Monday, May 17, 2010

To Seek and Destroy Universals: The Negative Implications of Globalization

Western culture is spreading like wildfires across the world, ultimately reducing ancient customs of the East into mere ashes of the past. Slumdog Millionaire depicts such notions on an extreme level, illustrating the negative impact the process of globalization has on Eastern culture. The movement of globalization is an attempt to unify the world, by breaking the shackles of intolerance (which remain in existence today), through the promotion of ethnic heterogeneity. Various cultural theorists argue that globalization is a catalyst for promoting human progress, and connects people from all walks of life through a process of unification surrounding political, economic, and social realms and ideals. The fundamental tenet surrounding globalization promotes the spreading of capitalism, bringing forth many opportunities for businesses to operate beyond national borders in different countries and various cultures. Though globalization is hard to encapsulate into a singular definition, the ultimate result would produce a simplified version of a complicated world: all nations living in harmony under one unified economy. Rather than having each nation have its own separate national identity, the process of globalization seeks to join the world together under one universal identity. Though the notions of globalization appear to come from a place of good intentions, uniting the world together under the globalization blanket does not necessarily generate a warm and cozy sense of concord, nor does it serve to the world’s best interests. Instead, extreme amounts of pressure are placed on the individual in the Eastern countries, where they fall victim and remain in utter servitude in the thralls of a capitalistic society. Gross exploitation is the ending result, where individuals plagued by poverty have to resort to any means necessary in order to make the all-mighty dollar. Slumdog Millionaire illustrates the negative impacts of globalization through its depiction of how Western culture has shaped Indian society. Each of the characters in Slumdog Millionaire are products of an unstable, caste based society, and are ultimately guided by the Western principles that value the money. Consequently, Slumdog Millionaire illustrates how the process of globalization leads to exploitation of people in developing countries who are not ready for such dramatic changes.

The impact of Western culture on India is established early in the movie, where even the most impoverished areas share the same on-going obsession with popular culture and movie stars that seems to shape the Western ethos of today. In a way, this is where art imitates life, in that it parallels India’s actual glorification of Western culture as best exemplified by it’s creation of a movie industry patterned after Hollywood and dubbing it, “Bollywood”. It appears as though India is overly concerned with how the image of their country is perceived, and ultimately strives to base their culture off a Western dream where everything revolves around a world of appearances and an obsession with wealth. Yet, unlike America, India has an abysmal underworld full of malfeasance where children are exploited on a daily basis and there remains neither government intervention nor active changes to remedy social issues surrounding these impoverished areas. Most Americans could not even begin to fathom some of the horrific occurrences that take place in the slums of India. Slumdog Millionaire barely scratches the surface of some of these issues; the main focus in the movie is based on money and dreaming big, being successful and rich, and ultimately winning the affections of a girl in the process, while the majority of the characters are merely expendable commodities.

Fernando Coronil, author of the essay, “Towards a Critique of Globalcentrism: Speculation on Capitalism’s Nature” aptly illustrates the problems surrounding Eastern cultures that become saturated with Western culture. He avers, “Nations have become increasingly open to the flow of capital, even as they remain closed to the movement of the poor. While the elites of these nations are increasingly integrated in transnational circuits of work, study, leisure and even residence, their impoverished majorities are increasingly excluded from the domestic economy abandoned by their states” (368). Coronil elucidates how the globalization process ultimately benefits corporations while simultaneously harming the general population. This particular notion is illustrated in Slumdog Millionaire where there are only two classes depicted; those who are extremely rich, and those who are utterly destitute.

Additionally, Coronil expounds further, noting how “…globalization may promote economic ‘growth’ and yet erode a sense of national belonging…the proliferation of schemes and scams intended to make money, as well as the commoditization of anything that can be sold, have become not just regular economic practices but agnostic survival strategies. For many who find themselves at the mercy of market forces and yet have little to sell, the ‘market’ takes the form of drug trade, black markets, sex work, and the trade of stolen goods or even body parts” (362). Coronil illustrates how local economies remain poor, and globalization is to blame for reducing human rights to conditions that are unimaginable. Slumdog Millionaire confronts these issues through its depiction of the adversity many Indian children face; and yet it quickly brushes this aside and the plot is based on the contrivances of love conquering all.

