Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Defense of Identity; A Common Cause

Sneek peek at thoughts from my second paper...

I am going to start off this post with the comments my good friend Matt wrote on my previous post on Identity in India: "Think about your high school football games. It is a rare time when all the students, parents, and teachers come together from their separate cliches and groups to cheer for their collective high school team and against the rival school. The students are part of their individual groups (seniors, juniors, jocks, nerds, etc) primarily but in battle (at the football stadium) the groups are united. This is another situation where Religion parallels sports in the US."

I really liked this comment and between this and the Hindu chapter we read, it got me thinking on identity. How do people of diverse backgrounds come together under a common identity?

Globalization has played a big part in increasing identity awareness. Just has Hindus have been able to rally around a national identity based upon religion, people rally around their own when they feel threatened. As Rithambra said in Kakar, the Hindu's are "fighting for the preservation of a civilization, for his Indianness, for national consciousness, for the recognition of his true nature" (157). A somewhat familiar theme here. The notion of defense has come up with our class before. It is in defense of a religion that people find it easier to validate violent actions.

However, it is also an important  idea to talk about. When people feel threatened by an out-groups entrance into their sphere of power - by a foreign force, foreign ideas, foreign competition, or perhaps a rival high school - the "dimensions of ethnicity stand out in sharp relief and the individual becomes painfully or exhilaratingly aware of certain aspects of one's cultural identity" (150). The defense of one's culture, convictions, and inner-self is certainly enough to encourage community with others who feel the same way. It is the inherent attack on someone's sovereignty as an individual which goes down to the basic level of human survival.

If you are no longer yourself, are you yourself anymore?

Thus to defend against a common enemy helps one keep who they are. Though in sport this individual sovereignty is not under threat as in other cases, it serves to highlight how being in a community can define your identity thus create the conditions for intense communal defense against "the others".

Globalization has been bringing up these intense battles over identity. All around the globe, people fear of their own connection to land, and culture will be diminished by foreign entities. As in the case of Anders Breivik, he identified with a Christian Europe, and to not act, would be failing himself.

...End paper preview

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Layers upon Layers of Identity in India

While reading Kaker and about the violence in Pardiwada, I came across this passage:

"It was strikingly apparent that the Pardis' self-identification as Hindus occurs only when the talk of the Muslim; otherwise the conversation is of Pardis, Lodhas, Brahmins, Marwadis, and other castes. It seems a Hindu is bron only when the Muslim enters. Hindus cannot think of themselves as such without a simultaneous awareness of the Muslim's presence." (107)

Now, as a student of history and political science, I found this observation pretty significant. India, since its settlement in the Vedic Age has been cut across different caste lines. There was little sense of an 'ethnic' or 'national' identity that we are familiar with in the West. One was identified, and thus tied to, whatever class they were born in. However when talking about religion, the Pardis felt they were part of a larger, national identity.

I think the Pardis are a microcosm of the bigger effects of religion in relation to ethnic identity. Oftentimes spirituality erases ethnic borders. As shown by this example religion has the power to unite a whole sub-continent of people. For India, that's about 1 billion people are connected by a single similar theme.

This is not a new idea. Religion has been shown to unite many people across the world together. However, my point is that for a deeply stratified society as India, religion has a very powerful role in bonding 1 billion diverse peoples, cultures, and customs under a single banner.

Does this case translate to other religions and cultures in stratified societies, or is this only because of a religious conflict?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Impressions of Naming 'Earth'

Yesterday, Matt and I finished 'Earth'. Man, I all I can say is what a surprise ending. As an aside, I am not sure why Lenny-baby was allowed to into protests and riots. If I were a parent, my kid would be no where near a city in strife.


Why is the movie called 'Earth'? This is a question that has a good chance being asked by Prof. Staub tomorrow, and I want to have some idea on how to answer it.

