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Effects of Ethnocentrism on Individuals and Societies (Essay Sample)

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Effects of Ethnocentrism on Individuals and Societies from the Apocalypto movie

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                    Effects of Ethnocentrism on Individuals and Societies Name Institution     Effects of Ethnocentrism on Individuals and Societies Ethnocentrism means the belief that one’s ethnic group or culture is superior to that of another person; it forms the basis for measuring all other cultures. This term originates from the Greek words “ethno” meaning people and “centric” meaning centre. Thus, it is the judging of other people’s heritage from one’s central point of view. Scientists have always operated from an ethnocentric perspective. Studies from the 19th century have been used to show how primitive tribes progressed from their barbaric ways to a modern civilized society. Apocalypto is a 2006 film directed and produced by Mel Gibson and set during the collapse of the Maya Empire.  The Maya are an indigenous people who inhabit areas of Southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. The dialect in the movie is the Yucatec Maya language with English subtitles. There is a richness and diversity in culture portrayed by the Maya people in the film. However, the movie also depicts a primitive society with savage customs. The film begins with a quote from a famous historian Will Durant, "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." From this excerpt, there’s an assumption that the collapse of the Maya Empire was self-inflicted. According to Gibson, just before the Spanish arrived in Central America, the Maya Empire was already collapsing due to internal warfare. But Gibson sets his film not during the era of Maya downfall in 900 A.D. but at the time of European contact in the early 1500s when the first Spaniards arrived in Maya shores. What wiped out the Maya in the 1500s was not an internal conflict; the Spanish people were responsible for this as they brought European disease and fought for decades to appease the Maya as stated by William Booth (2006). Ethnocentrism here brought about the issue of race and colonialism which led to the fall of an empire as the Maya people resisted Spanish religion and culture. In Apocalypto, male infertility, which has become an ordinary occurrence in the modern world, is regarded as an omen while the Maya people adore pregnant women. Infertility and barrenness in modern society where technology exists are not key challenges. Couples can bear children with conditions which until recently would have been insurmountable. On the contrary, Blunted, the character from the movie, who is unable to impregnate his wife is harassed by his mother-in-law and made fun of by his friends who lure him into eating tapir testicles thinking that he would be healed. Meanwhile, Jaguar Paw lies down with his pregnant wife, Seven, and their young son, Turtle Run. There is fresh meat cooking on the grill, and an old man telling stories by the fire. Life is good for Jaguar Paw unlike for Blunted (Scott 2006). Here, ethnocentrism creates prejudice against one another and bad blood between members of the same group. It also discriminates the Maya peoples’ customs from those of the modern civilized world.     From the movie, the Maya lived in the vast jungle and built their houses from grass, sticks, and perishable material. There is the notion of lack of exposure to early forms of architecture such as that of the Egyptians. Gibson portrays the Maya as a community living in the jungle and stuck in the old traditional ways of life which is not the case. At around 800 A.D. the Maya people were stone builders who erected grand cities and towering pyramids in the jungles of Mexico and Central America, created spectacular art, and practiced a particular astronomy (William Booth, 2006). They built great stone monuments with stairways which led to altars at the top. One can argue that Gibson is ethnocentric since he had looked down upon the Maya, and having misled the viewer hindered the passing of general knowledge about the history and way of life of the Maya. The movie also depicts the Maya as a brutal and violent people. There are scenes of human sacrifices, and, at one point, the viewer sees a mass grave filled with dead bodies. Mel Gibson also brings out the aspect of slavery. Both men and women are tied to poles and taken to faraway lands where they are starved and forced to carry heavy loads for building temples. History shows that the neighboring Aztec community was raiding the Maya. There existed a walled city whose sites needed protection. The Aztec had grown powerful and large in number by this time. The Aztecs were clearly merciless in their invasion and the search for sacrificial victims. This brutality is a practice that the Maya quickly inherited as stated by Richard (2007). Ethnocentrism between these two communities obstructed intercultural relations, and the two groups could not flourish peacefully. They looked down upon one another due to their difference in language, religion, and cultural practices which made them invade each other. Religion among the Maya people involved making sacrifices to their gods to gain favor. They included human sacrifice carried out at the altars in the stone pyramids seen in the movie Apocalypto. There were many ceremonies and rituals performed including dancing and drinking of intoxicating brews. In such a society where human sacrifice was acceptable, the dissemination of religious teachings such as those of Christianity could be practically impossible. Ethnocentrism here significantly inhibits the Maya people to experience and enjoy the religions of other communities. This difference in religious practices has also led to the raids in the movie. On the other hand, ethnocentrism also brings about positive effects. It creates a sense of belonging and togetherness among members of the same community. There is the general feeling of patriotism and loyalty to the society. There is evidence of this from the movie in instances where Jaguar Paw risks his life several times to save a member of his community. For example, he carries Cocoa Leaf, a severely wounded captive, despite the constant harassment from the evil Middle Eye, to try to save his life. At one time he is forced to drag his fellow tribesmen to prevent them from falling off a cliff. Cultural practices differ from one society to another. When touring different parts of the world one has to take a keen interest in the cultural ways and beliefs of the host community.  For instance, in the U.S. greetings usually take place between people who are close friends, and at times, these greetings do not take place at all. People rarely shake hands or share a warm embrace unless they share good acquaintances with each other. However, in Nigeria, it is imperative to bow while shaking the hand of someone senior or older than you. It is considered rude not to bow your head in front of an elder person. Such an experience teaches us that it is always important to understand other people’s cultures to avoid adverse effects of ethnocentrism.   References Mel Gibson (Director), (2006). Apocalypto [DVD]. . United States: Paramount. Richard D.H. (2007). Conversation:  Mel Gibson's Maya.  Archaeology, 60 (1). Scott A.O. (December 8, 2006). The Passion of the Maya. The New York Times. William Booth. (December 9, 2006). Culture Shocker. Washington Post. Leila Warinda P. O Box 40111, Nairobi. +254 727 414799                                                            Date of birth: 8th May 1989 Career Objective An enthusiastic and self-motivated individual, with self-drives and thrives to work in challenging environments. A keen learner and able to adapt to new conditions and work as a team. I am dedicated and ready to avail my skills and abilities to an organization that enables me to grow and flourish, both professionally and personally.   Academic Background   2010-2013:                 Egerton University: BSc in Economics & Statistics (First Class Honours)   2004...
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