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.

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Throwback Thursday: That’s Not How Science Works: Vaccination Edition –

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.


 

Childhood vaccinations have been preventing disease and saving lives of children for over a century. Yet only in recent decades has vaccination become a question, a choice, rather than a must. The root of the vaccine debate lies in the question of personal freedom versus the effect on those around us of not vaccinating. Parents should have to vaccinate their children, because the benefits of doing so far outweigh any potential risks. Many of these perceived risks are fictional, so the fear they cause is unfounded.

Orange-County, California has one of the highest personal exemptions rates in the country, at nearly 9% of kids being unvaccinated. This county has also had the most deaths from the measles outbreak that originated in Disneyland. “Rhett Krawitt is in remission…vulnerable to infection and unable to be vaccinated, turning him into an unwitting symbol of the need for herd immunity” (Schulten, New York Times). Rhett is just one example. Herd immunity is if 95% of a population is vaccinated or otherwise immune. The remaining 5%, those with immune disorders or other conditions making them unable to be vaccinated, will be protected because the disease will not be able to develop. When immunization rates drop too low, diseases can sneak in and cause an epidemic like the one seen with the measles. One reason people don’t vaccinate is because they think the disease is nearly eradicated already and there is no need; however, that only stands true when we vaccinate.

One of the greatest misconceptions about vaccines that lead to personal exemptions is the false notion that “vaccines cause autism”. To be clear, they don’t. The rumor that they do was based upon falsified research that has since been retracted and disproven. The side effects of vaccines are almost always mild, ranging from a fever to a rash, only in rare cases. Only the DTaP vaccine has a more common, severe side effect. One in a million cases can suffer paralysis or brain damage (CDC website). Even so, the risk you run in not getting the vaccine, which is to protect infants from whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus, is far worse than these rare risks.

Many people choose not to vaccinate because it is their “personal freedom” or because they “don’t want to overburden their child’s immune system”; however, people should have to vaccinate their children because the risks posed to both individuals and society by not doing so far outweighs the rare case of adverse effects from vaccination. As Dr. Snyder said to the Boston Globe “It’s a common theme that we see parents questioning scientific facts in the same way they would debate a political topic.” We shouldn’t let them.

Throwback Thursday: Karyotype Letter – 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.

For this particular assignment, we drew chromosomes from a hat to write about the disorder a trisomy of that chromosome would cause.

I originally drew 21 but everyone else reveled, saying it was unfair since I wouldn’t have to research it (my sister has Down’s Syndrome – also known as trisomy 21) so I traded with my best friend for trisomy 15. All the science here is as accurate as a 14 year old could get.


 

Dear Soon-to-be Parents,

I have finished reviewing your child’s karyotype, and I regret to inform you that I found a genetic abnormality.  As you know all human beings have 46 chromosomes. In your son’s case he has 47 chromosomes, an extra chromosome, the 15th to be precise. This is also called trisomy 15. This additional chromosome can cause one of two genetic syndromes.  Trisomy 15 can cause either Prader-Willi’s syndrome (PWS) or Angelman’s Syndrome (AS). PWS occurs when the extra chromosome comes from the mother. AS occurs when the extra chromosome comes from the father. Unfortunately a karyotype does not tell us where the extra chromosome came from and thus I cannot tell you which disorder your son will be born with. Both syndromes also result in miscarriages, but at this stage in pregnancy that is highly unlikely.  As you are entering the third trimester, an abortion is also not a viable option so I would like to take this opportunity to provide some education and prognosis so you can help your son grow and develop to the best of his potential.

