Tuesday, 29 October 2013

De Crevecoeur American Farmer

When I read the second letter in De Crevecoeur’s book I immediately thought of this advert for Ram pick-ups from last year’s Superbowl. The speech heard is by Paul Harvey a radio news presenter who was addressing the Future Farmers of America Convention in 1978.  The advert talks about the hard work and ingenuity of the American farmer and links to the American being exceptional in this case specifically the farmers of America.
When it talks about “needing someone strong enough to clear trees”, De Crevecoeur talks of this as an essential job for the American farmer, to build a house or barn. De Crevecoeur talks about spending a lot of time in the woods looking out for the wildlife such as bees. He also talks about caring for the birds, either building nests for them or housing them in his barn or giving them seed in the winter. This is represented in the advert/speech with the line “who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark”. The central theme of the speech is religion and in the letters religion is mentioned often, De Crevecoeur talks a lot about what religion people are and when they meet and what they do in those meetings. I think just about every line in the advert/speech can have an example from De Crevecoeur’s letters.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

An Encounter with the Native Indians (Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca)

Sources: http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/one/cabeza.htm

This particular Spanish explorer has been considered to be perhaps revolutionary when it comes to his accounts with the native Indian's, as he expressed distaste at they way they had been treated by the Spanish. He was second in command to a fellow explorer whose aim was to claim the land from Florida to Mexico for Spain (although he was lost on a boat shortly after the expedition began in 1528) and after his leader's death, travelled to Texas where he came across Indian's.
However, the native Indian's that he captured in Florida also proved to be valuable resources. He writes that 'to whom we showed maize in order to find out if they knew it, for until then we had seen no trace of it. They told us that they would take us to a place where there was maize and they led us to their village', proving that natives were indeed valuable resources contrary to the thought that native American's were often seen as redundant and at the edges of society because the land that they occupied was considered to be of more value than themselves (although de Vaca's use of their knowledge could be showing the way in which he is 'using' them, but I think their redundancy refers more to them being ignored by non-natives).
This idea of submission can be seen when de Vaca notes 'my barge went ahead, and from it we saw five Indian canoes coming. The Indians abandoned them and left them in our hands, when they saw that we approached' showing that the Indian's saw the explorer and his men as threats and were trying to avoid confrontation by giving over their supplies, as they probably knew how the European explorers would treat them, although the Spaniard always seemed to treat them differently.
Particular evidence of this can be seen in their reaction to de Vaca's news of the death of several of his men, because they 'upon seeing the disaster we had suffered, our misery and distress... sat down with us and all began to weep out of compassion for our misfortune, and for more than half an hour they wept so loud and so sincerely that it could be heard far away.'
The explorer's value of the natives is evident when he says 'after we had dispatched the Indians in peace, and with thanks for what they had gone through with and for us', therefore foreshadowing his later campaign in Spain (1545) for the kinder treatment of the Indian's.
Although after this advocacy of rights de Vaca was accused of malfeasance in office (an unlawful act done in an official capacity) and sent to Africa, his attempts to change the ways in which the natives were treated can still be considered as revolutionary.
Why have only three people posted?!

Journal of a Widow, travelling from Boston to New York.

I chose this journal, as I thought it would be interesting to see what the female perspective on settling and the early years in America were like.

Sarah Kemble Knight was a Widow and mother of one, began her journey to New York to finish some family business, after her cousin's death. She left her only child with her aging mother while she traveled. She hired a 'Mr. Wheeler' to guide her from Boston to New Haven, once there she remarks "They are Govern’d by the same Laws as we in Boston", but she appears to worry about whether they are religious or not. She notes they also seem very independent in their principles, which she finds troubling. However she is pleased upon learning that crimes are punished justly, and that even an innocent kiss between young people, often end in whipping.

In New Haven, she also hears about a black slave stealing and calls him a "Heathen", and then tells the tale of what occurs, and how the "Indian" was seized and questioned and that the people in the company "fell into a great fit of Laughter, even to Roaring" when he tries to proclaim innocence.

