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Victims of Progress

April 10, 2012
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Abstract

            The term Indigenous means “Members of formerly independent tribal societies who are engaged in a contemporary struggle for autonomy and survival in a world dominated by national governments and commercial elite.” That is synonymous with the term “Victims of Progress.” Tribal peoples who have been living previously autonomous lives and are trying to recapture that and return to their lives without the diseases, without their land which they depend on being destroyed, and without industry and “modernized” life. But with this “modernized” life comes impoverishment, the inability to sustain themselves, and disease.

 

Body

            Progress is the development of an individual or society in a direction considered more beneficial than and superior to the previous level. This definition is justification for one group to come in and impede on the indigenous population’s way of life. This was illustrated in the article “The Tractor Invasion”. In it, the Xavante people are being moved out by agribusiness. This can happen because the Xavante, while protected by the government, are independent people from the government and don’t have legal documents or in most cases real government enforcement protecting them. The agribusiness is producing soy, on land that used to sustain the Xavante’s way of life, and also is being exported for profits for the agribusiness men (The Tractor Invasion, Laura Graham).

            The agribusiness’ motivation is for profits; its purpose is to sustain a capitalist way of life, to keep up in the world market. And by expanding into the Xavante’s land, the Cerrado, they put the Xavante, who fight for autonomy, into the world market, and thus become victims of progress. Living as a part of the world market, capitalists equate happiness, or quality of life, with the standard of living. In “The Price of Progress”, it states that measures we employ like GNP, literacy, employment rates, education, and income do not necessarily equate to a better standard of living (Price of Progress, John Bodley). But naturally, people living in capitalist societies or who participate in the world market equate happiness with profits.

            Capitalists and world market participants equate happiness with standard of living because as Robert Sapolsky says in his article, “Sick of Poverty”, that Socioeconomic status (SES) correlates with overall well-being; That when we just “feel” poor we actually are at greater risk of diseases and shorter lifespans, even with the advanced medical care and technology. So when the agribusiness thrust the capitalist ideals onto the Xavante in the name of “progress”, they are lowering the quality of life for their people.

            Not only are the victims of progress being forced into a lower quality of life and are having their land and way of life made virtually inaccessible, they are also being forced to participate in a world market that they themselves can never truly progress in. When industrialized civilizations put the tribal societies into the world market, make them integrate into society or government, the tribal societies become impoverished because they now are put to the standard of material wealth. So they virtually start with near nothing and are forced to compete in a world they neither want nor belong to (The Price of Progress, John Bodley) “They are then forced to transform their cultures and work to achieve what many economists now acknowledge to be unattainable goals.” (John Bodley)

            By putting them into the world market, governments and capitalists not only introduce them to disease, not just from feeling poor but also because they become dependent on those same institutions and people. This is because their land was taken from them (The Tractor Invasion) to produce food that is then shipped out not to be used by the indigenous. Prior to this they survived completely autonomously and off of the land. Now that same land is being torn apart to be used to produce things that doesn’t go to them. Capitalism is a commitment to sale, with the objective of maximizing profits rather than supplying domestic need. (Kary, lecture, 11/10/11) This leads to the indigenous not able to supply themselves with their land because the crops being produced are going off to foreign lands, and sometimes being only cash crops, nothing to survive off of. So having no way to feed themselves, once autonomous people are now dependent on governments and the capitalist way of life, in which they become impoverished people. This way of life leads to higher death rates because not only are they poor, but not they are not able to live a life that is sustainable unless they bring in imported foods.

