Throwback Thursday: Vicaria Blanca – 2013

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

Ever been in history class and found it weird that people didn’t have medicine all those years ago, and died from common diseases? You’d think that they form of medicine didn’t work, but actually, some of those methods are still used today, and some people think they work better the usual run of the mill medicine we all use! The elder I interviewed for this project on the use of plants, as medicine was my grandfather, Jose Rios. He was born and raised in Cuba, where he met my grandmother and had his three children, my uncle, my mother, and aunt. They moved to Miami, Florida when he was forty years old in 1980, and has been here ever since. He speaks primarily Spanish and can understand English, though when he speaks it, it’s heavily accented and usually has butchered grammar. He is now 72, and he cares for my younger sister and me after school everyday.

When I interviewed him, he told me he uses Vicaria Blanca (White Vicaria) to treat pink eye, and other problems. He’s been using it since he was a child, when his grandmother used it on him and taught him how to use it. He told me that to use it, you boil the flower bowling in water, into a type of tea looking liquid, greenish-yellow in color. You then use it as eye drops or wet a napkin with it and hold it on the eye. He’s been using it for over 50 years and says it’s worked for him every time. He says he prefers to use this then over the counter eye drops because it has the natural vitamins and has less chemicals, which makes it good to use on small children and adults.

Based on the research done by the University of Florida Herbarium, Vicaria Blanca is useful for treating eye infections. Based on a study in 1995, the drops made from boiling the flower in water does help your vision. And according to Wikipedia, Vicaria Blanca, a type of Madagascar Periwinkle commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical regions, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat many things, including: diabetes, malaria, Hodgkin’s disease, and well as some extracted substances used to treat leukemia. On the other side however, if ingested orally, it can be fatal and if not, it causes hallucinations. So, if used on children, it should under supervision.

What I’ve learned from this, is that plants can be used as medicine just as they did thousands of years ago, and that, though I hadn’t known it, my grandfather has been using it on me since I was an infant. It seems odd that people would still use these things, but they do, I’ve also learned that they still use poisonous plants…at least people don’t poison themselves anymore!

Throwback Thursday: “I Hear America Singing”/”Let America Be America Again” Compare and Contrast Essay: Block Organization – Views of America

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


“I Hear America Singing”/”Let America Be America Again”

Compare and Contrast Essay: Block Organization

Views of America

“Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes and “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman (who inspired Langston Hughes as a writer) are two important pieces of American poetry. They have several similarities despite being written several decades apart, and both are about America, and life in America. Both poems reflect on their author’s views on America at the time at which they were written. However, those views are very different in each poem because of the differences in experiences and culture of their two authors.

The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement in New York around the 1920’s. The movement consisted of African-American poets, singers, and artists beginning to express their own voice, style, and culture instead of mimicking popular white styles as they had in the past. “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes was written during this time. This poem is quite long, maybe a page and a half long. In the poem, Langston Hughes talks about the American dream of freedom and equal opportunity, and how it failed to live up to that promise. He writes about wanting to change things, change America to fit the values it was built on, “O, let America be America again/The land that never has been yet/And yet must be/the land where every man is free.” About how, as a black man, the American dream never seemed to apply to him, and how he wants to change that. You can see this in the lines “There’s never been equality for me, nor freedom in this ‘homeland of the free’”. “Let America be America Again” is a more negative poem, with themes of racism based on Hughes’ own experiences.

“I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman was published in the 19th century, a few decades prior to Hughes poem. This poem is in, comparison quite short, maybe half a page long. In this poem, Walt Whitman writes how different people lead different lives but each works in harmony with another. He writes of different professions singing different songs, but together they are all singing, “What belongs to him or her and to none else”. This is a more metaphorical poem, as I doubt everyone he met was always singing about his or her work. But his intention was to convey that people work hard and take pride in their work. Unlike Hughes, he doesn’t speak of the differences in people or in himself. He writes about people as a whole, not separate. His poem is more positive, with themes of unity. People sing joyfully, you can tell by the line “I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear” because carols are happy songs. As a white man, Whitman didn’t have the same experiences as Hughes. So his poem is not tinged with bitterness or sadness, unlike “Let America Be America Again”.

In all, both poems show the author’s view on American life. Hughes shows a harsher reality, he is straightforward with what he says needs to change. He speaks of the dissonance between what America claims to be and what it is. And uses his own experiences, as an African-America who is free but not really as evidence to support his claims. Whitman paints a happier, more metaphorical picture. People get along, are grouped as a whole: people. Not separated. If he noticed any of the problems Hughes did he didn’t mention them. He writes about Americans having pride in themselves and their work. Hughes came only a few decades after Whitman, but their views on the very same place differed greatly. And though Whitman came earlier, he is the one who writes as if America already has had its problems fixed. He didn’t see the same problems Hughes does, because he did not experience them himself.

