The Beastie Boys’ Final Concert Streaming Free Online This Weekend

Until Monday, the Beastie Boys' final concert--captured at Bonnaroo on June 12, 2009--will stream free on YouTube. (Watch it above.) Just five weeks after the show, Adam "MCA" Yauch would announce that he had been diagnosed with salivary gland cancer. Originally optimistic, Yauch said "I just need to take a little time to get this in check, and then we'll release the record and play some shows." "It's a pain in the neck (sorry had to say it) because I was really looking forward to playing these shows, but the doctors have made it clear that this is not the kind of thing that can be put aside to deal with later." Sadly, the cancer proved aggressive and took MCA's life in May, 2012, leaving the show above as the Beastie Boys' final live document. Find the setlist for the final show here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

Related Content:

Watch 36 Beastie Boys Videos Now Remastered in HD

The Beastie Boys Release a New Freewheeling Memoir, and a Star-Studded 13-Hour Audiobook Featuring Snoop Dogg, Elvis Costello, Bette Midler, John Stewart & Dozens More

The Beastie Boys & Rick Rubin Reunite and Revisit Their Formative Time Together in 1980s NYC

Look How Young They Are!: The Beastie Boys Performing Live Their Very First Hit, “Cooky Puss” (1983)

 

Frida Kahlo’s Venomous Love Letter to Diego Rivera: “I’m Amputating You. Be Happy and Never Seek Me Again”

Painter Diego Rivera set the bar awfully high for other lovers when he—allegedly—ate a handful of his ex-wife Frida Kahlo’s cremains, fresh from the oven.

Perhaps he was hedging his bets. The Mexican government opted not to honor his express wish that their ashes should be co-mingled upon his death. Kahlo’s remains were placed in Mexico City's Rotunda of Illustrious Men, and have since been transferred to their home, now the Museo Frida Kahlo.

Rivera lies in the Panteón Civil de Dolores.

Other creative expressions of the grief that dogged him til his own death, three years later:

His final painting, The Watermelons, a very Mexican subject that’s also a tribute to Kahlo’s last work, Viva La Vida...

And a locked bathroom in which he decreed 6,000 photographs, 300 of Kahlo’s garments and personal items, and 12,000 documents were to be housed until 15 years after his death.

Among the many revelations when this chamber was belatedly unsealed in 2004, her clothing caused the biggest stir, particularly the ways in which the colorful garments were adapted to and informed by her physical disabilities.

Her prosthetic leg, shod in an eye-catching red boot was given a place of honor in an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum.,

These treasures might have come to light earlier save for a judgment call on the part of Dolores Olmedo, Rivera’s patron, former model, and friend. During renovations to turn the couple’s home into a museum, she had a peek and decided the lipstick-imprinted love letters from some famous men Frida had bedded could damage Rivera’s reputation.

In what way, it’s difficult to parse.

The couple’s history of extramarital relations (including Rivera’s dalliance with Kahlo’s sister, Christina) weren’t exactly secret, and both of the players had left the building.

One thing that’s taken for granted is Kahlo’s passion for Rivera, whom she met as girl of 15. Tempting as it might be to view the relationship with 2020 goggles, it would be a disservice to Kahlo’s sense of her own narrative. Self-examination was central to her work. She was characteristically avid in letters and diary entries, detailing her physical attraction to every aspect of Rivera’s body, including his giant belly “drawn tight and smooth as a sphere.” Ditto her obsession with his many conquests.

Not surprisingly, she was capable of penning a pretty spicy love letter herself, and the majority were aimed at her husband:

Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. you are the mirror of the night. the violent flash of lightning. The dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. my fingers touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.

Her most notorious love letter does not appear to be one at first.

Bedridden, and facing the amputation of a gangrenous right leg that had already sacrificed some toes 20 years earlier, she directed the full force of her emotions at Rivera.

