Author: Danielle Cheffo

Being Part of Something

Marcos Perez discussed what it is like to be a revolutionary. He asked multiple questions such as, what is it like to be on the front lines of a revolution, how much do revolutions matter, where is a revolution more likely to occur, why do people join revolutions and why do some people make substantial sacrifices while others do not? The last two questions are the most interesting to me. Perez discussed the psychological aspects of revolutions and revolutionaries. He explained the main idea of why people join revolutionaries revolves around coming together with other people. Although everyone wants to be unique and an individual, people like to enter crowds and become something greater than themselves. However, this doesn’t only relate to revolutions. It is clear how people like to join in groups by looking at concerts, churches and sports games. All the excitement and people around you affect the way you behave. In revolutions, this is even more true.

Revolutions are similar to those events in the way they make people lose their individuality in a big group, but there are obviously many differences. One of them relates to the question, why do people make substantial sacrifices while others do not? Joining a revolution means risking your life and often do not have any immediate benefits. Revolutions are crucial in our society because they are the catalysis for social change. There is a tremendous amount of discrimination in our world, which means that there will always be something that needs to be changed. There will always be people who are upset because they are treated unfairly. People join revolutions when they feel strongly about what the revolution stands for, no matter the consequences. We see this today in the Black Lives Matter movement, the feminist movement and many more. Since the election, there have been many protests against Donald Trump. The people protesting believe strongly in what they are fighting for.

It is crucial that we have revolutionaries to stand up and fight for what they believe needs to be changed because in our society, a lot needs to be changed. It is not always easy because there are many consequences, but there are even more consequences if nothing is done. It is extremely powerful seeing tons of people come together to protest. Growing up in New York, there were protests going on all around me. The internet and social media provided information about when, where and what the protests were about, which made it easier for many people, sometimes me, to show up. After Trump was elected, my entire newsfeed consisted of posts on information about protests occurring throughout the city. Most of the people posting were high school students who want to make a change. That is all it takes to be a revolutionary and it is extremely important. There are a lot of things that need to be changed in our society so it is important we understand why people join revolutions and what that means.

We are Revolutionary

Bruno Latour claims we have never been modern, and therefore we have never been revolutionary. He argues that the modernist distinction between nature and culture has never existed. Things are constantly changing and evolving in our world. In a revolution, normally we think of a new specific idea or change replacing the old, but Latour believes that if things are constantly changing, no one thing can be called revolutionary. However, I think we are definitely revolutionary.

If you ask people to name something revolutionary, they will most likely mention the American or French Revolution, however, revolutions do not only include these huge fights with the government. Revolutions are just simply a change in thought. For example, there are many revolutionary scientific theories. One of them is Charles Darwin’s discovery about evolution by natural selection. We even had a lecture on the Darwian Revolution in this class from Judy Stone. Darwin showed how survival and reproduction of organisms was a natural process due to differences in phenotype. His discovery explained how and why evolution works. This was so revolutionary that there were and still are people who doubt it. It can be hard for people to come to terms with certain facts because such a big change in thought can be difficult to understand. However, this shows how Darwin’s discovery was truly revolutionary.

Another example of an extremely revolutionary scientific theory is Nicolaus Copernicus’ work published in 1543, known as heliocentrism. He discovered that the sun stayed still in the middle of the universe, while earth and the other planets rotated around it. This is another theory that was doubted for a long time because it was so revolutionary. However, not only scientific theories and overthrowing of governments are revolutionary, but also certain inventions of things such as technology can be revolutionary.

The internet is revolutionary. It has drastically changed the way people interact, provides a tremendous amount of information and allows people to do a lot that we could not do before. Although the internet is always transforming and new material is added to it, it is still revolutionary.

Revolutions are always occurring around the world. Sometimes they are big and sometimes they are small, but they are definitely happening. Professor Keith Peterson’s lecture was very interesting and made me think a lot about our world and what being modern and revolutionary truly means. Modern is a complicated term because new things and ideas are constantly becoming available so it can be difficult to differentiate what is actually modern. This leads to difficulty in differentiating what is actually revolutionary. However, I believe that we are revolutionary and that each revolution changes our society and the course of history around the world.

