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Female Representation in Film and Television

 

The portrayal of women in film and television has undergone a very serious transition throughout the last several decades. Where once women were seen as either helpless and always needing a man to help them through life, now women are considered to be strong, independent, and fully capable of sorting out their own issues. The damsel in distress has given way to the modern woman that no longer needs to be saved, but might still need a companion. Women have gained a stronger and more persistent role in mainstream media.

One such pioneer that paved the way was the character of Ellen Ripley in “Aliens” (1986) that showed how women were fully capable of handling themselves in intense situations. Ripley was a strong-willed woman that did not go out of her way to make friends but still sought to prove herself worthy of her place in the overall situation. Brought in as a consultant in the second film of the franchise, she was obviously suffering from PTSD brought on by her experience with the xenomorph from the previous film. Despite this, she still managed to rally back and show that she was in fact far tougher than several of her male counterparts when it truly counted.

The only real relationship she seems to care about in this film is the one she develops

with the little girl named Newt. She could easily lose the soldiers and the commanders, but Newt

became her world very quickly as she reminded her of the daughter she had lost. Ripley did not

seem to fear much in this film other than the xenomorph, but when it came to losing Newt her

fear of the aliens took a back seat very quickly.

Another potential victim of severe PTSD is the character of Arya Stark from the popular

HBO program, “Game of Thrones” (2011). Arya is only eleven years old when her family is

uprooted from their home in Winterfell to move to King’s Landing, which is more than enough

to cause some dissention. Her problems only get worse however when a coup is staged, her

father is beheaded, and her family is broken apart. From that point on Arya is quite lost, though

not beaten.

Despite her young age and obvious frailty she remains determined to take her revenge on those that brought about the ruination of her family.  The only stable relationship she has is with the man that abducts/saves her, the Hound. Ironically enough, he is also one of the men on her hit list. Through adversity she becomes one of the most dangerous characters by dint of her single-minded determination to see vengeance done.

The other end of the emotional spectrum is felt by Nicky Nichols from the Netflix hit, “Orange is The New Black” (2013). Set in a women’s prison, OTNB is the type of drama that acts as a comedic and suspenseful show that features a wide variety of characters and womanly issues that are sometimes hard to keep up with. Nichols however is a woman that struggles with her own sexual and pharmaceutical needs on a regular basis. As the show progresses she is shown to relapse time and again as she tries to cope with new situations in the prison and her own confusing love life. Her motivations seem to be based around little more than just surviving and seeing that her more base needs are met, but Nicky is a great deal deeper than she lets on.

Her relationships tend to be mostly sexual or more of the type of mentor-daughter

relationship she has with Red, the head chef at the prison. If Nicky fears anything, it is

disappointing Red in any way. This does tend to happen, but Red is always there to pick her back

up and brush her off. In many ways, Nicky is almost like an angst-ridden teenager that decided to never grow up.

Another emotionally-driven character is Maggie Bennett, the mother figure on another

Netflix show “The Ranch” (2016). She is also a conflicted character considering that she is

estranged from her husband Beau in the beginning of the series. She tries and fails to reconnect

with Beau after their youngest son Colt returns home from a failed semi-pro football career, and

eventually leaves during one point in the show to find out what she is missing in her life. It is a

little difficult to know what Maggie’s true motivations are largely because the writers of the show have penned her in as a no-nonsense mother figure, but also as a free spirit that feels confined in her current role.

Her relationship with her sons is sound enough, but her relation to Beau is a tumultuous

mess that never seems capable of being fully reconciled. It is very obvious that the two of them

care about one another, but the difference between them is hard to bridge. Her motivations throughout the series thus far are to finally look out for herself, as her sons are grown and capable of supporting themselves, and even Beau agrees that they are no longer good for one another. Her only real weakness is that she is highly susceptible to being taken advantage of, as the newcomer, Clint, has already shown near the end of the third season.

With one drama, a comedy, a science fiction story, and a fantasy tale, the odds of all four

women being similar in any way are surprisingly good. The two characteristics that all four

character share despite the vast difference in their surroundings is that they are emotionally

bound by those they care for, and they are not the type that will wait for a male companion to

“sort things out”. In terms of who is the most independent and inherently dangerous, the list

would begin with Arya, proceed to Ripley, and then end with Nicky and Maggie in that order.

Each woman is depicted differently in accordance with their surroundings and given story line, and as a result two of them become killers out of necessity, whereas the other two will always be the type to please those around them with slightly differing methods.

In the past women in film and television were often depicted as housewives and mothers that had one job, to be homemakers and ideal support for the husband and a good role model for the children. As time has gone by the role of women in media has changed drastically as they have become far more empowered. Their roles have developed to include a number of different responsibilities that were once considered the sole province of male characters, and the change has been largely positive. Scott and Dargis (2014) agree that women no longer need to appear subservient to men in film and television as they have taken the lead in many cases, as they have shown that they are extremely diverse in the roles they can fill.

In today’s media women are represented as tougher and in no way dependent upon men other than for emotional support and, depending on the film or series, for added financial support.  The days of the damsel in distress have been replaced by the empowered woman that can make her own decisions and handle virtually any situation that is thrown at them. Women are shown as far more capable and willing to take on the added responsibilities that their characters are given, and have excelled in such roles that allow them to show that they are strong and independent. Women are no longer subservient to men in any way, and in some ways are shown to be superior.

This new and still-developing role of women is a huge step forward in how women can be positively represented in the media. The manner in which they are depicted is not always exceedingly positive, but it is far more realistic. By showing a more diverse female presence in film and television the role of women in society becomes even stronger.

Works Cited

Aliens. Directed by James Cameron, performances by Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Bill

Paxton, and Paul Reiser, 20th Century Fox, 1986.

Game of Thrones, written and directed by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, HBO Studios, 2011.

Orange is The New Black, written and directed by Jenji Kohan, Netflix, 2013.

Scott, A.O. & Dargis, Manhola. “Sugar, Spice and Guts.” The New York Times.

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/movies/fall-arts-preview-representation-of-female-characters-in-movies-is-improving.html, Accessed 22 June 2017.

The Ranch, written and directed by Don Reo and Jim Patterson, Netflix, 2016.

 

Using Cognitive Training and Psychotropic Medications to Reduce Recidivism

 

Recidivism is simply put the tendency of any convicted criminal to commit another offense. This is a big problem with many individuals who have taken to a life of crime and have become inured to the lifestyle through need or necessity. For those that are labeled as criminally insane the act of recidivism is considered to be treatable given that their mental state is less stable and requires an added boost in the form of medication or therapy. It has been shown that cognitive training and psychotropic medications do affect recidivism rates.

As mental illness has been examined throughout the past several decades one of the main problems has been what is known as the “revolving door syndrome” (Delaney, 1998). In essence, patients that are treated and deemed to be functioning members of society are released from care and are allowed back into the population. What has happened in the past and still happens in the present is that they are quickly readmitted when it becomes evident that they cannot act as functioning members of their community. In many cases these individuals commit crimes that cannot to be tolerated and thus are admitted into a psychiatric ward or are shipped off to jail, or prison, once again.

Those exhibiting such illnesses as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are often considered to be a danger to the general public and themselves. In truth such individuals are often more of a danger to themselves than others, but the statistical data that is evident implies that they are often jailed for minor offenses that are often the cause of misunderstandings between the affected individual and another person. These individuals are more often in need of medical and psychiatric help as they are more of a danger to themselves than to others.  Far too often they are linked to the act of recidivism simply because they have yet to be successfully treated and made to feel like a normally functioning human being.

