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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Controlling the Past

One of the quotations on your class policies is by George Orwell, author of 1984. Orwell writes, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

What do you think this quotation means, and how might it inform our discussion from yesterday regarding Disney's romanticized version of Pocahontas? Here's another way of thinking about it: What do power, control, and history have to do our perceptions of Pocahontas and the "discovery" (notice the quotation marks) of America?

How do you think Sherman Alexie would feel about this quotation based on "A Drug Called Tradition"?

As always, defend your response and show me your thinking.

41 Comments:

Blogger OfAThousandSuns said...

power control and history have a lot to do with our perceptions of Pocahontas. Our society is clearly white dominated, therefore we get a subtle whites are-superior view in multi-racial movies like Pocahontas. The whites are, from what i can remember, glorified in the movie. However, I think that Disney did an OK job in somewhat showing the beauty of American Indian Culture. These Disney Indians are steoreotyped as according to the majority perception, wearing deerskin and having bearpaws tatood on their chests.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Jennifer W said...

The quote means that those who are in control, will stay in control and will always be in control, and those who control the present control the past means that you were in control in the past are the the present controllers. This has to do with Pocahontas because in the movie, there are two different races, white and indian, and they combine, which had never been done and considered bad. Therefore, the whites were in control of the past, present, and future as they believed it and Pocahontas interrupted this by being the dominate person, by saving John Smith.

I think Sherman Alexie would think this quote is untrue. I think he would believe that anything can change at any time and nothing is predictable. Those in control could not be in control later on and you never know what's going to happen.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Monique R said...

I think if you break this quote into the two separate sentences I think it's easier to analyze.

"Who controls the past controls the future," means to me that if you can influence how people view the past (like how Disney changed our generation's view of Pocahontas through their movie and how they protray her) you can control how people act and think in the future (our generation now views Pocahontas as a beautiful stereotypical Native American).

"Who controls the present controls the past," is similar to the first sentence in the way that people who controlled the past can control the present too (Disney is still making movies, influencing everyone who sees them, and creating stereotypes).

I think Sherman Alexie would find this quote to be pretty accurate, especially in dealing with Native Americans. Almost everything we hear about them is a stereotype, as this quote discusses.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Megan D said...

The future depends on the past, so whatever you do later affects what will happen in the future. Pocahontas changed the future by what she did for John Smith. We have taken their story and completely changed it because we like this new romantic version of their story better. This relates to the second part of the quote about controlling the past by controlling the present. We have had the power to change the story of Pocahontas and John Smith just because we live in the future and we have the power to do that.

9:58 AM  
Blogger erinl said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Anoel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:58 AM  
Blogger erinl said...

The perceptions of Pocahontas (Disney version)can be found through power, control, and history. For instance, John Smith fears the unknown, and Pocahontas is curious about it. And when Pocahontas speaks a different language, John Smith says, "You don't understand a word I'm saying" when he didn't understand her either. The whites are kind of condescending when speaking to the Native Americans because the Natives are "below" them. I believe Sherman Alexie would both agree and disagree with this quote. He would agree that you cannot forget the past because it impacts the present, but I think he would disagree that the past would control the future. I say this because in the story, the boys no longer act like the Indians, so therefore the past doesn't control the present. They want to go back to the past at the end of the story to hopefully better their future.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Kelly O said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Chris B said...

Defining The Quote: I think that Orwell was a wise man based upon this quote. I think that he means that if we know our PAST we will be able to control our FUTURE because we wont repeat the mistakes of which we already know.


I think that the perception of Pocahontas presented to us (in the Disney version) is based on the past/history of the Native American culture. Indians are generally perceived as hunters, warriors and "a people of nature" for lack of a better term. Pocahontas is perceived as just this as she hides by a tree spying almost on John Smith. Disney knew the past, so, by making the movie Pocahontas, the minds of little children in the future will perceive Indians in the way that Disney presented them.
Sherman Alexie may agree with this quotation in that the Indians are a wise people (besides the drugs...) and that because they know their past so well they will be able to control their future. They know what things will hurt them and what things will benefit them based on their ancestors.

