Monday, June 25, 2012

RACISM AND "THE HEART OF DARKNESS"

Racism and "The Heart of Darkness"

This essay was my own personal look at essays that explored racism in particular works and what accomplished authors had to say on the matter.

Chinua Achebe’s essay “An Image if Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”, was written about the apparent racist undertone of Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness”. The book takes us on a journey into the Congo’s and how Africans are described and treated in the time of European expansion and its thrust for ivory. Achebe’s attempts to explain to his readers why he thought the “Heart of Darkness” and its author were both racist. Achebe proves his point by quoting parts of the novel that emphasized color over everything and the language that the author uses to describe the African natives was racist and unnecessary. As an example Achebe uses is Conrad’s description of the African mistress in the novel and her European counterpart. “She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent…she stood looking at us without a stir and like the wilderness itself, with an air of brooding over an inscrutable purpose”, (Conrad, pg. 341). Achebe emphasizes his disdain for the contrast between the African mistress and her European counterpart by stating “The difference in the attitude of the novelist to these women is conveyed in too many direct and subtle ways to need elaboration”, (Achebe, pg. 341).

The constant contrast that the novel paints for us is that of black versus white, African culture versus European civility presents us with the image of European racism against the people of African. Achebe also states that Conrad himself is a racist by pointing the language he himself uses when referring to Blacks and how he speaks when referring to his fellow European. Even though Conrad’s book shows his character Marlow’s momentary sympathy for the Africans he saw slowly dying, Achebe doesn’t think that moment clears Conrad. Ultimately Achebe’s point is that the “Heart of Darkness”, doesn’t give the people of the Congo enough credit and what is described in the novel makes the African seem like a races of savages with no language or culture.
Achebe’s essay shows us the racism that exists in “Heart of Darkness”, but he fails to provide an answer into why this was happening. When we think racism, we think about issues of race from a modern day American’s prospective, but we must remember that racism, the form that is illustrated in “Heart of Darkness” isn’t like what African Americans in North America were experiencing. So Achebe’s essay still leaves us with the big question of why African’s were being subject to such racist treatment in the time of English expansion as shown by Conrad’s novel.

Achebe does not provide much of an answer to our question of why this was happening in his essay. His essay mainly went through “Heart of Darkness” comparing the language and visuals used to describe the European and the African in contrast to each other, mainly trying to provide evidence of racism in Conrad’s book. Where we can find a much better answer to why the Africans were treated in such a manner is by taking a look at Ronald Takaki’s essay “The “Tempest” in the Wilderness: Shakespeare’s Dream about America”. Takaki’s essay shows us the deliberate separation of the races the English used to differ themselves from the people that they conquered. They are able to usurp native land without feeling compassion for the people by labeling them as savages.

The main focus of Takaki’s essay was the treatment of the Irish and the Native Americas in the time of English expansion. When the English first engaged the Irish they labeled them savages because they were “living outside of civilization; they had tribal organizations, and their practice of herding seemed nomadic” (Takaki, pg.183). From this encounter the English went on to base what they thought civilize and what was savage. The encounter with the Native America is what is more important in this essay. The conflict between the English and the Native American, best illustrates for us why and where the racist treatment of Africans stemmed from.
Some may think that this racism against the African was because of slavery and skin color, but all those things were only a small, but still important factor that added to racism. So this brings us back to the “Heart of Darkness”, where we can clearly see, that the Europeans that came to the Congo did not come there for slaves, since when this book was written slavery was already abolished by the English in 1800’s, because it was deemed un-Christian. What the European now wanted was land and profit. My own view is that Blacks in the “Heart of Darkness” were treated as savages and savagely like the Native Americas and looked down upon because it was a clear but enough reason the English could think of to be able to gradually come in and steal the natural resources and land from the African people.
The evidence Takaki’s essay shows is how the Native Americans were villianized due to greed and from that greed is where the distinct separation of the races is where opportunistic racism sprouted. The same things happen to the African. They are imprisoned, subjugated, used for physical labors that the English themselves didn’t want to do. Marlow’s character comes across the first view of servitude in the book when he travels to one of the company stations, “Six black men advanced in a file trolling up the path. They walked erect and slow, balancing small buckets full of earth on their heads and the clink kept time with their footsteps”, (Conrad, pg. 15).

