“Psychology behind Counterproductive Chit-Chat”

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According to Webster’s Dictionary, gossip is the “rumor or report of an intimate nature; a chatty talk.” The dictionary also defines gossip as “someone who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others.”

Juicycampus.com, a Web site recently shut down after much controversy, served as a vortex for student gossipers to sit and chat about casual events of the day. Any college student could access the Web site, select their current college listed (optional) and start chatting about how much they hated their classes, who was sleeping with who, who was starting to get fat and who the hottest freshman was.

J.W. Wiley, director of the Center for Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion and an interdisciplinary studies and philosophy lecturer, defines gossip as “the center of counterproductive chit-chat, often about things a person doesn’t know.”

“The No.1 reason some people gossip is because they don’t have anything else to do with their time,” Wiley said.

He uses an ancient creole proverb to describe people who gossip as having an “idle mind for the devil’s workshop,” meaning people who aren’t using their time in a positive manner are easy prey for the negativities of the world.

Wiley also said people who gossip significantly change their body language.

“If you were to gossip about someone and that person just happened to walk in, the whispers would just stop and the atmosphere would just change,” he said.

Feeling very strongly about this subject, Wiley even posted a blog about gossiping.

And he is not alone on his adverse feelings toward it.

Ruth Merceron, a PSUC sophomore, said she believes people who gossip don’t have enough going on in their lives, so they tend to talk about other people’s personal matters.

“Gossip is a universal thing,” she said. “Americans idealize gossip by the magazines and TV shows that condone it, but I come from a Haitian background, and I have many family members that gossip too.”

The new hit TV show, “Gossip Girl,” is a young-adult series stemming from the book “Gossip Girl” written by Cecily von Ziegesar about rich students who attend an elite prep school and entertain their lives by gossiping about their enemies’ (and friends’)  sexual lifestyle and the latest scandals.

Carol Lipszyc, an assistant English professor at PSUC, also said she believes gossip is not the most ethical form of human communication.

“Gossip gives people a superior sense of knowledge which can help make their lives better,” Lipszyc said.

Besides the negative aspect of gossiping, there has always been a stigma that women gossip the most.

“Men gossip, but women gossip more,” Charlene Kingston, a PSUC student said. “People gossip to get the latest drama. Everyone gossips. It’s universal.”

When asked how she deals with people who gossip about her, Kingston said, “I just ignore people who gossip about me.”

Kaylie Mousaw, a PSUC junior, said she likes to clear the air when people gossip about her.

“I like to ask them about what was said, but I don’t do it in a negative and confrontational way,” she said. “Women may gossip more than men because they feel as if they’re supposed to due to the stereotypes bestowed upon women.”

Despite all the negative connotations of gossiping, some PSUC students believe it can be healthy.

“As long as it’s not detrimental to someone’s image, gossip can be fine,” PSUC student Jennifer Joshua said. “It doesn’t have to be necessarily a bad thing. Talking about how cute a girl’s shoe is can be classified as good gossip.”

Although she is surrounded by gossip, Joshua said the discussion is never brought to her attention, even though she knows people talk about her.

Graduate student Jacynth Johnson said he believes gossip is simply a waste of time and energy.

“If anyone gossips about me, then it means that I’m just that important,” he said. “Gossip just has a negative connotation.”

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“STD Risk Increases Binge Drinking”

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College, a social gathering ground, is a time for young adults to explore new aspects of life. It is a time of freedom and responsibility, but it can also be a time for mistakes.

Students often find themselves drinking alcohol as a release from the tension of maintaining a job, an acceptable GPA and not to mention completing schoolwork due the following week.

So the weekend rolls around and students are pumped to get to parties and forget about their academic activities for a moment.

All around there is alcohol – the “irresistible liquid courage” that guises itself as one’s friend. One too many drinks, however, can lead to some regrets.

According to the Education, Training and Research Association (ETR), a non-profit, private organization that promotes and encourages the well-being of children and young adults, binge drinking is when a person drinks a lot of alcohol in a short amount of time and reaches a very high blood alcohol level.

Studies from the American Council for Drug Education (ACDE), an organization that helps prevent college students from abusing alcohol and drugs, showed that 60 percent of college students who are infected with STDs, including genital herpes and AIDS, reported that they had been under the influence of alcohol at the time they had sexual intercourse with the infected person.

Katie Jackson, a Plattsburgh State English major, has abstained from drinking alcohol altogether.

“College is a time to explore your sexuality and drinking habits,” Jackson said. “It (drinking) lowers your inhibitions and makes you do things you would later regret.”

She also said that drinking games mask how much alcohol a person really consumes.

“I have not been drinking since this school year because it’s not about drinking to have fun,” Jackson said. “It’s about being comfortable with who you’re with and having fun with them. You can still have fun and not drink.”

ACDE also stated that as much as 70 percent of college students admit to having engaged in sexual activity primarily as a result of being under the influence of alcohol. The students also admitted to having sex they wouldn’t have had if they were sober.

“I was drunk when I lost my virginity in my senior year of high school,” Nick Mannino, a PSUC English education major said.

Mannino said his judgment was impaired, but he doesn’t regret what happened.

“Our generation is open to experiments and we make mistakes, but mistakes help you learn in life,” he said.

The Core Institute, an organization that surveys college drinking habits, stated that at least one out of five college students have abandoned safe sex practices when they were drunk.

PSUC student Amanda Fio Rito said she experienced an embarrassing moment while drinking.

“I got so drunk one night that my friends had to tell me what I did,” she said. “Although I was embarrassed about that night and I had no control over it. I deem this as a learning experience.”

Jerimy Blowers, director of Health Education Services at PSUC, is adamant about helping students become aware of the dangers of alcohol.

“Alcohol is deeply rooted in our American culture and is accepted in society, despite the fact that alcohol is the most dangerous drug in widespread use,” he said. “Problems arise when people do not see alcohol as a powerful drug, and use it in irresponsible ways that bring harm to one’s self or others.”

Blowers said he believes this fact remains indelible here at PSUC among students. He said that “excess drinking dramatically reduces the cognitive skills in making important decisions.”

He advises students to make plans before going out to limit alcohol consumption, use the buddy system and always practice safe sex regardless of the situation.

Anyone with concerns about binge drinking, alcoholism or other types of drug abuse can stop by the Health Center and make an appointment with Jennifer Sanborn, Plattsburgh State’s Alcohol and Other Drug Coordinator. (518) 564-5090.

I’m Back…..

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Well, I’m back from a seven month long hiatus. Since I’ve been away, I’ve accomplished something incredibly big. I graduated college! Pop out the champagne and roll out the red carpet that leads to employment and success, right? Well, no, not just yet. It’s been two months since I’ve graduated college, and I’m still looking for work. My resume is strong, I have a great personality (I can be quite the charming lady), and I have completely open availability. So why isn’t anyone hiring me? I guess these things take time. It’s pretty depressing, especially in this day and time to be sitting at home wondering what to do with your life. But you would think I’d be all sad and morose about it. Nope! Why kick myself when I’m already down? It’s a waste of time and spiritual energy. I’m currently reading Robert Greene and 50 Cent’s The 50th Law, and it is a real eye opener.I recommend it for the hungry, ambitious readers. Instead of daydreaming and sitting on my butt for countless periods of time, I can utilize my very precious days by doing something constructive. I’ve updated my blog which has reminded me how beautiful it is to share my thoughts and views with the public. It’s my virtual diary without the random excerpts of how much I hate my ex-boyfriend. I prefer to personally hand write those; more intimate (joke).

