Author: Adaeze Nwokolobia

The Curtain Fall: Reflection

This is the end. The semester is wrapping up and finals are around the corner. However; this is also a time for reflection. A time to recollect our thoughts and mull over what we have learnt through the semester. Indeed, the Fall 2017 English 101 class covered interdisciplinary issues spanning from race to medicine through the lens of literature. We read books/articles/short stories spanning genres from science fiction to non-fiction. Nevertheless, our conversation would always be in tandem with relevant issues effecting today’s world. Issues spanning systemic racism, the dangers of medical voluntourism to sustainability. Throughout the course, we were able to tie ideas and concepts back to unseeming ideas and justify our findings using textual evidence. Valuable skill earned: To be able to realize interconnectness. I remember participating in the final collective brainstorming exercise and how I wanted my statement to reflect all of the questions I hoped would remain with me and my fellow coursemates. I recorded “intersectionality is a profound concept that appears and will always appear in our daily lives. Everything is connected and nothing lives in isolation. Through every sphere of life, racism can cut through often as intentional and even so directional towards a selected group of people. Even as mere fiction and fabrication, race is perpetuated across spheres like law, medicine, business, government across others. At the end of the day, can we connect the dots? Can we recognize and analyze the staying power and hubris that comes with privilege? Is medical apartheid a real concept even in today’s world? How do we know and how do we call it out with supporting evidence? At the end of the day, epistemophilia as an adopted methodology to finding solutions should/will be a resounding answer” (Adaeze, 2017. )

However, I have come to realise that some of these questions might have no answers. still, I will continue to ask more questions while reflecting on previously asked questions. The world is not black and white hence it’s complexity. Singular views should be discouraged and multiple perspectives should be employed to issues. Perhaps, getting closer to realised solutions is more important than merely seeking answers. Call out systemic racism and advocate for social justice in whatever capacity you can. Recycle and try to save the planet. Untrained medical students should think twice about programs offering to let them volunteer and perform medical procedures in a developing country. In order to advance intellectually and work as best as you can; employ critical thinking and reflection strategies. While critical thinking requires thinking deeply, identifying problems and proposing solutions; reflection helps an individual reach into their capacity after the noise dies. Just like monks reflect and meditate to gain a higher learning and to get to a higher state of spirituality , writers need to reflect to reach higher states of their creativity and higher learning of themselves and their skills as writers. Reflection is like a healing balm that soothes the mind while enhancing writing with its valuable outputs and results. This is not the end. We are continually learning and gaining awareness on important issues happening around us. It is not enough to merely listen but it is essential to process and reflect on what has been heard. If learning never stops; then reflection has no limit. Scour through your mind for the seemingly insignificant yet useful pieces, connect the dots as much as you can and let your mind soar. There is no height too impossible to achieve if an individual puts their mind to it. Reflection: Put your mind to it.

The Principle Of Not Choosing An Irreversible Path When Faced With Uncertainty

Upon swearing the Hippocratic Oath, graduating medical students bind themselves to an ethical code that ensures the overall progress and welfare of their patients. The American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics (1996 edition), “has remained in Western civilization as an expression of ideal conduct for the physician.” (Lawson, 2010.) Today, most graduating medical school students swear to some form of the oath, usually a modernized version. (Pbs.org)  However, medical ethic is still an important and touchy matter in the health field. Medical ethics is derived from Ethics; a moral philosophy that came about with the Sophists of Greece. Even as physicians have long since held themselves to a moral code, there have been rogue physicians who have subjected individuals to unethical experimentation and research. In Medical Apartheid, Harriet Washington details the systemic and medical abuse, discrimination meted out to African-Americans since colonial times. She details the appalling and unethical invasive experimentation and research practices performed throughout history to African-Americans. She opens her book by talking about James Marion Sims, a 19th-century surgeon who is venerated as a selfless benefactor of women for devising ways to repair severe vaginal injuries occurring during child birth. She talks about how he is celebrated despite the fact he honed his skills by performing scores of painful operations on the genitals of black slaves without amnesia. He refused to give them ether even when it was available but gave them to white women. A physician who “cut his way to the top”. His African-American human subjects were mere guinea fowls in his ploy for recognisance in his field. In a twisted Rob-Peter-To-Pay-Paul  manner, he violated every ethical code possible. In this case, Martin Luther King’s quote “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” does not hold water. These women never had justice.  Read more

The Market

Colson Whitehead’s Zone one is marked with complex vocabulary and intellectual communication of ideas. The metaphors are resounding and the language can be quite esoteric. A dictionary or new word notepad should be in handy when reading this masterful albeit hard-to-read work of art. However, I remembered a practice I did a year ago of using metaphors and language in writing to capture a space until it felt like the reader could see it. For example, Whitehead captures the African Burial Ground avidly in his book. Phrases in his book like ” through the sad aperture of the dead” remind one of the burial ground and how it would feel to look on at the ancestors and meet them at face value. The African Burial ground remains as the resting space for the oppressed, the wronged and the hopeful. The Ancestral Chamber provides a sacred space for individual contemplation, reflection, meditation and prayer. https://www.gsa.gov/about-us/regions/northeast-caribbean-2/about-region-2/the-african-burial-ground/african-burial-ground-exterior-monument . After reading about the African memorial background I decided to capture a space I found interesting in my hometown in Nigeria. It’s the local market and it is the oldest economic centre of the community. However, it is also a place filled with suffering, hardship, loss and hope. A less sombre and vibrant antithesis to the burial ground.