These men that serviced the English were more than likely free men that they had capture and labeled criminals so they were able to keep using them as free labor. “Each had an iron color on his neck and all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking”, (Conrad, pg. 15). The men seemed to be kept as slaves even though we know that slavery was already outlawed in English colonies, so why are they being held there and forced to work is it because like the early colonist they didn’t know how to survive in this “new world” or like the colonist they believed the African to be idle and lazy so they had the right to put them to work against their will. “They were called criminals and outraged law like the bursting shell had to come to them an insoluble mystery from sea”, (Conrad, pg. 16). Achebe in his essay points out a paragraph that indicates that these men that they were using for labor weren’t criminals, “They were dying slowly-it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now, nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation lying confusedly in the greenish gloom. Brought from all recesses of the coast in all the legality of time contracts” (Conrad, pg. 17). Marlow states this after seeing starved, mistreated Africans lying around under a tree waiting to die. Like the Native Americas the Africans were accused of crimes or extorted out of their land and as their punishment for their ignorance forced to labor for the English.

According to Takaki the Native America were forced into servitude on their own land, “A year later, Governor Thomas Gates arrived in Virginia with instructions that Indians should be forced to labor for the Colonist and also make annual payments of corn and skins”, (Takaki, pg.193). I believe this reflect a lot of what we see in “Heart of Darkness”, Africans laboring for European gains. Even though they had outlawed slavery the English government condoned the miss treatment and forced servitude of all those they didn’t consider their equals. The African was certainly no considered the equal of the white man but his junior and in being so at the short end of the stick. The Europeans came to these new countries unprepared for the way of life so they took what was already there.
In the Heart of Darkness we see that the main focus of the novel was this man Kurtz, who we can see presents himself as more than just a man to the African tribe that he uses “He came to them with thunder and lighting, you know and they had never seen anything like it – and very terrible. He could be very terrible”, (Conrad, pg.55). Kurtz uses is influence over the African people and have them labor for him, by bring him ivory and also stealing it from neighboring villages. “But he had no goods to trade with by that time, I objected. There’s a good lot of cartridge left even yet, he answered, looking away. To speak plainly, he raided the country”, (Conrad, pg. 55). Kurtz made himself a part of the lives of these Africans by living on their land and using them as he saw fit. Takaki explains the driving force being this was a cultural thing, “Colonists were encouraged by their culture of expansion to claim entitlement to the land”, (Takaki, pg.193). So by falsely representing himself like most of the colonist during the time of English expansion, Kurtz used his status as a “God” among the natives to take what property they had and that of their neighbors used them for his own gains.

The English always thought that the future of their country always lied somewhere else, “The future of Englishmen lay in American proclaimed Hakluyt, as he urged them to “conquer a country” and “to man it, to plant it and to keep it, and to continue making of wines and oils able to serve England”, (Takaki, pg.186). Takaki demonstrates in the quote that the push to conquer and drive out or subdue the natives was all in the services of England. The English didn’t see taking the land of the natives as robbery, since they claimed that the natives did not use the land and wasted it, so it was their right to drive the natives off the land as claim it as their own. Takaki states that when the natives fought back that is when they were mainly described as savages, but it isn’t until page 198 in his essay that we see the real separation of race. Two lines that stand out in Takaki’s essay that could easily explain reason why Europeans treated the Africans like they did are found almost at the end of the essay.

The African’s weren’t all savage they were farmers and hunters, but since like the Native Americans they lived outside civilization the Europeans made up their own views of the African as savages. “Many colonists in New England disregarded this reality and invented their own representation of Indians. What emerged to justify dispossessing them was the racialization of Indian “savagery”, (Takaki, pg.198). The colonist associated the Indians with the Devil because they thought the Indians to be lazy, idle, and not in control of themselves. “This social construction of race occurred within the economic context of competition over land”, (Takaki, pg. 198). So there you can clearly see that the Europeans weren’t really out to be racist they only found it convenient to practice it so that they could argue their entitlement to land and whatever property they found profitable that the natives were supposedly not utilizing.

The cultivation of tobacco pushed for a want of more land. The exportation of tobacco had become a large source of income for most colonists. The exportation of tobacco grew from 2,300 pounds in 1616 to 19,000 by 1617 and 60,000 by 1620. The influx of new colonist that the agriculture of tobacco had started also leads to territorial expansion and conflict with the natives. In “Heart of Darkness”, a clear picture isn’t painted for us on whether or not the Africans of the Congo had their land taken from them by such force, but as I stated earlier in Conrad’s character Kurtz we see that the greed for ivory had driven him to use the power that he had to invade and steal ivory from the villages that were in the surrounding area.

