Category - Histories

The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment

The New Yorker, By Maria Konnikova, June 12

On the morning of August 17, 1971, nine young men in the Palo Alto area received visits from local police officers. While their neighbors looked on, the men were arrested for violating Penal Codes 211 and 459 (armed robbery and burglary), searched, handcuffed, and led into the rear of a waiting police car. The cars took them to a Palo Alto police station, where the men were booked, fingerprinted, moved to a holding cell, and blindfolded. Finally, they were transported to the Stanford County Prison—also known as the Stanford University psychology department.

They were willing participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment, one of the most controversial studies in the history of social psychology. (It’s the subject of a new film of the same name—a drama, not a documentary—starring Billy Crudup, of “Almost Famous,” as the lead investigator, Philip Zimbardo.) The study subjects, middle-class college students, had answered a questionnaire about their family backgrounds, physical- and mental-health histories, and social behavior, and had been deemed “normal”; a coin flip divided them into prisoners and guards. According to the lore that’s grown up around the experiment, the guards, with little to no instruction, began humiliating and psychologically abusing the prisoners within twenty-four hours of the study’s start. The prisoners, in turn, became submissive and depersonalized, taking the abuse and saying little in protest. The behavior of all involved was so extreme that the experiment, which was meant to last two weeks, was terminated after six days.

Donald Rumsfeld: George W. Bush was wrong about Iraq

MSNBC, By Amanda Sakuma, June 8

President George W. Bush was wrong to try to build democracy in Iraq, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a recent interview, marking a striking admission from a key player behind the 2003 U.S. invasion.

In an interview with British newspaper The Times, Rumsfeld said that efforts to oust Saddam Hussein and replace his tyrannical regime with democracy were unworkable, and that he had concerns about the plan from the beginning.

“I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories,” Rumsfeld told The Times. “The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words.”

Rumsfeld, who served under Bush from 2001 to 2006, has previously defended the administration’s actions in the run-up to the war, which dragged on for years before formally ending in 2011.

I think I’m going to go cough up some blood, now.

Mother Jones: Donald Rumsfeld Apparently Forgot the Times He Said the Iraq War Was Good for Democracy

Canada’s indigenous schools policy was ‘cultural genocide’, says report

Truth commission delivers verdict on church-run residential institutions – Schools were one of Canadian history’s ‘darkest and most troubling chapters’

The Guardian, By John Barber, June 2

Canadian governments and churches pursued a policy of “cultural genocide” against the country’s aboriginal people throughout the 20th century, according to an investigation into a long-suppressed history that saw 150,000 Native, or First Nations, children forcibly removed from their families and incarcerated in residential schools rife with abuse.

After seven years of hearings, and testimony from thousands of witnesses, the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on Tuesday for a new era of forgiveness and understanding even as it exposed the cultural and personal devastation inflicted by the residential schools policy in excruciating detail.

“These measures were part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will,” the commission’s final report declares.

“The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources.”


388-page Commission Report Executive Summary:Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future
Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Findings


The Toronto Star: Canada’s residential schools cultural genocide, Truth and Reconciliation commission says
New York Times: Canada’s Forced Schooling of Aboriginal Children Was ‘Cultural Genocide,’ Report Finds
Al Jazeera: Canada accused of ‘cultural genocide’
BBC: The schools that had cemeteries instead of playgrounds, By Sian Griffiths BBC News, Ottawa, June 13

Thus far, the government has agreed to just one. However, in a sure sign that an election is looming, opposition parties agreed, if elected, to implement all the recommendations.

One of those key demands is that this shameful chapter of Canadian history be taught as a mandatory subject in all Canadian schools. No doubt one key date students will never forget will be the day Judge Sinclair made Canadians face up to their past.

Previously:

Canada commission issues details abuse of native children
Canada’s native people get a formal apology
RCMP ‘herded’ native kids to residential schools
Canada reopens its “most disgraceful” act
Well! It’s not just the Catholic Church…

WikiLeaks releases more than half a million US diplomatic cables from 1978

Wikileaks, By Julian Assange, May 27

Today WikiLeaks has released more than half a million US State Department cables from 1978. The cables cover US interactions with, and observations of, every country.

