legislative change. This however paves the way for brands to exploit this current spread of online political enlightenment by engaging in performative activism in their advertisements and marketing schemes in an effort to seem socially aware.

As people around the world learn more about the feminist movement and the multitude of issues women around the world face, brands and organization take this as an opportunity to market their products in this contemporary climate of wokeness. They aim to stand out from other brands with their political statements, filling their advertisements with feminist affirmations that are vague enough to still fit into their aesthetic, yet make the brand appear progressive and enlightened.

It felt like wearing that shirt was a political statement itself.

In the mid 2010s, H&M released a t-shirt with the print Feminism: the radical notion that women are people. I remember seeing many teenage girls wearing this t-shirt on the streets; it was cute, I wanted it too at age 13. At the time, it felt like wearing that shirt was a political statement itself, like wearing it to my 8th-grade class would be making a real impact on the feminist movement. However, in hindsight, the only real impact I wouldve made was fattening the wallets of the H&M corporate office.

The slogan on the shirt, women are people, shouldnt be a mind-blowing revelation either. Although the sarcasm is part of the perceived quirkiness of the shirt, looking back on it, H&M had simply used their knowledge on the rapid spread of feminist support online as a tool to sell their clothing. At the time the shirt was released, the HeForShe movement had just recently been formed by UNWomen, and Emma Watsons inspiring speech at the movements launch had gone viral. Furthermore, Malala Yousafzai was in the spotlight as she received the Nobel Peace Prize just a month after Emma Watsons speech. Therefore, there had been extensive media coverage about the feminist movement at that time. Google searches for the term feminism spiked between 2014 and 2016, the same time frame that this shirt was being sold in. However, none of H&Ms profits were donated to any feminist organizations and Im sure this t-shirt did little to progress the feminist movement.

What exactly was H&M doing?

Although H&M has a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) code of conduct that seems helpful in ensuring adequate social and environmental principles, they fail to properly acknowledge workplace harassment and violence towards women.

A report made to the International Labour Organization in 2018 showed that not only did H&M pay their garment workers less than a minimum wage, women also experienced workplace violence and unfair treatment at many of H&Ms factories. Women were reported to have been fired solely for being pregnant, forced to work overtime and were repeatedly yelled at or even physically assaulted by factory employers. The H&M garment workers are primarily women, over 80% of workers at factories in Bangladesh are female, for example. Although H&M has a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) code of conduct that seems helpful in ensuring adequate social and environmental principles, they fail to properly acknowledge workplace harassment and violence towards women, which is so prevalent for H&Ms female garment workers. This highlights the fact that the company chooses to capitalize on the feminist trend in order to sell their products, where their actual efforts to support feminist movements or even ensure safety and security for their female workers, are kept at a minimum.

Using simplified statements such as women are people in marketplace feminism creates the perception that feminism only aims to reach gender equality through achieving these ambiguous slogans. In reality, feminism deals with deep-rooted issues surrounding paradigms about women, laws regarding their autonomy or opportunities for receiving education. The actual goals of the political movement are overlooked as its easier to market a cool slogan on a shirt than it is to confront the efforts it takes to reach gender equality.

Audi preaches about equal pay

Another company that incorporated feminist messages into their advertisements was Audi in 2017. In the advertisement, they made a clear statement that America should aim to provide equal pay for men and women, displaying a young girl beating a group of boys in a soapbox race. This was of course accompanied by an emotional song and the voiceover of her father in the background contemplating whether he should explain to his daughter that in this world women are seen as less important than men. The controversy that arose over this advertisement was that Audi themselves were exposed for not having paid their male and female employees equally, and on top of that, had an executive board consisting of only men. Although Audi preaches about gender equality in their advertisement to promote their car, they dont actively make an effort to support women in the workplace themselves. This selective activism in their advertisement therefore seems to be performative in an effort to appear like a progressive company that supports gender equality.

The gravity of the issues faced by countless women is diminished by creating catchy, commercialised feminist slogans to sell instead of actively aiming to achieve gender equality in their workplace or aiding feminist organizations.

Brands continuing to take advantage of the current political climate as a marketing tactic does not result in women being edged closer to equality. The gravity of the issues faced by countless women is diminished by creating catchy, commercialised feminist slogans to sell instead of actively aiming to achieve gender equality in their workplace or aiding feminist organizations. Yes, in the broadest sense of its definition, women of course, as any other cohort, want to be seen as people; but this is not on the list of tangible goals that feminist movements aim to achieve. Ultimately, brands using the rhetoric of empowerment and women power to push their products do not contribute to the feminist movement but profit from the current politically conscious online climate instead.

Cover: Claudio Purzlbaum


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Conservatism and Liberalism: Two Books on the Great Divide – The Wall Street Journal

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Every man and every woman, it seems, knows Gilbert and Sullivans quipping lines from Iolanthe (1882): That every boy and every gal / Thats born into the world alive. / Is either a little Liberal / Or else a little Conservative. When the lines were first sung, the labels matched up with Britains political parties, but they obviously have a wider applicationeach calling to mind, then and now, a cultural outlook, an inclination, a temperament, even a philosophy. Over time, of course, even the firmest definition will shift, making easy summary difficult and historical circumstancecontext, that iscrucial to our understanding of what liberalism is and how conservatism differs from it. These days, we may also ask: What sets the two sides of democratic politics so far apart?

Edmund Fawcett, a former editor and correspondent at the Economist, grappled with one end of this polarity in Liberalism: The Life of an Idea, published in 2014 and revised four years later. He now explores its opposing force in Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition. A self-described left-wing liberal, Mr. Fawcett believes that both categories of thought (and politics) are facing critical tests, making it all the more urgent that we grasp their genealogyhow they developed and what they have come to represent. He calls his explorations historical essays, and indeed they are written in a reflective mode, though at times in an impassioned style. Members of both thought-categories will find much to learn from both books, not least from the historical figures Mr. Fawcett brings into view.

Mr. Fawcett notes that, in the broadest terms, the modern era in advanced societies has been governed by a liberal outlook, one in which the liberty or freedom of the individual has been increasingly protected from the state or liberated from custom, hierarchy and the institutionsnotably, the churchthat once dictated social relations and guided mans understanding of himself. The origins of this outlook, he notes, can be traced to the Enlightenment, when reason was elevated to an exalted position and, it was believed, a rational scrutiny of both principles and institutions would lead humanity away from dark superstition and upward toward the light.

