Saturday, August 21, 2021

The Great Fear: The Accelerating Apocalypse

 

Greenland_(film).png
Theatrical release poster

Review of the film Greenland (2020)



For apocalyptic disaster films, they don't get much more up close and personal (and apocalyptic) than the film Greenland (2020). Set in contemporary times, the story revolves around the news that an interstellar comet named Clarke is heading for Earth, and that it was made up of fragments of rock and ice big enough to wipe out modern civilization.

John Garrity, a structural engineer, receives a message from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notifying him that he and his family have been selected to go to emergency bunkers. While he is at home a massive fragment lands on Tampa, Florida and wipes it out live on TV. Garrity receives another message with instructions to head to Robins Air Force Base for an evacuation flight. They are to be taken to large bunkers in Thule, Greenland, as the largest fragment is expected to cause an extinction level event.

However, as panic sets in among his neighbours there is mutual shock as they realise that they have not been selected, and Garrity is unsure why he was. Gradually he realises that his skills as a structural engineer would be required in the rebuilding of the post-apocalyptic world, hence the reason for his inclusion.

As others realise the value of the wristbands the family have been given for the flight to Thule, Garrity and his family become targets for different kinds of attacks and schemes to wrest the wristbands from them throughout the narrative of the film.

Overall, Greenland is a well crafted film and focuses on the family's desperate attempts to make it to Thule before the main fragment of Clarke strikes Europe (!) and destroys civilization.

The most interesting aspect of the film is the drama around the conflicts between the 'chosen few' and the rest of the population. While Garrity may be an all-American citizen, he does not reject the elitism of his new status but embraces it wholeheartedly. He may be a member of a democracy, and hold democratic values but when push comes to shove, all that is very quickly forgotten about in the panic. It's every man for himself and he accepts the changes in state ideology from citizen to elect in a heartbeat.

The 'chosen few'
The idea of the 'chosen few' is not new. According to the bible, Jesus initiated a New Covenant on the night before his death during the last supper. Those who had heavenly hope would be selected by God to rule with Christ as kings with him for 1,000 years. The Bible also gives the number of those anointed:

"Revelation 14:3–4, 'And they are singing what seems to be a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders, and no one was able to master that song except the 144,000, who have been bought from the earth.'"




The_Ladder_of_Divine_Ascent.jpg 
The Ladder of Divine Ascent is an important icon kept and exhibited at Saint Catherine's Monastery, located at the base of Mount Sinai in Egypt. The gold background is typical of icons such as this, which was manufactured in the 12th century after a manuscript written by the 6th century monk John Climacus who based it on the biblical description of Jacob's ladder. It depicts the ascent to Heaven by monks, some of whom fall and are dragged away by black demons. 
(The recent scenes of chaos at Kabul airport with people crowding up stairs to passenger jets and falling off military jets are unfortunately brought to mind)
 
 
 
 
Elites have always tried to keep a section of their loyal, unwavering followers on board with their ideology by doling out good jobs, high status symbolism (e.g. knighthoods), or good pay (for mercenaries). While they espouse democratic ideologies which imply that everyone is important, they are also very aware that their actions lead to mass resentment (e.g. massive national debts, unemployment, inflation, declining national health systems, etc.), and the potential for mass uprising. For this reason, for example, middle-class political police can be more important to the state than working-class national armies.

The mass media play an important role in reducing resentment by playing up the activities of politicians, ideologically controlling the news and history, and popularising the use of specific language.

Everytime an idea critical of the ruling ideology becomes popular it is relabeled or branded with terms such as: 'political correctness' (covering up or trivialising legitimate concerns about "language or behavior that can be seen as excluding, marginalizing, or insulting to groups of people disadvantaged or discriminated against"); 'cultural Marxism' (covering up or trivialising legitimate concerns of, for example, feminism, multiculturalism, gay rights, etc); 'conspiracy theory' (covering up or trivialising legitimate concerns regarding anomalies in high profile events); 'The Good Guys'/'The Bad Guys' (covering up or trivialising legitimate concerns regarding who the state defines as progressive or reactionary); 'wokism' (covering up or trivialising legitimate concerns regarding racial prejudice, discrimination and social inequality, etc.); thereby sterilising the ideas and fitting them into 'acceptable', non-threatening language.

Every new deviation from the capitalist norm is diverted and instantly bubble-wrapped so that it does not impinge on the growing mass consciousness/suspicion that something is wrong. Whistleblowers are hounded (Assange, Snowden) and workers are kept quiet or ignored (Boeing).



Originally printed in New York World, October 30, 1884. Reprinted: Belshazzar Blaine and the Money Kings. HarpWeek. HarpWeek, LLC.A political cartoon parodying James G. Blaine. Wealthy and influential figures dine on dishes labeled "Lobby pudding", "Monopoly soup", "Navy contract", etc. while a poor family begs.



Furthermore, Monolithism denies radical difference in ethnic groups (the most reactionary become the spokespersons of the group), while on a philosophical level Modernism, Postmodernism and Metamodernism deny reason and radical opposition. All with the promise that if you are good, if you behave yourself, you will be put on Santa's nice list and become one of the chosen few when the financial/political/social catastrophe or cataclysm begins.

During the crisis, the rhetoric of universal protection collapses (neighbours shocked and disappointed), leading to struggle for survival in elite terms (bunkers, planes, boltholes).

The struggle for survival
It is then that the masses realise that they have been duped, misled, or even deluded. Because Greenland could be said to represent the ideology of the elites, then one sees the choices offered by the elites are: to be chosen or damnation, and no other possibilities. Similarly, when the elites represent the masses they are in negative terms of fear, for example, the symbolism of the masses of zombies in the film World War Z (2013). (See also my article on  World War Z here).

