Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Slideshow is Back!

At long last I have fixed the Group 22 slideshow feature in the sidebar and have filled it with mostly "vintage" examples of our activist exploits over the years. Because these photos were scanned, the resolution is a little fuzzy, but they are still fun. I hope to add more recent pictures soon. If you are present or former member of our Pasadena chapter and have photos to add, let me know!

I'm highlighting a few pics from a China campaign from around 1993 in which we created a "Democracy Wall" collage of actions, quotes, pictures and graphics which was posted for the benefit of the Caltech community. Perhaps this will serve as inspiration for our current work on the 'disappeared' Chinese human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng. Please take action for Gao here!

Monday, August 22, 2011

For December: After the Quake by Haruki Murakami

For December we have chosen Haruki Murakami's short story collection, After the Quake,

The six stories in Haruki Murakami's mesmerizing collection are set at the time of the catastrophic 1995 Kobe earthquake, when Japan became brutally aware of the fragility of its daily existence. But the upheavals that afflict Murakami's characters are even deeper and more mysterious, emanating from a place where the human meets the inhuman. 
An electronics salesman who has been abruptly deserted by his wife agrees to deliver an enigmatic package?and is rewarded with a glimpse of his true nature. A man who has been raised to view himself as the son of God pursues a stranger who may or may not be his human father. A mild-mannered collection agent receives a visit from a giant talking frog who enlists his help in saving Tokyo from destruction. As haunting as dreams, as potent as oracles, the stories in After the Quake are further proof that Murakami is one of the most visionary writers at work today.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Our August Author: Leighton Gage

Blood of the WickedThis month we are reading Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage.  The author has a website and Facebook page and contributes to a group blog, Murder is Everywhere. (He and his fellow bloggers have not worked out the most efficient labeling system, so here's a shortcut to get you to his posts highlighting his broad interest in Brazilian culture.)

Detectives Beyond Borders has a good interview with Gage (Part 1, Part 2) focusing on Blood of the Wicked to aid our discussion. Crime Scraps has a multi-part interview, too (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Although this video relates to a different book (Buried Strangers) it offers a brief introduction to the author and the Mario Silva series:

Blood of the Wicked certainly stands out in the way the issues brought to the fore dovetail with Amnesty's human rights concerns. For an overview of Amnesty's human rights concerns in Brazil, consult the country page. There are several Brazil actions currently available including one involving threats to landless workers by gunmen hired by a local farmer where police have failed to take adequate steps to investigate the incidents and protect the workers. See this Human Rights Now blog post and this press release for more information. Another blog post from August 17 relates to the murder of a judge who had received threats from both criminal gangs and police officers.  Yet another post relates the fate of environmental activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva.  That case is also described in this New Yorker blog post which also mentions the murder of Dorothy Stang, the American nun Gage references in his author's note.

Finally, for a look at what an occupation by the landless movement looks like I recommend this great little 2005 PBS Frontline documentary.  In addition, the film includes a nod to both liberation theology, and a passing reference to 'political theater' of the kind we became familiar with through our friend Hector Aristizabal (The Blessing Next to the Wound). Worth a look!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

For November: The Honor Code by Kwame Anthony Appiah

The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen
For November we have selected The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen by Kwame Anthony Appiah,
How does moral progress happen? How are societies brought to repudiate immoral customs they have long accepted? In The Honor Code, Kwame Anthony Appiah explores a long-neglected engine of reform.  Examining moral revolutions in the past--and campaigns against abhorrent practices today--he shows that appeals to reason, morality, or religion aren't enough to ring in reform. Practices are eradicated only when they come into conflict with honor. 
In gripping detail, Appiah begins his work with a portrait of the often-deadly world of aristocratic Britain, where for centuries gentlemen challenged each other to duels.  Recounting one of the last significant duels in that world--between a British prime minister and an eccentric earl--Appiah shows a society at the precipice of abrupt change.  Turning to the other side of the world, Appiah investigates the end of footbinding in China. The practice had flourished for a thousand years, despite imperial attempts at prohibition, yet was extinguished in a generation. Appiah brings to life this turbulent era and shows how change finally came not from imposing edicts from above, but from harnessing the ancient power of honor from within. 
In even more intricate ways, Appiah demonstrates how ideas of honor helped drive one of history's most significant moral revolutions--the fast-forming social consensus that led to the abolition of slavery throughout the British empire, and recruited ordinary men and women to the cause.  Yet his interest isn't just historical.   Appiah considers the horrifying persistence of "honor killing" in places like Pakistan, despite religious and moral condemnation, and the prospects for bringing it to an end by mobilizing a sense of collective honor--and of shame. 
With a storyteller's flair and a philosopher's rigor, The Honor Code represents a new approach toward moral inquiry. Ranging from a great mandarin's abandonment of an ancient Chinese tradition to Frederick Douglass's meetings with Abolitionist leaders in London, Appiah reveals how moral revolutions really succeed.
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