Ignorance Perpetuates Injustice

For the students in Hailsham, they believe that ignorance is bliss. For us as readers, we recognize how this ignorance is in fact not bliss. Through the students’ ignorance of their purpose in life, we see how the students themselves perpetuate the society that uses them solely for organ donation. Though it is easy to accept and conform to the lifestyle designated upon one at birth, the novel suggests that it is always better to seek truth to prevent unethical practices from continuing.

Many of the students from Hailsham did not question the institution of Hailsham, life after Hailsham, their greater meaning of their life—and this might have been because they did not want to know the answers. Thus, most of them chose to give the benefit of the doubt, having “dream futures” they “didn’t regard…as fantasy” (142). This ounce of hope brought happiness and joy to them in the short time they lived before completing which is not necessarily a bad thing. The students took refuge in this “cosy state of suspension” where they discarded everything that the guardians taught them and dreamed about the possibilities of their lives (143). Even when they were told that they would be organ donors, they repressed the knowledge sometimes because they wanted to return to the blissful state of not knowing their futures. For them, ignorance is bliss because the knowledge is a burden.

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance” -Confucius

However, by examining how this ignorance allowed the continuation of unethical practices, the readers recognize how the novel suggests that this seeking truth is necessary for equality and righteousness. The ignorance that the students sought contributed to the perpetuation of social injustices. Because the students never wanted to believe they were created solely for organ donation, they never challenged this practice and instead held on to the shred of hope that their lives had greater meaning. Even when Ruth “knew all along it was stupid”, she was still hopeful that she would find her possible for a glimpse at her hypothetical future (166). The students repressed the knowledge that possibles do not indicate anything in their futures because they wanted so hard to believe that they themselves could one day hold an office job, or a supermarket worker. However, though they find solace in this belief, ultimately it is detrimental—their hopes will be destroyed, they will donate then complete, and this unethical system will continue on for future generations. On the contrary, if they acknowledged that they were created for organ donation, perhaps they could find a way to cease this practice of clones. This concept can be applied to our society since there may be practices we are unwilling to accept and believe that they don’t exist or are not harmful, but it is this ignorance exactly that allows these practices to continue.

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Scene from Never Let Me Go (2010) when Ruth discovers her possible is not actually her possible and is filled with disappointment.

An Empty Room

“Can I be blamed for wanting a real body, to put my arms around? Without it I am too disembodied. […] I too am dry and white, hard, granular; it’s like running my hand over a plateful of dried rice; it’s like snow. There’s something dead about it, something deserted. I am like a room where things once happened and now nothing does, except the pollen of the weeds that grow up outside the window, blowing in as dust across the floor.”(128)

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale explores the consequences of society where fertility is limited and gender roles are exaggerated as a result. This passage occurs later at night of the same day of Offred and the Commander’s routine interaction, and Offred lies in bed thinking and contemplating about her blissful time in the company of Luke. Now, she is overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness and longing for real, genuine human contact. Through the first person point-of-view, continual references to death, and the similes comparing Offred herself to objects, Atwood indicates how Offred’s mind and body are separate entities where only her body is valued, and suggests that this dehumanization is attributed to the detrimental societal constructs of the totalitarian society.

As we discussed in class, the majority of this novel is narrated in first person point-of-view, allowing Offred’s experiences in this society as a handmaid to represent the experiences of all the handmaids. Thus, all the handmaids are likely to feel the same detachment from their bodies, presumably because their value is so often attributed to their uterus, and their body as a baby-making machine—which the totalitarian government dictated for them. This reveals the dehumanizing nature of the society towards handmaids, and also towards other classes in the hierarchy.

While contemplating the concept of real human contact that seems to be nonexistent in this society, Offred poses a rhetorical question, asking if this urge for human contact is something worthy of blame. In today’s society, it is completely normal to have this urge; however, in this future society, handmaids are conditioned to resist these natural urges. By asking this question, the narrator allows the reader to empathize with her and recognize how hard it must be for the narrator to not have any real people “to put [her] arms around”. Furthermore, the use of the word “disembodied” implies that without this lack of human interaction, Offred’s soul and mind are separated from her body. This separation is a result of her physical demands not being met, leaving only her emotions.

