Wednesday, February 3, 2010

International Indigenous Human Rights Class

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I would like to go back to early readings you did for the first class this semester. On page 3 in HRSJ, the author discusses the contents of each chapter and provides some background information for why they consider these topics essential to this textbook. Please do some quick research (basic, simple, web-based inquiry looking for constitutions in English for Iran, Brazil, India, and or Pakistan). Choose one of these countries and compare their constitution to the US constitution answer the following two questions and post your response on this blog:

1. What rights are citizens granted (social, political, economic, cultural etc.) in the current constitution (of the country you chose). Is the country you choose a signatory to the UNDHR? If not, can you identify why based on your reading of its constitution?

2. How does the current US constitution and social order adhere to the basic human rights principles as outlined in the preface and introduction to HRSJ? How does it not adhere to basic human rights principles as outlined in the UNDHR?


  1. 1) The country that I chose was India. In their constitution they have a section titled "Fundamental Rights" in which various rights are listed, such as the following: the right to equality (including equal right to employment; forbidding "untouchability"), right to freedom (freedom of speech/expression, assemble peaceably without arms, to form associations/unions, move freely throughout India),right against exploitation (cannot force labor, no child under 14 can work in factories/mines/hazardous employment), right to freedom of religion (allowed to wear kirpans), cultural and educational rights (can't be denied admission into schools maintained by the state on groundss of religion, race, caste, language), and the right to constitutional remedies.

  2. 1) The country I chose was Iran. Through the constitution citizens are granted many rights. Some being; no discrimination, no privileges, equality before law, rights protecting women, human dignity, freedom of belief, freedom of press, freedom of association and assembly, freedom for work, education, housing and welfare. However, many of these rights are affected by the fact that Iran recognizes Islam as the only religion within its borders. Iran has adopted the UDHR.

    2) I think that the constitution mostly adheres to human rights and principles. There are issues around the definitions or specific wording, such as cruel and unusual punishment. One could consider the death penalty cruel and unusual; however, that is still part of the American judicial system. I think the example of punishment also applies to the inconsistency with the UDHR. I think there are also other rights within the UDHR that are not consistently followed here, such as the right to time-off from work. I am sure there are people that work their entire lives without a day off, however, for the most part I think the US constitution aligns with the UDHR.

  3. 1) I chose Pakistan, whose constitution grants its citizens the freedom of assembly, speech, and religion, protects them from forced labor and discrimination, and establishes their fundamental right for equality. There are some limitations to their freedom of religion, as the constitution contains several Islamic provisions, a few of which essentially give preferential treatment to Muslims. For examle, only a Muslim can become President, whereas the UDHR states that "Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives." I wonder if it is possible to completely adhere to the UDHR without the separation of church and state. While the UDHR never specifically mentions this, (as it would most likely prevent a number of countries from adopting the it) how can the state justify operating under a religious influence if "the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government"? Pakistan has adopted the UDHR.

    2) The UDHR and our constitution share many of the same basic principles. However, our GLBT citizens do not share all of the rights that the rest of the country enjoys, namely the right to marry, and freedom of expression in the military.

  4. I also think that our constitution and the UNDHR share a lot of same basic principles. One thing that stuck out to me was the UNDHR states that everyone has the right to life, and for me that stuck out because of all the issues with abortion and when is a life considered to be a life? So that is one discrepancy I noticed.. As far as how the current US constitution and social order adhere to the basic human rights principles outlined in the HRSJ,under "The Importance of Socialization" the book talks about how few Americans are even aware of the UDHR but how children all learn about Lincoln and Washington and such.. That made me think about how we have the right to education, but it doesn't seem like the type of education is important. All children get to attend school but the constitution doesn't give any guidelines for the type of schooling. It seems like it's all sort of overly open to interpretation.

  5. Dr. Mikulak:

    As I have been doing research for our project, I have begun to notice a particular patter and I wanted to pose a few questions to you. (Or whoever else is interested!) I'm not looking for a specific answer, just interested in how people view these issues and how human rights issues are best approached. Often, Indigenous peoples are forced to integrate with an economically superior society and their land is removed from their possession. As a result, the economically superior society extracts the traditions from the people: their traditions are then glorified, their history is ignored, and they themselves are condemned and ostracized. Why does this pattern occur? More importantly, Why is it so consistent, internationally? Is this pattern a gateway into understanding the underlying morality and objectives of Western societies? Lastly, it seems that economic status, throughout the past and into the future, has determined the direction of "progression" in literally everything. Personally, it's a struggle to find hope for change when the economically superior possess such a mass amount of control and view progress as oppression. I understand that these issues start out local and eventually reach a global scale but it seems that these issues are in need of immediate attention and I question if we have enough time. Do we have to start local to reach global or are there any possible alternatives? How do we spread mass awareness?

