Saturday 29 April 2017

Half a Life

"It deals with the whole issue of growing old and how society deals with the elderly and, in my mind, it was one of the most pertinent story-lines I have done."
Les Landau, director

"Half a Life", the 96th episode of "The Next Generation" - a morality play about ageism - was first released in 1991 (via). Dr. Timicin of the planet Kaelon II boards the Starship Enterprise in order to test an experiment that is supposed to save his planet. Lwaxana Troi - daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed, the Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, and Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed - and Dr. Timicin fall in love with each other. Timicin, however, has to return to his planet to dutifully die. As he is turning 60, he is expected to commit suicide as society cannot be expected to take care of the elderly (via).

Some excerpts:

LWAXANA: I don't know. I just can't accept that fate will allow me to meet him like this and then take him away. I mean, he's not ill. He hasn't had a tragic accident. He's just going to die, and for no good reason. Because his society has decided that he's too old, so they just dispose of him as though his life no longer had value or meaning. You can't possibly understand at your age, but at mine, sometimes you feel tired and afraid.


TIMICIN: I want to explain. I want very much for you to understand. Fifteen or twenty centuries ago, we had no Resolution. We had no such concern for our elders. As people aged, their health failed, they became invalids. Those whose families could no longer care for them were put away in deathwatch facilities, where they waited in loneliness for the end to come, sometimes for years. They had meant something, and they were forced to live beyond that, into a time of meaning nothing, of knowing they could now only be the beneficiaries of younger people's patience. We are no longer that cruel, Lwaxana.

LWAXANA: No, no, you're not cruel to them. You just kill them.

TIMICIN: The Resolution is a celebration of life. It allows us to end our lives with dignity.

LWAXANA: A celebration of life. It sounds very noble, very caring. What you're really saying is you got rid of the problem by getting rid of the people.

TIMICIN: It may sound that way, but it is a time of transition. One generation passing on the responsibilities of life to the next.

LWAXANA: What about the responsibility of caring of the elderly?

TIMICIN: That would place a dreadful burden on the children.

LWAXANA: We raise them, we care for them, we suffer for them. We keep them from harm their whole lives. Eventually, it's their turn to take care of us.

TIMICIN: No parent should expect to be paid back for the love they've given their children.

LWAXANA: Well why the hell not?


LWAXANA: But it makes no sense. Some of your people could still be active at seventy or eighty, and others might be seriously ill at fifty.

(transcript via)

According to a British survey carried out in 2011, the elderly believe they have become invisible in today's youth-obsessed society, they feel ignored, silenced, written off and ridiculed. One participant said that young people talked to the elderly "as if they want us to go away and die" (via).

images via and via and via

Friday 28 April 2017

The Drumhead

The Drumhead is the 95th episode of "The Next Generation" and originally aired in 1991. The courtroom drama was directed by Jonathan Frakes, is one of Michael Dorn's favourite episodes and has Jean Simmons starring as Admiral Norah Satie (via).

"An explosion aboard the Enterprise leads to a high-level investigation headed by Admiral Norah Satie, a retired officer renowned for her skill at exposing conspiracies. Satie quickly determines that a visiting Klingon officer was attempting to smuggle diagrams off the ship, but the Klingon denies any involvement in the explosion. Satie refuses to give up on her investigation, even after the explosion is proven to be an accident, and she accuses Captain Jean-Luc Picard of treason when he challenges her charges against an innocent crewman." (via)

Interrogation room

SABIN: Isn't it true that the paternal grandfather of whom you speak was not a Vulcan but was in fact a Romulan? That it is Romulan blood you carry and a Romulan heritage that you honour?
(Riker whispers in Simon's ear)
SABIN: We're waiting, Mister Tarses.
TARSES: On the advice of my counsel I refuse to answer that question, in that the answer may serve to incriminate me.

Observation lounge

WORF: You and Crewman Marcus will coordinate to track Tarses' movements over the last five years. Ensign Kellogg, I want a list of all relatives, known associates, and especially old school friends. And make arrangements to do an encephalographic polygraph scan.
PICARD: Mister Worf?
WORF: Yes, Captain?
PICARD: I need to speak with you.
WORF: You are dismissed. Please get your reports to me as soon as possible.
(the security officers leave)
PICARD: Do you see what is happening here, Mister Worf?
WORF: Sir?
PICARD: This is not unlike a drumhead trial.
WORF: I do not understand.
PICARD: Five hundred years ago, military officers would upend a drum on the battlefield sit at it and dispense summary justice. Decisions were quick, punishments severe, appeals denied. Those who came to a drumhead were doomed.
WORF: But we know there is a traitor here. J'Dan has admitted his guilt.
PICARD: That's true, and he will stand for his crimes.
WORF: Tarses has all but done the same.
WORF: He refused to answer the question about his Romulan grandfather.
PICARD: That is not a crime, Worf. Nor can we infer his guilt because he didn't respond.
WORF: Sir, if a man were not afraid of the truth, he would answer.
PICARD: Oh, no. We cannot allow ourselves think that. The Seventh Guarantee is one of the most important rights granted by the Federation. We cannot take a fundamental principle of the Constitution and turn it against a citizen.
WORF: Sir, the Federation does have enemies. We must seek them out.
PICARD: Oh, yes. That's how it starts. But the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think. Something is wrong here, Mister Worf. I don't like what we have become.


