Ignorance Maintained By Conformity

In Never Let Me Go, the contrast between Ruth’s behavior and Tommy and Kathy’s behavior at the Cottages reveals that conformity perpetuates ignorance, preventing people from exploring provocative ideas that can allow them to improve their lives.

At the Cottages, Ruth tries to conform to the behaviors established by the veterans in order to seem mature and wise. For example, the veteran couples use special gestures when interacting with each other; Kathy discovers that “when [she] arrived, it was what was going on and Ruth was soon doing it to Tommy” (121). Despite the fact that the gestures were artificial and copied from TV shows, Ruth still mimics the behavior because she wants to fit in with the veteran couples. Viewing the veterans as mature role models, she does not question their behavior and is unable to realize the meaninglessness of her actions.

Is what you see the truth? (storify.com)

In contrast, Kathy is observant and questions the veterans’ behaviors. For example, Kathy realizes that the gestures are copied from the TV and confronts Ruth about mimicking Chrissie and Rodney’s gestures, saying, “It’s not what people really do out there, in normal life” (124). Kathy realizes that rather than appearing wise and mature, Ruth is behaving in meaningless, silly ways by conforming to the veteran’s artificially contrived behaviors. While life at the Cottages is meant to expose them to “normal life,” Ruth’s attempts at conformity prevent her from obtaining a realistic perspective into how “normal” humans live, causing her to remain ignorant about her role as a clone and how different her life is compared to “normal” couples.

When Chrissie and Rodney bring up the rumor of deferrals for Hailsham students, Ruth again tries to gain their acceptance by lying about having heard of the deferrals at Hailsham. As a result, Chrissie and Rodney become “convinced [Hailsham students] know all about it” even though “no one said anything like that at Hailsham” (174). By conforming to Chrissie and Rodney’s expectations, Ruth prevents Chrissie and Rodney from learning the truth that the deferrals never existed at Hailsham. As a result, the veterans have false expectations and hopes and blindly obsess over the possibility of deferrals without exploring other alternatives.

Conformity leads nowhere (www.psych2go.net)

Tommy, unlike Ruth, directly rejects the rumor, saying “I don’t remember anything like that at Hailsham” (155). He instead reflects back on his experiences at Hailsham, realizing “there were a lot of things that didn’t make sense back then” (174), in order to try to uncover more information about the rumor and about Hailsham. Tommy’s unwillingness to conform allows him to think critically about whether deferrals could actually be possible. By attempting to “make sense” of his past at Hailsham, Tommy is reflective and perceptive, unlike Ruth who is narrow-minded and dismissive. Thus, conformity prevents people from perceiving and reflecting on new ideas that can offer knowledge about their identity and purpose in life.

Freedom from Freedom

Moira had power now, she’d been set loose, she’d set herself loose. She was now a loose woman… Moira was like an elevator with open sides. She made us dizzy. Already we were losing the taste for freedom, already we were finding these walls secure. In the upper reaches of the atmosphere you’d’ come apart, you’d vaporize, there would be no pressure holding you together. (Atwood 133)

In this passage, Offred recalls Moira’s escape from the Red Center. The contrasting descriptions of Moira and the other Handmaids at the Red Center, revealed through similes and ambiguous diction, exposes human susceptibility to indoctrination due to the multifaceted, fleeting nature of freedom of thought.

The use of ambiguous diction in the word “loose” reveals that a lack of clear definition creates an environment in which it is easy to succumb to a source of structure and rigidity. The repetition of “loose” emphasizes the freedom that Moira has acquired through her escape, but also illuminates the multiple meanings that the word takes on in Offred’s thoughts. The phrase “set loose” compares Moira to a wild, untamed animal that is released from its captor, dehumanizing her into a creature that acts instinctually and without reason. In Offred’s mind, power has transformed into something uncontrolled and dangerous; by exaggerating the harmful instances of humanity, the society in The Handmaid’s Tale takes advantage of fear to control women.