Enlightenment thinkers, Mr. Fawcett reminds us, encouraged the idea that society might be understood and thereby changed for the better. They also sought to sever moral codes from their traditional mooring, or at least to rethink them: As Mr. Fawcett puts it, David Hume and Immanuel Kant welcomed liberty from ethical tutelage so that men could determine their own standards of conduct. The German statesman Wilhelm von Humboldt saw education as a way to realize individual possibility rather than, as tradition would have it, train for an occupation or a social role. Benjamin Constant, in France, focused on the concept of liberty, which he defined as a condition of existence allowing people to turn away interference from either society or the state. Calling absolute power radically illegitimate, Franois Guizot insisted that human imperfection meant that no person, class, faith or interest should have the final say. Like other French liberals of his day, he sought a juste milieua place where interests and ideas could be balanced. Enlightenment philosophers on the Continent also challenged the assumptions of the ancien rgime, helping open careers to talent and remove restrictions on office-holding long governed by religion and class.

These currents of thought we associate with the 18th century, and for good reason, but after the shock of the American and French revolutions, they were dammed up by the Napoleonic Wars and an interlude of restoration. It was only in the 1830s that the dam broke. A period of rapid changebrought on by the dislocations of the Industrial Revolution, the railways remarkable shrinking of distance, and episodes of agricultural depression and financial crisisdemanded a re-assessment of established patterns of thought and governance. Enlightenment-driven liberalism was one mode of response; conservatism, one might say, was a response to the response.

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Introduction to The New York Times’ 1619 Project and the Racialist Falsification of History – WSWS

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Published below is the introduction by World Socialist Web Site International Editorial Board Chairman David North to the forthcoming book, The New York Times 1619 Project and the Racialist Falsification of History. It is available for pre-order at Mehring Books for delivery in late January 2021.

The volume is a comprehensive refutation of the New York Times 1619 Project, a racialist falsification of the history of the American Revolution and Civil War. In addition to historical essays, it includes interviews from eminent historians of the United States, including James McPherson, James Oakes, Gordon Wood, Richard Carwardine, Victoria Bynum, and Clayborne Carson.


I should respectfully suggest that although the oppressed may need history for identity and inspiration, they need it above all for the truth of what the world has made of them and of what they have helped make of the world. This knowledge alone can produce that sense of identity which ought to be sufficient for inspiration; and those who look to history to provide glorious moments and heroes invariably are betrayed into making catastrophic errors of political judgment.Eugene Genovese [1]

Both ideological and historical myths are a product of immediate class interests. These myths may be refuted by restoring historical truththe honest presentation of actual facts and tendencies of the past.Vadim Z. Rogovin [2]

On August 14, 2019, the New York Times unveiled the 1619 Project. Timed to coincide with the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves in colonial Virginia, the 100-page special edition of the New York Times Magazine consisted of a series of essays that present American history as an unyielding racial struggle, in which black Americans have waged a solitary fight to redeem democracy against white racism.

The Times mobilized vast editorial and financial resources behind the 1619 Project. With backing from the corporate-endowed Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, hundreds of thousands of copies were sent to schools. The 1619 Project fanned out to other media formats. Plans were even announced for films and television programming, backed by billionaire media personality Oprah Winfrey.

As a business venture the 1619 Project clambers on, but as an effort at historical revision it has been, to a great extent, discredited. This outcome is owed in large measure to the intervention of the World Socialist Web Site, with the support of a number of distinguished and courageous historians, which exposed the 1619 Project for what it is: a combination of shoddy journalism, careless and dishonest research, and a false, politically-motivated narrative that makes racism and racial conflict the central driving forces of American history.

In support of its claim that American history can be understood only when viewed through the prism of racial conflict, the 1619 Project sought to discredit American historys two foundational events: The Revolution of 177583, and the Civil War of 186165. This could only be achieved by a series of distortions, omissions, half-truths, and false statementsdeceptions that are catalogued and refuted in this book.

The New York Times is no stranger to scandals produced by dishonest and unprincipled journalism. Its long and checkered history includes such episodes as its endorsement of the Moscow frame-up trials of 193638 by its Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent, Walter Duranty, and, during World War II, its unconscionable decision to treat the murder of millions of European Jews as a relatively unimportant story that did not require extensive and systematic coverage. [3] More recently, the Times was implicated, through the reporting of Judith Miller and the columns of Thomas Friedman, in the peddling of government misinformation about weapons of mass destruction that served to legitimize the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Many other examples of flagrant violations of even the generally lax standards of journalistic ethics could be cited, especially during the past decade, as the New York Timeslisted on the New York Stock Exchange with a market capitalization of $7.5 billionacquired increasingly the character of a media empire.

The financialization of the Times has proceeded alongside another critical determinant of the newspapers selection of issues to be publicized and promoted: that is, its central role in the formulation and aggressive marketing of the policies of the Democratic Party. This process has served to obliterate the always tenuous boundary lines between objective reporting and sheer propaganda. The consequences of the Times financial and political evolution have found a particularly reactionary expression in the 1619 Project. Led by Ms. Nikole Hannah-Jones and New York Times Magazine editor Jake Silverstein, the 1619 Project was developed for the purpose of providing the Democratic Party with a historical narrative that legitimized its efforts to develop an electoral constituency based on the promotion of racial politics. Assisting the Democratic Partys decades-long efforts to disassociate itself from its identification with the social welfare liberalism of the New Deal to Great Society era, the 1619 Project, by prioritizing racial conflict, marginalizes, and even eliminates, class conflict as a notable factor in history and politics.

The shift from class struggle to racial conflict did not develop within a vacuum. The New York Times, as we shall explain, is drawing upon and exploiting reactionary intellectual tendencies that have been fermenting within substantial sections of middle-class academia for several decades.

The political interests and related ideological considerations that motivated the 1619 Project determined the unprincipled and dishonest methods employed by the Times in its creation. The New York Times was well aware of the fact that it was promoting a race-based narrative of American history that could not withstand critical evaluation by leading scholars of the Revolution and Civil War. The New York Times Magazines editor deliberately rejected consultation with the most respected and authoritative historians.

Moreover, when one of the Times fact-checkers identified false statements that were utilized to support the central arguments of the 1619 Project, her findings were ignored. And as the false claims and factual errors were exposed, the Times surreptitiously edited key phrases in 1619 Project material posted online. The knowledge and expertise of historians of the stature of Gordon Wood and James McPherson were of no use to the Times. Its editors knew they would object to the central thesis of the 1619 Project, promoted by lead essayist Hannah-Jones: that the American Revolution was launched as a conspiracy to defend slavery against pending British emancipation.

