Category: McCoy 439 Spring 2017

(Spoiler Free!) Thoughts on Parable of the Talents

I finished reading Parable of the Talents a few days ago. I was so motivated to read it because I kept finding parallels between Sower and the current state of the country, and I was desperate to understand how Lauren’s journey was concluded. Butler said in an interview that Talents was meant to be “a book of solutions,” (or something similar, I don’t have the book in front of me to check). So those “solutions” that I think Butler was talking about are, in part, fairly self-evident, but there’s definitely so much more that I would love to discuss with anyone else who has read the book or will in the future. Beth wasn’t kidding when she said reading Talents is tough, though. There were so many points where I wanted to put the book down and never touch it again because of all the violence and all the allusions that drove home how the world in the book isn’t so far departed from what has happened in the past and what can happen again in the future. I’m glad I made it through the book, though, despite how uncomfortable it made me the majority of the time. I didn’t find all of the solutions I was looking for, but it’s been a source of enlightenment in some areas and a it has served as a warning in other ways. Having read Sower, I’m sure you know what I mean by the latter. Read more

Parable of the Talents

I know that the semester is over, but I figured this would be an easy way to share this–

I started reading Parable of the Talents today, the sequel to Parable of the Sower, and most of the action is set in 2032. I found this on page 20, and was shocked to find a “catchphrase” that all of us have been exposed to in the media lately:

“Help us to make America great again.” It comes up at least once more in the novel too.

So I just wanted you all to remember what we individually said we could do after taking this class. I think we’ve got to commit to doing them, and this seems evidence enough to me. (PS the book is good! Sorry to make this a weird post– Happy summer!)

 

Bank of America v. The City of Miami

I realize that classes are already over, but very quickly I want to share a piece of news I came across that relates rather deeply to the course. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of Miami’s lawsuit against Wells Fargo and Bank of America. The suit alleges that the banks’  predatory lending practices violated the Fair Housing Act and targeted African American/Latino communities through subprime mortgages. You can read about the case and the Supreme Court’s decision in the following sources:

Cities Can Sue Big Banks Over Effects of Discriminatory Practices (NPR)

Bank of America Corp. v. The City of Miami (Supreme Court’s published decision)

Supreme Court Rules Miami Can Sue Over Predatory Lending (NYT)

There are certainly other media sources covering the case as well, but I felt these might be a good starting point to obtain a brief overview.  At any rate, from my cursory research the decision strikes me as a small victory for proponents of fair housing and lending practices (good news is hard to come by these days).

Many thanks to Alpha and Beth for facilitating a meaningful and compelling class this semester.

The Power of Change

By the end of Parable of the Sower I was acutely aware, not to mention impressed, with the ability of the characters to remain relatively loving and compassionate individuals while bearing witness to a perpetuating cycle of violence and death. In my opinion the group was able to develop into its ultimate fruition at the end of the novel due to Lauren’s innate leadership qualities combined with her hyper-empathetic affliction. Lauren exhibited the early signs of a potential matriarchal figure early on in the novel. In my opinion this potential reveals itself mainly in her Earthseed passages which give the reader a glimpse into a mind that understands the gravity of her actions. According to Lauren, the following lines are the foundation upon what her Earthseed: Book of the Living is built upon. Read more

A contemplation on the role of in-group – out-group bias

I found the class exercise of attempting to find shelter within a Geneseo campus where all of the buildings were locked to be a surprisingly moving experience that forced the boundaries of my imagination. At the time of the exercise my initial reaction towards the outwardly hostile environment of the locked campus  was clouded by irrational fear. I kept looking at all of the imagined locked windows and doors and this made me feel as if a thousand sets of eyes were looking at me. Therefore I tried to find the most secluded area possible  where the imagined eyes could not follow me. After settling on a large outcropping of bushes I started to reflect on why this concept of being locked out bothered me so much. I decided to think about other occasions during my time at Geneseo that had invoked a similar feeling.