            This life opens up the formerly independent and autonomous group to bad health because of dependence on imported foods. This was documented by Weston Price who noted tooth caries and overall bad dental health was because of a diet based on non-traditional food (Price of Progress). This diet coupled with the feeling of being impoverished leads to bad overall health that cannot be avoided because of the dependence on governments and the world market to sustain their lives. Also, this opening to the world now introduces diseases that were virtually unknown to the indigenous people. With that, they have no genetic defenses or immunities against them, their health is further decimated. (Arrow of Disease, Jared Diamond)

 

Discussion

            Indigenous peoples like the Xavante did not ask to become a part of “Progress” and they try to live their lives autonomously. But yet they gain impoverishment and disease from “Progress” and as being a part of “Progress” they enter at a level which they must stay and they are given a standard in which they cannot attain.

References

 

Laura Graham

Summer 2009, The Tractor Invasion, Cultural Survival Quarterly

 

John Bodley

1998, Victims of Progress, Mayfield Publishing

 

Jared Diamond

October 1992, The Arrow of Disease, Discover


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And I Wonder…

September 30, 2010
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I haven’t posted in months because I’ve been extremely tired and busy. I have been writing though, always writing on my laptop. I might post some of those little personal essays on mine on this blog.

But anyway, I checked my blog after all these months, and my blog hits skyrocketed this month for some reason. I’m taking stats right now, so my mind is being honed to know how to interpret them, and on top of that I see myself as a decently observant and logical person.

And I realized that I posted old High School English essays on my blog. And school started a a month or two ago. So I think people are stealing my work.

I never want to profit off it (outside a grade for the work), but I never wanted  my papers to be plagiarized.

My personal opinion is that people should work for themselves, and reap their own rewards. But I will not stop people from doing what they do, or complain and do nothing about it (If i do complain, I’ll do something about it).

If that’s a life you want to live, you live it (I am not condoning bad lifestyle choices however).

I speak out against what is morally wrong and refuse to condone evil and/or bad things, but in the end, the choice is up to the person how they hold themselves.

So hopefully all those people who do Google “Beowulf” or anything else I have here will not plagiarise, but utilize; that they would not copy and paste but they would get ideas and concepts.

Thank You.

“We were born to embrace not accept it.”         -NEEDTOBREATHE


The Pope: Machiavellian

May 11, 2010
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NOTE: The purpose of this essay was to show with a modern event how Machiavelli could be used in today’s society relevantly. My personal views of the Pope are irrelevant. Purely used as an example and not to judge the Pope, even though it may look otherwise. I also compared Thoreau and Machiavelli to the play “Antigone”.

