The Fear of Monkeys - The Best E-Zine on the Web for Politically Conscious WritingThe White-Tufted Marmoset - Issue Fifteen
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The White-Tufted Marmoset, photo from Christian ArtusoThe White Tufted Marmoset is a New World primate who lives in the forests on the Atlantic coast of southeast Brazil. Of all the marmosets, they have the southernmost range. They have a grey-black skin, a touched tail and remarkable white ear-tufts which flop over more distinctly than the Common Marmoset's. They live in the coastal forests up to a sea-level of 500 m. They are diurnal and arboreal, living almost all of their life in the trees. They live together in small groups of two to eight animals. Their size ranges from only 14 to 18 centimeters and weigh around 400 grams. Their diet consists of tree sap, fruit, insects, eggs of birds, flowers and spiders. Common Marmosets have long limbs and tail which they use for climbing and have specially designed teeth for extracting gum from trees. Distinguishing characteristics of common marmosets include white ear tufts, and a white blaze on the forehead. Little is known about their reproductive patterns. Gestation is approximately 170 days and births are typically of twin offspring.


Commando, Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S Foreign Policy


Stephen Lee Naish

During the 1980’s American jingoism was at its most potent, due mostly to the flexing of political and economic muscles against the Soviet Union.  After a deep recession in the early eighties, the American economy bounded back with persistent growth throughout the decade and a dominance of popular culture, film, television, music and produce spread worldwide. America was thought to be the shining beacon and template of democracy and economic stability throughout the world. In Hollywood, producers and studios fell over themselves to provide the clearest outlook of American power.  Action films, the decade’s definitive film genre, portrayed American film stars as bulletproof, muscle-enhanced avenging angels. The decade’s two main action stars who were most representative of the decade were Austria-born, former Mr. Universe, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the son of Italian immigrants, Sylvester Stallone. Both were living embodiments of the American Dream, raising themselves from humble beginnings to conquer the entertainment industry and later, in Schwarzenegger’s case, the political landscape. America’s attitude towards foreign countries and its own foreign policy was echoed in eighties action movies like Stallone’s Rambo Trilogy (1982, 1985, 1988) and Schwarzenegger’s Commando (1986) and Predator (1987).  The suave assertion of these films was that despite various violent interventions against its perceived enemies, America remained irreproachable and its actions legitimate under the circumstance of foreigners ‘gone rogue.’ In these narratives, America had to be the player to put everyone to rights.  

In Commando Arnold Schwarzenegger plays retired Delta Force operative Colonel John Matrix.  Matrix and his teenage daughter Jenny live a secluded, peaceful life in the mountain ranges. That peace is shattered when Matrix’s former superior General Franklyn Kirby arrives by helicopter and informs him that his old military unit has been killed one by one.  Kirby leaves Matrix with two commandos as protection. As soon as Kirby’s helicopter is out of sight Matrix is attacked by hiding mercenaries.  Easily dispensing with the two commandos, the group of mercenaries kidnap Jenny.  Matrix gives chase, but is overcome and shot with a tranquilizer by one of his former-commando-buddies-turned-traitor, Bennett (Vernon Wells).  When he awakes in chains, his captor is revealed to be Arius (Dan Hedaya), a former dictator of fictional South American country Val Verde, who Matrix helped overthrow in a coup and install the country’s new leader President Velasco (itself a possible reference to José María Velasco Ibarra, five times president of Ecuador, or Juan Francisco Velasco Alvarado, the left-wing General and President of Peru who led a bloodless military coup to overthrow Fernando Belaúnde Terry in 1968).  With Matrix’s daughter in captivity, Arius blackmails him into assassinating President Valasco in order for Arius to return to power in a proposed military coup. Matrix reluctantly agrees to travel to Val Verde and kill the President, while Arius mockingly reminds Matrix of his friendship with Velasco, and the honourific of ‘hero of the revolution’ bestowed upon Matrix after the coup.  Arius deems it a fitting punishment that Matrix should have to destroy the regime he helped to create. However, in true hero fashion, just as he has boarded the plane for Val Verde, Matrix kills his chaperone, and jumps from the plane as it is taking off.  In the 11 hours before the plane arrives in Val Verde, Matrix sets about trying to find his daughter and kill former-dictator Arius.

There is little need to continue the narrative beyond this point.  This being an 1980’s American action film it is obvious that Matrix succeeds in his mission to rescue his daughter and dispense with the bad guys in an indiscriminately violent fashion (the entire military units of Arius army are dispassionately slaughtered, while Matrix murders Arius henchmen with careless one-liners).   This is typical of American action films of the Republican Reagan and Bush administrations.  The excessive use of indiscriminate force on screen reflects a broader self-justification for an invasive and domineering Foreign Policy in reality. The Reagan administration’s own doctrine orchestrated and supported uprisings against countries that had fallen under the spell of the communist Soviet Union.  The Reagan Doctrine was designed to weaken the global influence of the Soviet Union and to heighten the dominance of America during The Cold War, and Hollywood action films appear to have become the Republican's propaganda machine of choice.  

