Thursday, September 29, 2011


Sometimes it seems there is a difference between public service and politics, although the two concepts are supposed to be interchangeable. Citizens may support their hardworking elected representatives, but passionately disdain power-hungry dirty politicians. Why do so many politicians have a bad reputation when their job descriptions seem so noble and self-sacrificing?
One reason certain politicians have a bad reputation is the election process itself. A life of public service and law making is not an occupation for social introverts; so many candidates for local offices are already notorious overachievers with more than enough self-confidence. A number of candidates for political office are very ambitious by nature, and with ambition often comes a level of moral and ethical flexibility. Some politicians have a bad reputation because they've already had to compromise any number of personal beliefs in order to gain votes or popularity.
Historically, there have been numerous examples of dirty politics practiced by equally dirty politicians. Unfortunately for the majority of honest office holders, these incidents often dominate the public media. Consequently, a number of effective politicians have a bad reputation only by association. If one politician is capable of dirty tricks or dereliction of duty, then they may all be equally capable of some wrongdoing.
It is time to truly choose leaders who follow the rule of law and respect the rights of the people. We must start by sweeping away the ill-smelling garbage they helped to produce - hatred, ethnic divisions, violence, poverty, oppression, injustice, immorality and greed - it is contaminating our continent and if we don’t sweep out the dirt and the rot ourselves, no one else will do it for us! Part of cleaning up that dirt begins with understanding better how it got there. In other words, we must be careful not to fall in the trap of the corrupt politicians by fighting the wrong fight as they turn the truth upside down just to confuse the public.
(The Roosters are Crowing: It’s Time for Africans to Sweep Our Huts Clean of Dirty Politics by
Obang Metho at
“This is practically a law of the universe - There are only two kinds of people who want to be politicians in the first place: power-hungry scumbags and good-hearted down-to-earth humans who really want to help people. Unfortunately the latter normally gets punched in the face and thrown in the gutter by “dirty politics.” Actually, extends that universal law to: New Law of Nature: Politicians are dirty, lying scumbags until proven Human.”
(Ashton at
When that the insanely partisan and ruthless war for party supremacy, with its dirty money, lies and deceptive advertisements, is over and its selfish intentions are clear, it is time for us to look back and remind ourselves why we go through these incredibly expensive and wasteful circus acts. Also, we should think about what we owe to our politicians that gives them the right to openly insult our intelligence with stupid and deceitful theatrics.
Why let political shenanigans decide who and what get our vote instead of using common sense and putting country and all citizens first? Of course, this is something about which we don’t usually think, as is the fact that we never learn our lesson nor see that power-hungry political parties are not interested in the welfare of the country or the citizens, but only in themselves.
Finally, for those of us who voted and expect to see any changes that would make our lives better, think again. Let’s hope that next time we will let intelligence, facts and knowledge decide for us, instead of letting ideology, bias, dirty money and lying political ads dictate where our vote goes. Certainly, by allowing unethical political operatives show us the way, it’s not how we should decide who and what gets our vote.
(Nikolas D. Skalkotos, Las Vegas at
Voters are quick at blaming the government and the politicians for almost all the maladies that afflict society. They are good at whining. They never fail in criticizing the substandard public service, graft and corruption and the stupidity of their political leaders. Little do they realize however, that they share in the blame for the problem.
One only needs to have the right image to win in the elections. Winning public office is decided by popularity not by issues. More worrisome is that political campaigns in any country have been reduced to the battles of jingles, posters, T-shirts, caps, fans, etc. During elections, a candidate must simply come up with his/her own shallow tricks and antics to endear him/her to the voting public. TV stations have already become a good breeding ground for politicians. Ever wonder when the TV station will establish its own political party.
If there is any consolation from these cheap and rubbish political gimmicks, it is this: at least for once, the voters can make fools out of the politicians who soon forget their promises after the elections anyway. It is sad to see however how the dumb voters’ clamor for images and illusions and the equally dumb politicians’ acquiescence deprave the whole electoral exercise.
As if though the “shallow entertainment” was not enough, the politicians and the voters shamelessly display their parasitic relationship in more ways than one. It is disgusting to see how patronage politics creeps into the very heart of political campaigning. Dirty politics, which has been wantonly embraced by the old, has now been passed on to the young. More appalling is the sight of opportunist voters queuing up in the candidate’s headquarters or residence asking for medicine (they have prescription receipts as backups) or any other dole outs that the candidate can give. It is funny to see how many people get sick during elections. And believe it or not, some voters can be ridiculous in their demands.
The politicians know how to share their loot with their constituents. Still discontented, politicians never fail to display their names in bridges, streets, and other infrastructures erected during their term to increase name recall and visibility as if the money used for the construction was theirs. Do not be surprised then if you see ubiquitous signs all over the country such as this, “This is a project of Politician So and So”.
The battle for public office culminates in the night preceding the day of the elections. This is when the grand larceny takes place: vote-buying in a massive scale. Who says that “midnight madness” takes place only during bargain sales in department stores? Politicians and voters also go in a buying and selling binge during elections as if the right of suffrage is a form of a commodity. Sadly, more often than not, electing a public official for many in the rural areas has become a form of an auction, with their votes going to the highest bidder.
It is not surprising why politicians brazenly corrupt. The voters themselves are corrupting the politicians. After spending so much in the elections (it doesn’t matter if the money they spend is theirs or not), the politicians certainly want their investment back. Besides, they have to save again for the next elections. Without any doubt, the electorate is to blame for the dimwits and scoundrels they help install to power. They have corrupted each other very well. As they say, “It takes two to tango.”
(Adapted from Corrupting the Other John Xavier Chavez, Manila at
Politicians and the media constantly ask “What’s the matter with the economy?” The answer was on glorious display. Ironically, it is the politicians and media who are ruining it. “The storm of the century” turned out to be “the most hyped storm of the century,” along with one of the most hysterical, exaggerated, manipulated media events of all time. Irene was a…rainstorm. A big one and a bad one…..but nonetheless a rainstorm.
Media and politicians need big catastrophes and emergencies to burnish their images and make them seem important. They need to brandish words like “the worst ever” “the biggest ever” “the most deadly ever.” The media loves these bigger-than-life headlines because they are highly profitable. The bigger, the better- it’s all good for business. The more hysterical they can make the public, the higher the ratings. Catastrophes SELL!
Politicians also need catastrophes and emergencies- to show they are in charge, looking out for us helpless little people. Politicians desperately need high profile platforms to showcase their leadership skills, to shout “Get out now, or you’ll die. I’m saving your life. I’m the only thing that stands between you and annihilation.” Emergencies allow politicians to bully, intimidate and threaten citizens and to prove how obviously more important and brilliant they are than the lowly citizens. And, of course, if the politician is right, and the worst happens, they’ve got a platform to shout about how much we need them and how indebted we should be to them.
(Wayne Allyn Root at
There are many kinds of political crimes, as well as there are hundreds of so called politicians who are truly greedy and/or truly power hungry enough to violate their oath of office as they proceed to enrich themselves and those who supported those corrupt politicians quest for political power. It does not matter where or in which Country those corrupt politicians exist, but it does matter, in regard to how many other people, World-wide, are hurt, suffer or die as a direct result of such criminal behavior. It is a crime to be politically corrupt. More often than not, when the interests of the minority are served it is the majority who suffers from the actions of the minority. That is why a relatively few become filthy rich while tens of millions of other people slowly sink into a sea of debt.
That evil behavior by those few among us came in the form of Communism, Socialism, Absolute Monarchy and/or an Authoritarian form of Government. Governments controlled by the leaders of the military also proved harmful to the population of citizens within each and every Country controlled by a Military Dictator.
A Democratic form of Government has proved to be the best deterrent against any conspiracy to destroy the rights of the majority within a Country. Then again, there is no such thing as a "True Democracy." However, you can believe that some of the politicians within those, so called, Democratic forms of Government did or continue to try to achieve the truly idealistic level of a "True Democracy."
Make no mistake. "Political Corruption" comes to all of us in many forms. Yes, and each of those forms are nothing more than crimes against Humanity.
(Joseph Malek at

