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“Know ye all, that the life of this world is but play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting and multiplying (in rivalry) amongst yourselves, riches and children…” (Surah Al-Hadid, 57:20)

Although I’ve read this verse numerous times, I recently encountered a slightly different translation that caused me to think about the insight it provides into the nature of humanity, particularly the bolded words.

So, yes, we have heard numerous times the comparison/description of this current world as a place of mere indulgence in the follies of life. But the “mutual boasting” and “in rivalry amongst yourselves” part exhibits something much more insightful about the human condition in this world. One of the most significant contradictions and problems of the notion of a Utopia on earth has always been that, if everyone is equal, then there is nothing for humans to strive towards (I don’t mean spiritually, but sociologically) – the world would be stripped of all sense of any necessity for ambition. There are two ways this could happen:

1. If everyone is simply equal in socioeconomic status and is given the same position in occupation – (which is realistically impossible anyway)

2. If an Utopian world runs on technology that does everything for us and abolishes the need for jobs altogether (which would also create the problem of sheer boredom with idleness).

This is where the verse sheds more light. Humans are innately ingrained with 1. the necessity for some form of occupation 2. the desire to strive higher, to reach further, the ambition to be better than others. Especially when considering the modern world, we are always striving socioeconomically or personally. You might say the latter is not necessarily always true, for example, serfs in Medieval Europe who did not have any semblance of an opportunity to strive higher, or for people who are content with a simple life and means of living, like farmers – but the point is, they still had/have an occupation – they still have some form of meaning, some work by which they are occupying their lives. Without either of these two factors, society itself would become listless and feel meaningless (again, I’m not talking about spiritually, I’m talking about sociologically, the natural structures by which the society of this world functions). This is also of course where such ideologies of Capitalism and Socialism comes into factor, but that’s a whole other long conversation.

Thus, in such a supposedly Utopian society, we could never truly be happy (not on earth anyway) – which is of course why the concept of Utopia becomes paradoxically and ironically a “Dystopia.” This is why in verse 57:20 Allah equates the “the life of this world” to the ambitious nature of humanity – we are always “in rivalry among ourselves,” and that is the very nature of the life we live, because without it, the earthly life would not truly exist. This gives us a mere glimpse into the sheer understanding and knowledge Allah has of the nature of humanity, since he is the One who created us – and thus this provides a whole different understanding of how and why Allah knows what is better for us than we do ourselves. This is further exhibited through the next part of the verse:

“Here is a similitude (to this life): The rain and the growth which it brings forth, delight the hearts of the tillers; soon it withers; thou wilt see it grow yellow; then it becomes dry and crumbles away…And what is the life of this world, but goods and chattels of deception?” (57:20)

Ultimately, Allah reminds us that the the ambitions of this world will not matter – all of it will, eventually, some day, “crumble away” – because this is not the world to which we truly belong. The natural structures by which this world functions will never enable it to be where we truly belong, for the same reason why a Utopia on earth could never exist. It will never be where we truly belong because no matter what we have, where we are in life, we will always want more, strive for more, crave for more – and it will never be enough until we reach the very world for which we were created.

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In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, the intrusion by foreign forces in the town of Macondo spurs into motion a domino effect of political shifts. With the introduction of political parties and the ruthless massacres by the military occupation, Macondo becomes the battleground of a colonized land. The revolution which eventually erupts from these tensions strives to overthrow colonial forces and reclaim their original identity. However, the face of the revolution Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s downward spiral towards corruption and his eventual failure in the struggle for liberation exemplify Frantz Fanon’s idea that a post-colonial nation never truly reclaims its liberty.

            In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon writes: “The masses, by a kind of infantile reasoning, are convinced they have been robbed. In certain developing countries, they…realize two or three years after independence their hopes have been dashed: “What was the point of fighting if nothing was really destined to change?” (34). Although the immediate aftermath of independence may give the post-colonial nation a sense of long-sought-for liberty, the effects of the colonial process impacts and changes the nation too much for it to ever truly recover its original state. The influences from the colonial country seeps into the colonized nation.

In Macondo’s original pre-colonial state, the lack of a sense of political disposition is almost an attribute of Macondo “culture” or social structure. The imposition of politics by the foreign forces, however, changes this social structure. Jose Arcadio Buendia’s initial reaction to Don Apolinar Moscote’s attempt at establishing government in Macondo demonstrates that they considered politics unnecessary to them: “In this town, we do not give orders with pieces of paper…we do not need judges here because there’s nothing that needs judging” (56). His phrasing and tone suggests that it is as if the very concept of such matters is foreign to Macondo.