Machiavelli’s view in Antigone is clearly shown in how Creon handles himself and he keeps power. Henry David Thoreau’s philosophy is shown in Antigone, and these contrasting philosophies of Antigone and Creon lead to Antigone’s death. Antigone stays true to beliefs which make her a martyr while Creon is battling within himself and isn’t a pure Machiavellian which turns him into a tragic hero. The current Pope can be seen applying Machiavelli to the current issue within the church involving him. He displays Machiavellian characteristics to how he’s handling the situation. Especially being a person in such a high religious position, makes him even more interesting as how Machiavelli approaches religion in his philosophy.
Machiavelli sees life as war, and that enemies should be taken care of without mercy. He shows view he has when he said “A prince…must he take anything as his profession but war” (paragraph 1, lines 1-2). Creon believes this, and sees people as either enemies or allies. He shows this in his natural language. For example, he says to Antigone referring to her brothers “If you honor the traitor just as much as him” (Line 580), and also he says “Aren’t you ashamed to differ so from them(the public)? So disloyal!” (571-572) Phrases such as these show Creon’s Machiavellian mindset. Another thing Machiavelli says is needed to keep power is “a prince must be prudent enough to know how to escape the bad reputation of those vices that would lose the state for him”. In this he means that any things that make someone look bad should be hidden. This is where Creon fails at keeping up the “Machiavellian” way. Machiavelli endorses being merciless and ruthless, to be a tyrant. But not to be viewed as a tyrant is key to keeping power. Antigone reveals the public opinion of him when she says “The citizens here would all agree (with me)…if their lips weren’t locked in fear… Lucky tyrants… Ruthless power to say and do whatever pleases them.” (562-564)That sums up how Creon is viewed in the play. But to look good to where it becomes a hindrance is bad, as he states, applying it to generosity, “I say that it would be good to be considered generous… generosity used in such a manner as to give as to give you reputation for it will harm you”. (Paragraph 9) He means it’s good to be generous, but if you are seen as too generous then it will bring you down. Creon does not have the body buried to not look weak and show mercy on the enemy. Showing mercy to enemies is considered looking weak. Creon can’t show generosity to enemies, or he looks weak; that’s how he viewed his actions. That’s what Machiavelli was referring to when he said that being generous can become a hindrance. You need to look generous only when necessary. Machiavelli also says fear, over love, is the way to rule, he acknowledges this when he says “because love is held by a chain of obligation…which is broken on every occasion… but fear is held by a dread of punishment which will never abandon you.”(Paragraph 14) Through this philosophy, Creon sends out the decree that the punishment is death. This is how he rules in fear. And just as Antigone said the people’s lips were locked in fear, that is how Machiavelli says to rule, and that is how Creon rules.
Henry David Thoreau goes on the principle power isn’t everything. Antigone uses this principle also. But freedom for individuals and that the morale rights are more important than ruling. That too much regulation gets in the way of the morale law. Thoreau sees it right to go against government when it’s necessary. He says “All men recognize the right to revolution… and to resist government when its tyranny or inefficiency are great and unendurable.”( ) Although Antigone knows she’s breaking the law made by Creon, she doesn’t care, because the divine law law is more important. She displays this when she says to Creon “Not ashamed for a moment, not to honor my brother, my own flesh and blood.”(574-575) To be just is more important than retaining power. Power in the majority or in one person is not right. Thoreau reveals this when he says “Must the citizen… resign his conscience to the legislator?” Antigone’s conscience is shown when she says “I was born to join in love, not hate- that is my nature.”(590-591) In this she says no matter the law, she will not resign what she believes, so she went and buried her brother. Thoreau says it’s the right for citizens to overthrow an unjust government to uphold the divine law. Even though Thoreau does not have a favorable opinion of government, he still respects it, he shows this respect when he says: “The authority of government… such as I am willing to submit to.” Antigone’s beliefs also relates to this, as she does not fear the punishment of the law she has broken, and has broken it not trying to run from the law. Antigone doesn’t try to fight the punishment, and fully accepts death as her punishment. She admits to Creon that she accepts death when she rhetorically asks him “Creon, what more do you want than my arrest and execution?”(555-556) Thoreau goes on to say that “I shall endeavor to be satisfied with things as they are and say it is the will of God.” Antigone sees the will of the gods to be more important than anything Creon can decree. She tells it to Creon saying “Nor did I think your edict had such force that you, a mere mortal, could override the gods” (503-504). Antigone makes it clear what is more important and she pays for it with her life willingly.