Anyway, I’m not going to be a Negative Nancy and complain about why I’m not getting any jobs. I’ll go out there and give the world some of Ms. Rose. Resilient, Respected, and Reliable. I’m young, beautiful and ready for action, and I know I have what it takes to survive. Look out world! Here I come.

 

The Questioning Existence of ‘Consciousness’

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Great contemporary writer Gertrude Stein raises the question of whether consciousness exists. Stein ,alongside William James and Jonah Lehrer, predecessors of Stein’s take on consciousness, spark the timeless debate of whether objectivity and consciousness can co-exist. William James’ “Does ‘Consciousness’ Exist?” is an article that focuses on whether the conscious state of man can work together on a parallel plane with objects. Lehrers’ Proust Was a Neuroscientist explains in great detail the many writers, including Walt Whitman and Gertrude Stein, who discovered the truth about the human mind and conspired (separately) to figure out the “tangible truths'” of neuroscience. Together, these psychologists and philosophers have helped shape and question concepts and ideologies that work together in order to figure out or debate whether the mind and body/object can co-exist on the same level.

William James, psychologist and philosopher of the early 1900’s has formed his idea on whether consciousness exists from Kantian ideologies. His article “Does ‘Consciousness’ Exist?” is living testimony to his experiences and thoughts about whether in fact the human mind and objectivity correlate.  James’ opening statement claims, “‘Thoughts’ and ‘things’ are names for two sorts of objects which common sense will always find contrasted and will practically oppose each other”(477).  Already, one can see that James believes that thoughts (the human mind) and things (which can metaphorically be any object including the body) are contrasted. He separates mind from body and claims that they do not necessarily work together but have an opposing relationship; he doesn’t see mind and body as one entity.

James later goes on to expand the idea of thoughts and things having a polar relationship by pulling from renowned 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant’s ideologies. Kant believed that all objects are formed and determined by our experience with that object. In a way, William James and Immanuel Kant believe that the bipolar relation of the human mind and body is needed to create a balance in the stream of consciousness, or the untouched flow of thought and awareness of the mind in its conscious state.

In addition, James then continues to explain the crux of his argument on whether consciousness does indeed exist. James affirms, “I believe that ‘consciousness,’ when once it has evaporated to this estate of pure diaphaneity, is on the point of disappearing altogether”(477). James is clearly confirming that the state of consciousness will be forever ‘lost,” in a sense, once it has crossed over into the realm of transparency. In other words, consciousness is a “nonentity,” therefore intangible, and “those who still cling to it are clinging to a mere echo, the faint rumor left behind by the disappearing ‘soul’ upon the air of philosophy”(477).  Consciousness is not an independent, separate, self-contained existence, but should be considered to be a function of “knowing.”

James also further discusses consciousness by defining its purpose and task. James states, “Consciousness is supposed to explain the fact that things not only are, but get reported, are known” (478). Consciousness is not a something that only exists, but it also has a function, a purpose. James believes consciousness is the act of knowing. If we fix our attention on just seeing what consciousness is then we’ll never be able to see it, or understand what it is for that matter. The main idea of consciousness is the mere fact that we know it exists. Consciousness is brought into existence by us questioning and acknowledging that it’s “realness.”

Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons aims to break barriers of the ideas of consciousness. In Randa Dubnick’s review of Stein’s book, she (Dubnick) claims that Stein’s book serves as some sort of literature experiment of the intersection of consciousness with object (29). Tender Buttons is a book that focuses on the abstracts of color and movement. Dubnick also states that the subject matter that Stein mentions in Tender Buttons is the actual tangible intersection of the object with consciousness (30). As we talk about the object, we conform it to our experience and our knowledge which is what Stein demonstrated in her book, therefore she brings consciousness and objectivity together on the same level.

Stein differs from William James in a way because she tries to put consciousness and objectivity together to work for her in Tender Buttons. Stein even states in her book, “It is so easy to exchange meaning, it is so easy to see the difference”(21). Perhaps what Stein was referring to was that it is so easy to give meaning to any object and conform it to the writer’s own thoughts and ideas, and the difference can be seen through the object itself. The object is as different and unique as the writer, therefore writing is artistic. Her mind holds the paints, and her objects are the canvas.

What Stein does in Tender Buttons is that she shows one just how different and unusual (unusual to people who don’t understand what statement Stein is making) an ordinary object can be, and once taken and twisted around to fit another identity, that object is seen through a different light. In a sense, what Stein does in her book is Kantian because of her experience with the certain objects she mentions and because she is forming those objects out of her very own experience. For example, as Dubnick puts it, “Tender Buttons is the linguistic moment in the writer’s consciousness”(31).

Furthermore, there are a lot of relativities and suppositions in Tender Buttons. It is known that Stein’s book is a representation for the abstract, but she happens to have some relations to the objects she mentions. For example, Stein states for the object which is a plate that, “if the party is small, a clever song is in order.”  If the number of amount of guests is few, then one shall play a catchy song that everyone knows in order to get the party started. The plate is just an abstract of what Stein is really talking about; she is just talking about everything that relates to that plate such as: parties, size, texture, price, washing it, and etc.

Aside from meshing objects and consciousness together, Stein manages to bring art to her literature. She is in her conscious state, and the literature seems to reflect that because of lack of grammar and her ability to find relations to an object she writes about. She experiments with words for style, and, to not make it sensible, she doesn’t use any nouns. Stein pushes the boundaries of literary works because Tender Buttons is an influential piece of literature that impacted by other contemporary writers.

In one part of Stein’s book, she mentions the word “suppose” at least eight times. Perhaps these suppositions Stein mentions are just mere flaws that question the idea of consciousness and objectivity working together on the same level, and not having a bipolar relationship like James mentions. Stein purposely abandons the conventional description of the object and still concerns the object as her “model,” much like cubists do (Dubnick 33). What Stein does that’s so unconventional is that instead of the usual descriptive relationship between object and word, Stein lets the object evoke images and not the other way around.

Moving on, scientist Lehrer takes a different approach on questioning the existence of consciousness in his book Proust Was a Neuroscientist. Focusing on Chapter 1 of his book, Lehrer uses Walt Whitman to discuss the idea of thoughts and things like William James discussed in his piece. Lehrer states that Whitman believes that “we do not have a body, but that we are a body”(1). This sentence brings about the debate of whether consciousness exists and how it exists exactly. From Whitman’s point of view, the mind and soul are one single entity. Whitman’s concept of mind and body being one was a controversial idea because during his time, phrenologists and scientists followed the Cartesian idea of the soul being found in the head, while Whitman believed that the soul is everywhere inside the body. Lehrer makes his idea clearer when he compares Whitman’s ideology to his work. Lehrer claims, “Like Leaves of Grass, which could only be understood in its totality, Whitman believes that his existence could only be comprehended in unity and not by singling out a certain part to be examined”(5).

In addition, Whitman states in one of his poems in Leaves of Grass, “Was somebody asking to see the soul? / See your own shape and countenance/Behold the body includes and is the meaning, the main/Concern, and includes, and is the soul” (1). Whitman strongly believes that the soul is the body. The body is the main concern which includes the soul. By stating this Whitman refutes the Cartesian ideology of mind being separate from body.

Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is so important and influential to American writers because not only is it a revolutionary style of prose and free verse that other American writers emulate, but it raises questions about previous ideas about philosophers like Renee Descartes and Immanuel Kant. The leaves represented the pages in Whitman’s collection of poems and the grass represented the little value of his poems. One should take notice in the irony of Whitman’s title of the book because it is a collection of poems that is not only full of American pride, but it helps prolong the debate of whether or not the mind is separate from the body whether thoughts and things are one single entity.

In conclusion, Gertrude Stein, Jonah Lehrer, and William James ultimately work together in order to question whether consciousness and object co-exist on the same plane. James takes on a Kantian view in order to bring about his point of thoughts and things, but in then supports the fact that consciousness is about the state of mind and knowing. Lehrer takes James’ idea of consciousness as the function of knowing and, with respect to Walt Whitman, he debates whether thoughts and things, mind and body, are actually one entity. Gertrude Stein takes that same consciousness and objectivity to produce Tender Buttons.  It is one of Stein’s best works in order to bring art, specifically cubism, to her writing. Tender Buttons can be considered a tangible piece of literature that explores consciousness and objectivity.

Works Cited

James, Williams. The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, Vol. 1, No. 18 (Sep. 1, 1904), pp. 477-         491.Journal of Philosophy, Inc. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2011942. 06/01/2010 19:59. SUNY Albany. E-Reserve.       07/03/2010. <http://eres.ulib.albany.edu.libproxy.albany.edu/eres/coursepage.aspx?cid=4943&page=docs#.&gt;

 

Dubnick, Randa. The Structure of Obscurity: Gertrude Stein, Language and Cubism. University of Illinois Press Urbana          and Chicago.

 

Stein, Gertrude. Tender Buttons. Dover Publications Inc. New York.1997.

 

Lehrer, Jonah. Proust Was a Neuroscientist. Carlyle Fraser Library. New York. E-Reserve. SUNY Albany.                                     <http://eres.ulib.albany.edu.libproxy.albany.edu/eres/coursepage.aspx?cid=4943&page=docs#.&gt;

 

 

What a Bitch; The Suppression of Women and the Downplay of Ethnicity in _On_The_Road by Jack Kerouac

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Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is considered an all-American classic by many critics of literary canon for its influence on jazz, the Beat Generation and just having a wholesome Americana feel to it. The main storyline involves two young men who journey across America in search to find the meaning of their individual existence. Sal and Dean have the opportunity, time, and freedom to roam carelessly. Although Kerouac covers all of these topics in his novel, there is still one thing that makes this book flawed. Kerouac’s On the Road reveals the true American lifestyle. Yes, the boys were having a grand time meandering around the country, but the book makes an interesting point on how they depicted women and people of ethnicity.  On the Road is an accurate American classic because it shows the true colors of the American lifestyle for women and minorities. The non-white and ethnic characters in this book weren’t given the chance to experience the American dream which is exactly why this book is considered a classic. On the Road is a clear representation of the American Male Gaze – a narrow point of view that glorifies freedom and lack of responsibility while simultaneously objectifying women and people of color.

Exactly what is the male gaze? Laura Mulvey’s essay “Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema” discusses that the male gaze is when an audience is forced to usurp the perspective of a heterosexual man. Perhaps a scene in the movie will focus on the woman’s body parts for an unusual amount of time. This type of visual is not one done by coincidence. Women are mainly sought to be viewed and objectified by the males (and females) that are watching. Women who also view these types of scenes are forced to enjoy and understand the movie from the man’s point of view. In addition, Mulvey makes it a point in her essay to argue that men cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification (2187). This type of claim supports the idea of men being the bearer of the look and women as image because when men see the ideal image of other men onscreen, it is not an image of eroticism; it is an image of perfection, completion. It is an image men want to replicate. The image men see has nothing to do with sex but of being in control and having authority over the subject (women). The male gaze only leads one to believe that women are secondary and delegated to being seen as objects rather than humans. Scopophilia (the pleasure in looking) only leaves the male to venture in his voyeuristic fantasy of women and living out his repressed desires momentarily.

The Male Gaze is prevalent in America. Women are always sexualized in some manner, whether they appear scantily clad on billboards, given sex scenes in a movie, or just pose nude for magazines such as Playboy. What does this say about American society? It says that women are secondary to men and are forced to remain under men as subjects. The American Male Gaze is evident in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road because of its deliberate objectification of women and the main characters treating the females in this book as mere accessories for their boyish and immature lifestyles.

On the Road exposes the dichotomy of following the American dream for white males while purposely silencing women and people of ethnicity. They (women and minorities) receive the short end of the stick of the beautiful American dream so many people strive for in this country. On the Road is a clear representation of the flaws that are present in the American dream for the mere fact that Kerouac’s novel wouldn’t be an American classic if it did not suppress females and minorities and portray white males as the only ones who receive joy from this great American dream.

The women in On the Road are objectified the moment we read the first chapter. We are instantly introduced to Dean’s wife; Marylou who is a representation of the all-American girl. In the very first chapter of the book, the narrator makes it a point to objectify the first female character mentioned in the novel. Sal states, “Dean had dispatched the occupant to the kitchen, probably to make coffee, while he proceeded with his love problems, for to him sex was the one and holy important thing in life, although he had to sweat and curse to make a living and so on” (2). Here, we can already see the objectification of women, Marylou being a symbol for the repression of American women. The first impression given of Marylou is that she is only there to satisfy Dean’s sexual needs and nothing more.

If we delve even further into the subject matter of suppression of women in On the Road, the institution of marriage is not a stable type of commitment for Dean and Marylou because they hardly get along with each other, and their marriage, full of passion, is short lived. Dean actually cheats on Marylou with another woman named Camille, ends up marrying her, and then leaves Camille for another woman named Inez. Then Dean leaves Inez, who he ends up rearing a child with, only to go back to Camille who ends up having a total of two children for him. Dean has no respect for the idea or marriage and committing himself to one woman. Dean is practically obsessed with women when he shouts, “I love, love, love women! I think women are wonderful! I love women!” when visiting Orleans (140). He just loves them and leaves them, no matter how much pain he has caused the ladies in his life. Dean, a womanizer, doesn’t even manage to take care of his children while he’s running around having sex with numerous women and “with one illegitimate child in the West somewhere, Dean then had four little ones and not a cent, and was all troubles and ecstasy and speed as ever” (247). He leaves the women to deal with the pain, heartbreak and raising a child, while Dean gets the freedom to travel across America, never stopping to think about how he has affected the women in his lives or taking account for his selfish actions.

In fact, the novel hardly displays love and marriage between men and women as something that is cherished and honored, even though it is a part of the American dream-the coveted dream of having a family, with 2.5 children, a dog and owning a home with a white picket fence. The first lines of the On the Road begins with, “I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up” (1).  Sal whose last name is ironically Paradise is a single man who had just gotten out of a marriage. In his personal life he, like Dean, fails to uphold his marriage, and also fails to keep women around him for long. He sustains his own phallic power by using women and not staying in relationships long enough to make a commitment therefore straying from heterosexual responsibility.

One way for the men to suppress women in On the Road is for them to maintain phallic power. Dean and Sal gain phallic power when they command Marylou to make coffee. She does not speak while Dean and Sal are conversing, but is “dispatched” to the kitchen to fulfill their needs. In this event, the female has no voice, no say in manly discussions and is ordered into the kitchen, “her rightful place,” to make coffee for the men. Sal and Dean are clear symbols of phallic power. In order to feel like men, they can’t have a discussion in the room while there’s a woman present, so they banish her to the kitchen, and like a subservient woman, Marylou obeys. As if it isn’t enough to send Marylou off into the kitchen, “Dean nervously got up, paced around, thinking and decided the thing to do was have Marylou make breakfast and sweep the floor” (3). The American dream for women in On the Road is to be compliant and acquiescent when given rules by the males. They are prisoners of the phallocentric world and are only there to carry out orders; Marylou, Sal and Dean are just small representations of this prejudice that is constructed in the American dream that Kerouac is being praised for in On the Road.

