Friday, May 14, 2010

The Faulty Globalization of India

Globalization is a broad term that has had different meanings at different times. The earliest forms of Globalization could arguably be the slave trade and Imperialism. European nations traveled to Asia, the Americas and Africa and took resources and people for their own purposes. After colonialism fell apart the Western world did not vanish from the lives of the former colonies, but instead had established trading routes and rules. Globalization in the modern sense has many positive connotations. Trade relations are improved throughout the world. The job market is growing in nations like India, due to outsourcing, which hurts the U.S. but furthers the development of India. The internet and other technologies have brought a new level of communication between people throughout the world. Friendships are created through internationally played computer games, jobs, and business relationships are thriving due to the connections. India is a nation that blurs the line between being a developed nation and a 3rd world country. Globalization is partially responsible for the disparity between the highly developed side of the country, with its parliament, democracy, high rise cities, Western materialism, and the devastating slum life that is depicted so elegantly in “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“Slumdog Millionaire” is a movie made by British filmmaker Danny Boyle. His representation of India is not an authentic vision of India, but rather, a Westernized view. However, Boyle seems aware of this as is demonstrated by Jamal’s statement to American tourists after he is beaten up by a cab driver, that now they saw the “real India.” This line is reminiscent of another Western vision of India, E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, where British tourists want to see the “real India,” resulting in tragedy. The movie’s strength lies in showing the two different India’s in existence. The movie takes place mostly in Mumbai and the city is split between the slums, and the “regular,” or familiar to Westerners, existence of everyone else. Boyle and his crew moved into the slums and pulled out a few of the “attractive” or more Western looking kids to act in his movie, leaving behind the rest. It was stated that some of the proceeds of the movie would be put in a fund to try to improve living conditions in the Mumbai slums. The movie brings exposure of the lifestyle so many Indians are afflicted with, but stays away from the politics of why people are living this way.

India has made incredible progress in becoming a modern nation. Simon Gikandi, in his article “Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality” says, “Unsure how to respond to the failure of the nationalist mandate, which promised modernization outside the tutelage of colonialism, citizens of the postcolony are more likely to seek their global identity by invoking the very logic of Enlightenment that postcolonial theory was supposed to deconstruct” (630). After the departure of Great Britain from India in the mid 20th century, India did not return to its Islamic Imperial government. The Mogul Empire was demolished with the Western invaders, and the nation was secularized. India simply emulated the Western style of government by becoming a democracy with a parliament, and president. Although the colonial structure was broken, India was left to adopt the structure for itself, which legitimizes Gikandi’s statement.

Globalization has done more for India than supplying it with a form of government. It has changed the face of its major cities, provided jobs, enhanced the life of many of its citizens, and created a culture of consumerism. From Western standards, these are positive changes that are improving life for Indians, and making India a viable partner in international trade and politics. The downside to globalization is that India has not adapted its culture along with the technological and globalization developments. Millions of people are still caught by their caste and are unable to improve their condition of life. Too many people are still simply trying to survive and are denied education and jobs.

The caste system dates back to ancient India and was not given up after the British invasion. Keeping the social structure the way it was benefitted the colonizers because so many people were of a poor caste, that it was easy to replicate the system by creating the British as the new highest caste. This enabled Britain to maintain social control over Indians for a century, along with the military and government support. In order for the caste system, and essentially the slum situation, to persist it “needs to reproduce the conditions of its existence, and it will have to do this by engaging with identity, interests, consciousness, and reproduction of means of production and reproduction” (Natrajan 239). India is using its money to further develop what is already developed, rather than dismantle the cultural issues that are keeping most of the country in poverty. Ultimately, for India to truly join the successes of the West, they will have to confront their internal poverty and provide its citizens with proper housing, jobs, health care, education, and etc. There is a radical difference between those who have been “globalized” and those still living traditional lives.