PICARD: I am deeply concerned by what is happening here. It began when we apprehended a spy, a man who admitted his guilt and who will answer for his crime. But the hunt didn't end there. Another man, Mister Simon Tarses, was brought to trial and it was a trial, no matter what others choose to call it. A trial based on insinuation and innuendo. Nothing substantive offered against Mister Tarses, much less proven. Mister Tarses' grandfather is Romulan, and for that reason his career now stands in ruins. Have we become so fearful? Have we become so cowardly that we must extinguish a man because he carries the blood of a current enemy? Admiral, let us not condemn Simon Tarses, or anyone else, because of their bloodlines, or investigate others for their innocent associations. I implore you, do not continue with this proceeding. End it now.


PICARD: You know, there (sic) some words I've known since I was a school boy. With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably. Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie as wisdom and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. I fear that today

Observation lounge

WORF: Am I bothering you, Captain?
PICARD: No. Please, Mister Worf. Come in.
WORF: It is over. Admiral Henry has called an end to any more hearings on this matter.
PICARD: That's good.
WORF: Admiral Satie has left the Enterprise.
PICARD: We think we've come so far. The torture of heretics, the burning of witches, it's all ancient history. Then, before you can blink an eye, it suddenly threatens to start all over again.
WORF: I believed her. I helped her. I did not see what she was.
PICARD: Mister Worf, villains who twirl their moustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged.
WORF: I think after yesterday, people will not be as ready to trust her.
PICARD: Maybe. But she, or someone like her, will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish, spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mister Worf, that is the price we have to continually pay.

(transcript via)

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images via and via and via

Thursday 27 April 2017

Born this day ... Coretta Scott King

"She was a staunch freedom fighter."
Jesse Jackson

"She was the glue that held the movement together."
John Lewis

Coretta Scott King, the "First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement" was born on 27 April 1927. She met Martin Luther King, Jr. while in college; they married in 1953. After his death, she continued "to stand up with courage and ferocity for her husband's values", she "devoted the rest of her life to keeping alive the flame her husband had lit" and took on the leadership of the struggle for black US-Americans' equality, established Martin Luther King Day and the King Center, fought against apartheid and advocated women's rights and LGBT rights. The grandchild of slaves had been politically active long before meeting her husband, later worked side-by-side with him, then guarded his legacy.

"Sometimes, I am also identified as a civil rights leader or a human rights activist. I would also like to be thought of as a complex, three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood human being with a rich storehouse of experiences, much like everyone else, yet unique in my own way, much like everyone else." Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott grew up in a society that normalised racism and segregation, saw her parents' home being burned down and neighbours disappear whose bodies were found hanging from trees. She attended a one-room elementary school 8 km from her home and was later bused to Lincoln Normal School which was the closest black high school in Marion, Alabama and 14 km from her home. Shen then enrolled in Antioch College in Ohio and applied for the Interracial Scholarhip Fund for financial aid which was a means of Antioch to diversify the historically white campus. Her older sister Edythe already attended Antioch and had become the first black American to attend the school on a completely integrated basis. Coretta Scott studied music and "envisioned a career for herself in the music industry she knew would not be possible if she were to marry Martin Luther King". Her dream of  becoming a classical singer had to be given up - "giving up on her own ambitions would become symbolic of the actions of African-American women during the movement".
"Though such women have rarely been given voice, they were the staunch backbone of the civil rights movement. They raised funds as well as children, did the accounting as well as the housework, taught school and cooked meal. They kept the minutes at NAACP meetings, played organ at church, coordinated their husbands' schedules."  The New York Times
Coretta Scott King received more than forty honorary doctorates, was the first woman to preach at St Paul's Cathedral and the first woman to give the class day address at Harvard. She passed away on 31 January 2006 (via and via and via) leaving her own legacy (via).

"On Thanksgiving Night, 1942, when I was fifteen years old, white racists burned our house to the ground." Coretta Scott King

"I think that... discrimination in the job market is a very important area where work needs to be done." Coretta Scott King

"In the area of economic justice, we still have a long way to go. We have too many people who are discriminated against just because they happen to be black or they happen to be a woman or some other minority." Coretta Scott King

"To abandon affirmative action is to say there is nothing more to be done about discrimination." Coretta Scott King

"I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation." Coretta Scott King

"Wherever there was injustice, war, discrimination against women, gays and the disadvantaged, I did my best to show up and exert moral persuasion." Coretta Scott King

"Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood." Coretta Scott King

"Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union." Coretta Scott King

"A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing to protect traditional marriages." Coretta Scott King

"I don't see how you can separate human rights and the rights of all people, no matter what their sexual orientation is." Coretta Scott King

"The woman power of this nation can be the power which makes us whole and heals the rotten community, now so shattered by war and poverty and racism. I have great faith in the power of women who will dedicate themselves whole-heartedly to the task of remaking our society." Coretta Scott King

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photographs via and via

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Quoting Erich Fromm

"Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?"
Erich Fromm

photograph of Erich Seligmann Fromm (1900-1980) via

Monday 24 April 2017

Run to the hills (1982)

White man came across the sea
He brought us pain and misery
He killed our tribes killed our creed
He took our game for his own need

We fought him hard we fought him well
Out on the plains we gave him hell
But many came too much for Cree
Oh will we ever be set free?

Riding through dust clouds and barren wastes
Galloping hard on the plains
Chasing the redskins back to their holes
Fighting them at their own game
Murder for freedom the stab in the back
Women and children and cowards attack

Run to the hills, run for your lives
Run to the hills, run for your lives

Soldier blue in the barren wastes
Hunting and killing their game
Raping the women and wasting the men
The only good Indians are tame
Selling them whiskey and taking their gold
Enslaving the young and destroying the old

Run to the hills, run for your lives

::: Run to the hills, Iron Maiden (1982): LISTEN/WATCH

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lyrics via, photograph via

Saturday 22 April 2017

Who's to blame? Attribution of Blame & Gender

Gender stereotypes are part of the workplace and play a crucial role when it comes to the attribution of both successful and unsuccessful group outcomes.

