Monday, December 13, 2010

The Joys of Globalization: A Response to David Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire

Before I watched David Boyle’s critically acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire, I heard a lot of positive and negative perspectives on certain aspects of the film, which is likely why it is so renowned. Most of the responses hailed the film as very informational and emotionally charged; as a movie set in India, American audiences feel like they gain a somewhat accurate depiction of what Indian culture is like through the main character and fictional Who wants to be a Millionaire winner, Ram Mohammad Thomas. On the other side of the spectrum, (namely an Indian acquaintance of mine) some despise the message of the film because of the way it exploits Indian culture in an Americanized way. Though both of these perspectives are quite basic on the surface, each hold their own bit of truth that have led me to my own perspective looking at the film through the lens of globalization and its effects on cultures throughout the world. David Boyle’s film “Slumdog Millionaire” is an example of how globalization and western thinking in terms of capital deteriorate cultures around the world. Globalization has created a homogenized culture that promises prosperity that is false and intangible to most of the world’s population and should be recognized as such in order to help stop the injustices committed by industrialized nations on traditional cultures.

The film is shot in India and uses primarily Indian actors, which puts American viewers into a rather foreign, yet seemingly familiar environment. This is important to note because depending on where one is from and what culture one belongs to, the message of the film is greatly impacted. One immediately noticeable aspect of the setting is the great amount of poverty exemplified by trash strewn all over the cities, the poor living conditions, and no plumbing or access to clean drinking water, among other sights most Americans are not used to seeing. On the other hand, many aspects of American culture have made their way into the Indian culture shown in the film through how the major Indian cities operate, the television programs that are watched, and the attention given to Bollywood celebrities, which reify American audience’s beliefs that the people of India are up to the American standards of living. As Lieber and Weisberg relate this phenomenon directly to globalization, one observer reports, “globalization promotes integration and the removal not only of cultural barriers but many of the negative dimensions of culture. Globalization is a vital step toward both a more stable world and better lives for the people within it" (274) This is a perspective that one believes many American audiences have come to conclude because the main character Ram is ultimately blessed and achieves the “American dream” by the end of the movie when he wins on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. This assumption arises because Ram’s rising up out of the slums with capital is viewed as something beneficial to the boy and the rest of the community. The problem with this that many fail to see is that America’s globalized economy is what causes countries like India to have such immense poverty. Social Theorist David Harvey touches on this issue in relation to cultural values across the globe, the “US [has a] fascination with home ownership, which is supposedly a deep cultural value” (Harvey) which aims to explain that cultural values are not and cannot be the same throughout the world without injustice.

Another scene where this issue is brought up is when a western man supposedly saves young Ram, Jamal and Latika from homelessness. At first the man is seen as a western savior and gives the children coca-colas, the soda being another aspect of globalization in which its main purpose is to attract consumers. Symbolically the children and conned into believing they want this lifestyle, but later find out the man’s malicious and greedy plans to make the children into stars for his own capital gain. As with the case when the boys are blinded to be presumably made into the Indian equivalent of Ray Charles, “The inroads made by American English have been growing with globalization and as a consequence of America's power and influence” (278). This scene is a key example of globalization in India because American culture comes in the form of this Anglo man whose only mission is to exploit the children and essentially re-create his own culture on the other side of the world for profit. Harvey’s viewpoint agrees with this sentiment because he asserts that “capitalism never solves its crisis problems, it just moves its problems geographically” (Harvey). One can see the reason that the Indian people embrace certain aspects of American pop-culture is that it is indeed entertaining, but it also creates an Americanized standard of living which is made to seem like the ideal way to live. When one (especially Americans) sees so many people living in poverty, it comes as a shock that people can live in such conditions. What should be more alarming that is shown in the film is how the Indian people become fixated on wealth through the television game show, which in turn gives hope to people who will most likely always be impoverished. Americans have cultivated this attitude on striving for wealth in the name of the American dream, but that does not mean it should or can be achieved in every culture. What globalization creates is an illusion and promises of salvation that can never be met because it ultimately keeps the rich well-off, and the poor hoping not to be poor.

