Posted in Miscellany

Tears for Children

People like to blame deities for tragedy of human lives to avert their fury to the forces unseen. But most problems in the world are manmade and not entirely unresolvable. Such is the case of the children of present-day Ethiopia. They are maimed or killed by weapons of political hegemony, territorial dispute, and ideological subjective for which no gods but humans are responsible.

According to an article from the Reuters, 3,320 children have been either killed or maimed as a result of stepping into buried explosives from the civil war between Prime Minister Ably Ahmed’s government and Tigrayan forces commanded by leaders of the TPLF, the party that controls most of the Tigray region and used to run the federal government. It is this TPLF’s use of land mines that destroys the lives of the children in the region. The number above of children casualties is, in fact, only a fraction of the reality when more children are becoming guiltless victims of furious greed and evil ambition. These children are put into a deadly game of Squid Game against their will, and it is a form of violation against children. In the west, people associate child abuse with sexual exploitation by default, whereas they are more exposed to physical beatings and mental harassment. The present case of Ethiopian children’s casualty applies to physical and psychological violence because the effects are indelibly carved on their bodies and minds, changing the course of their lives. If a fifteen-year-old girl stepped onto a landmine while trying to collect water from a river, would she be liable for losing her leg for life?

When it comes to war ranging from a domestic, familial fight to a full-scale national war, the memories become traumas that become lifelong narratives, depending on a child’s degree of sensitivity. But the children’s minds are like blanket slates where they write what the eyes see, and the ears hear. All children in the world, even in the remotest touch of civilization, are innocent and to be loved with care. However, my head swivels in wonderment when people seem to care more about children based on their countenance, preferably familiar with their kinds or attractiveness. Not only do Ukrainian refugee children deserve our attention, but Ethiopian children call our attention to stop this vile violence against children of any kind. So why not campaign against it with an international movement? Would Greta Thunberg be interested in the cause? I wonder.

Posted in book review

‘American Made: What happens to people when work disappears’ by Farah Stockman

Howard Stern might not be everyone’s friend, but he’s got the point when he articulated in his radio show a decade ago that what was eating out this great nation was not racism but classicism. The recent unionization movements among service industry workers, such as Amazon and Starbucks, indicate that the demand for the dignity of workers supersedes ideological politics that discourage the growth of American esprit de corps. American Made is a story about this American class consciousness that will put together disintegrated tesserae of the collective national mosaic made by the people and events.

The author follows the three principal workers of the now-defunct Rexnord Factory in Indiana: Wally, a black man whose diligence and amiability promoted him to a coveted position in the factory; Shannon, a single white woman with an abusive partner taking pride herself in being a wielder, a male-dominated position, and John whose fortitude and conscience never left him during his long, turbulent unemployment days. Sex and race don’t matter when it comes to losing their jobs, let alone loving them because the importance of what they do for a living and the need for their livelihood are their commonalities that build a sense of camaraderie. In fact, class solidarity can never be achieved if class consciousness is transcendent of racial prejudice to be achieved first. Unfortunately, the antebellum wealthy southern plantation owners systematically destroyed the poor white laborers’ wage systems by replacing their workforce with the free labor of African slaves, thus planting the seeds of racial hatred in the hearts of the poor whites. The vicious cycle of devious racialized economic caste system has since firmly constituted the American economic system ethos under “Separated but Equal.” The author sees the absurdities of American society as a result of the disintegrated labor movements primarily due to racial prejudices, which is why worker’s solidarity is a way forward to achieve national unity.

Wally, Shannon, and John are not just working-class Americans. The author emphasizes differentiating her elite station characterized by expensive private higher education and intellectual “profession” from those with hardened coarse hands of workers in the factory. They are ordinary people, a majority of Americans making up this country, ubiquitous in the landscape of our daily life. They are expendable at the whims and caprice of profit-driven employers who see their employees as no more than living at-will automates. That is what happened to the Rexnord Factory, where workers’ lives were no less than collateral damage for a successful operational mission of the company.

At times, the author positions herself as a conscientious liberal intellectual, paralleling her fortunate environment with her unfortunate subjects. Perhaps it’s an occupational hazard for being an NYT journalist. Nevertheless, the book succeeds in pointing out a lack of national cohesion resulting from the politicization of racial rhetorics into bipartisan ideology, which falls by the wayside of solidarity of labor movement overcoming institutionalized racial prejudices. Recently, I have read that the workers of Starbucks and Amazon in New York have voted to unionize. American Made is a story about them and us too because the dignity of work makes us who we are.

Posted in book review

Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole in Many Lands – book review

What we know as history takes a winning and popular side reflecting mass psychology because a winner writes it, and it is our human nature to win. Perhaps that is why the glare of Florence Nightingale eclipses the brilliance of Mary Seacole. Written in 1857, Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole in Many Lands is a vivid autobiographical touchy-feely account of one remarkable Mary Seacole who resisted herself being invisible and manifested her existence with a story to tell.

Seacole was a healer and entrepreneur born of a Scottish father and a Jamaican mother. Her medicinal knowledge and business acumen distinguished her from her contemporary peers. They often showed discrediting and unappreciative regard to such achievements and her person, not least because of their bias. Seacole identified herself as a British with pride and patriotism, especially when confronting Americans whom she observed to be egregiously racists with unruly behaviors. She took pride in feminine propriety and cultural sophistication, which made her look audaciously flamboyant to those who determined to ignore her virtue, one of whom was Florence Nightingale.

In the wake of the Crimean War, Seacole was imbued with the flames of patriotism and humanity to volunteer for Nightingale’s nurse corps. However, Nightingale and her nurses kept refusing her aspiration, calling her intention dubious because they suspected her setting up the famous Seacole’s Hotel at the battlefield by providing sensual comfort to soldiers with her women employees. Her noble courage and abundant charity were unreciprocated in non-institutionalized racist 19th-century zeitgeist that paved the way to systematic 20th-century scientific racism. It perceived non-white women as no more than sexual subjects of imprudence and passion. Being dark, Seacole was not seen for the flame of Nightingale’s candles.

Had it not been for Nightingale, would Seacole have been regarded as the angel of the Crimean War? Or was it because of Nightingale that Seacole became known? I think that would be harsh undue judgment for both great women. It would be a typical social dynamic of praising one to the detriment of the other. Yet, I believe Seacole deserves recognition for what she did and who she was worth noting. To me, Seacole embodies Queen Elizabeth I’s Tilbury Address that though she might have a woman’s body, she had a king’s stomach and heart. That says it.