Common perception of globalization is based on the notions of tearing down walls that create barriers amongst nations where a world unites together as one in peace and harmony. Simon Gikandi illustrates such notions and states, “The image of globalization offers the promise of a unified humanity no longer divided by the East and West, North and South, Europe and its Others, the rich and the poor…these discourses set in motion the belief that the separate histories, geographies and cultures that have divided humanity are now being brought together by the warm embrace of globalization, understood as a progressive process of planetary integration” (Gikandi 351). Yet, the majority of Third World nations are not ready for such a process. In a way, globalization actually promotes inequality where the lower classes are doomed to a life of servitude to the elite classes who are far too often plagued by greed and corruption.

Works Cited

Coronil, Fernando. "Towards a Critique of Globalcentrism: Speculations on Capitalism's Nature." Duke University Press 12.2 (2000): 351-74. Project Muse. Web. May-June 2010.

Gikandi, Simon. "Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality." The South Atlantic Quarterly 100.3 (2001): 628-58. Project Muse. Web. Apr.-May 2010.

Slumdog Millionaire. Dir. Danny Boyle. Prod. Christian Colson. By Simon Beaufoy. Perf. Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor, and Irrfan Khan. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2008.

Global-a-gogo.. a BIG No-no!

Though the notions of globalization appear to come from a place of good intentions, uniting the world together under the globalization blanket does not necessarily generate a warm and cozy sense of concord, nor does it serve to the world’s best interests. Instead, extreme amounts of pressure are placed on the individual in the Eastern countries, where they fall victim and remain in utter servitude in the thralls of a capitalistic society. Fernando Coronil's essay, "Towards a Critique of Globalcentrism" sheds light on how globalization can actually be more harmful for nations operating on a smaller socio-economic scales. He propounds, "While the increasingly unruly commodifiction of social life offers possibilities for some people, it turns the world into a risky and threatening environment for vast majorities" (362). Coronil's essay illustrates the notions of how keeping up with the West is implemented on the Eastern countries. Though this sounds as though it would prove to be beneficial for countries who need economical assistance, it is actually detrimental. Countries maintaining high labor standards, such as America are in direct competition with countries that have no labor standards whatsoever. Notions of keeping up with the "West" implemented on Eastern cultures is seemingly absurd, and undermines the promotion of any sort of equality.

Furthermore, given the state of America's rapidly declining economy,why would we want to have other countries "follow our lead" when we barely are managing to stay afloat? The irony of it all lies within America having to borrow money from China...

Seemingly, China has the last laugh in the end...But no one can hear it.

Works Cited

Coronil, Fernando. "Towards a Critique of Globalcentrism: Speculations on Capitalism's Nature." Duke University Press 12.2 (2000): 351-74. Project Muse. Web. May-June 2010.

Preserving the Looking Glass

It is apparent media has such an enormous impact on today’s society; one can not seem to escape it. In Media Education Literacy, Learning and Contemporary Culture David Buckingham discusses how the role of media literacy is rapidly being infiltrated in the classrooms. He illustrates the complexities in trying to define media literacy and suggests it is not limited to “knowledge, skills, and competencies that are required to interpret media, rather “it also involves a much broader analytical understanding” (36,38). I find Buckingham's outline for analyzing media (as applied to film and television) to be particularly interesting in that he he adopts similar methods of deconstructing the text to the way in which an English class would analyze a novel. I understand there are some positive aspects in teaching media literacy to children at an early age, but I also am rather troubled and feel the need to posit the question, at what point is media literacy going to eventually take over and possibly replace invaluable classes in the academic curriculum such as, let's say... an English class?

Buckingham illustrates five different stages in which media literacy should be taught to students. I have to disagree with teaching media literacy to what he refers to as “stage one” . He propounds students at this level should begin to develop skills in being able to “identify and talk about different levels of “realism”, e.g. naturalistic drama vs. cartoon animation” (40). Stage one is designed for young students,(either presumably in preschool or kindergarten) who may have yet to obtain a full grasp of their “ABCs”. I think it is entirely inappropriate to bring media literacy into the classroom at such an early age. Young students have enough to worry about in regards to literacy, and by adding one more thing to the curriculum involving television could be detrimental in the acquirement of developing skills of reading and writing. It seems as technological advancements begin to increase, the desire for kids to sit down and read a book decreases.

