Tag Archives: Colonialism

Information can lead to arrogance

Since arrogance blocks common sense I would say yes, I agree with Ms. Stein. There is one hilarious myth that the front page of the New York Times contains more information than a man of the 19th century processed in his entire lifetime. There are many variations, and they are all full of shit. Then there’s the quaint notion that knowledge is equal to intelligence. Its true most intelligent people know a lot, but not all; just because you are smart doesn’t mean you put it to any use. On the hand most unintelligent people don’t know very much, and those that do are unintelligent because they lack common sense.

On an unrelated, largely self promotional note, my first article as a Staff Writer was published today; and thankfully nothing got axed.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/overload-alert/

http://yichinglin.com/2014/09/15/mille-feuille/

http://abozdar.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/enlightenment/

http://guthonestfaith.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/free-as-a-bird/

http://sethuiyer.me/2014/09/15/common-sense-a-superpower/

http://emo1956.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/information-overload/

http://morrighansmuse.com/2014/09/15/technologys-great-isnt-it/

http://kindlingword.com/2014/08/29/the-half-of-it/

http://ivymosquito.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/shut_down_noise/

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Disney Racism is Still Racism

As I have noted in earlier posts, whilst in Tanzania we spent a good amount of time with the orphans and schoolchildren that lived at the convent. The school library had a suprizingly decent selection of movies and we would often screen movies with the kids. Our group would decide which movie to watch, and one time we watched the Disney Princess and the Frog which everyone else said they loved. I had never seen it before, but did want to see it since I had heard so much about how it was incredibly racist (like Disney tends to be with animated films not set in generic Europe.) It was worse than I thought. For one thing it had every single thing stereotypically associated with New Orleans and Louisiana I can think of short of bared breasts, Katrina, and oil spills. Gumbo, frogs, jazz playing alligators, Mardi Gras, Voodoo, the bayou, and even more was just crammed together in the most contrived way imaginable. That’s not even getting into the “racist” part of it.

Much like Aladin and Mulan, the racism lies in its depiction of the primary antagonist. This film taking place in Louisiana Disney predicatably chose to make the villian, Dr. Facilier a top hatted “Voodoo Man.” Like any other depiction of voodoo in mass media, Dr. Facilier is shown as black magician in leage with evil spirits and scamming innocent people. What is so troubling about that? Well Voodoo (also spelt as vodou or vodun) is a living religion that along with the related faiths of Santeria and Cadomble claim several million adherents on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet the only time it is ever seen in the media is a dark, sinister cult practiced by dirty con artists. These misrepresnations have their origins from the fear many Westerners felt after the Haitian Revolution, and became cemented in popular imagination when Hollywood started attempts to depict voodoo following the Marine Corps intervention in Haiti during the 1920s.

What specifically was wrong? Let me explain. For one thing Dr. Facilier wears a feathered tophat and torn tail coat, with a shirt that is too small and a claw necklace. In reality tophats are strictly associated with spirits of the dead, and are worn with full formal dress because the death spirits are supposed to be wealthy; yet most pop cultures portrayals show all “witch doctors” wearing them along with generally primitive looking attire. No specific deities were named, probably because Disney didn’t actually do any research and couldn’t even contrive to use a very basic spirit like  Samedi, Damballah, Legba, Erzulie, or Shango (it would be like omitting Zeus et al from Hercules). No Catholic iconography appeared either: this is a huge error since slaves who brought their religions from Africa were forced to disguise their spirits as Catholic saints, usually ones that are remotely similiar. Instead just generic “friends from the other side” were used, and they looked more like poorly made Hawaiian Tikis than African entities. Most importantly they clearly had voodoo confused with Palo/Nganga, a seperate religion which is notorious for having unregulated priests who will do anything to make money.

<img src="charms” alt=”charms” /> shango erzulie

After the movie was done and the kids left someone on our team remarked that she was worried that maybe the movie might have scared children, since “voodoo is still practiced in some tribes in Tanzania.” Except that it totally isn’t. It’s about as prevelant in Tanzania as Shinto is in India. Complete absent if you were wondering. I corrected her and said that voodoo doesn’t exist in Tanzania or anywhere in East Africa, and that it only exists in West Africa. Actually that’s not even true, it really only exists in Haiti, Louisiana, and a few other Francophone areas, what they have in West Africa is Vodun has differences. I went on to say that its clear Disney didn’t do any research, and when another asked what made me think that I gave them an answer that was sufficiently watered down from what I have been posting. That individual informed that “there’s different kinds of Voodoo, and what they had in the movie is how it is in Louisiana.” Um no it isn’t, and besides in Louisiana it has been completely sold out by the tourist industry and weird white people who like stealing nonwestern religions. I didn’t say that, tactful Tom that I am. After I was done explaining what was wrong, yet another said that “most people wouldn’t know the difference.” I even attempt to explain that the movie was racist, since some people don’t even see racism in Peter “What makes the Red Man Red” Pan.