There are two ways by which Marquez illustrates Aureliano’s original “uncolonized” mind. One is through his response to the concept of politics. Marquez emphasizes that at this stage, before Aureliano is completely “assimilated” into the political culture, he is actually apathetic to and innocent of any knowledge of politics, and thus was initially unaware of the concept of any political sides such as the “Conservatives” or the “Liberals.” This is shown by his words, “If I have to be something, I’ll be a Liberal,” (96) – as if it is a novel concept he is just discovering and assimilating to. The second way in which Marquez establishes Aureliano’s original character pre-war is through his initial motives for joining the Liberals and inciting revolution. As Macondo was plunged into political strife, with martial law the only law, and with the military occupation inciting chaos, terror and murder throughout the town, Aureliano finally declares “We’re going to war” (100). The incidence that ultimately incites him is that of the senseless killing of a woman, for which he then gathers men and “executed the captain and the four soldiers who had killed the woman” (101). This depiction of Aureliano shows that at this stage of the colonization, he had sincere inclinations to reclaim Macondo’s “independence” and seek justice for his people. Marquez juxtaposes Aureliano’s initially “uncolonized mind” – his untainted lack of disposition towards politics – to the political opposition which he is inevitably forced to join in the face of colonialism.

The turn of the revolution, however, gradually shifts – Aureliano becomes the very enemy he is fighting against. Fanon states “What must be avoided…are the espousal by the masses of an enemy doctrine and radical hatred by tens of millions of men. The colonized peoples are perfectly aware of these imperatives which dominate international politics. This is why even those who rage against violence always plan and act on the basis of this global violence”(39). Even though Aureliano initially “raged” against the injustice of the violence around him, he gradually comes to “act on the basis” of that same violence. He senselessly sacks a widow’s house and “reduce[s] it to ashes” (165); condones the murder of a man who challenges his position and rank, who is then violently hacked to death; orders the execution of a young officer, and even orders the execution of his own long-time comrade Gerineldo Marquez, simply for objecting to him. He becomes so utterly “intoxicat[ed]” (166) by power that he is “Lost in the solitude of his immense power, he began to lose direction” (166). He no longer possesses any sense of direction as to what purpose he is fighting for anymore – after twenty years of revolution, he declares: “The important thing is that from now on we’ll be fighting only for power” (168). Whereas in the beginning, before he was immersed in being “colonized,” Aureliano fought for justice, rights, equality, and liberty for his people – and yet he has been so changed by the process that he has no recollection of these values and intentions, and values only power. While fighting against tyranny, he becomes the tyrant, as Gerineldo Marquez says to him: “I’d rather be dead than see you changed into a bloody tyrant” (170), and as his own mother Ursula condemns him for his decision to execute Gerineldo: “It’s as if you were born with the tail of a pig” (169). Instead of changing the colonized state of his people and achieving liberty for them as he set out to, he is the one who is changed by colonization.

The third stage of colonization Macondo endures further contributed to its transformation: the “gringos” and their banana plantations. With this new form of foreign intrusion, Macondo attempts to retain the Macondo they knew before the colonization began: “The banana fever had calmed down. The old inhabitants of Macondo found themselves surrounded by newcomers and working hard to cling to their precarious resources of times gone by…” (284). Marquez utilizes the introduction of technology, specifically the train, as a means of foreshadowing of the extent to which these final foreign forces change Macondo forever: “The innocent yellow train was to bring so many ambiguities and certainties, so many pleasant and unpleasant moments, so many changes, calamities, and feelings of nostalgia to Macondo” (222). When discord erupts between the colonized workers and the colonizing “gringos” and the workers begin to strike, the colonizer uses a summons of all workers to gather in Macondo as a means of imposing their utmost power over them. In the resulting massacre, Jose Arcadio Segundo becomes the only living witness to the truth of the colonizers’ atrocities: “He realized that he was riding on an endless and silent train…and only then did he discover that he was lying against dead people…he saw the man corpses, woman corpses, child corpses who would be thrown into the sea like rejected bananas” (307). And yet, the reality of the truth he witnesses is denied by every single person he comes across in Macondo. This scene begins to question the significance of truth as power, as Fanon relays: “Truth is what hastens the dislocation of the colonial regime, what fosters the emergence of the nation. Truth is what protects the “natives” and undoes the foreigners.” (14) This manipulation of the truth by the government, or the colonizer, to the extent that the lie becomes the truth, the reality, implies that the possessor of the truth, and thus the one to possess the power of manipulating the truth, is the one who holds the power. Because the colonized Macondo relinquished the truth, they were incapable of what Fanon calls “dislocation of the colonial regime”; because the people had come to believe the lie, they were unable to “undo the foreigner,” but instead themselves were “undone”:

“He had read an extraordinary proclamation to the nation which said that the workers had left the station and had returned home in peaceful groups…The official version, repeated a thousand times and mangled out all over the country by every means of communication the government found at hand, was finally accepted: there was no dead, the satisfied workers had gone back to their families, and the company was suspending all activities until the rains stopped.”  (309)

The ultimate ruin that this series of events thus leads to Macondo refers back to Fanon’s first statement: “The masses…realize two or three years after independence their hopes have been dashed: “What was the point of fighting if nothing was really destined to change?” (34). Ultimately, even after their attempts at revolution and independence, they never truly achieved liberty because the constant bombarding intrusions and occupations by foreign forces tainted the fabric of Macondo forever: it set off a chain of influences, one after another, that made it impossible for them to not only reclaim their culture, their identity, but also influenced it to such an extent that the true story of their people, their history, and their plight for independence was distorted into a lie – merely a legend, a tall tale.

Fanon, Frantz, The Wretched of the Earth, Grove Press, 2005.

García, Márquez Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: Harper Perennial Modern. Classics Edition, 2006. Print.

Written for a sociology class on Social Change and Movements:

Where the declaration of truth is treason
Where undeniable evidence
Of truth on a screen
Distributed to the world through a web of electric veins
Can be manipulated, distorted
And the lie believed
Where humans
Are mere labels of identification numbers
Constrained, bound to a system
Of omnipresent panopticism –
A mere step away from
Big Brother
Is Watching You

Serve and protect
Is to mercilessly, callously, apathetically
Beat, shoot, blind, blame;
Serve the injustice
Protect the Façade

Apathy, the acceptance
Of “serve and protect”
Of injustice and the Façade

Dissolve from your mind
The lies and the propaganda
Insidiously fed you
Through the ever-deceiving media
To which you are so insistently and blindly inclined

Dissolve
In a whatever singularity
In a whatever label
A whatever number
A whatever identity
Watch them –
As they watch you.
They are only the 1%

This is bit of a rant response to an argument about Snape and James merely being “rivals,” instead of James bullying Snape…which, as you will see, I completely disagree with.

 

I think people are forgetting that the first time that Snape and James ever encountered each other, it was on the Hogwarts Express…where James and Sirius proceeded to bully Snape absolutely out of nowhere while he was just sitting there with Lily. COMPLETELY unprovoked. If JAMES caused the first provocation, and then proceeded to continue, how is that NOT bullying? -.- How is that rivalry?

Also, no, its not that Snape was merely just a best friend to Lily on just a platonic friendship and that they never had a chance at anything more or that she never felt anything for him. J.K. Rowling herself has said that there might have been a point at which Lily may have considered him romantically.

Also, people are forgetting that being bullied at Hogwarts was NOT the only thing that really affected Snape. Even before he ever stepped foot in Hogwarts, he never knew how it felt to really be loved and accepted, considering that he lived in a home where there was just constant strife, yelling and screaming and fighting. And then he goes to Hogwarts, and instead of it being the escape that he imagined it to be, it became another sort of hell. Again, quoting J.K. Rowling, becoming part of the Death Eaters was his only way of being able to feel “accepted.”

Yes, Harry got bullied too when he attended Muggle school and by Dudley, and yet never became so bitter like Snape, blahblahblah, but you have to realize that Harry still found a home and an escape at Hogwarts. SNAPE NEVER DID, not at home and not at Hogwarts. And of course, for James, life was pretty peachy, so his progression to maturity was just a normal thing. HIS life was normal. Snape’s WASN’T. You can grow out of immaturity, but growing up in a broken home in your childhood and witnessing abuse as an everyday happening AND being bullied affects you FOREVER.

Last night I woke to the sound

Of disaster and beauty, amalgamated in one

I looked out the window

And saw that the world was falling

The world was falling

In a rush of adrenaline never experienced

By any human being in existence

In a speed not of light, but of a thing

Never discovered by humanity

The world was falling

Soaring through the galaxies and the stars

Past the heavens and the earth

And all that anyone and everyone had ever believed in

The world was falling

Into space and infinity

Into eternity

The world was falling

And I was the only witness

Logicians and scientists work with what is substantial. Artists work with what is not. They work with that intangible part of existence that is ingrained in each and every human being, that part that might not be the most essential element of humanity, but it is what completes the structure of humanity and makes each and every one of us purely what we are – humans.