1978 was an unusually important year in geopolitics. The year saw the start of a great many political conflicts and alliances which continue to define the present world order, as well as the rise of still-important personalities and political dynasties.

The cables document the start of the Iranian Revolution, leading to the stand-off between Iran and the West (1979 – present); the Second Oil Crisis; the Afghan conflict (1978 – present); the Lebanon–Israel conflict (1978 – present); the Camp David Accords; the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua and the subsequent conflict with US proxies (1978 – 1990); the 1978 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia; the Ethopian invasion of Eritrea; Carter’s critical decision on the neutron bomb; the break-up of the USSR’s nuclear-powered satellite over Canada, which changed space policy; the US “playing the China card” against Russia; Brzezinski’s visit to China, which led to the subsequent normalisation of relations and a proxy war in Cambodia; with the US, UK, China and Cambodia on one side and Vietnam and the USSR on the other.

Written Communication May Be 40,000 Years Old

New Historian, By Irina Slav, May 24

It’s common knowledge that the first systematic use of written symbols as a means of communication emerged in Sumer around 3,000 BCE, but now a Canadian researcher is suggesting that as far back as 40,000 years ago our ancestors communicated in writing. Genevieve von Petzinger, an anthropologist from the University of Victoria, studied hundreds of markings from 300 sites in addition to personally visiting and examining 52 caves where ancient humans had lived located in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France. She then collected these markings in a database and looked for repeated use of the same symbol as well as for patterns of use for the different symbols.

What she discovered was surprising: there were just 30 symbols that were used repeatedly at these hundreds of sites, and this took place over a period as long as 30,000 years. These repeated uses, however, were not evident in all the caves throughout this period. Commenting on the find, another anthropologist, April Nowell, who teaches at the University of Victoria, told CBC that each of the symbols classified by von Petzinger seems to have gone through its very own “heyday” in one of the regions studied before its use declined. What’s more, Nowell noted, the symbols first started being used in one area, for instance in Spain, and then spread to another, such as France.

CBC: Did early humans communicate with cave signs?

The Globe and Mail: Cave symbols hint at 30,000-year-old origins of written communication , February 23, 2010

William Pfaff, Critic of American Foreign Policy, Dies at 86

New York Times, By Marlise Simons, May 1

Paris — William Pfaff, an international affairs columnist and author who was a prominent critic of American foreign policy, finding Washington’s intervention in world affairs often misguided, died on Thursday in a hospital here. He was 86.

His wife, Carolyn Pfaff, said the cause was a heart attack after a fall.

Mr. Pfaff, who moved to Paris in 1971, wrote a syndicated column that appeared for more than 25 years in The International Herald Tribune, now The International New York Times. He was a longtime contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and other publications, the articles informed by his deep knowledge of history and philosophy.

Mr. Pfaff (pronounced FAFF) also wrote eight books, which further examined American statecraft as well as 20th-century Europe’s penchant for authoritarian utopianism. In “The Bullet’s Song: Romantic Violence and Utopia,” published in 2004, he examined what drove European intellectuals to embrace communism, fascism and Nazism.

[…]

“What has occurred since 1945,” he wrote in its introduction, “has amounted to an American effort to control the consequences of the 20th-century crisis in Europe and the breakdown of imperial order in Asia, the Near and Middle East, and latterly in Africa while maintaining that supervisory role over the Americas first claimed by the United States in 1823” with the Monroe Doctrine.

The Neoconservative Counterrevolution

In the anti-sixties backlash, neoconservatives were the most formidable intellectual opponents of social progress.

Jacobin Magazine, By Andrew Hartman, April 23

If New Leftists gave shape to one side of the culture wars, those who came to be called neoconservatives were hugely influential in shaping the other. Neoconservatism, a label applied to a group of prominent liberal intellectuals who moved right on the American political spectrum during the sixties, took form precisely in opposition to the New Left.

In their reaction to the New Left, in their spirited defense of traditional American institutions, and in their full-throated attack on those intellectuals who composed, in Lionel Trilling’s words, an “adversary culture,” neoconservatives helped draw up the very terms of the culture wars.

