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Tears for the Sake of Joy

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Moeibrahim
Words 2501
Pages 11
Mohammed Alabdulwahid
Reg Johanson
English 103-04
Ode to the joy of yes moments
The struggle to create awareness
Tears for the sake of joy
There have been many negative issues covered in our class throughout this semester. Issues have ranged from social injustices, colonialism, and women’s rights. Some included personal tragedies concerning women of Aboriginal descent living in British Columbia. It has been quite emotional at times to actually read about the struggles that have taken place right here in British Columbia regarding immigrants and Aboriginal people. We even got to meet the author of Mercenary English, Mercedes Eng, in person to make the words of her story really come to life. However, not all of the books we have studied convey negative outlooks of certain problems being faced. There have been positive social changes, personal victories and many moments that make the reader believe things can be made right if an effort is put into it. This research essay will focus on the positive view portrayed in three books studied this semester which include: Mercenary English, Active Geographies-Women and Struggles on the Left Coast and the Unnatural and Accidental Women. The positive themes discussed will display triumphs on a personal level, meaningful change on a social stage and a look at how social activism deeply connects people together.
Firstly, Mercenary English has a very unique way of showing social injustice, believed to be carried out in the eyes of its author Mercedes Eng. She writes about personal problems she faced, the negative issues surrounding aboriginal people in Canada and historical injustice against minorities. Her writing is powerful, emotional, vocal, and can shocks the reader into her reality. On the other hand, there are times when all the negativity gets turned into a positive situation with some struggle. For example, Eng has a chapter in her book that shows her resistance to the Winter Olympic Games held in Vancouver during February of 2010. She describes how the event is unlawfully being held on Aboriginal land and how the government set-up a kind of police state to ensure activist did not cause any disruption for the games. Most of the chapter explains the tough role of being a protestor against the Olympic Games and how they were facing serious resistance. The police forces in Vancouver were equipped with an arsenal of man power, security devices and financial aid to stop any protests. However Eng explains that this was only a temporary setback for activists as she explains; “the helicopters are gone and with them our revolution sex as your baton marks fade from his body and the sonics of surveillance from this head so to does our revolution romance it can’t be captured by your closed-circuit cameras”(66).
These above lines can be considered as a “Yes” moments for someone who stood up to protest against what they perceived as a social injustice. It also gives the reader a sense of how a struggle for something will only make you personally stronger at the end. All of the tools used against Olympic protestors were just temporary; however their cause for fighting is still known amongst the people in Vancouver and will remain a major part of this city’s historical records. Another example of positive moment in Mercenary English can be found in a poem near the end of the book, which is titled ‘In dreams’. This poem seems to sum up most of the personal and social injustices that Mercedes Eng has faced during her life. It is a poem of hope in a sense that in all of her struggles she is not feeling defeated regarding the ability to overcome any of these obstacles. Mercedes Eng states; “cause my arms are just that strong and wide these made arms of blood and bone not pipelines, not prisons, not cops, not judges, not ministries of what-the-fuck-ever, not residential schools, not rezs, not truth and reconciliation industry” (96). The writing reflects her own mental victory, even though the issues are not only related to her. This shows, in my opinion, the true mind of an activist because your dreams also should stretch to people that maybe struggle around you as well. For instance, there are references to pipelines, prisons, cops and judges which are parts of the government structure and the legal system. Also, there is a reference to residential schools which have not been running in British Columbia for some time because of the mistreatment of the Aboriginal children forced to live in them. Residential schooling is probably one of the biggest issues that Aboriginal people bring up when speaking about the injustices carried out against them by the Canadian government. Therefore, Mercedes Eng is showing that all of the tough situations Aboriginals have faced did not break their spirits. Her poem ‘in dreams’ makes it quite clear when she states that her arms are still strong and wide. I believe this is a personal and social stand she has made against past and present injustices. It makes the reader feel that “Yes” there are still people in the world who are ready and willing to sacrifice themselves in order to bring about social justice. Secondly, Active Geographies-Women and Struggles on the Left Coast is one of the resources our class used to find examples