Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Great Floods: Surviving the Waters of Time

Spencer Johnston
World Literature
Dr. Northam
Troy University
Fall 2011

The Great Floods: Surviving The Waters of Time

Literature has served as a great tool in most of the world’s cultural realms. The literary tale of the Great Flood is of great cultural significance and part of the earliest words in written history. This story first appeared in Mesopotamia as early as 2700 BC and has made its way into many other works of literature as well. And, as a result, it remains popular and relevant even into the 21st century, thanks to translations and cultural adaptations. The Literary aspects and themes of this story are the key enduring qualities of the work.

In particular, the Great Flood has made its significant contributions to literature and art in The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Holy Bible and recently, Evan Almighty. Essentially, the qualities of the story that transcend the ages are those of heroics, omnipresence, morality, idealism, human nature and sacrifice.

The central protagonist in each literary interpretation of the tale is conspicuously heroic. Achieving superhuman feats such as building an ark in itself, serves as a literary building block, from which to build and extend the readership’s respect for such heroic achievements. After all, the ark’s “ground-space was one acre” (Gilgamesh). This task of constructing an ark purposely reads as insurmountable and perhaps only achievable by someone of heroic proportions. This forms together a sense of enchantment, which alludes to the divine depiction of these literary figures.

In each respective writing, the hero is brushing with divinity. The relationship that Utnapishtim, Noah and Evan each have with God is one that confirms this through its unique make up. The attributes that lend to this depiction include moral fortitude, discarding of worldly things and immaculate selection. These qualities adorn Utnapishtim, Noah and Evan, in their respective stories. The omnipresence of God(s) reveals dissatisfaction with “the wickedness of man”(Holy Bible) in general, with the overall exception of the chosen hero and his offspring. From here, our heroes accomplish great achievements, lending to their seemingly endless source of wherewithal and idealistic abilities.

Sacrifice is an important literary message being conveyed in each of the three interpretations. As we know, the heroes of our tales had a great number of desirable attributes. This was meant to be indicative of wealth or material possession, because ultimately, the heroes’ homes would have to be sacrificed in order to construct the ark. This would have been important to the ancient reader, because of their cultural stances on sacrifice and its place in everyday life. Also, the creation of God(s) was to be “exterminate[d]”, ironically by said God(s). This is a sacrifice as well, meant to draw parallels between God(s) and their subjects.

Because the commands came from God(s), obedience, morality and omnipresence were lessons actuated in The Great Flood. Eventually, as readership through the ages has evolved, so have many of the interpretations of these tales. Perhaps, obedience as a literary tool can be learned as civil obedience as well. In keeping with the concept of social harmony, in 2007’s Evan Almighty, the term “ark” is cleverly incorporated as an acronym, meaning “acts of random kindness” (Evan Almighty). This is a really important aspect to the evolutionary tone of the Great Flood and its sense of usefulness to its subjects, who presumably live in a largely secular world.

The world that readers reside in is determinative in the literary conveyance and understanding of the manifestation of omnipresence. The qualities of the stories’ guiding leaders amount to similar, but different interpretations. “Gods in council”(Gilgamesh) were ultimately appropriate for Mesopotamians around the year 2700 BC. However, by the time Noah came around, his audience would identify more with monotheism, thus “God” (Holy Bible) lent his omnipresence. Similarly, “God”, in Evan Almighty served a singular role. In order to remain appropriate for modern day audiences, inevitable changes were made concerning the literary depiction of God. For instance, God appeared in physical form as opposed to speaking from the heavens. This is likely in response to much of the 21st century’s need for explanation and strong response to visual representation of literary forms.

Ultimately, the results of our tales’ literary triumphs are instrumental teaching tools. They continue to convey meaningful values to current generations, while maintaining the literary framework constructed nearly 5000 years ago. From this culturally important work of literature, we become aware that much of the adversity humankind faces today transcends all spans of time and culture. This is precisely the reason that The Great Flood remains appropriate for readers of literature even today.


