July 31, 2013

Life In America Can Drive You Insane, Literally

Cropped from “Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time” [Allegory of the Triumph of Venus] by Angelo Bronzino (1503-1572)

by Bruce E. Levine, The Alternet, July 30, 2013

“The reality is that with enough helplessness, hopelessness, passivity, boredom, fear, isolation, and dehumanization, we rebel and refuse to comply. Some of us rebel by becoming inattentive. Others become aggressive. In large numbers we eat, drink and gamble too much. Still others become addicted to drugs, illicit and prescription. Millions work slavishly at dissatisfying jobs, become depressed and passive aggressive, while no small number of us can’t cut it and become homeless and appear crazy. Feeling misunderstood and uncared about, millions of us ultimately rebel against societal demands, however, given our wherewithal, our rebellions are often passive and disorganized, and routinely futile and self-destructive.”

"At Eternity's Gate, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

July 22, 2013

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting - New UN Report

New UNICEF report on female genital mutilation/cutting: Turning opposition into action UNICEF Report on Child Protection from Violence, Exploitation and Abuse, July 22, 2013

“FGM/C is a violation of a girl’s rights to health, well-being and self-determination,” says UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta. “What is clear from this report is that legislation alone is not enough. The challenge now is to let girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned.”

"UNICEF published its first statistical exploration of FGM/C in 2005, helping to increase awareness of the magnitude and persistence of the practice. This report, published eight years later, casts additional light on how the practice is changing and on the progress being made. The analyses contained on the following pages show that social dynamics favouring the elimination of the practice may exist even in countries where the practice is universal and provide clues on how they might be harnessed. The report also makes clear that, in some countries, little or no change is apparent yet and further programmatic investments are needed.

"As many as 30 million girls are at risk of being cut over the next decade if current trends persist. UNICEF will continue to engage with governments and civil society, together with other  partners, to advance efforts to eliminate FGM/C worldwide. If, in the next decade, we work together to apply the wealth of evidence at our disposal, we will see major progress. That means a better life and more hopeful prospects for millions of girls and women, their families and entire communities.

Geeta Rao Gupta
Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF

What you can do, now:  StopFGMNow.com

Facebook:  STOP FGM NOW!

July 6, 2013

"Humanities Crisis?"

 Makonde carving, East Africa

The Decline of the Humanities - and Civilization by Rosanna Warren, The New Republic, July 17, 2013

Who Ruined the Humanities? by Lee Siegel, The Wall Street Journal, The Saturday Essay, July 12, 2013

"A digital environment also stresses quantitative thinking, and perhaps that helps explain why the most exciting cultural advances are now in science and medicine.

"It is hardly a surprise that in this atmosphere, college students choose to major in fields that are most relevant to the life around them. What a blessing that is on literature. Slipping out from behind ivied prison doors, where they have been forced to labor as evaluative "texts," the great thoughts and feelings made permanent by art can resume their rightful place as a unique phase of ordinary experience."


Humanist: Heal Thyself
by Russell A. Berman
The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 10, 2013

I don't see a humanities crisis as this and other recent essays* try to argue. Fewer humanities majors than in the past? Such can only be a problem of staffing and salaries at universities, or a problem of society where there ostensibly needs to be a certain critical mass of humanities educated US citizens. 

The first problem is really not one for the academy. Declining humanities majors and attendant faculty positions are accompanied by increases in science and other areas. The academy is neither in crisis nor endangered by this.

The second problem, harm to society, is likewise not significant. That a society might become less able to appreciate art, music, literature, and history and therefore become less humanistic and less humane due to the lack of university-educated humanists flies in the face of what we know of the nature of Humankind. 

Humans direct and shape culture to suit their perceived needs, usually for the short term. Regardless of what majors US college students choose, the future of Humankind's thinking and behaving humanistically and humanely is not something to be worried about. Currently, the global trend is for societies to fashion and support cultures that have beliefs, values, and behaviors that are predominantly secular-scientific. Implicit in worries over the future of university humanities is a fear that ever-growing scientific-secularism and materialism are increasingly harmful to Humankind. There is no historical or anthropological evidence to justify such fear. The most atrocious behaviors of all time have been derived from quests for power, wealth, and religious hegemony - not a lack of knowledge about the humanities.  Humaneness will not decline because fewer humanities degrees are awarded in the US and elsewhere. In fact, a strong argument could be made that far more acts of humaneness have been committed, historically and currently, by illiterate humans than by all the world's humanities graduates combined.