Daily Archives: May 19, 2014

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Blog #7: Human Nature

I have just decided I would share some videos that I really enjoyed.
This video is titled “The myth of Human Nature”

Just bringing the video back to class discussion: If we consider popular movies like The Purge which are based on the notion that humans are animalistic, then we can easily accept the plot portrayed in the movie. But what if we challenge this notion that humans are inherently violent and selfish that has been perpetuated with the notion that humans do not want to be violent but want to seek out fulfilling relationships that are filled with love?

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Blog #6: Amazing video

Linked above is an amazing video that a close friend shared with me. This video sheds so much perspective on the larger picture that we deal with as students studying sociology. The purpose that sociology serves is not only to reconcile the present state of affairs with history, but to also work to help shift the current ethos, raising our awareness the power of our agency, as well as to inspire us to be critical of the energy that we create in the world.

I would highly recommend this video!

Hope you enjoy!

Blog #5: Gentrification, A new form of Colonization?

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http://petapixel.com/2014/04/04/pictures-ny-storefronts-document-decade-gentrification/

As stated before, I love Franz Fanon’s work, lol, So I decided to share an article that I read long before learning about him. Hearing about colonization, this article came to mind. Gentrification is running Rapid in our communities here in the city. Linked above you will find a great article that visually illustrates what happens when gentrification is on the come up. We see store fronts of mom and pop shops turned into sub-ways or upscale cafe’s. While these look really pretty and from an orthodox point of view they seem to be beneficial for the community: ITS NOT. 

Usually when people hear the word gentrification, they automatically think of Harlem. Linked here is another article that gives some insight into gentrification in Harlem: http://www.businessinsider.com/new-yorks-east-harlem-gentrification-photos-2013-9?op=1

Now, who wouldn’t be excited to see a nice Whole Foods in their neighborhood? Well a nice whole foods comes at a price. The arrival of this whole foods is the start of a battle for resources: families in the surrounding area, if not granted rent control or are fortunate to own a house, these families can be priced out of their communities, forced to move often at a short moments notice. We see traditional mom-and pop shops in the area going out of business because the new group of residents that are able to afford the new housing prices are not shopping at smaller shops but traveling to larger malls. Here we see that the money is not being circulated back into the community. We also observe a slow move away from the culture of the original community; while families are forced to move, they take their culture with them, or if they are able to stay new residents will not appreciate the cultural practices, such as a traditional drum circle, or the weekly block parties during the summer. While these elements of the neighborhood cease to exist we end up with a community that is void of originality, it becomes homogeneous in terms of the people that inhabit the area and the visual appeal of the neighborhood. 

Now to relate all of this to Fanon: how can colonization even be compared to gentrification? Well, if we think about colonization as simply as the take over of resources and land, this is exactly what we see happening in urban neighborhoods. With the neoliberal ideals that we seemingly accept, gentrification may not seem like a problem, but it leads to the people being removed from where they are for the greater economic gain. Once these people are priced out of their neighborhoods, where do these people go? What will happen to the culture? How is one to navigate the world when they have to be uprooted and adjust to a new reality that they have to face in which once has to realize that the space that they occupy is not their own? 

 

With all of these questions, how can we prevent gentrification, or perhaps prevent individuals from facing psychological hardships that result from displacement? Working in the south bronx and speaking with local organizations one of the ideas that an organization has implemented was to create an after school program for mothers in which they will watch children and provide free food as many of the mothers have to work long hours and do not have the opportunity to watch their children after school. This model creates a huge relief for working families in that they do not have to worry about their children.

 

What other initiatives would you implement to alleviate some of immediate hardships that families will have to face if they are priced out of their homes due to gentrification?  

(Blog Post #4) Fashion in Brooklyn

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My boyfriend’s father, who has lived in Williamsburg his entire life, told me that his childhood neighborhood was not always like this. Oh yeah. Once upon a time, Williamsburg was not the hip, trendy area that we know today. In recent years, the neighborhood has become gentrified. It is now largely inhabited by young, working professionals and people that are categorized as “hipsters.” The overwhelming presence of this subculture has strongly influenced the local merchants. Many restaurants in the area offer vegan options, gluten-free products, organic produce, and all that type of junk that you’d normally find at Whole Foods. Eating healthy is what’s in, even though I’ll never quite understand the hype behind those juice cleanses. (I have all my teeth. I don’t need to drink my vegetables.) These people have not only changed the demographic of the area, but they’ve also changed the entire lifestyle. With easy access to restaurants, bars, and public transportation, almost nobody drives, but be warned: If you choose to drive into Williamsburg, watch out for bicyclists! I swear, it seems like everybody and their mother rides their bike! Cold weather, warm weather –  it doesn’t matter, man. On the plus side, there are less gas emissions, and I’m all about saving good ‘ol Mother Earth.