 

Throwback Thursday: Heroes Need Followers Synthesis Essay

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

Each of our protagonists are considered the heroes of their stories, though they had similar aims of making their worlds better, and very different methods of achieving their goals (with varying degrees of success), they are all none the less the heroes of their respective stories. However, the heroes are not heroes without their followers. None of the heroes we see in the following novels attained that heroism by standing alone, because they are too easily shunned or dismissed that way. If they stand with others, they are not so easily ignored, and can more likely “enlighten” others or otherwise attain their goal. According to Plato’s definition, enlightenment is achieved by sharing your acquired wisdom with others, to do this, V from V for Vendetta, Harrison from “Harrison Bergeron”, and Jonas from The Giver all need their followers in order to become heroes.

Hero has several definitions with different connotations. Ranging from “the chief main character…” to “a man greatly admired” or “a legendary warrior of great strength”. We can fit some form of this definition to each of our protagonists. Showing they are heroes in terms of the works in which they appear.

Take V from V for Vendetta by Alan Moore for example. He is perhaps a controversial hero, but for his story, he is the hero. He achieves his goals, despite his death, but he only achieves them vicariously through Evey. Without his training and manipulation of Evey his plan of overthrowing the government would not have worked. He needed people on his side, to understand his ideals in order for them to come to life. He is the original “enlightened man” in V for Vendetta, and he becomes “truly enlightened” as per Plato’s definition when he begins to share the art, music, and literature he has saved from destruction. Without Evey, he is a terrorist, trying to change the world for the worst. With her, more citizens are swayed to his view, and despite perhaps being a tragic hero through his death; he becomes a hero nonetheless.

We see this similarly in The Giver by Lois Lowry. Jonas becomes the Receiver of Memory, and with this title becomes “special”, this is of course, a classic hallmark of a hero. But Jonas does not become a hero simply through this. It is The Giver and Gabe that make him a hero from his potential to be one. He gets the memories, as well as strength to carry out his plan from The Giver. The Council assigns him his role as the Receiver. And ultimately, it is the memory of love, The Giver’s love for Jonas, and Jonas’s similar love for Gabe that incites his heroism, stealing himself to make a change, to bring the memories back, all in order to save Gabe’s life. Without Gabe, the entire course of the story is changed. Jonas would not have left the community, or at the very least he would have left much later. Jonas becomes a hero when he decides to make a change for what he believes is the better, and without Gabe, he never would have made the choice at all, for there would have been no choice to make.

Then there are those like the Unknown Citizen, who is not, by any definition of the word, a hero. He stands alone, and does as he is told, and dies without being known. Had he died for a cause, for his cause, he’d have been a tragic hero, much like Harrison Bergeron, but he did not have a cause, or a conflict to solve, or a person to save. He was not special in anyway. He stood alone, and was in no way a hero for his world. And that is exactly the point the poem made. Heroes are known, remembered, praised. And the Unknown Citizen was praised by the government for not trying to be a hero, and his thanks was his name already forgotten.

Heroes need others in order to be heroes. To act as foils to make them better. To incite the heroism they have the potential for. To start the support, because there is power in numbers and multiple voices are harder to ignore. Heroes need others because they are by nature constructed by others, they must be seen as heroes to be heroes. Heroes without others aren’t heroes, they simply are.

 

Throwback Thursday: V for Vendetta Final Five Page Essay

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

The Guy Fawkes mask is a defining characteristic of V. In the same way, cameras (and the constant surveillance they allow) are a defining characteristic of V’s dystopian England. These things are important because the perception of others, as well of the perception of one’s self, has a profound effect on a person’s actions and reactions. People tend to conform to the majority, particularly when one can be persecuted for doing otherwise. When this element is removed, either by turning off the camera, or donning a mask, a person can be their true self, with their own actions, without fear of condemnation. Which is why V would not be V, were he to be unmasked.

The Guy Fawkes mask symbolizes the ideas he presented on the fifth of November when Fawkes tried to blow up parliament. Though Guy Fawkes failed, V holds similar values and goals, and he wants to pay tribute. Unlike Guy Fawkes however, V does not fail, he succeeds in knocking the government off its pedestal.  Though the mask itself is important, the perception of it is also important. V believes he will succeed where Guy Fawkes has failed, and by wearing the mask, he acknowledges this past in a way the government can see, especially since the government never truly sees V, they only ever see the mask. This makes them underestimate him, makes them think he is simply a terrorist. It gives the illusion, strengthens the perception, that V will fail as well. Perception is important in V, because how people see him, see the government, see each other, how V sees himself, all have important ramifications on the characters and their story arcs. If you change the perceptions, you change the story. The mask changes the perception others have of V, were he not wearing the mask, or if he were even wearing a different mask, the perceptions would change and the story would with it.

