Down to Earth

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Today’s youth learn in their high school history classes that it is the actions of man, not nature, that has determined history, and consequently this is what textbooks have put a premium on. Everything else, such as geography, is delegated to a lower rank of importance, unless it directly affected man’s actions. Down to Earth, by Ted Steinberg, seeks to change this. He strives to do this by putting more emphasis on nature and geography then the actions of man.. But before the book can be judged whether or not it is adequate to be put on the required reading list for next year, we must first look at the major themes that Steinberg continually delves on. The most important are the European’s commoditization of nature and the specialization of the environment (monoculture).

If the cultures of the Native Americans and Europeans could be differentiated by a single thing, it would be by the European’s commoditization of nature. To the Indians, nature was something to be communed with and respected; not surprising considering that the land was the centerpiece of both their religion and their livelihood. On the other hand, the Europeans treated nature as if it was an unclaimed piece of real estate, specifically made for them to take. This commoditization of nature, and the exploitation that resulted in it, was so great that it lead the nature write Henry Thoreau to exclaim “Thank God, they cannot cut down the clouds” (Steinberg, ). This quote is very appropriate, considering the mass deforestations and ecological ruin that was left in the wake of European colonists and their American successors.

This argument, that Native Americans were pure and one with nature and that Europeans were bad and nasty, is nothing new. While presenting this viewpoint in whole would constitute a strength of Steinberg’s, the fact that it is just one side of this issue would make his effort here a relative weakness. Here, as in other times in the book, he lets his bias get in the way of presenting an objective analysis of the situation. While it is certainly true that the Europeans treated nature like trash compared to the Indians, they were not as awful as Steinberg would have you believe. He plays too much into the “Noble Savage” stereotype, in that Native Americans are pure and noble while the Europeans are cruel and corrupt.

Another major theme discussed by Steinberg is the specialization of nature by the Europeans. They did this through monoculture, which is the growing of just a single crop. For the South, their monoculture was their ubiquitous cotton fields which could be seen for miles. The cotton made up so much of the South’s crops that “by 1860, the United States accounted for two-thirds of the world’s supply” (Steinberg, 8). This same practice was done in else parts of the nation, with only the climate and the crop changing. In Florida and some parts of California, it was the orange that ruled. In other parts of the West-Mid West it was the apple that reigned.

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Monoculture’s hold on vast regions was important in two major points. One, this was the first time that the environment had been used in such a way. When the Indians were using it, they grew a variety of crops off that land for practical, survival purposes. Here, the farmers were not directly growing for their families (as in a portion of what they grew went straight onto their tables), as much as they were growing it for its cash crop status. This segues into the second point, in that this specialization of yields, and the lack of crop diversity that resulted thereof, symbolized the start of globalization in that farmers across the nation were becoming less self sufficient and more dependent on each other.

Steinberg discusses and analyzes many, many themes through out the book. Because of the amount of subject matter, Steinberg fails to create on cohesive core that the book would support itself on. Often times while reading I had to stop myself and ask how did I get here, and more importantly, where is he going with this. The fact that this book covered such broad topics did not necessarily hold it back. Guns, Germs, and Steel The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond, covered so much more in just as many pages, and to a great extent it did it better. To me, the primary negative aspects of this book weren’t so much his bias and breadth, of which there was plenty, but his lack of evidence and that glaring inaccuracies that resulted thereof.

Steinberg did not quote supporting evidence as much as one would expect, and because of this some of his conclusions are drawn into question. Take the quote “…[N]orthern solders received more food per person then any other army in the history of warfare.” (Steinberg, 5). I would seriously like to know out of what military history book did he read that fact from. While the North did eat better then the South, they were hardly feasting like kings as the quote implies. And they were certainly not better off food wise then our army of today is. A second grandiose assumption made by Steinberg was when he was describing how the freed slaves migrated to the North in “ one of the largest migrations in the history of the world” (Steinberg, 10). He goes on state that 500,000 slaves moved up North in the period of 10 years. I feel it is safe to assume that he is talking about Human migration (because millions upon millions of bugs migrate through whole countries every season), but even if he is, he is still blatantly ignoring the massive influx of European immigrants in the late 1th Century and the hundreds of thousands of Jews that came a bit later, both of which dwarf his “largest migration”. He is also forgetting the early humans who crossed over the land bridge to come to America. This event was surely larger then just 500,000 slaves moving up 400 miles over a period of 10 years.

