From Captivity to Wanting to Fit In

On the third of February 2017, I experienced for the first time, what they call here First Friday. Apparently, it’s a night rich with culture and arts and great people to share these things with. To my luck, I live above my friend’s shop that is within the blocks that get closed down for First Fridays. This meant that I could watch from my window before I decided to go downstairs to enjoy it.

There was a group of people that had hula-hoops, sticks, and chains that were on fire. But these people were dancing with fire, they were really connected to this fire. My roommate told me they call it the dance of hell—and reasonably so! Though the others didn’t seem to enjoy it as much. They probably didn’t appreciate the danger of it since it was filled with people of all ages.

I decided that it was safe to go outside after a while that I saw everyone getting along well. As I walked out, there was a couple guys in hoodies that were spray painting on plywood. They had very minimal lighting on their pieces but even then they had an audience.

“We should ask them if they know anything about the people that have been spray painting our shop!” my roommate exclaimed as she started walking in their direction. I had forgotten about the shop getting marked up but we were both pretty upset because, why us? My roommate first talked about their art. They seemed like pretty interesting and harmless young men.

“Why would I know about who is tagging up your spot?” one of them responded once my roommate finally asked him, “I know as much as you do, and I don’t even know where your shop is,” he said with frustration. My roommate pointed out where the shop was, which was just a  couple meters away from us.

“Oh,” he said as his shoulders dropped. “I don’t know who did it, but I do know that they probably did it because they’re upset—that used to be soul food place where the cook was like everybody’s grandma—matter fact we’re all pretty upset that it was replaced with yall’s vegan shit—like who the fuck is vegan?” He made a face of disgust while he shrugged again with his hands out. I was offended by his tone and tired of that damn question. Since I wasn’t part of this conversation, I decided to step away while my roommate responded to him, in a calm but argumentative tone—which we knew where it was headed.

As I was walking towards the shop, kids were running around with swords that lit up in multiple colors. They got closer to me and I jumped away but I stepped on a beer bottle and ended up on my ass. The kids stopped, and laughed, as did some people around them. I couldn’t understand why they were being so rude and disrespectful. They laughed hard as if they were really enjoying themselves over my misery.

My roommate realized I had fallen and went to help me up. Without a word, we both just rushed to the shop to get away from them. We slammed our door hard as we closed it and everyone went silent.

 

 

 

Notes from the Author:

This piece is supposed to be a remake of Mary Rowlandson’s History of Captivity that addressed the gentrification going on in Oakland at the moment. The shop replacement is the stealing of lands in this piece and their oblivion to their mistakes—well that’s pretty self-explanatory. I was sure to have them describe different races differently too, like the fire hula-hoopers are white, while the artists are of some other race, either Latino or Black, whichever you imagined first. Mary calls the natives savages pretty often, but in today’s society, microagression is the way we do things. The need to mention the hoodie, the expectation that they’d know who tagged their place and lastly and completely ignoring the fact that the artists had told them they took away a very loved place are reflections of their prejudice towards POC.

The shop getting tagged was supposed to resemble Rowlandson’s attack at the beginning of her story. Though hers was gruesome, I was not about to make Oaklander’s kill white people for the sake of my story—there’s enough news out there talking about the violence in Oakland. However, having your business tagged, is still pretty frustrating and disrespectful to some.

The falling at the end is supposed to reflect Mary’s incident falling off the horse and getting laughed at. She felt insulted by their laughter, becoming a real victim of their doings. As the character in this story is also feeling personally attacked by their laughter—but everyone laughs at people falling unless they’re seriously injured because of the fall, which wasn’t the case in either of these stories (yes, Rowlandson was already hurt, but she wasn’t hurt because of the fall, so it’s still cool to laugh).

All in all, I wanted to bring attention the gentrification that is going on in Oakland because it’s frustrating to see the new comers give us funny looks in our own home.

 

-Luz Palacios

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US in 2017

From England in 1819


An old, mad, despised and, unfortunately, striving Thing;
the dregs of their dull race, who can't admit
The lack of anything moral or logical is not just acting.

Rulers who are oblivious to the problems, addressing only the comments
on screens and saying its all fake news
But in his one "good deed" to protect others far away, bombs were sent

We've been warned, once those drop there, some will come here
Because of this Thing that acts like a child,
World War III is near.