Moira is like an animal “set loose” from its chains (steemit.com)

Rather than praising Moira for her freedom, Offred categorizes Moira as a “loose woman,” implying that a woman with freedom must also be promiscuous and unchaste, further revealing the prejudiced attitude toward woman that is adopted by the novel’s dystopian society and instilled on the Handmaids.

The simile comparing Moira to “an elevator with open sides” implies that Moira’s freedom gives her the ability to raise her living standards. However, this becomes twisted in the Handmaid’s mind as they can only focus on the dizzying nature of Moira’s freedom, her “open sides,” because they feel unstable and out of balance. The fact that the Handmaids are losing their “taste” for freedom reveals the idea that they have become numbed to any sensation due to the indoctrination at the Red Center. Without any exposure to freedom, the Handmaids have forgotten its value and thus are satisfied with their new rigid and structured lifestyle.

Riding an “elevator with open sides” can be both exhilarating and terrifying (www.travelpulse.com)

The simile of the elevator contrasts with Offred’s description of the Handmaids when she states “you’d vaporize.” By switching to second person, Offred generalizes her description to an unspecified audience, revealing the pervasiveness of the regime’s brainwashing. While Moira is able to remain whole as one entity, the Handmaids have become so accustomed to their strict lifestyle that they believe they would “vaporize” and disappear if given access to freedom. The women have become reliant on the “pressure” exerted by the society in order to continue functioning as a complete being.

 

Artificial Heart: Balancing Ethics, Policy, and Medical Research

Our archive is a collection of newspaper and magazine photographs and articles describing the development and first transplant of the artificial heart by Dr. Denton Cooley. We hope to focus on the aspect of following institutional and governmental rules and regulations in regards to conducting clinical trials and performing experimental procedures.

We have chosen to target our project at students studying public health policy. For example, Rice has a program of studies dedicated to public health management, which can be found here. We believe our archive would benefit these students by providing information about the multifaceted nature of public health policy. We hope our archive can reveal different perspectives on how to balance ethics, policy, and research to provide the most supportive environment for producing advancements in medicine.

Intersection of medicine and law (cambridgemedicine.wordpress.com)

Our project is important because the government and medical institutions play a large role in deciding what types of medical research should be funded and what types of medical research should be discontinued or hindered. Dr. Denton Cooley was able to successfully perform the first artificial heart transplant by disregarding federal regulations and hiding his research from his colleagues at the Baylor College of Medicine. Did his success justify his disregard for protocol? Were his actions ethical from a philosophical perspective? How can the government make policy that ensures ethical practice but does not hinder important medical research that can be used to improve public health practices? These are questions that our archive provides perspective into and can hopefully inspire policy studies majors.

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Medical World News article about Dr. Cooley’s unauthorized transplant (Image taken at McGovern Historical Center)

We chose to present our archive in the form of an informative website because students will be able to have direct access to primary sources taking the form of videos, photographs, and articles. A website is the most accessible for students and allows students to reference the material easily during their studies.

We will need to conduct further research into the atmosphere of government regulation of medical research during the time that Dr. Cooley performed his transplant, by analyzing the material in our archive. We can also research how government regulation either protects public health or hinders medical research today by consulting with medical practitioners and professors and finding journal articles written about the topic. We can research how our archive can fit into the curriculum of policy studies majors by talking to current majors and professors.

 

All or Nothing: Humans or Zombies

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If the countries had not voted to attack, there would not have been any survivors left. (quotesvalley.com)

If I were a head of state in World War Z, I would also have voted to attack during the Honolulu Conference. While other countries argued that launching an attack on the zombies would lead to a meaningless loss of life, the governments also hold responsibility for abandoning their citizens during the implementation of the Redeker Plan. For example, Todd Wainio remembers reading a sign saying “Better late than never!” when his unit liberated a civilian zone. Voting against an attack would have proven the lack of responsibility and incompetence of the government that the sign had scornfully referenced.