Haynes & Lawrence come to the conclusion that men are more likely to get credit for successful group outcomes when the task is "male sex-typed". The researchers assigned 135 students to different conditions and gave the participants information about two people (one man and one woman) who had to work together on a task and asked to assess only one of them. After being given background information on the task and the two people (educational background, years at current job, current job title, specific duties and responsibilities), a feedback form (which made the below average task performance visible), participants were asked to complete the research questionnaire.

The experimental manipulations (assigning a male vs. a female name to each team member, varying the feedback type, i.e. giving information on individual vs. group performance) suggest that "when men and women work together on a male sex-typed task and the only information is about the unsuccessful joint outcome, women bear the brunt of the blame. Specifically, women were seen as more to blame for the unsuccessful portions of the final product and were given less credit for any successful portions of the work product than their male teammates. However, when there was information about negative individual contribution, women were no longer blamed disproportionately relative to men. Indeed, we found an interesting reversal in the individual feedback conditions such that men were blamed more for the unsuccessful portions of the final product and were given less credit for any successful portions of the work product than women."

These results are in line with the notion that gender stereotypes and associated expectations are likely to lead to a confirmation bias, particularly when there is source ambiguity.

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- Haynes, M. C. & Lawrence, J. S. (2012) Who’s to Blame? Attributions of Blame in Unsuccessful Mixed-Sex Work Teams. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 34, 558-564
- photograph via
- This posting was originally published on Science Google+ on 27th of July 2014 (minor changes have been made)

Thursday 13 April 2017

Suppose God is Black, by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy

South Africa's dilemma: a bright future weighed down by dark cruelty. Here is a personal report on the land of apartheid, where even the churches are segregated.

AT THE SOUTHERN TIP OF AFRICA, the mountains rise up and then fall sharply to the sea. The beaches are washed in turn by the harsh Atlantic and the warm, slow waters of the Indian Ocean. There, perched on the rocky slopes of the Cape of Good Hope, stands the proud city of Cape Town, a monument to the remarkable fortitude and vigor of the Dutch, British, French, Africans and others who have built one of the richest and most energetic societies in the world.

As our airplane banked over the city, strikingly beautiful in the bright sunlight, all of us smiled and talked, warmed by the shared pleasure of beauty and of pride in human accomplishment.

Then a voice said, "There is Robben Island," and the plane went silent and cold. For Robben Island is home to more than 2,000 political prisoners in South Africa-black and white, college professors and simple farmers, advocates of nonviolence and organizers of revolution, all now bound in the same bleak brotherhood because of one thing: Because they believe in freedom, they dared to lead the struggle against the government's official policy of apartheid.

Apartheid, the Afrikaans word for "apartness," rigidly separates the races of South Africa-three million whites, twelve million blacks, and two million Indian and "colored" (mixed-blood) people. It permits the white minority to dominate and exploit the nonwhite majority completely. If your skin is black in South Africa:

You cannot participate in the political process, and you cannot vote.
You are restricted to jobs for which no whites are available.
Your wages are from 10 to 40 percent of those paid a white man for equivalent work.
You are forbidden to own land except in one small area.
You live with your family only if the government approves.
The government will spend one-tenth as much to educate your child as it spends to educate a white child.
You are, by law, an inferior from birth to death.
You are totally segregated, even at most church services.

During five days this summer, my wife Ethel and I visited South Africa, talking to all kinds of people representing all viewpoints. Wherever we went-Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Stellenbosch, Johannesburg-apartheid was at the heart of the discussion and debate.

Our aim was not simply to criticize but to engage in a dialogue to see if, together, we could elevate reason above prejudice and myth. At the University of Natal in Durban, I was told the church to which most of the white population belongs teaches apartheid as a moral necessity. A questioner declared that few churches allow black Africans to pray with the white because the Bible says that is the way it should be, because God created Negroes to serve.

"But suppose God is black," I replied. "What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?"

There was no answer. Only silence.

In Rome a week later, when Ethel and I met with Pope Paul VI, we discussed South Africa-the loss of individual rights, the supremacy of the state, the growing rejection of Christianity by black Africans because, as one of them said, "The Christian God hates the Negroes." Distress and anguish showed in the Pope's face, the tone of his voice, the gestures of his hands.

I told the Pope about our visit to the Roman Catholic church he had dedicated a few years ago in Soweto, the section of Johannesburg set aside for black Africans. He remembered it well. The church is not permitted to own the property on which it is built, and the priests there are under constant government pressure.

As with all black Africans, the lives of the people of Soweto depend upon the symbols written in their individual passbooks. These must be carried at all times, like an automobile registration- but for human beings. To be caught without one, or with one lacking the proper endorsement by an employer, could mean six months in prison or exile to arid, forbidding places designated "native homelands."

Except in one small area, a black African's wife must have a special pass to live with him-unless both happen to find work in the same town. She can visit him for up to 72 hours, but for a stated written purpose, and then she must stand in line to request her pass.

Arrests abound under the passbook law-more than 1,000 every day. To date, there have been five million convictions among the nonwhite population of fourteen million.

Occasionally, the tortured cry out eloquently, as one did when convicted of inciting a strike (illegal for black Africans).

"Can it be any wonder to anybody that such conditions make a man an outlaw of society?" he asked. "Can it be wondered that such a man, having been outlawed by the government, should be prepared to lead the life of an outlaw?"