  6. sorry but this is the 3rd time ive written this and im tired of it getting deleted-umm India seems to protect several important human rights-State shall not discriminate-special provision for women and children-equal opportunity for all-abolition of untouchability-abolition of titles except academic or military. Freedom of speech, assembly, unions, free movement, religion-right to conservation of culture-equal educational oppurtunity etc-

    I especially liked the bit about the right to protect of the existences and cultural heritage of indigenous peoples. This and some other ideas, like living standards outlined in article 25, are missing from the US const.

    Mel-i definately see the pattern you mentioned as expansionism and globalization has progressed over the past few hundred years. I feel like a lot of different mindsets led to the general attitude of neglect that led up to the cultural abuse. lack of cross cultural understanding, ethnocentrism, and ignorance to say the least.

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  9. Mission Response #1
    The Mission was a compelling film that showed some of the earliest forms of fighting for freedom. It showed how the earliest missionaries demonstrated how the natives could be free, and as well showing them their own religion. It was really interesting to see how the early Americans would fight amongst themselves to get the ‘rights’ to have the natives and domesticate them. I thought it was really interesting as well to see how the struggles that Mendoza faced with his want for power. He wanted women as well as many slaves so he kills his brother in the process of getting what he wants. He eventually comes to his mind and freaks out about having done what he did (killing his brother) and goes to the church and hides. The church wants to help him and tells Gabriel, who Mendoza had previously met in the mountains when he killed a few natives to show that the ‘white man’ had power over them and to try and scare father Gabriel away.
    It is very interesting that the church wanted to send Mendoza, who had once been a slave trader, to the mountains and the natives that he tried to conquer. It works out well for him after carrying a huge burden on the way up. It was comical to see how much his companions thought it was dumb that he was practically killing himself with this burden of weight and nonsense items tied around his upper body. It is not until a little native boy goes and cuts off his burdens and pushes them off the cliff does he really realize that the burden is gone and ok with it. This must have been his own penance for killing his brother.
    He is not taken to all that great at first but eventually he works his way into their society at the mission’s camp and the natives accept him and treat him like their own. He helps in the missionary efforts to convert the group and get many to join them.
    Soon Spain, Portugal and the Church start to negotiate boundaries of the Brazilian area and wars begin to break out between the mission and the ones wanting land. The Missionaries help protect the native people since they are trying to convert and have a society set up over there but there is almost no hope because of the advanced weaponry that Spain and Portugal have. At the end of the movie there is a huge battle and although Mendoza tries to fight back, his eagerness to save the natives gets him killed. Gabriel dies fulfilling out a service in church along with many other natives. After he dies they take up his cross and try to continue what they have learned but end up dying in the process. The only people who survive are the children who are too innocent to really understand what is going on.
    I think this movie was really great to watch considering what we are learning about in class. The native people had no rights whatsoever and even though the missionaries were trying to set up a system with them the state took over and killed most all of them because they assumed right to the land since the natives never claimed it. In their eyes the Natives weren’t educated enough or anything to the likes of that to contain themselves in a community and assume rights to the land they live on.
    This movie was very compelling and would make anyone want to be an indigenous rights activist. The acting was excellent and the story was true which makes it hard to believe that the world was once like that. It helped explain the old terms of needing and wanting land to expand the newcomer’s territory. This movie gave a great view of both sides of the war and how it affects the natives as well as the ‘white’ man. I enjoyed this film very much.

  10. Mission Response #2
    The film “The Mission,” I felt was a joke, a very bad joke. I’m not saying this in a bad way, just in a overall sense. I know that this movie was based on a true story, but with every true story film, it’s only based on some events and the rest of the story is filled in to the media’s liking. The film portrayed the Guaraní as angelic singing monkeys. First of all, I don’t know a lot of Native peoples that really sound like a well organized chorus church group. I’m not saying I know all Native music, but the majority of Native music and artists that I do know sounds nothing like the Guaraní’s voices in the film. In the film, it really appeared to me that the Guaraní were very underrepresented in a sense that the story line ran along the lines of the dramatic life of Rodrigo Mendoza, a white Spanish man finding redemption after living and experiencing the lives of the ones he once sold and traded into slavery. Although based on a true story, this plot line is like any other Hollywood film out there to date. A few examples, “Pocahontas,” “Dances with Wolves,” “Last of the Mohicans,” “Windtalkers,” and “Avatar,” these movies all have a dominant white leader that commands the noble savages, whether they win or lose, they still have a white messiah.
    At the end, when the Guaraní are told to leave the mission and go back to the jungles, there is a part where a little girl comes up to Father Gabriel and says to him that she didn’t want to go back into the jungle because the devil lives there. I felt my heart drop into my stomach the moment I heard her say that. My interpretation of who the “devil” is in this case was her people, the Guaraní. I know I tend to talk a lot about how Natives were converted into Christianity and Catholic ways. But that just added fuel to my fire because in most Native belief there is no devil. There is just energy, positive and negative, but neither is good or bad it just exists and there is only a balance.
    To finish my reaction to this film, I can say I was impressed with how the Portuguese and Spanish people couldn’t even get along or find a common ground in the faith of their God. I know I always seem to appear as this hate battered person with a bitter taste of spite in my mouth. I don’t hate white people, I’m just really upset with how much my ancestors suffered for no apparent reason. This movie really does bring awareness of how people’s rights were and are currently being affected. Not just Natives of the North and South America, but also around the world.

