A slump in the diamond polishing industry centered in the Indian city of Surat has led to the layoffs of upwards of 100,000 people, and that situation is expected to get worse this fall. No one is exactly sure what’s gone wrong – or more likely, several things are to blame. In any case, the situation has become dire for the people who eke out a living shaping the stones people around the world pay top dollar to put on their fingers and hang around their necks.
Art, after all, doesn’t just exist in the time it was created. It speaks to us from the time of its creation, sometimes whispering and sometimes screaming, always waiting for us to hear. And this particular painting has a lot to tell us about influence, privilege, crime and humiliation.
Amsterdam in 1655 was a boomtown: bustling, crowded, welcoming ships from around the world into is busy port. In other words, it was ripe for an outbreak of plague.
I may not know why the caged bird sings. But I sure as hell know why the tethered goldfinch just sits there staring at you. He’s pleading for help. Because if he didn’t have that chain on his ankle, he’d be off flying in search of a plot.
Right-wing alarmists complain that political correctness runs amok. Imagine their despair to learn the Amsterdam Museum banned the phrase “Golden Age.” The reason: the golden years weren’t golden for everyone. But terms like “Golden Age” make history more accessible, and god help us, we need to talk about our history more if we want to change our future.
Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel was the most forward-thinking rabbi in Amsterdam, if not the world, in the 1600s. He was considered the most famous Jew in Europe then, but he struggled to find respect among his neighbors. He’s still an inspiring figure today.
True tolerance — not grudging, not hesitatingly offered. That’s a model of how we should act and the kind of country we should be. Between Locke and Spinoza, one of these philosophers had a vision for it – and the man who inspired the American Revolution wasn’t it.
I’m already itching to start writing the next one. Yes. I said it. There will be a second book in this series — I said it, a series. I’m thinking five books to do it right. Plus maybe extra books on the side for some of the characters. Who knows, maybe ten when all is said and done. The more I research, the more potential I see.