That man was now below, on Robben Island, sentenced to lifeimprisonment. And as we turned back to the bright bustle of Cape Town, I pondered the dilemma of South Africa: a land of enormous promise and potential, aspiration and achievement-yet a land also of repression and sadness, darkness and cruelty. It has produced great writers, but the greatest, Alan Paton, who wrote Too Late the Phalarope and Cry, the Beloved Country, can travel abroad only if he is prepared never to return. It has a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chief Albert Luthuli of the Zulus, but he is restricted to a small, remote farm, his countrymen forbidden under pain of prison to quote his words. It has some of the finest students I have seen anywhere in the world-intelligent, aware, committed to democracy and human dignity-but many are constantly harassed and persecuted by the government.

Some of these young people, members of the 20,000-strong National Union of South African Students, crowded Cape Town's Malan Airport as we landed. The NUSAS - through its president, a courageous senior at the University of Cape Town named Ian Robertson-had invited me to make the 1966 Day of Affirmation address. The annual Day, June 6 this year, formally affirms the 42-year-old organization's commitment to democracy and freedom, regardless of language, race or religion. Robertson was not at the airport. Nor would he be at the university that night. At the moment of our arrival, he sat in his apartment in Cape Town, forbidden to be in a room with more than one person at a time, to be quoted in the press in any way, to take part in political or social life-prohibited, although he is studying to be a lawyer, to enter any court except as a witness under subpoena.

He was thus "banned" for five years by the minister of justice, who alleged that, in some unspecified way, he was furthering the aims of communism. But it was generally accepted that young Robertson's only offense was to invite me to speak.

That afternoon, I visited my host at his apartment. I presented him with a copy of President Kennedy's book, Profiles in Courage, inscribed to him "with admiration" by Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy.

I recalled my dinner, shortly after arrival the day before, in Pretoria with politicians, editors and businessmen, all genuinely puzzled that the Western world found fault with South Africa when South Africa was so staunchly anti-Communist.

"But what does it mean to be against communism," I asked, "if one's own system denies the value of the individual and gives all power to the government-just as the Communists do?" They said South Africa's "unique problems" were internal.

"Cruelty and hatred anywhere can affect men everywhere," I said. "And South Africa could too easily throw a continent, even the world, into turmoil.

"But you don't understand," they said. "We are beleaguered."
I could understand that feeling. The Afrikaners, people of Dutch stock who make up 60 percent of the white population, struggled against foreign rule from 1806 until 1961. The Voortrekkers (literally, fore-pullers) opened up vast new areas in ox-drawn caravans during the last century, and their descendants fought the Boer War.

Yet, who was actually beleaguered? My dinner companions, talking easily over cigars and brandy and baked Alaska? Or Robertson and Paton and Luthuli? And the Indian population being evicted from District 6, an area of Cape Town, after living there for decades -its leadership "banned" for five years for protesting?

For the minister of justice can deprive a person of his job, his income, his freedom and-if he is black-his family. The minister's word alone can jail any person for up to six months as a "material witness," unspecified as to what. The prisoner has no right to consult a lawyer or his family. Without government permission, it is a criminal offense even to tell anyone he is being detained. He simply disappears, and he may be in solitary confinement for the entire six months. No court can hear his case or order his release. And-a final touch-he may be taken into custody again immediately after release. Many people held under this law and its predecessor committed suicide.

The capstone to this structure of repressive power is the "ban." On his own authority, the minister of justice can ban people from public life, from leaving their villages or even their homes. His victims are prohibited from contesting the order in court. Once a person is banned, it is illegal to publish anything he says. A factory worker may be prohibited from entering any factory, or a union official from entering any building where there is a union office. A political party can be destroyed by banning its leaders-which is exactly what happened to Alan Paton's Liberal party. They cannot legally communicate with each other, and the police watch them constantly.

And all this power is in the hands of Balthazar J. Vorster, the minister of justice, who, incidentally,was interned in South Africa during World War II because of his activities in a Nazi-like terrorist force that harassed the British allies.

These things were on my mind as I walked through 18,000 students at the University of Cape Town that evening. In the speech, I acknowledged the United States, like other countries, still had far to go to keep the promises of our Constitution. What was important, I said, was that we were trying. And I asked if South Africa, especially its young people, would join in the struggle:

"There is discrimination in New York, the racial inequality of apartheid in South Africa and serfdom in the mountains of Peru. People starve in the streets of India, a former prime minister is summarily executed in the Congo, intellectuals go to jail in Russia, thousands are slaughtered in Indonesia, wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere. These are differing evils-but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfections of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, the defectiveness of our sensibility toward the sufferings of our fellows.... And therefore they call upon common qualities of conscience and of indignation, a shared determination to wipe away the unnecessary sufferings of our fellow human beings…."

In a response afterward, John Daniel, vice president of NUSAS, was eloquent and courageous: "You have given us a hope for the future. You have renewed our determination not to relax until liberty is restored, not only to our universities but to our land."

The next day, I spoke at the University of Stellenbosch, which has produced all but one of South Africa's prime ministers. Nestled in a green and pleasant valley, the first center of Afrikaner independence, it is the fountainhead of Afrikaner intellectual-ism today. Everyone expected a cool, if not hostile, reception. But we were greeted in the dining hall by the rolling sound of thunder-the pounding of soup spoons on tables, the students' customary applause. It was clear that, although many differed with me, they were ready to exchange views.

At the question session, they defended apartheid, saying it eventually would produce two nations, one black and one white. Had not India been divided into Hindus and Moslems?

