Monday, November 13, 2017

Morals in the New World


After Life of Pi, I moved on to historical nonfiction, Our Changing Constitution by Isobel Morin and Political Corruption by Mitchell Young; however, I abandoned them both at the onset itself. Zuber required a secondary source with a thesis for my historical nonfiction book, but my first attempts did not meet the APUSH standards.Eventually, on consultation, one of our US history teachers recommend the historical nonfiction book Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne. In total, I’ve read about 242 pages (very little of these from the abandoned books) in about 320 minutes. Honestly, at first it was hard to stay hooked, but when you need to write a blog about it, and it's too late to change books, you get pretty motivated to read it. After a while (emphasis on "while") the plot proved to be compelling. I'm not sure if everyone else will feel the same but a fair share would  because it is was Pulitzer Prize finalist (I know right, a nonfiction book can be that good?).Anyways, it was pretty tough to read initially because I usually don’t choose nonfiction books when given the option. In some parts of Empire of the Summer Moon, I wandered off track at the mundane details; however, the shift to the dramatic battles between the Comanches and the European settlers were quite gripping. I’ve been reading a lot more outside of school, mainly to meet the required quota for my English class, but once I started reading the books I got hooked into reading on and on. As for speed, I’ve realized that I read faster the farther I’ve read into a book such as when I finished reading the book Life of Pi. My reading rate for Empire of the Summer Moon isn’t very fast right now but I’m still glad that it hasn’t slowed down that much from the mere fact that it is a nonfiction book. This genre itself is pretty challenging for me as I usually don’t go outside my comfort zone of fictional narratives. Yet I’m glad I chose this book because I believe branching out into more genres is better than being selective as it transforms you into a more knowledgeable person.
Empire of the Summer Moon revolves around a war between the Americans and the Comanches, a nomadic tribe who has risen to great power following the arrival of horses. The raiding and battling of opposing tribes and plundering of the European settlements adds an element of thrill to the plot. However, the book goes into gruesome details at times about the torture that this tribe inflicted upon the captives which is pointed out on page 4 where the author refers to Captain Robert G. Carter’s accord, “Some had been beheaded another had their brains scooped out. ‘Their fingers, toes, and private parts had been cut off and stuck in their mouths,’ wrote Carter, ‘and their bodies, now lying in several inches of water and swollen or bloated beyond all chance of recognition, were filled full of arrows, which made them resemble porcupines...Upon each exposed abdomen had been placed a mass of live coals”(Gwynne 4). This made me reflect deeply upon war and wonder how a society could do this to another society. The Comanches who performed these horrendous acts viewed them as normal whereas nowadays we would call these war crimes. So then why would these Native American people think in such a way that we now see as immoral? What made them the way they are? The simple answer is their thirst for vengeance. This wasn't prevalent among the Native Americans alone; the European settlers also harassed the Native populations in turn. These conflicts sparked further conflicts as when Gwynne describes the emotions of the Spanish settlers stating that “If the first reaction was largely blind fear, it was quickly replaced with cold fury, and a desire for bloody revenge”(Gwynne 67). The rivalries among the Early American societies had only bred more hatred towards the other group of people who was viewed as the enemy. Even today, we just hold onto grudges instead of forgiving others since hating seems easier than forgiving. The only difference between our modern society and the Comanches is that we have a set of moral standards that we are taught and even enforced through laws, but the Comanches, who were being attacked by the other Native tribes before the arrival of the Europeans, had no reason to hold back their fury towards the ones who caused them so much pain. The same applies for the Europeans too after they were raided, tortured, and at times, murdered. Each side was blinded with rage with the Comanches relating the Europeans to the other tribes who would plunder their land and goods while the Europeans were blinded by the fact that some of their men had been savagely attacked and killed. Although the killing was unsightly, the Comanches only reacted thus when the settlers moved into Comancheria, which is Comanche land. The Spanish settlers, on the other hand, only started attacking the Comanches after they killed the Spanish settlers. The thirst for revenge here dragged them further into more battles. With the Comanches, this hatred that caused merciless killing and torture had lasted, even when they had reigned victorious over their enemies. The incorporation of these vengeful unethical attacks persists even after they defeat and banish their enemies, the Apaches. The Comanches had continued their practice of violent attacks as seen in quote 1, even decades after the Europeans established their settlement. and felt nothing wrong about it. When we are enraged, we logically assess our reasoning; if we did, we’d have decided that we were the ones at fault. Similarly, the Comanches were infuriated at the repetitive raids they had to endure from other tribes, so once they grew in power, they decided to victimize others whether their reason to do so was logical or not.
The fact that the Comanches would brutally kill their enemies, and anyone they saw as a threat is present, but what’s even worse is that they also attacked the defenseless Spanish priests who unknowingly built a Church in Comancheria, which was Comanche territory. These priests and mission workers were also violently attacked and killed. There were 5 Spanish soldiers at the mission when around 2000 warriors surrounding all sides of the mission. According to the book,  “For a short time, [the Comanches] pretended to be friendly, insisting that they had come to offer their allegiance to the Spaniards” which just goes to show that they didn’t even attempt to tell the Spanish that they wanted the Spanish to get off their land and just killed them instead.This sets the story so that the Europeans are the heroes and these Natives were the villains, but in other cases, these roles would be reversed. When Pontiac, a Native American chief of the Ottawa clan, was trying to gain supporters for the event which would later become famously known as Pontiac’s Rebellion, he says “When I go to the English chief to tell him that some of our comrades are dead...he makes fun of me and you. When I ask him for something for our sick, he refuses, and tells me he has no need of us.” In this scenario, we are given the other side of the story where the Natives are being persecuted by the Europeans. The book states that the Comanches would raid and kill the people who didn’t belong to their tribe without bestowing any value to human life. The early Europeans who colonized  America treated the indigenous people in a similar manner. They saw the natives as people who had no rights and therefore inferior to the Europeans. Whether the Natives had to be put through cruel and unusual punishment was of no concern to these Europeans as long as they got possession of the land which the natives claimed to be theirs. Sometimes, the colonists would deploy a tactic called germ warfare where they would give a blanket of a sick white man to the Natives in hope that they would all die, which proved fruitful since they weren’t immune to European diseases. Neither the Comanches nor the early English settlers cared about the wellbeing of others and had only looked out for their own good. Both the Comanches and the English were driven by selfish motives which led them to  devalue human life. The quote from Pontiac reveals the insensitivity of the English settlers; when the Natives requested medical help, the Europeans refused aid as they saw no profit for themselves and cared too little for their indigenous neighbors. The Comanches, similarly, had no use for the Spanish missionaries so they also destroyed the mission as well as the Spanish who stayed there, ignorant of the fate that the Comanches would quickly bring upon them.
Citations:

Gwynne, S.C. Empire of the Summer Moon. Scribner, 2010
Miller, Lee. From the Heart: Voices of the American Indian. Vintage, 1995

Friday, September 29, 2017

The unknown and the fear of IT

       My reading has gradually improved as I take higher level English classes. I’ve started to read higher level books more and more often and have been opening up to new genres such as nonfiction, historical fiction, etc. Now I’m back to reading a fiction book, specifically magical realistic book, called Life of Pi. I’ve spent 160 minutes in class reading this book and approximately 60 minutes reading outside of class which is a total of 220 minutes? In this time period, I have read 135 pages, not including the author’s note. Life of Pi isn’t a history-related nonfiction of an AP recommended classic but it is still an AP book nevertheless which is helping me in my goal to read more AP level books. I’m challenging myself to try reading more outside of school since I am unable to read enough pages from class time alone. Of the approximately 60 minutes I’ve read outside of school, most of that time came towards the end of the 5 weeks when I became more aware of the time that had passed so quickly. I’ve been challenging myself to read more, read faster, and read higher level books but my reading rate hasn’t seemed to improve a lot. But compared to my reading rate in 9th grade (which I had to calculate) I am doing better so I assume that I’ve been improving but at a smaller rate than I’d hoped for. My comprehension of the book so far has been excellent which might be because I’m reading slowly which gives more time to understand the text. The only confusion I’ve had was about who Richard Parker was since Pi described him like one might describe a classmate who doesn’t talk. I also tried to speed read toward the part when they introduced Richard Parker which may have caused me to skip over the tiger’s name but since I had watched the movie, I figured out which creature got into the boat with Pi and had frightened him.


