18 December 2014

Interrogating Our Past for an Ultimately New Future

In Howard Zinn’s “Columbus, The Indians, And Human Progress,” he explores three main ideas, using the early European conquest of America as a case study: the lack of an American “national interest”; the oppressors’ role in deciding events of historical merit; and that in times of sacrifice for innovation, historians must always firstly look to the oppressed peoples for proper justification. In discussing an “American national interest,” Zinn argues that although “governments, conquerors, diplomats, [and] leaders” throughout history have contended that the existence of a “national interest” is the excuse for their subjugation of others, “nations are not communities and never have been”; ergo, as nation-states rarely ever look after the interests of their entire populace, it is imperative for onlookers to trust both the stories of the conquerors and the conquered, in order to develop a truer sense of the past. Additionally, Zinn contends that history mustn’t be decided by oppressors, but instead through scrutinizing a variety of contemporaneous perspectives. Be the societies or sub-societies the native Americans, the New York Irish, the industrial-age women, the socialists, or the national Islamic community, rarely ever have a conquered society’s writings entirely vanished, and it is to any critically thinking person’s advantage to explore the punishments of the past in order to ruminate on new ideas for post-modern political ideologies. Lastly, Zinn declares that, in times of sub-communal sacrifice for innovation, the privileged minority executing new “national” policies must consult the damned communities within its midst, for he argues that we, as people, may never maintain “the right to throw into the pyre the children of others, or even our own children, for a progress which is not as nearly clear or present as sickness or health, life or death.” While Zinn utilizes the early conquest of the Native American populations as a case study for each of his ideas, these lessons ultimately apply to most, if not all, of history and contemporary political affairs, stemming from the early subjugation of Native Americans to the present proliferate use of styrofoam, ultimately pulling us to form our own conclusions towards behaving justly and utilizing our privileges for the betterment of humanity.

10 December 2014

On "True Learning"

On a crisp, Autumn day, I prance on the remains of fallen maple leaves covering cold, dry, brittle grass, as if I own the ground on which I presently reside. I, in my Mexican suede shoes, my Pakistani jeans, and my Bangladeshi shirt, attempt to elevate myself to an effervescent enlightenment. Before me were the Potawatomi and the Illini, but I dance on the beautifully gardened graves of anonymous "freedom fighters" because I understand no reason not to. One day, after many of burning OPEC-gasoline in what I consider to be significant endeavors, I will abandon my "home" to find a community of others like me: a society divorced from any America and any world, composed of people aching to discover truth to wield for their own desires in the communities from which they oh-so-recently escaped. I, inheritor of privilege, must live and die only to search for the never-changing boundaries by which I guide myself.

06 December 2014

Arboreous Misconceptions

A reflection on a passage from Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Beloved:
Not even trying, he had become the kind of man who could walk into a house and make the women cry. Because with him, in his presence, they could. There was something blessed in his manner. Women saw him and wanted to weep—to tell him that their chest hurt and their knees did too. Strong women and wise saw him and told him things that they only told each other: that way past the Change of Life, desire in them had suddenly become enormous, greedy, more savage than when they were fifteen, and that it embarrassed them and made them sad; that secretly they longed to die—to be quit of it—that sleep was more precious to them than any waking day. Young girls sidled up to him to confess or describe how well-dressed the visitations were that had followed them straight for their dreams. Therefore, although he did not understand why this was so, he was not surprised when Denver dripped tears into the stovefire. Nor, fifteen minutes later, after telling him about her stolen milk, her mother wept as well. Behind her, bending down, his body an arc of kindness, he held her breasts in the palms of his hands. He rubbed his cheek on her back and learned that way her sorrow, the roots of it; its wide trunk and intricate branches. Raising his fingers to the hooks of her dress, he knew without seeing them or hearing any sign that the tears were coming fast. And when the top of her dress was around her hips and he saw the sculpture her back had become, like the decorative work of an ironsmith too passionate for display, he could think but not say, “Aw, Lord, girl.” And he would tolerate no peace until he had touched every ridge and leaf of it with his mouth, none of which Sethe could feel because her back skin had been dead for years. What she knew was that the responsibility of her breasts, at last, was in somebody else’s hands.