The lover she’d tenderly pegged as “a boy frog standing on his hind legs” now appeared to her an “ugly son of a bitch,” maddeningly possessed of the power to seduce women (as he had seduced her).

You have to read all the way to the twist:

Mexico,
1953

My dear Mr. Diego,

I’m writing this letter from a hospital room before I am admitted into the operating theatre. They want me to hurry, but I am determined to finish writing first, as I don’t want to leave anything unfinished. Especially now that I know what they are up to. They want to hurt my pride by cutting a leg off. When they told me it would be necessary to amputate, the news didn’t affect me the way everybody expected. No, I was already a maimed woman when I lost you, again, for the umpteenth time maybe, and still I survived.

I am not afraid of pain and you know it. It is almost inherent to my being, although I confess that I suffered, and a great deal, when you cheated on me, every time you did it, not just with my sister but with so many other women. How did they let themselves be fooled by you? You believe I was furious about Cristina, but today I confess that it wasn’t because of her. It was because of me and you. First of all because of me, since I’ve never been able to understand what you looked and look for, what they give you that I couldn’t. Let’s not fool ourselves, Diego, I gave you everything that is humanly possible to offer and we both know that. But still, how the hell do you manage to seduce so many women when you’re such an ugly son of a bitch?

The reason why I’m writing is not to accuse you of anything more than we’ve already accused each other of in this and however many more bloody lives. It’s because I’m having a leg cut off (damned thing, it got what it wanted in the end). I told you I’ve counted myself as incomplete for a long time, but why the fuck does everybody else need to know about it too? Now my fragmentation will be obvious for everyone to see, for you to see… That’s why I’m telling you before you hear it on the grapevine. Forgive my not going to your house to say this in person, but given the circumstances and my condition, I’m not allowed to leave the room, not even to use the bathroom. It’s not my intention to make you or anyone else feel pity, and I don’t want you to feel guilty. I’m writing to let you know I’m releasing you, I’m amputating you. Be happy and never seek me again. I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want you to hear from me. If there is anything I’d enjoy before I die, it’d be not having to see your fucking horrible bastard face wandering around my garden.

That is all, I can now go to be chopped up in peace.

Good bye from somebody who is crazy and vehemently in love with you,

Your Frida

This is a love letter masquerading as a doozy of a break up letter. The references to amputation are both literal and metaphorical:

No doubt, she was sincere, but this couple, rather than holding themselves accountable, excelled at reversals. In the end the letter’s threat proved idle. Shortly before her death,  the two appeared together in public, at a demonstration to protest the C.I.A.’s efforts to overthrow the leftist Guatemalan regime.

Image via Brooklyn Museum

Once Frida was safely laid to rest, by which we mean rumored to have sat bolt upright as her casket was slid into the incerator, Rivera mused in his autobiography:

Too late now I realized the most wonderful part of my life had been my love for Frida. But I could not really say that given “another chance” I would have behaved toward her any differently than I had. Every man is the product of the social atmosphere in which he grows up and I am what I am…I had never had any morals at all and had lived only for pleasure where I found it. I was not good. I could discern other people's weaknesses easily, especially men’s, and then I would play upon them for no worthwhile reason. If I loved a woman, the more I wanted to hurt her. Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait.

via Letters of Note and the book, Letters of Note: Love.

Related Content:

Take a Virtual Tour of Frida Kahlo’s Blue House Free Online

What the Iconic Painting, “The Two Fridas,” Actually Tells Us About Frida Kahlo

Discover Frida Kahlo’s Wildly-Illustrated Diary: It Chronicled the Last 10 Years of Her Life, and Then Got Locked Away for Decades

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Understanding Chris Marker’s Radical Sci-Fi Film La Jetée: A Study Guide Distributed to High Schools in the 1970s

Pop quiz, hot shot. World War III has devastated civilization. As a prisoner of survivors living beneath the ruins of Paris, you're made to go travel back in time, to the era of your own childhood, in order to secure aid for the present from the past. What do you do? You probably never faced this question in school — unless you were in one of the classrooms of the 1970s that received the study guide for Chris Marker's La Jetée. Like the innovative 1962 science-fiction short itself, this educational pamphlet was distributed (and recently tweeted out again) by Janus Films, the company that first brought to American audiences the work of auteurs like Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, and Akira Kurosawa.

