Tuesday, January 15, 2013
On Catholicism and Polish Solidarity: In October 1984, three members of the Polish secret police bludgeoned Catholic priest Jerzy Popiełuszko to death. It was the half-way point of what seemed like a ten-year strategy by the Catholic Church to put pressure on the Communist regime in Poland. In June 1979, Pope John Paul II visited his homeland for the first time since becoming the Bishop of Rome one year prior. And like Fr. Popiełuszko's funeral, hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens greeted the Pope in the streets. The Communist regime had planned to crush any riots that developed as a result of the Pope's visit, but no such action was necessary. Instead, the Pope's visit helped spark the Solidarity (trade union) movement in the shipyards of Gdańsk. In August 1980, future President of Poland, Lech Wałęsa, organized the first non-communist-party-controlled trade union in a Warsaw Pact country. At its peak, Solidarity had nearly 10 million members and represented about one-third of the entire Polish workforce. By the late 1980s, after enduring years of martial law and political repression, Solidarity succeeded in negotiating semi-free elections with the Communist regime, which resulted in a partial coalition government.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
On Modernism: When Nietzsche wrote "The world is a work of art that gives birth to itself" in the 1880s, he captured modernism's central thrust. Even the above painting (Salvador Dalí's surrealist piece The Persistence of Memory - 1931) defined the modernist ethos of breaking down time and space. In doing so, modernists sought to dissolve rationality itself. The primal superseded the rational, especially since modernists believed it existed before reason along the scale of evolutionary consciousness. Generally speaking, modernism was a distinct period of cultural history grounded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Art, literature, and philosophy all underwent massive shifts in directional thinking. The rigid societal norms of Victorianism provided the reactionary backdrop for many British and American modernists, while Bismarck's Second Reich served a similar purpose for German modernists. As the world's population surpassed one billion around 1850, many people questioned how they would continue to exist. Although advances in agricultural, medical, and transportation technologies (mech. reapers, anesthetics, and trains) helped people survive the nineteenth century, they scared modernists because each innovation effectively reinforced the primacy of time and space.