Tag Archives: European history

The Brothers Grimm: Storytellers and Scholar-Activists

A short fairytale that may or may not be based on a true story: There once was an eight-year old boy who grew up to have a couple of brothers. This was the time before he was have a sister as well. First his birthday, he and a family member went to see Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Later that year, he and one of his brothers joined a group of kids to take a trip to the same movie theater. It was there, that the decision was between Babe Ruth (1991) or Beauty and the Beast again. The boys’ parents had told the two brothers to stay together and go to see the same film. One was interested in Babe Ruth’s story; the other, wanted to see B&B again. The boys went their separate ways, and when the parents’ found out, the brothers were reprimanded. Years later, one boy became a bandwagon Yankee fan, and the other, an aspiring scholar obsessed with story, fantasy and a strong critic of Disney movies.

Who were the Brothers’ Grimm? What was their inspiration? Were their stories original? For a few years now, there have been “re-tellings” of familiar fairytales, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella. NBC’s new drama GRIMM began to pique my curiosity for the source of the stories. When I Googled “The Brothers’ Grimm” and religion, I found some perplexing answers. So, I decided during the Thanksgiving holiday break to do some research.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in Hanau, Germany in 1785 and 1786, nearly a century before the unification of the Prussian provinces. The boys had come from a long line of German Protestant clergy; this is why in the Grimm household, education was of the utmost importance. School for Jacob was much easier than for Wilhelm, but both boys were studious. Their lessons included logic, ethics, French, Greek, Latin, and philosophy by the time what is now considered to be junior high in contemporary U.S. American culture. They attended the University of Marburg, tuition free, despite the fact that they were the sons of a city administrative official all because their mother wrote a letter for an exemption. (See, higher education has always had class barriers). Jacob became renowned for studying Germanic law and comparative linguistics, Wilhelm for his contribution to literature from the Medieval Ages. The Brothers Grimm, originally employed at a library, eventually were hired at the University of Gottingen. Ernst August of Cumberland took over Gottigen, and with one move, dissolved the Constitution, depriving professors of their rights to academic freedom and free speech. Inspired by none other than Martin Luther, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm make political speeches in front of students protesting this tyrannical act. Their reward? Along with 7 other professors, they were canned! The Grimms felt it was their Christian duty to speak for human rights, even if it was contrary to the will of the king.

While the Grimms’ were fascinated with democracy and German Romanticism, they were more interested in the culture of the Volk (pop culture, if you will). The German masses passed down wisdom through the ages, and the Grimms, with a team of writers went from village to village (at times) record fairy tales to have them published. According to certain accounts, the Grimm Brothers’ preferred variation, for not each fairytale was told the same way. Also, Jacob, ever the cultural linguist, desired to have editions of fairy tales from other cultures as well (the Scottish version of Cinderella, the French, etc.). Folk tale traditions did not stop at German borders. Some folk tales were based off true crimes and stories. Others found their inspiration from Norse Mythology. It is this connection with the Nordic past that the folk community fell prey to Nazi propaganda. The Grimm Brothers’ legacy, unfortunately, has been soiled by Disney and Hitler. Each of the heroes from the Grimm Brothers’ tales were converted into loyal Germans to the Third Reich. The Brothers Grimm dreamed of a day when all cultures everywhere could share their stories with other cultures, a dialogical approach to national cultures if you will. The Nazis would have none of the Grimms’ virtue ethic, one of empathy, kindness, gentility, and charity.

Someday, one can hope, the legacy of the Brothers Grimm will be recovered. Someday, when we no longer have Nazis or Disney telling their stories.

For more information on the Brothers Grimm, I would see, The Brothers Grimm and Their Critics by Christa Kamenetsky.

Why Are Forbes Magazines' Writers So Racist?: A Look at the Top 1%

In what should be called “Forbes Hates Racial Minorities Week,” yesterday, John Koppisch wrote an EPIC, and by EPIC, I mean anything-but-groundbreaking racist propaganda against Native Americans. One brilliant commenter called Koppisch out on his B.S.: see in the comment section, dbartecchi’s response. It was informed educated, historically accurate, and written by a white person. **GASP**

Let’s take a look as some of these myths Koppisch is spreading, shall we? One Native American (the lone one interviewed for the article who obvious agrees with Forbes’ side–it’s called racial self-hatred), Yellowtail, says “We accept the myth of communalism. And we don’t value education. We resist it.” Now why in the world would Native Americans not value education for? Could it be that there was an epidemic of colonial violence, sexual abuse, and religious indoctrination at the missionary schools that is just now being uncovered?

Yellowtail’s hope is in his tribe to assimilate to Eurocentrism and the triumph of the religion of corporate capitalism over the traditional religious beliefs of the Crow tribe. The myth that neo-liberals and white supremacist crony-capitalism pushes is that the victims of history are where they are at in life due in large part to their own actions. There is no way that Andrew Jackson ordering the Trail of Tears, the removal of red (red being the racial construction of the dark bodies of Native Americans) bodies from their homes and placed on reservations, where the very worst land and water conditions were provided. The histories of the Native Americans, interconnected with the histories of all colonized peoples read like an open and shut case for Euro-centric thinkers like Koppisch:

“If everyone owns the land, no one does. So the result is substandard housing and the barren, rundown look that comes from a lack of investment, overuse and environmental degradation. It’s a look that’s common worldwide, wherever secure property rights are lacking—much of Africa and South America, inner city housing projects and rent-controlled apartment buildings in the U.S., Indian reservations.”

Wait, how did Africa become a symbol of lack in the first place? And South America? The Inner-city: imperialism, more than a century of racial segregation, but we don’t like to acknowledge those ugly details do we, Mr. Koppisch? For many Native Americans, because of their religious convictions, Vine DeLoria argues that their identity is tied to the land, and not the history of the left/right divide (God is Red, page 61). Crony Capitalism and racists would have us to believe that our religions must be defined by sets of objective belief, and this describes Native Americans conflict with the U.S. American court system (282).

The Native American religionists’ NO to proponents of “private property as prosperity” is a YES to the Spirit of Life, and creation, which respects the “universal planetary history” of all of creation. Tom Koppisch’s view represents the prevailing tribalist viewpoint, that our love for creation should submit to the economic decision makers of the world. But this should not be so, for just as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued, to deny religious freedom is to deny our equality before God.

But that’s the points of Corporatism, isn’t it? Capitalism, as libertarians and free marketers argue, has little need for notions of economic equality. Shoving lies down people’s throats, telling others that the victims in life (particularly the darker peoples) are lazy all the while the Powers that Be offer handouts to the Status Quo.