As HumCore Comes to a Close…

Humanities Core is a class with one of the heaviest workloads that I have experienced not only throughout my high school career, but my college career as well (at least so far). I have learned much and more about cultures that I never had the chance to learn about such as Vietnamese, Filipino, Iranian, and Incan people and needless to say that I am very glad to have learned about them since I am not sure if I will ever get that chance again. I have always put HumCore as a priority against my other classes and no doubt, HumCore has caused much of my stress, tears, and cramping fingers in my college experience so far. I am not sure if it is only because I recently turned in my research paper draft, but at this moment I do not completely hate Humanities Core right now and find myself looking back on my experience in the class as almost fondly. As I mentioned before not only have I learned so much from Humanities Core, but I have made great friends through my different lectures and discussions along the way, where we can all complain and stress together, and makes the workload a little bit more bearable since you feel like you are not the only one drowning. The research project alone can make you feel that way, but knowing that we are all in this mess together really does help. From this quarter alone, we have learned about film, sexuality, refugees, Westoxification, American colonialism, gender frontiers, and so much more. But no doubt the most important thing from Humanities Core is how to be a better writer. The different types of essays given to us throughout the year helps us develop our voices when writing and also helps us find out our strengths and weaknesses in writing. For example, I really enjoyed and did well on the literary journalism essay, but struggled in my writing on the historical analysis essay. As someone who wants a career in film and television, writing is a big component for that industry, and I know that I will definitely need plenty of practice in writing in order to reach my career goals. In our humanities core discussions, it is always fun to hear how people in your class interpreted the material taught in lecture and share their thoughts and ideas. Having different Professors gives us more insight and exposure to different personalities and teaching styles. And if you’re someone like me who has had different discussion leaders in every quarter of humanities core, then you also know that different TA’s focus on different aspects of lecture.

Overall, while humanities core has certainly been a pain, it has also helped open my eyes towards the world around me. From talking about the Romans, to paintings, to barbarians, to the Incas, Gandhi, women and sexuality during American colonialism, Vietnamese refugees, and ultimately to Iranians, if I have never took Humanities Core I will never have the knowledge that I have now on all of these different ranges of topics. And I really must thank everyone part of Humanities Core for all of that knowledge

Women and Minorities Work

In last week’s reading, especially the one by Mary Prince, I wanted to highlight how women and people of color are still being unappreciated for most of their hard work in today’s day and age. Due to socioeconomic statuses, lack of promotions, social prejudice, and overall just a lack of opportunities women and people of color do not get recognized for the amount of labor they put in by their superiors. Most CEO’s, presidents, executives, board members, and head of corporations are white males, in fact 85% of them are according to the Harvard Business Review. As you can tell most of the positions that I just listed are ones of high value and power. And it really is just sad to see how there are hardly any women or people of color who have access to that power in the United States. If you do the math that means 15% of positions of power are made of BOTH women and people of color. To think of it, every workplace is like it’s own little empire, they get to dictate someone’s salary, job requirements, who gets to work there, who gets promotions or benefits and who does not.

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There is still stereotypes and social stigmas regarding women and people of color, predominantly that women should first and foremost be mothers and do chores around the house like cooking, sewing, laundry, dish washing, cleaning. While minorities are oftentimes workers in factories, construction, sales or service, who earn minimum wage and may even work multiple jobs and still cannot provide for themselves or even for their family.

And yes, while progress has been made, there is an overall lack of diversity, especially in scientific fields and management positions. There’s also a big problem with harassment in the workplace either with men objectifying or harassing their female co-workers or the racist and degrading comments that some people of color face on a daily basis. In the Harvard Business Review article I used, it states that whenever women or people of color try to advocate for diversity in their own workplace, they are oftentimes penalized and criticized for it, which just outcasts these people even more and lessens the chance to see more diversity in workplaces all across America. Since Trump has gained Presidency I just feel that the tension between whites and everyone else has escalated, especially with the recent protests in Berkeley.

