Thursday 28 February 2019

Look under your feet

"We know the force of gravity, but not its origins; and to explain why we become attached to our birthplaces we pretend that we are trees and speak of roots. Look under your feet. You will not find gnarled growths sprouting through the soles. Roots, I sometimes think, are a conservative myth, designed to keep us in our places."
Salman Rushdie

photograph by Elliott Erwitt via

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Pope Francis: Fundamentalism, Ideological Extremism - a Disease of All Religions

"Fundamentalism is always a tragedy. It is not religious, it lacks God, it is idolatrous."
Pope Francis

"All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject."
Pope Francis

"Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself. We Catholics, we have a few, even many fundamentalists. They believe they know absolute truth and corrupt others. I can say this because this is my Church."
Pope Francis

"God cannot be used for personal interests and selfish ends; he cannot be used to justify any form of fundamentalism, imperialism or colonialism."
Pope Francis

"It is essential that all citizens – Muslim, Jewish and Christian – both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties,” Francis said. “Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace."
Pope Francis

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photograph of Papa Francesco via

Tuesday 26 February 2019

"every ounce of my energy has been devoted to an active opposition to cruel bigotry" Bertrand Russell

Sir Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell of Kingston Russell, Viscount Amberley of Amberley and of Ardsalla (1872-1970) was a British philosopher, logician, social reformer, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and campaigner for peace (via). In 1962, aged 89, Russell received a letter from Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley of Ancoats, 6th Baronet (1896-1980), a British politician who became the leader of the British Union of Fascists, a party that was banned in 1940, the year Mosley was imprisoned (via). In this letter, Mosley tried to persuade Russell to discuss the merits of fascism. Russell replied with the following words:

Dear Sir Oswald,
Thank you for your letter and for your enclosures. I have given some thought to our recent correspondence. It is always difficult to decide on how to respond to people whose ethos is so alien and, in fact, repellent to one’s own. It is not that I take exception to the general points made by you but that every ounce of my energy has been devoted to an active opposition to cruel bigotry, compulsive violence, and the sadistic persecution which has characterised the philosophy and practice of fascism.
I feel obliged to say that the emotional universes we inhabit are so distinct, and in deepest ways opposed, that nothing fruitful or sincere could ever emerge from association between us.
I should like you to understand the intensity of this conviction on my part. It is not out of any attempt to be rude that I say this but because of all that I value in human experience and human achievement.
Yours sincerely,
Bertrand Russell

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photograph of Bertrand Russell by Alfred Eisenstaedt (1951) via

Friday 22 February 2019

Attitudes to Transgender Individuals in Hungary and Poland: Mental Illness, Sin, Unacceptable

In 2016, Ipsos and BuzzFeed developed questions for online surveys together with the Williams Institute. The aim was to understand the attitudes to transgender persons in different countries. In general, a majority of those surveyed believe that transgender individuals are a natural occurence (52%). There are, however, big differences between countries with Eastern European ones seeming to have the most difficulty in understanding the concept of transgender.

In Hungary, 43% believe that being transgender is a form of mental illness, in Serbia it is 43%, in Poland 41% (compared to 9% in Spain, 11% in Italy, 13% in France and Argentina). Among western countries, the U.S. is the most likely one to believe transgender individuals have a mental illness (32%), that they are committing a sin (32%), and that society has gone too far in accepting people who dress and live as one sex while having been born another (36%). There is a majority (60%) stating that they would like their country to support and protect transgender people more actively (70% in Spain, 67% in Argentina). Hungary is the least likely to agree (41%), followed by Poland (39%). 70% of people around the world say that their government should protect transgender people from discrimination. Argentina is the most likely to agree (84%), Poland the least like to agree (51%).
As the survey was carried out online, there are limitations to the generalisation of the results (composition of the sample). They are, nevertheless, interesting as the self-selection of participants took place in all countries. The results show the cultural impact on the attitude people have to transgender men and women. More: Global Attitudes Towards Transgender People

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photograph taken in Chicago in 1975 by the great Vivian Maier via

Thursday 21 February 2019

Pluralistic Ignorance

Pluralistic ignorance is the discrepancy between one's private beliefs and one's public behaviour in certain situations. In other words, people have a certain attitude to something and act contrary to it because they go along with the mistakenly presumed opinion of the peer group. The term was coined by Katz and Allport in 1931 when studying white students' attitudes to the admission of black students to fraternities and dormitories (Bjerring et al., 2014). Seven social comparison errors play a major role: false consensus, exclusivity bias, group polarisation, vocal minority, third-person effect, spiral of silence, and social identity (Mendes et al., 2017).

"Katz and Allport (1931) reported on findings from an extensive study of students, which showed that while each individual student did not have any objection to minorities being admitted to fraternities and dormitories, each student also seemingly believed that other students might object to such admissions (O’Gorman, 1986; Halbesleben and Buckley, 2004)."
Bjerring, Hansen & Pedersen (2014)

"The particular example reported by Katz and Allport was their finding that while a majority of Syracuse fraternity members favored the inclusion of racial minorities in fraternities, at the same time they felt that this represented a minority position among fraternity members. Several other studies have found instances where liberal attitudes on racial integration, e.g., inter-racial adoption (Fricke, 1965) and residential desegregation (Lenihan, 1965), were held by a majority of respondents who presumed that the attitude was a minority one."
Korte (1972:576)

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- Bjerring, J. C., Hansen, J. U. & Pedersen, N. J. L. L. (2014). On the rationality of pluaralistic ignorance. Synthese, 191(11)link
- Korte, C. (1972). Pluralistic Ignorance About Student Radicalism. Sociometry, 35(4), 576-587.
- Mendes, A., Lopez-Valeiras, E. & Lunkes, R. J. (2017). Pluralistic ignorance: Conceptual framework, antecedents and consequences. Intangible Capital, 13(4), link
- photograph (Brest, 1972) by Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992) via

Tuesday 19 February 2019

The Green-Feminine Stereotype: Eco-Friendly and Unmanly

In general, women litter less and recycle more than men, partly because green actions seem to be seen as "unmanly". In other words, the desire to feel macho is stronger than the desire to care about the environment.