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Mustafa Kemal

Mustafa Kemal, otherwise known as Ataturk, “father of the Turks”, was an important figure in the western cultural development of the Arab state of Turkey. Unlike many Muslim contemporaries in the region, Ataturk was adamant about the adoption of certain western aspects of living. His military experiences revealed to him the many advantages that European nations held over the concept of an Empire. He made is his personal mission to see to it that Turkey become more like one of these successful European Nations, like France, Spain, England and Germany. The results of his efforts ultimately thrusted the people of Turkey into a Republic, known as The Republic of Turkey.
The results of Ataturk’s efforts were really quite great. His new Republic was beginning to flourish under his rule. Great accomplishments were made that improved the lives of the Turkish people. His projects included making primary schools for children mandatory. This lent greatly to the education of the Turkish people and in turn, improved the Republic’s abilities. Also of great interest, is the fact that he actually discarded the traditional Arabic script for the more European Latin alphabet. Because of the difficulties associated with learning Arabic script, this change made it considerably easier for the Turks to read, increasingly literacy greatly. He was in favor of women’s rights and was very politically forward thinking.
Because of the advancements Ataturk provided for his people, he still remains a positive figure in Turkish history. If you ever go there to visit, you’ll notice the everlasting effect that his rule has had. Walking or driving down the streets, you’ll notice that signage is written in the latin alphabet and occasionally, photos and depictions of the great ruler can be spotted.

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Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich on the 1848 Revolution

Metternich was an Austrian who was perhaps born too late to realize his aspirations of becoming a powerful and respected king.  Because of the revolutions and their respective out lashings, the Prince would not be able to appease the yearnful scorn of his would-be public.  The political movement was simply too great and out of control to return to the traditions of absolutism or monarchical societies. 

In a letter, Metternich writes to the King of Austria of the state of Europe post several waves of revolutionary action common in 1848.  He describes the apparent need the masses of people express through various displays of vivacious displeasure.  In his forty years of service to Austria’s foreign affairs, he felt as though he had failed.  This was in any case, a result of the chaos that surrounded the debilitating affairs of the revolutions of 1848.

He realized that the stronghold of his politics could no longer remain, and thus his days as a useful member of governtry in a new and perceptively wild form of politics.

On reflection, I’d say that it is almost as hard for me to understand previous forms of political manifestos considering I’m an American born in the mid-1980s.  Perhaps, it was just as hard for Metternich to fathom the idea of change in a political machine that, in his mind, was so well-oiled.  He assume-ably was well trained in politics and civic affairs in the tradition of those before him.  This would be like me getting the best education in medicine that money could buy and then suddenly, poof!   People don’t get sick anymore.  The unforeseen can be dangerous.  It seems as though Prince Metternich was one of probably many who were rolled over by the changing tide of reform in the revolutions of 1848.

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The New Industrial Society of the 19th Century: Factory Conditions and Beyond

The great industrialization of developed nations effected every crevicis of 19th century life.  Regardless of one’s status, a specific knowledge about the effects that this push forward in mechanical manifestation of motion.  Because of the people’s new found reliance on emerging technology, the demand for life-improving agents of industry were at an all-time high.  Machines, of course, did not exclusively operate on their own.  And, without proper supervision and even manipulation, the machines that powered the industrial revolution of the 1800s wouldn’t have amounted to the fruitful succession that technology has blessed much of the 20 and 21st centuries thus far.

Unfortunately, social castes were inevitably at play again in this new chapter of European civilization.  And, the first casualties of industrial Europe were the lower-class families.  In the earliest (and even many modern) factories of the industrial world, workloads were often unbearable and difficult to carry out, due to their strenuous demands, unsafe hours and dwindling wages.  Many families weren’t easily supported by the work of their fathers alone.  It was not uncommon that children would occupy a great number of jobs that would help to ensure the livelihood of their respective family.  It wouldn’t be until 1938, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, officially addressing the exploitation of children labor (this time in the U.S.).