There are too many incidents of bias and lack of quotations that make this a positive educational experience to read. At best, parts of this book should be Xeroxed, similar to what was done in my high school, and used in class. That way, the teacher gets to pick and choose the best parts of the book (the informational monoculture part) and spare them from the other parts. Or Journalism teachers could use the biased and evidence-lacking sections of this book as an example of what not to do. Coupled with the feeling of lack of direction, cohesiveness, and existence of bias, I unreservedly feel this book should not be on the reading list for next year.

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Brent Staples: Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Spaces

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Luke Thompson

Mrs. D. Tantalo

English 101

Wednesday 45-650

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Due 1/10/0

Research Project

-Author Brent Staples-

Author Brent Staples is an editorial writer for the New York Times newspaper, and an influential commentator on American politics and African-American culture. Staples grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, and earned his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Chicago in 177. The essays that I have researched are psychological observances that Staples has made on many people who are guilty of stereotyping African American males by appearance alone. Many of Staples observances take place at night in the impoverished streets of New York (due to his insomnia problem), where he tends to put himself in situations that may make others uncomfortable with his presence, just to see if their reactions to the color of his skin were any different than the would be reactions to a white man. Staples’ psychological approach in analyzing random people’s reactions has interested me, in the sense of making the same type of observances socially and physically, both upon myself and others. I plan on majoring in psychology myself, and Brent Staples has inspired me to make the same type of observations on others without them knowing, and how to explain these observations through my writing.

Brent Staples is an analytical writer, in the sense that his analysis is purely based on physical reactions of strangers to his presence as a black man in the streets of urban New York. As a psychologist, Staples uses his knowledge of analyzing people to provide the means of writing, and storytelling. His writing uses the combination of logic and emotion to appeal to his readers.

Since Brent’s youth, he has realized that he was able to instill fear into people just by taking his frequent walks at night, in combat with his insomnia. It was by accident that he was able to discover this ability to “alter public space,” in a situation where he happened to be following the same route as another woman, while on a nighttime walk through the streets of New York. As the woman realized he was walking behind her, she begins to frequently glance back at him, and walk faster, as they progress, she eventually crosses the street, and begins to run toward a street that seemed to be safer. This gave him the notion that people preconceived that a black man walking down the street at night was most likely a potential criminal, and that if they don’t react, they might become some sort of victim.

One of the essays that Brent has written interprets the psychological observations that Brent has made, entitled Just Walk on By A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space. What Staples means in terms of “altering public space,” is that he is putting himself into a normal situation that could arise on a typical night in New York, such as walking behind a woman down the street, and altering the situation in making it seem as if he could possibly be following her or possibly just happen to be a man walking behind her. In putting himself in these situations, where people might think he is the “bad guy” just by his appearance alone, Staples observes their reactions, most of which the he can sense the discomfort of the person he is analyzing.

In his writing, it almost seems as if Staples is trying to make those who are uncomfortable around overtly racist, or a person who stereotypes all black males as being criminals, or dangerous. In New York, potentially every male that walks the streets at night could be a mugger, a rapist, a murderer, a kidnapper, and so on. Brent also fails to realize that he is putting himself in these situations where people are most likely to feel uncomfortable in his presence.

In these situations where any random person could be a criminal, the factor does not remain solely on the color of the persons skin; the key factors would mainly be the demeanor or suspicious activities that would make a person believe that they are in danger, or are in a potentially harmful situation in the presence of this particular stranger.

In Staples writing, he makes it seem as if most people, women in particular, are paranoid in the presence of black males. Staples explains how black males do play a particularly large role in many crimes that occur in New York, and that many black males that loiter the streets play a role of being tuff and thug-like.

The other essay I have chosen by Brent Staples is called Black Men and Public Space. In this essay, Brent uses the same types of analysis in the conclusion that people are fearful of black males. Staples refers to the characters of his analysis as his “victims,” in which Brent’s encounters all result in the person of Brant’s analysis being scared, or fearful of him. In Black Men and Public Spaces, his story differs from Just Walk on By, in that he is now walking through the wealthier neighborhoods, walking behind and somewhat following women until some react by running away, gripping their purses tightly and frequently turning and looking back at him until their destination is reached, or simply walking into the nearest building that they come across.