If we look even further into this short scene of patriarchal submission by Marylou, Sal also describes Marylou’s appearance and mentions how beautiful and dumb she is; the quintessential portrayal of the American woman. Sal describes Marylou as a “pretty blonde with ringlets like a sea of golden tresses” and having “smoking blue country eyes” (2). This is the typical image of a white American woman. She is beautiful, with ringlets of blonde hair and blue eyes; the Aryan prototype. To compliment Marylou’s physical beauty, Sal states, “Outside of being a sweet little girl, she was awfully dumb and capable of doing horrible things” (2).  Once again, the males gain phallic power because in order for them to feel superior to the woman, they have to make her seem dumb in order to be dominant. It would be too much for Sal if Marylou was beautiful and educated. He and Dean would both be intimidated, and it just wouldn’t be right because women cannot have phallic power.

From an outside point of view, literary theorist Laura Mulvey’s topic on the male gaze is constructed throughout On the Road. From a psychoanalytic appeal, her article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” explains that when we go to the movies, we are forced to take on the male perspective in order to understand and enjoy the film that’s playing. Mulvey’s theory can also be attributed to Kerouac’s novel because readers (male and female) are initially forced to take on the male narrator’s point of view from the moment we read the book. Mulvey states, “Women then stands in patriarchal culture…bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his fantasies and obsessions through linguistic command by imposing them on the silent image of woman still tied to her place as bearer, not maker of meaning”(2183). This type of behavior is seen in On the Road because Dean is living out his personal fantasy by linguistically commanding voiceless Marylou ( notice that the narrator does not let her speak at all) to sweep the floor and make breakfast, thus perpetuating her position as bearer because she obeys the law of the father. She does not make commands, but follows them. This is the actual American dream that On the Road portrays for women.

Also, Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema” touches upon the idea of scopophilia aforementioned in the previous paragraph. She explains that through the male gaze, women are subjected to being looked at by men. They are objectified because men obtain pleasure and phallic power by just staring at the women. Women are held captive under the male’s controlling gaze because they do not hold any type of power by being the image. Mulvey states, “…pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female….The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure” (2186). Sal is the “bearer of looking” and Marylou is the “image.” He holds all the power because his gaze is fixated on Marylou when he describes how she looks and she has no choice but to be the victim of Sal’s controlling gaze. Once again, the male gains power by looking at the female (Sal looking at Marylou in this case) and is in total dominance of the female because she has no freedom in this triangular patriarchy. This scene is a representation of the American dream because it reveals that women are suppressed within patriarchal society because the male always holds power over the female; she is always the subject of the male’s “erotic contemplation” (2186). This is the ugly side of the American dream because it has no graceful role for women to take part in. They are trapped in a box only constructed on the sexist and phallocentric ideology of the American dream.

On another note, one can surmise that Sal and Dean’s homosocial behavior is another way of sustaining their phallic power by isolating women around them and not having any type of lasting relationship with them. Sal, a prototype of the all-American boy, is a young, fresh, white male who wants to be a writer and uses Dean, a more rugged version of Sal (Sal compares Dean to Gene Autry), as his muse. These two are the center of the story and the women they encounter on their journey are regarded as just mere tokens of their traveling experience with Dean as a reflection of Sal’s flaws. Sal even refers to Dean as his “long-lost brother” which just adds evidence towards their strong friendship (or Sal’s friendship with Dean because Dean isn’t concerned with their relationship as much as Sal is) (7).

In one scene of the On the Road, Dean asks Sal to have sex with Marylou while Dean watches.  Scopophilia is present in this scene because we have one male, Dean, watching and engaging in his voyeuristic fantasy while he has his friend make love to his ex-wife, Marylou. This type of homoerotic bonding suggests that Sal and Dean are two friends who share more than just homosocial and brotherly bonding. They share (or attempt to share) women. Marylou is once again the subject of scopophilia. She is the one that is held under the male’s controlling gaze in this sex scene. Although Sal could not go through with having intercourse with his friend’s ex-wife while Dean watches, the act of trying to have sex with Marylou suggests that these men still hold phallic power over Marylou. She agreed to have sex with Sal while Dean watched; she serves as a pawn in Sal and Deans “sexcapades”, nothing more and nothing less. Marylou holds no power.  It was Sal who held most of the phallic power because he was the one who decided against the threesome because “his heart wasn’t in it” (132).

In Hawthorne’s essay on “Homoerotic Bonding as Escape from Heterosexual Responsibility in Pynchon’s Slow Learner”, he states that Sal Paradise “retreats from women and social responsibilities by seeking the safety of intense male bonding” and that although the Kerouac does not directly suggest that the bonding may become genital, the text calls for decoding even while Kerouac may insist that the sub textual eroticism is illusory (Short Story Criticism, Hawthorne). Sal seems like the passive male in this relationship because anything that Dean does, no matter how reckless it is, Sal always has it in his heart to forgive Dean. At one point in the novel, Marylou states, “You see what a bastard he [Dean] is? Dean will leave you out in the cold anytime it’s in his interest” (170). After Dean leaves Marylou and Sal stranded in Mexico without any money. Sal still found it in his heart to forgive Dean like any person who is in love would easily forgive his/her partner. In addition, Dean met Sal not too long after Sal and his wife divorced, so Dean serves as a “rebound” one might say, to help Sal forget about his wife. Dean was Sal’s friend during a tender moment of losing a loved one which is one reason why Sal might value their friendship more than Dean does. Overall, Sal and Dean’s relationship seems questionable for their intense male friendship, and Hawthorne makes it a valid point that these two young men are involved so much with their own relationship that they stray from commitment to women. This can be seen as an extreme way for Sal and Dean to gain phallic power because the more they bond, the less it would be likely for them to have successful and stable relationships with women. Sal and Dean would continue to strengthen their male bond by downplaying women and gaining agency by treating women as subjects and never having meaningful relationships with them because they’re too concerned with their homosocial relationship.

Moving on, Kerouac’s On the Road also downplays people of ethnicity. Sal meets a Mexican migrant worker named Terry, who was recently separated from her abusive husband. Terry and Dean both decided to have sex in a hotel. However, after conversing for while, Terry is convinced that Sal is a pimp. Sal frustrated says, “I got mad and realized that I was pleading with a dumb little Mexican wench, and I told her so” (85). Sal makes it a point to insult Terry by not calling her a dumb wench, but a dumb Mexican wench. Terry’s heritage and nationality has to be hurled into the mix of insults mainly because Sal wants to hurt Terry’s to the highest degree, and bringing up her nationality seems to be the best way to do it which is disrespectful and particularly offensive.