The standards of such working environments could be described as lowly.  The thick air the laborers breath is carbon-rich and dark from the industrial machinery they operate and oversee.  It also would not be for a great time that health was related to the emissions associated with such machinery.  In the development of commercial machinery, many regulations that the modern world has become accustom to respecting and enforcing were not existent.  This, in turn, allowed for allowed for an environmentally degradative process of testing, improving and making this equipment the best that it could be.  Because this process was a long one for a multitude of different industries, including manufacturing and textile industries, much of the earlier accounts of the industrial factory worker were quite unpleasant.

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Ghandi, Indian.

In spite of being educated under British rule, Gandhi, who was a very intelligent Indian lawyer, was resentful of British imperialistic rule of the Indian people. This, of course, was quite common among the Indian people, who were becoming acutely educated and large as a population. Because of his unique experiences with social injustice, Gandhi felt compelled to assist the oppressed immigrant Indian population of South Africa. It was there that white European settlers enjoyed social rights not given to other ethnic populations, respectively.
During his efforts in South Africa, Gandhi developed effective social activist doctrine based upon classic works of philosophical literature, including the Baghavad Gita, an ancient Hindu work, the sermon on the mount, an excerpt from the Holy Bible, Thoreau’s practices, and works of Jainism. Through the amalgam of selfless action and attempts for righteousness, the permutable effect of love, civil disobedience, and nonviolence, respectively, Gandhi created the concept of Satyagraha. Satyagraha, or nonviolent resistance to tyranny, became the virtual mantra by which the Indian people gained their independence from oppressive British rule.
While many Indian statesmen came before Mahatma Gandhi, he was unique in that his efforts largely went beyond the sole interests of few. His philosophy of Satyagraha spread to not just Hindu people of different castes, either. Muslims embraced these concepts in the middle east among other oppressed groups across the globe. Gandhi became a beacon of hope for those that were mostly voiceless under tyrannical regimes. Contemporary works by that of Martin Luther King Jr. and Aung San Suu Kyi have been testimonies to the concepts of Satyagraha.

Comments: I find it really inspiring that Gandhi could accomplish so much without warfare as we have come to know it. So often in contemporary society, citizens are afraid to speak out against injustices of tiny proportions, let alone an issue of imperialistic national interest. I think that most of us who have watched this podcast have learned a great deal about what it is to speak to the world community. Gandhi, in effect, did this and did it quite well. I think that because he combined such works of significance, he automatically caught the attention of their respective cultural peoples and/or followers. By allowing these cultural barriers to be lifted in the initial stages of the Satyagraha, Gandhi in effect, told the world without using the exact words that this philosophical and sociopolitical concept was much bigger than the world it spoke to. As a result, everyone tuned in and a timeless red carpet of anti-injustice and civil rights ensued.

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Legacies of World War I in the Middle East

The vast majority of the world tends to identify with World War II as being the defining conflict for much of the future and it’s respective waters to tread. However, what has lent more to the sculpting of the Middle East is actually World War I. Although the changes that ensued can be interpreted and viewed in a number of ways, it was largely because of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Things in this region would forever be changed. In the wake of the war, the Ottoman Empire essentially became Turkey, which occupied far less land. Subsequent changes ensued in Turkey, such as population and the like. But, as for the rest of the Middle East, much of the land would be divided by European super powers Britain and France. In this European run Middle East society, the two countries made it clear that they wanted to help the land and it’s people to regain some sense of livelihood.
In the “efforts” of Britain and France, they began to enforce, perhaps too many ostentatious regulations. They were responsible for overseeing infrastructure projects, creating land borders and other political decisions that many Middle Easterners would begin to resent. The significant changes that came with this European interjection include the formation of countries such as Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. Many of the issues that the region has today are a direct reflection of geo political friction that began during this time.
Also of particular importance are three important diplomatic agreements made during this time. These agreements include The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, in which Arab and British leaders, respectively, made an agreement that the Arabs would begin control of the region without the (then) current foreign involvement. The second agreement was between France and Britain that stated that the lands would be divided between the two. The third agreement was that the British would honor the stateless Jewish people by granting them a nation of their own, Israel. All of these agreements were in seeming conflict with each other. After the British were victorious in WWI, it became their goal to deal with these agreements. Which, some would say, have never really been resolved. This contributes greatly to the turbulence experienced by much of the modern Middle East today.

