The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Mohammed Alfassa, or Amadeus Matthias, the Syrian, Written by Himself.

This is an excerpt from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Mohammed Alfassa, or Amadeus Matthias, the Syrian, Written by Himself:

I walked beside my mother and sister in an alleyway that I grew beside playing ball, no longer familiar to my precious memories, by collapsed houses and overwhelming rubble accumulation. Today, I could no longer support the white-helmets, those who rushed urgently to the dire need of air-strike afflicted individuals, because I must attend to my mother and sister who grow increasingly frail in the absence of once copious street vendors bustling the streets endorsing a variety of vegetable and scrumptious meats. We search for a roaming trader, to disperse his valuable consumables, but we receive nothing but looks of consternation amongst waves of individuals in the city of Aleppo. I encounter a child not yet of five years who in an exchange of optic conversation, delivered to me a countenance of dejection and confusion. My soul continually grows weary, as I discover corpse after corpse of unidentified disfigured remains, bloodied and maimed by relentless ballistic destruction. We finally come across a luscious patch of grass and unravel a bundle of newspaper, boiling the conjunction into a warm porridge. The twilight shade engulfs the firmament, and we set our blankets on a bed of rock and pray for the sun to rise tomorrow.

The sun had yet to rise, but an incineration of foul venom suffocated me and terminated my slumber. I gasped for air and inhaled a deep dosage of the most painful breath I had ever experienced. I glanced to my side and witnessed a heart-wrenching scene of my sister grimacing in agony. I turned to my mother whose condition appeared far more dreadful as she winced an unconscious pain. I helped my sister up as she stumbled to keep her balance, and I carried my mother as we proceeded to a walk a path of chaos. Distant shrieks of agony and visible sights of convulsing children of a mixture of red, blue, and yellow complexion beside contorted figures in unimaginable presentation, the devil’s interpretation of yoga, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable. My mother shook her head and waved us ahead a mixture of white and yellow froth oozed from her mouth. My sister and I carried on, as tears began to befall my eyes incessantly before I came across a overpacked caravan of half-dead children and groaning parents. I began to hope for moments for an end to my miseries, but I glanced over at my sister and held on to my last bit of hope.

O, ye fanatic terrorists! Might as you would men should do unto you? Is it not enough that we are torn from our country and friend to suffer for your lust of power? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your bloodlust? Why are children to lose their parents, parents their children, brothers their sisters or husbands their wives? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty, which has no advantage to atone for it, thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh horrors even to the wretchedness of war.

To my dear readers,

I choose to emulate Oladauh Equiano’s captivity narrative in a contemporary manner of entirely different circumstances. I wanted to exemplify the situation of the Syrian civil war and specifically showcase the recent usage of sarin gas attacks by using Equiano’s  tale to relate notions of grievance and suffering. Honestly, I have not spent enough time keeping up with the crisis every day, and I often forget the disparity of our living situations in the U.S. and the horrific scene in Syria. I think about refugees in the past, and I feel intertwined with their fates, as I am practically a refugee product of a seemingly oppressive communist regime during the Vietnam War. The United States is a nation of immigrants and has offered a hand for those in critical need, but in the 21st century’s bloodiest conflict, the United States has hardly stepped up to the plate that they once have. In researching for this creative writing project, I saw some incredibly graphic images and unbelievable scenes of destruction. I can’t possibly imagine how people continue to exist in this current state of affairs, but I saw a good deal of footage of people persevering and aiding each other in such a disastrous scene. I used actual narratives of those experiencing the crisis to reinforce my writing. The images of children who were under ten made me ruminate of their lives, as all they have seen is death and destruction. I tried to emulate Oladauh Equiano’s style which is not as difficult as some of the other readings assigned in this class, but some of his vocabulary is intense and somewhat antiquated, nonetheless, I incorporated some of this older vocabulary.  The last paragraph is very identical, and nearly a quotation of from Oladauh Equiano’s novel, that seems to be a call to those who possess the power, questioning their ethics. Although slavery and the situation of war in Syria are completely different scenarios, I felt that Oladauh Equiano best captured emotion-invoking imagery, and I felt it would be the best representation of the current state of affairs. I thought heavily about the prospects of journalism after working on this creative project, something I’ve considered since I was young. Thanks for reading.

