OBE #3 Matewan

The movie Matewan, based on the Mine Company's harassment and absolute control of their employees and their families truly is a great fit for recognizing influences that work held "back in the day." Communities such as the one in Matewan completely relied on the company. They relied on them for food, shelter, work; all of the necessities of life. The men and boys worked for nothing except these things. When I think about watching that movie, it makes me cringe because it was exactly like slavery except of all races and ethnicities. The company as the plantation owners; employees as slaves; mine as the cash crop. Although conditions were as bad, they were still brutal. Hegemony is obvious from the get go in this film due to the people's dependence on the company.
What I wanted to focus about on the movie, however, was the importance of Christianity, especially some of the parables that the young pastor tried to portray to his fellow people. Firstly, Christianity was all these people knew; besides mining of course. Their faith in it bound the people in the community together creating an collective consciousness that they really utilized when they were forced to leave their homes and work with one another to survive. The first entrance of the church was when the director was shown forbidding the Union and stigmatizing by correlating it with Communism and other egregious ideas that were taboo at the time. As Althusser points out, the two apparatuses that are shown in any situation work together to create a near unchangeable way of life. This correlation of apparatuses made me think that there was a very high possibility that the minister was, for a lack of a better term, hired by the company to use the church as a driving force for continued resistance to, not only Union's, but other ways of life outside of that of the company.
Besides the company being the obvious repressive state apparatus, I thought that the church was definitely the Ideological State Apparatus or as Gramsci would call the civil society. I did not notice an education system in the movie, which does not surprise me. As someone mentioned in class, the company used this lack of education to create a reproduction of labor. There was no need for the children to be educated by any means because, one, they did not want them discovering any outside potential other than mining; two, they started mining at such a young age that there was no time for school in between work, eating, and church.
Danny did exactly as Althusser would have suggested, he turned the ideological state apparatus on its head. Ideas are nearly impossible to change once inhibited in the psyche of society. I recognize this in the simplest ways of my own life. Although on a much less extreme scale, when I want to change things about my life, I do so by using the motivation that I use on other tendencies to fuel the ones that I am hoping to shape. However, back on point, Danny used his hold as a preacher to speak the Lord's language to the die-hard churchgoers. But, more importantly, he used the parable of the man who was killed by the other men because they did not believe he did not lay with one of their women. It was a lesson that everyone learned from, some using it a little more purposely.
I believe that I understood the majority of the connections and recognized quite a few of the instances of Gramsci and Althusser but what I absolutely did not understand was the ending. From what I gathered, Danny went back to mining because he felt the weight of the repressive state and the ideological state apparatus was too much to handle. By going back to the mine, regardless of the success of the Union, I thought that he was falling right back into the ideology of having to mine. I could be wrong insisting that they did not want to mine, but I think that he was a "good" subject as Althusser would say by right away assuming that mining was the life that the community had to continue to follow. This problem could have perpetuated because they were uneducated but I think that it comes back to Smithsonian of labor; that it completes him. However, I think in more of a Marxist realm in the fact that every bit of coal that they get depletes them and reproduces the submission of the community. This again reminds me of my own thoughts in that, although one breakthrough has been made, it is much easier to fall back into submission than to continue to build things up. This force of nature condemns Danny as he goes back to doing the same old same old.

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This page contains a single entry by Danny S published on March 1, 2011 9:06 PM.

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