Race, Racism, and the Middle Ages: Tearing down the “whites only” medieval world
"The goal of this series is to expose and tear down the white-supremacist-tainted version of the Middle Ages, and to lift up some of the stories of those medieval people of color you may not have heard of before."
"Nairobi has dozens of women who, like Mumbi, have devoted themselves to being on the front-lines of human rights work in Nairobi, usually for no money and at huge personal cost."
"The Bank of America skyscraper farm was the first in Hong Kong’s commercial district, and a critical proof of concept for Rooftop Republic. It is situated on a decommissioned helicopter landing pad—the “rooftop of all rooftops,” Tsui called it. When I visited, in November, he and his colleagues had just finished harvesting some Chinese vegetables, which would be trucked off to a local food bank, cooked, and packed into lunch boxes for the poor."
Fairly sure there has been brain surgery performed with less attention to detail than that contained in these plans for Queen Elizabeth's funeral.
"Drink a Murree with your curry. Karachi’s oppressive humidity has only one match: Murree beer. Spot a liquor store in your neighborhood—they’re often unmarked, but it’s the place with groups of men and cops crowding around a grungy window with metal bars. (Although this could also describe a jail or a police station, so make sure.)"
"But here’s what happened at Georgia State: Ten years ago, 31 percent of white students graduated. Now 50 percent do. Ten years ago, 26 percent of African-American students graduated. Now 56 percent do. Ten years ago, 22 percent of Latino students graduated. Now 55 percent do. The school leads the nation in eliminating the usual disparities between white and minority rates."
"Apologists for empire like to claim that the British brought democracy, the rule of law and trains to India. Isn’t it a bit rich to oppress, torture and imprison a people for 200 years, then take credit for benefits that were entirely accidental?"
"A curious byproduct of major conflict over the past three decades has been the heightened interest in women’s rights reforms and female political representation in countries coming out of major conflict. In Africa, not only did postconflict countries embark on these reforms earlier than non-conflict countries, but they began making more constitutional and legislative changes related to women’s rights. Legal reforms have been especially visible in the areas of female political leadership and laws pertaining to land rights, violence against women, political equality and the family."
"Rarely has a country taken an illegal drug overseen by a criminal organization and tried to replace it with the same crop produced legally, sold by corporations."
"Bread, gasoline, medication -- there are shortages across the entire country. And those who control the distribution of these goods can profit handsomely, enabling them to purchase more weapons and hire more fighters. As a result, the warlords have replaced the state security apparatus in cities and in entire regions."
"But as Aboriginals were colonizing Australia, something relatively unusual happened. While some people wandered, others stayed behind and founded communities. And these communities lasted for tens of thousands of years in roughly the same locations, relatively isolated from each other. The people in these communities developed distinct languages, cultures, and physical features, leading to an extremely diverse population whose traditions are often startlingly different. Indeed, these differences led many scientists to suggest that Australia was perhaps colonized by several unrelated groups over time.
That's not what the genetic data tells us, however."
"Historians will long ponder the factors behind Mr. Trump’s unlikely rise to the presidency. Most analyses cite his advocacy for the economically disaffected, his rejection or embrace of one form of identity politics or another, or his preternatural ability to connect with “Middle America.”
But another factor deserves attention: a bipartisan approach to national security focused on terrorism that has distorted America’s understanding of its interests.
The global terrorist threat requires a serious response. But since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, sober analysis has too often fallen victim to political expediency, and fear has become divorced from facts, with profound — and largely unexamined — impact on our domestic politics."
"Who is Odysseus? He is a great fighter, an immensely resourceful man – a survivor. And like Athena, he’s intelligent, cunning, circumspect. Indeed, Athena the goddess of intelligence is his champion, as she is Penelope’s, precisely because he is that way. What he likes to do is to fight, to compete in games that are like fighting, and to feast with his friends and hear the bards sing about great battles and warriors. He likes to tell the kinds of stories that the Odyssey itself is, in part. That is who he is. Not to be that is, for him, not to be – a kind of social death that is as bad as the real thing."
"The fact that a record of mid-century African field recordings made by a British folklorist contains a Kenyan folk song inspired by an early country singer from Meridian, Mississippi, himself supposedly inspirited by Swiss yodellers and Celtic hymns and African-American gandy dancers, themselves the descendants of slaves brought to America from Africa, is dizzying, but it still raises important questions about how culture actually moves."
