Thursday, December 20, 2018

Pulling That Weight: How Colleges Fail Survivors of Sexual Assault by Sarah Baum


When they were a senior at Columbia University, Emma Sulkowitz (who uses they/them pronouns) was raped in their dorm by an acquaintance. They reported it to campus authorities but fell on deaf ears. When that failed, they reported their assault to the NYPD, and their case was ridiculed and dismissed. So, Emma coped with their pain and trauma through art. A visual arts major, Emma conducted their senior thesis on their assault. They called it “Carry That Weight” in reference to the emotional weight one carries after an assault and the psychological pain Emma endured knowing their rapist was still at their school. They carried with them a 50 pound mattress, identical to the one on which they were assaulted, everywhere on campus for the entire rest of their time at Columbia. “Carry That Weight” went viral; Emma was featured in The New York Times. But the sensation did nothing to help their case. Along with the knowledge their rapist would never be punished for his crime, they ended up carrying the mattress with them to get their diploma during graduation. These stories are commonplace on campuses today. Colleges do not have the resources nor the motive to protect their students from sexual violence.




One in five women will be assaulted on a college campus (RAINN). Yet, when a student is a victim of sexual assault on campus, they have no ally in their school. College campuses fail to address proper prevention and intervention tactics, such as as consent education. According to The Atlantic, “Students arriving on campus are, by many measures, less socially developed than were those of previous generations...They also create an environment in which sexual experimentation followed by shame or regret is common, as is poor communication by both parties” (par. 2).  Most states do not have any requirements for sexual assault prevention training. Of those that do, many are one-time requirements of presentations or lectures that do not resonate with students. But these programs are integral to preventing sexual assault. According to The New York Times, of a small sample size of 400 or so women, 9% of people in the control group had been sexually assaulted, contrary to 3% of those who received training. It also found that just 22 women needed to receive the training to prevent one sexual assault (par 4-5). Yet these programs continue to be cut in lieu of more profitable endeavors. Students are damned by their schools before they can even be victimized by their classmates.



Moreover, colleges lack the tools needed to react in a just, swift and ethical way to allegations of sexual assault. Title IX laws are unclear and being implemented at polarizing extremes. On one hand, it may lead to a galvanizing force for college campuses that largely use the single investigator model wherein one staff member serves as judge, jury and prosecutor.  Meanwhile, a letter sent out to university officials by the Obama administration instructed schools “to investigate any reports of possible sexual misconduct, including those that came from a third party and those in which the allTitle IX, eged victim refused to cooperate. (Paradoxically, they were also told to defer to alleged victims’ wishes, creating no small amount of confusion among administrators)” (The Atlantic, par. 7). This policy, though well intentioned, has the potential to further traumatize victims. Sexual assault is an act of taking power and control away, and by doing the same in the aftermath rubs salt in the wound. Yet, these “third party reporter” cases made up 30% of undergraduate cases of sexual violence. The same article found the timespan of college sexual assault investigations have increased from 289 days to over 900.  Such practices lead to incidents like that of Kojo Bonsu, a University of Massachusetts-Amherst student who was banned him from all campus activities and housing once allegations against him were made in an effort to adhere to Title IX policies. While precautions like these can be integral in keeping victims safe, the investigation lasted six months, only for him to be found innocent of sexual assault. By then his physical and mental health had plummeted, and he had to withdraw from classes. He will still graduate but two years too late and at another school. He is a victim of a different kind, subjugated under the very same broken system which lets actual sexual predators walk free.




On the other hand, many schools fail to do much of anything in response to claims of sexual assault. Emma Sulkowicz was one of four Columbia students to bring accusations against the same man, Paul Nungesser, but Columbia University delivered justice for none of them. Similarly, the award-winning documentary The Hunting Ground found that over a ten year period, Harvard University saw 135 reported assaults and just ten suspensions; University of California-Berkeley had 78 reported assaults and just 3 expulsions; Dartmouth College had 155 reported assaults and 3 expulsions; Stanford University had 259 assaults and just one expulsion; and the University of North Carolina and University of Virginia had 205 and 136 reported assaults respectively, with a combined total of zero expulsions (meanwhile, UVA saw 183 expulsions for other breaches of its honor code, such as plagiarism, in the same time span). These numbers do not match the statistic which found one in five women will be sexually assaulted on campus. In fact, in 2015, 89% of colleges reported no sexual assaults at all (American Association of University Women).



This transcription occurs because colleges want to produce artificially low numbers to protect their image. Colleges do not wish to be seen as a place with high rates of sexual assault, something that may deter potential students and donors. Yet, instead of solving the problem for the betterment of students, they sweep it under the rug in a “quick fix” effort to save their bottom line. Their other reason is to protect “priority” students. According to The Dallas Morning News, Baylor University coach Art Briles was on staff for years and made aware of 52 rapes committed by 31 players, but he did not act. During a gang rape in 2012, Briles had placed the blame on the victim, saying “Those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?” Similarly, a lawsuit against the University of Tennessee found it showed unfair bias in favor of alleged perpetrators, particularly athletes, providing them exclusive access to a list of recommended lawyers. Then, in 2002, a Penn State football player was found guilty of rape and suspended for two semesters, yet he was still allowed to travel and play with the team. College sports, being a multi-billion dollar industry, is a great revenue generator for many institutions of higher education. It all boils down to profit; it is more profitable to retain star athletes, no matter the cost, than it is to protect rape victims.  Not only does this strip victims of justice but endangers others, as many are repeat offenders. FiveThirtyEight reported most rapes are done by a small group of people, as the average sexual predator will commit 6 rapes apiece. But because they are athletes, they get away with it, a phenomenon the Department of Education said led student athletes “to believe that there were special rules for people with special talents.”