Travelling further, along the coastline, she seems disgusted by the familiarity between slave and master, and how they are allowed to eat at the table. She accounts yet another tale about a black slave who went to court with his master and the court ordered "the master to pay 40s [shillings] to black face and
acknowledge his fault". At this point her account seems to ramble and go off on tangents, which questions the reliability of her account. She begins to remind me of Chaucer's "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and tale", with her similar affinity to bend the truth and go off on a tangent, as The Wife of Bath.

I found it very interesting that she was treated so well, with little to her name, as she calls herself "unworthy handmaid", and that so many people she came across were very kind to her. Additionally it was interesting to hear her perspective on black slaves and the "Natives of the Country" whom she calls "the most savage of all the savages of that kind that I had ever Seen" and seems rather hostile in her description of them. She seems appalled with their customs, such as marriage to more than one woman. I found her journal a most interesting insight of early settlers.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A Map of Virginia: With a Description of the Country, the Commodities, People, Government and Religion by John Smith (1612)

I have chosen this book and in particular the section of it written by Captain John Smith (who was also sometimes considered the Governor of the country) in the early 1600's because I believe it offers an insight into what a European settler would be faced with when exploring America. He talks about the landscape and the climate of the country as well as the Native tribes he encounters. Just focusing on his description of the Native Indians, we can gather a lot of information about their lives and how a settler views their lives. At the start of his description he includes some common Native Indian words and phrases and the first one that surprises me is the phrase "in how many days will there come hither more English ships", this tells me that the Indian tribes must have been very inquisitive about the new settlers arriving in their lands. Going through the book Smith talks of the Natives appearance describing their particular headdresses and the animals they choose to hang from their ear rings "a small green and yellow snake...others choose to wear a dead rat tied by the tail" Smith then talks of their ability to "lie under a tree by a fire in the worst of winter". Also describing them as "some bold, most cautelous, all savages". He moves on to talk about their houses and then their children which he says are named "according to the several humour of their parents" and are made hardy to the elements "in the coldest mornings they wash them in the rivers, and by painting and ointments so tan their skins that after a year or two, no weather will hurt them". He talks about their various medicines describing one tribe as being "so conceited that they believed any plaster would heal any hurt". When describing their religion Smith says "their chief God they worship is the divell (devil). Him they call Oke and serve him more of fear than love. They say they have a conference with him and, fashion themselves as near to his shape as they can imagine". Smith goes on to talk about their government describing it as follows "although the country people be very barbarous; yet have they amongst them such government, as that their magistrates for good commanding, and their people for due subjection and obeying, excel many places that would be counted very civil".
     I think all this would have been a very disconcerting site to an early settler coming from what they would consider to be a normal civilised and modern society in Europe to discovering people with rats hanging from their ears and worshipping the devil.

pages 79, 99, 100, 101, 108, 109, 113.

A description of the Indians of New England by Thomas Morton (1637)

I chose this account by Thomas Morton, who was one of the founders of the settlement at Mount Wollaston. He observes and provides a counter-narrative account of the Native inhabitants as he portrays their way of life mostly in a positive light.

He begins by discussing how he admires the Native community, including the fact that the Natives respect age. 'The younger men's opinion shall be heard, but the old men's opinion and councell embraced and followed.' He states that he has recorded this account in order for ignorant settlers to be 'Ashamed of their former errors in this kinde.' and that the Indians shouldn't be treated as inferior, rather it depicts that the Natives embrace their lifestyle and enabled their way of life to flourish.

Although he refers to the Natives as 'Savages' he has gone out of his way to pay close attention to understand their spiritual beliefs, although he claims that their religious beliefs just amounted to devil worship overall. He takes into account that they are good people.  'I asked him [an Indian who lived in Morton's house] who was a good man; his answer was, he that would not lie, nor steal... These, with them, are all the capital crimes that can be imagined.' So this shows that even though the Natives were depicted as savages by the Pilgrims, it actually shows that despite their uncivilised way of life, they still share many of the same moral values.

