Freire’s dialogue.

After reading the short excerpt from Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the only thing I could do was think and fathom of all the different concepts he melded together in accordance with dialogue and take a step back.  I have been familiar with his notion of dialogue in the context of social change, performance, and personal transformation, but his ideals of dialogue and its components were concepts I did not necessarily equate with dialogue or never really thought of them as being part of the same system.  Although, I found his notions of dialogue extremely compelling and powerful, I have some doubts and criticisms of his fundamentals.  Dialogue obviously implies an interwoven relation and communication between peoples and communities, which suggest that aspects of dialogue applies to everyone involved; oppressors and oppressed.  However, I do not believe that everyone has the “luxury” of love, faith, and hope to engage in dialogues with others.  I certainly value those sentiments and emotions and I can see their importance and merit within social movements and discourses for transformation, such as humility and critical thinking.  According to Freire, humanists, oppressed, and the oppressors must all have and function within these elements to achieve reciprocal communication and understanding.  I side with Freire when he stresses the critical nature of personal and world views and the need to understand each others perspective on the world, which will ultimately help people combat oppression.  This is especially true because every situation is different (through culture, history, language) and requires different approaches and dialogues to achieve solid transformation.  But, I believe on a universal level that many people can not afford hope in a future or faith in others.  So many people are entirely invested in their current situation/survival and do not have the means or the option to have hope and faith, leading to the lack of trust and dialogue.  This is outside of Freire’s argument on the pacification of the oppressed and the creation of passive attitudes by the oppressors.  Some people are so deep into certain issues that they cannot afford the luxury of faith and hope to engage with humanists or even oppressors outside of their own survival.  I completely agree with Freire’s criticism of educational programs and relief programs do little to create actual and long-lasting transformation, while being ignorant of the existence of different culture and values.  But certain options can initially help people become more stable and nourished (physically and mentally) in order to better engage in true dialogue.

The Bicycle Thief/Thieves is an Italian neo-realist film that can out after World War II.  It is an old film set in a war-torn Italy, which makes it seem archaic and outdated, but the narrative it portrays of a father’s struggle to keep a job and support his family is ever to real and relevant today.  It does not stray far from other unstable regions of the world such as Libya, Yemen, and Mexico.  Although the film and the genre deals with poverty and has existential elements, it comments on how hope and faith is extremely difficult and near impossible for some people to obtain, hold, and find.  Many actors from the film are actually non-professional actors, which allows real workers and the oppressed to portray their own desolation and social depravity as a reflection of their character’s.

Boal readings

The dialectic that is represented in Boal’s non actors-actors reading is a powerful understanding that can relate to other global struggles or even domestic issues.  The imagery of both prisoners and prison guards participating together in theater and performance to better understand each other and express the humanity and struggles that exists in everyone’s lives through unique narratives.  Although the guards as not necessarily the oppressor within the binary of inmates and “rehabilitating” institutions, they represent structural components key to the development and maintenance of prison.  Having a collective engagement between the oppressed and the oppressor allows each group to have a view on the others’ personal stories and how the system of oppression ultimately dehumanizes everyone involved.  Boal highlights the idea of breaking barriers between the oppressor and the oppressed by eliminating the line between spectators and actors.  I believe that this notion is crucial to the Boal’s reading and the function of theater/performance in the context of social justice because it transforms the relationship from a simple transmission of meaning (like brainwashing) to a cyclic and interdependent relationship that transforms and consents to meanings.  This connects to his emphasis on both language and expression.  Illiteracy is an issue that contributes to different power struggles and oppressive situations.  Illiteracy in both literary language and artistic language constricts people from not only empowering themselves but from reaching out and understanding others.  Boal’s story of utilizing language in its many forms is truly amazing and comprehensive.  I kept thinking about our group issue during Thursday’s class, where stricter immigration laws are forcing both illegal and legal migrants to move away from Alabama from fear of being deported, having their family deported, or simply experiencing “justified” racial profiling.  Many of these people may not speak English, but many people are also unable to speak Spanish, which represents a dissonance that must be bridged.  Although both languages are readily available, people from two sides of the law do not and cannot communicate with each other.  By creating a space where people are empowered by both language and artistic expression, then each one can hopefully have a better understanding of each other.  This can further facilitate engagements in solutions and policies, such as the Theatre of the Oppressed, where necessary laws and reforms can be more effectively and humanly “imposed.”  This does not suggest that the oppressed needs the oppressor to become liberated, it is suggesting that liberation is dependent collective engagement and consciousnesses.  Narratives must be shared to realize the complexity of situations and change must exist on both sides for transformation to be effective and stable.

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The power of media being able to stir certain sentiments and ideas that help initiate social transformation through collective participation and dialogue was powerfully portrayed in the beginning section about Entertainment Education and Air India Radio.  However, I could not stop reading the story without thinking about ways that the narratives presented through the radio and the technology itself can become counterproductive or stagnant.  I do not doubt that the programs help kindle communicative learning and organization, but it can be utilized by authoritative institutions to oppress mentally and socially.  This is relevant in other media where it perpetuate gender roles and sexuality as well as maintain a positive image of the status quo.

I appreciated the notion of struggle that is necessary throughout social change.  Just the dialectics themselves represent struggles of opportunities and restrictions.  I recently visited the WWII, Germany, and Civil Rights exhibit in the Stone center on campus.  It was engaging and presented many struggles that relates to the concept of putting the last first, the various dialectics, and discourses of dignity.  There is no way to talk about the exhibit and its relations with this article within a blog post.  I’d advise people to visit soon because they have some wonderful photos and articles and will be ending within a week.  Just the history of African-American G.I.s fighting across the ocean for the first time for and within oppressive states against the Nazi power highlights so much contradictions, struggles, and dialectics that the reading mentions.  I love the idea that many black soldiers emancipated themselves by entering an oppressive military representing a dialectic of fragmentation and unity, where they became unified with the German Youth during the Cold War to find Jim Crow laws and segregation.  The history of the Berlin Wall along with black G.I.s stationed in West Germany creates so much irony within socioeconomic politics within the U.S.; representing issues of social change, such as the dialectic of control and emancipation in the Grameen Bank example.  It created a space to debate both international and nation hypocrisies through the context of each other.

Why don’t we change everything?

In the short introduction section into the Health Theatre reading by Dwight Conquerwood provides an interesting paradox that reflects on both the readings and our discussion in class about the education system in the United States and issues of its current role and status.  According to Conquerwood, the paradox of traditional performance’s historical role is “to conserve a culture over time, not to change it.”  This makes complete sense within the narrow view of traditional performance, cultural studies, or human anthropology.  However, within the context of social justice and studies of modern globalization, this notion of traditional performance is quite shallow.  I believe that this same ideology can be applied to our assumptions of education and its role in society.  Why can we not have a complete radical notion and approach to both education and performance?  This paradox introduced by Conquerwood is clearly evident in current educational systems today, such as unchanged curriculum, teaching styles, or unfair/exploitative policies .  I would not necessarily say that the guerrilla theater performances of Greenpeace is radical, but it’s approach in awareness, action, and information is radical enough to get its boat blown up and its members arrested.  During our discussion of education in class, I kept thinking about Rousseau’s notion of humanity and society.  We are born free but we are chained through societal restrictions such as menial values or roles.  He believed that children should be educated with a free mindset that is outside of the school setting, such as punishments, standards. and the classroom itself.  Rousseau is not concerned so much with brainwashing children with information and concepts, but is focused on developing character, morals, independence, and creativity through experiences and consequences of their own actions; not through the school and its employers and supporters.  This ties into the quote by Conquerwood because we should question how much we value government and social standards on education and our definition of education itself.  Yes, we do have those standards and pressures imposed on us from all directions, but can we not take a step back and realize how much bs we consume by either not being aware of the state of education or by simply accepting the fact that we can make conversations about its state but we ultimately cannot change it because tax dollars are involved.  By acknowledging the paradox but not willing to take action because of the fear of others’ judgement or fear of the system itself is an ideal plaguing the humanization process in many societies but is also an ideal represented in the Greenpeace reading.  “The function of art in our culture drifts steadily toward becoming investment commodity and entertainment, it might be worth the art world’s time to expand its narrow definitions to include activities that have a function more in keeping with traditional art values-creating images that have an impact on people’s lives.”  If education’s traditional purpose is to create reasonable, independent, moral, and creative people, why are we stuck in its current movement towards making compliant, subordinate, and endlessly consuming individuals?

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Freire made some interesting connections between the relationship of the oppressed and the oppressor and the relationship of a teacher and a student.  Not only was this connection revealing, but it also helped me better understand his concept of oppression and the relationship that lies within it.  Although I agree with many of his ideas about the dehumanization of people through oppression/exploitation which was exemplified through the analogy of the teacher/student relationship, I have some major concerns when he states that the interests of the oppressors lie in “changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them.”  Throughout the first chapter he seems to treat the oppressors as entities without any agency and their situations as something non-substantial.  It is important to empower people by re-orientating people’s perspective about their condition and the relationship that they exist in, however if current socio-economic situations are not greatly altered, then population of the oppressed or unstable communities will not stop existing.  Thus making the process of empowerment and reorientation an endless cycle.  Without alleviating poverty and restructuring corporate ideologies/strategies, there will always be a population susceptible to oppression/exploitation.  I believe that the notion of a dialect exists within this dilemma because socio-economic conditions must improve along with the empowerment of the impoverished in order to develop and grow as a community/society while becoming independent individuals.  Films such as City of God depicts oppression in an indirect manner where many young citizens join gangs and violent crews.  However, this commitment is not necessarily done by choice, but rather through the situation they live in.  Although the oppressive nature does not exist in the form of a oppressor-oppressed relationship, but Freire’s concept of dehumanization is clearly evident, especially in the character, Lil Ze, who becomes a cold murderer.  There are no overseers or masters.  Instead, the social climate itself becomes the oppressor by dehumanizing the people and creating a “dog eat dog” world.   The ideology of the oppressor becomes the dogma of the oppressed.