More on North Korea here.
three weeks after Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus abruptly derailed school desegregation in September 1957. Confident that the Negroes would be kept out by the cordon of Arkansas National Guardsmen surrounding the school, crowds of angry whites—many having no connection to the school or to Little Rock—arrived every morning to demonstrate their disapproval of integration. They watched white students enter the school and kept a watchful eye to make sure black students, though backed by a federal court order allowing them in, didn’t try to sneak in. White reporters and cameramen faced relentless heckling, physical taunts and spittle. Black reporters faced worse. The story had drawn many of the most experienced journalists in the black press, reporters who had braved the back roads of the South and pioneered civil rights coverage long before it caught on with the mainstream white press. But as they tried to penetrate the scene around the high school, they met scorn and stonewalling as National Guardsmen quickly moved them off the premises and away from the story.
On the warm Monday morning of Sept. 23, the integration stalemate broke and the story changed. The National Guard, following a federal court edict, had withdrawn. The white crowds stayed, however, leaving the school’s grounds and perimeter beyond the control of authorities. Black students on their way to the school in a station wagon were heading into an unpredictable mob scene.
At the same time, in a separate car, intent on witnessing and covering the moment firsthand, were four seasoned black newsmen. Their leader was the tall, dark-skinned and serious L. Alex Wilson, the editor and general manager of the Tri-State Defender of Memphis, Tennessee—the newspaper that was the southern outpost of the Chicago Defender, one of the foremost black newspapers in the United States. (Continue reading).
I’ll never be able to understand how this scene could have been horrifying to anyone:
And this image shows the absurdness of segregation:
Is this de facto segregation? I couldn’t find anything about the context of the photo:
And this is just one of the sexiest images ever:
If you look carefully at the top left of this image, you’ll see a fellow who doesn’t know his place:
Some lesser-known images of this horrific period in the history of capitalism, but striking nonetheless:
The Nazi era is an infinite source of weird stories, bizarre relics, secret inventions and over-the-top conspiracy theories. I don’t know why. Perhaps this is a way of dealing with the horror of Nazi crimes. There are stories about Hitler’s corpse, Hitler’s survival and escape, secret nazi camps on the Antarctic, strange weapons etc. Below are a few of the most bizarre.
All conspiracy theories are good fun, but this is one of the best. The Nazi UFO theory argues that the Nazis successfully attempted to develop advanced air and spacecraft prior to and during World War II, and that these vehicles survived the war in secret underground bases in Antarctica, South America or the United States, along with their creators. After all, they did manage to produce rockets. Here’s a so-called photograph:
Or maybe the Nazis used their UFOs to escape to the moon instead. Here’s “evidence” of a Nazi moon station:
There’s even a popular movie about it which some call fiction:
Or was it Mars rather than the moon? Mars rover Curiosity has apparently found a Nazi helmet on Mars:
But let’s return back to earth, literally and figuratively. How about the Nazi motorcycle tank?
Weird you say? I agree, it doesn’t look quite real. But this one does:
And how about Nazi ice-cream? Strange indeed but could be tasty, at least for those without a sense of history:
As in many other religions, the beard is important for a certain subgroup of Jews. Leviticus 19:27 states: “You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard”. Then watch the smirk:
It’s not only Jews. Many Muslims as well view shaving as haram, or forbidden, because the prophet and his immediate followers wore beards. Consequently, those who do not like Muslims sometimes engage in forcible shaving. Here’s a present-day example:
Nidal Hasan … [t]he army psychiatrist sentenced to death for the Fort Hood shooting rampage has been forcibly shaved, an army spokesman has said. Major Nidal Hasan began growing a beard after the November 2009 shooting that left 13 dead and 30 wounded. … Hasan, 42, who was born in America, is an inmate of the US detention barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, home to the military death row. (source)
Pointless and petulant, if you ask me. However, one can perhaps invoke military grooming regulations or other reasons (maybe the performance of the death penalty in general requires a clean shaven face, I don’t know). Another bizarre story of attacks on beards: an Amish splinter group has been forcibly cutting the beards off of their rivals.