Thomas Pham



The Heart of the Harp

The harp represents not only the musical prowess of Irish people but also their identity as a whole. The undying perseverance and courageous spirit of Ireland can be heard from the resonating melodies of the stringed instrument. The prominence of the harp is eminently displayed to characterize and emphasize the heart of the Irish people amongst the bitter discord between the Irish and the English people. England’s imperialistic disposition met fierce resistance against the disapproval of cultural and national unity of two starkly different national identities. The battle for independence was not only tainted and defined by bloodshed but also within political-addressing literature, specifically poetry.

Sydney Owenson embodied the spirit of the Irish and invigorated a movement against oppression in The Lay of an Irish Harp. As she discusses of the agony her people faced in the daunting aggression of the Act of Union of 1801, she dismissed the benefit of solidarity from being involved with the United Kingdom. Sydney remarks of how Ireland suffers from English involvement, and that oppression caused reminisence “That bask’d in Erin’s brighter day”.

‘Tis said opression taught the lay

To him–(of all the “sons of song”

That bask’d in Erin’s brighter day

The last of inspri’d throng;

Owenson reminds readers of the fallen souls that fought against English oppression, to unite her people, and to distinguish the separation of the two cultures.

‘Twas at some patriot hero’s tomb,

Or on the drear heath where he fell.

Towards the end of her inspiring rhetoric, Owenson continues to make a call to the Irish nation, and insists on the independence of the Ireland to the rest of the world.

For still he sung the ills that flow
From dire oppression’s ruthless fang,
And deepen’d every patriot woe,
And sharpen’d every patriot pang.

The harp possesses a power beyond auditory pleasure. Sydney Owenson sentimentalized the Irish harp and disseminated the heart of the Irish people for those interested in the plight of Ireland. She rallied her fellow Irish, and voiced the anguish and perseverance of her people in her poem The Lay of an Irish Harp. Owenson expresses the value of culture, interlaced with notions of femininity at a time of prominent strife. Her rhetoric would continue on to inspire not only the Irish, but of people all around the world.

Thomas Pham

San Jose ’17

Today I present to you a poem on the city of San Jose, the place I was born and raised. I chose to follow William Blake’s London poem loosely. San Jose is an interesting place. It is a multi-cultural city of diversity, and houses an immense level of economic stratification. I spent time around both settings of lavish living, and poverty-stricken areas. I wanted to explain in my poem the opportunity for a young individual to take advantage his resources, but also wanted to exemplify the threat of becoming a juvenile delinquent. As neighbors to major companies such as Apple in Cupertino, and Google in Mountain View, San Jose experienced tremendous change over the rapid introduction of technology. San Jose may not be as culturally exciting as San Francisco, or as vibey as Santa Cruz, but San Jose is definitely a city where you can get a different type of delicious cuisine every day of the week, and find something new and fun to do every day. I also mentioned that San Jose is quite active when it comes to protests and activism.
I walk amongst a bustling street.
Minorities here, constitute the majority
Olfactory sensation, endless choices to eat
A busy day, a city of diversity
A boy laughs innocent joy,
possibilities, he could carve any path,
but today he seeks his toy.
A life of success, or one of vengeful wrath?
How the lawn-mowers quickly tread,
Lavish living on the hills west.
Spontaneously, gangs rumble for street-cred.

Tainted alleys, and rising tension over who is best.