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Violence has been what we have been reverting to in order to display what we believe in and take down the enemy. Yet if we continue down the road of violence, then we are reverting back to times of colonialism, where we try to marginalize and kick out a group of people whether it be Muslims, African Americans, Hispanics, or even Caucasians. Violence just takes society a step back from the progress it has been making towards equality, and while we as a society still have a lot more progress to make – if we start by valuing each other in our work and start making more opportunities for people to advance in their line of work then we are taking a great leap into achieving equality.

Nonviolence and Gandhi’s Passive Resistance

Over the past few years there have been many instances of violence as a form of protest, mostly acted in response to different occasions of police brutality – the most famous one being the Ferguson riots back in 2014. We already live in a violent world as it is, so I’m here to argue that non-violence and unity is the best way to protest the corruption of government, people, and institutions. As Gandhi claimed, I also believe that violence can corrupt us as humans and make us more immoral. The more that we act through violence, the more dangerous we become not only to others, but to ourselves as well. I, and I am sure many others as well, thought for a very long time that acting through violence would be the only way to get any real political change. That what has always been shown to me through movies like The Hunger Games, tv, and in the news. The concepts of riots and uprisings always seemed like the most effective way to rebel since it shows how unhappy and unsatisfied people felt by their government or authority. It was not until high school that I realized that violent protests get much more media coverage because it is more “exciting” and would result in more viewers or more people talking about these instances instead of non-violent protests because non-violent protests are considered “boring.” While I do not believe that we have to adopt poverty, cultivate fearlessness, follow truth, or perform perfect chastity to become a passive resister – I think that if we live more simplistically and worry less about money or material possessions that we have then we can become more humble and would not want to react as violently. I by no means want to spin my own clothes or use candles instead of electricity, but if we do more things for ourself, like wash our own car instead of going through a car wash, then perhaps we can better appreciate the notion of hard work.

In fact, this article from Psychology Today called Violent versus Nonviolent Resolutions states that violent protests end in failure much more than nonviolent protests, and that nonviolent protests have a higher success rate as seen in the image provided by the article below.

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The article also states that nonviolent protests attract more people like women, elders, and those who value safety more – which makes total sense. I know I would feel uncomfortable and unsafe if I was around explosives, fire, tear gas, or police officers armed with shields and batons. As Gandhi also stated, with instances of violence, we are much more likely to cause harm to others than with nonviolence. As a passive resister, the only person we could harm is ourself.

Yet through social media, I am also seeing more awareness and participation in marches and protests like the recent Women’s March, which happened all across the world two months ago. Social media is also a great place to sign petitions to help garner change and makes it easier to spread to others who believe in that cause too.

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So, all in all nonviolence is proven to be a more efficient way protest than violence, which isn’t what I originally thought. And the more we live simply, the less likely we are to react or act violently.

The Importance of the Incas

When Professor O’Toole began her series of lectures with the Incan Empire, I immediately had interest in the topic, especially since about a year and a half ago, my grandparents traveled to Cuzco and Machu Picchu on a vacation. I was excited to learn more about the Inca history and culture, especially because of my grandparents travels. And while I heard a little about Peru from my grandparents and their retelling of the trip, I realized that I never really knew much about the Incas…and I began to wonder why.

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All throughout elementary and high school, our schools focused more on the Mayan or Aztec empires and only briefly touched upon the Incan empire. I had no idea that the Incas could easily outlast any of their enemies and made sure that no one in their empire would starve. So why does the Incas history get pushed aside in favor for the Aztec or Mayans? I took an International Studies class last quarter and my Professor focused heavily on the Aztecs, and ended up only mentioning the Incas. In fact through his brief talk about the Incas, the only thing he really highlighted was that they were conquered by the Spanish Empire.

I think part of the reason teachers choose to focus more on the Mayans or Aztecs is because their is more mysteries or myths about them. In my International Studies class, we read a book called “The Broken Spears,” which heavily focused on eight omens that predicted that the “gods” or Spanish would come and destroy their empire. I also remember learning in school that it is still a mystery as to why the Mayan Empire fell. So while the Incas may lack these mysteries, that does not mean that their history should only be brushed upon and I am glad that Professor O’Toole is diving more into the history and culture of the Incas.

