Mind and Memory in Ruins

Mike McCloskey

Professor Joe

English 110

26 September 2016

As seen throughout all of Spelman’s book, Repair, it is human nature for people to want to and try to repair objects in daily life. People try to mend everything that is tangible in life. What happens when we people try to fix something intangible in life though? ‘Intangible’ is not referring to relationships between humans as you can “touch” or “physically resonate” with another human being or create a connection or bond with another human being without actually touching them. What is meant by ‘intangible’ goes deeper. Something ‘intangible’ to a singular person is their mind and ability to think and remember. The mind is something different from all other things in the world. The mind has the ability to do things extraordinarily and the creativity of the mind is what causes people to want to and try to repair objects and relationships in the world. Sometimes people can have a difficult time repairing things in the world. Why is that? Well, what happens when a person’s own mind needs to be repaired? Can the mind repair itself? Spelman gives great insight into the mind and how it looks at repair and how it looks at ruin. From this, I can deduce my own insight on how the mind repairs when the mind itself is in ruins. What I see is that it is not beneficial to block change in the mind but to adapt to and harness the change in the mind.

All people seek to reform and to repair things in life, and they also seek to repair themselves when there is something that inhibits their path to a happy life. In life, people all throughout the world have to deal with their past and their memories. Memories can have a lasting effect on a person and this can have a positive outcome or a negative outcome on a person. The memories that people must repair are the ones that have a negative effect on people.

There is no pleasure or even the thin gruel of instruction in these ruins of memory, which continue to be the source of anguish over the inability to recover what one has lost, of humiliation over the sense of confusion and incompetence the memories reignite (Spelman 116).

Spelman uses the ruins of a pertinent site as the basis of memory. Ruins are extremely analogous to memories in the mind. When a tragedy occurs and there are ruins, people who are inflicted by the outcome are held in dismay. When a person’s city is in ruins, they want to preserve it so that they can move on without destroying their heritage. In a similar way, a person must hold onto the memories while still being able to move on. This does not always happen. For example, a soldier fighting in a war must be able to recover after they return. What happens to many is that they develop PTSD which makes them not be able to move on from the war. What must happen is for the soldiers to remember, but soldiers must not dwell on the past to the point where they can no longer function in society. Something that is always in the back of my mind is when my grandfather passed away. My grandfather lived with my family and was a mentor to me, like a second father to me. When I would come home from school everyday I would see him, but it was weird to have him not be there when I got back. This made a mental roadblock for me. The memory of him made me sad and made me unable to the proper work that I needed to. Eventually, I just had to learn to live with it. I never forget him, but I can’t be stuck in the past when it comes to things that remind me of him. Much like this, when my mom’s sister died, she had a hard time living with the fact that her role model passed away. She too worked through it and will never forget her, but will never let it hold her down again.

‘Humiliated memory thus forces us into an unnatural relation with the past, because the ‘knowledge’ it imparts crushes the spirit and frustrates the incentive to renewal’; memory becomes ‘a monument to ruin rather than reconstruction’ (Spelman 121).

Spelman’s statement supports my thought, that in order for people to live happy, they must move on from the past without forgetting it.
This is not only seen in memories, but also in the mind in general. There are many things which people can not control and the mind is wired to think and feel. A long time friend of mine has anxiety problems. This anxiety keeps her from being able to go through daily tasks without being overwhelmed or stressed. This mentality must be overcome. When she is at her happiest and when she is the most at ease, she uses her anxiety to her favor and prioritizes her life so that all areas which could cause anxiety, are completed. This way, she does not feel so stressed. A different way that this can be viewed is by the stereotypes that are perpetuated onto my friends who like people of the same-sex. Many people in society tells them that they are “weird” or that they are “sinners.” Though this has negative effects on my friends, they use it to their advantage. My friends analyze those who perpetuate the hate and are able to steer clear of those people. In doing this, my friends put themselves in a more comfortable and a hate free atmosphere. As with memories, the mind may have things which could hold it back, but the main goal is to overcome the adversity and to move on from it. Never forget those occurrences which have hurt a person, but that person must use it to their advantage to continue a healthy and happy life. Those who have intangible problems, should always work to harness their negative experiences and turn them into something positive.


