Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Paris Massacre of 1961

On October 17 1961, five months before the end of the colonial war that opposed Algeria and France for seven years, Paris witnessed a massacre where more than 150 Algerians were killed by the police forces. The events followed a peaceful demonstration of 30 000 Algerians protesting against an administrative measure which they considered racist. Indeed, a curfew had just been applied to “Algerian Muslim workers”, “French Muslims” and “French Muslims of Algeria” from 8:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. in order to prevent the spread of Algerian attacks in the French territory.

The head of the police, Maurice Papon – a man convicted in 1998 for crimes against the humanity for his role in the deportation of more than 1600 Jews to concentration camps – had mobilized 7000 policemen to block the demonstration. More than 11 000 people were arrested that day. Although at the time Papon spoke only of 2 casualties, historians have shown that at least more than 150 demonstrators were murdered, many of whom were thrown into the Seine to drown. It was the day where the river “Seine was red”.

Here_are_drown_the_Algerians “Here we drown Algerians”, inscription written on a bridge over the Seine

On October 31, a group of anonymous “republican policemen” published a text declaring that they had a moral obligation to bring their testimonies public. In it, Emile Portzer, who in 1999 admitted being its main author, wrote that “Among the thousands of Algerians brought to the Parc des Expositions of the Porte de Versailles, tens were killed by blows from rifle butts and pickaxe handles (…) Algerians captured in (…) traps were knocked out and systematically thrown in the Seine. (…) Not before having taken their watches and money. Mr. Papon, prefect of the police, and Mr. Legay, general director of the municipal police, assisted to these horrible scenes(…).”

Despite the extent of the killing, the massacre of 1961 remained for many years an absolute tabu. Following the events, the massacre was poorly covered by the French media, which was predominantly supportive of the government’s action regarding Algeria. Furthermore, it took 40 years for the government to acknowledge its responsibility, until the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë put a plaque in remembrance of the massacre on the Saint-Michel bridge.

“She Who Tells a Story – Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World”

“She Who Tells a Story – Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World” is the name of Kristen Gresh’s new book, an amazing reportage of 110 photographies that portrays day-to-day life in Iran and Arab World. The book presents the pioneering work of twelve women photographers in the different countries of the region. Although different themes are explored, the dominant subject is the resentment of stereotype. As the NYT described, “one example is the omnipresent Western notion of the Middle Eastern woman as veiled, exotic, erotic, anonymous, suppressed and powerless, yet threatening”.

One of the contributors, Gohar Dashti, born in Iran in 1980 and currently living in Teheran, photographed the series “Today’s Life and War”. In her photos she presents the complex relationship of “a post Iran-Iraq war couple”, people – who can only be deeply traumatized – after living for eight years a conflict where more than 1 million people died.

For another of the artists, Lalla Essaydi, born and raised in Morocco but living in the US, photography allows her to “reconsider Orientalism mythology”. Her photos can be distinguished by her employment of Arabic calligraphy, and in her own words, “In her art, she wishes to present herself through multiple lenses – as artist, as Moroccan, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, she invites viewers to resist stereotypes”.

Click here to see what the book looks like and enjoy!

“A Bridge Between Western Science and Eastern Faith”

It is quite amazing when one reads news that show that what we think as stoical can actually evolve. Religions tend to have difficulty in adapting to modernity and one is always surprised to see reforms. We read this article today, “A Bridge Between Western Science and Eastern Faith”, and it is indeed quite spectacular to see an attempt to reconcile a religious belief and the indisputable veracity of science. What are we talking about? The Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, a unique project aimed “at expanding the horizons of knowledge for Tibetan monks and nuns” at the Emory University (USA). Buddhism teaches that nothing in the universe happens without a cause. It is thus important to acknowledge what happened in the universe to perhaps identify its cause. As the Dalai Lama stated “Modern science is very highly developed in matters concerning the material world. The Inner World and the material world separately are not complete. Together, the external and the internal world are complete”. At Emory University, monks attend mathematics and science classes with the aim of eventually becoming teachers back in their monasteries in India and Nepal. There is yet an extremely hard translation problem: as the author points out, “How does one create new words for concepts like photosynthesis and clones, which have no equivalent in the Tibetan language and culture?” You can learn more about this initiative here.

Jacob Barnett (1999-)

Jacob Barnett is an American mathematician and little genious. He was 2 years old when he was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. His parents were told that Jacob would likely never speak, learn to read or be independent. Yet, “doctors were, solely, extraordinarily mistaken”. At age 9, he developed a mathematical model expanding Einstein’s relativity theory. A professor at Princeton confirmed the brilliantness of this work and argued that it could even result in a Nobel Prize. Today, Jacob is a 14 years old Master’s student, on this way to start a quantum physic PhD. The teenager tutors other students and has become the world’s youngest astrophysics researcher. His IQ is believed to be higher than that of Albert Einstein’s. Jacob is also the CEO and founder of Wheel LLC, and built a charity, Jacob’s Place, a free program for kids with autism to play sports in a good environment. You should really listen to Jacob Barnett on Tedxteen here!