But, I asked, did the black people have a choice? Why weren't they or the "colored" people consulted? The black Africans are 70 percent of the population, but they would receive only 12 percent of the land, with no seaport or major city. How would they live in areas whose soil was already exhausted and which had no industry ?

And they are not being prepared educationally. Black children are not taught in English or Afrikaans, but in tribal tongues, thus cutting them off from modern knowledge. Education is compulsory for whites but not for nonwhites; thus, one of every 14 white students reaches the university, while only one in every 762 blacks makes it. Indeed, one in three gets no schooling at all, and of those who do, only one in 26 enters secondary school.
And what about the two million "colored" people, neither white nor black? They are in limbo, somewhat better off than the blacks, but far worse than the whites. There is no plan to give them land of their own-no future except more subjection and humiliation.

Earlier, I had asked a group of pro-government newspaper editors to define "colored." They considered and said, "a bastard." I asked if a child born out of wedlock to a white man and white woman would be colored. They said the whole area was difficult. Then one of them said it was simply a person who was neither white nor black. A South American, yes; an Indian, yes; a Chinese, yes-but a Japanese, no. Why not a Japanese? Because there are so few, was the answer. It developed, however, that South Africa trades heavily with the Japanese, and perhaps it was more profitable to call them white.

Afterward, at the University of Natal, the audience of 10,000 included, for the first time, a large number of adults. I talked about the importance of recognizing that a black person is as good, innately as a white person: "Maybe there is a black man outside this room who is brighter than anyone in this room-the chances are that there are many." Their applause signaled agreement.

A questioner raised a point made over and over: that black Africa is too primitive for self-government, that violence and chaos are the fabric of African character. I deplored such massacres as those that had taken place in the Congo. But I reminded them that no race or people are without fault or cruelty:

"Was Stalin black? Was Hitler black? Who killed 40 million people just 25 years ago? It wasn't black people, it was white."

The following day, we spent three hours in the black ghetto of Soweto. We walked through great masses of people, and I found myself making speeches from the steps of a church, from the roof of a car and standing on a chair in the middle of a school playground.

Many of the homes there are pleasant, far more attractive than those in Harlem or South Side Chicago. But Soweto is a dreary concentration camp, with a curfew, limited recreation, no home ownersllip and a long list of regulations whose violation could cause eviction.

For five years, until our visit, the half-million people of Soweto had no direct word from their leader, the banned Albert Luthuli. My wife and I had helicoptered down the Valley of a Thousand Hills at dawn to see him at Groutville, about 44 miles inland from Durban.

He is a most impressive man, with a marvelously lined face, strong yet kind. My eyes first went to the white goatee, so familiar in his pictures, but then, quickly, the smile took over, illuminating his whole presence, eyes dancing and sparkling. At mention of apartheid, however, his eyes went hurt and hard. To talk privately, we walked out under the trees and through the fields. "What are they doing to my country, to my countrymen," he sighed. "Can't they see that men of all races can work together-and that the alternative is a terrible disaster for us all?"

I gave him a portable record player and some records of excerpts of President Kennedy's speeches. He played President Kennedy's civil-rights speech of June 11, 1963, and we all listened in silence- Chief Luthuli, his daughter, two government agents accompanying us, my wife and I. At the end, Chief Luthuli, deeply moved, shook his head. The government men stared fixedly at the floor.

As I left the old chief, I thought of the lines from Shakespeare: "His life was gentle, and the elements/So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up/And say to all the world, 'This was a man!'"

That night, in the final address, I spoke to 7,000 at the University of Witwatersrand on the battle for justice. I was thinking of James Meredith, the courageous "freedom walker" who had just been shot on a Mississippi highway, when I said:

"Let no man think he fights this battle for others. He fights for himself, and so do we all. The golden rule is not sentimentality but the deepest practical wisdom. For the teaching of our time is that cruelty is contagious, and its disease knows no bounds of race or nation."

I stressed that it was up to South Africa to solve its racial problems, that all any outsider could do was to urge a common effort in our own countries and around the world and show that progress is possible.

"My own grandfather had a very difficult time," I said, "and my father finally left Boston, Massachusetts, because of the signs on the wall that said, 'No Irish Need Apply.'

"Everthing that is now said about the Negro was said about the Irish Catholics. They were useless, they were worthless, they couldn't learn anything. Why did they have to settle here ? Why don't we see if we can't get boats and send them back to Ireland? They obviously aren't equipped for education, and they certainly can never rule…."

They laughed, and I could not resist adding: "I suppose there are still some who might agree with that."

But the final question was the most difficult: How can there be genuine dialogue, and therefore a hope of solution, when your adversary also makes the rules and acts as referee with the power to destroy you at will? I said I recognized the terrible problem they faced, but there were basically only two alternatives: to make an effort-or to yield, to admit defeat, to surrender.

In my judgment, the spirit of decency and courage in South Africa will not surrender. With all of the difficulties and the suffering I had seen, still I left tremendously moved by the intelligence, the determination, the cool courage of the young people and their allies scattered through the land. I think particularly of the gay and gallant student, about to speak at Durban, who said to the Special Police there: "Please don't listen to me too closely, but, if you do, you'll find this is a real swinger." And I think of Martin Shule*, another student, who spoke after me at Witwatersrand and said: "We must now cast off all self-protective timidity, and we must now willfully and deliberately descend into the arena of danger to preserve the independence of thought and conscience and action which is our civilized heritage. We must now set ourselves against an unjustifiable social order and strive energetically and selflessly for its reform."

