What More Is There To Say?…

Last year, I wrote a huge reflection on 9/11 and what it means today 9/11: A New Perspective . It covers the more analytical perspective of 9/11 versus the more commonly seen emotional side. In essence, what it means politically and what could possibly prevent more events like it. Terrorism is still a huge threat in our society and others like it, and unlike many of the days that we all remember, is still relevant in the contemporary sense. Pearl Harbor is not forgotten, yet the threat has passed. WWII is over, we no longer hate Japan, nor is Japan a dictatorship. The JFK assassination was huge, but we moved forward as a nation and kept a stable country going. However, 9/11 is still an open wound, partially because it is still recent compared to those days, but also because the fear isn’t over. We can remember Pearl Harbor as a bad day in our history, for example, but we no longer have that fear we did when it happened. I get it, the thought of potential new 9/11 like events is still a reality. The fear that “it” could happen tomorrow, near you, affecting you, is very powerful. Much of history and how it played out universally was based on fear and emotion over what could happen. In the 40’s we feared we’d lose to major dictatorships, in the 50’s we feared the spread of communism and a possible WWIII. Yeah, terrorism is the threat of today, and we’re all weary.

Despite that, however, I still believe we can improve. We don’t have to let fear and emotion stand in the way of more logical thoughts. On this day, many people take it to remember and for many bloggers out there, write a little piece on 9/11 chronicling what they were doing or what happened. As mentioned last year, many are from an exceedingly emotional standpoint, and few from a more analytical one we use when talking about other historical events. I have also noticed, that many recycle the same information and opinions. Year after year, everyone spouts the same thing, the same perspective, the same facts, over and over again. Now, my perspective on 9/11 hasn’t changed much from last year either, but I began to think this year, why repeat the same things I said last year? To be honest, I think that’s what turned me off greatly from the topic of 9/11 and other popular emotionally charged historical events. Every year, whether it be in school or in society, all I hear is the same information and opinions, nothing new, no fresh perspective, unique angle, different way to look at it. We all know and learn the basic facts about that day, the planes, the places, the people, pretty much. We know it was terrorism, and that it shook the nation and devastated countless families. We’ve covered that for about a decade already, we know. The other thing too, yes, we were devastated, we grieved for everyone who lost their life, we were angry at who did it and we want to “never forget” it. Year after year, that’s all we have to say.

However, why not challenge ourselves to think more? If we really need to spend a day remembering this tragedy, why not challenge ourselves to think about it from a new angle? Many seem to focus on that one day in 2001, but why not expand the dialogue to how it’s still relevant today in today’s climate? Why not take the day to think more about the complex topic of terrorism in today’s world, to the surprise of many, it’s not all black and white, good vs, evil. It’s a cause and effect scenario, in my opinion. Instead of going over and over and over all of the details and feelings of one day in one moment, why don’t we start to move forward by thinking forward to the issues we face today in light of 9/11? Many feel that by not fixating on that one day, we somehow forget the impact of it all, but I digress. We can still remember what happened on 9/11/01, no one’s saying let’s have collective amnesia and be in denial! However, we should move forward from that day, focus more on how it affects us today, each year in light of current events. 9/11 started a change in our society and politics, probably forever, we’re never going to be the same nation we were on 9/10/01. Let’s start intelligent dialogues on that realization, for example. One thing is sadly true, and was true throughout history: there will be more bad days. There will be days in future generations to come that will have the impact 9/11 had on us, or Pearl Harbor had on our grandparents. Maybe not terrorism, but until humanity learns to live in peace, there will be other tragedies. It’s how we handle them, in the moment, and how we move forward that defines how much of an impact it will make. 9/11 seems like the be all – end all right now, but we do, unfortunately, need to move forward so we can absorb the impact of our next big tragedy. Having a level head about this one is practice for the future.

This may be my last post on the subject in such intense detail, as true to what I have expressed here. Plenty of sources can educate you as to what transpired on 9/11, and countless more can recycle the same opinions and feelings over and over each year. I have said my bit on what I think about 9/11 and how we should analyze it and move forward in this and last year’s post. Until I have a brand new perspective or insight, I would only be recycling my same opinions from last year! I think that moving forward, I might commemorate 9/11 by exploring relevant wider topics that 9/11 has forced our nation to address, such as terrorism, or freedom vs. security for examples, but I don’t feel the need to have an obligatory post every September 11th if I have nothing new to add. Collectively, many have covered most of what 9/11 is about to most people, and I added my two cents. What more is there to say?…