Brent often refers to this “altering” as a game, and he finds neighborhoods and streets where people were most likely unsafe. These areas usually consisted of dark sidewalks, and were less frequented by people than those of which were highly populated and well lit. “ One night I stooped beneath the branches and came up on the other side, just as a couple was stepping from their car into their town house. The woman pulled her purse close with one hand and reached for her husband with the other. The two of them stood frozen as I bore down on them. I felt a surge of power these people were mine; I could do with them as I wished. If I’d been younger, with less to lose, I’d have robbed them and it would have been easy.” These people were “victims” to Brent Staple’s game, and the reaction of the helpless couple had nothing to do with the color of his skin. In his writing, when he plays the part of the abusee, he fails to look at his suspiciousness, and take notice of why people might really be scared of him. Brent at no time in this essay takes account for the reasoning of people feeling discomfort, it is purely his ability to altar these spaces that causes people to react in the way that they do. In his writing, Brent acts as if he is plating the role of the victim as being a black man, when in fact, the people in which he make analysis of are truly potential victims, because Brent did say that he at once had the potential to actually rob someone. Who is to say that if Brent is putting himself in the position of being able to take advantage of the vulnerable on a regular basis, that he absolutely will not act on his impulses.

Staples’ writing is somewhat in the clarification that he is a victim of circumstance, in that each time he has an encounter on the streets, whether passing by or sitting next somebody, he senses discomfort in them, usually very noticeably. When sitting on a buss or subway, he explains how people will tend not to look at him directly, and when entering will sit further away from him than people with a different skin colr than him.



Please note that this sample paper on Brent Staples: Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Spaces is for your review only. In order to eliminate any of the plagiarism issues, it is highly recommended that you do not use it for you own writing purposes. In case you experience difficulties with writing a well structured and accurately composed paper on Brent Staples: Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Spaces, we are here to assist you. Your cheap custom college paper on Brent Staples: Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Spaces will be written from scratch, so you do not have to worry about its originality.

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Azheem:Man of Mystery

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Azheem The Man of Mystery

In the movie Robin Hood Prince of Thieves Morgan Freeman plays the role of Azheem, a foreigner who owes Robin Hood his life. While Robin Hood is being held captive by the sheriff, he meets Azheem and sets him free in exchange for a favor that Azheem can pay later in their journey together. Azheem surpasses this favor many times throughout the movie and because of this, he is loyal as seen through his physical characteristics, beliefs, and actions.

Azheem is first loyal to his Islamic religion which can be shown by his clothing. Most people in hot temperatures wear clothes that are thin and revealing. Azheem stays true by keeping on his long shirt and his thick pants to keep all body parts covered although he is in the desert. He also wears multi-colored belts around his waist and a turban to keep his head covered at all times. Azheem is loyal to his religion through his clothing, and he is loyal to his religion through his beliefs.

Azheem’s first sign of being loyal to the Islamic religion is seen when Robin Hood is being attacked by several men and Azheem continues praying to the East instead of helping him. Azheem tells Robin that he will die for a woman if necessary and that is why he was being held captive. He refuses to partake of alcohol when the people in Sherwood Forest are celebrating. He is loyal to his religion by believing that a promise is a promise. Azheem keeps his promise to Robin Hood in many ways which can be seen through his actions.

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Azheem is loyal to Robin Hood; therefore, he is loyal to the people of Sherwood Forest. His loyalty is shown through the use of his knowledge and strength. He uses his telescope to alert them that the enemies are coming, so he can help Robin Hood fight off these enemies whenever possible. He introduces them to an irrigation system; consequently, he makes it easier for them to retrieve water while living in the forest. When the time comes, Azheem introduces the people of Sherwood Forest to gunpowder so that they can help take over Nottingham. Azheem is the only person who can keep the woman and her baby from dying because of her difficult childbirth. More importantly, Azheem acts as a mentor to Robin Hood and keeps him optimistic in his time of need because he knows that everyone looks up to him and depends on him to finish what he starts.

Throughout the movie, Azheem knows how to be loyal to his friend without being disloyal to his religion. Because of this balance, the people of Sherwood Forest are safe and Azheem keeps a clean conscience



Please note that this sample paper on Azheem:Man of Mystery is for your review only. In order to eliminate any of the plagiarism issues, it is highly recommended that you do not use it for you own writing purposes. In case you experience difficulties with writing a well structured and accurately composed paper on Azheem:Man of Mystery, we are here to assist you. Your cheap custom college paper on Azheem:Man of Mystery will be written from scratch, so you do not have to worry about its originality.

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