Dark Ecology: Race, Gender & the Environment

English 252 @ Hunter College



Dirty Thoughts, Beautiful Place

So from May 3rd to May 6th, I was in Miami for an economic conference. Or at least that was the reasoning behind it. In reality, it was ten minutes of signing up for the conference at the hotel and then dipping, free to do whatever for the next few days. It was actually a really horrible time to take a vacation. I’m behind on a shit-ton of work for my classes, including this one. And this probably won’t reflect well on my work ethic, but you can’t deny my bluntness.

Here’s some overly-edited pictures as a quick distraction though:

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Shameless plug for my Instagram since I’m not too sure how to credit myself (one perk of having an unusual name is that I don’t have trouble finding a username for myself).

But on a more serious note, this trip away from home gave me a small moment to recollect myself and contemplate about myself.

It’s hard to put into words, and I’m not a good communicator, but there was something beautiful and satisfying about being away from everything and everyone I knew. In those few short days, I pretty much cut contact with the sphere that I had enveloped myself in.

I was with people that I barely knew. I was in a city that I had never been to before.

I was, in a sense, alone. And it was invigorating.

Really, I was just free.

My brother has seizures. We don’t know where it came from. He claims it was from abusing ketamine. My parents believe it was a stroke of bad luck. And me? I’m not too sure what to think. I was doing just as much as him. But how am I off, scot-free? And even worse, how do I grasp with the fact that I enabled him? He’s not a little kid. If he wants to do something, he’ll do it. Would anything have changed if I told him no? Probably not. But how would I ever know?

Right now, he’s lost. He studies criminal justice and wanted to be a cop. But those aspirations got cut into the lines he sniffed.

Granted, it’s not the end of any possibility of getting a job. He just can’t be a cop. But he already put so much time into it, only to get blindsided.

My parents are good people. They’re law-abiding. They pay their taxes. They always provided for me and my brother.

We’ll just never see eye-to-eye.

And really, it’s not my dad I have problems with. It’s my mom.

We’re just too much alike in some ways. And I don’t mean personality. I’m one of the most laid-back people you’ll ever meet. She’s neurotic, has an incessant desire to micromanage, and thinks the world is out to destroy her life. Makes you wonder how I turned out the way I did.

No, we’re similar in the sense that we’re both byproducts of shitty mothers.

I’m not too sure where to start. Maybe with her life. As far as I know, my grandparents are sweet. Life had probably tempered them by the time I was born, but I never knew a harsh word from them. I didn’t see them much, but I was spoiled every time I did.

My mom told me a different story though. Her dad was never home. He was always out going to bars and cheating. Her mom had to manage a fractured household, because in those times, and in that kind of society, divorce just wasn’t an option. But obviously my grandmother had to let out her frustration out somewhere. And I guess my mom was the target. It’s a sick situation. A kid has no control over that kind of circumstance. The world they know is molded by their parents. And in this case, simultaneously ripped apart.

You fuck with them psychologically. Make them dependent on yourself. Coax them back with a sweet word or too, or maybe do something nice. Things seem okay. Great even. And then something sets you off and this cycle perpetuates. This is what she implied to me.

Everything clicked. But all I felt was disgust. And anger. Can’t forget that one. I guess when I was young, I had built up this monster in my mind. But to learn that monster was human? That messed with me for a bit. For you to be aware of the wrongdoings of your mom and then to impose them on me? I’m not sure quite sure how the hypocrisy of that eluded her.

Well, it didn’t completely elude her. We went to family counseling.

There’s no real theme to this blog post, and I know that goes against the blog checklist. But being in a new place away from my responsibilities just made me feel some kind of way.

Here’s a source on ketamine. Just to be clear, I’m ambivalent on drug use. I still do them myself from time to time. People are free to do as they please. Just be aware that there are consequences.

Here’s a link advocating counseling. The stigma against seeking mental health is ludicrous. Just the act of speaking your mind in a safe environment is cathartic in-of-itself.

On a lighter note, here’s a shout-out to the hotel I was at. It was beautiful and had a great view. The only downside was it wasn’t, as the kids would say, in the lit part of Miami. And do check out Crackers and Jackson Soul Food. The food was cheap and pretty damn amazing.