Here’s last year’s opinions: 9/11: A New Perspective

Image result for world trade tower

(The new single World Trade Center. One step towards moving forward, instead of always looking back…)

Posted in Holidays, Modern History, Opinion Piece | Leave a comment

Stonehearst Asylum: A Historical Film With a Poignant Message for Today

Stonehearst asylum is a movie made in 2014 set in an insane asylum around the 1900’s. The premise is a Dr. Newgate comes to Stonehearst out of Oxford college to become a medical resident under Dr. Lamb, the superintendent. There, he learns of Dr. Lamb’s progressive treatments he uses with his patients, including not using restraints or drugs, and letting them keep their delusions. He believes keeping them occupied helps them in their recovery from insanity. Dr. Newgate takes a liking to one particular resident, Mrs. Graves who is there for hysteria. Dr. Newgate is taught valuable lessons in treating the patients with dignity and seeing their humanity beyond just drugging them and subduing their behaviors. However, it is not as it seems. One night, he goes downstairs and discovers a bunch of people kept imprisoned in the basement. It is revealed that they are actually the real staff of Stonehearst and Dr. Lamb is an impostor! Dr. Lamb and his staff are actually residents who staged an uprising and overthrew the asylum! Dr. Lamb is cunning and has a dark past as a military surgeon which had to do with his admission to the facility. Dr. Newgate tries to rescue the former staff and asks Mrs. Graves to help him. She refuses, however, and reveals that Dr. Salt, the real superintendent, used all sorts of cruel and dehumanizing treatments on the patients including her. Dr. Newgate asks the head nurse of the former staff how to defeat Dr. Lamb, but she says to view him as a patient, and to heal, not defeat him in order to overpower him.  Dr. Lamb’s running of the asylum starts to fall apart, with them running out of food and heating for the winter. This escalates the situation, and Dr. Lamb becomes suspicious of Dr. Newman. The height of the crisis reaches it’s peak during New Year’s when Dr. Newman, with Mrs. Graves’s help tries to usurp Lamb’s power. Dr. Lamb ends up strapping Dr. Newman into a chair to use electrotherapy to make him a patient there too. as a last request, Dr. Newman asks Dr. Lamb to give a pocket watch to Mrs. Graves, but instead pulls out a picture of a soldier he killed during his time as a military surgeon that Dr. Newgate found in the isolation room where Dr. Lamb stayed as a resident. This gives him a huge flashback and he becomes incapacitated. Meanwhile, Mickey, Dr. Lamb’s henchman tries to take over the electrotherapy. Mrs. Graves comes to the rescue and fights him off, killing him when he electrocutes himself, but also starts a huge fire! Both Dr. Newman and Mrs. Grey rescue the patients, former staff, and even Dr. Lamb. The film flashes forward to the asylum being run more gently and humanely by the former head nurse, and the return of Mrs. Grave’s husband asking for her discharge. Problem is, she was discharged 3 weeks ago by Dr. Newman! This is impossible, the doctor accompanying him says, because He’s Dr. Newman! In one of the biggest plot twists of all, “Dr. Newman” is not a doctor, nor his name is Newman! He is revealed to be an escaped mental patient himself, who fell in love with Mrs. Graves at a medical seminar they were both exhibited at! Mrs. Graves was there because her husband abused her and her father put her there to escape him. In the end, it is revealed that “Dr, Newman”, the impostor, and she set up a new asylum in Italy, and run it with Lamb’s humane methods.

Overall, I thought the film was very good! It had suspense, and violence, but it falls under a more intelligent genre that an average horror/thriller film. It is intellectual in its underlying message: treating patients with dignity and humanity is the best way to treat them. The characters were good, and the plot twists where a true surprise! Everything was not what it seemed! I especially like the complexity of Lamb’s character. He is shown as progressive and kind, but turns into a much more sinister and sadistic figure. On one hand, his methods were much more gentle and humane than the dehumanizing treatments of the day, but he had a dark past and goes to evil lengths to get his way, truly showing his madness. He is the bad guy, yet as the head nurse said, “Even Silas (Dr. Lamb’s first name), has some good in him.” His treatment methods are kind and he truly cares for his patients, but anyone who stands in his way gets the brunt of his cruel side. What stood out to me too, is they didn’t just give him the “bad guy treatment”. It wasn’t about defeating him, but healing him. The way he was ultimately defeated was to be faced with his innermost demons and the side he hid from the world and himself. Dr. Newman even comforted him in the end before he completely lost his mind and was even a patent in the institution still! The clear message is, that by truly healing people, it conquers their demons. Even the disturbed Dr. Lamb was treated with sympathy and compassion in the end. I also liked how Dr. Newman got to grow as a doctor, by learning the lesson of treating patients with compassion and dignity. Even though he wasn’t a doctor, but a patient himself, as it was revealed, he made a great doctor! His compassion and true understanding made him the perfect doctor for the ward. His fate as the head of his own institution fit him well.