Not to digress too much, but the story’s basic moral is to value connection and relationships instead of money because capital gain will blind those into hurting others. In the case of the two brothers, Jamal repeatedly abandons Ram because he only cares about his own gain. As a naïve westerner who has never been to India and knows little about their history or current state, one is often led to believe the east is a mystical and spiritual place where people live harmoniously. On the contrary, the people of India strive to make a living by any means to stay alive; that includes begging in slums, or working in the city at some sort of communications corporation among other jobs which are directly connected and controlled by globalization. One student paper by Budiasih Nugroho points out how “the movie ignores the progress made in India over the past few years and how cities like Mumbai are becoming important players in the global economy” (5), but the global economy is definitely addressed in the film by the poverty that is created when the Indian people want to replicate the western standard. The scene when Jamal and Ram are resealing water bottles filled with tap water is an example of how other countries do not have the means to have certain services (recycling in this case), because they simply do not have the resources or the same standards of living. It’s noted that “the United States, with less than 5% of the world's population, accounts for at least one fourth of its economic activity,” (Lieber 276) which shows the imbalance capital creates. A scene that is quite funny that shows this imbalance is when an American couple’s Mercedes Benz is completely jacked because of “the real India”. It’s ironic to this theme of globalization because the man asks, “you’ve got insurance don’t you?” and the woman gives Ram “a bit of the real America” with a handful of money. This shows how naïve the western world is when it comes to solving real problems because it is believed that one can throw money at something at it will immediately become resolved.

Overall, globalization is an ever-growing network that aims to connect cultures, but it ultimately creates a new homogenized one. That is to say that the predominant culture overtakes and imposes itself on other cultures, which often times creates a new set of values and way of life in those parts of the world. One can see this process throughout David Boyle’s film Slumdog Millionaire by the way American pop-culture and politics cross into India and make their mark to stay. As the American way tends to move its problems around the globe to keep up a standard of living, at what point will a major shift occur that is not predominantly westernized? While globalization does offer the opportunity for cultures to cross boundaries and create a better informed world, these efforts are mostly western ideas and ultimately impose western ideals and culture that deteriorate and lessen the value of other worldly cultures. This process is only going to grow exponentially more which leads one to wonder, is there really a solution to this, or is this the future that western innovation always hoped for?

Works Cited

Harvey, David. "RSA Animate - Crises of Capitalism." YouTube. 28 June 2010. Web. 8 Dec. 2010. .

Lieber, Robert J., and Ruth E. Weisberg. "Globalization, Culture, and Identities in Crisis." International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 16.2 (2002): 273-94. JSTOR. Web. 8 Dec. 2010. .

Nugroho, Budiasih W. "Globalization of Pop Culture in Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire Movie (2008) : Sociological Approach." UMS ETD-db Repository - UMS ETD-db. 10 Aug. 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. .

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Presentation Reflection

What the deal with mythology? It has a shaped a lot of the way we think, but how exactly? I just did my presentation of the male divine and all the different ideal forms of men throughout different culture’s histories. I learned some stuff about Hindu myth that I didn’t know before, specifically the story of Bhavagad Gita where a prince named Arjuna is about to go into battle when he encounters Lord Krishna, a god whose form is that of everything in the universe. Arjuna is stuck in his suffering state because he does not want to go to battle, but Krishna explains to him his suffering is only increased by resistance to fulfill his duty. If he does not go into battle he will surely disappoint his family and cause himself even more sorrow. Lord Krishna shows Arjuna this fate and explains that he must live with disciple and action in order to not be confused by what arises in front of him. Though killing is a non-virtuous act in every culture, one must understand that killing is sometimes a necessary part of life. The circumstances that we run into cannot always be solved by non-violence because of the paradox of life. Kill or be killed, but know the path one chooses and stick with it; as well as being aware and open to new paths.

I found this story as an important component to our current history in the west, specifically in the United States because many of the values Arjuna teaches are embedded in our everyday lives. Though American culture has many differences to eastern psychology, one can see how this myth has shaped the minds of Americans whether one realizes it or not. Arjuna speaks of renouncing desires and cravings of the world, something that is generally misunderstood or unrealized by Americans because of our consumer driven culture. People are raised and educated to eventually work and become successful with a good income, always striving to gain more. But what exactly is this success? This is something I had a hard time explaining in my presentation because I generally don’t think Americans have the capacity to let go of their possessions and their ways of thinking about the world. What Arjuna outlines is that once one can let go of these confusions (no doubt trying to find ones place within a capitalist society is difficult) one gets a better and clearer view of what one is living for. This practice teaches that there is a more spiritual element to life that must be honored. One see’s this accepting the unknown. Hindu myth as well as Buddhist belief are all about individuals looking inward to find the root of suffering (that which connects all humans) in order to make oneself more connected with every aspect of life. Many people live in confusion, trying to find out what their identity is, and a lot of the time it just leads to more suffering. In this case, Hindu myth is a way of explaining life so that people can live together more harmoniously. I enjoy this myth because unlike other main world religions it does not outline any exact path or any “right” way. It gets much more confusing, but it’s all about paradox anyway. Find peace within the paradox, the middle path. Peace within all opposites is the reality, not necessarily “good” and “evil”.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sheep Dog in the Moonlight

This is no photo opprotunity
No hope for change, storing
insanity in the poles where
either frigid or frying we flee
to find freedom.
Specific, shaven, clear of conscious
stolen, wooled.

