Eco-Violence: The Genocide of Germination

sustainability

After attending Professor Robert Markley’s lecture, “After Sustainability: The (Future) Histories of Climate Change,” on Monday afternoon, I couldn’t help but draw connections between the sort of issues he was discussing in terms of “eco-violence” (or violence against the environment, especially plant-life) and the different forms of colonial oppression that we have been encountering time and time again, in every work we read in this class.

One of the most interesting aspects of Markley’s lecture was the controversy over what does stability really mean? Especially in an English course, diction is important. According to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) sustainability means: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level OR avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. I take the time to point this out, to illustrate to you how this word that is  so readily thrown around in various forms of rhetoric actually explains very little about how to achieve its means. This is a utopian word, which sounds great in concept, but is an island away from practical application in most senses.

That is not to say “sustainability” is not an admirable goal, or even an essential one, but the means necessary to bring that utopian ideal into realistic existence cannot be accomplished by spotting speeches and padding pamphlets. Even in “ideal” circumstances, or under the best conditions, in order to obtain “sustainability” in one area, sacrifices must be made in another. In fact, many times efforts made to “save the planet” or to improve the environment backfire in unexpected ways. For instance, in the lecture Markley mentioned that redwood trees had been transplanted to New Zealand, whose volcanic soil promised three times the average rate of growth. However, due to this fast development, the bark of the trees did not mature in the typical fashion and ended up being too soft to be useful.

Many oppressors of the environment, like those of people, seem to have rhetoric which implies that they are doing the landscape a favor by making necessary improvements. Like many foreigners in “savage” lands (since the ways in which the area had developed, or been “cultured” was unknown and not understood by them) they decided it must be backwards and in need of being “liberated” from itself. Many forests have been cut down, marshes drained, foreign species (primary grasses and crops) planted all under the guise of “cultivation.”

Does this rhetoric sound familiar? It should because we have been reading about it all semester! Does it sound religious? Kind of like the religion justification similar to “the divine right of kings” that Johnson uses when he makes the dictionary, essentially “weeding” out the words that weren’t quite up to his standards. Kind of like the thought process of the Houyhnhnms (highly educated horses) in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travel’s, who advocate for the wiping out of entire species (in this case humans) in order to maintain “balance.” More recently we see ideas of “cross-pollination” at the end of Equiano’s narrative when he poses the solution of intermarriage as a way to “eradicate” African heritage and “breed” in European culture.

This is a running narrative that still continues today and is being propagated by officials in our country, the United States of America, who seem incapable of drawing inter-disciplinary connections between the uprooting of invaluable resources in terms of both people and the planet. Hopefully this blog will help some of you also see the way in which these running narratives of oppression are not only cultural issues in terms of people, but also the planet at large, making them truly global concerns. Unfortunately, oppression is a fundamental aspect of co-existence, whether it be between two clashing groups of people, or humankind and the planet. The sooner we accept this in all its various forms, the sooner we can make a conscious effort to create a society that actually supports sustainability.

Elle Lammouchi

Just A Bunch Of Yahoos

Jonathan Swift uses the Houyhnhnms to portray what could be a perfect civilization for us meager humans to follow. A civilization that is focused around “Friendship and Benevolence” and treating the strangers as though they are their closest neighbors. The Houyhnhnms believe in equal education for both sexes. They focus around solving problems carefully, and use reason rather than opinion (238-239). Their way of life is one  to strive for, to set as the highest standard. With their standard, humanity would be at its greatest.

At least until it comes to dealing with a race that is constantly considered inferior to their own and in result decide it’s best to get rid of them all. The Yahoos are constantly described as being vile and a nuisance to the Houyhnhnms, something that must be handled accordingly. The hatred that has formed for the Yahoos cannot be ignored. Swift has created a literal call for the genocide of the human race, and in doing so aims to portray the Houyhnhnms as the divine humans, the standard desired. However, creating this causes a mass loop for the Houyhnhnms, a fatal flaw.

The Houyhnhnms describe the Yahoos as those who are power hungry and violent, for they seek control over anything set in front of them. However, could it be said that by desiring to have the Yahoos “exterminated from the Face of the Earth” (249) is one step toward Yahoo? Or perhaps if not only wanting to kill off an entire race isn’t enough, then how the Houyhnhnms instead choose to take a note out of Gulliver’s lifestyle. Though Gulliver is considered a more advanced Yahoo, it doesn’t make for the fact that the Houyhnhnms have instead moved backward. In other words wanting to be a Houyhnhnm isn’t possible, not even for the Houyhnhnms themselves.