       “Sometimes a "mistake" can end up being the best decision you ever make.” We tend to see this more often when we do things that are seen as wrong but aren’t really a bad thing. In Part 1, mr. Patel, the father of Pi, converses with his wife about a serious matter, which is about the dangers of the zoo animals, especially since Pi is “at that age when boys run around and poke their noses everywhere”(40). In the eyes of his parents, running around and poking your nose everywhere is a mistake because they think it might end up getting you killed. They believe this because they live with dangerous creatures, some who could tear you limb from limb. But another case of a similar mistake where he is curious is him waking up before the ship is flooded. Just before the ship sinks, Pi wakes up and he thinks“normally I’m a sound sleeper. Normally I would have gone back to sleep...It was more the sort of thing that Ravi would  do...he would have said, ‘Adventure beckons,’ and would have gone off to prowl around the ship.” Pi’s nosiness in situations was considered a mistake by his dad, a grave mistake that could cause you harm and injury, but in the 2nd quote, we see that it was exactly this nosiness and desire to explore the ship that was condemned that ended up saving his life while his brother Ravi who didn’t come along when called ended up sinking with the ship and everybody else on it.


       Throughout history, humanity has had conflicts due to religious differences. Some examples of these could be when Europeans, specifically the Spanish, came to America and tried to forcefully convert the Natives, through harsh measurements (that they considered justified since they believed they were helping the natives) such as enslavement. In modern times, an important religious group of extremists who use violence against anyone who doesn’t have their exact same religious doctrines is ISIS. In Life of Pi, Piscine is confronted by a religious leader of each of the 3 faiths he practices and each leader condemns the other religions for their differences. This is, although less violent, very similar to the condemning of other religions by ISIS. “The fact is that [ISIS] kills Christians because they are Christians; Yazidis because they are Yazidis; Shia because they are Shia.” This article shows that ISIS attacks religious minorities within its held territory. Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis, Christians, and Mandaeans in Iraq and Syria have been displaced, killed, kidnapped, raped, and tortured by ISIS militants. The differences between practiced doctrines have led ISIS to kill even other Muslims, like the Yazidis, who aren't exactly like them and differ in the slightest bit. Piscine feels that the religions within India at the time were like ISIS since they weren't able to understand the other religions, no matter how similar they may actually be like how Christians and Muslims acknowledge Abraham, Moses and many other prophets. He references Gandhi by saying "All religions are true" to settle the conflict between the 3 religious leaders. In our modern American society, we accept people of different religions. In Pi's society, religions were kept separate so a Hindu going to Church or a Christian going to a mosque was a completely new idea that people did not accept. People fear the unknown and so they do not like seeing Pi having 3 different faiths. Many times, people are afraid of new things and it is this fear that causes groups like ISIS to resort to extremism and violence and causes people like the religious leaders in the book to get angry at other religions and publicly try shaming the other religions.

When I first thought of how the Comanches were originally being trampled on by others but then grew stronger and started trampling on others, I instinctively thought of bullying. Although I’m not sure where, I’ve heard that one major reasoning for kids bullying others is that they get abused at home and so they take out their frustration on others. This instantly clicked with what I saw happening with the Comanches. They were being abused by other Native American tribes by being raided and such but then once they were in a state of power with the introduction of the horse, they became the ones who raided and massacred the other tribes. According to this article, “Almost all of the bullies, 97 percent, said they were also victims of bullying” as based off of a study. The article goes on to explain that parents are a huge factor on the behavior of children and children learn how to behave through what they see their parents behaving like. If the parent takes out their frustration on the child then the child, whenever he or she is frustrated, will think it’s ok to take out his/her frustration on other kids. The Comanches, who had went through generations of seeing Native tribes attacking other tribes, decided that that’s what they should do once they were in the position to dominate these other tribes.  The Comanches in this sense can’t be blamed for their actions which we might see as evil because it’s what they saw all around them, similar to how in the article we can understand that a bully is also a victim to bullying which causes them to act in the way that they do.
Citations:
Patel, Yann. Life of Pi, 2001. Print. - MLA Citation

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. "Executive Summary." Accessed March 17, 2016. https://www.counterextremism.com/content/isiss-persecution-religions - Chicago

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lord Of the FLIES!