Ms. Hannah-Jones had asserted:

Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere. In London, there were growing calls to abolish the slave trade [S]ome might argue that this nation was founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy. [4]

This claimthat the American Revolution was not a revolution at all, but a counterrevolution waged to defend slaveryis freighted with enormous implications for American and world history. The denunciation of the American Revolution legitimizes the rejection of all historical narratives that attribute any progressive content to the overthrow of British rule over the colonies and, therefore, to the wave of democratic revolutions that it inspired throughout the world. If the establishment of the United States was a counterrevolution, the founding document of this eventthe Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the equality of manmerits only contempt as an exemplar of the basest hypocrisy.

How, then, can one explain the explosive global impact of the American Revolution upon the thought and politics of its immediate contemporaries and of the generations that followed?

The philosopher Diderotamong the greatest of all Enlightenment thinkersresponded ecstatically to the American Revolution:

After centuries of general oppression, may the revolution which has just occurred across the seas, by offering all the inhabitants of Europe an asylum against fanaticism and tyranny, instruct those who govern men on the legitimate use of their authority! May these brave Americans, who would rather see their wives raped, their children murdered, their dwellings destroyed, their fields ravaged, their villages burned, and rather shed their blood and die than lose the slightest portion of their freedom, prevent the enormous accumulation and unequal distribution of wealth, luxury, effeminacy, and corruption of manners, and may they provide for the maintenance of their freedom and the survival of their government! [5]

Voltaire, in February 1778, only months before his death, arranged a public meeting with Benjamin Franklin, the much-celebrated envoy of the American Revolution. The aged philosophe related in a letter that his embrace of Franklin was witnessed by twenty spectators who were moved to tender tears. [6]

Marx was correct when he wrote, in his 1867 preface to the first edition of Das Kapital that the American war of independence sounded the tocsin for the European middle class, inspiring the uprisings that were to sweep away the feudal rubbish, accumulated over centuries, of the Ancien Rgime. [7]

As the historian Peter Gay noted in his celebrated study of Enlightenment culture and politics, The liberty that the Americans had won and were guarding was not merely an exhilarating performance that delighted European spectators and gave them grounds for optimism about man; it was also proving a realistic ideal worthy of imitation. [8]

R.R. Palmer, among the most erudite of mid-twentieth century historians, defined the American Revolution as a critical moment in the evolution of Western Civilization, the beginning of a forty-year era of democratic revolutions. Palmer wrote:

[T]he American and the French Revolutions, the two chief actual revolutions of the period, with all due allowance for the great differences between them, nevertheless shared a great deal in common, and that what they shared was shared also at the same time by various people and movements in other countries, notably in England, Ireland, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy, but also in Germany, Hungary, and Poland, and by scattered individuals in places like Spain and Russia. [9]

More recently, Jonathan Israel, the historian of Radical Enlightenment, argues that the American Revolution

formed part of a wider transatlantic revolutionary sequence, a series of revolutions in France, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, Haiti, Poland, Spain, Greece, and Spanish America. The endeavors of the Founding Fathers and their followings abroad prove the deep interaction of the American Revolution and its principles with the other revolutions, substantiating the Revolutions global role less as a directly intervening force than inspirational motor, the primary model, for universal change. [10]

Marxists have never viewed either the American or French Revolutions through rose-tinted glasses. In examining world historical events, Friedrich Engels rejected simplistic pragmatic interpretations that explain and judge everything according to the motives of the action, which divides men in their historical activity into noble and ignoble and then finds that as a rule the noble are defrauded and the ignoble are victorious. Personal motives, Engels insisted, are only of a secondary significance. The critical questions that historians must ask are: What driving forces in turn stand behind these motives? What are the historical causes which transform themselves into these motives in the brains of the actors? [11]

Whatever the personal motives and individual limitations of those who led the struggle for independence, the revolution waged by the American colonies against the British Crown was rooted in objective socioeconomic processes associated with the rise of capitalism as a world system. Slavery had existed for several thousand years, but the specific form that it assumed between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries was bound up with the development and expansion of capitalism. As Marx explained:

The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of the era of capitalist accumulation. [12]

Marx and Engels insisted upon the historically progressive character of the American Revolution, an appraisal that was validated by the Civil War. Marx wrote to Lincoln in 1865 that it was in the American Revolution that the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century... [13]

Nothing in Ms. Hannah-Jones essay indicates that she has thought through, or is even aware of the implications, from the standpoint of world history, of the 1619 Projects denunciation of the American Revolution. In fact, the 1619 Project was concocted without consulting the works of the preeminent historians of the Revolution and Civil War. This was not an oversight, but rather, the outcome of a deliberate decision by the New York Times to bar, to the greatest extent possible, the participation of white scholars in the development and writing of the essays. In an article titled How the 1619 Project Came Together, published on August 18, 2019, the Times informed its readers: Almost every contributor in the magazine and special sectionwriters, photographers and artistsis black, a nonnegotiable aspect of the project that helps underscore its thesis... [14]

In fact, despite the color barrier favored by Hannah-Jones, a number of the essays included in the 1619 Project were written by whites. These effortsby sociologist Matthew Desmond and historian Kevin Krusewere no better than the rest. This only goes to prove that the racialist viewpoint is rooted not in the racial identity of the author, but rather, in his or her class position and ideological orientation.

In any event, even if the Timeshad to bend its own rules, the nonnegotiable and racist insistence that the 1619 Project be produced almost exclusively by blacks was justified with the false claim that white historians had largely ignored the subject of American slavery. And on the rare occasions when white historians acknowledged slaverys existence, they either downplayed its significance or lied about it. Therefore, only black writers could tell our story truthfully. The 1619 Projects race-based narrative would place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are. [15]

The 1619 Project was a falsification not only of history, but of historiography. It ignored the work of two generations of American historians, dating back to the 1950s. The authors and editors of the 1619 Project had consulted no serious scholarship on slavery, the American Revolution, the abolitionist movement, the Civil War, or Jim Crow segregation. There is no evidence that Hannah-Jones study of American history extended beyond the reading of a single book, written in the early 1960s, by the late black nationalist writer, Lerone Bennett, Jr. Her reframing of American history, to be sent out to the schools as the foundation of a new curriculum, did not even bother with a bibliography.

Hannah-Jones and Silverstein argued that they were creating a new narrative, to replace the supposedly white narrative that had existed before. In one of her countless Twitter tirades, Hannah-Jones declared that the 1619 Project is not a history. It is, rather, about who gets to control the national narrative, and, therefore, the nations shared memory of itself. In this remark, Hannah-Jones explicitly extols the separation of historical research from the effort to truthfully reconstruct the past. The purpose of history is declared to be nothing more than the creation of a serviceable narrative for the realization of one or another political agenda. The truth or untruth of the narrative is not a matter of concern.