"All told, historians have documented at least 80,000 people shot at Ponar between 1941 and 1944, and many believe the true number is greater still. Ninety percent of those killed were Jews. That the Nazis charged a brigade of prisoners to disinter and dispose of the bodies, in the most sickening of circumstances, only amplifies the horror.
“From the moment when they made us bring up the corpses, and we understood that we wouldn’t get out of there alive, we reflected on what we could do,” Zeidel remembered.
And so the prisoners turned to one thought: escape."
"“Out of the thousands of scripts that are gender-specific to men, here we have one that we know is gender-specific to women,” says Silber, who has been researching Nüshu since 1985. Yi was one of the last remaining writers of Nüshu, a fading script that only women knew how to write and read."
"Deeper in the city’s historic center, the rear of the National Palace now tilts over the sidewalk like a sea captain leaning into a strong headwind. Buildings here can resemble Cubist drawings, with slanting windows, wavy cornices and doors that no longer align with their frames. Pedestrians trudge up hills where the once flat lake bed has given way. The cathedral in the city’s central square, known as the Zócalo, famously sunken in spots during the last century, is a kind of fun house, with a leaning chapel and a bell tower into which stone wedges were inserted during construction to act more or less like matchbooks under the leg of a wobbly cafe table."
"Konstantin Päts was the president of Estonia. Estonia is a small nation on the shores of the Baltic Sea. It gained its independence after the First World War. It was too small to remain independent for long. When the Second World War began, Stalin and Hitler carved up Eastern Europe between them. Stalin received Estonia.
First, he sent his emissary, Molotov, to tell Päts that the Soviets needed to put army bases in his country. Then they turned him into a puppet and made him pass 200 decrees. Finally, they arrested him. First they sent Päts to Ufa, in the Orenburg steppe. Then he was kept in jail. Finally, he was placed in a psychiatric hospital. Päts said this was wrong. He wasn’t insane. He should be sent abroad. After all, he was the president of Estonia.
They told him: “You are insane. You are insane because you say you’re the president of Estonia. After all, if you were the president of Estonia, you wouldn’t be in an insane asylum.”"
"Islam has been in Southeast Asia since almost the beginning of the faith. But the first major kingdom to become Muslim (that we know of) was Samudra-Pasai in what is now Aceh, which adopted Islam in the late 13th century. Other port-states nearby followed suit. The real major breakthrough was the firm establishment of Islam in the Malay sultanate of Melaka, which held a lose hegemony over the Straits of Melaka that link East Asia to the rest of the world (the Islamization of the Melaka dynasty was a long-term process but was largely completed by 1446). From Melaka, the hub of commerce in Southeast Asia, Islam followed the trade routes east. The Portuguese capture of the city of Melaka in 1511 only aided the Islamization of the Western Archipelago as Malay sultanates, especially Aceh, became more fervently Islamic in order to oppose the stridently anti-Islamic Portuguese. Aceh had become the preeminent city in the Straits of Melaka by the mid-16th century and a center of missionary activity. It was through a Malay medium that Brunei and ultimately South Sulawesi were Islamized, for example."
"On one serious problem, continued progress is not only possible, it’s probable. That is reducing incarceration.
In an era of what seems like unprecedented polarization and rancor, this idea has bipartisan support. The Koch brothers and Black Lives Matter agree. The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Conservative Union Foundation agree. Bernie Sanders and Newt Gingrich agree.
Here’s what they agree on:
• The United States went overboard on mass incarceration in the 1980s and 1990s."
"On Christmas Day, 1522, 20 enslaved Muslim Africans used machetes to attack their Christian masters on the island of Hispaniola, then governed by the son of Christopher Columbus. The assailants, condemned to the grinding toil of a Caribbean sugar plantation, killed several Spanish and freed a dozen enslaved Native Americans in what was the first recorded slave revolt in the New World."
"The Louisiana State Police never did tell White what happened to his son. He learned of their account through a news release posted online that evening, March 3, 2014. The police said that Victor White III, while detained in the back seat of a locked police car, his hands shackled behind his back, had committed suicide by shooting himself in the back with a handgun that an officer had not found during an earlier search."
