Monday, December 9, 2013

Silvas - The "other" in District 9, Dances With Wolves, and Schindler's List

District 9 is a cautionary tale about the way humans interact with others. In the film, the bureaucrat Wikus van de Merwe is exposed to alien fluids while evicting aliens out of their homes. Soon after he is exposed he begins to show signs of becoming an alien himself. Van de Merwe befriends an alien named Christopher Johnson and his child in order to find a way to reverse the effects of the alien fluids. During the final battle, and just as Christopher is about to be killed, van de Merwe sacrifices himself to free him.
District 9 lays out how simple it can be to realize empathy. The film is an extreme example, but it nevertheless demonstrates the power of understanding. The film suggests that we as human beings should be more cautious about how we treat other beings; the Holocaust ended over a half-century ago, but genocides continue to take place and probably will continue into the future.
            Stephen Spielberg addresses this issue of walking in another’s shoes in Schindler’s List. Even though he can’t truly know how it feels to be a persecuted Jew, by the end of the film Schindler demonstrates empathy by saving Jews in his factory. Conversely, Officer Goeth seems to come close to understanding, but ultimately fails and retaliates with violence.
            In Dances With Wolves, John Dunbar manages to completely immerse himself in understanding of the other. Dunbar, after befriending the Native American people, becomes so immersed in their culture that he lives among them instead of at his military post. When Dunbar does finally return to his post, he finds that it has been overrun by American military officers. Dressed in Native American attire, the officers mistake him for an Indian. When it is revealed that he is a fellow officer, they all become very suspicious and hold him captive. The officers mock Dunbar for associating with Native Americans. During the final battle of the film, Dunbar kills several of his former allies and solidifies his integration into the Native American society. Even after this final struggle, Dunbar fears that the American officers, unrelenting in their refusal to accept the Natives, will retaliate with even stronger force once they find dead soldiers.
            History has proven that human nature remains the same throughout time. Societies might evolve and technology might become more sophisticated, but humans themselves are doomed to commit the same xenophobic and anti-humanistic crimes over and over. There are many real life instances of humans changing their ways like Schindler, and Dunbar, but the majority of humans still seems to be hesitant to understand.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Puma: The Nature of Genocide and Noticing the Signs

District 9, Bent, and Hotel Rwanda are all keen examples of systematic genocide that take place. How did these things happen in the first place? How do they continue to happen? How do they happen in the future? When you examine the nature of the human being, there is a specific thing that stands out with humans against any other organism, individuality. Humans understand things about themselves, and tend to band together with those that share the same traits, personalities, and physical dispositions. It is a known fact in today’s day and age that obese and overweight people tend to group together as friends alike desirable and attractive people. The same goes for happy and unhappy people. You should take a moment to imagine how you compare to your friend group. I am part of a fraternity, something that perpetuates the idea of a social group.
                When down the line does that social group turn into something else? When does that social group, turn into a militant mob, hell-bent on defeating and eliminating another social group? In Bent it was the thought that homosexuals were lower than Jews and Gypisies, almost traitors to the social group because they were Aryan Germans themselves in certain circumstances. In Hotel Rwanda it was years of oppression on the Tutsi’s part that enraged the Hutu’s enough to commit acts of genocide. In District 9 it was the misunderstanding and subsequent distrust of the prawns.
                It seems that genocide starts with individuality, a banding of like individuals, a disagreement or misunderstanding of other bands of individuals, culminating to the elimination of the other individuals in order to preserve a way of life. When I break it down like that I imagine how humans treat other organisms. Humans, as a whole social band, enjoy being clean. We have declared genocide on cockroaches and rats (I use these examples because in almost every film we have watched these years the people under the threat of genocide have been called and likened to these organisms). The average human attempts to kill every rat or cockroach they see in their home or other homes. They particularly are not welcome in homes. I specify homes because I have never seen someone attempt to kill a cockroach on the street, where they belong. It is only when the cockroaches and rates encroach on our way of life do we feel the need to murder them.
                The same is for gays, Tutsis and prawns. The people who were causing the genocide felt that their way of life was being encroached upon, and they would do anything in their power to preserve that way. In all the films there were people who went against the genocide, that were on the side of the people causing the genocide. It is those people who are having an incredibly difficult time because it necessitates them to go against their social nature. Have you ever met someone who will allow roaches and rats to thrive in their house because they don’t want to kill them? I know I haven’t.

                Genocidal behavior is in our nature. It happens on a daily basis all over the word, just on smaller scales. Whenever we fight one another physically, is that not saying that we want to murder this person, that we want to eliminate that person? Genocide is the act of murder brought to an incredibly large scale. As long as humans continue to step on cockroaches and set mousetraps there will be genocide in the future. The only thing we can do about it is prevent it from happening. To make SURE we notice the signs. 

