Wednesday, November 30, 2011

American Dream: Introduction and the Past

America is an important part of the world, how could it not be? The scientific developments mesmerize us, its military power makes us tremble and its culture inevitably changes everyone else's culture. All this power demands great responsibility and control, decisions must be taken for the good of mankind more than the good of its citizens.

INTRODUCTION

"We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This is a fragment from the Declaration of Independence, unanimous signed by the thirteen American colonies. Too bad this fragment did not make it into the US Constitution, adopted in 1787. An amendment was in fact needed (The Bill of Rights) in order to specify the actual status of American citizens and their liberties.

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." The important word here is citizens, the ones who did not fit into this category were exposed to the possibility of having no rights. This possibility was, as we all know, a hard reality.

We can clearly see a great difference between the two texts when it comes to the ideas and the power of the words. "All man are created equal", if these words were the start of the US Constitution then yes, America would of been the land of the free and home of the brave. We should also look at the profound religious implications of the text, the word "Creator" stands for God, a universal God. The promise of a new and better form of government, a just state fundamentally different from what was seen in Europe was just that, a promise, hardly followed by concrete action.

The abolition of slavery was finally decided in 1865, through the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. Prior to this, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, under his war powers. For 78 years, and many more decades after that, the black population was seen as something sub-human, too underdeveloped to make it on their own and too primitive to be set free because of fear of rebellion. The example of Haiti is indicative of the situation in that time, a former colony of France, recognized by its former master in 1825 and by America in 1862.

THE PAST

Chances are that the colonists would of never succeeded with the revolution if they did not have the support of France. This help had a cost, both the Americans and the French found an alliance rather tricky, imagine becoming a friend to a former enemy, nonetheless, France had only to gain from weakening the British Empire and the prospects of improved commercial activity with the US were a great bonus. The colonists managed to secure the support of one of the powers of the time and doing so, to secure their independence, theoretically.

What started as a fight for greater recognition of the colonies inside the British Empire transformed in a full fledged revolt against monarchy and the "old ways" of Europe (may I remind you that France was still a monarchy when it all started). There is a man that, in a way, changed the future of the world, or in a less mythical way, changed the destiny of the new world, he is Thomas Paine. He fought for some things not many people even bothered to think about, anyway, he was not the first of his kind nor the last but he managed to influence the people that started a revolution.

One of those people was Thomas Jefferson (a good friend of Paine). During his presidency, the United States saw their first foreign war, the Tripolitan War, a doubling of the territory and a few other things. Before independence, American merchants were protected in the Mediterranean by the British Navy, this security was lost after the war and so America was left without any real method of protecting its commercial route. The prior presidents, Washington and Adams, opted for ransoming the prisoners instead of fighting, creating a navy and maintaining it was thought to be much more costly. At a cost of 1 million dollars, the US signed treaties with Morocco, Algiers and Tripoli guaranteeing in return of an annual tribute, the security of American trade. Needless to say, the newborn country was weak.

The war lasted from 1801 to 1805 but the result was not satisfactory and a new war was needed in 1812 to secure a decisive battle. This relatively long lasting conflict is of great importance because it marks the consolidation of the state and the creation of the navy. It would take much more time however before America would become the dominant force on the sea.

Although Jefferson was openly against the "old world" looking in retrospective we see his actions as nothing really new to a country in expansion. The Louisiana Purchase was a doubling in territorial size of the United States. This vast land was bought from the French for the price of 15 million dollars. Napoleon managed to get control of this land from Spain as a result of a treaty between the two powers. Florida remained in the hands of Spain and soon became a target for both Jefferson and his successor, Madison.

A major war broke out between the United States and Britain in the year 1812. The situation has been presented in such a way that the American people basically demanded war, this made Madison to ask Congress to engage in armed conflict with the British Empire. They were not prepared to face such an enemy and surprisingly, the Congress even rejected expanding the navy. The main reason for this war might have been the desire of some to take control of Canada. This ended up being known as the Second War of American Independence although it clearly was nothing more than a desire to take Canada while the British were in war with France. Taking advantage of the general situation, the United States went the second time into war with the Barbary States securing commerce in the Mediterranean.

The next important moment was the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine which was actually written by John Quincy Adams (who succeeded him as president), a man who dreamed at more than a republic from the Atlantic to the Pacific, he visioned the entire continent speaking one language, having one currency, one culture. In a meeting with the British minister to the United States, Stratford Canning, Adams said: "Keep what is yours and leave the rest of the continent to us". This is also an example of the type of arrogance America blessed the world with.

On December 2, 1823, in his message to Congress, Monroe declared: " (...) the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers (...)"

Nations in both American continents were declaring their independence, these were events that promised much for the United States, from commercial benefits, to security and spheres of influence. Surprisingly, all this was done with a type of tacit British approval, the old master, turned enemy was now beginning to look more like a distant relative if not a friend. My purpose was not to give a complete history of America, an impossible undertaking for an article of this size but I needed to go through some key moments in time that steady began to create an American culture. We have seen that the promises from the Declaration of Independence were not followed by hard facts, civil rights movements continued till mid-late 20th century for example. The black people initially were perceived as too underdeveloped to take care of themselves, albeit many good and enlightened people from the northern states fought for the banning of slavery. The American Indians on the other hand were perceived as primitive but could be civilized, God knows how many of them got civilized in that period.

The United States turned up being like any other European power of that period with one important exception, the American Dream. This was why so many Europeans fought to get to the new world, to live a decent and happy life, black people and Asian people were not welcomed. The Chinese Exclusion Act which lasted till 1943 expressly stopped any Chinese immigration, a similar law was also applied to the Japanese.