  11. Mission Response #3
    The film The Mission was based on the Spanish Jesuit invasion of Indigenous peoples’ land in South America. It provides another story of the violation of Indigenous peoples’ rights. Films created on Indigenous people bring awareness to a mass of people, which is incredibly important. I just find myself frustrated with the method in which they do so. I must admit my bias: I rarely respect the media’s portrayal of Indigenous Rights issues, history, or culture. Films in particular seem to dramatize the action of fighting for Indigenous Rights and the portrayal of history seems to be overly dramatic.
    Throughout The Mission, I found my mind wandering into questions about progression, why people seek authority over one another, and religion as a tool for power. Also, I noticed that the white people offered a compromise to share the land with the Indigenous people, yet neither side was willing to debate and seek a conclusion. Instead, they argued over which God was right and ended in battle. The movie definitely poses some important questions: Was a compromise possible? Why did the Jesuits need more land? Why do people seek power over one another? How can man determine what ‘God’ wants? The scene that I respected most in the film was when the priest who was helping the Indigenous people walked with them and held the cross while the Jesuits massacred these people. Additionally, the Indigenous people were not fighting back. I felt that this scene presented to the audience a sense of reality through symbolism. The use of symbolism is critical because it allows the viewer to create their own definitions and formulate their own personal conclusions.

  12. Mission Response #4
    Watching the video “The Mission” was certainly interesting, although at times confusing. I found the video somewhat difficult to follow at times, but it did bring up some questions in my mind about the overall benefits of missionaries and the problems that they may have caused. It is interesting to think about that, too, since there continues to be missionaries occurring all over the world, although perhaps not as extreme as they once were.
    The intentions of missionary people are certainly to do well, but I often wonder how much good missionaries actually do. Sure they introduce indigenous people to a different lifestyle but how necessary is that lifestyle and is it even better than how they were previously living? For instance, would there have been as much problems with the indigenous people, as shown in the movie, had there not been any missionaries? I believe that the main issue in the movie, for which the big important guy (I forgot his name/title) had to make a decision on, was to whom did the lands where the missionaries were located on belong. So, if there had not been missionary villages, would there have been such issues with the lands that the indigenous people occupied? Also, when the important guy told the priests to have the indigenous people leave the village, in an attempt to save them from the battle to ensue I assume, and the indigenous people refused due to the belief that the village was their home, emphasizes that perhaps in this instance the indigenous people would have been saved had they not participated in the missionary instead of being massacred.
    There is also the question of missionaries taking advantage of indigenous people. In the movie, they showed how the indigenous people made violins and other objects to be sold in Europe, and although the priests said the money went back to the people, I am not fully sure how that worked out. The indigenous people had no monetary system and I do not see why they would suddenly need to start purchasing goods if they had been surviving for so long with what they had. So, where did the money earned from the selling of the violins actually go to? And if it did go back to the indigenous peoples, what did they do with it? I wonder also how much they even really understood what they were doing, because I feel as though it would have been very easy for the priests to lie to them.
    Although I understand that the missionaries typically have the best of intentions when going in to “help” indigenous peoples, I am still not entirely convinced that the help is necessary. I think missionaries should have aimed to get to know the peoples, teach them their language and then once the indigenous people have a good understanding of the language try to convert them to their religion. That way the indigenous people would have more of a choice in whether they wish to practice the religion or not, because when missionaries go in and just sort of take over and create a village and such it seems like the indigenous people do not have a choice but are more or less tricked into converting to the religion because suddenly they are given this new and exciting and easier lifestyle.

  13. Mission Response #5
    The Mission is a movie about conflict. When looking at humanity's past, especially in relation to treatment of the indigenous, it's important to remember that every story has two sides. This is a recurring theme in Roland Joffé's film, and to me it represents the underlying nature of every cross-cultural struggle. In the movie we see the conflict in the Spanish and Portuguese, and the Portuguese soldiers and main characters, but The Mission goes farther in arranging matters into conflicting sides. For example: the conflict between Gabriel and Mendoza, the conflict of Mendoza's conscious, the conflict of war and peace, the conflict between monks and soldiers, and finally the cultural and physical conflict between the indigenous and the Europeans. These clashes seem to represent the cultural conflicts that led to the abuse of the Native people of South America. This theme truly struck home as the movie portrayed the resistance of the tribe and the suppressing power of the Portuguese military. Finally as the resistance falls and Mendoza dies, the Jesuit choir is cut down as they sing praises to the lord. It's an extremely moving film and brings to light the sort of intolerance that was the norm for decades. However, I think it was a Hollywood movie, and clearly it dramatized many of the roles. It was entertaining, but I thought the exaggeration took a lot away from the cultural relevance of the film.

