Deceptive Bliss

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, ignorance is temporary bliss, a distraction and a delay from confronting the horrifying realities the students face. The purpose of ignorance in the novel for Hailsham is to prevent the social structure from descending into chaos, as the students would have no motivation to even live after coming to terms with their identity.

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Hailsham is responsible for brainwashing its students to be ignorant, thinking it would be the best for them. However, this manufactured ignorance only aggravates their eventual destruction and anguish. Photo from: http://www.educationviews.org/sexuality-gender-brainwashing-masquerading-anti-bullying-program/

By this point of the novel, Miss Lucy has revealed the concept of donations to the students, so the students are not truly ignorant of their true identities. However, they are ignorant in their programmed psychological self-distractions that delay their realization of the harsh truth that they are merely organ donors. However, Hailsham students nonetheless “didn’t think much about [their] lives beyond the Cottages” since they are trained psychologically to forget about their realities as organ donors (116). This is because Hailsham assigned the students to write essays on “a topic that would absorb [them] properly for anything up to two year” (115). The purpose of these essays is to distract the students from fully confronting their pitiful situations as organ donors. This essay assignment “will pop into [Kathy’s] head for no reason. Then [she] quite enjoy[s] sitting there, going through it all again,” thus proving Hailsham’s embedding of this mental distraction into the psychology of its students (116). Even in the setting of the Cottages, the students lived in a “cosy state of suspension in which [they] could ponder [their] lives without the usual boundaries,” showing that bliss can never be obtained without inquiring into one’s condition (143). The characters are dissatisfied without knowledge of their identity, as Ruth “responded only in sulky monosyllables” on her way to Norfolk (148).

Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy all soon face angst in determining their own reasons to keep living this life that has been set out for them. For instance, Kathy flips through magazines in an effort to find her possible, “check[ing] each model’s face before moving on” to the next one (135). She also admits later on that this habit is “just something [she] does” (181). Ruth scours Norfolk for her possible in order to “glimpse [her] future” (140) and gain “some insight into who [she was] deep down” (140). Characters in the novel instinctually search for their identity, since humans are naturally only concern with their selves, and seek for knowledge into their current condition. The teachers at Hailsham are able to realize this and made the decision to shelter the students from many harsh realities. However, they failed to account that ignorance inevitably builds up to “something dark and troubling gathering behind [the] eyes” of students (194). Thus in this case, the proposed remedy has made the sickness worse, as building a false sense of hope has proved disastrous for Hailsham students.

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Ignorance created by the Hailsham teachers only leads students onward to eventual heartbreak, defeat, and a fall into utter hopelessness. Photo from: http://whidbeycamanoislands.com/things-to-do/heritage/history-of deception-pass-bridge/

Through ignorance, the society of Hailsham is able to allow the students to pursue the unachievable ideal of a human life. However, this form of ignorance only serves to distract the students from facing reality, and help the characters “have a bit of fun pretending” or misconstruing their realities in order to satisfy themselves (166). The students merely live in a bubble with a fake sense of comfort, and it is ultimately themselves who choose to break the bubble with their own curiosity. This paradox of an environment drives a temporary feeling of bliss, of pretending to know certain matters that are clearly false. Thus, ignorance in the novel serves to build up for the eventual heartbreak and downfall of the characters and their relationships.

Citations:

Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. Vintage Books, 2005. Print.

Photos from:

Island County Historical Society. Guss, Elizabeth. “Deception Pass Bridge – Today and Yesterday.” Whidbey and Camano Islands. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Donnelly, Gregg. “Sexuality and Gender Brainwashing Masquerading as an Anti-bullying Program.” Education News. N.p., 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Human Relationships Surpassing Degredation

“I pull her to the ground and roll on top of her to cover her, shield her. Quiet, I say again, my face is wet, sweat or tears, I feel calm and floating, as if I’m no longer in my body; close to my eyes there’s a leaf, red, turned early, I can see every bright vein. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” (Atwood 75)

The world of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a soulless, authoritarian, and apocalyptic setting for the novel, where women are marginalized and transformed by society into reproductive tools in order to combat infertility. However, the novel still highlights moments where humanity is still able to rise above all of the negative situations and degradation of the world.

