God: 1, Humanity: 0

Smart people succumb to the comfort of dimwitted platitudes like the rest of us. Perhaps it reassures them. In his essay “Science and Religion”, Einstein disappoints by choosing what Freud referred to as “a dull Christian ending” in reference to Dostoevsky’s limp of an epilogue at the end of Crime and Punishment. What a shame that Einstein did not use that beautiful mind of his to come up with an original cosmology! Instead he chooses the safe path, the idea that, in the words of Dostoevsky in the Brothers Karamazov, “without God everything is permitted”.… Read the rest here

Triumph of the Will, Failure of the Imagination

As I watched Triumph of the Will (1935) I quickly began to experience a sensation of excruciating boredom not unlike those you might expect to feel at an award ceremony dedicated to an obvious fraud and criminal (e.g Henry Kissinger receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in what our descendants will either remember as a moment of comedic brilliance on the part of the Nobel committee or as an intellectual crime against humanity). Their every word sounds contrived and derivative at best, pornographic at worst.… Read the rest here

Urban development as a reflection of culture and politics

I found the reviewer’s last sentence, recommending the three books for those interested in issues of memory, history, and urban planning very interesting. Urban planning reflects both the values and dynamism of a society. Paris, for instance, along with many other European cities, remains fixated on the past; try building a skyscraper on the Champs-Élysées if you want a challenge. Other cities, like New York, promote their ostensibly forward-looking nature with hyper-modern architectural styles and a constant flow of major construction projects.… Read the rest here

In Cold Blood: Revolution in Bread and Wine

Bread and Wine by Ignazio Silone tells the story of Pietro Spina, a formerly exiled Italian revolutionary attempting to recruit and organize the peasants of his native region of Abruzzi into an effective anti-fascist resistance movement. The novel’s most interesting passages usually take place in the form of discussions between the protagonist and various acquaintances from his conspiratorial past

In one of my favorite passages, Pietro meets with Annina, the former girlfriend of a comrade-turned informant.… Read the rest here

The Menace From Within and the Art of Obfuscation

I found the Madness from Within deeply misleading. The documentary begins with the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which ended the Irish War of Independence, created the Irish Free State, and gave Northern Ireland the permission to remain under British rule. At first, this may seem reasonable, considering the high concentration of Ulster Unionist Protestants in Northeastern Ireland. We must consider this event’s relation to the spirit of the times, reflected by the redistribution of territory halfway around the globe, in the Balkans and the Middle East.… Read the rest here

The Pleasure Garden as a Prison in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis tells the story of a futuristic city in which a handful of elites live in luxury while ruling an army of workers confined to a smoke-belching underground factory. A prophetess threatens the fragile balance between these two classes, predicting the arrival of a “mediator” –referred to as the “heart”- who will join both social classes together to found a society in which the “head” (the managerial class) unifies with the “hands” (the workers) as a result of their link to the heart.… Read the rest here

Marinetti and History as a Waste of Time

Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto expresses a very curious ideology. While it advocates revolution and the destruction of all moral systems, it anticipates and applauds a brave new world in which man resembles a machine. While this man does not transform himself into a cyborg in Marinetti’s fantasies, he acts on the basis of intuition, stripping him of rationality and superficial manners. Yet, I think responding to one’s base desires rather than to the inquiries of a higher intellect implies a more profound slavery, in which one can easily fall prey to leaders promising new and improved opportunities for the satisfaction of our desires.… Read the rest here

Eugenicist Posters

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I found this image very interesting as it presents a chart of all the possible “blood” combinations imaginable.

According to the eugenicists, each person belonged to a very specific racial category, one that completely determined every aspect of their life, from intelligence to physical appearance. As we can tell from the bottom picture, the eugenicists perceived themselves as humanists, advocating the best policies for the development of human civilization, even while advising states to adopt the most horrific and invasive social policies, ranging from sterilization to laws forbidding interracial marriage. … Read the rest here

Children as a Special Category of Humanitarian Concern in Interwar Europe

The introduction and first chapter of Tara Zahra’s Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families After World War I, presents a fascinating survey of changing attitudes towards children across Europe in the aftermath of the First World War. We learn, thanks to Zahra’s research on four humanitarian crises during the Interwar Period – the Armenian Genocide, the efforts of the American Relief Association in Eastern Europe, the tragedy of refugee families separated from one another in different countries, and the Spanish Civil War- how children came to earn special consideration in response to humanitarian crises and in European peoples’ general understanding of war and violence.… Read the rest here

Critical Summary: Mazower, Chapters 1-4

Beginning in the 1920s, the first four chapters of Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent describe a Europe traumatized by the First World War and caught in the thrall of a “bourgeois triumph”, heralded by the collapse of Europe’s great empires and their replacement with a “belt of democracies” stretching from the Baltic to the Balkans, each equipped with a constitution enumerating the liberal principles and rights of its citizens and leaders with the express aim of rationalizing governance and reducing politics to the management of institutions responsible for protecting and cultivating the welfare of ordinary citizens (4, 5).… Read the rest here