Saturday, October 31, 2009

Heart of Darkness: Assorted Thoughts


Teaching Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is never uplifting and usually leaves me depressed- about as low as one human mind can sink. Listening to an interview with Francis Ford Coppola about the making of Apocalypse Now, a modern portrayal of the themes in Conrad's novella set during the Vietnam War, didn't elevate my mood any higher despite the fact that I admire Coppola greatly.

After listening to the interview and preparing discussion questions for the last half of the novella, my mind drifted to the Richmond High School gang rape that happened in the picnic area of the school grounds circa October 2009. Picnic areas are supposed to be places where people relax and chat with friends. In this case, a 15-year old girl was allegedly gang raped by ten young men while ten bystanders, who had been somehow desensitized to the violence, watched for more than two hours.

Parallels to Heart of Darkness:

Setting:

* The Belgian Congo in the late 1800s was destroyed by Belgian's exploitation of the area's natural resources and the murder of 8-10 million Africans who died working in a slave labor system.
* Inner City American High Schools in 2009 are destroyed by violence, the breakdown of community support, drugs, and a culture of hopelessness leading to high drop out rates.

Theme:

* Entering the heart of darkness = Realizing and exposing the depth of human cruelty and violence in all its forms through the ages is the job of every human being.

Characters:

* Victims- Africans in the Congo / A 15 year-old rape victim in Richmond, California
* Rulers- King Leopold and the Colonizing Belgians / Twenty young people inflicting sexual violence on the victim caught in the workings of a larger political, social, and economic system, which turns a blind eye to their problems
* The System- The Company run for profit above humanity / The United States ignoring festering problems in inner cities
* Money Makes the World Go Round- The Accountant carefully tends to Company profits / The Government slashing education funds in poor inner city schools

Ideology Fueling the Darkness

* Africans are inferior and Europe is bringing illuminating light into the continent's ignorant dark interior
* Americans should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and out of poverty / It's all your fault mentality!

Richmond High School Gang-Rape: Suspects Wear Bulletproof Vests at California Arraignment

One bright spot on the horizon of human nature: Art exposes the heart of darkness and helps us heal the wounds. This story was on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition this morning and explores the trafficking of women in the global sex trade. I would like to think that there is the prospect of a bright future for a 15 year-old girl in Richmond, California who has a long road of recovery to travel on her personal experience though the heart of human darkness.

Emma And Elena, Exposing The Sex Trade Through Art

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Is it really Oct. 17, 2009

Times, Days: Here and There and the Cat

I have been busy during the month of October, so I haven't had sufficient time to think, process or reflect on life. I enjoy the aforementioned activity of being productive- the motivational tension of work dynamics- because I subscribe to the philosophy of working hard in order to play hard when my goals are successfully behind me. You better believe I am looking forward to playing hard in a few short months.

Leading the discussion and an analysis of the film Rebel Without a Cause, teaching excerpts from the Malian epic Sundiata Keita, and preparing to teach Conrad's Heart of Darkness in the bleak season of autumn are where my time and attention are currently directed.

When I am in the play phase of my journey through life, I will have more time to blog, but felt the need to voice some of my thoughts at this moment.

And the cat...

He is growing fat and lazy with the coming of the cold weather. He cuddles about my head at night and keeps my ears warm.

About Me

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What do I do? That’s a question with more depth than the deceiving three-word construction would lead us to believe.

I live on planet earth with other folks, and I’m involved in the field of education and learning. I’m a life-long learner with a passion for knowledge and the process of bending bits of ideas into new constructions of beauty.