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Albert Lebourg fully understood the poetic quality of Impressionism and the benefits it brought to painting. He started his studies as a student of Architecture but after meeting the Rouen landscape painter Delamarre, he orientated himself to working as an artist. In his taste for landscapes seen through monochromatic skies, he follows in the tradition of Boudin and Jongkind. His origins and education (Rouen Fine-Art School) explain the harmony between his perception and the reality of the landscapes of the Seine Valley.

Mill in Normandy

Lebourg’s roots were in Normandy and particularly Rouen where his painting has been appreciated since the early 1870s. His recognition in the Parisian world came with his participation in 1879 in what now is called the 4th Impressionist Exhibition. This exhibition, which took place at 28 avenue de l’Opéra in Paris, included Caillebotte, Cassatt, Degas, Monet, Pissarro and Lebourg who showed twenty paintings and ten drawings. Subsequently, Lebourg took part in the 5th Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1880. The artists in this latter exhibition included Caillebotte, Cassatt, Degas, Guillaumin, Lebourg, Morisot and Pissarro. In this exhibition, Lebourg presented ten paintings and sixteen drawings and watercolors.

The Quay de l'Amiraute in Algiers

Born at Monfort-sur-Risle, Albert Lebourg entered the École des Beaux-Arts of Rouen at a very young age. He was noticed in Rouen by the collector Laperlier who referred him to be appointed as a drawing professor at the Société des Beaux-Arts in Algiers. He was influenced there by Jean Seignemartin who helped him bring more clarity and light into his paintings. He married in 1873; the young couple remained in Algiers until the summer of 1877 when Lebourg resigned his teaching post and returned to Paris with numerous canvases of the Admiralty, the casbah and mosques.

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris
View from Pont de la Tournelle

Notre Dame de Paris
View from the Quai de la Tournelle

Paris, the kBridge of Saint-Peres
All images from

Upon his return to Paris, Lebourg became involved in Impressionism, and participated in Impressionist exhibits in 1879 and 1880. He became friends with Monet, Sisley and Degas, and continued to paint in the Impressionist style throughout the rest of his career.
Although he was almost exclusively a landscape painter, Lebourg incorporated themes in his paintings, such as the presence of water in his later works. Also, like his friend and fellow artist Monet, Lebourg would experiment with light and paint the same or similar landscapes in different shades and tones. He was particularly fond of painting the changing seasons, as well as sunrises and sunsets.

The Banks of the Seine River at Caumont in the summer

Route au bord de la Seine à Neuilly, en hiver

Bords de seine a port – marly

The Seine in the outskirts of Paris, with its countless subjects, kept Lebourg occupied in all seasons. He continued to paint in Auvergne, Normandy, and Ile de France. From 1888 to 1895, Lebourg settled in Puteaux, where he availed himself to the surroundings of Paris. He wrote at the time: "I will paint often at the banks of the Seine: Nanterre, Rueil, Chatou, Bougival, Port-Marly. These are a source of themes and very beautiful landscapes”. At that time, he painted what he regarded as his best paintings.
Lebourg decided to travel to Holland during the years of 1895-1897 and this period saw him returning to his paints and painting in watercolour too. He also visited Great Britain wishing to see what was currently in vogue in artistic circles. In 1903, He was made a Chevalier of the Legion d'honneur and in that same year exhibited 111 paintings. However Lebourg's restless spirit took him, travelling throughout Europe again, from Switzerland to Belgium, from Holland back to France In 1918, he had his largest exhibition of paintings, some 216 canvases, 2 watercolours and 51 drawings, in Paris.

The banks of Lake of Geneva
Oil on canvas, 1902

It was in 1902 that Albert Lebourg underwent treatment on the shores of Lake Geneva in Saint-Gingolph. With rare exceptions, the pictures painted on the shores of Lake Geneva do not differ essentially in composition from his customary motifs he produced on the banks of the Seine. The edge of a hill to the right or left, here much higher of course, and sometimes cutting the picture diagonally.
Here, at the foot, against a pontoon, a small steamer plying the lake; there a few fishing boats, with nets wound in, in their large sloping yard. On the quayside, a few people and the sky above all this which, as everywhere else, animates everything. You feel that he is deliberately falling back into his old ways. It is, in particular, the atmosphere, the local color, more accentuated, that distinguishes and characterizes this series.
(Albert LEBOURG by Léance Bénédite at
In a commentary on Lebourg's art, Gustave Geoffroy wrote in 1918: His works do not have brilliant colors or lights like fireworks. But when we look at his paintings, we are drawn into a well-balanced world, infinitely gentle, comfortable and transparent, where everything evaporates and dissolves into a charming and melancholic dream intoxicated with the graces chosen out of the universe.
He always remained faithful, however to his native Normandy, where he drew inspiration for his masterpieces with rose and grey-blue skies. “I am an impressionist in the sense that I am impressed by the present moment” Although far less renowned than Monet or Pissaro, Lebourg is one of the leading painters of this fascinating period.
In September of 1920 Lebourg suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body. Nevertheless he remarried the next February in 1921. A Catalogue Raisonné was organized that year that included 2,137 works and was released in 1923, which garnered united praise by the press.
The year of 1926 bid farewell to the last of the great impressionists: Charles Angrand, Mary Cassatt and Claude Monet; in 1927: Albert Guillaumin. Albert Lebourg died in Rouen on January 7, 1928.
Lebourg’s works are in many museums: the Musee d’Orsay, Petit-Palais and Carnavalet in Paris, as well as museums in: Bayonne, Clermont-Ferrand, Le Havre, Dunkerque, Lille, Strasbourg, Sceaux and above all Rouen (Depeaux collection).