Historically, mass uprisings result in a fundamental change in society, not a temporary blip in the ruling ideology, therefore elites have a good reason to be afraid. For example, the Great Fear in France in 1789 ultimately resulted in the end of its feudal system: 
 
"The members of the feudal aristocracy were forced to leave or fled on their own initiative; some aristocrats were captured and among them, there were reports of mistreatment such as beatings and humiliation, but there are only three confirmed cases of a landlord actually having been killed during the uprising. Although the Great Fear is usually associated with the peasantry, all the uprisings tended to involve all sectors of the local community, including some elite participants, such as artisans or well-to-do farmers. Often the bourgeoisie had as much to gain from the destruction of the feudal regime as did the poorer peasantry. Although the main phase of the Great Fear died out by August, peasant uprisings continued well into 1790, leaving few areas of France (primarily Alsace, Lorraine and Brittany) untouched. As a result of the "Great Fear", the National Assembly, in an effort to appease the peasants and forestall further rural disorders, on 4 August 1789, formally abolished the "feudal regime", including seigneurial rights." 
 
 
 
  "You should hope that this game will be over soon."
Caricature of the Third Estate carrying the First Estate (clergy) and the Second Estate (nobility) on its back.



Current elite ideology of the future tends towards ideas of bringing about global governance, or post-apocalyptic colonies on earth, the Moon or Mars. Like lemmings going over a cliff (or the aristocracy of the eighteenth century), they can only imagine a future with themselves in total control, or total destruction.

Thule in Greenland, where there is an American military base, is symbolically appropriate as "in classical and medieval literature, ultima Thule (Latin 'farthermost Thule') acquired a metaphorical meaning of any distant place located beyond the "borders of the known world"."

Unlike the destruction wrought by comet Clarke in Greenland, we are not doomed to be destroyed or hiding in bunkers because of an errant comet, but only condemned to have our future dictated to us forever - unless we take our destiny into our own hands.



Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country here. 



Thursday, August 5, 2021

Going to Hell and Back: Fighting Our Worst Nightmare

Review of the film Bullets of Justice (2019)
 

Interrogate the devil; he will tell you that beauty is a pair of horns, four claws and a tail.
Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary

 

 

Bullets of Justice is a gritty 2019 film made by Valeri Milev and Timur Turisbekov, which takes place in the United States during the Third World War. The story centres around Rob Justice, an ex-bounty hunter who is fighting a mixture of half humans and half pigs (human bodies and pig heads). They were bred under an American government secret project to create super soldiers called Muzzles. The project goes awry and years later the Muzzles are at the top of the food chain and are farming the remnants of the human race. Rob Justice is trying to find their source to eliminate the Muzzles once and for all. The film is shot with bleak scenes in very bleak colours and has quite explicit sexual and violent scenes. However, it also has a very dry sense of humour and can be very funny without intentionally playing for laughs.

 

 

Image Courtesy of The Horror Collective

 

Image Courtesy of The Horror Collective

 

The whole premise of the film is based on the symbolic reversal of our treatment of animals as food products, and shown in all its horror. Muzzles fatten up humans in cages, kill them upside down in factories and throw corpses on to conveyor belts. Their meat is even tinned and sold (“Human Meat, Always Fresh, Steak from a well fed male”). The idea that humans are somehow ‘special’ and superior to animals is ‘debunked’. In an early scene the Grave-digger unearths a human skull and says to his kids: “See, they don’t go nowhere. They just turn into dirty old bones. God is a human mistake. We die ‘cos of some shit and we die full of shit.”

 

 

Image Courtesy of The Horror Collective

 

There is an apocalyptic feeling to the film as humans are dying out and some strange human oddities form a resistance to the Muzzles (a woman with a prominent moustache, a fighter who can stop bullets with his chest, and a female leader who talks as if using a home-made speech synthesizer). However, we get the feeling that their resistance is pointless and the Muzzles are the strongest of the two opposing sets of monstrosities.

 

 

Image Courtesy of The Horror Collective

 

The portrayal of human monsters is not new in culture as the depictions of the Golem, Frankenstein’s monster and Zombies makes apparent: representations of humans that cannot really live or reproduce, the symbols of anti-nature. Our anxieties about our position in the natural order of things and our treatment of animals have always been reflected in our beliefs and depictions of ourselves as a higher order and created by an omnipotent being.

However, our relations with animals has always been fraught, as Yuval Noah Harari writes:

About 15,000 years ago, humans colonised America, wiping out in the process about 75% of its large mammals. Numerous other species disappeared from Africa, from Eurasia and from the myriad islands around their coasts. The archaeological record of country after country tells the same sad story. The tragedy opens with a scene showing a rich and varied population of large animals, without any trace of Homo sapiens. In scene two, humans appear, evidenced by a fossilised bone, a spear point, or perhaps a campfire. Scene three quickly follows, in which men and women occupy centre-stage and most large animals, along with many smaller ones, have gone. Altogether, sapiens drove to extinction about 50% of all the large terrestrial mammals of the planet before they planted the first wheat field, shaped the first metal tool, wrote the first text or struck the first coin.

 

The Golden Age

These realities contrast wildly with our mythical story-telling of a Golden Age when humans lived in “primordial peace, harmony, stability, and prosperity. During this age, peace and harmony prevailed in that people did not have to work to feed themselves, for the earth provided food in abundance.”  And as Richard Heinberg has stated: Dicaearchus of the late fourth century BCE noted “of these primeval men […] that they took the life of no animal”. [1]

 

 

Roman Orpheus mosaic, a very common subject.  He wears a Phrygian cap and is surrounded by the animals charmed by his lyre-playing.

 

 

 The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Pieter Paul Rubens, c. 1615, depicting both domestic and exotic wild animals such as tigers, parrots and ostriches co-existing in the garden.

