Thursday, June 2, 2016

Response #3

The Lord of the Flies is a novel by William Golding consists of a group of boys abandoned on an island due to a plane crash that was shot during a war.  They are forced to try and survive while living on that island. However trouble begins to brew up when people decide to try and take control and set their own form of rules, however not everyone chooses to abide by them. The main character of the novel, Ralph, was trying different tactics in order to try and help summon ships in order for them to be saved off of that island. But it seems that the other boys were just trying to enjoy life on the island without any adults being with them. Ralph also elected another boy named Jack to be in charge of hunting food so that they may survive. Jack unfortunately was able to open the rest of the boys to a savage type of nature where they hunt and kill for the fun of it. With the fact that each of the boys had their own ideas, their “utopia” was never going to last. Ralph wanted to deal with things in a more peaceful matter as opposed to Jack who did things more aggressively. So since Jack was more aggressive with things, the boys feared him more causing them to want to stand by his side and remain on his good side. Jack plays a role kind of similar to most governments. Since they have such a great amount of power over their citizens people succumb to follow their rules and do whatever they could to be okay. When people have different opinions trouble is bound to brew among them. In a way it is like a war was going on within a war. Since they were all on an island that they didn’t have no rules to follow or no adults to listen to they felt that things would be easy to deal with and it would be the perfect place to stay in. However it seems that once there are disputes, it causes the boys to attack each other. People were either killed intentionally through attacks of the boys savage behavior or through means of trying to defend themselves. What started out so innocent and peaceful, turned into a brutal bloodbath. This novel is able to portray how when people have free will in what they desire it leads into nothing but destruction. These boys were open to do as they please but they were not able to have full control of maintaining order within their group. If things like this could happen amongst young children, how would things have been different if there were adults present? Or if there were adults stuck on the island instead of young boys? Everyone has a mind of their own and when they feel strongly about something they would hold on to how they feel and abide by it. If they are confident enough about how they feel and develop the power to do what they please,  they will go through any means necessary to enforce their beliefs.

Non Book Review

The TV show Lazy Town is a show where there are people that live there and are just lazy and don’t do anything with themselves but sit around and watch TV, eat junk food, sleep and play games. There is a mayor who is in charge of the town, and most of the town consists of children. To them this is a wonderful utopia where they don’t have to worry about doing anything and they can just do as they please without doing any work and or being active. However, things take a toll when a young girl named Stephanie moves there and tries to change things up. She clearly originated from a place where people were active, and didn’t stay inside in front of a screen all day and ate healthy. Most of the people living their weren’t so fond of her wanting to change things up especially the antagonist of the show, Robbie Rotten who insists that the people of Lazy Town remain lazy. With assistance from the superhero Sportacus, she was able to work together with him in order to get the people of Lazy Town to be more active with their lives.
            This show portrayed similar traces of how people act in society today. They would rather be cooped up inside their homes watching television and playing video games; being absorbed by technology and not fully exploring things that surround them. They live unhealthy lifestyles where all they eat is junk food and sweets. While they do feel that this is the best way to live it is actually hurting them in terms of health and building their knowledge. However it is until they meet Stephanie they are opened to a new door of activities and a different outlook on life. Throughout the show, she continues to push them on becoming better people. Ignorance plays such an important role in many different societies. People are born into the type of society they live and are unaware of things outside of their comfort zone or at least what their leader/government allows them to know of. In various utopias, most of the time they feel it is better to set a specific lifestyle that they feel will not cause people to rebel or cause chaos. But it seems to be that they fail to realize that the more you hinder information from people after a certain amount of time they become curious as to what else exists behind their world. This is what causes changes within a society and cause them to take action against their government and people. On the other hand, there are people that are so accustomed to their lifestyle that they would hate for anyone to come and ruin it because they feel “content” with their way of life. For example, in the show, the antagonist Robbie Rotten tries by any means to stop Stephanie and Sportacus from making changes. He felt that everything was fine just the way it was before they came around. He enjoyed the peace and quiet and not having to worry about doing anything and just being lazy. He tries different tactics to get rid of them or even try to persuade them to change their ways of the “lazy life”.

