Gandhi’s Spiritual Quest

“My experiments in the political field are now known, not only to India, but to a certain extent to the ‘civilized’ world. For me, they have not much value; and the title of ‘Mahatma’ that they have won for has, therefore, even less. Often the title has deeply pained me; and there is not a moment I can recall when it may be said to have tickled me.”

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s introductory remark in his autobiography, The story of My Experiments with Truth, shows his quest to explore spiritual aspects of life, rather than what people perceive him and his contributions. These spiritual aspects are the source of inspiration from where Gandhi “derived power to work in political field.” The autobiography narrates the story of his experiments in the spiritual field as he claimed, “known only to myself.” Moreover, Gandhi argues that his purpose is “to describe experiments in the science of Satyagraha” rather than writing “real autobiography”. At the beginning, he makes the reader clear that there is “no room for self praise” in his writing.

This paper will explore Gandhi’s spiritual quest with the help of Joseph Campbell’s theory of hero’s journey. Through The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell explores that various myths from different times and places share certain fundamental stages and patterns. They are the broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed. He describes, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” Campbell’s theory divides the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies into a schema of 17 distinct steps. These steps are commonly organized into three classic states of rites of passage: Separation, Initiation and Return. The first stage of the journey is about the separation of departure of the hero from the normal world. During this primary part of the journey, the hero is initiated into true heroic stature and cleansed by various trails, tribulations, and rites. Persevering courageously through inner battles, the hero’s true character emerges, and the hero receives the ultimate fruit of his quest: self-mastery. After the rite of initiation, the hero returns home in triumph to share with his fellow travelers the knowledge and gifts acquired during the journey, although this stage may have its own challenges. The life stories of Prometheus, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha etc. follow this sequence of a soul’s journey quite closely. These three stages fit into Gandhi’s story as well in terms of his years in England (1888-1891), South Africa (1893-1914), and India (1915-1948). However, Gandhi’s journey of spiritual quest starts from his childhood starts from his childhood throughout his lifespan. Thus, applying Campbell’s theory of hero’s journey in Gandhi’s life has a basic limitation: Gandhi’s life is reality, not a myth. Gandhi’s achievements are not magical and coincidental.

Gandhi left for London to study law at the age of 18, and shortly before his return to India from England in 1891, his mother passed away. This formative period, which laid phase of departure or separation in his journey. It was in England that Gandhi discovered, for the first time, vegetarianism, the Bhagavad Gita, the Sermon on the Mount, and the teaching of Buddha. However, before his initiation, his childhood shaped him very much. Two incidents influenced Gandhi very much towards his quest for truth from his childhood. Gandhi narrates two work of arts that have lasting effect on him: Shravana Pitribhakti Nataka (in book) and Harishchandra (performance). These left “an indelible impression on my mind” and “captured my heart”, recalls Gandhi. Shravana, a mythological character representing a dutiful son and Harishchandra, a legendary king who followed the way of truth inspired him a lot, as he argues, “both Shravana and Harischandra are living realities for me.” Second, once his headmaster at school fined Gandhi because of his absence in gymnastics. Even though he told what had happened (in fact, he was serving his father) but the headmaster refused to believe him. It “deeply pained” him. As a result, he learnt that “a man of truth must also be man of care.” This was, according to Gandhi, “the first and last instance of my carelessness in school.” Moreover, Bhagavad Gita remained Gandhi’s spiritual dictionary. It was in England that Gandhi was first introduced by two theosophists to Edwin Arnold’s English translation of the Bhagavad Gita, a text that was to become his spiritual dictionary. Similarly, on October 1, 1904, Gandhi took a 24-hour train journey from Johannesburg to Durban. His friend, Hanry Polak come to see him off at the railway station and gave him a book that he said Gandhi “was sure to like”. The book was Unto This Last. In a chapter titled “the Magic Spell of a Book” in his autobiography, Gandhi tells us that he found the book compelling readable and “impossible to lay aside.” He did not get any sleep that night and decided to change his life “in accordance with the ideals of the book.”