In the dawn of a revolution,
Computers revel in the silicon valley.
Metamorphosis, a decade of transformation.
A call for equality, a crowded street-rally.
Thomas Pham

A Beautiful World of Ethereal Places and Ephemereal Wonders

Their colors are distinct as those of the sun and regularly and obviously blended, though less vivid, fine specimens may be found any night at the foot of the upper Yosemite fall, glowing gloriously amid the gloomy shadows and thundering waters, whenever there is plenty of moonlight and spray.

– John Muir

Dear my fellow venerable peers and aspiring scholars, I present to you a plea.

Awaken your slumbering reverence of nature within. This world that we share asks for our appreciation now more than ever. The strength of a movement is determined by the collection of the will of its individuals. Wordsworth intuitively composed his poetry at a time of boiling industrial forthcoming, but do not hesitate to relate its antiquity to the pertinence it has in a world of modern environmental peril. Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads is as contemporary to our present problematic endeavors with Earth as you could possibly imagine. Their words continue to speak for a voiceless mother Earth, the most beautiful of all planets we have ever encountered. As students of the University of California, Merced, we are granted an opportunity to embrace a pioneering spirit that has fueled and characterized the United States of America for centuries. Considering our proximity to the greatest wilderness of them all, Yosemite, we are living embodiments of Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis, which spoke to the roaring passion for Western expansion and human inquisitiveness. Go forth and revel within the temples of awful (awe-inspiring) natural wonder, avoid the temptation and distractions of modernity, as they serve no true purpose to your free-spirited soul.

Wordsworth and Coleridge have me lost in a world of beauty and pain. Romanticism speaks to me like a siren-wailing fire truck calls to a lonesome canine to howl incessantly. I’m enamored by this imaginative prose, delicate as a rose, insinuating thoughts of philosophical scorn, like an unforgiving thorn. I have literally and figuratively lost myself in the forests of the Sierra Nevada, blanketed by chilling darkness, but it was then, that I had ever felt more alive. I was young then, and my eyes scrambled in the twilight in fear of black bears. I know now, that these lovable bears in comparison to fearsome grizzlies of the north or population dwindling from receding landscapes of polar bears, are not to be feared. Fresh mountain wind,  towering sequoias revived me from my past loathsome troubles that lay insidious within my mind for so long. The landscapes of this breathtaking mountain range lay etched in my thoughts even with my eyes closed, and are now ingrained in me for the rest of my existence.

The painting “Buttermere Lake: A Shower”, instills moody thoughts in a gloomy overcast. I initially see a bleak landscape of melancholy, that speaks of a desolate past. The rainbow from the painting reminds me of Lower Yosemite Fall’s moonbows. We are within 2 hours of North America’s tallest waterfall. An exciting thought to contemplate itself. I look within these dark clouds of anguish and uncertainty, however, and I find hope. Just as I once lost my wallet and my keys in Yosemite and panicked for my life, I would eventually calm down and see that they were exactly where I had placed, underneath a pile of my belongings. There is always hope even in death and absolute remorse. Even if you cannot see it, there is always light somewhere within or somewhere far beyond the twilight zone. It is only in darkness that light truly shines. Be courageous in the face of overwhelming odds. Fight on until your last dying breath, and submit to no oppressive force. I reference another poem that carries my sentiments. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” – Dylan Thomas

Buttermere Lake, with Part of Cromackwater, Cumberland, a Shower exhibited 1798 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Joseph William Turner’s painting carries multiple aspects of Romanticism within its frame. It is an encapsulation of the feelings and emotions of The Lyrical Ballads. Expostulation and Reply discusses enjoying nature even if its morals and lessons taught are not as direct as a lecture of philosophy or a laboratory session of science.

"You look round on your Mother Earth,
          As if she for no purpose bore you; 
          As if you were her first-born birth,
          And none had lived before you!"

William is expostulated by Matthew. Why does he seem to mindless observe the world with his mind adrift in solitary rumination?

"Nor less I deem that there are Powers
          Which of themselves our minds impress;
          That we can feed this mind of ours
          In a wise passiveness.