For me, there are a few reasons why the movie was named 'Earth'. For one, after going on wikipeida, the movie is part of Deepa Metha's 3-part trilogy. The other two movies are named 'Fire' (1996) and Water (2005). Other than this fact, one of the reasons I think Metha chose earth was because he is portraying the human element. Throughout the movie, we saw a group of friends torn apart by ethnic and religious violence. Communities were shattered.

One quote really stood out for me. When Dil Navaz (Ice Candy Man) was talking to Shanta after witnessing a Muslim literally torn to parts, he said that if she wouldn't be with him, he would turn into a beast the Lenny was so afraid of. In fighting for his religion, his identity, Navaz alludes that humans are capable of very primal things. Men can become animals; breaking friendships and killing others for religious reasons. Evolutionary violence at its finest. These instincts of humanity are part of the human element on Earth. It is coded in our history. By naming the movie 'Earth', Metha is furthering that allusion.

Another reason why I think Metha chose that name, in the three part series, is because she wanted to expose the profound nightmare that splitting India and Pakistan caused. Though Muslims and Hindus lived on one planet, splitting up territory which had been inhabited under one rule (more or less) for centuries made some feel like the very planet was split. Ground that was shared  is now marked up for others. For Lenny and her older friends, the very essence of their lives were in chaos. The old world was ending, and a dangerous new one beginning. This fact highlights the deep religious divisions on Earth itself. To some, it may not even feel like we live on the same planet.

Earth is something tangible and familiar to us; we live on it. Whether Metha was referring to the planet, or the ground itself,  I think she was making a point about the larger human condition due to religion. Though water is indeed a tangible thing too, its always some foreign and mysterious aspect; we can never conquer it. Humans can, and have, conquered land. Metha is, in my view, trying to expose this abstract fact.

Dil Navaz (Aamir Kan) and Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) of Pysch look awfully similar. Its almost uncanny.

Aamir Khan
Timothy Omundson

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Enemy with No Face

I was reading Juergensmeyer and I came to the bit he was talking about primary and secondary enemies. His portrayal of the secondary and collective enemies is really what caught my attention; maybe because it helped me understand religious violence towards government and innocent people. The concept is that the secondary enemy can be a moderate force, something which disrupts the dichotomy of good an evil in the view of a religious actor. The secondary enemy belittles the notion of cosmic war, in the view of the actor. People whom abide by the system (in the outgroup) are part of the collective identity of the system itself. Willing or unwillingly, they support the system and the immoralities that religious actors disdain.

Juergensmeyer states that "it is relatively easy to kill someone who is unknown" (178). I believe this notion is extremely true. There are no individual faces to these victims; only association that they are the enemy. This factor can, at times, exacerbate violence. If one does not know a person in another group, it is very easy to make judgements and even perform acts of violence. There is no bond or association with these groups of people. Thus if one performs an act of violence, they may feel less regret. They are known as the collective enemy.

Collective enemies are just another aspect of the way actors dehumanize other human beings. Grouping all into the same group as the enemy deprives them of human features. They are not seen as singular beings, but a force of evil that must be destroyed. They lack emotion, passion, intelligence and other human qualities. In essence, one can deem them as not human of non-existent.

This reminds me of the phrase: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" If another human dies in the opposite side of the world, does it matter to you? An even bigger meta-physical question: how do you know if they even existed? This absolute disconnect provides an easier moral justification for violence. If you didn't know them, how can it affect you? Aren't they all apart of the greater evil?

There are around 7 billion people on this planet. It would be impossible to learn every other human being. However, this is why exchange programs are so crucial. It exposes people to others. If one has a personal connection with someone in another outgroup, it may be harder for one to perform violence against the said group.

Ready for this? Putting a face on a person can make all the difference. Secondary enemies now have an individual quality to them. No longer are they some evil force, but another human being. I am not saying this will stop violence, but increased inter-group interaction forms relationships that can hinder group-on-group violence. If it is how we act and form relationships with other humans that guide all our interactions, I think it would be pretty important to establish the best relationships you can with others.

Put a face to another group, and it may make all the difference in how you view them.