From the moment of its first publication, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre was hurled into a barrage of criticism aimed not merely against its unconventionality, but also to its supposedly vehement “anti-Christianity.” This latter criticism seems, at first glance, to possess credibility, considering the following undeniable facts: firstly, Jane’s own insistent inquiries and initial doubts about the rationality behind the Christian doctrine of forgiveness; secondly, that the figures most associated with Christianity and religiosity in Bronte’s novel are indeed depicted in quite an unfavorable light from the perspective of the protagonist; and lastly, her devotion and love to a human being almost to the point of “idolatry,” as she herself terms – to the extent where, according to Dr. Sally Minogue, Jane “chooses happiness in this world and…rejects any possible world beyond.”[1] However, despite these ostensibly irreligious aspects of the novel, the religious theme of divinity is actually precisely what ultimately renders the fateful course of the novel to come to be possible.

Jane’s initial inability to grasp the reasoning behind the Christian doctrine of forgiveness can be directly attributed to her headstrong, defiant nature even as a young girl. However, as a bildungsroman, the work of Jane Eyre is the development of Jane’s psychological, moral, and spiritual development, and is evident in the significant distinction between Jane’s philosophy of life as a girl – at the point in which such a Christian doctrine seemed out of her grasp of understanding – to that of a matured young woman. The image most descriptive of Jane as a young girl is undoubtedly that of her outright defiance and animosity towards her perpetrators of injustice. This was the moral philosophy that reigned her childhood, and her belief in it was so strong that an opposing view – portrayed by that of Helen Burns’ – was one she simply could not begin to comprehend: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you” (49). This is the Christian philosophy which Helen attempts to make Jane comprehend, and which the latter at the time still cannot do. It is upon this seeming irreligiosity that vehement critic Elizabeth Rigby attacks Bronte: “The autobiography of Jane Eyre is preeminently an anti-Christian composition. There is throughout it…a murmuring against God’s appointment…there is that pervading tone of ungodly discontent which is at once the most prominent and the most subtle evil…”[2] However, Bronte, in actuality, refers Jane’s inability to believe in the Christian philosophy to that of her undeveloped, immature mind – meaning that Bronte did not truly condone the rejection of such a Christian doctrine. This is evident due to Jane’s distinctive difference in reaction and approach towards the Reeds when she again returns to Gateshead as a matured young woman. Instead of exhibiting bitterness and antagonism towards those who had previously wronged her for years, on the contrary she actually says to her aunt: “Love me, then, or hate me, as you will…You have my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God’s, and be at peace” (211). This mentality of forgiving her torturer is not one readers can ever have imagined Jane’s character to possess as a child; but the mature Jane now refers to her previous mentality of hard-hearted vengeance as merely something of a childhood disposition: “Forgive me for my passionate language; I was a child then; eight, nine years have passed since then” (210). Therefore, by the end of those eight, nine years, Jane has come to gradually believe in, understand, and adopt Helen’s perspective of Christianity as her model.

Contrary to Dr. Sally Minogue’s subtle insinuation that Jane chooses the earthly world specifically because she scorns the belief of “any possible world beyond,” – or in other words, religion – it is actually due to the development of her Christian moral principles that Jane forms the decision to leave Rochester and to leave Thornfield instead of becoming his mistress after the appalling discovery that he already has a wife living. If not for the belief in the law of a higher power, or “any possible world beyond,” why would Jane make the instant decision to flee a man whom she can’t bear to leave? Her decision to make this sacrifice of love cannot possibly be based on mere “earthly” concerns for man-made social standards of women, because Jane’s character is evidently not one that acquiesces to society’s mere standards. It is, instead, her sense of morality that commands her actions in denying being a mistress; it is her cognizance and recognition that the role of a mistress is one that would defy the moral standards of God.

The character first presented as the epitome of a Christian figure is that of Mr. Brocklehurst, depicted as a despicable, ruthless misogynist who, in his supposed religious fervor and “mission to serve his Lord,” wishes to instill in his pupils “spiritual edification” to an extent bordering on mistreatment and abuse, denying them adequate food and clothing, ordering their hair cut off, and establishing a rigorous structure in an unhealthy site and conditions leading to numerous deaths. The second character depicted as a representation of Christianity is St. John, whose excessively zealous love for God ironically renders him to be a man of impassive, cold and distant demeanor to everything else, to the point where he is insistent upon marrying Jane not out of love, but out of sheer duty – therefore portraying his character of excessive religiosity in an unfavorable perspective. Thus, whereas Bronte portrays the representations of religious figures such as Mr. Brocklehurst and St John in a negative light, she portrays the seemingly irreligious and sinful in an idealistic light – such as Rochester.

