Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘social history’

Paris, in Balzac’s words ‘is a sentient being’. If you need understand its sense of being one need only have entered into one of its houses in the early nineteenth- century Paris. Different classes and degrees of affluence might well be housed in the same building; only a subtle hint clued you in: higher you climbed you were entering a world of its own something out of Dante’s inferno. For every casual visitor again to quote Balzac, ‘Paris is still the same monstrous miracle, as astounding assemblage of movements, machines and ideas, the city of thousand different romances, the world’s thinking voice.’

Paris in the fin de siècle for all the restless movements must not have imagined it was standing on the rim of a crater and the beguiling way of living was merely a mood; despite swirling in a whirligig of ideas and fads the city would soon be swallowed up by the events of 1914. As such the good old days of Paris mark socially as well as culturally  a distinct social phenomenon called La Belle Époque.

France had much to be proud about. The nations industrial, scientific and cultural advances would be showcased by the International Exposition of 1900 and the Eifel Tower was its jewel in the crown. A million visitors ascended the Tower, which was completed 11 years before, all blissfully forgotten of its scathing reception during its erection (‘A ghastly dream’ it was called in 1887; Guy de Maupassant supposedly ate lunch in the tower’s restaurant every day because it was the one place in Paris where the tower was not visible.)

On April, 14,1900 at four in the afternoon a balloon rose from the Tuileries Garden while 15,000 Parisians watched the cameraman who filmed the city for the coming Cinéorama, to be screened at the Exhibition that was due to open on the Left Bank.

The city was remodeled in the 1850s during the Empire Days by Baron Haussmann and had survived great many upheavals since then( the Commune of 1871 and Metro, whose first line opened to coincide with the Exhibition) and was the pleasure ground for two and a half million people. Symptomatic of the grand vision of the city everything was gigantic: the Ferris wheel 350 feet high, could carry 1,600 people at a time; The President of the Third Republic threw a party for 20,000 of mayors who were served by waiters on roller skates. The guide to the Exposition called the century ending ‘the most fertile in discoveries, the most prodigious in sciences’, that the world had had known and it spoke of a revolution in the economic order of the universe.’

In summer 1913, a party of San Francisco boy scouts passed through the city, and Le Figaro newspaper ran a survey – what had struck them the most?

Apart from the monuments and the gardens, they loved the trees lining the streets, and the general cleanliness. They thought the red trousers worn by soldiers most impressive, but it was odd how many young men wore moustaches and how many women smoked.

They loved the way policemen still wore swords, the dog barbers by the Seine, the glorious outdoor cafes. At the opera, one young American stared at the women “pivoting on their high heels, offering a fine view of their resplendent gowns and jewels”. This was Paris on the eve of war. Just doing what it did. Typical of the city, a thinking box, merely skirted the past, living for the moment. (Balzac quote is from his novel-Ferragus)( To be continued)

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Think of earth as our home and everything what takes place in it shall somehow work its way for better or worse into each one of us.

Security reasons compel one nation to trawl civil liberties of its citizenry and collect data which shall as in the case of Snowdon affair serve other nations to fix theirs a little better.

Where do you think this race will lead to? One earth in which all member nations shall be wasting their precious limited resources for zero gains.

Our earth our home. Race for material gains rattles it. Space race following the US getting hold of German v2 rocket program during the Cold War period showed its futility when ISS was needed for space explorations where the US and Russia required help from each other.. Does war on ideology serve any better than a spirit of cooperation ?

Much less different belief systems shall serve interests of the earth. It is the only home we have got.

ii

‘Belief has never blown a feather away. Deeds have levelled mountains.’

Fools praying on special days or 5 times a day made worse by killing other faiths on other days. The earth our home is a monument to folly of belief systems that never did the job as we hoped it would do.

Rascals we have had plenty who using fear of the unknown as a tool to subjugate our better natures to an idea they never followed themselves.

The earth is full of such follies that show peaks of human profligates playing with our secular and spiritual lives.

Turkish caliphate is anathema to Arab Sunnis. Historically caliphate had no leg to stand in time and place wherever it was imposed. It proved a failure for the simple reason these caliphs who ran the lives of others never looked to the time nor to social changes. Had the caliphs of old looked to the welfare of believers, would have worked to equip them take charge of changes in social history. This was not the case. Ask ourselves: why did Arab Spring never take off?

Kings, caliphs etc., have all taken advantage of the time secure their hold and not better the world. They left the earth worse than ever.

When one hears caliphate in our time it is a sure signal the world shall be much worse than is.

concluded

Read Full Post »

Agriculture in a way was a bad idea given there were climate and soil conditions that made some groups reap rich harvest while some groups were ruined by bad harvest. This inequality necessitated skirmishes between groups. Given the circumstance of unequal returns for labour the society was to split gradually into two classes. Haves and Have-nots. This also led to specialization of trades since farming was not suited in all parts equally. Under repeated cultivation some fields became poorer and failure in crops and climate changes turned many to look for alternatives.  Specialization gradually became the norm. Artisan,mercantile and scholars and so on. One of the groups specialized in warfare. The farmers which had amassed grains required protection and these martial class were hired for the job. (The Japanese film the Seven Samurai deals with this topic.)