Read Part 2




Monday, November 21, 2011

Not an interesting day (Journal)

Today it was a cold and rather foggy autumn day in Bucharest. Didn't do much except reading, learning Persian and cooking some potatoes and rice. Wanted to go to the movies with Alexandra but nothing worth the price of the tickets was on. I'm reading an interesting book about the Ch'in and Han dynasties and when finished I'll sorely do a review here and present it to you all. Being at the Warring States period I remembered watching a Chinese movie with the same name some time ago, it was amazing, I recommend it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sara Murk (visual) and Bijelo Dugme (audio)

By pure coincidence this art moment stands under the sign of Croatia (and by extension Yugoslavia).
What you are hearing now is Ako Ima Boga which means... i don't know really, it has something to do with God and an "if" (maybe "If there is God" but don't quote me on this one). I'm sure the lyrics are great but for those who don't understand a word of Croatian we will simply rely on the music. The band is called Bijelo Dugme which according to Wikipedia is translated as "White Button" (Google translate indicates Elvis Presley... dunno what the hell is that about). Many people know about Goran Bregovic, he is a legend of sorts in the Balkans and Europe in general. When the band was up and running he played the guitar and in fact composed much of their repertoire, this explains the excellent quality of their songs although, let's be honest, a band is not made up of only one member. The song is from their 1988 album entitled ─ćiribiribela.

Sara Murk


For some reason I found that Sara's works go well with this song even though I don't think that their starting points are the same, I may be wrong. This could possibly be the first time I present an artist who does mainly portraits. Before now I had a general resentment when dealing with portraits, especially in paintings, but now, oddly enough, when it comes to photography I have seen the unbelievable expressiveness of the human figure.
utjeha_kose
Can you see us?
Wrong turn
New born
Holding you tight
Lots of curves

Bijelo Dugme on Facebook, don't forget to like
Sara Murk on deviantART and Flicker

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Introduction to Philosophy by George Stuart Fullerton

This book was published for the first time in 1906 and this means that more than one century passed. What could it possibly have to offer for those wanting to embrace philosophy, because, let's be honest, the last one hundred years can't be overlooked... in any field. George Stuart Fullerton was an American philosopher and psychologist. He graduated in 1879 from the University of Pennsylvania and in 1884 from Yale Divinity School. Fullerton is considered a realist, among his books I mention:  A Plain Argument for God (1889), On Sameness and Identity (1890), The Philosophy of Spinoza (1894) and A System of Metaphysics (1904). He died in 1925 due to health problems caused by 4 years of imprisonment in Austria during the first world war.

Coming back to the question of what has this introduction to philosophy so special, I can only say that from a general perspective much of what philosophy is, was created during antiquity although there are a number of new discoveries in the field and many detailed analyzes of older concepts and ideas. It's a great book and easy to understand. This is also a free/public domain ebook, so another reasons I chose it is for it's 'legality', feel free to share the text to anyone you wish.

Links:
Manybooks - I prefer this link because it has many file formats to choose from
Gutenberg - Where it all started

Stay smart.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Michael Manalo (visual) and Will Holland (audio)

It's time for another incursion into our artistic souls, people, so close the lights and lean back on the chairs or couch or whatever, start the following song and continue down, down on the road. This time is Michael Manalo and Will Holland.


Quantic with the song "Time is the enemy". Quantic is the "stage name" of Will Holland, a musician from England that masterfully creates music by mixing electronic, jazz, funk and a couple of condiments. "Time is the enemy" is the 10th song from his 2001 "The 5th Exotic" album.

Michael Vincent Manalo is according to his own description a self-taught digital mixed-media artist, photographer and musician. In his artist statement he ends with "I will try to free people's minds and allow them to withdraw from reality and give them the opportunity to dig into a wild roller coaster of a vivid dream", congratulations Michael, you succeeded. 

You are not alone
Gospels of the sand
Tales of the plane walker
The tale of the king maker
The Titan
The arcane tower

See you all next time.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hard Work for Knowledge

For the past weeks I worked hard at AWIL magazine and a couple of other projects along with the day job and I must say that I am overwhelmed with all the activities. The release date of AWIL 7 was changed (again), you can expect the issue to be on-line till the end of November. As I see the situation, the magazine needs at least 10 writers to ensure normal activity, at the moment we are 5 (yours truly included), two in the art department, two in the socio-political and me. I don't like to talk about something that is not finished yet, but number seven will be fascinating.

Now let's go to some more interesting things. I was just reading "The Dogmatic Aeon" by the Romanian philosopher Lucian Blaga, a book that is part of his "Knowledge Trilogy" and wanted to share with you the fact that having read "The Early Christian Doctrines" by John Norman Davidson Kelly more than a month ago really helped me understand the present book. I undoubtedly recommend it (the Dogmatic Aeon) to all those interested in epistemology and metaphysics but sadly I am not aware of any English version on-line. I'll get back to you after I go through the other two books of the trilogy and after i eventually understand the texts in a satisfactory manner. I just couldn't stop myself from starting it even if I know I hadn't actually finished with the Golden Verses of Pythagoras and all the related texts... eh... I'll manage.

I found some time for a little entertainment here and there and now I'm hooked on Supernatural. I really enjoy this TV show but for its genre, X-files is still the best. Just started season three, hope it won't get shitty with time like Lost did although it has a lot more hot chicks that's for sure. Oh, and before I throw my head to the pillow I like to thank my girlfriend for being so understanding.

And some really good music for you people reading this blog, "Rock and a Hard Place" by The Rolling Stones.