The Kingdom of Wisdom, the Isle of Knowledge, and other whimsical geographic representations of the human condition
I love maps.
There's something about cartography that lends itself to visualizing
much more than land and geography. I've previously looked at how the London tube map
was appropriated as a visual metaphor for everything from The Milky Way
to the Kabbalah, and today we turn to seven cartographic
interpretations of the human condition, using the visual vocabulary of
classical maps to interpret various facets of the human psyche--a genre
that came of age during the late Renaissance, when it became known as
The Kingdom of Wisdom
In 1961, Norton Juster wrote The Phantom Tollbooth, a timeless children's classic and one of our essential children's books
with philosophy for grown-ups. It tells the story of a bored little boy
named Milo who one day receives a magic tollbooth that transports him
to a fantasy land called The Kingdom of Wisdom.
Though at first he gets lost in the Doldrums, a grey place where
thinking and laughing are not allowed, he goes on to incredible
adventures before returning to his own room as magically as he had left
This map by mid-century American cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who illustrated the book, depicts the marvelous land that Milo finds himself in as he follows his own curiosity.
Isle of Knowledge
Last week, delicious new work by designer Marian Bantjes (whose latest book, I Wonder, is among the most ambitious and beautiful visual communication volumes ever published) made the rounds--and for good reason: Isle of Knowledge
is a beautifully illustrated map of "the 'known' beyond which lie
monsters," created for the second installment in Bantjes's column for U.K.
illustration magazine Varoom on the theme of "Knowledge."
English artist Grayson Perry's 2004 Map of an Englishman
portrays his mind in a mock-Tudor etch of an imaginary island,
surrounded by the "seas" of his perceived psychological flaws--desires,
vanities, prejudices, fears. The island itself is vaguely brain-shaped,
turning the map into a kind of cartographic phrenology of the self.
Image courtesy of Grayson Perry and The Paragon Press via BBC
Carte de Tendre
Carte de Tendre
(Map of Tenderness) is a 17th-century French map by the writer
Madeleine de Scudéry depicting the peaks and valleys of amorous pursuit,
from the River of Inclination to Lake of Indifference to the Great
Spirit. With its undetermined itinerary that offers you multiple routes
to Tenderness, it's part map, part choose-your-own-adventure narrative
The Empire of Love
We first featured this extraordinary antique German map of Das Reich der Liebe
(The Empire of Love) more than three years ago, and it remains an
absolute favorite. Created by Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf in 1777,
it's a pinnacle of sentimental cartography, as detailed and obsessive
as love itself.
If you don't sprechen Sie Deutch, here's the gist:
DER JUGEND = Land of Youth (Forest of Love, Kiss Field, Flirting Game,
Charm Castle, Stream of Wishes, Worry-Free, Joy's Home, Beautiful House,
Source of Joy, Sweet Look, Wisecrack Place, Rich River, Warning Castle)
GABIET DER RUHE = Land of Rest (Nightcap, Grandfather City, Equanimity, Manly Place)
DER TRAURENDEN LIEBE = Land of Mourning Love (Anger's Home, Flood of
Tears, Whim Mountain, Complaint Place, Hopeless Mountains, Loathing,
Strict Place, Swamp of Profanity, Desert of Melancholy)
GABIET DER LUSTE = Land of Lust (Illness Valley, Weak Home, Intoxication Field, Lechery, Hospital)
GABIET DER GLUCKLICHEN LIEBE = Land of Happy Love (Lust Wood, Answered
Prayers, Pleasant View, Enjoyment, Tenderness, Good Times, Affection
Farm, Satisfaction, Compliance Mountain, Fountain of Joy, Marriage
Harbor, Reward City, Peace of Mind, Bliss Town)
GABIET DER HAGESTOLZE
= Bachelor Country (Stupidity Town, Rejection Place, Irritation,
Indifference, Place of Contempt, Reprehensibility, Old Age Mountains,
Separation, Hat, Obstinacy, Wrangler Hall, Exasperation Heath, Hamlet of
Death, Sea of Doubt)
GABIET DER FIXEN IDEEN = Land of Obsessions
(Place of Sighs, Desire Town, Unrest, City of Dreams, Bridge of Hope,
Disloyalty, Sweet River of Tears, Little Town of Instincts)
Trump's election has reopened questions that have long seemed settled in America—including the acceptability of open discrimination against minority groups.
