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The role of education and indoctrination in the movie "Blood Diamond"

In 2006, a movie by the name of “Blood diamond” was released which gained praise for telling a compelling story which reflected the turmoil in Sierra Leone. The film was lauded for the way it focused on child soldiers, their indoctrination and the interlinkages between these themes and education in the region. Accordingly, I am putting forth some of my thoughts on the movie in this post.

The movie follows two main characters: Danny Archer (a south African smuggler) and Solomon Vandy (a villager forced to work in the diamond mines). In the story, Archer is on a quest to find a rare stone left behind by Vandy, while Vandy’s quest sees him trying to find his son who has been abducted by the Revolutionary United Front (a rebel army that actually operated in Africa from 1999-2002). As said by the director, a man looking for a diamond and a man looking for his son provided an interesting juxtaposition: the child is the real jewel.

The movie starts with Vandy sending his son off to school, as he wishes for him to get an education. This is another sad reflection of the situation in Africa where parents wish this for their children but are unable to facilitate it due to constant conflict. His son gets kidnapped by the RUF and is made to stay in a facility with child soldiers so he may become like them. Although not explicitly stated, the facility resembles an abandoned school building, one where the classrooms are now being used to teach the children about violence, guns, and bloodshed. This is, of course, a theme we’ve greatly examined in our course as well.

The director also remarked that, in most countries, it is considered normal for young children to play with make-believe or toy guns. However, when filming in Mozambique with local child actors, such actions struck a chord as they represented a darker reality. Thus, the executives felt it necessary to consult psychologists for such scenes, and even had them present on set (with them doing work with parents and teachers).

By the end of the movie, we see Vandy reuniting with his son, only to find that the sweet school going boy is now a fully brainwashed child soldier, one who is pointing a gun at his own father, silently chanting the violent tunes taught to him in RUF classes. We also see something spectacular here. Vandy brings his son back to the light by reminding him of who he was, a young boy, not a young soldier, who loved going to school, attending classes, and playing soccer there with his friends. It was almost as if the message being conveyed was that, while conflict and education are linked, and one can lead to the other, they are both also the antithesis to each other, with education being seen as a sort of antidote against conflict.

One last interesting thing to note is that this movie had an ultimate goal of showing the child soldiers as what they truly are: impressionable children who don’t know any better. Apparently, it was meant to spark forgiveness in the region as many people still do not forgive previous child soldiers for their acts, which disallows them from being reintegrated into society and gaining an education or normalcy, let alone being given the chance to get their innocence back.

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To correlate Madrassah education in Pakistan with this movie, we can draw a parallel line to demonstrate the similar outcomes of both systems. In Pakistan, due to less economic capabilities, parents send their children to these madrasahs, where they receive free education, food, and "violence" as gifts. This madrassah educational mindset is opposed to western ideologies. It terms them as sin while solely focusing on Islamic teachings, which implicitly is just a way to incorporate Islamic extremism into these students. The contrary discussion happened in class, where sir mentioned that these madrasahs are reforming themselves and coping more with scientific education by passing the time. Still, according to the data and reports, although these madrasahs are reforming their educational textbooks,…

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I can draw a parallel between what you posted and the Swat conflict where young boyss that are brainwashed by the Taliban and used as pawns to advocate for their extremist agendas. Malala was attacked by a young boy. It breaks my heart to see young kids who could've done wonders waste their lives like this. But with that being said, it's pertinent that we note how education is also the tool that most perpetraters used to wreck havoc. It's double edged sword which must be used very carefully. However, the last point is a ray of hope, these children can go back to being who they were and maybe it is not a lost cause after all.

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Great post! You have gravely complicated the narrative many associate with child soldiers and their rehabilitation by absolving them of their autonomy, transforming them from mere instigators to actors, Your post argues that many of these children are ruthlessly indoctrinated, to the extent that they relinquish their sense of morality, operating as mere actors within the violent framework. In terms of the law, this introduces an interestingly humane factor, where they must be held in account for the actions they rendered but also be rehabilitated with the acknowledgement of their psychologically compromised sense of morality owing to intense indoctrination. The film, that the post reviews, is indeed conscious of this human lens yet it is guilty of many other ethical…

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The last point you made regarding ho many child soldiers aren't forgiven by people, curtailing their opportunities at reintegration. I would like to disagree slightly. I think the biggest obstacle to reintegration is the lack of psychological support provided to these kids. Many of these kids return as violent, and aggressive, they need proper support to help them reach a point where they can reintegrate.

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Your observation of child soldiers being impressionable reminded of a recurring thing in the movie where every African individual is racialised as either a mindless killer or a childlike noble savage and feeble victim. The aspect of being impressionable isn’t only limited to children in general; there is a layer of racism to it where you see people of colour exclusively lacking that agency to rationalise their actions. This then leads to the incorporation of the white saviour further diminishing the limited agency these individuals are shown to have.

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