Nationalist mythmaking has, for a long period, played a significant political role in promoting the interests of aggrieved middle-class strata that are striving to secure a more privileged place in the existing power structures. As Eric Hobsbawm laconically observed, The socialists who rarely used the word nationalism without the prefix petty-bourgeois, knew what they were talking about. [16]

Despite the claims that Hannah-Jones was forging a new path for the study and understanding of American history, the 1619 Projects insistence on a race-centered history of America, authored by African-American historians, revived the racial arguments promoted by black nationalists in the 1960s. For all the militant posturing, the underlying agenda, as subsequent events were to demonstrate, was to carve out special career niches for the benefit of a segment of the African-American middle class. In the academic world, this agenda advanced the demand that subject matter that pertained to the historical experience of the black population should be allocated exclusively to African Americans. Thus, in the ensuing fight for the distribution of privilege and status, leading historians who had made major contributions to the study of slavery were denounced for intruding, as whites, into a subject that could be understood and explained only by black historians. Peter Novick, in his book That Noble Dream, recalled the impact of black nationalist racism on the writing of American history:

Kenneth Stampp was told by militants that, as a white man, he had no right to write The Peculiar Institution. Herbert Gutman, presenting a paper to the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, was shouted down. A white colleague who was present (and had the same experience), reported that Gutman was shattered. Gutman pleaded to no avail that he was extremely supportive of the black liberation movementif people would just forget that I am white and hear what I am saying [it] would lend support to the movement. Among the most dramatic incidents of this sort was the treatment accorded Robert Starobin, a young leftist supporter of the Black Panthers, who delivered a paper on slavery at a Wayne State University conference in 1969, an incident which devastated Starobin at the time, and was rendered the more poignant by his suicide the following year. [17]

Despite these attacks, white historians continued to write major studies on American slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction. Rude attempts to introduce a racial qualification in judging a historians right to deal with slavery met with vigorous opposition. The historian Eugene Genovese (19302012), the author of such notable works as The Political Economy of Slavery and The World the Slaveholders Made, wrote:

Every historian of the United States and especially the South cannot avoid making estimates of the black experience, for without them he cannot make estimates of anything else. When, therefore, I am asked, in the fashion of our inane times, what right I, as a white man, have to write about black people, I am forced to reply in four-letter words. [18]

This passage was written more than a half century ago. Since the late 1960s, the efforts to racialize scholarly work, against which Genovese rightly polemicized, have assumed such vast proportions that they cannot be adequately described as merely inane. Under the influence of postmodernism and its offspring, critical race theory, the doors of American universities have been flung wide open for the propagation of deeply reactionary conceptions. Racial identity has replaced social class and related economic processes as the principal and essential analytic category.

Whiteness theory, the latest rage, is now utilized to deny historical progress, reject objective truth, and interpret all events and facets of culture through the prism of alleged racial self-interest. On this basis, the sheerest nonsense can be spouted with the guarantee that all objections grounded on facts and science will be dismissed as a manifestation of white fragility or some other form of hidden racism. In this degraded environment, Ibram X. Kendi can write the following absurd passage, without fear of contradiction, in his Stamped from the Beginning:

For Enlightenment intellectuals, the metaphor of light typically had a double meaning. Europeans had rediscovered learning after a thousand years in religious darkness, and their bright continental beacon of insight existed in the midst of a darkworld not yet touched by light. Light, then, became a metaphor for Europeanness, and therefore Whiteness, a notion that Benjamin Franklin and his philosophical society eagerly embraced and imported to the colonies. Enlightenment ideas gave legitimacy to this long-held racist partiality, the connection between lightness and Whiteness and reason, on the one hand, and between darkness and Blackness and ignorance, on the other. [19]

This is a ridiculous concoction that attributes to the word Enlightenment a racial significance that has absolutely no foundation in etymology, let alone history. The word employed by the philosopher Immanuel Kant in 1784 to describe this period of scientific advance was Aufklrung, which may be translated from the German as clarification or clearing up, connoting an intellectual awakening. The English translation of Aufklrung as Enlightenment dates from 1865, seventy-five years after the death of Benjamin Franklin, whom Kendi references in support of his racial argument. [20]

Another term used by English speaking people to describe the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has been The Age of Reason, which was employed by Tom Paine in his scathing assault on religion and all forms of superstition. Kendis attempt to root Enlightenment in a white racist impulse is based on nothing but empty juggling with words. In point of fact, modern racism is connected historically and intellectually to the Anti-Enlightenment, whose most significant nineteenth century representative, Count Gobineau, wrote The Inequality of the Human Races. But actual history plays no role in the formulation of Kendis pseudo-intellectual fabrications. His work is stamped with ignorance.

History is not the only discipline assaulted by the race specialists. In an essay titled Music Theory and the White Racial Frame, Professor Philip A. Ewell of Hunter College in New York declares, I posit that there exists a white racial frame in music theory that is structural and institutionalized, and that only through a reframing of this white racial frame will we begin to see positive racial changes in music theory. [21]

This degradation of music theory divests the discipline of its scientific and historically developed character. The complex principles and elements of composition, counterpoint, tonality, consonance, dissonance, timbre, rhythm, notation, etc. are derived, Ewell claims, from racial characteristics. Professor Ewell is loitering in the ideological territory of the Third Reich. There is more than a passing resemblance between his call for the liberation of music from whiteness and the efforts of Nazi academics in the Germany of the 1930s and 1940s to liberate music from Jewishness. The Nazis denounced Mendelssohn as a mediocrity whose popularity was the insidious manifestation of Jewish efforts to dominate Aryan culture. In similar fashion, Ewell proclaims that Beethoven was merely above average as a composer, and that he occupies the place he does because he has been propped up by whiteness and maleness for two hundred years. [22]

Academic journals covering virtually every field of study are exploding with ignorant rubbish of this sort. Even physics has not escaped the onslaught of racial theorizing. In a recent essay, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, assistant physics professor at the University of New Hampshire, proclaims that race and ethnicity impact epistemic outcomes in physics, and introduces the concept of white empiricism (italics in the original), which comes to dominate empirical discourse in physics because whiteness powerfully shapes the predominant arbiters of who is a valid observer of physical and social phenomena. [23]

Prescod-Weinstein asserts that knowledge production in physics is contingent on the ascribed identities of the physicists, the racial and gender background of scientists affects the way scientific research is conducted, and, therefore, the observations and experiments conducted by African-American and female physicists will produce results different than those conducted by white males. Prescod-Weinstein identifies with the contingentists who challenge any assumption that scientific decision making is purely objective. [24]

The assumption of objectivity is, she claims, a major problem. Scientists, Prescod-Weinstein complains, are typically monistsbelievers in the idea that there is only one science This monist approach to science typically forecloses a closer investigation of how identity and epistemic outcomes intermix. Yet white empiricism undermines a significant theory of twentieth century physics: General Relativity. (Emphasis added) [25]

Prescod-Weinsteins attack on the objectivity of scientific knowledge is buttressed with a distortion of Einsteins theory.

