NCEA 3.4 Writing Portfolio. Feature Article: 1984: Critical review

The world  inside the novel of Nineteen-eighty-four was created in the late 1950’s by it’s author George Orwell. It’s bleak view of the future of humanity was used as a launch pad during its popularity, into discussions of the dark themes that were explored in the text. Themes such as control through fear and intimidation, how surveillance effects a society, and what happens when there are no real truths, only acceptable lies. These are all ideas and themes explored through the text of Nineteen-eighty-four, however a major fault may lie in how these are presented to a wider and a more modern audience. An overbearingly noticeable trend appears within the novels’ characters; all minor and major characters noteworthy of a name are male, expect a single women.

A theme explored in depth by Nineteen-eighty-four is control through fear. An important aspect, which most of the fictitious society of Nineteen-eighty-four is based upon.  Although while doing so one key trait seems to be ignored, or purposefully left out; the perspective of women in the story. The way for an audience to empathise and to understand a text is to find a relatable feature. This novel leaves out this option for a lot of women, as when there is a mention of women it is usually in a sexual and or violent context. Such as in the quote by our lead male protagonist Winston, “He would ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax. This quote is said only moments after the recipient female character is presented to the audience, she is also one of Winston’s first interactions with women in the novel, setting up female treatment in the novel from the very start. George Orwell’s idea of control through fear was meant to be a warning to the future of our whole society,  but his portrayal of women in this future is one that many women would find more far more dangerous than their male counterparts. In the 1950’s and carrying into the present day of 2018 a way in which women are often controlled is  through a sexual context. Whether its women’s rights for sexual health, the laws which govern women’s attire, or even how women choose to give birth. These regulations towards women are largely based on control,  they put women in lower position of society by creating fear in making and limiting women’s choices. These fears for women exist in places that they do not for men. This can be seen clearly in the text in the quote,”With those children, he thought, that wretched woman must lead a life of terror.”  The woman in question here is in fear of her own children, due to the society in which the novel inhabits. The same fear does not appear to exist for the women’s husband who has no responsibility for his children, and no fear of them. An example of a real life situation in which women are controlled through fear, is in abortion rights. Through scare tactics and  hordes of people protesting outside clinics, women are pushed into an uncomfortable situation with their own pregnancy. Some countries such as Ireland and the U.S.A have such strict laws surrounding abortion that they do not allow for any form of a safe abortion. Leading women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to full term, even if they cannot support the child, it would be detrimental to their own health, or even if the baby itself would not live after the birth. Much like the woman from the quote above, women experiencing this tend to become terrified of and even resentful to  their own pregnancy. Situations like this occur due to lack of sexual education, which in some countries, much like in the novel Nineteen-eighty-four, only preach abstinence rather than providing safe means of protection. These steps taken towards women’s rights, by governments mainly run by men can control women in their day to day lives. It allows societies to place blame and the sole future responsibility back onto women, controlling their futures before they have even begun. In Nineteen-eighty-four the government has created an anti-sex league as well as imposing an unspoken ban for real loving relationships, in order to create a division between men and women in their further understanding  of one another and each others issues. The addition of female perspective in this novel would have created a better telling, and would have been able to relate to a wider audience allowing for larger discussion to progress and further understanding of all that George Orwell wanted to convey. When relaying the message of how control through fear can effect a  populous, it is an aspect of our societies history that women have faced repeatedly, and showing this through a women’s perspective in the novel would have communicated the idea to a future audience much clearer.  

In the text there seems to be mention of less than ten women in total, with only two of them having any dialogue, and one having a semblance of character; this character being a young woman named Julia. Julia does not help to further the plot or the theme of control though fear within the novel, but rather in a real world context. To provide some background to this idea we need to look into the ‘Manic pixie dream girl’ trope that often appears in modern texts. This trope was first coined in 2007 by film critic Nathan Rabin, and is described as “A female character that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” The characters that take on these ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ roles are ones that have no substance to build a real character from, and if left out of the text would not change the plot all that much. These character exists only for the benefit of a male character, and often the protagonist. Nineteen-eighty-four’s Julia takes on these tropes multiple times in the text. An example of this is when she confesses her love for the protagonist Winston, even though they had had no previous encounters and only talked at the time of this sudden confession. This incident occurs when Winston needs one final push to begin his personal rebellion. Julia’s own irrelevance to this rebellion is shown when she at one point disappears entirely from the text, only to reappear to play housewife in a ‘meaningful’ relationship with Winston. This relationship is based solely off of encounters with Winston sporadically over a couple of months, to show ‘rebellion’ by engaging in sexual intercourse. For Winston this is seen as a form  of rebellion, while for Julia the act has no deeper meaning. “I hate purity, I hate goodness! I don’t want any virtue to exist anywhere…you like doing this? I don’t simply mean me: I mean the thing itself? [Winston]…’ I adore it [Julia].” This quote from both Winston and Julia illustrates how Julia’s character is simply there to fulfil a selfish wish in the protagonist’s journey.  To take from the previous quote about the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ Julia teaches the brooding Winston to embrace life and all its infinite mysteries in order to begin his rebellion. As well as this, a relationship of this type would only exist in the fevered imagination of a lonely author, George Orwell wrote this novel at much the same age as our protagonist WinstonJulia’s want for sex is seen as personal and flippant, with the author even going as far to mention her many other sexual partners, “Hundreds of times-well, scores of times, anyway.” Julia’s character is shown as charming, pretty, she rebells for those who need her to, her sexuality and apparent want for classic house wife tropes of the 1950’s, seen in the quote, “Yes, dear, scent too. And you know what I’m going to do next? I’m going to get hold of a real woman’s frock…I’ll wear silk stockings and high-heeled shoes!” are used as tools to further Winston’s plot, ideals, and journey. Julia however, fades into obscurity once her role is filled; she ceases to be relevant and therefore ceases from the plot. The tragedy of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope is that their characters could be so much more, but that they cannot exist without a man. Once a man has no need for the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ whether its the protagonist or the author, they are tossed aside, killed off or just never mentioned again. This trope and Julia’s character all relate to a broader real world context, showing how this trope has bled into modern day society. Sayings such as “Behind every great man is a great woman” are the example of how women are not becoming the front runners of our societies, but the ones guiding men to take the lead. This itself is control through fear. A warning, unintentional no doubt, that when the women of our real life societies step back in roles, and allow major officials to control certain rights; it will cause women to be left out of the narrative. Much like our fictional Julia’s and Manic Pixie Dream Girls, when women are no longer considered needed in our societies, whether its through control and through the fear women have given over, women will cease to be apart of the  narrative.