-Elizabeth Dominguez

Rowlandson’s narrative tells it all.

 

I believe that the story confirms, contradicts, and complicates the history of intolerance and genocide.

Mary Rowlandson’s narrative gives a lens and perspective that complicates the morals attached to colonization -it creates a moral dilemma, if you will.  The imagery she presents in her writing, with the murder of one of her children, and the kidnapping of others, appeals to the emotions of the readers; whether the reader wants to or not, they will somehow sympathize with Rowlandson’s vexing experience.

At the same time, her description confirms the retaliation the natives released in their state of vigilant anger. While one may be in the position of sympathy, when reading her written work, it is the implicit understanding of that historical background, which lead up to that moment of retaliation, that one has to think about.  In Rowlandson’s experience, in comparison to the bigger picture of the American Holocaust -the systematic genocide of slavery, and violence, genocide- we can see that the numbers in the death toll do not compare.

In terms of contradiction, the story becomes so because of all of the above.  There is an internal conflict that goes on upon reading it.  We sympathize, we become angry, we are in the moment, while at the same time going back into the cruel history that led up to the crime.  We also have to be careful not to use our 21st century way of thinking when close reading this piece, but one can’t help but question any document written so long ago that one is not able to get answers to all the questions we have.  Why did she write this? Where was she when she wrote this? What effect did her gender role play on how she wrote it? What was she possibly forced to write in order to continue to the stereotype the natives were cast in? While we may not have the answers, one can conclude that she really believe that God was on her side, thus according to her, everything she saw and felt was correct.  More contradiction is when she refers to them as savages, even after the fact when they actually treated her well.

The lack of evidence, other than her words, creates a big gap.  And all we can do as a reader is look at it and attempt to put ourselves in that time period, and take from it our own individual understanding.

-Maricela Martinez

Consequences of War and Genocide

Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, in my opinion, in no way is justification for genocide or intolerance. I believe that the actions of the native americans can be seen as an act of war and defense and not as simply a malicious or savage-like situation. Mary Rowland and the people around and before her have started this trend of slurs, dehumanization, and genocide of native people wh0 had thrived long before the arrival of invasive people into their land. When colonizers arrived, they found that these native people were not living how English people knew how to live. Immediately the colonizers felt they needed to ‘teach’ and enlighten the natives and for some reason to do this they had to take their land. The front was weak and fake and the real reasons of exploiting land and resources were apparent to the natives as the invaders continually murdered them. Native Americans were not simply going to sit there and let their land, food and people taken from them, they fought back like anyone would in a war.

Throughout History situations like this have not been uncommon. We just discussed last week how central America was colonized and how the spaniards took advantage of the native people. The Aztec Empire had its resources stolen and people killed. The Spanish claimed they were there for exploration and for the betterment of the ‘savages’ but they knew exactly why they were there. The spaniards came in and instigated a war with the natives just how english colonizers treated Native American’s. Both native people were attacked and misplaced by the colonizers.

Mary Rowlandson was a victim of the war going on around here and her views, opinions and ideas were also a victim of said war. Her beliefs and ideas towards the people should not diminish the acts done to her and her family but those acts should also not justify the acts of the colonizers before them.

-Noel Nevarez

Not About Genocide

Rowlandson’s captivity narrative is by no means an exemplification of suffrage through genocide. Neither is it an attempt to justify the actions acted by the English colonists upon the indigenous people. She portrays an unrealistic reaction to the dreadful event, showing no signs of fear despite the loss of loved ones and being separated from the rest of her people. The language she uses suggests her lack of remorse as she is traveling with her captors, looking up to God for savior with hope as strong as ever. In an event like this, the natural response is fear of death and yet, Rowlandson remains calm unlike the fear the ingenious people showed when they were massacred and their land were taken over by the English men. This makes Rowlandson’s narrative difficult to read and to sympathize for her. The repetitiveness of “wonderful goodness of God…” and other variations of that phrase, became a little annoying in all honesty. To say that after witnessing something gruesome makes me question what Rowlandson was really trying to say.

Perhaps, her narrative was an act of spreading God’s words, spreading Christianity, and her excessive use of biblical references prove so. In the fourth remove, she witnesses her land stripped down to the little details as they had done to the indigenous people. Instead of showing anger, frustration or fear, she is optimistic. It is hard for anyone to remain that optimistic as a human but she does so through Christ. God became an overarching theme to show his powers. The idea of faith is risen. I admire her optimism through her crisis, but her narrative becomes frustrating as it progresses. It is clear to the readers that she was a strong believer in Christ, but referencing the bible in almost every remove leaves no room to express real feelings which the readers look for in order to sympathize for her. I may have been a lot more moved by the narrative without the abundance of biblical references.

