Bubble Toes

Yesterday, I scavenged through some of my mom’s old CD’s to see if I could add some vibes to the otherwise banal chore of driving. For some time now my phone has been broken—it was run over by a car on Christmas and my laze prevented me from calling Verizon until now—so I scarcely hear music due to my distaste for the inundation of shallow popular music on the radio. After a difficult number of drafts,  Lenny Kravitz, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, the Beastie Boys, the Black Eyed Peas, the Shrek soundtrack, KC and the Sunshine Band, an album of popular Disney movie songs, my cousin’s band, Alien Ant Farm, and Jack Johnson were added to the roster. I mainly recruited the suggestions of my mom and albums I vaguely remember from my waning childhood memories, hence the addition  of the Shrek soundtrack.

Soon after, I drove to Office Depot in order to purchase an ink cartridge for our printer. On my first trip—I got the wrong size cartridge—Lenny Kravitz stole the show. His vibe wasn’t all too new to me but it was a welcomed divergence from the typically ska I listen to. The following drive to Office Depot was blissful. The playful lyrics of Jack Johnson danced about the car. Nostalgia overwhelmed me. I felt a resurgence of childhood curiosity, of love and passion, and for seeing and doing.

In my scheduled and often monotonous lifestyle there is very little room for whimsicality and jubilation. Often task to task, school gets boring. The

The Gateway Drug

In his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of An American Slave, Frederick Douglass miraculously conquers a plethora of insurmountable obstacles. The most notable of his feats is, obviously, escaping the oppressive shackles of slavery, however, I find his most exceptional accomplishment to have been learning to read and write. Via this outstanding feat Douglass was able to navigate his way to liberation. Whilst reading about this impressive historical figure I became intrigued. How could simple lessons in “the A, B, C” from Mrs. Auld have awakened this dormant genius? Does education enable?

brand_bio_bio_frederick-douglass-mini-biography_0_172232_sf_hd_768x432-16x9

“If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell.” -Mr. Auld

 

During his time in Baltimore, Douglass was treated well, relatively speaking. His mistress attempted to teach him the alphabet but when Mr. Auld discovered this he promptly ended the lessons. He claimed, “A nigger should know nothing but to obey his mater—to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world.” This statement entirely truthful. The slave owning South knew better than most that the only was to keep the blacks enslaved was to keep them ignorant; to keep them tame. Hearing these words triggered an irrepressible revelation.

“It was a new and special revelation, explaining dark and mysterious things, with which my youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled in vain. I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty – to wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black man. It was  grand achievement, and I prized in highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom.”

This strategy of keeping the masses impotent was by no means new. Techniques like this have been used by other powerful groups wishing to remain on top such as the Roman Catholic Church and their violent clash against science. Men such as the revolutionary Galileo were imprisoned and executed so information that could pose a threat to their credibility would be suppressed. Strikingly similar the church also only allowed members of the clergy to read and write so that the peasantry would be susceptible to deceit and manipulation.

bellarmine-to-assert-that-the-earth-revolves-around-the-sun-is-as-erroneous-as-to-claim-that-jesus-was-not-born-of-a-virgin-600x304

Perfectly sound logic

To consider this method a pandemic of the past would equally be outrageous. Marcela Loaiza, a Colombian woman dancing to support herself and her daughter, was lured into the lucrative sex trafficking ring run by Japan’s Yakuza mafia. Marcel was desperate for money and took the offer from the seemingly harmless talent agent. It took Marcela years to realize that she was a modern-day slave and several more years until she managed to escape with the help of a loyal client. Marcela now helps spread awareness about human trafficking. In an interview she shared, “Many girls and women in Colombia don’t know what human trafficking is. They’re vulnerable because of the high levels of unemployment and their lack of education.” 

So far, education has been depicted without any drawbacks. In a larger sense it is, but a deep pocket of sorrow results from it. At times, Frederick Douglass felt “that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing.” The most beautiful inquiry into this dilemma is from Charlie Gordon of Flowers For Algernon. After his treatment had enabled him to surpass the intelligence of everyone he knew and had loved, he became unhappy. Charlie was unable to find excitement in life. He grieved, “I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.” This tale tackles a difficult sentiment and handles it beyond adequately.

g

Douglass envies the lack of awareness of slaves like this

The simple solution, according statistics and leading humanitarians, to both ending world hunger and overpopulation is to empower the women. Unsurprisingly, another troubling issue can be defeated simply with education. But why does education enable?

overpopulation2

I don’t think they quite understand “elbow-room”

 

The Simpsons

A few weeks ago I started watching The Simpsons from the very beginning. I began with the shorts from The Truman Show  and then moved on to the first few seasons.

