Why is the ending of Beatriz at Dinner so disturbing?
Because throughout the film, we have witnessed our own whiteness: normalized, privileged, comfortable. And then we are confronted with the stark reality of existential choice.
There are only three ways the film can end:
White people heal ourselves and change.
White individuals are killed.
The first option is decidedly unappealing. The Trump-like character of Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) reeks of white fatalism, and his supporting cast stinks of white fragility. What can one do but ignore the damage and keep doing whatever provides pleasure?
The second option doesn’t solve the problems whiteness has created for all other living beings and the planet.
The third option is our history and our present. Are we so incapable of sacrifice, so afraid of discomfort, that we have already surrendered the future?
Brilliant, unsettling filmmaking suitable to this desperate era. A must see.
#KRKTR is an open game for everyone interested in developing individual character and social resilience.
Points are earned for promoting and continuing communication, especially across different topics and among different groups. The idea is that both character and resilience are built at the intersections.
Plus 250 points if your Tweet is the Second Response
Plus 100 points if your Tweet is the Third Response or later; all additional responses earn +100 points
The Last Response in each thread earns all the points accumulated in that thread: 500 + 250 + 100 x (nbr of additional Tweets) NOTE: The Last Response is determined by the end of official game play as announced by @KRKTR_HUB.
A thread is created whenever Replies and/or ReTweets are made to any original Tweet that includes the #KRKTR hashtag.
Previous Tweets from the #KRKTR archive can be ReTweeted or Replied to in order to earn points during official game play.
Threads can originate from any #KRKTR player.
Threads originated by @KRKTR_HUB may become privileged. (Haven’t figured this part out yet.)
Serious #KRKTR players are encouraged not to respond to “bad will” Tweets. Let them die alone and quickly.
Advanced play involves careful and strategic use of hashtags to make connections whenever an intersection appears.
Cultivation of a connection across two different discourses (as organized by the hashtag) requires repetition and persistence.
Rather than hashtagging every word, be focused and deliberate about the connection you’re trying to forge.
Prizes will be announced as sponsors come forth with them. (Negotiations are underway. Contact Steph with offers for this and future rounds of play.)
The second day after Mandela’s Memorial we were greeted the news that the so-called fake interpreter Thamsanqa Dyantyi/Jyantie is schizophrenic. (His claim and apology is being met with a mixture of belief and doubt.) Whatever sympathy he gleans should be suitable to his illness. This does not excuse the government for hiring him. It has apparently fallen to the Deputy Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities to take the heat. Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu explains that Mr Dyantyi “is Xhosa speaking. The English was a bit too much for him.”
That same day, the Deaf community continued to respond to the swell of disappointment and outrage over the lack of real communication access for Deaf people to participate in the Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela. The thoughtfulness of the Deaf world’s formal responses are worthy of careful attention.
‘People of the Eye’ respond with a full range of emotions
An elegant news feature from H3TV presents a biography of Nelson Mandela. Presented in international sign language, I learned Mandela’s name sign and a powerful sign for apartheid.
“I can tell he’s thinking to himself,
‘Oh no, how should I do this,
well let’s see what I just did, I’ll do it again!'”
Deaf people have practice tolerating inadequate interpretation. Hearing people often disregard the quality of the interpreter, and many lose patience with this special process of intercultural communication. While “It’s probably safe to say that South Africa’s relationship with its deaf community is historically complex — much more complex than the “fake interpreter!” headlines would make it appear,” as Caitlin Dewey writes, it would be false to assume the problem with providing qualified sign language interpreter only occurs there.
A Certified Deaf Interpreter from the western United States (Utah), Jeff Pollock, makes a compelling argument that Hearing people should also be upset.
“The interpreter does not just work for Deaf people. They work for hearing people as well, [who] want to make sure that their messages are heard by the Deaf community.”
Mr Pollock briefly explains the sign language interpreter certification process in the United States and advocates that these processes of professionalization be taken more seriously.
Don’t move on too quickly…
The first gesture of Mandela-like reconciliation came, interestingly, from the same Deaf South African Parliamentarian who first alerted people to the incompetence of the ‘interpreter’ being televised from the stage.