 

However, as the Golden Age declined through the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, the Heroic Age, to the Iron Age, the dire warnings got direr. As men moved from the wondrous cornucopia of nature to the wars of extractivism, they paid a heavy price for their bloodlust. Pythagoras (c. 570 – c. 495 BC) wrote: “As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” Much later, Ovid (43 BC – 17/18 AD) follows up with similar sentiments:

Not so th’ Golden Age, who fed on fruit,
Nor durst with bloody meals their mouths pollute.
Then birds in airy space might safely move,
And tim’rous hares on heaths securely rove:
Nor needed fish the guileful hooks to fear,
For all was peaceful; and that peace sincere.
Whoever was the wretch, (and curs’d be he
That envy’d first our food’s simplicity!)
Th’ essay of bloody feasts on brutes began,
And after forg’d the sword to murder man.
— Ovid (43 BC – 17/18 AD) Metamorphoses Book 14

 

 

Still Life with Dead Game, Fruits, and Vegetables in a Market (1614)
 Frans Snyders  (1579–1657)


As Christianity took hold and changed the reverence for nature to the reverence for a monotheistic god, nature itself became demonised as the heavenly was substituted for the earthly. It is interesting to note the similarities between the Devil (“a pair of horns, four claws and a tail”) and the animal-like god of nature, Pan, “the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, and connected to fertility and the season of spring. Pan’s goatish image recalls conventional faun-like depictions of Satan.”

Hell

In medieval depictions of Hell, the Devil and his helpers torture humans. Hell, as Sartre has said “is other people” and, like packed trains and buses, always seems to have an awful lot of people crammed into very small places. Moreover, the animal-like Devil and his helpers seem to be like animals getting their revenge on humans by killing them and cooking them in the same way that humans kill and eat animals, by hanging them upside down (blood draining?), roasting over a fire on a spit, boiling in large vats, or baking in a fiery oven.

 

 

The Torments of Hell, French book illumination, 15th century. Illustration for Augustinius’, De civitate Dei, Bibliotheque de Ste. Genevieve Ms. 246, vol. 389.

 

It seems that deep in our psychology, the more we brutalise animals the more we fear that one day the animals will rise up and brutalise us. However, in some sense it is already happening. As Mike Anderson writes, they do get their revenge but in a slower, but just as deadly, way:

As far as eating is concerned, humans are the most stupid animals on the planet. We kill billions of wild animals to protect the animals that we eat. We are destroying our environment to feed to the animals we eat. We spend more time, money and resources fattening up the animals that we eat, than we do feeding humans who are dying of hunger. The greatest irony is that after all the expenses of raising these animals, we eat them; and they kill us slowly. And rather than recognise this madness, we torture and murder millions of other animals trying to find cures to diseases caused by eating animals in the first place.

In his article ‘Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history’, Yuval Noah Harari wrote:

The fate of industrially farmed animals is one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time. Tens of billions of sentient beings, each with complex sensations and emotions, live and die on a production line. Animals are the main victims of history, and the treatment of domesticated animals in industrial farms is perhaps the worst crime in history. The march of human progress is strewn with dead animals.

At least in recent years, in tandem with the ever increasing herds and flocks of domesticated animals for human consumption, there has been the development of movements against the slaughter in animal rights activism. Peter Singer wrote about it in the 1970s in his book Animal Liberation and, inter alia, in the 2000s Joaquin Phoenix told us about this slaughter in two truly difficult-to-watch documentaries: Earthlings (2005)  and Dominion (2018).

 

 Animals - Studio album by Pink Floyd
An image of the Battersea Power Station in England, where a giant pig can be seen flying between its left chimneys. The album was developed from a collection of unrelated songs into a concept which, in the words of author Glenn Povey, "described the apparent social and moral decay of society, likening the human condition to that of mere animals".


 


Flying pigs

Image Courtesy of The Horror Collective

 

Colonialism and Genocide

Our attitude towards animals, our bloodthirstiness, has unfortunately carried over into our historical and current treatment of our fellow human beings in the form of colonialism and neo-colonialism. Joseph Conrad expressed it succinctly in his novel Heart of Darkness (1899) where Mr Kurtz (making a report for the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs) reveals his true colonial mentality when he writes ‘Exterminate all the brutes’. The colonial mindset that sees ethnic groups as not much better than animals (brutes) is predicated on the idea that the coloniser is somehow ‘superior’ and ‘civilised’ despite the fact that nowadays and ecology-wise, it is realised that these ‘primitive’ groups generally live in tune with nature rather than destroying it, as the ‘civilised’ West does. Sven Oskar Lindqvist (1932 – 2019) a Swedish author of mostly non-fiction, took Mr Kurtz’s exclamation as the title of his book on the history of colonialism and genocide, Exterminate All the Brutes (1992). The title was subsequently used again for a harrowing four part documentary series (2021) directed and narrated by Raoul Peck who worked with Lindqvist.

 

 

Punch (1881)

 

Furthermore, even in our more ‘enlightened’ era, our attitude towards animals as our fellow ‘earthlings’ has run into other, more serious problems, as Michael Cronin writes:

In more recent times, it is fears around what is seen as the neo-Malthusian pathology of deep ecology that prompts a reticence around stressing the animal nature of humans. In this reading of ecology, treating humans as one species among others leads inevitably to the conclusion that the only way to deal with human overpopulation is through the mass elimination of humans. As they would not enjoy higher ontological status than other species, such genocidal practices could be justified by the overall flourishing of species on the planet.[2]

Once again, our fears of our brutal selves lead us to try and characterise ourselves as more important than ‘mere’ animals in a self-defeating vicious cycle. Which brings us back to the point that Pythagoras made (‘as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other’). In other words, as long as we treat animals like ‘animals’ (brutes) we will treat each other like ‘animals’ too.

  1. Richard Heinberg, (1989) Memories and Visions of Paradise: Exploring the Universal Myth of a Lost Golden Age, Wheaton, Ill.: Quest Books, p. 48.
  2. Michael Cronin, (2016) Eco-Translation: Translation and Ecology in the Age of the Anthropocene (New Perspectives in Translation and Interpreting Studies), London: Routledge, p. 74.
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country at http://gaelart.blogspot.ie/.