The 21 years that Gandhi spent in South Africa represent the vital phase of his initiation, where he was fashioned into true heroic stature. It was in South Africa that Gandhi had what can be called a spiritual conversion experience. Though it seems idealistic today, Gandhi experimented the principle of truth throughout his lifespan from India to England, from Africa to India. He believes that God laid the foundations of his life on South Africa and sowed the seed of the light for national self-respect. “Though this path is strait and narrow and sharp as the razor’s edge, for me it has been the quickest and easiest.” However, Gandhi’s journey is not free form spiritual dilemma, which he mentions in the chapter ‘A Spiritual Dilemma’. As a core spiritual belief, ahimsa or non-violence connotes honoring all life, appreciating the oneness of all things, and practicing non-violence. Conversely, the notion of “himsa” connotes violence, divisiveness, and destruction. With an understanding of these two principles, Gandhi recognizes that people are social beings who are constantly struggling between these two forces. Since the principle of ahimsa condemns war, Gandhi acknowledges his own inner struggles when his country was at war. He expresses the difficulty of not supporting a war when your own country is involved: “the very same line of argument that persuaded me to take part in the Boer War had weighed on me. It was quite clear to me that participation in war could never be consistent with ahimsa. But, it is not always given to one to be equally clear about one’s duty.” Gandhi felt a duty to his country when he participated in the Boer War and did not apologize for his actions. However, in later years, he understood the intuitive wrongness of war and became opposed to killing for any reason. Gandhi’s guiding spiritual principles formed the foundations of his religious, social, and political experience. Gandhi’s contribution to understanding the role of religious thought in society was his ability to move his religious beliefs into social action and to inspire others to practice ahimsa.

The final phase, the 33 years Gandhi spent in India, until he was assassinated, marks the hero’s return to his homeland to share the knowledge acquired during the transformative phase of the journey. Gandhi’s spiritual journey seems easy on the surface but at the deeper level, if we understood and followed it properly, it will lead us to the Moksha. In fact, Gandhi’s dream was to attain Moksha as he clearly indicates in the introduction of his biography, “What I want to achieve- what I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years- is self-realization, to see God face to face, to attain Moksha.” This reference clearly shows that, for Gandhi, to attain Moksha is synonymous with seeing God face to face. Than what does he mean by seeing god face to face? What does he mean by God? For him, “God is Truth” as he argues, “For me, truth is the sovereign principle, which includes numerous other principles. This truth is not only truthfulness in word, but truthfulness in thought also, and not only the relative truth of our conception, but the Absolute Truth, the Eternal Principle that is God.” However, Gandhi’s quest to define his philosophy did not rely on any form of God. He argued, “There are innumerable definitions of God, because His manifestations are innumerable. They overwhelm him with wonder and awe but he worship God as Truth only. “I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him”, he admits. Thus, the principle of Gandhi’s life remains truth. Gandhi held that the spiritual life, as well as political and social work, requires a fearless pursuit of truth. He is even ready to sacrifice the things dearest to him in pursuit of his quest. If he had to choose between his quest and his own life, he would have chosen his dream as he expresses his conviction, “Even if the sacrifice demanded be my very life, I hope I may be prepared to give it.”

In conclusion, Gandhi’s spiritual quest follows the three stages of a hero’s journey- Separation, Initiation, and Return- as Campbell described in The Hero with a Thousand Faces but not sequentially. The Gita provided solid ground of Moksha through self-realization; Raychand provided the role model of a life free from attachment and solely devoted to self-realization; the life examples of Shravana Kumar, Harishchandra, and Prahlada provided the call to unconditional adherence to the truth; Toltoy, Ruskin, and Thoreu contributed the necessary impetus for Satyagraha and non-violence; and the Ramayana provided the inspiration to live a life of virtue and fidelity to one’s vows. Gandhi had embarked upon a hero’s journey in England, conquered his demons in South Africa, and returned to India in a state transformed, to bestow his gifts on his brothers and sisters. Gandhi was beset with challenges through all three phases, but he preserved courageously every day in his quest for truth and self-realization. “The autobiography is not a literary masterpiece”, as George Orwell, argues, “But his whole life was a sort of pilgrimage in which every act was significant.”

References

Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand. The Story of My Experiments with Truth: An Autobiography. Noida: Om International, 2010. Print.

Orwell, George. “Reflections on Gandhi.” George Orwell. Web. 08 Feb. 2016. <http://www.orwell.ru/library/reviews/gandhi/english/e_gandhi>

The Alchemist: A Personal Legend of a Shepherd

For Coelho, personal calling is “God’s blessing.” It is the path that God choses for us here on Earth. “Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend.” The centrality of personal legends in ‘The Alchemist’ tries to answer why it is so important to be aware and live our personal calling. Santiago’s personal legend is obvious, to find his treasure at the Egyptian pyramids. However, his personal legend became the journey itself. The travel and the wisdom he acquired from the journey literally became his treasure. His discovery of love in its many forms became part of his legend.

Personal legends serve as the only means by which an individual can live a satisfying life. In fact, the universe can only achieve perfection if all natural things continuously undergo a cycle of achieving their own personal legend, evolving into a higher being with a new personal legend, and then pursuing that new goal. This concept, that the individualistic pursuit of a personal legend exists as life’s dominant spiritual demand, lies at the center of the unique theology of ‘The Alchemist’. One of the important character in the novel who help Santiago to follow his personal legend is Melchizedek the king of Salem. He explains that Santiago has discovered his personal legend, which he defines as “what you have always wanted to accomplish.” According to Melchizedek, every young person knows what his or her personal legend is. It is only as they get older that a “mysterious force” convinces people that personal legends are impossible to achieve. This mysterious force is not exactly negative, since it prepares a person’s spirit and will. As a result, he or she can understand “the one great truth on this planet.”

Melchizedek tells that the treasure is in Egypt, near the pyramids. He further says that Santiago can find it by following the omens. Melchizedek opens his cape and removes one black stone and one white stone from the center of his breastplate, which he says are called Urim and Thummim. The black stone stands for “yes” and the white stone for “no,” he says, advising Santiago to rely on the stones when he cannot read the omens. Melchizedek gives Santiago two further pieces of advice: Do not forget the language of omens, and do not forget to follow your personal legend. He introduces the concepts of the personal legend, the world’s greatest lie, the mysterious force, the Soul of the World, the principle of favorability and following the omens to Santiago. These concepts recur throughout the novel, motivating Santiago’s actions and explaining to him many of the apparently inexplicable things he experiences.

To achieve our personal calling, first, we need to understand the unity of nature. In The Alchemist, the spiritual unity represented by the Soul of the World binds together all of nature, from human beings to desert sand. This idea underlies the parallel we see in the novel between the alchemist purifying metal into gold and Santiago purifying himself into someone capable of achieving his personal legend. According to the novel, the Soul of the World has created personal legend for everything, whether Santiago or a piece of iron. To accomplish its personal legend, each thing must learn to tap into the Soul of the World, which purifies it. That continual purification ultimately leads to perfection. This notion of humans, metals, and all other things sharing the same goal demonstrates that all elements in nature are essentially different forms of a single spirit. Furthermore, we see that Santiago must communicate with nature or the common language of the world. Santiago’s horse, for instance, communicates with him by showing him evidence of life in an apparently barren expanse of desert, and Santiago must employ the help of the desert, the wind, and the sun in order to turn into the wind. As the alchemist says when he leaves Santiago, everything from a grain of sand to God himself shares the same spiritual essence.

However, following one’s personal calling is not an easy task as Coelho writes, “we are only going to suffer more than other people.” The danger of fear comes as the obstacle in our journey of personal legend. In Santiago’s journey, fear comes up as the primary obstacle to achieve his personal legend. Santiago experiences several forms of fear: a childhood fear of having the gypsy woman interpret his dream; a material fear of losing his wealth by departing to Tangier or by joining the desert caravan; the physical fear of dying in the battle at Al-Fayoum; and the spiritual fear that he will fail to turn himself into the wind when the alchemist forces him to try. Santiago’s mentors, from Melchizedek to the alchemist, condemn fear by comparing it to materialism, and they describe it as a product of misunderstanding how the universe treats those pursuing their personal legends. Fear, they suggest, should become irrelevant, even in the face of death, if you faithfully pursue your dreams.

As we see, Santiago must give up his flock and leave Fatima, material success and even love pose obstacles to Santiago achieving his personal legend and must be delayed or ignored altogether. Those who put off their personal legends, such as the crystal merchant, suffer regret and fail to experience the wealth and other favors that the universe bestows upon those who follow their personal legends. In the novel, even alchemy, the central symbol of the book, entails coaxing metal to achieve its own personal legend to turn into gold. As a result, the idea that all individuals should live in the singular pursuit of their individual dreams emerges as the primary theme of The Alchemist. Santiago’s sheep symbolize the sort of existence lived by those who are completely blind to their personal legends. These sheep symbolize the characters in the book like the baker and the crystal merchant who do not pursue their personal legends. Similarly, alchemy functions as the dominant symbol in the novel, which represents Santiago’s journey to achieve his personal legend. The symbol also gives the novel its title. The Alchemist describes the process of turning base metal to gold as equivalent to the base metal realizing its personal legend. Likewise, the desert symbolizes the serious difficulties that await anyone in pursuit of their personal legend, but it also serves as an important teacher to Santiago during his journey to the pyramids.

Santiago learns, however, even the desert, despite appearing barren, and contains life and the Soul of the World. Santiago begins to understand his environment, and to see the signs of life in what seems to be a wasteland. Eventually he learns to recognize all of creation in a single grain of sand, and in the greatest test, he faces during the book, he finds he is able to enlist the desert in his effort to become the wind.

Finally, through ‘The Alchemist’, Coelho describes the role of love on the journey to the personal legend. Even though the world is divided by language, culture, political boarder and geography, the writer offers hope in unifying humanity through this universal language.

Reference

Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 2014. Print.

 

What Do You Think About This Image?

I have an image that went “viral” recently on the Internet among Nepali. The image not only created widespread criticism and debate on social media but also widely covered in mainstream media. In the photo, we can see Chairpersons of Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal, Sadbhawana Party and Tarai Madhes Sadbhawana Party- Upendra Yadav, Rajendra Mahato and Mahendra Raya Yadav meeting with Lalu Prasad Yadav, an Indian leader and President of Rastriya Janata Dal. Yadav talked with Nepal’s agitating leaders of Madhesh based parties in Bihar of India, on Monday, February 1, 2016.

PhotoIt is not the first time Nepal’s politicians meet Indian leaders “seeking political support”. However, this is the first time any meeting created such a louder controversy in media sphere in Nepal. The immediate question that came into my mind is “can this image be the aspect of visual culture?” Let us first discuss what kind of criticism and response this image created in Nepal. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa wrote in his Twitter : “No proud (Swabhimani) Nepali can be happy by seeing this image.” Similarly, Journalist Kanak Mani Dixit wrote in his Facebook: “Lalu Yadav should not treat Nepal’s national Madheshi leaders as if they were feudatories from a Bihar backwater. Analysis on the photograph can be done on the basis of – outdoor parking lot setting for the meeting, wickerwork chair for Lalu, plastic chairs for Nepali leaders, straight line positioning of chairs rather than semi-circle, laid-back postures of Lalu, leaning-forward hands folded postures of Nepali leaders, distance of supplicant ‘raiti’ from the Patna ‘zamindar’, he further writes. In a news report published in The Telegraph Nepal, senior leader of United Marxist Leninist Jhal Nath Khanal claims that Madheshi leaders’s visit “a shameful act.” Similarly, in the Himalaya Television news report Pashupati Shamsher Rana, senior leader of Rastriya Prajatantra Party, termed meeting “the wrong step.”

In a news report published in The Kathmandu Post, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar criticized the meeting: “Our revolutionary leaders were seen prostrating in front of Lalu. It looked like a meeting between serfs and master. Isn’t it shameful?” Bishwo Mani Pokhrel, in an article published in In Nagarik Daily, argues, “Picture speaks for itself, Lalu’s posture is authoritative and our renowned leaders are eager to listen his instructions and accept.” Moreover, he argues that, “the concern is not about different chairs (one made by stick and other plastic) they are siting; chair only represents a seat. The concern, primarily, is about culture and behavior. Leaders must understand that Lalu’s behavior regarding Nepal’s politics coincides the behavior of Narendra Modi or any other Indian leader. They are obsessed with hegemonic psychology and behave accordingly with any Nepali.” The Republica editorial states: “The images of Morcha leaders, their arms dutifully folded, and lining up for audience with Bihari leaders like Lalu Prasad Yadav do not go down well among the proud Madheshis.”

If we cautiously read above responses, they can be categorized in four groups. First, Kamal Thapa’s comment “proud Nepali” and Republica’s comment “proud Madhesi”, are the result of current debates of “nationalism”. Second, Dixit’s remark “feudatories” and Pokhrel’s narrative of hegemonic psychology are more or less based on the the role played by India on Nepal;s internal affair. Third, Khana’s remark “shameful act”, Rana’s comment “the wrong step” and Gachhadar’s comment “shameful” are the question of diplomatic norms” are based on the norms of diplomatic protocol. The image is clear: Nepali leaders meeting with an Indian leader. However, the image of that very meeting created widespread comment and criticism on Internet. How we make such perception based on a photo? This question is crucial in visual culture. Thus, this image can be the aspect of visual culture. Moreover, the study of this image can be of value in contemporary political scenario because of two reason. First, there is an agitation in Tarai Madhesh after the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal.  Second, there is a debate of so-called nationalism in Nepal propagated by the state mechanism with the help of mainstream media.

