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Posts Tagged ‘civil rights

“Civilization is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbor”*…

It can seem, in this chaotic world-moment, that Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations is having a day. Nathan Gardels introduces a new series of essays in Noema that examine the prospects for rise and fall in our time…

“The intelligible unit of historical study,” Arnold Toynbee famously wrote, is neither the nation-state nor mankind as a whole, but civilizations that grew out of societies that evolved toward dominance of their “known world,” or stalled in isolation and fell into obscurity, depending on challenges to which they rose in response or that defeated them.

Writing his “Study of History” in the mid-20th century, he counted some 22 such civilizations that had arisen over the last 6,000 years, from the Mayan to Hindic to Sinic and Hellenic among many others. Each saw its foundation in a religious or cosmological outlook that shaped its internal cohesion through the form of the life of a society, its style of life, moral taste, form of government and spirit of laws.

For Toynbee, as the political scientist Robert Loevy has put it, “often one nation-state is the most powerful leader in the Civilization and comes to dominate it and symbolize it. After a lengthy period of domination, the Civilization falls, the world goes into a state of low-level organization, and humanity waits for the next Civilization to emerge and the cycle to begin anew.” Inevitably, as Toynbee saw it, creative elites become complacent in their success and fail to meet new challenges, both internally and from the outside. 

Oswald Spengler, another philosopher of history most known for his book, “The Decline of the West”, similarly argued that the dominance of a civilization always diminished as the creative impulse that propelled its rise waned, overcome by “critical impulses” that destroyed the internal cohesion that sustained it. 

These reflections are obviously relevant today as Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China push back against the liberal world order led by the United States that has dominated the “known world” for the last eight decades following the West’s four-century rise.

Since they frame their challenge as “civilizational states” reasserting their historical identities anew, the question arises whether that challenge will defeat the West or serve to revitalize it by compelling a fresh creative response that both renews its internal cohesion and resists the hegemony of others. 

Over the next weeks, Noema will address these issues in a running symposium of authors from West and East…

Clashes and cross-pollination: “The Cycle Of Civilizations,” a series eminently worth following in @NoemaMag.

* Arnold Toynbee

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As we work out world order, we might recall that it was on this date in 1865 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude (except as punishment for a crime).

Amendment XIII in the National Archives, bearing the signature of Abraham Lincoln (source)

On this date in 1960, the Greensboro Sit-Ins began. Four freshman at North Carolina A&T—  Joseph McNeilFranklin McCainEzell Blair Jr., and David Richmond, the “Greensboro Four,” as they came to be known– took seats at the lunch counter at the “Whites only” lunch counter of the F.W. Woolworths in downtown Greensboro. Followers of Martin Luther King, Jr., theirs was a non-violent protest– the Greensboro sit-ins grew (on February 4, more than 300 people took part) and lasted until July 25. On that date, after nearly $200,000 in losses ($1.8 million in 2021 dollars), and a reduction in salary for not meeting sales goals, store manager Clarence Harris asked four black employees, Geneva Tisdale, Susie Morrison, Anetha Jones, and Charles Bess, to change out of their work clothes and order a meal at the counter. They were, quietly, the first to be served at a Woolworth lunch counter. Most stores were soon desegregated.

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro contains the lunch counter, except for several seats which the museum donated to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016 and a four-seat portion of the lunch counter acquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1993, displayed in the National Museum of American History.

The Greensboro Four (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 1, 2023 at 1:00 am

“The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation”*…

… and happily that prospect may be more likely than we’d been led to believe in works like Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone

Despite widespread worries that the social fabric is disintegrating, data from the American Psychological Association shows that since the 1950s, cooperation between strangers has steadily increased in the United States.

“We were surprised by our findings that Americans became more cooperative over the last six decades because many people believe U.S. society is becoming less socially connected, less trusting, and less committed to the common good,” said lead researcher Yu Kou, Ph.D., a professor of social psychology at Beijing Normal University. “Greater cooperation within and between societies may help us tackle global challenges, such as responses to pandemics, climate change, and immigrant crises.”