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Power of Romanticism today: 21st Century Irrationalism


"Christianity defeated and wiped out the old faith of the pagans. Then with great fervour and diligence it strove to cast out and utterly destroy every last possible occasion of sin; and in doing so it ruined or demolished all the marvelous statues, besides the other sculptures, the pictures, mosaics and ornaments representing the false pagan gods; and as well as this it destroyed countless memorials and inscriptions left in honor of illustrious persons who had been commemorated by the genius of the ancient world in statues and other public monuments …. their tremendous zeal was responsible for inflicting severe damage on the practice of the arts, which then fell into total confusion."
Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), Lives of the Artists.



The development and spread of Enlightenment ideas in the eighteenth century instituted new movements based on a scientific approach to the pursuit of happiness, sense evidence as the primary source of knowledge, and which believed in progress, liberty, constitutional government and separation of church and state. However, while the growth of Romanticism in the nineteenth century was a new movement emphasising the non-rational, or irrational, this was not new. Irrationalism stressed feeling, will and instinct over or against reason and its influence stretched back through time to the early Greeks. For example: "In ancient Greek culture—which is usually assessed as rationalistic — a Dionysian (i.e., instinctive) strain can be discerned in the works of the poet Pindar, in the dramatists, and even in such philosophers as Pythagoras and Empedocles and in Plato. In early modern philosophy — even during the ascendancy of Cartesian rationalism — Blaise Pascal turned from reason to an Augustinian faith, convinced that “the heart has its reasons” unknown to reason as such."

Here I will look at the relationship between science and irrationalism throughout history showing that at times rational investigation complemented irrational ideas, and at other times irrational ideas arose that conflicted with rational analysis. Early polytheistic society was less dogmatic in its attitude to science compared with Christian theology. Science slowly regained a foothold over the centuries and church ideology weakened. However, Romanticism took the place of the church as the main irrationalist ideology to hinder the growing influence of science in many different fields. Similarly with Christian ideology, it was the conservative elites who advanced and benefited from the irrationalist ideas of Romanticism, using the various offshoots of Romanticism (Nationalism, Modernism, Postmodernism, Metamodernism etc.) to try and hold back the progressive development of societies towards genuine democracy and freedom, the essential ideas that originated in the Enlightenment. However, as globalised hegemonic culture today becomes ever more saturated with Romanticism - in parallel with Romanticist political movements - there is a real fear that another wave of extreme irrationalist ideas and violence could be provoked and sweep the world within a short period of time.


Early religion and rational investigation

In early societies the irrational ideas of polytheistic religion were aided by rational investigation that helped with human understanding of nature, for example, the Mesopotamians studied scientific subjects, like astronomy, that helped with their religious system.

Astronomy was of utmost importance to some civilizations who left behind large artifacts (proto-observatories e.g. Newgrange in Ireland, Stonehenge in Great Britain, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Abu Simbel in Egypt etc.) connected with the longest and shortest days of the year. This would have helped in determining the seasons and understanding the length of the year and when was the best time to plant crops. Early religion was polytheistic and rooted in nature which can still be seen today amongst the indigenous peoples of many countries. In Ancient Greece, worshipping the gods centred around fertility, childbirth, farming, harvest and death:

"Peasants worshipped the omnipresent deities of the countryside, such as the Arcadian goat-god Pan, who prospered the flocks, and the nymphs (who, like Eileithyia, aided women in childbirth) who inhabited caves, springs (Naiads), trees (dryads and hamadryads), and the sea (Nereids). They also believed in nature spirits such as satyrs and sileni and equine Centaurs. Among the more-popular festivals were the rural Dionysia, which included a phallus pole; the Anthesteria, when new wine was broached and offerings were made to the dead; the Thalysia, a harvest celebration; the Thargelia, when a scapegoat (pharmakos) assumed the communal guilt; and the Pyanepsia, a bean feast in which boys collected offerings to hang on the eiresiōne (“wool pole”)."


Pan teaching his eromenos, the shepherd Daphnis, to play the pan flute, Roman copy of Greek original c. 100 BC, found in Pompeii. Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, and  connected to fertility and the season of spring. Pan's goatish image recalls conventional faun-like depictions of Satan.


The desire to systematize the connection between nature and farming resulted in the many-century long scientific endeavour to create an accurate calendar. The Greek poet Hesiod, who lived around 700 BC developed the Works and Days calendar "in which the farmer was to regulate seasonal activities by the seasonal appearances and disappearances of the stars, as well as by the phases of the Moon which were held to be propitious or ominous."

Thus, the calendar would help people more accurately mark the seasons with celebrations and rituals that integrated their activity with the earth's cycles:

"The cycle of the year, at both the change of the four seasons as well as the height of each season, used to hold great importance. The winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, was a time of new birth. Often it was symbolized by the birth of an annual male fertility figure, a representation of the year's new sun. The height of the winter, midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, was a time to nurture that new life. Spring was about encouraging fertility, when the sun and earth would unite to later bring forth the abundance of the harvest and the bounty of the hunt. From the summer solstice through autumn the sun's energy transferred to the crops. The height of summer and the fall equinox were celebrations of the year's harvest and bounty. The end of the year when fields lay dormant and the earth seemed to die at the height of autumn was a time to honor the dead and release the past." [1]

From the later sixth century BCE onward, myths and gods were subject to rational criticism on ethical or other grounds as the early Greek philosophers such as Thales of Miletus and later Anaximander and Anaximenes tried to explain natural phenomena without relying on the supernatural.


The rise of irrationalism

The spread of Christendom from the Middle East to Africa and Europe by 600 CE was to have huge consequences not only for polytheistic religions but also on burgeoning scientific exploration. The struggle to convert the Roman Empire to Chrisatianity was perceived by Christians as a struggle between the forces of darkness and light, between God and Satan.[2]


Saint Aemilianus, known for his destruction of ancient temples and libraries is shown using ropes to pull down a statue. His followers are breaking up statues with picks and axes.