  14. Mission Response #6
    Last week when we watched The Mission, I was not sure what to expect. I had never heard of the movie and I questioned how Hollywood would portray the story of people coming to a new country. Often, the white side of the story is glorified in movies and settlers are portrayed as helpers and educators. However in this film, I thought most of the settlers were portrayed as average mistake-making people.
    I really enjoyed the focus on the missionary side of the story. In some senses I really struggle with missionaries and the forcing of another religion onto the native culture however in this movie the priests really felt that they became a part of the native population. While teaching the natives about Christianity, they became a family, for which I admire the priests. Even though I disagree with evangelising, I think that the priests in The Mission did so much more for the native population. If the priests had not created the schools, many of the natives would have been captured and sold as slaves.
    Another reason I thought this movie was a good representation, was the brutality it showed. Even though the priests were portrayed as kind and gentle there were other characters, such as the slave traders and government officials, that really captured the winner-take-all attitude. They were in the country to control it, not to live peacefully with the natives and the officials were portrayed in such a fashion.

    I thought the war at the end of the film also showed a realistic end to the event. One of the most haunting images for me was the children all piling into a boat at the end of the movie and floating down the river. This image instils a sense of loss and a sense of hope, which I think summarizes the situation quite well. Perhaps the natives feel as though they have lost much of their past and many family members, however, in times of sorrow one has no choice but to hope for a better future. As the children float away, the viewer can only hope that they will be okay and build a life for themselves.
    For as much as I know about the settling of Brazil, I think this film did a good job of showing the true colors of both sides of the story. As a viewer, I was able to see the harshness of the slave traders, the brutality of the government, the kindness of the priests, and the raw commitment of the natives.

  15. Mission Response #7
    The film “The Mission” produces an intimate sympathetic feeling for the losses of the Brazilian indigenous peoples. Robert DeNiro did an outstanding performance depicting how one can be caught between righteousness, contempt and honor. Although the film was skewed to the side of the native Brazilians and the Jesuits and against the side of the Spanish and Portuguese governments, I understand that films in the media often have to be a little overly exaggerated in order to appear interesting or to give due attention to the issue at hand, in this case the rights of the native Brazilians.
    I’m not trying to say that the natives weren’t persecuted to the extent that was shown in the film, but rather that it is doubtful that the representative of the Portuguese colonies was so crass and blunt in his disrespect for the natives. There were instances where he most likely would not have been so openly brutal about his opinions in front of the cardinal.
    One of the biggest issues I found within the plot of the movie was the overall acceptance for the conversion of the Guarani from their original spiritual beliefs to the Jesuits’ interpretation of Christianity. The movie, as I mentioned above, presents this as a good and worthy thing for the Jesuits to do. The Jesuits, however, indirectly brought upon the slavery and warfare between the mission camps and the Portuguese. There is one line that Mendoza says right before his is killed while trying to protect the Guarani, “I wonder if the Guarani would have been happier if we had not come at all,” or something to that effect. In my mind I thought, “Duh.” No one should have to be imposed upon whether the repercussions are good or bad. In this case they were abominably tragic in that so many people were killed, natives, Jesuits and Portuguese. But regardless of what harm might be done, it should be one’s free will to determine how one lives, what one believes and how one survives. This last point was taken from the Guarani in the sense that they had no control over their welfare. When they were told to leave the mission, they responded angrily and refused because they had grown dependent on the mission. If they were to leave they would have to overcome hardships of redevelopment.
    This should be considered in countries’ interaction with indigenous tribes within their nations. The U.S., for example, has a so-called responsibility to aid in the development of Native American tribes. But if a nation is posing a potential threat to the tribes’ welfare in the case that the nation could no longer provide for the tribes, then we are doing too much providing and not enough developing.

  16. Mission Response #8
    The Mission is a very stirring film that explores what happens when religion pervades tribal boundaries, and in a larger sense what happens when greed pervades the spirit of religion and humanity. The story follows several 18th century Jesuits and their efforts to civilize the Guarani Indians of Brazil and this story takes place against the background of territorial struggles between Spain and Portugal concerning the division of Brazil.
    The film is particularly eye opening because it addresses a historical event from a personal perspective. We often that to forget that, in history, not only is there a dichotomy in opinions by its players, but there is also invariably a dichotomy between the personal and impersonal perspective. It is very easy to get caught up in the enormity of history and we fail to examine the personal stories that ultimately form the foundations of history. The Mission gives its viewer a very intimate look at the individual people and lives that were caught between the power struggles of history’s titans.
    Most fundamentally the value of the film lies in its ability to demonstrate the value of the individual and of smaller secluded cultures, lie that of the Guarani tribe. However, it also offers several other important elucidations. Foremost, it allows us to see from a personal perspective the perniciousness of large political amalgamations like Portugal and Spain and their practice of objectifying the human. To these two countries, Portugal and Spain, it is clear that Brazil had become an object, an issue or question to be resolved by politicians and potentates; rather than a fragile piece of the global ecosystem.
    The film also brings to light the insidious and persistent habit of Eurocentric thinking that still plagues much of the world’s thinking even today. The view that the highest value of life lies in objects, or in the acquisition of objects and that one increases his measure by increasing his objectionable wealth is very dangerous. When this is combined with an heir of superiority, everything, even people, becomes objectified and all personal compassion and perspective is forfeit. This in turn allows the rancor, like that responsible for the violence and brutality perpetrated against the Guarani in the film, to occur. Even to the point where, as it happens in the film, a religion claiming to espouse love can begin to justify murder and extermination of humans as a means to an end.

