Kakos' 6th Hour

Reactions and comments from my sixth hour Honors American Literature class.

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My favorite place in the world to be is underwater. My second favorite place is the front of a classroom.

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.

28 Comments:

Blogger corey c said...

The past makes things that the future then changes, Pocahontas created the initial story, what had really happened. Then now, we took hold of the past and shook out the reality of it, we changed the story to how we wanted it to be, and not how it is. We control the past because we view it as we please, and we control the future becuase we create what will be in it. Sherman Alexie I think will agree because in "A Drug Called Tradition" The past of the boys is an amazing influence on there lives. The even live in it. I think that he would agree that the boys decide how they view the past but the past decides what it is they are viewing.

2:02 PM  
Blogger LindsayS said...

I think that Pocahontas is a perfect example of this quote. In the past, she was protrayed closer to English royalty than an Indian, what she really was. The artist who drew her portrait was trying to depict Pocahontas as a more noble figure to people in the future. Disney on the other hand, has changed how everyone thinks of Pocahontas. The movie protrays her as a skinny, beautiful young lady while in reality she was muscular, did not let her air blow freely in the wind, and practically a child. Disney, who controls the present, has controled the past with the image of Pocahontas.

I think that in "A Drug Called Tradition" the ancestors were trying to blend in with the future of what they "should be" while the teenage boys wanted to go back to their traditions and culture. i think Alexie would agree.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Pieter O said...

This quotation means that whoever has the power to change anything in the past, to literally rewrite the past, like in 1984, can do whatever they like with what has happened. This influences what people think about certain things. For example, when we think of Pocahontas, we think of the Disney representation of her. This is influences what we think in the future, our minds basically already made up.

1:37 PM  
Blogger brianc said...

The past controls the future mainly because whoever writes the past influences opinions of the future. White people write the past how they want it to look like. They claim to discover America and "tame" the indians. Many events will never truly be known because whoever is in control can write the past like they want. The story of Pocahontas is probably very exagerated but is publically accepted because that is how te controllers wrote it.

1:38 PM  
Blogger brian k said...

In our culture, ignorance is bliss. We believe whatever we want to believe with no thought as to how it is affecting the past and how it will affect the future. Our children will have an even more distorted view of Pocahontas than we do because that is what we will teach them. They, inturn, will teach their children the same views and possibly distort them even more. We are affecting the future, intentionally or not, because we have changed our views on the past.

1:39 PM  
Blogger ryanp said...

I think that it is much more appealing to the general public to make Pocahantes a princess like character than have the truth which makes Pocahantes a piano mover. A person who is built like a piano mover is not going to command the same power and respect as someone who looks so wonderfull that people can look up to them and say that they want to look like Pocahantes. I think that Sherman Alexie would feel that this quote does make sense because it is basically saying that whoever controls the present controls everything. Alexie stresses the importance of commanding your own lives and taking control of the present so that you can take control of other things such as the past and the future.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Hannah S said...

I think that Orwell means that if you understand your past and know what you want for your future, you can change it to make it what you want. I think that this relates to "A Drug Called Tradition" because the main characters really want to understand their ancestors and bring their old traditions alive. By doing this, they control their future.

1:40 PM  
Blogger KristinC said...

The winner always writes history. In the case of Pocahontas the white man won therefore they got to write their own version of history. A version where the indians were a savage and cruel people and the whites were simply peaceful newcomers. If a group has a chance to be in control of history then they will show themselves in a better light and will distort the qualities of their enemies.

1:41 PM  
Blogger christineT said...

I think that Orwell means that everything we do now affects what will happen in the future. Our perceptions of Pocahontas have to do with what the powerful "discoverers" of America and the Indians. Those people wrote our history and they took control of the future of our country. In the present day, what those people did affected how we judge different ethnicities, and what we think of ourselves and others throughout history. The person who controls the present also controls the past because of schools. The publishers of history books can choose to emphasize or leave out certain parts of our history to choose what we learn and also how we think of the history of our country.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Alexandra H said...