The shepard gazes to bladed sky
The tides of mind say swaying;
even lost is a crowded field.

Of time here to waste,
all in favor forget to think.
The insider left to books knowing
no destination.
Back on the train without

All's all right, one in the same
on the hunt to find
what's being seen.

Calculating Which Is And Not Known

The vagrant droid, power ignited by
blood humor and roadside chicken-
I'm cracking up.

Before I get to the other side I like
to say a prayer
to the fine force that faces me,
Like an obstacle I forget
I've triumped.

Opprotunity awaiting in orginality; its been
written, its been done quite literally.
To be
here, all in one line

Reaching infinitely meaning to love, how

A man can be
whatever I understood, thought what you meant,
seeing choices rejoicing after questions
for the way
to compute correctly.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Communication Breakdown

Consider the period of computer technology for a moment and try to imagine how drastically different daily life would be without the simplest of electronic devices. Practically everyone is caught up in technology. From the second we wake up to an alarm clock, drive our car to work, keep in contact through cell phones, and receive our news from television, radio, or internet; life certainly would not be the same without these staple technologies. Especially in western culture, advances in technology are thought to pave the way towards progress and prosperity for the future, but where to? Twentieth century poet, William Butler Yeats critiques the ignorance of western civilization in his poem “The Second Coming” because there seems to be a missing link between the human mind and nature. The symbolic imagery that Yeats uses in the poem suggests that western society should question its relation to history, nature, and values or else civilization will inevitably destroy itself.

The title of the poem, “The Second coming” is derived from the Christian religion and Jesus Christ, which suggests that a new age of knowledge is on its way to the forefront of human existence. With the advancement of technology that has taken place over the past two thousand years, the amount of knowledge and ideas gained through wars, science, and media has definitely shaped western civilization’s current values, leading people further away from religion and spirituality. The first couple of lines from Yeat’s poem exemplify his concern for the future, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart;” (1-2) which suggests that human technology is not leading forward, but instead toward demise. Advancements in human existence distinguished by science and revelations such as the rotation of the earth and planets enables people to believe that everything about the universe can be known. The imagery of the falconer being unable to control the falcon suggests that man’s conquering attitude toward nature is making it more difficult for people live. Nature is merely chaos in which we try to find meaning within, “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” (4). Jewel Brooker agrees with this idea in here article "'The Second Coming' and 'The Waste Land': Capstones of the Western Civilization Course", “the danger is related to incredible advances in knowledge” (242) because the mind is capable of creating its own world separate from the one in which it lives. This becomes a problem for Yeats and western civilization because it seems impossible to agree upon anything universal.

Keep in mind that Yeats wrote this poem around 1920, right after World War One which had a dramatic affect on the human psyche. The technological advancements in weaponry and international affairs caused a lot of competition and tension throughout the world, making differences in nations across the world more apparent. Yeats, according to Joan Carberg from the journal Daedulus, “did not have the philosophers ability to simplify, the religious leaders capacity for blind faith, or the historians firm dedication to faith” (142) making life out to be far more complex than the here and now. This thought proposes that Yeats himself saw the injustices of his time and found himself lost within it because of the impossibility to find clear cut meaning. He writes, “when a cast image out of Spiritus Mundi / Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert / A Shape with lion body and the head of a man” (12-14) which shows that he understood the collective consciousness as impossible to understand, and ideas and events from history are never accurately depicted or fully understood either. The image of the Sphinx appears in the poem as a reminder that great civilizations of the past (Egyptians) disappeared, and so too could be the fate of western civilization if a basic faith or belief is not able to be agreed upon.