What has been noticed over the years is that those with bipolar disorder and/or diagnosed schizophrenia are at a great risk for cardiometabolic comorbidity that can cause long-term problems for the individual and those around them (Corell, Ng-Mak, Stafkey-Mailey, Farrelly, Rajagopalan, & Loebel, 2017). Their more violent and antisocial tendencies are only aggravated by the continuing lack of understanding that allows them check in to be treated and then be readmitted at a later date when the treatment wears off. A greater level of comprehension concerning these disorders are needed in order to lessen the chance of recidivism amongst patients exhibiting such conditions. This is why cognitive training and psychotropic medications are considered to be among the only treatments that are seen to cause any change in individuals that suffer from such disorders.

Quite often it is seen that medication and therapeutic techniques when used independently of one another have a tendency to work only a certain percentage of the time. When used together, the two methods tend to create a much stronger effect as it lends more support and a much more positive impact to the conditions suffered by the individual. Recidivism rates tend to decline when medication and therapy are combined to alleviate a patient’s disorders, as they are less likely to continue their offensive behaviors when properly monitored and medicated. It has been noted in many studies that patients that do not choose to follow the advice of psychiatrists and doctors alike tend to become far more erratic in manner and will eventually perform the same behaviors that end with them being re-hospitalized or arrested once again.

The association between mental illness and criminal actions is only around ten percent

(Yates, Kunz, Kahn, Volavka, and Rabinowitz, 2010), but this is still considered a very

significant number. There are two categories in which the factors behind criminal behavior

among mentally ill patients can be grouped. One is that of crimogenic characteristics that the individual shares with the rest of the population. The other has to do with the personal and environmental factors that contribute to the illness and therefore how the individual reacts to their surroundings and any given situation.

Much of the problem is that those with conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia lack any type of impulse control that is generally needed to control behavior. In this manner they are unable to stop themselves from simply acting out in one way or another. This does not mean that these individuals will become violent as a rule. The likelihood that they will commit a violent act is slightly greater than that of the average citizen that is not afflicted with poor impulse control. In this manner it is necessary to diagnose the problem when possible and assign these individuals to a program that is designed to help them deal with their condition.

Cognitive training, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, has been seen as a highly effective method used to teach individuals the consequences of their actions by thinking forward instead of in the moment. This allows the individual to stop and assess the choices they are about to make before they continue. In this manner they are taught how to apply critical thinking to their own lives and thereby use logic and reason to better understand the world around them. On its own, cognitive training is quite effective, but individuals have been known to relapse when presented with extremely stressful situations. This is where medication tends to become a useful tool.

There are many documented cases in which the use of psychotropic medications,

medicines that are designed to affect brain chemistry and the nervous system, have led to a

marked decrease in recidivism. Some argue that a dependence upon such drugs is dangerous and

can be very costly. However, the success rate when coupled with cognitive training is enough to

convince researchers that the pairing is worthwhile.  Between the act of critical thinking and the calming effect that such medication can have upon the brain chemistry of an affected individual, there is hope that recidivism rates will continue to lower significantly so long as individuals stick with their assigned programs.

Very often the only reason why cognitive training and medication do not work has to do with a number of factors that are difficult if not possible to control (Yates, et al, 2010). The individual might not be able to afford a health care provider that can help with their needed treatment, or could possibly have to move from the area in which their provider operates. It could also occur that the individual simply does not wish to undergo the cognitive training and actively resists the treatment. In such cases only a court order can be used to compel an individual to undergo the needed treatment, and only if they are deemed a threat to themselves and to others. Such cases are not entirely common and the individual is usually compelled to undergo a psych evaluation in order to determine the seriousness of their disorder. If they are found to be reasonably well-adjusted there is little that can be done to make them undergo treatment.

The issue of recidivism is very real and requires a great amount of study into why certain affected individuals will lean towards violent acts when dealing with various mental disorders. Much of the problem consists of how they are treated and if the disorders are even addressed and/or diagnosed properly. Unfortunately mental disorders are very difficult to predict and are often subject to being missed or misdiagnosed. The overall goal is to keep such individuals from being admitted time and again to the hospital or being arrested multiple times only to be let loose into the population again without having addressed the issue at hand. This problem has been seen to negatively affect the chances of positive treatment techniques that can and have helped many individuals to lead a relatively normal life.

References

Corell, C.U., et al. (2017). Cardiometabolic comorbidities, readmission, and costs

in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: a real-world analysis. Annals of General Psychiatry, 16(9).

Delaney, C. RN, PsyD. (1998). Reducing Recidivism: Medication Versus Psychosocial

Rehabilitation. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 36(11), 24-34.

Yates, K.F., et al. (2010). Psychiatric patients with histories of aggression and crime five years

after discharge from a cognitive-behavioral program. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 21(2), 167-188.

Zero Dark Thirty, The Necessity of Torture but No Moral

 

The film Zero Dark Thirty stirred up a great deal of media debate after its release. The debate was not just about the killing of Osama bin Laden, but involved foreign-policy, political and national-security journalists and the use of torture. After 9/11, America lived under the constant threat of another such attack. In recent times there have been a string of documentaries and dramatic films that focus on the subject of government secrecy and counterterrorism. There are tough questions about how far the US should be willing to go in the battle against terrorism.
There have been a number of reviews written in favor of and against the film. The main debate surrounding Zero Dark Thirty is the amount of secrecy used by the CIA  as they worked in secret the director to capture every sordid detail. A great deal of attention has been given to the manner in which the film portrays the use of torture and how it is depicted as being invaluable to information gathering. The point of this essay is to look deeper into how the media has constructed the debate concerning Zero Dark Thirty and how the prime issues have been displayed.

Starting out with the favorable reviews, it is important to note that some of the most supportive still have the sound of criticism.  The difficulty of finding a positive note within such a movie is no doubt a byproduct of having to sit through a very controversial technique that is rooted in reality.  What is important is that any reviews remain objective enough to represent both pros and cons of the film.  Despite the viewpoint of the critics, it is important to remember the main them of the movie.

Many reviewers tend to think that Zero Dark Thirty accurately portrays torture as a less

than effective method for gaining intelligence. Spencer Ackerman is one such reviewer. As Ackerman points out in his article “Two Cheers for Zero Dark Thirty’s Torture Scenes,” he argues that, “There is little interrogation presented in Zero Dark Thirty”. (Ackerman, 2012). The twisted road to Bin Laden’s capture is a continuous mix of truth and drama. What makes it one of the most important American fiction movies is that it relates to September 11 and revolves around the moral costs of revenge. With that in mind it is important to note that Zero Dark Thirty is more about punishment than any true interrogation.

Manohla Dargis, critic for the New York Times, tends to believe in the portrayal of torture in much the same way that Ackerman does.  Like Ackerman she believes that the torturous scenes are as unreliable in generating intelligence and play a very minor role in determining the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. She also points out that “It is also a wrenchingly sad, soul-shaking story about revenge and its moral costs, which makes it the most important American fiction movie about Sept. 11” (Dargis, 2012). The first 45 minutes of Zero Dark Thirty bombard the mind and soul with the torture scenes based on ignorance and brutality. The disturbing scenes of the humiliated man that is continually tortured using various techniques and questionable methods is a haunting scene of human degradation.  Added to this is the scene during which he is confined to a tiny box that is too small to stand up in and too cramped to sit only adds to the indignity.