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Why was the Emancipation Proclaimation concieved?

President Abraham Lincoln was a great leader who genuinely sought peacefulness in the form of nationalism, perhaps above all else. He is more often than not remembered as the sole bringer of freedom for those subjected to the institution of slavery; an institution which had endured as a conservative means of laborious work in the new world as long as it had been subjected to western civilization. It is important for students of American history to remember that the Emancipation Proclamation was essentially the fruit of many who demanded radical social change in the form of abolitionism. For if the slavery question was left solely to Lincoln to answer, it is probable, albeit ironic, the Emancipation Proclamation wouldn’t have been issued at all. The African-Americans the measure freed “hail[ed] him as a messiah” (Carnes & Garraty, p.404). How, then, did President Lincoln come to issue it and become known as “The Great Emancipator” (Martin, 2006)?
The most probable answers to why the Emancipation Proclamation was conceived are quite honestly not widely taught, nor celebrated. The most important reasons for the conception of the Emancipation Proclamation include political pressures, strained economics, the civil war effort, and civil disobedience. Adding to the unlikelihood of the decree was Lincoln’s personal opinions and feelings on the subject of slavery, colonization and blacks in general.
The political pressures President Lincoln was under were quite taxing. The already formidable tasks of presidential office would have been enough to exasperate the highest and most distinguished of officeholders. The pressures of his office were arduous and specifically included the civil war, slavery, sectionalism and expansionism. Loyalties within the political system itself were strained. In their “urging general emancipation,…radicals made statements harshly critical of Lincoln” (Carnes & Garraty, 383). “Pressures to act against the south’s “peculiar institutions” mounted steadily” (Carnes & Garraty, 383). Particularly under the provisions of the Radical Republicans, the movement towards abolition was violent and swift. These “radicals” were actually a large part of Lincoln’s supporters that made up the Republican Party. Lincoln’s inwardness about his sentiments toward slavery left many in his own political circle question his loyalties on this most important subject. If he was to gain the confidence of the “republican-dominated congress” (Carnes & Garraty, 377) in totality, he would need to do so on the issue of slavery.
The Civil War effort was one of dwindling hopes for the Union. After the Confederacy won the battle of Antietam, the north had difficulty with military persistence and fortitude. Because the proclamation was aimed at freeing the slaves, Lincoln’s efforts could do nothing but damage the level of control the south had gained in their territory. Originally, neither side enlisted African-Americans, because to these armies, it often “seemed foolish and futile [to think of] “hand[ing] them rifles and guns” (Beaver, Reily, & Snyer). In spite of this, “in the north…some wealthy recruits brought slave servants with them to care for their needs in camp” (Carnes & Garraty, 376). “Abolitionists…had no love for blacks-they sought to free the slave only to injure the master” (Carnes & Garraty, 383). But in the long run, “northerners began enlisting blacks to assist them in the fight” (Beaver, Reily, & Snyer). With newly freed slaves essentially leaping at opportunities to fight for their freedom and causation, the Union was newly empowered by a force of swelling numbers. Little did abolitionists and the like know that freeing the slaves would have a domino-effect of positive results for the efforts of the union and the region of the north.
Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves not only offered the militaristic gain, but also chief economic gain as well. By fundamentally dismantling the south’s institution of slavery, the Union would further cripple any economic strongholds that the Confederates coveted as a means of usefulness in war or otherwise. Economically, the southern states were somewhat incompatible with that of the north, giving rise to a sentiment of “southern backwardness” (Bateman, 2002). Industrialization had swept much of the northeast into a flurry of unconventional economic achievement. Many northerners sought to eradicate the practice of slavery because it was viewed as inefficient in the shadow of industrialization, a fact that frustrated business in “northern ports such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia [who] depended heavily on southern trade” (Mackay). In addition to this, people from the north were largely in favor of abolishment because they did little to understand the deep connection between slavery and the economic prosperity of the entire United States.