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Noureddine Morceli Casual wear
From ftp cs

Noureddine Morceli had dominated the 1500m between 1990 and 1992, winning the 1991 world title and setting a new world record late in the 1992 season. The only major shortcoming in Morceli's record had come in the 1992 Olympics, when he finished a disappointing 7th behind Fermin Cacho (Spain).
(Ron Casey at
September 2, 1991, Algerians had all eyes on Tokyo, capital of the rising son. Early in the morning, all Algerians awaited the 1500m final before their little screens. Among the stars of the event, Said Aouita, holder of the world record, and a young Algerian native of Tenes only 21 years old. From the starting gun, Morceli showed good form and a real disposition to sieze the gold medal. He latched onto the front of the pack until the last lap. He made a thunderous acceleration that even Aouita could not follow. Thus he offered to Algeria the first world title in completing the fastest last 300 meters in the history of the 1500m in 39 seconds. Unable to digest this defeat, the great Aouita headed straight to the locker room. A beautiful story begins for Morceli. He dominates the tracks and wins all of the meets, keeping his world title in Stuttgart and Goteborg. Nothing remains for him but an Olympic title to inscribe his name in the rolls of  the world's premier middle - distance runner. The defeat conceded at Barcelona sticks in his craw.
(ftp cs
Morceli showed no such weakness in 1993, finishing the season undefeated and completely dominating his rivals. He recorded the fastest six 1500m times of the season and the fastest four in the mile. In addition, he set the season's fastest time in both the 1000m and 3000m, where he narrowly missed the world record on each occasion. The major event held that year was the World Championships at Stuttgart, and although Morceli was the overwhelming favourite, it seemed that if there was a threat it would probably come from Cacho, who had finished second behind Morceli in the 1500m at Zurich on 4 August.
(Ron Casey at

World 1500m title in 1993
Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

At Stuttgart, both Morceli and Cacho won their heats of the 1500m on 19 August, which they then followed by winning their respective semi-finals the following day. Although the final on 22 August started at a relatively slow pace, Morceli was always in complete control, sprinting away in the last lap to win easily and retain his world title. After the finish, Noureddine paused to embrace Cacho, who had led the rest of the field home to claim the silver medal.
Following Stuttgart, Morceli embarked on a concerted campaign to try to break the world record for the mile. At Berlin, on 27 August, he set a new personal best of 3min 46.78se, which he followed with a 3min 47.30sec clocking at Brussels on 3 September. Success came two days later at Rieti, where he recorded 3min 44.39sec to demolish the world record by nearly two seconds.
(Ron Casey at
Morceli narrowly missed his own world record when he won the Mediterranean Games in Narbonne in 3:29.20 min. By that time Morceli had set himself a new aim: to break Steve Cram's eight-year-old record over the Mile (3:46.32). Throughout the season he was virtually without any serious competitors. In Monaco he narrowly missed the 3000m world record. There was even talk that he might skip the World Championships in order to concentrate fully on the world-record hunt. However, in the end he decided to take part.
In the following weeks he failed twice to set a new world record over the Mile in Berlin and Brussels. But just two days after the race in Brussels he astonished everyone by crushing the old record with a time of 3:44.39.
In 1994, he set the new 3000 m world record, clocking 7:25.11. He also experimented successfully with the 5000m. In Zurich he outsprinted the rest of the field to take the victory and also won the 5000 m race in Rieti. The only defeat of the season came when Morceli opted for an unusual 800m appearance in Cologne. Morceli broke the 2000m world record in the following season, setting a new mark of 4:47.88. Nine days later Morceli set the last world record of his magnificent career, when he lowered his own 1500m record to 3:27.37 in Nice. Only a few days after this he almost broke the record again when he triumphed in 3:27.52 in Monaco. Later on that year he defended easily the 1500m World Champion title in Gothenburg. Shortly after, Morceli tried to improve on his Mile record in Zurich but did not succeed.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic, Morceli increased the tempo around the turn of the 1500m final and the stage was set for a titanic last lap as Cacho and El Guerroudj moved into position. The first precursor of trouble occurred at the head of the straight as El Guerroudj swung past Cacho and pulled up on Morceli's shoulder instigating brief contact as the Algerian quickened his gait and held his position. El Guerroudj moved out a bit and was running on the outside of lane one when disaster struck 25m from the bell. Closely scrutinizing several video replays reveals an infinitesimal contact between Morceli's heel and El Guerroudj's knee a stride before the mishap. This was enough to disrupt Morceli's next stride as his right foot hit his left calf and ricocheted about a foot to the right and into the young Moroccan's path. El Guerroudj's spikes caught Morceli's heel and he crashed to the Mondo leaving 83,000 mouths agape in Olympic Stadium. Blasting the curve in 12.84 the Algerian world record holder opened up 5 meters on Cacho and clocked 25.9 for the penultimate 200. The lead stretched to 10 meters before Morceli coasted in as he realized the elusive Olympic gold medal was finally in his grasp. While we will never know what might have transpired over the last 400 meters, Morceli's easing-up last lap of 53.5 gave every indication that he would have been extremely hard to beat.
Morceli admitted that the win was his only concern,"I wanted to run a tactical race, to save energy and finish with a very strong last lap. If I was challenged that final 200 would have been 25 instead of 27. I was ready to run 1:46 off that pace."
(Ron Casey at

The final lap Olympic 1500m Final
The 1996 Olympics, Atlanta, USA
Photo: George Herringshaw

1500m Gold
The 1996 Olympics, Atlanta, USA

After hurdling El Guerroudj, Cacho regained form remarkably well and nearly matched Morceli closing in 53.7. "I was in good position when El Guerroudj fell. I had to jump over him and Morceli got a 5 meter lead. After that it was impossible to catch him." Twenty meters back, the rejuvenated Abdi Bile battled with the Kenyan trio of Stephen Kipkorir, Laban Rotich and William Tanui. Bile moved ahead on the backstretch, but Kipkorir prevailed on the runin. "I just tried to be close to Morceli," the 24 year old Kenyan noted, "but it wasn't enough today."
El Guerroudj was thoroughly devastated after the race and was unable to offer a post-race assessment of the catastrophe. Morceli who also had a forgettable first Olympics said "I feel sorry for him, Hachim is a great athlete with a great future."
(Sean Hartnett, correspondent for Track and Field News at
It is said that all good things must eventually come to an end, and so it was that the dominance that Noureddine Morceli had enjoyed over the world's middle distance runners for the seven seasons from 1990 to 1996 finally faded away in the 1997 season. The signs had been there during the 1996 season with the emergence of the talented young Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj, who had brought Morceli's winning streak at 1500m/1 mile, which started in 1992, to an end when he defeated him over 1500m at the Grand Prix final in Milan on 7 September 1996.
El Guerrouj took over Morceli's mantle as the world's premier middle-distance runner in 1997, while the latter tried to stem the tide of his gradual decline. In the World Championships at Athens, Morceli easily won his heat on 3 August and the second semi-final the following day. El Guerrouj had won the first semi-final, but their anticipated showdown in the final did not live up to expectations, with El Guerrouj winning easily, while Morceli finished fourth, just pipped out of third place by young Spaniard Reyes Estevez in the final strides. Morceli had a reasonable season in 1998, recording a number of wins in minor meets, but he did not compete against the majority of the top runners.
Although Morceli's career was moving towards its inevitable end, he was not prepared to go quietly, and in 1999, at Seville, he qualified for his fifth straight 1500m final at a World Championships, where he dropped out at the bell when well out of medal contention. Noureddine's last appearance at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, where he jogged in last in his semi-final after being involved in a collision in the home straight.
(Ron Casey at
The El Guerrouj era begins with the end of the reign of Morceli. He knocks down Morceli's records. Thus is athletics done. Records are made to be broken, say the experts. Morceli suffers a cutting defeat at Seville, abandons and heads for the locker room, like Aouita in 1991. Morceli finishes his career at 29, at the age where Aouita began to break records, and breaking the mythical 13 minutes barrier for 5000m, 7:30 for 3000m, and 3:30 for 1500m. Morceli's page has turned and the 1500 remains a Maghrebian property. One must ask if the rebirth is really assured. For, long buoyed by the the exploits of the master and the queen of track, Morceli and Boulmerka, one quickly forgot that glory is ephemeral and supremacy can not last forever. Later, one speaks of the rise of Baya Rahouli in the triple jump, of Abderrahmane Hammad in the high jump, and of Said Guerni in the 800m, the very same who gave Algeria a bronze medal. In Algeria, it costs nothing to look to the future.
(ftp cs
Noureddine Morceli was unbeaten in 45 finals at 1500/1 mile from 1992 to 1996. In that period he set 6 world records (1500, 1 mile, 2000, 3000 and 1500 indoor).
He won overall GP in 1994 and 4 times 1500/ 1 mile GP and won GWG 1994 and 1998 at 1 mile. He was coached by elder brother Abderrahmane (3:36.26 in 1977).