Some common symptoms to both disorders are: delayed growth and development, mental retardation, hypotonia (weak muscle tone), and characteristic facial features. The severance of these symptoms varies from child to child.. Chromosome 15 codes genetic information used largely by the brain, specifically in muscle movements, as well as, eye and skin color. The maternal chromosome is usually the most active, thus, with Angelman’s syndrome, the extra paternal chromosome manifests in certain symptoms. Angelman’s causes developmental delays, especially physically. Fine motor skills are underdeveloped and they have short attention spans. Those with Angelman’s frequently exhibit hypopigmentation, which causes their skin, eyes, and hair to be significantly lighter than the parents’.  Children with Angelman’s generally have poor verbal skills, though their non-verbal communication is generally better than their peers. They are described as “excessively happy and always smiling”. Children with Angelman’s can live independent, happy lives with the proper assistance and care. They live well into adulthood and can have children of their own, though it is hereditary.

As for Prader-Willi’s syndrome, an extra maternal copy is activated. Common symptoms include: extreme, insatiable appetite (polyphagia), delayed to no pubescent growth (hypogonadism), extremely weak muscles, and hormone imbalances. People with this condition typically find it hard to reproduce. They have distinct facial characteristics, including: thin upper lips, almond shaped eyes, lighter skin, and a downturned mouth. Joints are usually loosely extended and sex organs are slow in development. As with Angelman’s, children with Prader-Willi’s have trouble learning and speaking. Due to their insatiable hunger, they are prone to huger pains, and obesity. This can cause severe sleeping and behavioral problems. Nearly all with Prader-Willi’s live well into adulthood, but many rely on drug therapy to suppress the worst of the symptoms. Both disorders are linked to having a lower than average intelligence.

You may be wondering how this could have happened to your son, wondering how he ended up with three chromosome 15s instead of two. You may want to blame each other. Well don’t. It is just as likely to come from the father than the mother, and vise-versa. It isn’t either of your faults; it is a result of non-disjunction. Non-disjunction is, to put it simply, when in meiosis, the chromosomes that should separate, don’t. Usually, replicated chromosomes split, so each haploid cell/gamete has one copy. Non-disjunction can occur equally in males and females. When non-disjunction occurs, both copies of a chromosome enter one cell, and none enter the other. If this occurs in Meiosis I, then there is a 50% chance of a monosomy (having one copy of a chromosome) and 50% chance of a trisomy (having 3 copies, which is what happened to your son). If non-disjunction happens in meiosis II, then there is a 50% chance of a “normal” baby, 25% chance of monosomy, and 25% chance of trisomy. It is not your fault, and you are not the only parents to go through this, your son is not the only one with this disorder (which ever it may be). About 1 in 1000 pregnancies have chromosomal disorders. And while there isn’t a cure, there are ways to help your son.

Treatments for both Angelman’s and Prader-Willi’s are similar. One noticeable difference is that children with Prader-Willi’s require more hormone and drug treatments. Hormone treatments are used to help the child develop normally, and to trigger puberty if it does not occur naturally. Drug treatments are also used to treat the hunger pains. Many children follow special diets that are “low in calories but high in proteins, fiber, and various essential nutrients” so that they do not become obese. Other treatments for Prader-Willi’s are the same as those for Angelman’s; they focus mainly on making the symptoms caused by the disease manageable.

Early Intervention is the key to minimizing the effects and increasing your son’s chances of success.  Early Intervention programs provide children a mix of speech, occupational, and physical therapies, among other things. This starts in infancy and can help a child with these disorders to develop skills similar to their “normal” peers. This therapies can help a child with a developmental disability reach milestones sooner than they would on their own. Children who go through early intervention are more capable and show less extreme symptoms than those that don’t. Children with chromosomal disorders often require more specialized learning environments than public school can offer, there are special schools these children can attend to aid their education. Here in south Florida, schools such as “The Learning Experience” are specifically for taking care of those children with special needs. And while these schools can be expensive, scholarships and other programs are available such as the McKay Voucher here in Florida. Feel free to contact me, or any of my co-workers for additional information. And remember, your son is special. He’s going to need a little extra help, but he’ll love you the same as any other baby.

Best Wishes,
Dr. Samantha B. (Last name redacted)

 

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: Research – BioTech Product

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.