One example of a people that have been left out of the benefits of globalization is the nomads of India. As their country develops all around them they are shunned by society. Even lower caste Indians despise these nomads and consider them “gypsies,” a pejorative term throughout the world. These nomadic peoples have practiced the same lifestyle for millennia. Their livelihoods consist of traveling occupations such as being blacksmiths, shepherds, hunting and gathering, “salt traders, fortune-tellers, conjurers, ayurvedic healers, jugglers, acrobats, grindstone makers, storytellers, snake charmers, animal doctors, tattooists, [and[ basketmakers” (Lancaster). The reputation of nomads suffered under British rule and Indians adopted the Western attitude toward them. The government keeps pushing them farther out from the cities and forces them to live in their own private slums on the outskirts of towns. India should focus on its nomad population and find ways to recognize their contribution to society and accommodate their needs. Instead, they are viewed as less than human, much the same way the British viewed Indians, Africans and Native Americans.

The problem of child labor is directly attributable to globalization. Factories and sweatshops are often filled with child employees, who make a very small amount of money. Parents are forced to send their children to work because they are doing all they can to survive and they can’t keep up with their debts. As manufacturing has grown, both for Western and Indian consumption, the labor has been provided by India’s poor, with little or no access to what they are producing. The West conquered this problem in the early 20th century, although according to Zehra F. Arat there are 2 million child workers in the United States today (180). This is an example that the problem never disappears, but it can be controlled. Another problem that exists because of the lack of regulation in the slums is child prostitution. So many young girls are forced into prostitution in order to survive and the government is not doing enough to prevent this kind of abuse.

India is going through a type of identity crisis. They are not beholden to Europeans any longer and are attempting to raise their status in the eyes of the world. They have partnered with companies in the U.S. and other Western nations looking for cheap labor. They have a Western style government. The have a strong military. They have an elite consumer class who are living lives similar to that of Americans in terms of materialism and interests. But they also have the situation of most of their population is poor, some irreparably so. This is quite literal. In America one can go to school, work hard and apply oneself, and usually this has a good outcome. In India, one needs a miracle, such as the children who were arbitrarily picked from the slums to be in a big- budget, big attention grabbing movie. Why those specific kids? What about all the millions who live that life everyday, throughout generations? India needs to solve these problems before the whole nation will truly be part of the global international community.

Works Cited

Arat, Zehra F. “Analyzing Child Labor as a Human Rights Issue: Its Causes, Aggravating Policies, and Alternative Proposals.” Human Rights Quarterly 24.1 (2002): 177-204. Project Muse. Web. 14 May 2010.

Gikandi, Simon. “Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 100.3 (2001): 627-658. Project Muse. Web. 21 April 2010.

Lancaster, John. “India’s Nomads.” National Geographic. (2010): n. pag. Web. 14 May 2010.

Natrajan, Balmurli. “Caste, Class, and Community in India: An Ethnographic Approach.” Ethnology 44.3 (2005): 227-241. JSTOR. Web. 14 May 2010.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Globalization and Exploitation in Post-Colonial Nations

Danny Boyle’s movie “Slumdog Millionaire” is a contemporary example of the problems of exporting Western ideas through globalization. When the West first came in contact with the East it had disastrous effects for the inhabitants and their cultures. Africa and Asia were divided and conquered by invading European, and later American, colonizers. The first wave of globalization brought along with it slavery, disease, disregard for human life and culture, and a sense of superiority that many people around the world are now rebelling against in the hopes of gaining some national self-esteem. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries globalization has an entirely different connotation. Technologies such as the internet, medicines, a global trade and economic system, and the proliferation of the English language and Western ideas has brought people together in positive ways that have never previously existed. However, this modern globalization does not have positive results for everyone. Very often the gap between the rich and the poor are larger than in America. Social inequities, such as labor diversification and the treatment of women fall to the wayside in favor of the productivity of international relations. Citizens in Western countries are struggling to find jobs as more and more manufacturing jobs and call center jobs are being out-sourced. And Western values are being challenged by immigrants who bring their cultural and traditional practices, such as Sharia Law and female circumcision to their new homes in America and Europe. “Slumdog Millionaire” and Simon Gikandi’s article “Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality” explore the cultural and social exploitation that still occur due to the radical difference between people living their traditional lives and those who have been “globalized” in countries like India.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Globalization and Postcolonialism