Hofstra University is no stranger to these pitfalls. Its student policy “prohibits discriminatory harassment, relationship violence and sexual violence,” meant to ensure “an environment conducive to personal and intellectual growth.” Yet in May of last year, New York state courts found Hofstra to be in violation of its own policy regarding sexual assault when it took over a year to resolve a claim of domestic violence, in which a student alleged her boyfriend tried to strangle her and threw pepper in her eyes (Nixon Peabody). Throughout the year-long dispute, Hofstra violated the school’s own policy which calls for claims to be resolved “with reasonable promptness” defined as up to 60 days. The court also found that Hofstra acted “capriciously” in banning the male student from the dorms before having a formal hearing. Moreover, according to The Hofstra Chronicle, our Title IX Officer resigned, was replaced by a new staff member with a new title and had their office moved. But Hofstra never made this information known. So, when students with concerns of sexual harassment or violence came forward, they faced substantial roadblocks in finding the right person to contact.  It was a severe breach in transparency that was only resolved when student reporters pressured officials into sending a public email to make the information known.



In essence, college campuses are ill-equipped to deal with allegations of sexual assault and violence. No federal law mandates the consent training that is integral to reducing sexual assault on campus. Therefore, thousands of students each year embark on their college journey without it. Then, when instances of rape do arise, colleges fail to resolve the matter in a just and swift fashion, to the disservice of both the the complainant and the accused. They either hyper-galvanize the cause or ignore it all together. Colleges even have incentive to suppress these numbers. As a result, students cannot feel safe on campus. The very institutions bound to protect them literally put their lives in danger. Students’ bodies are weighed with profit, and oftentimes, profit wins. The only way to resolve the epidemic of rape on college campuses is to work together with government institutions to implement meaningful legislation that holds universities accountable and provides realistic and specific guidelines on to how stop the issue at its core. Only then will students be safe on campus. We all have a torch to bare and a role to play in carrying that weight.

Works Cited


“89 Percent of Colleges Reported Zero Incidents of Rape in 2015.” AAUW: Empowering Women
Since 1881, www.aauw.org/article/clery-act-data-analysis-2017/.


Ameliatd. “What If Most Campus Rapes Aren't Committed By Serial Rapists?” FiveThirtyEight,
FiveThirtyEight, 30 July 2015, fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-if-most-campus-rapes-arent-committed-by-serial-rapists/.


“Damning Texts between Ex-Baylor Coach Briles, Other Officials Revealed in New Court
Records.” Dallas News, 3 Feb. 2017,
www.dallasnews.com/news/baylor/2017/02/02/ex-baylor-coach-art-briles-officials-tried-hide-misconduct-football-players-court-record-shows.


“Faculty.” What Does It Cost to Attend? | Hofstra University, New York,
www.hofstra.edu/faculty/senate/policy-series-043.html.


Hoffman, Jan. “College Rape Prevention Program Proves a Rare Success.” The New York
Times, The New York Times, 21 Dec. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2015/06/12/health/colle
Ge-rape-prevention-program-proves-a-rare-success.html.

“New York Court Concludes University's Determination of Dating Violence Was Arbitrary and
Capricious.” Nixon Peabody LLP,
www.nixonpeabody.com/en/ideas/articles/2018/05/10/hofstra-university-title-ix-ruling.


RAINN | The Nation's Largest Anti-Sexual Violence Organization,
www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence.


“The Hunting Ground .” CNN Films, 2017.


“Title IX Transition Sparks Questions about Transparency.” The Hofstra Chronicle, 2018,
www.thehofstrachronicle.com/archive-2017/title-ix-transition-sparks-
questions-transparency.


Yoffe, Emily. “The Uncomfortable Truth About Campus Rape Policy.” The Atlantic, Atlantic
Media Company, 29 Sept. 2017,
www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/09/the-uncom

fortable-truth-about-campus-rape-policy/538974/.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Dark Side of Civilization by Jennie Spellman



America likes to claim the title of being one of the most “civilized” countries, but what does civilized truly mean? After watching Jamie Uys’ The Gods Must Be Crazy and joining KP’s class discussions, I became genuinely disturbed by the word civilized and its true definition. Throughout our lives, we are influenced by societal norms and peer pressure. Everything we embark upon is done with the consideration of what other people will think of us. We are goaded into what we wear, what we do, what we buy all to answer the silent question: how will I fit in? In “The Ironic Hospitality of the Kalahari Desert,” Morgan Morrill writes of our American lifestyle, “There is barely time to breath in this machine-like world with the amount of meetings and activities that everyone has written on to their calendars” (Morrill, par. 1).



At first, I believed I was not a part of this machine-like world until writer and director Jamie Uys helped me understand just how deeply rooted societal conformity is in my life choices. He delivers the effects of restrictive societal norms for the viewer to experience first-hand. In comic fashion, The Gods Must Be Crazy analyzes the days of the week and our distorted perception of time. I thought back to the film Walkabout in which director Nicolas Roeg demonstrates that the true flaw of civilized culture is its inability to adapt or adjust to circumstances. He allows the viewer the chance to analyze the actions of a civilized British schoolgirl in the Australian Outback, an environment that is deeply unfamiliar to her. In different ways The Gods Must Be Crazy and Walkabout reveal how these pressures obstruct our ability to habituate, accommodate and acculturate to new conditions.

