Bad Question

I'm teaching John Smith's narrative today in Early American Literature. The students all recognize one part of the story because they saw Disney's Pocahontas as children. Listen to the musical digression from the movie, below:

This whole thing seems so wildly overcooked to me. I can just feel the good-intentioned people at Disney trying to get the message through to children of the next generation: "You must value the idea of a pluralistic society! Don't make this mistake!"

But is there really no other way to imagine a society that isn't "universalist" in nature? The Chinese, for example, have a long history of not exactly embracing outsiders -- but they also, excluding the cases of Tibet and Taiwan, generally don't go meddling around the globe. In other words, China is not a particularly pluralist civilization; yet maybe we don't have to fault them for that? Maybe it's okay to write off others (politically) because they are different? Is it always a fault to take refuge in a society with others who are like you?


Insignificant Wrangler said...

OK, seriously, China is your go to example in terms of a humanist society? Besides the fact that the "excluding" you use here is pretty large--and, again, I say besides that fact--look at the status of free speech in China. Period. People go to prison for six years for writing a critical blog. I appreciate Mxrk way too much to imagine him going to prison for six years.

Casey said...

Hahaha... well, human rights within China are probably worse than they are in most places. But what I was getting at is that the Chinese haven't tended to go claiming Pacific islands or "new worlds" as part of their territory. The Chinese don't have much interest in encouraging a diverse population. It's not like there are affirmative action programs in China meant to even out the percentage of Cantonese speakers who are employed with the number of Mandarin speakers, or whatever.

And I'm just not sure that's bad. But maybe it is. This post was inspired by Ross Douthat's commentary on Glenn Beck's rally: he said that if Beck wants to stay around longer than (say) Michael Moore did, he'll have to play to the "Hey, I live a certain way, and want to support others who live that way" attitude. Well, I'm summarizing poorly:


pure_sophist_monster said...

Disney is also probably a bad place to go to see an "authentic" articulation of pluralism. Disney isn't really after that. They like difference as long as difference subjects itself to the same. "See how in the end we are really the same in this small world after all." That ain't pluralism. I think most people espousing a more robust and sophisticated pluralism would not find comfort in a vast majority of Disney's creative efforts.