Some general ideas about globalization:

Globalization is a word that is thrown around a lot and therefore can seem to have a vague meaning. Fernando Coronil, in his article "Towards a Critique of Globalcentrism: Speculations on Capitalism's Nature," focuses on globalization in an economic and geographic sense. I like what he says about a need to reorganize and redefine groups of people. A lot of discussion about globalization is the idea of boundaries between peoples and nations being blurred. But I think it is a mistake to tout this as a success of international relations. Most of the world is still extremely divided by issues of race and money, and its relationship to the Western World. Iran is a good example. Iranians fundamentally look at life differently than Americans. I know I am generalizing here, and certainly do not want to forget that they are individuals too, but, in general, they have a different moral and ethical outlook on life. Their decisions about how to live are contrary to how we want them to live. Women do not have the same opportunities as we do. Their economic status and freedom is nowhere near ours. I do think that in some ways the world is becoming smaller thanks to technologies and the proliferation of English and Western ideas, but it is too soon to claim the erasure of boundaries. A lot of the tensions today occur because the U.S. and other Western nations are trying to erase these boundaries in order to reinstate their hegemonic power. Maybe they are not looking to colonize land and peoples, but there are other things to control, such as economic and political ideologies. I don't think what I am saying is too far off of Coronil because he also talks about the dark side of globalization: "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 and abandoned by their states" (368). It seems everywhere that the rich are getting richer, the middle class is vanishing, and the poor are getting poorer. Again, these are generalizations, but it is important to distinguish between the elite immigrants who have been educated and able to work or have money, and the millions of countrymen who are still living in their broken down native countries, or have immigrated but not failed to substantially improve their lives. Simon Gikandi says in his article “Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality,” "The majority of the postcolonial subjects who live through the experience of globalization cannot speak. And when they speak, they sometimes speak a language that is alien to their liberal sympathizers or the postcolonial √©migr√© elite” (644). I think that over time, as technologies and opportunities continue to progress that eventually other nations will be able to “catch up,” but that is going to be on their terms, not ours. I like Gikandi’s discussion about how English brought together writers from colonized countries. A discourse about the struggles for post-colonial identity is possible with English as the vehicle. If everyone were only knowledgeable in their own language, it would be very difficult to communicate and to move forward. And some great pieces of literature would not have been written, (or translated, as may be the case) robbing the world of some great thinkers.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Broader Literacy

I have been guilty of the attitude that David Buckingham is detailing in Chapter One of Media Education. He says, "All these media are equally worthy of study, and there is no logical reason why they should be considered separately. The claim that we should study 'literature' in isolation from other kinds of printed texts, or films in isolation from other kinds of moving image media, clearly reflects broader social judgments about the value of the different forms..." (4). I defined my desire to be a teacher by wanting to teach literature. And what I meant was the classic books that I love to read. Only in the latter half of my career at CSUN have I realized that literacy in today's world means so much more than classic books, it means contemporary works as well as other media. I agree with Buckingham that educators need to stop trying to moralize about the media because as he says, they "are at least redundant, if not positively counter-productive (33). Educators used to be upset about paperback books. They assumed that if it is a cheap mass market book it must be sleazy. Now paperbacks are ubiquitous and are published in all types of titles, from classic books, historical and philosophical books, to contemporary books. It seems funny to us that paperbacks were considered inappropriate reading material for children. This mindset is again enacted in the idea of different types of media being appropriate, and beneficial, to students. Intertextuality and transmediation help foster creativity and build critical thinking skills. By broadening the minds of our students, they will be able to use the analytical skills they have developed to decide if the input they are receiving is of value or not. Teachers need to not hinder this process, after all, this is the purpose of teaching. Technologies and other types of media are not going to go away. It is time for educators to embrace them and use them to teach kids a deeper, more practical kind of literacy. Buckingham says, "For literacy clearly involves both reading and writing; and so media literacy must necessarily entail both the interpretation and the production of media" (49). This is hard for me to accept, but ultimately I want to be an effective teacher, and to do that I have to embrace what is going on in our world and form my students to be literate in all kinds of ways so they can be a participating member of society.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coyote Provides Fire