Hi, I'm back again! So I haven't really been able to read as much as I'd hoped to and I wish we wouldn't have had to return all our books by May 16. I'm reading another AP book named The Lord of The Flies by William Golding. I'm doing well on goal to read more AP books, but I'm not so sure about increasing my reading rate. I think it has improved, but there aren't many opportunities where I can test this out towards the end of the school year, I have to worry about AP tests, finals (including my Sunday School final), and most importantly my course selection for my junior year. Usually, I don't read much over the summer, but I'll start to go to the library more often.


Currently, I am reading The Lord Of the Flies by the Nobel laureate William Golding and first published in 1954. The story begins with a plane crash on a deserted island which leaves the survivors stranded without any immediate prospect of being rescued. But, in this eye-opening tale, the survivors are young schoolboys! They quickly adapt to their new environment by imitating the civilization that they know of. The boys group together and elect a leader from amongst them, make fires hoping somebody would rescue them, hunt for meat, and even explore this new uncharted island. All in all, they begin a colonization pf their own on the island. Ralph is elected as the boys' leader bu it is Jack who leads the hunters and is hungry for more power. Jack is the antagonist whose greed to have complete control over the group of boys eventually leads to the story's unthinkable climax ( read the book to find out :) ). As the boys attempt to tame the savagery they see around them, it becomes obvious that the true savagery lies within them. This is prophetically envisioned (not really, just a hallucination) by Simon who's "talk" with "the Beast" explains how "the Beast", (the OG savage of the island), lives not on the island or in the ocean as they believed, but in each one's hearts. This tale describes the loss of innocence that comes and how a failed attempt at civilization leads to savagery instead.

A very powerful quote that captures the essence of the book is when  Piggy said “We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?”

This quote tells us about how all the boys attempted to act like civilized folk even when there weren't any adults but they just weren't able to do so.They set up an election to appoint their leader, they had set up rules such as using the conch to come to gatherings and talk. They had different jobs set up such as the hunters and those who went exploring. They went wrong however in that they weren't able to deal with the problems of the adult world. When Jack went off on his own, he created his own group against Ralph. In today's world, there are many rivalries in politics but they usually end up shaking hands as a sign of peace rather than holding on to grudges and trying to overthrow they government to get what they want. In the adult world, they don't have to be full of fear of dome monster which is different from these little boys who were afraid every night. The young boys (especially the littluns) just want to follow someone so when a new leader comes offering free food, they easily turn to the new guy's side (poor Ralph). No matter how hard they tried to act like adults, they would have both their child minds and other children who could complicate the whole mission of trying to be civilized such as Jack and the littluns (and everyone else). Jack seems to be the most problematic with his lack of morals when dealing with Ralph (no spoilers allowed). As young children, we don't seem to have much responsibility which causes us to think of the job of adults as easy, but in this book, the children struggle when they are forced to do things they haven't ever done before. This story shows us how we should appreciate the adults in our lives since there are things that children can't do but they are supported by the adults in their lives who can help them out. The boys in the story had to make huts, hunt for food, make group decisions, and many other tasks without fighting amongst themselves. There is the saying that "No one is perfect" but adults seem to be more capable of handling these kinds of situations presented rather than children.

