You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Anthropology’ category.

Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects is presenting sculptures by Agnes Denes (Nov. 15, 2012 — Jan. 19, 2013).

The exhibition, Sculptures of the Mind: 1968 to Now, includes “Human Dust” — a bowl of real cremated human remains. “Dust that strives to perpetuate itself,” is how Ms. Denes put it. Sounds like U.S. foreign (and domestic) policy.

From Lance Armstrong and David Patraeus to storm Sandy — the events of the last couple of weeks offer a meditation on power, and the consequences of human beings acting as strong-willed machines, attempting to violate nature.

“Drive out nature with a pitchfork, she will come back every time.” — Horace

Various political leaders are speculating on what can be learned from storm Sandy. A good place to start is to exorcize (get rid of) the notion that man is autonomous.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

Americans teach themselves and others to rebel against: nature, limits, rules, regrets, even life itself, all in the name of progress, freedom and happiness.

This break with nature’s order has consequences that are far beyond climate change.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

“With the pluralism of rules (and our times are the times of pluralism) the moral choices (and the moral conscience left in their wake) appear to us to be intrinsically and irreparably ambivalent.” Zygmunt Bauman

With all the talk about what may have motivated the New York nanny to kill two children in her care, no one is talking about the side-effects of psychotropic drugs, that she may have been taking. It’s been reported that she was getting treated for mental illness.

At an American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology conference in NYC this weekend, LE asked an attending  psycopharmacologist if psychotropic drugs can produce homicidal side-effects? He said “yes.”

Commentary: With tens of millions of people in the U.S. (including children) being given psychiatric drugs, often times unnecessarily and off-label, industry and government officials seem willing to let short term utilitarian interests trump the debilitating consequences and lethal side-effects associated with psychotropes, including long-term links to dementia.

Artwork: Rosemarie Throckel

For today’s man (including women) the common refrain is “no rules” or “my rules” while following their passions — which results in a race to the bottom.

When people think and act that way, over time they become diminished — with a deadened conscience and the loss of their true self.

Year-of-the-Dragon Fashion

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Since the time of Columbus, ‘discovery’ in the West has often been joined with a rebel spirit that doesn’t respect boundaries, but seeks to exploit and remake the world its own way.

“Ever insurgent let me be, make me more daring than devout.” Louis Untermeyer, 1914

A society obsessed with being nice has forgotten how to ‘be good’.

“Of all the injuries inflicted by racism on people of color, the most corrosive is the wound within, the internalized racism that leads some victims, at unspeakable cost to their own sense of self, to embrace the values of their oppressors.” H. Jack Geiger

Commentary: Today oppression can also emanate from technology, consumerism, pop-culture, misguided activism — as well as our own bad choices.

In the aftermath of the Colorado movie theater and Sikh temple shootings, President Obama has called for ‘soul-searching’ — to better understand why such things happen in the US.

Commentary: America’s post-modern revolution in ‘ethics’ has left it without a suitable ‘architecture’ with which to do that soul-searching.

“Modernity had the uncanny capacity for thwarting self-examination; it wrapped the mechanisms of self-reproduction with a veil of illusions without which those mechanisms, being what they are could not function properly.” Zygmunt Bauman

“There is still a faint glow of light in man. Let him walk on, for fear that darkness may engulf him.” Saint Augustine, Confessions

In Colorado the moviegoers (including the shooter) didn’t ‘walk on’, but rather plunged into greater darkness — the former to escape the world, and the later to send a message.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Americans are concerned about their exposure to fructose, nicotine, and BPA — and yet are delighted to consume content that corrodes their soul and deadens their consciousness.

Some people want to avoid evil (as well they should), but many others want to party with it — “get some!”

There’s no future in that.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

“I am afraid that we are all of one mind here in feeling that what had every sign of a swell performance has now turned into a rather dark picture.” James Thurber, Credos and Curios, (1962)

Commentary: Mr. Thurber’s words are a fitting description for the trajectory of the United States, from its earliest days until now — ‘a swell performance that turned into a dark picture’. One reason for that is the relationship people have with ‘evil’ — in all its forms, including revenge.