   

Furthermore, The Gods Must Be Crazy is a mockumentary about the Kalahari Bushmen and their way of living. The film compares the Bushmen lifestyle to the civilized lifestyle in apartheid South Africa. Uys employs satire in order to force the viewer to see the civilized world in a new light. Although Uys only focuses on the civilized world for a portion of the film, he targets the many failures of cultural adaptation. As the camera moves away from the serene and calm habitat of the Bushmen, the viewer is then hit with sequences of crowds, busy streets, and towering buildings (Uys, 00:05:30). The contrast that Uys creates highlights the wholesomeness of the Bushmen community against the civilized lifestyle displayed in short, chaotic fragments. The voice of the narrator accompanies these scenes in a demeaning tone. The narrator explains how “civilized man refused to adapt himself to his environment and instead adapted his environment to suit him” (Uys, 00:06:36-00:10:30). The civilized man thus set standards for society, which we call social norms.


In “How Social Norms Affect Our Decisions, Doctor Carrie Steckl describes social norms as, “expectations that inform us how we’re supposed to behave in certain situations – [that] are ubiquitous in our society” (Steckl, par. 2). She explains how social norms have four common aspects: they tell us what to do and what not to do; they are socially shared; they carry an element of control or sanction; and they highly influence one’s behavior (Steckl par. 3). These expectations ultimately control how we act as individuals and how we act as a community. 


In The Gods Must Be Crazy, Kate Thompson is a writer for a big city newspaper. When one of her coworkers asks her to write a story about handicapped children, she quickly refuses the idea saying, “Sorry. I’ll only print sweetness and light, even if it bores the pants off them” (Uys, 00:07:05). Just a few seconds later another one of her companions asks if she could write a story on the teacher shortage in Botswana. Instead of considering the idea, Thompson says again, “I don't know. I got bawled out for writing a story on mugging. My page should be sweet and light, like Liberace and Jackie Onassis” (Uys, 00:07:36). Thompson is letting social norms control her and what she writes about. Instead of writing about something that peaks her curiosity, she is limited by convention to write about topics that are “sweet and light” even if they may be boring. Society writes the script of our lives, and like good actors, we play the part. These constraints are preventing us from adapting and advancing as human species.



The inability to revamp and reshape our limited outlook is taken further in the film Walkabout. Roeg shows us the journey of a teenage British girl and her younger brother who must endure the Australian desert on their own when they are abandoned by their suicidal father. During their “walkabout,” they encounter a young Aboriginal man who is accustomed to the dry Australian desert. Throughout the film, The Girl is unable to acclimatize to the Aboriginal way of life due to the expectations of her civilized lifestyle. In “Walkabout: Where the Wild Things Are,” Allison Bellesheim writes, “The two children are symbols for civilization, as they grew up in a world where they learned proper etiquette, were taught to get educated to ensure future employment, and were given food instead of having to hunt for it” (Bellesheim, par. 2). Coming from a strict and demanding society, The Girl cannot conform to a new way of life in her walkabout. This theme is highlighted throughout the whole film, but it can specifically be seen when she first meets the Aboriginal hunter. She is unable to ask him for water due to the language barrier (Roeg, 00:36:30). Further on in the film, The Girl worries to her younger brother about their appearance, even though no one is there to see or judge them. She says, “You must look after your blazer. It’s got to last. We don’t want people thinking we’re a couple of tramps. And you’ve put a hole in your pocket. Don’t! You’ll ruin your nice shoes” (Roeg, 00:34:28-00:37:10). Her bizarre reaction is merely an effect that social norms have engraved in her brain. Even further into the film as The Girl, The Boy, and The Aboriginal are painting on the rock walls, she complains saying, “I wish we had a proper pencil” (Roeg, 01:10:53). Her rigid upbringing in a “superior” and civilized society has caused her to become so incredibly closed off to change that it obstructs her from refashioning herself. My classmate Lindsay Knight describes her as, “cracking under modern society, living the same type of monotone lifestyle instead of adapting to the Aboriginal way” (Knight). Mentally stuck in her civilized ways, she proves unable to grow culturally.



On the first day of class, we learned about three diseases in our society, especially for our generation: short attention spans, overwhelming competition with one another and a paralyzing fear of being judged. The third one stood out to me the most. It is the fear of stepping out of social norms, which stops us from widening our outlook and deepening our personal growth. One elemental step in life that people are unfamiliar with is college. In American society, it is assumed that one will go to college right after high school. However, this may not be the right path for everyone. Although high schools host college fairs and college panels, they seem to be missing a very important alternative: gap year programs. This past semester, as I was studying at Hofstra University, one of my closest friends taught at a private school in Thailand. Not only was she pursuing her interest in becoming a digital arts teacher, she was also evolving and growing as a person. Her gap year “walkabout” helped her discover her true path in life in a way she would have never been able to have done while in college.



Having the strength to step out of the societal comfort zone enables us to learn in rare ways. Without this courage we are forever stuck in society’s restrictions, stopping ourselves from becoming our best. We visually identify the consequences of conformity in these two films as the inability to make individual choices. The way in which “modern” society forces conformity so strictly in The Gods Must Be Crazy and Walkabout has helped me to discover a new way of living. As I have grown throughout my first year in college, I have learned to not care what others think. I have been able to overcome my fear of being judged, which has led me to grow intellectually and as a person. The toxicity of conformity in today’s society is apparent to me now, and if others are not willing to see this, we may not be able to advance and adapt to upcoming obstacles. As the true meaning of civilization is uncovered in these films, the question is raised: how will viewers defy the high pressures of social norms and break out of the cage society puts us in?