V’s mask is necessary because of the presence of cameras, as is controlled and monitored by the government. Necessary, because being watched changes a person’s behavior. While V’s behavior would probably not change much without the mask, because he is quite convinced of the good behind his actions, the reactions of others would differ quite greatly were he to be unmasked. The mask, aside from playing into V’s extremely theatrical nature, because he is an actor, playing the part of an idea, and so he becomes that idea fully, rather than a man, by de-personifying himself through de-individuation. He makes himself stand out to remain invisible.

The mask makes him unidentifiable, physically removing his identify. No face, no name other than “codename: V” (Moore). In this world, the state’s biggest power is its ability to watch its subjects. The cameras capture every face, at every moment; can find any man masquerading as a terrorist. Except for V, because the mask nullifies the man. As stated by Alice Robb in a New Republic article, “anonymity is disinhibiting” (Robb). In other words, hiding your face makes you act differently, act without consequences, because if people cannot see you they cannot judge you. He makes himself stand out; he makes it impossible for them to find him. That is what makes him dangerous to the state; he is an uncontrollable, unaccounted for, and unknowable variable that isn’t intimidated by their main threat, because if they don’t know who he is, he cannot be found. They do not know the truth, not until he wants them to by leaving the doctor’s journal for them to find. The mask adds to, it creates this anonymity, creates the mystery that surrounds V. The mask deprives the cameras of their purpose, weakening the power V is trying to take down before he has even started.

Without the mask, V would blend into the crowd; V would be able to be found by the cameras. It would counteract V’s theatrical nature, it would nullify his speech of being an invulnerable idea, and it would eliminate the fact that V has flipped the fear on its head. Because the government cannot scare V, V scares the government, though they are loathe to admit that fear. Admitting the fear would be admitting that V has a chance of success. The future of their rule hinges on the fact that V does not succeed. The government comes to power on the fear of the people, and it will burn for their fear of the people, or at least a person.  The mask gives V the power to be unseen by the government. By making himself standout, he becomes invisible. V is easily found in the cameras view, but the man beneath the mask never is. Had he been unmasked this would not be the case. Had they seen his face, they would have known him as the man from room five. The withholding of information from the government keeps the power of intimidation in V’s hands. V’s power of them scares the members of the finger and other parts of the head, and this fear makes them sloppy. Inhibits their ability to catch him. It makes them lose, and lets V win.

As told, the government of dystopian England gets power from the people’s fear. They garner this fear with constant surveillance via cameras. As seen in both the book and movie, when the cameras are on, people mostly behave as the government enforces. As soon as V turns them off, true colors start to show. A prime example being the young girl who spray-paints “V” over faith posters while chanting “bullocks” (Moore). This is in part caused by a phenomenon called “social desirability bias” (Weiten G-8) which basically means when supervised, people act, as they feel expected to act, in order to avoid condemnation and/or embarrassment. As people start acting against the government, more people join them. When people aren’t being watched, the government’s threats lessen, because people assume they will not be found, that the threats will not apply to them (self-serving bias) (Weiten G-8). We see this culminate in the movie as the mass of people comes to watch parliament blow up, dressed in capes and masks. When not being watched, people express themselves truly, and in this case, that expression is over throwing a tyrannical government.

Being watched changes people, both actively being watched and the idea of being watched, and as made clear in the novel, ideas can be very powerful, and very dangerous. The idea of being watched, not knowing whether you are or are not being watched, is the idea that lends power to the concept of the panoptica, a prison designed to ensure the prisoners knew they could be being watched, but never knowing when, and thus the fear of being watched would enforce desirable behavior, decreasing the need for much actual surveillance (Ellard). The panoptica is a prison that was never built in true form, but V’s dystopian government creates their own version of through cameras and the perceived omniscience of “fate”. But the idea of the panoptica shows that, in having the power to be watched, less people are truly observed, with his stash of hidden knowledge, V was sure to know this. This idea is seen in V when we see the two men listening to conversations on the telephones. They could hear anything, but it is nearly impossible for them to hear everything (Moore). Being watched changes people, and V was sure to know this. And so, the mask serves a greater purpose than hiding his face, it takes away every power the government could hold over him.

In this world, where everyone cannot help but be seen, V is unseen as a man. He is only V, only the mask, only an idea. This government knows every citizen, what each person is doing at any and every moment, and yet, they do not know who V is. Not until he gives them the knowledge, by leaving the journal, he tells them he is the man from room five, had he not, they may very well have never known. The mask denies the police their ability to find and stop V. The mask allows V to, not be unnoticed, but to be unknown. The mask shields him from the eyes of those watches though the camera. The cameras provide fear, the fear of being watched, being seen, and the ability to stop the behaviors deemed undesirable. But the mask is the greatest contingency against them, because V doesn’t want to be unseen, he wants to be unknown, and the mask, not only draws attention, but it denies the cameras their purpose of knowing, for all they can capture, is the unwavering, ever smiling face of the mask. Allowing V to accomplish his goals in a way that, being unmasked, he wouldn’t be able to do.