10:00 AM  
Blogger clay w said...

The quote means that if one controls the past and what has happened before now, they will be able to control what goes on in the future and the things to come. If one controls what is happening today, what is today but tomorrow's yesterday? What happens today is tomorrow's past. When Disney made their version of Pocahontas, they were controlling our image of what she was in the past. They were controlling the present so that they could control the past. In A Drug Called Tradition, the boys have no control over what is happening to them in the present, but they have visions and hallucinations of the past. They cannot control the present, but they have a very good grasp on the past.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Alyssag said...

I think that this quote means that what happens in the past, effects the future. For example, 911 occurred in the past, and after it happened, things really changed like security, and war. Since the past controls the future, the present controls the past becuase we can alter events and things that happened. The image of Pocahontus today is a very beautiful, connected with nature native american. It is a very stereotypical view of Native Americans. The image many years before the Disney Movie protrayed her as this gorgeous creature, a picture of her showed her as masculine looking, and research says that she was really a short and stocky little girl. We have the power today to not litreally change what happened in the past, but the power to change peoples perceptions and thoughts about what happened by exaggeration, or altering the story.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Milt G said...

I think that quote means that whoever controls the past has the ability to control what the future will hold. But whoever controls the present can suppress things that may have happened in the past and make it seem as if certain things happened in the past that didn't and make it seem as tho certain things that did happen did not. I think this relates to the story of pocahontas because the British people controlled the past at that point, and they controlled how the Native Americans would be viewed by the people in the future. They way John Smith, and the other englishmen, wrote about them they seemed like brutes. John
Smith, however, wrote about Pocahontas in a way that would make it seem as if she loved him and that he loved her as well. This is the way we view the two of them today even though it is probably not the way their relationship actually was. Had he written bout her in a way that made her seem the same as all the other indians and not as though they were in love than there would be no story of Pocahontas because it would not be interesting to people.

10:01 AM  
Blogger shannon a said...

I feel that Orwell meant that what happens in the past controls or effects our future. And what we do in the presenst will effect what we do in the future. This goes along with "A Drug Called Tradition" because in the story it taklked about how the future and the past are always with you. "Your past ain't going to fall behind, and your future won't get too far ahead." I think this means that no matter what happens your past will always be with you and your future will always be waiting for you.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Lauren F. said...

The actions that people do in the past, change the outcome of the future. What the people are doing in the present is because of what has happened in the past. Throughout time, the white population has created what is considered to be the perfect image. Pocahontas resembles the white person's perception of being almost perfect. John Smith is also created with the thoughts of being the strong, handsome, brave man. The power that the white population has, controls history. The white people "discovered" America, but the native Americans were already there and settled.
I think that Alexie would agree with this quote because of the power white people have to control other people and naitons.

10:02 AM  
Blogger kaitlinb said...

As always, defend your response and show me your thinking.
This quote reflects several different aspects of how time of past, future and present relate. If you control your present what you are and what is happening then you control your past and as this quote says, you there-for control your future. Disney's form of Pocahontas is less literal to this quote, but how Disney represents this real life story is heard in the quote.
The true past of Pocahontas is not reflected with this present story and as the quote says that would affect how people (in the future and now) look at Pocahontas. It is not a true reflection of Pocahontas. This would affect how everyone knows John Smith and Pocahontas and their relationship.
In present day a movie about love, beautiful people and a perfect image is what people would rather see than possibly the truth. If Pocahontas was portrayed as her true identity short, young and not skinny and John Smith as old than the children’s movie would not sell. What people want to see has become more important than the truth and knowing the true past may help a stronger future.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Anoel said...

The quote from george orwell's 1984 is a very powerfull statement. It applies to many of our current stories, such as Pocahontas and A Drug Called Tradition. In a drug called tradition, our past and future are seen as skeletons, uncontrolable beings walking before and after us. Orwells quote contradicts this theory in that it suggests that we are able to control our past and our future. This aplies to our discusion of Pocohantas because it shows that history and the past controls, in many ways, our futures. What if the white man had never come to America? Then they would have never gained any type of "controll" over the native americans, and as far as we know Cinderella, Snow white, and Sleeping Beauty could all be native americans.