The Importance of Understanding

Living in New York City, I pass by many historical monuments. There is one in particular that I see almost every day – Grand Army Plaza. The plaza consists of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch, the Bailey Fountain, the John F. Kennedy Monument, statues of Civil War generals, busts of notable Brooklyn citizens, and two 12-sided gazebos. The location of the plaza was the location of the Battle of Long Island, which was the first battle of the American Revolution. Even though I see this plaza very frequently, up until recently, I was not sure exactly what the history was behind it. Unfortunately, I don’t think I am alone on this. There are a tremendous amount of historical monuments everywhere in the world that people could point out, but the historical meanings behind all of them are definitely not as well known.

In his lecture, Jeffrey Schnapp discussed the ways he was making the historical meaning more clear for he Monumento alla Vittoria by renovating a monument so people can visit and learn about it. This was a very beneficial and effective way of teaching the historical meaning because it can be very difficult for a monument itself to convey the historical meaning. It is important to understand the historical meanings behind monuments because without understanding the history, it is impossible to truly appreciate and understand the monument.

It is crucial to understand the historical meanings of monuments, even if the meaning is considered something bad. For example, there have been and still are many racist monuments throughout the U.S. because the U.S. has a long history with racism. However, it is still important to understand the historical meaning behind these monuments so that our country can learn and grow and move away from racist ideas. At the end of his talk, Professor Shnapp discussed a little bit on this topic. He stated that sometimes it is more important to have these bad monuments than destroying them. Although I believe it depends on what the monument is, I do generally agree with his point. It goes along with Winston Churchill’s quote, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Ultimately, if there is a monument that is causing problems, then it should be taken down, however, having bad historical monuments has the opportunity to show and remind people how horrible ideas were in the past so that we can stop the discrimination. Racism has been ingrained in our society for a very long time and there are certain monuments that reflect that. This can help to decrease racism because people will see what people in the past believed and hopefully they will act differently.

Obviously, there are too many monuments in the world to understand the historical meaning for all of them but it is crucial that people try to learn more about them. Professor Schnapp’s project was a great way to teach people the historical meaning about a monument and more needs to be done along those lines.

Oversimplification

Everyone has heard and could tell you about the American and French Revolutions. The American Revolution was a fight for liberty from British rule and the French were fighting for liberty within their own country. However, the Haitian Revolution is less known about. The Haitian Revolution was an anti-slavery insurrection that took place from 1791 to 1804. The Revolution was successful and led to a state free of slavery. This is a very important event in our world’s history, however, unformatted, it has not been as researched or discussed as other revolutions, such as the American and French ones.

In most middle and high schools in America, many history lessons are oversimplified and leave out many important facts. It is impossible to teach every little thing about each topic, but it is crucial that significant events, such as the Haitian Revolution aren’t left out completely. The Haitian Revolution can be used in many ways to help complicate people’s understanding about other important historical events as well, such as the Holocaust. After hearing Jeremy Popkin’s talk about comparing it to the American and French Revolutions, I was lucky to hear him again in my history class. He discussed some comparisons between the Haitian Revolution and the Holocaust. The link between these two significant historical events is the subject of testimonies of survivors.

Memoirs are important to understanding events that occurred in the past because it enables people to hear from different perspectives. Popkin argues that all survivor testimonies, even from the perpetrators’ side are important because without them, you don’t get a full understanding of the event. Survivor testimonies not only help to complete the story, but they provide an emotional aspect that textbooks and other sources cannot. By reading stories wrote by real people, readers can relate and emphasize with the writer, which will most likely provide more interest to the reader and make the topic more important to them.

The Holocaust, being one of the talked about events in history, obviously has a tremendous amount of literature and survivor memoirs. This makes it easy for schools to teach the subject. However, even with all this literature there is still oversimplification and debate on the Holocaust. For example, in Popkin’s essay, “Tales of Survival: From the Haitian Insurrection to the Holocaust,” he writes about the question of uniqueness of the Holocaust. Some scholars believe this event to be truly unique due to the scale of brutality, but Popkin states that this belief is problematic because it “inevitably trivializes” other events in history, such as other genocides or the Haitian Revolution. However, we learn more about both the Haitian Revolution and the Holocaust by comparing survivor testimonies. Some similarities that Popkin wrote about were the horrific acts both the Jews in Germany and the black population in Haiti had to endure. For example, they were both victims of many episodes of mass slaughter.