29 October 2014

Combating Ignorance with a Fateful Past

In “1945-1985: Poem for the Anniversary,” Mary Oliver weaves her seemingly pleasant ambivalence in traipsing through forestry with the grave consequences of global indifference: the millions massacred in the magnitude of the Holocaust. Though she dreams of aberrating throughout the natural beauties surrounding her, gleefully eying the creatures enclaving her, she notes that even in “lush, green, musical Germany,” when others aspired to similarly descry requiescence in the ignorance of their surroundings, the results of ignoring their responsibilities were catastrophic. In fact, by personifying the German populace of the early 20th century as Mengele sipping wine on a beautiful afternoon in his garden, Oliver condemns all copacetic ignorance, as, in ignoring our responsibilities, any ataraxia stems from devitalizing sources that may be too easily forgotten.

27 October 2014

Balancing Unfulfilled Potential with the Demands of Patriarchy

“Biography of an Armenian Schoolgirl” by Naomi Shihab Nye tells a tale of lost chances, empty fate, and life abandoned in the unnecessary demands patriarchies force unto the women in their midst. While the narrator revels in her reveries of one day escaping to a land of liberation, she remains tied to a life in which she is betrothed to a “man with no hair” and purchases her necessities “from the vendor with the humped back.” Although she imagines herself one day flying away like the scattered pages of her thrown textbooks, the protagonist is forever incarcerated in femininity within the Armenian patriarchy, only gazing out at the phantasmagorical scenes beyond her cell window in order to distract herself from her externally validated, yet internally despised, bromidic lifestyle.

15 October 2014

Art and Exploration: Discovering the Weeping Women Within Our Very Own Soldiers

Art is one of few entities possessing the utter capability of pulling us from the problems and fortunes of our lives, tying our hands in order to let us grapple with the alternative perspectives of a diverse people and charging us to actively exert ourselves to mend the misfortunes that we detect within our immediate communities and beyond. Transcending boundaries of geopolitics, socioeconomics, and time, it allows us to connect to the dilemmas and strives of one another, preaching empathy for human beings we’d otherwise never genuinely understand.

Take Jonathan Teplitzky’s The Railway Man, for instance. In this film, Eric Lomax, decades after his service in the British Military during World War II spent primarily incarcerated in a prisoner of war camp in Singapore, realizes that in order to finally commence his overcoming of a lifelong buildup of hatred and begrudgery, he must leave his wife, Patti, behind as he ventures on a personal journey to the location of his torture, in which his captor, Takashi, maintained him in excruciating pain, chastising him for constructing a radio from spare parts—the only device he owned that bore him hope from the outside world.

12 October 2014

Balancing “Traditional Values” and the Merits of Communal Ideals

Experiential art transforms passive onlookers into detectives of their own surroundings, commanding them to perpetually re-investigate their place within communal realms, scrutinizing diversity in values and counterweighting newfound ideas and trends with the amenity of normalcy. In Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, for example, what constitutes a “traditional” Southern code of ethics comes into question when Blanche rides along the steel tracks built between ignoring her mistake-ridden past for a fateful idealism of truth and embracing her future, dreamily imagining her mundane moments to be evermore ethically supreme. Her newfound temporary home in the den of her sister Stella’s French Quarter apartment allows her to either appreciate sexual deviancy and overlook adultery or remain a painful rejectionist to New Orleans culture. Stella’s husband, on the other hand, sees no opportunity for choice in mind: Blanche must leave, animalistic and physically brutal sex must continue and the poker game of life must never cease to exist. In the end, while only Stella commits to a final decision for her family, Williams, like all genuine artists, confiscates viewers’ ignorance to the necessity of contemplating their own thoughts of communal morality and how their family and geography enslave or liberate their very anima.