George Orwell wrote from what he knew, and also catered to the prominent audience of his time. For George Orwell this was the middle aged, white, middle class male. This perspective however, limits its readers, and it demonstrates one of the very themes he wrote about; even if not necessarily in the context it was originally intend for. Part of this is effected by the leaving out of an entire genders perspective in the novel. This act says more about the author and the times in which the novel was written, than it does about the novel. It also allows the modern readers to see what was the focus of society in the 1950’s. However, the novels continued reverence in our modern society without mentioning the mishandling of female characters such as Julia, and the effects that tropes perpetuated by her in this revered novel have, is a fault in the relaying of one of the most important messages of Nineteen-eighty-four. The message being control through fear. This should be an accessible warning, but Nineteen-eighty-four’s lack of varied perspective leaves it a warning left unheeded. Modern readers of the novel in 2018 see the appearance of control through fear, especially towards women in real life, and not the push back of this control that the novel could have preached. Ultimately the very idea that George Orwell sought to change has become a reality, in some form or another, for the people he chose to leave out of the plot, and for the people he unwittingly choose to not warn.

 

 

Dystopia:

Dystopia Definitions:

  • An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.
  • A dystopia is an unpleasant (typically repressive) society, often propagandized as being utopian. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction states that dystopian works depict a negative view of “the way the world is supposedly going in order to provide urgent propaganda for a change in direction.”
  • The most famous and considered to be the first dystopian novel is H.G. Well’s The Time Machine, published in 1895. The novel is considered to be science fiction( as most dystopian text usually are) but was the beginning of a subgenre eventually becoming dystopia on its own.
  • The word dystopia comes from the words utopia with the addition of dys- meaning simply bad. It was created in the late 18th century, with its first appearance in an author Thomas More’s novel “Utopia”.

Dystopian texts:

  • Hunger games trilogy (Suzanne Collins) BOOK/FILM: government control, oppressive society, rebellion.
  • The year of the flood ( Margaret Atwood) BOOK: Environmental
  • The handmaid’s tale ( Margaret Atwood) BOOK/ TV: Government control, oppressive society, ellitest.
  • Blade runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve) FILM: last remnants of humanity, collapsing society at hands of elliestism.
  • The Matrix (Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski) FILM: VR world, domination of more advanced species, collapsing society.
  • V for Vendetta (James McTeigue) FILM: oppressive society, rebellion leading to revolution, starts with a single idea or person.
  • Mad Max ( George Miller, George Ogilvie) FILMS: total disrepair of society, fight for survival and control.

Characteristics:

  • Centred around the journey of one main protagonist
  • Protagonist is usually an anti-hero, begins journey out for their own gain
  • Plot reaches point of clarity for character where their attitude shifts from that of themselves to the betterment of their greater society, and thus a cause is born or now endeavoured for.
  • Societal context is that our protagonist is on the bottom of society, having only known the worst aspects of their propagandised “Utopia.”
  • Visually: society is gritty in our protagonist’s eyes, city setting usually (or what is left of one), crowded, filth of both mental and physically in our protagonists face daily, dull colours with statement pieces to contrast and accentuate the cheapness of it all. In comparison our elite members of society will usually have cleanliness on and in their settings and clothing to show their own lavishness. Their sets include clean lines and neutral palettes with structure and order.  
  • The values of each member of society in our dystopias are displayed with their clothing, each wearing themselves on their sleeves to communicate to readers or viewers their place in the context of a story.
  • Orally: bottom of society is loud with the sounds of people in every aspect of life, it is a daily commotion that is the set of background noise, noting to a lack of privacy. Top of society experiences a setting of calm and often almost unnerving quiet, showing their wealth again at being able to have a secluded private area, in which they do not have to share with other members of society; it also shows their exclusion of society that does not meet their standards.
  • The way our characters talk is also outlined this way. With elite members having a more refined pattern and accent displayed when reading or watching a text. Bottom members (and usually our protagonist) will use ore colloquial terms and have a rougher tone and speech pattern, or in some cases may not speak at all.

 

1984: Quotation

 

Winston, protagonist, Chapter 5:

“yes they swallowed it. Parsons swallowed it easily, with the stupidity of an animal. The eyeless creature at the other table swallowed it frantically, passionately, with a furious desire to track down denounce and vaporise anyone who should suggest, that last week the ration had been thirty grams. Syme, too- in some more complex way, involving doublethink- Syme swallowed it.

Here we see that Winston is now even more sure of his first observation. That Syme may not be as orthodox as he may publicly appear to be. This is seen in the way Winston seems to sense the hesitation that Syme takes before he too gives in to the lie. Syme is already been seen to be a very intelligent man, and he here we see him see the mistake, realise that he is being feed a false truth, and accepting it anyway, because in their world a that is what a smart man does.