Some of my most fondest memories of elementary school consist of looking forward to going to the school’s library. I had the ability to choose my own adventure while surrounding myself amongst fairies, pirates, and flowers who sang lullabies in exchange for my little library card. Story-time with the librarian was my favorite part of the day because it allowed me to escape into my own little world of fantasy, where it made no difference if the story was a product of realism or fantasy. In my own opinion, I think what Buckingham promotes, has the potential to destroy that fleeting magical state of childlike wonder which only lasts for a very short period of time. Furthermore, by promoting television and films in the classroom at such a young age hinders the chance for a child to utilize their imagination. Rather they are presented with images imposed upon them that sometimes cater to certain institutions, ultimately promoting ideologies and stereotypes. Of course, it is crucial to be aware of social messages certain films convey, just maybe at a more mature age. Call me old fashioned, but I say media literacy should be taught in high school classes. Let’s encourage children to engage in activities that promotes developing creativity through fantasy. Perhaps in doing so, it can prolong that special moment in time that slips away all too easily, and is eventually replaced with a sort of brutal cynicism that comes along with age and awareness of how the real world really operates.

Works Cited

Buckingham, David. Media Education: Literacy, Learning, and Contemporary Culture. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2003. Print.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Collaborative Media Literacy Presentation

The premise of this assignment is to deliver a 15- 30 minute presentation outlining a lesson on media literacy based on David Buckingham’s assertion, “the best way to analyze media is with media”. In the book, Media Education Buckingham suggests educators should adopt a more pragmatic approach in their classrooms, more interested in the students’ everyday experience with media in which they can employ in their everyday lives. He illustrates such notions stating “…the argument for media education is essentially an argument for making the curriculum relevant to children's lives outside school, and to the wider society” (5).

In keeping with Buckingham’s assertion, my group decided to focus on planning a lesson inculcating the importance of a proper works cited list. The primary objective of our assignment would not only have students familiarize themselves with using secondary sources from the internet (such as YouTube, JSTOR, etc.) the assignment would be beneficial in developing skills to create a flawless works cited page. Additionally, our assignment helps students discern the differences between credible and unreliable sources on the internet. As group, we felt this information is invaluable for high school seniors who are planning to further their education with college and/or (as Buckingham puts it) to the “wider society”.

Unfortunately, I was unable to physically be there in person for our presentation, but was responsible for the preparing the guidelines for our class discussion. I made sure to inform my group members in advance I would not be in class for our presentation, which did not prove to be problematic because I was still able to make some sort of contribution. Addtionally, I created a handout illustrating the assignment we would be assigning to our students. My group members informed me our presentation was a success, and were quite happy with the handout I created.

This is the following assignment I created:

English Senior Assignment

Properly Documenting Sources with Various Means of Media using MLA Format

This assignment will help to prepare you for future assignments in college. In college, you are expected to write various papers and essays that require outside sources in addition to the primary text that will further support your thesis. It is imperative to make sure your secondary sources are credible. We will be conducting our research via internet on our assigned reading Of Mice and Men. Additionally, please refer to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers to properly cite your sources.
1). Find a website on Salinas California. In 250 words answer the following questions:
• Write a summary about what you found, and how this furthers your understanding of the primary text, Of Mice and Men.
• Is the website you chose to conduct your research credible? Why do you think it is a reliable source?
• Make a works cited page following the MLA guidelines documenting your secondary source.
2). Find an interview with John Steinbeck and/or with a leading scholar or critic relative to Steinbeck’s writing.
• Write a summary on what you found in the interview that helps you come to better understanding of Steinbeck. Why is this relevant, and how can this be applied to Of Mice and Men?
• Is the website you chose to conduct your research credible? Why do you think it is a reliable source?
• Make a works cited page following the MLA guidelines documenting your secondary source.
3). Find a YouTube clip or scene in the movie adaptation that applies to Of Mice and Men. If you decide to use a scene from the movie version, please conduct your research by means of the internet.
• Compare and contrast your initial impression Of Mice and Men to your findings on YouTube or movie version.
• Summarize the scene you chose in the YouTube clip or scene from the movie adaptation. Be sure you are able to locate it in the book.
• Make a works cited page following the MLA guidelines documenting your secondary source.
4). Find a scholarly journal with an article that applies to Of Mice and Men. Please use the following website: JSTOR. This is an excellent source that has credible journal articles.
• In 250 words, summarize the article. How can it be applied to a research paper you are conducting?
• Make a works cited page following the MLA guidelines documenting your secondary source.
5). Write a short reflection on conducting research on the internet. Please include the following:
• In conducting your research, did you come across any unreliable sources? If so, how do you know they are not credible?
• What did you find interesting about this assignment?
• Do you feel comfortable using technology to conduct research?