Neither Machiavelli nor Thoreau have any flaws in their argument on how to live life. Flaws only appear when there are conflicting assumptions between two philosophies. For example, for Creon, the assumption was to keep power. And had he ruled more ideally, more Machiavellian, he would have become powerful. He was justified in his actions through the assumption that retaining power is the most important thing, and Machiavelli’s philosophy is the most proficient way of gaining and retaining power. But looking through Antigone’s eyes, it has many flaws, but that is only it is not power she values. She values the upholding of a divine law, a power more powerful than herself. It is not power she is searching for, but to honor what needs honoring. So to Creon, what Antigone was silly, only because he held different values. His higher values were power and retaining it. Antigone does not see it that way. SO when the decree was made, they were bound to end up how they did, because of their opposing views had them face off. So in the end, Creon failed to stick to his Machiavellian ways, turning him into an antihero and Antigone into a martyr. But for Antigone, she accepted her punishment because of her belief that it was meant to be as long as she upheld the divine law. So even though she died, she actually didn’t lose, because she didn’t hold her life and possessions above what she was fighting for, the divine law. So each philosophy is not flawed in its own right. They justify themselves through their own assumptions.
The current pope, Benedict XVI, can be seen as a Machiavellian. He is described as “more introverted than his predecessor… with the crags and wrinkles of a sinister great-uncle… jousting with liberal theologians and being caricatured as “God’s Rottweiler.””(Ross Douthat, “The better pope”, NY times, 11 April, 2010 ) John Paul, the former pope was much more loved, but Benedict does not follow the same path. In the current papacy, there is a scandal. It is failure to report pedophilia in the church. Prior to Benedict becoming pope, he was a cardinal. He was described by a witness, saying “The cardinal “was tough as nails in a very cordial way,” (Ross Douthat, “The better pope”, NY Times, 11 April 2010) This shows how Benedict made himself to be. Being a cardinal it was his duty to report cases, some of which were priests breaking their vows, and committing pedophilia. What happened was it took a very long time for the case to be properly taken care of. It took four years just to be looked at, as revealed in this statement: “four years after the priest and his bishop first asked that he be defrocked, the future Pope Benedict XVI, then a top Vatican official, signed a letter saying that the case needed more time and that “the good of the Universal Church”(Laurie Goodstein and Michael Luo, “Pope put off punishing abusive priest”, NY times, 9 April 2010). In this he uses the logic that it is for the “good” and for the church. When if taken with a Machiavellian viewpoint, it is only good when it is good for reputation to be good; and to not let it hold you back from gaining power. He is only now addressing this issue because it is more public and can hurt his image in the eyes of the people and ultimately, can take power from him. The pope is addressing it very well in terms of Machiavelli’s philosophy. It was not necessary for him to do anything, but now he must look good and religious since more attention is called to him in such a scandalous way. He reacts to the scandal, shown here: “In his first such encounter since a sexual abuse scandal began to envelop the Catholic Church in recent months, Pope Benedict XVI met privately on Sunday with a small group of victims of sexual abuse by priests, expressing his “shame and sorrow” at their plight” (Rachel Donadio, “Pope meets victims of abuse in Malta”, 18 April 2010) Once the news broke, he started a campaign to make his image look favorable in view of sexual abuse, so he goes and visits victims of sexual abuse. Now he is building an image of his compassion toward these victims even though it was not shown when he was a cardinal. He pope said, referring to his visit to Malta “I shared their suffering and emotionally prayed with them,” (Elisabetta Povoledo, “Pope pledges to confront abuse crisis” 21 April 2010). The pope has a very serious tone to him but also, when he needs, appears religious and very good. It can be seen as classic Machiavellian, and he is dealing with the situation in a Machiavellian style also.
The Machiavellian approach to life can be used very successfully. But it is a fine line that is walked in order to be successful. With Machiavelli, it’s all about keeping for yourself but not to look as if you are taking from people. Not to seem like you are taking power. And being greedy. Being a Machiavellian, it means to be ruthless, self-serving, greedy, and be overall selfish for success, but not to show it. It is about deceiving and looking good even though you really are utilizing bad qualities. It’s hiding those bad qualities that maintain your power that you need people to not see. Creon fails at this, he breaks down in the end, but the pope, one of the more unlikely people ideally, can be said to display these qualities and execute a Machiavellian style rather nicely. However, with Thoreau, it is much simpler and easier to follow his philosophy. The value of power isn’t as great as the value of good. With that assumption, there is no need or want for power, just justice, and when put into effect, can create a harmony, also no need to be ruthless and evil and self-serving. As far as the ultimate question of which is more applicable today; it depends on the point of view. If you want that power, Machiavelli’s philosophy works quite well, but if you focus on more pure things, and strive for justice, Thoreau makes a better argument.


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“The Wolfman” Critical Review

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April 15, 2010
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Short comparison between Lao Tzu and Henry David Thoreau

March 25, 2010
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