  17. I have posted responses and questions to all your posts regarding the film "The Mission." Look for them on the blog within the next day or two. Please reply to my responses to make sure you get your blog points!

    Thanks Again!
    Dr. Mikulak

  18. #1 - Your response to the film is interesting in several ways: Can you clarify what you mean when you say that the early missionaries showed the Indigenous peoples " they could be free?" How were the missionaries themselves "entrapped" in a system of beliefs and behaviors? How were the missionaries themselves oppressors? How are the Indigenous Guaraní represented? Are they presented as "noble savages", as "innocent" and "pure"? Is there a "hero" and if so, is the "hero" a Portuguese (white), or an Indigenous Guaraní? Lastly - the film was about Portuguese colonial invaders, and not Americans. This is a very important distinction - particularly historically.

  19. #2 - Some thoughts and questions regarding your post on the "Mission" - First, your post was one of the few that provided an excellent critique of the biases embedded in this movie. Thank you for your astute discussion of key issues linked to popular discourses about Indigenous peoples. I agree that the Guaraní were under-represented. How could the director have more accurately portrayed the Guaraní? Remember, it is always important when critiquing to provide examples of how the film, argument, article, etc. could be improved. Second - why do you think the Guaraní were represented as "angelic," "simplistic," "natural," people? Who benefits from this representation? How do they benefit? What was the basis for such a presentation, theoretically? Do you think the director read any literature (research based) on the Guaraní? Was this film linked to Western-European Judeo-Christian rhetoric? How? Why? If so, what is the result of such rhetoric on audiences that watch this film? Would it be important for the director and screen writer and funders to know your opinions, and if so, how could you best let them know? Why would it be important to inform them? Your statement - "There is just energy, positive and negative, but neither is good or bad it just exists and there is only a balance," is fundamentally different (as you know) from the views of Christianity - and presents a world-view almost diametrically opposed to the founding "fathers" of this country and the Western European formation of nation-states. It would be a great exercise to diagram how this view is different from the Cartesian view that is the basis for Western European thought. Can you do this? What a fantastic and thought provoking presentation this would be for yourself and your colleagues at UND, and it would go a long way in explaining to your colleagues why your heart dropped when the young girl stated she didn't want to go back into the forest because of the notion she had learned from the Portuguese Christians about "evil."

  20. #3 - Thoughts and questions about your post on the "Mission" - I understand your sense of frustration, especially since I am not an Indigenous woman. However, I would like to know why you feel films, particularly those from Hollywood tend to dramatize Indigenous peoples as they do? Is it an over-dramatization based on "White" notions of past abuses (culpabilities)? Or, are we (you and I) insensitive to how we (you and I) would feel if "we" were the Indigenous people experiencing the effects of colonization? Or - are you responding (un-reflexively) to the rhetorical style of the movie - that is the ways in which the director and screen-writer were or were not politically informed about the Guaraní? Can you write/explore why YOU think people (in this case the Portuguese, and this is important, particularly in relation to historical causes) use authority over others and use religion as well, as tools to dominate and control? Put your ideas down on paper, look at them, and map out your thoughts. This is the way in which your understanding will grow - as you know more about your own thinking, your own questions, and pay attention to both, you will open many new doors that lead to fresh understandings and new questions. Learning is a process - in reality, that never ends. For example: Was it the Jesuits who needed land? If so, why? What was their function in relation to the Portuguese colonial mission? What was the basis for colonial expansion? What type of thinking led to the doctrines of the "Magna Carta" and "Manifest Destiny"? Have you read these? If not, would you? Then ask how such thinking informed colonial agendas and religious beliefs? Finally, what are other uses of "symbolic" meaning in this film? Is there another symbolic meaning to the scene you describe?