One Final Note: I feel it is necessary to further expound on why I selected the above work of art to correspond with this blog posting. I chose this particular painting because I believe it personifies what the so-called “information superhighway” would look like if one could actually observe the frenetic energy materializing off the wires of the internet, as it travels through time and space. The painting is by Jackson Pollock entitled Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952. Pollock is otherwise known as the father of Abstract Expressionism, developed the innovative “drip” technique, which ultimately adds dramatically new dimensions to the canvas. The “drip” technique in which Pollock employs, consists of splattering paint dripping off the paintbrush, which never makes actual contact with the canvas. This technique permits Pollock to apply paint from all directions versus the more conventional approach which is more restricted. Comparatively, Pollock’s “drip” technique is similar to the ways in which students utilize the internet for conducting research for essay assignments. Like Pollock’s painting technique, the internet allows students to approach writing assignments from various different angles with the vast amount of information that is readily available at their fingertips without having to make any direct contact with their medium; the library.

Works Cited

Buckingham, David. Media Education: Literacy, Learning, and Contemporary Culture.
Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2003. Print.

You can't Trick a Trickster

Tricksters are cross cultural characters whose existence has served a common purpose since the dawn of time thus illustrated from the Book of Genesis to pop culture of today, whose roles are ensured in perpetuity. They are very slippery, and elusive mythological characters that cannot be characterized or isolated to one distinctive attribute. As their name suggests, Tricksters love to play tricks not only on the gods, but also on humans. Though Tricksters are often associated as “playful pranksters” they are not always jovial characters. The Trickster “…possesses a funny, absurd, iconoclastic sort of playfulness, yet the Trickster’s playfulness can carry with it serious, even tragic or transcendent, overtones” (Leonard and McClure 250). Though seemingly insignificant, Tricksters are often the catalysts for great change and a diversion from tragic circumstances. To categorize a Trickster would be “dangerous… tricksters are too quick to undercut our mental constructs, to cross boundaries, to belie the categories in which we try to cage them. In terms of this mythic figure, it is far better to be aware of his numerous roles, functions, characteristics, and then to question how these ambiguous characteristics convey meaning” (Leonard and McClure 253).

The Many Faces of a Trickster

Tricksters wear many masks in order to conceal their true identity, which “embodies so many, often contradictory qualities”. Some of these qualities are so diverse, and range from being as “carefree as a child” to being an “obscene lecher” (Leonard and McClure 250). Some of the ten fundamental aspects of the Trickster include; creator, culture-bringer, opportunist, mischief- maker, amorous adventurer, hunger-driven manipulator , credulous victim of others’ tricks, lazy work avoider, transgressor, and clown of the body

The Moral of the Story…

Do not ever put your trust into a Trickster! If anything learn from the Trickster’s blunders and transgressions. “The moral of the story often seems to be: laugh at but do not imitate the Trickster’s foolishness” (Leonard and McClure 252).
Tricksters may induce laughter, but also serve as conduits of illustrating the negative implications of what happens when an individual contravenes social structures and the natural order in which the world operates. Thus, the notion of “what goes around comes around” is personified through the Trickster’s dastardly and wayward ways.

Works Cited

Leonard, Scott, and Michael McClure. Myth and Knowing an Introduction to World Mythology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004. Print.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

