Throwback Thursday: Argumentative Essay Value of Public Opinions

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.


In America today, information and opinions can reach millions in minutes, the spread of information has never been easier; though for much of history this was not the case – the spread of information was limited to personal interactions and letters – opinions could not be easily shared.  This changes the access to, and role of, opinions in America – it does not change their worth. Opinions, ideas, thoughts, information all have worth – even if not equal in weight or worth – in a democratic nation like America. In fact, the first amendment protects the freedom of speech and expression, every opinion may not be correct or agreeable but every opinion carries worth by fostering democratic values – every voice given a chance to be heard.

Democracy relies on equal consideration to all, and acquiescence to the majority. But the majority cannot truly be found if not all voices can be heard –  this makes all opinions worthwhile in furthering democracy. This is why the very first amendment made to the constitution ensured free speech. When information and opinions spread, more can be learned. The opinion of the majority can shift – as history shows it does – on the grand scale, to progress. Accessibility of information has always been important, even back in world War One with FDR’s Freedom of Information Act – the keeping of information and opinions aids no one. If an opinion is wrong or infactual, by being voiced and listening to other voices, progress is made as people can learn. When wrong or unfavorable opinions are not allowed to be expressed, there can be a bias – progress can standstill when discussion is curtailed. Those with factually wrong opinions never have a chance to be corrected and wrong information continues to fester and influence. Though often, there is no possible objective truth, the truth in democracy is the will of the majority – which cannot be reached if all opinions are not considered worthwhile, even if to varying degrees, no opinion is worthless.

The first amendment shows a central tenant of democracy – if public opinions are stifled, democracy is stifled. But there are always considerations to be made – some statements are not permitted by the freedom of speech, as established by the supreme court with the “clear and present danger” clause – you cannot shout “fire” in a crowded theater for example because of a physical safety hazard. With public opinions, there is a greater threat in preventing opinions than in allowing them. Especially in today’s world where opinions are shared on social media – physical safety is not the primary concern. Whether an opinion is personally deemed worthwhile or not, in general, public opinions are worth something because they further the conversation and can influence or add to change the majority – which is how democracy functions. By allowing the spread of ideas, the change of ideals, and the voices of all to determine the majority is how democracy functions.

Public statements of opinion have differing value based upon the value assigned by the person hearing the opinion – but all opinions do have value, have worth – even if not equal worth. They have worth, because every voice must be heard – allowed to speak – for democracy to function – because hearing every voice is how the majority is found and allowing every voice to be heard is one of democracies central tenants.

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Throwback Thursday: Rhetorical Analysis – Scientific Research

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.


Science is, in and of its self, a study in uncertainty. Author John M. Barry qualifies this uncertainty, and its acceptance as a quality necessary in a scientist, using the characterization of the ideal scientist to characterize scientific research itself, expounding on qualities necessary for one to reach an answer to their inquiries, focusing on the ultimate goal of the scientist and positing questions to parallel the inquisitive nature needed for success.

Barry begins with definitions of certainty and uncertainty to expand on qualities required in a scientist, namely the requirement to “accept – indeed embrace – uncertainty” (line 10) as a basis for scientific research. With research, a scientist’s certainties and “even beliefs may break apart” (line 15) with new findings. Barry characterizes scientific research by characterizing the scientist that conducts it, emphasizing the ultimate goal of a scientist “to yield an answer” – a certainty (line 67). Barry moves through the passage with a scientist’s capacity for creation and inquisitiveness stating “ a scientist must create…everything…figuring out what tools are needs and then making them” – asking questions of a “would” and “if” nature (lines 39-49), so the tools of a scientist, is his tool to show the inquisitiveness necessary in scientific research. Ultimately ending the passage with the scientist’s possibility of either success or failure, both likely ends to the research and answers to the questions of the scientist, the structure of the passage thus parallels the structure of research its self: defining limits, gathering tools, asking questions, and seeking then yielding answers.

