“Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities”

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Voltaire, the clearest of Enlightenment thinkers wrote those words in his 1765 essay, “Questions sur les miracles.” And they resonate as much now, 250 years later, as they did then.

It is hard to live in a universe ruled by contingency and accident.  It is soothing to speak of fate and destiny.  Affective ambivalence, indecision, turmoil, emotional tumult, all take on a more bearable aspect if they are seen as subject to forces external to us, subject to external resolution–inevitably, inescapably. “What will be will be….” So too with misfortune.  If an event which we would so much the more have wanted to forgo could just as well not have been, its occurrence, its having-been, cuts into us all the deeper, all the more terribly.  So we speak of fate, of destiny.

The human impulse to construct narratives is a gift of imagination. But beware the seductive allure of plot and the delusion of comprehension.

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Le Fabuleux Destin

Five days ago the big question in french politics was the refusal of Iranian president, Hassan Rohani, of a formal dinner with the French president, François Hollande, where wine would be served.

Then all hell broke loose in Paris, hundreds dead and seriously injured, leaving the France dumbfounded. Leaving the capital silent and anxious.

A few days after the attack on Charlie Hebdo and I recall waking up from the distress hearing an accordion player playing some traditional song on a totally silent subway car.

How much does it cost our fashion?

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A Norwegian television channel sent three young fashion bloggers to Cambodia, to experience the life of those sewing western fashion, in a five episode documentary called “Sweatshop – deadly fashion” that can be seen here with English subtitles.

The future which we hold in trust for our own children will be shaped by our fairness to other people’s children.

Oh salty clothes, how much of your salt is tears from Cambodia.

No one expects the spanish inquisition

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French anarchist Alphonse Laurencic inspired himself in the works of Salvador Dali and Wassily Kandinsky to create jail cells, like this one in the photo, with a sloping beds almost impossible to sleep on, irregularly shaped bricks on the floor to prevent prisoners from walking straight, and walls covered with surrealist patterns and lighting effects designed to make prisoners distressed and confused.

The cells were built for the republican forces fighting Franco’s Fascist army, those imprisoned in such cells found themselves subject not just to actual torture, but torture directly inspired by modernist aesthetic principles.

Has Modern Art Always Been Torture?