Personal Bests:
1500 meters: 3:27.37
Mile (1608m): 3:44.39 World Record (9-5-93)
800 meters: 1:44.79
1000 meters: 2:13.73
1000 meters: 2:15.26 World Indoor Record (2-22-92)
2000 meters: 4:47.88 World Record
3000 meters: 7:25.11
5000 meters: 13:03.85
1988: 1500m World Junior Championships Silver Medallist
1989: Fastest junior in world
1994: Overall Grand Prix Winner
1995: 1500m World Champion
1995: 1500m IAAF Grand Prix Winner
1996: 1500m Olympic Champion
1996: Second at IAAF Grand Prix
(Marco Steybe at

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Philosophy answers to our need of forming a complete and unitary conception of the world and of life. Our philosophy—that is, our mode of understanding or not understanding the world and life—springs from our feeling towards life itself. And life, like everything affective, has roots in sub consciousness, perhaps in unconsciousness. It is not usually our ideas that make us optimists or pessimists, but it is our optimism or our pessimism, of physiological or perhaps pathological origin, as much the one as the other, that makes our ideas.
To propose to a man that he should be someone else that he should become someone else, is to propose to him that he should cease to be himself. Everyone defends his own personality, and only consents to a change in his mode of thinking or of feeling in so far as this change is able to enter into the unity of his spirit and become involved in its continuity; in so far as this change can harmonize and integrate itself with all the rest of his mode of being, thinking and feeling, and can at the same time knit itself with his memories. Neither of a man nor of a people—which is, in a certain sense, also a man—can a change be demanded which breaks the unity and continuity of the person.
A man can change greatly, almost completely even, but the change must take place within his continuity. The values we are discussing are values of the heart, and against values of the heart reasons do not avail. Reasons are only reasons—that is to say, they are not even truths. There is a class of pedantic label-mongers, pedants by nature and by grace. There was a man who, purposing to console a father whose son has suddenly died in the flower of his years, says to him, "Patience, my friend, we all must die!" Would you think it strange if this father were offended at such impertinence? For it is impertinence. There are times when even an axiom can become impertinence.
Man, then, in his quality of an isolated individual, only sees, hears, touches, tastes, and smells in so far as is necessary for living and self-preservation. If he does not perceive colors below red or above violet, the reason perhaps is that the colors which he does perceive suffice for the purposes of self-preservation. And the senses themselves are simplifying apparati which eliminate from objective reality everything that it is not necessary to know in order to utilize objects for preserving life. In complete darkness an animal, if it does not perish, ends by becoming blind. Parasites which live in the intestines of other animals upon the nutritive juices which they find ready prepared for them by these animals, as they do not need either to see or hear, do in fact neither see nor hear; they simply adhere, a kind of receptive bag, to the being upon whom they live. For these parasites the visible and audible world does not exist. It is enough for them that the animals, in whose intestines they live, see and hear.
Man habitually sacrifices his life to his purse, but he sacrifices his purse to his vanity. He boasts even of his weaknesses and his misfortunes, for want of anything better to, what is it but eagerness for survival? Boast of, and is like a child who, in order to attract attention, struts about with a bandaged finger. Man, the prisoner of logic, without which he cannot think, has always sought to make logic subservient to his desires, and principally to his fundamental desire. He has always sought to hold fast to logic, and especially in the Middle Ages, in the interests of theology and jurisprudence, both of which based them on what was established by authority.
Man, in effect, is unwilling to remain in ignorance of the motives of his own conduct. And just as a man who has been led to perform a certain action by hypnotic suggestion will afterwards invent reasons which would justify it and make it appear logical to himself and others, being unaware all the time of the real cause of his action, so every man—for since "life is a dream" every man is in a condition of hypnotism—seeks to find reasons for his conduct. And if the pieces on a chessboard were endowed with consciousness, they would probably have little difficulty in ascribing their moves to freewill—that is to say, they would claim for them finalist rationality. And thus it comes about that every philosophic theory serves to explain and justify an ethic, a doctrine of conduct which has its real origin in the inward moral feeling of the author of the theory. But he who harbors this feeling may possibly himself have no clear consciousness of its true reason or cause. Man yearns to be loved, or, what is the same thing, to be pitied.
Man wishes others to feel and share his hardships and his sorrows. The roadside beggar's exhibition of his sores and gangrened mutilations is something more than a device to extort alms from the passer-by. True alms are pity rather than the pittance that alleviates the material hardships of life. The beggar shows little gratitude for alms thrown to him by one who hurries past with averted face; he is more grateful to him who pities him but does not help than to him who helps but does not pity, although from another point of view he may prefer the latter. Observe with what satisfaction he relates his woes to one who is moved by the story of them. He desires to be pitied, to be loved.
Our desire of living, our need of life, asks that that may be true which urges us to self-preservation and self-perpetuation, which sustains man and society; it asks that the true water may be that which assuages our thirst, and because it assuages it, that the true bread may be that which satisfies our hunger, because it satisfies it. He who bases or thinks that he bases his conduct—his inward or his outward conduct, his feeling or his action—upon a dogma or theoretical principle which he deems incontrovertible, runs the risk of becoming a fanatic, and moreover, the moment that this dogma is weakened or shattered, the morality based upon it gives way. If, the earth that he thought firm begins to rock, he himself trembles at the earthquake, for we do not all come up to the standard of the ideal Stoic who remains undaunted among the ruins of a world shattered into atoms. Happily the stuff that is underneath a man's ideas will save him. For if a man should tell you that he does not defraud or cuckold his best friend only because he is afraid of hell, you may depend upon it that neither would he do so even if he were to cease to believe in hell, but that he would invent some other excuse instead. And this is all to the honor of the human race.
(The Project Gutenberg EBook of Tragic Sense Of Life, by Miguel de Unamuno)