Yesterday Wilma Neuhoudt tweeted, “Tata Madiba would have understood” while asserting her support for People with Disabilities (PWD). Her early Tweets correctly used punctuation too, in contrast with every news story I’ve seen to date.
Journalists and their editors have been responsible, it seems, in putting ‘fake’ in quotation marks, shifting the focus from the single person—”this male so called interpreter” as Ms. Neuhoudt pinpointed the problem—to highlighting the challenge of people not fluent in a sign language to be able to distinguish quality just by looking.
It is hard to know, from the perspective of the whitewashed west, if there are different cultural values at work, such as factors of relationship or an ethos of inclusion focused on someone(s) other than the audience watching the broadcast. It does, however, seem that Ms. Neuhoudt suggests gender as an issue along with the essential absence of effective communication.
A strong signal for “Hearing” people
This is more than a “flap over ‘hand flapping’” as it is being sensationalized by an LA Times headline. It is true that Deaf people are embarrassed and even describe feeling “humiliated.” Upon arrival at an interpreting assignment in the US yesterday, a young Deaf consumer barely said hello to me before launching into a detailed description of how upset he feels. Allies of Deaf people and Deaf culture, many of them professional sign language interpreters are also furious.
This is the opposite phenomenon to the sensationalized dehumanizing of Lydia Callis’ emergency interpreting during Hurricane Sandy. Then it was all about hearing people’s exposure to the language Deaf people use to communicate, and now it’s all about the show Hearing people will put on while still avoiding real communication.
But the Deaf community has a lot more allies now! Friends who don’t know sign language checked in and shared articles. Exposure to Deaf people and interpreters increases as Hearing people realize there are Deaf people living their lives alongside ours. They are letting us know, loud and clear, that they are watching, and they see.
Deaf people see what “the Hearing” do and fail to do
Of course Deaf people noticed the failure of communication. They always do. However they don’t always have the means to let us know they’re watching. In this instance, the failure is so large and so meaningful that—for a few moments, they have us by the ear. Interpreting is not a show. Interpreters do not perform for the sake of a show. Interpreters interpret to enable communication between people who would otherwise not be able to understand each other.
I danced in Trafalgar Square the day Nelson Mandela was released from Robbens Island.
After twenty seven years in prison, much of that time in solitary confinement, Nelson Mandela was released. The whole world rejoiced, and watched.
In prison, Mandela was a symbol of resistance to tyranny. His life was a statement of willingness to sacrifice everything, personal freedom along with access to open air and sky, to state to the world how precious he thought freedom, and how deep was his desire to obtain it for himself and his people.
In freedom, Mandela became ‘The Madiba’. His name, Mandela, became synonymous with “one who fights for liberation”, not only ‘one who resists oppression’. He became a living mandate for freedom and for peace, for himself, and for the whole world which had become his people. After twenty-seven years of unjust, sometimes inhumane confinement, he called for truth and reconciliation. He called for humans, in South Africa and every where else, to reclaim their inherent love, care and connection. He became a living embodiment of humanity’s hopes and aspirations for a more just, peaceful world.
I was proud to proclaim my love for Mandela every chance I got. It gave me a chance to reach toward the spirit and essence of who he was, and to see what parts of my own soul could try to be like him.
Identifying the behaviors that indicate depression or other responses to trauma are crucial to maintaining emotional and cognitive balance before, during, and after interpreting in emergency management contexts.
What’s the real difference between CDIs (Certified Deaf Interpreters) and ‘regular’ hearing interpreters? It’s not only language and internalized culture….Something else that could be described simply and taught to interpreters to help them realize one thing to do differently.
This transcript is offered instead of captions for a 14 minute videotaped conversation in American Sign Language with Deaf elders Winchell and Ruth Moore.
I have a lot to write today: a brief description of the MEDIEM/UMass Dashboard tool for online social deliberation, some notes on accommodation concerns, and a public report on the findings of the action learning research that I did in a workshop at RID Region II. The conversation threads with each associated interlocutor-group are simultaneous-they are happening in concurrent real time.
Two long text messages were just sent, by me, to one of my longtime interpreter supporters. Because she texted me a “BTW” message while I was typing the preceding list of things to do. In the duree. That’s what we’d call it if we were talking in terms of historical time, instead of at this microscale of time presently passing. (If she responds to my request to use the screenshot of that “BTW” message with an affirmative informed consent – ( as opposed to the more conservative negative informed consent) – let’s just call ’em IC-A and IC-B. Informed CONSENT Type A (Affirmative) or Informed Consent Type B (Negatory on that good buddy.)