Apart from the structure of the passage being parallel to a research structure, Barry characterizes scientific research in other ways; such as, the personification of a “single step” in research to a scientist’s “single step [which] can take them through the looking glass” (line 31) or “take one off a cliff” (line 35) – scientific research is a gamble – one will find answers or more questions – certainty or uncertainty. A scientist must “move forcefully…even while uncertain” (line 21) and “the less known, the more one has to… force experiments to yield an answer” (line 66-68). In this characterization of the scientist, Barry characterizes scientific research in a way eve a non-scientist could understand.

Scientific research is built on uncertainty, and in yielding an answer and as John M. Barry characterizes a scientist’s journey from uncertainty to result, he characterizes scientific research itself, from the structure to inherent inquisitiveness to the search for certainty.

 

Throwback Thursday: Rhetorical Analysis – Banneker Letter

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.


There are certain arguments that seen impossible to make, because the answer seems so clear it is hard to imagine an argument at all; such is the argument of slavery. While today, slavery is very obviously illegal, in 1791, when Benjamin Banneker – a slave’s son – wrote to Thomas Jefferson on the issue, slavery was a point of political contention, not moral. In his letter, Banneker introduces the modern, moral argument to slavery, asking Jefferson to do his part in ending the extensive suffering and cruelty slaves face. Banneker also draws a parallel between Jefferson’s beliefs enumerated by the Declaration of Independence and the plight of slaves, showing the logical progression in that, if it is the new nation’s right to liberty, then surely it is the slave’s right as well.

Modernly, slavery in inarguably wrong, though such has not always seen to be true. One of slavery’s early opponents was Benjamin Banneker, who in 1791 wrote to Thomas Jefferson, imploring him to “wean [the nation] from those narrow prejudices [of slavery]” (line 46-47). In his comparison of the slaves to Job (line 48-50), Banneker makes the argument against slavery wholly moral by introducing a religious precedent for his position, indicating that the nation should not “counteract [God’s] mercies” (line 36) with “fraud and violence so numerous…groaning captivity and cruel oppression” (37-39). While the moral argument is strong, Banneker needs Jefferson’s political sway to have anything accomplished. By indicting Jefferson himself, claiming he has been “found guilty of that most criminal act [slavery] which you professedly detested” (line 39-41), showing that politics can sway a man to slavery and indicating so can it be used to sway a man from slavery and urging Jefferson to stick with his original morals.

Other than a moral argument, Banneker presents Jefferson with a logical one. If the American people can claim freedom from the “tyranny of the British Crown” (line 2), than surely slaves should claim freedom as well. He used Jefferson’s own words against him, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed…with certain inalienable rights…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (line 21-25). Jefferson himself enumerated the right of all to freedom, of the “valuation of liberty and the free possession of those blessings to which you were entitled by nature” (line 29-30). Which then begs the questions of why a nation founded on liberty, would withhold “impartial distribution of those rights and privileges” (line 33-34) from all its inhabitants. It stands to reason then, that if Americans had a right to freedom, so did American slaves. Banneker draws the parallel between the plight of the slaves, and that of the American Revolution in such a way that that Jefferson, and by extension American politicians, would have no other conclusion to draw. Banneker even ends his letters, “thus shall {Jefferson] need neither the direction of myself or others, in what manner to proceed herein” (line 51-53), so confident in his argument he is, he doesn’t feel the need to spell out that he wants Jefferson to curb slavery as he works on building the new nation.

Slavery is a moral wrong in the modern day, but for the first century of America’s history, it was a political right. So contentious was the issue, it lead to the civil war, which many believe could have been avoided if the founders had curbed slavery from the start, though they feared the union would not survive such an early display of overt power. As the nation was in its infancy, the son of slaves wrote to Thomas Jefferson, a man who wrote of inalienable rights, and asked the same for his people, because if America was truly to be a land of the free, then how could so many continue to be oppressed?

 

Throwback Thursday: Rhetorical Analysis – John Downe’s Letter to His Wife

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.