As Christianity gained more and more power it worked to not only convert the polytheists to monotheism but also to eradicate scientific learning through attacks on books, libraries and the philosophers themselves. The only thing that mattered in life was worshipping god and any threat to the ideology and theology of Christianity, like, for example, Epicurean (341–270 BC) atomic theory, was to be eradicated. Atomic theory stated that everything in the world was made by the collision and combination of atoms and not created by a divine being.Thus, according to Catherine Nixey:

"The intellectual consequences of this powerful [atomic] theory were summarized succinctly by the Christian apologist Minucius Felix. If everything in the universe has been 'formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms, what God is the architect?' The obvious answer is: no god at all. No god magicked up mankind out of nothing, no divinity breathed life into us; and, when we die, our atoms are simply reabsorbed into this great sea of stuff. 'No thing is ever by divine power produced from nothing,' wrote Lucretius in his great poem, On the Nature of Things, and 'no single thing returns to nothing'. Atomic theory thus neatly did away with the need for and possibility of Creation, Resurrection, the Last Judgement, Hell, Heaven, and the Creator God himself." [3]


Marble relief from the first or second century showing the mythical transgressor Ixion being tortured on a spinning fiery wheel in Tartarus. Epicurus taught that stories of such punishment in the afterlife are ridiculous superstitions and that believing in them prevents people from attaining ataraxia ("tranquility").


While the classical philosophers had variously argued multiple positions on the existence of gods ("that there were countless gods; that there was one god; that there were no gods at all, or that you simply couldn't be sure" [4]), they were tolerated by the general polytheistic populace. This could be because the general population and the philosophers had the same aim in common: to understand nature. This was also because the Greeks saw their gods as being similar to themselves:

"it is important not to forget the fact, which Hannah Arendt stressed (quoting Herodotus), that whereas in other religions God is transcendent, beyond time and life and the universe, the Greek gods are anthropophyeis, i.e. have the same nature, not simply the same shape, as man. If therefore one takes into account the Greeks’ absence of belief in supernatural God, their lack of belief in fixed and revealed truths and the consequent absence of given moral codes, one may assume that Greeks were, in a sense, atheists."

In Christianity, irrationalism is founded on the idea that human reason cannot fully grasp the meaning of the human condition, and that God and evil coexist in a way that cannot be rationally explained. Therefore, only prayer and faith were necessary for salvation and all earthly necessities and desires were to be swept aside to focus on the promise of eternal life. The Christians attacked classical monuments and shrines, razed temples, burned books and sacred groves, imprisoned and executed 'idolaters'. As a result, according to Helen Ellerbe, "As the Church assumed leadership, activity in the fields of medicine, technology, science, education, history, art, and commerce all but collapsed. Europe entered the Dark Ages. Although the Church amassed immense wealth during these centuries, most of what defines civilization disappeared." [5]

The effect of the Church on classical learning was devastating. While a lot of classical literature was preserved over the centuries "it has been estimated that less than ten per cent of all classical literature has survived into the modern era. For Latin, the figure is even worse: it is estimated that only one hundredth of all Latin literature remains." [6] Instead of celebrating nature directly, people eventually prayed to the Christian "saints for good crops, rain and healthy children almost as pagans once prayed to specific gods assigned to oversee agriculture or fertility." [7]


Chart of Pagan traditions and Christian adaptations from The Dark Side of Christian History by Helen Ellerbe


Christian eschatology (study concerned with the ultimate destiny of the individual soul and the entire created order) and the idea of linear time took over from the people’s strong connection with nature and the ever-changing seasons. Although, according to David Ewing Duncan, in early medieval times the peasants still lived and died “in a continuous cycle of days and years that to them had no discernible past or future.” [8] Old habits die hard and the church eventually had no choice but to incorporate polytheistic nature-based traditions of the solstice, the Nativity, Saturnalia, Yuletide, the Easter hare and Easter eggs into their own traditions over time.


Science makes a comeback - the Renaissance

By the twelfth century things began to change. The intellectual revitalization of the Renaissance in Europe led to a new intelectual reinvigoration. Universities were set up and Europeans gained access to scientific Arabic and Greek texts, including the works of Aristotle, Alhazen, and Averroes. There was a huge increase in the rate of inventions and economic growth. As Jean Gimpel writes in The Medieval Machine:

"The Middle Ages was one of the great inventive eras of mankind. It should be known as the first industrial revolution in Europe. The scientists and engineers of that time were searching for alternative sources of energy to hydraulic power, wind power, and tidal energy. Between the tenth and the thirteenth centuries, western Europe experienced a technological boom. [...] Energy consumption increased considerably. Technological innovations brought about improvements in the efficiency of existing methods and also led to a successful search for new sources of energy. Many of the tasks formerly done by hand were now carried out by machines. Concurrently, there was a revolution in agricultural methods, which enabled farmers to produce enough food for an expanding population and provide a more varied diet. There was a marked increase in the general standard of living." [9]

The reemergence of Aristotelian scientific ideas exerted pressure on the Catholic Church to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) believed that: "Faith and reason, while distinct but related, are the two primary tools for processing the data of theology. Thomas believed both were necessary—or, rather, that the confluence of both was necessary—for one to obtain true knowledge of God. Thomas blended Greek philosophy and Christian doctrine by suggesting that rational thinking and the study of nature, like revelation, were valid ways to understand truths pertaining to God." Like the pagan festivals, scientific or rational thinking was incorporated into Christian thinking to bolster Christian theology.

The influence of the Renaissance was long lasting and allowed for the growth of scientific communities which by the sixteenth century produced profound results. The Scientific Revolution is believed to have been initiated by the publication in 1543 of Nicolaus Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) and ended in 1632 with publication of Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. It was a process that started with the recovery of what was left of the knowledge of the ancients and was completed by "the "grand synthesis" of Isaac Newton's 1687 Principia. This work formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation, thereby completing the synthesis of a new cosmology."


Isaac Newton's copy of Principia from 1687. Newton made seminal contributions to classical mechanics, gravity, and optics. Newton also shares credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the development of calculus.


The Scientific Revolution progressed into the Age of Enlightenment (or the Age of Reason) which became the main intellectual and philosophical movement in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and covered a range of ideas "centered on the pursuit of happiness, sovereignty of reason and the evidence of the senses as the primary sources of knowledge and advanced ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government and separation of church and state."