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The British Empire dominated South and South East Asia, maintaining its power through the cynical manipulation of ethnic and religious division, alongside brutal repression. It could not, however, hold out against rising workers’ and nationalist movements, particularly after the Second World War.
(British rule in Asia: the poisoned legacy by PETER TAAFFE at
British planners’ primary concern was to enable British business to exploit Malayan economic resources. Malaya possessed valuable minerals such as coal, bauxite, tungsten, gold, iron ore, manganese, and, above all, rubber and tin. A Colonial Office report from 1950 noted that Malaya’s rubber and tin mining industries were the biggest dollar earners in the British Commonwealth. Rubber accounted for 75 per cent, and tin 12-15 per cent, of Malaya’s income.
As a result of colonialism, Malaya was effectively owned by European, primarily British, businesses, with British capital behind most Malayan enterprises. Most importantly, 70 per cent of the acreage of rubber estates was owned by European (primarily British) companies, compared to 29 per cent Asian ownership. Malaya was described by one Lord in 1952 as the “greatest material prize in South-East Asia”, mainly due to its rubber and tin. These resources were “very fortunate” for Britain, another Lord declared, since “they have very largely supported the standard of living of the people of this country and the sterling area ever since the war ended”. “What we should do without Malaya and its earnings in tin and rubber, I do not know”.
(The war in Malaya, 1948-60, 13Feb07 by Mark Curtis at
European trading in the Far East began with the Portuguese in the 15th Century and they were the first to establish a base in Malaya, then compromising many warring fragmented states. They took Malacca by force in 1511, after a previous expedition in 1509 came to grief. There they settled until the Dutch, with the help of neighboring Johor, took control in 1641.
The British presence began in the Eighteenth Century, when the East India Company started to extend their influence beyond India, seeking a route to China. In 1771, the Sultan of Kedah gave them an opportunity, asking for help in defending his territory. By 1786 he was desperate enough to offer useful land, the island of Penang, and it finally came fully under the Company's control in 1800, along with a strip of the mainland. Sir Francis Light was made superintendent; Penang became Prince of Wales Island and the mainland territory Province Wellesley. Free trade was established and the area thrived. The British also took Malacca from the Dutch in 1795, whose monopolistic view of trading rights had made them increasingly unpopular.
The British came to the area in three waves - the pioneers who opened up the country and established the first trading areas, the civil service of residents, administrators, police and so on. Those who came after them were consolidators - law-givers; teachers; planters; mining engineers; builders of roads, railways, bridges and municipal buildings; many of the second wave were civilians. In the introduction to Charles Allen's Tales from the South China Seas the third wave are described as the 'polishers', making as efficient as possible the groundwork begun by their predecessors. What all three waves had in common was their insistence that their children be sent to England for their education (although there were a few schools in Singapore for those who could not afford to send their children away) and the fact that most of them returned home to retire - to 'go native' was unthinkable.
The following table of dates summarizes the main events of importance:
1786 Penang ceded to the East India Company by the Sultan of Kedah.
1819 Singapore founded on land leased from the rulers of Johor.
1824 Malacca becomes British and Singapore ceded to the East India Company in perpetuity.
1826 Three amalgamated as the Straits Settlements (SS).
1867 SS become a British Crown Colony.
1870 Tin mining increases in importance and first experiments begin with rubber trees.
1896 Formation of Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang into Federated Malay States (FMS) 1900 Rubber plantations begin to take over the country.
1904 Kelantan, Kedah, Perlis and Terengganu (the Unfederated Malay States or UMS) accept British Advisors.
1914 The last state without a British Advisor, Johor, joins the UMS and accepts one.
1941 Japanese invaded of Malaya.
1942-45 Singapore was occupied by Japanese.
1948-60 The 'Emergency' declared, as a Communist Resistance Movement sweeps the country.
1957 Federation of Malaya achieves independence.
1959 Singapore also becomes independent.
1963 Malaysia was born (Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo).
1965 Singapore withdraws and becomes an independent city-state.
(The British in Singapore and Malaya by Alex Glendinning at
By 1910 the pattern of British rule in the Malay lands was established. The Straits Settlements were a Crown Colony, ruled by a governor under the supervision of the Colonial Office in London. Their population was about half Chinese, but all residents, regardless of race, were British subjects. The first four states to accept British residents, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang, were termed the Federated Malay States: while technically independent, they were placed under a Resident-General in 1895, making them British colonies in all but name. The Unfederated Malay States (Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Terengganu) had a slightly larger degree of independence, although they were unable to resist the wishes of their British Residents for long. Johor, as Britain’s closest ally in Malay affairs, had the privilege of a written constitution, which gave the Sultan the right to appoint his own Cabinet, but he was generally careful to consult the British first. (WIKIPEDIA)

Tomoyuki Yamashita
From Wikimedia Commons

Japanese troops disarming captured British soldier
Malaya circa Dec 1941-Feb 1942
Added by C. Peter Chen at