When Stephen Bannon called his website, Breitbart, the “platform for the alt-right” this summer, he was referring to a movement that promotes white nationalism and argues that the strength of the United States is tied to its ethnic European roots. Its members mostly stick to trolling online, but much of what they do isn’t original or new: Their taunts often involve vicious anti-Semitism. They make it clear that Jews are not included in their vision of a perfect, white, ethno-state.
On the opposite side of American politics, many progressive groups are preparing to mount a rebellion against Donald Trump. They see solidarity among racial minorities as their goal, and largely blame Trump’s election on racism and white supremacy. Three-quarters of American Jews voted against Trump, and many support this progressive vision. Some members of these groups, though, have singled out particular Jews for their collusion with oppressive power—criticisms which range from inflammatory condemnations of Israel to full-on conspiracies about global Jewish media and banking cabals.
Confronting racism can be crucial, even when it’s not persuasive.
In the brushfire wars since Donald Trump won the presidency, skirmishes over how to speak to his coalition of voters have consumed liberals. Leading the vanguard in those conversations is a collection of writers and thinkers of otherwise divergent views, united by the painful process of reexamining identity politics, social norms, and—most urgently—how to address racism in an election clearly influenced by it. Though earnest and perhaps necessary, their emphasis on the civil persuasion of denizens of "middle America" effectively coddles white people. It mistakes civility for the only suitable tool of discourse, and persuasion as its only end.
This exploration of how to best win over white Americans to the liberal project is exemplified by reactions to Hillary Clinton’s placing many of Donald Trump’s supporters in a “basket of deplorables.” The debate about whether to classify these voters as racist or bigoted for supporting a candidate who constantly evinced views and policies many believe to be bigoted is still raging. As Dara Lind at Vox expertly notes, Clinton’s comments themselves were inartful precisely because they seemed focused solely on “overt” manifestations of racism, like Klan hoods and slurs. That focus ignores the ways in which white supremacy and patriarchy can function as systems of oppression, tends to forgive the more refined and subtle racism of elites, and may ultimately lead to a definition of racism in which no one is actually racist and yet discrimination remains ubiquitous.
In 12 of 16 past cases in which a rising power has confronted a ruling power, the result has been bloodshed.
When Barack Obama meets this week with Xi Jinping during the Chinese president’s first state visit to America, one item probably won’t be on their agenda: the possibility that the United States and China could find themselves at war in the next decade. In policy circles, this appears as unlikely as it would be unwise.
And yet 100 years on, World War I offers a sobering reminder of man’s capacity for folly. When we say that war is “inconceivable,” is this a statement about what is possible in the world—or only about what our limited minds can conceive? In 1914, few could imagine slaughter on a scale that demanded a new category: world war. When war ended four years later, Europe lay in ruins: the kaiser gone, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, the Russian tsar overthrown by the Bolsheviks, France bled for a generation, and England shorn of its youth and treasure. A millennium in which Europe had been the political center of the world came to a crashing halt.
Retired officers like James Mattis who are nominated for civilian posts should be judged on their merits—not disqualified on the basis of their past service.
President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement that he intends to nominate retired Marine General James Mattis as his secretary of defense has drawn criticism from those who fear that installing a retired officer in the Pentagon would jeopardize civilian control of the military. Those critics are mistaken. Previous service in uniform shouldn’t disqualify nominees, and, as the Iraq war demonstrated, civilians with no military experience are perfectly capable of making catastrophic mistakes themselves.
It is a mystery how a phrase that is both as ungrammatical and incorrect as “civilian control of the military” has become so widely accepted. First the grammar—“military” is an adjective, not a noun. The institution is the “armed forces.” When used correctly, the adjective raises real issues—“the military mind,” or “the military-industrial complex,” for example. Used in sloppy fashion as a noun, the word evokes a somewhat sinister blob of an institution, attitude, culture, and pressure group.
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
A child psychologist argues punishment is a waste of time when trying to eliminate problem behavior. Try this instead.
