1992 — S.I. Hayakawa dies

A noted populariser of the ideas of Alfred Korzybski, especially general semantics, Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa was a Japanese-American academic. He wrote numerous books on semantics and language, some of which remain in use as textbooks even today (notably his “Language in Thought and Action” which is now in its fifth edition).

Hayakawa was the president of San Francisco State College from 1968 to 1973. As president, his most notable action was the creation of an Ethnic Studies department after pressure from Black Panther and student protesters. In 1977, he became a member of the United States Senate (California, R), a role which he held until 1983. He died in 1992 at the age of 85.

Referenced in:

Black Man — Stevie Wonder

1992 – Albert King dies

One of the three “Kings of the Blues” (along with B.B. King and Freddie King, none of whom were related to each other), Albert King was massively influential in his scene, especially among his labelmates at Stax Records in the Sixties, but largely eluded commercial success. His greatest hit on the pop charts, 1968’s “Cold Feet”, only reached up to #67. However, he performed considerably better on the R&B charts, with a dozen top one hundred songs across twenty years and his album sales were usually stronger than his singles.

King died of a heart attack at his home in Memphis, Tennesee. “The Velvet Bulldozer” was 69 years old. At his funeral, B.B. King said of Albert that “he was my brother, not in blood, but in blues.”

Referenced in:

Six Strings Down — Jimmie Vaughan

1992 – The Rodney King trial verdict results in widespread rioting in LA

It’s hard not to think that something may have gone wrong with the American justice system at times. For example, when several police officers (Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano) are caught on video beating a suspect, when those same police officers are later heard boasting about the injuries they dealt out, well, you’d expect that convicting them of the crimes that they very clearly committed would be a straightforward matter.

Unless, of course, all the cops were white while the suspect was black. Unless the jury consists of ten whites, an Asian and a Hispanic. Unless the trial is held in a jurisdiction notably more conservative than the one where these events took place. Then the complete acquittal of all four officers should be expected as a matter of course, because as we all know, justice is less important than the good name of the Los Angeles Police Department, and anyway, Rodney King must have had it coming, right?

So later that day, after the verdict is announced, these same police officers and jurors claiming to be stunned that anyone could possibly disagree with the verdict is completely believable. If you’re an idiot, that is.

The riots in Los Angeles (which lasted a week and caused 53 deaths, a thousand injuries, somewhere in the region of a billion dollars worth of property damages and kicked off sympathetic riots in other cities), while not in any way justifiable, were certainly both an understandable and a predictable response.

Referenced in:

Anger — Downset
I Wanna Riot — Rancid
Rioting — The_Rugburns
Recipe for Hate — Bad Religion
Livin’ on the Edge — Aerosmith
Don’t Pray on Me — Bad Religion
Say Goodbye — Black Eyed Peas
April 29, 1992 (Miami) — Sublime
Black Tie White Noise — David Bowie
The Day tha Niggaz Took Over — Dr. Dre
Forgotten (Lost Angels) — Lamb of God
Down Rodeo — Rage Against the Machine
We Had to Tear This Motherfucka Up — Ice Cube
Peace in L.A. — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Stuck Between a Rock and a White Face — One Minute Silence

1992 – Paul Keating makes the “Redfern” speech

Written either by Don Watson (Keating’s cheif speechwriter) or Keating himself – the two disagree on this point – there is no doubting that the Redfern Speech of 1992 was one of the most significant events of Paul Keating’s term as Prime Minister of Australia. In it, Keating as head of state of Australia, for the first time acknowledged the responsibility of European invaders for the injustices committed – both in the past and ongoign – against the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.

It fell a ways short of being an apology – that would come later – but it was a stunning statement of responsibility for a nation that has usually preferred (as the speech itself pointed out) to blame the native victims of these injustices for causing them.

Links to the text of the speech, plus sound and video recordings of it, can be found here.

Referenced in:

Redfern — Keating! The Musical original cast
The Ballad of Paul Keating — This Is Serious Mum

1992 – Madonna releases her book “Sex”

Sex is a coffee table book written by Madonna, with copious photographs taken by Siung Fat Tjia and Fabien Baron, and edited by Glenn O’Brien. The book was released by Madonna as an accompaniment to her fifth studio album ‘Erotica’, which it was released in unison with.

The book was extremely controversial – which was no doubt what Madonna intended. It featured softcore pornographic photographs which included sadomasochism and analingus. Madonna wrote the book without outside assistance, although if you’ve ever read the damned thing, you’ll know that this was probably not the best choice she ever made.

Referenced in:

Lucy Can’t Dance — David Bowie

1992 – The High Court of Australia decides in favour of Eddie Mabo

The Mabo decision – or in full, Mabo v Queensland (No 2) – was a landmark in the history of Australian Native Title legislation. The decision had several notable features, including the denial of the legal doctrine of terra nullius (which had served as the legal rationale for dispossessing the natives of their land) and the related doctrine of beneficial title (which stated that possession of the land invested in the Crown immediately upon acquisition of sovereignty).

The decision was hailed by Australia’s political left – which included the then-Prime Minister, Paul Keating (who felt that the decision didn’t go far enough) – and decried by the Australian right. To most Australians, little changed as a result of the decision – for the most part, the only time it affects most Australians is when they encounter a sign or speech recognizing the traditional owners of the land.

Referenced in:

Ma(m)bo — Keating! The Musical original cast