In 1940 the Japanese had taken over French Indochina by agreement with the collaborationist Vichy government, and it was from Indochina that Japan launched its surprise blitzkrieg attack down the Malay Peninsula. The unprepared British forces were forced into a rapid southward retreat, withdrawing to the supposedly impregnable fortress of Singapore. However, Singapore's defenses were all directed towards the sea, and the Japanese came by land. The British in Singapore, recently reinforced by the arrival of many Australian troops, were forced to surrender on 15 February 1942, leaving Japan occupying the whole of Malaya. The defeat of the British at the hands of an Asian power opened the eyes of many Chinese and Malays to the myth of European superiority. However, the Japanese occupation was not generally welcomed, and armed resistance to the Japanese was conducted by pro-communist Chinese guerrillas. (
Japan’s victories were swift: "One might have to look back as far as Alexander the Great’s lightning destruction of the Persian Empire of Darius to find anything like it". Moreover, such was the degree of hostility of Britain’s colonial slaves to their masters that, initially, Japan did not receive the hostility of the peoples in the region, which is the version that pro-imperialist historians of the past have presented. That came after the experience of the bestial methods employed by the Japanese generals. In fact, Japan saw itself in the role of leader of the ‘Asiatic peoples’, which was to be realized through Japanese occupation. During the war, some nationalist forces joined the Japanese – Aung San, ‘father’ of Burma, as well as Subhas Chandra Bose, leader of the most radical nationalist group outside of the Communist Party of India, the Forward Bloc, and founder of the Indian National Army (INA). Bose demanded an immediate disobedience movement against the British when the latter declared war on India’s behalf without consulting the Indian people or politicians in 1939. The leader of Congress, Mahatma Gandhi, was horrified by the prospect of a major campaign, which he declared would lead to "anarchy and red ruin". Bose, who had been elected president of Congress against Gandhi’s wishes, was forced to resign. On the principle of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, Bose left India, made contact with the Germans and subsequently the Japanese, and organized the INA.
(British rule in Asia: the poisoned legacy by PETER TAAFFE at
The Japanese regarded the Malays as liberated from British imperialist rule which gained them some cooperation from the Malay civil service and intellectuals. The Chinese however were regarded as enemies and received harsh treatment from the Japanese. Thousands were killed in Malaya and Singapore and Chinese schools were closed. This led to the setting up of resistance group such as the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), which was the backbone of the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), which was assisted by the British so as to fight the Japanese.
In August 1945, when the Allies were preparing for a campaign for the liberation of Malaya, the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought about the unconditional surrender of the Japanese. In September 1945 a British military administration was established under the Supreme Allied Commander, Southeast Asia, whose headquarters were in Singapore.
Because the Japanese had been removed with violence Malaya had suffered little loss of life or damage to its towns and cities but many of its tin mines and plantations had been destroyed to prevent the Japanese using them, so the Malayan economy was slow to recover after the war. The Japanese occupation had also sown the seeds of future unrest. They had pursued a policy of divide and conquer by favoring the Malays while persecuting the Chinese who were already anti Japanese due to the Japanese actions in China. This resulted in some violence in the period between the Japanese leaving and the British returning.
Another potential cause for unrest was the British plan for a new constitution for Malaya, known as the Malayan Union (Singapore would be a separate crown colony). This had been devised in Britain with little thought to the feelings of the local population and no consultation. The plan would wipe out the power of the Sultans effectively. Take Malaya from a protectorate to a Colony, it would also grant citizenship to anyone who had been born in Malaya in the last ten years regardless of race or ethnicity. This raised concerns among the Malay population that they would be swamped by the millions of ethnic Chinese and Indians living in Malaya. A huge outcry resulted and the British government relented and eventually after consultation a new constitution was developed which formed the basis of the Federation of Malaya Agreement in 1948 and is the basis of the modern Malayan constitution today.
These post war events sowed the seeds of rebellion in other ways; they showed that the British could be made to back down if pushed and that the British promises of protection weren’t always fulfilled. For many it was clear that a post War Britain had other priorities, domestically and internationally and Malaya was low on the list.
Nationalism was stirring within Malaya for the first time and the Malayan communist party thought the time was right to push and they saw the real chance of winning for the first time.
(Dugdale-Pointon, T. (26 August 2007), The Malayan Emergency (1947-1960), at
The British military was dispatched in a classic imperial role – largely to protect commercial interests. “In its narrower context”, the Foreign Office observed in a secret file, the “war against bandits is very much a war in defense of (the) rubber industry”. Britain had traditionally promoted the rights of the Malay community over and above those of the Chinese. Proposals for a new political structure to create a racial equilibrium between the Chinese and Malay communities and remove the latter’s ascendancy over the former had been defeated by Malays and the ex-colonial Malayan lobby.
By 1948 Britain was promoting a new federal constitution that would confirm Malay privileges and consign about 90 per cent of Chinese to non-citizenship. Under this scheme, the High Commissioner would preside over an undemocratic, centralized state where the members of the Executive Council and the Legislative Council were all chosen by him. The war was essentially fought to defend commercial interests. It was not that British planners believed there was no “communist” threat at all – they did. But the nature of this threat needs to be understood.
Communism in Malaya – as elsewhere in the Third World during the cold war – primarily threatened British and Western control over economic resources. There was never any question of military intervention in Malaya by either the USSR or China, nor did they provide any material support to the insurgents: “No operational links have been established as existing”, the Colonial Office reported four years after the beginning of the war. Rather, the British feared that the Chinese revolution of 1949 might be repeated in Malaya. And as the Economist described, the significance of this was that communists “are moving towards an economy and a type of trade in which there will be no place for the foreign manufacturer, the foreign banker or the foreign trader” – not strictly true, but a view that conveys the threat that the wrong kind of development poses to the West’s commercial interests. British policy – then and now – cannot be presented as being based on furthering such crude aims as business interests. So the official pretext became that of resisting communist expansion, a concept shorn of any commercial motives and simply understood as defending the “free world” against nasty totalitarians. Academics and journalists have overwhelmingly fallen into line with the result that the British public have been deprived of the realistic picture.
(The war in Malaya, 1948-60, 13Feb07 by Mark Curtis at
Meanwhile Malayan nationalism was growing. The first Malay organization was the Kesatuan Melayu Singapura, or Singapore Malay Union, which was formed in 1926. Others quickly followed it. In 1946 Malay organizations joined together to form the Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu, the United Malays National Organisation. The Malayan Communist Party (MCP) was founded in 1930. In 1948 they began to attack European estate managers. As a result the government introduced a state of emergency. However communist activity declined after 1949 when the British parliament promised independence. The insurgency continued for some years but it was less of a threat. Communist activity flared up again in the mid-1970s then died down. In 1955 the Reid Commission was formed to prepare a constitution for Malaya. Malaya became independent on 31 August 1957.
(Tim lambert at

How the British put down rebellion in Malaya

End of Empire: Memoirs of a Malaysian Communist Guerrilla Leader, Socialism Today No.91, April 2005 reinforces the potential for the MCP and also for revolutionary change in Malaya at this stage. This would only have been possible through a policy of uniting all workers and peasants on the basis of class and not ethnicity, with correct perspectives, programme and tactics. The strength of the MCP and its military wing, the Malayan Peoples’ Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), was shown after the capitulation of the Japanese when "in many areas they (MPAJA and MCP) began to set up skeleton administrations in the form of ‘people’s committees’: according to one estimate, 70% of rural towns were under their control".
The British officer, Major HH Wright, who at one time liaised with the MCP, commented that these committees "were all-powerful in those small towns" in which the MCP were concentrated. Wright, with some experience in Albania and the successful guerrilla struggle there against the German army during the Second World War, declared: "They (the MCP) were the masters and not me". The task of cementing class unity, cutting across ethnic divisions, would not have been easy at this stage – nor is it today – but was possible in an ethnically and racially divided country such as Malaya.
The Malay sultans and their hangers-on, and nationalists like Tunku Abdul Rahman, who went on to help found the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), furthered the British policy of fostering divisions. However, if the MCP had consistently pursued a policy of uniting all the races and ethnic groups in a war of national liberation, it could have seized power even in 1945 when there was a gap of three weeks before the British were able to reoccupy the country. This would only have been possible through a policy that broke with the idea of ‘stages’, which the MCP was wedded to, and the adoption, in effect, of Leon Trotsky’s idea of the permanent revolution.
With majority Chinese supporters, would the MCP have been able to hold power if it had taken it? There are no a priori guarantees in a serious struggle for power. But the Viet Minh under Ho Chi Minh successfully occupied the whole of Indo-China, including the cities of Saigon and Hanoi, for a period in 1945. They then retreated under the military onslaught of imperialist troops – in which British forces played a key role. However, the example that they set of proclaiming an ‘independent’ republic sowed the seeds for the successful eviction not only of French imperialism but also of US imperialism later in 1975. Events would turn out differently in Malaya, not least because of the weaknesses in the MCP’s position.
Malaya was not Vietnam: its population of 3.97 million in 1931 was made up of 49% ‘Malays’, 34% Chinese and 15% ‘Indians’. But if the overwhelmingly Chinese city of Singapore had been included, the Malays would have been reduced to only 44% of the population. The fact that they were "a minority in their own country" was played upon, both by the British and the developing Malay capitalist nationalists.
(British rule in Asia: the poisoned legacy by PETER TAAFFE at