The Romanticist reaction

The revolutionary significance of such progressive ideas was not lost on the wealthy elites who discussed universal ideas of freedom, equality, and fraternity but soon limited them to their own class. They reacted to progressivism by looking back to medieval times and society (to a non-threatening peasant class) as an ideal, hoping to divert or divide the developing new revolutionary working class. They rejected collectivist ideals and emphasised emotion and individualism. Romanticist ideas had a profound negative effect on the liberatory and progressive aspects of the arts, and Romanticist thinkers influenced liberalism, conservatism, and nationalism. In contrast to the usually very social art of the Enlightenment, Romantics were distrustful of the human world, emphasised a belief in spiritual freedom, individual creativity, the artist's own unique, inner vision, ultimately melting away the very notion of objective truth.

Philosophers like Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard emphasised the idea that the world of rationalism was deceptive and ill-equipped to grasp the 'essence' of things.

The rise of Romanticist irrationalism in the twentieth century led to the Nationalist conflicts of the First Word War and the aggressive Fascism of the Second World War. Since then irrationalism has been a more subtle part of many social and political movements. Takis Fotopoulos, for example, has discussed two types of irrationalism: 'old' and 'new' irrationalism. 'Old' irrationalism which has flourished since the Second World War "has taken various forms ranging from the revival, in some cases, of the old religions (Christianity, Islam etc) up to the expansion of various irrational trends (mysticism, spritualism, astrology, esoterism,  neopaganism,  ‘New Age’ etc) which, especially in the West, threaten old religions."


Book burning in Berlin, May 1933


Fotopoulos describes three aspects of the 'new' irrationalism in terms of the universalisation of the market/growth economy, the ecological crisis, and the collapse of ‘development’ in the South. He writes:"at the cultural level, the liberalization and de-regulation of markets have contributed significantly to the present cultural homogenization, which led to an irrational reaction, in the form of the rise of various fundamentalisms [and], at the ideological level, the emergence of the neoliberal consensus was associated with the rise of postmodernism." He sees the ecological crisis in terms of "the ‘instrumental’ or ‘pragmatic’ approaches versus the ‘spiritual’ ones [and] the deep ecology approach considers the present non-sustainable development as a cultural rather than as an institutional issue, as a matter of values rather than as the inevitable outcome of the rise of the market economy, with its grow-or-die dynamic, which is to blame for the present growth economy." This led to collapse of ‘development’ in the South:

"Under these circumstances, the return to tradition and, particularly, to religion seemed very appealing to the impoverished people in the South, whose communities and economic self-reliance were being destroyed by the internationalized market/growth economy. Particularly so, when religion was seen as a moral code preaching equality of all men before God set against the injustices of the market/growth economy.  Similarly, the return to spirituality looked as the only way to match an imported materialism which was associated with a distorted consumer society, i.e. one that was not even capable of delivering the goods to the majority of the population, as in the North."

Thus, the influence of irrationalism in society today is very broad and deep, and affects so many people and movements negatively. It pervades culture, society and politics. This is partly because of the chameleon-like nature of Romanticism which reacts to any progressive ideas or movements by appearing as a radical opposite while it soaks up dissent (e.g. medieval crafts in opposition to modern industry), or, by appearing progressive when it copies the form while substituting in an opposite content (e.g. the Church incorporating polytheistic nature-based traditions of the solstice, the Nativity, Saturnalia, Yuletide, Easter etc.). This means that the insidious nature of irrationalism must be constantly exposed and dealt with before it develops its own momentum again and leads to the kind of socio-political disasters we have seen in the past.


Extract from the frontispiece of the Encyclopédie (1772). It was drawn by Charles-Nicolas Cochin and engraved by Bonaventure-Louis Prévost. The work is laden with symbolism: The figure in the centre represents truth—surrounded by bright light (the central symbol of the Enlightenment). Two other figures on the right, reason and philosophy, are tearing the veil from truth.


However, the importance of the legacy of the Enlightenment is not so much its support for and development of science, but how particular philosophers used that scientific learning to fight against injustice (an older legacy of many centuries of exploitation and oppression). The idea that knowledge would not just make one aware of how exploitation and oppression worked, but would develop into ideas and practices that could eventually bring such exploitation and oppression to an end was the truly revolutionary legacy of the Enlightenment movement.


Notes:
[1] Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History (1995) p145
[2] Catherine Nixey, The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World (2017) p9
[3] Catherine Nixey, The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World (2017) p36
[4] Catherine Nixey, The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World (2017) p147
[5] Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History (1995) p41
[6] Catherine Nixey, The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World (2017) p166
[7] David Ewing Duncan, The Calendar: The 5000-year Struggle to Align the Clock and the Heavens – and What Happened to the Missing Ten Days, (2011) p142
[8]  David Ewing Duncan, The Calendar: The 5000-year Struggle to Align the Clock and the Heavens – and What Happened to the Missing Ten Days, (2011) p137
[9] Jean Gimpel, The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages (1986) pviii/ix

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country here.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Salt of the Earth: A successful combination of inspiration and perspiration

 


Poster promoting the theatrical premiere of the 1954 American film Salt of the Earth at a (now demolished) theater on 86th Street in Manhattan. Mexican actress Rosaura Revueltas, who played the leading role, is shown.
 
 
Review of the movie Salt of the Earth (1954)

Born in controversy but then ignored in its youth, the film Salt of the Earth has matured beautifully into a classic film in the neorealist style. Set in Zinc Town, New Mexico, a mining community with a majority of Mexican-Americans strike for working conditions equal to those of the white, or "Anglo" miners. The town and the mine is run by Delaware Zinc Inc. who refuse to negotiate with the workers and the strike goes on for months. The story focuses on Ramon Quintero (Juan Chacón) and his wife Esperanza Quintero (Rosaura Revueltas) who is pregnant with their third child. Ramon is arrested by police and beaten in prison at the same time is wife gives birth to their new baby.