Although there is not as much information out there on the Haitian Revolution, that does not make it any less significant. It should be taught in schools along with the other revolutions. The Haitian Revolution is a very important event in our history and deserves to be understood.

Data Everywhere

What is data? The term entered the English language in 1600s and means “a thing given.” But what does that actually mean and why is data important to us? Aaron Halon’s lecture explained how important data is and how the data available to us has consistently been growing and improving. This is helpful for us because there are many topics that we wouldn’t have as much information on if we didn’t have access to this data. As time has progressed, so did the definition of data. Over time data became more of a synonym to evidence.

In our world, there are many things that wouldn’t be able to exist without data. For example, sports games, many companies, economics, marketing, recording scientific experiments and many other things are all depended on the usage of data. Data is essential to almost everything. Professor Halon discussed how data has changed overtime and how it is becoming modernized. He explained how data and evidence have started to become more interchangeable and now images are sometimes considered more important than words. Our society has become very dependent on visuals. The majority of people are more likely to look at a graph, or a cartoon than to read an entire journal article or an entire newspaper or essay. We are extremely dependent on computers, iPhones and other technological devices, which causes images to surround us everywhere. Visuals usually make things easier to understand, so without data we would be missing out on a lot of information. This is why it is revolutionary.

Professor Halon argues that data becomes revolutionary when it becomes the main source of evidence. However, this brings up the question of how reliable and effective is it to use data as the main source of evidence. Obviously, numbers are reliable because they are the exact values received in an experiment, or sports game or any other event, but turning these numbers into graphs or charts may not be as reliable as the numbers themselves. For example, in one of the previous lectures, Judy Stone mentioned how visuals are important in textbooks to better people’s understanding of the topic, but that sometimes they are inaccurate. This is a problem since we rely so heavily on visuals now. It is obviously important to supply accurate data.

Since data is essential to almost everything in our society, there is lots and lots of it. This brings up the question of what to do with all of it. Professor Halon talked about this as the problem with “big data.” Data is becoming more modernized, but there is still room for improvement. As data continues to become used interchangeably with evidence, and the revolution grows we will find more ways to effectively use data in beneficial ways. Data is a fundamental took in everyone’s lives and it is crucial that it is used accurately.

Appreciate Diversity

Unfortunately, diversity is not appreciated well in our world today. Actually, it is pretty much the opposite. People are consistently discriminated against due to their differences. We have seen this in the Holocaust, slavery, workplace discrimination against women, and many others. This can be traced back to evolution, natural selection, and Charles Darwin. Professor Judy Stone’s talk was called, “The Unfinished Business of Darwinian Revolution,” which is an appropriate name because there is certain information that is misleading and needs to be talked about more. This misunderstood information leads to discrimination and inequality in our world today.

Professor Stone expressed how the typical evolution photo is misleading for multiple reasons, one being that it depicts evolution as moving towards a goal. This is dangerous idea because it makes it seem like there is a better or more superior type compared to others. Professor Stone shared the quote, “If species are types, then variation is imperfection” and explained how this idea needs to be overturned. It is extremely important to have variation within species because it shows how much diversity is possible. However, it is clear that our society is not totally onboard with this idea.

Obviously there have been many tragic events in our history where people’s differences were the cause of their suffering. There have also been experiments done to clearly show how people’s differences can lead to discrimination extremely easily. One example of this is a lesson that a lower school teacher, Jane Elliot, taught in 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, to teach her students about discrimination. It is known as the “Blue eyes – Brown eyes” exercise. She split her students up by eye color and on the first day of the exercise she told them that the blue-eyed children were the superior group. Those in the superior group became arrogant and bossy while those in the inferior group became quieter and more submissive without their teacher telling them that this is how they should act. Her students were third graders and did not really understand the idea of discrimination, but they still easily played into it due to the way people looked. This is a prime example of how diversity can lead to discrimination, even in young children who don’t even understand it.

The topic of evolution has been brought up in many of the Continuing Revolutions lectures, which shows how revolutionary it truly is. It causes us to change the way we think and explore new ideas. However, as Professor Stone stated, it is necessary that there is more effective outreach in this topic. This is crucial in order to change our negative thinking about people’s differences. We are definitely making progress, but there are still many instances where the things that make people unique and different are looked down upon and made fun of. Hopefully, as this revolution continues, more people will be aware of the greatness of diversity and discrimination can be decreased.