Chin Peng

Chin Peng, the leader of the MCP, later conceded that the slogan of a ‘Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Malaya’ – with its echoes of what was initially established in China under Mao Zedong – was not capable of reaching out to the Malay population. He wrote later: "Our battle cry should have been: Independence for Malaya and all Malayans who want independence". The British, of course, resorted to ruthless repression, including the outlawing of the trade union confederation. In fact, a ‘white terror’ was unleashed not just against Chinese members of the MCP but also radical Malays who were in alliance with the MCP or were open to it. As Chin Peng revealed in his memoirs, the decision to take to the countryside in a classical guerrilla war and effectively abandon the urban struggle was made under the influence of an Australian Communist Party leader, Lawrence Sharkey. It was a mistake which the MCP and the Malayan revolution were to pay dearly for.
(British rule in Asia: the poisoned legacy by PETER TAAFFE at

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Henri Cartier-Bresson

For Henri Cartier-Bresson, human life is a precarious balancing act between two worlds: the one inside us and the one outside. And his photographs, he says, are instant drawings of that act, no more, no less. Which is why, all these years later, his work still bursts with a vitality and visual honesty that are so lacking in today's mannered style. (Liz Jobey at
“Rarely has the phrase “man of the world” been more aptly applied than to the protean photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, the subject of a handsome and large — though surely not anywhere near large enough — retrospective appearing at the Museum of Modern Art. For much of his long career as a photojournalist Cartier-Bresson was compulsively on the move. By plane, train, bus, car, bicycle, rickshaw, horse and on foot, he covered the better part of five continents in a tangled, crisscrossing itinerary of arcs and dashes. In addition to being exhaustively mobile, he was widely connected. Good-looking, urbane, the rebellious child of French haute bourgeois privilege, he networked effortlessly, and had ready access to, and friendships with, the political and culture beau monde of his time. “ - Holland Cotter, the New York Times critic.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004) was born in Chanteloupe, France, of prosperous middle-class parents. He owned a Box Brownie as a boy, using it for taking holiday snapshots, and later experimented with a 3 X 4 view camera. But he was also interested in painting and studied for two years in a Paris studio. This early training in art helped develop the subtle and sensitive eye for composition, which was one of his greatest assets as a photographer. In 1931, at the age of 22, Cartier-Bresson spent a year as a hunter in the West African bush. Catching a case of backwater fever, he returned to France to convalesce. It was at this time, in Marseille, that he first truly discovered photography. He obtained a Leica and began snapping a few pictures with it. It was a pivotal experience. A new world, a new kind of seeing, spontaneous and unpredictable, opened up to him through the narrow rectangle of the 35 mm viewfinder. His imagination caught fire. He recalls how he excitedly “prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung-up and ready to pounce, determined to ‘trap’ life, to preserve life in the act of living.” Thus began one of the most fruitful collaborations between man and machine in the history of photography. He remained devoted to the 35 mm camera throughout his career. The speed, mobility, the large number of exposures per loading, and, above all, the unobtrusiveness of the little camera perfectly fitted his shy, quicksilver personality. Before long he was handling its controls as automatically as an expert racing driver shifts gears. The camera itself, in his own famous phrase, became an “extension of the eye”.


Screen Shot

His inventive work of the early 1930s helped define the creative potential of modern photography, and his uncanny ability to capture life on the run made his work synonymous with “the decisive moment”—the title of his first major book. After World War II (most of which he spent as a prisoner of war) and his first museum show (at MoMA in 1947), he joined Robert Capa and others in founding the Magnum photo agency, which enabled photojournalists to reach a broad audience through magazines such as Life while retaining control over their work. In the decade following the war, Cartier-Bresson produced major bodies of photographic reportage on India and Indonesia at the time of independence, China during the revolution, the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death, the United States during the postwar boom, and Europe as its old cultures confronted modern realities. For more than twenty-five years, he was the keenest observer of the global theater of human affairs—and one of the great portraitists of the twentieth century.
( '

Rouen, France

Brussels 1932

Moscow, Gymnasts Artist

Mexico 1934

Pavement School Jaipur 1948

In Sharkey Bookfriday

The Great Leap Forward, China

Forward China

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Cartier-Bresson traveled the world photographing “the times” in Russia, China, Cuba, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Europe, and the United States. He photographed events such as the funeral of Gandhi, the fall of Beijing, and the liberation of Paris. Cartier-Bresson’s main body of work however was of human activities and the institutions of society. In every country, he sought out market places, weddings, funerals, people at work, children in parks, adults in their leisure time, and other every-day activities. During the Battle of France, in June 1940 Cartier-Bresson was captured by German soldiers and spent 35 months in prisoner-of-war camps doing forced labor under the Nazis. He escaped in 1943 and began working for MNPGD, a secret organization that aided prisoners and escapees. At the end of the war, Cartier-Bresson directed “Le Retour” (The Return), a documentary on the repatriation of prisoners of war and detainees.

Dessau, Germany, April 1945

Truman Capote

Jean-Paul Sartre 1946

In 1947, along with Robert Capa, David Seymour, William Vandivert, and George Rodger, Cartier-Bresson founded the co-operative agency “Magnum Photos”. The aim of Magnum was to allow photographers to “work outside the formulas of magazine journalism”. In 1952, Cartier-Bresson published a book of his photographs entitled” Images à la sauvette” (images on the run), with the English title “The Decisive Moment”. In the 1960′s he created 16 portraiture stories entitled “A Touch of Greatness” for the the London magazine “The Queen”. The stories profiled personalities such as Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller, Robert Kennedy and others.

Greenfield, Indiana 1960

Tent City near Somerville, TN 1961

In 1968, Cartier-Bresson left Magnum Photos and photography in general, focusing once again on drawing and painting. He retired from photography completely by 1975 and had his first exhibition of his drawings at the Carlton Gallery in New York in 1975.

VENICE—Ezra Pound

From 1975 on, Cartier-Bresson continued to focus on drawing. In 1982 he was awarded the Grand Prix National de la Photographie in Paris, and in 1986, the Novecento Prize in Palermo, Italy. In 1988, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held an exhibition of his photographs – “Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Early Work”. In 2003, Cartier-Bresson, along with his wife Martine Franck and their daughter Mélanie, launched the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, to provide a permanent home for his collected works and as an exhibition space for other artists. Cartier-Bresson died peacefully on August 3rd 2004 in Montjustin, Provence. He was buried in the cemetery of Montjustin, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France. (
Some criticized his quick-taking "decisive moment" style as "snaps". But the unique sensibility his photographs, often black and white, has been compared by admirers to being as distinctive as the style of great cinema director. Some have compared his images as having the "complex presence of Cézanne or Rembrandt". He had a legendary anthropological eye, looking to capture human emotion. When he covered the 1937 coronation of George VI in London he photographed the crowd not the procession.
(Mark Oliver at
We think of Cartier-Bresson principally as a great chronicler of the streets, but he was also a wonderful portraitist. He didn't produce strong headshots as Karsh did; he produced room-sets with people. His photographs are perfect, but they can also feel cold and controlled. They don't have the heart-on-their-sleeve humanity of, say, Robert Doisneau. They are perfectly formed and highly atmospheric; they have an element of mystery. There is a feeling that the picture is part of a story, like a single still from a film, and they leave you wanting to know more.
(Eamonn McCabe at
How many photographs, how many images pass before our eyes each day? What is astonishing is not so much how many of these images we forget, so much as how many we remember. And our hunger for images - a hunger to see, to look - appears to be insatiable. How is it, feasting every day on so many images, that we distinguish between those things we have seen for ourselves, with our own eyes, and those which come to us already caught in the shutter, instant memories already fixed for us on the paper? Perhaps we can no longer distinguish with any certainty what we know for ourselves and what we have been told and shown. Many of Cartier-Bresson's photographs have already become one with our memories, and have affected how we look and what we recognise. His photographs continue to haunt us. This, rather than style, is his true legacy.
(Adrian Searle at

