Monday, June 1, 2015

"Report to an Academy" and socioeconomic mobility

Franz Kafka’s Report to an Academy reminds me of mobility in regards to the socioeconomic ladder in capitalist societies, particularly in people of color. Although there are aspects within the story which might not directly emulate how those of lower class might deal with trying to advance in corporate america, the desire to survive is the same in the story. I know with Latino children of immigrant parents, there is often the idea instilled within them that they must do what they can to blend in the white majority (or strive beyond them). The closer one can simulate behaviors of the dominant group, the easier it is for them to advance. Systemic forces are already against people of color from striving, so has been easier to assimilate into the dominant group.

The simian protagonist, Red Peter, is captured by European hunters in his own home. In order to survive, he discovers that he must behave like how humans do in order to escape confinement. It's important to note that confinement can be more than physical. There's an external and internal confinement that Latino youth often face with attempting to advance in the United States. Whether it be from physical confinement such as poverty, there is also a deeper, internal confinement. There is a "haunting" which follows us that pushes us to overcome generational oppression and strive for success in the corporate field. The theme of the importance of assimilation is prevalent within Report to an Academy. At the end of the speech given by Red Peter, he firmly goes on to detail that he is not looking for validation, he is merely detailing his experience. Readers are given the impression that the academy is listening to the speech with a sense of accomplishment. Though there's no direct evidence to suggest this, the mood of the academy seemed more observational and voyeuristic. It was as if they were watching how successful their experiment had progressed, and not looking at Red Peter as their equal. I believe they don't and can't see him as their equal. Although we don't receive commentary from the audience, and they give him the respect of presenting Red Peter in front of the entire academy, I don't think they respect him, and I also believe Red Peter knows that.

Towards the end of the story, Red Peter's conclusive statements stood out to me in the entirety of the text. This portion of Red Peter's speech critically summarizes a valid reality of socioeconomic "success":  "I didn't imitate human beings because they appealed to me; I imitated because I was looking for a way out, for no other reason. And the victory still didn't amount to much." It's incredibly difficult to maintain one's own culture while needing to assimilate into the predominantly white, executive realm. There is a great sense of pride within Latino communities when someone within the family is able to reach the top of the economic ladder. These feats should indeed be celebrated; even today, it is still seen as an accomplishment when minorities hold CEO positions. However, it becomes important to note that oftentimes people believe striving for the top means disregarding their own culture. They become disconnected and consumed with what it means to become successful in an economic sense. I'm not discounting the amount of  financial support this brings not only to the individual but to their family as well; this also paves the way for an easier mobility of people of color into the corporate ladder.. But it is important to realize the amount of pressure Latino families (and other families of color) place on their children to become "successful" in the United States which usually means becoming enveloped in a harmful, capitalist system. I've seen family members struggling to work and move higher up in their job, or even just paying their bills. They become detached from the family and they start to lose their sense of self. Everything becomes very quick-paced, and they forget to pay attention to what matters most which is taking care of their family. It seems ironic since their reason for working is taking care of the family, but they begin to stop seeing them as their loves ones once they become consumed by the work force. It is incredibly useful to be an instrumental part of any company because it can be beneficial to one's family. Self-surveillance is most important in making sure one doesn't lose who they are while striving to surpass their circumstances. Assimilating for survival can bring as much damage as it does prosperity.

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