The image provided creative impulses to cartoonists. For example, Rajesh KC created a humorous cartoon that resembles Lalu Prasad Yadav as potato and Nepali leaders as radish (See at top). What makes a cartoonist to draw cartoon implying potato and radish as the visual metaphor for leaders? What might be its significance? If vision is a mixed mode of perception, how does the audience of above photo visualize the act of meeting? How journalists, social media users and cartoonists saw the image as offensive? If vision is the question of the power to see, how does power play in this image? If visuality is, rendering the process of history visible to power, how does this process renders in this very image?

Since visual culture involves “the things that we see, the mental model we all have of how to see, and what we can do as a result”, the study of these images can be the aspect of visual culture. The image and cartoon both resembles our contemporary society, politics, people’s mindset and psychology. Thus, this image can be of interest in visual culture.

References

Dixit, Kanak Mani. Facebook. 1 Feb. 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016. <https://www.facebook.com/kanak.m.dixit/posts/941024752641085>.

“Nepal: Khanal Accuses Madhesi Leaders for Meeting Laloo.” TelegraphNepal.com. 3 Feb. 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016. < telegraphnepal.com/headline/2016-02-03/nepal:-khanal-accuses-madhesi-leaders-for-meeting-laloo>/

पोखरेल, विश्व मणि. “बिहार नधाऊ, काठमाडौं आऊ.” Nagarik News. 4 Feb. 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016. <http://nagariknews.com/opinion/story/53758.html >.

बराल, अरुण. “लालुको पटाङ्गिनी: मधेस आन्दोलनको सेटब्याक ?” Online Khabar. 3 Feb. 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016. <http://www.onlinekhabar.com/2016/02/383089/>.

“Meeting Between Madhesi Front Leaders and Lalu Yadav Is a Wrong Step: Pashupati Shamsher Rana.” Himalaya Television. 3 Feb. 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016. <http://himalayatv.com/news/2016/02/03/meeting-between-madhesi-front-leaders-and-lalu-yadav-is-a-wrong-step-pashupati-shamsher-rana/:en>.

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. An Introduction to Visual Culture. London: Routledge, 1999. Print.

“Revolution by Proxy.” Republica. 2 Feb. 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016. <http://myrepublica.com/editorial/story/36279/revolution-by-proxy.html>.

“Rival Madhesi Alliance Critical of Morcha-Lalu Meeting.” The Kathmandu Post. 2 Feb. 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016. <http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2016-02-03/rival-madhesi-alliance-critical-of-morcha-lalu-meeting.html>.

Thapa, Kamal. Twitter. 1 Feb. 2016. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.

<https://twitter.com/ktnepal/status/694175997478850561>.

 

Why Globalization is not a one-way-street

Schuman Michael’s article, published in the TIME in 2013, begins like a fairy tale: “Once upon a time, globalization simply meant the export of Western culture to the rest of the world. Now the world is turning the tables.” It means globalization is not a “one way street” as he concludes: “globalization is becoming more inclusive and more balanced between different parts of the planet.” The continuous innovation, renovation and expansion of the agents of globalization affects different parts of the world. One thing is certain that the journey of “local” and “global” go together in two-way street. Even if global seeks its dominance, there are other actors to reconnect it with local.

However, the term “globalization” was first used in the 1970s, its concept is not new. Unlike western discourse on globalization claim, the process started with the process of global colonization of planet by humans. Let us not ponder on how and where humans emerged as a species and how and why they moved across the earth’s landscape to occupy all environments found on this planet since it goes back to earlier prehistory. Even though second half of the twentieth century was a significant period of globalization, it has its root in the African prehistory from where human mobility was expanded across the planet. Latest advancement in communication technologies and transportation are another series of the process.

Globalization is different thing for different people. The lack of one generally shared definition of globalization shows its ideological “orthodoxy”. In their book, Global Transformations, authors David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton describe three different perspectives on globalization based on the way the processes of globalization have operated in different historic periods in respect to political organization, military globalization, trade, finance, corporate productivity, migration, culture, and the environment. The four perspectives they describe are hyperglobalist, skeptical and transformationalist.

The hyperglobalist perspective sees globalization as economic and geographical borderlessness. This views globalization as “the new epoch in human history.” This view supports globalization by pointing out that since the 1980s, the nations open to trade, tend to be much more prosperous than nations with closed economies. For example Murphy notes, “the increased wages spawned by globalization correlate with reduced poverty and improved living conditions for all.” However, the orientation of debate is neo-liberal versus neo-Marxist.

The Neo-liberal view is widely criticized by neo-Marxist thinkers. Neo-Marxist see globalization as the western expansionism and cultural imperialism as Vogel and Vogel see it as neoliberal globalization and defines as “the highest stage of capitalism”. According to these thinkers, the key to combating globalization lies in the contest between the reign of capitalism, which is based on privilege, and domination versus socialist democracy based on the principles of liberty, unity, and social justice. Most of the neo-liberals advocate in favor of globalization since nearly all countries have a comparative advantage in one way or another within the global economy. However, neo-Marxist scholars are suspicious towards neo-liberal optimism, as they believe this new form of capitalism creates inequalities within and between countries. Similarly, this perspective believes in the demise of the Nation-States. The main point of this view is that with increasing economic globalization, transnational governance organizations will become increasingly important. The result is that national governments will lose influence and be forced to operate increasingly according to rules they do not create.

Skeptical perspective views the time of globalization has already gone. According to this perspective, the end of the 19th century was the golden age of globalization. In addition, now this is the age of occurred regionalization. The growth of multinational corporations, according to skeptical perspective, does not mean that nation-states are no longer relevant. Moreover, it rejects the notion of global culture or global governance structure. Transformationalist perspective focuses on the cause and effects of globalization. According to this perspective, there is no single cause behind globalization and the outcome of processes of globalization is not determined. Finally, authors argue that the historical process of globalization must be understood for an alternative perspective to view globalization.

The above discussion whether globalization is similar to free flow of capitalism, whether  regionalism is a threat on globalization and the uncertainty of globalization’s causes and effects shows both ideological “orthodoxy” and the persistent conflicts within of discourse of globalization.

To sum up above discussion, I will provide three balanced views. First, Roland Robertson defines globalization as “a relatively autonomous process” in his article “Globalization as a Problem”.  He says, “Its central dynamic involves the twofold process of the particularization of the universal and the universalization of particular.” He points out four major focal points of the dominant globalization process: nationally constituted societies, the international systems of societies, individuals and humankind. His thesis “particularization of the universal and the universalization of particular” clearly shows the interdependence and relatively autonomy of of these four focal points with globalization.

Second, Theodore C. Bestor in article entitled “How Sushi Went Global” argues that the process of globalization neither homogenize cultural differences, nor erase them. He says, “Globalization doesn’t necessarily homogenize cultural differences nor erase the salience of cultural labels.” Third, Amartya Sen, in “How to Judge Globalism”, expresses balanced view towards the process of globalization. He advocates for the equal sharing of the benefits of globalization and its acceptance instead of resisting. He argues, however, that “the inequality in the overall balance of institutional arrangements” produces very unequal sharing of the benefits.” To solve the problem, he calls for the extensive institutional reform and reform in the globalization itself. Institution reform indicates rearranging economic, social and political institution such as public policies in education, epidemiology, land reform, microcredit facilities, and appropriate legal protections etc. Sen’s idea is that globalization is neither a monoester nor a magic. It is human creation and every human has capacity to grasp the fruit.

Thus, globalization is not synonymous with capitalism and free flow. It is true that the political barriers is more flexible for the free flow of goods, services, capital and idea, national borders are significant. In addition, states themselves are the major actors in the global economy as they have institutions, cultures and regulations. Moreover, states are the competitors and collaborators with other states, international institutions and regional economic organizations. Thus, the power of state boundaries is major discontinuities to the “borderless world”.

Finally, globalization is a double-edged sword with both opportunities and challenges, advantages and disadvantages. However, this depends on how nations, regional organizations and global organizations formulate policies and strategies. If the policies are correct, the global reform of globalization is possible. The changing pattern of human life and their culture has no definite end; it is never ending process. Thus, no culture, technology, civilization or idea can get absolute control. Instead, conflict and compromise between local, regional and global determines the process of globalization.

References

Goucher, Candice Lee., and Linda A. Walton. World History: Journeys from Past to Present. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.

Held, David, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt, and Jonathan Perraton. Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1999. Print.

Lechner, Frank J., and John Boli. The Globalization Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000. Print.

Murphy, Robert P. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2007. Print.

Schuman, Michael. “Globalization Isn’t Dead, It’s Only Just Beginning | TIME.com.” World Globalization Isnt Dead Its Only Just Beginning Comments. 19 Nov. 2013. Web. 27 Jan. 2016. <http://world.time.com/2013/11/19/globalization-isnt-dead-its-only-just-beginning/>.

