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.