Initially, everything was strange; characters had no depth and the other citizens of Springfield didn’t have the antics now customary in their interactions. As I discovered more about the background of many of our characters, such as Sideshow Bob and Santa’s Little Helper, I also realized new elements of characters that made me have a strong distaste for them. If not for the lack of continuity in the show I probably would hate everybody. For example, Homer wishes for and contributes to the failure of Ned Flanders’ startup business for his own entertainment in season three episode three When Flanders Failed. In stark contrast, Homer believes to have consumed poisonous  fish in season two episode eleven, One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish, writes a bucket list. Instead of completing dreams such as skydiving, he spends his last hours with his father, catching up on quality time never spent together when he was a child.

The sentiment of knowledge overpowering all can be seen in many relevant life experiences. It is the difference between a schoolyard crush and an enduring marriage. It is the reason idiots are portrayed as jovial and hopeful in television. Curiosity is the bane of humanity. From the exaggeration of Pandora’s box to my innocent attempt to further appreciate a show the repercussions of knowledge are undoubtedle.

Choices

This is a narrative written for my English class. It’s a short reflection on opportunity and regret.

We waited. Parked just beyond the road that led to it. Our apprehension held us hostage and no one dared to fight its affectionate embrace. What was the verdict? Were we to resume our journey toward uncertainty or return bruised with our tail between our legs. Neither seemed  favorable so we just waited. While my intrepid thoughts drifted to the seemingly distant age of yesterday.

A typical Saturday, unimpressive really, my two closest friends, Gavin and Spencer, and I were hanging out around the fire pit in my backyard eating popsicles while the Dirty Heads hummed in the background. I leaned forward in my chair. My head perched on a closed fist while the opposite hand fed me the frozen treat. My face was caked by the heat radiating from the dancing inferno a foot before me. The flames lunged towards me only inches before me but I was as placid as ever; it soothed me. Embers, slaves to the cool midnight breeze, gracefully twirled and drifted into the oppressive void above. The subduing aroma of the smoke relieved me of all thoughts other than the popsicle I held. Rather than recoiling from its menacing clutch I welcomed the intrusive beast. I occasionally looked beyond the vibrancy of the fire to confirm that my guests were still there and doing well.

campfire.jpg

Gavin rested his worn, black Vans on the concrete edge and sat back. One arm relaxed behind his head while the other handled the popsicle. He seemed to be enjoying himself. Spencer, the least appreciative of us, had already devoured his dessert and had begun to dismantle the lighter. He manipulated the height of the flame and seemed relatively pleased with the results, I know this because he shoved it in Gavin’s face; demanding recognition for what he’d done. He continued to restlessly fidget. Nothing less was expected from him. I grew up with Spencer so to me this type of behavior was unextraordinary. Spencer was bored.

I questioned him and my initial diagnosis was affirmed. Spencer’s attention deficit and hyperactive disorder was consuming him. All of our effort, which there wasn’t much of, was now focused at suppressing Spencer’s boredom. The serenity of the evening was shattered due to his incessant needs.

Spencer recommended his typical ideas which consisted of going to Bella Terra, Triangle Square, or Pacific City. Not having the interests of young teenage girls, Gavin and I immediately shut down his ideas and teased him for being so predictable. Content with where was, I didn’t give much input other than to ridicule Spencer’s lame ideas. After about two logs had burned, Gavin finally spoke up about an abandoned blimp hangar in Tustin. My immediate reaction was to shut it down but echoes from previous nights that I had kept us from doing anything told me otherwise. We agreed to drive there the following night.

Sunday was a blur. My mom and sisters were still out of town so my two brothers and I had the house to ourselves. Gavin and Spencer met up at one of their houses while I enjoyed mongolian barbecue with my brothers. I let them know when I was finished and from there we began our excursion.

The drive was uneventful. There was little traffic and most of the drive was spent telling Spencer not to touch things. Although I didn’t object to going to the hangar, tonight I was feeling especially indolent and would’ve prefered to relax at home. Nontangential thoughts were intertwined and I began to abhor the trip. I developed a coherent argument about why we should turn back. Then came the revelation. We were within eyesight of the road and Spencer read a webpage concerning the hangar aloud. The words slipped through his lips with no purpose but they were enough to stop the car. The hangar’s perimeter was often patrolled by security due to construction to turn it into a museum of some sort.

flashlight

We waited and considered our options. When I first heard Spencer my immediate reaction wasn’t relief but rather indecision. Should I launch a campaign to ruin the night and lasting memories? I already planned one but acting upon it would accomplish nothing. The other option is to follow the Spencer in his rather unconventional path that either doesn’t or simply refuses to acknowledge potential consequences. He seems fulfilled, I guess.