Vogel, Richard D., and Idell E. Vogel. “Neoliberal Globalization: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.”The Socialist Alternative. US Forum on Combating Globalization, 2009. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://combatingglobalization.com/articles/the_socialist_alternative.html>.

How ‘Avatar’ Critiques/Supports American Imperialism

Dominic Alessio and Kristen Meredith in their essay “Decolonizing James Cameron’s Pandora: Imperial History and Science Fiction” analyses James Cameron’s 2009 science fiction blockbuster Avatar as a critique to American imperialism. Their analysis is based on the socio-political contexts in which it was written, “namely the American-led invasion of Iraq during the presidency of George W. Bush (2000-2008).”

According to the writers both dialogue and the plot demonstrate that the movie is the critique to American imperialism. On one hand dialogues such as “fight terror with terror”, “shock and awe” and a “hearts and minds” shows how the movie it want to portray America. On the other hand, the plot of movie centers on the need to gain control of a valuable energy source (“unobtainium”) as opposed to oil. Thus, the movie criticizes foreign policy of America, primarily the so-called “war on terror” during the tenure of Bush.

The writers provide four evidences to demonstrate Avatar’s anti-imperial message in Avatar. First, the humans in Avatar are exclusively American. “The fact that Americans alone are seeking unobtainium on Pandora suggests that they have remained uniquely imperialistic among human populations.” Second, the RDA without trial imprisons Jake, the main protagonist, and his human aliens. It is parallel with America’s “war on terror.” Third, the movie links the RDA’s private army and the former operations of private military firm Blackwater in the Middle East from 2003 onwards. Both are mercenary troops comprised of ex-military personnel, and both kill noncombatant. Fourth, because of the destruction of Home tree the Navi survivors are forced to flee. Their compulsory removal resembles the Trail of Team that Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole, and other indigenous people had to undertake when they were evicted from their homeland by US force in the 1930s because American settlers wanted this land and the gold beneath. Moreover, the RDA military base on Pandora is reminiscent of the Green zone established in Baghdad during the Iraq war.

In Conclusion, Alessio and Meredith, in “Decolonizing James Cameron’s Pandora: Imperial History and Science Fiction”, demonstrate that Cameron’s Avatar is a critique on American imperialism. The writers quote Michael Learner “Avatar is one of the first movie to tell the story of western colonial, imperial arrogance from the standpoint of its victims in a way that may affect the mass consciousness in the western world.” The writers conclude, “The way in which Pandora’s various Navi groups united to combat the RDA- human invasion is a lesion for success in any struggle against imperial aggression.”

How Avatar supports America’s image as an imperial power?

The writers, in “Decolonizing James Cameron’s Pandora: Imperial History and Science Fiction”, with the thorough analysis of Avatar, demonstrate that the movie supports America’s image as an imperial power. Even though, the movie criticizes the colonialism/imperialism, it remains a colonialist work as it fails to challenges the traditional-one dimensional representation of indigenous. In this sense, Avatar represents orientalist stereotypes: Jake Sully (the masculine traveler representing the West), penetrating Pandora (the feminine East).

The representation of the moon’s indigenous people “half-nude” shows imperialist mindset. According to writers, the movie portrays Navi as if they do not have intellectual abilities to integrate into an advanced and technologically superior human society. Similarly, the representation of periphery of empire as a world lost to the imperial power itself is an idealized version of the imperial culture prior to imperialism.

The way Cameron depicts the culture of the Navi is influenced by the imperial fantasy of the discovery and conquest of the lost Eden. It portrays a world- Pandora- with the value and appearance of a utopia and reminds that this utopia is available to outsides, mainly Americans as shown in the movie. The writers further say that the movie serve as an historical makers for Bush’s muscular and militarist administration by linking imperial ambitions to US military action in the Middle East. In this way, they conclude that Avatar supports and reinforce America’s image as the imperial power.

 

How to make American Studies Association more inclusive? Mary Helen Washington’s suggestions

Mary Helen Washington, in her inaugural address as the newly elected president of the American Studies Association (ASA) in 1997, advocated for the institutional change in ASA by asking a question to her colleagues and scholars. Her question, “What happens to American Studies if you put African American studies at the center?” draws the attention towards the historical marginalization of African American cultural perspectives in traditional American Studies discipline. Her address entitled “Disturbing the Peace” calls for the increased collaborations between the African American Studies and American Studies to reconstruct American Studies institutionally and structurally. Thus, the peace Mary Helen Washington intend to disturb is very simple.