Works Cited

Bellesheim, Allison. “Walkabout: Where The Wild Things Are.” Taking Giant Steps. Kirpal  

Gordon, 13 Feb. 2017. Web.

Knight, Lindsay. February 12, 2018. Class Discussion.

Morrill, Morgan. “The Ironic Hospitality of the Kalahari Desert” Taking Giant Steps. Kirpal

Gordon, 14 Mar. 2018. Web.

Roeg, Nicolas, director. Walkabout. Twentieth Century Fox, 1971.

Steckl, Carrie. “How Social Norms Affect Our Decisions.” Mental Help Network.

mentalhelp.net, 26 Apr. 2013. Web.

Uys, Jamie, director. The Gods Must Be Crazy. Twentieth Century Fox, 1984.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Build Roads, Don't Just Drive on Them by Victoria Wetmore


Life is a crazy thing. I am not here to preach that living is some magical journey that changes the foundation of society as we know it, but people should take advantage of the life that they have been given. To have the ability to run through valleys, feel the wind in our hair, and breathe the air around us is amazing. The sad part of these hidden blessings is that we are all merely a blip in the existence of the world, yet we are expected to make the most of life. However, if life is so small, then what is the point? What are we here for if, in the relativity of time and space, we are only here for a few seconds? Why are humans expected to make a difference, to be somebody, and to carve our own paths for others to be inspired by? It is because we matter. Our few seconds on Earth make a difference to those who follow simply because we are all connected to one another.

           

In Peter Handke’s poem, “Song of Childhood,” written specifically for Wim Wenders’ 1987 drama/fantasy Wings of Desire, he writes, “...everything is soulful, / and all souls are one” (8-9). Our choices have meaning to those who succeed us; we continue on our journeys laced with the ideas of the ancestors rooted in our heritage, lineage and nation. Even so, the insights and discoveries of our predecessors do not determine how we should act, but they influence the choices that we make today. People are constantly out to be their best, to cope effectively with their existence and to advance human civilization. Hence, there is a constant inner battle with ourselves to be adaptable and to find the ability to make choices that are not stereotypical, biased or pre-determined. 



Personally, I am guilty of competing with others. I grew up believing that if I were not on top, then I was not the best; then again, I often did not show how smart I was to others because that would be showing too much of my hand. I also strived to not deviate from the path that our stereotyped society has created for me. I continued to do the same thing every single daynot because it was habitual but because I was scared to have my homeostasis rocked. In this sense, the character known as The Girl in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout is a parallel to a younger me. She did not want to go along with the Aborigine and break the cultural barriers of western civilization in the Australian Outback. The white, British, teenaged foreigner could not accept the advances of the indigenous teenager on his walkabout, nor learn his ways of life simply because they differed from her pre-chosen course. To cope with her decision to remain stagnant in a culture that constrained her, especially when her husband disappointed her, she daydreamed of the freedom that she experienced (Roeg, 1:38:03). 

Her swimming naked in the lake waters in the Outback (Roeg, 0:58:09) symbolizes her inner need to undress from a life that forced her to escape her mad and suicidal father, watch over her younger brother and become a boring housewife. The subconscious voice of the British girl yearned for the independence that her conscious mind could not even begin to understand nor allow. What she was seeking was a mind and life of her own, but she was too brainwashed by thoughts drilled into her of how she should run her life. She, as well as I, should learn to “join with the consciousness of others, not compete with it” (Gordon). 




Afraid to adapt to change, I often fall prey to these inner battles over the smallest of decisions. I do not skip class, but usually contemplate it to the point of having a headache. I do not have the ability to say no to even the simplest of requests because it is in my conditioning to be nice, even if I am swamped with work. I cannot join my friends in these basic teenage activities because I refuse to change my ways. For example, I never argue with my parents’ decisions when receiving a firm no after asking to stay out late with my friends. Usually, I am frightened by the consequences that would come from the potential fight, but in my mind what they say goes.  When I wish for a better way to grasp what is thrown at me, I go to my oasis, my waterhole, where I can swim freely. This metaphorical lake is the television. My favorite programs calm me down and allow me briefly to live a different life. If I picture myself in the shows, then I am not in reality. Despite this, as we all know, The Girl and I have not found a way out; we have simply developed coping mechanisms to blind us from the harsh reality that we refuse to change. 

           

However, there are ways to push past these “fixed” boundaries. Our “writing coach and midwife,” Paul Kirpal Gordon, suggests we create and develop three interconnected and interdependent experiences that check and balance each other. The first is a healthy love relationship with a significant other. If we are all supposed to be one collective soul, then we require healthy, quality human exchanges that help us sustain a love life and vital connection with the person we care most deeply about. To have someone to come back to at the end of the day who cares about you just as much as you care about them is one of the most beneficial things that the human mind, body and soul can have. Studies show, “From childhood until old age, being connected to others in secure and loving relationships helps our patients better deal with stress” (Vallas, par. 7). The second part of this model is to develop a dependable and inspiring core of friends, family and associates who one can trust with one’s deepest issues, fears and ambitions. Having peers to talk to or a supporting family life helps to keep a clear and focused mind and heart. Thirdly, one must discover on one’s own walkabout what one wants to do with one’s life in terms of a meaningful career, vocation and service to others. The Girl thought that she had to follow the predetermined path of compliant schoolgirl, responsible older sister, snobbish foreigner and obedient wife in the overbearing land of stereotypes and comfort, but she really wanted to break free of the chains of civilized man. The longing look of regret in her eyes at the end of the film (Roeg, 1:38:18) portrays her lack of independence and her yearning to return to the freedom that the Outback allowed. 