Some of Sigmund Freud’s thoughts on the matter:

“Through the mouths of their scientific spokesmen they lay claim to being a special variety of the human race, a “third sex,” as they call it, standing with equal rights alongside the other two. We may perhaps have an opportunity of critically examining those claims. They are not, of course, as they would gladly maintain, the “elect,” of mankind; they contain in their ranks at least as many inferior and worthless individuals as are to be found among those differently constituted sexually.Sigmund Freud, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1943)

“…returned to earth, determined to transform the planet into a second Krypton.” The Death and Life of Superman (1993)

“Central to Freud’s theory of Jewishness is the idea that Jewishness is constituted by the biological inheritance of an archaic memory that Jewish people are inexorably compelled to transmit to future generations, whether consciously or unconsciously.” Eliza Slavet, Freud’s Theory of Jewishness For Better and for Worse

Commentary: Superman is a metaphor for the Jewish people who are intent on transforming the world, but also perhaps, as Freud would suggest, an “affirmation of the Jewish aspiration to free the soul from the captivity of compulsive idolatry to the material world.”

Jacqueline Rose, commenting on the idea that the Jews killed Moses, said: “There is no sociality without violence, that people are most powerfully and effectively united by what they hate. What binds the people to each other and to their God is that they killed him.”

Eliva Slavet suggests: “While the Jewish people have not “harmonized” their Geistigkeit (intellectual spirituality) with physical activity (like the Greeks), their Geistigkeit originates from the transcending of a brutal and physical act of violence, and the eventual acceptance of the transcendent monotheism that drove them to commit the act of violence. The memory-traces of the murder of Moses — has survived over innumerable generations, despite and beyond the tendentious textual distortions, through some means other than direct communication.”

People of the Book have a significant influence on American and World affairs — from banking and geopolitics to media/entertainment/publishing. As such it is important to understand what is driving them, what it means to be Jewish. In 2010, LE asked Tzipi Lvini, head of the Kadima Party in Israel, if Israel was a secular state or a religious state? She said “Israel is a Jewish State.”

“We fight therefore we are.” Menachem Begin

The anthropological, spiritual and psychological drama of being Jewish has consequences, good and bad, for all peoples of the world. Arnold D. Richards, a practicing psychoanalyst, has edited a book called: The Jewish World of Sigmund Freud Essays on Cultural Roots and the Problem of Religious Identity (MacFarland & Company, 2010). Even for non-Freudians it offers plenty of food for thought.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

“There is no doubt that Russia was killed by literature. Of the ‘corrupters’ of Russia, there is not a single one without a literary background.” Vassily Rozanov (1856-1919)

Read Russia, an initiative sponsored by the Russian government celebrating contemporary Russian literature, sent 50 Russian authors to NYC for the 2012 Book Expo America. With all the revolutionary fervor in the world today we wanted to hear what Russian writers had to say about revolutions, theirs and others.  

Dmitry Bykov (leaning back) — a multi-award-winning author, journalist and media gadfly — told LE the Russian Revolution was a good thing, comparing it to the American Revolution, and suggesting the US government sponsored it.

Olga Slavnikova (second from right) — author, journalist, and writing instructor said: “I’ve been an anti-communist from childhood. I think the October Revolution was the most tragic page in Russian history. The revolution that might happen today (in Russia) will probably lead to another communist regime.”

We asked Mikhail Seslavinsky (right), head of the Russian Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication, if the Russian Revolution had been a good thing for Russia? He said “no”.

Commentary: It’s incorrect to say that the Russian Revolution and the American Revolution are comparible. The US experience in self-governing has certainly seen plenty of ‘fraud and force’, but its architects believed themselves to be acting in keeping with the laws of nature and Providence. Whereas, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks were intent on violating nature to improve nature. “Man will occupy himself with re-registering mountains and rivers and will earnestly and repeatedly make improvements in nature. In the end, he will have rebuilt the earth, if not in his own image, at least according to his own taste. We have not the slightest fear that his taste will be bad…” Leon Trotsky 1923

Ironically, the Arab Spring has seen the US government acting more like Trotsky, and the Russian government more like Jefferson.

When self-governing is in line with nature (Jefferson’s goal), freedom can flourish. When self-governing violates nature (Trotsky’s goal), freedom gives way to tyranny — as we see in the U.S. today. The harm done to individuals and society by a disordered democracy can exceed the harm done by a ‘strong-man’ regime (Gaddafi, Mubarak, Assad).