From a social standpoint, launching an attack on the zombies would also rebuild the confidence of the people and fulfill a responsibility we have to future generations. For example, after the first successful battle against the zombies at Hope, Wainio notices “everyone jawing, laughing, telling stories” (Brooks 282). Wainio derives more satisfaction from taking the offensive against the zombies because he and his troops finally feel enough security and control to be able to relax and enjoy their time. They no longer feel restricted from their fear of zombies.

This similar security is felt by Kwang Jingshu, who notes after stability returns to his community that “real children… don’t know to be afraid, and that is the greatest gift, the only gift we can leave to them” (Brooks 335). By recognizing that zombies are nothing to be afraid of—through the successful war waged on zombies—these children are able to act like “real children” who can enjoy their childhood in a secure, safe environment, protected from the horrors of death and decay. By launching an attack, we would be able to secure a healthy living environment for our future generations.

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“Real children” who can live without fear (multiculturalkidblogs.com)

I would have implemented a plan similar to the U.S.’s plan, which involved marching through the country and killing any zombies sighted. From a tactical standpoint, this would be the most efficient and effective way to rid the world of zombies and prevent another outbreak. The attack on zombies is like a “war” because there are two opposing forces, zombies and humans, who have been confined to their restricted territories. However, zombies are unlike any opposing force that any human army has faced. Unlike enemies like foreign countries or rebel groups, zombies do not have a “limits of endurance” (Brooks 273). In a war between humans, one side will always give up once they have lost too much manpower or spirit. However, perhaps more like viruses and bacteria, zombies will not stop until there are no humans left—by their very nature, humans and zombies cannot coexist. If we did not attack, “we could only get weaker, while they might actually get stronger” (Brooks 272). Unlike a war, the attack on zombies is an unavoidable endeavor to ensure human existence.

 

 

Assuming Fear in the Enemy

The narrator interviews Todd Wainio, a former U.S. Army infrantryman who fought in the battle at Yonkers, a failed attempt to show the public that the government had the zombie crisis under control:

Sure, we were unprepared, our tools, our training, everything I just talked about, all one class-A, gold-standard clusterfuck, but the weapon that really failed wasn’t something that rolled off an assembly line. It’s as old as… I don’t know, I guess as old as war. It’s fear, dude, just fear and you don’t have to be Sun freakin Tzu to know that real fighting isn’t about killing or even hurting the other guy, it’s about scaring him enough to call it a day […] what did we call the first round of Gulf War Two, “Shock and Awe”? (Brooks 103-4)

Through Wainio’s explanation of why the battle was such a failure, Max Brooks criticizes the poor military policy of the U.S. government and comments on the government’s inelastic expectations of fear in humanity. For example, Wainio describes that “real fighting” occurs when one manipulates the opponent with fear. His absolute diction in the use of the word “real” highlights the rigid assumptions of the government—that in any “real” battle, the enemy will respond to the use of fear as a weapon. At Yonkers, the government’s failure to realize that the zombie war did not follow the government’s definition of a “real” battle reflects Brooks’ commentary on the U.S. government’s illogical black-and-white perspective on affairs outside its familiar borders.

Brooks uses Wainio’s dialogue as a symbol for the government’s policy stance to reveal how the government bases its weaponry and tactics on the assumption that every enemy is capable of feeling fear. For instance, Wainio implies that war has always correlated with fear, even before the use of those weapons “that rolled off an assembly line.” The image of the assembly line implies standardization and familiarity; if fear is more basic than weapons built on the assembly line, there is an implication that fear should have been the most instinctual response in any battle. Wainio’s confident and even arrogant tone when describing the aspect of fear in war—as shown by his disregard for Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist who wrote The Art of War—reflects the presumptuous attitude of the U.S. government in its military endeavors.

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Fires in Baghdad during the U.S. “Shock and Awe” campaign, which Brooks parallels with the battle at Yonkers (Image taken from content.time.com)

As a result of these assumptions, the U.S. government in World War Z depended on machinery and technology that were “class-A, gold-standard,” descriptions that imply reliability and invincibility. Ironically however, the assault ended in failure, and Wainio’s biting tone reveals his disapproval of the government’s plan for the battle. Paralleling this attitude to the failed Yonkers battle, Brooks alludes to the “Shock and Awe” campaign during the Iraq war as a historical example of the government’s failure in military policy when acting on assumptions. Through this example, Brooks criticizes the impracticality of military tactics and the American government’s inability to adapt to new situations because of its assuming attitudes.