I want to establish my own path in advertising and become somebody who I can love and respect, not some plastic doll that my parents can dress into whatever career they think will earn me the most money. 

           

When I and The Girl escape to our imaginative states, we miss out on what reality presents to us, especially the people, things and events that can enlarge our perspectives on life. Coming into college, I had to learn to re-train my senses in order to experience Hofstra University because it is anything but a typical college. Here, there is the inclusion of all races, genders and backgrounds, as well as clubs and support groups that welcome us with open arms. In my town of Brick, New Jersey, such an impartial and non-judgmental community does not exist. Hofstra’s diverse and international community of individuals feels like several indigenous societies brought together into one spot, which has allowed me to immerse myself in an environment of change. It is not a place where I can pretend to be someone else for a little while; it is an environment that is molding me into who I really want to be: a decisive, determined, contributing part of a collective society. 



In order to make my engagement into a true community happen, I have to drop my old ideas about status and labels and categories that do not allow me to explore all the possibilities thrown my way. Lina Wertmuller’s controversial Swept Away helped with this part of my journey. Her two main Italian protagonists, Raffaella and Gennarino, become stranded on a deserted island together. In such a circumstance, one would think that differences would be set aside as survival becomes the imperative mindset of both castaways. Instead, Raffaella could not drop her upper-class ego to allow the lower-class ruffian Gennarino to help her. Her mistreatment of his help on the yacht fueled the fire that metaphorically burned the bridge for a true connection. Both protagonists allowed their social status and political views to constrict their lives on the island. They had the potential to break the norm and join together to construct a love relationship or mutual friendship, sans any previous connections of wealth and class. Nonetheless, trouble emerges when Gennarino starts bullying Raffaella who soon succumbs to Stockholm Syndrome. As described in Ariana Farajollah’s blog post, “An Abused Woman’s Colonization and Declaration of Independence in Swept Away,” “Mental disorder therapist Julia Layton describes the cause of the syndrome: ‘In a traumatic and extraordinarily stressful event, a person finds herself held captive by a man who is threatening to kill her if she disobeys him in any way. She may be abused — physically, sexually and/or verbally — and have trouble thinking straight’” (Farajollah, par. 2). Simply put, the two protagonists tricked themselves into believing that they had a true connection while on the island. However, when they return to the mainland, the stigma of class and status reappear, and they revert back to their own ways. Raffaella ditches Gennarino for her upper-class husband and his wealth. 

   

The idea that status controls us and inhibit who we can be with is preposterous but tragic. It cuts off the idea that we are all one and of the same place. This persisting issue of ranking falls in line with my own personal problem: I did not want to set aside my intentions of being on top. Nevertheless, if I were to stick to this framework, I would constantly be on this high horse that made me believe that I was better than the people around me. Consequently, entertaining this delusional state of mind would only be limiting my own growth and interpretation of the world. Since entering college, my antennae has allowed me to reach those in need of not only academic help but social assistance, too. I no longer attempt to be the best; instead, I use my tools to benefit others around me. Hence, I am more open to share my thoughts and ideas that used to be secretive. I use my school work to benefit others and to try new things that a younger, hesitant me could not think of doing. I dropped my own stereotypes and have since benefitted morally from the change.



I realized that to enhance my intellectual and moral growth I need to stop ignoring topics I do not fully comprehend. In fact, an obtuse, head-in-the-sand lifestyle can create these differences that further the disconnect gap that I am struggling to close. In order to become a better and more well-rounded individual, I am learning things that help me to better comprehend a larger world, not just things that relate to my public relations major. For example, I am all for mathematics, but I draw the line just at extreme problems that require four sheets of paper to complete. Similarly, I enjoy debating on politics, but I have no control over what the country or the world does, nor do I feel like my ideas fit directly into one political party.     



What I have learned is that every single person has the right to enjoy things that I do not. After all, my ability to accept those differences and participate in life with those who have contrasting ideas from me is what makes us all one. The concept that we can all be connected, no matter our personal beliefs, is something stronger than we are able to perceive. Jamie Uys portrayed this mindset in The Gods Must Be Crazy, in which an indigenous bushman of the Kalahari Desert, Xi, came across a Coke bottle. The piece of glass that was once seen as useful to the tribe was actually the catalyst that created the dispute in the community and eventually drew them apart. Although I agree with removing toxic things from our lives, I do not agree with Xi’s decision to travel to the end of the earth to rid his band of people from this new item. He did not like the disagreement that the bottle caused within the tribe, even though it was a tool that helped to roll out animal skins, make music, and other various tasks. Instead of attempting to regulate the use of the bottle or understand more about it, he threw it away. I tend to handle my problems with information that I do not care about nor comprehend the same way. The bushmen and I should learn how to open ourselves to appreciating the differences between those with thoughts that differ from our original ideologies. Just because we are from different places does not mean that we should be blind to the way others function; “spiritually we are one,” (Enea) but “we are different people who form part of a bigger group called mankind, which makes us one” (Orellana). I have begun to grow as a person by listening to ideas different than my own, and I associate myself with people I originally would have put off after the first meeting. I have gained a new set of eyes. After watching Uys’ film, I connected more profoundly with the idea that we are all one. Rather than seeing ourselves as animals in competition with one another, we are cooperative beings who share the same prerogative to experience the best lives that we can.