Following those phrases, Offred compares herself to a “plateful of dried rice” and “snow” that is “dead” and “deserted”. Rice that has been left out for a while becomes dry, and Offred feels like her body has done that, just been left out without anyone paying attention to it. Furthermore, “rice” is an object, and by comparing herself to an object, she objectifies herself—conditioned by the society to do so. The totalitarian society has stripped her of value of her mind, leaving only a body which dehumanizes her. These words also create

an eerie tone with all the references to desolation and death, relating to the eerie nature of this society. Finally, Offred compares herself to a room where nothing grows and only the “pollen of the weeds” blow “as dust across the floor”. Again, she compares herself to an object, dehumanizing her. It is depressing to see how something once lively now has no signs of life, because what Offred is doing is not living, it is just existing to serve her one purpose. There are only weeds growing because weeds are irrelevant and useless—symbolizing the irrelevant, superficial human interactions Offred has each day.

 

Drugs: Then and Now

Our project is concerned with the Psychiatric Bulletin, a collection of informational magazines that address various aspects of psychiatry, from jealousy in children to prejudice as a disease. In the bulletin, many of the articles address issues that we today would not consider diseases and outlines the cause, prevention, and treatment of the “disease”. Since the Psychiatric Bulletin covers such a wide range of topics, we decided to focus on one topic that appeared frequently throughout the nine volumes we had access to, the concept of drugs and drug abuse. We are going to analyze how drug use and abuse were portrayed in the 1960s, the purpose that drugs served in different fields of medicine, and the rationale that some psychiatrists had to explain drug addiction. The articles place an emphasis on the social and cultural aspects of drug addiction aside from the biological reasoning behind it, and our project will be examining these aspects as well.

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Picture featured in an article we will be analyzing in the Psychiatric Bulletin. This is a visual depiction of drug-induced psychosis. 

We will be constructing an informational brochure accompanied with a short video illustrating how exactly the culture of drug abuse was like in the 1960s. We thought a brochure would be appropriate because it is similar to the form of the archive materials, and the video would enhance the teaching aspect of the project. Our project is meant to aid in professional research, and is targeted towards medical humanities researchers interested in how drug addiction was created and viewed in the past. Hopefully our project will provide them with new information about drug addiction in the past and a new perspective on modern forms of drug abuse treatment, to ultimately facilitate drug abuse treatment nowadays and to employ the use of drugs in an effective way when necessary for treatment of other diseases.

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Breakdown of several different types of barbiturates. We will be analyzing an article about barbiturates in the 1960s. Image

We are planning on also covering the differences between drug culture in the past and in the present day. To do this, we will need to conduct some outside research beyond the archive materials provided by the Woodson and search for articles similar to the format of the articles in the Psychiatric Bulletin, but that were published relatively recently. We are anticipating to find noteworthy differences between the treatment of drug abuse in the past and the present and are hoping to relay these differences in our project to provide new insight about this topic to medical humanities researchers and interested students. By understanding the treatment of drug addiction in the past, researchers and professionals in the healthcare industry will be able to further enhance treatment of drug addiction in the present day. The 1960s were a time of hard-scale drug usage, and substance abuse is still a very prevalent problem in today’s society, and hopefully we will be able to connect the two time periods to analyze the culture of drug abuse through history.

Quantity and Quality

Based on the facts presented about the Zombie War, the most logical plan of action to me would be to assume a defensive strategy, voting against the plan proposed by General D’Ambrosia. The point made that “all [they] had to do was remain safe and sedentary while our enemy simply rotted away” is a very valid point (Brooks 265). Why risk more lives when they do not have to, when the zombies will eventually cease to exist? General D’Ambrosia’s reasoning behind the plan is that the civilians deserve to reclaim the land in order to preserve the human spirit and assert dominance over all other species—which seems like a virtuous motive, but actually appears to be quite selfish in this context. The plan for attack is rooted in humans’ innate reliance on fulfilling, substantial results to achieve satisfaction, and a constant desire for more power and control. When the living accepts a defensive position, many leaders view this as accepting defeat in the Zombie War because of its passive nature, but in the end, more psychologically well civilians will survive as opposed to a fraction of civilians who are living with the memory that they, like perpetrators of the Redeker Plan, “follow[ed] orders that would indirectly cause a mass murder” (Brooks 113). In addition, the implemented offensive plan induced major psychological damage in Sibera causing “dereliction of duty, alcoholism, [and] suicide”, where “one in ten officers killed themselves […] a decimation that almost brought our war effort to a crushing halt” (Brooks 295, 296). All of this effort, all of these sacrificed lives, and almost all to waste because humans physically cannot compete with zombies. Ultimately, from an ethical and social standpoint, the necessity to “prove” that they are able to defeat the zombies is egotistical and the desire for revenge on zombies petty, because zombies have no control over their actions, making sacrificing innocent lives not worth it. Not to mention, from a tactical and environmental standpoint, the war is unfeasible to be won because zombies are biologically superior to humans—they are limitless and do not have a “maximum emotional and physiological breaking point” like humans do (Brooks 273). Zombies are not affected by outside influences nor internal influences, causing them to be an incomparable match for humans.