The Thing attacks people based on religion, sex and country of origin
but there are others who follow, blindly just as he
and it's become masses attacking masses, but we don't see what we're in

But then it comes to me,
we've all got bird eyes pinned to screens
not only do we neglect knowledge, but we don't want to see.



-Luz Palacios

From your mother to the good and bad

I’d like to start by saying that when looking at Lines Written in Early Spring (page 102) and the image by Caspar David Friedrich, The Monk by the Sea, together as one, it makes the poem appear as if it’s coming from mother nature, as if Earth was its own entity reflecting on humans and our progress on Earth.

In line one, it says “I heard a thousand blended notes,” which can be seen in the white sky that has a mixed texture. This could represent the notes also being mixed if paper could actually mix that way–but that’s the beauty of it because here it is. Lines 2 and 3 also say “In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts bring sad thoughts to the mind,” here, we could also interpret the sky as that changing of thoughts, where the sky is white, the pleasant thoughts, literally blend with the dark, the sad thoughts.

In stanza 2 lines 7-8 it says, “And much it griev’d my heart to think What man has made of man,”  this line really took over the image for me and made me reflect on how I needed to come to Merced, a place that sometimes feels is as empty as in this painting (coming from a city such as Oakland, there’s no real empty space, and there’s like an abundance of empty space here–not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just ), in order to be able to reflect on the impact we, human beings, have made–which has been anything but good to the environment. Point being, the painting could be the point that mother nature decides to reflect on how we’ve developed.

That is like how in the earlier lines I mentioned where pleasant thoughts bring sad thoughts. Throughout the rest of the poem, it is admiring its surroundings of birds and the breeze, which shows an appreciation of this space, though not reflected in the painting, because it is a beach, we can easily assume that there are these elements at this moment. But while there is an appreciation for this moment we’re in, there’s a slight inevitable part of us that can’t help but reflect on where we come from, which is probably not a place as serene as a beach–if you like the beach, at least.

The Time of the Ancient Mariner–Life and Death

Originally, I wanted to say that Iron Maiden’s version of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner was not romantic poetry because it’s not romantic in the sense that I’m used to things being romantic. I generally don’t listen to rock music, so I have that bias. However, trying to avoid that bias, in the preface of Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, they describe poetry as

“…the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science… In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs, in spite of things silently gone out of mind and things violently destroyed, the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time. ”

Which made me realize that this is exactly what Iron Maiden’s version of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner had. What better way to show “impassioned expression” than to yell like all the lyrics. And though you usually wouldn’t have this “epic and wicked” feeling in romantic pieces, Iron Maiden gives us both romance and wickedness in this song–a climate/mixture that is usually not the case (at least in my world). And most importantly, this song appears to have a definite impact on people even after all these years. So by default, I want to say that Iron Maiden’s song of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner is indeed like romantic poetry.

In terms of the lyrical and actual content of the song, we could look at the following,

“Death and she Life in Death,
They throw their dice for the crew
She wins the mariner and he belongs to her now.
Then, crew one by one
they drop down dead, two hundred men
She, she, Life in Death.
She lets him live, her chosen one.”

Generally, the Rime of the Ancient Mariner was about life and death, though they say it’s about God’s creations when you deduct religion, it’s about life and death–about how we should appreciate life, and the people that surround us because otherwise, life is kind of pointless, it’s upsetting, it’s lonely. And romantic poetry is generally about the love and appreciation people have for others or other things that fulfill their lives. Especially when you are out in the sea, the company of others is very important to your survival–to help you keep your sanity, which clearly didn’t happen for the Ancient Mariner. So though the Ancient Mariner was the chosen one, he was alone, so life was pointless for him then, the pity of others was not what he wanted when he was telling his story to the wedding guest, he wanted them to learn to appreciate the people that surround them, the way that he didn’t get to do.