Lopreore, Katie- Genocidal Attitudes Repeating

When I began this course, I believed I would be learning about past events; however, after the second part of the course, I realize that the genocidal attitudes that humanity should have learned from the holocaust continue to this day. This week’s film, District 9, gave a science-fiction allegory of apartheid, and revealed that human beings continue to refuse acceptance of people/ culture that are different. The Holocaust, Rwandan genocide, and the fictional District 9 occurred only decades apart from each other, yet after each event, the people acknowledge how wrong they are and apologize. Similarities in The Pianist, Hotel Rwanda, and District 9 reveal that though the world looks down upon genocide, humans continue to fail because of the tendency to obliviously act in the same pattern as the past when new “others” arrive.

In the Pianist, the Holocaust is depicted and remembered as this terrible event in which Jews were tossed around like animals on their way to a slaughterhouse. The main character had to watch as his family was loaded into a train and sent to the concentration camp where they were exterminated. Though laws were passed after the end of WWII to protect Jews from such harsh treatment, this dehumanizing behavior was repeated in Rwanda. In Hotel Rwanda, which showed the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, the Hutus tossed around Tutsis and gathered them like sheep and shot them all on the streets. They thought they were inferior and treated them as animals and not human beings. The world watched as the holocaust was repeated; thousands of Rwandans were being murdered and tortured, and little was done to prevent or stop it. Peter Jackson and director Neill Blomkamp used this theme of history repeating itself with aliens and humans. District 9 was used to mirror the Bantu homelands, where blacks were designated to live far away from South Africa. This movie was a visual representation of what people have been doing for many years: herding the people who were different into packs and mistreating them as if they were inferior.

In fact, inferiority is always part of the reason humans develop genocidal attitudes towards certain groups. In the Pianist, they showed that they believed Jews looked different and came from a different culture. To make no mistake, therefore, they needed to wear visible stars on their clothing when walking in the streets so that they clearly stood out as outsiders of the superior Aryan race. Because they looked and believed in different things than this “superior race,” they began to send them into the concentration camps to be exterminated. By the end of WWII, people were disgusted at how people were murdered just for acting/looking differently. Years later in Rwanda, however, Hutus began passing out machetes to each other to kill the Tutsis. In Hotel Rwanda, the Hutu radio station continued telling the listeners the differences in appearance between Tutis and Hutus, and said that Tutis were “cockroaches.” By isolating the Tutis from the Hutus by appearance, Hutu people were able to feel like it was their duty to keep Tutis out of Rwanda by exterminating them all. District 9 uses the idea of using appearance as a reason to get rid of a group. The people in the movie called the aliens “prawns” because “they looked like bottom feeders.” Because they had different customs and different appearances, the humans in the city were appalled and believed the human way was right, and the alien way was wrong. They decided to use legislature and even violent acts to show the aliens they were inferior to the human race, and revealed that humans continue to act hostile towards differences.

These three movies revealed many things about humanity. People will always feel the need to categorize each other into groups that are superior and inferior and then mistreat the unlucky minority. Also, people use power and manipulation to convince a group that a certain race/culture needs to be liquidated. The only thing the world can do to prevent genocidal action is to act when these trends appear rather than waiting until the end to apologize.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Graston: History Repeating Itself

District 9 is a movie about an alien race forced to live in an terrible, concentrated conditions in Johannesburg, South Africa. The movie was very hard to watch, perhaps even more so than the other films. This is probably because it isn't a film about the historical mistakes of our past, but the possible mistakes of the future. In watching the film, the scenarios didn't seem all that unrealistic (aside from the aliens). Many believe that history is doomed to repeat itself; I like to think that mankind has the ability to learn from our mistakes. District 9 is an example of how history could easily repeat itself, which is why it made me so uncomfortable. Humans failed to “accept the other” in this instance because they refused to accept the aliens because they didn't understand them, and reverted to treating them as second-class citizens undeserving of humane treatment. Ironically, it was the aliens who showed mercy to the protagonist of the film when he was transitioning from human to alien. Even his family and friends turned their backs on him, showing no traces of “humanity” in the slightest.

In Bent, a homosexual Jewish man is put into a concentration camp based on his sexuality and religion. This is a good example of how Germans refused to accept “the other”, or a lifestyle they did not understand. In many ways, the way Max was living was a well-kept secret in Germany for many years. Citizens may have been somewhat aware of the gay clubs and such, but once word spread, and Hitler expressed a disdain for this lifestyle, people become more and more outraged by the idea. It is important to remember that people think homosexuality is wrong in instances such as these because they don't understand or can't relate to it. Because they can't relate, the assume that they are not equal.