Money Buys Friendship

Mike McCloskey

Professor Joe

English 110

19 September 2016

Money can’t really buy friendship, but it can ideally redeem a relationship that was once there, or it can start a new one. Sure, there are many people aroused by the thought of surrounding themselves with people who are wealthy. The reason for being close to people with money is for exploitation of their wealth. The ideation that money can’t buy happiness is wrong or else a large portion of the population must be wrong, right? All over the world, money is used as a tool to get people to harmonize with one another and to advance companies or to keep themselves prominent and powerful. Not only do people/companies/organizations get attached to money, but they use it to their advantage to manipulate others. The others referred to on the last line does not necessarily mean other individuals but communities too. In Repair, Spelman emphasizes the impact that money can have on a relationship. Spelman exemplifies the use of money for repair and regrowth of relationships in communities and in individuals while in opposition to the use of an apology. Spelman shows where an apology lacks in building a better community, money can fill the gaps. This is seen throughout all aspects of life, no matter the currency, and Spelman spells it out for people. Money can mend that which an apology can not.

Spelman reveals money reparations as more of a supplement for people to fix relations with another person/community/company rather than claiming responsibility and owning up to the fact that something was wronged.

Apology… in the very act of such damning self-disclosure the apologizer wraps herself in a glorious mantle of rehabilitation. However vicious her actions, however morally reprehensible she has been in the past, her sincere apology entitles her to credit at the bank of moral rectitude. She’s done wrong, but she knows it, accepts full responsibility for it, and regrets it… Here, we can see how it short-circuits any further criticism: The sinner has come around; her very capacity to apologize is proof positive of her already being on the road to moral recovery (Spelman 97).

Spelman acknowledges the fact that an apology is the way that a person can truly repent for their past actions which have affected another.  In displaying this, Spelman is contrasting this with money reparations. She makes the assumption that people giving reparations take no responsibility for their actions, but still attempt to keep a relationship with others in equilibrium. In life there are many companies that follow this moral code of money reparations over apologies. An example of this is with the BP Oil Industry. BP oil had a horrible oil spill in 2012 in the Gulf of Mexico which drastically affected the ecosystem as well as markets. BP offered an insincere apology as the only reason they were apologizing for is to themselves for losing so much money. The reparative action they made was the 20 billion dollars they paid out in fines. BP did not only pay this money because they were coerced by the government, but also because they wanted to repair their relationship with the community and the country in order to continue operations. On a similar template but on a smaller scale, Sesame Place, a waterpark in Pennsylvania, had to pay a woman 150 thousand dollars in reparations to a woman who broke open her leg due to a slide. This corrective action was taken in order to repair the damage it had caused to the woman as well as repair their stance in the eyes of the community. With safety being a main concern, they wanted to show that they are still reliable. I work at a waterpark over the summer as well, Morey’s Piers. It is no surprise that they follow the same governing principles as these other companies do. Morey’s Piers is a general admission facility and does not allow people to enter for any reason without paying. This is largely taboo to people who have family members with disabilities. In order to repair their view to the community, they let people in extenuating circumstances enter the park for free, even though they do not feel bad about making everyone pay the fees. I have encountered this at another one of my jobs. At Prospector’s, a restaurant I worked at, it was not uncommon for the kitchen to mess up orders. The managers would often give gift cards so that people would come again. This way they could repair the damage they inflicted upon the meal and keep a business relationship.

Not only can a person find examples of this in industry, but a large portion of the reparative actions come from personal interactions. I first experienced this when I broke my neighbors window while playing street hockey in my backyard. The ball flew right over the fence and smashed into the window, simultaneously smashing the relationship our family had with our neighbor. We did not have a good relationship but this put it over the top. An apology did not work because of the festering relationship we had with them so my parents gave them reparations in order to fix the damages. In reality, the damaged glass represented the damaged relationship and the money was given to repair and restore what we had with our neighbors before even though money did not necessarily have to be given. In a different way, I used to tutor kids that I was acquainted to in school. The money they paid me was a reparative action to fix their grades, which in many cases, affected their relationship with the teachers they liked and their parents they loved. The people I tutored did not care so much about the grades, but they cared more about the repercussions in their relations with their parents and teachers if they didn’t bring their grades up.

Spelman exhibited the contrasting features of apologies and of money reparations by showing how money affects people’s actions. People who are driven by money have a different outlook than those who are sincerely apologetic for their actions. As Spelman says:

[Those] who exact the reparations… They are not bound to feel gratitude for the institutions that make reparations possible, nor to those who pay them. Their being entitled to and receiving reparations has no bearing on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of whatever emotions they have had to endure (Spelman 82).

