My application of Ngugi wa Thiongo’o’s concept of
“colonizing the mind”.
Please click here: Prezi Presentation
My application of Ngugi wa Thiongo’o’s concept of
“colonizing the mind”.
Please click here: Prezi Presentation
I stumbled on a seemingly innocuous tweet accompanied by a photo, both from Rainn Wilson (AKA Dwight Schrute from the sitcom “The Office”).
The tweet: @rainnwilson “Meeting with some of the 1st girls we taught in Haiti @JPHPRO 5 yrs ago @LideHaiti www.facebook.com/lide.org”
The accompanying image:
Analysis and Interpretation
First let me presume what Wilson intends to express to his fans and followers. For one thing, he’s traveling. He’s able to travel. He’s traveling to an exotic place. He’s not on vacation. Next is that he is on the front lines. He is with who he identifies as “Haitian girls”. The most important thing he is telling us though is that in some way, shape or form, he’s a teacher, “…the girls we taught…”.
Did he actually teach them? Cursory research finds no indication he spent any time in Haiti teaching children five years ago (during the height of “The Office”). Putting that aside, or even giving him the benefit of the doubt does not much minimize the analysis. More likely we will find that he is doing what the wealthy does; support teaching with his money. By extension then, he is teaching, because he is representing (paying for) a particular “us” who are then teaching a particular “them”. Everyone in their place.
Look at the young women in the photo; the “girls”, as he identifies them. None of the five are looking at the photographer. One looks at the floor, the others look almost nervously at each other. This represents a disassociation between the human beings in this room/facility. A hierarchy between teacher and pupil. The women do not appear eager to be seated in a line up and being displayed. The photographer wields power here. The photographer may or may not in fact be the teacher, but from the look of the expressions of the women, the photographer is above them, or superior.
This is the link on the tweet which leads to a Facebook page. The latest entry on this page is partially featured in this image:
The text which I have included in the image includes: “[Kara] has nowhere else to go’ the facilitator says”, and “the name ‘Kara’ is a pseudonym used to protect the participant’s identity”. The post continues, “The first photo [above top] in this posting is Kara’s ‘A Tree Alone in the Sky’. The second [above lower] is a girl much like Kara in the Lide program…”
Unpacking this text and image raises questions, revealing post/neo-colonial rhetoric. Note that the “girl” is given a pseudonym (Kara) and “nowhere to go”- she is essentially a non-identity. There is also a “facilitator”. A facilitator (even with a lower-case “F”) is a title. It is a job, a duty. It carries a sense of import, while the simple “Kara” does not. A facilitator here benefits from being nameless and faceless because the facilitator can and does represent us, the powerful, the smarter, the more civilized, the blessed, the fill-in-the-blank-in-how-we-are-better. We are the facilitators we are not the singular downtrodden; not them. Here the facilitator magnanimously even offers a name to the girl. Poor, poor Kara. There is a definite hierarchy here.
Now take another look at the lower photo, of the “girl”. First the post tells us they are protecting the identity of the girl through using the pseudonym “Kara”, yet they then post a photo of “a girl much like Kara…” Are they telling us that the girl in the photo has no identity worth protecting? And how is this girl “much like Kara”? Is it simply the color of her skin? It is almost sure that we will assume so. The “girl” with the story and the “girl” in the photo are at best stereotyped. They are fulfilling the colonial, postcolonial and neocolonial image of the “native”. We’re comfortable with that image.
The concepts of identity, agency and autonomy are in short supply here. At best they are ignored. At worst they have been manipulated and contoured to fit a narrative of race, ethnicity, need, of sympathy, of hopelessness, etc.
Now let me take a deeper look at the two groups referred to by Wilson. The tweet mentions @JPHPRO, and a visit to their site “Haitian Relief Organization” shows their mission is “To save lives and build sustainable programs with the Haitian people quickly and effectively.” That seems fair enough.
But who serves on their board? Well, along with actor Sean Penn, the six others are all high-powered White people from the USA or the UK, with the exception being Jean-Max Bellerive- who happens to be the Prime Minister of Haiti. While there may be questions about how much money they receive and where does it go, I would believe that it is all legitimate and is not pocketed. However, the point here is to see who is deciding on development projects and opportunities for Haitians- overwhelmingly it isn’t Haitians. An argument could be made that the organization actually not for the Haitians. Rather, it is for Americans, simply as a place where they can direct their charitable contributions.
Back to the “Lide” Facebook page. The “About” box for this organization offers the following link: https://www.monafoundation.org/staff.php. Discovering that this (global) organization supports “universal education”, certain postcolonial studies warning bells go off- as “universal education” being coded (as in “we are normal, you’re not, we’ll teach you how to become normal- and in the process discard your language, culture, etc.”). Who is on the Board of Directors for this organization? Out of eight directors, six directors are women, not a single director is Black, but oh yes, one of the directors is Rainn Wilson himself.