Kings, nobility and peasants, traders and artisan class were all clarified in course of time creating a more organized social structure.

Poor agricultural practices had ruined the farmers and one of the measures taken to improve farming methods touched upon technology. Progress in controlling fire and invention of tools gave technology a fillip. Agriculture was one area where technology would help in designing more efficient tools harnessing farm animals, storage facilities.  Progress would in course of time lead to the creation of cities. Rural population migrating to urban areas made the position of rulers all the more dependent on wealth.

The Triad of Head Hands and the Means determined the growth of cities. In these three holding the edifice of any society the centre of gravity determined the motivating factor. Wealth was that centre. In making wealth as the sole criteria, for man his dependence on a higher authority meant some kind of grading according to the proximity of the Head. The idea of Head as the most exalted would lead to other ideas say that of the divine right of kings. A few demanded perpetuating their hold on others was like a toxin into the bloodstream of mankind. This we see in so many groups scattered across the globe. Clergy and nobility were motivated by self-interest than weal of the hands. In short soul of the triad was misplaced, -not in reason nor in labour.

What seemed a good solution can prove a bad choice in the passage of time.

ii

The earth is one and if our home is founded on wrong foundation no amount of furnishing the interior can save it.

In seeking the Head protecting Hand or labour of hand was laying wealth as foundation. As in the example of agriculture farmer laid himself open to the ruler laying down tax and many other burdens on him. 

In the triad of Head Hand and Capital which is most essential? Progress if we look at social history of man, has ever marched on the wheels of wealth. Capital became wrongly equated with progress. What progress can we have if soul from the equation of Head and Heart is lost? Progress based on wealth is symptomatic of such misplaced emphasis. It is an error like putting cart before the horse. The error led to more errors as we see in our present times. (to be concluded)

Read Full Post »

This essay is on the premise: the earth is the only home destined for human habitation. From whence came influences, I mean intervention from a divine or higher agencies (as some books would claim of Alien visitation) that pulled human species into a group from his ape-cousins is beyond the scope. Rise of humans we might assume was determined as a whole by environment. Human migrations played their roles in so many waves and these can be dated and also their route by tracking genetic changes. (Recent news item: Most humans have a little bit of Neanderthal DNA in their genomes. Only those with recent African ancestry don’t.)

We have no record of any single ape ancestor having led the whole in the dawn of time as Patriarch Moses did with the Children of Israel in the Judaeo-Christian narrative.

Our Ape ancestors found it better option to separate from ape cousins than their arboreal existence in which they shared space with them.

Two clues we have on the possible reason why they parted ways.

Firstly they could walk on two feet. Other ape cousins also had similar ability but their larger brain space and its flexibility must have convinced it as an option.

(“Taung Child,” the fossil skull of a child of three or four was discovered in 1924 and dates back to about 2.5 million years ago. Scan of the skull show joints between the child’s skull plates (called the metopic suture) hadn’t fully fused, a uniquely human trait.

These brain joints close quickly after birth in monkeys and other apes, the researchers said, but in humans, this fusion happens much later. This flexibility in the skull may have existed only because the body first had to reconfigure hips of the mother to accommodate bipedalism. This in turn would have let prefrontal cortex, a brain area crucial for advanced cognitive capabilities, expand and grow over time. The researchers could see from the imprint of the brain on the inside of the skull that these brain areas had started expanding and changing. (the journal dated May7, 2012- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences/reprinted in LiveScience.com/2012) )

Secondly the tool making ability of the humans was of a different league than of ape cousins.

“The tool kits of most chimpanzee populations consist of about 20 types of tools, which are used for various functions in daily life, including subsistence, sociality, sex, and self-maintenance,” primatologist William C. McGrew wrote in an essay in the Apr. 30, 2010, issue of the journal Science.)

Our ape ancestors must have perceived many small positive gains supplied by their communal living was strong enough to separate themselves for the savannah.

ii

Such similar shifts in perception of their environment led our ancestors to changes in an altogether different direction. Climate and availability of fruits and food was one. Another was the quality of soil.

In the plentiful supply of food hunter-gatherer only need gather daily quota of fruits or hunt their prey. No one was the head but each hand adding to the whole group. Chief of families, clans and tribes came much later at a time agriculture put an end to their nomadic existence.

Inclement weather made gathering of fruits daily irksome. With agriculture as a way of life diet became more predictable. Not much variety was possible. Crop failure and threat from other groups in search food led to social changes. Farmers needed to organize and look to those who ensured safety of their crops and fields. Thus came into being the Chief as the Head and hands that served the king and at lower level the hands that supplied their needs. All the hands serving the king were required to secure the property so the king and his nobles were in turn provided for by the farmers who tilled the land supplied men in times of war. Wealth became essential to keep the social structure from collapse and it was appropriated by the King and his knights.

Once primitive ancestors went on their own way there occurred several slight shifts. These social changes led to the creation of a triad: Head, Hand and Wealth. (to be concluded)

Read Full Post »