  21. #4 - Thoughts and Questions regarding your "Mission" post - Your realization that the "mission" of missionaries might be questionable is an important one. Indeed, today missionaries are as intense, if not more so, than during the colonial representation by the Portuguese of Brazil. The fastest growing religious group in Brazil is Evangelical Christians, and it is very common to see missionaries (easy to discern who they are due to suits, ties, or types of Western casual dress, and by many other forms of foreign habits) in all parts of brazil, especially within the favelas (shanty-towns) where poverty is intense. I suggest looking into web pages that advertise missionary service. However, you will need to put your "value" judgments and "morality" on a shelf and analyze each web page critically. What are the assumptions of the missionaries about the people they are going to "help?" What are their "goals" and what economic, social, and political beliefs are embedded in these "goals?" I also would like you to try and write about your question: How much they really know about what they were doing (the Jesuits in the film)? How much do you, or any of us know, really, about our actions? Can we know the motivations of our actions, and can we further, trace our motivations back to the belief systems that generated them? Can you un-package what you meant when you said that the Jesuits did so much for the Indigenous Guaraní? What did they do? Why did they do what they did? What were the missionary's beliefs about Indigenous peoples in Brazil? Why? Why do you think it was important to first teach the Guaraní Portuguese in order for them to have a "choice" regarding religion? What might your hidden assumptions be in this statement? I don't mean to put you on the spot, rather - I'd like you to think deeply about your suppositions within the context of colonial invaders?

  22. #7 Thoughts and questions on your "mission" post - How was the film skewed on the side of the Guaraní and the Jesuits and against the Portuguese colonists. Can you be specific, and provide examples? I'm curious about your statement " is doubtful that the representative of the Portuguese colonies was so crass and blunt in his disrespect for the natives." The Jesuits were relatively good supporters for the various Indigenous ethnicities encountered by the Portuguese. They indeed fought to protect Indigenous peoples, and were relatively successful until they were banished from Brazil in the late 1700s. It was the Portuguese monarchy that was extremely brutal and ruthless. Many web pages exist for you to explore on this topic. My point being, the film did not, in my estimation, over exaggerate the brutal treatment of Brazil's Indigenous people by the Portuguese crown. Your statement regarding the tragic nature of the process to Christianize the Guaraní is astute. However, on a daily basis such processes, not only regarding the Christianization of Indigenous peoples, but the indoctrination of people in general, occurs on a daily basis, even on the campus of ND. The tricky part is to recognize the processes of indoctrination - how it happens, and why, in order to mitigate its affects. For me, always seeking to understand historical origins of popular and academic discourses is a key to revealing how my own personal biases have developed. I think the most (I) we can do, is to keep on top of our own thinking by always asking ourselves where my assumptions, beliefs, and personal rhetoric come from. Not an easy thing to do, but very rewarding to lose the constraints of our biases. Just as in the film, you and I, and people in general, can become dependent on their oppressors - examples are gender roles, stereotypes about "race", consumption patterns and job market demands, etc.

  23. #8 - Thoughts and questions on your "mission" post - I'm very interested in this question of greed. What exactly is the nature of greed, what are the cultural factors that support its expression (beliefs, values, morals, ethics, identities), and by what processes can I (that is everyday individuals) come to know what greed is and how it functions within us. In other words, is it possible to defend "greed" on religious grounds - ie., hard work, meritocratic behaviors; or on beliefs built upon the notion of the value of the "individual" over the collective? Are some of these beliefs (let's assume for a moment that these exist in the examples given above)the motivating factors in global disagreements between world powers (communism vs. socialism; free-market vs. common markets; capitalism vs. democracy)? I really want to understand the nature of greed from an anthropological perspective (that is from the roots of our world views that are founded on the various historical cultural-variations across the globe. Great point - that there is a dichotomy between the personal and impersonal perspectives of stories and histories. I always felt that the film "The Mission" presented a large picture of the abusive power of colonial Portugal, and yet, at the same time, the portrayal of the Guaraní was severely under represented - stuck in the Rousseauian constructions of the innocent noble savage. I always try to put the film in historical perspective - I mean that it was made in the 1970s - before themes of self-representation were common knowledge. I also felt that the film did a good job in showing the objectification of the Indigenous (while at the same time, keeping them linked to 19th century romanticism). So, I guess my assignment, like yours, is to identify how the Guaraní are objectified in the film, how they are kept locked within the concept of the "noble savage", and how, once we understand how this has been done, the film could be re-constructed from a perspective of the Guaraní. Obviously, we (Hollywood) won't be able to do this without working directly with the Guaraní and providing them with the freedom to present their historical version. I have one more question: Do you think that "The Mission" could be re-made by a White, Anglo-Saxon male or female to present a more accurate representation of the Portuguese/Jesuit and Guaraní experience? If so, how? and if now, why?

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  25. #5 - Thoughts and questions regarding your "Mission" post - Excellent discussion of the central theme of this movie: you write, "These clashes seem to represent the cultural conflicts that led to the abuse of the Native people of South America." My question to you is, can you identify the core (key) components that represent Western-European thinking historically? If you can do this, you will have discovered the "thinking" behind the director and screen-writer for "the Mission." Why they presented the Guaraní as they did; Why they couched the colonial history of the Portuguese they way they did. Now - What did they miss? How could they have presented a different film? I'm curious about films in general, and the ways in which they are constructed - for you, when you go to a film with friends, are you always aware that the film is constructed? What about the films that you really like? Are you (that is, all of us) liking the constructed reality, or are we aware of the constructed reality and still like the film. If so, why?