Although we know nothing solid about the fictional country of Val Verde, its use as a stereotypical South American template speaks volumes about American ignorance about Latin America and the desires of its peoples (the short glimpse of Val Verde is that of a typically poor and rundown market district patrolled by armed army officers, in the background we see posters of Arius with red cross scrawled over his face).  Although we assume that the former dictator Arius was not a popular or democratically elected leader (the fact that he wants to take the country back by force and has kidnapped Matrix’s daughter to do so would seem to support this), we can safely draw the conclusion that Arius was hugely unpopular with the American government.  So unpopular in fact that they authorized a delta force unit to help overthrow Arius and install a puppet leader who was friendly to American interests. This echoes all too much America’s history of intrusive foreign policy and its attempts to remove from power democratically elected or popular leaders.  

The most obvious examples of this from Latin America are that of Cuba and Chile.  Cuba was drawn into revolution from 1953 to 1959.  The populist movement was lead by the charismatic outspoken lawyer turned revolutionary Fidel Castro against the tyrannical US-backed Dictator Fulgencio Batista. Castro was hugely popular with the Cuban people who had suffered great hardships under Batista’s iron rule.  Their land had been pillaged by American corporations and capitalist greed, as well by the hedonistic tourists who lapped up the cheap booze and took advantage of the rampant prostitution and gambling. Cuba was seen as a playground for the exploitative elite.  All this changed with the revolution. Castro swept in with social programmes and land reforms which nationalised all foreign owned property within the first year in power, a move which brought into effect, and it remains to this day, an international trade embargo against Cuba.  Since the revolution, the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has attempted, unsuccessfully, over six hundred times to dispense of Castro in the most ingenious ways (exploding cigars) and have trained anti-Castro operatives to engage in acts of dissent and even full scale invasions, most famously the American backed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. 

In Chile, the democratically elected Marxist leader Salvador Allende shot himself in the head in 1973 as a US backed coup swept through the country, the foundations of which had been laid earlier by the Nixon/Kissinger administration just prior to his election victory in 1970.  The desire to keep communist influence at bay was of up most importance during The Cold War.

Although a figure such as Fidel Castro never rose to power democratically or through electoral politics as such, his popularity with the majority of Cuban people was enough to give him and his revolution legitimacy in the eyes of Cuba, its neighbours and the world.  Salvador Allende was a different case.  His democratic win was seen by the people of Chile as a step towards taking a truly independent path that would allow them to create their own future.  America's interference in Chile's political system meant that the military action to overthrow him drove the country to be ruled by a junta, lead by fascistic Dictator General Pinochet, whom after gaining power banned all left-wing parties and literature, and instigated a regime of terror that led to the total number of torture victims being approximately 40,018, including 3,065 killed for political reasons.(1)

Hollywood would like its audience to believe that its depiction of foreign intervention by the US government is righteous.  By using tired clichéd caricatures of bogus dictators, Hollywood paints a picture that it is acceptable to forcibly remove these supposed despots from power, and put a more moderate intern in their place.  In reality, this is rarely the case. As for Arnold Schwarzenegger, during the more liberal Clinton years, Schwarzenegger’s image softened somewhat, allowing, or pushing, him into starring in such comedies as Junior (1994) and Jingle all the Way (1996) as well as action parodies like Last Action Hero (1993). The return of the Republicans in 2000 with the narrow election victory of George W Bush saw Schwarzenegger revisit harder game with science fiction/action film End of Days (1999) and horror movie The Sixth Day (2000), and of course his third outing as the Terminator in Terminator: Rise of the Machines (2003).  By this point, however, Schwarzenegger’s acting days were coming to an end, yet his turn towards politics was perhaps the best performance of his career.  Merging his past characters repertoire of one-liners and his own charming personality, Schwarzenegger was elected to the role/position as the Republican Governor of California on November 17, 2003.  His macho persona was not toned down for his promotion to public office.

(1) Still Hidden: A Full Record Of What the U.S. Did in Chile, Peter Kornbluh, The Washington Post, Sunday 24 October 1999; Page B01

The writing of Stephen Lee Naish has appeared in the American arts and culture journals Gadfly Online, Empty Mirror, Scholardarity, Mungbeing and the Australian arts magazine Retort. He is currently editing a book about actor director Dennis Hopper, which will be published next year. He is British, but lives in Ontario, Canada with his wife Jamie and son Hayden. Find him online: Create or Die: The Lost Films of Dennis Hopper, the Tao of Steve and Email.
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