The organizations discussed here are not inherently bad. They may in fact be considered “good causes”, depending on the criteria with which they are judged. However, through postcolonial critique they reflect and support the power structures, hierarchies of wealth and cycles of perpetual dependency which define neocolonialism.
Where is power located? The power in this example is based in the “First-World”, empirical, neo-colonial capitalist structure. It is where the wealthy, the church, and NGOs decide much of the developmental projects and opportunities for places like Haiti. In that sense, the best interests of the lower class recipients are not necessarily represented, but instead could be subjected to the whims of the Boards of Directors and what may look good or feel good, or what will generate additional funding.
Who, if anyone, wields the power? As discussed above, government, military, Boards of Directors, wealthy individuals (actors, musicians, etc.), clergy, charity workers, and even tourists wield power through deciding where conditions might be improved and where not. That in itself is not bad, however it depends on the criteria used to make those decisions.
What pathways does it take through a society? From systems of education both in the USA and the neocolonial states, to the eliciting of sympathy (but not empathy) from church congregations, from diplomacy and unfavorable trade agreements, from perpetually portraying the “other” as helpless, primitive, as always in need. The “other” are almost never successful unless they have become incorporated in the very same organization that “saved” them. Then often they will be featured somehow. Otherwise they are always shown to be in need and they always need more.
What impact does it have on individuals? For the “givers” there is a sense of altruism, it may assuage their inherited (White) guilt, help them to deny or ignore history, and believe it will please God and help them get to heaven. They get to feel good about themselves, feed their ego, record an exotic experience, or take advantage of cheap labor.
For the “needy”, they learn dependency, they learn they are not good enough or not as good as those from the empire, they learn to reject their own culture as being “less than”; as being a source of shame.
From somewhere hot,
Facebook.com/lide.org. Web. 29 March 2015
Jphro.org. Web. 29 March 2015
Monafoundation.org. Web. 29 March 2015
Rivken, J., & Ryan, M. (2004). Literary theory: an anthology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
We evolve. As individuals and as species, we all evolve. I look back at the last decade and besides the obvious aesthetic and sometimes superficial changes, and setbacks and advancements which I experienced, I note the evolution of my capacity for critical thinking.
When I go back to my ramblings from 2007-2010 for example, I often cringe, but I see the nascent signs of what was to come in so far as clarity and development of my personal philosophy; how I view life and the dynamics, issues, topics and situations which I experience.
I felt deeply then as I do now about justice/injustice, equality/inequality, and many other subjects. In 2010 I went back to school, taking four culture and art related courses at Mesa Community College. After one semester I was hooked and headed to Arizona State for full time immersion in some good old Humanities.
Specifically I looked to satisfy my hunger for knowledge, to improve how I think about my own world view, add coherence and clarity; build a stronger foundation (even at my…ahem…advanced age). I have always endeavored to “walk the talk”. But if I wanted to “walk more upright”, I needed to improve the “talk”. That’s what education means to me; a continuing opportunity. Where and how I apply the ongoing results of my education remains besides the point. Achieving my own potential is the utmost importance.
Now as I contemplate which classes to enroll in for my 3rd grad school semester beginning in August, and begin coalescing my personalized “Plan of Study” (POS), I am much more aware of how my academic experience of the last 4-5 years has impacted me and evolved my thought processes. I’ve enjoyed being liberal in choosing my classes and indulging in my passions, but it is time to bring it into focus.
My classes and interests have included African Studies, African American Studies, Human Rights, Science, Religion, Manifestos, Hate Speech, Radical Writings, Literary Theory, Global Justice, Film & Media Studies, Ethnic and Cultural Conflict Studies, Che Guevara and Cuban/Caribbean/Latin American Studies.
How I think about each of them has evolved significantly over the years. Not that I have radically changed my mind on any of them, only that I have become better equipped to think critically and discuss the issues which relate to them. It is now a deeper and more thorough process. My thinking is not founded on what I hear on TV or radio or read somewhere on the internet. It is quite rewarding.
One of the greatest rewards of “higher thinking” is my ability to avoid comment, debate or argument with those “knee-jerkers” who react through shallow emotion and simply have no idea what they are talking about. I no longer concern myself with the need to enlighten anyone on any particular subject which I may have acquired some “expertise”- unless by their request. Instead I go along happily, knowing that what I know suffices for me on my own journey.
There is however one personal issue which I have given much consideration lately; that is: my photographs. Some of the images which were taken five-plus years ago makes me cringe today. I have internally debated whether or not to remove them, apologize for them, or whether I am just over-reacting. I am focusing especially on those images I took in Ghana in 2007.
I have been complimented often on them. I have sold many prints of them. I have amazing memories of my brief journey there. But what do these images symbolize? What was I seeing? What was my intention?
Do these images support the (now repulsive) narrative of the “exotic”? Do they promote the (now abhorrent) Western, romanticized view of the “other”? Do they seek to solicit modern, neo-colonialist sympathy toward (stereotyped) “African” children? For me to take pride in the imagery I present – if only to a few viewers – means to know that I am “walking the talk” – my talk. But I am not the same guy I was in 2007 when I traveled to Ghana. Sure I was aware of the concepts of imperialism, colonialism, the slave trade, injustice, etc., but my critical thinking was nowhere near as competent or engaged as it is now.