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Visual depiction of zombie versus human. Image from hitfix.com.

The Zombie War is framed as a war for these reasons, that there is strategic planning involved and ultimately a winner and a loser. It is a world war in the sense that it involves all nations, but instead of individual nations fighting each other, the whole world is categorized into two entities—the living, and the living dead. If viewed as an epidemic, where zombification is characterized as a viral infection, the choice to stay on the defensive is made even clearer. The living humans are without the infection currently, and to stay that way, they could engage in preventative measures such as injecting a vaccine, or in the context of the zombie war, maintain a defensive strategy. It is illogical to seek out the viral infection, as an offensive position would, become infected, and then deal with the repercussions, when one could simply avoid that.

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Interesting map a reader constructed of populations after the Zombie War. A notable feature is how when China did not follow the Redeker Plan, their population decreased 90%. Image from deviantart.com.

Pointing Fingers

“All I did was what any of us are ever supposed to do. I chased my dream, and I got my slice. You wanna blame someone, blame whoever first called it rabies, or who knew it wasn’t rabies and gave us the green light anyway. Shit, you wanna blame someone, why not start with all the sheep who forked over their greenbacks without bothering to do a little responsible research. I never held a gun to their heads. They made the choice themselves. They’re the bad guys, not me. I never directly hurt anybody, and if anybody was too stupid to get themselves hurt, boo-fuckin-hoo.” (Brooks 58)

In this section, the interviewer interviews Breckinridge Scott, who owns a bio-dome and is filthy rich after selling a vaccine that he claimed would prevent against zombification. Scott primarily uses logos in his argument to convince the interviewer that he doesn’t need to assume any personal responsibility or feel any guilt about this placebo vaccine.

When confronted with the question of whether he takes personal responsibility in creating this elaborate ruse, Scott denies doing anything immoral. He tries to make the readers empathize with his point of view by understating his actions as something that “any of us” are “supposed” to do, as if acting for the purpose of personal gain is always the right thing to do. The phrase “chase your dreams” is one often said to motivate people to pursue great things and is connoted with positive inspirational motives, but here Scott uses this phrase to describe his fake vaccine, which in turn lessens the severity of the consequences of the fake vaccine because, after all, this was his dream, and he should be encouraged to pursue it.

Following that, Scott elaborates on who actually should take personal responsibility, if not himself. He repeats the word “blame” three times, emphasizing his attempts to shift his guilt onto someone else, anyone but him. He refuses to admit that he did anything wrong and even goes so far as to say that it was the consumers’ own fault they were misled. This ties into our discussion of who really are the perpetrators of the War, and who are the victims. The victims are those who “forked over their greenbacks” because they feared the zombie threat, and Scott took advantage of this fear and now is victim blaming. He lists all the faults of the victims while completely disregarding his own errors. When Scott uses the phrase “forked over” to describe the panicked people buying his vaccine, he portrays the people as mindless consumers throwing money at him for the vaccine, and they deserve any detrimental consequences of the vaccine because they were too ignorant to check the validity of them themselves. Scott also uses the word “sheep” to describe the consumers, symbolizing the peoples’ vulnerable and uninformed nature causing them to follow others without taking initiative to question the validity of something themselves.

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Image depicting mindless consumers. Taken from mindauthor.com

Throughout this passage, Scott takes on a very defensive tone by continuously citing instances of whom the blame should be placed for the panic about the zombie war. Though these cases should take some of the responsibility, it is wrong for Scott to assume none. His inclination to get very aggressive when pointing fingers is referred to as the blame game, and there is psychological evidence on why we tend to do this in this article, the most prominent reason being that “it’s easier to blame someone else than accept responsibility”.

