Sociologists argue that all human beings – regardless of the culture they grow up in – are shaped and molded by their immediate surroundings and the people they encounter. To demonstrate this, they focus on the processes of socialization, which refers to the lifelong social experience by which people develop their human potential and learn culture. What is most important here is the recognition that although the actual content of each culture that is being learned – the cultural beliefs, values, attitudes, norms, customs and traditions – might be different, the processes through which this learning occurs is fundamentally the same.
In what follows, I will illustrate this main point by examining the portrayal of three children growing up along the Gaza strip in the movie “Death in Gaza. ” Through an analysis of the experiences of Ahmed and his best friend Mohammud – two twelve year old boys – and Najla – a sixteen year old girl – I will indicate how the process of socialization they experienced is no different from the one I have experienced half a world away in the United States. Sociologists use various concepts to guide their analysis of the socialization process.
Here I shall discuss five: looking-glass self, role models, primary groups, significant others, and reference groups. Although it may certainly change over one’s lifetime, all people develop a self-image. To indicate the process through which this typically occurs, Charles Horton Cooley introduced the term looking-glass self. According to Cooley this is a term for a self-image based on how we think others see us. What we think of ourselves depends on how we think others see us. This is clearly seen in the film. I think in the video Ahmed believes he is not just a little boy, he wants to become a soldier for his country.
So he believes others must see him not just a little boy but a soldier. An example of this term for Najla in the film would be maybe she thinks everyone just sees her as another woman, so she feels insignificant during these hard times as she is just another girl. The looking-glass self can also be applied to my experiences. A personal example of the term looking-glass self for me is that I believe that others think I am quiet and shy , therefor I think I am quiet and shy. It is certainly the case that some people’s opinions matter more than others, and to explore this fact, George Herbert Mead introduced the term significant others.
Mead defined this as people, such as parents, who have special importance for socialization. In the film, Ahmed and Najla both grew up with parents as significant others. Even though the role of a parent may differ in their culture, they were still able to learn from their parents while growing up. Significant others have shaped my life as well. In my life my mother and father also acted as my significant others. Playing mommy and daddy when I was younger taught me how to view the world from a parents point of view. Another term that sociologists use that focuses on the impact of other individuals is role-models.
This term is more restrictive than significant others in that it refers to a person who serves as a model in a particular behavioral or social role for another person to emulate. An example from the film of Ahmed’s possible role models could be the soldiers fighting for his country, in the film you see Ahmed a little boy hanging out with soldiers and weapons. Ahmed even tells us that he wants to be a soldier just like them. A role model for Najla may be women a little older and more experienced then her who have had to deal with living life the way they do, losing so many family members in tragic ways.
She may look up to those other women to see how they handle loss of family members and women’s roles in that culture during times like those. Role-models have been important in my life, too. When I played softball at a younger age my role model was Olympic pitcher Cat Osterman. I wished someday I could pitch for the Olympic team just like her. Social groups constitute one of the most important concepts that sociologists apply to examine how people are molded and why they act the way that they do. There are various types of groups, each with different attributes and functions.
A primary group is a small social group whose members share personal and lasting relationships. An example for Ahmed and Najla would be their groups of friends that are having to live in the same conditions and cultures as them. These friends are in the same age group and can relate on a personal level. Primary groups also have and continue to play an important part in my life. My close friends that I have kept even transitioning into college would be an example of my primary group. We all know how life is for a college student, were all the same age and can relate on many things and we’ve had a lasting relationship.
Reference groups are also quite important. By reference group, sociologists are referring to a social group that serves as a point of reference in making evaluations and decisions. We use reference groups to evaluate the relative worth or desirability of our appearance, thoughts, feelings, and behavior and to judge the appropriateness of our appearance and behavior. An example for Ahmed could be the soldiers for his country. Ahmed will compare his appearance and behave as the soldiers do. Najla’s reference group could also be other girls in her city. She observes how they appear and how they act and she compares herself to them.
For me, junior high could be an example where reference groups took place. I would compare myself to the “cool kids” from how they dressed, their thoughts on different things, and their overall behavior. As has been indicated in the preceding paragraphs, the processes through which individuals are socialized are universal. The developmental issues related to childhood and adolescence include the importance of play, friendships, the development of identity, the cognitive vulnerability of children and adolescents (their susceptibility to propaganda). In the film you can see all these issues taking place in Ahmad’s and Najla’s lives.
Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. While our culture here in America we think of play as playing with dolls or playing “house”, but in the culture along the Gaza Strip differs from ours. Ahmed played with his friends by throwing rocks at tanks and seeing who had the best arm. The role friendships play throughout life is important. Friendships for children provide numerous important functions including companionship, stimulation, physical support, ego-support, social comparison and intimacy, and affection.
Ahmed has a best friend named Mohammud, who is like a brother to him. Ahmed stated that if Mohammud were to die he would want to die right after. This statement shows what an important role friendship can provide for children. During the teen years, young people struggle to establish their own identity. Teens identify with others but also want to be unique. In the film it appears to me that Ahmed never really has a chance to truly find his own identity because of the culture he is being brought up in.
As a young boy he knows he is going to grow up to be a soldier and fight for his country and his future is already planned out for him. There is a high concern when it comes to children being exposed to violence via mass media. Mass media can shape how we think and children are sucked into propaganda. Children in the film like Ahmed are surrounded by violence and war propaganda daily. As seen in the film you can tell that people dying is not shocking or disturbing to the children anymore because they are so used to that kind of violence.