 

-Luz Palacios

Pious work

The cartoon titled John Bull taking a Clear View of the Negro Slavery Question, by Robert Cruikshank, I believe is satirizing the abolitionists; anti-abolitionist. In discussion, we discussed (ha) that because there were young kids signing the petition that would be “…removing the duties on East India Sugar,” according to the poster/board above their heads, it is a  demonstration of weakness while also being illegitimate signatures. That could represent that the people who are supporting the termination of the East India Sugar don’t know what they’re doing, that they’re foolish. I don’t know if they actually had children signing the petition but  what often does happen is that the young people—high school students, college students and the general people aged 15-30 are the ones speaking up against injustices (that’s an estimate, I don’t know the statistics either, but c’mon, who do we mostly see protesting?). It would make sense, that a salty old cartoonist would make this type of satirical image.

To connect that with Olaudah Equiano’s narrative, we can look at the letter he sends to the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, where he writes,

“It is the duty of every man, every friend to religion and humanity, to assist the different Committees engaged in this pious work…” (219).

Pious work… with the context it is clear that he means the work is being done as a duty to religion but another definition of pious is, in similar words, a hypocritical approach to something for the sake of religion.

With that being said, let’s acknowledge that he himself had slaves as well. While also, looking at the quote we discussed in lecture that goes,

“Recollecting a passage I had read in the life of Columbus… where, on some occasion, he frightened them, by telling them of certain events in the heavens, I had recourse to the same expedient…” (191).

In class, my group and I agreed that in this situation, Equiano was trying to control the situation, and he used religion to do so—because it’s guaranteed to work! In his letter there’s also an emphasis on religion and how the freeing of slaves was a duty that people had at least in respects to their religion. Though he does address the inhumanity and injustice being done to the slaves, it seems as if religion is a tool for him. And because he used the word pious, whether he meant the hypocritical version of it or not, he’s still referring to the rightfulness of abolishing the slave trade as a “duty of friends to religion” while it should have been “duty to your fellow human” (though I could understand why it would have been easier to get people on board through religion rather than the humanity of slaves at the time—but still).

I’ll admit that I might have a bias on this as a non-religious person in assuming that he is only taking advantage of religion…

Relating that to the cartoon, I can understand why the Robert Cruikshank depicts the abolitionists as child-like because it may appear to him, and many people that think like him, that the abolitionist don’t have their ideas or reasoning together. For example, Equiano is an abolitionist with slaves, in the picture there’s three dudes with black coats that seem to be going on false tangents as they are altering what people are seeing, kids are supporting them and it’s just all over chaotic—in the eyes of people like the Robert Cruikshank. I am not justifying their degrading of the cause, but I can understand why they would think it’s foolish and why cartoonist make things like this.

 

-Luz Palacios

 

Living Right

In Phebe Gibbes’ Hartley House, Calcutta chapter 19, Sophia refers to a quote from The Genius of Shakespear that goes as follows, “Whose nice discernment Virgil-like is such, Never to say too little or too much” (148). For starters, after I googled The Genius of Shakespeare, I discovered that this book is criticizing Shakespear’s literary power–in the sense that he wasn’t as creative as people deemed him to be (like, he had his “off-days” where his work wasn’t the best, yet we consider all of his work to be great–I think, I personally don’t know much about Shakespeare, I didn’t have the traditional English curriculum in high school). It also put forth the question of whether or not he would have the recognition he has today if in 1588 during the Spanish Armada, the Spanish would have won instead of England.

With that being said, it appears then that Sophia is reading material that is deconstructing or simply questioning the things that in that time, Europeans knew as a given; Shakespeare was the greatest. It is also her constant admiration (the receiving of it) in India that made me believe that maybe Sophia was beginning to believe that maybe the European lifestyle wasn’t for her. That she might have possibly preferred to be in India rather than in England. This is supported when she writes the following:

“Thus, you find, we Asiatics can contrive to vary our pleasures; and must be the envy of the European ladies, were they to read that we of Calcutta live only to be adored…” (150).

She began to identify as an Asiatic, while othering herself from the “European ladies” which is absurd but understandable, when you’re being treated like a queen in a land that’s new–essentially soon to be yours. All the “elegance, bright and shiny” treatment she received while in India, made her feel like she deserved to be there. At first, she was a proud European girl, but as time went on, she was fascinated with the culture she was exposed to. If she read The Genius of Shakespeare, I think that might have served as a tool for her to say/believe, “it’s okay to disagree with the given, when the new is better.” It kind of gave her the “ok” to distance herself from the English tradition.