of activism against social problems in society. It is filled with articles that academically explained social issues and what strategies were put in place in order to solve these problems. However, one article struck me as being full of positive information and contains many “Yes” moments throughout it. The article was written by Dorothy Christian and is titled Remapping Activism. Christian explains how her history has been filled with circumstances that have put her in the forefront of activism for the cause of aboriginal rights in Canada. She describes how the aboriginal community has called upon her on many occasions to document and communicate the struggles they have been involved in. Some of the situation have led to very uncomfortable living situation for her and even have threatened her life. However, she gives a very heartwarming view of why she continues to put herself in harm’s way. Christian states; “It brought up all kinds of issues; there is a way of thinking in my culture that if you are gifted with certain gifts you have the responsibility to exercise those gifts. So when I am called upon my people, when they come and say we need you to do this, or that, I go if I am requested. Usually, I feel the spiritual connection and I honor that”(17). Her attitude towards activism can be an encouragement for any person that is seeking to make some sort of difference in their community. Moreover, it is a statement that should break all kinds of cultural barriers even though she is specifically speaking from an Aboriginal viewpoint. Most societies, cultures, and religions would love to have their people share the same mind frame of using your abilities to help in a positive manner. Furthermore, Dorothy Christian gives great examples of how human beings help each other for the sake of goodness despite dangerous situations. There is a very emotional story that links the Aboriginal and Chinese communities together through a great act of kindness. She details how Chinese immigrants faced many hardships when immigrating to Canada during the 1900’s. If they were able to come, they faced racism and hatred because many Canadians believe that they were just brought over as cheap labor and would be taking away employment from the people already living there. On the other hand, there is some recorded history of how Aboriginal communities helped Chinese immigrants when they were in really difficult circumstances. Christian related his story of a Chinese businessman living in the Okanagan who told her of his grandfather’s miraculous story made possible by the help of one amazing community. Christian says; “His grandfather told him, ‘when you come to this country, no matter where you chose to live, you make sure you treat native people good’. His grandfather went on to tell him about the time he worked on the railroad. He got sick and he was left to die. A native community took him in, helped him, fed him, clothed him and nursed him back to health. He lived in that native community for three years. He was able to go back to his world, to his family”(18). Accounts like this were used when Dorothy Christian started working hand-in-hand with the Aboriginal community in order to build better relation between them and the Chinese community in British Columbia. Furthermore, there are some activists that sacrifice themselves for a positive social cause but never get the recognition they truly deserve. However, there are circumstances in which an activist rises to a certain level of attention and gets the chance to put their efforts in the public view. Then, there are those like Dorothy Christian that take their activism to a much higher level and it gets awarded by members of the public or a governmental office. For instance, Christian decided to document events that took place between women activists from all different types of cultural background. About this documentary Christian states; “In one of my videos which I have produced for VISION TV, I filmed a dinner party with Native and non-Native women activists/intellectuals while we discussed the colonial relationship. That particular work was included in the SKYLIGHT program that won a Gemini for the broadcaster in 2000 in the ‘Best Talk/New Information’ category”(17). Getting awarded a Gemini for any form of social work or entertainment is a great honor for any Canadian. The publicity surrounding such an award can also bring much needed attention to the specific program, in this case it was Native and non-Native women activists, and any other social programs that the producers may be involved with. This award for social activism can be considered a “Yes” moment for two major reasons. First, it shows the producers just how effective this type of work can be and they may start more films that can create awareness and impact change. Secondly, it is a positive sign for present and future activist because it displays a clear message that there are outlets that will give their activities a venue to be shown to a much broader audience. Active Geographies has many articles that really give the reader a strong sense of what activism can do for an individual and how it can change entire countries. Dorothy Christian’s article Remapping Activism is a great source of inspiration because it shows how activists’ struggles can really turn into many positive avenues. Many times there is a feeling of isolation that leads