When we think about the neoconservative persuasion as the flip side of the New Left, it should be historically situated relative to what Corey Robin labels “the reactionary mind.” Robin considers conservatism “a meditation on — and theoretical rendition of — the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.”

In somewhat similar fashion, George H. Nash defines conservatism as “resistance to certain forces perceived to be leftist, revolutionary, and profoundly subversive.” Plenty of Americans experienced the various New Left movements of the sixties as “profoundly subversive” of the status quo. Neoconservatives articulated this reaction best. In a national culture transformed by sixties liberation movements, neoconservatives became famous for their efforts to “win it back.”

Armenian Church to canonize 1.5 million genocide victims

AFP, By Irakli Metreveli, April 23

Yerevan – The Armenian Church prepared Thursday to canonise up to 1.5 million Armenians massacred by Ottoman forces as tensions over Turkey’s refusal to recognize the killings as genocide reached boiling point.

The ceremony, which is believed to become the biggest canonisation service in history, comes ahead of commemorations expected to see millions of people including heads of state Friday mark 100 years since the start of the killings. The Armenian Apostolic Church announced the canonisation service for the “martyrs of the Armenian Genocide,” calling for a “prayerful participation in this historic event.”

The service will be held in Armenia’s main church, Echmiadzin, an austere fourth-century edifice believed to be the Christian world’s oldest cathedral. The ceremony will run from 1300 GMT and end at 1515 GMT to symbolize the year when the massacres started during World War I.

“Today’s canonisation unites all Armenians living around the globe,” Huri Avetikian, an ethnic Armenian librarian from Lebanon who arrived in her ancestral homeland to attend the service, told AFP.

The Independent: System Of A Down perform in Armenia for the first time to mark genocide’s 100th anniversary
NPR: System Of A Down, Armenia’s Favorite Sons, On Facing History

First in Flight? Connecticut Stakes a Claim

New York Times, By Kristen Hussey, April 17

Bridgeport, CT — Connecticut lawmakers are wrestling with difficult issues — a budget deficit, assisted suicide, judicial reform.

But this legislative session, and for the previous two, one topic has enjoyed bipartisan support: Gustave Whitehead.

In 2013, a well-regarded aviation publication surprised historians by declaring that Mr. Whitehead, a Bridgeport resident, had flown two years before Orville and Wilbur Wright skimmed the dunes of Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina in 1903.

“Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied,” read the headline in the publication, IHS Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. “Whitehead has been shabbily treated by history,” it said.

Mr. Whitehead, a German immigrant, flew his own aircraft above Bridgeport and nearby Fairfield on Aug. 14, 1901, climbing 50 feet into the air and traveling more than a mile, according to the article, which was written by Paul Jackson, the editor of Jane’s.

Slaughter on Eighth Avenue: A St. Patrick’s Day Commemoration

Pando, By John Dolan, March 17

St Patrick’s Day, a glum and murky occasion.

The Irish are nothing in America now, which is why they’re fit to be patronized once a year. They’re not much, at the moment, on the home island either. I suppose you can’t blame the Dublin-suburb junior execs swarming over the planet; when Ireland joined the EU, the doomstruck islanders found themselves, for the first time in centuries, ruled by people who actually liked them, goofy but generous postwar Teutons. You can’t grumble too much at the young Dubliners for groveling to Brussels, but you can’t warm up much to the current incarnation of Irish either, with their secondhand motivational clichés.

It’s a necessary stage, I get that. It had to change. I read an interview with a Maasai woman once (there’s more between Irish and Africans than anyone likes to admit) who grieved for the loss of the old ways but then shrugged and said, “Still…No one now would agree to suffer as our mothers suffered.” It was always the women who bore the brunt. Which is why I have to fast-forward through the Mrs. Doyle scenes of Father Ted, and waste many an hour on stupid dreams about a time machine, a suitcase nuke, and a one-way trip to London, 1850.

It’s just not practical, all that baggage. Somebody told me once, “The past is past,” and though I nodded, I never got that idea. How can the past be past? That makes no sense to me, never has.

What they really mean is, “The past can’t be fixed.” Now that, I get. But “can’t be fixed” is not the same as “past.” May as well be, maybe, but not actually the same.

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