William explains his penchant for wonderful Mother Earth. He feels that he assimilates notions of patience and lessons of wisdom in the stillness of meditation and deep contemplation.

Landscapes like the one Turner paints and the ones that you can come across after hiking to a viewpoint are so powerful, that you can’t help but lay speechless. I recall the times I’ve been such amazing views like Glacier Point and Angel’s Landing, and I sat startled and comforted by the immense grandeur for hours.

I make one last reference to another one of Wordsworth’s poems. I ask that you consider your lifestyle and your attachments to materials, just like Wordsworth attempts to convey the contempt of materialism. A life is meant to be fulfilled with experience, and not meaningless objects.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers

The World is Too Much With Us

William Wordsworth

Earth day is on April 22. Also, National Park Week is April 15-23. On April 15 and 16 and again on April 22 and 23 you can visit any national park in the country free of charge. As the heavy snowfall from this year’s dramatic winter begins to recede in the Sierra Nevada, I encourage you to take part in experiencing our world within its raw natural boundaries, rather than dwelling within unsatisfying cities. The following link is a website that has been instrumental in my transition from childhood to young adulthood. It has guided me with a knowledgeable content of incredible hikes in Yosemite and also carries a comedic and informative style of prose. Check it out!

One last note. Last winter I explored Zion National Park, and after embarking on a notoriously scary but enjoyable hike, I found a drone sitting atop Angel’s Landing. Flying drones are strictly prohibited in these National Parks, and I felt obligated to find the owner before a ranger confiscated it. I’ve been looking for the owner ever since. After a considerable amount of time debating with myself internally over ethical matters, I decided to examine the footage of nature. I was absolutely blown away, and I feel compelled to share. I hope that everyone has the desire to embark on their own expeditions. I recommend the HD setting for enhanced theatrics.



Thomas Pham

Nightmare on a Boat

As you search for purpose and reason in your life through the realms of academia and erudition, perhaps fervent scouring of the vast depths of philosophy and science have sapped the essence of your weary mind; it is now then, the time to embrace your unique soul and the boundaries of raw emotion to harness your latent aptitude. Romanticism embodies the feeling you get after finishing all of your finals or papers, an exuberant spark of joy, the exclamation mark, the incessant cry of a newborn, a declaration that emotion holds more meaning to the human experience than the infinitude of logic.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner takes you on a distortion of reality, an eventful mind-bending tale of confounding sequences. The journey that you embark upon while reading of the experience that the Ancient Mariner shares, encourages you to look beyond what you see, to listen to more than what you can hear. Your imagination is paramount and to neglect it would spell emptiness and suffering altogether. Coleridge’s poems tell us to live fruitfully and experience continuously, reinventing the norm and insinuating creation and originality. Centuries later, his tale of a nightmare at sea, would continue on.

Plug the amp, align your cymbals, tune your six-strings, where else but music lays the ultimate expression of individuality and freedom of spirit? Iron Maiden breathes horror, excitement, uncertainty, fear, and wisdom in their reinterpretation of the romantic classic. The phases of varying tempo in Iron Maiden’s version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner express the development of emotion in the story. Repetition echoes the lament and suffering of the Mariner. The sudden intensity of the climax breathes raw emotion and absolute passion through persistent beats. Perhaps the spirit of Coleridge remains head-banging to this metal classic Although the song represents creative ingenuity, the powerful imagery of Coleridge’s Poem is unmatched through the metal reproduction.

The ominous feeling of grief and hopelessness captured by Samuel Taylor Coleridge can not be imitated. “The water, like a witch’s oils, Burnt green, and blue and white.” (30)The unusual coloring of the water signifies an abnormal otherworldly presence. The lines of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner induce spooking chills and a sense of uncertainty.