Her captivity is her punishment for the sin she and her people committed and her actions suggests she is accepting that fact. This follows John Locke’s idea that “if anyone may punish someone for something bad that he has done, then everyone may do so. . .” Rowlandson implicitly claims it is okay for her and her people to be taken captive for their sins. She, at times, refer to her captors as human beings making it clear that she understands they are their own individual people. I believe no form of torture, evil, or death is ever good, whether for the sake of killing or revenge. The English colonization was bad but that was in the past, and although with the impact it has had in our history, it does not make it just for the roles to be reversed as an act of revenge. The Indians are essentially committing the same crime, and by Locke’s words that they may be punished for the bad they have done, it becomes an endless cycle. The only way to stop it is literally to just stop.

-Van Vang

It’s complicated, but it’s really not

Mary Rowlandson’s narrative complicates the history of intolerance and genocide because of her status as a female and mother within the state. Just by living in the society that she does, and believing its ideologies, Mary enters a state of nature. To some degree, she is not a victim because she chose to be apart of her society and accept its rules, whether they are sexist or racist. Even though women did not have much autonomy, it was a price she seemed willing to pay to be considered a reputable woman. Throughout her narrative Mary chooses to follow the racist narrative set in place by refusing to view the Indians as anything other than black “barbarous creatures”. The little moral agency that Mary has, she throws it away for what she was taught to believe. This blurs the history because Mary is just a production of her society who refuses to question the world that is set before her. Mary Rowlandson, and other women like her in her time live on the border of the state of nature and the state of war. One thing that we can see from Mary Rowlandson’s narrative is how women throughout history have compromised their agency in order to live “comfortably” in their society by following its rules. They become victims of retaliations and used as a reason to justify vengeance. People read Mary’s narrative and think, “wow, those Indians sure are as savage as they said they would be”. Her narrative becomes representative of white women being victims of conquests and why it was “necessary” to conquer Native Americans. It perpetuates the narrative that white women need protection from men of color that continuously is used to this day.

-Nancy Sanchez

Genocide in America

Mary Rowland’s life story goes to show the intolerance and genocide of America. It was not until her family was at stake that she realized the wrong in genocide. If that had not happened to her family would she have come to realize this? This shows how colonizers did not care about the mass murders they were doing or the territory they were invading until it became personal to them. This is basically a history of America, no one cares about the harm they cause until it comes back to them.

John Locke would not have agreed with the occurrences in Mary Rowland’s captivity narrative because he believed “all men may be held back from invading the rights of others and from harming one another, and so that the law of nature that aims at the peace and preservation of all mankind may be obeyed.”

-Natalia Alvarado

Mary Rowlandson: a hollywood superstar

The reason that the recurring theme of our literature thus far has been of “mass killing, pillaging, and conquest of indigenous peoples,” is because this is the history of our nation. Albeit, not the one the education system wants us to know, but our history nonetheless. Surely, it causes some to react—the way literature does—as it creates this uncomfortable verbal battlefield with justifications for genocides and heavy worded disagreements against it. However, this is essential for educating one another; I look at Mary Rowlandson’s didactic narrative as a way to educate those unable to sympathize for the indigenous people (choosing to ignore the clearly overarching racist tones).

Perhaps through Mary’s narration of her captivity, the people unable to relate to the mass murdering of the indigenous populace, can finally accept the disgusting truth (or sentiment at least) of this nation’s past. By writing about her captivity, she gives insight to the horrors and savagery of the events occurring in a genocide. It’s through her that the caucasian (with eurocentric tendencies) can relate to; one person, that is, that they can envision through the first-person narrative, the true terror of an invasion. One person’s viewpoint (first-person) vs. a mass populace viewpoint (those wiped out due to colonialism: voiceless). Sounding familiar? Mary serves as the “pleasant familiar face” in this text, in the same way that Hollywood uses a white familiar, friendly face. The message is being conveyed still, that genocide is bad, but how would an elitist, white-european feel when watching a screen above them filled with indigenous people? Nothing appeals to them, at least in the simplest sense of familiarity.