In this particular passage of the novel, the handmaid, Offred, is in a dream where she and her child are escaping a pursuer through a forest. As the pursuer gains ground, Offred eventually resorts to protecting her child from danger. The act of “pull[ing] her to the ground” (75) resembles a fall of humans from the original honor and nobility associated with being human. The subsequent actions of “roll[ing] on top of her to cover her, shield her” (75) represent the tendencies for humans to hide from their failures and seek protection, instead of facing them directly. In addition, Offred’s silencing of the child depicts the loss of voice of women, who are stripped away from their identity and marginalized in their society. We as readers are also not able to tell if Offred’s face is wet from “sweat or tears,” (75) but are able to conclude that the world Offred lives in is one of distress, which is pictured by sweat, and sadness, which is depicted by tears.

Yet despite these dire circumstances, Offred feels “calm and floating, as if [she’s] no longer in [her] body.” (75) The reader is taken aback and shocked, because Offred manages to find tranquility in such a stressful situation. Since she also feels “floating,” (75) it can be argued that she feels transcendent above her situation due to this out-of-body experience. This lends support to genuine human virtues and relationships that are able to rise above the rest of the world as society continues to take a downward turn.

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Red leaves, albeit closer to death, show vitality in the presence of death. Photo from: http://earthsky.org/earth/why-do-tree-leaves-turn-red-in-fall

In this novel, there is also a substantial amount of plant imagery. In this case, the leaf is a metaphor for Offred’s relationship with her child, which is one of the few hallmarks of humanity left in the degraded society. The fact that the leaf is “turned early” (75) has a dubious meaning, as it can either signify vitality or forewarn death since it prematurely changed colors. However in this case, Offred notices the “bright vein[s]” (75) and remarks that “it’s the most beautiful thing [she’s] ever seen.” (75) The veins lend further support to the leaf as a picture of Offred’s relationship with her child, as it is both alive and beautiful in midst of so much chaos and so many inhumane acts. Even if the leaf is dying prematurely, the beauty of its life is still made known.

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The love relationship between a mother and a child is rare in the society Offred lives in. Photo from: http://www.kairosphotos.com/blog/ethiopian-mother-and-child/

This passage has a very calming tone, in contrast to the preceding paragraph, which is marked by diction and syntax that create a violent, nervous, and chaotic tone. Thus, we see a contrast between Offred’s distress in her situation, and then suddenly having an out-of-body experience that brings tranquility and alertness to her. Offred’s out-of-body experience also reveal that she no longer feels confined to her body, which is defined and used by the society in the novel. Through all of this, the passage is able to show that Offred may be the last stronghold of human virtues and integrity in her world, as she bears the memories of the previous society that fostered such loving relationships and uprightness.

Citations:

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. 1st ed. New York: Anchor, 1986. Print.

Norrland, Jörgen. Autumn Picture from Sweden… Earth Sky

Jeffrey, Paul. Ethiopian mother and child. Global Lens

Passing in Review: Seeking Full Participation

For many people, public health seems to be an esoteric topic that falls under the responsibility of government officials and scientists. However, public health issues today, such as Ebola and Zika prevention, and campaigns against obesity, drug overdose and antibiotic misuse, require the full participation of entire populations and not just a small segment of them. From Passing in Review’s public announcement on blood bank donations in April 1946 to Joe Biden’s powerful address on the Cancer Moonshot at Rice just a month ago, all effective public health campaigns are tied together under the common theme of unity in participation. My question is: how does a public health entity craft a campaign that is able to incorporate as many people as possible into participating in important and urgent public health issues?

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Public health issues affect us all, no matter what our background or status is in our community. Image from: http://www.phrei.org/core_epidemiology.html

I believe the best way to answer this question is by producing a teaching module geared towards public health leaders of various campaigns that have not been able to reach a large portion of the population. From my group’s analysis of our archive from 1946, we decided that the strengths of the public announcement included a hospitable description of the environment, a didactic and supportive tone, and inclusivity with regards towards women donors. Also, the public announcement included an authority figure in Dr. E. W. Bertner, the acting director of M.D. Anderson Hospital and the first president of the Texas Medical Center, giving an informative talk on the history of the Texas Medical Center and on the importance of cancer clinics. (archive.org) However, one weakness may be that the first part of the recording is overly formal and seems staged, and should be more candid. Our group will have to do research on the effectiveness of the radio broadcast by assessing blood bank engagement after the announcement from various demographic criteria such as race, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic status.

Surely, most people have been affected, or at least heard of cancer, but what about roundworm, river blindness, or elephantiasis? These are three of the seven Neglected Tropical Diseases that one in six people in that world are diagnosed with, and require public attention and participation. (END7) My proposal is to create a website on general guidelines for designing public health campaigns, and an exemplary video created by our group on the 7 Neglected Tropical Diseases that incorporates all of the guidelines.

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It is important for public health authorities and officials to be able to empower an entire population to participate in their initiatives. Image from: https://www.coursera.org/learn/epidemiology

 

An effective public health campaign should keep everyone updated and informed on pressing aspects of the issue, provide simple yet powerful ways for ordinary citizens to get involved, and should not discriminate or favor one particular segment of the population. This project has the potential to help public health officials in incorporating entire populations in various public health movements, which would be critical in alleviating future international health issues and crises.

Works Cited:

“Why NTDs? Help End 7 Diseases and Lessen Suffering for over ½ a Billion Kids in the Developing World” End7. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

“Passing in Review, M. D. Anderson Hospital Blood Bank, 1946 : Texas Medical Center Library : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.” Internet Archive. Archive.org, n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

“Core Strengths – Epidemiology.” Pacific Health Research and Education Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

Yeatts, Karin, Dr., and Lorraine Alexander, Dr. “Epidemiology: The Basic Science of Public Health.” Coursera. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

The Horrors of an Exclusionary Society

As a head of state, there is the responsibility to not only protect the population, but also to care for their morale. The Redeker Plan is at its roots a blatant betrayal of a country’s own population by its government. The Redeker Plan indeed forces governments to choose a small sect of people who have the ability to “preserve the legitimacy and stability of the government” (109), and relocate them to the safest sanctuary possible with the remaining resources they have. Assuming they survive the zombie outbreak, they would rebuild their country from the bare minimum.

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Populations become fewer and fewer as they retreat to their designated ‘safe zones’ by the government. (Image from The Economic Times)

However, this plan completely destroys team morale and nationalistic fervor, as the people who are selected for retreat to safe zones will continually face the guilt of leaving their friends, who are not chosen, to the zombie population. They would also face immense pressure, as their nation has placed the responsibility of rebuilding their society on their shoulders. The Redeker Plan is also very impractical, as seen through the lenses of Admiral Xu Zhicai. Although a country may devote their resources to help one small group survive “until the end of the crisis, or perhaps, the end of the world,” (249) it will always be impossible to account for any mini-outbreaks in the community. Once a zombie appears in the small community, it will eventually infect a certain portion of the community that would necessitate civil conflict. For instance, Captain Chen is eventually forced to attack his own countrymen because of a mini-outbreak in the small island population of Manihi, which left Captain Chen with “hair [that] had lost its color, as white as prewar snow… skin [that] was sallow, [and] eyes sunken.” (252) One single reanimation from within the community may be enough to spell the end of every human in the ‘selected population.’

The case of Paris also sheds light on the civilians who are not ‘chosen for survival’ by the government. Even as “two hundred and fifty thousand refugees” (310) fled to the Catabombs’ “subterranean world,” (310) one single zombie was able to catalyze the death of all refugees who chose to seek sanctuary in the Catacombs and the reanimation of two hundred and fifty thousand more zombies. In the zombie war, the humans who are left behind by their government effectively defects to the ‘other side,’ which welcomes the humans with open arms.

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Civilians who are abandoned by their own governments may choose to defect to the other opposing side of the war. (Image by All-len-All)

The only option as a head of state in a zombie outbreak is to attack the zombies will full force. However, the most effective plan would be to attack “slow and safe, one section at a time, low speed, low intensity, low casualty rate.” (314) Choosing to attack in the first place distinguishes humans, who fight, from zombies, who may be camouflaged amongst the humans retreating to a ‘safe area.’ This offensive plan is also beneficial because the entire population is asked to fight against the zombies in a total war. Why sacrifice the majority of the population for the survival of a small sect when there is the possibility of including all members of the country in a total war effort that increases morale and is also more practical?