Another example of the depreciation of the hard work of minorities in On the Road is when Sal goes to work with Terry in the cotton field. Sal works this temporary job because he wants to feel like a man supporting Terry and her child; Sal only appreciates this job for personal gain. Sal could’ve had any job during his adventure on the road, but picking cotton was what he chose. How ironic and questionable that the white man wants to pick cotton when it (picking cotton) was a requirement for black people during slavery. It was an order given by white Americans for white males to carry out their dreams of a better America. An America where the pains and trials of a black man and his family helped better the white man’s dream of being free, and here Sal was only doing it as a temporary job. The people around him were stuck there picking cotton for the rest of their lives while Sal could easily walk away from it. He is mocking the dedication and lifestyle of African-Americans and Mexicans by just working this job because he has the option to leave whenever he wants,  a choice that the other workers wish they had, and to add insult to injury, when he’s tired working, Sal takes a seat,” sighing like an old Negro cotton-picker” (97). Sal doesn’t appreciate the sentimentality and history behind picking cotton. It is a history of black Americans who never had the chance at freedom. It is a story told by the hands of black Americans (and Mexican-Americans in this case) whose only way to survive is by picking cotton. It is the “American Dream” for minorities. They must stay and work for in order to survive while Sal can just walk away from it all, which he did. He left his lover Terry behind, and continued on his own white “American Dream.” Sal “prayed for a better chance to do something for the little people he loved” (97). The little people such as the Mexican workers (Terry, her kid), that he abandoned when things became too much for him to handle.

Also Sal refers to Terry’s native language as jabber. Why does Terry’s language have to be considered jabber? Can’t it be considered as a language? Perhaps it’s considered “jabber” because it isn’t American English. Once again Kerouac is downplaying ethnicity by Sal referring to Terry’s native tongue as mere “jabber” simply because he cannot understand what she’s saying and it has nothing to do with American culture.

Jack Kerouac’s On the Road does a lot to expose what is wrong with American society. When people hear or think about the “American Dream, white males are first to be on that list of obtaining that dream. There is no room for women or minorities when there is talk of the American Dream, and it is clearly evident in On the Road. Such characters as Marylou, Terry, Inez and Camille show how the American dream has bypassed the women and non-whites in this country. To the white males, it may be the American Dream, but for all others it is an American Nightmare. Non-whites and females are forced to live through someone else’s dreams while being marginalized, stereotyped and forgotten. On the Road is a clear example of the American dream confines women to patriarchy and downplays people of ethnicity while the white male runs free, exploring his dreams that were founded and brought to life by the hands of the very same people who don’t fit into the American Dream.

Works Cited

Kerouac, Jack. On the Road. New York, NY. Penguin Classics.2003

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema.” The Norton Anthology of Theory        and Criticism. Ed.                   Vincent B. Leitch. New York. 2001. 2181-2192.

Hawthorne, D. Mark . “Homoerotic Bonding as Escape from Heterosexual Responsibility in Pynchon’s Slow Learner.”                2006. Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 84. Detroit: Gale, 2006. p512-529. Literature Resource Center. 7 December 2009. 

Life, Death and Poetry: A Philosophical Approach to Transhumanism

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Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins work together in their book Architectural Body to explain their theory on life beyond death. Through their effort to explain their stance on “refusing to die,” they have contributed not only philosophically, but poetically to the canon of literature and life itself. Gins and Arakawa are two architects, poets, and muses that inspire and touch the lives of not only people who follow their lifestyle, but the lives of people indirectly such as the characters represented in the bittersweet novel, Tuesdays with Morrie written by the main character, Mitch Albom. As influences, Arakawa and Gins have also been influenced indirectly) by the hands of their predecessors Walt Whitman and William James.

Arakawa and Gins’ Architectural Body proposes that they (Arakawa and Gins)  have not decided to die. Arakawa and Gins define architecture’s existence to be merely the “service of the body”(xi).  The question that these architects ask  is: How can one be most fully at the service of the body? Arakawa and Gins also ponder about living in a world that is built to serve the body to the “nth degree” (xi). The real question of the matter is whether we are living tot serve our body to it’s full capacity. Are we really learning to live life to its fullest, or are we limiting our life expectations because we believe our body isn’t capable of withstanding what our minds imagine? Arakawa and Gins help formulate their plan into actual theory in a philosophical approach when dealing with two characters in Tuesdays with Morrie. 

Tuesdays with Morrie is a heart wrenching story about a struggling young writer, Mitch Albom, who finds out that his old professor has been diagnosed with ALS(Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and is slowly dying because his body cannot handle simple tasks anymore such as writing, walking and dancing, which is one of Morrie’s favorite pastimes. Morrie claims this disease has left his “soul perfectly awake, imprisoned inside a limp husk of a body”(15).  Eventually, Mitch decides to visit Morrie every Tuesday, with the rest of the professor’s former students and listen to Morrie talk about life and death, and being able to live through dying.

Arakawa and Gins proposal to refuse to die correlates with Morrie’s will to live because Morrie is dying of ALS, a diseases that affects the nerve cell and the ability for the brain to control muscle movement.. Basically, the body refuses to work and turns on itself. But Arakawa and Gins proposal to live to the “nth degree” stems from the will to survive, outside of body and mind. Arakawa and Gins also claims that “once people realize that the human race has not yet availed itself of its greatest tool for learning how not to die, they will cease being defeatists in the matter” (xii).  In other words, once humans have recognized and appreciated the truth about learning how not to die, they will not let the idea of death defeat them, much like Morrie didn’t let his death defeat him.

Morrie’s will to live is not determined by his body but by his mind. Even though he is stricken with this terrible disease, he does not let it get the best of him. Instead of his disease controlling him, Morrie controls his disease. In one of Morrie’s Tuesday meetings, Mitch is present to hear his former professor enter a somber discussion about death. Morrie then stresses to his students that “it is only once a person knows how to die, that he can then know how to live”(82). Morrie’s statement defies the body’s will to remain useless, but his spirit fulfills whatever his body cannot.

In Jondi Keane’s “Situating Situatedness Through AEffect and the Architectural Body of Arakawa and Gins,” Keane explains that artists Arakawa and Gins “coordinate diverse research across the sciences and between the arts and sciences in an effort to study consciousness and cognition as situated and distributed”(438). Keane is scrutinizing the way Arakawa and Gins use arts, humanities and sciences in order to review how consciousness and perception are defined and delivered. This kind of thinking leads to another topic in correlation to consciousness, the struggle between mind and body and whether we can actually refuse to die as Arakawa and Gins suggest.

In William James’ “Does ‘Consciousness’ Exist” from his anthology The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, James argues that “‘spirit and matter,’ ‘soul and body’ stood for a pair of equipollent substances quite on a par in weight and interest.” Here, James is claiming that that the soul and body are two equal but separate entities. James then goes on to refute that argument by stating that to him, consciousness is “on the point of disappearing altogether. He argues that consciousness does indeed exist and that it stands for a function. That function is knowing. Once we accept the fact that we have the ability to know things, we accept that consciousness exists. As James states, “‘Consciousness,” is “necessary to explain the fact that things not only are, but get reported, are known.” The potential for acknowledging brings consciousness into existence.

What does this have to do with Morrie or Arakawa and Gins Architectural Body? Well, the point of knowing and accepting the fact the consciousness exists, leads us a step closer to discovering that mind and body are two separate entities. Accepting the fact that mind and body are two separate things opens the door to whether one entity is more powerful than the other. Arakawa and Gins’ idea of taking a stance against death challenges and introduces the concept of transhumanism.

Transhumanism is the idea or practice that refuses to accept traditional human limitations such as death, disease, and other biological frailties (www.mactonnies.com/trans.html). Arakawa and Gins are trying to get the world to reject the restrictions life gives us and to accept that we are able to develop a future that exists beyond our human nature. In order for Arakawa and Gins idea to come into fruition they must build upon the idea of William James, with respect to Kant, on the idea of consciousness existing and mind and body interacting on a bipolar relation.

