Hannah Arendt spoke of the banality of evil by which she meant the people who just went along with evil without really thinking about or understanding the consequences of their actions which they in their hearts believe are right because their religion or ideology says so. But all too often, the people who absorb and adopt these views, who become “the willing executioners” of the policies of those that promote them are just as guilty, and just as responsible for their actions as if they had thought of them on their own.
Der Streik, 1886, Robert Koehler
“Artist Robert Koehler (1850-1917) painted this scene in Munich. When it was exhibited in the U.S. in the spring of 1886 it created a sensation. One senses immediately that the confrontation between a factory employer (at left, in top hat) and a group of rebellious workers is about to break out into violence. The distance between the owner’s elegant brick villa, upon whose steps the employer is symbolically situated, and the factory in the background has been aggressively foreshortened by the artist. This allows Koehler to better emphasize the workers who stream out of the factory to come support the shop-floor representative, who, standing on the ground, confronts the factory employer from a position of literal inferiority. The tenseness of the situation is expressed by the representative’s stance and his red shirt, not to mention the foreground figure who arms himself with a rock. The employer’s stiff posture, reinforced by his black suit and top hat, suggests that he is not inclined towards compromise; even his own servant, standing behind him, seems fearful of what will come after the heated exchange of words.
This picture was painted after Koehler had experienced the workers’ movement on both sides of the Atlantic. Born to German parents in Hamburg, Koehler moved from Germany to the U.S. as a child; the family settled in Milwaukee, one of the preferred destinations for German immigrants. Koehler studied art – specifically lithography – in Pittsburgh and New York, and then attended the Art Academy in Munich. When this painting was shown at the spring 1886 exhibition of the National Academy of Design in New York, it was considered the most significant piece on display. Why? Because its exhibition coincided with the culmination of American workers’ demands for an eight-hour workday – a national wave of strikes involving about 350,000 workers in over 11,000 enterprises. Efforts to put down these strikes resulted in the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago on May 4, 1886.” x
Der Sozialist, 1885, Robert Koehler
“This is said to be the first portrait of a working-class political agitator. The aggressive posture and evident vehemence of this Social Democratic orator are highlighted by the red tablecloth at the bottom of the painting and the handkerchief of the same color tucked into the speaker’s vest pocket. This painting by Robert Koehler (1850-1917) also illustrates the international reach of the Social Democratic movement in the 1880s. Born to German parents in Hamburg, Koehler moved from Germany to the U.S. as a child; the family settled in Milwaukee, one of the preferred destinations for German immigrants. Koehler studied art – specifically lithography – in Pittsburgh and New York, and then attended the Art Academy in Munich. The scene depicted here might plausibly have taken place in either Germany or America. During the period of the Socialist Law (1878-1890), when SPD associations, publications, and meetings were outlawed in Germany, prominent party leaders traveled to the U.S. and addressed large crowds in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. This painting was exhibited in 1885 at the National Academy of Design in New York under the revealing title, A German Socialist Propounding His Bloodthirsty Ideas. Another painting by Koehler, The Strike [Der Streik] (1886), reflects quite a different side of the struggle for working-class rights.” X
Two snipers of the German Armed Forces walk on a training ground during an exercise prior the arrival of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen at the Bundeswehr training ground on October 10, 2014 near Bergen, Germany.
Students’ Torchlight Procession, 1859, Adolph von Menzel
An investigation concerning the use of federal civil forfeiture law by local law enforcement agencies across the United States has exposed problems with a routine but rarely discussed police tactic.
After obtaining 43,000 reports from agencies across the United States, journalists at the Washington Post wrote over the weekend that the budgets of police departments and drug task forces are being padded largely by a program that redistributes the worth of seized assets, including property and money that might never have been involved in a crime but taken nonetheless.
Perttu Saksa’s photo series of monkeys in masks who are trained and dressed to act human-like in order to beg for money from by-passers on the busy streets of Jakarta, Indonesia.
There has been a tradition in Indonesia of street performers teaching their pet monkeys tricks and dressing them in traditional masks. This custom has subsequently put down roots in the cities, where stressed-out monkeys, harnessed to help beggars, are dragged in chains from one owner to another. The monkeys walk clumsily, but are made to go through the streets ‘disguised’ in heads cut off Barbies and baby dolls.
