"Isn’t this what you’ve spent your life doing?" several people asked. "Emphasising threats?" It took me a while. If threats promote extrinsic values and if (as the research strongly suggests) extrinsic values are linked to a lack of interest in the state of the living planet, I’ve been engaged in contradiction and futility. For about 30 years. The threats, of course, are of a different nature: climate breakdown, mass extinction, pollution and the rest. And they are real. But there’s no obvious reason why the results should be different. Terrify the living daylights out of people, and they will protect themselves at the expense of others and of the living world.
An important point. Language and emphasis matters.
"We’ve tended to assume people are more selfish than they really are. Surveys across 60 countries show that most people consistently hold concern for others, tolerance, kindness and thinking for themselves to be more important than wealth, image and power. But those whose voices are loudest belong to a small minority with the opposite set of values. And often, idiotically, we have sought to appease them.”
Book Burning Memorial
'In the center of Bebelplatz, a glass window showing rows and rows of empty bookshelves. The memorial commemorates the night in 1933 when 20,000 “anti-German” books were burned here under the instigation of Goebbels. There's a plaque nearby that says something like “Where they burn books, they will also burn humans in the end.” '
Interesting but rarely mentioned: most of the content burned that night came from the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (institute for the science of sex) headed by Magnus Hirschfeld. The institute and Hirshfeld himself were some of the first to openly campaign for the right to have sex with someone of the same gender, the right to transition if you did not identify with your birth sex and for the general acceptance of queer people. The team had already performed the first SRS operations in Germany and in addition, the institute advocated sex education, contraception, the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and women’s emancipation.
Photographs of the night of the book burning are plastered across history books world wide, but the queer movement that was destroyed that night often goes unmentioned.
(Source: Flickr / kca)
Something awesome recently happened in Istanbul, Turkey. As a city with many hills, Istanbul is home to lots of long staircases that intersect its centuries-old neighbourhoods, enabling pedestrians to avoid streets filled with heavy car traffic.
Last week Huseyin Cetinel, a retired forestry engineer, decided to paint the stairs connecting the neighbourhoods of Findikli and Cihangir all the colors of the rainbow.
"He told the local news media that his original motivation for applying a fresh coat of paint to the stairs was not activism, but the desire “to make people smile.” Mr. Cetinel said he spent nearly $800 on paint and devoted four days to sprucing up the stairs, with help from his son-in-law.”
Public reaction to the colourful stairs was overwhelmingly positive. People turned out in droves to pose for photos on the cheerful staircase. Some decided it was a gesture of support and call for equal rights for the city’s LGBTQ community.
But then sometime strange happened. Just a few days after Huseyin finished beautifying the staircase, residents woke up to discover that overnight the city had hastily re-painted the rainbow steps a dull, disheartening gray. The gray cover-up was so secret and sudden that locals took it very personally. It was interpreted as “a sign of intolerance and a lack of respect for their right to claim public space.”
Speaking to Turkish television reporters after the stairs were painted over, Mr. Cetinel pointed out that all of nature — “cats, birds, flowers, mountains” — is brightly colored. “Where does this gray come from?” he asked. “Did we have another Pompeii and got flooded with ash?”
What happened next is what’s really awesome. Residents began to organize with each other via twitter and soon, not only were Huseyin Cetinel’s stairs returned to their rainbow glory, but - as a sign of solidarity - entirely different stairways all over the city, and eventually in other Turkish cities as well, were painted too.
Elton John stood up for LGBT folks at a concert in Russia last night, calling the country’s anti-gay laws inhumane and explaining why he visited in spite of its increasingly homophobic climate. He dedicated his performance to a 23-year-old gay Russian who was murdered earlier this year after coming out. Madonna and Lady Gaga were each fined last year for making similar statements in Russia; we’ll see if the government dares to go after Elton, too. (via The Advocate)
Field trips are becoming a less and less common part of the school year in the United States. A study from the University of Arkansas documents the decline the American field trip: A 30 percent decrease in student attendance at Cincinnati arts organizations between 2002 and 2007, a similar decline in the number of students visiting Chicago’s Field Museum, and an American Association of School Administrators survey showing more than half of American schools eliminated planned field trips in the 2010-2011 school year. Furthermore, the field trips that are happening are shifting away from “enrichment” trips, like visits to museums and historical sites, to “reward” trips, such as trips to movie theaters, sporting events, and amusement parks.
But the study also finds that cultural field trips offer students, and in particular, disadvantaged students, an important opportunity to add measurable depth to their education.
“Enriching field trips contribute to the development of students into civilized young men and women who possess more knowledge about art, have stronger critical-thinking skills, exhibit increased historical empathy, display higher levels of tolerance, and have a greater taste for consuming art and culture,” the researchers wrote in Education Next.
Read more. [Image: Jamie-Andrea Yanak/AP Photo]