Another reason for the lack of education on the Incas in America may be that the United State’s education system heavily focuses on their history and Europe’s history. Now while focusing on the history of the United States makes total sense since that is the place we live in, I have noticed that in all my World History classes in middle school and high school mostly surrounded Europe’s history. I never got to learn much about the Incas and Andeans or about the Chinese, Indians, Africans, and Australians that make up the rest of the world. As Edward Said in last quarter’s Humanities Core, we as Americans tend to have a Orientalist view of the countries and people in the Eastern Hemisphere. The little things that we do know about these people and cultures we tend to stereotype people of those cultures as only being those things, like the concept of all Asians are smart. Instead we should get an equal opportunity to learn about cultures all over the world so that we as the American population have more knowledge about the world we live in and try to diminish the concept that America is superior to all other countries.

The Problem of Whitewashing

Tuesday’s class was so stimulating for me because we got to talk about the problem with whitewashing Middle Eastern and Asian culture and cultural appropriation in general. As someone who stays in touch with movie news, one of the major problems I think the industry has is whitewashing people who are originally supposed to be Asian. Two recent examples of this are the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange and Scarlett Johansson as Major in the movie adaptation of a popular Japanese Manga called Ghost in the Shell. Both characters would be huge representations for Asian people, specifically women, in media today, but instead the movie decided to cast popular white actresses. I have more of a problem with the casting of Johansson in Ghost in the Shell though, because this comic is huge in Asia so it would only be fair for the main character to be an Asian woman, like it is in the comics. The only reason they wanted Johansson is because she is a big name in Hollywood today, but this movie will end up alienating its main audience – Asian’s – because they will see that this character they already love is white.

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Asian women are severely under represented in movies today – the last movie I saw with a somewhat main Asian character in it was Suicide Squad, and while the actress who played her was racially correct, she only had three lines of dialogue throughout the whole movie! Her character, Katana, is supposed to be a main member of the Suicide Squad, but has so little screen time that I think most of the audience forgot she was even there. Her introduction was rushed, she shows up out of literally no where and her backstory is told to the other members of the team by who is supposed to be the white male leader of the group in about two lines of dialogue. She does not even get to utter her own name, the white guy does it, even though she is perfectly capable of speaking for herself and can speak in English since one of her three lines are in English. Two other Asian female characters who got this treatment were Jubilee and Psylocke in X:Men Apocalypse. While, Jubilee ultimately uttered more lines than Katana got to, no one even mentions her by name throughout the whole movie. She is just there as part of the young X:Men. Psylocke is treated even worse with only two lines of dialogue. And while, she is included in an action scene unlike Jubilee, her outfit is so skimpy and unpractical for someone to actually fight in.

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In fact, I think the only major Asian actress that I can think of in Hollywood today is Lucy Liu, and I do not even know if she has been in any movies recently. So as you can already tell, whitewashing’s only purpose is to get white people to invest their time and money into whatever a movie, airline ticket, purses, clothing, perfume, and other ads are trying to sell, yet they do not keep in mind that they are misrepresenting Asian culture and ultimately won’t care if they do as long as they get plenty of money.

Paint by Numbers

As we moved on from the Roman Empire and the Aeneid in lecture. I didn’t expect paintings to hold really any interest to me at all. While I do think some paintings are beautiful, I have never been much of a fan of them, especially the ones that just has paint splatters on them, or just of few dots of paint. I never really liked going to art museums, or museums in general, until more recently. So, I was not interested when our lecturer talked about paintings. What did at least somewhat interest me though, is the contrast between beautiful and sublime paintings. When I did go to museums, I remember that beautiful paintings never really grabbed me, to me it was just a painting of some nice stuff. It was always the more darker painting that grabbed me. I liked all the dark colors and the tone it created for the picture. For example, this painting by Thomas Cole, which was shown in lecture, creates a tone of chaos and panic.