The juxtaposition of intense metal and image-inducing poetry enables us to understand the capacities of human imagination. Emotion can be represented in an endless number of ways. As Iron Maiden’s classic, of a romantic classic, lives on to entertain new audiences, we are reminded that imagination and individuality live on and on. I’m sure Coleridge would be proud, in some way.


Thomas Pham

Transatlantic Abhorrence and Abolitionist “Eyes on the Prize”

Let’s look at Cruikshank’s cartoon of “John Bull taking a Clear View of the Negro Slavery Question !!”

So who is John Bull? He is a personification of England, a reoccurring representation of the country in political cartoons and graphic images. Basically, John Bull is to England, what Uncle Sam is to the United States.

The cartoon is referencing certain abolitionist causes by questioning their ethics and putting into perspective the reasoning behind the abolition movement. Robert Cruikshank is a representation of the tragic depths of disgusting unethical blindness that a man can succumb to. He attempts to enforce the right of slavery by addressing the ethical standards of those who are attacking it. To me, that’s like robbing a bank and then accusing the people that are accusing you of robbing the bank by saying that they’re being paid by the bank. The questioning of ethics in abolition is irrelevant, whatever the reason for supporting abolition completely overrides the atrocity and act of slavery. In the cartoon, Robert Cruikshank shows Barbadoes as a land that is enjoying joy through dancing, when compared to the strife that some citizens of England were experiencing. Oladauh Equiano has else to say.

“Even in the Barbadoes, notwithstanding those humane exception which I have mentioned, and others I am acquainted with, which justly make it quoted as a place where slaves meet with the best treatment and need fewest recruits of any in the West indies, yet this island requires 1000 negroes annually to keep up with the original stock, which is only 80,000. So that the whole term of a negro’s life may be said to be there but sixteen years!”(Ch. 5). Equiano explains the brevity of life in the Barbadoes and explains that it is a small portion of the massive transatlantic slave trade, in which over 10 million Africans were taken from their homes. The slavery in the United States is not discussed or scrutinized in Cruikshank’s pathetic cartoon, and he dismisses the reality of the horrors, which is ironic in that he attempts to explain the blindness of abolition when his morality is the one most at concern with the illustration.

Education helps free the world. Oladauh Equiano’s narrative was a key proponent in abolishing the transatlantic slave-trade. Abolition of the slave trade in Britain helped pave the way for the freedom of slaves In the United States. Abolitionist leaders such as William Lloyd Garrison, who wrote “No Compromise with Slavery”, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe borrowed from the British abolition movement, to express their beliefs and concerns. There are further interesting analyzations that could be formulated in a term paper about the connections of Equiano and his antebellum counterparts. Oladauh Equiano advanced the chain of events leading to more equal rights, and the term “Eyes on the Prize”, refers to the civil-rights movement in the mid 20th century that involved Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and so many others. Education or the lack thereof is a direct determination in crafting a view of humanity and enables the ability to defend or in Cruikshank’s case, attack it.

– Thomas Pham

Immolation & Education


For a long period of time in India, being a devoted wife might include grabbing the groceries for dinner, taking the kids to school, and burning yourself to death.

As they approached, my ears drank in the most delightful sounds; a band of music, as is the custom, occupied each of them, playing the softest airs; and from the tout en semble, brought Dryden’s Cydnus and Cleopatra in my recollection. (9)

– Sophia Goldborne in “Hartly House, Calcutta”

It is evident, that Sophia is quite clueless throughout her efforts of epistolizing the events she sees in plain sight, however, there is a constantly reoccurring theme of irony, in which it is the readers’ duty to acknowledge and take note of, to assimilate and connect the key implicit points in this historical setting of Anglo-Indian affairs, that Sophia is otherwise not aware of.