In a world where there is so much miscommunication and discrepancy, an imaginary force holds us back. We are closed off because we are blocking out the peripheral vision sensors that we are born with, which prohibits us from seeing the small things and appreciating what is right in front of us. It also lessens our desire to be content with what we have because we always have to be on top with the next best gadget. Although we have the freedom of choice to do what we want, when we want, and with whomever we choose, Walkabout, Swept Away and The Gods Must Be Crazy all portray what happens when we do not break the stereotypes that limit us, when we pretend to be something we are not and when we fail to adapt to change. In Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, angel Damiel drops these notions when he falls in love with a mortal. In what world would an angel be able to follow their heart to take human form in order to be with their mortal lover? Most people watching the film would say, “Never,” but that is because we are so blocked by pre-determined characteristics and the illusion that things are magically set in stone. Well, stones break and crumble. Damiel chooses to give up angelic immortality to know what it is like to love and experience the world first hand. As fellow “fallen” angel Peter Falk advises him, Damiel comes to appreciate the small things, like drinking coffee, bleeding, seeing color and tasting food. He celebrates hope. Fellow writer and Hofstra student blogger Monica Boretsky noted in “Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire: A Reason to Believe,” “Damiel has a visible reaction of joy and contentment. His face eases up and clearly experiences the full sensation that many people have overlooked” (par. 2). Damiel broke out of the mold in order to join life instead of standing outside of it. We do not always understand that we have the ability to control our own fates. 

 

I have recently been immersed in an environment that has caused me to follow my career ambition and become the best person that I can possibly be, inside and out. I can make choices that benefit me, no matter the original preconceptions that I once had. For example, just because I am straight does not mean that I cannot have LGBTQ+ friends or learn from their experiences; I am female, but that does not mean I have to stay in the kitchen and cook for a man or stay out of the billiards room at Hofstra because the other pool players are male (see “The Art of the Real Hustle,” February 12, 2018, Taking Giant Steps Press Blog). Who says I have to remain quiet and timid when I was born with my own mouth to speak freely about feminism and equal rights? My own mind allows me to conjure up my own opinions and formulate my own lifestyle that transcends any and all stereotypes. Attending Hofstra University has done wonders for my growth and for expanding my mindset to a whole new level. I want to be myself! “Why lie and cheat when you have the confidence to be yourself?” (Gordon). I am tired of trying to be someone that I am not just to please the people around me. I am sick of the assumptions that make people believe they must be different or better than everyone else. Breaking those boundaries has expanded my comfort zone. In an attempt to network properly and get ahead for the years to come, I have found myself growing closer to students in my major. I am the person in charge of determining what happens with my life. 



I struggled to make friends when I first entered the university. I wandered around campus and introduced myself to the folks at the ultimate frisbee table. They made me feel accepted. When I attended their scrimmage, I was immersed in kindness and felt a communion with all of their wild spirits. I did not feel the need to be different or change who I was in order to be accepted. In this moment, I also realized that this is a group of people who do not judge anybody. They also played together as seven cogs in one cohesive machine, as opposed to seven individuals on a field. This type of comradery is what proved to me that this was the form of society that I needed to be a part of in order to thrive. 



In an attempt to get to my goal of being in advertising faster, I joined the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). I wanted to get a head start. I learned that I have to make my own path in order to get to where I want, not expect things to just fall in my lap. If I want to make it in this field, I must learn to work together with people, for being part of a team and acting as one is an important skill to have in this work setting. Damiel’s tenacity is exactly what I need to develop in order to stay strong in the business field. Handke’s message that we are all one is what reels me back if I lose the teamwork model. My seventh-grade teacher, a man who taught me more about myself at the age of twelve than I have learned in my other eighteen years of existence, presented me with this quote: “Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence” (Founding Families). Abigail Adams wrote this to her son, John Quincy Adams, telling him that wandering is not the way to traverse through life. He has to be focused and know what he wants (which relates back to the three ideas for love-friends-career). Wenders takes this idea and flips it on its head, for it shows the journey of an angel, of a spirit, searching for something that transforms him. Damiel is on the hunt for love, for feeling, for something real; he is done with the business of watching and witnessing. Peter Handke’s idea that “all souls are one” influences Damiel’s decisions, for he does not let the fact that he is an angel stop him from loving a mortal and incarnating that dream. 



I am still learning to not let the preconceived notions of society weigh me down and make me feel trapped and unable to make my own choices. I have been on this journey for a long time and do not expect to stop when times get tough. Even though we are “of the same root but different flowers” (Gordon), we are soulfully one and have to remember that, under the umbrella of gender, sex, color, race, creed or religion, the sun shines equally on us all. Before college, I was in a town that was set in its old ways. After entering Hofstra University, I have been welcomed by individuals who see the world as a place to interpret thoughts and ideas for ourselves, rather than following a map that has already been written out. Perhaps it is better to deviate from those pre-written directions once in a while. I mean, what is a true adventure without getting lost a bit? While a good majority of rules should be followed, it is not up to our old stereotypes and predisposed information to determine our destinies. Instead, I am learning to figure things out for myself. I have even found joy in activities like writing and arts and crafts that I never found excitement in before college. These new experiences allow us to be unique and individualistic, but it is the same idea that we all want to be ourselves that make us all one. I am happy to report that I am going in the right direction and have Hofstra University and all of the people that I have met thus far to thank for it. 