Spelman clearly makes the distinction that people who pay for their mistakes, are those who pay for a relationship to be repaired without actually taking accountability. In this, people in a way buy true friendships.

Misogynistic Dystopia (R1)

Mike McCloskey

Professor Joe

English 110

10 September 2016

Women in today’s society are portrayed as being the less dominant people in society. Women are placed in a role where they are there to be submissive to men. Men are shown as the superior people in society. Men act as the people who are of highest importance, who must provide for the rest of society and must achieve a great deal more or else they are useless. In daily life, anywhere a person may go, what will be seen is a gender divide where men and women are placed into doing certain position where they have very different responsibilities. Spelman exhibits an interesting view of this in society through Repair. Spelman looks at this divide through how different genders repair things and she does this by displaying women as people who only have the ability to repair certain relationships but never as those who repair objects. This is the job for men. In writing her book, Repair, Elizabeth Spelman denigrates the view of gender and reinforces the idea that gender roles should be abolished, while simultaneously showing how society operates dysfunctionally.

One of the ways that Spelman shows the divide is by showing that in society, people view women as not having the ability to do certain repair work in everyday life, like men are seen as being able to. Spelman acknowledges that women have the ability to do repair work but in a way different way, saying that they can only repair socially. Here Spelman exemplifies this:

“The case for the ubiquity of repair rests in part on the use of repair and its close cousins in connection with a vast and motley range of activities: fixing automobiles and mending clothing, yes, but also repairing human relationships and reweaving rips in the social fabric. When we think of repair in this larger sense, it can seem as if women spend—or, anyway, are expected to spend—an enormous amount of time doing repair work” (Spelman 31). 

The implication of this is that women only can repair relationships and can only mend things that are less physically demanding. Spelman shows that society views men as having the ability to do everything and women can only do certain things to contribute to society. This can be viewed throughout all of society and it acts as a glass ceiling. The metaphor of a glass ceiling implies that there is an invisible barrier above women that does not allow them to rise up in society. It shows that women can not advance or contribute more than the mentality of society allows them to. One place where this is extremely relevant and is seen all over and is amongst many great debates in business and in the working class world is in the wage differences between men and women. There is a wage gap between working class men and working class women where men get paid more than women. This atrocity can be attributed to the glass ceiling that Spelman exhibits in repair. Showing that women can only do certain repair work is a synecdoche showing that all over women have lesser capabilities. Therefore, women get a lower wage because the misogynistic mentality in society tells people that women should only get paid for which they can do. Spelman clearly tells readers that the implication that women have less ability holds them back in society from being equal.

Spelman also shows the problem with the disparity between men and women through a different analogy. This analogy shows a comparison between cars and humans:

“Human beings suffer wear and tear; like cars, humans need not just maintenance but repair if they are to keep on functioning… and of course the analogy is imperfect: While apprentices in the household and in repair shop can learn to repair, cars can’t” (Spelman 35).

This metaphor is to not only give the reader a greater sense of repair of humans, but it is also showing how futile and mechanical people are in life. Spelman is telling the reader that these actions on holding women down under this glass ceiling are getting society nowhere. Spelman shows how society can not ever get better if people just repair this to their natural state. People need to repair better than they did before where women are treated with the same dignity and fairness as men. Spelman is not only talking about repairing people but she means that people need to repair the social structure. This is analogous to later statements she makes:

“It would seem that just as cars are repaired so people can use them as they desire, people are repaired so that they can get back in basic working order, in order to get on with what they want to do” (Spelman 36-37).

As stated before, people need to be repaired so they can contribute to society. Spelman does not speak directly to men or women, but to people in general. Spelman shows that all of society must move to make all men and women better and have everyone have the ability to do great things. This is just like in professional sports. All people tend to focus more on men’s sports but not women’s. Spelman wants people to look at all professional sports and for people to have the same respect for each one.

Spelman shows the overarching problem. Men and women are not shown in the same respect in society. Spelman speaks directly about repair regarding men and women, but the true problem is the fact that men have a greater respect in society than women do. What Spelman tries to do is point out the flaws in this view of society and makes a call to action saying that the repair should be creating more equality between all people.