            Ignorance really has an effect on people especially when they are living a life that has their own set of norms. All it takes is one person to want to make a change in order to make their way of life more enjoyable and worth living. Majority of the time people are actually curious as to what exists outside of their world but are not bold enough to take action to discover it. Sometimes it is difficult to all of a sudden make changes to what you’re accustomed to, but sometimes change is also a good thing. And you will never know how effective it may be to your life unless you give it a try. 

Review of Vonnegut’ s “2 B R 0 2 B”

“2 B R 0 2 B” by Kurt Vonnegut takes place in Chicago after the cure for all diseases and aging has been discovered. The only law in this society was that for every baby born, one had to volunteer his or her own life. Edward Wehling was told that he needed to choose which one out of three triplets born was to live because he only had one volunteer. Instead, he shot the inventor of the first gas chamber, a notable member of the bureau of termination, and himself so all four of the others can live. 
“2 B R 0 2 B” (Pronounced: to be or ‘naught’ to be) was written in 1962, six years before publishing a collection of his works, Welcome to the Monkey House. The society portrayed appears utopian: there was no disease, poverty, or crime. The society valued a fruitful life, for those that lived in it truly wanted to. If one wished to die, there were advertisements by the bureau of termination with the phone number 2 B R 0 2 B; which would arrange an appointment to receive government-controlled assisted suicide with a variety of different gas chambers. Among the names of gas chambers included: “Easy-Go,”“Good-by, Mother,”“Happy Hooligan,”“Kiss-me-quick,”“Weep-no-more”, and “Why Worry?
            Like other works of Vonnegut such as “Welcome to the Monkey House” and “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”, “2 B R 0 2 B” takes place in a futuristic America where overpopulation is caused by medical and technological advancements that prevent people from aging or getting sick. What is unique in “2 B R 0 2 B”, however, is in the way that  government remedies this epidemic-by only allowing life to be had at the cost of one’s own life, and so the population is capped at 40 million people. This is pivotal to the society’s dystopian values, the most prominent being the rise of government control at the cost of individuality.
            In this futuristic Chicago, there are no prisons, no slums, no poverty, no war, and no disease. People can reproduce and create a family, however, there can only be new life if someone is willing to take their own. In the story, Edward Wehling, is awaiting news regarding the birth of his first child. When Dr, Hintz, the man who designed the first government-issue gas chambers, tells a gas chamber hostess that triplets were born, she exclaims “Triplets!” due to the legal implications of such. Whelming seems less-than-thrilled at the news of three healthy babies being born, and says sarcastically to Hintz “All I have to do is pick out which one of the triplets is going to live, then deliver my maternal grandfather to the Happy Hooligan, and come back here with a receipt.” This is highlighting the fact that human life is essentially meaningless and objectified in this society. Dr. Hintz tried to reason with him, confused as to why the decision was so difficult for him. Wehling shot Dr. Hitz dead, saying "there's room for one—a great big one,” He then shot the gas chamber hostess, saying "It's only death, there! Room for two.” Finally, he shot himself, making room for all three of his children. Nobody came running, and seemingly nobody heard the shots. Perhaps this was a way to imply that this isnt the first time that this has happened.
Another take on the suppression or devaluing of individuality is in self-expression. There is art and song in this society, however, they cater to the government's message and are in tribute to the gas chambers. There is an artist painting a mural on the wall of the hospital waiting room entitled “The Happy Garden of Life”, which featured important people on either the hospital stff or from the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Termination. When complimented on it, the painter says that the artwork is not how he views life himself, and tells her that he isn't proud of it, calling it a daub. He later references a foul drop cloth as his view of life saying “Frame that, and you'll have a picture a damn sight more honest than this one." Also, the song that the hospital orderly was singing went as:
If you don't like my kisses, honey,
Here's what I will do:
I'll go see a girl in purple,
Kiss this sad world toodle-oo.
If you don't want my lovin',
Why should I take up all this space?
I'll get off this old planet,
Let some sweet baby have my place.