Works Cited

Boretsky, Monica. “Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire: A Reason to Believe,” 






Enea, Kristen. Class Discussion. 18 Apr. 2018.



Farajollah, Ariana. Taking Giant Steps. "An Abused Woman's Colonization and Declaration of 

            Independence in Swept Away," 1 Jan. 1970, 






Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. 

James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.

            http://www.masshist.org/apde2/

.

Gordon, Paul Kirpal. Class Discussion. 18 Apr. 2018.



Orellana, Roger. Class Discussion. 18 Apr. 2018.



“The Positive Effects of Love on Mental Health.” Psychiatry Advisor, 11 Mar. 2016, 


            h/article/401655/.



Roeg, Nicolas. Walkabout. Perf. Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil, and Luc Roeg. Twentieth 

Century Fox, 1971. Film.


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Pursuit to Restore Serenity by Hanna Eshetu





In the parched wilderness, six hundred miles away from civilization, Bushmen continue to exist; environed by nature and family, they live a lifestyle some denounce as “savage.” In truth, the natives inhabiting the Kalahari Desert are “the most content people in the world” (Uys 0:02:54). However, as human beings, they too can stumble on unfamiliar behaviors. In this case, they are influenced by an item as strange and superficial as a Coca-Cola bottle. Despite sanctioned segregation transpiring in South Africa, the 1980’s allegorical comedy, The Gods Must Be Crazy, directed and written by Jamie Uys, portrays a diverse selection of cultures through a selfless and humorous story-line of human interplay. Uys depicts a fun tale of a bushman, Xi, played by N!xau, on a walkabout-like quest to reach the “edge” of the world, to rid an evil gift bestowed upon his tribe. En route to restore serenity, he casually encounters persons whom he presumes are almighty Gods rather than the next-door, sophisticated, blue-collar urbanites. The collective witty liaison that each character shares with one another ridicules the ludicrous notions of apartheid.   



For centuries humans have annihilated one another over collateral differences that are indeed biologically shared by all. Amidst the devastating era of African colonization, invaders not only diminished treasured traditions, but they altogether enslaved African citizens. As if claiming private and personal property was not enough, conquerors, especially in South Africa, further mandated legal bigotry against its own people. The statutory division known as apartheid permitted higher status to the white conquerors, leaving the Africans to become second-class citizens and legitimately inferior in their own home; this system “racially classified individuals and then denied fundamental human rights” (Tutu). Similar to the racial caste system, Jim Crow laws, once granted in the United States, sought “to limit the aspirations of blacks” as well as emphasize a ferocious means of law enforcement (Auguste). Apartheid’s stigma included its derogatory laws, not to mention its ironic intent declared on paper as acall for equal development and freedom of cultural expression” (Sahistory). The powerful force of the divergent protesters shone heavily on its immorality, and they ceaselessly objected to the senseless law’s false representation, exposing its irony. In spite of this disaster, the making of the film The Gods Must Be Crazy persisted.

       

The merging powers of both the privileged and underprivileged flared heightened resistance against ignorant segregation, extending hope and inspiration. It proved such an inspiration that director Uys administers humor through casting diversified actors and designing their exceptional personas in his mockumentary. The film paints a relationship between two distinct cultures assisting one another notwithstanding their cultural barriers. The “pretty, dainty, small and graceful” Bushmen and the white “civilized man” differ in language, appearance and demeanor (Uys, 00:01:33). Xi’s tribe does not recognize aggression or animosity; nevertheless, they have no need to claim ownership because they live collectively, enjoying and praising nature. On the other hand, “civilized man refused to adapt himself to his environment, and instead he built his environment to suit him” (Uys, 00:06:12). The two very different groups have a peculiar encounter that spawns an incredible adventure. Xi’s mission leads him to stumble on the “gods,” jaunty microbiologist Andrew Steyn and his mechanic Mpudi. Although at first they have a slight misunderstanding, later they befriend one another and genuinely offer compassion and empathy toward Xi. Interestingly, Mpudi alone has previously experienced a miraculous interchange among the Bushmen. It appears to have further advanced his level of moral development and sense of understanding to the environment around him (Kohlberg), not to mention enabling him to comprehend their unique click-like utterances. The irresistibly engaging bond forms between these men as they find themselves helping one another on a deeper level than they previously imagined. So, as the two bizarre societies clash, spontaneous hospitality sparks instead of hostility.


         

The idiosyncratic friendship that ignites between the Bushman and the two civilized men demonstrates Uys’s opinion on naturally peaceful human interactions and benevolent selflessness. Even though apartheid was staunchly advocated and enclosed around the production of the film, Uys still “violates” a few of its regulations and proceeds forward. A segment of the heinous law suggests that, “to have a friendship with someone of a different race generally brought suspicion upon you, or worse” (Sahistory). Regardless, the film advanced. Uys persisted in writing the story of solidarity between two people who do not share similar culture but do share the same tongue. Xi embarks his journey in the sophisticated land but finds himself surrounded by “societal rules” that are invisible in his eyes. He and his tribe believe in a universal religion similar to that of the Australian Aborigines, that is, Dreamtime: where all living spirits are “part of one vast unchanging network of relationship which can be traced to the Great Spirit ancestors” (Dreamtime). Because he believes in universal sharing, he unintentionally attempts to feast on another’s goat. Much as he innocently tries to share it with the owner himself, he sadly winds up enclosed behind walls. Mpudi, being the only “civilized man” who can communicate Xi’s language, defends him in court but fails to keep him out of jail. The mechanic was devastated so he confides to Steyn announcing that Xi, “gonna die for sure. He never seen a wall in his life, now he got walls all round him… I want to get him out” (Uys, 1:23:54). The dedication put into rescuing the innocent Bushman acts as a foundation forging a cherished bond. The two men put their privileges and work aside to allow a voice to the one who was misunderstood. This theme of altruism infused with comedy repeats all over.