Mediem/UMass Online Social Deliberation Project: There’s a quote I want to find, either from a blogentry or a Transmittal with Readiness Consulting Services, which described the duality at the core of the delay in the requisition and guaranteed provision of emergency management sign language interpreting for communicating with Deaf Americans. I mean, if there’s actually a crisis – you know, an emergency stemming from a natural or man-made disaster – and you don’t already have some sense about how to talk with a deaf person, then you’re both gonna wind up in each other’s way.
(I keep getting distracted.)
Just heard some of the neighborhood kids getting off the schoolbus. It’s been a chilly rainy day, since whenever it started . . . sometime last night.
Accommodation concerns for the MA IRAA Project, e.g., the action learning research study of constructing mutual understanding on the top three things a first responder needs to be thinking when interacting with a person needing help in a way that they are unfamiliar with (this is the collaboration piece with UMass’ Center for Knowledge Communication).
Region II Report (action learning from www.reflexivity.us). Hopefully this is going to get published on the CIT Weblog:
“What is the purpose of dialogue?” Are Dialogue Under Occupation conference participants in the process of producing a work of critical art? Or are these conferences solely labor – the repetition of rituals that must be performed in order to satisfy and maintain professional credentials? Could we somehow manage to do both? Examples include the film Rabat, asking questions about symbolism entailed in labels such as the Green Line, and exploring Dr Makram Ouaiss’ point that non-violence is understudied, proven effective, and morally legitimate.
It is a question that the people attending and presenting at the DUO VI conferences did not figure out. Perhaps part of the reason for the absence of an answer is in the framing of the question. We are mostly academics, which means we usually talk abstractly about things we study rather than doing them with each other.
There is less confusion (it seems) about the other key term in the title of our conference: occupation. I did not think of “occupation” as a synonym for “career” during Sophia Mihic’s keynote presentation on the near history of neoliberalism. Now, afterwards, this strikes me as odd, since her argument about the term “human capital” relies on the difference between “labor” and “work.” I suspect this is an instance of collective repression – a de-selection of one possible meaning in favor of another, and then forgetting having made thechoice. Sophia’s thoughtful presentation and critical engagement throughout the conference helps me wonder: are DUO conference participants in the process of producing a work of critical art? Or are these conferences solely labor – the repetition of rituals that must be performed in order to satisfy and maintain professional credentials? Could we somehow manage to do both?
Pre-Occupied: Narratives (told & untold) that fill us up
In a similarly linguistic vein, Cris Toffolo asked us to consider the difference between “post-occupation” and “post-conflict” as labels describing countries like Lebanon. The main distinction between the two terms involve the presence and extent of violence as well as its duration. DUO VI conference participants were undecided whether the use of these labels matter. Instead, we talked about the actions taken “post” – specifically whether the politicians, media, and populace (all of its diverse publics) engage an open communication process designed to promote healing, or choose some other coping strategy as the means to simply and quickly move on. I was particularly struck by the critique she found of Lebanon’s political leadership (Assi Collective Memory – Lebanon, by Elsa Abou Assi) which describes the decision to absolve insiders by blaming outsiders. There had already been a couple of strong statements issued during some of the Question-and-Answer periods about (for instance), there being no one to forgive but oneself for allowing the outsiders to come in and wreck havoc. There is so much to unpack in Lebanese discourse about war and conflict, so many stories that have been told (adult-to-adult) and passed from adults (especially parents) to children who are now grown up and coping in their varied ways with the underlying, unresolved tensions: of necessity finding courage in the face of fear.
Engaging youth’s multicultural reality
The DUO VI conference attracted few of the young people at Lebanon American University, let alone activists from the broader Beirut community. Most youth were more likely to partake in cultural performance events, such as a screening of Rabat. I was lucky to meet Director Jim Taihuttu; we talked about audience reactions to the film. The cast and crew put serious effort into capturing the way youth in Holland actually talk, codeswitching among languages (e.g., Dutch, Moroccan, Surinamese) and borrowing terms back and forth in an unpredictable, dynamic flux. The dialogue is so representative and “natural” that audience members of their peer group feel as if they’re “in the car” with the protagonists. In a generous gesture of inclusion, Rabat is captioned in Dutch as well as English and Arabic so that older generations and foreigners can understand the linguistic mixing. “I disagree with people who talk about multiculturalism as something that you are either for or against, “Jim said. “It is what we are living, a multicultural reality.”