Say you have a problem child. If it’s a toddler, maybe he smacks his siblings. Or she refuses to put on her shoes as the clock ticks down to your morning meeting at work. If it’s a teenager, maybe he peppers you with obscenities during your all-too-frequent arguments. The answer is to punish them, right?
Not so, says Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Parenting Center. Punishment might make you feel better, but it won’t change the kid’s behavior. Instead, he advocates for a radical technique in which parents positively reinforce the behavior they do want to see until the negative behavior eventually goes away.
As I was reporting my recent series about child abuse, I came to realize that parents fall roughly into three categories. There’s a small number who seem intuitively to do everything perfectly: Moms and dads with chore charts that actually work and snack-sized bags of organic baby carrots at the ready. There’s an even smaller number who are horrifically abusive to their kids. But the biggest chunk by far are parents in the middle. They’re far from abusive, but they aren’t super-parents, either. They’re busy and stressed, so they’re too lenient one day and too harsh the next. They have outdated or no knowledge of child psychology, and they’re scrambling to figure it all out.
To many white Trump voters, the problem wasn’t her economic stance, but the larger vision—a multi-ethnic social democracy—that it was a part of.
Perhaps the clearest takeaway from the November election for many liberals is that Hillary Clinton lost because she ignored the working class.
In the days after her shocking loss, Democrats complained that Clinton had no jobs agenda. A widely shared essay in The Nationblamed Clinton's "neoliberalism" for abandoning the voters who swung the election. “I come from the white working class,” Bernie Sanders said on CBS This Morning, “and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to where I came from.”
But here is the troubling reality for civically minded liberals looking to justify their preferred strategies: Hillary Clinton talked about the working class, middle class jobs, and the dignity of work constantly. And she still lost.
Life in Ohio's proud but economically abandoned small towns
Just over a decade ago, Matt Eich started photographing rural Ohio. Largely inhabited by what is now known as the “Forgotten Class” of white, blue-collar workers, Eich found himself drawn to the proud but economically abandoned small towns of Appalachia. Thanks to grants from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and Getty Images, Eich was able to capture the family life, drug abuse, poverty, and listlessness of these communities. “Long before Trump was a player on the political scene, long before he was a Republican, these people existed and these problems existed,” Eich said. His new book, Carry Me Ohio, published by Sturm and Drang, is a collection of these images and the first of four books he plans to publish as part of The Invisible Yoke, a photographic meditation on the American condition. Even with a deep knowledge of the region, Eich was unprepared for the fury and energy that surrounded the election this year. “The anger is overpowering,” he said. “I knew what was going on, and I’m still surprised. I should have listened to the pictures.”
The High Court will hear two cases related to a crucial issue––how states draw their legislative districts.
On March 26, 1962, Justice Felix Frankfurter read a thunderous dissent from the Supreme Court bench. The case, Baker v. Carr, challenged a Tennessee state system of legislative districts that consciously awarded rural districts greater political power than urban districts of the same population. The Court’s decision was technical—it held only that a lower federal court had the authority to hear the urban voters’ challenge to districting that valued their votes far less than those of rural voters. That lower court had dismissed the case as posing a “political question,” meaning that it was for elected officials, not judges, to resolve.
The Supreme Court majority, however, held that the case arose under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause—and that it thus posed the same kind of legal, not political, question as a challenge to any other unequal state policy. Federal courts could and did decide such cases all the time, and this one should be no exception.
A century ago, millions of Americans banded together in defense of white, Christian America and traditional morality—and most of their compatriots turned a blind eye to the Ku Klux Klan.
On August 8, 1925, more than 50,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan paraded through Washington, D.C. Some walked in lines as wide as 20 abreast, while others created formations of the letter K or a Christian cross. A few rode on horseback. Many held American flags. Men and women alike, the marchers carried banners emblazoned with the names of their home states or local chapters, and their procession lasted for more than three hours down a Pennsylvania Avenue lined with spectators. National leaders of the organization were resplendent in colorful satin robes and the rank and file wore white, their regalia adorned with a circular red patch containing a cross with a drop of blood at its center.
Nearly all of the marchers wore pointed hoods, but their faces were clearly visible. In part, that was because officials would sanction the parade only if participants agreed to walk unmasked. But a mask was not really necessary, as most members of the Klan saw little reason to hide their faces. After all, there were millions of them in the United States.