Thomas Morton seems to be in awe of the Natives way of life. He states that 'According to reason, guided only by the light of nature, these people leades the more happy and freer life, being void of care, which torments the mindes of so many Christians: They are not delighted in baubles, but in usefull things...' This shows that Thomas believes that the settlers are not paying attention to practical things, rather they are more interested in wealth.  He portrays the Native inhabitants so optimistically yet equally portrays an unflattering image of the Puritans. In contrast to most of the opinions of settlers during the 17th Century he believes that the Indians constructive yet care free lifestyle is more admirable as he says 'Their life is so void of care, and they are so loving also that they make use of those things they enjoy.'  

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Iranian Views of America

Iran is one of America's fiercest enemies and has been since 1979 after the Islamic revolution and the Iranian hostage crisis. They were once close allies but relations between the two nations are now so bad neither one even has an embassy in each others countries and since 1995 the United States has had an embargo on trade with Iran, which has crippled Irans economy. A 2013 poll showed that just 5% of Americans view Iranian influence positively, with 87% expressing a negative view, the most unfavourable perception of Iran in the world. Recently Iran has been developing nuclear power and America has been increasingly wary of this trying to block their nuclear efforts through the UN.

The first article I have linked to is an article from NPR (an American radio station) that talks to the Director of a poll that in 2008 asked over 700 Iranians what their opinion of America was. One of the benefits of this poll is that the results can be compared to an earlier poll to see if opinion is getting worse or better. Some results were more surprising than others for example the majority of people have an unfavourable view of America. Other results were more surprising for example Iranians believe that America is in control of Al Jazeera and even Al-Qaeda.

The second article is a recent article in the Tehran Times talking about how Iran's new President is a possible route to a new relationship with America and uses the recent phone call between Presidents Obama and Rouhani as a step forward in the two nations relationship, with President Rouhani calling for the 'easing of tensions' with the outside world. However this links to my third article which is an article by CBS news that talks about how despite the new Iranian leader the people of Iran still harbour much resentment towards America. This article uses the example of Iranians chanting 'death to America' and the burning of the American flag to support this opinion.




America's relationship with China.


This infographic shows the complex ties which America and China share, these bonds appear to be getting more and more hostile as China develops as a nation.
The fact that Americans think that the relations are positive whilst also believing that China is not trustworthy shows that there is a lot of animosity between the two powerful nations. As China has now surpassed the US as the global leading economic power, the US must compete if it wants to control the economic powers which it has managed to retain through the 2008 crash.
The 2008 global financial crisis gave scope for emerging nations such as China and Brazil to push forward with their efforts to control the economy, this poses a serious threat to US global influence.

Russian Views on America and American Society.

It took me a while to find information from a site that wasn't American, but when I did, I came to realize just how negative the Russian views on America today, truly are.

Russia and USA: Cold War already on? - English pravda.ru

I found this article to be very enlightening, and they seem to have polls on whether Russian's believe that another cold war is going to happen between Russia and America. The poll indicates that Russians tend to believe that the cause of this is due to American politicians. However the Article as a whole is not completely negative, and does state that Russia and the USA are not enemies, but merely rivals. The whole article is a discussion on the opposing views of America and Russia. "Of course, the "cold war" still affects politicians today. In home politics, it is very easy to earn some points by finding an enemy, and criticizing him. This is what US politicians like to do. " Is taken directly from the article, and is quoted from the director of Franklin D. Roosevelt Foundation for United States Studies at the Moscow State University, Yuri Rogulev.
However it is interesting to note that both positive and negative stances are taken into account in the article.

This article is one of many on this website, which is an online newspaper, and looking at a few others, they seem to be negative on a whole. Then of course we have to consider whether this is a reliable source or not. The fact that it is an online newspaper, may have you believe that they should be unbiased in their opinions, and that the facts they use could be genuine. However, the newspaper itself is associated with the Soviet Communist Party of the Russian Federation. This could mean that the paper is potentially bias. The site is known to publish conspiracy theories and the like, meaning it isn't as reputable as possible and the information may not be reliable.

Another Example of the content on this newspaper's website:

McCain - America's Voice? - English pravda.ru

Which in itself is completely negative about America, especially its politicians.

