Friday, March 17, 2017

Michael Benton: My Understanding of Anarchism 5.0

[I was asked to explain my understanding of anarchism -- so I have revised this earlier statement]

This started out as a response to Sara P. on the Occupy Education email list in the winter of 2011 and I was reading scott crow's book at the time. Sara asked me to define in greater detail my understanding of Anarchism. There is a lot of confusion about the political philosophy of anarchism, mostly because of the disinformation propagated by corporate media, but also because there is no "one" Anarchism, instead it is a diverse, evolving part of global autonomous movements and participatory economics.  Of course this is just my perspective, others no doubt will provide different views and even disagree.  I think that is a good thing!

PM Press link for the book

'Black Flags and Windmills' TRAILER from Louisiana Lucy on Vimeo.

also a full presentation by scott crow on the ideas and experiences in the book

Sara, it is important that we each set down our understandings of anarchism and initiate broader discussions/debates about anarchism:

You asked about the confusion in regards to the many uses of the words libertarian/libertarianism.

First, the political concept of "libertarianism" has many meanings/uses in American political discussions. Because of our corporate media's focus on conservative politicians most Americans are familiar with right-libertarians (also known as individualistic/economic libertarians)? This is the Tea Party's or Ron/Rand Paul's American version of libertarianism that wants to limit government and privatize everything. 

On the other hand, there are the left-libertarians (also known as communal/socialist libertarians). These are the traditional anarchists developing from earlier European versions that branched off from socialism (rejecting its authoritarian impulses) and sought to bring more autonomy into individual/collective lives while realizing the potential of liberated communities.

In the discussion below, I will be discussing the left-libertarian branch of anarchism.

There are many more types of anarchism, but let me lay out some basics (I would also encourage you to watch scott crow's presentation in the video I provided -- he/Common Grounds is a great example of anarchist direct action. I would suggest going to see the upcoming screening of Howard Zinn's The People Speak (based on his landmark history The People's History of the United States:

For the record Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky both claim they are left-libertarians.

Short descriptions:

Anarchists do not seek complete absence of government. There is a need for basic communal structures to provide everyone with the necessary staples of life, for instance, a good example would be the provision of water for a large community. What anarchists do want is leadership, not leaders; in other words a society in which we cultivate the ability of all to step up and work for the greater collective good. They also demand, yes demand, transparency of actions/processes (the Occupy Movement's general assembly and decision making processes are partly inspired by anarchist principles) and that leadership should always be held accountable. Most anarchists are also opposed to privatization of basic necessities (at the least) under the control of a corporatocracy. These types of monopoly relations rest upon the infantilization of dependent populations, as well as the creation of a plutocracy that dominates all aspects of our state/government/society/culture. This is the belief that democracy doesn't come from a small group of people at the top of society, instead, democratic processes depend on the full involvement of informed/engaged citizens from all sections of a society.  This can be seen in the AK Press statement:

We don’t advocate “no control,” but insist on asking “control by whom?” We work to destroy arbitrary power (political, economic, and social), to take decision-making power away from “officials,” while developing our ability to fill that void and provide for ourselves. “People's governments” invariably become calcified and abandon the struggle for human freedom. This is why we identify with the liberatory strains within the history of socialism—the unbroken thread of impassioned resistance against both the terrors of capitalism and the tyranny of government.
Anarchism doesn't tell people what to do. It tells them that they have the ability to make decisions about the issues that affect them. Anarchism, and the anarchist movement, is about emancipation, empowerment, and agency. Ask yourself this: what would your ideal transportation system, agricultural system, neighborhood, school, or workplace look like? Now ask yourself how much influence you and the people around you have over these issues? Can we afford to leave these decisions to the same people who have been screwing up our lives thus far?

Anarchists do not believe in complete freedom for the individual -- as in free from any responsibility to anything. I have a problem with the word "freedom" which has its origins in slave societies. A master granted freedom to a slave for exemplary service and to hold out hope to the rest of the slaves that one day they might be "freed." With this in mind, we can see the correlation to our current system, were the many toil endlessly in the desperate hope that they might someday be granted "freedom" from want and need (by becoming one of the elites). Former President Bush defined our limited freedom in the aftermath of 9/11 when he exhorted Americans to respond to the attacks on their "freedom" by going about their daily lives of "working and shopping and playing." Is this what it means to be a "free" person in a democracy? Instead anarchists seek autonomy for individuals and communities through participatory economics and consensus decision making.

For me, I think of autonomy in this way: autonomy = individual responsibility + consensus decision making + cooperative learning + participatory economics. At every step of this formula is the development of individual liberty in tandem with collective responsibility. I believe that communities are best served by free-thinking, autonomous individuals (and this is the polar opposite of the "radical individualism" of consumer capitalism and economic libertarians) and that autonomous individuals are best cultivated in liberated, participatory collectives/communities. If anything, Anarchists are truly the most concerned with community because they struggle with the individual's role in communities. Responsibility can only be cultivated through individuals that have the ability to respond. The reason why anarchists hold such value on the creative development of autonomous individuals is because self-direction is a necessary step for the cultivation of individual responsibility to the community. Consumer capitalism seeks fragmented, alienated, anxious individuals/communities because these are people that are the most easily exploited for profits. Furthermore, anxious, detached and fragmented people are incapable of response-ability to anything beyond their basic addictive appetites.