This highlights the government control over the individual on a personal and subconscious level, there is a total repression of individuality and well-being when the reality of promoted suicide come into play. The only type of self-expression that was not controlled directly by the government was in the act of Wehling killing the doctor, the hostess, and himself. While the reasoning behind the murder/suicide was due to government reign, because it was outside of the government's control, it could be seen as Edwards protest against the society at large, and a final expression of his right to control his own fate. While it wasn’t said explicitly, this is also was a way to save his grandfather from being subject to the system, and forcing Dr. Hintz and the gas chamber hostess to be pawns in the population control they implement and speak highly of.

Dystopian Movie Review: I, Robot

            Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot was one of the first works to talk about the coexistence of humans and robots. His book inspired the idea of roboethics and the question of responsibility in creating artificial intelligence. In a series of 9 short stories, Asimov highlights the potential benefits and consequences of Robotics interacting with humans on an intimate level, which was developed into a movie in 2004. “I, Robot” is very different that I, Robot, however, the potential consequences of robots knowing more than humans, thus superseding them as a race is very much apparent. However, the movie adaptation highlights more dystopian views compared to the book.
            The movie is centered on the death of Dr. Lannings, the father of robotics. His death appeared to be suicide; however, a holographic message left by him to Detective Del Spoon specifically leads to another reality entirely.  As Spooner continues investigating Lannings’ death, his negative feelings regarding robots evolved from fluke, to an exposure of a full-fledged robot-driven society, leaving humans in the dust. Dystopian elements of “I, Robot” include corporate greed, use of propaganda, a scorning of individual thought on normative practices, and society becoming controlled and enslaved by technological advancement.
            Lawrence Robertson, the CEO of United States Robotics (USR) is relentlessly pursuing his dream of having a robot in every home, and it is very clear throughout the movie that he would stop at nothing to ensure that his dream became a reality. Robertson’s blind greed and human detachment came to light when Spooner was questioning him about Lannings’ death, for he fell from his office window at USR Headquarters. Robertson seemed unmoved, simply concerned about his time, and treating Lannings’ death as a trivial inconvenience. Robertson also makes the interrogation widely difficult by bringing on various lawyers, as well as hide and later push for the decommission of Sonny, the one robot who seemingly has “feelings”, and apparently had something to do with Lannings’ death, and has been giving Spooner insights. Roberts eventually commits suicide himself, when the consequences of putting people at risk for the sake of his profits manifests itself, and he becomes a prisoner of his own product.
The new line of humanoid robots, NS-5, comes alongside the slogan“Three Laws Safe.” These three laws refer to the laws of robotics, which are:
1.     A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2.     A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3.     A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws

It is claimed that every robot has these three laws encrypted into their hardware, and further enforcing that they are made to serve and help humans. In old recordings of Lannings, he foreshadows the day that robots evolve. This, of course, instilled doubt in robotics, so, USR created the slogan “Three Laws Safe”, which essentially works as propaganda. This slogan leads to the human race blindly trusting these robots to come into their homes, run their errands, and be their companions. For example, in the movie, there is a scene where Spooner sees a robot running with a purse. Under the impression that the robot had potentially stolen it, he begins to chase the robot down the street, commanding it to drop the purse and stop running, to be ignored. After he’s followed and tackled the robot t the ground, the woman who is now holding the bag tells Spooner that the robot was running to return the purse for her because she had asthma and needed her inhaler. This was a direct reflection of how this trust in the three laws allowed humans to put all of their trust in their robot companions, enough that they began to trust robots more than humans, even police.  While the idea of having a robot doing essentially anything for you is promising and positive, this advancement in technology ultimately hinders the human race instead of helping them. The trust that USR created with the three laws made it easier to control the population and convince the general public that USR had their best interest in mind, when in fact, they didn’t.
            The problem outlined in “I, Robot” lies in the fact that robots used logic to evolve and change the rules, while still technically following them. Thus, technology began to control and manipulate the human race. For example, Det. Spooner doesn't trust robots due to an incident involving a car accident: His car and the car that hit him had driven off of the bridge into the lake. Spooner was saved by a robot, who used logic in choosing to save an officer instead of child because they were more valuable to society at large, and the child drowned [I thought it was because it was more likely for Spooner to survive than the girl, am I misremembering that?]. Spooner goes on to say that a human wouldn’t do that, that a human would have known to save the child. Another problem lies in the fact that Robertson’s powerful Artificial Intelligence, VICKI, had ultimate control over the manufacturing of robots. This gave it the ability to alter the NS-5s hardware and enable them to receive commands given by VICKI.  Thus, when the idea of “a robot in every home” came to be a reality, every robot in these homes were compromised by VICKI's alterations. As a result, a robot-centered society came to be. Robots told their humans that they cannot allow them to leave their homes in compliance with rule 2, claiming that leaving the house could but the human in danger. So the human race became enslaved and inferior to their robot companions.