 

Ibuprofen is an over the counter medication, in the category of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) used to treat pain, cramps, fever, and to reduce inflammation. It usually comes in the form of a pill, but does come in liquid form, usually for children. It was developed as a safer alternative to aspirin (though its use has been linked to increased chances of liver and heart diseases). It is manufactured by various companies, under brand names such as “Advil”, “Nurofen”, and “Moltrin”. Some specific companies include: Bayer Healthcare, Johnson and Johnson, and Pfizer Inc.

Ibuprofen is a synthesized compound. The process begins with a compound called “2-methylpropylbenzene” and through a six step process of adding and removing various molecules (a process which has since been reduced in what is called “green” synthesis), you end up with Ibuprofen. The original method was called the “Boot Process” after the company with the original patent, but now the “Hoechst Process” is used (this would be that new “green synthesis”). With the Hoechst process, the original
2-methylpropylbenzene is still used, then a H2 catalyst is added and then a CO catalyst is added. Through this, the proper molecules are added and removed to form Ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen was first developed and patented by the Boot Pure Drug Company in the UK. The research team was led by Stewart Adams. Ibuprofen became available as an over the counter medication in America in 1974 when the American Upjohn Company was given permission to market it as Motrin. Later, the Boots Company also sold it in America under the name Rufen.

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: Gene Therapy Treated Disease – Hemophilia B

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.


 

Hemophilia is a genetic, X-linked disorder that causes a lack of clotting factors in the blood, which leads to prolonged bleeding, and can lead to serious health issues with internal bleeding. Surgery can be necessary, and in some cases is common when bleeds in joints occur, and it can be life threatening. Hemophilia A and B, because they are X-linked are more prevalent in males. Hemophilia C though, is autosomal, and is roughly equally prevalent in men and women.

Normal treatments for hemophilia include clotting factor injections, physical therapy, and vaccinations. Recently (2012), breakthroughs have come through in using gene therapy to treat hemophilia B patients. In the study done by American and British researchers at the University College London (UCL), the gene for clotting factor IX (FIX) was inserted using an Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) as a vector. This is the ideal vector for treating hemophilia because AAV effects liver cells, which is where the clotting factors are produced, and it does not tend to illicit immune responses in patients. By inserting the non-defective gene for FIX via the vector, patients could, if the gene therapy is successful, produce their own clotting factor, and be effectively cured of their hemophilia, which was unheard of before.

The gene therapy is still being researched, but seems promising. Of the six patients in the study, four ceased to need injections of clotting factors, and 2 needed greatly reduced amounts of injections with less frequency. The main worries of the drug therapy is the long-term effects of tampering with the human genome and, with this specific case, the longevity of the treatment. Liver cells have a short life span and regenerate slowly, which will affect the long-term viability of the treatment.

Despite this, gene therapy is a promising treatment to hemophilia, among other diseases, and as research continues and techniques improve, it may prove to be a real cure.

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.

 

Book Report: Living With Our Genes

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Living With Our Genes is a nonfiction book, written by Dean Hamer and Peter Copeland, about the genetic basis of personality and behavior. The book is divided into 8 chapters, each covering a different genetically influenced aspect of personality, behavior or growth: thrills, worry, anger, addiction, sex, thinking, hunger, and aging. There is also an introduction on Emotional Instinct, and a conclusion on Engineering Temperament. The book explores the nature v. nurture controversy deeply, covering the aspects and extant to which genes are known to influence these eight aspects, and the extant thought to be determined, altered, or otherwise dependent on environmental factors. Genes being the nature, and the environment (basically the experiences and setting in which you live and cannot separate yourself from if you tried) being the nurture.

As told in “Living With Our Genes”, genes are the first determining factors to basically everything about us. They are the basic reason why people find happiness in different things, why some people are more intelligent, why some people are anxious and some are calm. While nurture plays a role, are genes determine more than many people think, especially when the variability between people is much smaller than you’d think (les than 2% changed between people, and we share 98% of our DNA with monkeys, closer to 99% in bonobos). “Living With Our Genes” is easily summed up by its tag line: “The Groundbreaking Book About The Science Of Personality, Behavior, and Genetic Destiny”.