Friday, April 21, 2017

And the Mountains Echoed trial#3

I'm back again! So my reading is going smoothly. I was planning on reading more this weekend but I had a few events that kind of got in the way. Based on when we had first checked our reading rates in class, I know that my reading rate has increased.  I've been reading And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, and so far it's pretty good. It's about family bonds, and it focuses mostly on siblings. The main character is Abdullah and he lives with his father Saboor, his stepmother Parwana, his step brother Iqbal, and his sister Pari. He is closest to his sister Pari who reminds him of his beloved mother whom he misses because she died. (It's not really a spoiler since you learn about it from the very beginning of the book but it is pretty important to understanding the situation of the main characters.)

In chapter 2 "Fall 1952," the author talks about how Abdullah wanted to love his stepmother but he just wasn't able to when he says, "He wished he could love his new mother in the same way. And perhaps Parwana, he thought, secretly wished the same, that she could love him"(page 22).

In this quote, I saw that the author wants to love his stepmother like he loved his own mother but he isn't able to because the idea in their minds that they aren't actual mother and son had sprung up in their minds because they weren't related by bloodline. They are both good people but they have certain ideas in them that are keeping them apart. Don't you just wish they'd get over these thoughts that only cause for them to grow farther and farther away, or is it just me? What is the point of this feeling of separation from someone that you will be spending much of your time with? This isn't just a problem from Abdullah or a problem from Parwana but it is caused by both of them. Sometimes, it's important to let go of these barriers we've put up between ourselves and someone else, especially in the case of family. Our family is a constant, they will always be there so no matter how hard someone tries to block off another person, it usually hurts both parties involved. We might put up one of these barriers/walls because we hate someone, but the hate we feel is just momentary while the pain we cause from blocking off a person in our lives could take forever to fix. Moral of the story: Don't hold grudges. Abdullah wasn't really holding a grudge but his emotions about his mother dying and his stepmother taking care of her baby boy more caused him to act in a way that hurts his relationship with his stepmother for maybe the rest of his life (but hopefully he gets a connection with her and doesn't mess it up anymore).

Till next time,
Kennett (KindDragon) Paramban ;)


SECRET MESSAGE:(By the way, at first I had tried to connect this book with  my previous book TKAM because I found many ways to compare and contrast them but the words didn't come out that easily so I saw this topic popping out and decided to blog about it.)

Friday, April 7, 2017

About Me


Welcome people who want to know about me,

I am Kennett, a sophomore at Hebron High School. So far, I'm still 15 but I'll catch up with the rest of my peers soon. I have an almost perfect attendance streak and am almost never late to class. I mostly focus on academics over athletics although I do like to play sports at times. I am interested in computers and plan on going into the tech field (and probably become something like an IT technician). I am not sure which college I want to go to because there are many factors that determine it, such as scholarships, staying nearby my family, and even going to an IV league college (let the poor boy dream), and in the end I would like to get a good combo of all these criterias. How well I am doing in school is all about perspective. It isn't the best but it isn't the worst either. I didn't have the best start ( because I was introduced to something called procrastinating) but I aim to do better and (hopefully) get into the top 10%. Sometimes I feel like telling myself it's ok to not reach that far since it's too hard, but most of the time I try to keep hope that anything is possible.

When I came into high school, my reading habits got worse since I was being shot at with homework and tests from all directions. I have realized that I am good at reading when I am given a good book that is required for me to read. For some people, being forced to read a book makes it less interesting for them but I treat it like every other book I might read (except that I actually read at a steady pace). Now I am thinking of taking on more AP books because of 2 factors. The first being that I want to be better prepared for my English AP classes and the second being that I realized that AP books aren't all boring so I can look smart without being bored! I am currently reading And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini which is also an AP book (yep, I'm getting started already). I plan on reading The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan because a friend of mine recommended it to me. Other than that, I am not sure what to read but I'll probably figure it out the next time I go to the library. An important reading related goal of mine is to increase my reading rate. I am not that fast of a reader but I hope that by reading more, my reading rate will also increase. I like fiction over non-fiction and specifically science fiction/fantasy and young adult. I heard that reading improves your writing and I hope this is true because I want to improve my overall english score in class (or at least keep it this high), and also improve it for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT.

Hope you liked my first post, will be back with more,
Kennett (KindDragon) Paramban ;)