Written by Connecticut prep-school teacher Tom Andrews, this study guide describes La Jetée as "a brilliant mixture of fantasy and pseudo-scientific romance" that "explores new dramatic territory and forms, and rushes with a stunning logic and a powerful impact to its shocking climax."




The film does all this "almost entirely in still photographs, their static state corresponding to the stratification of memory." More practically speaking, at "twenty-seven minutes in length, La Jetée is an ideal class-period vehicle" that "can help students speculate on the awesome potential of life as it may exist after a third world war" as well as "man's inhumanity to man, not only as it may occur in the future, but as it already has occurred in our past."

"Why do you suppose Marker filmed La Jetée in still photographs? What significance does the one moment of live action have?" "How does Marker's concept of time and space compare with that of H.G. Wells in the latter's novel, The Time Machine?" "If the man of this story has helped his captors to perfect the technique of time travel, why do they wish to liquidate him?" These and other suggested discussion questions appear at the end of the study guide, all of whose pages you can read at Socks. It was produced for Films for Now and The Human Condition, "two repertories for high school assemblies and group discussions" based on Janus' formidable cinema library. (François Truffaut's The 400 Blows also looks to have been among their educational offerings.) You can see further analysis of La Jetée in A.O. Scott's New York Times Critics' Picks video, as well as the Criterion Collection video essay Echo Chamber: Listening to La Jetée.

Much later, in the mid-1990s, Terry Gilliam would pay tribute with his Hollywood homage 12 Monkeys, and Marker himself still had many films to make, including his second masterpiece, the equally unconventional Sans Soleil. But at time of this study guide's publication, La Jetée's considerable influence had only just begun to manifest. It was around then that pioneering cyberpunk novelist William Gibson viewed the film in college. "I left the lecture hall where it had been screened in an altered state, profoundly alone," he later remembered. "My sense of what science fiction could be had been permanently altered." Perhaps his instructor heeded Andrews' advice that "teachers would probably do better not to 'prepare' their students for viewing this film." Not that anyone, in the 58 years of the film's existence, has anyone ever truly been prepared for their first viewing of La Jetée.

Related Content:

How Chris Marker’s Radical SciFi Film, La Jetée, Changed the Life of Cyberpunk Prophet, William Gibson

David Bowie’s Music Video “Jump They Say” Pays Tribute to Marker’s La Jetée, Godard’s Alphaville, Welles’ The Trial & Kubrick’s 2001

Petite Planète: Discover Chris Marker’s Influential 1950s Travel Photobook Series

A Concise Breakdown of How Time Travel Works in Popular Movies, Books & TV Shows

Free MIT Course Teaches You to Watch Movies Like a Critic: Watch Lectures from The Film Experience

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Studio Ghibli Puts Online 400 Images from Eight Classic Films, and Lets You Download Them for Free

Japan’s Studio Ghibli has long been protective of their intellectual property, with Hayao Miyazaki and his team overseeing how their characters are merchandized, as well as carefully making sure foreign distribution of their films stay faithful to the original. (Miyazaki famously--although apocryphally--sent Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein a katana sword along with a note reading “No Cuts,” because the mogul and all-around bad person was notorious for recutting Asian films for western audiences).

It’s not that you can’t get tons of Ghibli merchandise—there’s a Totoro beer if you’re interested—it’s that Studio Ghibli likes control. Which makes this huge hi-res image dump from the studio a surprising gift. Earlier this year they released a series of backgrounds to spice up your Zoom meetings. And now they’ve just released 400 images from eight of their films, with plenty more to come.