Solidarity

Solidarity. A word that is now more and more used in this Europe of crisis.

It is still a controversial term, specially when it comes down to homeless people. Not everyone is in favor of endorsing or giving money to homeless people. Indeed, it is usual to think that people who are on the street are there because they don’t want to work enough, or because they got into alcohol, drugs etc… Judgmental feelings are common when it comes to this subject. And there is this whole part of society that lives aside, who bottom line is almost less human than the others… Then there are many people who support it and there are a bunch of new initiatives to help those who are less fortunate for misfortunes or choices of life. Indeed, it is possible to talk about the “cafés suspendus”, when a person who is buying a coffee can decide to buy another and offer it to another person, or the initiatives of sharing food. Here is another nice project that we discovered, which is supposed to incentive people to give money to homeless people with cool punch lines such as “Who was the idiot who turned the heater off?” or “When I bet on Paris Saint Germain there was not Zlatan Ibrahimovic yet.”.

Either way, doesn’t solidarity need to be more spread, specially in this time of crisis? Shouldn’t those who are more fortunate try to help the others as best as they can, despite what might have brought people where they are?

Should our Constitutions Be Taught at School?

Recently, the Portuguese Green Party (Partido Ecologista os Verdes, PEV), proposed that the 1976 Portuguese Constitution should be taught to middle school students (from 7th to 9th grade). They argue what is undeniable: when students finish their Secondary education, they have no clue about the Constitution that governs their lives. Yet, this proposal was immediately rejected by Fernando Negrão, depute of the centre-right-wing Portuguese Party, (Partido Social Democrata, PSD). Negrão argued that the Portuguese Constitution is “dated” and for that “has a very strong ideological component”, since it is indeed marked by the communist and socialist influence that Portugal lived during the 1974 Revolution and the transition period.

The Portuguese example is just the starting point of our reflection. In a broader reflexion, should the fact that a Constitution reflects biased political ideas, be an obstacle to its learning? Can’t students understand its context and thus look at the text with open mind?

Teaching a country’s Constitution to students seems to us a brilliant idea. We believe that making students aware of what laws govern their country should be made mandatory to develop a conscious and proactive civic society. Yet, doing this for 12 to 15 year old students would be probably pointless, and high school’s final year seems more appropriate to such an ambitious teaching. But isn’t this a great idea that should be applied to all democratic countries?

Consulting a French Law teacher on this matter, her opinion opened another door for reflexion. If the Portuguese Constitution is biased, what if the European Convention on Human Rights was taught in class since it reflects the values and fundamental liberties of the European Societ

One Red Paperclip

In 2005, following some success after putting an add on Craigslist, Canadian blogger, Kyle MacDonald, created the website One Red Paperclip. MacDonald was inspired by the Children’s ‘Bigger, Better’ game, a game that begins with a small insignificant item which is offered to trade with a bigger and better item. The trade cycle is suppose to continue until the trader’s initial objective is met, and at this point, when trade has stopped, the item is sold or donated at the blog’s owner discretion. MacDonald represents an inspiring story of success. He exchanged the paper clip for a fish shaped-pen, that he traded for a doorknob and later this was exchanged for a camp stove. At this point, he was able to exchange it for a generator, and in total fourteen trades occurred. At the end, MacDonald reached his goal: he started with a paper clip and finished owning a house in Kipling, Canada. Check out this video that tells us how everything happened.

Alfred Nobel (1833-1896)

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born in 1833 in Sweden, and soon followed the steps of his father in the manufacturing of explosives. He was the first to find a way to be able to control and commercialize nitroglycerin, a powerful explosive which had been discovered in 1847. He was the inventor of the blasting cap for nitroglycerin, allowing to control the explosive’s detonation, as well as of dynamite, and of many other explosive products, such as blasting gelatin. Nobel’s inventions were rapidly commercialized everywhere around the globe. Interested in literature and poetry, he was also known for being a philanthropist. Although Nobel was seen as the man who brought death, he decided to leave most of his fortune to start a prize awarding the greatest intellectual achievements that helped the humanity in the fields of sciences, literature and peace.

The Balfour Declaration

In November 2nd 1917, the British Foreign Secretary A. J. Balfour wrote a declaration in the name of the United Kingdom to L. W. Rothschild, a leader of the British Jews. It was the product of intense lobbying by Zionists such as Chaim Weizmann, President of the British Zionist Federation, who later became the first president of Israel. In this declaration, the United Kingdom formally endorsed the establishment of a national home for Jewish people in Palestine, although it clearly stated that the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in that land should not be compromised. Through this declaration, the British government hoped to rally Jewish support to the Allied powers during the World War I, and to consolidate their holding of the Suez Canal, of great importance to ensure the passage to colonial India. The declaration was incorporated in the British Mandate over Palestine and endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922. Thus the UK became responsible of securing the establishment of the Jewish national home in Palestine. The immigration progressively started, causing great unrest in the region, to the extent that in 1939 the British government issued a White Paper to limit the immigration. We found this interesting since it is an important part of the background of the creation of Israel.