They are not in power now, but they are the kind of people who make a nation, who may one day make South Africa a land of light and freedom and allow it to take its full place in the world. Theirs is the spirit of which Tennyson wrote in Ullysses:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate,
but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

* Correct name is Merton Shill

::: Related posting: "A Ripple of Hope": Robert F. Kennedy's Speech in Cape Town, 1966

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text via, photograph via

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Narrative images: The Duke plays baseball

"Duke Ellington and band members playing baseball in front of their segregated motel ("Astor Motel") while touring in Florida" (via). In the background the sign "Colored. Astor Motel" can be seen.

The Astor Motel was located at 1111 Cleveland Street near Kings Road in Sugar Hill, Jacksonville. It was one of Jacksonville's "finest accomodations for blacks during segregation" (via)

The photograph was taken by Charlotte Brooks (1918-2014), born Charlotte Finkelstein, in 1955. Brooks was "one of only a handful of women ever hired to work as a full-time staff photographer at Look magazine". She was assigned to provide pictures for so-called women's features - children, families, food, homes. But the photographer with "the mind of a sociologist" soon produced a photo essay about one of the black teenagers who integrated in a high school in the 1950s, Brooks explored "the emotional toll of those historic months in one teenager's life". In the 1950s, she also went on tour with Duke Ellington and "returned with the story of a grueling bus travel, transcendent musical performances and the many extra miles that even a jazz great like Ellington was forced to travel in search of food and lodging when the tour entered the segregated South" (via).

“Within the male-dominated world of photojournalism and commercial photography during the postwar period in the U.S., Brooks was a pioneer.”
Ileana Selejan

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Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974) on YouTube:

::: Wonderful: Duke Ellington live at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall (1969): WATCH/LISTEN
::: The Duke discusses jazz (1970): WATCH/LISTEN
::: It don't mean a thing (1943): WATCH/LISTEN

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photograph via

Friday 7 April 2017

International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda

"For some European commentators, the question is simple: African 'tribes' are possessed by 'ancestral hatreds' and periodically slaughter each other because it is in their nature to do so."
Prunier (2002)

"Rwanda was definitely not a land of peace and bucolic harmony before the arrival of the Europeans, but there is no trace in its pre-colonial history of systematic violence between Tutsi and Hutu as such."
Prunier (cited in Grünfeld & Huijboom, 2007)

When Europe "generously" divided Africa among European powers in 1884, Rwanda was ascribed to Germany. At that time, the Rwandan population was divided into three groups: Twa (1%), Tutsi (17%), Hutu (vast majority). These groups were not seen as different tribes, they "spoke the same language, shared the same religion, told the same myths and lived in the same places". They differed in appearances.
Then Belgium took over the German rule in Rwanda and implemented its colonisation policies. The Belgians reinforced the Tutsi dominance and supremacy over the Hutu and as they needed to know who was a Tutsi and who was not, in 1933, they gave all Rwandans identity cards classifying them as Hutu, Tutsi or Twa.
"Depending on their appearance, looking like a Tutsi, Hutu or Twa, they were classified as belonging to one group or the other. As a result of inter-marriages that in certain parts of Rwanda were very common, it was impossible to divide many Rwandans into certain groups on the basis of their physical features alone. Wealth could also be a decisive factor in gaining one identity card or another. People who had lot of money or many cows were often able to obtain a Tutsi card. The cards caused discrimination against the Hutu population in all aspects of life, which forced hundreds of thousands of Hutu to flee to neighboring countries."  (Grünfeld & Huijboom, 2007)
The Belgians fixed group identities differentiating between the physical features of the Hutu and Tutsi. They measured nose and skull size, described skin colour, head and body ... measures that decades later erased a Rwandan population.
"Physically different from Tutsis, Longman observes how the Hutus had broader features and were noticeably heavier, shorter, and darker. In contrast, Tutsi were thin, tall, and appeared to look more European. Gnomic differences between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes divided people of the same race, who pre-colonization and pre-genocide, were physically akin." (Nardone, 2010)
"The obsession with physical appearance, aided and abetted by the Tutsi ruling class, led the Europeans to all manner of humiliating folly: measuring of skulls and noses and all the discredited junk of the race theorists who thrived in the heyday of African colonialism. One Belgian doctor wrote: [The Tutsi] ... have a distant, reserved, courteous and elegant manner ... The rest of the population is [Hutu]. They are negroes with all the negroid characteristics ... they are childish in nature both timid and lazy, and as often as not, extremely dirty."  (Keane
It is highly debated among critics, whether the European colonisation incited the violence between the Hutu and the Tutsi that led to the genocide in the 1990s. The categories of Hutu and Tutsi were not invented by the colonisers but the policies Europeans introduced surely exacerbated them leading to an ethnic split "and ensured that the important feeling of belonging to a social group was fuelled by ethnic, indeed racial, hatred" (Grünfeld & Huijboom, 2007). The identity cards which once served to guarantee privilige to the Tutsi were later used to discriminate against them (Verpoorten, 2005).
"The role played by group classification on national identity cards in crimes of genocide in Rwanda and in Nazi Germany should trouble all persons concerned with prevention of genocide. In Nazi Germany in July 1938, only a few months before Kristallnacht, the infamous "J-stamp" was introduced on ID cards and later on passports. The use of specially marked "J-stamp" ID cards by Nazi Germany preceded the yellow Star of David badges. (...) Ethnic classification on ID Cards in Rwanda instituted by the Belgian colonial government and retained after independence, was central in shaping, defining and perpetuating ethnic identity. Once the 1994 genocide in Rwanda began, an ID card with the designation "Tutsi" spelled a death sentence at any roadblock. No other factor was more significant in facilitating the speed and magnitude of the 100 days of mass killing in Rwanda." Jim Fussell, Prevent Genocide International
According to a census carried out by Rwanda's Ministry of Youth, 937.000 Tutsi (almost 80% of the Tutsi population) and politically moderate Hutus were killed during the 100-day period from April to June 1994 (via and via).