This quote from Winston seems to outline all the types of people that the new dystopian world contains. Those like Parsons who simply accept anything under the government as truth. Too dull or complicit, being young enough to not know anything else outside of it, to call anything into question now. These constant adjustments of the truth no longer phase people such as Parsons, people who are truly brainwashed by big brother.

The others are people described such as the “creature.” These are the people who have taken their devotion of the idea pushed onto them to the next level.  As Winston describes, ” the eyeless creature swallowed it frantically,” showing that the people such as these will take anything given to them. The concept of making the character be described as eyeless is also interesting. This is because it gives the reader the impression that the creature, and people like him, cannot see for themselves; and are therefore reliant on Big Brother.  They are so frantic to accept new information,  because for them all they know is Big Brother, as they have essentially had their own way at looking at the world taken from them.

Lastly we have the people like Syme. These are the bystanders of the new world. The ones desperate to stay alive that they keep their heads down and out of the way. Syme, much like many others, accepts things he know to be false simply to be able to old onto his life a little bit longer. They are also the people that have found pleasure in the smallest of things, these are what truly keep them from turning to rebels such as Winston. Syme has his work, this he is obviously passionate about, and for him seems to be what he holds onto in a world like this. its a tiny part of his life which he knows to be true, because he has created it himself. Syme is the example of all the people who choose to do nothing because they have something themselves which keeps them comfortable in their complicity to the dangers that surround them.

 

Winston, protagonist, chapter: 

“until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

This quote from Winston is said during his walk through the proles. He ponders the idea that the largest mass of power does not actually  lie in the government, but in the poverty stricken areas on the outskirts of ‘London.’ However, we see that Winston is cyclical about this prospect because as we, as the audience, soon discover the people of the proles live in a relative freedom; in comparison to those that live lives such as Winston.  The people of the proles are governed more loosely, they are allowed small freedoms such as a family and items such as beer; this is how they are kept in check. Because they are allowed these small freedoms they do not call into question the governing they do receive, although their lives are not grand and cannot become so in this flawed system, they are not so bad as to think to rebel. Therefore in Winston’s own words they will never become conscious. This lack of incentive to rebel is what prohibits them from forming the realisation to do so. To rebel would lead to the realisation that they had been living under an unfair and unjust system, and allow them to explore a new avenue of thought and life outside of the hardship they have become neutral to. But as I have stated before they will not rebel because they have no cause, and they will not realise they need for a cause until after a rebellion is started. Winston desperately wants the proles to revolt, as it will free him more than anything else, and will in his own mind lead t a better future; at the moment he knows the means of getting his way but no way to deliver and rally this message.

 

Winston, Protagonist, Chapter: 7 pg 80  ( memory of a poem/ song from years back)

“Under the spreading chestnut tree, 

I sold you and you sold me:

There lie they,  and here lie we

Under the spreading chestnut tree. “

This memory of a broadcast is remembered by Winston when he discovers three former members of the ‘elite’ party at a drinking spot called the chestnut. The song or poem itself seems out of place in the scene and very unlike Big Brother to be promoting; what I gathered then from the irregularity of the message to the rest of the story was that it is meant to stand out, and that it could be a sign of rebellion. The lines themselves also seem to appear this way, the idea of a tree spreading out like an idea taking root in a community, from an area ( the chestnut drinking spot) that is seemingly notorious for rebellious meetings.

Another message that can be gleaned from the short song is the hopelessness and loss of trust. The lines ” I sold you and you sold me: There lie they, and here lie we,” show a darker side of the world in which Winston lives. No one can be trusted to not be sold out, or in selling another person out for their own personal gain.  The direct use of the word “lie” is another tell to this as it isn’t necessary o use that word, it seems deliberate, and immediately changes the context from simply laying down, to being lied to or about.

With the point described above the idea of a spreading chestnut tree does not show an idea of inside rebellion, but rather an idea of increased control. The chestnut tree spreads outwards, wrapping more and more people to be intwined within the parties ideals. This snippet of a song from Winston’s memory stands out for a purpose, as to which side the message is for remains unknown until further into the story.

Winston, Entry in diary, Chapter: 7 Pg 84

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows. “

This is to say that if one is allowed to state the truth of one aspect, then all else that is factually true can also be deemed, and proved as such.  This quote shows to the reader how much the world in which Winston lives is different from our own, when even a truth that is simple for a child to understand can be called into question and can now be called a lie. It’s a deliberate demonstration of how much control the Government has, when the obviously true can be called into question. It also shows how little freedom the people within this regime have. That can be seen in how the quote seems to ask permission to say the truth, rather than being able to sate it openly.

  • extension: pg 261 – O’Brien holds up four fingers to a beaten winston after repeating quote back and asks, ” How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?”
  • this is a blatant act of aggression by O’Brien.

Winston, interaction with girl, page 111: “In front of him was an enemy who was trying to kill him: in front of him, also, was a human creature, in pain and perhaps with a broken bone. ”

Winston, after being discovered at the bookshop, Pg :  “It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy, but always against one’s own body. ”

  • Winston is deciding whether or not to take his own life

Winston, pg162: “History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.

after an encounter with O’Brien where O’Brien acknowledges the rebellion, pg 167: “He had the sensation of stepping into the dampness of a grave, and it was not much better because he had always known that the grave was there waiting for him.

  • the realisation that with the acknowledgment of rebellion his own acts will now actually effect his life. actions that themselves are a life or death situation.

Julia and winston talking about rebellion and the party, pg 174: “if you can feel that staying human is worthwhile, even when it cant have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.”

Winston reading Goldstein’s book to Julia, pg 227: “sanity is not statistical,”

 

O’Brien and Winston having a conversation mid torture pg282:

” do you believe in god, Winston?”

“no,”

” then what is it, this principle that will defeat us?”

” I don’t know, the spirt of man. ”

” and do you consider yourself to be a man?”