            The most apparent dystopian value seen in “I Robot” in compliance with other works read over the course of this semester is in the fact that Spooner was scorned for his disagreement with societal norms. When Spooner warns the FBI about the potential dangers of robotics, he ultimately loses his job because his boss fears that he has lost his mind.  Spooner’s noncompliance makes his investigation all the more difficult. VICKI even catches on to his doubts and progression in his investigation, and orders robots to try to kill him throughout the movie. Spooner possesses the qualities of a dystopian protagonist: He questions the existing norm and other societal systems, he inherently feels that there is something very wrong with society’s current state, and, through his perspective, helps to bring these negative aspects to light.

Personal Response to Harrison Bergeron

            In Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” America has reached complete and absolute equality.  Equality is something that so many people fight for, but at the end of the day, remains something that you must earn yourself. The problem with people fighting for equality is that they expect for it to be given to them by the government, rather than something of value that you feed yourself by your actions. That is the exact equality, I think, that is being portrayed in Harrison Bergeron.
Just to clarify: I believe that the government should make things accessible to all people, but accessibility is only sometimes, not always, included in “equality”. For example, there is a pay gap between men and women. It’s been proven, though, that women tend to be less inclined to ask for a raise compared to men, or undercut their desired salary on an application. It’s important for people to ask for things, and it's important for people to say no to things. It’s important for people to value themselves and their time, and to stop being concerned with what everyone else is doing or getting that they aren’t getting themselves. It’s about taking responsibility for your own life, because when you turn to others to make decisions about your life, a possible outcome is the outline set up in Harrison Bergeron. The government took it upon themselves to ensure that every person was exactly equal to one another. This leads to a society that hindered human potential, for we don’t want anyone to feel “lesser.” I think it’s important to feel lesser, because it makes you better.
I used to attend Westminster Choir College (Yes, choir-like singing-college) before transferring to Brooklyn College. I was pursuing my dream of becoming a music teacher, one that I had fostered since the age of eight, when I was diagnosed with a Vocal Cyst after my first semester. It was an untreatable condition, and it required me to undergo two vocal surgeries, and 3 years of vocal therapy that I still undergo. My point with this is that I was given an unequal opportunity to pursue my dream, for some reason that I will never understand. No one felt more out of place than me, the singer attending Choir College who couldn't sing. I have only recently, after three years, started to be okay with what happened. I did the whole “life isn’t fair” and “Why me?” thing before quickly learning that it was getting me nowhere. I did less comparing, and more decision-making. I allowed that feeling of “lesser” to fuel me, because I am so much better than being defined by a handicap.  After confronting the fact that I would have to undergo another surgery, I decided to transfer to Brooklyn College to pursue a degree in Speech-Language Pathology. The biggest reason being: I want to do everything in my power to ensure that singers have the education necessary to prevent them from enduring the same things that I did.
There are tons of people who find comfort in seeing others struggle at the peak of adversity, because they think “now I’m not alone in this! We’re all in this together!” No, we aren't, and we should not be. Harrison is the epitome of “You do you,” and I think that moment of “clarity” in society that was quickly followed by his death was his way of making his life purposeful despite his handicaps, similar to my plans to make mine purposeful do by healing singers with vocal issues.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Adam & Eve