In 1830, immigration to America from Europe, and specifically England, was very common. These immigrants came, most notably, for opportunity – which was not often available to them in England. John Downe was one such immigrant, who came to America and found work, as well as relative abundance. In a letter to his wife, convincing her to bring herself and their children to America, he expounds on the qualities of America through comparison to England, in which England is found lacking, expanding on America’s relative abundance of food, and the ease of finding shelter and work, to convince her the journey would be worthwhile, emigration would be worthwhile. He also assuages her fears of the trip itself – assuring her of America’s ability to provide a better life for all of them, and the safety of the journey overseas.

John Downe convinces his wife to emigrate to America primarily by detailing its advantages. Assuring her of his work “[having] the whole management of the factory” that allows him a decent living, as example of the benefit of his coming alone beforehand. He compares prices in America to England, that “I can have 100lbs of beef to 10s English money” – exceedingly cheap when compared to prices and poverty in England. In America “if a man work, he need not want victuals” – he has found work with ease, and can continue to work – something not guaranteed in England, here, he can provide for his family. She need not worry for herself or their children that their hopes of America would be unfounded – he has confirmed it to be everything they could have dreamed.

Downe also assuages any of her fears of the journey overseas itself – the physical toll of emigration. That there is “plenty of room yet” for immigrants to come – opportunity would not disappear from influx. That he regrets leaving her and the children behind – but it is worth it to be able to provide for her and the children, showing his sincerity in asking her to follow him. He assures her that he “will be able to keep her in credit” – she need not worry of the finances of the journey all on her own across the sea, and the journey across the Atlantic will have “a few inconveniences” but “will not be long”. He assures her she will enjoy America, that it is what is best for the children, that they “need not want” for anything again here. He appeals that “America is not like England” that “poverty is unknown here. You see no beggars”, a far cry better than their lives in England with “nothing but poverty before [them]”.

America affords new opportunity for work and an escape from poverty for immigrants. In 1830, this was a common goal of emigration, and abundance of both food and work made it possible for many, as well as the passage overseas becoming easier and safer with each passing year. This is how John Downe convinces his wife to join him in emigrating to America: a better life for her and their children – who would never want again.

Throwback Thursday: Article Critique – APP and AD

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.


Acosta, S. A., Tajiri, N., Sanberg, P. R., Kaneko, Y., & Borlongan, C. V. (2017). Increased Amyloid Precursor Protein and Tau Expression Manifests as Key Secondary Cell Death in Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury. Journal of Cellular Physiology, 232(3), 665-677.

            Traumatic Brain Injury (here referred to as TBI) affects 1.7 million people in the United States, resulting in over 50,000 deaths annually; making TBI a significant health problem, especially for athletes and military personal. Aside from initial trauma, TBI has longer lasting effects and neuropathologies (brain diseases and/or disorders) that can arise, especially in the event of repeated injury. These neuropathologies can include a higher risk of development of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease (AD), both commonly only associated with old age. Other symptoms of TBI patients vary across differing motor and cognitive impairments, arising from biochemical effects of cell death post-trauma, and the subsequent degeneration of both gray and white matter in the brain. It is speculated that chronic TBI can double the risk of AD symptoms later in life; this speculated link was the focus of the experiment.

The experiment was conducted using two-month-old, male rats, using blind procedures, wherein no researchers conducting analysis/collection of data were aware of the variable group – sham (control) or induced TBI – specific rats were exposed to. Rats in the induced TBI group underwent surgery, and the brain was then hit using an impactor rod, with consistent location, velocity, and instruments between rats; meanwhile the control group underwent the same anesthesia, opening of the skull, and suturing, without impact. After six months, the rats were put to rest to examine/analyze the effects of TBI on the brains of the rats. Six sections of brain per rat were used, each section cut uniformly and stained to reveal cell death and other biochemical manifestations of TBI; while other sections were exposed to anti-bodies to test for cell cycle regulation deficits. The volume of Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) and Tau plagues were also screened, both of which pay prominent roles of the development of dementia and AD.