  26. #6 Thoughts and questions on your "mission" post - Can you say more about why you liked the way the film portrayed the Portuguese colonizers and missionaries as everyday "mistaken" people? How was the film true to reality? Whose reality was the film portraying - the Portuguese colonists, the Guaraní, the Jesuits? Can you identify the types of struggles experienced by the missionaries that you mention in your post? Once you have done this - can you then try to identify how the Jesuits perceived the Guaraní, and how their treatment of and perceptions about the Guaraní were linked to the Portuguese colonial agenda? In other words, how did the Catholic church view indigenous peoples and how did the church propose to "deal" with indigenous peoples in Brazil? Why? Where did the church's "thinking" come from? What types of "knowledge" informed the Catholic church about Indigenous peoples?

  27. #1:
    What I had meant by the early missionaries showing the indigenous peoples how to be free was in their sense of freedom, they had to be civilized. The missionaries taught them how to form a society like theirs and be accepted into other society which in a sense is the only way they knew how to be free. The indigenous peoples followed because they were 'nice' to them. The missionaries were trapped in their own system because they could not act out of their own wants or needs, they had to do what the church wanted and what their culture told them to. The missionaries were oppressors because they were convincing the natives that what they were doing was the only thing they could do and if they were uncooperative the townspeople would enslave them. It was a do or 'die' situation. The Guarani were poorly represented in this film, they were shown as weak and passive. They took everything that was told to them and though it took a while for them to trust in the film they never questioned, or fought for control. The film focused alot on the children who were pure and unpersuaded. The only savage part of the film was at the very beginning when they found the missionary and were unsure what to think of him. I do not think there is a hero in this kind of film. The natives were stripped of their rights and only the children who were seen as innocent survived. The Portuguese were also not the hero I thought because they brutally fought people who were doing no harm to anyone for land which they could have traded for or something other than war.

  28. #7
    Referring to the slight bias toward the side of the Guarani, I am not trying to say I think the Guarani were treated any better by the Portuguese than what was portrayed. I only meant to say that the Portuguese probably weren’t so openly blatant with the pompous comments they made. During the scene in Portugal, the colonist leader (I can’t recall his name) came across as unintelligent and arrogant, which I’m assuming would not be the case in reality. I believe this was done simply to make a clear distinction that the movie’s viewers should form negative connotations with the Portuguese and their reasoning for oppressing the Guarani, and allowing sympathy and support for the Jesuits and Guarani.
    I do believe that the Jesuits had a much nobler impact on the Guarani than the Portugal, naturally, but I feel that Hollywood created a slight hyperbole in the nature of the two sides. The Portuguese were depicted as downright awful, without any justifiable reasoning for using the Guarani as slaves. Yet I believe they would have put forth a stronger argument to the Spanish than what was portrayed in the movie. It makes sense to me that the Portuguese were not knowingly “evil”; they must have had some kind of logic (and thus a logical argument to the Spanish) as to their actions in Brazil.
    I guess in other words, I’m trying to say I believe the Guarani were just as oppressed as was shown in the movie, but I do not believe that the Portuguese were so stupid in their attempts to argue their case. Also, I do not feel that such a “holy light” was deserved upon the Jesuits. As I mentioned, they violated the Guarani’s traditional lifestyle, especially their traditional spirituality. And yet they were undeservedly the “good guys”. Outside of Hollywood, there is no definable line between good and bad, particularly when dealing with human rights. The only completely innocent group in The Mission was the indigenous.
    I definitely agree with you that there are forces in our daily lives that count as indoctrination. One good example of this in college life is Greek Life. One must fit a specific standard in order to move past rush week. As much as I would like to believe that they are acceptant of a variety of students, I get the impression that a student must “mesh” with the existing sorority or fraternity. If your political ideology or other identity qualities are too left field for the majority of the crowd, you will most likely not be accepted into that sorority/fraternity.
    College also has the tendency to emphasize certain departments. Naturally this is done in regard to its strongest departments. Yet, there is a global drive to achieve more science- and math-based students, because of the market’s demand for technology. It’s really unfortunate to consider that it’s no longer true to say a person can grow up to be whatever he/she would like.

  29. Response to #6:

    I thought the movie portrayed the colonizers as normal people. Life did not appear easy for them, there were good and bad people, people were fighting the slave movement, their lives just seemed very ordinary. I think that the film was true to the Jesuits reality. It was common for religious leaders to want to convert as many people as possible and the Guarani were a natural people to start with in Brazil.