Resources:

Visiting the Backstage of Medical History

When I heard that we would be visiting an archive, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t understand the relevance of an archive, because I imagined that any information a researcher needed could be accessed in a library or on the Internet.

However, after touring the McGovern Historical Center and listening to Ms. Yates describe the archive’s purpose, I realized that I had been very narrow-minded. Walking down the aisles filled with books, photographs, film reels, and other odd artifacts, I realized that all the resources we have access to online are only available after an archivist has sorted, cataloged, and photographed those documents.

I was fascinated when Ms. Yates pointed out surgical tools from the late 1800s and explained how you could tell that the instruments were designed prior to the discovery of the germ theory of disease: the wooden handle of the blade easily absorbed blood that dripped down the blade, providing a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. Her example made clear the opportunities that an archive can provide to researchers.

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Surgical kit circa 1850-1880 (photo taken at the McGovern Historical Center)

I was surprised when we were allowed to touch the archival material. It fascinated me to imagine a surgeon holding the same instrument and operating on patients over 100 years ago. It’s primary sources like these that cannot be digitized but can only be experienced and analyzed at an archive.

I also learned that an archive’s main role is to organize and preserve unpublished work. This reminded me of an assignment I did in high school where I analyzed poetry by Sylvia Plath. During my research, I had found photographs of Plath’s notes and prior drafts, which had given me further insight into Plath’s ideas. It was only after our visit to the archive that I realized that I was able to access those photographs because of the existence of archives.

At the archive, it was interesting to see the kinds of unpublished work that a medical archive stored, including physician notes, film reels of surgeries, and original magazine artwork. I particularly enjoyed looking at the original contact sheets and negatives for an article in the Medical World News; we could identify which photos the magazine decided to publish over others.

Archives give us a behind-the-scenes perspective of published work that we sometimes take for granted. Through archives, we are able to see the authentic and original ideas and content that may have been lost in the publishing process. This backstage perspective of an archive gives us vital raw information to help us analyze and understand history with more insight.

What is Public Health?

Public health is the wellbeing of a group of people in a society. These groups can range from small communities—like those of neighborhoods or cities—to populations of countries or continents, or the entire globe. Inherently, the word “public” describes something that is influenced by multiple members of society. Thus, public health depends on the interactions between members of a community, how individual influences translate into a larger and more widespread effect. These form the health trends that we commonly see described today: the HIV epidemic, the spread of Zika virus, or the obesity epidemic. The study of public health aims to identify factors that affect multiple people, unlike medicine which attempts to treat individuals. The scope of public health can range from a small outbreak of food poisoning in an isolated neighborhood to prevalent infectious diseases such as Ebola or HIV that span multiple countries and multiple continents. Public health can be as basic as providing adequate nutrition and water to impoverished communities or as complex as creating a vaccine for HIV or Zika. It encompasses a broad spectrum of topics related to the health of a community: age, nutrition, pollution, cultural customs, class differences, federal policy, and much more.

Understanding public health is important because it can help governments make informed decisions and craft policies that can improve the standard of living for people, allowing people to live happier and more comfortable lives. For example, public health surveillance and the use of epidemiological records allows the government to track the prevalence of diseases to identify problems. Water testing prevents the public from acquiring waterborne diseases found in polluted waters. Public health is also important because it educates the public about the consequences of their actions. For example, public health research has uncovered the dangers of smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, and pollution, and helped individuals make better choices for their own lives and the lives of those around them. Public health also helps us understand what is occurring outside of our individual lives and promotes the formation of organizations that can provide aid to those who are less fortunate with the goal of promoting worldwide wellbeing. Through public health, the citizens of the world can live safer, more satisfying lives.