It’s not until the arrival of the Puritans that we see the totally demonization of the Native American and the total illustration of what they say is a great waste of resources. The Puritans believe since the Native Americans didn’t utilize the land nor did they dwell their permanently it was theirs for the taking. This can also be transferred to the English views on unused ivory. The African natives did not use all the ivory that they had; they buried some, which to the English devalued the ivory. Kurtz character brings a strong image of the colonist that even though some of them traded with the natives there were others and eventually all found that it was easier to just take what they had instead of trying to cooperate with them. This greed in my opinion can be identified as an inherited trait of Europeans, like the traits that they had labeled the Native Americans with and also Africans.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
Book Review by: Keaton Falloon

  I purchased Tolle's new book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, a former underground hit whose recent success—with over 100,000 copies sold and a place on Oprah Winfrey's list of favorites—has made its author a fast-growing presence on today's spiritual circuit. Aptly titled, the book is a meticulous and detailed deconstruction of everything that inhibits our ability to see beyond the confines of our own minds into the power and beauty of life lived in what Tolle calls "the Now," or "Being," or "Presence." At first glance it might seem like just one more in a growing genre of books full of tips on how to be more mindful and awake in our daily life, but Tolle's clear writing and the obvious depth of his experience and insight set it apart. Enlightenment, according to Tolle, is simply a "natural state of felt oneness with Being." And being, in Tolle's teaching, is defined as "the eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death." It is also, as he goes on to explain, "deep within every form as its innermost invisible and indestructible essence. . . . When you are present, when your attention is fully and intensely in the Now, Being can be felt, but it can never be understood mentally. To regain awareness of Being and to abide in that state of 'feeling-realization' is enlightenment."

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment  Using a question and answer format throughout the book, Tolle weaves his words together like a carefully constructed net designed to catch and constrain all the objections of the mind and ego to the freedom of being he is pointing to. His basic message is simple: disconnect from the thinking mind, shift your attention from "mind to Being, from time to Presence." Indeed, time is the enemy in Tolle's teaching, and the mind is the enemy's tool. We must reject them both, abandoning our psychological attachment to the past and future, realizing that a mind-identified condition is "a form of insanity." "Be so utterly, so completely present," Tolle tells us, "that no problem, no suffering, nothing that is not who you are in your essence, can survive in you. In the Now, in the absence of time, all your problems dissolve. Suffering needs time; it cannot survive in the Now." While he never strays far from this basic point, Tolle parlays his message into a wide-ranging discussion of such diverse spiritual topics as freedom from thoughts and emotions; the student/ teacher relationship; death and dying; the human ego; our physical body, sexual relationships, and gender issues; and even the design of human evolution. And through it all, the "power of Now" serves as a sort of universal "portal" that can always take us (or bring us back) into a state of presence, providing access to the "unmanifested dimension of life," and freeing us from anything and everything that would interfere.

  The more I read of The Power of Now, the more I was convinced that in Eckhart Tolle's teachings we had stumbled upon a genuine and profound expression of the nondual realization, a rare pearl in the shallow tidepools of new millennium spirituality. Indeed, in a time when the teachings of Advaita Vedanta—the ancient Hindu doctrine of nonduality expressed exquisitely in the last century by Ramana Maharshi and others—are being used by Western seekers as a quick and easy passport to a dubious, if not downright nihilistic, "enlightenment," Tolle's book shines with authenticity, a welcome addition to a spiritual climate grown rife with reductionism. Thankfully, he refuses to use the subtle and profound teachings of nonduality to whitewash the darker sides of human nature or pretend that the human ego is simply an illusion that we need not concern ourselves with. Instead, his call to awakening contains within it an honest appraisal of the reality of the human condition. Referring to the "collective egoic mind" as the most "dangerously insane and destructive entity ever to inhabit this planet," he speaks at great length about the negative and inevitable consequences inflicted on both ourselves and others when we are unable or unwilling to surrender ourselves to the liberating power of "the Now."

El Poder del Ahora: Un Camino Hacia la Realizacion Espiritual (Spanish Edition)
Also available in Spanish
  Yet, as impressive and refreshing as the book is, Tolle's presentation of the spiritual life is not without its disconcerting moments, and some of his conclusions are worth a second look. Are we really in the middle of a "profound transformation that is taking place in the collective consciousness of the planet and beyond," even as our "social, political, and economic structures . . . enter the final stage of collapse"? Are women really "closer to enlightenment" than men, and is their monthly menstrual cycle poised to become the powerful catalyst for their widespread awakening? Does greater consciousness actually lead to a "significant slowing down of the aging of the physical body"? Whatever the ultimate veracity of these and other unusual declarations, their inclusion in the book only served to raise further questions, rather than illuminating or clarifying the territory of enlightenment.