For further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_Voodoo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_Vodou
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_African_Vodun

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/matters-of-taste/

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Back From the Motherland (this time for real)

us

Hello faithful readers, as you know from either closely following this blog or by the last two posts I have been away in Tanzania for quite some time now. Well now I’m back. We arrived back in America on Thursday, but the 24+ total hours of traveling had left me to exhuasted to write a new post until just now.

To briefly recap what I had said we’d be doing earlier (click on the tag “Tanzania” for more) we went to go stay and help out a Benedictine convent. I baked bread, helped schoolchildren with Enlgish reading skills, organized medical records at a village clinic, and extracted sunflowerseed oil. I helped at the orhpanage once, but found the kids to be far more energetic for me to keep up with; though there were two other team members who were with them for the duration of our stay and are now in full maternal mode for them. Everyone on the team grew very connected with many indiviudals we met, alas because I have Asperger’s Syndrome I by and large did not. It’s not that I didn’t try, it takes me much longer to develope bonds and we simply didn’t have enough time. As the trip loomed towards the inevitable end everyone dreaded leaving, but I was more then ready. However by the last week I was beginning to feel a closeness with the people we met, and now I wish that perhaps the trip was longer so I would have had more time for that. Whatever the case, I was the only one who didn’t shed a tear during goodbyes.

This being subsaharan Africa, of course we saw lots of animals. Zebras, giraffs, elephants, baboons, antelope, gazelles, wildebeast, city monkeys, and weird black birds with white torso that make a very annoying sound. No lions or rhinos, but we did have an opportunity to pass throuh a reserve known for those two. We elected not to because it would have added three hours to our already 16 hour Jeep ride from Dar es Salaam to Songea. Songea is a small city about an hour from the convent, and once a week we would go there to buy supplies, check the internet, and get a much needed change of scenery. At the internet cafe I tried to post updates for you guys but the internet was way to shitty to get anything done. It took me like twenty minutes to check my email.

Overall I would say this trip is probably one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. So far, anyway. I did, saw, and experienced far too much to be shared in one post, so expect more information in the near future.

You can find more pictures here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Saint-Martins-University-Service-Immersion-Programs/1428976637321287?ref=stream (as you scroll down eventually you will begin to see more and more pictures from unrelated trips)

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Africa is a HUGE Place

I will be in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania within thirty days. I have been thinking about it a lot and today’s Prompt is fitting as the last time I held silence on something that should have been said was during a meeting to prepare for this trip. One member of the team laboriously put together a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of us an the village we will be staying at. It was very nice except for one detail: the background music. To me the music sounded extremely dark and gloomy (I think they were going for “ambient”), and it sort of seemed to unwittingly perpetuate the whole “Dark Continent” stereotype that dominates depictions of Africa. Someone said that the song sounded familiar and asked the slideshow creator where it came the. The answer? “It’s the theme music from Blood Diamond, it took me forever to find the right sounding song.” I’m not sure what was went by “right sounding,” but I have a bad feeling that meant “African sounding”.

Here is the problem: Blood Diamond took place in Sierra Leone, which is on the opposite side of the continent that Tanzania is on. Those two nations have nothing in common, so that would mean that there music is most likely entire different. I honestly couldn’t tell you the difference, but I’m sure it would be as absurd as playing Irish music on a slideshow about a trip to Russia. Ireland and Russia are both Europe after all. As much as I wanted to voice my concern, I held my silence and I’m glad I did. I wanted to suggest maybe searching for some music that was actually Tanzanian (or at least Swahili), but out of tact I did not. Honestly the Circle of Life would have been better, because its upbeat and the Lion King uses Swahili extensively. Or even some reggae, since while it is not actually from Africa it does have a message of peace and global unity. Oh well, I’m sure nobody who saw that slideshow saw what I saw.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/break-the-silence/

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The Ballad of William Walker

This is a (mostly) true story, so listen up:

Born in a one room shack in Tennessee
Then poorest state in the land of the free
Sure he was hick but was smart as can be
He passed the Bar when he was only three
William, William Walker ’tis of him I sing!