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Collaborative Experiences.

No one should be alone. We, as humans exist in/within communities, groups, population, cultures, families among others. From birth, an individual’s community/family assumes responsibility for the upbringing of the individual. From the kindergarten teachers to next-door neighbours, a network of people periodically provide support and care. Kids are encouraged to go out and make friends. Holidays, rites of passages celebrations are only complete with family and with long standing traditions; families are responsible for guiding the individual in their eventual situation to life. Humans usually live communally or simply tolerate each other hence we are regarded as social but complex creatures. The old adage “No man is an Island” is heard too often from the mouths of those who wish to talk introverts out of their highly valued internal conversations. Can you respect my privacy please? Tolerate. Even when research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption (Cain, 2012. ) The old biblical story of the tower of Babel highlights the great power of team work and collective experience. After the flood in the post-Noahic world; humans on earth were united in one language. Soon after, they decided to team up together and build a tower that could reach the heavens. They built a sky high edifice, continued building until they were struck by God and started to speak different languages. The workers abandoned the work and migrated to different ends of the earth. The tower of Babel became desolate; a withered testament to the power of unity. In my lonely times, I wonder about the unspeakable power in team work. Men and women;if matched together in intelligence, fervor and ambition could indeed change the world like the workers of Babel attempted to. If individual achievements matter; then the world exists on the axis of collective achievements. Greatness is in the WE not I, alone .

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The Recursive Nature of the Human Experience: The Forbidden Thought.

“If our souls are the sails that bring the times to shore; then we must live where the sea meets the sky in an orange horizon. Everlasting”- Adaeze.

Time, our biggest enemy is on a march, and we the endless soldiers fight greatly in the battle of life. There is no doubt there is a circle of life. We are born to this world, grow up, seek fortune, get married, have children and die. The recursive nature of the human experience. When we try to venture out of this circle, society scorns us and tries to keep us in check. Why don’t you want to go to college? Why don’t you want to have children? Through their eyes, children grow up fitting into their parent’s linear expectations of them. Children should accomplish what their parents could not accomplish in their lifetime. In the life of the average middle class American, a good job is given as the highest expectation. “Go to school, have a good job, get married and raise your children” most parents repeatedly drum out to their children. Why do we do everything we do? Merely to survive? I think not. Even as animals are born with basic survival instinct and in the food chain; only the fittest survive. Evolution tells us that populations not individuals evolve with time. Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens, the human race has felt the touch of evolution. However, could this explain why materialism has taken centre stage in this new world? Did the technology-enhanced population crown money as the new order leaving happiness to considered as too extravagant. Too far-reaching? The average college student graduates neck deep in debts knowing that it could take the majority of their life time to pay it off. Seek fortune. However, what if we did not give meaning to anything that existed? Would they cease to exist or they would not be as important? As we trudge through the concrete filled, broken path of life, a great fear exists. The fear of oblivion. The horrid thought of disappearing as ash into the winds of time as though one never existed.

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Wounds That Never Heal: Regret

Chronic wounds are wounds that take more than three months to heal or years to heal. Sometimes, these wounds never heal. They scab over, open while oozing fluids, exerting pain with external contact. The Family Health Team (2015) assert that “while cancer can sometimes present as a chronic wound, chronic wounds typically fall into three main categories: diabetic ulcers, venous leg ulcers and pressure ulcers”. Diabetic patients with compromised immune systems might require amputations in the cases of chronic wounds and gangrene complications. These injuries might cause infections and even tissue death which can cause life threatening complications.  However, what about wounds that are not physical but hurt all the same or even more?  In his book, Discourse on Colonialism, Aime Cesaire likens gangrene to colonialism. A wound inflicted on Africa causing the death of culture, people and civilisations. The vulnerability is in the ” the nakedness of Africa where the scythe of Death swings wide”. (Aime Cesaire,1939. )The dismantling of heritage and traditions came with the advent of religion and conquest. On one hand,  the colonial masters gave religion and, with the other hand they took the essence of a naive people. Continents brought to their knees amid the throes of vain conquistador ambitions. Albeit separated by the Atlantic sea; the Americas and Africa would never be the same. What-ifs abound and in the midst of it lies regret, pain and longing lurking in the shadows. Colonialism inflicted wounds that would never heal across populations and regret inflicts wounds that would never heal across mindsets.