My mind kept returning to two distinctly different scenarios where I had felt that same hostile feeling. The first scenario occurred early on in my freshman year when I still hadn’t made that many friends. Despite my friendless situation I decided to adventure out during the weekend to try to meet people, however, at every house that I walked up to I was greeted with a cold mannered rebuttal. The second scenario that came to my mind is in relation to a late night study session in Frasier library. While I was studying for a final exam the janitorial staff notified me that I needed to leave the building immediately which I fully complied to. After leaving Frasier library I was forced to head back to my apartment to finish studying since the entire campus was on lock down.

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An Analysis on the Meaning of a Crisis in Relation to the Turner House

 cri·sis
/ˈkrīsis/
noun
noun: crisis; plural noun: crises
a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.
“the current economic crisis”
synonyms: emergency, disaster, catastrophe, calamity; More
a time when a difficult or important decision must be made.
“a crisis point of history”
synonyms: critical point, turning point, crossroads, watershed, head, moment of truth, zero hour, point of no return, Rubicon, doomsday; More
the turning point of a disease when an important change takes place, indicating either recovery or death.

As I write this post during the tumultuous time period that is finals week, my mind continues to return to our in-class discussion of the meaning of a crisis and its importance to the Housing Crisis. The definition of crisis that I found most useful to my current thought process is as follows: “A time when a difficult or important decision must be made.” This is relevant to my current situation since due to poor time management, I have found myself catching up on these blog posts wondering where all the time went. At first I underwent a small crisis at the possibility that I wouldn’t be capable of completing the work on time. However, after the feeling of personal disaster had passed, I began to analyze the different ways that the word crisis is relevant to our ongoing discussion of the Housing Crisis.

The first definition emphasizes an ongoing time period that is characterized by intense difficulty, trouble or danger. While the second definition emphasizes a specific, “crisis point of history.” Both of these definitions are relevant to understanding the “Housing Crisis” theme in accordance to the texts that we have read throughout the semester. The novel The Turner House stood out to me the strongest  when I thought of the word crisis. The duel definition of the world fit perfectly with the novel’s ability to address the many issues that are plaguing the city of Detroit, while still establishing an emotional connection between the reader and the Turner family.

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The Effect of Resource Scarcity on Societal Stability

While reading the Parable of the Sower, I found myself returning to the looming threat of resource scarcity and the potential ramifications that it poses to the stability of Lauren’s world. It isalso necessary to analyze what the concept of resource scarcity means in reference to social class, and relative location.

During the first portion of the Parable of the Sower, which is set in a walled off neighborhood compound outside of Los Angeles, it is apparent to the reader that the scarcity of resources is an ever-present threat. During this time period in the novel I found the ongoing battle between the residents of the neighborhood and the outside thieves to be particularly important to my discussion. I found that the following exchange between Corey and Lauren’s Dad perfectly illustrates the ongoing struggle against resource scarcity:

“They ran away this time, but they won’t always run.”

“I know”

“So what, then? You protect rabbits or oranges, and maybe get a child killed?

Silence.

“We can’t live this way!” Corey shouted.

“We do live this way,” Dad said. There was no anger in his voice, no emotional response to all her shouting. There was nothing. Weariness. Sadness.

 

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“Passing” and People as Shelter

The idea of people as shelter was brought up by my group after our walks outside the other week, and after finishing Parable of the Sower I thought I’d share my own experience in relation to what we’ve read in the novel. Throughout the book characters seek shelter among people when suitable shelter is not accessible. The neighborhood that the Olamina family lives in serves as a physical shelter, but when this neighborhood is destroyed it is the less tangible neighborly bond that allows Lauren to feel comfortable seeking shelter with Zahra and Harry.

In the absence of buildings for shelter, I initially found myself seeking shade on my walk. I noticed an older man sitting on a bench under the small tree and clock pole by Erwin. In an effort to not “out” him, I will just say that his shirt had a phrase that I interpreted as being potentially threatening to my identity as a gay woman. What could have been a good spot for shelter, immediately made me feel uneasy. I held this fear that there would be some confrontation with this person should I take the seat next to him, and thus the space then felt inaccessible. Through this search for acceptable shelter and being confronted by this experience, I thought that I must decide who provides safety and who does not, or be alone and potentially vulnerable.