When Ramon is released he counters resistance to his activities by Esperanza and he points out their struggle is for their children's futures too. The company then uses the Taft-Hartley Act injunction on the union forbidding picketing. However, the wives realise there was nothing to stop them from taking the men's places on the picket line. A lot of the men are quite traditional and are not happy seeing their wives on what can be a dangerous and violent place on picket lines. Ramon forbids Esperanza to go but eventually relents. However, as the full film is freely available online for you to watch on the Salt of the Earth wikipedia.org page, I will not go into full details here.

The involvement of the women is one of the most interesting aspects of the film as they rather timidly, at first, assert that their issues regarding hygiene (sanitation and 'decent plumbing') are as important as the safety of the men, and Esperanza is annoyed that 'what the wives want always comes later'. Over time the women gain more experience dealing with the police and scabs, and consequently gain more confidence in their demands too. As the mine had already been unionised the film's real narrative dwells more on showing the men how the union is strengthened by the involvement of the whole community.



Union Meeting


The production of Salt of the Earth faced many difficulties from locations, cameramen to actors. A small plane buzzed overhead and anti-communists fired at the sets. They eventually found a documentary cameraman who was willing to take the risks involved with working on the project. Later, Rosaura Revueltas (Esperanza Quintero) the lead actor, was deported to Mexico and the editors had to cut in previously filmed footage to finish the narrative.

The origin of the film's woes stretched back some years when the director Herbert Biberman refused to answer the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947 on questions of affiliation to the Communist Party USA, and he became known as one of the Hollywood Ten who were cited and convicted for contempt of Congress and jailed. This meant that Biberman (as well as actors, screenwriters, directors, and musicians) were denied employment in the entertainment industry for years after.  During the making of Salt of the Earth Biberman was hounded by Roy Brewer. Roy Martin Brewer (1909–2006) was an American trade union leader who was prominently involved in anti-communist activities in the 1940s and 1950s. He accompanied Ronald Reagan on his first visit to the Whitehouse.

Brewer tried many times to stop the production of Salt of the Earth. He believed that "officers of the Writers' Guild were under the domination of the Communist Party until the hearings of 1947. During that time they began to change the mind, the creative minds, of the people who made these pictures and they didn't do it by selling them communism. They got them to accept the idea that it was the obligation of a writer to put a message in the film."

Paul Jarrico (1915–1997) the blacklisted American screenwriter and film producer of Salt of the Earth commented on Brewers statements:

"The studio reluctance to make message movies started long before the blacklist and Brewer's attribute to our cleverness in manipulating the culture of America is undeserved. We were unable to get anything more than the most moderate kind of reform messages into our films and if we thought we got some women treated as human beings rather than as sex objects we thought it was a big victory and in fact one of the reasons we made Salt of the Earth after we were blacklisted was to commit a crime worthy of the punishment having already been punished for subverting American films, it was all ridiculous."



Members of the Hollywood Ten and their families in 1950, protesting the impending incarceration of the ten


To make matters worse, Salt of the Earth had been sponsored by a Union (the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers) and many blacklisted Hollywood professionals helped produce it. After editing in secret, the release of the film was met with an American Legion call for a nationwide boycott and the majority of theaters refused to show it. For ten years the film was ignored in the USA while finding an audience and accolades in Eastern and Western Europe. In the 1960s the film was seen by larger audiences in union halls, women's associations, and film schools.

The narrative of the film was based on an actual strike which had occurred only a couple of years before the production of Salt of the Earth:

"The film recreates the 1951-2 strike against the Empire Zinc Company in New Mexico where a court injunction barred workers of the Local 890 chapter of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Works from the picket line. As the strike continued, the community’s women assumed increasingly active leadership roles in the protests, defiantly picketing Empire Zinc themselves. The 15-month strike ultimately led to considerable gains for the workers and their families."

The film not only laudably covered labour rights and women's rights but also minority rights. As Mercedes Mack writes:

"On October 17, 1950, in Hanover, New Mexico, workers at the Empire Zinc mine finished their shifts, formed a picket line, and began a fifteen-month strike after attempts at union negotiation with the company reached an impasse. Miner demands included: equal pay to their White counterparts, paid holidays and equal housing. As a larger objective, the Local 890 Chapter of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers was to end the racial discrimination they suffered as a product of the institutions created by the Empire Zinc company in their town. For example, Mexican-American workers were subject to separate pay lines, unequal access to sanitation, electricity and paved streets as a result of discrimination by company sponsored housing, segregated movie theaters, etc. [...]  While women continued the strike, men assumed household duties and were not the center of the movement anymore. In January 1952, the strikers returned to work with a new contract improving wages and benefits. Several weeks later, Empire Zinc also installed hot water plumbing in Mexican American workers’ houses–a major issue pushed by the women of these households."

The producers and director used actual miners and their families as actors in the film in neorealist style. Christopher Capozzola describes how:

"Paul and Sylvia Jarrico heard of the strike and went to Grant County to walk the picket line; within a year, Michael Wilson was in town. Although Wilson started the script, the men and women of Local 890 finished it, insisting in the era of Ricky Ricardo that Latino/a characters would be favorably presented in the mass media. Biberman cast only five professional actors, among them a young Will Geer (better known to television viewers as the folksy Grandpa Walton) and the leftist Mexican actress Rosaria Revueltas, who called Salt of the Earth “the film I wanted to do my whole life.” Strike participants filled the ranks, most memorably Juan Chacón, who played the leading role of Ramón Quintero. His emotional richness and sly humor make him far and away the film’s best performer."



Juan Chacón as Ramón Quintero in Salt of the Earth


In 1982, a documentary about the making of Salt of the Earth was released, titled A Crime to Fit the Punishment and was directed by Barbara Moss and Stephen Mack. The full documentary can be seen online here.

The making of Salt of the Earth was also the subject of a Spanish-British bio-picture in 2000. The film, titled One of the Hollywood Ten, was written and directed by Karl Francis and stars Jeff Goldblum and Greta Scacchi.