You can do what you want with these 1920x1080 jpgs, with one caveat from producer Toshi Suzuki: “Please use them freely within the scope of common sense.”

The studio is not releasing all their classics in one go, however. Among the famous Spirited Away and Ponyo, there’s art from films that barely got screenings in the States: Tales from Earthsea (2006), From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), and When Marnie Was There (2014).

Look, they can’t all be Totoros, and Studio Ghibli has delivered plenty of sweet romantic dramas along with its more fantastic films. If you are curious, Netflix and HBOMax are streaming pretty much the whole catalog.

Which is a surprise, as Miyazaki has long banned Ghibli’s films from streaming. As Suzuki told reporters in a March announcement:

“First of all, Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t know exactly what video streaming services like Netflix are. He doesn’t use personal computers, he doesn’t use smartphones. So when you mention digital distribution to him, he just doesn’t get it.”

He added:

“Hayao Miyazaki is currently making a movie but it’s taking a really long time. When that happens, it’s only natural that it will require a lot of money too. I told him this can cover the production costs for that movie. When I said that, he said “Well, there’s nothing I can do then.”

As long as we enjoy the films “within the scope of common sense,” I hope Miyazaki will have nothing to worry about. Enter the image archive here.

via Nerdist

Related Content:

A Virtual Tour Inside the Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli Museum

For the First Time, Studio Ghibli’s Entire Catalog Will Soon Be Available for Digital Purchase

Hayao Miyazaki Picks His 50 Favorite Children’s Books

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

What Voltaire Meant When He Said That “We Must Cultivate Our Garden”: An Animated Introduction

“Voltaire’s goal in writing [his 1759 satire Candide] was to destroy the optimism of his times,” says Alain de Botton in the School of Life video above, “an optimism that centered around science, love, technical progress, and a faith in reason.” These beliefs were folly, Voltaire thought: the transfer of faith from a providential God to a perfect, clockwork universe. Candide satirizes this happy rationalism in Doctor Pangloss, whose belief that ours is the best of possible worlds comes directly from the philosophical optimism of Gottfried Leibniz.

The preponderance of the evidence, Voltaire made abundantly clear in the novel’s series of increasingly horrific episodes, points toward a blind, indifferent universe full of needless cruelty and chaos. “Hope was, he felt, a disease,” de Botton says, and “it was Voltaire’s generous goal to try and cure us of it.” But as everyone who has read Candide (or read a summary or brief notes on Candide) knows, the novel does not end with despair, but on a “Stoic note.”




After enduring immense suffering on their many travels, Candide and his companions settle in Turkey, where they meet an old man sitting quietly under a tree. He tells them about his philosophy, how he abstains from politics and simply cultivates the fruits of his garden for market as his sole concern. Invited to feast with the man and his family, they remark upon the luxurious ease in which they live and learn that they do so on a fairly small plot of land.

Voltaire loved to goose his largely Christian readers and delighted in putting the novel’s parting wisdom, “arguably the most important adage in modern philosophy,” in the mouth of an Islamic character: Il faut cultiver notre jardin, “we must cultivate our garden.” What does this mean? De Botton interprets the line in the literal spirit with which the character known only as “the Turk” delivers it: we should keep a “safe distance between ourselves and the world.”

We should not, that is, become overly engaged in politics, and should devote ourselves to tending our own livelihood and welfare, not taking more than we need. We should leave our neighbors alone and not bother about what they do in their gardens. To be at peace in the world, Voltaire argued, we must accept the world as it is, not as we want it to be, and give up utopian ideas of societies perfected by science and reason. In short, to “tie our personal moods” to human affairs writ large is to invite endless misery.

The philosophy of Candide is not pessimistic or nihilistic. A happy, fulfilled human life is entirely possible, Voltaire suggests, if not human happiness in general. Candide has much in common with the ancient Roman outlook. But it might also express what could be seen as an early attempt at a secular Buddhist point of view. Voltaire was familiar with Buddhism, though it did not go by that name. Buddhists were lumped in, Donald S. Lopez, professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan, writes at the Public Domain Review, with the mass of “idolaters” who were not Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.

