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The Magdalene Sisters - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2004-09-20 15:48
The Magdalene Sisters
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upsetupset
Last night I saw The Magdalene Sisters, a film about the Magdalene "asylums" (convents and laundry facilities) in Ireland. We also watched the documentary on which the movie was based - "Sex in a Cold Climate" - afterward. It appears that all the events in the movie really happened, though names, dates, and details were changed slightly. Girls and women could be sent to the Magdalene asylums by their families, orphanages, etc. to "repent" for their sexual sins - including prostitution, sex out of wedlock, rape, or even just being pretty or flirtatious - with slave labor in laundry facilities. They were completely cut off from the outside world and had to endure physical, psychological, and sexual abuse at the hands of the nuns and priests. And there was no hope of accountability or retribution. Some girls who escaped were dragged back by their families, who wanted nothing to do with their fallen daughters. One of the main characters who was raped by a cousin was sent there after she told her family, in order to prevent the spread of the accusation and the shaming of the family. (This reminds me of my grandma's brother who bled to death at 18 from a stab wound inflicted in a fight, but was said to have died in a "farm accident." The family wanted to avoid the gossip of the insular German community around them. The murderer was never accused.)

Throughout the movie, I kept thinking of the famous Stanford prison experiment, where ordinary people became monsters or captives when randomly assigned as "guards" or "inmates" in an experimental setting. It amazes and disgusts me that the same psychological torture tactics have been reinvented again and again by those who have power over others and no accountability for their actions.

Throughout the movie, I also kept thinking about the corruptibility of religious institutions. The Catholic Church has been famous for it over the centuries, but it seems that most churches, with their unquestioned power hierarchies, their reliance on blind faith, and their influence over communities, would be prone to it. The Catholic Church in Ireland had created, in a way, the perfect conservative society, where they were the ultimate authority in people's lives and where there was no safety net like welfare for those who didn't or couldn't live up to social norms.

(Speaking of conservative societies, I wanted to mention this fabulous post about all the things like welfare that liberals have fought for, but that many now take for granted.)

The events portrayed happened in the forties and fifties, and the last Magdalene asylum wasn't closed until 1996. The women on whom the characters in the movie were based are contemporaries of my parents or grandparents. Somehow atrocious actions seem more "reasonable" if they happened long ago (the whole world was more backward then, and women didn't have much of any rights until recently, right?), but this was happening in my lifetime and in a "developed" country. Sometimes people wish they had lived in some historical era, but I wouldn't want to live in any other time, and there are few other places I'd want to live even now. Never before could I have enjoyed this level of freedom, the relative absence of sexual double-standards, the ability to speak my mind, and the ability speak out against abuse with the possibility of justice - and there are many places in the world where I still couldn't.

I highly recommend the movie, but note that it could be triggering for those who have experienced abuse themselves. There's a rape in the opening scene.
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tobo
nibot
2004-09-21 00:35 (UTC)
(no subject)
wasn't it Zimbardo's prison experiment?
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2004-09-21 01:22 (UTC)
(no subject)
Whoops, my bad! I was confusing it with Milgram's shock experiments.
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shallwedance_
shallwedance_
2004-09-22 04:14 (UTC)
(no subject)
Thank you for your post (especially the A Day in the Life of Joe Republican). Thought provoking, as always. I suppose I used to (still?) identify with the right is that: 1) I'm from Texas, and it comes with a certain mindset. 2) No one in the previous generation of my family living in the US, despite being immigrants, has a unionized job, or depends on welfare or social security. Nor do they intend to. On the other hand, we have made use of student loans and medical plans and safe food and clean air... I suppose the problem is that life isn't so black and white. While we support many progressive policies and regulations and would kick if the above benefits were taken away (and heaven forbid if some repressive society like the one in The Magdalene Sisters is installed; Taiwanese understand that very well with China breathing down their necks), when it comes to whether the government knows better than we do how to spend our money, my parents wonder why a third of their paycheck is taken away, most of which they (and their children, and their children's children...) will never see again.
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2004-09-22 06:14 (UTC)
(no subject)
"Never see again" is relative. Consider the roads, transit, parks, public facilities, universities, medical centers, infrastructure (water, electricity, sewage, etc.), and more all around you - you're seeing "your tax dollars at work." Same for student loans, research grants, and other more intangible benefits of government spending. Of course, I've read that about half of one's taxes go to military spending, much of which I'd rather not support.