In New Orleans he practiced law
Then headed West as an outlaw
His dueling record without flaw
He was the smartest bastard the Frontier saw
William, William Walker a true gentleman thief!

He met up with pirates in San Francisco
They headed down to Mexico
Annexing Sonora promised serious dough
Creating new for land for slaves to grow
William, William Walker the man who don’t know bounds!

His project lasted one brief time
‘Till Mexico deported him without a dime
And put on trial for his illustrious crime
Got acquitted and a song of freedom he did chime
William, William Walker should have learned something!

He looked to Nicaragua where he saw a prize
A potential canal of tremendous size
Many adventurers answered his plies
They boarded their ships and descended like flies
William, William Walker crossing a point of no return!

They raped and pillaged the Mosquito Coast
Something Walker would proudly boast
The Nicaraguans proved an unhappy host
Since it was them who suffered most
William, William Walker Nicaragua’s would be king!

Expansionism sure brought him much joy
Adding Costa Rica was his next ploy
And for him that was rather coy
But his base was torched by a Costa Rican drummer boy
William, William Walker will he learn his lesson yet?

Never one to learn from a mistake
Nicaragua was too lucrative a cake
In Managua he plotted the next move to make
And won an election that was surely fake!
William, William Walker never gonna give it up!

Naturally he wanted more
And dreamed of the riches he could store
Having no problems with blood and gore
He invaded Honduras which was just next door
William, William Walker living out Manifest Destiny!

Things didn’t go so very well
It was to the Honduran army that he fell
They tied him to a post and rung a bell
Then the squad fired and now Walker’s in hell
William, William Walker what a wasted life!

Walker

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Review of King Leopold’s Ghost

I have just finished reading King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild. It tells about how Belgium’s King, Leopold II, managed to purchase the Congo as his personal estate. Many people are familiar with Stanley’s expedition of the Congo River, where he famously found Dr. Livingstone. What people do not know was that Stanley went to Congo in Leopold’s behalf, and that the duration of the journey was marked by monumental death and destruction. Torching villages, wiping out elephant herds, all of which laid a template for how Leopold would mismanage the Congo for the next several decades. What the book focuses on is how Leopold manipulated the global community into believing he was some great philanthropist (who took over the place simply to end bad things like slavery, female genital mutilation, and eating Pygmies), and how brave visitors eventually blew the whistle and led to his downfall. Congo’s resources have been proven to be more of a curse than a blessing, because the ample ivory, minerals, palm oil, timber, and rubber make it a very attractive place for exploitation. If Leopold didn’t take over someone else would have. Westerners have long viewed Africa as the Dark Continent, and this has proven to be a self fulfilling prophecy. Spreading lies that Africa was a savage place provided an excuse to exploit it, and as a result for the past three hundred years Africa’s history has been very Dark. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been one of the worst places in the world, and reading King Leopold’s Ghost will help you understand how it got that way.

amputee snake tintin

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Review of The Battle of Algiers

Today my political science class viewed the film The Battle of Algiers. The movie is fact based account of the Algerian War, where the National Liberation Front rebelled against French colonial rule and resulted in Algeria’s indpendance. We watched the movie because we are currently discussing terrorism and what causes people to resort to terrorism in the first place. Despite wholeheartedly siding the the FLN, it is made clear that there activities fall neatly within the confines of terrorism. Numerous bombings, murder of police officers, and various other acts pf terror are shown. That is balanced with by depicting the human rights abuses carried out by the French as well. The FLN is clearly made to be heroic, but the French are hardly villinized even after it was established they resorted to torture. So rather than reduce the Algerian to a simplistic black and white tale, The Battle of Algiers makes it clear how complex the conflict was; meanwhile it is still an easy to follow film.

Another thing that makes this film expeptional are the artistic merits. Almost no proffesional actors were cast. Instead the FLN members were all played by real life members, and many of the French soldiers were played by actual French veterans. Such an approuch gives so much authenticity, and it took advantage of an opportunity not always present. The cinematography is stunning, it was filmed on location in Algiers and the decision to film in black and white was executed beautifully.

The Battle of Algiers is a film I recommend to everyone. It is ranked fairly high in “all time greatest film” lists, so that is a concensus. It is especially relevant to modern American viewers as many see parallels between France’s struggle and America’s involvement in the Middle East. With Syria’s future in the balance watching it now is esspecially timely.

poster still

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058946/

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