 

–Just an empty thought on how Mary’s narrative compares to cinema, I’ll return to it on Friday–

 

Daniel Lizaola Loepz

Echos of Hatred

Throughout Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, she  fuels anti-Indian sentiment by describing the Indians as  “ravenous beasts,” “bloody heathen,” and “murderous wretches.” She has made the  indigenous people actions seem as an act of devils, “Oh the roaring, and singing and dancing, and yelling of those black creatures in the night, which made the place a lively resemblance of hell.” I believe it is a mixture of Mary’s puritan faith and imperalistic mindset that feeds her refusal to step out of her own life and view other cultures without bias because the Indians obviously don’t share the same values as the Puritans. According to Mary, there is no redemption for the Indians because she doesn’t view them as human in the first place.

However, her encounters with these “savages” reveals something much more savage within herself. She seems to be possessed by her hatred and close-mindedness that it demeans her experiences and religious values to modern readers. Although this historical narration is meant to illustrate Mary’s unwavering religious faith during a time of war, the dehumanization of the Indians makes it difficult to see this as a sympathizing, eye-opening experience. There is something fearsome about her words because it echos the hatred that has lead the genocides of ancient civilizations that came before us: the Moriori Genocide, the Pygmy Genocide, the Armenian Genocide, etc. It confirms the history of  intolerance and genocide central to the English colonization because of close-mindedness, fear and discrimination. Currently, as we have experienced from Donald Trump’s campaign, this type of thinking hasn’t gone away.

John Locke says that the state of nature is having equality, but it can be argued that he is not including equality for just anybody. Throughout history, gender, race, and class have made people fit into two roles: those as the masters and those as the slaves. We have enslaved minority groups. We have enslaved women. We have enslaved our environment.

-Ana Diaz-Galvan

Mary Rowlandson Political Influence

What Mary Rowlandson writing was unethical despite the fact that some may feel sympathetic towards her. Although Mary’s grief may have led her to such extreme actions, which she believed to be justifiable under the eyes of GOD, her addition to the history of intolerance to others and this genocide were not ok. Although the tragedy she suffered in which she lost her children due to an act of violence from the native Americans who killed her children while in her arms is sad, it can, later on, be seen as how this moment in her life became a scapegoat for her actions. Upon hearing this sad story of her children dying before her, Rowlandson becomes an image of distraught and anguish that cries out for sympathy and here is also where we begin to see justification of her acts due to sympathy towards a woman (who was clearly a part of a movement to establish colonies in the name of Christianity) that looked emotionally and mentally abused. However despite looking like a fragile woman whose only intentions was to help the Native Americans let go of such gruesome lifestyles and actions by showing them the way of God, some claim despite the tragedy that occurred, it is not justifiable to sympathize with this women and the loss of her children due to the fact extreme acts of violence and her true underlying intentions.

As one sympathizes with her it is important to also keep in mind the white colonialist/ imperialist voice that asked for the voice of her people but not; where was the voice of the native Americans in all of this? Did the women in the Indians side not lose children due to the wars as well? But the fact of the matter is that women did have political influence caused by sympathy that reflected from one of the most “weakest” members of their society as well as the use of religion. Religion, Christianity is the key factor, to the type of power and influence it can have no matter what gender one may be. For instance, Thomas invites the comparison of both Anne Hutchinson and Winthrop’s feud: “Remaining confident with the belief that God remained within her, she countered Winthrop’s accusations intelligently over days of trial, but she would cement her fate as her character showed eminently whilst addressing the court in an impassioned outcry, ‘You have no power over my body, neither can you do me any harm…Therefore take heed how you proceed against me—for I know that for this you go about to do to me, God will ruin you and your posterity and this whole state.’” Anne Hutchinson was able to argue with Winthrop over religious beliefs by using religion against him thus proving that in a free and development an integration between the natives and the colonist, the woman also had a saying in the movement.

Mary is not so different, her works became propaganda to millions of puritans/or colonist to justify the murdering of people do to Indian retaliation.

Quote

Sure women did not have authority the same way man did, but they were really influential through writing,(as we can see with the case of Hutchinson v. Winthrop) because writing erases gender; that is if people do not view the name of the woman on a piece of literature; or if the woman writer uses a fake name to publish her stuff, as it was done around these times; or more unethically, the man in charge, allow for works like Mary to be spread around to gain “sympathy” and be justifiable of their actions to their own people, without even considering the fact that there is another side of the story, resulting in the justification to wipe the Native Americans which I theorize, might have been the beginning of the separation between the colonist, politically and ethically. Thus, fast-forwarding to the present, the creation of both political parties: Republicans and Democrats.  In short, although Mary Rowlandson may not have written her piece as a means of political involvement, it seems that maybe it was politically manipulated and pushed the religious ideas to back up the colonist view of the native Americans to be nothing but cruel people and savages.

Enrique Ramos