Yet the many Jesuit accounts of Eastern religion reaching Europe at the time circulated widely among intellectuals, including Voltaire, who wrote approvingly, though critically, of Buddhist tenets in his 1764 Dictionnaire philosophique. As the secular mindfulness movement has done in the 21st century, Lopez argues, Voltaire sought in the age of Enlightenment to separate miraculous legend from practical teaching. But like the Buddha, whose supposed biography Voltaire knew well, Candide begins his life in a castle. And the story ends with a man sitting quietly under a tree, more or less advising Candide to do what Voltaire had heard of in the “religion of the Siamese…. Meditate in private, and reflect often on the fragility of human affairs.”

Related Content:

An Animated Introduction to Voltaire: Enlightenment Philosopher of Pluralism & Tolerance

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

Philosophers Drinking Coffee: The Excessive Habits of Kant, Voltaire & Kierkegaard

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch Chilling Footage of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki Bombings in Restored Color

"You saw nothing in Hiroshima. Nothing," says Eiji Okada in the opening of Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour. "I saw everything," replies Emmanuelle Riva. "Everything." The film goes on to show the effects of the American atomic-bomb attack that devastated the titular city nearly fifteen years before. This was the first many viewers had seen of the legacy of that unprecedented act of destruction, and now, six decades later, the cultural image of Hiroshima has conflated Resnais' stark French New Wave vision with actual wartime documentary materials. By now, we've all seen contemporary photographs (and even film clips) of the fate of Hiroshima and subsequently atomic-bombed Nagasaki. Can we regard this world-historic destruction with fresh eyes?

A Youtuber known as Rick88888888 offers one way of potentially doing so: almost half an hour of colorized (as well as motion-stabilized, de-noised, and otherwise enhanced) footage of not just the explosions themselves, but the ruined Japanese cities and their struggling survivors, the airplanes that performed the bombing, and the United States President who ordered it. "The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor," says Harry Truman in a broadcast on August 6, 1945, the day of the attack on Hiroshima. "They have been repaid many fold. And the end is not yet." From the President, the American public first learned of the development of an atomic bomb, "a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East."

As we know now, this was the fruit of the Manhattan Project, the secret U.S.-led research-and-development effort that created the first nuclear weapons. Its success, Truman says, prepared the Allies to "obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war." That they did, although military historians argue about about the justifiability of dropping "the bomb" as well as the exact extent it played in the ultimate Allied victory. But nobody can argue with the striking vividness of these "color" motion pictures of the event itself and its aftermath, which reminds us that the era of potential nuclear annihilation doesn't belong to the distant past — rather, it's a chapter of history that has only just begun.

Related Content:

J. Robert Oppenheimer Explains How He Recited a Line from Bhagavad Gita–“Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds”–Upon Witnessing the First Nuclear Explosion

Haunting Unedited Footage of the Bombing of Nagasaki (1945)

The “Shadow” of a Hiroshima Victim, Etched into Stone Steps, Is All That Remains After 1945 Atomic Blast

Hiroshima After the Atomic Bomb in 360 Degrees

Way of Life: Rare Footage of the Hiroshima Aftermath, 1946

Photos of Hiroshima by Hiroshima Mon Amour Star Emmanuelle Riva (1958)

This 392-Year-Old Bonsai Tree Survived the Hiroshima Atomic Blast & Still Flourishes Today: The Power of Resilience

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Philosophy of Photography with Amir Zaki on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #61

Amir Zaki teaches at UC-Riverside and has had his work displayed in numerous galleries, in his recent book California Concrete: A Landscape of Skateparks, and profiled via a short film.

