Thursday, October 29, 2020

Yad Vashem--extra insight into the Shoah/ Holocaust (extra credit)

"One death is a tragedy: a million deaths is a statistic," said Joseph Stalin. Unfortunately, this tends to be the truth. Numbers are a useful tool for measuring things that are too big for us to understand in any other way, e.g., how far it is from earth to the sun. But using numbers often blunts the reality of human tragedies.

The Yad Vashem site tries to make the victims of the Holocaust something more than just statistics. Its database is an attempt to preserve a memory of as many individual victims as possible.

Browse through the database, and look through some of the individual pages of testimony. What do you find interesting/memorable in these pages?

Harvest of Despair--Holodomor (extra credit)

Communism is one of the three "flavors" of totalitarianism we talk about in class.  It is the most widespread and, in a certain sense, most "successful" flavor of totalitarianism--and probably the most important for you to understand.

For many years, I showed in class a video called "Harvest of Despair" an excellent film on "Holodomor," the Ukrainian famine. I haven't had time for this in recent years, but I'd very much like you to see the video. 

You can watch this online version of The Harvest of Despair. There is a better quality DVD version in the NSU library.  A group of you might want to check the DVD out and watch it together.  

A very good alternative is to watch the "Great War" episode on  Holodomor

I'll give you extra credit for your response to the prompt here:

Which Holodomor video did you watch?  What did the video teach you about Soviet Communism that you didn't know before? What insights did you gain on the motivations and methods of those who supported the movement? Did anything here help you understand why this particular flavor of totalitarianism survived longer (and did more damage) than other totalitarian systems?

Gendercide (extra credit readings on Armenia, Bangladesh, Rwanda, etc.)

"Never again" said the Jews (and many others) about the Holocaust. However, there have been many such tragedies in the 20th and 21st centuries, some of them going on right now. Please take a look at the "case studies" on the Gendercide site. Choose one of the studies and comment here on that article/case study. In studying for the final exam, you might find particularly useful the Armenia case study, the Bangladesh case study,  the Nanking (Nanjing) case study, and the Rwanda case study.  In what way does the information on this site help justify the 20th century's nickname "The Age of Violence" or the 21st century's nickname "The Age of Stupidity"?

You can read extra articles for more extra credit, but please put each article comment in a separate post.

The Great War (extra credit)

Image result for indy neidellI mentioned in class the "Great War" series on YouTube. This series follows in detail the key events of the war week-by-week. There's an interesting "Stupidest Moves of the First Year of World War I," highlighting some particular senseless things going on in 1914-1915.  There's another great episode on the Stupidest Moves of 1915-1916.

The series has episodes with more details on each of the stupid moves.  Watch either summary, and then choose *one* event you want to know more about and view the episode that gives details on that event or choose any of the other "Great War" videos and comment here on your impressions. If you look at the links to the right on the video here, you'll see all the "Great War" videos in chronological order.

For extra credit, click on the comments link below and note something you learned from the video that would help you write a good essay on the senseless violence of World War I.

Those of you who are interested in guns may like some of the "special" episodes that talk about rifles used by various countries, e.g., this video on German rifle.

Extra Dostoyevsky Readings

If you enjoyed "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" (and even if you didn't), you might enjoy some of the other selections in the Signet Dostoyevsky book.  If you like romances, you might find "White Nights" particularly appealing. If you want to know what it's like to be in a Siberian prison camp, you might like the selections from the "House of the Dead." 

Read either or both selections, and add your comments here. What would you say to encourage students to read the selection for themselves?

The Eugenics Movement (extra credit)

Some of the 19th and 20th century followers of Darwin hit on a novel way to speed up the "natural selection" process.  Their ideas led to the development of what is called "eugenics." Wikipedia has a good history of the eugenics movement article and lots of other information on  eugenics. Be good if you could read the first article, and, if you like, some of the 2nd. What do you see here that suggests that there is a dark side to the Darwinian idea of progress?

The Communist Manifesto (extra credit)

In the "Communist Manifesto," Marx and Engels suggest some "wonderful improvements" for society. Cite a line from the Manifesto highlighting one of these improvements, i.e, something Marx and Engels want to see changed. Would the change they suggest be a good one? Why, or why not? Do you get a feeling of deja vu when you read through the Manifesto? Any issues raised similar to those in contemporary American politics?

You do not need to read the whole of the Manifesto. Part II (Proletarians and Communists) is sufficient, though reading the conclusion of Part IV is also helpful  Here's an online edition of the Manifesto.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Rousseau's Ribbon Story

As part of my introduction to Rousseau, I retell his "ribbon story."  I have to shorten things up quite a bit, and my cartoon version may be a bit misleading.  Please read the original version of the ribbon story and
compare it to the version of the story I told in class.  How does reading the original version of the story add to your impressions of Rousseau?  Do you find yourself more sympathetic to him or less sympathetic to him?  Does the version of the story I told you in class seem close enough to the original, or do you think that students definitely should read the original version and draw their own conclusions?

Condorcet--Progress of the Human Mind

I summarized for you Condorcet's Progress of the Human Mind in class.  You will get a somewhat better feel for Condorcet is you read the essay for yourself.  Please read through this abridged version.  What do you see here that adds to or modifies the impressions of Condorcet you got from lecture? 

The French Encyclopedia (Extra Credit)

Reading the articles in Diderot's Encyclopedia is one of the best ways to understand the French Enlightenment. It shows the attitudes of the philosophes toward everything from Islam to Women to Intolerance to History. While the online translation of the Encyclopedia articles does not include the wonderful illustrations of the original, you will probably still find much of interest.

Browse to an article on a topic of interest to you. Comment on what you found particularly interesting in that article.