More than 2.000 US-American and Chinese participants took part in research studies on the link between eco-friendly behaviour and gender stereotypes.

Both male and female participants showed a clear tendency to describe male and female individuals who bring reusable canvas bags to supermarkets as more feminine than those using plastic bags. They also perceived themselves to be more feminine when recalling a time when they acted in an eco-friendly manner.

In one of the experiments, the research group threatened the male participants' masculinity by showing them a pink gift card with floral design (versus a neutral gift card in the control group). Those shown the "threatening" gift card showed a significantly higher tendency to choose a non-green rather than green version of several items afterwards. The authors' interpretation is that "men try to reassert their masculinity through non-environmentally friendly choices", the conclusion that "one could harm the environment merely by making men feel feminine" and that the green-feminine stereotype inhibits men from taking environmentally friendly actions. They suggest that products be marketed as more "men"-vironmentally-friendly with "masculine" fonts (whatever they are), "masculine" colours, "masculine" words and images in the branding since men seem to be quite sensitive about their gender identity (via).

The results are surely interesting. Future studies could control for machismo and differentiate between men and men. If in a first step accepting responsibility for our planet needs to be sold as something that does not decrease masculinity by applying obvious gender marketing strategies, so be it. In the long run, hopefully, the need to act responsibly will be internalised and not throw testosterone levels out of balance.

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images via (by H. Armstrong Roberts) and via (1964, The Super Giant supermarket in Rockville, Maryland. Color transparency by John Dominis, Life magazine photo archive) and via (by Hank Walker) and via (by 14thCenturyHood)

Monday 18 February 2019

Take the Pledge

Before buying your wife a new cross-flow Cortina, make her repeat after you: I WILL see the housework's done before dashing off to show the girls my new Cortina's chic interior colour scheme. I WILL spend more time behind the wheel of my sewing machine than the padded wheel of my Cortina and running through my smooth automatic transmission. I WILL put up with washday blues before scenic views. I WON'T get parking tickets simply to draw attention to my new Cortina.

image (1969) via

Monday 11 February 2019

She Is Called Alice. Not Henry.

"Alice" is the machine on the right - an artificial voice that simulates the sound pressure of a human voice talking into a telephone.
The more than 7.000.000 phones Western Electric makes for the Bell System each year, at our Indianapolis and Shreveport plants, must respond perfectly to every sound she makes before they pass inspection.

Alice is just one of many testing devices Western Electric uses to make sure every piece of telephone equipment we make for the Bell System communications network functions the way it's supposed to.
Because that network is so reliable, you can call almost anywhere, and reach the one number you want out of millions in seconds.
If you're wondering why we named her "Alice" instead of "Sam" or "Henry" - can you image giving a man's name to a machine that always has the last word?

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image via

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Quoting Oscar Niemeyer

"I think of myself as no more than 60.
What I could do at 60, I can still do now."
Oscar Niemeyer in 2007,
four months before turning 100

photograph of Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho (1907-2012) via

Monday 4 February 2019

Trophy Hunting in the Arctic and the Polar Understanding of Man

"Men weren't really the enemy - they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill."
Betty Friedan (1921-2006)

"Few women were involved in trophy hunting, regardless of geography. Both the absence and presence of women can obviously be of importance in the development of a particular practice. Because trophy hunting tourism is primarily a male tourist practice, an understanding from a gender perspective is unavoidable."
Lena Aarekol

Trophy hunting does not aim at obtaining food or any other profit such as securing income. Around 1830, "British sporting gentlemen" introduced trophy hunting to Scandinavia. At the time, they already used to practice it in their African and Asian colonies. Hunters from Germany, Austria and America also went further north. Arctic trophy hunting became popular in the period of Arctic Ocean imperialism, during the time expeditions were set to conquer the poles. "Concomitant with these approaches to the Arctic, what we might call a polar masculine understanding of man and nature evolved", emphasising qualities such as physical strength, restless energy, roughness and a strong will.
Because of the overall modernization in the western world, including urbanization, migration and women’s emancipation, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this area was still considered a place where western males could exercise masculinity, challenge nature and be “men of the frontiers” (Bloom 1993, 32–33; Felski 1995, 20; Gordon 2006, 10; Karlsen 2011, 44–48). This implies that the Arctic trophy hunters did not enter an empty space, but an already masculinized arena in which trappers, explorers and adventurers had set the terms. Merely by travelling to the Arctic, the trophy hunters performed masculinity (Hansson 2009: 70).
Aarekol (n.d.:3)
Polar bears and walruses were the most attractive targets when "hunting for trophies and potency".

- Aarekol, L. (n.d.). Arctic Trophy Hunters, Tourism and Masculinities, 1827-1914, The Arctic University of Norway, link
- photographs of Elizabeth Montgomery (1933-1995) via and via and via

Saturday 2 February 2019

How to warm a calculating woman's heart

How to warm a calculating woman's heart: give her Monroe's fast-printing calculator with 15 digit capacity.

image via