Patrice Taddonio, a writer for Public Radio International, takes a slightly different tact but still remains on point with Ackerman and Dargis in describing the efficacy of the torture techniques used in the film. Unlike other movies, Zero Dark Thirty presents torture as the necessary, if reprehensible means to combat terrorism. In the film, as in real life, the CIA’s torture programs discard the notion that it was torture that led to bin Laden. Taddonio goes on to describe how “the CIA secretly worked with the filmmakers, and the movie portrayed the agency’s controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” — widely described as torture — as a key to uncovering information that led to the finding and killing of bin Laden.” (Taddonio, 2016). The whole case is not based on one abused detainee, who could not possibly have all the information demanded by CIA.  This however brings about the most disturbing realization of all,

that for all that is done to the captives it yielded little if any useful information, and was thus highly unnecessary.

On a more negative note the following reviews are less flattering and more critical of the film. There is no doubt that the graphic scenes in Zero Dark Thirty can be deeply unsettling for

the audience. At the same time though the film presents a meticulous re-creation of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Maya, whose youth and sangfroid are valuable assets in the information age, manages to use her strategy of equivalent exchange to navigate her way through the treacherous puzzles of suicide bombers and confusing code names. She is desperate for a link to bin Laden and knows when she confronts an outdated Cold War logic that her task will only become harder. There is a long sequence in the deadly raid of hunting bin Laden that shows the brave, courageous soldiers and how they manage to create a classic, thrilling climax upon finally acquiring their target.

Peter Maass, a writer with The Atlantic, tends to disagree and states that “U.S. senators and other experts agree that torture did not play a significant role in finding bin Laden”, they fail to see a far more important and troubling spot in the film, and that is the embedded journalism (Maass, 2012)). Unlike other movies, Zero Dark Thirty is a recent event. Nearly every part of the film can be scrutinized for its base in fact or fiction, though some subjects have been subjected to heavier criticisms. Maass is adamant about his views concerning the uselessness of torture.

One very important fact that should be remembered is that this is not a documentary, nor a true to life reenactment of history, but a dramatic movie. One of the more basic problems is that the government is able to offer privileged access to produce a potentially great story in return. It is deeply troubling to know that not every journalist or filmmaker is able to rate such special invitations. More often than not the government does its absolute best to keep journalists away from revealing and often unflattering stories that are just waiting to be told by resentful officials. The emergence of stories such as Zero Dark Thirty speak of an attempt by the government to push forth their own agenda through a cunning use of fiction that is attempting to mirror reality. As stated by Maass, ” The fundamental problem is that our government has again gotten away with offering privileged access to carefully selected individuals and getting a flattering story in return.” (Maass, 2012). “When you lie to me,” he says, “I hurt you.” (Zero Dark Thirty 2013). This hurtful and very dire promise is repeated not unlike a mantra to add to the torture and misery of the captive within the story. This sends the message that the agent in charge of the interrogation is not a complete sadist, as a dedicated sadist will never offer an explicit answer as to why they are committing such acts.

In his article, “Zero Dark Thirty’ Is Osama bin Laden’s Last Victory Over America.” Matt Taibbi writes that “Zero Dark Thirty is a compelling thriller based on real-life subject matter and one of the greatest action-movie plots of all time. Still, some questions can create continual debate concerning the content and the direction of the movie.” As an example, the use of “enhanced interrogation” that dominates the beginning of the film is more than enough to offer a prime example of how the CIA obtains their information. Taibbi manages to point out that “the main character, Maya, looks on in shocked disgust but takes in the torture with a stony silence” (Taibbi, 2013).

Taibbi says that according to Bigelow, despite the unprovable effectiveness of the interrogations, omitting them from Zero Dark Thirty would have only meant a moral cowardice (Taibbi, 2013).  Still, it is equally immoral to leave out how generally ineffective the torture was and how it has enraged the entire Arab world. One cannot shut one’s eyes to the torture displayed in Zero Dark Thirty and how it helped to catch Osama bin Laden in real life. No matter how justified the act of torture may be, it rarely if ever receives absolute approval from a public that is often set firmly against such heinous practices. The only whiff of morality one sees in the film is when Maya looks a little troubled by follow the CIA agent Dan’s methods, but minutes later she is out on the streets in a hijab, ready to throw fists at suspects. In truth morality within Zero Dark Thirty is conditional and used only when necessary or convenient.

Taibbi also states that the majority of the film is spent between the “collusion between the CIA, the screenwriter, and the director of the film and their peddling of their version of the of the distasteful “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” program” (Taibbi, 2013). On the other hand, it is still likely that bin Laden wouldn’t have been found without the enhanced interrogation techniques.  Whether or not the interrogations were useful is a small part of the debate and not the meat of the issue.  What does matter is the morality that was so casually abandoned in order to gain needed information that ultimately was not all that helpful.

Owen Glieberman, a writer for Entertainment Weekly, likes to point out there is a “great deal of reality in the plot of Zero Dark Thirty, technically speaking” (Glieberman, 2013). Still, the manner in how the torture is depicted shows a decided lack of perspective that is borderline irresponsible in filmmaking. The movie seems to celebrate how such brutal tactics were successfully used, and how the enhanced interrogation techniques were a necessary evil.  The film is being nominated for Oscars thanks to its use of realism, though it still bears mentioning that its casual lack of morality is disturbing as well as enlightening.

Jane Mayer, writer for The New Yorker, echoes the sentiments of Glieberman and Taibbi when she states that “it is ironic to see Zero Dark Thirty heading towards Oscar nominations and raising questions about whether torture can be used for a morally neutral entertainment” (Mayer, 2012). One can accuse Zero Dark Thirty of presenting false publicity for waterboarding as well as endorsing torture.  The scenes of torture seem to go on and on, while other scenes showing other ways of receiving info, such as enticing sources with expensive race cars, last only a few minutes. It is obvious to Mayer that the filmmakers are storytellers, and “one cannot expect them to convey the history accurately because they need to consider the sales of the movie and won’t add other unnecessary things affect the quality of the movie.” (Mayer, 2012). What appeals to the viewer becomes the basis of how the movie is constructed, while thereby sacrificing the otherwise dubious integrity of the movie itself.

Zero Dark Thirty sparked a political and ethical debate regarding its use of torture program for drama. The debate echoes the moral significance of the political dilemma and how the hunt for bin Laden is devoid of moral context. Mayer goes on to say that the director of the film, Kathryn Bigelow, “defends her work by stating that it has not been made to take sides or judge.” (Mayer, 2012). When interviewed she agrees that the scenes were unsentimental and graphic. She also goes on to state that the film does not focus solely on torture and showcases the act as just one more way to gather information and needed intelligence.

Despite those views and comments, it is true that Zero Dark Thirty does not stop the intricacy of the debate about America’s brutal detention program. More importantly, there is not a single scene in the film that questions the brutality and torture. The only baseline of moral awareness one sees is the delicate wincing of Maya (Mayer, 2012).  While the feeling of unease is shown to affect those in the film, it is still a very present and widely used method.  The continual application of torture and morally corrupt behavior is a necessary presence within the movie, though it has become a driving force behind the debate over the use of torture in interrogation.

The film seems to insist that the C.I.A.’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” played a major role in finding bin Laden.  Still, there are contrary accounts of C.I.A. officers and senators with access to classified information stating that it was not the torture that led to finding bin Laden. Republicans have criticized the movie’s plot and disagree that the torture can lead to any reliable information in just about any case (Mayer, 2012). It is also true that there is very little access to public information concerning the C.I.A.’s operations and associated processes. There have been documented cases where inmates have been tortured to death without revealing any information and cases in which they have fabricated disinformation to ease their own suffering. Maass writes, “The fundamental problem is that our government has again gotten away with offering privileged access to carefully selected individuals and getting a flattering story in return” (Maass, 2012). It is true that everyone want filmmakers to use the information they are given to provide a good and convincing story despite any governmental influence.

The truth is that Zero Dark Thirty is a masterpiece, but it is also an attempt by the US government to further its own agenda by displaying a very emotional and disturbing story.  Both the director and the writers of this film have more than once insisted that the film is in no way a serious, meaningful documentary. It is a work of fiction based upon a very real event, and as such carries far more realism that many people seem to prefer. Sometimes we must take a long, hard look at humanity to understand the difference between right and wrong.


Works Cited

Ackerman, Spencer. “Two Cheers for Zero Dark Thirty’s Torture Scenes.” Wired. 10 December 2012. Web. 16 June 2016.

Zero Dark Thirty. Dir. Bigelow, Kathryn Perf. Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, and Chris Pratt. United States: Alliance Films, 2013.

Dargis, Manohla. “By Any Means Necessary.” New York Times. 2012. Web. 16 June 2016.

Gleiberman, Owen. “Zero Dark Thirty.” Entertainment Weekly. 2013. Web. 16 June 2016.

Maass, Peter. “Don’t Trust ‘Zero Dark Thirty’.” The Atlantic. 2012. Web. 16 June 2016.

Mayer, Jane. “Zero Conscience In ‘Zero Dark Thirty’.” The New Yorker. 2012. Web. 16 June 2016.

Taddonio, Patrice. “How the CIA helped make ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ — and shape the torture debate.” Public Radio International. 2015. Web. 16 June 2016.

Taibbi, Matt. “Zero Dark Thirty’ Is Osama bin Laden’s Last Victory Over America.” Rolling Stone. 2013. Web. 16 June 2016.

 

 

 

Kissing As a Universal Gesture

 

To many people kissing is a common occurrence and usually signifies that a person cares for another or has some sort of affection towards the one they are kissing. However it is done, a peck on the cheek, a quick kiss on the lips, or even a kiss on the palm before one “blows a kiss”, the gesture is considered to be quite common and even pleasant. In different cultures however kissing can be very different and in some cases considered even filthy.  Kissing is not a universal gesture among all cultures.

The origin of kissing has scientists and historians alike divided when it comes to proclaiming why kissing became popular. In a more romantic sense it is thought to have been an instinctual act, a way to promote pair-bonding and eventual reproduction. Others believe it might stem from kiss feeding, which was how mothers used to feed their children mashed-up food long, long ago. While neither explanation truly pins it down, the former seems a bit vague while the latter seems a little disturbing considering how the kiss has evolved.

At the biological level, kissing might turn a great number of people off if they understood exactly what was happening in terms of their body. When a person kisses another person it can transmit up to eighty million new bacteria to their body, and will activate nearly one hundred and forty-six muscles in each kiss (Bever, 2015). Plus, the average person that does kiss another will kiss for up to twenty thousand minutes, roughly two weeks, within their lifetime. These numbers usually vary from person to person depending on the type of kiss and the duration. However, that seems like an excessive amount of time puckering up to another person considering what is shared from one set of lips to another.

Scientists have discovered that among the one hundred and sixty-eight different cultures

that have been observed over the world, well over half of them do not engage in kissing at all. It

is also interesting to note that North America is not the kissing capital that many might think it to be. The Middle East is the prime kissing zone when it comes to this gesture, followed by Asia and then Europe (Farkas & Peterson, 2016). North America is actually fourth on the list in terms of how many cultures actively kiss one another. While it might seem a little strange it is also worth noting that in America alone many cultures that do not engage in kissing are present and can therefore drive the number down.

I had a chance to witness this more than once while in the city in which my university

resides, and found it to be quite interesting. It took a while to observe considering that respecting people’s privacy is rather important, but what I did see is that among different cultures, several people seemed to disdain open or even close-mouth kisses. Some people would rub their noses together; others would show affection with a gentle touch or caress that was tasteful and quite meaningful. When I decided to ask a couple that I had been observing for a short time I stated my name and intention so that they might feel a bit more comfortable about my asking, and then proceeded to question them.

The people told me that in their home country, India, it was not common for others to be seen kissing and groping one another endlessly as they had seen in America. Instead they remained close, but did not touch nearly as much as they stated they had seen others doing.  When I asked, politely, if they left their more amorous intentions at home in and in private quarters they actually seemed a bit embarrassed. I apologized for my blunt manner but they went on to tell me that they had been raised not to speak of such things. In fact, the husband told me that kissing in their country is not illegal, but kissing in public could be seen as an obscenity that could very well offend someone and cause trouble to those performing the act (Nunez, 2014).

We began to talk about PDA (public displays of affection) and what was seen as

acceptable to one person as opposed to the view of another. Not surprisingly we came up with

very few differences. My own personal opinion on PDA is rather conservative as I was raised to

believe that public displays concerning affection of any type should be confined to small,

appropriate gestures that are able to be shared around others. The couple agreed with for the

most part, but we tended to disagree on the aspect of kissing. In their opinion, kissing is an act

best left between those that are romantically engaged, and behind closed doors where no one else

can see.

During my time observing others I noticed many other behaviors that involved affection between consenting adults that did not involve kissing. I asked only one other couple, this one a younger man and woman that I saw touching noses and foreheads together but never touching lips. Once again I explained the purpose behind my asking, which thankfully lessened their chance of refusing my questions outright. When I first spoke to them they had been engaged in this forehead-touching gesture and seemed a little embarrassed that I had caught them. I found this rather odd considering that moments of affection such as this in America are often seen as completely normal and quite heartfelt.

The couple were visiting the United States from Peking, China, and were quite used to the relaxed ideals of Americans when it came to PDA. As they told me however PDA in many parts of Asia is not so much forbidden but is discouraged and frowned upon. They told me that it is quite okay to hold hands and one’s significant other, but anything else, including kissing, is quite unacceptable. When they asked me on my thoughts I stated that while kissing is a very common form of affection in America, it can often be overdone to the detriment of the individuals and others around them. They heartily agreed.

As a form of PDA, kissing is for many people a very normal, natural way to express ones

feelings towards their chosen partner. But to several others it is a rather disgusting and pointless part of a courting ritual that seems to invite little more than disease and a useless sentiment. While it is the right of every person to agree to disagree, there are instances in which PDA, kissing in particular, can be quite overdone. It is the right of another person to kiss the one they love, but there is also such a thing as decorum that should be observed when in public.

For instance, when out in the midst of other people, it is not necessary to instigate a

make-out session with one’s partner (Mayne, 2017). This is not only rude, but it can make other people uncomfortable and even a bit angry if the spectacle is continued for more than a second or two. A peck on the lips, the cheek, or anything else is usually quite acceptable, but anything long and drawn out is generally enough to bother those in a close vicinity. The exception of course is if one is in a public place, then it is okay to allow the kiss to linger for a bit, but it is still considered lewd and even inappropriate to continue kissing in a public place.

While some cultures consider kissing to be romantic and even acceptable, others view it as a rather disgusting. A few cultures actually consider it to be similar to sharing one’s dirt with another individual, which is hard for many kissing cultures to imagine. Despite the differences between separate cultures and their view on kissing however, it is universally accepted that such a gesture is best to be done in private and behind closed doors. A quick or moderate kiss can be acceptable in public, but anything more is considered rather gratuitous and highly unnecessary.