“yes,”

” If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man. ”

Winston after a couple of weeks after his torture reteaching himself pg290: “sanity was statistical. It was merely a question of learning to think as they thought. ”

  • previously we saw that winston believed that ” sanity is not statistical,” on page 227. Now we can see that by this point in the story that Winston has finally had his values broken, that he is not the rebellious man we saw before and that his older concepts of thought crime and double think do not exists for him anymore.

( Last line, a defeated winston sits in the chestnut and the war has ended) pg311: ” He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother. ”

  • the last line of Winston story is the final blow. He has given up, the system he fought with his soul rather than through direct action has been painfully stripped away. He was the ” last real man” and now he has joined the masses. His proof of sanity was statistical as he joined along with the people he thought to be brainwashed.

 

SATIRE TASK:

  • Coming to terms with turning thirty:
  • 1. Realise that your best years are behind you. Once you have come to terms with this crushing inevitability, knowing that your childhood was wasted due to lack of maturity, and that your teens were somewhat unfulfilled due to school and sleep deprivation; you will feel liberated. Because you can now lounge about, using excuses of having much weaker joints, long work hours and monotony, to prohibit you from doing anything of substance or interest at all.

 

  • 2. Realise that with the gaining of a year from 29 to 30 marks you as ancient. Therefore you are now considered wise beyond comprehension to anyone below you in age. Seize this new found opportunity to talk down to those in their twenties, and to remind the youth of today that back in your day everything was so much better than it is now. Remember that while executing this, don’t let on that the unfamiliarity of today’s technology and the new cultural shift is in reality terrifying to you, to the point of opposition of change. 

 

  • 3. Realise how numbered your days are. The grim reaper is just around the corner, so I would take these words to your early grave, “I have not died today, but maybe tomorrow. ” Maybe the closeness of death will even motivate your ancient joints locked within your blandly formalised lives to go out and take back the other 70 years of life ahead of you. 

SATIRE #1 Notes

  1. Pick a social convention/ life event:
  • Turning 30 years old
  • subject: a step by step process of growing old
  1. Exaggerate
  • “your best years are behind you”
  • ” I have not died today, but maybe tomorrow” – saying how death is catching up on ones self, but has not been caught yet.
  • Thinks that their life is now over, the best part of their youth is gone
    3. Understate:
  • “never ask a lady her age.” – describing oneself as extremely old, while in reality still being quite youthful
  • Are expected to be an adult now, face certain social requirements that means they “must” become more formal
  • lessons they have learned to now pass on

 

 

2.4 speech submission

“Voting is the foundation stone for political action.” This is a quote by Martin Luther King, after his involvement in the 1965 Selma protests. Martin Luther king was a major influential figurehead in the civil rights movement in America. Helping to gain equality for African Americans through their fundamental human rights; such as the right to vote. Voting is one the most basic forms of giving an opinion, and is a fundamental human right for all, according to most countries. Voting is an important and necessary tool for a fair society to function, and is an act carried out by all those that believe in a fair system and society. There are many aspects to voting and its history that carry relevance into our present and future with voting, some of which are common democratic voting systems, their workings and stages. The benefits of voting for people of all class level and the overall betterment of our current systems. And lastly the ways in which voting helps those who face disadvantages from unfair systems of oppression in our modern societies. Learning about some of these key aspects stated above, can give a reader a further informed opinion in voting for themselves and a greater insight into the ways in which their vote will affect them.

The word democracy comes from the greek words “dêmos” which means people or neighbourhood and “krátos” meaning force or power; meaning that the word democracy literally translates to “people power.” The earliest recorded forms of democratic voting dates back to 6th century BC, when it was introduced in Greece, as part of the Athenian democracy. The Athenian democracy was set up in the city of Athens, and the province of Attica. The area of Attica is recorded as one of the first democratic regions in history. Citizens of the province elected leaders and passed bills via the act of voting. However, their initial vote system, much like our modern version still is, was severely biased and flawed. Attica voters had to be a adult males who were also neither a slave or an “alien, ” this meaning someone born from outside the city of Athens/ province of Attica. This bias obviously greatly affected what laws were passed and leaders put into power at the time, creating a new life for most in Attica from the ideas of only a few. Even with this bias voting, the creation and implementation of even basic voting system to govern large populations was the very start of a more democratic way of governing in our history.

In a 21st century democracy the ideas of basic governing remain the same, but the flaws of bias and corruption still clearly evident; due to each democratic nation modifying the system in order to suit their culture and populous. Most commonwealth countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, hold a fair election. The people vote in members of their communities into parliament to represent different regions of the country, and also a main prime minister who acts as a leader in place the head of state; that currently being the Queen of England in New Zealand and in commonwealth countries. Every New Zealand citizen is automatically enrolled to vote once they reach the age of eighteen, voting however is non-compulsory. In a non-commonwealth country such as Germany, a parliamentary system is also used to govern. According to Germany’s constitution “Act. 38 of German Basic Law, elections are to be universal, direct, free, equal, and secret.” One can vote or be elected once they have reached the age of eighteen in Germany, and much like in the commonwealth, Germany has a two vote system. One vote for a regional representative and one for a head of state; in Germany that is called the Chancellor. The parliamentary system is the most commonly used in democratic nations, as it allows for the most representation of people by their governments. This is due to the addition of regional representatives spanning the country. Regional members are voted in from each district, and so are more able to accurately translate the needs and the wants of that particular region to their representative party, or government. The most important part of voting is representation, giving the people more power over their governments; running them rather than being run by them.