10:02 AM  
Blogger kyle n said...

I think that our perception of Poco in the United States today is that she was some kind of heroine, when, in reality, her only claim to fame was her marriage to a high class white englishman. It was the power of this white man that made Poco famous today. I also think that in many people's minds, espically yound children who have seen the Disney movie, Poco is almost, it seems, given some sort of credit/tied in with the discovery of the New World. Also, based on "A Drug Called Tradition", I think that Alexie would throughy agree with this quote, considering this is exactly what he says about the whole skeleton thing, just in a different context.

10:03 AM  
Blogger nathan a said...

The Disney movie makers would probably disagree with Michal’s accusation that they glorified whites. However, they were stereotypical. I have yet to see a movie in which Native Americans aren’t speaking of wind and nature. Because whites control the present then we can rewrite the past in anyway we wish. We call it the “discovery” of America because as far as we are concerned it didn’t exist until we knew about it. We also present the decline in Native American population as a melodramatic story to rake in box office profits. There is something romantic about the phrase “last of the Mohicans”. However the extinction of Native American culture is a serious thing.

10:03 AM  
Blogger jessicam said...

I think that the second part of this quote really relates to the discussion of Pocahontas and how she has been romanticized. When someone, or a company, such as Disney is popular and has the influence over people, they can really affect the vision of the past. They changed the real story of Pocahontas and made it more publicly accepted, with a stereotypical vision of Native Americans. By feeding the new, more romantic version of Pocahontas to the public, it changes their idea of the past. Instead of Pocahontas being young, and short, she is older and elegant.

I think that Sherman Alexie would agree with the quotation because of all the references to the past and how it seemed to change the future. For example, when the white people gave the Indians blankets with smallpox it changed the future, almost destroying a race.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Erin G said...

This quote means that no matter what the past was, it cannot be changed. In my opinion, although what happened to the Native Americans is quite unfortunate, it would've happened anyway based on cultural ideas then. Our perceptions of Native Americans usually comes from the European point of view. We see Pocahontas as animal like and close to nature, less sophisticated, and even less intelligent. Our perception of the "discovery" of America is also usually in the European point of view. These two "stereotypes", if you will, are probably seen in totally different ways by Native Americans today. The more "powerful" people in history control the perceptions of people in their time and in the future, of what really happened.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Jordyn S said...

I think this quote is expressing that whatever group rules in the past will control the future with their influence and ideas that they leave behind. That the next generation will follow in their footsteps but at the same time make advances that will help them and their children control the future as well. Those who controls the present control the past means that people living in the present are using information given to them from people in the past and changing it to better their present.
Our perceptions of Pocahontas and the "discovery" of America relate to this quote because it is the white society who "discovered" America even though the Native Americans were already occupying the land. Thus, the whites take control of what was at that time the present to control the future that has become our past. Then today, we are left with perceptions of Pocahontas given to us in our pasts as children from Disney that influence the way we picture Native Americans in the present/future.
I think Alexie would not necessarily agree with this quote because in "A Drug Called Tradition," the boys act very differently from the way that their ancestors were probably raised and they are choosing to change their own futures by doing drugs and choosing to drink for the first time in their pasts.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Sarah P said...

Power has a lot to do with our perceptions of Pocahontas, because we view Pocahontas as a powerless Indian girl who need the whites. Also in another light, in class we discussed that Pocahontas was John Smith's savior when he was about to be executed. the Native Americans are potrayed as a lower class compared to the whites, as they are in most movies. Throughout history Indians have been shown as a srong culture with a strong presence, however they are always in need of being saved or rescued by the whites. In John Smith's story the tables kind of turn, Pocahontas becomes a hero.

In the quotation, there is a lot of power being shown. In who controls the past, the future, and the present. There is always power and control in society, its the person who is in charge that changes things.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Jessica K said...