An In Depth Look at the Creation Myth in the Book of Genesis

The creation myth in the Bible found in the book of Genesis chronicles the creation of the world, and establishes God’s early relationship with man. The two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 greatly contrast in the in the portrayals of the origins of the universe and humankind. The disparities in language, styles, syntax, are evident in Genesis 1 and 2, and are clearly written by different people. The two oldest groups of source documents are designated as the Elohistic and Yawhist traditions, both derivations from which the author refers to God as either Elohim or Yahweh respectively. Stephen L. Harris illustrates the differences in the two versions of the creation story documented by Genesis 1 and 2 and states, “Differences in style, vocabulary, and theology indicate that the first account is a priestly composition (Gen. 1:1-2:4a), but that the second (Gen. 2:4b-24) is the work of a Yahwist (J)” (103).
Genesis 1 illustrates the hierarchical categorization of all that is created in the world, by a cosmic, majestic and very calculating God (Elohim) who, with great precision, creates the world merely through the simplistic act of speech. The opening of Genesis 1 portrays God as ruler of cosmos stating, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that light was good; and God separated light from darkness” (New Revised Standard Version Bible, Gen. 1:1-4). The essential mode of Elohim is the act of creation; producing order out of disorder. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the word “created” is defined as,“brought into being by an agent or cause, made or formed by the divine power” (def. a). The divine powers of Elohim are emphasized through His power of creating “the heavens and earth” from a “formless void” (Gen: 1:1-2). “Elohim transforms a dark watery chaos into a cosmos, an orderly system characterized by predictability and harmony” (Harris 104). The cosmogony of Genesis 1 outlines the descriptive details of Elohim’s scrupulous order in creating the elements out of chaos into a structured environment, ultimately constructing a place in which humankind can inhabit. The transcendent order in which Elohim creates the universe is carefully mapped out in accordance to potentially serve the eventual needs of humanity.
Conversely, the Yahwist or J version of creation in Genesis 2 provides a different account of creation, possessing folklorist characteristics and anthropomorphic descriptions of the divine deity, Yahweh. The way in which God (Yahweh) is depicted in Genesis 2 greatly contrasts to the God (Elohim) characterized by Genesis 1 who, “initially appears as a transcendent, distant Being who speaks the world into existence” (Harris 103). In Genesis 2, creation is manipulated into being, and Yahweh is portrayed as lacking a sense of planning and order so extensively detailed in the creation account in Genesis 1. This is illustrated in verse 4 stating, “These are the generations of the heavens and earth when they were created” (Gen.2). Unlike Elohim, Yahweh comes to earth in order to bring humankind into existence, and “…is shown as immanent, stooping to mold the first human out of clay” (Harris 103). In Genesis 2, man is made of earthly materials of dust and clay, with the finishing touches of Yahweh’s divine breath. Verse 7 elucidates Yahweh’s creation of man stating, “then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being”(Gen.2). This is drastic departure from the creation account of humankind coming into existence illustrated in Genesis 1 which states, “So God created humankind in his image” (Gen.1:27).
Additionally, the creation order of Genesis 1 and 2 illustrate a difference in the relation between man and woman. In Genesis 1, man and woman are both created simultaneously and illustrated as equivalents in the image of the divine. The only expectation God places on humans is to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen.1:28). Conversely, the Genesis 2 creation story reflects more of an experimental give-and take process where Yahweh creates man first, who is called Adam (meaning humanity translated in Hebrew). It is only after Adam is produced, that Yahweh creates Eden, an environment in which he can inhabit. Woman is secondary to the creation of man, and is portrayed as having her sole existence revolve around being man’s “helper as his partner” (Gen.2:20). Additionally, woman is the final product of Yahweh’s creation in Genesis 2. “Only after placing the human alone in Eden, as gardener and caretaker does Yahweh apparently notice that total solitude is ‘not good’ for him” (Harris 106). In Genesis 2, the female is illustrated in an inferior manner to man, and is even given the name “woman” by Adam in a similar manner in which he names the animals. Woman is not given a proper name or referred to as Eve until the next chapter in Genesis (3:20).
Furthermore, there is a different set of expectations placed on man and woman in Genesis 2, introducing the “forbidden” motif. The only condition placed on man and woman is Yahweh’s proscription of consuming the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yahweh “commands” Adam to, “freely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die” (Gen. 2:16-17). This is quite a departure from the previous chapter in Genesis where Elohim’s only mandate for man and woman is to procreate.

Works Cited

Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible. Boston, Mass.: McGraw-Hill, 2007.

Leonard, Scott A., and Michael McClure. "Genesis The Creation Account." Myth and knowing: an introduction to world mythology. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2004. 84-90.

New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha. New York: New York UP, 1977.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fountain of Youth

O’ Muse, sweet Muse fill my soul,
with blackness, tar, and motor oil.
Inject thy face with the fat of the land,
withering willows wake the decay of time's rotten hand.
Narcissus, di Milo, automatons falling victim to youth’s joke,
the art of escaping age’s heavy-handed brushstroke.
Corpses sucked and tucked, fish-lipped looks of surprise,
Ghastly scarce the grace of looking old when one dies.