The beard, of course, isn’t the only religious symbol that can come under attack:
Today, in a letter to the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), the ACLU and United Sikhs called on state officials to investigate the harassment of a Sikh commercial truck driver pulled over early this year for a flat tire. After detaining Mr. Jageet Singh in January as he passed through Mississippi, the officers called him a “terrorist” and harassed and humiliated him because of his appearance and religious beliefs. As a devout Sikh, Mr. Singh wears a turban and carries a kirpan. A kirpan is a small, spiritual sword that is sheathed and sewn to the waistband. It is designed and worn as an article of faith, much as a cross is worn by devout Christians.
Contending, wrongly, that his kirpan was illegal, the officers demanded that Mr. Singh remove it. When Mr. Singh explained that he was a Sikh and that the kirpan was a sacred religious article, the officers laughed at him and mocked his religious beliefs. One officer declared that all Sikhs are “depraved” and “terrorists.” They continued to taunt him, and forced Mr. Singh to circle his truck with his hands on his turban while they searched the vehicle. Finally, not content with this humiliation, they arrested him, claiming that Mr. Singh had refused to obey an officer’s lawful command.
Mr. Singh’s ordeal did not end with the MDOT. When he returned to Mississippi on March 26, 2013, for his court date at the Pike County Justice Court, he once again suffered humiliation, harassment, and discrimination because of his religious beliefs. Waiting for his attorney in the back of the courtroom, he was stunned when four Highway Patrol officers approached him and ordered him to leave the courtroom. The officers stated that Judge Aubrey Rimes had ordered them to eject Mr. Singh from the courtroom because he did not like Mr. Singh’s turban. Moreover, they told Mr. Singh that Judge Rimes would punish him if he failed to remove his headdress.
When Mr. Singh’s attorney went to Judge Rimes’s chambers to inquire about the matter, he readily confirmed that he had expelled Mr. Singh from the courtroom because of his turban. He further stated that Mr. Singh would not be allowed to re-enter the courtroom unless he removed “that rag” from his head and threatened to call Mr. Singh last on the docket if he continued to wear the religious headdress. (source)
Similar to the turban is the veil for Muslim women. This symbol is often the target of discomfort, criticism and even legal prohibition. There have been reports of violent attacks on Muslim women wearing the veil. Here’s one case (warning: shocking video):
Then there were the bombings of mosques in Bosnia:
The “war on Christmas” is a canard, but there have been genuine attacks on Christianity, such as this and this for instance. What the “war on Christmas” does make clear, however, is that a lot of so-called attacks on religious symbols are in reality attempts by democratic governments to remain religiously neutral. Here’s a famous case:
The Mojave Memorial Cross is a cross formerly on public land in the Mojave desert that was at the center of the Salazar v. Buono legal case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The original cross was erected in 1934 to honor those killed in war. The cross has been maintained by volunteers and was reconstructed after being destroyed. It was boarded up after lower court rulings declared it illegal because of separation of church and state constitutional concerns.
The Supreme Court ruled that the cross may stay.
Anti-Roma prejudice has existed for centuries. Here’s an example of one of the more extreme stereotypes, which has fortunately become somewhat less fashionable over time:
Prejudice has led to the darkest period in Roma history, the Holocaust:
Even today, in prosperous Europe, the Romani are often very poor. Their living conditions and housing are more like those of a third world country:
The Roma are not only disadvantaged. They still, in some places, suffer physical attacks:
However, let’s end on a happier note:
All forms of criminal punishment are in some sense public humiliation of the criminal, but some forms are more so. The pillory is the archetypical tool:
A variation of the pillory:
Remnants of the practice still exist today. US judges in particular sometimes administer “alternative” punishments:
This is essentially the same as the pillory: you have shaming and immobilization, albeit immobilization without restraints. Given prison conditions in the US, one can almost understand this type of punishment.