Photographs: Stephen Wise

Natalia Dmitriyevna, wife of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, spoke at Book Expo America, 6/5, as part of a significant Russian presence at this year’s Expo. She talked about the Solzhenitsyn Archive, and unseen works of her husband (1918-2008) that will be published.

LE ask Natalia if Alexander Solzhenitsyn would see any connections between the Russian Revolution and the Arab Spring? She commented: “Solzhenitsyn dedicated many years of his life to the study of the Russian Revolution, particularly the February Revolution (1917), which similarly happened very quickly, was unexpected and was indeed a mass event. The mechanism, the chemistry, the inside workings mysterious as they are of revolutions, fascinated him greatly. I think today he would be the most keen observer of  these events.”

Natalia Dmitriyevna distinguished between what happened in February 1917 and October of that year — “what happened in October was not a revolution it was a coup d’etat. The proper comparison if we are talking about real revolutions would be the February Revolution.” She added: “You are right there are many analogies.”

Commentary: The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the so-called Arab Spring of today, are examples of misguided individuals ‘burning down the house’, rather than responsibly reforming society.

In The Gulag Archipelago (1973) Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: “In 1918, in order to speed up the cultural victory of the revolution as well, they began to ransack the churches and throw out the relics of the saints, and to carry off church plate.” We see the same things happening today.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

Commentary: American society lacks a correct interpretation and conception of ‘man’.

As a result, politicians, activists, gurus, and pharmachologists are stepping in to fill the void.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

This is Gaetane Niquet, aka “Jacky”, a transsexual and subject of Swedish photographer Christer Stromholm (1918-2002).

Mr. Stromholm’s book Les Amies de Place Blanche is a documentation of transsexual “ladies of the night” in Paris in the 60s. It is being re-released accompanied by an exhibition at ICP in NYC.

In the preface of the of the original book, Stromholm comments that the work is “about insecurity, about humiliation, about the quest for self-identity and the right to live.” He talks about the “right to own and control one’s own body.”

Commentary: While self-mastery is critical to being ourselves, the idea that we own ourselves is wrong. We participate in determining ourselves, but we didn’t create our ‘self’. When people try to identify, or define, themselves apart from their Creator, gender, identity, and self are subsumed by feelings, emotions and body.

Photographs: Wise, 2012; Stromholm, 1961

“Inasmuch as man during his earthly existence is seperated from the Father, he is helpless, sinful, and imperfectable. But inasmuch as he enjoys the grace to believe in God as the final meaning of all existence, he fills his individuality with a similar and even more concrete meaning than did the Greek philosopher, who by dint of reason, worked himself up to understanding the logos…man must first find the divine in himself or, better, find his real self through discovering that it is not an isolated ego, but that it dwells in God and God in it.” Robert Ulich, 1945 — Harvard University

Robert George, McCormick Chair of Jurisprudence, Princeton University, gave a talk this week at NYU called: The Original Source of Law: The Individual? The State? God? His remarks focused on morality, rationality and natural law.

During the Q&A, Professor George commented on the issue of marriage (conjugal and revisionist views), from the standpoint of ‘personhood’. He said: “Everyone agrees that it’s a union of persons, we don’t agree about what a person is.” Those who support same-sex marriage most likely have a “dualistic” view of the human person, as opposed to a “dynamic composite” view — or genuine personal union of mind, body, and soul.

Professor George co-authored a paper titled “What is Marriage?” (Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, 2010) in which he argues that “the common good of society crucially depends on legally enshrining the conjugal view of marriage.” He makes his case — not with religious dogma, but with reason and the natural law.

Commentary: For a democratic state to survive and flourish, the people need to be oriented to the ‘truth’. When ’emotions’ and ‘will’ eclipse reason that can be difficult, as illusion abounds. “There is no one so blind as he who wills not to see.” Dubay

We didn’t create ourselves. But we do ‘participate in being’ — and in that sense are self-determining. 

It’s very American for people to see themselves as ‘self-made’. The consequence is activists then go out and try to re-make others, in their image (see U.S. push for the Arab Spring).

Photograph: Stephen Wise

“Only when women rebel against patriarchal standards does female muscle become more accepted. Gloria Steinem, Moving Beyond Words (1994)

On this the last day of Women’s Month, it’s worth noting that the American Women’s Movement (first, second and third waves) has been wrong about many things — in their understanding and representation of women and men.