-Luz Palacios

Cleaning a mess, to make a mess

**I will come back to this**

“insert quote we discussed in discussion here”

Samuel Johnson attempted to create a “pure” language that had structure because he thought that it was unorganized, and unclear what the meanings of words were–people were beginning to forget meanings, hence the “adultering” of the language. He believed that there was potential for the English language to become a sophisticated language, which was not going to be possible with the commerce that was going on. Again, he wanted to purify the English language.

“The Sanscrit language, so difficult that almost…”

While Ray wanted to use English to educate the Indians because he believed that their language was prohibiting them from learning about other things such as philosophy and such. Whereas the English language was easy to learn, which made it easier and gave them more time to learn about other topics–which is more ideal than spendings a lifetime simply learning a language. So English is efficient, according to Ray,

“Why then is it necessary to pay people to learn Sanscrit and Arabic? Evidently because it is universally felt that the Sanscrit and Arabic are languages the knowledge of which does not compensate for the trouble of acquiring them. On all such subjects the state of the market is the detective test.”

Macaulay supports Ray’s vision, by pointing out the absurdity about how the people/students learning Sanscrit have to be paid because it is like too much work to just learn the language.

With that being said, while Johnson wants to purify the language and keep it within a certain type of people, but his organizing of it made it an efficient language, which was easier to share and pass on to other cultures to simplify their lives. So though Macaulay and Ray don’t have the intention to make the English language have another language mixture, that’s kind of what they are doing. They are sort of “de-purifying” English.

**I will come back to this**

-Luz Palacios

Could the Houyhnhnms be the answer to life?

I believe that Gulliver’s Travels suggests that humankind would be more successful if it were to behave and think the way that the Houyhnhnms do.

While reading the passage about how the Houyhnhnms use herbs and such to cure their slight illnesses I immediately thought of how Native Americas and other grounded cultures use natural methods to cure themselves. A peer mentioned the same thing! So clearly, we’re on to something. So, with that being said, what if the Houyhnhnms are supposed to represent the natives? What if he is trying to say that instead of immediately considering them savages and “backward” that they (the colonizers) should have at least tried to learn from them. I don’t know much about the Native culture, to be honest, but I assume that they weren’t as violent or had such strict power structures as the Europeans did/do, which makes me believe that that is why their lives were less complicated, more simple and meaningful compared to that of the Europeans. I think that’s what Swift is trying to get a stab at. I personally think, and hope that this is what Swift was trying to say, that without those superficial ways of living, that put so much value into meaningless things, we would have more time to take care of the things that do matter—such as taking care of the Earth rather than finding ways to make our lives easier while screwing up our own home. The Houyhnhnms lived live simply, and almost in complete harmony besides the Yahoos, which is why it makes me think of that.

 

-Luz Palacios

Being naive isn’t an option we can afford

Most people would say that Mary Rowland’s narrative complicates the widely known assumption that the English has no Most people would say that Mary Rowland’s narrative complicated the known intolerance that the English colonization had because we get to see that even they were being attacked by the natives of this land. That is a side of the story that I’ve personally never been introduced to until this class. At first I thought that I should sympathize with her story because after all, we all are humans and nobody should be treated so harshly. But I can’t be naive and allow myself to think that way, because if we take into consideration the ratio of the English victims versus the Native victims, we know which side had the most victims. Aside from that, when I was talking to my partner about whether we should sympathize or not, his response was “no, I sympathize with the natives because they had to go to those extremes–remember these were real peaceful people!” Which is true. I forgot to look at the intentions of the English versus the Natives when they would attack each other. Technically speaking, the Natives were practicing self-defense by any means necessary, and Im sure they didn’t intend to hurt babies and families, but they were trying to protect their families and their land.

 

-Luz Palacios

The Fancy Society

-the 17th century men have great influence in today’s scientific as well as literary world

-there has definitely been change/ an evolution of our understanding since the Royal Society originated. Francis Bacon’s interest for the further exploration of the sciences has definitely helped us achieve where we are today.

-the language in The Atlantis and in the Royal Society page, its attempt to exclude or to inform–maybe both

this is a place holder..

-Luz Palacios