Saga: Diversity Done Right

Relating to the themes of this class, I decided to post about a new, recent favorite comic of mine: Saga. Written by Brian Vaughan, it’s a space opera. But to reduce it to mere space battles would be a disservice. Plot-wise, it’s pretty simplistic. The main protagonists, Alana and Marko, are inhabitants from two planets at war with one another. In rather stereotypical fashion, the two fall in love and decide to escape the war with their infant in tow. But what really differentiates Saga from its contemporaries is the racial and gender politics that come into play as a result of Alana and Marko’s union. You see, neither of them are white. In light of recent controversies over Iron Fist and Ghost in the Shell (neither of which truly bother me, to be honest), this was pretty interesting and refreshing to read. Of course, I’m behind the ball, because Saga came out a few years ago, but it was nice weekend reading (there’s 42 issues out as of right now). But back to race and gender.

The most noticeable thing about Saga is the depiction of the protagonists. The artist has gone on record to say that Alana’s father was inspired by an Indian man and a yet unidentified mother of another skin color. Marko was inspired by East Asian influences. But the most interesting thing is that other skin tone, other racial markers were not factored into the equation (Asian markers: the eyes, the nose, etc). In this comic, race is a defining feature in the sense that both sides see each other as the “Other”, an exotification of non-Western ideals in literature, as the enemy. But the characters themselves are not defined by their race if that makes sense. Race is merely one facet of their characterization.

The way Alana is shown in Saga is perhaps the most eye-opening for me. The story opens with this:

There’s a reoccurring problem with media in regards to sexuality. And I don’t mean the depiction of actual sex, but that’s where most of this stems from. Things related to bodily functions are considered taboo or inappropriate, and as such, their depictions need to be toned down or rendered completely irrational. Here, Alana is giving birth. There’s no sentimental music playing (logistics aside, because this is a comic book), or unrealistic words. Some might find the words she’s saying crude, but I think that if you were giving birth, the last thing on your mind is a lingual filter.

And that’s what’s compelling about her as a character. The most prominent thing is that she doesn’t fall victim to the “women in refrigerators trope.” She just feels like a real person. Someone I’d have a beer with. She curses, she has interests in cheesy novels, she likes having sex but is never depicted in a sexualized manner, and doesn’t have a filter.

In fact, that’s what’s appealing about this comic as a whole. People aren’t stereotyped in a certain manner just for plot device. Stereotypes are broken. Normal comedic devices are actually taken seriously. Serious moments end up being funny as fuck.

And plus, Fiona Staple’s art is on point.


Extra Information:

Women in refrigerators

Race in Saga

Back to the Concrete Jungle

This is actually near my old place. Image by

I spent about a few years living in Pennsylvania. I remember being about five or so when we moved into a little townhouse on the side of a mountain. It didn’t mean much to me then, but in hindsight, that’s pretty wild. I could just look up and see more of the mountain range in the distance. I remember, even then, how small and inconsequential I felt. Obviously, as an adult, I can verbalize much better how startling the contrast was. But there’s something beautiful about a feeling that you can’t quite or don’t want to put into words.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I’ve always associated my childhood with the backwoods of Saw Creek, Pennsylvania much more than the concrete jungle of NYC I was birthed in.

Maybe it was the air. It was always sweet and fragrant.

Maybe it was the tap water. Nah, just I’m just clowning. That tasted pretty bad.

Maybe it was the stars that winked at me during the night. They were comically vivid.

Maybe it was the array of wildlife I saw. Deer would come onto the lawn.

Maybe it was all of these things. Maybe it was none of them. This was more than fifteen years ago, after all. My memories could just be distorted and all.

But I distinctly remember a creek behind the place we rented out. Compared to the only other natural body of water I had seen at the point in my life, Jones Beach, the difference was startling. I could see right through. The sunlight glinting off the fish. The little pebbles buried deep into the bedrock. I’d see people walking down the road with their catch of the day.

Nothing was ever rushed. If anything, we were the odd ones out. No one else locked their doors, and that made us the strange ones. Weird shit, right?

It was a slow life there. A peaceful one. A good one, even. If you were into having nature as your backyard. This is the kind of place Ralph Waldo Emerson would’ve advertised for his whole ‘return to nature’ thing.

But honestly, at this point in my life, I don’t see myself ever going back. It was just too stagnant. Maybe it’s the pollution here that’s messed with my mind. I like to think it’s the bomb-ass food and that sense of urgency only NYC has.

Saw Creek, Pennsylvania is where I see people going to live out their lives and die. And I don’t feel I’m quite there yet.

I guess I’m happy that I’ve traded the natural landscape, animals, and wood nymphs back for tall buildings, expensive cigarettes, and the godawful MTA (still way better than the NICE buses to LI, though).

I don’t see myself leaving the concrete jungle anytime soon.

Image by Kate Kendall






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