Monday, April 11, 2011

Event Blog, Shane + The Mission - Outsiders

Shane, written by Jack Schaefer, shows the friendship and danger that outsiders (strangers) can bring to a family and community. Shane, a cowboy from the Mississippi region, is seen to be very polite, complimenting Marian’s cooking and her hospitality. He also is genuinely kind to Bobby and helps his father in the field, becoming his farm hand. Told in first person, Shane is seen through the eyes of the young boy, Bob (Bobby), and Shane is thus seen to be mysterious, dangerous, and a role model for the kid. Shane, though polite and a hard-worker, has a hidden past; he seems to be very good with a pistol, yet never carries it, and panics when teaching Bob how to aim and shoot. Shane’s ability to scare off rival farmers, knocking out Chris, foreshadows that his stay with their family may turn from civil and hospitable to dangerous. The lesson in weariness about outsiders can also be seen in the event that I attended.

The film, “The Mission”, nominated for many Academy Awards and the Golden Globe best picture award, featuring Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro, is centered on the Reductions. The Reductions were 30 missions/plantations built by the Jesuits in order to help the Guarani Indians in Paraguay. The Jesuits and Indians of Paraguay live together in the nation. It is a combination of the spirituality of Christianity and social aspect of the culture, carrying the word of God to the Guarani people. The Reductions is a social experiment by the Jesuits to protect the Indians and provide a refuge from slavery, the dangerous result of profit-seeking Spanish and Portuguese mercenaries.

Through music, the missionaries (Father Gabriel) were able to gain the trust of the Guarani, playing soothing melodies to draw them out of the jungle and communicate with them. In the movie, after murdering his brother, Rodrigo is visited by Father Gabriel and joins him in protecting the Guarani people, changing his slave trading ways. Throughout the Reductions, the missionaries helped the Guarani set up advanced laws, built hospitals, taught them musical literacy, abolished the death penalty, shared resources, and free them from Spanish and Portuguese influence. The Church in Spain and Portugal, however, insisted that the missions be ceased, forcing the Guarani out of their homes, allowing slavery to persist. Many of the Jesuits opposed the Church’s decree, siding with the Indians who struggled to fight back. The Spanish and Portuguese armies raided the Reduction plantations, enslaving the Guarani, fighting against others, and ending the missionary movement with violence and self-seeking, nationalistic agendas.

It is remarkable to me that such an emotional, spiritual, and cultural connection could be made between the Jesuits and the Guarani. Due to their cohabitation and relations with the Guarani, the Jesuits, too, began to learn, picking up the native language and beginning to understand the culture. This experiment known as the Reductions lasted for 150 years, from 1604-1756. Over 150,000 Guarani Indians were involved in this missionary movement. In the end, however, Spanish and the Portuguese took over this Paraguay territory, forcing the Indians out due to the profitability of the land area and eliminating the Reductions. What is also important to consider, is that this Reductions movement took place shortly before the suppression of the Jesuit Order, and impressive mission preceding their decline, although it is extremely sad and unfortunate that the Europeans eliminated their mission opportunity, killing and enslaving the Guarani people.

Both “The Mission” and Shane show examples of the benefits and trouble associated with outsiders. Where as the Jesuits did a lot of good for the Guarani people, building houses, schools, hospitals, and sharing God’s word, many Spanish and Portuguese explorers sold the Indians into slavery. The same mysteriousness that the Guarani saw in the Europeans can be seen as Bobby sees Shane riding into town, awestruck and frightened. Shane, up to this point a good man, does a lot of good, helping the father on the farm, digging out the old tree truck, and protecting the farm. With his help though, comes a mysterious danger. Shane is wild, dangerous, unpredictable, and has a violence that, though controlled and righteous, even scares his self. These two examples of outsider influence show the pros and cons that come with explorers and the dangers and blessings that they bring.

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