Going back to the notion of “The Second Coming” as a new period of human existence, many new ideas around this time period influenced Yeats, the reason why this poem says so much about the current time period. Yeats understood that no matter how much is learned and derived from history, there is still much to be discovered. If Charles Darwin was never to introduce his theory of evolution, or Sigmund Freud with his ideas of the unconscious mind and ego, many people would never have considered their realities and would have been left to depend on things like religion as their sole purpose of meaning. Yeats illustrates this, “that twenty centuries of stony sleep / were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle” (19-20) suggesting that people are determined to find more meaning in life as to not be lulled like babies with complacency. One gets the feeling that Yeats had a problem with all of these conflicting ideas about what is “right” for society, mostly because he saw the nature of man to put himself above all other aspects of life, including the earth and it’s mysterious nature.

From Yeats poem “The Second Coming” one can definitely get the sense that he feared the future because of many new ideas arise during the time period. About ninety years separates his poem from the current age, and we are now further into the post modern age than ever with the vast amount of history and knowledge we have to draw from. Life is not merely meaningless, but one does have the difficult task of finding meaning and rationalizing it. There is so much knowledge available today that it can often feel daunting trying to find any answers. Will the vast expanse of knowledge cause our current civilization to break down? Are traditional values solely was keeps western civilization together? All in all, Yeats reminds us that humans are not all that matters in the grand scheme of the widening gyre.

Works Cited

Brooker, Jewel S. ""The Second Coming" and "The Waste Land": Capstones of the Western Civilization Course." College Literature 13.3 (1986): 240-53. JSTOR. Web. 15 Sept. 2010. .

Carberg, Joan S. ""A Vision" By William Butler Yeats." Daedalus 103.1 (1974): 142-44. JSTOR. Web. 15 Sept. 2010. .

Smith, Philip. 100 Best-loved Poems. New York: Dover Publications, 1995. Print.

Thoughts on Arnold

It’s quite amusing to ponder the beginning of human thought. Though it may never be known, we all search for it in some way, whether it be for the greater good of all beings, personal gain, or the wellbeing of the earth. What is this mind we have and why is it often so confused? It’s like we were all just dropped onto this planet, lost, searching for a way back to pure existential fulfillment.


An 18th century poet by the name of Matthew Arnold seems to touch on this issue in his poem “Dover Beach”, in that he could see the inherent beauty the world contains, but also the human misery that seems to be separate from the perfected bliss nature expresses. Arnold juxtaposes nature with human nature, “where the ebb meets the moon-blanched sand” (8) compared to “the turbid ebb and flow of human misery” (17-18) to show that the mind is in constant conflict with its supposedly perfect surroundings. This poem was written during the period when notions of God sent religion were being questioned by science, most notably Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The problem this created and is expressed in Arnold’s poem is that humans have separated themselves from nature, and are now beginning to look for reasons beyond the nature of mind to explain human existence. Arnold goes on to write “but now I only hear / it’s melancholy, long, withdrawing roar / retreating to the breath” (24-26) which reminds one that people must go back to the simplest forms of existence (breathing), to go beyond the nature of their critical and often miserable minds.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tangled up in computers

My name is Sean, and this is my fifth year majoring in English, right in the gem of the SFV many like to call CSUN. When I think about using computer technology in the classroom and all the ways I've used it throughout my education, it seems unimaginable and unrealistic not to be expected to use it in the future of teaching. My father introduced me to the computer at about six years old, one that only ran DOS at that, so I've always had an interest for machines. Not only can they entertain, but they also simplify and widen our base of knowledge immensely.

I remember when I first learned how to use the internet, mostly for basic stuff like looking up pictures of things I liked like Lego sets and Volkswagon Beetle's, and just being able to search with the internet being so new was such a thrill. Today my life is still partly consumed my the computer's great abilities. I don't use it as much for social networking like facebook, twitter, etc. though I think that direction the internet is going in will ultimately connect people and information in a way that is more important than we can even fathom now. The fact is that more people are using computers today than ever before. Computer technology is becoming more embedded in our natural environment as a stable we need to survive.

It would be not only be ridiculous not to incorporate computer technology in future education, but simply unrealistic. I personally love the fact this whole class is blog style and paperless, not only because I don't have to print anything, but also because it opens my writing up to a whole new medium where I can use and experiment with other media like music, video, and links to other people's work to give my writing more connections that can be easily accessible. I'm going to really try and keep my word to add as much extra outside media as I can because I think it will supplement my writing well. I also look forward to seeing how creative other people in class with their blogs. Ultimately technology allows a lot more freedom and creativity, especially with education that can often seem plain boring. We should all take advantage of this technology with confidence because creativity is at the base of our existence.