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11/19/20- "Humanity at Night"

Today, I want to share Humanity at Night, an essay written by Sarah Fine, a senior philosophy lecturer at King's College. In this piece, she traces the impact of art on those who were imprisoned at Nazi concentration camps and on refugees today. While she was reading six autobiographies recounting experiences from the Holocaust, Ms. Fine discovered a common thread: art. She points out that, in Elie Wiesel's Night, a violinist's performance in the camps is one of the most moving moments of the book and was remembered by Wiesel as a moment of pure hope and light in such a dark place. Ms. Fine also pulls excerpts from the other autobiographies she read and discusses the importance of music during that time, and how that was reflected in the writing.

Then, she shifts focus to refugees today, specifically to a man named Behrouz Boochani, who was imprisoned in Manus Island's detention center (see our blog about the center here). While he was being held there, he relied on his poetry book and folk ballads to bring joy. Ms. Fine notes that Boochani said, "the only people who can overcome and survive all the suffering inflicted by the prison are those who exercise creativity." Similarly to what the man held in Manus Island in our previous blog said, Boochani pointed out that singing, dancing, or playing music was seen as an act of defiance and humanity within the camp.

Finally, the essay speaks to the importance of investing in the arts and recognizing their potential to save lives and bring hope. Ms. Fine writes, "As we have seen, [the arts] matter to people, as sources of meaning and beauty, of hope and solace, of escape and liberation. They matter to people as expressions of their humanity, tenacity, love and defiance."

I think that this essay makes it very clear how important music has been in the lives of refugees throughout time, regardless of location. The happiness and relief music can bring is universal, and, as Ms. Fine pointed out, it is critical to continue supporting the arts and their ability to heal.

You can read Ms. Fine's essay here: https://aeon.co/essays/in-times-of-crisis-the-arts-are-weapons-for-the-soul?fbclid=IwAR3vkzEBqUYDXvOKLaB0aN6ozKlMKIN_U6sMSoSbZFncdbNQXfGXxm7YBes


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"Music is the universal language of mankind."

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow