27 ene. 2010

¿Cómo proteger tus ideas en la era digital?

No lo hagas.

En su lugar, créate una reputación de alguien que sabe como propagar buenas ideas.

Se puede cobrar por organizar ciertas ideas de cierta forma, pero las ideas son de todos, y así como el teorema de Pitágoras es gratis, nadie debería cobrarnos por usar ideas. Por eso creo que las leyes en cuanto a copyright han de cambiar.

Esta reflexión me vino después de leer una columna de Rodríguez Ibarra en el País.

26 ene. 2010

Aboriginal Peoples: A Comparative Analysis Between North and South America

This class has certainly taught me a lot about Aboriginal people’s conscience. I realize that even though I came from a country with Aboriginal peoples, I did not know very much about them. Because of this, I did some personal research about this subject and then I thought that it will be a good idea to compare it with some of the Aboriginal peoples we have studied in this curse. In Chile, there still exits around eight Aboriginal peoples. Most of them only represent a 0.01% of the population. I assume that this was the reason I did not know much about them with the exception of the Mapuche (In Spanish they are known as mapuches or araucanos; araucano was the name given by the Spanish in the colonial period ). The Mapuche, one of the indigenous inhabitants of Central and Southern Chile and Southern Argentina, represents the 4% of the population. This is the indigenous peoples I would like to comment and compare with the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.

Certainly, after my first reading of Aboriginal Peoples and Canada’s Conscience by Russel Barsh, there was a constant feeling of déjà vu going through my mind. It was as though I had met those arguments before, and in fact, I had. It is striking how so many similarities can be found between Canadian ambivalence towards Aboriginal peoples and the ambivalence towards the Aboriginal peoples of Chile. Canada and Chile are the northernmost and the southernmost countries of the American continent, yet I will attempt to prove the similar treatment that the Aboriginal peoples of Canada and Chile have received throughout the last centuries.

Just as in contemporary Canada, the Mapuche question is still open in Chilean society and the Mapuche feel quite neglected by the central government. Today this is called the Mapuche Conflict. They request for more autonomy and the devolution of their lands. The public opinion is quite indifferent though, and little progress has been made in the last two centuries. They still are at the bottom of the society. Only in this last decade there have been some small gestures from the government towards the restitution of their Aboriginal status. Many Mapuche organizations seek similar rights as those gained by the Inuit people in Canada, the recognition of indigenous peoples in the constitution, and recognition of autonomous regional administrations and languages as in Spain.

Numerous incidents such as land occupations and demonstrations have occurred in Araucania, the region where most of the Mapuche live. Over the last decades, their ancestral territories have been taken by multinationals, and their forests have been destroyed. Throughout history, the Mapuche were known for being a warrior tribe, in fact, the conquistadores never managed to occupy their territory. It was finally taken in 1883 by the Chilean army. Today, their reaction about this has also been violent in some cases which have caused many conflicts and deaths in the region.

However, just as in Canada, the aboriginal element is at the heart of the Chilean identity. This ambivalence is in fact very similar to the one that Barsh described. There is a extract on this article which it could be easily applied to the Mapuche and Chile: “Many of the national symbols are Aboriginal handycrafts […] Images of Aboriginal peoples still dominate Canada’s souvenir market; ‘Native aesthetics serves as a resource pool for Canadian Identity”. In Chile, souvenirs with native handicrafts are sold everywhere, theatres, streets and even cities are named after famous Mapuche heroes from La Araucana.

La Araucana is an epic poem written in 1556 by the Spanish poet Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga. Ercilla went to Chile in the 1540s and participates in the campaign against the Mapuche for some years. Back in Madrid, he wrote an epic poem of 30.000 lines which has become the national poem of Chile. The poem has inspired the future generations of poets in Chile and even Pablo Neruda recognizes his influence.

However, this work also helped to create this ambivalent relationship with the Mapuche. This can be exemplified with an event that it happened towards the end of the Nineteenth Century.

“La última batalla de las guerras de Arauco, librada en 1883, culminó con la derrota de los indígenas […] Entre los vencedores de la jornada aparece el nombre de "Caupolicán". No se trata, evidentemente, del célebre héroe araucano, ni tampoco de algún jefe mapuche que descendiera de él, sino de un batallón del ejército de la República de Chile, […] El batallón "Caupolicán" no era, ni mucho menos, el único cuerpo armado chileno bautizado en homenaje a los héroes del poema de Ercilla.” (Castillo Sandoval 1995)

At this time the Chilean government was also talking aggressive measures towards the Mapuche (this actually happened around the same time that the Canadian government was taking Aboriginals kids away from home to boarding schools). The Government led a series of military actions to incorporate that territory to the Republic. It was known as the "The Pacification of Araucanía" (Today known as the Occupation of Araucanía).

The conclusions I have reached are in fact very similar to the ones we came up in our practical exercise about multiculturalism. This is a very complex situation just as it is in the United States and Canada. I think that many of the Canadian measures should be imitated in my country and many others. I think the fundamental question is about respect and also about acknowledging the wounds from the past.

19 ene. 2010

Christianity in the USA and the Religious Right

In the USA, the separation of State and Church is just as ambivalent as many of the aspect we have been tackling throughout this curse. I came across with Right-Wing Christianity for the first time on the summer of 2008. I was in Idaho visiting a friend. There I meet the heirs of the Puritans tradition in the XXI Century. I must confess that I was a little shocked for the comments about politics or religion that I heard while I was visiting the Potato State. Of course not everyone was fundamentalist, but I did meet an awful lot of people who were very judgmental with everyone who does not agree with their own worldview. I was there during the Presidential campaign and I cannot count how many times I heard people accusing Obama of being a Commie or a Muslim. Nevertheless, over these years I have learnt many things and now I separate the American-Protestant branch (unlike the Catholic Church it is a very heterogeneous group with lots of denominations so I’m using this as a generic name) and the Religious Right. I would like to comment about both in the following lines.

Everyone should be entitled to practice the religion of their choice. In the United States, this is stated in the Bill of Rights. During my visit on that summer, I had the change to meet several relatives and acquaintances of my friend who were active members on a local church. I even got the chance to meet a pastor and went to a weeding. Most of the people I meet were simply good-hearted people whose sole ambitions were to make a change in their community. They were really polite and welcoming with visitors and I do not think of them as brainwashed. We cannot forget that the main force behind the Civil Rights movement was a Baptist minister, Martin Luther King. We can or cannot agree with his religious views, but it would be really hard to deny the legacy that he has left in the United States. He and many other religious leaders and laymen have made a significant contribution to this country.

However, there is another kind of Christianity, one that is wrong for the simple reason that it meddles religious with politics. This is what is usually called Right-Wing Christianity. In here we can see lots of religious leaders such as Pat Robertson who run for president some years ago, and have made some really judgmental statements during his lifetime; just recently he stated that earthquake-ravaged Haiti has been "cursed" by a "pact to the devil." (Shea 2010).

There are several cases like this that I have heard during these years. Reverend Billy Graham was accused of watering down the gospel because he said on Larry King that no one can determine whether someone is going to hell or not. Jesus Camp, a 2006 documentary, has many examples of this kind. The documentary is a heated discussion about the entanglement of religion with politics in the USA. It is narrated by Mike Papantonio, a non-fundamentalist Christian who runs a radio program. The main protagonist is Becky Fisher, a Pentecostal children minister. Papantonio started his program quoting Jesus and explaining why the religious Right goes against his teachings: he says “there is some new brand of religion out there, that somehow thinks that things have changed since Matthew wrote about Jesus and the sermon on the mount where Jesus told us to be peacemakers, and now everything they do, they say they do it in the name of God, that we need to go to war in the name of God, they say that of all people George Bush is a “holy man” who is been anointed with the job of creating a Christian society not just in America but in the rest of the world” (Ewing and Grady 2006).

Then the focus goes to Becky and how she indoctrinates children in a way quite similar to Muslim Schools in the Arab world. She actually makes this horrible comparison. She says, “They [kids] are so usable in Christianity. If you look at the world’s population, one third of that are children under the age of fifteen. Where should be putting our efforts? I’ll tell you where our enemies are putting it, on the kids. They go to schools in Palestine […] They put grenades in their hands, they’re teaching them how to put bombs […] it is no wonder that those kids are willing to kill themselves for the cause of Islam. I want to see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus as young people are to the cause of Islam […] because we have, excuse me, but we have the truth” (Ewing and Grady 2006).

This is an excellent documentary in order to have a clear picture of the harm that the Religious right can cause in society. Another really controversial episode it is about the Pastor Ted Haggard who appears in the middle of the film. He gives a sermon against homosexuals while at the bottom of the screen there is a subtitle saying, “Pastor Ted Haggard is President of the National Association of Evangelicals, representing millions of people. He talks to President Bush and his advisors every Monday”. It is ironic that the people who oppose gay marriage are usually the same ones who support limited government. However the real irony is that, a year after, Pastor Haggard was accused of having homosexual relationship with young men, consuming crack, and having relationships with male prostitutes (CNN 2009).

This is the reality of the Religious Right in the United States. As I say before, religion is not wrong but its entanglement with politics is something that should be avoided by all cost. George Bush owns big time to these people. I tried to present these fact as objective as possible. We live in a world with many voices, many ways of thinking and respecting one another is essential. Religious has to be practiced in private and not be involved with any public institution. I hope that Christians in the United States realize that and start mimicking the way Doctor King made a difference with pacific manifestations and acts of kindness and love.

13 ene. 2010

Clareo y Floristea

NUÑEZ DE REINOSO, Alonso: Historia de los amores de Clareo y Floristea, Palencia, Simancas, 2005

Alonso Núñez de Reinoso fue el autor de la Historia de los amores de Clareo y Florisea, y los trabajos de la sin ventura Isea. Es una historia bastante influida por la novela del griego Aquiles Tacio, al cual pretende imitar. Es poco lo que se sabe sobre Núñez de Reinoso. Era de origen judío, nació en Guadalajara, estudió en Salamanca y pasó temporadas en Ciudad Rodrigo, donde fue amigo del escritor Feliciano de Silva. Como tantos españoles, viajó a Italia. Allí publicó esta obra en Venecia el año 1552.Se considera la primera novela bizantina de la literatura española; en sus diecinueve primeros capítulos es una imitación honradamente confesada de Los amores de Leucipa y Clitofonte del novelista griego mencionado antes, que debió conocer a través de los Ragionamenti amorosi de Ludovico Dolce . 

El caso es que la obra cuenta con todos los elementos definitorios del género: el enamoramiento, el voto de fidelidad, el parentesco aparente, los desplazamientos por mar, el cautiverio, los sueños premonitorios, las muertes simuladas, el regreso a la patria y las bodas finales como premio a la constancia. La obra de Núñez de Reinoso es de mayor calidad que la original, pues crea personajes de perfiles más humanos y cordiales. Imita, además, a Ovidio, a Séneca, Horacio y a Virgilio, del que remeda la bajada a los infiernos del libro VI de su Eneida. Además incluye episodios caballerescos y pastoriles de su invención.
El título nos muestra que hay dos cosas diferentes dentro del mismo texto, con lo cual vemos una voluntad de experimentación, donde conviven varias formas juntas. El autor, hasta los diecinueve capítulos, continua la historia y adapta los últimos cuatro libros, hasta llegar al capítulo treinta y dos, en la que desarrolla la historia propiamente original, la de Isea. El narrador actúa como aglutinador de las dos partes, que son entre sí muy independientes.

Podemos decir que la novela bizantina es la primera parte. La segunda es el relato de Isea que cuenta su propia historia desligada de la peripecia de Clareo y Florisea, y en compañía de un caballero andante, al cual ayudará a buscar a su amada.

Es la propia Isea quien narra su desgracia, desde el inicio de la historia de amor de Clareo y Florisea, cómo se cruzan sus vidas, para su desgracia, no es correspondida. Hay un capítulo de transición entre las dos partes, que se justifica con la búsqueda de tranquilidad para la narradora-protagonista tras ese mal de amores, que no puede superar. En ese viaje, acompaña a Felesindo, quien busca a su enamorada. La propia Isea promete una continuación de la historia, que habrá una segunda parte, pero no se produce nunca.
Isea aparece siempre como narradora en todo momento; cuenta su desgracia en primera persona. En la segunda parte hace alusiones a lo acaescido en la primera. La intención de Isea es llegar a un lugar (Ínsula Pastoril) y recordar para vivir en el pasado. Esto nos muestra la forma cíclica de las novelas bizantinas. En la ínsula, ella se encuentra en un estado permanente reescribinedo los sucesos, lo que intenta es redimirse.
La estructura que podemos ver es de involución: se escribe desde un punto final de la historia, en el que se única voluntad es rememorar lo acontecido en el pasado y escribirlo (escribir como fin último, el paraíso). La segunda parte, donde nos cuenta la historia con Felesindo es totalmente alegórica. Es un relato contado de una manera muy directa, donde prima la acción; no hay apenas descripciones, o digresiones externas, no interviene una moralidad externa que explique el texto, sólo descripciones de colores y joyas.

La interpolación de historias secundarias en la primera parte ayuda a crear un misterio voluntario, con elementos de suspense y atracción sobre el propio texto (los sucesos que tienen lugar en las ínsulas). Las ínsulas son lugares simbólicos, y el nombre que reciben tiene que ver con las acciones que allí se llevarán a cabo, pero no se describen como lugar. No es un texto en el que aparezca el humor, pues todo el texto es llanto. Sólo puede aparecer al final del libro, con el episodio de los monjes del convento donde Isea quiere entrar.

9 ene. 2010

Multiculturalism and Indigenous People (analysis of a Practical Exercise)

This exercise was done in two classes, the 16th and the 21st of December. In the first class, we were separated in small groups and we discussed some of the key issues about multiculturalism in Canada. Back on Monday, we discussed with the whole class the conclusions we took the previous day. The first question was about defining concepts such as “melting pot”, “salad bowl/cultural mosaic” and “multiculturalism”. Then the discussion was more open with questions about why multiculturalism would not be appropriate, what kind of policies could we introduce if we had the power and we compared Canada’s situation with the reality of our region.

Half of the class, however, discussed about a parallel issue, the Aboriginal peoples in Canada. In this practical session I realized how difficult these issues are. We did not come up with a single answer for each issue. Personally I did enjoy this class for it made me process this information in a very specific way.

There are two conclusions that I ended up having after this practical session which I would like to share:

1. The best policy is to learn how to respect each other. This is something I said in the discussion and I remember one classmate telling why we should respect them if other cultures do not do the same, for instance; why Muslim women are allowed to wear a scarf of burka here and we go there Western women usually are forced to wear one? I must admit that I didn’t like this argument but I could not come up with a good comeback until the class was over. Here I would like to express what I think about this argument quoting a English journalist that I read very often (he is talking issue in Switzerland, but it can be fully applied on this context):

“This argument is completely back to front. It is like saying: well, the US has the death sentence so why shouldn't Italy put Amanda Knox to death in an electric chair? Or: well, Saudi Arabia has women stoned for adultery so why shouldn't we torture Arab men? In many majority Muslim countries, there is pervasive religious intolerance towards Christians, Jews, other religious groups (Bahai, Ahmadiyya) and, not least, atheists, but we can only be credible in criticising that intolerance if we practise at home the universal principles that we preach abroad. As someone once said: do as you would be done by.” (Ash 2009)

2. I like to make a short comment about the Spanish Empire and the atrocities committed during the colonial times. Having grown up in South America, I have never heard that an apology was long overdue for part of Spain, and I have never heard that there was resentfulness towards Spain for the crimes just as I have never heard that North America is asking England for an apology for the massacres towards their aboriginal people. After all, most of the descendents of the Conquistadores do live today in the new world. However, I cannot talk for all Latin America, since I come from a region in which the aboriginal people are a minority. Bolivian president once called the 12th of October of 1492 a “day of grievance”. So I think that even in the case that some people feel that an apology is needed, I think the willingness to forgive is also needed. After all, we are talking about human cruelty towards other human beings. This is not about this or that country. At the bottom, it is about the strong always being cruel and barbaric towards the weak. This is the real tragedy that human beings have to overcome.