For Sophia, the celebrations are glamorous and fun, and she remembers dramas that she experienced back home in England. Although she is merely reminded of Dryden’s Cydnus and Cleopatra through the musical ensemble, there is a critical point to address as she begins to establish her descriptions of the cultures and traditions of the time. Digging deeper into the tale of Cydnus and Cleopatra, we learn about how desperate Cleopatra was to be the perfect lover and commits herself to self-sacrifice in honor of her husband after his passing. This example of an extreme level of marriage devotion can be linked to the Sati ritual in India. Sati means “the husband is to be followed always”. It was a customary virtue before modernity for a female widow to burn herself to the pyre, to follow her husband. Again we can thank Raja Roy for disseminating the notion that this wasn’t very ethical. Sophia is unknowingly referencing a deeper tradition that was prevalent previously, that approaches on issues of femininity, and gender equality. The core of this novel is to take into consideration what lays beneath the surface of what Sophia naively envisions.

The status of English literature at the time is immense. The culture of India and the language of English are beginning to mesh together in a willing cohesion of intercultural transformation. The works of several scholars and thinkers alike have impacted the lives of various cultures around the world. Sophia shares her knowledge of English continuously in her letters, but the implicit reasoning to this is tied directly to generalized English sentiments in India at the time. The feeling of uncertainty proved to be enough for many visitors to feel the need disseminate their language about.


Thomas Pham

A World of Words and the Roots of Global Erudition



A genius requires a powerful language that has been enriched by scholars and thinkers alike, to convey his aptitude.


Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.


English education in India was spurred by an overwhelming eclectic inquisitiveness of its people. Like the Japanese in the 19th century, isolationists hitherto, who were in a sense enamored by the daunting naval fleet that  Commodore Perry possessed, and desired to advance themselves in a way that would be deemed most appropriate in relation to the ever so increasing globalization of the world. The life and immense lexicographical project that Samuel Johnson undertook, describes a time of incredible sociopolitical movement, and his work of compiling excerpts from what he considered as the most substantial to language, would inevitably be a key proponent in insinuating at a massive sociopolitical scale, the standardization of English in India.

Samuel Johnson devoted his existence to a language, and gave life to the words he defined. Looking across the entries of his dictionary —in addition to uncovering unique vocabulary of the time— you are able to glimpse upon some of the concerns of an era, as well as read of some of the historical context that was critically relevant to the period. Examining his definition of tory and whig, allows us to better understand through blatantly worded examples, the state of affairs in England. “Tory: One who adheres to the ancient constitution of the state, and the apostolical hierarchy of the church of England, opposed to a Whig. Whig: The name of a faction.” As a fervent tory, through his dictionary, we can constantly see as well as among Johnson’s other works, his devotion to the conservative order of the church and state. At the time, his focus was not on entirely to set forth to standardize a language for an entire world to better comprehend and advance technological achievements, but evidently in India, this would be the case.

Raja Rammohan Ray saw the potential of his people to propel themselves into ingenuity, and embraced the concept of standardizing a more practical and relevant language. Samuel Johnson, Thomas Babington Macaulay, and Rammohan Ray helped dig the grave of Sanscrit. Macaulay felt strongly about the obsolete presence of Sanscrit.” I believe that the present system tends not to accelerate the progress of truth but to delay the natural death of expiring errors. We are a Board for wasting the public money, for printing books which are of less value than the paper on which they are printed was while it was blank– for giving artificial encouragement to absurd history, absurd metaphysics, absurd physics, absurd theology– for raising up a breed of scholars who find their scholarship an incumbrance and blemish, who live on the public while they are receiving their education, and whose education is so utterly useless to them that, when they have received it, they must either starve or live on the public all the rest of their lives” (Macaulay). Roy also believed that it was necessary to switch and standardize English for the populous of India. “But as the improvement of the native population is the object of the Government, it will consequently promote a more liberal and enlightened system of instruction, embracing mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry and anatomy with other useful sciences. ” Macaulay references the transformation of English from Greek, as an advancement, and that Sanskrit would benefit from similar means by adapting a similar evolution of language. “Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto noted, had they neglected the language of Thucydides and Plato, and the language of Cicero and Tacitus, had they confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island, had they printed nothing and taught nothing at the universities but chronicles in Anglo-Saxon and romances in Norman French, –would England ever have been what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More and Ascham, our tongue is to the people of India. The literature of England is now more valuable than that of classical antiquity.” (Macaulay).