Kissing is by far and large not universal gesture among human beings. The current role it

holds in many cultures often speaks of affection and not a means by which children are fed,

which is somewhat reassuring. While some cultures consider it repellent and have nothing to do

with it, others that do not practice it tend to show their affection with a gentle touch or by simply

being near their partner. Kissing is, in terms of affection, a very cultural gesture.

References

Bever, L. (2015). Romantic kissing not a universal behaviour. TheStar.com. Retrieved from

https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2015/07/27/romantic-kissing-not-a-universal-behaviour.html

Farkas, I. & Peterson, T. (2016). 5 Universal Experiences That Are Different In Other Cultures.

Cracked. Retrieved from

http://www.cracked.com/article_24461_5-insane-ways-your-culture-physically-shapes-your-perception_p2.html

Mayne, D. (2017). Etiquette of Public Affection. The Spruce. Retrieved from

https://www.thespruce.com/etiquette-of-public-affection-1216896

Nunez, C. (2014). 9 places where you don’t want to be caught kissing. Global Citizen.

Retrieved from

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/9-places-where-you-dont-want-to-be-caught-kissing/

 

Problems of Evil

 

The problem of evil brings to mind the idea that the argument of a perfectly good and just God that is “all–powerful, all-knowing, and all-good is logically incoherent, given the existence of evil in our world” (Mackie, 28)  There are a good many arguments against God’s existence when the consideration of all that has gone wrong in this world is brought to light. Problems such as disease, murder, theft, and abuse in all its forms make a very strong counter to the idea that this world does in fact bow to the whims of a loving deity.  Such arguments proclaim that if God was perfect these ills of humanity would not exist.

B.C. Johnson states that God could have easily created a world that lived without misery if He were in fact the perfect deity so many believe (Johnson, 28). A very common defense is that this world exists as it is by the consequence of God bestowing free will upon His creations.  Therefore He willingly gave up control and refused to impose perfection upon His world.  But such an argument is too dismissive and as a result, God cannot be blamed for the mess this world is in.  While He did give mankind freedom to choose, human beings are the ones who make their own choices over how to behave. As such humans need to own up to their own inequities and admit to their mistakes.

Many a religious theist would undoubtedly argue that the misery that is so rampant in this

world is due largely to the sins of mankind.  Those very sins give every reason that God might

have to punish his children, and while some innocents would be and have been affected by the

impact of such punishments, such moments are quite useful in opening the eyes of those who have yet to discover the consequences of their action, allowing them a chance to better themselves. Van Inwagen offers the same idea when he states that:

“God is a just and loving god, for He cared enough about us to endow us with something of very great value-free will. Being free, we sometimes make mistakes. The misery in this world is properly charged to our misdeeds, rather than God’s culpability. A world with free will, and the suffering it sometimes engenders, is a better world than one in which human beings are mere automata.”

Van Inwagen makes a very good point. One cannot have a perfect world with the presence of free will.  If there was no free will the world might be closer to attaining perfection but would also mean that human beings were more akin to machines that could survive and operate without emotion or deviation from normal routines.  As humans it is possible to feel loved, but that love also leads to suffering at times.  Humans experience a vast range of emotions that lead to happiness, suffering, and many other outcomes that help to shape the human condition.

Loving another is a part of free will, as is lying, feeling anger, and even feeling anxious or irritated.  While several emotions are typically the responsibility of the individual, there are those which are capable of being the fault of an individual and must be addressed.  In any case, every human emotion requires some form of free will.  In many cases such emotions are either learning experiences that either break an individual or make them stronger.  Free will both guides human beings to the emotions that are felt so deeply and keeps them aware of the more negative feelings in order to serve as a reminder of what the consequences can be for becoming mired in such ill thoughts and gestures.

Aside from the idea that there is no real example of a God who is perfect and just, the

problem of evil also negates the idea by arguing the existence of continued suffering.  Of course

this would be countered by the same argument that humans are responsible for their own wrong-

doings and therefore the suffering they cause.  In contrast to the suffering that exists in the world

there is also evidence for a great amount of good as well.  That begs the question of: If God wasn’t a good and just deity, how could such a thing possibly exist?

Such things as happiness, love, and equality do in fact exist throughout the world.  For anyone to state that God is in no way good thanks to the amount of suffering that goes on is not a justifiable or valid statement.  The premise of the problem of evil is that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, and as such should be able to stop any and all suffering within the world.  What is virtually ignored however is the fact that in order for the good to shine through the suffering and the pain must at times endure.  In order to see the good in the world, sometimes people have to see the absolute worst to realize how precious the good really is.

There is evil in the world that is never in doubt but in order to believe in evil there must be a reasonable assumption that there must be good, and in so thinking, there must be a God that set both forces into motion.  Evil on its own could just as well be the lack of belief in God, though there is nothing to substantiate this either.  Some think that if there is no faith in God that they might be punished or endure suffering of the worst sort for the sin of disbelief.  While God is caring and nurturing, He is also demanding and desires the prayers and devotion of His children.

Just as in the relationship between a parent and a child, the devotion of human beings to God is a two-sided communication.  If there is no belief in God then such a bond becomes entirely one-sided, and there can be no real connection.  Then the suffering and pain that comes is endured alone, and the belief of evil becomes even stronger as the belief in good wanes. If there is no communication with God, no worship or devotion, then there is obligation by the Almighty to help when those who refuse Him are in need.

God and evil can and do co-exist for the simple reason that one cannot be without the other.  They are akin to the separate sides of a coin, needing one another to thrive.  If evil did not exist, too many would take the good in life for granted, thinking it to be the only way of life and therefore not as important to revere. If only evil existed, then all hope would soon die, and the world would be a bleak, dark place.  Free will goes a long way towards the decision between good and evil, and choosing which path to walk.  Sometimes a little evil and suffering is needed to teach people what path they are meant to take throughout their life.

Without suffering there would be no basis for evil, as even the good could begin to fill such a role.  God in all His wisdom and benevolence is above reproach, but those who follow His word are human, and thus capable of error.  If there were indeed an absence of evil, then a void would exist in the world as human beings know it, and something else would have to take its place.  Considering the ills that have been committed in the name of any and all religions it stands to reason that evil would not be absent for very long.

To conclude, there may or may not be any definitive, physical evidence that God truly

exists, but thinking that He does not exist because of the persistence of evil is a faulty premise.

The supposed absence of one force does not justify negating the mere thought of its existence.

There aren’t a great many arguments that can prove or disprove such an idea, but the mere

thought that evil exists so that good has a purpose is one that does resonate with many people,

and makes a great deal of sense. In other words, evil and good are bound together in a

struggle that has existed since long before mankind came to be, contest of wills that continues

today and both astound and inspires many upon many theological debates over the existence of

God and the primacy of evil.  Because of free will humans have the opportunity to make such

distinctions.

Works Cited

Hick, John. Philosophy of Religion (4th Ed.) Ed. Beardsley, Elizabeth & Beauchamp, Tom. New

York: Pearson, 1989. Print.

 

Stress in College

 

College is a stressful time for anyone.  It can be argued that life itself is stressful when leaving high school, but for those who choose to enroll in higher education it becomes even more so for many reasons.  The average college student will become stressed at least a few times during their tenure within any given institution.  Life outside of high school for many individuals is far harder than it ever seemed while still living under their parents’ roof.  Stress is a natural byproduct of the college experience.

Much of the stress that is present during college is common knowledge, though a good deal of it becomes exaggerated and blown out of proportion for those who have yet to experience such a venue.  Movies, television shows, and even the words of friends and family that have been through the college experience often tend to paint vivid pictures in the minds of future students. For many that picture ranges from viewing college as a place that is either made for hard work and great sacrifice to a place of non-stop partying and debauchery that is borderline illegal in many ways.  Whatever the idea placed into the minds of aspiring students, the truth about college is that it is more akin to a meat grinder for those who seek to gain something from the time spent.  If one is not prepared they will either gain nothing or be overwhelmed by the journey towards a higher education.

Homework, tests, and hours of study that are required in some cases to even pass a course

are among the most obvious stressors.  A great deal of time is required for any dedicated student

to perform to their potential, which means sacrificing at times to insure that such time is allotted

for needed studies.  Finals, mid-terms only add to this level of stress, and can cause many people

to become overworked and even “freaked out” to such a degree that they cease to function for

periods of time.  The average workload of a successful student is often enough to short out

anyone’s cerebellum for a time, which would explain dropout and failure rates in some cases.

Relationships are yet another stressor that is difficult to remove within the college experience, as even during this time students are still in a period of development.  Too many individuals have experienced the transition between high school and college believing that their current relationships will hold firm only to watch them crumble.  College is a period of great change, and the facets of one’s old life do not always fit into the same prioritized compartments that become important during the switch.  While some relationships do survive, they are the exception, not the rule.

A rather big stressor for any college student is the difficulty in prioritizing and managing their time. In college it is rare for a professor to take enough interest in a student to keep them in line and on task.  Where a teacher in high school might see it as their job to continually remind a student to hand in their work, or to study, or to do any number of school-related functions, college professors are not paid to do this. They are paid to teach classes, hand out tests, and grade said homework and exams. They are not there to keep the students on task, as that is the students’ responsibility.  Managing classes and keeping everything in a neat and tidy manner is the responsibility of the student and no one else (Kokemuller, 2016).

Being away from home can be a major stressor as well, as the unfamiliar room, the unknown campus, and even a lack of friends can alienate most people. Adding to that the need to keep a tight hold on available resources and funds only places another stressor upon the mind of any college student as they must find a way to manage and prioritize not only their study time, but their life.  In college the act of growing up becomes a necessity rather than a luxury, and the student must take such lessons to heart quickly if they are to survive in such an academic environment.

Thankfully most colleges in the modern age are equipped with methods and trained professionals that can help a new student better acclimate to the experience.  Counselors, support groups, and even social groups have been set into place for years now to welcome and insure the integration of new students.  Going to a new college in new town or city can be a daunting prospect for anyone (Reifman, 2011), and most institutions realize this fact and have planned accordingly.  Entering a new school is a large step in the next phase of an individual’s life, and is better served if that individual is guided and helped to fit in along the way.

There are even actual courses that can be taken to affect stress management and further help the individual with their continued acclimation to their surroundings.  With such measures put into place the stress of college still does not fully dissipate, but it is made manageable in a way that is both safe and capable of seeing that the individual is cared for as needed.  Finding ways to manage the stress is one of the sole reasons that anyone ever gets out of college in one piece any longer, as the workload continues to increase and the issues that new students carry with them into college continue to expand and worsen in some cases.  In offering a wide range of support groups and courses that inform students on how to reduce stress and find their preferred method to get by (White, 2016), colleges have become a much safer and more student-friendly environment rather than a harsh and unforgiving academic maze.

To summarize, college is by far a stressful time for most individuals in one way or another. While some individuals find their own methods to handle that stress, others often need a helping hand or support to keep their minds on their studies and the real reason they enrolled.  Too many people nationwide have dropped out of college simply because they were stressed out and unable to cope.  Despite being a natural occurrence within the college experience, stress is manageable in most cases, and can be alleviated in many ways.

References

Kokemuller, N. (2016). What Are The Reasons Why College Life Can Be Stressful? Seattlepi.

Retrieved from

http://education.seattlepi.com/reasons-college-life-can-stressful-1244.html

Reifman, A. PhD. (2011). Stress in College Students. Psychology Today. Retrieved from

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-campus/201110/stress-in-college-students

White, M.G., M.A. (2016). Stress Causes of College Students. Lovetoknow. Retrieved from

http://stress.lovetoknow.com/Stress_Causes_of_College_Students

 

The Meaning of Life

 

Countless debates have ensued concerning the supposed importance of how life began, why it was created, and of course if it has any fundamental purpose.  Some would argue that life has no meaning, that it is a randomized hodgepodge of experiences that when placed together create the sum of a life. Others would claim that there is meaning behind every experience, a driving goal that allows an individual to keep going when it would be easier to stop.  Whether it is because of personal belief or fundamental truths that can be measured and verified the meaning of life remains to date an ideal that defies any simple explanation.  Life must mean something in order to mean anything.

From an objective standpoint the meaning of life could be taken in many different contexts.  It could define what one individual means to another, how a person’s job affects their life, and even how random and often ambiguous occurrences can shape ones day.  There are few if any facets of life that cannot be said to give meaning in their own manner, but the overall meaning of the phrase is often ascribed to a much grander scale. So many people wish to believe that life has a meaning beyond their perceptions that they will gladly subscribe to a vast number of explanations that have little to any veracity to them.

The literal definition of life is the distinction that lies between living organisms such as animals and plants and non-organic materials.  This includes the capacity to reproduce, to grow, and function in a manner that actively changes the surrounding environment.  A secondary definition is the simple existence of a biological entity that can be observed and measured.  This however is the simplest and most direct meaning of life, and is well removed from the metaphysical aspect of the question that many would seek to ponder.

Scholars such as A.J. Ayer have gone on to claim that while life does have meaning, the

perceptions of those who seek meaning within life are flawed in their methods of discovering a

deeper purpose (Ayer, 2007, p199). He does not discredit the fact that life does in fact have

meaning, but instead attempts to describe that one perception is not enough to divine the truth

behind the six simple words. This would insinuate that there are several factors throughout a

single life that can be given individual meaning and therefore create the sum of a life through

those experiences. It would also denounce any higher, more transcendent meaning that so many

seek to discover.

Such a view upon the meaning of life and how it might be dwindled down to mere everyday occurrences is not as popular with many who would seek to believe that there is a definitive reason behind the existence of mankind.  While it is a bit egocentric to believe that the human race is so vastly important, it remains a burning question that many feel must be answered if humanity is to discover their true purpose in this world.  Theories and philosophies have abounded since mankind became aware of their place in the world, and have evolved with each passing era without an answer that can satisfy every single person.  It is likely that in this era such an agreement will not be found, though many still make the attempt.  The dilemma persists in thinking that there must be something more, even if all that exists is what is already known.

Religion is therefore one of the frontrunners that seeks to generate the belief that life is not a series of random events.  Through theological belief and study many individuals have attempted to deduce the existence of a higher power and what that force has in mind for the human race.  Unfortunately this belief is largely founded on faith and a sense of mysticism that comprise the basis of each religion that have existed for centuries and more.  These factors as well as others have allowed dissent to foment between philosophers and religious beliefs in the past and present, creating a schism between belief and realism that is difficult to bridge.