Dances with Wolves is another example of how mankind has not understood a certain lifestyle and resorted to trying to get rid of “the other”. The Native Americans displayed a culture that had very few similarities to the White men who invaded their lands; because of this, they either resorted to killing them if they were disobedient or forced them to move from their land. We killed off thousands of Native Americans simply because we didn't understand them, a mistake that we have repeated many times since then.
When it comes to all these instances of genocide and crimes against humanity, people have chose to focus on the our differences rather than our similarities. In the future, if we were to remember we are repeatedly going to encounter people who are dissimilar to what we are used to, but that they are still the same in a way, then maybe we can avoid mass murder in the future.

Galvan - Human Failing

           Human failing is something that has been occurring longer than it should be. We have seen it in multiple forms and unfortunately it is something that does not seem to be stopping. More specifically, genocide has been something that has occurred for far too long. The Holocaust, the Native Americans and the fictional aliens in the film District 9 are a few different examples of how genocide has transcended. The Nazi Holocaust was the first type of genocide that we started this semester off and the first film, Europa Europa was a prime example of how humans have failed “the other.”

          Europa Europa is an example of human failing because humans have become something that they are not. This film centers around a boy who is living a lie, basically. He is stating that he is not Jewish in order to avoid being taken to a concentration camp. This specific idea is a failure to humans, not only because we are exterminating a specific race, but because it has caused others to lie and call themselves something that they are not. Solek is a boy who finds himself conflicted over his identity of being a Jewish man or not. Had the Holocaust not occurred, he would have securely been able to call himself a Jewish man but since this did happened he failed himself, in a sense, and was forced to lie about who he was. He was unable to be his true self and that right there is a human failure.

          The opposite situation occurred in the film Dances with Wolves, where the main character who has on the evil side of genocide found himself transferring to the side of “the other.” He found himself as a member of the Sioux tribe as opposed to the U.S. Army he was once a part of. Instead of failing humanity, he made it proud. He became a part of “the other” group but unfortunately the film honed in on human failing as well due to the fact that the U.S. Army tried to take John Dunbar out once they found out that he was a part of the Sioux tribe. The fact that they could not even accept a member that was once their own is a huge example of human failing. The lack of compassion towards someone who was once theirs is horrible.
          District 9 is the final film that we have watched this semester and I feel like it encompasses this idea as a whole. We are seen a fictionalized version of genocide and it is exactly the same as the ones that we have seen in the past. We humans fail to recognize “the other” and in this film we are failing to make them one of us. Even though it was not set in the future, it contains a futuristic idea that no matter what, this idea is going to continue. We are going to continue to refuse to accept “the other,” even if “the other” is not a human being.

Bussat- Perspective and Acceptance

Genocide has taken various forms throughout history. Some events like the Holocaust are engraved in our minds. However, similar situations have happened since then, which proves that genocide is here to stay. It will not stop happening, no matter how educated we have become on the subject. We are aware of these human failings and yet we choose to ignore it. The media bombards us with the reality that humans can be evil, that life outside of our comfortable bubble is hard and unjust. We shut down, emotionally switch off, and continue our routine because we know that life is hard. Does it make us evil to ignore the atrocities taking place around us? The truth is, we all try to survive. Some have to fight to stay alive while others only have to fight to keep their jobs, but in the end, we are all winging it.

At one point, it was easy to say that Nazis were all evil, that the KKK had no right to life, that Hutus deserved to die a horrible death; but can I judge when I haven’t been in their shoes? It is not to say that Hitler himself was not a crazy man, he was insane and evil without a doubt. However, he was one evil man with a horrifying agenda that convinced others to join in his insanity. He was just one man. What about the rest that followed his Nazi beliefs? And I don’t mean only the concentration camp guards, but people like Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, or even Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s Deputy within the Nazi party. These were educated people, yet their actions showed ignorance. They blindly followed insanity because the Jews were dehumanized. Out of xenophobia, we follow immorality. Acts of genocide reveal that human beings are highly influenceable and easily manipulated.

Now, what about the powerful people that had the ability to put an end to, or at least slow down the Holocaust. Where do they stand on the morality spectrum? They watched atrocities happen and stayed passive. Some, like Schindler, tried their best to help the Jews, but a majority ignored the obvious. This passivity can be considered a sort of evil, in which case, we are all guilty of evil. We let events in Darfur occur and focus on trivial issues instead. In the end, all of these thoughts led me to the conclusion that we are egotistical beings. If it doesn’t directly affect us, we don’t pay attention to it. In turn, this means that human failings come down to perspective. Let’s elaborate on the concept of perspective by looking at the films District 9, Dances with Wolves, and Schindler’s List.