As Simmel describes in “Fashion” (1904), living in a city such as Williamsburg promotes a certain lifestyle. Simmel states, “Since modern individuals tend to be detached from traditional anchors of social support, fashion allows the individual to signal or express their own personality or personal values.”Besides the food, another significant aspect is… well, fashion itself. I’ll be honest, a hot pink Juicy Couture tracksuit wouldn’t necessarily be considered as popular fashion in the ‘Burg. (No offense to the women who wear them. I bet those are really comfortable. You keep wearing what you love, honey.) I’ve come to understand that a Williamsburg woman’s idea of a stylish outfit isn’t necessarily something new, but something borrowed. No, I’m not describing one of those corny wedding traditions. I’m talking about Macklemore status: thrift shopping. It’s all about finding that diamond in the rough at a flea market, making it your own, and therefore making it new again (although there’s still a good chance it could have emerged from the mothball-ridden closet of its previous owner). When I go to visit Williamsburg, I think to myself, “Is this cool enough to wear?” It’s as if there’s this unspoken contest; everyone’s trying to “out-cool” each other, without being too obvious about it. So if I care too much about how I look, would that be too mainstream?

The more time I spend in Williamsburg, the more I realize that the city itself is kinda like a repurposed granny sweater.

(Hear me out. I’m getting to the point.)

Much like the inhabitants seek to find that diamond in the rough; that one of a kind piece at the thrift store, it appears that their neighborhood has also become a product of their fashion and refurbishing. These hipsters have brought new life into this neighborhood and made it their own. So, perhaps I’ll be able to tolerate their curiously perfect knobbed mustaches, and their rampant bicycles. They have cultivated a beautiful neighborhood that, in my opinion will stand the test of time and fashion.

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Blog #4 : Decolonization of the Mind

Franz Fanon has to be one of my favorite theorists covered this semester. As a psychology major I can certainly connect with Fanon and his deep need to use psychiatry to heal people of the hurt and disconnection from reality that they experience as a result of colonization. Colonization in the traditional sense can be defined as the taking over of resources and separating a group of people from their culture and removing them from their land. With this colonization there is a creation of two conflicting societies. This shows that colonized people create a double consciousness, much like the one that DuBois introduces us to. With the colonization, a war ensues within the colonized country in order to regain control of their resources.

Not only does colonization entail the taking over of land and resources and way of life, it also takes over ones mind. Here I am extending the idea of colonization to include that in addition to taking over resources, colonization creates an environment for native people in which they feel disconnected from society, invisible, they are not agents in their own culture. The loss of this control, much like double consciousness, creates an alternate reality in which one is not able to adjust and persist in as an autonomous being seemingly in charge of their life’s decisions and dreams. With colonization comes war. This war is internal as well as external. War creates a hostile environment. All in all psychological trauma is the end result.

Thinking back to the video that we watched in class about Fanon, in many of the clips we could observe Fanon working with the most psychologically traumatized patients, and he was able to create a routine for them that was familiar in order to induce a path to healing from the effects of healing. The healing of the individuals in society that experience the trauma of colonization is important in order to drive a history in which an entire nation can recover and move towards creating a social movement that will work to decolonize the minds and the lands resources.

If we think historically to different events of colonization: Christopher Colombus is a classic example. More recent example (and one of my favorites because it displays the will of the people): Zapatista movement (link to history: http://www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/books/reviews/communebromma.html). And another more obvious example can be considered if we think about the “Race for Africa”.

In the “Race” for African Resources (Colonization of Africa) we see a massive destruction not only to the land, but also to native cultures. Linked above is a video from part of a conversation by the Kenyan social activist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o about the Decolonization of resources and Decolonization of the minds of people not only in Africa, but also around the world. By decolonizing the minds of the people– ridding them of neoliberal ideals, being culturally sensitive, heightening their awareness of the world around them, using language locally– can we work to begin a decolonization movement for the peoples of Africa, and ultimately for the world.

(Blog Post #3) Individual vs. Society: An Ode to the Walmart Shopper

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Have you ever people watched? I mean, not everyone does it for fun (*raises hand* guilty), but you know how it goes. You’ve been walking around all day, and you finally spot the first bench you’ve seen in 20 minutes. Relief is in sight! You make your way over to the seat, and you make yourself comfortable. You let out a sigh that’s half exhaustion and half relief. Once you’re all comfortable, you start to notice everyone walking around you. You see a lady pushing her fussy toddler in a stroller, a man who could easily be Hulk Hogan’s body double, and an elderly man who gingerly makes his way forward using his cane. (It’s amazing what you start to notice when your eyes aren’t glued to the screen of your phone every time you’re bored in public. Don’t lie, we all do it.)