    I thought the movie was clearly in favor of the Jesuits and their mission. They were clearly portrayed as the saviors and the ones that fought for the 'good' side. The Jesuits seemed to struggle with the government officials trying to push them away and control more of the land and people in the area. They were also working against the slave traders.

    The Jesuits treated the Guarani like children or like sinners that needed to be saved. I think they viewed them as simple, like all of their knowledge was unimportant compared to what the Jesuits were teaching them.

    I find that the church is always concerned with 'saving' people and accumulating more followers. I think that this is what the priests were doing in Brazil, however they could also be trying to gain the Guarani trust in order to better control the country.

  30. #4
    One of the missionary websites I found was Something I found interesting about this site was that their mission purpose was all about helping to alleviate poverty in Africa by helping the people to become self-reliant and to educate them, and to also provide them with up-to-date information about justice and peace issues within their own country and those surrounding them, however, to accomplish this purpose they plan to do so through parish ministry, teaching, community prayer, various spiritual and educational publications, etc. It just does not sound like they have the right approach to the ideals they would like to accomplish.

    As far as your question on how much do any of us know of the motivation of our actions, and whether or not we can trace them back to the belief systems that generated them… I believe that we know the motivations of most of our actions.. I ate the cookie because I was hungry, I lied because I didn’t want to get into trouble, I decided to partake in that mission trip because I wanted to help people. As far as tracing them back to the belief systems that generated them, the feeling of hunger is biological, my lying was a learned response in an attempt to escape a negative outcome, and partaking in the mission trip could be traced back to the beliefs that my parents instilled in me.

    The Jesuits did so much for the Guarani by teaching them a different way to live, which was perhaps more efficient than the ways in which they did things before. They possibly did what they did because they thought it was better way to live and more efficient way to live. They also likely helped out the Guarani in this way in order to encourage them to convert to their religion. The missionary’s beliefs about the indigenous people in Brazil was that they were “savages” and an ignorant group of people in need of saving (in the religious sense mostly). It was important to first teach them Portuguese in order for them to have a “choice” regarding religion so that the Jesuits could believe that the Guarani made the religion choice on their own, without being coerced. However, without having been exposed to other forms of religion, other than their own beliefs, the Guarani were still ignorant when forming their religious choice, but I think teaching them Portuguese first made the Jesuits feel better about what they were doing. It probably made them feel as though they were not forcing anyone into converting, but showing them a different lifestyle, teaching them a new language and then giving them the opportunity to choose what religion they would like.
    Hopefully that answered most of your questions…………

  31. I’m just going to respond to #8’s response, because I can’t remember which one is mine.
    I believe the greed is the extreme of hedonism, where someone begins to value personal benefits over the well being of others. Greed also has a compounding effect, because when someone knowingly promotes themselves at the expense of others, they are not only more likely to do it again, but they become extremely defensive of their wealth/power, in such a way that they will do even worse things to protect it. In the modern western societies, (I will include colonial Europe in this) this mindset is promoted every day. In the case of the Portuguese colonizers in “The Mission,” not only did they enslave the native people for their own benefit, but they also slaughtered an entire tribe because they refused to move from their home. It is hard to imagine anyone being able to condone this behavior, but that’s exactly what those in power (both the church and the king) did, and it was a result of the corruptive powers of greed. To answer your question as to whether or not I could defend greed from a religious point of view, I think that all religions are essentially based on love, of others, yourself and your higher power. I don’t think it is possible for one to value the individual to the point where others suffer if they are truly in tune with the teachings of their religion. This doesn’t meant that I have a problem with a person working hard to make a better life for themselves , on the contrary, it should be encouraged.
    From an anthropological view, I think greed stemmed from a time when the world was a much more threatening place, and one had to have a “dog eat dog” mentality in order to survive. I also think that the hierarchy of societies tends to allow those with more self centered motives to gravitate into leadership positions, which spreads greed into every corner of society. I also believe that religion reduces empathy in individuals, because it seems to me that people often struggle to understand those with differing views, promoting a narrow mindset. This was more evident in less developed countries, and isn’t as common now.
    I’m running out of time right now, but I will come back to address the rest of your post.

  32. Response to 3:

    Often, films seem to dramatize events based on real life. I understand the urgency of presenting the existence of these issues to the masses and that film seems to be the best means. It is an effective method-- but the question may be an ethical one: entertainment or truth? Is it possible for film to present truth? (I would like to discuss this in a non-blog format, but I will do my best.) Essentially I find myself frustrated with the limits of film-- and their attempt to channel such critical issues through the constraints of film. It must appeal to a mass amount of people, and from just this fact "hollywood" film already becomes distorted. I would probably have more respect for it if it was an independent film created by the indigenous people themselves-- they actually have the experience and possess the ability to express these values more than a white man trying to make profit off a film. People seek power over one another when they seek to assimilate the world into their own value system or set of standards. Equality exists when people learn to listen, grow, explore, and embrace contrasting ideas.


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