People & Culture

Anthropology, archaeology, sociology, psychology, and cultural phenomena, including public figures.

Ladies First: Exploring the Origins of Chivalry

— Filed under: People & Culture
Let the boy earn his spurs!

Image by One lucky guy via Flickr

It has many meanings, but when we speak of chivalry we are usually talking about respect and courtesy toward women. The concept has its origin in the Middle Ages, when knights were trained and expected to defend the honor of all ladies. This evolved to gentlemen throwing their coat over a patch of mud to allow a lady to pass over it safely, and eventually to holding the door at the entrance of a building and letting ladies go first, among other niceties.

While this respect and kindness toward women was (and is) admirable, it certainly doesn't correspond directly to women's rights per se. These same ladies who were given coats to walk on were not given the right to vote, own property, or in many cases even make their own decisions. And when a man today holds the door open to an office building, it doesn't imply any more respect than is immediately apparent. That same man might very well hold sexist attitudes or make inappropriate comments later in the day.… Continues …

Is Stealing Always Wrong?

— Filed under: People & Culture

The End of the Road for the Barefoot Bandit

— Filed under: Breaking News, People & Culture

Catch me if you can: Colton Harris-MooreCatch me if you can: Colton Harris-Moore

Many of us reacted with a twinge of sadness to the news of Colton Harris-Moore's arrest in the Bahamas over the weekend. Relatively unknown outside the Pacific Northwest, Harris-Moore nevertheless became a teenage folk hero for his ability to confound the police who tried for years to capture him. It seemed as though he would remain one step ahead of the law forever.

Growing up as a troubled youth on Camano Island in Washington state, Harris-Moore often spent nights in the forest when he wasn't in juvenile detention. He ran away from a halfway house in 2008, and started breaking into empty vacation homes on the island.  He ate other people's food, watched their televisions, and soaked in their hot tubs. He became known as "the Barefoot Bandit" because he sometimes committed his crimes with no shoes on. Despite law enforcement's best efforts to catch him, they always seemed to come up empty-handed as Harris-Moore escaped at the last minute. He once left chalk footprints on the floor of a grocery store to taunt police.

What would you prefer be done with your body after you die?

— Filed under: People & Culture

Stoning In the Modern World

— Filed under: Breaking News, Politics & Government, People & Culture
all alone bloody stone

Image by TeeF86 via Flickr

At some time in the near future, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani will have rocks thrown at her until she dies. She'll be buried up to her chest, and then stoned. The stones must be big enough to cause pain, but not big enough to kill her immediately. If Ashtiani can somehow wriggle free, her sentence will be commuted, but what's more likely is that she'll experience a painful death - unless the government of Iran can be convinced to give her a reprieve.

What was her crime? After receiving 99 lashes in front of her children, she admitted to adultery, a confession she later retracted. She was then found guilty using "judge's knowledge", which The Guardian calls "a loophole that allows for subjective judicial rulings where no conclusive evidence is present."… Continues …

Göbekli Tepe: Older Than Stonehenge, Pyramids, Anything

— Filed under: People & Culture
Part of a megalithic structure at Göbekli Tepe...

Image via Wikipedia and Jonas Rejda at the Qatar Academy

Monolith at Göbekli Tepe

When people think of ancient temples, they often think of Stonehenge, which most archaeologists agree was built about 5,000 years ago. But Stonehenge is actually trumped handily by a little-known site in modern-day Turkey called Göbekli Tepe, which is 11,500 years old. The site is composed of circular rings and T-shaped monoliths, many with carvings of animals on them.

Although Göbekli Tepe (which means “potbelly hill”) got a bit of press in 2008 when The Guardian and Smithsonian Magazine ran articles about its newly realized importance, it didn’t really receive the wider public acclaim and notice that it deserved. According to many archaeologists, this is one of the most exciting finds ever unearthed, a real game-changer in terms of our understanding of civilization, settlement, agriculture, and religion.… Continues …

Sexy Russian Spy Disarms, Captures America's Attention

— Filed under: Breaking News, Politics & Government, People & Culture
Anna Chapman
Anna Chapman, the spy we love

Guerrilla marketers for "Salt" or any number of upcoming spy thrillers couldn't have dreamt up anything better for their films than the currently unfolding Russian spy saga dominating headlines. Living normal American lives for the better part of two decades, eleven special agents sent back intelligence on many topics using diverse technologies, including embedding secret messages in digital images.

The details of the spy ring and resulting arrests are still a bit hazy. Daniel Drezner at Foreign Policy is not impressed and a little confused by the whole thing. The Moscow Times quotes several experts who believe it may be an attack on Obama's credibility and his efforts to "reset" relations with Russia.… Continues …

The Right to Joke

— Filed under: People & Culture, Opinion
Hear no evil. Speak no evil. See no evil

Image by smileham via Flickr

At a social gathering recently, a friend of mine made an off-color joke; a slightly naughty comment which contained an element of race but wasn’t centered around it. It didn't play on stereotypes, but it certainly wasn't PC either. It might have offended some people, but to me it was so ridiculous that I didn't take it seriously.

Immediately, we were told that we couldn't joke about such things. One of several reasons given was that it wasn't appropriate because of our status - white males, with associated benefits. It wasn't right for us to make jokes involving people who hadn't had the same advantages that we had had in life. Despite the fact that the joke seemed relatively harmless, the entire topic was off-limits. One litmus test that we agreed upon to determine the acceptability of a joke was whether we'd say it to the face of a person of that race.… Continues …

Turkey and Its Denial of Genocide

— Filed under: Politics & Government, People & Culture

Armenian Deportees walking to SyriaArmenian Deportees walking to SyriaI am writing this article in response to an earlier discussion when a person disputed that these genocides ever occurred. In fact to this day Turkey continues to deny that in the period from 1914 to 1923 it deliberately exterminated and deported its Christian minorities. Today in Turkey, referring to these events as genocide is considered a crime. Recently the Prime minister of Turkey Erdogan warmly embraced Sudan's leader, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Bashir has been accused of genocide by the International Criminal Court. Erdogan's response? "A Muslim can never commit genocide."

Dr. Akcam, Associate Professor of History and Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University, explained that the “continuity” of the “military and civilian bureaucracy,” which has been ruling Turkey ever since the inception of the Republic in 1923, is a key reason for denial of the Armenian Genocide. “The founders perceived the ethnic-cultural plurality of society at that time to constitute a problem for the continuity and security of the state.”

The Largest Mass Poisoning in Human History

— Filed under: People & Culture, Science & Technology
Arsenic poisoning

Image by AJC1 via Flickr

The effects of arsenic poisoning

It has been called "the largest mass poisoning in history" by the World Health Organization, and "beyond the accidents of Bhopal, India, in 1984 and Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986." The exposure of 77 million Bangladeshis (half of the country's population) to toxic levels of arsenic over the past several decades has potentially killed or shortened the lives of millions. On Saturday, the British medical journal The Lancet released the results of a ten-year study of 12,000 Bangladeshis which concluded that fully 20% of deaths were directly attributable to arsenic poisoning from ground-well contamination.

What's more, it appears that reducing their exposure to arsenic doesn't reduce their chances of dying. In short, for those who have already been poisoned, it may take up to twenty years before their health improves.… Continues …

Syndicate content