The story of Adam and Eve depicts the utopian Garden of Eden, and its eventual collapse. No other piece of utopian literature from this course explicitly shows how ignorance and a lack of knowledge are vital to the continuation of a utopia’s success quite as clearly as this one. It was only until Eve ate the forbidden fruit, representing the knowledge of good and evil, that the utopian Garden of Eden fell. Largely in utopian literature, knowledge is either denied or heavily regulated, and even this short excerpt from the Bible is no different.
            In this story, the very first thing God says to Adam after creating him is in an effort to prevent him from acquiring knowledge. God says not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge, however, God lies and says the fruit will kill him. This is very reminiscent of modern utopian literature in that not only does the ruler attempt to censor knowledge, but He is also lies about why Adam shouldn’t eat from the tree, to further thwart him from obtaining that knowledge.
Later on in the story, the serpent tricks Eve into eating the fruit from the tree, thus providing her with the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent says God lied to her because gaining knowledge would make her more like Him. This is important because with each utopia, there is always a hierarchy and uneven displacement of power. In order for those with the most power and control to remain in that position, they must ensure that everyone within the utopia remains powerless and/or ignorant. In Genesis, God tries to keep Adam and Eve ignorant and powerless by telling them that they will die if they attain any knowledge.
Upon finding that they have eaten the forbidden fruit, God recognizes that Adam and Eve are now His intellectual equals, as He says, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Because of this, God banishes them from the Garden of Eden. This acts as a punishment for defying God’s rule, and is similar to Anthem, by Ayn Rand. In both texts, characters are endowed with knowledge and must immediately evacuate their utopias.

In nearly all utopian literature, ignorance is the preferred state for civilians. In Brave New World, civilians were drugged into a paradoxical apathetic complacency, deterring independent or critical thought. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Emmanuel Goldstein’s book explained how the Party could only be overthrown if all the proles became aware and educated. When knowledge is introduced to the people, the utopia opens itself up to fail. A lack of knowledge and freethinking is key, as each and every utopian-based piece of literature provides not a perfect world, but a very imperfect world; a dystopia in camouflage. In order to keep the illusion intact, the rulers must keep the people in a constant state of ignorance. 


Ayn Rand’s Anthem, criticizes collectivism by pointing out that it does not result in ultimate equality, but instead results in the complete denial of individuality. Rand’s argument is that rational egoism is necessary for human progress, as people must act in their own interest, to an extent, in order to survive and thrive. Her idea that the individual should take precedence over the whole is laid out as she depicts the extreme opposite in Anthem. In Anthem, there is no concept of self, and love does not exist; everything is said and done for the benefit of the collective. Rand presents the point that humans cannot exist without individuality, and to act against this instinct is foolish.
             Anthem depicts a society based completely on altruism and collectivism. While this seems like a perfect utopia in theory and on paper, Rand shows how it is simply not in human nature for this type of society to work and benefit everyone. First, everyone in this society is assigned a job and a mating partner; no one can make these decisions for themselves. Rand argues that when you eliminate choice, you essentially eliminate any form of freedom as well. The protagonist, Equality, is given the Life Mandate of Street Sweeper, even thought he always wanted to be a Scholar. Equality naturally defies the society as he feels upset that he was assigned a Street Sweeper, and he feels compassion and love for a woman. He also feels guilty and shameful that he experienced these emotions and understands them. The emotions he feels are specific to himself and his situation, and are therefore outside of the collectivist ideology. Rand conveys that emotions are an innately human thing, and even the act of eliminating individuality and choice, cannot change that. No person can exist for everyone else, without having some form of self-interest as well. Therefore, a collectivist society could not be sustained.
             Rand grew up in Soviet Russia, and her writing without doubt encapsulates her disdain for it. Because individual rights were denied throughout her communist upbringing, she clearly craved a more capitalistic, and individualistic lifestyle. Individualism was something she was apparently very passionate about, and since she has seen both sides of the coin, having lived in communist Russia and the capitalist United States, her bias stems from experience rather then theories or outside opinions. I would say that I trust her work perhaps more so than others because of this.

            There are downsides to her theory of rational egoism, however, many of them involve hypothetical and exaggerated situations. I think there is merit in the theory and people should act in their own self-interest as it is an important factor in human happiness. To me, it's about having the choice to either be selfish or altruistic when you want, or when it is convenient. I don't think acting in self-interest is an inherently bad thing, however there must be limits. Obviously a man shouldn’t kill another man because it benefits himself.