Thursday, September 1, 2011


“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This arose as a quotation by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
Another English politician with no shortage of names - William Pitt, the Elder, The Earl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778, is sometimes wrongly attributed as the source. He did say something similar, in a speech to the UK House of Lords in 1770:
"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"
The history of man is a history of rule or ambition to rule. It is not, as Marx claimed, a history of constant class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat, even though class struggle may be derived from the fundamental division of society into 'rulers' and 'ruled.' An important part of this history is the continuous 'race to the top' among self-centered power seekers, trying to gather as large a number of subjects as possible to rule.
As is shown by Lord Acton's famous words of wisdom that 'power corrupts,' what characterize the history of man is the corrupted leaders blinded by their power and might. Throughout history, monarchs, religious and ideological leaders, as well as elected presidents go crazy. The French king Louis' XIV claim 'L'Etat, c'est moi' (I am the State) is typical to the leaders then and now.
The real kings and queens of history have truly been tyrants oppressing the people to gain personally in prestige or wealth. The ones called 'the Great' are worse than the other rulers in the subjection and killing of 'ordinary' men; winning many wars (read: killing a lot of people) does not make a man great; on the contrary, it shows his inability to use his intelligence and to reason.
With democracy, it is in everybody's theoretical reach to gain power over everybody else, indeed making society an eternal struggle between individuals and groups for power.
The ordered and organized society of history has thus weakened in favor of the power struggle in democracy. This has also unleashed the power-seekers throughout society. These people, corrupted to the very soul with their pathological quest for power, have in democracy a foundation from which to enslave their fellow men.
The part of the truth Lord Acton did not realize when stating 'power corrupts' is that the corrupted seek power. Only those who are not able to grow tall from their own efforts and achievements seek to subdue their fellow man; only people not being able to find comfort in their own mind seek to silence others; those who are unable to produce their own wealth aim to confiscate the wealth of others. Power does really corrupt, but it is as true that corrupt people seek power.
(Column by Per Bylund, posted on March 03, 2004 in Tyranny & Corruption at
These persons who are corrupted by the process of ruling over their fellow men are not innately evil. They begin as honest men. Their motives for wanting to direct the actions of others may be purely patriotic and altruistic. Indeed, they may wish only "to do good for the people." But, apparently, the only way they can think of to do this "good" is to impose more restrictive laws.
Now, obviously, there is no point in passing a law which requires people to do something they would do anyhow; or which prevents them from doing what they are not going to do anyhow. Therefore, the possessor of the political power could very well decide to leave every person free to do as he pleases so long as he does not infringe upon the same right of every other person to do as he pleases. However, that concept appears to be utterly without reason to a person who wants to exercise political power over his fellow man, for he asks himself: "How can I 'do good' for the people if I just leave them alone?" Besides, he does not want to pass into history as a "do nothing" leader who ends up as a footnote somewhere. So he begins to pass laws that will force all other persons to conform to his ideas of what is good for them.
That is the danger point! The more restrictions and compulsions he imposes on other persons, the greater the strain on his own morality. As his appetite for using force against people increases, he tends increasingly to surround himself with advisers who also seem to derive a peculiar pleasure from forcing others to obey their decrees. He appoints friends and supporters to easy jobs of questionable necessity.
If the benevolent ruler stays in power long enough, he eventually concludes that power and wisdom is the same thing. And as he possesses power, he must possess wisdom. He becomes converted to the seductive thesis that election to public office endows the official with both power and wisdom. At this point, he begins to lose his ability to distinguish between what is morally right and what is politically expedient.
(Power Corrupts by Ben Moreell, chairman of the board of Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, August 1997, FREEDOM DAILY at
If you ever attain a position of power, whether it is in politics, administration or the community, keep in mind that power has the natural tendency to go to one's head.
Once you are in a position where you have control over what other people do or what happens to them, be very careful. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that they are people, just like you. They have lives, they have minds, and many have families which can be affected by your decisions. Never ever take their loyalty or their dependency for granted. People will submit to tyranny, but only for so long. They think, therefore there will be rebellion. You may use your power to attempt to squelch such rebellions, but people are smart. They will find a way to form a union of like minds and eventually a coup d’état despite all your fail safes. Granted there are tyrannies which have lasted for years, but mind you, those are exceptions. They're lucky for one, and for another most of those are in countries where education and money is very limited.
(Power Corrupts by Allana Calhoun, Jul 22, 2011 at
The news abounds with stories of powerful men behaving badly. It’s a depressing yet predictable spectacle — those in positions of power can’t help but help themselves to the help. They scream at underlings and have sex with the secretaries; they assault hotel maids (or at least are accused of such) and sleep with the nanny. The question, of course, is what motivates this awful behavior? Why does power corrupt?
Psychologists refer to this as the paradox of power. The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power. Instead of being polite, honest and outgoing, they become impulsive, reckless and rude. According to psychologists, one of the main problems with authority is that it makes us less sympathetic to the concerns and emotions of others. For instance, several studies have found that people in positions of authority are more likely to rely on stereotypes and generalizations when judging other people. They also spend much less time making eye contact, at least when a person without power is talking.
Although people almost always know the right thing to do — cheating is wrong — their sense of power makes it easier to rationalize away the ethical lapse. For instance, when psychologists asked subjects (in both low- and high-power conditions) how they would judge an individual who drove too fast when late for an appointment, people in the high-power group consistently said it was worse when others committed those crimes than when they did themselves. In other words, the feeling of eminence led people to conclude that they had a good reason for speeding — they’re important people, with important things to do — but that everyone else should follow the posted signs.
The dynamics of power can profoundly influence how we think. When we climb the ladder of status, our inner arguments get warped and our natural sympathy for others is vanquished. Instead of fretting about the effects of our actions, we just go ahead and act. We deserve what we want. And how dare they resist. Don’t they know who we are?
(How Power Corrupts by By Jonah Lehrer, May 18, 2011, THE FRONTAL CORTEX
Walking a mile in another person's shoes may be the best way to understand the emotions, perceptions, and motivations of an individual; however, in a study that appeared in the December 2006 issue of Psychological Science, it is reported that those in power are often unable to take such a journey.
In the article, "Power and Perspectives Not Taken," Adam Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Joe Magee of the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, and Stanford University's M. Ena Inesi and Deborah H. Gruenfeld found that possessing power itself serves as an impediment to understanding the perspectives of others. Through four experiments and a correlational study, the researchers assessed the effect of power on "perspective taking," adjusting to another's perspective, and interpreting the emotions of others.
Galinsky and colleagues also found that power leads individuals to anchor too heavily on their own vantage point, thus leaving them unable to adjust to another person's perspective and decreasing their ability to correctly interpret the emotions of others. Galinsky says that this research has "wide-ranging implications, from business to politics."
(Power Corrupts? Absolutely at