There are/were other forms besides the pillory. The “scold’s bridle” was a punishment designed to humiliate as well as to hurt. It took many different appearances but in essence it was always a metal cage clamped around the head with a built-in gag. Sometimes it included a bell which rang when the “scold” was paraded around the town. A scold was defined as a “troublesome and angry woman who by brawling and wrangling amongst her neighbors breaks the public peace, increases discord and becomes a public nuisance to the neighborhood”. It’s unclear why women were singled out, but the practice was most likely part of a pervasive culture of gender discrimination. It looked like this:
Speaking of bells, there’s also this image (I don’t know if it is an authentic interpretation of history):
Public flogging is another type of punishment as humiliation. It’s also still practiced today in some parts of the world. This is a whipping post in Delaware used to discipline African slaves:
The supposed justification of all forms of punishment by way of public humiliation is the need to “send a message” and express the norms of society. Humiliation is also believed to be a strong deterrent.
I haven’t mentioned public executions which have more or less the same purpose. Read about those elsewhere.
However, let’s finish on a lighter touch. Here the amazing Frank Zappa with “Whippin’ Post”:
Here’s a revealing collection of images by Jacob Riis, showing the depths of poverty in New York’s infamous slums from around the end of the 19th century:
Hard to imagine NYC like that nowadays. Sure, there is poverty and homelessness, but nothing like the 19th century slums around Mulberry Street, Jersey Street, Bleecker Street, Mercer Street, Greene Street, Cherry Street and such. If you’re into this moral progress stuff, here’s what the area looks like now:
Not that the Chinese were generally better treated in the US. Anti-Asian sentiment in the US and elsewhere dates from well before WWII. For example, there was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a ban on Chinese immigration that lasted until 1943:
The original Yellow Peril rhetoric focused on the Chinese, not the Japanese. Chinese immigration into the US – and other Western countries as well – was important in the 19th century. The term refers to skin color and the fear that the mass immigration threatened white wages and standards of living and that the immigrants would eventually take over and destroy western civilization. The notion continued to have some currency until late in the 20th century, when it became associated with fears of Chinese overpopulation.
And did they need protection. Here’s the story of the Denver riot of 1880:
Denver had a section of town, populated by Chinese laborers, known as “Hop Alley”. The name was in reference to the widespread use of opium amongst the “Celestials” as some people referred to the Chinese at that time. A group of railroad laborers entered a bar in the area and confronted two Chinese men playing pool, hit one of them with a cue stick, and was promptly shot at by the other pool player. He missed, but word quickly spread that a Chinaman had killed a white man. A large crowd gathered with the intent to destroy the Chinese, along with all their possessions. (source)
Another example is the Asiatic Exclusion League, an organization formed in the early twentieth century in the United States and Canada that aimed to prevent immigration of people of Asian origin. In 1907, riots erupted in Vancouver when League members besieged Chinatown. Shouting racist slogans, as many as 10,000 people marched into Chinatown, vandalizing and causing thousands of dollars worth of damage. A small Kristallnacht. The mob then rampaged through Japantown, where they were confronted by residents armed with clubs and bottles with which they fought back (source).
Here’s a print from Mexico about the “terrible diseases of the Orient”, from 1932:
And here’s one from New Zealand:
Here’s another fine illustration betraying prejudice:
Sentiments like these have become rare nowadays, but haven’t totally disappeared. Here’s an Australian job ad:
More collections of images are here.
These images are not from the more infamous famine that occurred during the Great Leap Forward.