Commentary: The Feminist Movement has emphasized material power (body, money & numbers — “sisterhood”), and even a masculine paradigm for how to be a women. The result is the eclipse of the spirit, loss of the self, and the disempowerment of women.

The good news is that some women today are rethinking the feminist dogmas of the past and seeking a more holistic and authentic feminism — one that truly empowers them and allows them to be fully who they are, in communion with others.

Artwork: Robert Mapplethorpe

When men and women disrepect each other they disrespect ‘life’ itself.

There is no future in that.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

The 2012 Armory Show featured a panel called Expressive Feminism. The participants were Linda Nochlin, Professor of Modern Art at New York University, and Danish artist Lillibeth Cuenca Rasmussen.

Ms. Cuenca Rasmussen talked about her recent work, Afghan Hound, a performance piece first shown at the 54th Venice Biennale, that addresses gender and identity in Afghanistan — a ‘patriarchal’ society. She said that Afghanistan is a society “where you can’t choose gender, it’s chosen for you.” In Afghan Hound, Rasmussen creates four impersonations of Afghan voices representing different forms of sexuality.

Ms. Nochlin commented that “identity in your work is a very slippery thing — there is no fixed identity.” She compared it to the French Revolution but said that with the French Revolution the “masses” had a fixed identity as “citizens”.

Commentary: One of the reasons why the U.S. is in Afghanistan is because Western feminists are working “fearlessly” to rid society of patriarchy. Many want ‘transgender be the new transcendence.’ Today’s revolutionaries are seeking to correct injustice by upending and violating nature and sovereignty.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Leaders who dump the past and care nothing about the future (“We’ll all be dead!”) should not be allowed to drive the ship.

And yet so many of today’s CEOs, university professors and government officials have that view.

‘Generation to generation’ is being forgotten.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

At the opening of the Third Women in the World Summit, Christine Legarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, suggested that women were more “sensible” and “risk adverse” than men, especially in financial matters. She did not mention her role in Credit Default Swaps.

Commentary: Just before the Summit began, a van loaded with children, driven by a woman texting, was seen at a stop light near Lincoln Center. History and experience have shown that ’empowered’ women can be just as irresponsible as men. America’s misguided and unjust militarism (including torture and assassination) has been enabled even encouraged by female Secretaries of State.

When women and men give in to individualism — “I am King” — ‘being’ gives way to ‘nothingness’, and society withers.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

Israeli and U.S. government officials — secular and religious, Zionist and Evangelical — have for years pursued policies that violate nature, truth, and the common good.

The current crisis with Iran underscores the incapacity of leaders in Tel Aviv and Washington to see or care about how to be ‘relational’, as human beings and nations — in an interconnected and interdependent world. ‘Love and nurturing’ are not part of the program. As a result, the psychic disorder and instability of the best and the brightest is multiplying, and threatens the world.

Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre has been around for twelve years and according to their press release — “engages audiences in original and dynamic dance theatre that raises questions, challenges social norms and values, and magnifies humanity through dance.” They also have an arts-in-education program — with Notes in Motion Outreach Dance Theatre, that teaches dance, yoga, choreography, improvisation, and arts appreciation in schools around NYC.

Commentary: Some social norms and values (the ‘good’ ones) should be affirmed rather than challenged.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

Society turns in on itself when strong-willed people with a deformed sense of ‘justice’ undermine what is truly good, and proliferate disorder — usually in the name of ‘freedom’, ‘progress’, ‘profits’, ‘success’, and most recently — ‘safety’.

Examples include: abortion-on-demand — held up as reproductive freedom and a human right; torture — defended as necessary to keep society safe; and biopharmaceutical venture capitalists — getting the government to not regulate their new drug innovations because they need more return-on-investment, and any delay will cause “patients and society to suffer” etc, etc.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

The U.S. State Department has declared Feb. 16 to be the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

Given the enormous damage done by American foreign policy and pop culture to women around the world, it’s amazing that Hillary Clinton still feels she can tell people how to act.

