In “Tlön, Uqbar Orbis Tertius” Borges describes a fictional planet in which the inhabitants “are not looking for truth, nor even an approximation of it; they are after a kind of amazement.” They perceive the world as only what is visible in a given moment, denying that there is existence outside their line of sight. This conceptual scheme limits their ability to conceptualize the existence of objects which they are not presently witnessing. If these individuals were to read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave they would probably be perplexed by the freed prisoner’s comparison of life in the cave in contrast with life outside the cave as they would assume that once the prisoner left the cave the cave would cease to be. Even in the cave the people of Tlön may view the shadows of the artifacts on the cave wall as a separate entity than the artifacts themselves since one could not view both simultaneously. Whether one looked at the artifacts and the fire or the shadows on the cave wall, they would not link the phenomena in their minds. Their conceptual scheme of a fleeting, inconsistent reality would inhibit them from understanding Plato’s narrative describing a distinct reality misunderstood by the prisoners. For in the minds of those from Tlön, each of the prisoner’s vantage points would be equally valid as reality changes based on one’s perceptions.
In “The Fact of Blackness” Fanon discuses Black identity specifically in the context of a colonized world where Black individuals are often identified in contrast with white people or viewed through a white gaze. Many portions of the text can be connected to Sara Baartman’s experience, especially Fanon’s descriptions of the expectations placed upon him in white society. For example, he writes, “And then the occasion arose when I had to meet the white man’s eyes. An unfamiliar weight burdened me… In the white world the man of color encounters difficulties in the development of his bodily schema.” Similarly, Sara Baartman performed for white audiences during her life, and her performances were altered in a way to cater to the expectations the audiences had of African culture and people. Fanon also writes, “And already I am behind dissected under white eyes, the only real eyes.” This quote speaks to the dehumanization of Black individuals as they were not seen as “real” people and consequently their perspectives were not valued as white perspectives were. This idea also relates to the way in which Sara Baartman’s corps was literally dissected and exploited by white people. Even in death her value was deemed less than white people, whose corpses would surely not be mutilated and displayed the way her body was.
In Discourse on Colonialism Césaire describes the brutality and deeply uncivilized nature of colonialism as well as its impacts. He also speaks of the future that could have been if not for European colonialism and describes an ideal society he believes civilization should strive for in wake of the horrors of colonialism: “It is a new society we must create, with the help of all our brother slaves, a society rich with all the productive power of modern times, warm with all the fraternity of olden days.” I believe this passage resonates in Josephine Baker’s “Rainbow Tribe.” She sought to create a community of individuals from different regions of the world with varying cultures who viewed each other as equals. This idea which she implemented by adopting children from around the world captures a larger vision for modern international fraternity which is reflected in Césaire’s piece. Her vision reflects a post-colonial dream to rectify the damage inflected by European colonists which drew groups further apart and caused conflict, slavery, and war while destroying cultures and communities.
“Smith’s possession of the mannerisms of each individual makes them completely distinct but, at the same time, unified by
This quote by Xavier Lemoine illustrates the paradox of documentary theater: how Anna Deveare Smith’s portrayal of all of the roles in Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 both unifies the characters and makes them more exaggeratedly different. Her body serves as a canvas for her to project different characters onto via her acting and the aid of costume pieces and accessories. The characters she portrays are united by the fact that they are all played by Smith, but her artistic choices about how to portray every individual distinguishes each from the rest. I’m interested in further exploring how exactly this paradox of unity and division of these characters functions and what causes these characters to feel both so similar and so different.
Sontag says reality has dissolved
That we have departed from the realm of sensibility
And become obsessed with image alone
But when a hurricane in Nicaragua
Displaced three thousand families
Photos of the destruction implore your pity
But they cannot convey the depth of a nation’s pain
An epidemic we are facing now is a mental health crisis in today’s young people, especially Anxiety and Depression. This epidemic has only been exacerbated by COVID-19 as children, teenagers, and young adults struggle to cope with the illness and deaths of loved ones, prolonged uncertainty regarding the future, adapting to distanced learning, physical distance from peers, and aggravated racial and socioeconomic inequities. I feel as though this epidemic is also worsened by the impacts of social media which tends to create the impression that others are doing fine, if not even better than usual, and are not struggling with the multitude of issues currently plaguing society. Sometimes I feel smothered by the current state of the world. Over break a family friend unexpectedly died, a violent coup occurred within ten miles of my home, and I felt extremely isolated as it was unsafe to meet with friends aside from texts and video calls. I know I am not alone in feeling afraid of what the future holds and nervous about the present. This is not to say I am not hopeful that things will change, especially as a wider swath of the population accesses the vaccine and a new, more progressive administration takes charge, but even after the COVID era ends, I know the mental illness epidemic will persist. After all, it was here long before the first case of COVID, and there’s no such thing as a vaccine for mental illnesses. I don’t know what the solution is or even if there is one. To start, society could move to normalize struggles with mental illness and take steps to remove the stigma surrounding these struggles, but after that, then what? Normalizing these struggles won’t reduce them. I’m at a loss.
Las Casas expresses that it would have been vastly unlikely for the indigenous Mexicans to be saved from the Spaniards’ ruthless acts of violence. Throughout the reading las Casas refers to an invented “reasonable person” who would disavow the Spaniard conquistadors’ actions and understand the plight of the indigenous Mexicans. He also paints the indigenous population as nonviolent, generous even, until the massacre of the nobles dancing in Mexico City when the natives finally turned on the Spanish. Even then Las Casas notes that their actions were “just.” He also conveys sympathy for the indigenous people in his writing by using phrases such as “these poor innocents” to contrast their peaceful nature with the Spaniards’ aggression. Ultimately, he highlights their benevolence to convey that the culpability for their demise rested entirely on the Spanish as they were nothing but hospitable and accepting until peace was no longer a viable option.