'Why Indians love America so much'

'Why Indians love America so much'

This article in the 'Asian Times' written by a New Delhi based journalist states that America's image is the best in India as it claims that 71% of Indians expressed a positive attitude towards America. This was based on Pew Global Attitudes Project survey which seems to be generally reliable as the majority of the polls conducted are many face to face interviews  therefore ensuring external validity by examining many people across the population with detail.
The website states that one of the reasons that the Indians may think so highly of the US is due to the high standards of living for ethnic Indians living in the US. It states that the Indian-American community is now the wealthiest in the US, which surprised me, but it seems valid as it was released by the US Census Bureau. However, this article was published in 2005 so it may no longer be valid. However, research has found in 2010 by the U.S census that Indian Americans have the highest house income of all ethnic groups in the US.
The article also states that it is Foreign policy which has pulled the two countries closer together. This has helped secure their own nation and the US economy has highly benefited India. Also, large American companies such as McDonald's have been set up in India and therefore as the article states, it has 'fed an army of Indian kids.' 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Cosa Pensano Gli Americani

1: Prologue

2: What Do Americans Think

Both of these links demonstrate the ideas that Italy has of the super power that is America. The first link shows how Italy considers it to be a country of reliability, uniformity, money and size, although initially and superficially not entirely different from the rest of Europe. Until that is, it is called naive - particularly due to the Americans love of writing to their local elected representatives to express a like or dislike of policies because they believe that their letters will make a difference, or worshipping one God even though they are the country with the most religious diversity and their obsession with ranking and analyzing everything (for example cars or sports), which seems strange considering the Italian way of life is built on ranking things on beauty and standard. Although when the Americans do this, it is considered to be a way of lying to the nation.

The second link explores the idea of what it means to 'belong' to America and how their ideas of belonging differ from those of Europe. Antinucci writes that race does not matter in America, but partaking in their ideological, political and institutional ideas is what creates a sense of belonging. Also, the idea that an immigrant in America is adopted as an American, which Antinucci receives with a sense of distaste as he notes that to be considered Italian, you have to have always lived there and been raised by Italian parents - a highlighting point of the difference between Italy's more traditional views and America's perhaps more welcoming views about society and the people in it. There is also the difference that the Constitution of America is what is thought to make an American 'American' - a factor which has not been noted by the Italians as being important.

I think that especially based on the negative criticisms, Italy's views of America have become apparent. For example, they are valid in the sense that they demonstrate the differences between Europe and America (as Italy can be seen as a traditional European country) and show how different the super power is to most of the world. Although because Italy is such a traditional country perhaps Antinucci's opinion towards America's 'controversial' ideals could be seen as slightly biased.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Attitude Maps.

I chose this map to show American attitudes as opposed to physical features. This map is one of more than 40 in the collection “The Atlas of Prejudice” by artist Yanko Tsvetkov. The artist describes his works in this collection as “cartographic caricatures ridiculing the worst excesses of human bigotry and narrow-mindedness”. Many of his other maps can be found here (x)

An awfully presumptuous view which seems to be held against the people of America is that they are bigoted and narrow minded, but this is only because their culture varies from ours in unexpected and ineffable ways. I think it is important to note that Tsvetkov is not American, he is from Bulgaria. Therefore the opinions which he is portraying in this work are ones which have crossed half the way around the globe to reach him via the internet and other media. This is interesting because many of these negative stereotypes are so known by Europe itself that they have almost become general stereotypes. Smelly Armpits falling right next to French Bread. The Americanisation of the european stereotypes is beginning to change the map, British tourists go to Spain and say "Hasta La Vista" as opposed to the far more common "Hasta Luego" because they associate the spanish language with American films in which they speak Latin American Spanish.

Density of Starbucks

Not only is the Starbucks Coffee brand one of the biggest exports to other countries, but also one of the most popular brands in America. On the West Coast, there is a Starbucks on every highway exit and as particularly the first diagram shows, the West Coast does have the highest population density of the shops. The first diagram is a cartogram, which uses the size of each state to show it's amount of Starbucks locations as opposed to the actual size of the state, therefore making it evident that California has the largest amount of locations.
The absence of densely populated locations in the middle of the country reflects the difference in terrains between the coasts and the middle which is more mountainous and less city like. Steph Abegg also makes the point that the amount of locations are proportionate to the state population and as California has the largest state population, it is common knowledge that it would have the most Starbucks. California's high number of Starbucks Coffee shops also reflects the nature of the state, as one filled with contemporary franchises.
The second diagram is a more graphic representation of every location in the country and clearly shows the huge dispersion of the shops around the coasts. The North of the country has the least amount of Starbucks, perhaps suggesting something about their style of living.