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Looking in the Mirror in Want for Freedom

In Molly Bawn (1878), Author Margaret Hungerford reiterates that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Beauty is subjective? Does beauty truly depend on perception? If so, why are there beauty standards all over the world? The absurd notion that every woman needs to fit into culturally idealized/idolized looks as championed by society to be considered beautiful. In some parts of the world where women’s rights are abused,  the most important possession a woman can have is her body. Young women suffer from body shaming, body image disorders among others because they feel they are not good enough, pretty enough. We are constantly stuck in a limbo of either looking in the mirror in search of confirmations or looking in the mirror in search of freedom. Indeed, if beauty is what I make of it and what I project to the world. I hope the looking glass can confirm this.

On May 15, 2011, Satoshi Kanazawa published a controversial article on physical attractiveness in relation to race. The article titled ” A Look At the Hard Truths about Human Nature” sought to explain why black women are considered to be ugly compared to other women. The Scientific Fundamentalist shamelessly carried the article under the headline “Why Black Women Are Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women”. I read this article and was appalled by the blatant racism. Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics says that “the only thing [he] can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone” In other words, the higher levels of testosterone in black women made them appear to be more masculine and therefore less physically attractive. Unbelievable. This piece of pseudoscience empowers ignorance and can be used to reduce the self-esteem of millions of black girls all over the world.  Whereas, it exists only as another fictional narrative like the concept of race.

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Superorganism: Microbes or Humans

“Whose house is this? /Whose night keeps out the light in here?/ Say, who owns this house?/ It’s not mine./ I dreamed another, sweeter, brighter/ with a view of lakes crossed in painted boats;/ of fields wide as arms open for me. /This house is strange. Its shadows lie. Say, tell me, why does its lock fit my key? – Toni Morrison, Home. 

The human microbiome contains vast number of micro organisms residing in our bodies in complex relationships. According to Sherwood & Woolverton (2013), the human microbiome refers specifically to the collective genomes of resident microorganisms. These relationships can take the form of symbiosis including commensalism, mutualism or even parasitism. Commensals are organisms which reside in a host body not causing harm but not adding benefit either. Rather, these organisms do all the benefiting. Mutualists organisms give us benefits while also receiving benefits. The parasitic ones are the most dangerous capable of threatening our very lives much like a brain eating Amoeba. Yikes! However, if like Michael Pollan, New York times asserts that we are made up of 10 percent human,  then the 90% of the organisms within us are the majority. We never gave our consent to these millions of microorganisms living with us yet we need some of them. The questions in the opening passage of “Home” resounds clearly in my mind, “whose house is this? Whose night keeps out the light in here?/say who owns this house”.  Even as Philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle have likened our bodies to be temporary houses that we shed as we pass away from this life, our bodies are important to us! These numbers of organisms that cohabit in our house, some paying rent like e coli that helps to break down and digest the food we eat. Some that live in the attic quiet like the commensal flora and fauna that feed on dead skin cells. While others weaken our body in a bid to become master of the house like protozoans.  Say who owns this house?

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Self Birth: Disorganisation

Sometimes in the recesses of our soul we wish to feel new again. Sometimes, in the dark matter of our minds, we wonder what we could be if we were someone else. In the subcutaneous layer of our skin, the pulsing vibrations of our excitement at the possibilities energises our lifeblood giving us a rush of some sorts. We could be day dreaming or we could be in the gestation period of our self-birth.

The origin of life is a controversial topic in the science world with multiple theories laced with loopholes. Many of which are quite difficult to answer presently. However, researchers over the years have proposed and modified multiple types of theories to explain how the first life came about. Many of these theories can not specifically explain how life started without help from an external influence. However, chemical evolution is a leading theory with the Oparin-Haldin  hypothesis suggesting that life arose gradually from inorganic molecules, with “building blocks” like amino acids forming first and then combining to make complex polymers. While, other scientists support the RNA World Hypothesis which suggests that the first life was self-replicating RNA. Others favour the Metabolism- First hypothesis placing metabolic networks before DNA or RNA. How can the wonder of birth and how living things came about not cause such a frenzy? https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/history-of-life-on-earth/history-life-on-earth/a/hypotheses-about-the-origins-of-life Read more

Making Sense of the Shadows: An Allegory of Modern Day Slavery.

“Race”, a tightly weaved fabrication that has been adeptly warped and knitted into the tapestry of time always finds a way to spin and roll itself into every social justice conversation and debate in modern day America. With each passing generation, the hot topic on race refuses to fizzle out. Yet, race does not exist, scientists have maintained constantly. Then, why do we still believe it does? Let’s look at the early origins of slavery.  The documentary, “Race: the power of an illusion” narrates how in Early America there was no division along color lines, rather the obvious division was class. In other words, “Race is a modern idea – it hasn’t always been with us. In ancient times, language, religion, status, and class distinctions were more important than physical appearance” ( ). Basically, the main question at the time was not about who was coloured or white but who had more wealth, influence and lands than the other. The advent of the transatlantic slave trade business and forceful capture of Africans into the Americas introduced a deceptive division. Chain business transactions (pun intended) would create a division so wide, false ideology and pseudoscience could only account for it. In simplistic terms, the historical buying and selling of human beings breathed life to the lie called “race”  Albeit, modern scientists maintain that if race actually exists then there is only the human race.  Read more