Amir joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to consider this common act that can stretch from the mundane to the sublime. How have our various purposes for photography changed with the advent of digital technology, the introduction of social media, and the ready access to video? What determines what we choose to take pictures of, and how does taking photography more seriously change the way we experience? We touch on iconic and idealized images, capturing the specific vs. the universal, witnessing vs. intervening via photography, and more.

See more of Amir's work at amirzaki.net.

A few of the articles we looked at to prepare included:

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Follow Amir on Instagram @amir_zaki_.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts

An Animated Introduction to Albert Camus’ Existentialism, a Philosophy Making a Comeback in Our Dysfunctional Times

When next you meet an existentialist, ask him what kind of existentialist s/he is. There are at least as many varieties of existentialism as there have been high-profile thinkers propounding it. Several major strains ran through postwar France alone, most famously those championed by Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus — who explicitly rejected existentialism, in part due to a philosophical split with Sartre, but who nevertheless gets categorized among the existentialists today. We could, perhaps, more accurately describe Camus as an absurdist, a thinker who starts with the inherent meaningless and futility of life and proceeds, not necessarily in an obvious direction, from there.

The animated TED-Ed lesson above sheds light on the historical events and personal experiences that brought Camus to this worldview. Beginning in the troubled colonial Algeria of the early 20th-century in which he was born and raised, educator Nina Medvinskaya goes on to tell of his periods as a resistance journalist in France and as a novelist, in which capacity he would write such enduring works as The Stranger and The Plague. Medvinskaya illuminates Camus' central insight with a well-known image from his earlier essay "The Myth of Sisyphus," on the Greek king condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill for all eternity.




"Camus argues that all of humanity is in the same position," says Medvinskaya, "and only when we accept the meaninglessness of our lives can we face the absurd with our heads held high." But "Camus' contemporaries weren't so accepting of futility." (Here the Quentin Blake-style illustrations portray a couple of figures bearing a strong resemblance to Sartre and de Beauvoir.) Many existentialists "advocated for violent revolution to upend systems they believed were depriving people of agency and purpose." Such calls haven't gone silent in 2020, just as The Plague — one of Camus' writings in response to revolutionary existentialism — has only gained relevance in a time of global pandemic.

Last month the Boston Review's Carmen Lea Dege considered the recent comeback of the thought, exemplified in different ways by Camus, Sartre, and others, that "rejected religious and political dogma, expressed scorn for academic abstraction, and focused on the finitude and absurdity of human existence." This resurgence of interest "is not entirely surprising. The body of work we now think of as existentialist emerged during the first half of the twentieth century in conflict-ridden Germany and France, where uncertainty permeated every dimension of society." As much as our societies have changed since then, uncertainty has a way of returning.

Today "we define ourselves and others on the basis of class, religion, race, and nationality, or even childhood influences and subconscious drives, to gain control over the contingencies of the world and insert ourselves in the myriad ways people have failed and succeeded in human history." But the existentialists argued that "this control is illusory and deceptive," an "alluring distraction from our own fragility" that ultimately "corrodes our ability to live well." For the existentialists, pursuit of good life first demands an acceptance of not just fragility but futility, meaninglessness, absurdity, and ambiguity, among other conditions that strike us as deeply unacceptable. As Camus put it, we must imagine Sisyphus happy. But can we?

Related Content:

Free Philosophy Courses

The Absurd Philosophy of Albert Camus Presented in a Short Animated Film by Alain De Botton

Why You Should Read The Plague, the Albert Camus Novel the Coronavirus Has Made a Bestseller Again

Albert Camus: The Madness of Sincerity — 1997 Documentary Revisits the Philosopher’s Life & Work

An Animated Introduction to the Existentialist Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre… and How It Can Open Our Eyes to Life’s Possibilities

The Meaning of Life According to Simone de Beauvoir

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Liberal Arts Can Make People Less Susceptible to Authoritarianism, a New Study Finds

“Correlation does not equal causation” isn’t always a fun thing to say at parties, but it is always a good phrase to keep in mind when approaching survey data. Does the study really show that? Might it show the opposite? Does it confirm pre-existing biases or fail to acknowledge valid counterevidence? A little bit of critical thinking can turn away a lot of trouble.