Artwork: Charles Garabadian

Photograph: Stephen Wise

“Our present task is to do everything in our power to enable the organized proletariat to become the leaders of the victorious revolutionary army during the present upsurge and during the inevitable decisive struggle that lies ahead.” Lenin, 1905

“Don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire. Let the barriers you face — and there will be barriers — be external, not internal. Fortune does favor the bold…Go home tonight and ask yourselves, What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go do it.” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook, 2011

Beware of Ghenghis Khan who rules by telephone.” Tolstoy

“Lenin had a particular fondness for making long distance calls. He had an almost personal affection for his battery of telephones, and he was always gesticulating at them as though they were living presences.” Robert Payne, The Life and Death of Lenin (1964)

Commentary: The role of social media, and the IT mindset (fast and easy), in the Arab Spring includes Bolshevism running through the networks. As with Lenin, today’s Bolsheviks offer ‘complete freedom’. What society winds up with though is anarchy — followed by tyranny, which today includes ‘networked tyranny’ — masquerading as utopia.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (top photo) demonstrated in front of the United Nations Feb. 3, as did opponents of his government (middle photo).

Those who want to bring down the government are calling themselves the Syrian National Council. Their flag design, w/green white and black stripes, is the same one that followed the French mandate in 1936. Outside forces attempting to overthrow the al-Assad government are disregarding “states rights” which according to UN Article 2(7) of General Assembly Resolution 2125 (24 October 1970) says: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic juristiction of any state.”

Commentary: U.S. support for, and participation in, the toppling of sovereign governments throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa is a colossal blunder — born out of a ‘muck-it-up’ and plunder strategy. ‘American values’ have devolved into the spreading of lawlessness and anarchy — all while invoking freedom.

Among the supporters of Assad at the rally were Christians who said they have no problem practicing Christianity within Syria. The same can not be said for the countries in the region already destabilized or destroyed by American foreign policy.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

One of the revolutions (within the revolution) driving the Arab Spring is American Feminism (a la Friedan & Steinem) — which has, sadly, been toxic for American women and American society — and now threatens the world.

“It is capitalist America that produced the modern American woman. Never in history have women had more freedom of choice in regard to dress, behavior, career, and sexual orientation.” Camille Paglia, American Beauty

The ‘I am King’ revolutions are born in hell.

Martin Luther King did not say ‘I am King’. Instead he became royal by serving his God and fellow man in truth and love. He helped to break through bad boundaries and hearts—with the power that comes from being one in the Spirit.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

The UN has just released a report called: Humanitarian Impact of Israeli Settlement Policies.

Settlements are illegal under international law. They violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geveva Convention.

According to the report, since 1967 Israel has built 150 settlements in the West Bank—plus 100 outposts by settlers. There are now 500,000 settlers living in the West Bank. The numbers have grown at a rate of 5.3% per year, over the last 10 years. Forty-three percent of the West Bank is off-limits to Palestinians.

The aspirations of Israeli (secular) leaders for a state, that is Jewish and democratic, seems to be unachievable—given the divisions that exist in Israel today. Add to that the widespread and unchecked narcissism, and the future looks grim.

LE spoke today with Dr. Emanuel Berman, a psychoanalyst from Israel, about narcissism.

LE–Are you concerned about narcissism in Western societies? Dr. Berman–“In a way, but that’s not something we can do much about—it’s a historical and cultural process.” LE–Do you think it’s worse today than at other times? Dr. Berman–“Maybe it is, but I think these are processes that we can’t control.”

Commentary: Narcissism is the biggest problem of our day. Neither secularists nor religious extremists have a blueprint for authentic human development, but instead are multiplying narcissism. The result is a society where the strong dominate the weak and injustice flourishes.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

“If we could grasp we might shatter and remould, but our human grasp is limited, and our remoulding should be accordingly cautious, with due care not to shatter what we cannot mend.” Nafis Sadik

As Western-educated women seek empowerment for women around the world, they would do well to avoid the errors of individualism—“I am King” (with its misguided revolutions)—that can leave people disempowered and empty, and society broken.

Narcissism should not be mistaken for ’empowerment’ or freedom.

At the heart of society’s troubles lies a problem in the way people view themselves and their fellow humans. 

Secular man tends to be viewed in extreme ways — ranging from being a ‘god’ to being ‘nothing’ — and everything in between, including: freak, consumer, zombie, robot or just a pile of data. The good news is there’s more to the story of ‘man’.

Society can’t begin to be healthy if people don’t have a coherent and correct understanding of who they are — their smallness and their greatness, what they are and what they are called to be.

Photograph: Stephen Wise