We ended up turning back after we saw flashlights piercing through the darkness. I went home and watched tv like I had never left at all. That night while in bed Robert Frost’s poem hijacked my thoughts, taunting me.

resize

Mirrors

We’ve all seen a puppy or kitten bewildered by their own reflection. Regardless of what your parents or any other ill-informed persons may have led to to believe, your pet’s infantile antics are not a a sign of intelligence. The curious canine is most likely just trying to play with his or her newfound companion rather than showcasing an exceptional ability to recognize oneself in a mirror. This inability is especially exaggerated among species that have never seen their reflection before. Here is a video showcasing various animals reacting to a mirror set up by French photographer Xavier Hubert Brierre in the jungles of Gabon.

An obvious outlier in the video was the reaction of the chimpanzees. Initially they were wary of the mysterious object but eventually their inquisitiveness overcame them. The chimps began to gather in large groups around the mirror and even returned after the mirror had been removed to see themselves.

imgres.jpg

This is a chimp who has just received a small mirror for the first time.

The intelligence of our closest animal relative is well documented and recognized but some may wonder what enables us and them to far excede the intelligences of other mammals. I  believe that it all stems from this seemingly simple innate ability to look at ones reflection and immediately determine that the being staring back at you is you.

Morals. I have had many discussions about where our morals have derived from. Consider the hallmark proverb of kindergarten: “Treat others how you want to be treated.” If not for our idea of self, and therefore the idea of cooperation, we would have no values. Whether bonobos or capuchins, our ape friends show signs of sympathy and comradery. It’s rather simple really. You could look at it from an evolutionary standpoint in which an argument could be made that it is “safer” to share and be in groups or you could look at it like, “Hey, I really like cookies and I have some. That other human doesn’t have any cookies. He must also like cookies so why don’t I share with him so that he may give me cookies some other time.”

Now for animals that cannot understand the mirror. Those who cannot suffer intellectually. Pigs will fight for the opportunity to suckle from the sow, dogs will fight for food (a dog can be trained to share but it is not a natural instinct like the orangutan which will always give back half of the fruit you give it), birds for prey, and the list continues. One can easily argue that these animals are less “intelligent” than we and chimpanzees are.

I apologize for not wrapping up my post in an eloquent manner but I had to leave the computer for a few hours and lost my train of thought. My writing isn’t structured or planned because I feel that I sound more genuine without an outlined plan of attack. I believe that I was going to conclude with something about how my reason for speaking about mirrors and chimpanzees is that I was fascinated with my dog who was barking at his reflection during a thunderstorm and thought of how dumb he was. This led to me remembering the absurd intelligence of  the bonobos and wondering about the implications of being able to recognize oneself in a mirror.

Made in an under developed country

I am a product of tragedy.

Raw Materials: My food is produced from the gross mismanagement of workers and land from which it came. Children working rather than going to a poorly funded and maintained school. Forests devastated. Trees cut. Animals lose homes.

fotolia-kingan-timber-forestry

Clothes: Produced in factories with horrendous conditions. Buildings not even close to regulation. Death and disease aren’t uncommon. Companies claim they can’t afford insurance or better conditions. It would raise prices by cents.

Bangladesh Building Collapse

Technology: “Recycled” parts gather in dunes of chemicals and waste. African children walk barefoot on the circuits and motherboards. They collect the precious metals and infections.

ewaste5_greenpeace

Pets: My dog came from a breeder in Montana. Millions die in pounds every year. Strays crowd the streets in many cities.

Too sad for picture

House: I live in a nice house in the suburbs. Citizens of Rio live in packed ghettos hidden behind walls. Gangs rule the communities. Others have no home. Poverty or natural disasters stole from them.

image

Race: I am not white. I live equally alongside all other races. Billions have been oppressed. Slavery. Persecution. Race wars. Hate crimes. I have experienced none because others suffered for me. They led the civil rights movement. Their deaths sparked change.

brand_bio_bio_martin-luther-king-jr-mini-biography_0_172243_sf_hd_768x432-16x9

Energy: Pollution is widespread. Appalachian men forced into coal mining. Coal miners get cancer. Oil spills kill millions of animals. The wealthiest prosper while everyone else suffers.

how-big-oil-harms-animals