“Thrills” is all about novelty seeking. People who score high on novelty seeking seek new experiences; they do well in high risk-high reward situations and careers, and do not handle repetitive experiences well or with enjoyment. People who score low on novelty seeking enjoy routine and order. They do not handle stressful situations well, but are not easily bored, and can handle tedious tasks with grace. Both of course have their pros and cons in any given situation. Novelty seeking is one personality aspect that tends to be similar in marriage couples rather than abiding by the “opposite attracts” rule. Novelty seeking is, in part, affected by the D4DR gene, which is highly variable and affects dopamine binding. Through twin studies, we know roughly 60% of novelty seeking is heritable, and the other 40% is due to environmental factors.

Where novelty seeking is affected by dopamine, worry is affected by serotonin, another neurotransmitter. Prozac is a medication commonly used to treat mood disorders, especially depression, as it regulates serotonin uptake. Worry and anxiety would be things you’d expect to be heavily influenced by environment, upbringing and parental guidance and attention would logically seem to be factors of a worrisome or calm dispositions. But, like most things, there is a strong genetic component, which is illustrated in “Living With Our Genes” in a case study like example, about identical twin sisters who, despite living in nearly opposite homes in everyway possible, were near identical in worrisome temperament and personality. Both were fussy babies and grew to be anxious adults. Which goes to show just how prevalent genes are in determining who we will be, which is the entirely point of the book.

The book continues on to explain anger, addiction, sex, thinking, hunger, and aging. While different genes control each, with different correlations of nature v. nurture in which is more prominent in affecting the trait. The message remains consistent. Both genes and environment play a role. There are specific genes that control every aspect of personality, and each variation gives us a good idea of who you will be, but it isn’t the end all, be all, because environment always plays a role, even when you cannot interpret its influence.

Aside from separating each chapter by trait, the book is written in a way that using both story-like examples and then explaining the science behind said story in order to keep the reader engaged. Then it is backed up by case studies, or twin studies, with the research cited and statistics for heritability and other correlations given. The book balances the story examples with the actual science being explained effectively, neither detracts from the other, while keeping the reader engaged. The book also has each chapter divided into subsections, easily letting you find relevant information when skimming, and breaking up the denser parts of the text into smaller sections that makes it feel less like a textbook and more like an actual book. At several times, the authors switch to first person (saying “in our lab” etc.), which not only reminds you that this is real, and has practical application, but that real people conducted this research. The first person sections turn denser parts of the reading into friendlier, more easily accepted chunks rather than textbook reading, and help personalize the information, connecting you to the author. It feels more genuine and easier to believe, understand, and remember information when the people telling you studied it themselves rather than feeling like you getting second-hand information.

The research presented in the book also tie into current research and our textbook. For one thing, the anger and worry chapter present ideas that can most likely be applied to the bonobo monkeys in our study of how exactly how similar and different they are to humans. The intelligence factor, and the potential for intelligence based on genetics is a large part of the bonobo monkey studies, we wonder if, because of their similarity to humans, they could learn language.

The book often cites twin studies and case studies, both valid methods of research in psychology. The twin studies are used to separate inheritable factors from environmental factors. The case studies, serve as an in depth portrayal of the subject rather than an abstract one. Bandura’s experiments with the punching dummy and children exposed to violence relates to the anger chapter. Both genes and environment play a large role in anger, as in worry, which we see in the description and effects of different child attachments: secure, anxious-ambivalent, and avoidant. Attachment styles are affected by the mothers’ treatment and responses to the infant as well as the infants natural (genetic) disposition. Each affects the other, which is coined as reciprocal determinism by Bandura as well.

In all, I feel the book is effective in explaining the information it wishes to convey. It is engaging by nonfiction standards, and serves as a decent review for topics already covered in the course, while not being alienating to someone with little to no knowledge of psychology that should choose to read it.