Barbara Birch’s DUO conference presentation included some guidelines that apply to teaching in general. Countering the linguistic imperialism of English, Barbara proposes the use of the English language as a source of social action that can enable transitions from current injustice to preferable futures. The critical question for teachers involves identifying the moment when you can move students from a wide focus (learning how to say things in general situations) to a narrow one: how to say things in very specific situations. This move, from the general topic to the specific sociocultural transaction, allows the exploration of different norms in the immediate moment of communication. Turning that key opens a door to learning how to navigate the emotions and colliding (complementing and contradicting) narratives involving questions of history and justice. As skills increase, students and teachers learning together can take on increasingly tricky challenges, creating new rituals of being with “Others” and living a new world into being.
Green and Red Lines: Asking Different Questions
I do not know how the color symbolism came about, but I noticed the label of a “Green Line” is the same for both Beirut and Israel/Palestine. In terms of traffic lights, green means “go” – maybe this is a weird way to think of it, but it seems the very label has a subtext encouraging battle. The implication struck me when Ilham Nasser presented her findings on public acts of forgiveness in Arab culture. She discovered a “red line” beyond which people would not forgive others – it could be an insult, a misunderstanding, a failure to respect religious beliefs, etc. Again, it is the symbolism that seems significant: forgiveness is RED (don’t go there!) while war is GREEN (storm ahead, boys!)
Cris’ roundtable was about the limits and possibilities of talking about human rights as a way to leverage public healing processes. In political science, there is a lot of evidence that broad political-journalistic efforts of reconciliation are functional and productive (South Africa, Ireland, and Guatemala were named as examples). The information Cris shared complemented Professor Makram Ouaiss’ opening keynote address, in which he emphasized asymmetry as the way to shift conflicts from on-going cycles of violence to non-violent methods for ending occupation and establishing civil societies. Dr Ouaiss’ point is that non-violence is understudied, proven effective, and morally legitimate.
Given the right structure and support, I hypothesize that there are enough young people in Beirut willing and capable of having this difficult conversation. Despite the horrors they’ve been through, I witnessed some amazing displays of conviction concerning the things that really matter: including peace with Palestinians and sharing joy within one’s family. As Dr Ouaiss explained, persuading people of the logic and effectiveness of non-violence takes time and repeated efforts.
The distinctions between being a white American and the institutional structures of whiteness are important. First, the structures of whiteness are ‘in’ Americans of all ethnicities to some degree, even if only by necessity in order to survive (let alone do well) in today’s hyperdrive commercial/consumer-based society. Second: to understand the difference between the genetic-social fact of being white and the institutional structures of whiteness is to realize that the issues raised by the Occupy Wall Street movement are not about white Americans trying to get over or above anybody else. Instead, this could be the historical moment when middle-class white Americans begin to demonstrate a widespread cultural awareness that whiteness – both the personal sense of superiority, and as institutionalized in ‘the rules’ – is not fair to anyone.
“The more a source thinks like you, acts like you and looks like you, the more trusting you are, the more willing you are to accept the story you’re told.”
~ Jones (2010)
Michael R Jones is studying public policy narratives. He and his colleagues are not documenting discrimination or prejudice; they are validating common features of human behavior using quantitative scientific methods. As I think about why the Occupy movement is happening now and whether it will be able to sustain itself long enough to have effects on economic policy, one of the background, subjective elements has to involve addressing whiteness.
Saturday, I laughed with a few people I met who also found it amusing but undaunting that our first visit to Zuccotti Park coincided with snowtober. I was impressed by the gritty people (of varied ethnicities but mostly white) who gutted through the freezing wet slush of “the snowpocalypse” – thereby crossing an important hurdle for the movement overall.