This paragraph, and whole interview in general, is included in the collection of interviews most likely to display this sort of shifting the blame during a worldwide panic, where no one assumes responsibility, and shows how this negatively affects the spread of the disease.

A Flash to the Past

Although I had never been to an archive before, I had some general ideas of what it would be like before the trip. Basically, I just thought that it would be similar to a library. I wasn’t expecting it to have so many different types of unpublished primary sources—from VCR tapes that had been converted into a video easily shared by USB to books written in Latin from 1778, from framed artwork and maps to a surgical kit used in 1850. The antiquity of these sources really intrigued me and I was fascinated at how we were able to interact and touch the same materials that our predecessors created hundreds of years ago.

The trip consisted of a brief introduction to the archive in the reading room, also known as the face of the archive—what people first see when they enter, followed by a visit to the media room where tapes are converted from one file type to another since many video players are not being produced anymore. We finished the trip by visiting the “stacks”. They are literally stacks of books and other mediums organized by subject dating all the way back to the 18th century (or even older). The archivist had laid out some resources pertaining to the topics of our research projects, mainly focused on the artificial heart and Psychiatric Bulletin, the latter being my project! What I found the most interesting was the surgical kit from the 1850s (pictured below). The archivist explained how blood seeped

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Surgical Kit from 1850-1880

into the cracks of the wooden handles of the instruments and was impossible to clean out completely, creating unsanitary tools to perform each surgery. We were even able to handle these instruments, which was amazing considering their age and the consequences of mishandling them.

When we were allowed to explore the archive on our own, I gravitated towards the Psychiatric Bulletins because they are the focus of my project. Below is a cover of one of the magazines published in 1952, depicting a man in agony, screaming. The title of the painting is Lost Cry, and probably refers to how mentally ill patients are suffering, but people refuse to acknowledge their pain, just how we as viewers cannot audibly hear his cry for help. The Psychiatric Bulletins covered a wide variety of mental illnesses but also

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“Lost Cry” front cover artwork; Fall 1952

included other topics pertaining to psychology. One bulletin I noticed was fixated on the topic of alcohol, with almost all articles relating to alcohol abuse and indicated how alcoholism was an illness that could be healed with psychology. The text of the articles was all very engaging to read, enhanced with expressive pictures like this one, and I wished that I could take the bulletins back to read them closely because a lot has changed regarding mental health and stigmas surrounding it since the 1950s.

The archive was an incredible opportunity to have because we are rarely exposed to so many primary sources. These unpublished materials could provide new perspectives on widely held beliefs and allow researchers and us students to explore topics in more depth. Without an archive, these important photographs, magazines, manuscripts, maps, books, tapes—all would be inaccessible and lost forever.

 

 

Defining Public Health

Public health refers to the stability of the health of the general population in the whole world. Public health agencies take the actions to promote a healthy lifestyle in a population, to prevent diseases and outbreaks, and to ensure that everyone lives in the safest environment they can. Public health works to lessen the severity of or eradicate such diseases as HIV/AIDS, malaria, Zika and outbreaks such as smallpox or the plague by conducting research in scientific labs and advocating prevention methods. Many public health goals are also Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations.

Previously, I’ve participated in research pertaining to the field of public health. The question we were testing was how accessible e-liquids and e-cigarettes are to minors, since those substances are becoming more popular in that age group. As a minor, I purchased the e-liquids from over 100 different websites and recorded if I was able to, any warnings the purchase was preceded with, any warnings on the physical bottle, and if there were any age checks at time of purchase or at delivery. As a lab group, we concluded that there are virtually no security guidelines to the purchasing of these substances at any age and that stronger reinforcements must be taken to protect the safety of the youth. Public health initiatives against nicotine products ensure that people are aware of the consequences of their actions, and encourage people to make smart decisions concerning their body.

The importance of public health is profound—it is one of the most vital industries keeping the human race alive. Without public health, the world would lack such basic necessities such as potable water, clean air, and safe living conditions—many of which we take for granted in developed countries. Public health is needed to establish these conditions in developing countries and to maintain them in all areas throughout future generations. Aside from safe living environments, public health is also extremely important during disaster outbreaks in controlling the epidemic, treating the affected, and educating the public about the next steps to follow.