Power, control, and history all play a role in our perceptions of Pocahontas and the "discovery" of America. In Pocahontas mainly the white people dominated and had some power and control over the Native Americans and what the future was going to be like. Since they landed in America they felt that they had the upper hand and could do whatever they wanted. Disney did do a good job in showing strength in Native Americans, however it seems as if the white males still dominated.
I believe Sherman Alexie would agree with this quote because in the story he talks about how skeletons control the past and future and with that, they help control the present. The quote is saying excatly that.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Spencer Z said...

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10:05 AM  
Blogger Spencer Z said...

Due to the fact that we are unable to ourselves to live history, our perceptions are based on what we have been taught and what we have read over the course of our lives. I am reminded of the quote, "the winner writes the history." Now, in the case of Native American history, much of what we know is from Anglo writing's because Native Americans at this point did not have as sophisticated a system of keeping records. Once again we are confronted with the truth that the pen is mightier than the sword. American history was controlled by those who could most facilely document it.

It is for these reasons that we see the romanticized Pocahontas in the Disney film. Over time, as immigrant Americans passed on the story to their children is gradually grew to mythological proportions with no Native American records to contain it. In addition, this could be a reason that the protagonists in "A Drug Called Tradition" feel lost. Their identities have been so diluted in the water of the ages that they are unable to connect with, without dwelling on, their "skeletons."

10:05 AM  
Blogger christine b. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:05 AM  
Blogger christine b. said...

The first quotation means that whoever controls the present, including the minds of the people, has the power to erase the past, therefore controlling it.

History affects our perceptions of Pocahontas by slowly changing her from her original portrait, a very high class woman that looks almost Caucasian, to what our perception is of Native Americans today. Power and control over the years have changed it so the story of Pocahontas does not contradict our stereotypes.

I think Sherman Alexie would both agree and disagree with this quote. Thomas has a vision near the end of the story. In the vision, the skeleton of the past travels behind a person and the skeleton of the future leads them. I think Sherman Alexie would say that whoever controls the present not only controls the past, but also controls the future.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Kelly O said...

History, power, and control all influence our view of Pocahontas. Like the quote says, people who control the present control the past. When Disney made his Pocahontas movie, he was controlling the present, so that means he had control of the past. Whatever Disney told as the story of Pocahontas is how people will think it actually happened. Even if Pocahontas and John Smith were not in love in real life, most people think they were because Disney said so. The quote also talks about whoever controls the past controls the future. Disney took control of the past when he told the story of Pocahontas; therefore, he controls the future. His telling of what happened is what most people think really happened. Plus, people in the future will see the movie and assume that that is what really happened, too. I think Alexie would agree with this quote because in his story, he talks about how the past and the future are always with you. They will never get too far ahead or too far behind.

10:05 AM  
Blogger BessieS said...

I think this quote means that whom ever knows what mistakes were made in the past, from living through the experience, will know how to react in the future in similar circumstances.
Power, control, and history shape our perceptions of Pocahontas and Native Americans because we have been told that the white man is superior to other races and that is shown in many movies and books. In Pocahontas John Smith is drawn as a "typical" white man who is strong and has blonde hair and blue eyes and the Native Americans are drawn wearing moccasins and animal skins for clothes. They move with the forest and blend in with nature. Even though white people are stereo-typed as the stronger race in Pocahontas I think they did a fairly good job of showing the strength, power and beauty of the Native Americans and their culture.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Milt G said...

I forgot to address the question of how Sherman Alexie would react if he saw this quote. I think that he would very much agree with it because it is saying that whoever is in control creates the stereotypes and since the Native
Americans have never really been in control they have always been stereotyped badly.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Sarah P said...

I disagree with Kyle....her only claim to fame was not that she married a high class englishman, she saved John Smith's life. That is a pretty big deal. She risked her own life for his before she even knew him that well. Therefor, she is a hero

10:08 AM  
Blogger JordanL said...

I think this quote means a lot of things. I think we are influenced a lot by our pasts and it is hard to forget the past so our past controls the future. We think about the past and it influences our present so in a sense it controls it.

Thinking about this in history our society is dominated by white people. Since we have never been the minority we have a pretty big ego and so when we "discovered" America and there were already Native Americans there, we were disappointed. I think that we have a perception of Pocahontas and her people as being uncivilized because we don't know anything about them which makes them uncivilized and not us.