I'll admit, a new study, "The Role of Education in Taming Authoritarian Attitudes," confirms many of my own biases, suggesting that higher education, especially the liberal arts, reduces authoritarian attitudes around the world. The claim comes from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, which analyzed and aggregated data from World Values Surveys conducted between 1994 and 2016. The study takes it for granted that rising authoritarianism is not a social good, or at least that it poses a distinct threat to democratic republics, and it aims to show how “higher education can protect democracy.”

Authoritarianism—defined as enforcing “group conformity and strict allegiance to authority at the expense of personal freedoms”—seems vastly more prevalent among those with only a high school education. “Among college graduates,” Elizabeth Redden writes at Inside Higher Ed, “holders of liberal art degrees are less inclined to express authoritarian attitudes and preferences compared to individuals who hold degrees in business or science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.”

The “valuable bulwark” of the liberal arts seems more effective in the U.S. than in Europe, perhaps because “American higher education places a strong emphasis on a combination of specific and general education,” the full report speculates. “Such general education includes exposure to the liberal arts.” The U.S. ranks at a moderate level of authoritarianism compared to 51 other countries, on par with Chile and Uruguay, with Germany ranking the least authoritarian and India the most—a 6 on a scale of 0-6.

Higher education also correlates with higher economic status, suggesting to the study authors that economic security reduces authoritarianism, which is expressed in attitudes about parenting and in a “fundamental orientation” toward control over autonomy.

The full report does go into greater depth, but perhaps it raises more questions than it answers, leaving the intellectually curious to work through a dense bibliography of popular and academic sources. There is a significant amount of data and evidence to suggest that studying the liberal arts does help people to imagine other perspectives and to appreciate, rather than fear, different cultures, religions, etc. Liberal arts education encourages critical thinking, reading, and writing, and can equip students with tools they need to distinguish reportage from pure propaganda.

But we might ask whether these findings consistently obtain under actually existing authoritarianism, which “tends to arise under conditions of threat to social norms or personal security.” In the 2016 U.S. election, for example, the candidate espousing openly authoritarian attitudes and preferences, now the current U.S. president, was elected by a majority of voters who were well-educated and economically secure, subsequent research discovered, rather than stereotypically “working class” voters with low levels of education. How do such findings fit with the data Georgetown interprets in their report? Is it possible that those with higher education and social status learn better to hide controlling, intolerant attitudes in mixed company?

Learn more at this report summary page here and read and download the full report as a PDF here.

Related Content: 

How a Liberal Arts Education Helped Derek Black, the Godson of David Duke, Break with the White Nationalist Movement

20 Lessons from the 20th Century About How to Defend Democracy from Authoritarianism, According to Yale Historian Timothy Snyder

Why We Need to Teach Kids Philosophy & Safeguard Society from Authoritarian Control

Critical Thinking: A Free Course

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Is Mail-In Voting New in the United States?: It Actually Goes Back to the Civil War

Let’s say you go home for the holidays. Anything’s possible, who knows. It’s a wild world. Let’s say you get there and someone starts laying on you that trip about how Q Continuum said mail-in voting was orchestrated by satanic cables from Anarchist HQ. Let’s say you overhear something more down-to-earth, like how if mail-in voting happens, billions of people will vote illegally... even more people than live in the country, which is how you’ll know….

Maybe you’ll want to speak up and say, hey I know something about this topic, except then maybe you realize you don’t actually know much, but you know something ain’t right with this talk and maybe it’s probably good to have a functioning Postal Service and maybe people should be able to vote. In such situations (who can say how often these things happen), you might wish to have a little information at the ready, to educate yourself and share with others.