Framing the zombie epidemic as a war creates an “us versus them” mentality. Humans do not recognize zombies as fighting for another country, but regard them as an entirely new species that only seek the destruction of the human population. Framing the zombie outbreak as an epidemic allows civilians to place responsibility on the government and its scientists to find a solution to the problem. However, presenting the outbreak as a war rallies the entire population, and the entire world together “under the common flag of survival.” (247)

Sources:

Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Broadway Books, 2006. Print.

Images:

PTI. Retreating Ice behind Population Explosion in Adelie Penguins? The Economic Times, 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

On This Day August 13 1961 East German Soldiers Start Building the Berlin Wall Comments. All-Len-All, 12 Aug. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

The Breaking Point

“It was so subtle, I don’t think anyone even noticed, but suddenly you had a room full of military professionals, each one with decades of combat experience and more academic training than the average civilian brain surgeon, and all of us speaking opening, and honestly, about the possible threat of walking corpses. It was like… a dam breaking; the taboo was shattered, and the truth just started flooding out. It was… liberating.” (Brooks 50-51)

In many instances, characters may express confidence as a mask, when in reality they are insecure and face unrelenting turmoil inwardly. We as the audience, viewer, or reader may also be seeking for the illusion of confidence rather than true confidence itself. Although Travis D’Ambrosia holds the position of Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, the interviewer notes that “there is a softness to the general’s voice, a sadness. Throughout [their] interview, he struggles to maintain eye contact.” (Brooks, 50)

This passage displays the vulnerability of American exceptionalism and also how national leaders are not willing to publicize, let alone accept, the realities of their inadequacies. The passage paints a negative image of corporatism and the economic system of America. As the government becomes a bystander to Wall Street and large firms, it becomes useless in addressing the social inequality faced by the powerless and disadvantaged.

In this passage, Brooks purposefully uses contractions and oxymorons, such as a “dam breaking” and “walking corpses” in order to create an unsettling sensation for the reader. Initially, the reader would feel confident in the abilities of the military professionals through mentioning of how the experience of these officers exceed “brain surgeons,” but the two pauses that Travis makes creates an aura feeling of uncertainty and fear around the speaker, as if the government was trying to hide all the true data and figures to themselves and unable to face reality. The tone of the passage is initially humorous, but eventually reaches a serious and even deadening atmosphere. The shorter phrases at the end of the passage convey Travis’ hesitation, disbelief, and doubt concerning the actions of his government.

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Military officers gather around a conference table in deliberations. Photo Credit: Mrs. Debra Preitkis (JFHQNCR/MDW)

Brooks employs the metaphor of a rushing tide against and a dam breaking. The truth is presented as the gushing water, and the dam is made by the government in order to keep the truth from its civilians. However, tension is inevitably built up against this barrier, and eventually the government is forced to succumb to the prevailing force of the truth. Brooks uses violent verbs such as “breaking,” “shattered,” and “flooding” in order to convey the damage the government has done by erecting a barrier of the truth. This is a picture of the government’s use of censorship to control the actions and even the thoughts of the masses. Through creating a barrier of the truth, the government also creates a taboo, which represents the illusion made for civilians to assimilate into their minds.

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Painting of a dam breaking made by artist Eric Holmlund.

For the most part, we believe truth to be a positive concept, but in this passage, truth is seen as a “flooding” force, that wrecks havoc on every piece of land it comes across. Brooks characterizes truth as a blunt force and able to send society into a downward spiral of mayhem. Just as the “dam breaking” implies that it was not consented, the government obviously also did not intend for their censorship of the plague to cease.

This passage paints a picture of the dominance of Wall Street and other powerful interest groups in America’s economic system, and also the indecision, apathy, and failure of government in protecting its disadvantaged and marginalized populations.

Sources

Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Broadway Books, 2006. Print.

