In the Eyes of the Beholder

This week in Humanities Core, one of the major ideas we discussed was the difference between res gestae, Latin for the things that happened, and historia rerum gestarum, the way those events are retold. The contrast between the meanings of these two phrases tells a great deal about perspective. While many writers try to recreate the events of the past in their work, it is impossible for them to recreate the res gestae. The way authors retell a story is from their own point of view, and the different approaches they use to convey the events and their attitude toward those events influence the ways their readers think about them. It is hard for a work to encompass all the factors that influenced the outcome of a historical event, so, instead, authors pick and choose the topics and ideas that best convey the message they are trying to relay.

This is a Brechtian style setup for a play. Notice how the stage open and how you can see the mechanism of the curtains in the back. This adds to the alienation effect and reminds the audience they are viewing a play. (From Bertolt Brecht Research)

In class, we have been reading the play Mother Courage and her Children by Bertolt Brecht. Brecht came of age during World War I, watched the turmoil caused by World War II, and saw Germany rise and fall twice in his lifetime. He was also a known communist sympathizer and was forced to flee Germany to avoid being placed in a concentration camp. The influence of his experiences of exile and turmoil are evident in his play. Living in an era of chaos and despair, it is not surprising that Brecht asked, “’…why? Why did all this occur? Why weren’t the German people noticing all the horrible things occurring around them?’” These wonders are evident in the style of his play. Brecht uses the alienation effect to remind the audience they are watching a play and to purposely prevent the audience from becoming too emotionally invested in the characters by forcing the audience to take a step back and think about the bigger picture. Although the layout of the play forces the audience to analyze the events that occur, it also limits the scope of the audience’s view. The play follows Mother Courage and her journeys during the war. Due to this setup, the audience is subjected to analyze the war based on the experiences of just several individuals. They do not get a view of the overall picture of the war, or the huge battles are occurring. While Brecht may be truthfully portraying what individuals might have experienced, the true events in their entirety are not revealed through Brecht’s limited work.

breaking

Can we trust the news we see on TV? (From WKTV)

This idea of subtraction to elicit a certain response from the audience is present everywhere we look. The media, whether it is the newspaper, news channels, radio stations, Facebook, or Twitter, is subtractive in the news they bring to the people. It is important for us to realize that the news we see is prepared with the audience and profit in mind. The news we see is often times edited towards what the media thinks will bring in the most profit.

Works Cited

Smith, John. “War Stories II: Brecht’s Thirty Years War: Mother Courage and her Children (1939/1949).” University of California, Irvine. Humanities Instructional Building 100, Irvine, CA. 27 October 2015. Lecture.

http://bertoltbrechtresearch.blogspot.com/2012/12/brechts-plays.html

http://www.wktv.com/breaking/170_taken_hostage_in_Mali.html

Advertisements

Remembering Manzanar

It is no secret that war affects more than just men and women on the battlefield. War damages society and terrifies citizens and policy makers, often resulting in irrational or thoughtless decisions.

Manzanar “Relocation” Camp, along with several other facilities, was the result of panicked policy makers after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, allowing for the removal of any and all persons of Japanese descent from the West Coast as it became necessary. The official evacuation notice was posted April 23, 1942. The lives of 120,000 men and women were about to drastically change. While this order was unethical and unfair to all those affected, it is presently portrayed in a distorted light.

This is the poster that was displayed on streets notifying people of Japanese decent of the required evacuation. How could the Japanese people have had agency in a time like this? (From Learnnc.org)

Time allows history to be changed or entirely forgotten. I have been to the Manzanar Memorial five times, and each time I’ve been disheartened by the cruelty of the mass relocation. However, only recently did I find out the entire truth. The Japanese were not forced into internment; they were given the option to either be placed in a camp or to relocate away from the West Coast. Yes, Executive Order 9066 was erroneous and caused great hardship to masses of people, even those that were able to escape internment, but it has also been falsely depicted to our generation as though the Japanese were forced into poorly constructed, overcrowded prisons. Most Japanese Americans were still free to make a choice, act as agents on their own behalf, and execute their best interest within regulation. However, the choice they were given is not common knowledge, nor do the victims of internment ordinarily bring it up. This silence not only suggests their justified bitterness and anger toward the events, but it also reveals the Japanese Americans felt they did not have a true choice. If moving away from the West Coast were truly a feasible option, most internees would have moved away instead of moving to the prison camps. The Japanese Americans were only given 2 months time to flee the West Coast, before they were forced into internment camps with no option of moving away. This very short time period was not enough time to comfortably move to another state. Those that did escape were lucky, however, their life was still drastically different as a result.

In truth, both versions of Japanese internment are distorted versions of reality. The Japanese people both had agency and did not have agency at the same time. While they had the choice to move, for most, it was not a possibility, so their “choice” had already been made for them.

Works Cited

“Chronology of the Japanese American Internment.” Education Resources. CLPEF, n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2015.

“Civil Rights.” The War. PBS, 2007. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.

United States. National Park Service. “Japanese Americans at Manzanar.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.

http://www.learnnc.org/lp/multimedia/13251

The War Within One’s Self

 

In reading Homer’s Iliad these past few days, I have been overwhelmed by the seemingly endless cycle of violence, bloodshed, and death that is characteristic of wartime. The repetition of these armament and rearmament scenes has been the focus of much of my thoughts while reading. I am amazed by the soldiers’ enthusiasm to march to the front line and the bravery of a heroic few to charge into enemy territory knowing their imminent downfall, and I can’t help but wonder their thoughts before engaging in conflict.

andromache41

Hector leaving Andromache and Astyanax. How can he leave his family? (From The Trojan Women)

The individual decision to join in combat can require a great deal of thinking, or at least some form inner conflict that may be considered a “war within one’s self.” War takes a toll on the mind and the body, and “the discomfort of war is perpetual” (Castillo 2). That being said, why do men degrade themselves to the horrors of war? Hector, a hero in the Iliad, is internally conflicted with whether or not he should go to war. As an epic hero, Hector is bound by the heroic code, and thus must fight for the survival of his city, Troy, and to protect the values his city represents. However, he is also a husband and father, and in choosing to going to war, Hector, who is fated to die at the hands of Achilles, will accept his own death at the expense of his family. Unfortunately, he cannot both represent and defend the family and communal values of Troy, while at the same time have a family and community of his own. To have one is to undermine the other. If Hector chooses his family, he abandons Troy because he can no longer fight in the war, but if he chooses the safety of the city, he must give up his family in the process. While “all this weighs on [his] mind,” Hector chooses to go to war due to his obligations as an epic hero (Homer 6:522). For him, it is a sense of duty and obligation that drives him to action.

duty_600

It’s our duty. (From Learnnc)

In talking to former veterans and people currently serving in the armed forces, I often hear, “It is my duty to serve my country.” Centuries after the Trojan War, it seems as though nothing has changed, many people who join in combat or enlist in the army do it because they feels as though they have a responsibility to their country. It seems as though a sense of obligation overpowers conflicting feelings men may have about entering combat. If this is the case, as long as people feel obliged to defend their country, there will be people to fight in wars.

 

Works Cited

Castillo, Larissa et al. Humanities Core Writer’s Handbook: War. Boston: Pearson, 2014. Print.

Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1990. Print.

Izenberg, Oren. “The Poetics of the Iliad.” University of California, Irvine. Humanities Instructional Building, Irvine, CA. 8 October 2015. Lecture.

http://sites.jmu.edu/trojanwomen/meet-the-characters/

http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/ww1posters/5035