Albert Einsteins monumental contribution to our empirical understanding of gravity is rooted in the principal of covariance, which is the simple idea that there is no single objective frame of reference that is more objective than any other. All frames of reference, all observers, are equally competent and capable of observing the universal laws that underlie the workings of our physical universe. (Emphasis added) [26]

In fact, general relativitys statement about covariance posits a fundamental symmetry in the universe, so that the laws of nature are the same for all observers. Einsteins great (though hardly simple) initial insight, studying Maxwells equations on electromagnetism involving the speed of light in a vacuum, was that these equations were true in all reference frames. The fact that two observers measure a third light particle in space as traveling at the same speed, even if they are in motion relative to each other, led Einstein to a profound theoretical redefinition of how matter exists in space and time. These theories were confirmed by experiment, a result that will not be refuted by changing the race or gender of those conducting the experiment.

Mass, space, time and other quantities turned out to be varying and relative, depending on ones reference frame. But this variation is lawful, not subjectivelet alone racially determined. It bears out the monist conception. There are no such things as distinct, racially superior, black female, or white empiricist statements or reference frames on physical reality. There is an ascertainable objective truth, genuinely independent of consciousness, about the material world.

Furthermore, all observers, regardless of their education and expertise, are not equally competent and capable of observing, let alone discovering, the universal laws that govern the universe. Physicists, whatever their personal identities, must be properly educated, and this education, hopefully, will not be marred by the type of ideological rubbish propagated by race and gender theorists.

There is, of course, an audience for the anti-scientific nonsense propounded by Prescod-Weinstein. Underlying much of contemporary racial and gender theorizing is frustration and anger over the allocation of positions within the academy. Prescod-Weinsteins essay is a brief on behalf of all those who believe that their professional careers have been hindered by white empiricism. She attempts to cover over her falsification of science with broad and unsubstantiated claims that racism is ubiquitous among white physicists, who, she alleges, simply refuse to accept the legitimacy of research conducted by black female scientists.

It is possible that a very small number of physicists are racists. But that possibility does not lend legitimacy to her efforts to ascribe to racial identity an epistemological significance that affects the outcome of research. Along these lines, Prescod-Weinstein asserts that the claims to objective truth made by white empiricism rest on force. This is a variant of the postmodernist dogma that what is termed objective truth is nothing more than a manifestation of the power relations between conflicting social forces. She writes:

White empiricism is the practice of allowing social discourse to insert itself into empirical reasoning about physics, and it actively harms the development of comprehensive understandings of the natural world by precluding putting provincial European ideas about sciencewhich have become dominant through colonial forceinto conversation with ideas that are more strongly associated with indigeneity, whether it is African indigeneity or another. (Emphasis added) [27]

The prevalence and legitimization of racialist theorizing is a manifestation of a deep intellectual, social, and cultural crisis of contemporary capitalist society. As in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, race theory is acquiring an audience among disoriented sections of middle-class intellectuals. While most, if not all, of the academics who promote a racial agenda may sincerely believe that they are combating race-based prejudice, they are, nevertheless, propagating anti-scientific and irrationalist ideas which, whatever their personal intentions, serve reactionary ends.

The interaction of racialist ideology as it has developed over several decades in the academy and the political agenda of the Democratic Party is the motivating force behind the 1619 Project. Particularly under conditions of extreme social polarization, in which there is growing interest in and support for socialism, the Democratic Partyas a political instrument of the capitalist classis anxious to shift the focus of political discussion away from issues that raise the specter of social inequality and class conflict. This is the function of a reinterpretation of history that places race at the center of its narrative.

The 1619 Project did not emerge overnight. For several years, corresponding to the growing role played by various forms of identity politics in the electoral strategy of the Democratic Party, the Times has become fixated, to an extent that can be legitimately described as obsessive, on race. It often appears that the main purpose of the news coverage and commentary of the Times is to reveal the racial essence of any given event or issue.

A search of the archive of the New York Times shows that the term white privilege appeared in only four articles in 2010. In 2013, the term appeared in twenty-two articles. By 2015, the Times published fifty-two articles in which the term is referenced. In 2020, as of December 1, the Times had published 257 articles in which there is a reference to white privilege.

The word whiteness appeared in only fifteen Times articles in 2000. By 2018, the number of articles in which the word appeared had grown to 222. By December 1, 2020, whiteness was referenced in 280 articles.

The Times unrelenting focus on race during the past year, even in its obituary section, has been clearly related to the 2020 electoral strategy of the Democratic Party. The 1619 Project was conceived of as a critical element of this strategy. This was explicitly stated by the Times executive editor, Dean Baquet, in a meeting on August 12, 2019 with the newspapers staff:

[R]ace and understanding of race should be a part of how we cover the American story one reason we all signed off on the 1619 Project and made it so ambitious and expansive was to teach our readers to think a little bit more like that. Race in the next yearand I think this is, to be frank, what I hope you come away from this discussion withrace in the next year is going to be a huge part of the American story. [28]

The New York Times effort to teach its readers to think a little bit more about race assumed the form of a falsification of American history, aimed at discrediting the revolutionary struggles that gave rise to the founding of the United States in 1776 and the ultimate destruction of slavery during the Civil War. This falsification could only contribute to the erosion of democratic consciousness, legitimize a racialized view of American history and society, and undermine the unity of the broad mass of Americans in their common struggle against conditions of social inequality and exploitation.

In Depth

The New York Times 1619 Project

The Times Project is a politically-motivated falsification of history. It presents the origins of the United States entirely through the prism of racial conflict.

The racialist campaign of the New York Times has unfolded against the backdrop of a pandemic ravaging working-class communities, regardless of race and ethnicity, throughout the United States and the world. The global death toll has already surpassed 1.5 million. Within the United States, the number of COVID-19 deaths will surpass 300,000 before the end of the year. The pandemic has also brought economic devastation to millions of Americans. The unemployment rate is approaching Great Depression levels. Countless millions of people are without any source of income and depend upon food banks for their daily sustenance.

And while the pandemic rages, the structures of American democracy are breaking down beneath the weight of the social contradictions produced by a staggering level of wealth concentration in a small fraction of the population. The 2020 presidential campaign was conducted amidst fascistic conspiracies, orchestrated from within the White House, to establish a dictatorship. The old adage, It Cant Happen Here, coined in the 1930s during the ascent of fascism in Europe, has been refuted by events. It is happening here is a correct description of the American reality.