“The Economic System of Corporatism.” The Economic System of Corporatism. San José State University Department of Economics, n.d. Web. 13 Sept 2016, http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/corporatism.htm

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Preitkis, Debra” Col. Robert G. Oltman, commander of the Security Battalion at Marine Corps Base Quantico, discusses trends and issues at the Joint Law Enforcement Conference at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Found, U.S. Army, 13 Sept. 2016, https://www.army.mil/article/33711/Joint_Law_Enforcement_Conference_held_by_JFHQ_NCR

Artwork

Holmlund, Eric. Dam Breaking. N.d. N.P, Found, Eric Holmlund, 13 Sept. 16, http://www.ericholmlund.com/art/prophetic/dam-breaking

Finding Order in Disorder

Before I set foot in the McGovern Historical Center, I envisioned a museum with fancy exhibits outlining the history and development of medicine at the Texas Medical Center. While my expectations were partially fulfilled with displays of different medical devices and surgical instruments, what I found most interesting in the archive were different articles written regarding various medical issues of the past, and issues we as young students in the age of modern medicine would regard as foolish and primitive. I found the fact that surgical instrument handles pre-germ theory were made of wood intriguing. Consequently, blood was able to seep into the handle, which created a dangerous working environment for health professionals.

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Organ-specific surgical tool kit used by doctors in the 19th century. (photo taken at the McGovern Historical Center, Houston, TX)

I gravitated towards the two artworks entitled the “Re-evaluation of Lobotomy” and “Lost Cry,” simply because of the emotional intensities underlying the pieces. In both works, I felt an unsettling sensation that led me to inquire of what the artist is truly trying to delineate and express to me.

In the “Re-evaluation of Lobotomy,” I was able to recognize the birth of biochemistry as a means of treatment for psychological and neurological disorders. In this piece, demons, animals, and creatures seem to come out of the brain of a skull, which illustrates past notions of psychological diseases. There seems to a hole in the skull, which shows how psychosurgery is able to solve these illnesses by “releasing” the entities that control the mind. However, after the success of drugs in treating personality disorders, psychosurgery was re-evaluated, and even considered the last resort for patients suffering mental illnesses, since psychosurgery’s effects on personality were drastic.

Another piece related to neurological and mental disorders was “Lost Cry” from the Psychiatric Bulletin. The piece depicts a greenish, monstrous figure with an intense fear in his eyes. His eyes are open wide in a full scream, and the artist’s use of chiaroscuro and contrast in light created an uncomfortable atmosphere for me. Although the piece was obviously silent, I was easily able to hear the loud and cacophonous cry of the patient in anguish. I believe this to be a picture of his inner subconscious turmoil, and the artwork does a tremendous job in expressing the patient’s real feelings, which would be impossible to utter in speech.

All in all, my eye-opening visit to the archive forced me to reconsider my perceptions of the past, in regards to both its medical technologies and its depiction of patients with mental health disorders. I have come to realize how medicine, or any topic, can be viewed through artistic lenses that are often able to reveal another layer of emotions than through words of mouth.

 

 

 

Intertwined Destinies

Normally, we think of health as doctors who operate on an individual basis with the patient. They build an emotional connection where the doctor is a personal guide through times of tribulation. However, public health enlarges this interaction to another scale, and public health workers are able to make an impact on a larger scale. However, public health bears little emotional connection that individual healthcare offers. To me, public health is the interdisciplinary maintenance of the physical and mental wellbeing of populations. Public health inevitably involves many different fields such as economics, politics, and even environmental science.

This summer, I participated in Urban Immersion, a week-long community service program at Rice University and on the second day, the group toured the east side of Houston and the environmental injustices the community was facing. We discovered that the imbalance in wealth and power between communities in Houston led the government to build numerous dangerous, toxic chemical refineries and waste dumping sites unnecessarily close to low-incoming communities. This unfortunate scenario in turn jeopardizes the public health of many communities.

Public health also brings everyone in a community closer, whether they like it or not. I attended an all-boys private boarding school in high school, and there was an epidemic where random students started puking and confined to their beds due to a mysterious contagious disease. While I was fortunate enough to not get sick, I felt stuck and embedded in a community and actively sought to take care and look out for my fellow classmates. If one person got sick, the likelihood of an entire population to contract a disease increases drastically since we all live in close proximity to each other.

My boarding experiences in high school paints a picture of public health, which is important because it affects every single one of us. All policies regarding healthcare, Ebola, Zika, and disease prevention are and should be of concern to us. Especially in an increasingly globalized society, all of us are invariably connected and public health becomes absolutely vital to the survival of the human race. Indeed, our destinies are intertwined and whether we like it or not, we are in this mess together.