I think Sherman Alexie would agree with this quote because in his story it talks about nor forgetting the past and the future being just around the corner.

10:09 AM  
Blogger OfAThousandSuns said...

Sherman Alexie would probably agree with it because of all the reasons milt said.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Natalie M said...

I think this quote is true and that what someone does in the past does effect the future, and the outcomes of future situations. in pocahontas the white settlers are portrayed to be incontrol and take over the indian land. they try to control their environment and therefor control the future. they are preparing the way for future settlements, and disreguarding the indians along the way.

10:10 AM  
Blogger ryan f said...

The quote by George Orwell, to me, means that the past, cannot be changed, nor can you avoid what has happened. Things may have happened in the past that have changed lives, but as Sherman Alexie writes in "A Drug Called Tradition", "The past; the future; all of it is wrapped up in the now. That's how it is. We are trapped in the now". In my mind, the quotes are somewhat intertwined. They both show how the past can greatly influence the future, but so does the present. We just have the live in the moment, understanding who we are and where we came from, accepting it and making it the best it can be.

10:10 AM  
Blogger mackenzieL said...

I think that the quote means that the past determines what takes place in the future, and the present's cultures and ideas determine how we view the past. In our culture, we like to find anything with a hint of romance, and expand on it. In almost any movie, including Pocahontas, there is some sort of romance to keep people wondering and interested (even if they don't admit it). I think that power, control, and history have warped our perceptions of Pocahontas and the “discovery” of America. We believe that the white people deserved to have the power to control the Indians. Our perception of how white people came and almost “cleaned” America of opposing cultures has been handed to us by generations, starting with the very first settlers who were more powerful with their guns and therefore able to control the Indians. Now, people don’t have many accounts of the Indians view of the discovery, only that they were in the way of white people’s progress.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Milt G said...

In response to Kyle's comment when he calls pocahontas "poco" i think that is part of Sherman Alexie's whole point in "A Drug Called Tradition." That is a very racist name because it would seem like Kyle doesn't even think she is worth enough to write out her whole name as it is.

10:11 AM  
Blogger emilee p said...

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. No one can actually change the past, but their view of the past can change. Disney romanticizes the Pocahontas story by how it represents Native Americans (and the English). Disney’s version might not be true, but it is well loved by our generation, people now like the fake stories with happy endings rather than true ones.
I think the author of “A Drug called Tradition” would agree with this quotation because the boys can change their future, by recognizing their past.

10:11 AM  
Blogger J Hunt said...

Having control over the present means having control over the past for two reasons. First, if one has control of the present that means that they were probably in some position of power in the past. So if someone is still in power now then they must have had some control over the past otherwise they wouldn’t be in control of the present. Also, if someone has control over the present, they can change the way history is thought of. For example, a dictator could look at historical records but then tell the population that it was not true and make up whatever he wanted them to believe was the truth. In this way, it is like having control over the past without even having to have been there at the time. In Disney’s Pocahontas, some facts and events were made up to make the story more likable and make young children connect with the characters. This has given kids ideas about Pocahontas that are not true, like the relationship between her and John Smith. Disney, whether meaning to or not, has controlled the past by having control over the young children of the nation.
I believe that Sherman Alexie would feel that Disney’s version of the founding of America and the natives makes it sound like a glorious fairy tale. The natives are somewhat portrayed in a racist manner although not straight out. But I also think that Sherman Alexie would agree with the quote because of true historical events support the quote and its relevance.

10:11 AM  
Blogger EmilyL said...

An interesting quote: "History is written by the winners."
Certain aspects of American history have been altered to glorify our past. We celebrate Columbus's discovery of America, when in fact Spaniards, Portuguese, and Nordic people first stepped on the shores of North America. The story of Pocahontas has also been altered to paint a rosy picture of the early colonies and settlements. The real story of Pocahontas and John Smith is not as exciting or mesmerizing of the embellished version.

Sherman Alexie combines aspects of the past, present and future to create a surreal setting. Although the modulations from present to past emphasize how the past changes the present, the general mood insinuates that the present can only change the past in dreams.

10:12 AM  
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6:35 AM  

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