Category: Uncategorized

In Reaction to Schenwar’s “Hurt People Hurt People”

Taking inspiration from Schenwar’s section “Hurt People Hurt People” from Locked Down, Locked Out, I started to think about the cycle of violence we see in Butler’s Parable. When I think of violence being the performance of waste it makes me think that violence is a cause and a consequence of something being allowed to literally deteriorate or waste away. In Parable, we see things deteriorating everywhere. Homes, communities, local and federal government, families, infrastructure, even lines between right and wrong seem to blur together as society seems to waste away.

Keeping this in mind, I want to touch on the people in Parable who are affected by the violence they encounter on a day to day basis. As Schenwar points out, there is an unceasing and cyclical history of people committing violence and harm to others if they themselves have been victims of violence and harm. This is evident when we see how the poor interact with each other in Parable— the poor steal from the poor, but only because they’ve a) been stolen from before, b) have no other options, c) have never had any other options or d) all of the above. This leads to entire communities abusing and harming one another. Resentment and mistrust builds, and things seem to turn into anarchy.

I’ve been thinking about this throughout my entire reading of Parable. That’s why when Lauren thinks. “I wonder what a badge is, other than a license to steal.” I stopped reading and thought for a moment. From Lauren’s perspective, police are already in a position of power over her. Why would they need to steal from the already poor, deteriorating communities they are supposed to be protecting? Do they really have as much power as Lauren and the readers perceive? Really, what’s their damage? Is it just the mere fact that they have power over another that causes them to harm others? Or is there more to it? I don’t mean to play Devil’s Advocate (or maybe I do), but how are we sure that there isn’t violence affecting them as well?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, nor am I sure if it’s valid to really spend time asking them. But! I do think it’s valuable to look at from Schenwar’s point of view when considering the vast majority of people who are supposed “perpetrators” are also victims of violence themselves. (I also want to point out that when I’m talking about police I’m talking about the police in Parable, not real life. Although once again, maybe the lines between the two aren’t as clear as I’m perceiving!) Thoughts?

Reading from the Future

While discussing Parable of the Sower in our small groups this semester, Mary raised an interesting point. When we are reading this book, we are following the unfolding action as we read Lauren’s journal entries. This makes the reader sympathize with Lauren as we read to discover her fate. This is how most books work, we accompany a character along part of their journey. However, if we were to look at Lauren’s journal articles as an artifact, would our perspective change? Read more

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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What’s In a Dystopia

Recently, my mother (who is what people sometimes gently refer to as a “Facebook aunt”) shared a video of a speech by Yeonmi Park, a defector of North Korea, which I will post below:

After watching this video, I was struck not only by Yeonmi’s moving story, but how the society she describes in her re-telling of life in North Korea sounds like a fictitious dystopia.  Imagine a place where citizens are brainwashed to the point that they felt the regime can read their minds, or where generations of a family are raised in concentration camps to due a patriarch expressing doubt on the authority of a regime. This description (coupled with North Korea’s growing hunger crisis and frequent flooding/droughts) makes the country seem like a dystopic fiction novel, but it isn’t.

When I googled the etymology of the word “dystopia,” I was surprised to find that the definition does not include any mentioning of a “future” state, but rather an “imagined” state where “everything is unpleasant or bad.” In light of this definition, what’s stopping North Korea from constituting as a dystopia? The fact North Korea is a real (as opposed to imagined) state?

In class last week, Beth commented (and I’m paraphrasing here) that when she first taught Butler’s Parable of the Sower in the early 2000s, Butler’s imagined dystopic state of North America was unthinkable to her students, and in the years since, her students report more and more frequently that Lauren Olamina’s world seems like a plausible future for our country. I wonder (and I don’t pretend to have any answers here) whether Koreans a century ago ever thought their country would be divided into two countries: one of which is a totalitarian regime that largely isolates its citizens from the rest of the world.

Further, I am struck by the line in Yeonmi’s speech in which she states “We need to focus less on the regime and more on the people who are being forgotten.” I realize that Yeonmi is correct–the limited discourse I’ve heard about North Korea tends to focus on the succession of its chain of dictators and their cult personalities, but not on the majority of North Koreans who are oppressed and often starving (instead, they appear to function as supernumeraries to a narrative about totalitarian regime).

My reading of Parable of the Sower, along with some very preliminary research on life in North Korea, prompt me to think differently about the concept of “dystopia.” Like many of Beth’s students, the 2024 California that Butler describes in Parable of the Sower seems less far removed from our contemporary society than I would perhaps like to admit.

Unlikely Shelters

After our in-class activity of exploring the Geneseo campus to search for shelter, I immediately thought of this article I had read earlier in the semester. I was impressed with the brothers’ ability to find shelter in such an unlikely place. At least, it seemed like an unlikely shelter to me at the time. I cannot imagine the desperation and determination that living in a hollowed out tree must require. Persecution forced Jewish people from their homes and into hiding during WWII. While some of them were taken in by others, many more were not. When no one is able to hide and shelter you from this persecution, nature seems to be the only available option.

