Sunday, December 20, 2009

Week 7 Make Up

This week's readings in the last of Hobsbawm's novel was mainly focused on science and revolution. In this final section, Hobsbawn elaborates on the nature of the rise of science and its impact on religion, and subsequently, revolution and war. How are these related, one may ask?

Religion had been the basis of people's beliefs as long as history books were written. People didn't question why the sky was blue or why the grass was green, because the answers were all in whatthe priests told them. All they knew was to go to mass and do their prayer and they would be rewarded in heaven. But all of a sudden, the Scientific Revolution came along and upturned all this earlier religious dependence. People started questioning things, and scientists came up with solid, factual answers to age-old questions. Religion was no longer the panacea to all problems and questions in the world. Therefore, due this rise of the education of the masses, religion began to fall back. As it fell back, it made more room for even more questions by science, leading to more answers and eventually led to more inventions and technology. These new found innovations provided an even greater sense of identity for nations, strengthening nationalism.

There is also the question of revolution. A point, or rather, a question, that was stressed in the book was the reason for why people will revolt. What is the fundamental reason people will rise up and protest something? The answer: dissatisfaction. When someone is dissatisfied with something and feel like the possibility of being satisfied is very well within reach, they will protest and speak out. And if this certain individual gains enough supporters that follow behind his cause, it will become a revolt. The switch from religion to science was a sort of quiet revolution, seeing as the people were no longer satisfied with pat answers like "Because God made it that way." So, they saw satisfaction and cold hard facts in science, and revolting against religion, switched to science as "the favorite."

Week 10 Make Up

In Book lll of "Leo Africanus," the question of identity is discussed. In the book, Hasan takes a new name when he is exiled. If you think about it, our names define who we are. It's our label, what we respond to, who we are know as. To change a name is to change a person's entire identity. So when Hasan changes his name to Leo Africanus, he changes his identity in a way, to become a man of travel instead of a man of nation or tribe. His wish is to put aside the influence of culture and become an unbiased man, able to travel and not be burdened by his past. In my opinion, that is an impossible goal. A person is founded and grounded by what he/she learns in childhood. It is entirely impossible to set that part of yourself aside and pretend to have unbiased accounts and views about certain things when culture will always be a part of you.

Another thing that struck me was the Pope's blatant favoritism towards Leo/Hasan. What made him so special that he was practically treated like a son by the Pope, and regardless of the fact that he was imprisoned, the Pope still took great care in providing for Leo/Hasan's needs and education. The obvious motive would be that the Pope was hoping that when Leo/Hasan got baptized, he would return to his home and bring numerous converts to the Catholic church. But was that the only reason, or did the Holy one have an ulterior motive?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it a) a much easier read that all the other non-fiction narratives assigned earlier on in the semester. The author weaves a riveting tale through which history is also taught, and I found that I retained the same, if not more, information than I normally would with a textbook. It also puts into stark contrast the ways our society today and the society back then clashes. Issues like sexism, polygomy, cultural identity...I would not normally think of those things on a daily basis, but reading about it triggered my thoughts on it and therefore, I thought the book and overall enlightening experience.

Week 8 Make Up

This week's readings was in a new book, "Leo Africanus" by Amin Malalouf. This was was a welcome relief from all the monotonous and confusing textbooks before, and I was still able to learn about the history but through a narrative, a work of fiction, rather than a stuffy textbook.

I thought one of the most interesting things in the reading was the complete and total culture difference. The main character's father has two wives, the favoritism of a son, these are all aspects that shocked me as I read through the beginning of the novel. The father has two wives, the first beign the main character's mother and the second being a slave. Then, when both women become pregnant and eventually give birth, the father openly favors the newborn son and pays much less, if no attention to the infant girl.

This culture shock boggled my mind. In today's society, monogomy is the only option to marriage a large majority of the population knows, and the small percentage that IS aware of polygomy frowsn down upon it as almost unspeakable. But in that society, it was completely acceptable. Also, equality is stressed to almost a breaking point in today's world. But in the novel, the father blatantly prefers the son as opposed to the daughter. Today, fingers would be pointed at him left and right for total and blatant sexism, but back then, it was allowed. This makes me think about the statement "a small world." We think that just because we have all this new technology and avenues of communication that the world has become a smaller place. But has it really? Crucial culture differences such as these cause a major rift between opposing societies. Sexism in one society is seem as the status quo while in another it is considered almost as severe as a crime. How then, can our world become a smaller place when such rifts exist?