Throughout my life, as a student of various subjects, and as a barista for the tech-company Yahoo, I have encountered numerous examples of sheer intellect of people who have come from India. Many of which, possess an insatiable hunger of knowledge, which is both inspiring and admirable at once. I now know through the writings of Macaulay and Roy, of the beginnings of such a prevailing display of intelligence. Without the introduction of English to the people of India, there ingenuity evidently be present, but perhaps not in a manner that would be proudly shared to us. Rammohan Roy that his people were incredibly capable and his last words to William Pitt entail a sense of desperation to standardize a more cohesive language, that was spurred forth by the efforts of Johnson and the powerful writers before him. “In representing this subject to your Lordship I conceive myself discharging a solemn duty which I owe to my countrymen and also to that enlightened Soverign and Legislature which have extended their benevolent cares to this distant land actuated by a desire to improve its inhabitants and I therefore humbly trust you will excuse the liberty I have taken in thus expressing my sentiments to your Lordship” (Roy). I conclude my blog post with an excerpt from Macaulay that explains and sums my beliefs and points sufficiently.

 We know that foreigners of all nations do learn our language sufficiently to have access to all the most abstruse knowledge which it contains sufficiently to relish even the more delicate graces of our most idiomatic writers. There are in this very town natives who are quite competent to discuss political or scientific questions with fluency and precision in the English language. Indeed it is unusual to find, even in the literary circles of the Continent, any foreigner who can express himself in English with so much facility and correctness as we find in many Hindoos. Nobody, I suppose, will contend that English is so difficult to a Hindoo as Greek to an Englishman. Yet an intelligent English youth, in a much smaller number of years than our unfortunate pupils pass at the Sanscrit College, becomes able to read, to enjoy, and even to imitate not unhappily the compositions of the best Greek authors. Less than half the time which enables an English youth to read Herodotus and Sophocles ought to enable a Hindoo to read Hume and Milton.




Spelling bees are a whole lot more entertaining, likely in part by Raja Rammohan Roy. You’ve allowed for the youth of an entire nation to rise intellectually to global prominence. Thanks Roy.



Thomas Pham


Happiness is more than Perfection


Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing.

George A. Sheehan

Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Sorrow and Frustration have their power. The world is moved by people with great discontents. Happiness is a drug. It can make men blind and deaf and insensible to reality. There are times when only sorrow can give to sorrow.

-Winifred Holtby

Would we be happier if we acted a bit more like the Houyhnhnms, and also reasoned in the same manner they do? Perhaps in some regards, as suffering and conflict would surely be diminished, but the happiness we live and breathe for entails a notion that is evidently separate from the seemingly perfect philosophy of the supposedly superior horse-people in the land of the Houyhnhnms. Happiness is found to occur over accomplishment and triumph, over the strife and struggles present in our society, that seem to be devoid or lacking on this horse-run island. Happiness is infinitely defined, and can be seen also  alongside the vices of our world and the insinuation of terror,  and in the ways blissful innocence and enlightened thinking may. I believe that Swift does a commendable job at putting into perspective the imperfections and ethically digressive actions we partake through the characterization of the Yahoos, and I sense an underlying presence of irony in that Gulliver becomes too caught up in his own fantasy of a Utopian society, forgetting the beauty of the challenge and the triumph of adversity.