"What the Kremlin fears most today is that Trump may be ousted or even killed. His ouster, Kremlin insiders argue, is bound to unleash a virulent and bipartisan anti-Russian campaign in Washington. Oddly, therefore, Putin has become a hostage to Trump’s survival and success. This has seriously restricted Russia’s geopolitical options. The Kremlin is perfectly aware that Democrats want to use Russia to discredit and possibly impeach Trump while Republican elites want to use Russia to deflate and discipline Trump. The Russian government fears not only Trump’s downfall, of course, but also the possibility that he could opportunistically switch to a tough anti-Moscow line in order to make peace with hawkish Republican leaders in Congress."
"Though Mr. Kushner has visited Israel since childhood, and more recently to do business, he is little known there. He holds strong views about the state of Israel, but he has not been outspoken about them, save for editorials in The New York Observer, the newspaper he owned. His thinking on matters like settlements is not well understood.
“Israel wasn’t a political discussion for him; it was his family, his life, his people,” said Hirschy Zarchi, rabbi at the Chabad House at Harvard, where Mr. Kushner was an undergraduate."
"I didn’t taste the pancake on a stick. But the chicken and roasted potatoes at lunch were pretty good. I might have used a little more salt, but then I don’t have the USDA looking over my shoulder when I cook. Were it not for the red plastic tray, I would not have even known this was school lunch, so tight are my associations with metallic-tasting green beans, bland pizza and desiccated crinkle fries. I was impressed."
"If Black Lives Matter is “identity politics,” then identity politics has provided one of the most significant political mobilizations in defense of freedom in the United States in my lifetime."
Masterwork of stories about mapping difficult places -- the fjords of Greenland, the slums of Port-au-Prince, and even black holes.
"So, to summarize: in the past fifty years, education costs have doubled, college costs have dectupled, health insurance costs have dectupled, subway costs have at least dectupled, and housing costs have increased by about fifty percent. US health care costs about four times as much as equivalent health care in other First World countries; US subways cost about eight times as much as equivalent subways in other First World countries."
"How do you confess aloud that you come from a place that unstitches you?"
"Someone like Milo or Mike Cernovich doesn’t care that you hate them—they like it. It’s proof to their followers that they are doing something subversive and meaningful. It gives their followers something to talk about. It imbues the whole movement with a sense of urgency and action—it creates purpose and meaning.
You’re worried about “normalizing” their behavior when in fact, that’s the one thing they don’t want to happen."
"Unlike a public square, which tends to operate as a successful political space to the degree that it’s an effective public one, the airport is a hospitable host for protest precisely because of how poorly it works in terms of civic design on a typical day.
The narrow sidewalks; the pedestrian bridges leading to and from parking structures; the little islands of pavement where we wait for shuttle buses; the bi-level ring roads that encircle every airport: These were the stages on which the protests were most effective on their own terms, both in clogging traffic and producing media-ready images of an angry, loud and unnerved public."
"All it took was the right engineer – and a government desperate to show its people progress – to uncover and dismantle a web of corruption that was stealing power from households for nearly a decade and distributing it round the clock to some industries."
"The right wing of the Republican Party has spent an enormous amount of time and energy over the past decade running primary challenges against moderate Republicans and replacing them with fire-breathing extremists. Many said this would render the party increasingly unacceptable and unelectable outside deep red states. That hasn’t happened. Instead, far-right Republicans have moved not only their party but the country as a whole to the right; they’ve shifted the terms of the debate and are poised to pass the most radical and comprehensive legislative package this country has seen since 1968."
"To help Korbin escape the competitive straitjacket of the Chinese education system, his father had paid nearly $40,000 to an education consultancy to get him enrolled in a public high school in Michigan."
"Half a century ago, an American commando vanished in the jungles of Laos. In 2008, he reappeared in Vietnam, reportedly alive and well. But nothing was what it seemed."
"For thousands of people in my country who have no access to clean running water, reliable electricity, adequate health clinics, schools for their children, or freedom of speech and assembly, ExxonMobil’s engagement under Tillerson has emboldened a dictator, providing him with an economic lifeline to become the longest-ruling “elected” head of state in the world today."
The arrests of Mr. Singh and a younger cousin, Pargat, have infuriated their relatives, who say they face prosecution only because they are so poor.
“The big fishes have lots of money, so they pay the money and they get out of it. The politicians protect them,” said Iqbal Singh, 70, Pargat’s father. “The small people, they get arrested.”
Equally maddening, to many, is the fact that many in the governing party deny that drugs are a problem."
"Inside a two-month program that aims to end prostitution—and help dismantle the patriarchy—by rehabilitating the men who perpetuate it."