At the beginning of District 9, Wickus has the role of the bad guy. His work for MNU is his main concern. He sees the aliens as evil prawns that deserve to be relocated to a concentration camp-like facility outside of Johannesburg. The way he interacts with the aliens shows how he has no respect for them or their living conditions. The moment he becomes half alien is the moment we witness his humanity. Suddenly, the audience is exposed to a deeper character whose perspective slowly changes. Wikus’s transformation triggers an understanding and eventually an acceptance of the prawns. He ends up helping his alien friend Christopher because he is put in the shoes of those he persecuted. His situation changes, he becomes personally affected, and his perspective shifts. The rest of Johannesburg’s residents’ still suffer from xenophobia and Wikus finds himself ostracized like the prawns.

Similarly, Lieutenant Dunbar in Dances with Wolves forms a relationship with the Sioux tribe. His understanding and compassion for these natives grows, which exposes him to a different perspective. Dunbar is even surprised to find the natives are not savages like he had been told. Eventually, he refers to his own as “people without value and without soul.” The more he associates with the Sioux people, the more he becomes part of the tribe, and the more his fellow frontiersmen ostracize him.

Schindler’s List draws a parallel with District 9, in terms of the protagonists’ journey. At first, Schindler is portrayed as a greedy opportunist. Much like Wikus, his main concern is his business venture. As he begins to interact with his Jewish workers, including his growing relationship with Stern, he begins to understand the drastic repercussions of World War II. These relationships appeal to his ethos, he becomes personally involved with the horrors of the Holocaust and his perspective changes.

While it is evident that genocides rise from greed for power and xenophobia, the question of perspective remains a key element within the human psyche. We have a hard time accepting people’s differences, yet when we are personally confronted to persecution humanity often triumphs. This goes back to an intangible morality spectrum, in which there are multiple shades of human morality. We all have evil within us; the beautiful aspect of this is that we all have good within us too. The protagonists in Dances with Wolves, District 9, and Schindler’s List transform as they learn to accept the other. It is not a matter of being evil or being good. It is a matter of situation and perspective.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Lunn, Week 8, The Two Sides of Human Failure in Genocide

While genocides are a product of hate, varying ideologies, and ideas of superiority it is many times Human failing that allows and enables genocides to further go on. Genocides may not be 100% preventable, but with the right people in positions of power acting to protect humanity as oppose to neglecting it then they could very well could be. Since WWII, the Holocaust and the genocide of 6 million Jews not only have we seen more genocides, but we have seen way too many. There has been the Bosnian Genocide, Native American Genocide, Rwandan Genocide, the Kurdish Genocide and more, many of which we have studied this semester. There are multiple common threads that can be seen throughout all of them, but the one that really stands out the most in my mind is this idea of human failing. Firstly, there are 2 types of human failing in this situation, so we must clarify which one we are talking about. There is the aggressor, the Nazis, Soviet Union, Hutu party, Baathist Party, Bosnian Serbs who because of their failure to accept the “other” as a fellow member in society are failing humanity because are committed horrendous crimes against humanity.

If we look at each and every Nazi film we’ve have watched this semester one can see the clear evil tyranny and human failing of the Nazis. A clear example of this is John Halder in C.P. Taylor’s Good.  John Halder starts off in the film as a “Good” man, but as the film progresses and the war draws closer to an end Halder only becomes more involved with the Nazi regime eventually becoming a member of the SS working under one of the worst Nazi’s aggressors Adolf Eichmann. Halder goes from being a well-respected professor of literature to being no worse then the rest of his fellow Nazi Party members. He tries to neglect, and distract himself from what his going on around him in order to justify his actions be in the end finally upon entering a concentration camp sees the machine he has become a part of and see’s that he has himself played a large part in the Human failing. This aggressor side of human failing, this failing to recognize “others” as equal beings in society this is one side of human failing. The other piece of human failing in regards to genocide is the groups of people in power, first world nations, and worldwide coalitions that many time know when crimes are being committed against humanity but refuse to do anything about it. If we look at the Michael Winterbottom’s Welcome to Sarajevo a film about the Bosnian Genocide we see clear the human failure and neglect of first world powers during the situation in the Balkans.

In one scene of the film I believe it is one of the lead member of the UN who say “will take time to find a solution to the problem, thus we must have patience” all mean while they really weren’t looking for a solution to the problem and just really finding excuses to avoid interfering while wait for the war to come to an end. Many people say if US had invaded Germany earlier then Genocide of the Jews could have been prevent, and the same is also said for Rwanda. Nations and the powers that be instead because of what they call the politics, or just world order stand unwilling to interfere until it is to late an this is the “good” guy side of Human failing. But after a certain amount of time of just not doing anything, many of the so called good guys almost become just as bad a the bad guys. Hate, distorted ideology, and superiority will always be the main leading causes of Genocide and human failing, but so too will be the powers that be if they continue to ignore, neglect, and disregard genocides and crime against humanity that occur.