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Now, that probably says something about me, but I won’t comment on that right now. Some of the paintings showed in lecture actually did gravitate to me, even the more beautiful ones. Why? Probably because they were of ruins. It’s just so interesting to me to see everything that is left of some great city or empire. That once thousands, maybe millions, of people lived in this place and now all that is left is rubble and rocks. Being relatively well-traveled for a person my age, I have never really seen grand ruins in real life, the closest was when I went to New York City and visited the World Trade Center when I was about eight years old. I’m also the type of person who wants to travel more and would love to visit Italy to see these ruins in real life. Anyways, like the lecturer talked about I think I really love painting and pictures of ruins because of memento mori. Everything must come to an end eventually and ruins are what is left behind. It makes me think of ruins in a more hypothetical sense because when I die I wonder what will be left of me? While I hope that as a Film and Media major that a few of my movies will outlast me. But when I really think about it, will anyone watch my movies a hundred years from now? As a sort of movie buff myself, I know that I am not all that well versed in classic and old movies. I still haven’t seen The Godfather, let alone Casablanca! So, while the idea of having something of yours left behind of you when you die is nice, won’t the wind eventually blow what is left of your ruins away? While some people like Stanley Kubrick or Vincent Van Gogh has legacies after their death, as later generations of people live on, will they eventually be left in the dust as well? We only know about Vincent Van Gogh and other artists because we are taught about them in school, but won’t schools eventually stop teaching about Van Gogh if another amazing dead painter comes along? Won’t he eventually be so far back in history that we cease talking about him? The question that I leave you all with is – will all of our ruins eventually just disappear and be forgotten about? Or do will we somehow live forever through those ruins?

Philosopher Ruins

Last week when we moved on from The Aeneid and onto philosophers, ruins, and paintings, I was disappointed. Like said in discussion, the first weeks of lecture were just facts. Facts I can understand – it’s pretty straightforward, but philosophy is a different story. I took a philosophy class in high school once, and when the name Immanuel Kant came up in lecture, I recognized it, but could not remember what theories he came up with. What surprised me was the fact that Kant is both a racist and a sexist. Now it might have been the fact that I went to a Catholic, private high school in Texas, but I know we never went over this before with any of the philosophers we studied, which included names such as Descartes, Aristotle, and John Locke. So while, Kant is considered one of the great philosophers, his non-progressive line of thinking is his ruin. His quote highlighted by the Friday Forum that “Man should be more perfect as a man, and the woman as a wife” lines with the stereotypical line of thought during that time that a woman should just serve her husband.  Now whenever I see anything written by him, I know that he was actually a garbage human being.

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Similarly, Jean Jacques Rousseau is another philosopher whose ruin is their sexism and racism. Saying things such as “Men will always be what is pleasing to women” is both offensive and untrue (The Basic Political Writings 17). Sorry to break it to you, Rousseau but a woman’s purpose in life does not surround men. Getting married to a man is not the end all be all for a woman, especially in today’s world. Not to mention that he is leaving out women who are lesbian, bisexual, and pansexual, who are not only attracted to men, but why would he since Rousseau is most likely homophobic as well. Also his line of reason to use Enlightenment ideas to argue against Enlightenment ideas is hypocritical and frankly doesn’t make much sense, though I am sure that he made some good points against the Enlightenment using this method. So, much like Kant, Rousseau is also a garbage human being.

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How does this all relate back to Empire then? Well, the way I see it is that Kant and Rousseau are the “emperors” of their philosophies and the people who believe in those philosophies are the people who make up the empire. So, while there aren’t really any physical innovations or some sort of army involved, like aqueducts or the Roman army, there are mental innovations since humans never thought so in-depth about human essence, reason, arts and sciences, etc. And Rousseau and Kant being the “emperors” of these philosophies means that they have the power, or supreme authority, which is how they get away with contradicting themselves. But much like empires, they fall to ruins, as you can tell from my points above, which explains why there is a lot of debate about whether or not we should continue studying Kant and Rousseau. My personal belief is that we should study the more non-biased parts of their works, though I think it is important to teach people that Kant and Rousseau were sexist and racist, which is what my high school failed to teach me.