  But perhaps the most important issue to examine with a finer eye is the very nature of the nondual teaching itself, because in the final analysis, Tolle is a nondualist through and through. The essential point, expressed beautifully over and over again in the book, is to always, no matter what the circumstance, return to the Now, return to being, return to that mystery where there never has been and never could be any problem whatsoever. And while Tolle goes to great lengths to acknowledge and address the mental, emotional, and psychological issues that we must confront in doing so, the practices and methods he suggests are, in essence, all derivatives of this one fundamental movement, this one absolute inner shift from doing to being, from time to the Now, from duality to nonduality. "Direct your attention inward," he says, "If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place. Primary reality is within, secondary reality without." Whether in the nondual tradition of Advaita, the Dzog-chen teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, various schools of Zen, or even some of Jesus' teachings (which Tolle often quotes in his book), this nondual approach has been a fundamental part of the spiritual landscape for millennia.

  Yet, it is an approach that has also endured much criticism over the years for its perceived failure to present a truly complete and integral path to awakening. One of history's most ardent and articulate critics of this view was the Chinese Ch'an Buddhist Master Tsung-mi (780-841), who spoke out in his own time against what he saw as the dangers inherent in any teaching that did not place importance on the need for "gradual cultivation." He felt strongly that those spiritual teachings, like The Power of Now, that emphasize a fundamental, inner shift of awareness, must be balanced by a cultivation of the dynamic and active aspects of our nature—the positive transformation, in other words, of our motivations, our actions, and our capacity to discriminate between what is wholesome and what is unwholesome in the world of time and space. While he would no doubt have agreed with Tolle that nondual insight, what he called "sudden awakening," must be the foundation of any genuine path, Tsung-mi calls to mind contemporary critics of the nondual approach when he claims, (as summarized here by Buddhist scholar Robert Buswell) that "for full realization to occur . . . the symbiotic relationship between sudden awakening and gradual cultivation must be recognized" so that "each aspect supports the development of the other. The sudden awakening at the beginning of the student's practice assures a proper attitude toward cultivation," while "gradual cultivation ensures that the awakening is kept dynamic. Through cultivation, awakening is applied in ordinary life, protecting the student from indifference to the sufferings of others and the compulsion to seek quietude and isolation which often characterizes ascetic hermits."

  Interestingly enough, the application of awakening in "ordinary life" was one of the most oft-repeated themes at the Inner Directions conference last spring. Speakers and participants alike seemed to be struggling with the question of how to live our deepest realizations of enlightenment, the very issue that prompted Tsung-mi to make such bold criticisms of the "sudden awakening" schools of Chinese Buddhism 1,200 years ago. The Power of Now injects into this perennial discussion a practical and accessible nondual teaching of enlightenment whose burgeoning popularity will hopefully inspire not only appreciation for the rare wisdom it contains but also deeper thought about these very important issues. Whatever the case, with Eckhart Tolle's growing presence on bestseller shelves usually reserved for much lighter-weight fare, it will be interesting to see what time has in store for this unusual book.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

BOOKS AND WEBSITES NEW MOTHERS SHOULD CHECKOUT

  Being a new mother I can say is one of the scariest things in the world. You are now in charge of a new life. You are charged with the responsibility of making sure he/she is feed, cleaned, entertained and every need taken care of. Mind you because of the demands being placed on you by your new little bundle of joy you might feel that you have no time for yourself, and I would say that your right! For the first few months of your baby's life, your life is no longer your own. You sleep when he/she sleeps, you eat when you have time to sneak it in, and you finally take a shower when he/she takes a long nap. But it gets better and its well worth it. Eventually your little bundle starts sleeping thought

  All of those demands and sleepless nights were something you thought you were prepared for, but when it finally came down to it you were totally wrong. Gone are helpful nurse's that would take your little one to the nursery when you wanted to take a nap. Gone are the extra helpful hands that would give your little one his/her bath. Now that you are at home your on your home. Sure you  might have help for a few days from family members, but those family members aren't there every day and you will need help and information when issues arise. When your child is sick where do you look for information on what to do? Should you take he/she to the doctor's? If he/she is crying too much is that a sign that something is wrong? These are all the questions that plaque new mothers and new fathers.

