Reacting to “District 9” – The Root of Our Problems?

One of your colleagues, Marcus Chau Hon Wai, recently went to see District 9, a South African science-fiction film that reflects on apartheid (Afrikaans for “separateness”), the system of legal racial segregation which was in force in South Africa from 1948 to early 1994. The casual visitor to South Africa today may not easily get an idea of what life under apartheid was like. The film aims to remind the audience of those shameful days through this allegorical movie. The intolerance and disrespect that some people have for those outside their group or community are “the root of the problems in the world,” Marcus concluded. By his account, District 9 is a good movie that enlightens. While it may no longer be showing in Hong Kong, you might be able to check it out on video.


4 Responses to “Reacting to “District 9” – The Root of Our Problems?”

  1. 1 Chow Chui Yin, Kuma 26/10/2009 at 2:05 pm

    I haven’t watched District 9 yet. As far as I know, under apartheid blacks could move freely, lived in slums while whites lived in suburb. Now blacks in the slums continue to face lack of water and electricity supply. Crimes are vigorous, among them, many white farmers faced mobs and assaults from the black community after the aparthied. Now thousands of white farmers are to be resettled in Congo so massive pieces of farmlands can be redistributed among the blacks. Racial discrimination lingers on, some University of the Free State forced some black cleaners to eat things that were urinated upon. That stirred an outcry in the country, the university was turned into some reconciliation centre to mend to racial gap. More problems, HIV and AIDs are huge problems in SA, more than 5 million people have the killer disease. Treatments are expensive and many people do not have access to such treatments as treatment for all would cost the country’s one third of its budget. Such disease in SA infected mostly blacks. Some doctor claimed it is under apartheids that the disease was considered by the ruling white as a ‘black disease’ so didn’t care about it. Noticeably, such disease spread mostly because blacks isolated from most of the industries under apartheids worked in isolated mine sites hired prostitutes for their sexual needs. Today all of the above problems continue to impede SA’s growth. My conclusion is, the effects of apartheid are not really difficult to see.

  2. 2 James H.T. Lam 31/10/2009 at 4:11 pm

    I have watched the District 9 movie, this is indeed a very good film. Besides serving as an analogy of Apartheid. It has also reflected on the possible setbacks of increasing reliance to Private Military Corporations, the MNU in the film has immense power vested on it, and indeed it has conducted a lot of cruel experiments on the Aliens, and it is purely motivated by profits and desire for power. Indeed, PMCs may be the most influential one among their multi national corporations counterparts. The films poses a question whether we should rely on modern mercenaries to solve our security problems. Should our governments think twice before approving more and more “contract outs”, and was the Blackwater taking part in the relieve work of Katrina in US an alert for everyone who fear that increasingly the law enforcement, military arms of the government being rested on private hands?

    The second thought of me is back to the segregation problem. Indeed, I agree with Marcus that the disrespect of differences really brings a lot of problems to our world, it’s the root of most of the conflicts and wars the mankind had experienced. In District 9, the aliens are termed by local residents as “Prawns”, a derogative term which hints that the aliens look like prawns. Maybe xenophobia is an inherent characteristic of human. It is indeed interesting, if one day the problem illustrated in District 9 comes to us human beings, whether we can extend our “humanity” to visitors from a different planet.

  3. 3 James H.T. Lam 31/10/2009 at 4:25 pm

    By the way, segregation was only ‘recently abolished’ (by recently I mean roughly the last 50 years), even in a much-regarded liberal and developed country, the United States. It was not until Brown v Board of Education, that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that segregation is unconstitutional, and it indeed took quite a number of years for the American Society to recognise the evil of segregation. 3 years after the ruling in Brown v Board of Education, the work of desegregation was still in a slow pace and met with strong opposition, as seen in the order by President Eisenhower to mobilise the National Guard in the desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas. Indeed, the famous civil rights movement activist by the time Martin Luther King, Jr. was also subject to FBI wiretapping under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover.

  4. 4 Marcus Chau Hon Wai 03/12/2009 at 3:17 pm

    This movie makes audience think for they are out of the traditional alien-movie context. The aliens are no longer the superior group, invading the earth and spreading fear around the world. Instead, they were so underprivileged, deprived and hated. I was so impressed by the director who able to reveal the true human nature – disrespect to outgroup – by something imaginary – aliens. This kind of disrespect, to me, is the root of a lot of humanity problems in the world.
    If you are careful enough, you might understand why the story happens in Africa instead of US or Europe. It is because South African, in the pre-Mandela times, was under apartheid. Black people were isolated from white people in the country by assigning them a particular ‘homeland’ where they can enjoy ‘rights’. At the end of the day apartheid was a series of laws that discriminate blacks. The blacks were so deprived in that age. Don’t you think that the discrimination to ‘prawns’ is actually very similar to the discrimination to the ‘coloured’ at that time in South Africa? In my opinion, if it is not a general moral consensus of modern human for ‘killing people is immoral’, the ‘coloured’ can even be slaved or killed easily. It is because deep in ego, people tend to distinguish themselves from outgroup and would always please to have a higher status than the outgroup.

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