Good morning fellow delegates, I am here today at the United Nation’s International Youth Forum to discuss the negative and positive concepts of belonging in reference to Peter Skrzynecki’s, Immigrant Chronicle and the 2004 American drama film, ‘Crash’ directed by Paul Haggis. Firstly we must consider the concept of belonging. What does it mean to belong? Belonging is defined as fitting into a particular environment. It refers to relationships and a sense of acceptance to individuals, groups, societies and our environment.
A sense of both positive and negative concepts of belonging can be seen quite clearly in three poems from Peter Skrzynecki’s Immigrant Chronicle, ’Feliks Skrzynecki’, ‘Ancestors’ and ‘Migrant Hostel’ as well as characters, Farhad, Cameron and Jean from the film, ‘Crash. ’ In the poem ‘Feliks Skrzynecki,’ it is clear that Peter’s father, Feliks does not belong as he is of Polish heritage and has chosen not to assimilate with Australian culture.
This can also be seen with a Persian character in the film ‘Crash’ called, Farhad. Peter’s father, Feliks has created a life for himself in Australia but cannot truly belong as he continues to remain loyal to his Polish heritage. It is clear that he is alienated when a department clerk asks Peter, “Did your father ever attempt to learn English? ” A similarity of this is seen with the character Farhad. Farhad is of Persian descent and struggles to belong in the city of Los Angeles as he cannot speak proper English.
The opening scene of the movie shows Farhad’s alienation from society as the shopkeeper of a gun store insults him racially for conversing with his daughter, Dori in Farsi while attempting to buy a gun. “Yo, Osama! Plan the jihad in your own time. What do you want? ” Although Feliks does not belong to Australian society he however has found a positive way to belong by creating a place to connect with, his garden. The simile, “loved his garden like an only child,” shows his dedication and admiration towards his garden which allows him to relate to his Polish culture and feel accepted in Australia.
Like Feliks, Farhad also has a strong connection, with his daughter, Dori. As individuals to be accepted at school, our workplace or even at home is important as we all want to belong somewhere. However there are many barriers to belonging. Neglecting the commitment of one’s cultural identity seen in Skrzynecki’s poem, ‘Ancestors’ and the character of Cameron in ‘Crash’ is an example of a barrier that causes both Peter and Cameron to not belong. In ‘Ancestors,’ Skrzynecki experiences confusion as he fails to onnect with his cultural heritage and his own identity. Skrzynecki’s disconnection with his polish heritage is shown in the line, “The bearded faceless men/Standing shoulder to shoulder. ” This line uses visual imagery of Skrzynecki’s ancestors being the barrier to belonging among his family. He does not know who they are which creates a mysterious almost horrifying effect as he is alienated from everything that has to do with his past. Cameron also struggles with accepting his cultural heritage and who he is as he wants to fit into the society around him.
Cameron’s false identity of himself is shown in a scene where Cameron is in trouble with armed and ready to shoot policeman. In this scene, a side of Cameron is shown that is aggressive, vulgar and crude, quite different to his normal calm, intelligent, Buddhist self. Cameron’s behaviour is brought on by a previous encounter with the police where a policeman sexually assaulted his wife as Cameron stood by and did nothing. This encounter has left Cameron traumatized and angry which allows him to act like stereotypically black thug.
This behaviour alienates Cameron as it has led him to have lost sight of his cultural heritage. As Cameron is in danger of being a shot an officer, Tom Hanson steps in and saves Cameron telling him to “go home. ” This is significant as home is where Cameron truly belongs with his wife. Cameron’s connection with his wife allows him to feel and be accepted for who he really is. This being said is a positive aspect of belonging. From what I have discussed so far it is clear that feeling and being accepted in society and being true to our own self-identity contributes to being able to belong.
But what if eternal forces such as other individuals or places are responsible for the alienation and isolation of others? The character of Jean, in ‘Crash,’ allows her prejudice views to get in the way of the isolation towards others of different race and her own happiness. Jean’s views on racism spiral out of control after two black men hijack her car and she is held at gunpoint. Jean’s unacceptance of others of different culture is shown when a Hispanic locksmith is called to change the locks on her front door.
She reacts by arguing with her husband over getting someone else to change the locks and insults the locksmith by referring to him as a ‘gang member,’ because of his shaven head and tattoos. Jean’s ability to judge the locksmith by appearance isolates him from what Jean thinks is acceptable to society. At the end of the movie Jean has an accident and falls down the stairs. Ironically it is her Hispanic housemaid, Maria who is the only one there for her. Jean re-evaluates herself as a person and how she treats other people. She also realises that her maid is the only true friend in her life. Do you want to hear something funny Maria? You’re the best friend I’ve got. ” In relation to an external force contributing to not being able to belong, the Hostel in Skrzynecki’s poem, ‘Migrant Hostel,’ is one that allows many to feel isolation and alienation. The hostel represents a barrier to connecting with the outside world. The line, “A barrier at the main gate/ Sealed off the highway,” creates a sense of entrapment for the migrants as they realise that they are separated from the rest of Australia as they are kept locked away in the hostel.
This creates a negative sense of belonging as the migrants, just like the Hispanic locksmith cannot belong to society due to the influence of external barriers not allowing them to belong. After considering the many influences that can cause a sense of positive and negative concepts of belonging, it is clear that not only can external barriers cause us not to belong but our cultural heritage and self-identity can also play a major part in whether or not. I hope many of you have taken into consideration into what it means to belong and how the importance of belonging can affect our happiness but most importantly our lives. Thank you.