In the midst of this unprecedented social and political catastrophe, requiring a united response by all sections of the working class, the New York Times has devoted its energies to promoting a false narrative that portrays American history as a perpetual war between the races. In this grotesque distortion there is no place for the working class or for the class struggle, which has been the dominant factor in American social history for the past 150 years, and in which African-American workers have fought heroically alongside their white brothers and sisters. The extreme social crisis triggered by the pandemic, and the desperate conditions that confront tens of millions of working people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, constitute an unanswerable indictment of the reactionary premises of the 1619 Project. The factual refutation of the 1619 Projects falsification of history is provided in the essays and interviews with distinguished historians published in this volume.

David North


December 3, 2020


[1] The Nat Turner Case, in The New York Review of Books, September 12, 1968.

[2] Vadim Z. Rogovin, Bolsheviks Against Stalinism 19281933: Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition (Oak Park: 2019), p. 2.

[3] Laurel Leff, Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and Americas Most Important Newspaper (Cambridge: 2005), p. 5.

[4] New York Times Magazine, August 18, 2019, p. 18.

[5] Cited in Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom (New York and London: 1996), pp. 55657.

[6] Ibid, p. 557.

[7] Karl Marx, Capital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production I, Volume I (London: 1974), p. 20.

[8] Gay, The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom, p. 558.

[9] R.R. Palmer, The Age of Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 17601800 (Princeton: 1959), p. 5.

[10] Jonathan Israel, The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World, 17751848 (Princeton: 2017), pp. 1718.

[11] Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy (New York: 2018), p. 49.

[12] Karl Marx, Capital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production, Volume I (London: 1974), p. 703.

[13] Karl Marx, To Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Collected Works, Volume 20 (New York: 1984), p. 19.

[14] How the 1619 Project Came Together, accessed on 12/3/2020:

[15] New York Times Magazine, August 18, 2019, p. 5

[16] E.J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Program, Myth, Reality (London: 1991), p. 117.

[17] Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The Objectivity Question and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge: 1988), p. 475.

[18] Eugene D. Genovese, In Red and Black: Marxian Explorations in Southern and Afro-American History (New York: 1968), p. viii.

[19] Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (New York: 2017), p. 80.


[21] Music Theory and the White Racial Frame, in MTO, Volume 26, Number 2, September 2020.

[22] Beethoven Was an Above Average ComposerLets Leave It at That, April 24, 2020, accessed on 12/3/2020:

[23] Making Black Women Scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of Epistemology in Physics, in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 2020 Volume 45, No. 2, p. 421.

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Introduction to The New York Times' 1619 Project and the Racialist Falsification of History - WSWS

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The Composting Costumier talks The Planet – A Lament with Garin Nugroho | Columns – Aussie Theatre

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This interview took place between Boon Wurrung Land of the Kulin Nation, Australia; and Jakarta, Indonesia. I acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants and traditional custodians of this nation and pay my respects to First Nations Elders past and present and traditional owners of all lands on which this interview took place.

The Planet A Lament was part of a the Asia TOPA festival supported by Arts Centre Melbourne at the beginning of 2020. While Arts Centre Melbourne begins to open up outdoor events in December, their Together With You program will continue to be available online, where you can watch a digital showing of The Planet A Lament as part of Asia TOPA Connected.

This article is part of a two part series that also includes an interview with set and costume designer Anna Tregloan. A podcast version of Garins interview is available through the Climactic Network here or by searching The Composting Costumier on Apple Podcasts.

(Readers are advised that this interview contains some descriptions of physical and political violence and conflict.)

CC: I watched The Planet A Lament a few weeks ago, so thought now would be a good time to hear a bit from you about that process. GN: The important issue of The [Planet, A] Lament is a song about enlightenment and death. I think it is the important issue of the era of Covid now it is about death and survival and enlightenment. These are three words that are important today and if you saw The Lament itself, its a story about someone who saved the planet. [Those are] the two words, pandemic and tsunami an environmental problem and [a] pandemic. In this way the issue of Planet is about death, survival, enlightenment and also about so many problems with the environment, with tsunamis (especially in my country) and about [the] pandemic itself. Which is why in one chapter of The Planet there is the song [that asks], where do we want to go? Where are the natural places that make us safe?

CC: You said that it relates to what were going through now, but the tsunami youre also talking about is the 2004 tsunami isnt it? GN: Yeah, Because Indonesia is the ring of fire, it has more than 100 mountains active in my country. [The show is] In between environment and how people must understand the character [of the] environment and survival, but also know that the cycle of life is also part of human existence itself. And I have experienced so many [environmental catastrophes]: with the tsunami in Jakarta; with the mountain eruption in Aceh; I came to this [work-The Planet, A Lament] after the tsunami in Papua and Nusa Tenggara, I always come [to create work] in the chaotic atmosphere in the relationship between human beings and environment.

CC: So you started working on this particular piece in 2014? Is that right? GN: I started in 2014, but the idea was a long time ago, about 5 years before 2014. Because I have experience in so many catastrophes, not only in the environment but in politics. I saw many conflicts: between tribes; between politics and society; in Ambon, in Kalimantan in front of my eyes. For example: in Jakarta between tribes of Makassar and Ambon for example; in Kalimantan: between Kalimantan and Madura for example; in Anbon between Muslim and Christianity for example. And everything is bleeding in front of my eyes- bleeding. [They] cut the nose [of eachother] cut the eyes, in front of my eyes. And the second thing is, I always come to the area of catastrophes, because of the environment: mountain eruption or tsunami for example, in front of my eyes.

And then I always have experience in lament, I dreamed to make a lament.

Lament is personal, personal in every human-being individual. And I believe in the catastrophes in the world now, this is the important [thing], that every human-being individual has the lament in their soul.

And that is why when in 2014 AsiaTOPA asked me to make a new performance, then directly I brought the idea of The Lament itself.

CC: Youve got a team from Indonesia, Melanasia and Australia, what was it like bringing that team together? GN: Melanasia is an important thing in political and cultural geography in the world. Melanasia is the area from Australia, Papua, Nusa Tenggara, Timor and also Hawaii, etc etc. In Hawaii itself World War Two is also an important issue [because thats where] the Japanese lost [to the American Allies] in 1945. It means Melanasia is also one of the political geographies that changed the world itself. In this way geopolitically it is also important. The second thing is also that the Black society a proud society is also [living across a] very big area (except the US). You can see like Papua, Nusa Tenggara you know, and Melanasia have a special character, that centres voices in song and I think [that makes it] one of the important sources of the musical key and voices in the area of Melanasia. And the third thing is also because Nusa Tanggara and Papua, (part of Indonesia) is the biggest population of Melanasian society itself. And If you read the history of music and the musical key, that forest part of Nusa Tenggar is one of the best sources of vocals and music in the world I think in the forest itself. Thats why Melanasia is a very important map for the choir and Lament.