Week 6 Make Up

In this week's reading of "The Age of Empire," Hobsbawm discusses the rise of nationalism and along with that, the rise of women's roles in society. During the late 1800's until the early 1900's, the idea of nationalism began to form. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, nationalism is "national spirit or aspirations" or "the devotion and loyalty to one's own nation; patriotism." This concept did not exist before and so when German citizens thought of themselves as Germans and Italian citizens thought of themselves as Italians, it was never before seen. People now had pride for their own country, and patriotism arose. Of course, there were certain countries that did not follow the crowd and go along with the idea of nationalism. The United Kingdom was one example. The different municipalities of the UK did not want to identify with England and continued to speak their own language and/or dialect.

There was also much discussion about the rising role of women during this time period. This was known as the age of the "new woman." Due to industrialization and urbanization, the life expectancy was now much longer therefore women postponed the age of marriage, leaving more time for their own success. Women started entering the work force, claiming and holding jobs to put food on the table, along with their husbands. The birth rate also declined significantly due to the leaving a better standard of living considering the drop in the household number of mouths to feed. Women now felt empowered, and seeing that they were now equal in the fact that women now could "bring home the bacon," women began to fight for equal fights. This led to a series of struggles and contraversies that eventually and painstakingly led to the emancipation of women. Thus, the "new woman" was created.

I think it is very interesting how time moved throughout this whole period. Things were going relatively slowly during the wars and the movement of globalization, with trading and such. And suddenly, due to just a few inventions, it seems as if society exploded. Age-old traditions were broken and completely rewritten, and the status quo was abolished and redone so many times that the original can hardly be recognized. Even something as simple as a state of mine (ie nationalism) caused such an upheaval that even the traditional role of genders was turned upside down and inside out. It is a little intimidating to think that something seemingly small and insignificant will be discovered in the near future and transform society as we know it.

Blog 7

During the readings for this week we continued reading the book by Hobsbawn. He continued to tell of the growing European powers and how it lead to social stratification. Eventually recognizing the social stratification led to a revolution. A revolution can go either one of two ways. It can lead to a change in thought, therefore chosing to live life differently because of the change or its a further reinforcement of tradition. During this revolution, it was all about science and technological advances. medicine, sociology, technology, and other sciences were all pushed to the extremes. People became fascinated with science, it was almost like science was magic. Hobsbawn called science the king of mental domain. People finally were able to separate their faith and their reason.
I remember having a discussion in class about technology during this time and why people of this time put so much emphasis in trying to advance it. I could understand why and how people were so interested because they never seen anything like it because during those times there seemed to be no explanations to certain events. Now when things that seem to be magic, people of our time can attribute it to some type of scientific fact.

Week 5 Make Up Post

In this week's reading, Hobsbawm discusses the rise of the proletariat and the shift of power to the rising phenomenon of democracy. Throughout the late 1800's to the early 1900's, there was a dramatic shift in world politics as the proletariat, or the "working class" slowly rose to power, therefore creating a resurgence in the ideal of democracy. There are many reasons for this shift, but much of it is just a simple case of cause and effect.

Industrialization caused urbanization, and as more and more new inventions were being discovered, the farms and peasant from the countryside knew a good opportunity when they saw one. A shift of the masses occurred as the industrialized cities became more and more populated, filling up with small-town folk hoping to make a more comfortable living. As the cities got more crowded, a sense of togetherness began to form and the people soon started forming trade unions, workers movements, and then eventually even political parties to make their voices known. When changes began to happen, the "proletariat" realized the capacity for change and their power over that capacity, and thus arose democracy.

In today's world, democracy is treated completely differently. Instead of being chosen by the people to adopt democratic ideals, it is forced upon some people. America, being the light and beacon of democracy, is now trying to enforce i in other countries. It thinks that because democracy worked for America, it should work for every other country as well. But, as seen in the case of the War in Iraq, such beliefs do not hold against contestation. Other countries did not go through the process that America did in following democracy, therefore it is both unfair and unpractical to force this political theory on other countries. Thoughts?

Blog 4

During this week we finished the book Age of Empire by Eric Hobsbawn. It basically described the world druing the time period of 1875 – 1914. The booked talked alot about imperialism and specifically how it affected the United Kingdom. Initially, iimperialism was thought of as being postive and a step in the right direction towards a united country. It had a HUGE economic and a HUGE cultural impact. Even though it made these positive advances, it did not help the relationship between the metropoles and dependencies. Britain created a new imperialist expansion with South Africa being its main comepetition. Britains, seemingly, easy success was due to the exploitation of Britain's already existing position as a BIG TIME inporter. South Africa, India, and Egypt were all independent projects for Britain. With imperialism, Britain took a large share of the new regions. therefore gaining control of its biggest competition by controlling the dense parts of Africa.
This book taught me alot about imperialism and its purpose. Although it was indeed a strong and smart thing to do during this time; I am happy it did not make it to modern society's of today, such as America. I really did like this book, well the things i remembered, and i think future classes can definitely benefit from this book and the things it talks about. It provides alot of knowledge