"Comparing the current crisis to events like the Revolutionary War and World War II, Bannon appears to believe that the US is heading inevitably toward violent conflict."
"Kennedy’s experience among the flood of women, mostly white, who entered Columbia University during WWII — and who were barred from admission after the war — led her to connect the oppression of white women and Black people. She began to see an alliance of the two as a force that could be tapped against white male hegemony."
"The labour required to build a great castle was vast. We have no documentary evidence for the numbers involved in the first great round of castle-building in England, after 1066, but the scale of many castles of this period makes it clear why some chronicles speak of the English population as being oppressed by the castle construction of their Norman conquerors."
"The Syrian refugees I have met are ordinary people whose lives have been upended by extraordinary suffering. Some were tortured for peacefully calling for freedom. Others spent months eating leaves when their communities were encircled and starved. Still others barely escaped bombs that flattened their neighborhoods. They have lost homes, limbs, loved ones, dreams. All say that they would prefer to live with safety and dignity in their own country if they could. But they cannot."
"My grandfather’s near-miss has haunted me for years—what if he hadn’t made it to this country when he did?—but the thought has been relentless these last few months. Ever since Donald Trump’s upset victory, I’ve had the sickening sense that history is reversing itself, whipping us back to a time when a noxious, state-sponsored xenophobia gravely imperiled millions of would-be Americans. It’s not that I have any illusions about the Obama administration, with its mass deportations and failure to welcome even a fractional number of Syrian refugees. But with Trump’s ascendancy—with his plans to ban Syrian refugees, suspend immigration from majority-Muslim countries, round up undocumented immigrants, and begin construction of a “physical wall”—we seem to be witnessing the rise of something at once utterly distinct and hauntingly familiar: a revived anti-immigrant regime, a nativist moment not unlike the one that seized this country a century ago."
"Gaetano Basile, a writer and lecturer on the food and culture of Sicily, does know. He has invited me to Lo Scudiero, a family-run restaurant in Palermo, as a tasty introduction to the island’s food and its history. He explains that the appetizer I am eating, caponata, exists because of transformative events that took place more than a thousand years ago. It was then that Arab forces invaded, bringing new crops, agricultural know-how, and other innovations that were far above the standards of medieval Europe."
“People have completely forgotten that in 1972 we had over nineteen hundred domestic bombings in the United States.” — Max Noel, FBI (ret.)
"The evidence is mixed on whether compulsory voting favors parties of the right or the left, and some studies suggest that most United States federal election results would be unchanged. But all that misses the point because it overlooks that compulsory voting changes more than the number of voters: It changes who runs for office and the policy proposals they support.
In a compulsory election, it does not pay to energize your base to the exclusion of all other voters. Since elections cannot be determined by turnout, they are decided by swing voters and won in the center."
"For example, in south-eastern Kufra district, Gaddafi played the Zway (aka Zwai) people off against the Toubou. He denied the Toubou citizenship rights, which included access to schooling and social security. Meanwhile, he empowered and invested in the Zway, giving them the upper hand in smuggling activity across the district and on the route up to the coast. This gave Gaddafi influence over their activity, and the Zway were additionally tasked with policing the region for signs of subversion."
"Spoiler alert: we care about logarithms because of navigation at sea."
"What began to happen with New Labour’s shift to the right was that the working class no longer had anyone in this arena to champion their interests. It is this, not the dissolution of social class itself, that has altered the political landscape. As the middle class has expanded, the images and policies of the political parties have changed to accommodate its values, excluding the working class in the process. “The new party of the working class,” this study suggests, “is no party at all.” From the 1960s to the 1980s, working-class men and women were almost as likely to vote as their middle-class counterparts; it is only from the 2000s that a gap begins to open. It is not because they have ceased to exist or are glued to Strictly Come Dancing that working people tend not to vote as much as they did. It is because those in favour of greater social equality, economic redistribution, more social welfare, higher taxation for the rich and less privatisation, as many in the working class are, have nowhere politically to go."
"History will be stained by the enormous tragedy that is Syria. Almost six years of brutality have left upwards of 500,000 dead and more than 13.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. If the same happened in the United States, that would mean 6 million people killed — or roughly the entire cities of Los Angeles and Houston combined. Imagine for one moment what it would be like to have half of our population displaced: this is exactly what has occurred in Syria."