Washington, in her address, draws separate histories of American studies and African American studies emphasizing the historical and institutional marginalization of African American issues in academia. Her point is that, even though African American scholars debated on the social, political, cultural and economic issues of America, the contribution was not recognized.

Similarly, she points out the difficulty of African American scholars to institutionalize African American/Black Studies programs in American universities. Finally, she advocates for open mind towards topics and issues since, “scholarship emerges in layers and intersections” and “formerly marginal” topics are now mainstreamed”, academia should incorporate all the debates of society fairly and equally.

Washington constantly asks scholars of American Studies whether ASA is the potential home for African American scholars. She reminds that some scholars have already declared that ASA was the “home” of choice for most Chicano/a scholars. She quotes Steve Sumida, “It’s less like a home and more like being in a dormitory owned and operated by powerful others, but where you get a nice room and good treatment.”

Similarly, Washington’s own experience is not easy as she shares, “being a part of an American studies association is a contradictory experience for those of us in ethnic studies.” It is because of the “The Ghost of Classic American Studies Past” in the words of Jose David Salvivar. Further, she explains what black intellectuals over the decades and centuries have identified: “white supremacy as a systematic and central feature of American experience.”

Thus, she recommends a model for institutional change in ASA. She provides examples form Wedding Band, a 1964 dramatic production by Alice Childress, Lone Star, a 1996 film by John Sayles, and Octoroon, a 1997 CD by Laura Love and explains how institutional and structural change is possible. She suggests some strategies to make American Studies more inclusive with regard to African American literature and culture.

First, ASA should concentrate on quantitative change. Quantitative change, she argues, can eventually produce qualitative change. For quantitative change, scholars should be willing to “disturb the peace”. It means, historically marginalized issues should be included in American Studies.

Second, ASA should promote and celebrate connections with ethnic studies constituencies at an institutional level. She recommends for the greater commitment from ASA to collaborate and exchange with ethnic studies group: African American, Asian, Latino, Chicano, etc.

Third, she insists to use resources to support ethnic studies programs with the same energy, emphasis, and financial support given to traditional American Studies programs and departments. She encourages to establish the same kind of alliances with African American studies associations, with Chicano and native organizations from Latin America to the Caribbean, and Africa.

Finally, she suggests that ethnic studies people and projects should not be seen as “them”, “that” and “those people”. She advocates for the “deeper project of reconstructing the definition of America, not merely “expanding”, “including” the so called other.

In conclusion, the entire address calls for the institutional change in ASA to make it more inclusive and non-discriminatory organization by creating “a liberated and liberating institutional space.”

Why calling America an Empire is not Helpful

Amy Kaplan, in her 2003 Presidential address to the American Studies Association, suggests American Studies scholars to think more creatively and critically about what they mean by internationalizing the field of American Studies instead of calling America imperial. Though it is fashionable to say America an empire, Kaplan argues that the fashion to say America an empire is not helpful.

In one hand, the United States shuts itself off for the world it seeks to control. Thus naming the empire has the potential to put American Studies scholars in conversation with critics around the world. As a result, it may help make the contours of U.S. power more visible. On the other hand, the denial and disavowal of empire has long served as the ideological cornerstone of U.S. imperialism and a key component of American exceptionalism. She argues, “The talk about empire conceals more than it reveals and makes certain kinds of utterances unspeakable.”

Kaplan suggests different creative alternatives to make American Studies a better discipline rather than just calling America an empire since the discourse “seemed to say more about the persons using the term than about the phenomenon itself.”

First, she suggests that American Studies scholars expose the imperialistic appropriation of the name America and then turn away from it. Moreover, scholars can not lose sight of the power of America in American Studies.

Second, American Studies scholars have the obligation to study and analyze the meanings of America in their multiple dimensions, to understand the enormous power wielded in its name, its ideological and affective force, as well as its sources for resistance to empire.

Third, American Studies scholars need to study more about the differences among nation, state, and empire, when they seem to fuse and how they are at odds, to think of how state power is wielded at home and abroad in the name of America.

Fourth, scholars need to study how meanings of America have changed historically in different international contexts.

Fifth, she suggests that through studies of political, literary, and cultural images, they must understand how “America” is a relational, a comparative concept, how it changes shape in relation to competing claims to that name and by creating demonic others, drawn in proportions as mythical and monolithic as the idea of America itself.

Finally, American Studies scholars need to create alternative venues for international conversations to show that scholars have visions of American studies and of America.