However, it is through the evidence and analysis of a particularly under-appreciated moment of the novel that anything contrary could be said otherwise, of both Bronte’s supposed irreligiosity and Rochester’s: the instance in the novel at which Bronte’s ideals of God are most highly evident is in Rochester’s dialogue of euphoric happiness after Jane’s return to him:

“Jane, you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog:  but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God…He sees not as man sees, but far clearer: judges not as man judges, but far more wisely…I would have sullied my innocent flower…the Omnipotent snatched it from me…[but yet again] Divine justice pursued its course…I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I begin to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere.” (395).

Here is the evident contradiction in Rigby’s criticism; how can the work of Jane Eyre possibly be a “murmuring against God’s appointment” and “ungodly discontent,” when, through this passage, Bronte conveys that even when brought to the point of the most severe circumstances of anguish and suffering, even if it seems that God has condemned us to misery by denying us that which we desire and love, we should indeed be “content” with “God’s appointment,” because, as Bronte illustrates through the very fatefully aligned story of Jane and Rochester’s love, whatever happens, happens according to God’s decree, and that we mere mortals cannot comprehend God’s plan and fate. It was, after all, a higher power which therefore aligned fate for Robert Mason to hear of Jane’s letter to John Eyre, thus halting the union which Jane would have undertaken without knowledge of the truth of Rochester’s existing wife; it was fate which rendered her on her knees at the home of the very people who would come to be her remaining loving family and the source to her inheritance; it was fate which finally eradicated the one real obstacle separating her from the one being who provided the essence of her happiness, and it was fate that enabled two hearts to be connected in such a supernatural way that they were capable of hearing each other’s anguished eruption of emotion across miles. It was due to a higher power that Jane and Rochester were again ultimately reunited, and Rochester himself – Bronte’s own idealistic figure – acknowledges this. Additionally, the contradiction against Rigby’s argument goes further as Bronte seems to imply that merely because Rochester’s character was not the fervently religious of St John’s, does not necessarily mean that he was a man completely deprived of any sense of acknowledgement of God, or even that he was doomed to the depths of hell. The mere fact that he was a man of sin – and yet his prayers to be reunited with his love were still answered despite it – exemplifies the fundamental doctrine upon which the Christian faith is based: that God is merciful and forgiving even to those who are sinners; that humans need not be perfect in order to be granted God’s mercy. Therefore, in portraying negative Christian figures, Bronte is not declaring any anti-Christian sentiment, but simply signifying various facets of Christianity and religion – the extent of extremism in the form of Brocklehurst and St John; the quietly and perseveringly devoted in the face of oppression and suffering – in the form of Helen; and the more moderate, yet sincere, continuous awareness of and gratitude towards God.

Considering the fact that St John is one of the negatively depicted figures of religion, it seems curious as to why Bronte would thus make him the last subject of Jane’s words and of the novel. Even as a figure of an overzealous Christian, however, there remains a sense of awed respect in Jane’s words in describing him and his unrelenting dedication to faith. Whereas Mr. Brocklehurst’s extreme deliberation of Christian faith seems to stem from the real intent of maintaining an image of status and social respect – therefore making his “faith” a façade of hypocrisy – St John’s religiosity sincerely stems from a more than genuine devotion to God. Therefore, although St John’s excessively zealous faith is portrayed in an unfavorable manner, through Jane’s words it is evident that she – and Bronte, for that matter – still holds a certain level of respect for such a character nonetheless: “Firm, faithful, and devoted, full of energy, and zeal and truth, he labours for his race; he clears their painful way to improvement…He may be stern…but his is the sternness of the great warrior Greatheart, who guards his pilgrim convoy from the onslaught of Apollyon…” (400). Thus, Jane nevertheless recognizes and renders St John as almost something of a heroic figure for humanity, who strives for the sake of his race, in “guarding” them from “Apollyon”, or the depths of hell, and by ending the novel with the last words of his death, she also emphasizes the personal sacrifices he has made of his own life, literally, in order to save that of others from the next life. Thus, by ending the novel with the imagery of his dedicated purpose and his submission to God as he breaths his last, Bronte affirms that all existence is in the hands of a Higher Power, and invokes a final reminder of humanity’s devotion to God.

Works Cited

 Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre, Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 1992

Minogue, Sally. “Introduction and Notes,” Jane Eyre, Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 1999

Nemesvari, Richard. Jane Eyre Broadview Introduction, Canada: Broadview Press, 2000, pp. 16-19

Rigby, Elizabeth. The Christian Remembrancer XV, 1848. Pp. 173-74

Sally Minogue. “Introduction and Notes,” Jane Eyre, (Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 1999), p. xxii

Elizabeth Rigby. The Christian Remembrancer XV, 1848. Pp. 173-74