I thought about this whole people-watching concept, and then I realized how relevant it is to Simmel’s 3 assumptions about the individual and society. Just to recap, they are:

  1. Individuals are both within and outside society.
  2. Individuals are both objects and subjects within networks of communicative interaction
  3. Individuals have the impulse to be self-fulfilling and self-completing, that is, they seek an integrated self-concept.

When we look at people around us, we have the power to decide what is deemed acceptable and what is considered deviant. Now, deviance is relative. What may be seen as deviant in one setting may be the norm in another. As for me, I love wearing Jordans. They’re comfortable shoes, and they look cool. More importantly, I feel cool when I wear them. If I wear them at QC, I sometimes get compliments on them. If I wear them in my 98% Caucasian neighborhood, I’m bound to get some strange, sideways looks. Apparently, I missed the memo that white girls aren’t allowed to wear certain sneakers.

If you’ve never been to http://www.peopleofwalmart.com before, you’re welcome. You’ve never really people-watched unless you’ve been to Walmart, let’s be honest. When we people-watch, these Walmart shoppers are the objects and subjects. Unfortunately, some of them are the object of cringe-worthy reactions, but they are also the subject of our attention. Adversely, we also become the subject of someone’s attention when we least expect it. And whether we like it or not, you’re bound to spot that Abercrombie model look-a-like as you’re stuffing an Auntie Anne’s pretzel into your mouth. We all have our moments. Shrug it off.

With all of these ads that are posted in the mall, it’s hard not to feel pressured. Vendors at those little kiosks try to come up to you and say, “Wear this! You’ll look sexy!” “Spray this perfume! We promise you won’t smell like your Great Aunt Nancy!” (<–Okay, so that one was a stretch, but you get the point.) We are constantly looking to improve upon ourselves by buying the latest technologies, following the latest fashion trends, and learning how to make those puke-colored green smoothies that everyone raves about. I mean, do you know how many self-help books are out there? A LOT. We are a society that constantly strives for perfection, and just when we think we’re satisfied, BOOM! Apple comes out with a brand new iPhone. Suddenly, your “smart” phone starts looking like it came off the set of “Saved By the Bell.” The truth is, we’ll never truly be happy unless we stop trying to use the money we don’t have to buy the things we don’t need in order to impress people we don’t even like.

So. The next time you go to the mall, I encourage you to sit down, put your phone in your pocket, and look at people. I mean, really look at people. We are all misfits in one way or another, so we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Perhaps that mother with the baby was once an Olympic swimmer. Maybe that body builder has a soft spot for his miniature poodle, Fifi. And maybe that elderly gentleman injured his leg when he fought for our country. Who knows? Maybe it’s not individual vs. society, but rather the individual vs self. So let’s be nice to ourselves, and let’s be understanding of others. Everyone’s just trying to get by. So let’s grab a hot Auntie Anne’s pretzel and call it a day. We all deserve it.

Treat yo’ self.

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(Blog Post #2) “We Should All Be Feminists” and Gilman

I don’t know about any of you, but Beyonce is my girl. I love listening to her music. Her newest album, titled “Yonce”, features a couple of songs that are all about women kicking some major tail and being independent. I fell in love with one of the songs called, “Flawless.” At face value, it’s one of those songs that makes you feel like you could take on the world if you wanted to — like you’re the most bad ass person in the room. (If you ever need an ego boost, trust me. Just listen to it.) Half way through the song, I noticed that Beyonce had sampled a speech on feminism:

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much.’ ‘You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.’ Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love, and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage, and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments (which I think can be a good thing), but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they can not be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

At first, I was startled, because I wasn’t expecting to hear a speech like this in the middle of a hip-hop song. Who WAS this brilliant woman? I had to find out for myself. So, I did what any other curious college student did: I went on Google. I searched for “Beyonce Flawless speech”. Sure enough, I found what I was looking for. Beyonce had used a short sequence of a speech given by Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, called “We Should All Be Feminists.” The speech is 30 minutes long, but in all honesty, it’s worth the listen if you have the time. Adichie is a brilliant woman and an excellent orator. She really touches on all the points that Gilman makes, in regards to her standpoints on the unequal division of labor and gender socialization. What’s so remarkable about Gilman is that her ideology was WAY ahead of its time. Over a 100 years have passed, and her work is still relevant today. Perhaps that just goes to show you that although women have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. And the only way to go, is up, because those glass ceilings won’t be an obstacle anymore.

Stay flawless, ladies.