The message throughout the film is truly contemporary, yet reflects the changes in thinking at the time. Giving the patients meaningful things to do, simulation, compassion, is now the modern philosophy. Excessive restraints and inhumane treatments even then were being phased out gradually giving way to more fulfilling patient care. By not suppressing their behaviors, but finding avenues for them was shown to have worked far better in truly healing them. Indeed, I could argue the main theme of the movie was about healing. Healing the patients, and even healing the bad guys like Dr. Lamb. I also loved the film from other historical aspects too, such as the terminology, like “alienist” (now a psychiatrist), and the antiquated terms such as “Mongolism”, “Dementia Praecox”, “Idiot”, “Imbecile”, “chronic homosexuality”, even “excessive masturbation”, to name a few! The writers clearly did research into the real history of institutions and psychiatry. They even depicted some treatments accurately from back then, like water treatment, electrotherapy, and a steam room. They truly made an effort to get the details right! The historical elements made the film so much more immensely enjoyable for me!

Overall, the film was an excellent look into the history of psychiatry, with a cool plot line! The plot is intellectual, and not just dumb horror scares in many “asylum” films, but tells a story with a message that rings clear today: treating patients with dignity and compassion. Here’s the link to watch the entire movie! Stonehearst Asylum

Posted in Modern History, Opinion Piece, Reviews | 1 Comment

Idiots, Imbeciles and Morons: Psychology’s Golden Age

Today, we have made great strides in psychology and mental healthcare with new technologies such as genetic research, MRI’s, CAT scans and other ways to see ailments of the brain at a cellular level. We have developed new treatments and more enlightened approaches to caring for patients with mental disorders. However, these strides started around the turn of the century with great names such as Sigmund Freud, Alfred Binet, Henry H. Goddard, Robert Yerkes etc… These researchers and many more were some of the first pioneers into developing the foundation of our modern treatments and attitudes toward psychiatric disorders despite their sometimes now “outdated” language and theories. Interestingly, many of the works of these great researchers have survived and can be read easily by the public. It’s striking, some of the resemblance to our own methods of research and case studies. Here are some of my most favorite ones to read!:

Alois Alzheimer is the man that Alzheimers disease is named after. He conducted research into dementia disorders in the early 1900’s. Not as well known is his case study of a patient named Auguste Deter. Deter was a woman in her early 50’s who had symptoms of Auguste D aus Marktbreit.jpgwhat is now early onset Alzheimers such as memory loss and delusions, as well as behaviors such as screaming in the middle of the night and dragging bed sheets around the house! Her husband committed her to the Institution for the Mentally Ill and for The Epileptics in Frankfurt, Germany in 1901. Alzheimer studied her for a while while she was there. He asked her questions to judge her awareness which she replied “Ich hab mich verloren”, or “I have lost myself” if she didn’t know. Alzheimer kept meticulous notes of all of their interactions and even samples of her handwriting! Alzheimer later moved on to another institution, but was kept in touch with Auguste. She died in 1906 and Alzheimer dissected her brain, revealing later hallmarks of Alzheimers as we know it today. Her medical file was found 90 years after Alzheimer’s death and contains all of the notes on Auguste and Alzheimer’s interactions! Unfortunately, it is not online and I couldn’t find any of Alzheimer’s works either :(  However, there are some published extracts form that file:

Nov 26, 1901

She sits on the bed with a helpless expression. What is your name? Auguste. Last name? Auguste. What is your husband’s name? Auguste, I think. Your husband? Ah, my husband. She looks as if she didn’t understand the question. Are you married? To Auguste. Mrs D? Yes, yes, Auguste D. How long have you been here? She seems to be trying to remember. Three weeks. What is this? I show her a pencil. A pen. A purse and key, diary, cigar are identified correctly. At lunch she eats cauliflower and pork. Asked what she is eating she answers spinach. When she was chewing meat and asked what she was doing, she answered potatoes and then horseradish. When objects are shown to her, she does not remember after a short time which objects have been shown. In between she always speaks about twins. When she is asked to write, she holds the book in such a way that one has the impression that she has a loss in the right visual field. Asked to write Auguste D, she tries to write Mrs and forgets the rest. It is necessary to repeat every word. Amnestic writing disorder. In the evening her spontaneous speech is full of paraphrasic derailments and perseverations.