some new activists to give up hope or not give a full effort. However, this article shows that the more effort put in can be matched by a world that appreciates those who stand up for what is right. Thirdly, our studies have taken us into the world of women that have experienced the worst sides of Vancouver’s notorious downtown Eastside. It is a place where people buy, sell and use some of the most dangerous drugs in the city. Also, many young and middle-aged Native Indian women have lost their lives because of living in such a dangerous atmosphere. Marie Clements tries to give some sort of face to these women’s lives in her book titled The Unnatural and Accidental Women. Clements turns their tragedy into a play that makes the reader look at these women as more than just murder victims. Furthermore, it gives us a more personal look at activism on a smaller scale, but how it impacts the day to day lives of us all. There is a part of the play that describes the internal feeling of a women caring for another human that makes the reader believe, “Yes”, there is still good heart in the world. The character in Clements book states; “I wait for the cry like a mother listening, hoping to slot the right thing into its void-hoping to be the one to bring about the pure answer. Again, the pure gentle darkness that says I have listened and you were lovely, no matter how loud your beeping cry becomes, no matter how many times I wanted to help but couldn’t. There is something maternal about it, the wanting to help, the trying, going through the motions on the switchboard, but in the end just being there always it seems just listening to voices looking for connection, an eternal connection between women’s voices and worlds”(19). This is a very emotional statement made by a women, Rose, that is dealing directly with the voices and hearts of women that are going through some of the toughest lives because of social injustices that have hurt many generations in the Aboriginal community. It narrows down all of the books that our class has studied over the semester because it is the eternal hope of connecting women’s voices and worlds that have connected the material we have studied. It seems like all of the authors can be directly linked to this one statement made by a character named Rose in Clements’ book. The feeling of tremendous positivity comes over anyone who reads such words because in the end we are all humans and deserve the same love as everyone. Activism seems to be a link between humans, especially women, in the past and our present times. In closing, it is true that most of our class material this semester has focused on negative experiences faced by the authors or characters in the books we have studied. In fact, some of these experiences and language made it emotionally tough to handle at times. Contrastingly, many of the stories did display times where the reader felt positive and was able to say “Yes” because of a victory for a good social cause. The research in this essay focused on positive moments mentioned in Mercenary English, Active Geographies and Unnatural and Accidental Women. Mercenary English gave a personal account from Mercedes Eng on her mentality overcoming social injustices in her view. Active Geographies had an article by Dorothy Christian called Remapping Activism which showed her efforts of activism and the positive outcomes that resulted from them. Unnatural and Accidental Women gave a great account of how and why women feel such a connection to be activist. Overall, all three provided our class with moments where we could have a sigh of relief and say “Yes” within ourselves.

Works Cited
Eng, Mercedes. Mercenary English. North Vancouver, BC: CUE, 2013. Print
Lee, Jo-Anne, Rita Wong, Margaret Mitchell, and Harsha Walia. Active Geographies: Women and Struggle on the Left Coast. Burnaby, B.C.: West Coast Line, 2008. Print Clements, Marie Humber. The Unnatural and Accidental Women. Vancouver, B.C.: Talon, 2005. Print

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...Romeo and Juliet | Shakespeare homepage | Romeo and Juliet | Entire play | ACT I PROLOGUE Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life; Whose misadventured piteous overthrows Do with their death bury their parents' strife. The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love, And the continuance of their parents' rage, Which, but their children's end, nought could remove, Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage; The which if you with patient ears attend, What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend. SCENE I. Verona. A public place. Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, of the house of Capulet, armed with swords and bucklers SAMPSON Gregory, o' my word, we'll not carry coals. GREGORY No, for then we should be colliers. SAMPSON I mean, an we be in choler, we'll draw. GREGORY Ay, while you live, draw your neck out o' the collar. SAMPSON I strike quickly, being moved. GREGORY But thou art not quickly moved to strike. SAMPSON A dog of the house of Montague moves me. GREGORY To move is to stir; and to be valiant is to stand: therefore, if thou art moved, thou runn'st away. SAMPSON A dog of that house shall move me to stand: I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's. GREGORY That shows thee a weak slave; for the weakest goes to......

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