I'm all for the prudent spending of tax dollars. It doesn't seem like the current Republican administration has been spending very prudently, though.
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Kris
anemone
2004-10-03 13:14 (UTC)
(no subject)
I believe it's less than half of one's taxes. The biggest chunk is social security, welfare, and retirement spending.

Ah, wait. This tells me:
http://www.federalbudget.com/
Top three expenditures. Health and human servies, defense, interest
For 2003: 510/460/380 billion
2004 Budget: 540/420/390 billion
(does not include social security payments)

The next smallest is department of agriculture at 90 billion, total is around 1600. (I think.) (Some things are off budget, which makes it hard to know if a total includes an off budget thing or not)

A more detailed web site, with different numbers. (I suppose it all depends on how you count these things):
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2004/hist.html
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shallwedance_
shallwedance_
2004-10-03 18:53 (UTC)
(no subject)
Of course, I've read that about half of one's taxes go to military spending, much of which I'd rather not support.

Based off of this statement from congress conference committee, mainly pages 4-6, out of a budget of ~$2.3 trillion, $460 billion goes to function 050 National Defense, half (according to the White House) of which goes to R&D. I don't like wasting money on finding better ways to kill people as much as the next person, but just to show there's two sides to every coin, some of these technologies have found their uses in the civilian sector such as GPS (though it took Clinton to authorize civilian use of the more precise military channels) and weather radar.

In comparison, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security add up to $1 trillion. And whereas the defense budget is projected to increase $20 billion (~5%) in the next 4 years, the above 3 will grow $330 billion (about a third relative, and two-thirds of the projected military budget). That scares me.

It doesn't seem like the current Republican administration has been spending very prudently, though.

I will have to agree with you there.
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Kris
anemone
2004-10-03 12:53 (UTC)
(no subject)
Before the US had social security, old people were suffering because they didn't have enough to live off of. They were too old to work, and their children couldn't/didn't/wouldn't support them. I'm not terribly happy having old people (or any people, really) starve to death, even if I can say "It's your fault because you weren't saving." And I don't think that if the US reduced social security taxes that that money would go into private retirement saving.

As for welfare, I don't feel the need to give give money to those who can work but won't. But I don't want their children to starve. The children are innocent. There are ways around this besides welfare (taking children from mothers), but they also have downsides (defining "too poor to keep children" and where to you put the children?).
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shallwedance_
shallwedance_
2004-10-03 19:18 (UTC)
(no subject)
I'm not against helping the poor and unfortunate; that is one of the duties of a responsible modern government. What irks me is that, in the world's richest country where most people are able to save for their own retirement, they instead spend to their limit because they know the government will give them a handout later on, in effect saying it's okay to be irresponsible, even when it comes to your future financial security. Back in the old days when people were ashamed that they were not self-sufficient and had to turn to the government to survive, but the Great Depression and New Deal changed all that. We're not in the depression any more, but people who put money into these programs expect to reap some of the rewards when they come of age, so the programs will propagate from generation to generation. This wouldn't be so bad if the system was fair, but I believe most people do not get as much money out as they put in to begin with.

And I don't think that if the US reduced social security taxes that that money would go into private retirement saving.

Ay, there's the rub.
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ex_kittybutl858
2004-10-18 02:08 (UTC)
(no subject)
I hope you don't mind but I added you to my friends list. I really like how your mind sifts through your life and I just found myself reading almost everything you've written recently.

I saw that film and thought as you did that it was excellent, depressing, horrifying and also a really good reason for organized religion to constantly be at its own heals for the horrors it perpetrates unwillingly through its loss of reality.
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