Extracts from Nov 29, 1901

What year is it? Eighteen hundred. Are you ill? Second month. What are the names of the patients? She answers quickly and correctly. What month is it now? The 11th. What is the name of the 11th month? The last one, if not the last one. Which one? I don’t know. What colour is snow? White. Soot? Black. The sky? Blue. Meadows? Green. How many fingers do you have? 5. Eyes? 2. Legs? 2.. . . If you buy 6 eggs, at 7 dimes each, how much is it? Differently. On what street do you live? I can tell you, I must wait a bit. What did I ask you? Well, this is Frankfurt am Main. On what street do you live? Waldemarstreet, not, no. . . . When did you marry? I don’t know at present. I show her a key, a pencil and a book and she names them correctly. What did I show you? I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s difficult isn’t it? So anxious, so anxious. I show her 3 fingers; how many fingers? 3. Are you still anxious Yes. How many fingers did I show you? Well this is Frankfurt am Main.

The patient is asked to recognise objects by touch, with her eyes closed. A toothbrush, sponge, bread, breadroll, spoon, brush, glass, knife, fork, plate, purse, Mark, cigar, key. She recognises them quickly and correctly. By touch she calls a brass cup a milk jug, a tea-spoon, but when she opens her eyes she immediately says a cup. Writing, she does it as already described. When she has to write Mrs Auguste D, she writes Mrs and we must repeat the other words because she forgets them. The patient is not able to progress in writing and repeats, I have lost myself. No disturbance in speech articulation. She frequently interrupts herself in the articulation of words during the interview (as if she did not know whether she had said something correctly or not). During physical examination she cooperates and is not anxious. When she was brought from the isolation room to the bed she became agitated, screamed, was non-cooperative; ; showed great fear and repeated I will not be cut. I do not cut myself…”

That is as much as I found on her file. The extract comes from here: Auguste D and Alzheimer’s disease. I wish there was more on her case and that they could make a movie about it. Luckily, there is a TV program on it, but it is entirely in German!

A modern snapshot from the TV show! Would have loved for it to be a full length movie.

My other favorite read is an entire book online called The Intelligence of The Feeble Minded by Alfred Binet in 1916. It details extensively the studies done on multiple patients ranging from “Idiots”, to “Imbeciles” and what they are cognitively capable of doing, as well as physical sensations such as pain. Some colorful cases are Denise, a “low grade imbecile” who is always cheerful and imitated everything Alfred Binet did with her. Also this little vignette with a patient called “cretin” during a pain study:

“First notice Denise,a low grade imbecile, a short little woman of twenty-five years with small black eyes brilliant and mobile,who is extremely pleasant.The moment she enters the office, she holds out her hand and begins to laugh, showing her beautiful white teeth. She laughs at everything and nothing; she is very docile, even affectionate.”
“Cretin, middle grade imbecile, behaved altogether differently. In order to learn her sensibility to pain, we raised her sleeve, slightly pinching her arm. At first, she seemed amused, and smiled; indeed it was her first smile that day. Then when we attempted a second time to pinch her, she defended herself drawing back her arm vigorously. We seized her wrist without, however, causing her pain. It was never the less the beginning of a contest; the child began to cry loudly, and to sob,hiding her face behind her sleeve. At the end of several seconds the sobs stopped of themselves. We gave her a sou which she eagerly took and pocketed. But in spite of the gift her sullen attitude only increased, she stood up and insisted upon leaving us, repeating several times, “Me go”.
Q.Where?
A.Eat.
Q.Eat what?
A.They are eating.
Q.You are going to eat?
A. Yes, it is time.
Q. But stay just a minute, are you afraid of us?
A. I go eat.”
Something about that little scene captures my attention. I wish they made a movie scene with it happening, I can almost imagine it!
Overall, there are plenty more studies I have come across but these two are my favorite so far! I love the intimate descriptions as it is like you’re in the room while it is happening! Primary sources like these can really give you that “human” feel to history and make it that much more real. These sources give you an intimate look into the golden age of psychology!
(Addendum: I almost forgot this gem! It has a ton of pictures of different patients! Types of Mental Defectives)
Posted in Modern History | Leave a comment

Blog Roll Please…

I take pride in the work and dedication I invest all the time into making History is Interesting an interesting and insightful blog for history buffs out there! However, I have not, as of yet, given due credit to the many blogs I have read that are equally if not much more so insightful and informative as my own! These blogs inspire me to be better at writing my own, and learn new things:

Bones Don’t Lie This blog focuses on Mortuary Archaeology from an array of time periods! The author, Katheryn Meyers Emery, has recently earned her PhD in that field! She describes her focus as:

“This blog was created to serve as a way for me to keep up to date with current mortuary and bioarchaeology news, as well as a way to work on my own scholarly writing. Since then it has evolved into a way for me to explore a variety of regions, theories, interpretations, perspectives, and methods in the discipline.”