Arakawa and Gins then goes on to explain how organsim-persons build upon the dynamics of consciousness. Arakawa and Gins write, “Terms such as ego, consciousness and psyche, losing the body as they do lack those air passages through which the body draws in atmospheric wherewithal”(2). In other words, for transhumanism to really and truly flourish, one has to acknowledge the fact that consciousness holds no weight. Consciousness loses “body” and cuts off any links in which the body can gain atmospheric resources. Arakawa and Gins believe that architecture is a great tool for humans which can help them live a better life without fear of dying.

Morrie is an example of the beginning of transhumanism. Like James and Kant, Morrie has realized the fact that his mind and body are two separate entities working on a parallel plane to create balance. Morrie talks to his students about death and his lack of fear for dying. Morrie tells his students at one of his Tuesday meetings that “death ends a life, not a relationship” (174). Morrie is simply stating that once we interact with out environment and he people in it, then we can live on forever. Our body might wither and turn into dust, but the relationships we make in life are eternal. Morrie states that after we die, our connection of love that we have with the people we’ve met on earth still remains strong.

Morrie is in the beginning stage of Arakawa and Gins idea of transhumanism because he is refusing to die. Morrie has come to the fact that his body will not last forever, but his mind will. The relationships he’s made on Earth will also last and because of his interaction with the environment, Morrie is considered an “organism-person” that will live beyond death. Consciousness has a lot to do with Arakawa and Gins idea of refusing to die because consciousness tends to overlook the existing body and focus on the mind altogether in one perspective. Consciouness exists because of knowing, and once Morrie knows and accepts the fact that his body is dying, he is then at peace with himself and can carry out life to its fullest capacity from beyond the grave. Morrie is considered an “organism-person” because his life continues with no ending in disappearance.

In Christopher Rizzo’s excerpt “Not to Desire the Hemlock,” Rizzo explains the utopian project that Arakawa and Gins so desire. Rizzo,  uses Jean-Jacques Lecercle to make his point clear about the world achieving some type of utopia.  In Lecercle’s words, “the great value of the reversible destiny project as an architectural project: it is a utopian reject in the noblest sense of the word”(23). Lecercle is stating that with Arakawa and Gins’ idea to take an architectural approach on humans and their strong advocacy to not die, they have indirectly started a campaign for a utopian world. Rizzo states, “Utopia is not a hoped-for condition that takes its meaning from the past, but an emergent that thematizes immorality (6). Rizzo’ statement agrees with the fact that the utopia Arakawa and Gin have indirectly proposed for mankind is not dependent on the historical evidence, but it is a fresh, and unique idea that thematizes immortality. The fact that humans’  having the option and will to live forever, where there is no end in disappearance, helps further Arakawa and Gins idea on refusing to die.

Moving on, poet Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass  adds a poetic stance to Arakawa and Gins take on transhumanism and the idea of life through death. Whitman’s “When I Read the Book” is a short poem that has meaning to immortality and defining life. Whitman states, “When I read the book, the biography famous/And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man’s life? (16). This book can be considered Arakawa and Gins’ Architectural Body in which they discuss the idea of life and death through arts and sciences. What doe Arakawa and Gin call a man’s life? How is it measured? Through reasoning of Arawaka and Gin, a man’s life is measured through his interaction with the environment. The relationships we leave behind are dependent upon our achieving immortality.    Whitman then goes on to state, “And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my life?'(16).  Whitman questions whether someone will write about his life when he is dead and gone.

Unlike Whitman, Morrie focuses on his life rather  than his death when it comes to teaching his students on life values. One can compare the narrator’s take on life in “When I Read the Book” and the character, Morrie, in Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie and state that the narrator is a pre-transhumanist idealist who has not yet discovered Arawak and Gins method for immortality, while Morrie has indeed become an example of what a transhumanist is and what he stands for. Morrie refuses to die, and if he ever thinks about dying, then it is not the death we typically think of. As Rizzo points out, “There is death, and then there is death”(AB pxviii). Morrie’s death is not the quintessential death one automatically thinks of. Yes, Morrie will eventually die, but his soul won’t. Morrie’s death is perceived through Arakawa and Gins’ mindset of immortality. Arakawa and Gins state, “And if, because we can never distance ourselves enough from ourselves to asses the whole in its particulars, because the world always gets in our way as still more worlds, should we not, then, judge as correct Wittgenstein’s assertion that “The value of the world must lie outside if the world?” (xii).  In simpler terms, these authors are merely stating that we (humans) have never assessed the whole in particulars about life, because we have never distanced ourselves far enough from our own ideas and concepts about life, so we miss the big picture Arakawa and Gins are trying to paint for us. The value of the world lies outside of the world, and once we have that knowledge, then we can achieve Arakawa and Gin’s idea of transhumanism.

In conclusion, Morrie thought outside the box when he found out he was dying. He didn’t choose to think about where he wanted to be buried, instead he chose to fight his ALS, as a true transhumanist would do, and he chose to look beyond his illness and not fall victim to it. Through this self-process, Morrie  distanced himself from himself in order to asses what values lie outside the world. And through this process, Morrie was reborn. His old pre-transhumanist forms of ideas had collapsed and died, and Morrie was able to find a new meaning on life even though his body was giving up on him.

This Kantian idea of consciousness proves that  mind and body are indeed two different identities with a bi-polar relation. Morrie chose the immortal route, one Arakawa and Gins would be proud of because he refused to die. He refused to succumb to his illness. And as Whitman writes, “I often think, know, little or nothing of my real life/Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirections/I seek for my own use to trace out here,” Morrie lives vicariously through Whitman’s writing. Through his consciousness of knowing, Morrie has separated himself from the world, and chose the path of Arakaw and Gins’ ideologies. He has become immortal because he has decided not to die. Instead, Morrie “seeks for his own trace,” his new identity, his new organism-person. One that lives on long after the flesh is gone.

Works Cited

Arakawa, S. and Gins, M. (2002). Architectural Body. Alabama: University of Alabama Press.

Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie. New York, New York.1997.

Keane, Jondie. “Situating Situatedness through AEffect and the Architectural Body of Arakawa and Gins.” Griffith                        University.

www.mactonnies.com/trans.html

James, William. “Does ‘Consciousness’ Exist?” The Journal of Philosophy and Scientific Method.Vol. 1, No. 18.                              (September 1, 1904), pp. 477-491. Journal of Philosophy Inc,      http://www.jstor.org/stable/2011942. Accessed:              06/01/2010/ 19:59. University at Albany.

http://eres.ulib.albany.edu.libproxy.albany.edu/eres/coursepage.aspx?cid=4943&page=docs#.  Accessed:                                 05/2/2010.

Rizzo, Christopher. “Not to Desire the Hemlock: The Ethical Work of Arakawa and Gins.” University       at Albany.                         http://eres.ulib.albany.edu.libproxy.albany.edu/eres/coursepage.asx ? cid=4943&page=docs#. Accessed:                           05/2/2010.