Over 63,000 people participated in 511 studies that were carried out in the US between 1956 and 2017 that were analyzed by the researchers. These studies included lab tests that evaluated strangers’ cooperation. The study was recently published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

The study discovered a slight, gradual rise in collaboration over the period of 61 years…

Good News: Cooperation Among Strangers Has Increased for the Past 60 Years.” The full study is here.

* Bertrand Russell

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As we bowl together, we might recall that any improvement on cooperation is on a base that’s not too high: it was on this date in 1957 that nine Black students, having been denied entrance to Little Rock, Arkansas’ Central High School (in defiance of a 1954 Supreme Court ruling), were escorted to school by soldiers of the Airborne Battle Group of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Two days earlier the Black students had faced an angry mob of over 1,000 Whites in front of Central High School who were protesting the integration project; as the students were escorted inside by the Little Rock police (supporting national Guard troops), violence escalated, and they were removed from the school. President Eisenhower responded by calling in the regular Army.

Elizabeth Eckford attempts to enter Central High on September 4, 1957

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 25, 2022 at 1:00 am

“I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves… are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons”*…

Today is Juneteenth.

Though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862 (effective January 1, 1863), word was slow to spread.  Indeed, in Texas (which had been largely on the sidelines of hostilities in the Civil War, had continued its own state constitution-sanctioned practice of slavery, and so had become a refuge for slavers from more besieged Southern states) it took years… and federal enforcement.

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger, who’d arrived  in Galveston, Texas, with 2,000 federal troops  to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves, read “General Order No. 3” from a local balcony:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Former slaves in Galveston celebrated in the streets; Juneteenth observances began across Texas the following year, and are now recognized as state holidays by 41 states– and as of this past Thursday, as a federal holiday.

Ashton Villa in Galveston, from whose front balcony the Emancipation Proclamation was read on June 19, 1865 (source)
Juneteenth celebration in Austin, c.1900 (source)

While the commemoration has deep historical and political resonance, Juneteenth has also become a time for family reunions and gatherings, but usually with a eye to the past. As with most social events, food takes center stage. Juneteenth is often commemorated by barbecues and the traditional drink – Strawberry Soda – and dessert – Strawberry Pie. Other red foods such as red rice (rice with tomatoes), watermelon and red velvet cake are also popular.  The red foods commemorate the blood that was spilled during the days of slavery.

[Image at top: source]

Abraham Lincoln, in the Emancipation Proclamation

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As we set to the work still to be done, we might recall that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was approved, after surviving an 83-day filibuster in the United States Senate on this date in 1964. The House agreed to and passed the Senate version on July 2, and President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill into law that same day.

Pres. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among the guests behind him is Martin Luther King Jr. (source)

This day– or any day– would be a good day to watch this profile of James Baldwin, produced in 1979 for ABC’s 20/20, but never aired.

“It takes no compromise to give people their rights…it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom.”*…

 

one_magazine_alt_1050x700

 

ONE, Inc., was one of the first gay rights organizations in the United States. It was founded in Los Angeles in 1952 with money and leadership from U.S. groups like the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, as well as Swiss magazine Der Kreis. That same year, a 7.2 earthquake shook Southern California along the White Wolf Fault, and the Emmys were awarded to shows made across the U.S. for the first time (before that, the awards just went to L.A. studios). Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz hosted the show from the Cocoanut Grove Lounge. The following year Dwight Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450, which said gays and lesbians were perverts, criminals, mentally ill, and must be blocked from any kind of federal employment. So much was hopeful, but at times everything felt broken and hopeless too. The digital archive of ONE, the monthly magazine published by ONE, Inc., reflects the contradictions of the time. It’s a record of endurance, legal and emotional labor, new and inherited trauma, tenderness, and joy.

The magazine was mailed internationally in unmarked brown envelopes. For safety and longevity, ONE’s all-gender board of editors often used pen names, and always depended on other jobs for food and rent. Even so, within a few months of the first ONE, the FBI identified everyone and wrote their employers, calling all staff “deviants” and “security risks” in a middle-school-style attempt to destroy health and security. Luckily, the employers largely ignored the notices, which surprised the FBI so much they shifted public attention elsewhere, for a while…

More at “ONE: The First Gay Magazine in the United States.”