A couple of years ago, the Indonesian state tightened up the law and made macaque monkey species protected. There were no longer performances in the street, like before. I did a lot of groundwork with the aid of a local journalist before we found a few people known as “monkey masters” in the slums of Jakarta. They trained and rented out monkeys to beggars. I photographed the series over a few weeks in the autumn of 2012. Since the beginning of this year, the legislation has been made even stricter, and owning monkeys is now punishable by a prison sentence.
Physical exercise has many beneficial effects on human health, including the protection from stress-induced depression. However, until now the mechanisms that mediate this protective effect have been unknown. In a new study in mice, researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden show that exercise training induces changes in skeletal muscle that can purge the blood of a substance that accumulates during stress, and is harmful to the brain. The study is being published in the prestigious journal Cell.
“In neurobiological terms, we actually still don’t know what depression is. Our study represents another piece in the puzzle, since we provide an explanation for the protective biochemical changes induced by physical exercise that prevent the brain from being damaged during stress,” says Mia Lindskog, researcher at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet.
It was known that the protein PGC-1α1 (pronounced PGC-1alpha1) increases in skeletal muscle with exercise, and mediates the beneficial muscle conditioning in connection with physical activity. In this study researchers used a genetically modified mouse with high levels of PGC-1α1 in skeletal muscle that shows many characteristics of well-trained muscles (even without exercising).These mice, and normal control mice, were exposed to a stressful environment, such as loud noises, flashing lights and reversed circadian rhythm at irregular intervals. After five weeks of mild stress, normal mice had developed depressive behaviour, whereas the genetically modified mice (with well-trained muscle characteristics) had no depressive symptoms.
“Our initial research hypothesis was that trained muscle would produce a substance with beneficial effects on the brain. We actually found the opposite: well-trained muscle produces an enzyme that purges the body of harmful substances. So in this context the muscle’s function is reminiscent of that of the kidney or the liver,” says Jorge Ruas, principal investigator at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet.
The researchers discovered that mice with higher levels of PGC-1α1 in muscle also had higher levels of enzymes called KAT. KATs convert a substance formed during stress (kynurenine) into kynurenic acid, a substance that is not able to pass from the blood to the brain. The exact function of kynurenine is not known, but high levels of kynurenine can be measured in patients with mental illness. In this study, the researchers demonstrated that when normal mice were given kynurenine, they displayed depressive behaviour, while mice with increased levels of PGC-1α1 in muscle were not affected. In fact, these animals never show elevated kynurenine levels in their blood since the KAT enzymes in their well-trained muscles quickly convert it to kynurenic acid, resulting in a protective mechanism.
“It’s possible that this work opens up a new pharmacological principle in the treatment of depression, where attempts could be made to influence skeletal muscle function instead of targeting the brain directly. Skeletal muscle appears to have a detoxification effect that, when activated, can protect the brain from insults and related mental illness,” says Jorge Ruas.
Depression is a common psychiatric disorder worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 350 million people are affected.
Original Research: Abstract for “Skeletal Muscle PGC-1α1 Modulates Kynurenine Metabolism and Mediates Resilience to Stress-Induced Depression” by Leandro Z. Agudelo, Teresa Femenía, Funda Orhan, Margareta Porsmyr-Palmertz, Michel Goiny, Vicente Martinez-Redondo, Jorge C. Correia, Manizheh Izadi, Maria Bhat, Ina Schuppe-Koistinen, Amanda T. Pettersson, Duarte M.S. Ferreira, Anna Krook, Romain Barres, Juleen R. Zierath, Sophie Erhardt, Maria Lindskog, and Jorge L. Ruas in Cell. Published online September 25 2014 doi10.1016/j.cell.2014.07.051
Death is going to happen to you — whether you want it to or not — and you’re never going to be completely comfortable with it. But it’s an important process, and please consider facing it.
Mortician Caitlin Doughty on what she wants readers and listeners to take away from her work. She spoke to Fresh Air's Terry Gross about how she’s trying to reform how we think about the deaths of loved ones. (via nprfreshair)
Risks leading to death put in perspective.
Dog Boy ~ Jon Foster