Whitman, Walt. “When I Read the Book.”  Leaves of Grass. Biblio. end of AOLMsgPart_2_e53ad983-4b89-450e-b926-               a99795a04c9d

The Effects of Slavery within the African-American Community

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Although slavery of African-Americans in the United States has been abolished for many years now, the psychological and emotional stresses have been placed upon African-Americans who still struggle to deal with the trauma of slavery. This research paper will be focused on the African-American race and how the psyche of the average black person living in the United States has been shaped and transformed into self hatred through time. African Americans were traumatized, terrorized, stigmatized, and abused by slave-owners in order to invoke fear into the hearts and minds of Africans who were kidnapped from their country, brought to the New World and entered a dismal life of exploitation, repression and rape. Due to the discourse of this class and the many discussions of pity and fear, this paper will aim to show how pity and fear were used to domesticate slaves, and it will also invoke pity because of the psychological pain black people have experienced in a society that continues to discriminate against them. In addition, this paper will show the in depth psychological analysis of how abuse from slave owners has tremendously persuaded black people to internalize racism and oppression and cause separation within the African American society.

In The Willie Lynch Letter and the Making of a Slave, Willie Lynch was a slave-owner during the 1700’s that developed his own theory of how to control a black slave. He owned a plantation in the West Indies where he experimented with some of his methods and tested them out on his “subjects”. Once he believed his theory was effective, he sailed to America in 1712 and implemented his ideas of how white slave-owners can keep control of their slaves and domesticate them to the point where they were dependent upon their white masters. Lynch uses fear, distrust and envy to control slaves (12). His speech given to other slave masters entails methods to keep slaves under control for the next 300 years, supposedly. Lynch claims that if slave masters use differences between slaves it will make the slaves more obedient. The crux of his methods of keeping slaves in line is to divide them against each other using factors of age, color, intelligence, size, sex, size of plantations, attitude of owners, location of slaves, the hair texture of slaves and their height.

Lynch states that slave masters must pitch the old black male against the young black male, the young black male against the old black male, the dark skin slaves against the light skin slaves, and the light skin slaves against the dark skin slaves (12).  These methods were carried out with each factor respectively. Lynch also claims that slave masters must pitch the female slave against the male slave and the male slave against the female slave. The manipulation of the slaves leaves them only to trust and be reliant on the white slave masters.

Willie Lynch does not even refer to African slaves as humans in his speech, but as valuables and properties. The blatant disdain and the de-humanizing of the African American race has kept its people marred and misrepresented in the myriad of misguided myths and conceptions of the black race. The Willie Lynch method still exists today and can be found permeating through the African American community. The Willie Lynch letter has left African Americans paralyzed and still coping to find unity and solidarity in their social group.

Furthermore, the lack of Black Nationalism leaves African Americans to be misled and lost in America. The behaviors of African Americans today who have been victims of the Willie Lynch syndrome continue to be oppressed in a nation that aims to discriminate against minorities.

The lack of organizations and institutions that are pro-black and facilitated by Black Americans continue to be the downfall of the black people in America. In Ronald E. Brown and Darren W. Davis’ “The Antipathy of Black Nationalism: Behavioral and Attitudinal Implications of an African American Ideology,” the authors both explain the root of the behaviors that African Americans display and claims that black nationalism is “related to the rejection of whites”(239). Since there is lack of Black Nationalist establishments or few foundations that are dedicated to the uprising and racial equality of African Americans in the United States, there is most likely to be hostility directed towards other social groups in the nation who are in the dominant group.

The importance of Black Nationalism is to express the significant connection African Americans feel to African origins. Black nationalists want to set up their own communities where they are leaders and not subordinate to the dominant culture. They want to be in charge of nurturing their people into having national pride and holding high esteem of their origin. Brown and Davis state that the core of African American self determination, racial intolerance, and racial separatism as mechanics to defend against a hegemonic and racist society has been constant (240).

The importance of Black Nationalism is to help African Americans have a sense of pride for their own race, but the lack of black-oriented organizations leaves the subordinate group unfulfilled in its purpose to have a positive self image of their race. Not only does the lack of esteem in the African American race damage the social group, but the effects of the division amongst the affected community has a psychological effect on the African American home.

Heidi J. Nast’s “Mapping the ‘Unconscious’: Racism and the Oedipal Family,” Nast takes a psychoanalytical approach to the view of how African Americans are viewed in American society. Nast uses the “familiar quadrad” of Mother, Father, Son, and the Repressed (215). Nast argues that the Mother-Father-Son triangle is encrypted as white while the outcast, the repressed bestial being is depicted as colored or black (215). Again, the dehumanizing of the black American has been addressed in Nast’s observation of the Oedipal family.

While the major contributors of the household are white, the only role assigned to the black man is the “bestial being.” Nast’s theory holds true to the ideologies and misconceptions that have been placed upon African Americans in the United States. The fact that this social group is not even seen as human and has years of traumatic repression accumulating has no affect on how they are being treated and marginalized in America. From slavery to present day, the effects of hatred against blacks leave an indelible and painful mark on African Americans today because they are still not seen as a part of the “American family” but an unwanted, burdensome tangent of the American home complex.

Furthermore, Nast also explains how the American psyche was shaped through colonial, sociospatial, violence, desire, and repression (215). She claims that the truths of colonial devastations were repressed because the memories and actions associated with colonial violences were incorporated into the “body space of the ‘psych,’ and ‘unconscious’ domain outside language (215). The deliberate actions by colonists of burning down towns, cities, and bodies were ignored or suppressed into the unconscious. Since no-one talked about it, it did not exist. The neglect of communication for what happened to African Americans during and after slavery only leaves black people to harvest the tragedy that happened to their ancestors, and by harvesting all the pain and trauma, the black American or the “bestial being” as Nast describes continues to be repressed.

In addition, Nast explains the Oedipus complex and how Freud uses that myth to explain his psychoanalytical view on incest. Freud claims that incest is a threat to family and patriarchal society. If the family is to survive, the son has to obey the law of the Father and put away his incestual and maternal desire for his mother in order for the family to grow healthily(215). The son must find a suitable female mate outside of his maternal home.

Nast uses this template of the Oedipus complex to show how the black son has historically been made to “carry the burden of incest for the white oedipal family therefore arguing that incest is synonymous with blackness (216). The black boy’s desire for his white mother has sparked colonial segregations because it puts white women in danger of being lusted after by the black man. Consequently, the separation and isolation of the black male has somehow left him dehumanized which in turn is exploited; castration and death by the hands of the (white) father. Once again the dominant group overpowers and takes control of the subordinate group, never allowing the latter to be on the same level as the former.

Nast’s argument about the racist-oedipal complex adds a psychoanalytic approach to how black men are perceived in American society and within their community. Since they are receiving such hate for being born into a white family (American society), the black male has to suppress his desires for his white mother, and adhere to the law of his white father. The repressed black male is seen as an outcast because of his incestuous and bestial love for his mother, and also serves as a subordinate for his father. Not being seen as human, the black male is then exploited for use and sentenced to life as a degenerate being that serves the white family. The traumatization of the black male and his people are left with burdensome and tragic memories that continue to manifest itself today into negative stereotypes and actions of the African American.

Flynn and Stroizier’s article on “Self and Trauma” explains what psychological trauma is and how it affects the victims. Flynn and Strozier state, “The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma”(5). Like Nasts describes before in her article, the voicelessness from the events that happened during slavery still has not been addressed openly and to its fullest extent, therefore African Americans are still affected by that pain. They have not announced the deep emotion and agony they’ve endured to the fullest extent. African Americans, along with other minorities, are still in the subordinate group while the dominant group continues to remain majoritively White.