A common misconception around voting is that there is no point in taking action, as a little addition will do nothing to effect real change. To quote the movie Cloud Atlas, “ you are simply one drop in a vast ocean”…”yes, but what is an ocean but a multitude of small drops.” This quote is metaphor for how much impact a collected force of people power can achieve to effect change. One vote counts as much as any other, and every vote will be counted, a single vote can make change happen; meaning that to vote has more power over an outcome than most realise. There is a problem that most voting systems are facing today; the lack of youth voters. It is now the job of the next generation to vote for the future they want to live in. Statistics show that 18-29year olds have the lowest voter turnout percentage and that only 64% of youth voted or are even registered to vote in England. Here in New Zealand all 18-29 year olds are automatically enrolled to vote, while only an average of 62.42% actually make it to the polling stations. These statistics do show that just over half of NewZealand youth are going out and voting, however, this is not enough. The 62.42% of youth voters are currently making the decisions for the rest of this generation, because they are the ones being heard on decisions through their votes. These statistics show that a trend of young people not voting is allowing leaders into parliament and bills to stand by the choice of those who have come before us. By voting and becoming some what more actively involved in what’s happening in the political environments of our respective countries, we can learn about what is happening in our parliaments, and make the change that we wish to see in the world through small direct political actions.

Voting should be fair, and open to all, this has not been the case when looking back into history. For example women had to fight for the right to vote, in a movement called the women’s suffragette. Women eventually gained the right to vote in many countries by  late 1920; although women still had to fight to be allowed into parliament and many other aspects of creating an equality based democratic governing even today. Another example of systemic systems of oppression that prevented voting rights for people is in the minorities. People of colour/ minorities of orientation and class level, had to fight for their right firstly to be seen as people, then to qualify for the right to vote in America; a country that prides itself on being the “land of the free.” America was and is one of the wealthiest and most influential democratic nations today and back in the 1900’s when this fight for voting rights first began. Unlike with most nations however, America is a country renowned for corruption in government and for its extortion and under representation of people of colour. Fights against this type of oppression in the voting system were seen in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s onwards, where human rights as well as voting rights were being protested for by the black and Latina communities of America. In the past as stated before governments were decided upon by the highest classes of society, not by all those whom it affects, this has lead to corruption and anger towards the relatively unchanged system still in place today. Now the youth have the responsibility to continue to make our current democratic systems fair and just. They must vote not only for themselves but because they have that right due to the efforts and actions of the people who have come before, and fought for their privilege to vote on issues that really matter. It’s a responsibility that is easy to take on, and means more to those who can’t vote, than those who can realise. Voting can be used as a form of protest, it is a privilege to have the right to vote when it should be a universal right. It is now a responsibility of the youth of today to fight for those who have no voice, giving their vote to help others, to bring about change for those who are being oppressed still by the system, and through this direct action they can be the leaders to a more fair future.

The average democratic voting system should not discriminate, If the person is rich or poor, old or young, whatever their sexual orientation, skin colour, gender or social class level: Each person has the right to a fair vote for a leader they believe best represents their needs and beliefs. Each vote should be private and that is what gives it power. Individuals have the choice to elect a person based on what they chose; with no outside influence once that vote is cast. The people, are the givers of power in our free societies, they control the power and the future of their respective nations, due to a fair democratic system. The people decided who will hold office, the laws that get passed, they control more over their governing than is usually thought to be possible. The voters of our countries have more power than can be conceived over more than could ever be deemed possible. Using that power to help, to encourage and to lead; this is what voting brings about. The average vote from an average person may be enough to sway a decision and change the world for the better, this is why there is a necessity to go out and vote.

Being there piece:

The room is calm, quaint and quiet. All lays still. Dust will settle before you rise again, everything seemingly so peaceful after such a storm. Night will move to day, winds will start to blow, the earth will move, and still you lay. Floors start to groan, and the curtains flutter with a faint breeze. The only view point is to stare forever upwards, you study the blank roof. Treating every scratch, every dirt smudge as though it was the Sistine Chapel; as though it had every depth and colour to explore, every wonder imaginable right before your tired eyes. You ignore the agony of knowing that a blank wall is all there really is to see. A feeling of warmth like sunlight on a summer morning, hot but gentle, as though the sun is not yet at full peak; spreads upwards from your toes.

Memories are a way to return, to outside, to summer, to sun, and light, and life, and growth, and all that makes the world feel so brilliantly and so absolutely golden. You use this to escape from your current place, surrounded by thoughts and the movement of time seemingly unchanged, the monotonous days, lost again in a haze. Some movement is allowed, a lolling of the head, a twitch of your toe, raising a finger, somewhat near perfect vision to gaze longingly about the room. This subtlety of movement is more freedom than most will experience in a lifetime; with every movement restricted, this little allowance, comes as a little bit of bliss.

That warmth from before seems to have spread, lapping now at your outstretched hand. Your fingertips feel these waves dance playfully, reluctant to to come any closer. More awake, a smell becomes more obvious, a smell that could only mean morning. The faint scent of black coffee, the stark chemical stench of cleaning fluid, and quiet literally squeaky clean floors; indicated by the sound of footsteps followed by a squeak of ripping rubber soles from vinyl floors. With morning, comes change, although little of it. Voices murmur discretely, shadows fall in and out of your peripheral. They usually don’t say much, if anything at all; and they never stay long. Perhaps these visitors feel sad for you, maybe they pity you, probably they don’t care for you at all. For who would care after so much time has past, you are now only a body to them, immovable, unable to communicate or to show any sign of recognition or love. Who could care for something that appears to be inanimate, a puppet with no strings, something so broken, with no ability to establish meaningful connection. 