George Silk was a LIFE Magazine staffer, working for them 30 years. He extensively covered many aspects of the second world war, at one point being even captured by the Germans, and then fortunately escaping. He was also the first photographer to document Nagasaki after the atomic bombing. Immediately after the war, he was in China recording the poor social conditions and the lack of resources and its devastating effects on the Chinese populace. (source)
Unsurprisingly, representations of international intervention often include a world map or a globe. And since these representations are almost always dismissive of intervention (even though in theory intervention can be a good thing), you’ll also see some awful creature with tentacles grasping the globe. It used to be common to depict the communist threat in this way:
Even post-communist Russia sometimes gets the same treatment, deservedly or not:
The image of the globe-spanning octopus was also used to condemn the so-called global Jewish conspiracy:
Amazingly, this red herring is still in use today:
Images condemning international intervention were common during the era of colonialism:
If it’s not the globe that’s carved up by the imperialists, it’s some kind of pizza/cake thing:
China is well-known for its desire to intervene in Taiwan in order to undo the intervention of someone else:
The US as the “policeman of the world” is another famous anti-interventionist metaphor:
A traditional objection to private property is that it tends to result in very unequal distributions. Wealth begets wealth, and even when it doesn’t it’s certainly the case that luck, effort, injustice etc. can leave some people with too much and others with barely enough property to survive. So, the logical step would be to switch to a system of common property: if something is the common property of all, then everyone, by definition, can make equal use of it and no one is left with nothing or a bare minimum.
However, when taking this seemingly logical step, we’ll fall over the first hurdle. The “tragedy of the commons” makes everyone worse off, even if everyone has equal access. If, for example, everyone has an equal right to use a piece of land for cattle, then no one has an incentive to avoid over-use. On the contrary, it’s in every individual’s interest to brings as many cows as possible. Someone who tries to act in a responsible way and limit his use of the common land bears the cost of his self-restraint while all other irresponsible users benefit from his self-restraint. The benefits of overuse are immediate and certain, while the benefits of restraint are in the future and conditional upon equal self-restraint of all users. Because everyone has an incentive to get as much out of the shared resource and as quickly as possible, the resource will be rapidly depleted, and everyone will be worse off in the end.
The next logical step to remedy this deficiency of common ownership is to switch to collective ownership. Collective ownership means that the community as a whole decides how the commonly owned resources should be used. The self-destructive logic of common ownership results from a lack of trust and collective action among the users. This logic can be countered if there’s a collective decision on the rules that govern the use of the shared resources. For example, a collective decision could prohibit use above a certain level. Such a rule can enforce self-restraint.
The problem is that this step also fails. Collective ownership is perhaps possible when we’re dealing with one or a few resources (e.g. land and cattle), but a modern economy is too complex: there are too many resources and too many decisions to take. It doesn’t seem possible for a single human mind, let alone a very inclusive collective, to take all necessary decisions about resources. (Communist central planning was a failure in this respect, with wasteful resource allocation and huge inefficiencies).
That is why we’ll have to reconsider private property, combined with a market system based on prices. If people own their own things and their own share of the total pool of resources, then resources will not be depleted but instead be used productively. No one has an incentive to deplete their own private property; on the contrary, the incentive is to use it wisely and productively.
When individual owners are then also allowed to trade their surplus production in a free market system based on the price system, then this price system will signal over or under-use of resources (in certain cases at least). Producers and consumers responding to these price signals will then switch to underused resources, something which again promotes efficient resource use and avoids depletion (at least some of the time). But they will only respond to price signals when there is private property and when the loss of not responding or the gain of responding is theirs and theirs alone.
However, this brings us back to our starting point and the initial problem of private ownership: very unequal ownership and unequal use of resources, so unequal in some cases that certain people don’t have enough to survive in a decent way. Of course, those people can sell their labor power in order to acquire some property, but this will not always suffice. Given the various beneficial functions of private property – some of which are commonly neglected – people need more of it than we usually assume. The price system doesn’t always work, and the price of labor (the wage) isn’t always a fair one, or at least not one that allows the laborer to acquire all the necessary private property. Also, one has to take seriously the alienating consequences of wage labor and the unjust distribution of property resulting from luck and theft. Hence, we can only settle on private property as the least problematic form of property in our modern economies if we include a robust redistributive principle.