Quick content warning here: I talk about the politics of “passing” in this post.

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Hey folks.

So I don’t know if this post is appropriate to publish here. It’s not really ‘academic’ per se. Actually I just want to ask you all a question that has been bothering me throughout the semester. As we have progressed through the course I have found it increasingly more difficult to find hope for the future amongst our discussions of both the cruelties and the sufferings of human beings. Will there ever exist a world without greed? poverty? discrimination? rape? homelessness? As I have continued to grow, read, and learn throughout all of my life (but particularly my college years), I have lost the innocence I once possessed that allowed me to believe that such a world was possible. As I stand now, completely hopeless and devoid of faith in humans, I find myself returning to my first blog post on narrative foreclosure. I stated in that post that narrative foreclosure occurs when one believes that “it is too late to live meaningfully and, as Freeman puts it, ‘become stripped of new possibilities, emptied of new opportunities for self-renewal.'” I have begun to view the earth and it’s lifeforms in a state of narrative foreclosure as it is defined in the above quotation.

So, finally, my question is how do you all prevent yourselves from viewing this world in a state of narrative foreclosure? How do you continue to hope when surrounded by corruption and suffering? Beth said in class today that she believes it is essential to construct hope for a better future, because “the alternative is obscene.” I agree, the alternative is obscene. But with what do you construct hope? How do you maintain it?

Of course no one has to reply to this. But through all the discussion of the terror and pain and the seemingly hopeless solutions to salvage what good is left, I feel that we neglect to address the toll these discussions take on each of us, personally, both inside and outside of the academic setting. Therefore, I find it necessary to ask you folks what each of you do to construct and maintain hope, thus avoiding some kind of narrative foreclosure. Being in class with all of you this semester has been a wonderful experience, and I don’t hesitate to say that you folks are kind, intelligent, thoughtful human beings. Which is why I bring these questions to you and ask that you share your answers (on the blog maybe?) with anyone that is currently struggling to find hope.

Currently Typing (In Class)

This may be the second-last post I’ll make here, and for good reason. The first reason is that I think a fair closer is needed for the posts throughout the semester. The second is how few posts I have made. I suppose that regards the merit of my words holding any sound content to share, or to expand on something that I believe has not been discussed during class. Either way…

I’m both excited and indifferent about this final essay. The ambition behind discussing the housing crisis and the contrasting narratives of literature showcase so many ideas as to how we view – or how we begin to view them. One thing that comes to mind at the moment is that of Inside Job and The Big Short as a heavy contrast in comparison to that of Dominion, A Mercy, and Parable of the Sower – one may consider these pieces of literature are differing perceptions of housing. What kind of crisis there is, when and how a crisis may begin, or if an individual is aware of a crisis at all. That also includes those who are even affected despite some knowledge of economic or social disarray. I’m likely overthinking at this point in favor of a streamlined final paper (in my head, anyway), but the words I’m currently hearing regarding insurance also relates to the earlier aspects of the class. Again, I go back to The Old Man and the Storm that demonstrates a crisis for ordinary people being almost another number to place on a list that says “assist” but not so much “help”. More recently, This Old House reminds me heavily of the “reality” TV series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. As Jess calls it phony and transparent – that is how I feel with the perceptive contrasts I mentioned earlier. There is a greater emphasis on “assist” than “help” in order to showcase a means to help but not so much a means to give way for resolve. Or may I’m being cynical about how meretricious (new word, yeah!) the premise of building an old house and rebuilding the remnants of it into a new home. This of course also relates to Mister Blandings Builds His Dream House while demonstrating the hollow nature a home can be, despite the incredible sentimentality it is allegedly supposed to be. That can even be said for anyone who is wealthy enough to afford (and maintain) more than one house. I know I’m young, but the idea of that still sounds absurd and a physical display of self-absorption, which that too can relate to what I have discussed in my Dirge essay, and may very well be mentioned in the final essay. My home life – or at least in parallel to the illustrated lives throughout the semester – leaves me detached.

Perhaps that is a good thing. Regarding the final essay, at least.