Anarchists are not opposed to profits. There is nothing wrong with co-ops, local markets, exchange of goods with ones neighbors. We just don't want to worship at the altar of profits or genuflect to a mythical corporate free market (lets face it, America has a massive corporate welfare system in place). Instead of our current economic system that values things over people and profits over places, anarchists value people/places over profits. Money is an illusion, a powerful one that has real effects in the world, but an illusion nonetheless.

I view anarchism as a personal philosophy (the personal is political and vice versa). Here is my take on it as my personal philosophy:

Anarchism is a person-centered philosophy. Its focus is on autonomy amidst the social and economic pressures of mass society for superficiality and conformism. It is our responsibility, as free and conscious beings, to create meaning out of life and to develop an authentic existence. It is also, in my opinion, in this regard, our duty to help others develop their response-ability to do the same (for me as a teacher this is the core of an anarchist pedagogy). In this anarchism is radically collective in orientation. We are cultivating autonomous, ethical and responsible individuals who care about their community. Anarchism does not discount other beings in this world, it is holistic, in the sense of recognizing that humans are just one set of beings that live and share in the development and continuation of the broader environment.

Anarchism is a philosophy of autonomy. Autonomy requires a sense of responsibility. It requires that we step back and reflect/reassess on what we have been doing and what effect our thoughts/actions have on the world. In this sense we are more than just individuals, we are members of larger collectives and our personal ethics always extend beyond ourselves (this anarchism is not vulgar egotism). In this we can only be as "responsible" as we are "autonomous." Response-ability, the ability for people to respond to the problems of their society and the impetus for them to care beyond themselves, is only realized by liberated, authentic, free thinking and ethical beings. Where there is mindless conformism, shallow consumerism, or brutal oppression, you will see a breakdown in the development of response-ability (both in the ruled/rulers... or, manipulated/manipulators).

Ethical considerations are the primary questions. We all understand ethics and liberty differently, this is a given, and thus we must bring each of our understandings into play and sharpen our ideas through open/free public discourse. In this we, as individuals, as a community, as a society, and as a global ecosystem, should consider ethical questions as primary steps to building a better world. An autonomous individual is responsible to develop and consider the authenticity of their own personal lives in relation to their society. My authenticity should not be at the expense of your opportunity to realize yourself (for example, we are not bloated ticks that feed off the misery of others in order to realize some twisted sense of self).


I realize I am a flawed and difficult person. This is always a work in progress and I struggle as an individual.

To realize true liberty as autonomous citizens through participatory economics developed in cooperative communities .... that is all I have ever dreamed of since I was a little kid.... seriously -- it is all summed up in the usage of the word: "solidarity"

and once again to circle back again to scott crow -- why does the government/media/corporations fear anarchist so much?

NY Times: For Anarchist, Details of Life as F.B.I. Target

Potter, Will. "FBI Agents Raid Homes in Search of “Anarchist Literature” Green Is the New Red (July 30, 2012)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Michael Benton: Brief Biographical Interjection (A Humanities Apologia)

"Brief Biographical Interjection" (A Humanities Apologia)
Michael Benton

I believe that it is important to fully state my background in order to politically and socially situate myself in regards to my writings and teaching. My background is that of a Southern Californian, blue-collar, working-class family. While my family faced economic difficulties during the 70s, we never starved or lost our house. During the 80s and 90s my family saw their economic status jump into the middle-class and to a relatively comfortable lifestyle. My religious background has ranged from a fundamentalist Baptist faith in my youth to anti-theism in my 20s/30s. As I grew older my reactionary rationalism began to harm my soul and I have once again begun to explore many of the worlds spiritual traditions with the idea that all of us have fragmented understandings and that the best route to spirituality is to try out as many trails as possible.

I have attempted to remain independent in my political affiliations due to a growing skepticism about the goals of popular political organizations. The closest I come to a political belief is in the value of small groups of people coming together to effect change over a small period of time. I have direct experience of many of our country's institutions from private to public to reform schools, honor societies and volunteer programs, probation departments and social workers, city jails and mental institutions, community colleges and state universities, and over 30 different jobs before settling down as a writer/professor/editor. I've also long been interested in subcultural societies, exploring and associating with a wide assortment of groups from Christian fundamentalists/faith healers to Wiccans, gangs to surfers, punks to heavy metal headbangers, academics to activists, drug dealers to Alcoholic/Narcotic Anonymous groups, to wealthy thrill-seekers and homeless street-kids. Throughout all of these experiences I have come into contact with thinkers of the profoundest levels, each with their own completely rationalized worldviews and the theories to explain why they believe what they believe. This has led to a deeper comprehension of how we, as humans, construct rules that govern our group actions and how discourse communities operate. I have seen and experienced much wisdom outside the confines of the academy and this has led to a desire to continuously expand the boundaries of what is considered learning and knowledge. Lets face it, from the moment our mothers gave birth to us we were learning about the world.

Some of the experiences in my life have left me deeply scarred, hurt and cynical, yet I embrace a fierce optimism, and, perhaps, even an illusionary romantic belief in the essential possibilities of humanity. Many people view me as having a definite leftist slant and I would identify myself politically as an anarchist, yet even though I pursue a policy of live and let live, I sometimes surprise myself with some of my conservative moral stances.

As a result of my experiences my philosophical/pedagogical outlook is based on the assumption that most humans have the basic tools necessary to enter into discourse communities. As an educator I believe that it is my responsibility to develop a practical methodology designed to facilitate student-based writing assignments in which they will explore their own social and political stances, begin to explore their environments, and learn to compare/contrast their own positions with those of other individuals, groups, and cultures. I believe that an important route to critical self-awareness and civic response-ability is the questioning and defining of one's own beliefs. For me, this involves writing about them. Once one has gained a conscious understanding of their own self (and this must be the first step) then they can begin to use this base as a launching pad to written (and research) explorations of the outer-world of "other" individuals, groups, and cultures. It is essential that students, instructors, and theorists begin to resist the pigeonholing process of dogmatic (monologic, closed, fearful, unchanging) thinking and learn to range across all boundaries/borders, raiding disciplines/movements/systems for useful techniques, using what is at hand when needed, and never fearing (loss of 'face', respect, position) to change one's mind when situations and environments prove the present methods inadequate. What better environment, an educational setting (or social situation) that operates as a catalyzing enteron, producing self-aware, questioning, critical, responsible, relational and communal citizens. My stance is essentially a call for an openness to the potentials of many different possibilities of living in this world in order to develop more insights into a constantly changing and complex era.

In this I have begun to explore knowledge that is outside the realm of proven science. This exploration is not essentially a journey into “truth” as Western society perceives it, but a journey into “perceiving,” the many routes of seeing, knowing and perceiving are my goal. For me magic is in patterns and meanings--a seeker, however we want to define this role, seeks the patterns and makes them meaningful, communicating this recognition into the world and community. We make them meaningful in our recognition of the patterns and our understanding of the way they shape our conception of reality. Of course, our acceptance of them, or our closing off to their possibilities, plays a big role in the potential of our seeking/journey in life.

Lastly, I believe that 'reality,' 'truth,' and 'knowledge' are socially constructed and often support oppressive power structures. Paradoxically, at the same time, I retain a fierce humanist belief in an individual's abilities to seek out particular truths that satisfy their requirements, or to live quite happily according to the dictates of universal/absolute truths. I believe, though, ultimately, that a critical consciousness requires one to weigh their own beliefs and challenge them constantly through interaction and dialogue with other theories and belief systems. Implicit in my stance is a combination of a humanistic belief in the power of intellectual efforts and a pessimism concerning the motives of those who have the power to re-present 'truths' and 'reality.' I am a bundle of contradictions, but I am OK with that… I am but seeking… really I don’t know anything… do you? Can you help me...

My life-experiences infiltrate and color my theories. They direct me towards certain lines of thought and direct my intellectual activities. There is no way for me to completely escape my cultural background, or, its influence on my worldview. I believe fully that the best course of action is to be completely honest about my experiences and my beliefs. I have set this self-description down in this public manner in order to reflect on the conditions of how I have come to be in the year 2017.

This is not my last statement as being is a process of becoming!

"Stop the Trump Administration From Defunding the Humanities."

If you are wondering why you should support the funding of the Humanities, it is because we ask (im)proper questions, we cultivate/celebrate/critique creativity, and can you imagine a world/people bereft of this (un)necessary perspective/attitude/stance.
We teach you to see the world askew - no wonder authoritarians/dictators hate us and want to eliminate us.

"Stop the Trump Administration From Defunding the Humanities."

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

2017 International Women's Day Strike

Democracy Now: "Today is International Women’s Day, and thousands of women are staging a one-day strike in what’s been dubbed a Day Without a Woman. The impact of the strike is already being felt in the United States. In Virginia, the entire public school system of Alexandria is closed today after 300 women requested the day off. Some schools are also closing in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and in New York City. The U.S. Women’s Strike was called by organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, the largest nationwide day of protest after an inauguration in U.S. history. And women in the United States are not alone. Women in more than 50 countries are expected to take part in their own strikes. The International Women’s Strike effort was launched in October 2016 after women in Poland, South Korea, Argentina and Sweden organized strikes to fight issues from the criminalization of abortion to femicide. For more, we speak with Tithi Bhattacharya, associate professor of South Asian history at Purdue University. She is one of the national organizers of today’s Women’s Strike."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Leah Singer - Lost in Translation: Foreign-Language Acting at the Oscars

An examination of the Academy Awards record on nominating actors from other countries and a timely reminder that nominating/awards institutions are always political.

Lost in Translation: Foreign-language Acting at the Oscars from Fandor on Vimeo.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Fela Kuti: Mr. Follow Follow, Expensive Shit and Water No Get Enemy

Linda Colley: Wide-Angled

"What is history for? What do we want it to do? In 1731, an obscure Kentish schoolmaster named Richard Spencer offered some answers. Properly to ascertain his position in geographical space, he reasoned, required not a single map, but access to a global atlas, one that would allow him to ‘see what London and the adjacent parts are in the kingdom; what the kingdom is in Europe, and what Europe is in the universe’. Much the same, he thought, applied to history. ‘Particular histories represent to you, what things have happen’d to such or such a People, with all their circumstances,’ he explained: ‘But to understand the whole clearly, you must know what relation every history can have to others.’ Only when such connected and wide-angled histories were available, might one hope to ‘see all the order of time’." -- Linda Colley, "Wide-Angled" (2013)

Jem Cohen on Filmwax Radio

Jem Cohen discusses his films Museum Hours (2012 fictional film set in Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum) and Instrument (1999 Fugazi documentary), and his overall career/development/influences.

"Jem Cohen." Filmwax Radio #210 (May 7, 2014) ["Two of Cohen’s films are currently available on Fandor including his most recent film, a narrative feature called Museum Hours. The film concerns a Vienna museum guard who befriends an enigmatic visitor. The grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum becomes a mysterious crossroads which sparks explorations of their lives, the city, and the ways artworks reflect and shape the world. Cohen’s other available film is a documentary collaboration with the Washington, DC-based punk band, Fugazi. That project spanned over 10 years of the band’s life and, not only caught great musical moments, but also candid ones that illustrate why the band has intentionally remained on the fringes of the music industry. Cohen takes me back to the earliest days of his career, describing his years studying at Wesleyan University and eventually settling into New York City during the height of the punk scene. Additionally, Jem cites the seminal French documentarian, Chris Marker, as a major influence in his career. "]

Ubu Web: Archive of Experimental Texts, Sounds and Images

An unbelievable Internet site. For researchers of the history of avant-garde or cutting-edge creative expressions. I'm serious this has to be seen to be believed:

Ubu Web

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Race: The Power of An Illusion (3 part documentary series - 2003)

(BCTC students this is available in our library)

Website for this powerful 3 part documentary. Includes full transcripts.

Race: The Power of an Illusion

From the PBS website:


Our eyes tell us that people look different. No one has trouble distinguishing a Czech from a Chinese. But what do those differences mean? Are they biological? Has race always been with us? How does race affect people today?

There's less - and more - to race than meets the eye:

1. Race is a modern idea. Ancient societies, like the Greeks, did not divide people according to physical distinctions, but according to religion, status, class, even language. The English language didn't even have the word 'race' until it turns up in 1508 in a poem by William Dunbar referring to a line of kings.

2. Race has no genetic basis. Not one characteristic, trait or even gene distinguishes all the members of one so-called race from all the members of another so-called race.

3. Human subspecies don't exist. Unlike many animals, modern humans simply haven't been around long enough or isolated enough to evolve into separate subspecies or races. Despite surface appearances, we are one of the most similar of all species.

4. Skin color really is only skin deep. Most traits are inherited independently from one another. The genes influencing skin color have nothing to do with the genes influencing hair form, eye shape, blood type, musical talent, athletic ability or forms of intelligence. Knowing someone's skin color doesn't necessarily tell you anything else about him or her.

5. Most variation is within, not between, "races." Of the small amount of total human variation, 85% exists within any local population, be they Italians, Kurds, Koreans or Cherokees. About 94% can be found within any continent. That means two random Koreans may be as genetically different as a Korean and an Italian.

6. Slavery predates race. Throughout much of human history, societies have enslaved others, often as a result of conquest or war, even debt, but not because of physical characteristics or a belief in natural inferiority. Due to a unique set of historical circumstances, ours [referring to USA] was the first slave system where all the slaves shared similar physical characteristics.

7. Race and freedom evolved together. The U.S. was founded on the radical new principle that "All men are created equal." But our early economy was based largely on slavery. How could this anomaly be rationalized? The new idea of race helped explain why some people could be denied the rights and freedoms that others took for granted.

8. Race justified social inequalities as natural. As the race idea evolved, white superiority became "common sense" in America. It justified not only slavery but also the extermination of Indians, exclusion of Asian immigrants, and the taking of Mexican lands by a nation that professed a belief in democracy. Racial practices were institutionalized within American government, laws, and society.

9. Race isn't biological, but racism is still real. Race is a powerful social idea that gives people different access to opportunities and resources. Our government and social institutions have created advantages that disproportionately channel wealth, power, and resources to white people. This affects everyone, whether we are aware of it or not.

10. Colorblindness will not end racism. Pretending race doesn't exist is not the same as creating equality. Race is more than stereotypes and individual prejudice. To combat racism, we need to identify and remedy social policies and institutional practices that advantage some groups at the expense of others.

RACE - The Power of an Illusion was produced by California Newsreel in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS). Major funding provided by the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Diversity Fund.

© 2003 California Newsreel. All rights reserved.

Alain de Botton: The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships

This is a wise discussion about personal relationships that has ramifications for how we relate in general to the broader world!  Doesn't this seem like something that should be taught at an early age and that we should be having very frank discussions about.  Lets dispel the myths/mystification surrounding personal relationships!

Botton, Alain De. "The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships." On Being (February 9, 2017) 
["What if the first question we asked on a date were, “How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this”? Philosopher and writer Alain de Botton’s essay “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person” was, amazingly, the most-read article in The New York Times in the news-drenched year of 2016. As people and as a culture, he says, we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very limited view of love. How might our relationships be different — and better — if we understood that the real work of love is not in the falling, but in what comes after?"]

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Resources for March 2, 2017

Bettman, Gil, et al. "Never Too Young to Die. (1986)" The Projection Booth (February 28, 2017)  [""I kinda wanted it to be Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Rambo" - Director Gil Bettman. An outstanding example of '80s Action Cinema, Never Too Young to Die (1986) stars John Stamos as Lance Stargrove, the "son of Bond", who teams up with Peter Kwong and Vanity to take down the evil intersex rock-n-roll cult leader Velvet Von Ragnar (Gene Simmons). The brainchild of Steven Paul (Baby Geniuses, Slapstick of Another Kind, The Double 0 Kid)"]

Cargill, Robert C. and Brian Salisbury. "Empire Records." Junk Food Cinema (February 2017)

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks(1952) Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. Pluto Press, 2008.

Greenwald, Glenn. "Trump’s Use of Navy SEAL’s Wife Highlights All the Key Ingredients of U.S. War Propaganda." The Intercept (March 1, 2017)

Lucca, Violet, Will Menaker and Jeff Reichert. "Steve Bannon." Film Comment (February 28, 2017) ["As filmmaker and critic Jeff Reichert put it in his January/February 2017 Film Comment feature on Steve Bannon’s documentary work, “We could dismiss Bannon as the Rainer Werner Fassbinder of shoddily made straight-to-video white supremacist documentary. But his tactics have helped put Trump in the White House, so what can we learn about Bannon or America from watching them?” This episode of the Film Comment podcast tackles that very question. Reichert, along with Chapo Trap House podcast co-host Will Menaker and FC Digital Producer Violet Lucca, looks back on Bannon’s nine films released under the “Citizens United” banner. It goes without saying that there’s a lot to talk about regarding their unlikely aesthetic sensibility (sales presentation meets Leni Riefenstahl meets Michael Bay meets Vic Berger ECUs) and their characterizations of history and reality. The panel also digs into the past 15 years of political documentary on the right and the left (hello, Adam Curtis!), including the ways in which filmmakers package narratives, fact-check their material, and consider their audiences."]

Marvin, Carolyn and David W. Ingle. "Introduction." Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Totem Rituals and the American Flag. Cambridge University Press, 1999: 1-10.

McGoff, Jessica. "Andrea Arnold's Women in Landscapes." (Posted on Vimeo: September 2016)

Nancy, Jean-Luc. Listening. Fordham University Press, 2007.

Peper, Elliot. "What Does the Future of Democracy Look Like? An Incoming Transmission from Malka Older, author of Infomocracy." Scout (March 1, 2017)

"Raoul Peck." WTF #789 (February 27, 2017) ["Filmmaker Raoul Peck spent more than a decade putting together the documentary I Am Not Your Negro, a powerful film illuminating the words and life of writer and social critic James Baldwin. But as Marc learns in this conversation, Raoul’s own backstory of living under dictatorships, studying across four continents, and learning how to engage activism through art is just as important in understanding how to respond to the world today."]

Wisniewski, Marcin. "White Material." Senses of Cinema #63 (June 2012)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Marc Jason Blunk - Derailing Snowpiercer: Descending Into the Boxcars of a Man-Made Hell (ENG 102)

Director Bong Joon-ho uses his cinematic masterpiece Snowpiercer (2013) as a vessel to deliver the message of what direction humanity might face due to our own self destruction. Snowpiercer is an action filled thriller presenting such controversial topics as cannibalism, human trafficking, climate change, revolution and more. These themes/components propel the film into the theatrical spotlight; the subject of critical debate and philosophic discussion. Joon-ho weaves his narrative as a tale of impending doom using a snake-like train that slivers around the world housing what is left of human civilization which presents as martyrdom, despotism, social divide, and the constant threat of annihilation to the human race and earth.

Many filmmakers utilize the threat of the end of the world in order to promote an encompassing theme or moral lesson examining the sins of humanity. Much like his film The Host (2006) the movie begins with the release a chemical into the environment but instead of the creation of a monstrous creature, we see the end of normal civilization and the dawn of a cataclysmic ice age. In both of these movies the fault lies within an American, in this case the American government for making the choice to release such a chemical but here we see the actual peril of the people as defined by their wealth and social status. The survivors of the human race are separated by socioeconomic status based on a ticket bought in order to continue on the train ride of life. Those not on board this train are now dead as the state of the world itself is in a state of frigid ice death.

The movie mentions throughout how a state of homeostasis is essential for an ecosystem to exist. In example, as members of the revolution progress through the gates of their hell past the fish aquarium into a sushi bar, their captive Mason (actress Hilda Swinton), discusses how sushi is a treat for the first class only twice a year due to the need for homeostasis in the fish ecosystem. To create this highly desired balance a portion of the population would need to be eaten for the rest to survive. The cannibalism that Curtis describes to his ally Namgoong Minsu near the end of the movie also parallels this concept in a twisted manner. Of course, those in First Class ate steak and fine wine while those in the back train car called Freeloaders ate blood red gelatin protein bars composed of roaches, crickets and vermin cooked by a member from the tail end of the train who had been abducted and appears eerily reluctant to leave his post to join the group of rebels on their crusade to the engine. Members of the revolution discuss amidst each other that he no longer looks or acts like the man he was before his abduction. Later in the film, Wilford orders the slaughter of more passengers and explains to Curtis events like the revolution where lives are lost assist in maintaining a controllable, more effectively managed society.

The film maker created the concept of social divide in the movie by presenting three forms of ticket holders who were able to board the train to survive the artic annihilation. The tickets were for First class, Economy, and Freeloaders. These parallel our current socioeconomic classes as Upper Class, Middle Class, and Poverty level. According to the Pew Research Center, the economic divide continues to grow. A recent report published stated “upper income families which had three times as much wealth as middle income families in 1983, more than doubled the wealth gap by 2013… they had seven times as much wealth as middle income families” (Fry and Kochhar). Similarities lie between the Titanic (1997) as the “unsinkable ship” to this train as the “eternal train” whereas different social classes were given preference based on their socioeconomic status of who survives and thrives compared to those who do not.

The train also serves as an archetype of sorts as representing the world or society as a whole and also equating the locomotive to the human body. In the film the train was actually referred to as a train of life where order and loyalty were to prevail and where a pattern of preordained placement in status was mentioned regularly throughout the film. The divide between the classes was also illustrated in a monologue by Mason as she lectured the Freeloaders in the caboose car of the train where she compared them to a shoe and she was the head and the shoe should never be over the head. She basically told them to know their role and to be aware of their place in the order of society. As discussed in the book, the DIVIDE American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, author Matt Taibbi details our progressive society forcing us into two divides; those that can and those who cannot or those who have and those whom have nothing. Denotes that greater society often displays a profound hatred and fear of the weak and the poor (Taibbi, 51). In the film, Economy Class soldiers line up and massacre a percentage of the population of Freeloaders as First Class lounge in clubs and salons seemingly existing in a state of spa relaxation and self absorption completely aloof to the happenings in the rear of the train. The actual structure of the train is engine at the head of the train housing the leader “Wilford” and then winding around to the cars catering to the First Class then around to Economy class and then many levels of supplies and survival needs, a prisoner holding cell, several security gates and lastly the caboose, the Freeloader’s habitat. The First Class use Freeloaders as slaves or even cattle whereas they are commodities for consumption in many ways merely surviving and serving. At one point, soldiers request a violinist and an elderly couple approach to volunteer  they both play violin. When the seasoned gentleman refuses to leave his wife in the tail section for a position in the front of the train, the soldiers assault his the man’s wife and abduct him. Taibbi suggests that the social divide also sorts citizens into arrestable and non arrestable classes (Taibbi, 51). The movie illustrates this point as those labelled as Freeloaders in the caboose serve sentences for drug convictions and addictions while members of high society as the First Class party in club cars and even lounge in an opium room near the head of the train.  They are the tail and the engine is the head. This cavernous economic divide is perpetuated by the despotism apparent throughout the film. 

Despotism seems to prevail throughout the movie as everything happening on the train is in one way or another controlled by the engine and “Wilbur” the conductor. He is the dictator of the train and it seems as though his followers obey and worship his every command. He is celebrated in a God-like fashion. The school on board educating the children teaches curriculum centered around him and his philosophy of the train and keeping the engine sovereign. Wilfred controls the train. Revolutionaries explain controlling the engine, controls the world. All previous attempts for a tail section revolt faltered because they failed to gain control the engine. The engine in today’s society is the media. The media is funded by big business who own and control output. In some counties, the government controls what the media publishes and television programming, and even news reporting.  Wilbur uses similar tactics, concealing notes in the protein bars of the rear passengers to create drama and civil unrest meanwhile teaching the children in the classroom early on the tale of his glory, his expectations to be recognized as the supreme leader, and explains they are all forever indebted to him for saving their lives. Curtis explains when the passengers in the rear first boarded soldiers came and took everything, similar to the Holocaust when German Nazi’s invaded the homes of Jew families. In fact, journalist Brandon Taylor uses the term “Marxist” in reference to the actions of Wilfred and his soldiers in the film repeatedly (Taylor).

The despotism and hunger in the movie fuels the need for revolution in order for the Freeloaders to gain their freedom from the slavery and despair of Wilford’s class system. As the movie progresses there is a lack of food only for the Freeloaders, cannibalism occurring due to starvation and the abduction of children and other members of the tail section, as First Class seemly live as royalty with no cares in the world. Wilfred maintains control of the train by keeping the Freeloaders hungry and punishing them if they attempt any ‘disorder’. Snowpiercer portrays great personal martyrdom and sacrifice in order for people to become leaders in their fight for freedom and equality. In part of the movie, our protagonist Curtis asks Gilliam how can he lead if he has two good arms. The hero has a battle within himself concerning his past inability to sacrifice himself during trying times of starvation for Freeloaders on the train when they had no food when Gilliam removed his own limbs to feed others for survival sake. However, Curtis does go on to lead the revolt and does become a martyr of an arm as he rescues a young boy named Timmy later in the film. The oppression of those in the Freeloader class is so high that they must band together and sacrifice their lives in order to revolt against the engine/conductor in order to become free. Thomas Sutton of the Artifice discusses the importance of each of the key characters and evaluates their roles in the revolution in amazing detail in his article “Snowpiercer and the Social Revolution” and has this to say about the film’s message:

It is clear from analyzing the film that it holds strong beliefs on the social structures of society, and that the current system that western society lives in is not working. Nor is global economics good from the well being of the majority.  Although the film is very good at expressing its qualms with this society, it does not know where it should actually go from here. But the revolutionary ethos of  the film, which has been critically acclaimed, shows that within contemporary society there are those wishing to make change, and that this will happen with affirmative action (Sutton, 17).

While there are many acts of violence throughout the film and volatile social issues the film reveals, I intend to posit that this film is a lesson in humanity. The filmmaker leaves the viewer with a glimmer of hope as two of the Freeloaders survive the train derailment and further see new life in the distance as a polar bear appears. It would have been an entirely different film had Chris Evan’s character “Curtis” chosen to take Wilford’s place at the front of the train instead of sacrificing his arm to save the child and providing the match to blow the exit door inadvertently derailing the train. There is a moment at the conclusion of the film where Curtis contemplates accepting the role of conductor but Yona lifts a floor tile to expose Timmy working in hazardous conditions inside the engine with gears whirling dangerously around him and changes his mind. Shortly after, another boy awakens and climbs down from his bunk, which had been disguised as a system of drawers. When Curtis cries out to the boy not to enter the engine, the boy ignores him, in a hypnotic or brain-washed state. The boy is very different from the same child we see earlier in the film similar to the other tail section passengers whom soldiers abducted. Also, any members of the revolution selflessly sacrifice their own lives for their leader Curtis to continue his trek to the engine in his pursuit of change.

The Host (2006) and this film give us a glimpse into a society where survival and escape are the sole goal of living. Due to the graphic display of starvation and the lengths people will go in order to survive makes one question whether civilization and society will merely survive or thrive in the face of global catastrophe? As an individual you may question what side of the situation you will be on and if you will prevail. This movie leaves you with some pretty big soul searching questions about yourself as an individual, where you fit into society as a whole, and in which train car you would ride. Grab your ticket, buckle up for a tumultuous ride though man made hell. All I can say is: “First class, please??”

Works Cited
Fry, Richard, Rakesh Kochhar.  “America’s wealth gap between middle-income and upper-           income families is widest on record.” Pew Research Center (17 Dec, 2014). Accessed on    24 Feb, 2017 from:   upper-middle-income/

e poor (Taiecand becomes a martyr film Sutton, Thomas. “Snowpiercer and Social Revolution.” The Artifice (02 Jun, 2016). Accessed on 20 Jan, 2017 from:

Taibbi, Matt. The DIVIDE: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. New York, NY:            Spiegel & Grau Random House LLC, 2014. (p. 51.) Book (Print).

Taylor, Brandon. "The ideological train to globalization: Bong Joon-ho's The Host and       Snowpiercer." CineAction, no. 98, 2016, p. 44+. Academic OneFile, blc-     ALE%7CA456344444&asid=d5707b6cc9565f665fae366a864ada98. Accessed 22 Jan. ,   2017. Library Database (Web).

The Host (USA/Korea: Bong Joon-Ho, 2006: 121 mins)
Snowpiercer (USA: Bong Joon-Ho, 2013: 126 mins)
Titanic (USA: James Cameron, 1997: 195 mins)

Beatriz Ramos Bouza: "A Revolution within a Revolution" (ENG 102)

Cuban history can be described as a long journey of struggles to achieve the much desired independence and finally let the country be of Cubans. From colonial times, to years of imperialism to the blooming post revolution period, the fight has been a continuous joint effort of all people united, sacrificing for the cause and deep rooted nationalism and sense of justice.  But along with these liberation wars, the struggle of women for their individual freedom and rights never ceased to push through, especially in a culture where machismo and conservativism dictated only men could fight the wars, work outside the home and participate in political decisions. Always viewed as slaves to the home and children, denied of having a paying job or the freedom to express their ideas, Cuban women have raised their voice against these oppressions and took on major roles in the war and postwar reconstructions proving they are a decisive and  indispensable part of the revolutionary process and progress of the country. They have demonstrated unwavering ideals and strong will to make the nation a place of social, economical and political equality, were children can grow without the stigmas of gender oppression and violence.

In the colonial era established and ruled by the Spanish government under the crown, women were all viewed as objects that belonged to the house, abnegated to their children and considered a possession that belonged to their husband.  The prejudice and conservativism of the time dictated that a woman must be married and have children or else they wouldn’t have much life expectancy, since they weren't allowed to own a house and money (Waters). Unable to find a job or hold economical power, families constantly would find wealthy suitors to marry their daughters. In the movie Lucia (1968) of Cuban film director Humberto Solas, we perceive these concerns through the first Lucia who lives in 1895, and feels the pressure of society's norms and rules of what a proper woman should be. It was also a time when the revolutionary movement had started to set in motion the last of the Cuban Revolutionary Wars(Sierra). With the concern of never finding a husband, she falls in love with a Spanish man who later betrays her. But in the last scenes we see her stand for herself and show a great amount of courage as she ends his life. This segment of the film allows us to feel the struggle of women to be considered worthy in a world where men rule.

During this decisive time in the history of Cuba, despite these obstacles imposed to women, many brave and impetuous women risked their lives for the sake of the nation's freedom and equality of race and gender. Ana Betancourt de Mora(1832-1901) is one of the most prominent figures of the war against Spanish rule, considered a heroine due to her dedicated and extensive work to achieve gender equality and rights for women. She lived in the jungle with her husband and other revolutionaries where she worked on a newspaper called "El Mambi". She stepped up into the fight and risked her life to save her husband to prove that women are also an important part of the independence movement, not just child carriers.  In a speech she gave in the headquarters of the Constituent Assembly, she proclaimed:
“Citizens: the woman, in the dim and quiet corner of the home, was waiting patiently and resigned to this beautiful hour in which a new revolution breaks her yoke and unties her wings.”
She later fled the country and continued her dedicated efforts to support the war from Madrid, Spain where she organized revolutionary activities (Oliva and Diaz)

Women like Ana are pioneer advocates of equal rights for all genders and races which makes her an important figure in the evolution of the fight for women rights in Cuba and the world.  Thanks to her example many other women were encouraged to stand up and joined the fight, both for freedom and a society free of discrimination towards minorities.The path was now set but it would take time for real change to be made. Machismo and the old values of the time still persisted, a yoke women would break one by one in the years to come. These period was the most important decisive part of the revolutionary process that would bring the much desired change women in Cuba needed.

 In the beginnings of the 20th century in Cuba, American intervention had caused the average Cuban population to struggle economically and women were usually the most affected. During this period 90% of the countries economic, social and political control was held by the American government or appointed officials and this exchange only benefitted one part. Unemployment rates were high especially women due to the sexism and prejudices that were still present(Geiling). After the coup d'etat that allowed Machado to hold power over the island, many people with revolutionary ideas joined and started a movement across the country to overthrow this corrupt government. Amongst these masses were many women that sought justice regarding women rights through the fight for liberation. The second Lucia in the film shows us this turning point in history for women in which more start joining the fight for independence. Lucia is the daughter from a wealthy middle class family who marries a revolutionary man and decides to give up the comfortable life, the big house and her parents money to join the movement along with him.  After he gets assassinated by this regime, she finds herself pregnant and alone, which symbolizes the insecurities and lack of support women still experienced in this time.  Still many women held leadership roles like Ofelia Dominguez and Bertha Darder whom organized the Labor Union of Women and led major protests against the Machado regime joining others' discontent with the situation the country was submerged in. Police repression caused many to be locked in jail or even assassinated, but their spirit and hard work were never forgotten(McKelvey). Most women also risked incarceration, turning their houses into hiding spots for wanted revolutionaries, weapons and also performing dangerous jobs like carrying important messages amongst revolutionary groups.

 Towards the 1950's the situation in Cuba regarding independence and the fight for the rights of the people had intensified. Now with yet another new regime, crueler than the previous one, Cuban revolutionary forces were more eager than ever to put an end to this oppressive government. In these years the role of women truly became an important factor that would ensure victory day in 1959. Not only they now operated in the cities, but also led the armed forces through the jungle in the mountains to fight the enemy together with men. Some of these brave women held high positions of command like Celia Sanchez  Manduley(1920-1980) who fought alongside Fidel Castro and whom he trusted with the decisions that would be made in the war. She was the first female guerrilla and helped the revolutionary process every step of the way, like aiding the landing of the Granma boat which was a crucial part of the war since Fidel and other important figures like Ernesto Guevara were arriving in it, bringing weapons and munitions.(Koch). Her example helped fuel the involvement of other women in the fight that was taking place in the cities, she became  a symbol of the bravery and abnegation of women towards their country and  how much they can achieve.  Together with Celia, other women like Vilma Espin would constitute an important force of change and progress for the country, creating reforms and organizations that would give women and others as well equal rights.

After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, many things needed to be reconstructed, edifications, public spaces, farmlands and also a handful of reforms that were needed to set the country off to a new start. The third Lucia, living in the beginnings of  the 1960' takes us through these changes showing us the great opportunities women received post-revolution, specially in the rural areas where women mostly worked the land together with men, and where machismo and old values were still present. Education, homestead rights and the freedom of being self-sufficient members of society; these were some of the many achievements women had fought so hard for and finally made it a reality. So we see the last Lucia as the strongest of the three, holding her self worth up high and fighting against violence and discrimination and society old norms.

 One of the biggest milestones women were able to achieve was the formation of the Cuban Women Federation(FMC) in 1960 by the aforementioned Vilma Espin Guillois (1930-2007) and Fidel Castro. Vilma being the wife of Raul Castro and an "unofficial first lady" allowed her to hold a significant amount of political authority and used it to give women power (editors of encyclopedia Britannica).  The FMC (Federacion de Mujeres Cubanas) was created to change the way society see women, it contained health and education programs to educate women and a no-tolerance attitude towards sexism, teaching young children the importance of respecting both sexes equally. One of the organization' s main focuses was the employment and integration of women to the country's workforce, handing jobs to qualified women and training them to be professionals. They helped many women from the countryside, those that came from poor families and also those that had gone through a life of prostitution before the Revolution to succeed in the new society (Sangha and Collins). The FMC is still one of the most important organizations in Cuba with most of the female population as a member and prevails to never let women suffer hardships like these ever again. Even though so much has been achieved there's still an active culture of machismo that has been hard to tackle but to which women will not yield to any longer.

The extensive history of Cuba's fight for its independence and the decisive role of women in it can account for the achievements visible in today's society. Equal job opportunities, education, health care and rights, that give women the opportunity to prove that what they have worked so hard for has bore fruits and all Cubans of any race or gender can enjoy human rights equally.  The various feminine figures that participated in the war constitute a prime example of breaking stigmas and societal conservative norms that have no place for this new era of progress. Thanks to their determination and extensive effort to obtain their rights and freedom, they've fought alongside of men and proving themselves more than capable to participate in the economic and political decision of the country, Cuban women have shown the determination and courage needed to protect and push the nation towards higher grounds, being today more than half of the nation's workforces and active contributors of society.
Works Cited
Editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica,The,"Vilma Espin Guillois", Encyclopædia Britannica,

         Geiling, Natasha, "Before the Revolution",, 31 July 2007,   

         Koch, Judy, "Celia Sanchez: Heroine of the Cuban Revolution", Monthly Review Press, Socialist Action, December 2013,

         McKelvey, Charles, "The Cuban Popular Revolution of 1930-33;Ruben Martinez Villena", The View from the South: Commentaries on World Events from the Third World Perspective, Global Learning, 5 August 2014,

         Oliva Enriquez, Rosa Maria and Ildefonso Gustavo Diaz Sandoval, "Ana Betancourt: An imperishable Cuban woman", Mundo Obrero Workers World, 25 February 2016,

          Sangha, Suki and Sarah Collins, "The Federation of Cuban Women: A Model We Should Learn From", USI Live, 19 July 2013,

            Sierra, Jerry A., "The War for Cuban Independence", History of,
 Solas Humberto, Lucia, Cuban Film, Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industrias Cinematograficas (ICAIC), October 1968

         Waters, Julie,"Women in Colonial Havana", Colonial Havana