- photographs of Antonia Locatelli (1937-1992), an Italian Roman Catholic missionary educator who had lived in Africa since 1968 and in Rwanda since the early 1970s. Locatelli was shot dead by a group of presidential guards in March 1992 after witnessing massacres on the Tutsi and while trying to save the lives of her pupils (via and via); according to Amnesty International she was killed while assisting thousands of Tutsi who were fleeing violent attacks (via), images via and via
- Grünfeld, F. & Huijboom, A. (2007). The failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda: The role of bystanders. Leiden & Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers
- Prunier, G. (2002). The Rwanda Crisis. History of a Genocide. London: Hurst & Company

Wednesday 5 April 2017

"A Ripple of Hope": Robert F. Kennedy's Speech in Cape Town, 1966

Robert F. Kennedy's address in South Africa is considered as his greatest speech and was called "the most stirring and memorable address ever to come from a foreigner in South Africa". This "most important speech" was inspirational for a great many anti-Apartheid activists including Nelson Mandela who at that time was imprisoned. Kennedy delivered the speech at the University of Cape Town on 6 June 1966, the University's "Day of Reaffirmation of Academic and Human Freedom". South Africa was not amused. Forty news correspondents who were supposed to cover the event were denied visas, Kennedy was granted a visa after some hesitation (via).

"I came here because of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which once imported slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage. I refer, of course, to the United States of America. (...)

For two centuries, my own country has struggled to overcome the self-imposed handicap of prejudice and discrimination based on nationality, social class, or race-discrimination profoundly repugnant to the theory and command of our Constitution. Even as my father grew up in Boston, signs told him that No Irish Need Apply. Two generations later President Kennedy became the first Catholic to head the nation; but how many men of ability had, before 1961, been denied the opportunity to contribute to the nation's progress because they were Catholic, or of Irish extraction? How many sons of Italian or Jewish or Polish parents slumbered in slums-untaught, unlearned, their potential lost forever to the nation and human race? Even today, what price will we pay before we have assured full opportunity to millions of Negro Americans?

In the last five years we have done more to assure equality to our Negro citizens, and to help the deprived both white and black, than in the hundred years before. But much more remains to be done.

For there are millions of Negroes untrained for the simplest of jobs, and thousands every day denied their full equal rights under the law; and the violence of the disinherited, the insulted and injured, looms over the streets of Harlem and Watts and South Side Chicago.

But a Negro American trains as an astronaut, one of mankind's first explorers into outer space; another is the chief barrister of the United States government, and dozens sit on the benches of court; and another, Dr. Martin Luther King, is the second man of African descent to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent efforts for social justice between races. We have passed laws prohibiting discrimination in education, in employment, in housing, but these laws alone cannot overcome the heritage of centuries-of broken families and stunted children, and poverty and degradation and pain.

So the road toward equality of freedom is not easy, and great cost and danger march alongside us. We are committed to peaceful and nonviolent change, and that is important for all to understand though all change is unsettling. Still, even in the turbulence of protest and struggle is greater hope for the future, as men learn to claim and achieve for themselves the rights formerly petitioned from others.

And most important of all, all the panoply of government power has been committed to the goal of equality before the law, as we are now committing ourselves to the achievement of equal opportunity in fact.

We must recognize the full human equality of all of our people before God, before the law, and in the councils of government. We must do this, not because it is economically advantageous, although it is; not because of the laws of God command it, although they do; not because people in other lands wish it so. We must do it for the single and fundamental reason that it is the right thing to do.

We recognize that there are problems and obstacles before the fulfillment of these ideals in the United States, as we recognize that other nations, in Latin America and Asia and Africa, have their own political, economic, and social problems, their unique barriers to the elimination of injustices.

In some, there is concern that change will submerge the rights of a minority, particularly where the minority is of a different race from the majority. We in the United States believe in the protection of minorities; we recognize the contributions they can make and the leadership they can provide; and we do not believe that any people -whether minority, majority, or individual human beings-are "expendable" in the cause of theory or policy. We recognize also that justice between men and nations is imperfect, and that humanity sometimes progresses slowly.

All do not develop in the same manner, or at the same pace. Nations, like men, often march to the beat of different drummers, and the precise solutions of the United States can neither be dictated nor transplanted to others. What is important is that all nations must march toward increasing freedom; toward justice for all; toward a society strong and flexible enough to meet the demands of all its own people, and a world of immense and dizzying change.

In a few hours, the plane that brought me to this country crossed over oceans and countries which have been a crucible of human history. In minutes we traced the migration of men over thousands of years; seconds, the briefest glimpse, and we passed battlefields on which millions of men once struggled and died. We could see no national boundaries, no vast gulfs or high walls dividing people from people; only nature and the works of man-homes and factories and farms-everywhere reflecting man's common effort to enrich his life.

Everywhere new technology and communications bring men and nations closer together, the concerns of one inevitably becoming the concerns of all. And our new closeness is stripping away the false masks, the illusion of difference which is at the root of injustice and hate and war. Only earthbound man still clings to the dark and poisoning superstition that his world is bounded by the nearest hill, his universe ended at river shore, his common humanity enclosed in the tight circle of those who share his town and views and the color of his skin.It is your job, the task of the young people of this world, to strip the last remnants of that ancient, cruel belief from the civilization of man.