Open your eyes, you say into the silence, a thought shouted out to the void; look out, look up, try at all to show you can, try at all to show the want to get up from this torturous bed. When you were younger, a bed only housed a sleeping body, tuckered out from daily expeditions, only needed for short recuperation before another adventure began with a rising sun. Now that fresh air, the grass between your toes, the feeling of running as fast as possible, shade from trees on warm grounds, hot earth, and course sand, is all a far away wish. All the feelings and experiences seem captured in a little bottle, you’ll wander here between rough sleep and numbing consciousness. Resigned to fate, you lay in patience for any development. Maybe the next person will change everything, maybe in this next second you will rise from your spot and dance out of this hospital, down the street right to the sea. There you will stand, with toes curled into the sand, waves pushing against your shins, eyes stinging from salt, nose filled with brine, body and soul abundant with youth. There you will wander forevermore in dreams, deciding that reality is no longer worth the painful wait. Fall sleepily into dreams, living in the bliss you have bottled, leaving behind that which was not worth experiencing anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

2.9#6 Documentary

Documentary: What on earth is wellness

Produced: British Vogue

Commentator/Main figure: Camille Rowe

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZkaE8nq54w&t=1206s

This documentary, a personal favourite of mine due to the topic and science involved, follows the journey of French/American Model Camille Rowe, by British Vogue, around LA searching for the meaning of “wellness.” She visits the office of meditation app Headspace, talks to neurosurgeons, crystals healers, nutritionist and therapists as well as going to a communal hiking group, a therapeutic dance groups and gets an MRI scan (Magnetic Resource Imaging) of her brain. British Vogue has made this entire project to get to the bottom of what real wellness of the mind, body and spirit is, and what we can do in order to not fall into the trap of the wellness industry; while providing real solutions in order to live a more holistically happy life. Some of the topics discussed in the documentary are, how the idea “wellness” has become capitalised by different industries, how the idea of wellness should have a more holistic approach, and the benefits of mediation on the mind and body.

The documentary starts off with a short monologue by Camille as she talks about her frustration with the “wellness” industry, and all the misleading information surrounding these. Camille talks about how she is fully aware of her own buying into the nonsense of these companies, getting anything that her friends recommend, simply in the name of health. As a personal journey she wishes to have a larger and better understanding of what wellness is an how to achieve it, without the commercialisation that LA is filled with. One of the first people she meets with is Dr. John. W. Travis who has studied the idea of wellness for more than forty years. “I’ve been fighting a thirty year battle in order to promote this positive idea of wellness out into the world…Now if you search up wellness, you get a dog food brand,” this quote from Dr. Travis shows us how he has seen the adjustment from the early 1970’s to now in the idea of wellness, and how it has become a sellable product rather than an idea of betterment. The two discuss the wider world problems that most people are facing when it comes to being healthier. The fact that we are one: inundated with information and two: that this information is given to you as a capsule or a tea, an advertisement sold to you by your favourite celebrity, and three: that we are still not there yet, even with modern advancements, toward the idea of overall wellness that was set out in the late fifties. From this interview I learnt about how the idea of wellness was first talked about in the late fifties but was first made its into “wellness clinics” in the late 70’s. In Dr. Travis’s  words, “we began to see health as not simply the absence of sickness,” he and Camille talk about how there a four pillars of health. Social, meaning your connection with friends and family and your ability to have good social interactions that benefit you mentally. The mental emotional, meaning maintaining a reasonably stable emotional state in which you are able to process your emotions in a safe and healthy way’ allowing yourself to be sad and angry and happy and to grieve when need be, but to be able to acknowledge this and move forward with your life. The physical, this is the one that most of the wellness industry works off; and this is where you fuel your body with food that is wholesome and will give you the right chemicals in order to function and having a regular exercise program to keep muscles healthy and happy. The last pillar is spiritual. This can be religious or not, it simply means to have a faith in something whether it be a god, a spirit, crystals or science. The idea of these pillars is to have a balanced connection with yourself and those you surround yourself with. The documentary aims to educate those who view it on the information regarding these pillars of connection, opening up their audience to the choices for mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual health. “I summarise all my work in six words..The currency of wellness is connection.” – Dr. Travis. I found that I strongly agreed with the idea of pillars of connection and the breaking down of the idea of wellness to incorporate more idea than simply the physical aspect, this opinion came easily as the information presented in the documentary is able to teach viewers, myself included, about topics such as holistic health in a interesting way. 

Along her journey Camille also stops into the office of the app “Headspace.” This is a meditation app the was created by Andy Puddicombe, an Englishman who went to tibet in his late twenties in order to become a monk. Coming back he wanted to bring the benefits of meditation to people’s everyday lives in a convenient manner; so that the benefits were widely available and easy to incorporate into daily routines. Andy, and now his team, have developed the globally used app with mediation run-throughs and goals, so that learning to meditate is easier. Andy and Camille talk about the difference between meditation and being mindful, before we then go and see this research backed up by neuroscience. “Mindfulness is being present, being in the moment..practising this and becoming more aware, this is what meditation is,” This is a quote from Andy is his own simplified description of the important differences he sees between mediation and mindfulness. A practise such as mediation, is to help people become more aware and more present in their waking moments, rather than being distracted, their minds somewhere else. Camille uses her own experience with mediation and her personal struggle to stick with the practise in order to have Andy share some more knowledge in the subject. When told this is a very common problem, I as the audience can share in this experience with Camille of how I may have struggled with meditation or how generally many do not fully understand the concept, making the information then given more useful and even more intriguing. The solution he provides is called coupling. This where you place two ideas together or two activities in order to remember to carry out meditation. For example meditation and drinking your morning tea, or having your shower. This means that the practise is non time specific, but you will likely still have your cup of tea or have your shower, meaning that you will still carry out your meditation that day. This information is beneficial and, as the app is meant to be, easy to implement; it’s information that is useful to the audience, whether they are entirely new to the concept of meditation or learning more. After her talk with Andy Puddicombe, Camille turn to the UCLA campus in order to look into the science behind a physically healthy mental state and the physical benefits of meditation. “Those kinds of mindfulness practices have been associated with increased well being. It actually changes the expression of DNA in our cells, and can actually alter your responses to stress, and can ‘quiet down’ the signals that make you feel bad.” That is a quote from Dr. Robert Bilder (Professor in chief of medical psychology – neuropsychology), talking about the physical changes that mediation can bring. He introduces a scientific approach to the concept of mindfulness and the benefits that they see in people, both in their physical and mental state. I found that this documentary went on to present findings in more ways than one, it chooses different ways in which to appeal to its audience, backing up the science with a more personal connection and vice versa; this method leaves little skepticism and maybe leaving people more readily able to accept the information presented to them.

