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activism confusion.

sara.gladwin's picture

I struggled a lot in answering the activism question, which is why I ended up commenting more on other people’s ideas rather then putting any new ideas out. I think they are some really creative ideas here that I would definitely like to be a part of. My struggle to think about activism is also why this is a separate post… I do not feel like I answered the question and that some of the things I ended up writing were less relevant to question but still felt very relevant to the class in general and I wanted to share.

 More recently I’ve realized for as much as I value classroom discussion, sometimes I feel very removed from the reality of some of what we discuss. Especially reading things like “I, Rigoberta Menchu”- in which the entirety of what we learn about takes place somewhere so distant from the classroom it is harder to fully grasp the political attention and necessity for change that trauma novels demand.  But even when talking about the education system, something we all are in some way familiar with and closer too, we are limited by the effective change that can come from discussion. While there are definitely benefits of discussion found in our own consciousness raising and learning from one another, there are ways that discussion ends up reaching a plateau because it remains trapped behind the walls of the classroom. Making these realizations have left me feeling somewhat helpless, mostly because I don’t think I’ve ever consciously been a part of any sort of activism/know how activism works at all. This leaves me thinking mostly on a more general level of what interests me and hoping to be able to work up from that into a more “activist” kind of thinking. So while I know this is not necessarily an idea or form of activism, I wanted to share some connections I have been making with this course and another course I am in about ecology and the environment because I think it might provide another lens to look at some of the things we’ve been discussing. One of the interests I have is the connection between this 360 and the environment. While I know the connection between prisons/schools and the environment not particularly a focus of our classes so far, one of my other classes (ecological imaginings) has provoked me to see some of those connections. Because the EcoLit class has been mostly taking place outside, I have noticed the way in which having a class that is not physically located inside walls or a building has undermined the more traditional, rigid class structure that we have been critiquing. In that class we have also paid careful attention to the way language constructs our ecological imagining, and how we are taught implicitly through language that we are separate from our environment. I think the school institutions and structures we have been examining reflect this separation and perpetuate it. In addition, one of the ways in which prisons are defined is through the removal of inmates from their environment/”nature.” Prisoners have no access to what is generally conceived as “nature”- beaches, mountains, and forests. Inmates lose any and all right to these places while they are imprisoned, not to mention the inevibility of poverty in so many of the lives of Prisoners after doing time seems like it would prevent travel and limit their ability to some of these spaces. I was reading an article posted on the Ecolit Serendip page (/exchange/cant-focus-take-walk) about the benefits of taking a walk on the Brain when I began to more fully think about how stunting and limited it can be to not have access to “the outdoors.”  Dr. Marc Berman, whose research is the topic of discussion in the article states, “We believe that having "softly fascinating" stimulation to look at (such as trees, leaves and water), while not having to concentrate heavily allows a person to de-focus and self-reflect in a natural environment. Sitting in a dark room isn't restorative because it's boring, which is fatiguing even though it doesn't require heavy concentration. Watching television isn't restorative either, because the stimulation is harsh and requires concentration….we find that the natural environment is one of the most effective at restoring cognitive abilities.” His particular use of “restoration” reminded me of Barb’s dissertation about private space and restorative justice. She spoke about how in her interviews with inmates; often scenes of natures became symbolic of privacy and freedom. I saw many direct ties between Berman’s definition of a non-restorative environment and the environment of a Prison, which is the exact opposite having “softly fascinating” stimulation as he describes. How can Prisoners ever really have truly restorative experiences in Prison if the most restorative places are actually so far removed?

 Now how any of this can translate into activism is where I get lost, but I think it might be useful to look further into some of these connections.