An Historian Goes to the Movies This blog gives historically based reviews of popular historical movies critiquing their historical accuracy! Really cool reads!

“This blog is about exploring historical films (and TV shows). My goal is to look at films the way a professional historian does, not the way an average film-goer or fan does. I intend to examine issues such as historical accuracy, the relationship between film and scholarship, how films use their historical sources, and so on. While I’m a trained historian, I can’t be an expert on every possible historical subject, so while I make a serious effort to get the historical facts rights, I’m sure I’ll make occasional errors, and sometimes I’ll have to omit details simply for the sake of brevity and readability. I’m a medievalist, so I’m going to tend to focus on films about the Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern periods in Europe, simply because I know most about those. But I’ll periodically cover other historical periods as well.”

Medieval books This blog specializes in the study and analysis of Medieval manuscripts and what they can tell us about Medieval life. The author, Erick Kwakkel, is a professional book historian specializing in Medieval works.

I am a book historian at Leiden University, The Netherlands, where I study medieval manuscripts – books from before the invention of print. My research and teaching is hands-on, with real objects on the table. A good day for me is having medieval dirt on my hands. I am also directing a project on twelfth-century manuscript culture: “Turning Over a New Leaf: Manuscript Innovation in the Twelfth-Century Renaissance.”

From the Garden into the City This blog has a particularly insightful post I linked here about the merits of studying history. She describes her main focus as:

“Disgruntled graduate student of the first millennium A.D. eastern Mediterranean. Interested mainly in historiography, power, and representation. A historical materialist who tries to appreciate that many people really believed in the things they fought for. Complains profusely about the problems of academia while still being complicit in too many of them. Does not feel that pronouns are necessary.”

All Mesopotamia This blog deals with ancient Mesopotamia in great depth!

“Welcome to the All Mesopotamia blog, where you will learn about these civilizations through fun little (and not-so-little) posts, featuring information gathered from sources all over the internet. This blog is part of a network of various social networking platforms through which All Mesopotamia distributes information about this ancient civilization…”

Mercurius Politicus This blog is focused on Early Modern History and focuses on Henry Walker, a 17th century person who made some slanderous pamphlets against another person, John Taylor!

 “I began this blog when I was doing an MA in early modern history at Birkbeck. The MA is now done, but the blog has remained as an outlet for my interest in the early modern period. I am currently researching and writing a life of the ironmonger, pamphleteer and preacher Henry Walker. Walker is well-known to anyone who studies the politics of the English Civil Wars; but he is entirely obscure to anyone else, and he remains something of a figure of fun even amongst scholars. Many historians take the criticisms of his opponents at face value, and have tended to dismiss him as a result. I think there is more to him than that, though.”

The Social Historian This blog is about mostly Early Modern/Post Medieval history and it’s social history. It’s written by Jonathan Healey.

“Adventures in the world of social, economic and local history…”

The History of the Byzantine Empire This blog deals mainly with the Byzantine empire, as the name suggests.

“My name is Robert Horvat and welcome to ‘The History of the Byzantine Empire” blog. This is not a new project in the strictest sense. I have been reading on the subject for about 20 years now. It all began one day when I was looking into reading further about Croatia (my parents birthplace) and its history. There wasn’t many books back in the mid 1990’s on Croatia, so I found myself reading other European history that mentioned Croatia to get my fix. I accidentally stumbled across my first Byzantine history book, entitled The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe 500-1453 by Dimitri Obolensky, which had interesting sections dotted throughout on the Balkans and Croatia. Being curious I thought it would be a great investment, so I bought it. I initially struggled through it, but by the end of it I was completely mesmerized by this so called Byzantine Empire. It was full of intrigue and everything about it was exotic (to me).”

There are plenty more great historical blogs, that I have not listed, but I visit these most frequently! I find great blogs all the time, you just have to look and be inspired!

Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology and Anthropology, Helping Make History More Interesting, Middle Ages, Renaissance | 1 Comment

The Witch: Movie Review

The Witch is a new movie that came out in 2015. The premise is a Puritan family from roughly the 1630’s is banished from the colony due to the father’s intense religious beliefs that disagree with the established church. The family, Katherine, the mother, William, the father, and their children, Thomasin, Caleb, Mercy and Jonas live on the outskirts away from the colony. Trouble starts when their new baby, Samuel mysteriously disappears. Thomasin, the oldest daughter is blamed by their distraught mother. The family is also having trouble making enough crops to feed them among other things. The family soon suspects witchcraft going on as the younger twins, Mercy and Jonah talk to “Black Philip”, a creepy black goat, and accuse Thomasin of being a witch. The children overhear their parents talking about sending Thomasin away and revealing Caleb wasn’t baptized. Caleb sets out that night to go on a mysterious errand, and Thoma
sin tags along. Caleb gets lost, and Thomasin once again is blamed. Caleb returns, but naked and delirious and the mother  thinks it was witchcraft. He cries out to God and says that a witch did curse him. The younger siblings openly accuse Thomasin and she argues back. Caleb dies soon after and the mother blames Thomasin who runs out of the house. The father goes out to comfort her, but partially believes she was responsible for the witch craft. He also confronts Mercy and Jonah and then locks them all up in the barn with Black Philip. The family’s fears are confirmed, when an apparition of Caleb and the baby Samuel appear to the mother, but was really a manifestation of the devil. Also, Black Phillip kills the father and the mother blames Thomasin. Thomasin, in self defense kills her and goes to live with witches in the woods in the end. Throughout the film, the devil takes on the form of a rabbit, a crow, and Black Phillip.

Overall, the film was very dark and intense. There was no real happy moment as everyone was unhappy, due to crops failing and not enough to trade, to the loss of Samuel and Caleb and accusations of witch craft. However, my biggest praise is for the historical accuracy of the costumes, and that the dialogue was more 17th century than modern. It was modern enough to understand, but they incorporated many 17th century phrases, like “go to!” and used Thee and Thou correctly and as the informal you. Much of the wording was also more archaic to give the historical feel. I love how they did that without making it just cliche “old timey” talk. Religion, not surprisingly played a huge role, and much of scripture and prayers were quoted. I loved the scene where Caleb and his father were out hunting and his father quizzed him on one of the protestant catechisms. The wording was directly quoted from the real thing! Also, the part where Caleb asks about if Samuel was in heaven and he would go there. His father explained that no one knew who would be chosen to go, the belief in predestination of that time period. To modern senses, I’d say religion was their downfall. Their entire conflict was over blaming each other using religion and tearing the family apart. The idea to us that the father would get so upset over young children pretending they could talk to a goat almost seems laughable if the scene wasn’t so intense. He threatened to kill his own son over the matter, citing Abraham and his son. Everyone was so consumed by their own guilt, from the mother and father, to Caleb and Thomasin. Despite that, I do understand that many people genuinely did feel that way at the time. Religion was a powerful force then, more than we could comprehend. They had an entirely different world view from our more secular one. Yet, I still feel pity for all of the characters, for a religion that was supposed to bring them comfort, it only brought them pain and misery.

The characters were mostly well rounded. Deep down, the father was very caring and loving toward his wife and children. He was pained to see them unhappy. The mother naturally was grief stricken over the loss of her children and went a little mad. Thomasin, I believe, is like any other teenager. She wanted to please her parents and just be understood. The blame her family put on her was very hurtful and she had no where to really turn. I think Caleb was absorbing his father’s religious guilt and wanted to hold the family together. Mercy and Jonah were only young children, and I feel they truly did not know the ramifications of their actions.

Historically, the film was good, the clothing was era-appropriate as well as many of the religious beliefs and dialogue. It really gets you up close into the Puritan mindset. However, one thing they could have elaborated more on was exactly how the father fell out with the church. Puritans were very devout, and devotion alone was a good thing. They didn’t really flesh out how his views clashed with the mainstream puritans. The ending and the premise that the witchcraft was actually real I believe took away from the film. I understand that many people like the horror and fantasy genre, but if they took it in the direction that it was all in their heads, the film would have been much more intellectual. To say that they tore each other apart and felt guilty for nothing in a world that rejected them sends a much more powerful message on the damaging side of religion and about acceptance. Having Thomasin really becoming a witch at the end only confirmed their worst fears and took away from the innocence I wished she had. It only confirmed their damaging superstitions.