Robert Nozick, a former professor at Harvard University, gives several explanations as to

why the belief of a singular God, or even many gods, is unlikely to define the meaning of life

(Nozick, 2007, p224).  In Nozick’s view the belief of being used to perform a deity’s will is not a

meaningful life as it describes a life that is not based upon the decisions of the individual to

extricate true meaning from their existence. Instead service to an unseen force seems to denote

the importance of lending meaning to the existence of the deity, not the individual. If such an existence was to be meaningful then it would a universal truth that could be applied to anyone’s life, and in this case such transference tends to become diminished when the meaning of one life is allowed to define the lives of others.

Yet another point of view is that of nihilism, which is essentially the lack of any meaning. This belief also holds that life is an absurdity devoid of anything even worth labeling as meaningful.  A noted author and Nobel prize winner, Albert Camus managed to convey with great passion his lack of belief in the meaning behind life, stating that the absurdity of life is the drive that exists behind both the world and humanity (Camus, 2007).  In other words, there is no meaning other than to contribute to the overall absurdity that is life.

Each view presents its own case in an attempt to bring meaning to the long-standing debate, and each view has drawn to its cause many different and enlightened individuals that have contributed to the ideal.  From religion to atheism to nihilism there is one unifying belief that ties them together despite their opposing views.  There is a type of meaning that is connected to life, regardless of how it is applied.  Each method seeks to define their assembled concepts so as to assign a meaning to what is essentially an open-ended belief.  The meaning of life is a very ambiguous phrase that is subject to various interpretations and has created fervor amongst scholars and philosophers in terms of which belief is the most sound.

Nihilism seeks to describe the meaning of life as a random bit of nonsense that occurs at

any given moment in the human experience.  From an embarrassing occurrence to an ambiguous

happening that is seen to occur to any single member or group of humanity, the absurdity of life

is highly dependent upon human beings and the environment, not the other way around.  In other

words the meaning of life does not so much apply to human existence. Instead, the meaning of

life depends on humanity in order to be realized.

The application of religion to the argument over whether life has any meaning is a hotly debated topic within society.  From fundamentalists to atheists the topic of religion and how it gives meaning to life is an issue that shows no sign of being resolved in the near future, as it is a matter of belief rather than solid fact that drives such an ideal.  Religion places meaning upon the intangible and unseen factors that are the tenets of many religions, absolute devotion to a practice that is faith-based and largely unreliable due to the absence of any identifiable facts.  Scientific evidence of religion’s many different facets is said to exist, and in some cases the artifacts and records left behind by previous civilizations do hold the truth of such legends in theory.

Where religion and its views upon the meaning of life differ with other arguments is that religion places such meaning within the context of pleasing another, supreme force that has absolute control over humanity and all that is said and done.  This then contradicts the supposed meaning of life as it seems more akin to serving the wants and needs of another in order to bring meaning to one’s life. Instead it would make far more sense to seek a deeper, more profound purpose to life that might serve the individual and no other.  Religion is about sacrifice, appeasement of one’s self through service to another, and thus does not seem to take into account the sense of self that the other arguments focus upon.

Arguments made by individuals such as Ayers seek to explain that there is no one set

definition to the meaning of life, but many.  The question or statement depending upon how it is

voiced or written, is quite simple but carries far more implications than many would care to

research.  Many individuals seek an answer that is simplistic and ultimately pleasing to their

sensibilities, or at least ambiguous enough that it becomes a philosophical quandary that allows

them to ponder the possibilities within their own good time.  In any case the question over the

meaning of life is one that many generally give scant attention to in the regular everyday pace of life.

For some the answer to such an ambiguous question is easy.  In light of Ayers and many others who think in such a manner the meaning of life describes a different path for everyone, though all paths eventually lead to the same metaphysical goal.  With this line of thinking there is no right way to find contentment in the answer that is sought after, but instead many that seek the same fundamental truth.  The meaning of life is quite typically that which defines a person’s life, no matter that this is likely different for everyone.

Nihilism seems a bit aloof and even irresponsible in turning its back upon the true meaning of life. While the belief insists that there is no true meaning to life it tends to deny to any who will listen that there is any one thing that means more than another.  The absurdity of life is its own meaning. The experiences that come and go would never occur without another to initiate the event, and perhaps another to bear witness at times.  In short nihilism seeks to prove that while life has no true, intrinsic meaning, it gains such through the act of those who seek to find the unseen, intangible definition that so many seek.

If nihilism seems aloof and detached however religion seems by contrast zealous and

desperate to reach for a solution to the question at hand. For those who believe in a higher power

life must often mean something or it means nothing.  A higher force that watches over and

guides humanity gives many a cause to continue on each day, to believe that there is an overall

meaning to life that lies in servitude to the ideals that their religion demands.  Existing as yet

another manner in which individuals decide to think and believe, religion creates detailed and

ordered schematics of morality and what it means to follow the righteous path (Griffith, 2011). This is the meaning of life in religious terms, to serve and give one’s self over to a higher power so that an individual or a group might find contentment in such a life (Slick, 2016).

One area in which every argument can seem to come to a temporary agreement over is

that life is beyond a simple definition.  One cannot state that life is about one singular aspect without bringing further contradiction to their beliefs (Mason, 2010).  There are many factors that go into explaining the question of what the overall meaning life conveys.  In seeking that one all-defining truth it has become more likely to find anything and everything else that might factor into the end result of a question.  The meaning of life is quite different for every individual, leaving only the question as the binding factor between individuals.

References

Ayers, A.J. (2007). The Claims of Philosophy. In Klemke, E.D. & Cahn, S. (Eds.), The Meaning

of Life (199). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Camus, A. (2007). The Myth of Sisyphus. In Klemke, E.D. & Cahn, S. (Eds.), The

Meaning of Life (76). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Griffith, J. (2011). What is the Meaning of Life? World Transformation Movement.

Retrieved from

http://www.humancondition.com/what-is-the-meaning-of-life/

Mason, J. (2010). The Meaning of Life. Talking Philosophy. Retrieved from

http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=1569

Nozick, R. (2007). Philosophy and The Meaning of Life. In Klemke, E.D. & Cahn, S. (Eds.), The

Meaning of Life (224). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Slick, M. (2016). What is the meaning and purpose of life? Christian Apologetics & Research

Ministry. Retrieved from

https://carm.org/meaning-of-life

 

 

 

Film Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

 

Society is the lens through which humanity measures its own multitude of iniquities.  By its standards a human becomes part of one movement or another, a member of one class, ethnicity, and even citizen in the eyes of those who see fit to judge others.  In assigning labels to others it becomes far more comfortable for society to look upon a certain class or even entire race of people in a much simpler, more objectified manner.  Peace is the manner in which unification and tolerance is created, whereas intolerance and labeling others is how struggle is born.  In a world created by differences the similarities omitted by society are what divide humanity.

Movies such as The Reluctant Fundamentalist shine a spotlight upon the gross iniquities

of humanity in a manner that is born of sensationalism and strengthened by the irregular touches

of fact that are picked at in order to make the story more plausible.  Throughout the film the

young scholar, Changez, continually speaks of his own experiences with the cultures of both

American and his native Pakistan. He speaks of the treatment he endures within American

culture both before and after the fateful bombing of the twin towers on September 11th, and of

how his life became a rather unfair series of judgments passed by those whom he had believed to

be his friends. Throughout all of this however he somehow manages to avoid the distorted views

of society that managed to plague so many after the disaster.  As Nair (2013) states, it is

necessary to obtain both sides, be it a discussion or a fundamental truth that seeks to unite humanity.