Sources: Steph Abegg: 'Starbucks: A West Coast Phenomenon' (stephabegg.com)
               James Davenport diagram (ediblegeography.com)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Why have only three people posted?

Church Demographics in America.

With America being the place for religious freedom, I wanted to look at the figures for which churches are the most followed in America. You often hear about Cultic Movements and Sects originating from America, yet from the statistics above, you would simply believe that America is very religious. Yet being part of a religious group doesnt mean that these people are at all religious. In America, it is important to have a religion. The reason this image surprised me is that Baptists cover the most number of 'countries' in America, and i didnt know this beforehand. It's interesting to note that it is very compact into the south-east region of North America. It was also interesting to note that the majority of the west coast is predominately Catholic, and as a Catholic myself, I didn't know Catholicism was as spread out as this map would make it seem.

It is also interesting to note that The Latter-Day Saints are Localised to Utah and Idaho. Mormonism is the main branch of the Latter Day Saints Movement, and the majority of practicing Mormons live in the state of Utah. In addition Michigan and Iowa have the largest group calling themselves 'reformed'.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Map of American Ancestry


Map sourced from census.gov showing information from the 2000 census.
Statistics sourced from infoplease.com and factfinder.com

Known as a nation of immigrants this map gives a breakdown of the ancestry of the people living in the different counties in the United States. From it we can see that the majority of African Americans live in the south and on the east coast, probably due to historical reasons. The percentage of the population that was African American in 2000 was 12.1% the largest minority at the time. The map also shows us that the majority of the Hispanic population lives along the Mexican border, again probably due to historical reasons. The two things that I found most interesting was the amount of people living in America with German ancestry it is the largest ancestry in America with 15.2% of the population having German ancestry. Second being Irish with 10.8%. Also the small pockets of Native Americans living in the middle of America, from once being the only residents on the land, to just 2.8% of the population having Native American ancestry in the year 2000.

'United States of shame' map

I found this map of the United States interesting as it highlights the overall bad aspects for each state when usually America is depicted as a place that we admire and is considered a proud nation and following the 'American dream'. The map somewhat exemplifies the fact that in some ways America is not something to be proud of as a nation due to the shameful labels given to each state, showing that each state has one major flaw in particular. In a way this could show that America is not progressing forward together as a nation.
For example, the map shows that Texas most shameful element is 'High school Graduation' and it has been shown that Texas has the lowest high school graduation of 78.3%, contrasting with Minnesota which has the highest (92.%) This could be due to the Texas education system, and other factors such as the fact that Texas has one of the less educated immigrant populations. 

Other examples of statistics illustrated on the map show that:
Alaska: highest suicide rate (22.1% per 100,000)
(This could evidently be due to the cold weather conditions which has been correlated with depression - (SAD) and the isolated villages which may be the reason teenage suicide in Alaska is three times the national average.
Mississippi: Highest rate of obesity  (35.3%) This may be due to the increased poverty, southern diet and cheap fast food industries.
Michigan:  'Unemployment' Highest unemployment rate (13.6%)
Colorado:  'Cocaine Use' Highest rate of cocaine use (2003 National survey on Drug use and health states that in one year the total of cocaine users was 144,000)
Iowa: 'Oldest State' Highest rate of people aged 85 and older (1.8%)

More stats found at http://www.pleated-jeans.com/2011/01/24/the-united-states-of-shame-chart/
Calculate stats http://www.statemaster.com/index.php
Colorado drug use http://www.usnodrugs.com/statistics.htm?state=Colorado&cat=cocaine
Mississippi obesity http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-08-13/obesity-rates-states/57031440/1

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Hi Folks
As I am away in the US this week, we can't meet Thursday. Instead I'd like to meet on MONDAY at 10.30. OK?