Overall, good historical costumes and dialogue and a riveting plot. Very dark though, and not for anyone in the mood for a more feel good movie. However, great for history buffs to appreciate on a historical level. I just wish they tweaked the ending a bit to be more lighter, like them reconciling and going back to the colony realizing it was all in their heads. I do recommend this film for anyone who likes the 17th century despite my criticisms. See the entire movie in HD here:

The Witch Full Movie

Posted in Early Modern History, Helping Make History More Interesting, Opinion Piece, Religion, Reviews | Leave a comment

When Pride Turns to Arrogance: An Opinion Piece

The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate the founding of our country and what makes the US so great. We celebrate our achievements, our innovations, our freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as well as our culture and values. Today’s the day we break out the grill and have a good old American barbecue, and watch fireworks and see parades. The revelry brings us together as Americans celebrating what makes us stand out. With this revelry unfortunately, can come an uglier side to things. Somehow, humans can turn about anything into something very ugly in any situation, and unfortunately, this is no different:

About every day of the year, patriotism is expressed by many over being in America. Patriotism in itself isn’t inherently bad, basically, it’s having pride in one’s country and showing solidarity with fellow citizens. However, there is a small vocal minority that seeks to impose their own personal interpretation on how to be patriotic on anyone who disagrees through ad-hominem attacks and guilt tripping. Basically if one doesn’t subscribe to their views on how to praise this country, you’re a “traitor”, in essence! Rhetoric on “Our country is the best country in the world!” and “Anyone who disagrees is slighting the US military and is ungrateful for our soldiers” or “You support/sympathize with enemy X”, is often thrown around. Now an argument of theirs is that we shouldn’t take our rights and privileges this country has given us for granted, which is definitely true, but squashing any legitimate criticism only ironically deprives others of their freedom of opinions. Many essentially argue that because America gives us the right to dissent, we shouldn’t be allowed to! Often, this attitude fosters intolerance and hatred toward anyone perceived to be the “other”, you’re in or you’re out basically.

Also, the notion of American Exceptionalism, that is we’re the best nation EVER is extremely arrogant. What makes people think that other countries are somehow inferior technologically, socially, culturally? What about other 1st world countries like England, or Germany, or France? Don’t they have rich histories, technological innovations, strong militaries, exceptional people and rich cultures and heritages too? What makes us think we’re so above them? Sure, we’re a huge world power, but what about China and Russia? Sure, we are founded on principles of freedom and justice, but many countries embraced those enlightenment-era ideals the founding fathers got. What about the French Revolution?, for an example. Hundreds of technologies we brag about having were invented in other countries! These attitudes of entitlement and superiority are prime examples of how pride turns to arrogance.

Now, not all patriotism is bad, indeed, the examples listed above are more like strong nationalism. It’s perfectly okay to have pride in our heritage and culture and traditions. Celebrating the Fourth of July is as harmless as say, Cinco de Mayo. Grilling burgers (which I’ll note came from Germany) and having an American style barbecue is perfectly fine. Being nostalgic for one’s homeland is great. Embracing values such as “freedom and justice for all” is what everyone should do. Taking pride in the skill of our military, our scientists, our inventors and innovators and acknowledging their contributions to our country is commendable. America does have a rich and beautiful heritage made by many people. It’s okay to take pride in what makes us unique and stand out in the world. However, when that pride takes the shape of “We’re the greatest country EVER”, “Tow the party line or else!”, “Our sacrifices and struggles matter more than yours!”, or “You’re a traitor if you disagree!” among countless others, it crosses the line into arrogance and intolerance. It takes a great deal of humility to say “We are only one of many great nations”, “It’s okay if you disagree”, “The experiences of other country’s citizens matter too and we’re all human beings” and “Speak up for what’s right even if it means going against your country” etc… Sure, many people do need reminding not to take what’s great about America for granted, but many others need a strong reminder to stay humble too. Sometimes, there’s a fine line between healthy pride in one’s country, and toxic arrogance.

So this Fourth of July, celebrate everything that makes us great, but also remind yourself to take a step back if you will, and acknowledge our failings too. No country is perfect, but we as a nation can strive to better our country and our society through our attitudes and actions. On this day, “do your bit” by simply accepting someone different than you, stand up for someone, speak out if something’s wrong. That’s what will make America great enough to truly celebrate. On this exciting day, here’s a reminder not to let pride turn into arrogance.

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(Hee, Hee…)

Posted in Holidays, Modern History | 2 Comments

Studying Human Remains and The Controversy: An Argument For Continued Research

Archaeological discoveries captivate our imaginations as we wonder about the people and how they lived long ago. As we find all sorts of different objects, we can imagine the story behind them, how people used them and if the find was significant to the person or people using it. Often times, much of that story remains a mystery and we’re left to let our imaginations run wild. Perhaps that is why archaeology is so captivating to the public, the thrill of the mystery. On top of that, imagine the sheer thrill of finding actual human remains! With modern science, human remains can tell us so much more about the people than just objects alone can. We can now tell what they ate, where they came from, their health, their stature, even reconstruct their face! These amazing breakthroughs have made history all the more real, as we can start to learn more on a personal level.