Through the doubt of those who have denied your capabilities, you have many times succeeded in life and felt the elation of such a victory. Opposition and challenges are what opportunities to succeed and overcome. They are scenarios in which brave individuals and daring souls have resisted and rejected attempts of tyranny and authoritative rule. Swift shows the fault of laws, greed, war among other repulsive aspects of our culture, but he begins to lose a grasp of what makes us human. Ironically, in his attempt to convey the grotesque and undesirable reality of mankind, he  inadvertently reveals the magnificence of imperfection. There is a severe lack of joy and happiness in the world of the Houyhnhnms. The unpleasant realities of our world give us a platform to contrast onto our perceptions of good and righteousness. Heaven in the bible wouldn’t seem so amazing without the depiction of hell. However Swift brings to light our perception of happiness directly. Truly, happiness can be a result of maniacal fervor, or blatant addiction, but this is where the unique existence of our kind is shaped. For those who find happiness in the light of positivism and ethical behavior, then evil is indeed necessary.

We have come to define happiness in our own ways throughout time, and to extract a more perfect definition of this, would oppose and detract from the original meaning of the word itself. Like each and every human, our world is imperfect in its very own beautiful way, and happiness is defined with this imperfection. Johnathan Swift implies a more peaceful and desirable way of living through the Houyhnhnms, but demonstrates that ultimately a transition to a more perfect society would inevitably dismantle the true definition of happiness that we surely all pursue.

Swift is evidently targeting John Locke’s philosophy of nature, war, and society. Locke seemed to justify European colonization attempts with his doctrine on the necessity of society. The enlightenment aimed to glorify the intellectual, but at the expense of those who were deemed as not within the category of a society, the uncivilized. The Houyhnhmns seemed to emulate this Lockean philosophy, and were willing to exterminate the Yahoos for their own well-being. With Gulliver’s Travels, Swift expresses his concern over the dangers that Enlightenment thinking can insinuate. He insists that superiority will involve gruesome and heartless actions. He makes it clear that happiness is not present through the path that the enlightenment might proceed to. Johnathan Swift defends those who would otherwise have no say, and presents a rare defense to the encroaching oppression of tyrannical governments.

-Thomas Pham



The Irony of John Locke and America

Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative presents an interesting situation for Lockean philosophy. John Locke’s philosophy itself is a conundrum, and when applied to the foundations of America, helps us come to realization of the massive contradiction that our country continues to instill. The conception of America coincided with the line that “All men are created equal”, and was written by a man who owned hundreds of slaves. It is a common theme in America, the false promises, the irony, and outright injustice. Surely this is an unnecessarily complex issue that would find some sort of resolution with acceptance of diversity, and an avoidance of the devastating cycle of hate.

Locke philosophizes about societies coming together for the benefit of the individual, to avoid the perils of nature. His description of the state of nature, is targeted towards the natives, but he fails to realize the complexity of the political structure in native societies. He views their establishments as inferior, which is the first step to dehumanization, even though he stresses the equality of man. Locke’s doctrine on society and government is incredibly contradictory, which is why it was so popular to the forefathers of our country. Like America, Locke attempts to employ a heroic rhetoric of equality and greatness, but falls short, by carrying a general mindset of superiority that conflicts with the ability to find true peace. Locke addresses the institution of slavery on the basis of a government ruling it’s people, but doesn’t clearly address the notion of a society employing slavery for it’s benefit. His way of thinking helped lay down  the foundation of acceptance of slavery, and again, is why it was such a favored viewpoint in America. His explanation of the importance of property attempts to justify the destruction of natives, and diminished the rights of those such as slaves who did not possess such property. His thoughts and writing caused centuries of years of pain and suffering.

In the case of Mary Rowlandson, it seems that they may be some uncertainty on the boundaries of the state of nature, and the state of war. The conflict between the natives and the colonists seems to spark up and settle down from time to time, but it is essentially a perpetuating state of war, which through Lockean philosophy determines that the violence seen in the start of the story is in a sense acceptable. Locke’s work may have attempted to subject the natives to a state of nature and diminish their lives, rather than one of that carried the aspects of a society, but their societies were in reality quite complex.

-Thomas Pham