5 ene. 2010

Pop Culture After 9/11

Key landmarks such as 9/11 did not significantly affect the current trends of the media and popular culture. Popular culture is certainly a key element to consider in order to understand Americans’ worldview. After reading a chapter from Leroy’s book, With Amusement for All. A history of American Popular Culture since 1830, I came to the following thesis which I will attempt to defend in the following lines: even though popular culture reflects Americans’ mindset and it is a powerful tool for both propaganda and inspiration, its fundamental propose is pure entertainment because this is an industry that works for a profit. 

This chapter starts with a brief recapitulation of the recent history of the United States such as September Eleven and The War on Iraq. The author also talks about some scandals which have brought a wide national coverage such as the Janet Jackson’s breast appearance in the 2004 Super Bowl. Then the author explains what this have meant and symbolized for the United States. After such events, some people from conservative sectors proclaimed that the future of the media would be different, having a more wholesome contents in which the exaltation of values and family content would be more important than contents with the mere purpose of entertainment. This forecast wasn’t completely wrong, though. For it is certain that one of the main features of American idiosyncrasy is its ambivalence. There is not a single correct answer, many factors are predominant, some of which are contradictory with one another.

Certainly, America is a nation deeply interested in wholesome family values, even if in reality this is quite hypocritical, just as Christopher Bigsby stated, “America is a puritan nation deeply in love with pornography” (Bigsby 2006, page 9). However, values are really important in the content of the popular media. Patriotic and Christian values are the most important ones. If there is something that John Moore’s war film, Behind the Enemy Lines, and Rick Warren’s Christian self-improvement book, The Purpose Driven Life, have in common, it is that they have sold millions of copies of their works. Odd enough, this book and movie are usually bought by the same people. And there is also not surprising that they would also watch Buffy, the vampire slayer. However, those who bought The purpose Driven Life, would probably never watch Michael Moore’s film, Fahrenheit 9/11 (but the ones who bought John Moore’s film and watch Buffy might, so I assume that it might be two poles, but I don’t have enough data to prove this).

However, all popular culture realizations have something in common: its main purpose is to sell, “The religion of Hollywood is money” (Ashby 2006, page 512) and entertainment is very important to gain a profit. It doesn’t matter whether they have a hidden (or not so hidden) agenda or not: it won’t sell if it’s boring (I cannot state whether Warren’s book is enjoyable or not, but I am using it as a paradigm for evangelical popular content, but I am certain that It has to have some kind of entertainment elements in it). In fact, all this content is quite similar at its core. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is just as violent as any other violent box-office success. And the Left Behind series can be easily read for the mere purpose of entertainment just as any Stephen King’s fan would read The Cell. They all contain action, good defeating evil, and action heroes. Writers, producers and the industry of entertainment ultimately will go where the money is. Having said that, we cannot forget that this will not collide with the fact that fictional content mirrors reality: “Movies, television, radio, novels, music and a host of other amusements had long provided Americans with perspectives on who they were and what they wanted”. And it also does not mean that popular content and mass media cannot have compelling stories and good quality. History will show us which elements of today’s American popular culture will last.

This chapter of Leroy’s book is quite useful to have a good outlook of the current trends of the mass media in the United States. The author is objective and does not demonize nor praise today’s popular culture. I certainly love American popular culture and I consume it almost every day just as most people in this planet. I do think that we have to consume it with caution, but in general, it is not evil, and it does provide people with dreams and inspiration.
© Pablo Camus
Maira Gall