Shortly after the organization’s founding, in January of 1953, the first issue of ONE Magazine was produced. ONE Magazine remained a staple of ONE, Inc., published every month and read across the nation. ONE, Inc., was the “first national, legally sanctioned organization dedicated to the promulgation of information on homosexuality,” and ONE Magazine was core to that mission. The subscriber count of the magazine peaked at around 5000, although as with many homosexual publications in that era, copies moving from person to person made up a great deal of their readership that went uncounted…

From the introduction to ONE Archives at USC Libraries, where one can browse the publication.

Remembering that Playboy debuted in the same year (1953) as ONE, your correspondent will give Somerset Maugham the last word:

My own belief is that there is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror…

* Harvey Milk

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As we love and let love, we might recall that it was on this this date in 1598 that The Merchant of Venice was entered on the Stationer’s Register.  The copyright regimen was strict in Elizabeth’s time, as is now.  But back then, copyright was literally that, the right to make a (first) copy:  the Queen, concerned with sedition and determined to keep a tight rein on any and all published material in her realm, had decreed that no work could be printed in England without a license from the Stationer.

Shakespeare had written the play sometime between 1596 and 1598 (when a performance is mentioned by Francis Meres).  It wasn’t actually printed until 1600– in the First Quarto– by which time (the title page suggests) it had been performed “divers times.”

If you prick us, do we not bleed?  – The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1

Title page from the First Quarto (source)

 

“Genuine equality means not treating everyone the same, but attending equally to everyone’s different needs”*…

 

inequality

 

In 2014, the Pew Research Center asked Americans to rank the “greatest dangers in the world.” A plurality put inequality first, ahead of “religious and ethnic hatred,” nuclear weapons, and environmental degradation. And yet people don’t agree about what, exactly, “equality” means. In the past year, for example, New York City residents have found themselves in a debate over the city’s élite public high schools, such as Stuyvesant and Bronx Science. Some ethnicities are vastly overrepresented at the schools, while others are dramatically underrepresented. What to do? One side argues that the city should guarantee procedural equality: it should insure that all students and families are equally informed about and encouraged to study for the entrance exam. The other side argues for a more direct, representation-based form of equality: it would jettison the exam, adopting a new admissions system designed to produce student bodies reflective of the city’s demography. Both groups pursue worthy egalitarian goals, but each approach runs against the other. Because people and their circumstances differ, there is, Dworkin writes, a trade-off between treating people equally and treating them “as equals.”

The complexities of egalitarianism are especially frustrating because inequalities are so easy to grasp. C.E.O.s, on average, make almost three hundred times what their employees make; billionaire donors shape our politics; automation favors owners over workers; urban economies grow while rural areas stagnate; the best health care goes to the richest. Across the political spectrum, we grieve the loss of what Alexis de Tocqueville called the “general equality of conditions,” which, with the grievous exception of slavery, once shaped American society. It’s not just about money. Tocqueville, writing in 1835, noted that our “ordinary practices of life” were egalitarian, too: we behaved as if there weren’t many differences among us. Today, there are “premiere” lines for popcorn at the movies and five tiers of Uber; we still struggle to address obvious inequalities of all kinds based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other aspects of identity. Inequality is everywhere, and unignorable. We’ve diagnosed the disease. Why can’t we agree on a cure?…

We all agree that inequality is bad.  But what kind of equality is good?  A thoughtful consideration:  “The Equality Conundrum.”

* one answer, from Terry Eagleton

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As we seek balance, we might recall that it was on this date in 1960 that the Nashville Sit-ins began.  Part of a nonviolent direct action campaign to end racial segregation at lunch counters in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, they ran through May 10.  The sit-in campaign, coordinated by the Nashville Student Movement and Nashville Christian Leadership Council, was notable for its early success and emphasis on disciplined nonviolence.  It was part of a broader sit-in movement that spread across the southern United States in the wake of the Greensboro sit-ins in North Carolina.

300px-Rodney_Powell_Nashville_sit-ins_1960 source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 13, 2020 at 1:01 am

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