The distinctions between being a white American and the institutional structures of whiteness are important. First, the structures of whiteness are ‘in’ Americans of all ethnicities to some degree, even if only by necessity in order to survive (let alone do well) in today’s hyperdrive commercial/consumer-based society. Second: to understand the difference between the genetic-social fact of being white and the institutional structures of whiteness is to realize that the issues raised by the Occupy movement are not about white Americans trying to get over or above anybody else. Instead, this could be the historical moment when middle-class white Americans begin to demonstrate a widespread cultural awareness that whiteness – both the personal sense of superiority, and as institutionalized in ‘the rules’ – is not fair to anyone.
Economics and History
“The guts to lose a lot of money
carries its own aura.”
Emanual Derman wrote about working at Goldman Sachs from 1985 into the late ’90s. “The capacity to wreak havoc with your [financial] models provides the ultimate respectability” (2004, p. 13). Derman was simply describing the attitude of the biggest gamblers, but it could just as well have been a prediction.
Jay Smooth, in his video about the ringers, talks about how the movement is both specific enough to express people’s concerns, and vague enough to allow many people to come together under a broad umbrella. Walia expands on this point:
“…Maybe this is how movements need to maintain themselves, by recognizing that political change is also fundamentally about everyday life and that everyday life needs to encompass all of this. There needs to be a space for a talent show across from anti-patriarchy meetings. There needs to be a food table, medics, and a library. Everyone needs to stop for a second and look around for someone’s phone. And that within all this we will keep talking about Troy Davis and how everyone is affected by a broken, racist, oppressive system. Maybe, maybe this is the way?”
“..this is what Occupy Wall Street is right now: less of a movement and more of a space. It is a space in which people who feel a similar frustration with the world as it is and as it has been are coming together and thinking about ways to recreate it. For some people this is the first time they have thought about how the world needs to be recreated. But some of us have been thinking about this for a while now. Does this mean that those of us who have been thinking about it for a while now should discredit this movement? No. It just means that there is a lot of learning going on down there.”
Scaling The Learning Curve
My favorite scene in Eight Mile is when Cheddar Bob seems to slip up before Rabbit’s rap battle against his main rival by asking isn’t Rabbit afraid of the awful things Papa Doc is going to say? Although Cheddar Bob is shushed by the rest of his friends, Rabbit takes inspiration and turns the apparent faux paux to winning strategy, saying every bad thing about himself to leave Papa Doc with an empty mouth.
Craig Schneider writes, “A movement born of anger over the gulf between the rich and the rest is only gradually attracting the very groups who have felt the brunt of economic inequality, both historically and as a result of the Great Recession.” I find it encouraging that such strong voices as Jay Smooth and Harsha Walia are doing their best to teach and guide, admonish and nourish, criticize and refuse to compromise. Regardless of what I think I know, I have to admit also how naive I still am.
For instance, how could I not have known, while growing up in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the scope of brutal violence? The recently released Swedish film, The Black Power Mixtape, reconfigured memories of my childhood. How could I have thought all that ugly stuff ended after King and the Kennedy brothers were killed? Details of family life, my father’s job, and drifting undirected through elementary school composed the extent of my exposure to the larger world. It was the moment of desegregating the public schools in Denver, and I heard other kids’ awful rumors that the black kids who would soon be bussed in would be “coming with knives” – obviously something not okay was going on! But the threat remained in the realm of words other people said; I made friends across the color line and, while puzzled, never gave the ugly talk much thought.
Now, looking back, I recognize the mental and emotional cushioning as another lesson in white privilege. Admitting the scope of my ignorance is not pleasant, but it is necessary.
Resisting Reduction: Whiteness remains only one facet among many
Traditional policy analysis, rooted in market models and instrumental reason, fails to accurately capture the subjective nature of political reality (Deborah Stone, 2002, cited in Michael R Jones and Mark K McBeth’s 2010 public policy research introduced at the beginning of this entry). This subjective nature – differences of knowledge, experience, history, outlook, and viewpoint – is Occupy Wall Street. Confused media ringers are sidestepping and obscuring the simple narrative structure: a clear villain, a singular hero, and a victim who inspires empathy. The villain is clear: government’s failure to regulate. What we are witnessing and participating in is a great democratic experiment: what happens when the hero and the victim are one and the same? The American people are rising together to confront and correct great wrongs done to the American people.