Though the brothers found shelter within the tree, I’m intrigued to learn how they sustained life during this time. Did they have someone to bring them food and water, or did they have to hunt for it on their own? What did they keep with them in this limited space? How often could they leave the tree, and when did they know it was safe to do so? What kept them warm in the winter?

The Parable of the Sower and in class activity were good exercises in imagination. Yet I can’t believe that people have had to find and sustain shelter in this way in real life.

Project Reflection

As I’m working, or more accurately–struggling–through my essay, I want to take a moment to reflect on my project. I’m having particularly hard time writing this essay, and I’m not entirely sure why that is. I’ve read all of the texts more than once, annotated, accumulated notes, outlined, revised, returned to the texts, and started many, many drafts, and for weeks I’ve been struggling with what most people would consider “writers block.” I think over the past several months, and especially in the last 6 weeks, I’ve started writing my essay, made it about 3 pages in, and realized that I’m either rambling or going about the essay the wrong way, or that I’m not talking about what I need to talk about–so I start over. I’ve done this countless times. Each time I re-read the texts, check my notes, take more notes, and try to make a more complete outline–but I’m still struggling to get my thoughts on the page. I’ve tried writing in different mediums. I’ve tried writing in MS word, the blog, in a notepad application, by hand in a notebook, on a whiteboard; I’ve even tried writing the entire essay as a powerpoint–with no success. In the past few days I managed to break through this stagnation and make some (relatively) decent progress on my essay, but I also recognize the necessity of being honest with myself: my essay isn’t going to be the epitome of undergraduate scholarship like I hoped and planned. It won’t even be the best essay I’ve written in college. But this realization yields a somewhat encouraging irony: my interest in this project stemmed from a desire to contemplate the modes of resisting the neoliberal drive to a “perfectible future”–that is, I came into this project hoping to gain insight into such questions as how we humans can understand experiences of pain and imperfection as part of the human experience, and in what ways we can (re)visit these experiences that neither make light nor accept these issues, but instead help us better understand how we can engage with these problems. This is one of many questions I’ve been thinking about as I approach my work. In my essay, this question plays a role in my examination of history and the ways we can reconsider the individual’s place in cultural memory. The irony then, is that the idea of the “perfectible future” is a point of skepticism in my essay, and I’m having a seriously difficult time producing not even a perfect essay, but simply what I consider an acceptable essay–so at this point, I’m focusing on the process of the project rather than the product. I’ve accepted that the final product isn’t going to be what I wanted it to be–I’m okay with that. I’ll do the best I can do with it now and return to it with a fresh mind after spending some time away with it. But at this moment, I want to spend some time reflecting on the process–what I learned, what challenged me, what changed me–because although the product is not yet going to be what I want it to be (and may not be for some time), I still got a lot out of this experience.

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Space to live and credit score

At the request of an anonymous community member, I share this important post.

A heads up to all of you: Beth wasn’t kidding when she said that landlords check your credit score. A friend of mine was looking for rentals in an area with a particularly competitive housing market. It is the norm for landlords to ask for $30 to complete a credit screening. The rental application also asked for a blank check and information not just about debts owed, but also about how much money is currently in one’s checking account and savings account. This is verifiable information because the landlord now possesses the account and routing number from the blank check. Additionally, landlords sometimes ask for links to Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, and sometimes, this is explicit in the Craigslist ad.

When this friend finally received an offer, the landlord had not checked any references but only spoke to the friend and checked the friend’s credit score. The landlord said,  “Your credit score is low, but your personality is excellent.”

This friend is unspeakably lucky. This friend now has a place to live and time to improve the credit score and hopefully to obtain a positive reference from this landlord. But, this might not even matter if the next landlord only checks one’s credit score and “personality.” I imagine that not everyone is so lucky. Seriously, check your credit score and keep your utilization rates low.

What harm can innovations like AirBnB do?

I’m Facebook friends with a nun who serves in New Orleans, and it just so happens that today she posted regarding this awareness-and-action campaign about how what AirBnb whole-house rentals can do to neighborhoods, especially historically black neighborhoods targeted for gentrification in Katrina’s wake.

As it’s JazzFest time, many folks should be thinking about this. Here’s a quote:

Ok, so what’s the problem? Who cares if tourists now have more options to chose from when deciding where to stay? Because now, tourists aren’t limited to the Central Business District or French Quarter (where all the hotels are). They’re moving out of tourist-engine downtown and getting AirBnB’s in more traditional neighborhoods (Mid-City, Marigny, Lower Garden District, Bywater) and most notably, historically black neighborhoods (Seventh Ward, Sixth Ward, Central City, and St. Roch). This shift just so happens to be in line with the City’s new tourist marketing strategy [see right]. When mass amounts of tourists come into traditional neighborhoods, they have both negative short and long-term effects.