Theatrical release poster of One of the Hollywood Ten with Jeff Goldblum as Herbert Biberman


Salt of the Earth still stands up there as one of the great union films along with Blue Collar (1978) and Norma Rae (1979). However, its authenticity and sincerity arising from working directly with workers, and its successful production despite so many obstacles put in its way, will make it one of the most inspiring union films ever produced.

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country here.

He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Your Honor: Justice in a Time of Collapse

 Your Honor is an American mini-series starring Bryan Cranston. 

This article contains spoilers

A well-meaning New Orleans judge, Michael Desiato, finds himself in a frightening situation when he discovers that his son, Adam, was in a hit and run accident with a son of the local mafia boss, Jimmy Baxter. Adam had been visiting the site of his mother’s death when approached by local guys. He drives off at speed only to drop his inhaler on the car floor during an asthma attack. As he struggles to drive the car and pick up the inhaler at the same time his car is in a collision with Jimmy Baxter’s son’s first spin on his motorbike. Rocco Baxter, the son, chokes to death on his own blood at the side of the road as Adam panics and drives off. When Michael realises who the dead boy was he tries to protect his son by arranging with Adam to cover up what happened.

He asks a friend to organise the destruction of Adam’s car but it ends up in the hands of a teen, Kofi Jones, who is caught with the car after running a red light. The police discover that this was the car involved in the hit and run when a piece of the motorbike is dislodged from underneath the car. Jimmy Baxter now believes it was Kofi who killed his son in a crime gang hit. Kofi is sentenced without parole for the hit and run. Things escalate when Jimmy’s other son kills Kofi in prison and Jimmy has Kofi’s family house blown up, basically getting his retaliation in first. For Judge Michael Desiato, things go from bad to worse as the more he uses his middle-class power and influence to protect his son, the greater the negative effect this has on the working-class family and friends of Kofi, extending out like ripples in a pond. Or worse still, more like the Butterfly Effect, as the initial freak accident sparks off intergang rivalry and then further knock-on wider repercussions on a political level.

 

 Bryan Cranston at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival in 2018

 

Your Honor, starring Bryan Cranston, combines elements from Breaking Bad (well-meaning professional gone bad) and The Sopranos (ruthless mafia boss) in a show which goes beyond middle-class fascination with organised crime and its ill-gotten wealth and demonstrates the disastrous effects that chess-like power-plays have on the ordinary people caught up in the resulting tsunami of deadly consequences. While the powerfully corrupt seek revenge outside the system, and powerful professionals try to avoid justice within the system, the working class can only hope for ‘saviours’ (e.g. empathetic lawyers) or fair-minded judges conscious of the social context of much crime (like Judge Michael Desiato). Like a Greek tragedy, the more Judge Michael Desiato tries to avoid Fate, the more he brings about the show’s ironic deadly ending. Had he just trusted the institutional justice system in the first place, the final outcome would most likely not have been so tragic.

The fact is that the struggle against the ideology of revenge (i.e. ‘an eye for an eye’) is one that has been going on since the Enlightenment, the intellectual and philosophical movement of the 17th and 18th centuries. The insidious effect of revenge on the judicial system, unpredictable and outside of the law, was a motivating force for philosophers like Cesare Beccaria (1738–1794) to try and establish a fairer system not based on fear or favour. Thus:

“Enlightened reformers moved away from corporal punishment, seeking to design a penal system that would make punishment more useful, edifying the prisoner while simultaneously repairing the damage the prisoner had inflicted upon society. Central to these plans were work and imprisonment. Work was a common corrective technique, and many reformers believed the regularity and discipline of labor would lead to the moral rejuvenation of the wrongdoer while serving social needs at the same time.”

Thus, the two main modern theories of retributive justice (or punishment for wrongdoing) are Utilitarian theories that “look forward to the future consequences of punishment, while retributive theories look back to particular acts of wrongdoing, and attempt to balance them with deserved punishment.”


Justitia by Maarten van Heemskerk, 1556.
Justitia carries symbolic items such as: a sword, scales and a blindfold


At the very least Enlightened views on justice try to reform the criminal, stop him from repeating the crime, while at the same time, deterring others. The main purpose of punishment, then, is to create a better society and avoid revenge.

Leon F Seltzer summarises the important differences between justice and revenge:

“1. Revenge is predominantly emotional; justice primarily rational.
2. Revenge is, by nature, personal; justice is impersonal, impartial, and both a social and legal phenomenon.
3. Revenge is an act of vindictiveness; justice, of vindication.
4. Revenge is about cycles; justice is about closure.
5. Revenge is about retaliation; justice is about restoring balance.”

The cycles that Seltzer discusses can be seen, for example, in the Gjakmarrja (English: “blood-taking”, i.e. “blood feud”) or hakmarrja(“revenge”) of Albanian culture referring to the social obligation to commit murder in order to salvage honour. Gjakmarrja can be initiated when a guest is killed, failure to pay a debt, or rape. The profound consequences of the gjakmarrja on society is shown when the feud extends over many generations or leads to family members living in shame and seclusion for the rest of their lives, imprisoned in their own homes because they refuse to pay with the lives of their family members.

The overwhelming psychological power of revenge in Your Honor is demonstrated by the fact that the narrative centres around a judge, an important representative of the modern justice system. It shows why it is so important to gain general acceptance of a system of punishment that deters others from committing crimes while at the same time preventing criminals from repeating their crimes. In this way justice acts like a controlling carbon rod in the potential fission of escalating cycles of revenge.

We live in a time when disillusionment with the justice system (short sentences, crimes committed on bail, clever lawyers getting offenders off, etc.) is amplified in the popular press, making the justice system appear to be a lot more ineffectual than it actually is. However, Your Honor, with its relentlessly depressing atmosphere and its narrative of desperate actions and reactions gives us some inkling of what societies would be like if that was the norm rather than the exception, and when your honor is more important and sacred than life itself.
 
 
 

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country here. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.