In addition, these authors question what perpetrators remember. Flynn and Strozier claim that we are “professionally ignorant” when it comes to figuring out the “inner lives of those who commit atrocities that relatively sophisticated investigations, such as studies of memory, are utterly beyond our current capability”(5). So much focus is on the person who is traumatized rather than the victimizer. Such claims can be compared to the history of slavery. The focus is on what happened during slavery and what the slaves endured more than the slave masters and what crimes they committed. Flynn and Stozier then go on to state that the reason we do not know much about the perpetrators is because they (perpetrators) don’t want us to know any information about them. “Perpetrators are not generally friendly to the process of scientific inquiry” and because of this, they are masters of secrecy and deception (5). The deception that has been used to misguide slaves and pit them against each other and the secrecy that continues to keep the history of slavery muddled.

Flynn and Stozier also bring up a point about how much victims can remember. When they (victims) are psychologically traumatized, they have a lapse of memory because the event was so stressful, that the pieces of those memories are non-chronological. The authors state, “it seems clear that close-up exposure, especially early and prolonged exposure, to human cruelty has a profound effect on memory”(5). The torture and abuse that African slaves went through have been so painful that the history/memory of slavery and racism cannot be explained clearly. Africans were traumatized to the point where even their history has some missing pieces, and African Americans today are suffering from post traumatic disorder because they are still feeling the effects of slavery which has not been outwardly and remorsefully addressed by White America. Therefore, one result would be lack self-esteem because they are  slowly being acculturated into the dominant culture.

Darryl Lorenzo Washington reviewed Bell Hook’s “Rock My Soul” by interpreting Hook’s idea on why there needs to be an importance of self esteem among African Americans. Washington also gives his own views on how African Americans are conforming to political and social standards of what it is to be black in America. He begins his review of “Rock My Soul by giving his own example of how there is conformity and conventionalist attitudes among his own race. Washington discuss that as a student from his junior high to college years, he has occasionally been in situations where his race was a subject of discussion. Washington claims that although the people he’s encountered and the books he’s read such as Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, which explicitly displays racism, try to tiptoe around the history of slavery and racism; it still is something that still haunts African Americans. He asserts that as by people claiming that “the media made too much of race” and that “prejudice did not exist,” it just proves that race is a momentous and taboo subject in America.

In addition, Washington pulls from Bell Hook’s “Rock My Soul” to allege that “conformity is the more accepted norm in the black life than gestures of independent thought and action”(127). Hooks exclamation that African Americans try to blend in with a racist society adds to my argument of why blacks in America are not comfortable with their own race. They are constantly trying to fit into the dominant group, although the dominant group blatantly has institutionalized racism that keeps the dominant group a few steps ahead from the subordinate group.

Washington and Bell Hooks claims that since there is this invisible barrier blocking American society from talking about race only perpetuates social inequality. Acknowledging racism but not talking about the pain of racism inhibits Black Americans to not voice their views on racism, discrimination, and slavery. Hooks claims that by not talking about the pain black Americans are suffering, they are ignorant of their heritage, victims of identity confusion, and lack self esteem (128). Hooks believes that the crises of the lack of self-esteem black Americans suffer are more important than racism, poverty, or institutionalized oppression because it leads to self destruction and psychological entrenchment (129).

Hooks then travels back to the 1960’s of when African Americans had more self-esteem because of the Civil Rights era. However, despite the positive black power movement, Hooks condemns it for embracing a patriarchal mentality and “pitting black men against black women and further eroding the self-esteem of both” much like the Willie Lynch letter suggested. (129). African Americans during the Civil Rights era were too concerned with liberation and social equality than paying attention to the emotional aspect of the movement. Just because African Americans were moving towards racial progress, they forgot to pay attention to the emotional and psychological scars that racism has caused; there was no healing process.

Also, the effects of racial identity and lack of esteem in the black community can affect the socialization of African American adolescents because it is in this critical stage that they can truly shape and form the way they think about themselves and other African Americas. Lionel D. Scott’s article, “The Relation of Racial Identity and Racial Socialization to Coping with Discrimination among African American Adolescents” explores whether strategies used by African American adolescents to cope with discriminatory experiences were related to their racial identity and racial socialization (520).  Scott uses resources and studies to prove that discrimination is indeed a stressor that has detrimental effects on the mental health of African Americans (521). Scott argues that due to the discrimination and racism against African Americans, it has a negative effect on the adolescent period.

Because of these social identities, Scott alleges that Black culture becomes diminished and are irrelevant to their identities and there is more importance stressed on other social identities such as religious orientation, social status, gender, etc. At this stage, African American preadolescents give their racial identity a back seat while focusing on other identities they feel is important to develop in American culture. As a result, Cross and Fhagen-Smith suggest that some African preadolescents may begin to internalize negative stereotypes, messages, and images of Black people and Black culture hence, “their emerging identities may be riddled with confusion, alienation, negativity, and lack of coherence”(Cross & Fhagen-Smith, 2001, p. 254, 522).

In conclusion, there is a solution to help African Americans reach some type of “healing” for the discrimination and trauma they suffered other than more Black Nationalist institutions.  Rudy P. Mattai and Barbara A. Mattai-Huddleston  argue in their journal “The Sambo Mentality and the Stockholm Syndrome Revisitied: Another Dimension to an Examination of the Plight of African Americans” that there seems to be a calling for the adoption of a “self-help” mentality as the cure for the psychological problems African Americans face (345). In order for African Americans to be mentally free, there has to be some momentous changes in the economic, social, and political systems. There also has to be some sort of public discussion of what racism has done to the African-American community. Like Flynn and Strozier state in their article, we focus more on the victim than the perpetrator. If America can actually discuss slavery and how a race was traumatized to the point where they are still psychologically suffering today by internalizing racism and oppression, then it will begin the healing process for African Americans.

Lynch, Willie. The Willie Lynch Letter and The Making of a Slave. Lushena Books. Illinois. 1999.

Brown, Ronald E., Davis, Darren W. “The Antipathy of Black Nationalism: Behavioral and Attitudinal Implications of an           African American Ideology.” American   Journal of Political Science.  Vol. 46, No. 2 (Apr., 2002). pp. 239-252.                     Midwest  Political Science Association. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

Nast, Heidi J. “Mapping the ‘Unconscious’: Racism and the Oedipal Family.” Annals of  the  Association of American                Geographers. Vol. 90, No. 2 (Jun., 2000), pp.215-255.   Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Web 29 Sept. 2010.

Flynn Michael, Strozier B. Charles. “Trauma and Self.” E-reserve https://ereserves.albany.edu/ ares.dll?                                          SessionID=J100518964N&Action=10&Type=10&Value=20499. Web 1 December 2010.

Washington, Lorenzo Darryl. Hooks, Bell. “The Importance of Self-Esteem for African  Americans. Rock My Soul. The               Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. No. 39  (Spring, 2003), pp. 127-129.  The JBHE Foundation. Web. 29 Sept 2010.     http:// http://www.jstor.org/stable/3134398.

Scott, Lionel D. “The Relation of Racial Identity and Racial Socialization to Coping  With Discrimination Among African           American Adolescents.” Journal of Black  Studies. Vol. 33, No. 4(Mar., 2003), pp. 520-538. Sage Publications, Inc.              Web. Sept 2010. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3180878.

Mattai, Rudy P., Mattai-Huddleston, Barbara A. “The Sambo Mentality and the  Stockholm Syndrome Revisited: Another        Dimension to an Examination of the  Plight of  the AfricanAmerican.” http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublication?      journalCode=jblackstudies” Journal of Black Studies. Vol. 23, No. 3 (Mar., 1993), pp. 344-357. Sage Publications, Inc.      Web 29 Sept.2010.

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