CC: The natural disasters would be a shared experience for everyone in the team, how did all the different experiences feed into the piece? GN: I think the important thing is the voices of society. This is the important thing of the lament. If you saw all the members of the choir, [they dont] come from one area, or one city, or one village, they come from many areas of Nusa Tenggara, from Rote, from Batawa, from many areas with different perspectives. It means they came together with their own [individual] Laments and [together] it has become the orchestra of Lament with the differences different experiences, different backgrounds like that.

And The orchestra of Lament from different persons, characters, people becomes the orchestra of humanity and I think this becomes the soul of the planet itself.

We also only choose the songs that are not diatonic but pentatonic, only note 1 until 5,not to 7. [Note: most European based music, which would have been brought to Indonesia through colonisation, is written using a diatonic scale with 7 degrees/notes, the pentatonic scale contains 5]. Why? Because the aural tradition in my country is more pentatonic: the dilemma in Indonesia is the majority of the church and the country only bring diatonic songs, in church for example, or in choir group for example. But the biggest lament that develops from society is more pentatonic and that is why we collected all the pentatonic songs, laments and transformed them into the choir method which I think has become one of the important processes of The Lament itself. Because its never happened in Indonesia that [they] collected the songs with the pentatonic [tonality] from many areas or villages and then transformed [them] with the choral method.

CC: One of the things I found really interesting was the three creatures that come out of the wreckage of humanity after the collapse, what was the idea behind those? GN: The idea is always connected with the environment. Because the sense of this [is that in] the planet [there are] more environmental dilemmas now and [will be in] the future. The three creatures are because all the development of humanity [has been] the development of dead things. Dead things [are] like the car, hotel; everything that is not part of the environment the car, street, building, everything. The dead things are developed so fast, and the live things like [the] forrest are getting more and more displaced. It means all [that] humanity creates is developed from dead things, and the dead things are close to the live things. And it is a tragedy! [Society is] more clever, more intellectual, more technological, more sophisticated, more millennial, but we create more and more dead things and dont leave the room for the live things.

CC: So theyre like creatures made of the dead things. GN: Yes! The irony, something that humanity didnt realise,[is] that it is an irony of humanity: We are born as live creatures and then we develop the dead things bigger and bigger. And the three characters more represent the dead things itself, like plastic for example, that also cannot die, they also need energy, they cannot die. Then humanity develops the dead thing that never cannot, die! And it becomes more like a monster, like plastic is like a monster and these three character represent how the dead things have become a monster.

And if you saw all the cars, the buildings, everything is a monster that needs energy. The energy is created from the environment, and it is ruining the world. Its this irony, you create a dead thing, the dead thing needs energy and energy comes from the environment and kills the environment because the way you create the energy has broken the environment.

CC: In some of your other interviews youve spoken about the spirit of play and adding a childlike element to the process, what is the importance of that in bringing more humility and humanity into art? GN: Yeah I think we must think back to a sense of the lament itself, and the choir and the planet itself. I think now [its] always difficult to talk about the soul of the human being and the soul has become not an important thing. When I made The Planet A Lament, everyone said if you make this performance in a situation like the pandemic, what is the function of the timing of The Planet? and my answer is so simple:

Sometimes we need only 70 mins when use of our soul to say to the environment that we love the environment, not only [that we are] thinking [about] and exploring the environment and the function of the environment, but we love the environment with our soul and the environment is part of our soul.

And this way the humanity perspective is important in the performance of The Planet. All the movement, all the songs are part of the soul and environment itself, the way they walk for example. The way they express and everything is developed between the soul, the body, and the environment itself.

CC: Youve spoken about the experiences youve had with natural and political disasters, I was wondering, nowadays what sort of impact does the environment have on your life outside of theatre? Whether thats something that you do to connect back to the environment or whether thats the environment affecting you? GN: Now in between state and everyday life, has become mixed together. [For the] majority [of the time] if I make something, like film or theatre, then what happens onstage becomes part of my everyday life and this is the problem. When I came to Australia it [was just the start] of the pandemic and two members of my choir [had relations in Indonesia taken to the hospital because of Covid] even though it had not happened [here in Australia] yet and when I went back to Indonesia I had to go [for] some small operation in hospital and [so] then pandemic came together [with] when I was in hospital in everyday life. But I always have experienced that work onstage is always part of my everyday life. When I made the Opera Jawa (the producer is Peter Seller from the United States) [for the] opening [of] the 250 years of Mozart Anniversary by coordination and produced by Peter Seller [Note: The film Opera Jawa was commissioned of Garin by the government of Austria for Peter Sellers New Crowned Hope Festival to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozarts birth]. I made the Opera Jawa and I said that so many things in Java will be lost and at the end of the film, after the screening of the film, then the earthquake came, even in my home for example.

Sometimes onstage is part of my everyday life because creativity is part of the soul itself and if the soul is developed with the environment, then it will become part of your life because the soul is [part of] the environment itself. And if creativity is part of the soul it will [just] happen like that.

CC: Do you have any current projects that youre working on at the moment that youre able to speak about? I know were all in the middle of a pandemic, but whether theres anything going on? GN: Yeah I have a festival: the Performing Arts Festival. And we use the streaming online and I will be mentoring. We open proposals for all Indonesian communities of performing arts. Now its the fifth year and I think everyyear we have about 400 proposals and we choose about 14 performing arts communities and give them the mentoring because the majority of them are young people who are running the community. And everyday Saturday and Sunday they are performing and touring online for all Indonesian people with 14 performing arts that we choose from 400 open proposals. The second thing is that Ill still make the new musical for young people about the history of [the] environment in Indonesia that from the revolution of technology [global warming is increasing from] from 1.0 to 4.0 [degrees]. It always is about how they try to explore expiration of the environment itself. It means politics is always about how to bargain with the environment and [thats what] I make the musical theatre for young people [about] now.

CC: Is the idea that it will tour around Indonesia [in the future], or will it be online as well? Is it a long term kind of thing? GN: It will be online on 5th Dec for the musical theatre, next month. And the festival for performing arts is always running until the end of the year, until January on Saturdays and Monday for the community of performing arts in Indonesia.