I think this quote means that people who know about the past can change the future. There is obviously some information on Pocahontas and John Smith's relationship, but Walt Disney kind of disregarded that and decided to make it a love story. He probably knew about the past (the relationship between the two people) but he changed the future because he led many kids to beleive that the relationship between Pocahontas and John Smith was a love story.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Olivia C. said...

I agree largely with Corey's comment that states, "We control the past because we view it as we please, and we control the future because we create what will be in it." I feel that the quotation (by George Orwell) refers to what Corey has outlined earlier; we partially define the past based on our personal interpretations of events that already occurred. Often we will romanticize such events as to fit modern ideas, whether they be true or incorrect and often bias. Dealing with the first part of the quotation, "Who controls the past controls the future", I find that actions people took in the past defines our views, customs, culture, and religion. We live based on the actions our ancestors willingly took and future generations will live largely based on what we do today dealing with things such as technology, religion, etc. We are creating our past and laying down stone for the future...

1:42 PM  
Blogger katie_r said...

I agree with what Corey said, that there is the real story, and then there is the fictional, more appealing version that we created years later. So because we control the present, we control what people see about the past in the future. Therefore (confusing as it is) "Who control the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
I also think that what Lindsay said, kind of goes along with that. That at that time, the English were in control, and they were the ones who changed Pocahontas' image to what they wanted, and since we still look at that picture now, then they also controlled the present, past, and future.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Andie R said...

Power influences our perceptions of Pocahontas and the "discovery of America" because nobody wants to be the bad guy in history. By making subtle changes, someone's image can be changed for the better. No matter how it really happened, everyone has embarrasing mistakes in their past that they obviously wouldn't want to be shared to such a wide audience. Whoever is in control is the person who can alter history. Also, narrowminded people may not like to see others who do not fit within any stereotypes, so they can change the characters to be more stereotypical.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Logan J said...

I agree with Corey. We had control over how we chose to depict the tale of Pocahontas, and like most humans would do, we chose to make it appear that we were on good terms with the Indians. As "Americans" we took the self-centered route by potraying ourselves as the savers, and the Indians as the savees.

The Orwell quote gernalizes this idea by saying that "who controls the present controls the past." This is saying that whoever is responsible for spreading the knowledge of the past in the present controls how the tale of the past is told.

1:42 PM  
Blogger allison n said...

I agree with this quotation. The present can distort the past however they want to without physically changing it, like in "A Sound of Thunder." The people in the past are responsible for the state of the future. This interdependent relationship is amazing and could boggle the mind profusely. I think Alexie would love this quote because it is exactly what his short story is about. The past traditions made the Junior and the narrator who they were in the present, and they in turn they can use or abuse the past.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Tori S said...

Controlling the present gives one the power and the opportunity to view the past as you see fit. Even though Pocahontas may have been one way, whoever controls the present can change her into an indian princess, with "savage" like qualities. The sttlers in the "new world" had the perception that native americans were savage and not up to standard and these perceptions were carried into the video Pocahontas and the display of culture.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Amy O. said...

The people who are in control basically control everything - past, future, and present. Sherman Alexie wants to inform people about the stories and tradition fading into the past since the change of power in the Native Americans to white people. This differs from the motives of Disney telling the story of Pocahontas, whose story and image has molded into the way people want to see her over time. I think that the George Orwell quote is illustrated well in "A Drug Called Tradition" and the story of Pocahontas, because whoever is in control of history and power at the time will adjust it in the ways that they desire.

1:44 PM  
Blogger matt l said...

I believe the meaning of this quote is that the past dictates the future. The term, "history repeats itself" epitomizes how the past controls the future. The other part, "who controls the present controls the past", could not be more true. If one is currently in a position of power, they have the ability to manipulate the beliefs and opinions of the population. THis applies to the romanticized version of Pocahontas, because our government sort of manipulated the story and changed the perceptions of the people. The real story put white people in the wrong. So, the story was changed to suit the wants of those is power. For this example, at least, "who controls the present controls the past" holds true.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Christine D said...