One of the main themes that I saw was returned to throughout this documentary is the fact that the concept of “wellness” has become capitalized and industrialised for public consumption. “ There are positives and negatives. You’ve got to generate income, and I don’t blame people for that…However now that the word is popular you get everything.” This comes from Dr. Travis again, talking about the rise in the commercialisation of the word and idea of wellness. He mentions dog food brands and wellness shops on every street corner of LA, and that’s because this word has been coined for use for anything, even things that are not healthy or serve no purpose. Products that fall under this guise, and simply contribute to the information overload that has fueled the industry, are products like bespoque diets and crash course exercise programs, as well as supplements and cleanses. Sure, not one way of lifestyle will help every single person, however adding the name wellness to a juice or a burger does not necessarily make that product any better for you, and this is what is currently on the market for the everyday person. Camille goes to crystal healers in order to have her aura cleansed. This practise seems silly to most and has proven to do nothing to  affect physical health, meaning that for most people it will fall under the commercialism guise. For some people however, the placebo from this kind of practise does provide mental rest and betterment, and is  a practice that even Neuroscientist Dr. Robert Bilder says may be helpful to those who fully embrace the concept and believe that this crystals will give them the ‘energies’ that they are sold to them as. This is an example of commercialism that is either harmless or positive in almost every respect, providing a happier lifestyle to those it does impact. Supplements are another and more sinister part of the commercialism of wellness. Diet supplements saying it will give you immunity boats and adrenal rest and turmeric pills for ‘wellness’, line the cabinets of our host Camille’s kitchen cupboards. The Documentary brings in Dr. Molly Maloof (personalised health practitioner) to talk about these supplements and how they are definitely false advertising and are a bad side of the industrialised wellness community. Most of the supposed benefits of most basic supplement and vitamin pills can be provided for through diet. Having more leafy greens, higher fibre fruits, more whole grains, can provide all the chemicals and supposed things needed into our diets in order to be physically healthy. Obviously prescription medication is sometimes necessary, what Dr. Molly Maloof is referring to is the self medicating and the promoting of products that are not needed in the average diet of most people. This themes of the documentary is referenced and talked to by both degree holding health professionals, as well as chefs, crystal healers and gym owners. It’s the main cause for this documentary and collaborations and collecting of information that make it; the fact that commercialised wellness has been distorted to show a view that we need increased methods and various products in order to be happy inwardly and outwardly. Research is being done into certain aspects of wellness, such as meditation, but increased industrialising in false information in for our physical betterment is hindering the bringing forward of real findings. From a wider world perspective, this information is readily available to anyone who wishes to have it, and is able to provide actual solutions to those who watch it. This documentary has been created to bring all of it to a  more accessible platform, to an interested audience, the professional filming and tying in of a well known model draw in a captivated crowd for long enough to leave them with more information on a topic that does affect everyone.

We the viewers of this content are able to find what we need in order to bring positive change into our lives through the information learned in this documentary. This “What on earth is wellness” documentary created by British Vogue and hosted by Camille Rowe, I believe is an innovative modern collection of knowledge, created for youth and all those interested in free information on something we should all know more about. We learn about more topics than the ones I have discussed and are given more than just the opinions of doctors, some that even contradict each other, leaving me once again to have to form an opinion that will be my own, but still a better informed one than before. Ultimately I think that this documentary is a film that is beneficial for the youth of today to learn from, and about practises they may not have heard of before and to have their misconceptions around others squashed. “ Wellness represents loving yourself, being kind to yourself, in a balanced way.”

2.9#5 Book

Book: The Dovekeepers

Author: by Alice Hoffman.

The novel “The Dove keepers,” written by Alice Hoffman is a fictional story based on the historical events of a siege, by the Roman armies, on a mountain in the Judean Desert, Masada in 70 C.E. From this attack two women and five children survived out of the nine hundred Jews that lived in the fortress. The story follows four women Yael, Revka, Aziza and Shirah. We learn from each of these women, their tragedies and triumphs show the readers certain themes that can be seen reflected in real life, or as something that can be taken away to then reflect on. To me some of the more important themes portrayed in the text were, the forcing of maturation of young children in the face of trauma, the place of a woman and her limitations in an oppressive society, and how rebellion of faith lead the women to survive under their circumstances.

Yael, our first story,  is the daughter of an assassin. She killed her mother during childbirth, an act her father resents her for. Her family is forced to travel into the desert due to her home town being overrun by Roman troops. In the desert Yael losses herself, “My girlhood disappeared in the desert. The person I had once been vanished.”  This line shows how she has been forced to mature too soon and how all that she has her belongings, family and her own conflicted soul has been stripped away by the wind, sun and horrific situation. Yael’s journey from timid girl to strong women I thought taught the reader how horrible things can affect us, and how we can grow stronger from them; another example of this is Ellie from “Tomorrow when the war began” who starts off as a regular teenager before she is forced to mature quickly and adapt to her new and life threatening situation. Ellie due to a war appearing on her doorstep, so to speak, she has to take on responsibilities and face grim realities of death and hardships that most would never dream for a child to experience. Much like Yael, Ellie grows, a woman forged from her trauma, stronger but most likely very broken inside. Both cases in the text show the readers the effects that trauma and war can have on children/young adults, people who until this experience have been treated with care and consideration to how they will process each obstacle that comes before them. As we can see in our characters experience, she  is broken completely. Then she dusts herself off and carries on, due to will and grit that she has had to take on; losing her last remnants of adolescents with it. These images are reflected in our own media. In war torn countries, young women and children are often left behind by the men to fight or are the survivors of the ordeals they have faced. Although these adolescents make it out alive, they leave behind memories of a better time with whole families and easy times behind. The way these children deal with this pain can be read through the character of Yael, showing her audience the lasting effects that linger well into adulthood.