The results of the experiment were, in short, activation of MHCII cells – such as seen in AD, decrease in neural connections and strength, over-expression of APP in both gray and white matter of the brain, and increased tau plagues – which can block and choke of neurons in the frontal cortex and hippocampus, which control aspects such as personality and memory – the results link TBI to symptoms and hallmarks of AD. The cell death mechanisms closely resembled those in various late stage brain disorders, showing chronic head trauma, such as concussions, can have worse, longer acting effects such as increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders or symptoms that do not fully heal even when the initial trauma does –  though symptoms were mostly contained to the areas of injury. TBI can be linked to reduced cognitive performance and earlier-onset of degeneration. Though present data is limited, further analysis over longer time frames is needed to make more generalizable claims.

The article was very interesting, as chronic TBI manifesting as AD symptoms means that treatment for one may treat or mitigate symptoms of the other. The brain itself is a fascinating organ, as knowledge is limited, as is treatment of it. One treatment for both TBI and dementia/AD is easier to fund and research than multiple treatments for each, which can expedite our ability to fix the common problems of each, such as APP and tau, which contribute to cell death of neurons and their connections, and block neurotransmitters when severe enough. The delaying of such symptoms can prolong life, or at least senility in patients, but more research is needed. To both show a stronger, more consistent connection between AD and TBI, and to find the degree to which symptoms may differ or confer, in order to better development treatments for both the injury and the disease. The experiment shown here is only a first step.

Throwback Thursday: Stages of Man Essay – 2014

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.


 

“All the world’s a stage”, this is the opening of the monologue by Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It detailing the seven stages of man. Shakespeare’s seven stages covers the physical aspects of aging, from infancy to the oblivion of death. On the other hand, psychologist Erik Erikson’s eight stages covers the mental progression of age. An argument could be made for any of the stages, mental, physical, or both being the most difficult to live through. In my opinion, the stage of adolescence in Erikson’s stages of psychological development is the most difficult.

Adolescence is the fourth of the mental stages, and if matched to one of Shakespeare’s stages, would be found somewhere between the schoolboy (2) and the lover (3). This is because adolescence is a cross between childhood and adulthood. Adolescence is defined as being the ages between 13-19, also called the teenage years. I believe this is the hardest stage because of the afore mentioned fact that it is the stage in which the transition from child to adult takes place. At this stage, you are expected to act like an adult, but you are treated like a child. You are expected to make decisions that affect your entire future, but you cannot leave your home without your parent’s permission. At this stage, you can clearly remember the hardships of the stages that came before, and are intelligent enough to understand the hardships of the stages ahead. So, at this stage, you must deal with not only the hardship of the present, but you must also think about, and in most cases fret over, the responsibilities and hardships of future stages such as love, a career, and making both your parents and yourself proud.

The existential question attributed to adolescence by Erikson is “Who am I and what can I be?” This I think summarizing teenagers even today in a nutshell, and is why being a teenager is one of the toughest times in someone’s life, perhaps even the most difficult. Because aside from the expectation from parents to succeed in school, and all of societies expectations, teens need to try to stay true to who they are. All the while not knowing who that is. This is the age where you start trying to figure out what you like because the is the last time in your life where your parents are going to by your side, either to support you or to breathe down your neck. This is the time of your life where your real friendships start forming, and when you decide on your future. This is when you start dating. And it’s all the more difficult because the difference between this stage and the ones that comes before and after is so huge. The stage before is full of children, and the difference is very noticeable in interests, attitude, and looks. The stage after and those there after are full of full-fledged adults who have perhaps forgotten what it is to be in high school. The teenage years are when your self-confidence is at it’s lowest, so ridicule and peer-pressure are a large influence. Teens want to find out who they are, without differentiating themselves too much from their friends. All while being expected to prepare for adulthood.

In summary, my opinion on the most difficult stage of life is Erikson’s 4th stage of adolescence. This stage is equivalent to a mix of Shakespeare’s stages of schoolboy and lover, as it has attributes of each. I think it is the most difficult stage because it is the stage that marks the transition from child- to adulthood. Teenagers need to figure out who they are, while they crave to be accepted by society and meet their parents expectations. They are treated like children, just are expected to act like adults. This makes for a very difficult period. As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage”, and at this stage is when a person does the most acting as someone they aren’t. Adolescence is when you change your role.

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.