         

Omitting the imposed genocidal creed, South African director Uys defies its absurd dogma extracting it with humor. The comically brilliant film emphasizes natural responses all humans have at least experienced once, such as clumsiness and awkwardness. These traits are specifically enacted by the amusing character of Andrew Steyn. The film entails abrupt funny moments that build the plot. Steyn’s persona stands out the most and highlights his silly behavior, especially aside the glowing character of Kate Thompson. Uys hilariously dramatizes his particular attribute: “His inability to purport himself … creates sexual tension, and even portrays Andrew as clumsy and dumb [;] in reality, he is merely trying to accommodate Kate in an environment that she is not accustomed to” (Gottwald, Par.5). In addition to Steyn, Xi is also a hilarious character. Since he comes from a complete paradoxical lifestyle compared to the modern world, his discovery of modern innovations is playfully exhibited. Mpudi teaches Xi how to ride one of the vehicles, and Steyn later asks him to drive it. Xi’s attempt is not successful at first, but when he drives facing backwards, it humorously works out for him. It is impressive to watch him struggle but succeed with modern gadgets (Uys, 1:32:12). In rendering humor, Uys creates scenes with Steyn’s persona and includes Xi’s innocence and complete disorientation as part of the human emotion that anyone, regardless of race, can relate to. In an interview with the New York Times, Uys states, “Everybody’s funny, whether white, black or brown…  you like to see the funny side of the human condition, and you don’t see their color'' (Klemesrud). This is the unofficial theme and purpose of his film, and Uys made sure to emphasize the propensity of humor within each persona, again disregarding notions of apartheid.


         

The art of bravery is another major theme that Uys brushes upon. Saturated with the humor of each psyche, selfless acts are displayed all throughout the story line. An unrecognized heroine in this plot is Kate Thompson. She illustrates incredible valor. In the beginning of the film she relinquishes her journalism occupation to teach in a small town that gravely lacks instructors. Andrew Steyn becomes her guide to the village, but her determination further prompts her to risk her own life to save the ones of her small pupils. The villain, Sam Boga, threatens the lives of children to save his own and helpless Kate is bearing the dilemma on her own. She loudly expresses the needs of her children, regardless of her being captive with them as well. “The children need to rest.” Moreover, tempting the leader, she proclaims, “Are you scared you’ll spoil your image if you admit you let them escape?” (Uys, 1:26:45). In her moments of gallantry, she constantly provides agency and comfort toward the young. Again, she too abandons her privileges when she decides to teach a minority group. Similar to the legendary Neerja Bhanot, who lost her life protecting children on her flight from a hijacker’s bullets, Kate risks her existence to shield children without question as well (Neerja). When affiliated with a crisis, charting through it “demonstrates how a heightened vulnerability signals the emergence of a potential strength, creating a dangerous opportunity for growth” (Gilligan p.139). These actions require concealing narcissistic impulses, that in turn, ignite a realm of empathy and altruism.




The ferocious intruders have unimaginably ruptured South Africa ruthlessly implying explicit commands to separate skin from soul and disguise respect with neglect. Nevertheless, the dynamic voices that roar across the globe, in spite of an injustice, reflect a deeper, larger comprehension of a post-colonial and post-conventional moral awareness (Kohlberg). Uys applies such consciousness through the intimate alliances that the hilarious and courageous characters possess, as well as indirectly defying the laws of apartheid. Being extraordinary souls enfleshed in capable and mighty bodies, we must accept and celebrate the differences we bear for the real pursuit of the film is to help us lift the burdens from one another.  




Works Cited





Auguste, Ralph. “Apartheid vs Jim Crow.” Academia.edu - Share Research, www.academia.edu/10496111/Apartheid_vs_Jim_Crow.


Baden, Graham T. “Film Analysis - The Gods Must Be Crazy.” Regarding Race, Nation, and Our Future, 5 May 2015, http://grahambaden.com/2014/04/04/the-gods-must-be-crazy/ .

Bhanot, Neerja. Pan American Pursuer. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Apr. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neerja_Bhanot. 


Dreamtime. “Dreamtime Meaning.” Aboriginal Art & Culture Alice Springs Australia, www.aboriginalart.com.au/culture/dreamtime2.html.


Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Harvard University Press, 2016.


Gordon, Kirpal. Class discussion 2 Feb. 2018.


Gottwald, Benny. “Putting Masculinity on the Chopping Block”. Taking Giant Steps. Feb.6, 2018.  


Klemesrud, Judy. “'The Gods Must Be Crazy’ -A Truly International Hit.” The New York Times, 28 Apr. 1985, www.nytimes.com/1985/04/28/movies/the-gods-must-be-crazy-a-truly-international-hit.html.


Kohlberg, Lawrence. Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development. 1958.


Sahistory. “A History of Apartheid in South Africa.” South African History Online, 15 Mar. 2018, www.sahistory.org.za/article/history-apartheid-south-africa.



Tutu, Desmond. South African religious leader, anti-apartheid and human rights activist.


Uys, Jamie, Director, writer and director. The Gods Must Be Crazy.