Civil disobedience began to grow with sectionalism and chaos ensued around the institution of slavery. The Compromise of 1850 introduced the Fugitive Slave Act, making it illegal to harbor or aid fugitive slaves in further escaping their masters. Being that the vast majority of slaves were from the south and escaping to the northern states, a great number of northerners chose to purposefully evade the law to protect the individuals from being regained. These abolitionists were rarely punished for their infractions, which did much to further southern disdain for northern anti-slavery martyrs. It became increasingly difficult for authorities to enforce laws that so few accepted. Perhaps the easier answer to this dilemma was to simply perform a legislative 180 degree turn, barring slavery and thus, protecting those who disobeyed The Fugitive Slave Act and associated regulations.
Lincoln himself was in many ways a man of the times, in terms of slavery. Like other “white northerners…[he] did not surrender [his] comforting belief in black inferiority” (Carnes & Garraty, 385). He “resisted emancipation” (Carnes & Garraty, 383). His hunger for supremacy and resources was much like those that came before him. He sought primarily to save the Union, above all else, seemingly at any cost. He stated that “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it” (Carnes & Garraty, 373). Lincoln felt “the separation of whites and negroes…was essential to the welfare of both” (Klingaman, 2001). Ultimately, Lincoln ‘s best solution up to the time the Emancipation Proclamation was issued was colonization of freed blacks. This plan to colonize part of the Carribean with ex-slaves was essentially only superceded by European and Spanish inquisition. “Lincoln was left with no feasible locations for colonization” (Pearlman, 1997). With what we now know about Lincoln’s feelings about African-Americans and the institution of slavery, it is sometimes hard to believe that the Emancipation Proclamation was ever under his pen.
Slavery was by far the most important social issue during the Civil War Era. Without a doubt, the United States was divided on many issues, but the matter of slavery evoked emotions rarely seen in the quarrels of sectionalism. The Emancipation Proclamation did not remove the shackles from the institution at once, but did a great deal to ensure the future protection of freed slaves and African-Americans. This ever-growing population has become an increasingly important part of American history and life. It’s important for students of American history to understand the complex nature of the Emancipation Proclamation and its institutions. Ultimately, there were a number of reasons for this monumental decree to be enacted. Human rights, of course, inspired the course of action necessary to inspire Lincoln’s write up. It was, however, the compassion and works of individuals largely unsung and unseen and perhaps more importantly, had little to gain economically, politically or otherwise. When determining the true reasons that decisive action was taken, one may be inclined to be melancholy. One hopes with great sincerity that students of American history will instead be able to remain steadfast and focused on the positive fruition that The Emancipation Proclamation has had on all people alike in freedom.

Works Cited
Bateman, F. (2002). A Deplorable Scarcity: The Failure of Industrialization in the Slave Economy. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press.

Beaver, E., Reily, M., & Snyer, N. (n.d.). Blacks in the Civil War. Retrieved December 2011, from Colorado College EDU:

Carnes, Mark C. & Garraty, J.A. The American Nation: A History of The United States Vol. 1 to 1877 — 14th edition. Upper Saddle River, New jersey: Prentice Hall.

Klingaman, W. K. (2001). Abraham Lincoln and the Road To Emancipation 1861-1865. New York, New York: Viking Penguin.

Mackay, K. (n.d.). Economics of Slavery. Retrieved December 2011, from Weber State University: of slavery.asp

Martin, M. (2006). In The Emancipation Proclamation: Hope of Freedom For The Slaves (p. 7). Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Press.
Pearlman, L. (1997, February).

Lincoln’s Colonization Efforts. Retrieved December 2011, from Illinois Periodicals Online at Northern Illinois University:

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