Recently having read about the conditions which lead to 7,000 bodies found buried beneath University Of Mississippi Medical Center formed a connection in my mind. The connection was between the project underway to excavate these corpses and lay them to rest in a proper burial rather than their mass grave and why it is important to do so. In my last post, I wrote about the ways in which the amazing life saving medical sciences we enjoy today are based on horrible and immoral practices. This idea was solidified when I got to thinking and drawing connections between other things I have experienced in my education. Seeing Steve A Prince’s Urban Garden exhibit was a profoundly impactful experience and a formative moment in my life when I visited it. Though I didn’t fully understand the significance of what I was going through at the time, I realize now that the artwork prompted me to think deeply on injustice in the past and present. Namely, through the focus of its namesake metaphor, the metaphor of a garden.
In Zulus, a deep scar left in the earth can be seen from when a cataclysmic war had taken place. That mark was inflicted by people doing what they thought was right without regard for others. Unlike war, not all horrible things lead to a scorched and scarred Earth. Some horrible things result in a “garden”. Though a garden may be pretty on the surface, it is important to dig deeper. This is true of many similar marks we can observe in our world. A garden can be found wherever people have worked towards a goal and in the process have been willing overlook Human suffering this because of what they desire. The promise of something beautiful and wonderful justified in their minds the horrific and ugly means to that end. The garden is a metaphor for how we in modern civilization have benefited and continue to benefit from exploitation and harm. This is true whether what is being discussed is the practice of slavery and the infrastructure it built, the medical practices which keep us alive, or the ways in which the mentally ill have been kept hidden away in asylums. Where a garden we all enjoy sits, there are countless bodies fertilizing it beneath. The ways those before us have gone wring in pursuit of their “garden” should serve as a warning. We must be cautious to never make the same mistakes as our predecessors when creating gardens of our own.
Without care and compassion, men are not gardeners but beasts. Rather than growing something beautiful for the future on a foundation of love and kindness, they violently rake and carve out that foundation of misery with apathy towards what is right. The promise of a garden is what caused men of science to act like beasts when they used harmful experimentation on human beings to further their research. The promise of a garden caused wealthy men to act like beasts when they enslaved their fellow men and used their bodies for back breaking labors. The promise of a garden caused men of medicine to act like beasts when they cast aside their Hippocratic oaths in pursuit of new treatments at the expense of their patients. Like beasts, they were ignorant of the marks their claws leave in the earth, the scars they inflict for all future generations to see and feel.
Oftentimes, discussions on history of wrongdoings are dismissed with the claim that someone is wasting time by digging up the past. However, by not digging up the past, we ignore a crucial step in the process for manifesting changes in our society. We should all pursue our passions, but passion unchecked can do as much harm as good. Making a lasting difference for the better of the world we live in requires us to understand the right and the wrong way to build and move forward. Only in this way can the gardens we build be something future generations can be proud of.