Besides more awareness, I am more knowledgeable in history, as well as theories and concepts. I have developed and improved my thought-processes for critical thinking. Whatever I decide, or how I feel, regarding my previous work, it honestly reflects where I was, physically, intellectually, emotionally. I endeavor to honor the promise that my projects will always “walk the talk” through my “vocabulary” of that moment.
From somewhere temperate,
I saw this headline on MSN.com today…
“Dresden crowds tell a chilling tale of Europe’s fear of migrants”
Fear. Europe and the USA primarily, are nations which have an “immigration problem”. They’re afraid. What are they afraid of? If asked, they would likely say that they fear losing control of their country to the “other”. They fear losing identity. They fear dilution of the intrinsic nature of what it means to be American, to be British, to be etc.
I call hogwash on that. Let’s cut to the chase. Deep down, locked away in a place which few can access and even fewer acknowledge, there is a fear of being accountable. A fear of losing the wealth and spoils acquired from centuries of pillaging, colonizing, raping, burning, corrupting, devastating, and destroying those very places which desperate migrants are coming from.
The great powers of Europe and America ran roughshod over the known world for centuries. Please consider that again; CENTURIES. I don’t even have to list what they did, who they did it to, or how they did it. If you don’t know it, you’ve just landed here or have been living under a rock. Okay, I suppose you could be watching only Fox News for years also.
Come on, what part of this do you not get? You can’t understand why Human Beings from regions which we, yes WE, ravaged like a cheap buffet and still left without paying, will risk their lives seeking an opportunity to live meaningful lives?
The depth of your fears cannot hold a candle to the hopeless desperation coupled with the steel courage it must take to attempt a journey to a “first world” country. Where even if one gets there, nothing is promised, not much is even likely, except to be vilified, hunted down and deported or worse. And Americans and Europeans are afraid?!?! Excuse me!?!?
Karma. Chickens coming home to roost. What goes ’round comes ’round. You don’t get it? This privileged society which we enjoy did not come from pixie dust or unicorn farts. You know what happened, but you want it to all be water under the bridge now. Live and let live, starting now. Get over it, it’s all in the distant past. Well not that distant really. But that’s what you’d love I bet. Let bygones be bygones. Um, sorry. No.
Take advantage of people for hundreds of years, then starting NOW! you want a clean slate where you have – because you worked for it, you earned it, you deserve it– and they do not have – because they squandered it, refuse to earn it, don’t deserve it?
I’ve heard it ad nauseam, “my family never owned slaves”, “I’m not prejudice against anyone”, blah, blah, blah. On an individual basis, most members of the dominating class are hypocrites. I don’t have the energy to get into it here, but it’s so obvious to me as to render any of their paltry “proof” as embarrassingly ridiculous.
It’s the system. It’s the institutions which the system supports and maintains. It’s the framework of a society which was built on the backs of those who were prevented from enjoying the fruits of their labor.
So don’t be surprised when their descendants demand recompense for generations of being subjected to a (globally implemented) system of injustice and inequality.
Time to say good-bye to 2014. Almost everything that could have happened did happen. Well yes that’s an exaggeration, but it was a roller coaster ride of a year. The year started with an escape from frigid Wisconsin, as we arrived back in the desert warmth in February. Valentine’s Day was a familial disaster of epic proportions; so be it.
Spring provided me with the incentive to get my health back to optimal and after losing some 30 pounds I got off “Big Pharm” meds for Type II diabetes and high blood pressure. Never again will I let myself go like that. Summer was great for grad school preparation and immersing myself in studying Che Guevara and other topics which resonated with me. It was damn hot, but a damn good summer.
Autumn may be on the calendar but in Phoenix its not really a season. Its more about us Phoenicians praying for the summer to die already. It wasn’t until November when temps started to drop into a comfortable range again. I made my first ever entire traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings; turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes (topped with marshmallows), green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, gravy and hot rolls. Apple and pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert (Costco bought). It was a great day to eat and watch football.
December came with a 4.0 GPA from my first grad school semester and even more significant, a paradigm shift in my outlook on life and my future.
2015 is looking very good.
From somewhere colder than the brochure said it would be,
For a song with a rude title, the sentimentality is palpable. Life is continuously slamming some doors in our face and cracking opening others for a peek. Some we try to jam with a foot, others we push on with all our might. And sometimes all we can do is just keep walking down the hallway…. as long as you have the time of your life…
For one reason or another, these fictional characters made significant impacts on my life, beginning in 1971 when I was 13….
Tom Corbett 1971 (“Eddie’s Father”)
Jeremiah Johson 1972
Josey Wales 1976
Richard Collier 1980
Terry Brogan 1984
Larry Darrell 1986