Each nation has different obstacles and different goals, shaped by the vagaries of historyand of experience. Yet as I talk to young people around the world I am impressed not by the diversity but by the closeness of their goals, their desires and their concerns and their hope for the future. There is discrimination in New York, the racial inequality of apartheid in South Africa, and serfdom in the mountains of Peru. People starve in the streets of India, a former Prime Minister is summarily executed in the Congo, intellectuals go to jail in Russia, and thousands are slaughtered in Indonesia; wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere in the world. These are differing evils; but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfections of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, the defectiveness of our sensibility toward the sufferings of our fellows; they mark the limit of our ability to use knowledge for the well-being of our fellow human beings throughout the world. And therefore they call upon common qualities of conscience and indignation, a shared determination to wipe away the unnecessary sufferings of our fellow human beings at home and around the world.

It is these qualities which make of youth today the only true international community. More than this I think that we could agree on what kind of a world we would all want to build. It would be a world of independent nations, moving toward international community, each of which protected and respected the basic human freedoms. It would be a world which demanded of each government that it accept its responsibility to insure social justice. It would be a world of constantly accelerating economic progress-not material welfare as an end in itself, but as a means to liberate the capacity of every human being to pursue his talents and to pursue his hopes. It would, in short, be a world that we would be proud to have built.

Just to the north of here are lands of challenge and opportunity-rich in natural resources, land and minerals and people. Yet they are also lands confronted by the greatest odds-overwhelming ignorance, internal tensions and strife, and great obstacles of climate and geography. Many of these nations, as colonies, were oppressed and exploited. Yet they have not estranged themselves from the broad traditions of the West; they are hoping and gambling their progress and stability on the chance that we will meet our responsibilities to help them overcome their poverty.

In the world we would like to build, South Africa could play an outstanding role in that effort. This is without question a preeminent repository of the wealth and knowledge and skill of the continent. Here are the greater part of Africa's research scientists and steel production, most of its reservoirs of coal and electric power. Many South Africans have made major contributions to African technical development and world science; the names of some are known wherever men seek to eliminate the ravages of tropical diseases and pestilence. In your faculties and councils, here in this very audience, are hundreds and thousands of men who could transform the lives of millions for all time to come.

But the help and the leadership of South Africa or the United States cannot be accepted if we-within our own countries or in our relations with others-deny individual integrity, human dignity, and the common humanity of man. If we would lead outside ourborders, if we would help those who need our assistance, if we would meet our responsibilities to mankind, we must first, all of us, demolish the borders which history has erected between men within our own nations-barriers of race and religion, social class and ignorance. (...)

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. (...)"

::: Listen to the speech: LINK

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photographs of Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy (1925-1968) with his wife Ethel in Soweto via and via and via and via; transcript via

Tuesday 4 April 2017

International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action

In 2005, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared that 4 April of each year shall be observed as the "International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action" (via).

More than 100 million mines are scattered across ca. 68 countries. In Egypt, the country most contaminated by landmines, there are approximately 23 million landmines. Every year, tens of thousands of people are killed, injured or permanently disabled by landmines. Between 1999 and 2012, 88.331 people living in about 60 countries were reported to be killed or injured by landmines or explosive remnants of war. Most of the victims are civilians. Many are children (in Cambodia, children account for up to 50% of landmines casualties). Some 1.000 children are killed or injured every year. Other children lose a family member as a result of a mine blast and face challenges from the loss of the care giver or household breadwinner. While boys and men form the largest groups of mine victims, girls and women often experience greater difficultires in getting the medical and psychosocial care they need. Landmines continue to threaten lives years after hostilities have officially ended and cause injuries that are much more severe than those caused by other weapons.
"When a person steps on a buried anti-personnel mine, the detonation is likely to rip off one or both of his or her legs and drives soil, grass, gravel, metal and plastic fragments of the mine casing, pieces of shoe and shattered bone up into the muscles and lower parts of the body. If it explodes while being handled, a mine can blow off fingers, hands, arms, and injure parts of the face, abdomen and chest."
Usually, health and social structures in mine-affected countries are devastated by years of conflict. Mine victims, therefore, often do not receive the care needed. Most of them live in the poorest countries that have not yet recovered from years - or sometimes decades - of war. In addition, removing mines is costly. Mines cost between 3 and 30 dollars, removing them costs between 300 and 1.000 dollars. If we continue at this pace, it will take nearly 1.100 years to clear all the mines in the world (via and via and via and via and via and via). But it does not have to take that long. Mozambique is a "compelling example" of how the problem can be tackled. After more than 30 years of conflict, more than 200.000 landmines were scattered across the country. Around 80% (171.000 mines) of them were destroyed in the past twenty years helping the country to recover (via). With support, every country can be mine free.

::: U.N. Landmine Removal Commercial: WATCH/LISTEN
::: "Lend Your Leg", United Nations (2012): WATCH/LISTEN
::: UNICEF commercial: WATCH/LISTEN
::: "Betty", a Marco Grob film narrated by Daniel Craig: WATCH/LISTEN

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photographs via and via

Monday 3 April 2017


Doris Day knew the day she was born and thought she knew the year. This weekend she found out that she was not born in 1924 but in 1922 and that she is turning 95 today, not 93. As age is just a number, it does not make any difference to her:

“I’ve always said that age is just a number. I have never paid much attention to birthdays, but it’s great to finally know how old I really am!”
Doris Day

photograph of Doris Day (1973) via