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Provincialism

Provincialism is defined by Collins Dictionary as the narrowness of mind or outlook, lack of sophistication (Collins Dictionary). Raised in a specific environment and culture, people sometimes do not see the diversity of things surrounding them, the essence of these things. They acknowledge only one side of an idea or concept, forgetting that there can be more, not going deep into details. This narrow-mindedness can lead to certain problems in communication with other people of a different race, culture, language, religion, and even age (Clark 27). The impediments of provincialism in people’s lives can be followed from their attitude to people of different social groups to the evidence of total misunderstanding and lack of an attempt to interpret another way of thinking. Provincialism is also an appreciation of one’s beliefs over another as if there was only one right way of thinking. This irrational approach can lead to problems not only on the local level but on the international as well. That is how wars are started. Provincialism can be seen even in the government that sends its troops to fight for the suggested ideas while pursuing its own beneficial goals and not understanding that the price to pay can be extremely high and unjustified.

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In the context of the film Three Kings, provincialism can be seen in the two aspects. The first one concerns the racial question, the disrespect of a different race by the characters, and their ignorance regarding another culture. The second one touches upon the incomprehension and wrong evaluation of life values, emphasizing the prevailing self-interest over the real problem. The four characters of the film are the American soldiers at the end of the Gulf War. None of them has ever seen the real war before, and they all are longing for an adventure. When Troy Barlow and Conrad Vig find a map with the indicated bunkers full of billions, they start a venture together with Chief Elgin and Major Archie Gates. The thirst for easy money drives them.

Major Archie Gates is a loyal person having the highest rank of major among four of them. He is the most experienced one of the characters, but he is a self-centered person stuck in his own beliefs. Being a bright example of provincialism as appreciation and wrong evaluation of life’s values, Major Gates preaches the necessity of one to be the main value in life, rejecting other versions as impossible. It was he, who assured the three doubting soldiers to go for gold. Making the gold hunt his main goal, he ignores the people in need they meet in the Iraqi village. The sudden shot in the Iraqi woman’s head and Archie Gates’ reaction to it signify the inevitable changes in the course of the film and Major Gates’ mindset. The moment, when his head falls on the steering wheel, he forgets everything he taught his companions before about not interfering. Another person comes to negotiate with the Iraqi soldiers; thus, proclaiming justice. He is ready to fight for innocent people’s lives. He is overcoming the impediments of provincialism gradually. From the time, he has to close a deal with the Iraqi rebels to rescue his companion from captivity, probably because of the responsibility he feels for Troy, to his refusal of all gold to help the Iraqi people to pass the border.

Conrad Vig is the youngest and the most ignorant among the main characters. He is also the most subject to the herd instinct, ready to obey the leader whatever he is told to do, but that also shows his loyalty and respect to his companions. Conrad’s partisan mindset is in his attitude to warfare as something unreal, like a videogame. He is longing for adventure and just of being bored makes explosives of footballs and is excited to see the cow’s explosion at the beginning of the film. Conrad is prejudiced towards other nations; his manner of speech and the use of slang swearwords is disrespectful both to his Afro-American companion and to the Iraqi people. His mindset changed when the Iraqi rebels save the characters and lead them to the tunnel. There Conrad’s stereotypes begin to fall. First, when he is lying wounded, the Iraqi people nurse him. He learns about the Muslim religious customs, sees the burial which leaves a deep imprint in his mind. He is told that this ceremony helps the departed to get to Heaven, that is why when dying at the end of the film, Conrad asks to be taken to the Muslim shrine. Second, when the characters unite with the Iraqi rebels to save Troy from captivity, Conrad shows his provincialism in the conversation with the Iraqi people. He thought that the Iraqi hated the Americans because of the start of the war, but they turned out to be ordinary people that wanted their lives to be usual. That is when soldier Vig understands that the Iraqi people are equal to them, and there is no place for prejudices.

Troy Barlow is a typical example of a leader among the soldiers in his camp. His language, as well as Conrad’s, is disrespectful towards the Arabic nation, but he is not that prejudiced. He has a family, so when going on the gold hunt he is driven not only by simple greed but also by a necessity to provide his family with money. However, his narrow-mindedness is clearly seen in his attitude to the Iraqi rebels and their families, which he ignores in their pleadings for help. Though being a leader in his environment, Troy becomes a part of a herd mind during this venture guided by Major Gates. Everything changes for Troy Barlow when he is captured by the Iraqi soldiers. He is tortured by the Iraqi man, Said, who tells Troy the story of how he has lost his family during the bombing. The American soldier sympathizes with his torturer, as he imagines what could happen to him in this case. Troy understands that in war everyone is equal. Troy’s provincialism is shown in his answer to Said on the reasons for the war. He blindly believes that the war aims are of making peace in the world and saving Kuwait from invaders. The torturers laugh at him and put the real reason into his mouth. That is the moment when Troy’s mindset changes completely. Troy does not kill his torturer, thus, showing the grown humane attitude towards his enemy and implying that revenge is not a way out.  He overcame the impediments of provincialism becoming more aware of the people around him, understanding that the Iraqi people also had families which were unreasonably killed or oppressed during the war. He refused his gold together with Chief Elgin and Archie Gates to help the Iraqi rebels to gain their freedom.

The main characters in Three Kings overcome their prejudices toward the Arabic nation, break provincial views through acting together with the Iraqi people in the struggle for justice and human rights against oppression and cruelty. The murder of an innocent Iraqi woman breaks the herd instinct of the soldiers. The life values of the characters change gradually during the whole film.

Provincialism is a great obstacle on the way to understanding other people. Narrow-mindedness can affect people’s decisions and lead to global problems and even wars. Provincialism can be broken through broadening one’s views and beliefs, as well as empathizing with other people.

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