CC: Is there anything else youd like audiences to know about from your show?

GN: I hope the audience likes this performance because Melanasia is one of the important political and cultural geographies. And in this pandemic era, I think to hear the lament as the soul that comes from the body of society and the environment, is an important time for us together.

The Composting Costumier talks The Planet - A Lament with Garin Nugroho | Columns - Aussie Theatre

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Why Is It Important to Remember What Came Before? > News > USC Dornsife – USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

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Memory lies at the heart of many academic disciplines. [6 min read]

Nearly every living thing on the planet has memory. Beyond the reach of our individual memories, fossils remember long-ago landscapes, while groups of people use folklore to pass down a collective memory dating back centuries or even millennia. But for all its utility, memory can be misused, too. Even today, wars are fought over conflicting accounts of the true versions of historical events dating back thousands of years. Whatever its function, memory is everywhere. Here, four USC Dornsife scholars discuss how it is expressed in diverse disciplines, from Earth sciences to history and from anthropology to American studies and ethnicity.

EARTH SCIENCES: Memories Preserved in Leaf Wax

Sarah Feakins, associate professor of Earth sciences,and her team study changing water availability and plant life, key components of the habitability of our environment. By studying ecosystems past and present, they advance knowledge of how the climate system works and how plants respond and interact with climate.

In her Leaf Wax Lab at USC Dornsife, Feakinsstudies climate and plant life through the waxycoating on plant leaves. Not only do these remarkable molecules have important functions for living plants, they are preserved over geological time. As Feakins says, Leaf wax is the molecular legacy of past forests and grasslands. This waxy memory paints pictures of the landscapes in which our human ancestors evolved.

Her work is not a historical curiosity. The past illuminates what we can expect as we dial up the planetary thermostat, she says. It helps us to wrap our heads around the transformative change of ecosystem disruption ahead.

Feakins and her team reconstruct evidence for how climate patterns and plant life have changed over tens of millions of years by studying the material that has been eroded from land and preserved in sediments offshore. To access these sea-floor sediments, she participates in the International Ocean Discovery Program.

My research is driven by a need to understand environments in which we evolved and warm times of the past thatare relevant to our future trajectory, she says. Warmperiods of the past provide lessons for future climate states, beyond the range of historical witness.

ANTHROPOLOGY: Shaping Our Cultural Memory

Our cultural and collective memory is shaped through folk stories like mythology and legends, notesTok Thompson, professor (teaching) ofanthropology.

Myths, for example, are universal. They are found in biblical passages, Greek epics and creation tales. They provide a road map for those seeking order in the world or a guideto daily self-conduct. But this aura of universality can be inherently dangerous, leading people to believe their culturally inscribed behaviors are natural rather than habitual, Thompson argues.

Mythology is not about history, but it uses history. It uses the idea of the past to make sense of our current condition, Thompson says. Not all myths are problematic some are simple entertainment, some provide a record of ecological events from hundreds or thousands of years ago, some convey general knowledge but we also need to be aware of their potential for exploitation.

Mythology naturalizes culture, Thompson says. Usually when people say something is natural, they mean it is mythologically set in stone, which is very different from saying that something occurs in nature.

But while myths are often shaped by those in power, legends can be a more organic way of passing on information, one that often presents stories of those who have been left out of official accounts, Thompson says.He cites ghost stories as one example. Many such tales concern injustice the ghost was wronged in life and returns for a reason.

Often folk memories will remember what official memories dont want to, he says.

Folklore may or may not be factual, Thompson notes, but itprovides an important counterbalance to some of the more dominant political mythologies and narratives put forth by different groups.

History is written by the victors. Folklore is written by everybody, he concludes.

HISTORY: Remembering Rome

If history is about preserving, understanding and interpreting our memories, then Rome is a singular touchstone of memory, says Assistant Professor ofHistoryMaya Maskarinec.

What fascinates me is the way there have always been competing claims to Rome, which has fed into the citys prestige and mystique, she says. And Rome is malleable; it can be remembered and misremembered in different ways.

The legacy of Rome as a city, an ideal, an empire has been forged, forgotten, rediscovered and repurposed by people in a nearly ceaseless cycle for centuries.

To Christians of the Middle Ages, it was a testament to the endurance of their faith. To Renaissance artists and Enlightenment thinkers, it was the ideal model for aesthetics and rational thought. To many countries, past and present, it has symbolized the rule of law.

All of these different constellations make up what we imagine Rome to be, Maskarinec says.

But these competing claims were not always compatible, she notes. The idea of having rediscovered the ideas of Rome was central to the foundational concepts of the Holy Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and many other groups or people that claimed to be rescuing Roman ideals from the darkness of the preceding era. But for Rome to be rediscovered, it first had to be forgotten. After the sack of Rome in 410 A.D., the memory of theeternal city and all its glories was supposed to have faded, only to be recovered centuries later.

Part of why we have these narratives of loss is this desire to claim an authentic rediscovery of Rome, Maskarinec says. Central to claiming this authority was the argument that those who came before never truly understood Rome or what it stood for.

But as Rome is conceived, so is it misremembered, Maskarinec argues. The city of marvels was also a place of cramped tenement blocks, high infant mortality rates and disease for its poor inhabitants.

As historians, we must tread very carefully on the topic of Rome and keep in mind how it has been misused and misremembered when we study the process of memory, she says.


For scholars of American studies and ethnicity, memory whether individual or collective occupies a central role.

Natalia Molina, professor of American studies and ethnicity and a 2020 MacArthur Fellow, researches how historical narratives of racial difference shape modern views of race.

Race is not made in just one moment or by just one powerful person or group, she notes.

Molina studies the concept of racial scripts, socialconstructions of racialized groups that cross time and space as well as groups. A kind of shorthand composed of attitudes, practices, customs, policies and laws she says that once racial scripts are directed at one group, they can be easily repurposed and applied to others.

By looking at connections between the scripts in the arc of history, we can see that they are always available for use in new rounds of dehumanization and demonizationdown the road, Molina says.

Racial scripts work in large part because they arenotnew, she notes. Their familiarity generates credibility, making racist ideas seem normal.

For example, weve seen renewed anti-Asian and anti-Asian American sentiments and even hate crimes since the onset of the pandemic.

We can trace these stereotypes back 150 years to see how the Chinese were discriminated against when working in the gold rush, or on the railroad, Molina says. These racialscripts were also redirected and perpetuated against Latinx immigrants today, and widened the possibilities for mistreatment of other racialized groups.

The powerful reality about race and racism, she argues, is that it succeeds by repetition.

Read more stories fromUSC Dornsife Magazines Fall 2020/Winter 2021 issue >>

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