Lip service paid to the ideals that are capable of bringing together strangers from different regions tends to emerge within the borders of many countries, particularly in America, which stands as one of the most envied countries in the world.  Within America’s borders, as written by Hamid (2007), it is quite common to hear the words of equality and that all men and women deserve the same chances in life.  Unfortunately this type of universal truth tends to extend only to the borders where patriotism begins to take over as Changez finds.  Even near the end of the film he cannot escape the assumptions that become affixed to his people as the American journalist and CIA operative he speaks to throughout the film mistakenly suspects him of being corrupt and duplicitous.

This is the view that society has taken on after such a tragedy, and the basis for this film.  Mistrust and suspicion have replaced respect and a mutual understanding of culture.  Justified or not, such lack of trust can only add another crack to the already distorted lens through which society views each nation.  The actions of a misguided few often are enough to create the opinion that anyone belonging to the same race, ethnicity, or like-minded group is essentially the same.  This was seen largely in the wake of the events that occurred on September 11th, 2001.

A particularly poignant scene within the film occurs when the main character, Changez

(2012), admits his state of mind during the bombing of 9/11.  He recalls smiling, though without

humor or malevolence.  Instead he relates that he was impressed in a way at the genius of the

bombers and how they struck a blow against the supposedly mightiest nation in the world.  It is

quite understandable how even the hint of mirth is to be taken by an individual such as the

American to whom he is speaking, but it is also explained in a manner of greater understanding

that Changez sees fit to relay.  No matter his explanation however, it is understood that

involvement in a nation that does desire outside influence is often seen as an unwanted invasion.

The true problem that occurs however is not within the attack itself, but the perceptions before and after that further skewed the manner in which society looks upon different elements within its fold.  The Muslim nation became an institution that was both reviled and mistrusted after the attack, and to date is still placed under great suspicion concerning any act that is labeled as terrorism. To date there have been many attempts to change this image through methods of understanding, explanation, and a general reconditioning of public opinion towards the Muslim culture.  America has been encouraged to take a longer look at its own actions regarding the attack instead of seeking only retribution for the attack.

The damage done, historically speaking, is only another milestone during which the perceptions of one particular group are misconstrued and used as a means of justification when alienating individuals from another.  In the lifetimes of those affected it will be a defining moment, a point in history when the world changed. Overall, it will be yet another setback to the universal ideals that so many wish to see implemented.  There can be little to no peace when assumptions lead the masses into fear, despair, and suspicion.

Human kind can be very problematic species.  Our goals in life are to live, to find

happiness in whatever form it might exist, and to one day pass on from this world. Individuals that exist thousands of miles from one another can agree upon several facets of life that are equally important for all people, but instead focus largely upon the differences that exist between them, choosing to allow the divide that separates them to become ever wider as misunderstanding and suspicion overshadow the truth of existence. Every human wishes to live and be happy, no matter their differences.

Works Cited

Hamid, Mohsin. “Why Do They Hate Us?” The Washington Post. 22 July 2007. Web. 25 May

2016.

Nair, Mira. “Crossing Dangerous Borders.” The New York Times. 19 April 2013. Web. 24 May

2016.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Dir. Mira Nair. Perf. Riz Ahmed, Liev Schreiber, Kate Hudson,

and Kiefer Sutherland. IFC Films, 2012. Film.

Quality and Outcomes in Open Culture

 

Open culture is all about allowing knowledge to be spread freely.  In its applications towards medical practice it is likely a chance to share with those who need to know just how serious or benign their conditions are, as well as those close to them. But the inherent danger in keeping such information open to all is that it not only violates the privacy of the patient, but also opens up the hospital and any employee that has anything to do with the patient to a potential lawsuit (O’Reilly, 2012).  The mishandling of medical information can lead to potential disaster for the patient as well as the medical staff.

There is in fact an advantage to being transparent concerning health concerns, as it can help the patient should any mistakes occur on the part of the medical staff (Madden & Cockburn, 2012). It was believed for a great deal of time that openly disclosing any mistakes on the part of the doctors, nurses, or anyone who had anything to do with a patient’s treatment might open the hospital up to lawsuits for which they were entirely liable (Chen, 2010).  Fortunately however it has been seen in the past decade that fewer lawsuits have followed open disclosure, as patients and families are far more grateful for the information given.

In fact not offering full disclosure in the face of mistakes made on the part of the medical staff is more likely to be a liability now than open disclosure.  The mistakes made by doctors and those around them are to be expected every so often as this is the nature of humanity. But owning up to such mistakes is not only ethical, it is capable of alerting patients to serious health conditions that might turn worse if not reviewed and remedied in time (Kapp, 1997).  In order to best serve a patient it is important to keep them abreast of every last bit of information that is needed so as to keep them aware and informed and keep the staff protected from any and all liability that might arise.

References

Chen, P. M.D. (2010). When Doctors Admit Their Mistakes. The New York Times.

Retrieved from

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/19/health/19chen.html

Kapp, M.B. JD, MPH. (1997). Legal Anxieties and Medical Mistakes. Journal of General

Internal Medicine, 12(12): 787-788.

Madden B. & Cockburn T. (2012). Open disclosure: why doctors should be honest about errors.

The Conversation. Retrieved from

http://theconversation.com/open-disclosure-why-doctors-should-be-honest-about-errors-4070

O’Reilly, K.B. (2012). Fear of punitive response to hospital errors lingers. Amednews.com.

Retrieved from

http://www.amednews.com/article/20120220/profession/302209938/2/

Not Knowing

I love my parents. I owe them more than I could ever possibly pay back in a hundred lifetimes. The reason for this is easy: out of all the kids they could have taken home, they took me. Out of every child that was up for adoption, my number was picked and they took me home.

For the last several decades they’ve looked out for me. They’ve raised me, kept me safe, and done the very best they could to insure that every day I learned something.  They also let me know early on the very reason why I was so lucky. They told me without reservation that I was adopted, and where I had been born.

There’s only one thing they couldn’t tell me. They couldn’t reveal who my birth mother was, because the adoption was kept closed. I wasn’t allowed to know who gave  birth to me, because she didn’t want it known. There was obviously a reason for this, and one that I can’t possibly understand. But if you’ve ever experienced a moment in your life that has no set explanation, then you’ll understand the hole this leaves, and why.

I have the chance to look my birth mother up. I could easily go and find the information that might lead me to her, but I haven’t done it yet. Why? There are a lot of reasons, but only a few I’ve never really admitted to. The biggest one is that which bothers me the most.

I’m afraid.

What if I find her and she wants nothing to do with me, won’t even talk to me?  What if I was something she was ashamed of and simply wanted to get rid of? What if, what if, what if? It’s a crazy game of hypothetical questions I don’t like to consider, and yet at the core of it is that goddamned hole that I can’t bring myself to peer into, as I think what’s on the other side might be something I don’t want to consider.

I love my parents. Life would have been vastly different without them, and I’m not at all sure that it would have been half as interesting as it’s been, or as loving. They know my trepidation and try to understand, but don’t seem to get the point.  I honor and respect them with every breath I take. Never once have I thought to find my birth parents in an attempt to harm them.

But not knowing is tough. Unfortunately, wanting to know is terrifying for the number of what-ifs that might occur. I am not afraid of the unknown, but I am terrified of what might lie on the other side of that particular question.  The day is coming soon that I will face the other side of that question. I will not allow my fear of what might come to keep me away from the answer I so desperately need. This is no one’s problem but my own, but it feels better to write it out, and to at least admit that there is one thing in this world I am truly afraid of.

It is not knowing.