However, this groundbreaking research is not without controversy. Many modern groups have opposed such research, as they believe, for various reasons, that it is disrespectful to the dead. Perhaps the most well known groups to oppose the study of human remains are various tribes of Native Americans. Many believe that studying ancient remains on their land is disrespectful because it disturbed whom they believe to be their ancestors and that their tribe has been on their land since the dawn of time. Other groups oppose too, citing very similar reasons. Minority groups aren’t the only ones who object at times either. Many human remains from places like Europe also are called for reburial, as the Judeo-Christian tradition calls for leaving the deceased undisturbed. Although many of the arguments against the study of human remains are more spiritual in nature, there are a few secular and more general arguments brought up, such as studying human remains dehumanizes those being studied, the tests are often invasive and damage the body, and when minority groups are involved, it hearkens back to some form of historical racism and past exploitation. Despite any drawbacks though, overall, the ability to study human remains reaps benefits that outweigh the drawbacks and many arguments do not stand up to valid scrutiny.

By far, the probably the largest argument proposed by most groups is that by studying the remains scientifically, it takes away the person’s humanity. They argue that it becomes reduced to a mere “specimen”, and not a human being in the more philosophical sense. This, I believe is an entirely wrong way to look at it. To me, it helps make them more human, it shares their long lost legacy with us today. They are no longer just some old bones, but a person, who lived long ago and now we know more about their lives through studying them. Sure they are a “specimen”, but a specimen of humanity, not just some bland data. Being made an object of study does not trivialize what is being studied, on the contrary, it implies that it is so important, that scientists from all over have supplied numerous resources just to find out who that person really was like. The entire point of the research is to find out who they were as a person, not just a bunch of inanimate objects. Figuring out where they lived, what they ate, what they looked like, their culture etc, is what makes them who they are as a person, as it does us. In essence, the entire objective of any of the research is about making them “human” again.

Another argument many make is that those people belong to their group, therefore studying them disrespects that group along with more religious reasons, such as ancestry since the dawn of time, for one example. The problem is, over time, all cultures change. Names, language, culture, politics, religion etc, all change, very often dramatically the further in the past one gets. For example, think of Egypt. Egypt has been around for millennia, however modern Egyptians and Ancient Egyptians have extremely little in common! Language, religion, culture, clothing, all that has changed drastically. Even the name was not what the ancient Egyptians called themselves! Conquest is often the biggest contender but also cultural shift over time. It is not realistic to believe that one particular group has been in the same area with the exact same identity and culture as the ones living there today. Human remains from the palaeolithic, for example, would have almost certainly not have identified with whatever group claimed them today! Studying remains with no cultural ties to one particular group today and would not have identified as a member of that group, would reasonably not affect said group.

One last argument, but by far one of the most heated, yet easiest to solve is the claims of past racism and exploitation. Many minority groups have said that in the past, their remains were treated disrespectfully and with condescension by mainstream academia. They note that in the past, much of the research was used to fuel a racist agenda and was exploitive. However, today, we can change any racism or exploitation by simply being impartial and unbiased throughout the research. Taking note of cultural differences, and not making them into proof of inferiority, but of the interesting variation among humans eliminates any condescending bias. To study humans off a pedestal of cultural superiority, but with humility and a will to learn about them instead of dismissing their technology and culture helps solve the problem. Many of the past wounds inflicted are great, but that doesn’t mean the scientific community can’t or isn’t actively trying to change how they view other cultures and peoples.

Perhaps both sides could step forward and compromise a bit. Possible solutions could include making copies of the remains and burying the real ones, or no invasive damaging tests that would do permanent damage to the remains, as some ideas. Overall though, the benefit of putting a human side to history can only be a good thing. To know your own heritage, or simply know about those who came before you is a powerful feeling. To see how people lived back then is immensely interesting and gratifying to learn about. This issue is personal to me because of my passion for history. I want to see more people studied, so we can learn more history about who they were and how they lived. It frustrates me, as an intellectual, to see potential knowledge suppressed due to reasons that don’t stand up. The potential for gaining more knowledge into our human story is just too great to not think about.  

Posted in Archaeology and Anthropology, Helping Make History More Interesting, Opinion Piece, Religion | 1 Comment