Climate Change as a Revolution

Kerry Emanuel’s lecture was very interesting. Climate change science is crucial to understand, yet it is not talked about as much as it should be. Climate change science dates back all the way to the 19th century, but it hasn’t been well established until somewhat recently. Today it can and should be considered revolutionary because of all the climate issues we are currently dealing with and living through. There are people that try to deny climate change and say it doesn’t exist so it is very important that people hear talks like this and that the information spreads.

Emanuel clearly stated that there is lots of evidence the that the atmosphere is warming up. He said, “there is no dispute” about that. After understanding how clear it is that climate change exists, it is important to understand more about climate change science as a revolution. Emanuel talked a lot about curiosity. He said that discoveries are found not necessarily by scientists knowing what they are doing, but rather by their curiosity. Curiosity keeps people interested and continually leads to new findings. It led to new understandings about ice ages when geologists were searching for explanations of “erratics” and complicated our understanding of climate change when scientists were curious about why the surface was warm in the first place.

Each discovery leads to more curiosity which leads to another discovery and so on. Emanuel spoke about how each discovery comes together to help create a revolution in science. Climate change science has been around for a long time, but it is continually progressing and being understood more and more. One of the reasons climate change science is so revolutionary is because it shows the vast amount of evidence that climate change is real and proves those that try to deny climate change wrong. It shows everyone on earth that something needs to be done. It leads to questions such as, what can be done to help save our planet, is it too late to reverse the problems humans have caused the planet, when will it be too late?

Climate change is not a theory or a belief, it is a scientific fact. It is important that this information is shared with everyone and continually discussed. Curiosity drives science and always leads to new discoveries. By learning the facts about climate change science, people will hopefully come up with more questions and become more curious so that we learn more and more about our planet and the ways we are hurting it and the ways we can help it. Scientists are discovering new things every day, but it is not their job to fix all of the issues humans are causing to the earth. We all need to learn the facts and help to fix this major problem that effects all of us.

Always Changing

Social media is everywhere and it has major effects on the world every day. More than 78% of Americans have a social media account and almost 2 billion people worldwide use some sort of social media. It allows people to have a public space to talk, meet new people and discover new things. It is a prime space for people to talk about politics, and revolutions. Social media is an important aspect of starting revolutions and making a change, but it is not enough. There needs to be more action taken after the social media posts to truly make a difference in what people are fighting for.

Although it can’t be the only tactic in a revolution, social media can have many advantages. Khalid Albaih talked about the advantage of social media versus main stream media. He mentioned how main stream sources are sometimes own by one person or company so people are only hearing from one perspective, which can provide inaccurate information. Social media, on the other hand, is available to everyone so there are many different perspectives. Another advantage is that people post first hand experiences and say exactly what they saw or how they feel. Social media plays a huge role in allowing people to express their opinions and start a movement. However, it definitely has its disadvantages as well.

Since social media is constantly changing based on what is going on around the world, many posts on certain subjects are forgotten about quickly. Albaih mentioned how it is normal that one week everyone will be talking about something and then the next it will be irrelevant on social media because there will be a new interesting topic to discuss and debate. Due to this constant change in topic, it is extremely difficult to make much of a change using only social media. However, that being said, social media is a good place to start for a movement or revolution and then work up to taking more actions and forcing governments to take actions to make the change.

Albaih’s work is a great way of making people understand what is going on around the world and want to take action to make a change. He expressed how his cartoons are a good way to express his opinions and art is a good way to do this because it is a universal language. Art plays a huge role in social and political movements because everyone can understand it. It was interesting when Albaih said that people draw and write on walls, not because they are all amazing artists, but because it is an efficient way of expressing themselves and sharing their opinions with the public. This is similar to the way social media works. However, social media posts are there one week and disappear the next and art remains for longer. Albaih combines his art and social media by posting his cartoons on social media platforms.

Social media, with its advantages and disadvantages, impacts our society every day. Albaih’s work shows us how social media can have a positive and beneficial effect in political and social movements. Social media should be continued to be used for expressing opinions and learning different perspectives but it can’t stop there.