  When I had my child I thought I was prepared and thought I knew what to expect, but boy was I wrong. It's not as easy as it appears on TV. Watching a lot of "Bringing home Baby" on TLC made me thing I was prepared, but like I said I was wrong. Luckily I had my mother and my husband to help me with the baby, but when they weren't around I was on my own on figuring things out. One can never really be prepared for a baby unless you've have a couple years of experience under your belt. But this article is for new and expecting moms the ones that think they know what to expect, but don't think of the unexpected.

  In this article I've looked up a variety of books and websites that I believe are great reads for any new or expecting moms. These books and websites contain information that can help you answer questions that you just can't answer yourself. Having information on hand gives a new mother a sense of relief when she is able to identify what is plaguing her new baby and what actions she can take to easy his or her pain. Also having information about the stages of your pregnancy helps make an expecting mother feel even closer to her future child.

The first website that I suggest a expecting or new mother get familiar with is BabyCenter.com. This website helped me out a lot when I was pregnant with my child. Laced with information about pregnancy from start to finish, this site goes on the whole journey of your pregnancy with you. When you sign up you are sent information about each stage of your pregnancy. They inform you of what to expect as each month goes by, the changes your body will go through and they even show you illustration of how your unborn baby looks while in the womb. This site is also great after the birth of your child. Not only does it tracks your child progression, you have a accurate time line of your child's age. You can also research all kind of information on the site and read answers posted by doctors and also other mothers.

  Another great website is www.Thebump.com, like Baby Center, this website offers you a host of information on what to expect when your pregnant and also what to expect when your a new mother. Both of the sites are very similar and come with a lot of tools to help you along your pregnancy and to also answer those questions you've been thinking about. The bump also offers you a host of websites that you can do your shopping for your little one and much more.

  One of the first books any mom should be checking out is a baby naming book. It can be really hard to find the name you would like to pin to your child. Many parents go with names that are in the family and some even make up names that they thing are unique and whimsical, but you have to think of the long run. When your child starts to understand his or her name will they think its unique? Will they think that its whimsical? Also you have to think whether or not this name is going to give your a child hard time later in life when he starts school or tries to apply for a job. A name is a very important part of a persons identity, when you look into naming your child make sure that its a name that he or she doesn't have to pronounce to everyone over and over again. Also make sure its something that has meaning behind it. Speaking of meaning, you should also look up the meaning of the name you want to place on your child just so you don't name them something insulting. A great book to check out is Bruce Lansky's  Very Best Baby Names In The Whole Wide World. This book is filled with thousands of names, a long with their meaning which will make it easy for you to decide. Bruce Lansky has many other baby books out there since he is the number # 1 author of baby naming books in North America.

  For those that don't feel like reading though a baby book, you have the option of going on line and Googling a baby names and a host of websites would be presented to you. Each website may contain the same baby names, but from what I've seen some of them have different meanings for some names. But a great baby naming site is Babynames.com. I love the site. Not only does it gives you the meaning of you potential child's name, but it als give you the origin of the name. I recently looked my own names up and found that a combination of my last and first name meant Fennel Trader. So you see why it's important to look up your child's name.

  Many of you many not know who Dr. Spock was, but hear are two names that you might want to get familiar with William and Martha Sears. Authors of The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two, these two professionals also with two of their sons, who are also doctors have broken it down for mothers and provided their knowledge of of proper infant care. This is an updated version of their 1993 book which was a guide to attachment parenting. This book might not be for all expecting and new moms, but if your going to be one of those moms that wants to follow the attachment parenting path this book is for you. William Sears is a pediatrician and Martha Sears is a registered nurse. They have eight children and in this book they bring all their experiences for you to read and try in your life as a parent. 


For those that aren't going with the attachment parenting, don't worry there are many books out there that gives you the run down from pregnancy to birth. Here are a couple of titles you many want to look up:The Mother of All Pregnancy Books: The Ultimate Guide to Conception, Birth, and Everything In Between by Ann Douglas; Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother's Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Aubery and Nancy Mitchell.

Once again these are just some suggestions. Books and websites can't answer all your questions nor can they diagnose if there is something physically wrong with your or your baby. These books and websites are here to only help with some of the small stuff. Its up to you to determine whether or not a name is great of your baby or not. It's also up to you to determine whether or not the way you are raising your young one is the right way. When it comes to parenting there really isn't a book out there that can really help you. New parent should always be mindful of what they do when it comes to their young ones and take it one day at a time and ask for help when you feel its needed. 

If you pick up any of the books that I spoke about let me know what you think of them but leaving me a comment on this post. Enjoy the read.