You might share information about how mail-in voting has been around since 1775. It has worked pretty well at scale since “about 150,000 of the 1 million Union soldiers were able to vote absentee in the 1864 presidential election in what became the first widespread use of non-in person voting in American history,” Alex Seitz-Wald explains at NBC News. Since the federal government has managed to make mail-in voting work for soldiers serving away from home for over 150 years, “it’s now easier in some ways for a Marine in Afghanistan to vote than it is for an American stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.”

“Some part of the military has been voting absentee since the American Revolution,” Donald Inbody, former Navy Captain turned political science professor at Texas State University, tells NBC News. Inbody refers to one of the first documented instances, when Continental Army soldiers voted in a town meeting by proxy in New Hampshire. But history is complicated, and “mail-in voting has worked just fine so shut up" needs some nuance.

In the very same election in which 150,000 Union soldiers mailed their ballots, Lincoln urged Sherman to send troops stationed in Democratic-controlled Indiana—which had banned absentee voting—back to their home states so that they could vote. The practice has always had its vocal critics and suffered accusations of fraud from all sides, though little evidence seems to have emerged. Absentee voting helped win the Civil War, Blake Stilwell argues at Military.com, in spite of a conspiracy theory alleging fraud that might have unseated Lincoln.

There are several remnants from the time of careful record-keeping, like the pre-printed envelope above that “contained a tally sheet of votes from the soldiers of Highland County the Field Hospital 2nd Division 23rd Army Corps,” notes the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. (The drawing at the top shows Pennsylvania soldiers voting in 1864.) And this is all fascinating stuff. But soldiers are actually absent, which is why they vote absentee, right? I mean, if you’re at home, why can’t you just go to the polling place in the global pandemic in your city that closed all the polling places?

It’s true that civilian mail-in voting often works differently from military absentee voting. While every state offers some version, some restrict it to voters temporarily out of state or suffering an illness. Currently, only “30 states have adopted ‘no-excuse absentee balloting,’ which allows anyone to request an absentee ballot,” Nina Strochlic reports at National Geographic. State laws vary further among those 30.

“In 2000,” for example, “Oregon became the first state to switch to fully vote-by-mail elections." Things have rapidly changed, however. "In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, voters in every state but Mississippi and Texas were allowed to vote by mail or by absentee ballot in this year’s primaries.” If you live in the U.S. (or outside it) and don’t know what happened next… bless you. It involves defunding the post office instead of the police.

Voting by mail has expanded to meet major crises throughout history, says Alex Keyssar, history professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. “That’s the logical trajectory” and “we are not in normal times.” If a highly infectious disease that has killed at least 200,000 Americans on top of ongoing voter suppression and an election security crisis and massive civil unrest and economic turmoil aren't reasons enough to expand the vote-by-mail franchise to every state, I couldn’t say what is.

Should only soldiers have the ability to vote easily? I imagine someone might say YES, loudly over the centerpiece, because voting is a privilege not a right!

You, empowered purveyor of accurate information, understander of absentee voting history, change-maker, will pull out your pocket Constitution and ask someone to find the word “privilege” in amendments that start with “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State,” etc. That'll show 'em. But if the gambit fails to impress, you've still got a better understanding of why voting by mail may not be one of the signs of the end times.

Related Content:

Take The Near Impossible Literacy Test Louisiana Used to Suppress the Black Vote (1964)

Three Public Service Announcements by Frank Zappa: Vote, Brush Your Teeth, and Don’t Do Speed

Sal Khan & the Muppets’ Grover Explain the Electoral College

The Psychology That Leads People to Vote for Extremists & Autocrats: The Theory of Cognitive Closure

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness





  • Great Lectures

  • FREE UPDATES!

    GET OUR DAILY EMAIL

    Get the best cultural and educational resources on the web curated for you in a daily email. We never spam. Unsubscribe at any time.



    FOLLOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA

  • About Us

    Open Culture scours the web for the best educational media. We find the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & educational videos you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.


    Advertise With Us

  • Archives

  • Quantcast