The Unknown Revolution

The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 was the most destructive explosion on earth. Around eleven thousand people were killed directly by the eruption, while thousands of other people were killed by disease and starvation. It was a horrible year for crops, diseases were spreading and there were floods and droughts. Clearly the eruption of Mount Tambora had serious impacts to humans and the environment, however, before Professor Gillen Wood’s talk, I had never really heard about it in much detail and I don’t think many others have either. Professor Wood’s research about the eruption is extremely important because the eruption was definitely revolutionary and is still relevant to our world today.

The 1815 eruption caused 1816 to be the Year Without a Summer. It was the coldest and windiest year resulting in food shortages, flooding and other disasters. Professor Wood talked about the connections between Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein and the 1815 eruption. He said that Frankenstein foreshadowed the victims and their fears. I found this extremely interesting because I don’t really think about connections between literature and the natural world, but there are definitely many connections. This fear that Shelley talked about is related to the topic of psychological phenomenon that Professor Wood discussed. Obviously there were physical and visual damages of the Mount Tambora eruption, but the psychological aspect is maybe not as obvious, but extremely interesting and significant. People were migrating trying to find better homes, more food and escape the spread of diseases. Professor Wood mentioned that violence started to occur due to the famine. Individuals experiencing the famine started to use violence and then state violence occurred to try to repress the masses. Another saddening aspect of the Year Without a Summer that Professor Wood described was how some women killed their babies because they couldn’t bare to see them starve. There were many horrific things that happened all leading back to the 1815 Mount Tambora Eruption that is still a mystery to many people.

Although the eruption happened 200 years ago, it could definitely happen again today. Volcano eruptions cannot be predicted and especially not the severity of the eruption. Professor Wood compared the climate shock experienced then to what we are experiencing today due to the zika virus, floods in Louisiana and forest fires. The eruption of Mount Tambora was a significant event in history and is still relevant to today, so it should be talked about more often.

Professor Wood’s talk showed how by looking at the eruption through different lenses we can see how humans are connected to natural disasters. At the end of his talk he returned back to Mary Shelley and explained how Frankenstein was a literary response to the climate disaster. He explained that we are vulnerable and Shelley’s book let us see into the refugee’s mind. I believe that the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1915 was truly revolutionary. It greatly impacted the world and is still relevant today.

Revolutionary Revolution

Carl Sagan, who was an American astronomer, once said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Science is all about discovering new things and changing the way we think and understand the world. The Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries did just that. However, there are some people that argue that the Scientific Revolution was actually not all that scientific and others argue that it was not very revolutionary. Although it took place over the span of 200 years and there might have been flaws to some of the science that was done, in the end, the Scientific Revolution led to many new discoveries that are still relevant today and greatly impacted the world in a variety of different ways. Due to this, the Scientific Revolution should be considered extremely important and definitely revolutionary.

Science is constantly everywhere around us. We hear and learn about new experiments and discoveries every day, but there still isn’t one simple answer to what counts as scientific. It is a complex concept, which lead to people disagreeing about whether the Scientific Revolution can be defined as truly scientific or not. Professor Cohen stated that some important people from the Scientific Revolution, such as Nicholas Copernicus and Isaac Newton, might not be considered “true scientists.” One reason for this was because one of the reasons Copernicus believed the sun was in the center of the solar system was because “it is so noble.” This discovery was remarkable for multiple reasons. First of all, his belief that people should switch to a heliocentric view was accurate and necessary. His hypothesis was not based on just his opinion, but also lots of math and observations. And second of all, not only was his hypothesis correct, but by conducting research and sharing his results, he was going against the Bible, which was not something many people did at this time. People relied on the Bible and God to answer their questions or uncertainties, but scientists during the Scientific Revolution, such as Copernicus, completely changed the way we think about our solar system and many scientists after him used his discoveries for further research. Although not all of his research might meet the requirements for modern science and not all of it was accurate, it definitely impacted science and definitely contributed to making the Scientific Revolution revolutionary.

The Scientific Revolution differs from what we normally think of when we hear the term “revolution.” As Professor Cohen explained, it wasn’t extremely violent and it happened over the course of many years, but the fact that it is still discussed so much today and so many of the discoveries are still relevant today is truly revolutionary. The Scientific Revolution involved people questioning what everyone believed to be true and disproving it. This is such a huge part of science. Scientists from this time, such as Copernicus, influenced people to question what was known and completely changed the way people thought about the world. That is revolutionary.