This quote reminds me of history, the part of history in which an event is written from the point of view of "the winner". This applies perfectly to Pocahontas. European culture "won" America and therefore controls the view on Pocahontas, and other Indians. If the Native Americans had "won" America would be very different. If Native Americans were still in control of America, then the perception Pocahontas would most likely be very different than the disney view. Therefore, white culture/society controls the past because they control the present; they control the present because they "won" or controled the past.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Thomas_N said...

I think that this quote means that people who presently have control over people can change the way history is thought of. Although the Disney story of Pocahontas may not be true they were in control of what goes in the story and in return it has caused a whole generation of people to misinterpret the story. The quote also states that people in power control the future. For example the winners of wars are the ones that write history so there is always a biased opinion.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Aubry P. said...

I think that Orwell was right. The people who are leaders of the world now are the ones who distribute the information about the past to us.The people that shape our thoughts on the past can choose how we look at it. They can depict certain people one way and make us like or hate them. This impacts our thoughts and actions in the present and future. The leaders in England at the time of Pocahontas made her more familiar to make her appealing to the people.

1:45 PM  
Blogger HUH? said...

George Orwell's quote on the future, past, and present relates to a change reaction that cycles over and over again. The future is the present and will be the past. As portrayed in "A Drug Called Tradition," their past reflects their present and from there, they will shape their own future.

1:45 PM  
Blogger A_Nielsen said...

Power, control, and history has clouded our vision of what we think Pocahontas was really like and how the discovery of America was needed and an amazing discovery, but the discovery also came with people who had different perceptions of what America and the Native Americans should be.

The movie version of "Pocahontas" tends to lead away from the truth and exaggerate certain events. We all like it and we all enjoyed it but it cheated us out of the true story and who Pocahontas was really like and what the English did to "improve" her to meet the english's standards.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Michelle S said...

History is said to be written by the winners. In the case of Pocahontas, it seems that Disney, loosely representing the entertainment for white culture, is the winner. Like lindsays said, Pocahontas is portrayed more like English royalty than a Native American--even though more historically accurate references portray Pocahontas otherwise. Disney, therefore, may be seen as controlling the present, and in doing so, is controlling the predominant view of the past. This situation also resembles modern day dilemmas: the brutality of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the portion of time when the Japanese inhabited China and committed horrible crimes onto the populace, the omission of Israel from many Middle Eastern textbooks. New things are discovered about the past all the time, but whether they change our perception of the past depends on what is revealed to us.

Another way this quote could be written is: who controls the present controls the past controls the future. It shows the connection to all three phases of time. If an entity controls the past and present, the logical course of reason would dictate that they also control the future. It's like an input-output machine: garbage in, garbage out.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Ryan S said...

Power, control, and history are all contolled by white men who want to control. History tells us that Pocahontas is a prototypical stereotype of indian culture and image. Who controls the past controls the future is very relevant in that if they do anything damaging it will affect the future people for the rest of their lives. It is like how whites drove the indians from there land changing how the indians live.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Ryan B said...

I beleive Sherman Alexie would agree with the quote from George Orwell based on "A Drug Called Tradition." In the story the Native American teenagers who resort to the use of drugs have no control over the present and essentially their future. Sherman also shows how the Indians of the past could not take command of their present which led to the eventual degratory situation of the present day Natives.

1:47 PM  
Blogger anam said...

I think that the quote by George Orwell is trying to get the point across that the leaders or people in power of the past have control over the future because the decisions they have made when they were alive still affect how we view our world today. The leaders we have today can control the past because they can determine the information they want to provide the general public. For example, in every country history books have bias views incorporated within the text to either make the country look better themselves or to make another nation seem like the "bad guy".

1:47 PM  
Blogger nicci c said...

When Orwell writes, "Who controls the past controls the future.
Who controls the present controls the past." I think he is saying that what you do in the past effects who you become in the future and what you make of the past now changes how it seems. I think this explains the effect the romantisized Pocahontas has had on us. Because of the way Disney portrayed Pocahontas our perspective on Indians an who they were has changed; thus the past has changed because of the present.

1:24 PM  

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