This myth is very well known and not created by me. I only took a portion of the short story for the purpose of our group's facilitation. Again, I am not taking credit for this myth!
Long ago, when man was newly come into the world, there were days when he was the happiest creature of all. Those were the days when spring brushed across the willow tails, or when his children ripened with the blueberries in the sun of summer, or when the goldenrod bloomed in the autumn haze.
But always the mists of autumn evenings grew more chill, and the sun's strokes grew shorter. Then man saw winter moving near, and he became fearful and unhappy. He was afraid for his children, and for the grandfathers and grandmothers who carried in their heads the sacred tales of the tribe. Many of these, young and old, would die in the long, ice-bitter months of winter.
Coyote, like the rest of the People, had no need for fire. So he seldom concerned himself with it, until one spring day when he was passing a human village. There the women were singing a song of mourning for the babies and the old ones who had died in the winter. Their voices moaned like the west wind through a buffalo skull, prickling the hairs on Coyote's neck.
"Feel how the sun is now warm on our backs," one of the men was saying. "Feel how it warms the earth and makes these stones hot to the touch. If only we could have had a small piece of the sun in our teepees during the winter."
Coyote, overhearing this...
Based on the elements of the "Trickster" we have discussed so far, come up with your own unique conclusion by yourself or with your row to this short story. It is completely open ended; just use the elements we have mentioned as guidelines to how you think the rest of the story goes. Post your final product with an original title onto your blog when you are finished!
My part begins here: The beginning is from the group presentation.
Coyote sympathizes with the need of humans for warmth because they lack fur. First he gives them fur, but this causes anger amongst the other animals because he took the fur from them to make human clothing. This makes Coyote ostracized and he feels hurt because he had tried to help the humans, but at the expense of others. He calls out to lightening to avenge him and causes fire to follow him as he runs which the humans are able to grasp for their use, but the animals get burned out of their homes, and Coyote is forever banished from the community and has to live on the edges of society.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mythology Chapter One

I enjoyed this chapter because it set up a framework to understand how Mythology has been studied in the past, and how it all leads to the way it is studied today. The writers give a wonderfully detailed account of the positive influences these early schools of thought had, and the terrible fallacies they brought about. It was interesting learning about how Hitler was able to take advantage of the nationalism that was sparked in Europe during the 19th century, due to the comparative school's Eurocentric outlook on cultures and myths. I think they are saying that a responsible scholar takes into account the comparative view, but also is involved in field work and can use the knowledge that has been gained in psychology, anthropology and other view points, since the study of mythology has become popularized in the modern age. Leonard and McClure respect the cultures that the myths are culled from, they don't seem to denigrate them as primitive, or misunderstood science. Probably my favorite part of this chapter was the discussion about how myths are living. They are oral traditions that are passed down for generations before being written down. Contemporary mythologists seem to focus on all aspects of the myth, the story itself, who told it, where and how it was told, cultural and historical and psychological understandings of it, and the significance the myth has to the people it comes from, and to the people reading and studying it. I feel like I can trust the information in the rest of the book to not put Western principles first and view the myths as inferior because they may belong to the other.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Modern Day Poet

"She walks in beauty," cried Byron,
The road less traveled chose Frost,
Wordsworth's a wandering cloud,
But oh my, who am I?

I have no one to call "My Captain,"
I can't go to Innisfree.
My raven flew off and left me
With nothing but misery.

With a drop of Emily's genius,
And Hardy's dark imagery,
I could live in secret solace
Of what a poet I could be!

Quotes and references from
"She walks in Beauty" by Lord Byron.
"The Road not Taken" by Robert Frost.
"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth.
"Oh Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman.
"The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by William Butler Yeats.
"The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe.
Emily Dickinson, reclusive poetic genius.
Thomas Hardy, turn of the century cynic.