The story of Aziza is written to show more of her inner struggle between what she has been brought up as, and now who she is expected to be. Aziza was brought up as a first born son when her mother could not bear one, but when her new younger brother takes her place she is forced back into the ways of the women of her tribe. She is a proud soldier, competent in combat and horse riding due to training in her youth. Aziza’s story, symbolises the struggle women have had throughout history trying to gain equality with men within their societies. This quote here, “Weapons are kept from women, but such a naming suggests that perhaps men fear our talents in war as well as our desire for peace,” showing how Aziza herself knows her competence for the task she is banned to perform. This is an example of how competent women in the workplace of our modern day societies are passed over for jobs, which are then given to men purely due to old ideas; also how jobs allocated to women are deemed as less heroic or enduring, whether it’s charging into battle or as a nurse opposed to being a doctor. Aziza, much like the character Mulan from the disney movie of the same name, transforms herself into a man in order to be put onto the battlefield where she is most useful and knows her skills are necessary; her being there saves the lives of many of her fellow soldiers. Aziza much like many women still are today, is trapped in an identity that was given to her based off religious upbringing and the condemning of women as leaders in societies. I as the reader ultimately learnt through Aziza how sometimes breaking faith and rule is necessary in order to take a place in a society that won’t accept me for a profession until proven otherwise. “Perhaps that meant a woman who was well trained in arms would be the superior warrior, her attention never wavering from her task.”

Another aspect of the book that was particularly interesting to me was the relationship the main characters had to their faith. Religion, in the text, was an all consuming aspect of people’s everyday lives, and as it was the early Judean faith, women were very restricted in what they could do. Yael betrays her faith multiple times, but believes that because of her first sin at birth, her other sins do not matter to their God, whom she believes has already condemned her. Aziza also betrays her faith but only to help her people by using her skills even when they are considered a sin. Revka blames God for what has happen to her family, but cannot turn her back on him, she is hopeful yet for a miracle. Shirah has already been condemned as she is a witch, a woman who has left God and men for her own dark ways, but still she prays for her children and her loved ones, who have not come to be sinners as of yet. The characters are rebellious in their ways by disregarding traditional religious laws to protect themselves and their loved ones, but they never completely abandon their faith. The author uses symbolism throughout the novel; an example of this is the doves the women care for. The doves, in this religion, symbolise femininity and procreation, and example of the women themselves. However in the actual novel the doves are killed by Yael for her own survival, this could symbolise how her femininity has ‘died’ as she is the most untamed of all the women. Also the women defy the rules again by setting free the doves at the end of the story allowing them to fly free, instead of being caught up in the ensuing mass suicide. “We breathed in the bones of our people- their desires, their petty differences, their faith- all martyred, vanishing into the dusky murderous air,” this line shows how the others from the fortress have given themselves up to their God through a mass suicide, and shows the reader how once again the women have rebelled by surviving. The audience can see even more clearly how the women are willing to do anything to protect the people they care about no matter the consequence for themselves by man or by God.

”The Dove keepers,” by Alice Hoffman is I think is poetically written novel, set to teach lessons and inform readers on the horrific events that shape our history and maybe the things we can learn from them. We learn all of this through women who have experienced these things in a trying situation. As an audience I learnt about the cultural and historical significance of the siege of Masada, and how it came to be. The themes discussed are apparent throughout the novel, fundamentally I believe the story is a history lesson on rebellion of faith, female identity and the effects that war harbours.  

 

2.9#4 Book

Book: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

“The Alchemist”, written by Paulo Coelho in 1988, is the story of a young boy’s search for his personal legend. The novel is set around the lessons he learns and the experiences gained,  with his quest becoming the real treasure, rather than the physical promise of gold he was expecting. Some of the many lessons he learns are that of how learning is different for everyone and that learning should be respected, that everyone he meets is equal to one another and to him, and lastly that he has a personal connection to his environment allowing him to expand his universe via these life lessons. Personally I found this book very enlightening and a text that shared a lot of values I hold for myself. 

This story is about a young man, who goes nameless, who is in search of his personal legend. He uses omens and the teaching of a king at the start of the novel, to help guide him, to what he believes is his life’s destiny; this being to find treasure of some sort out in the deserts of Egypt. Throughout his Journey he faces many challenges, running out of money and having to work for some time, becoming caught up in a tribal war, and falling in love with a woman who cannot come with him on his journey. As his quest is delayed and delayed he never loses hope, learning from those he meets and the experience he gains.“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realise his dream,” This quote from an alchemist the boy meets, shows him and us about how everything that has happened and will happen, along his journey has and will happen for a reason. The teachings the young man learns are the what makes his legend more important, and while on his journey, he learns how to speak the language of the universe, through the knowledge he has gained to find this personal legend.

“I have inside me the winds, the deserts, the oceans, the stars, and everything created in the universe. We were all made by the same hand, and we have the same soul.” One of the main themes of this book that I found interesting is that we, humans, plants, earth, are all one and the same. Although I do not personally believe in a ‘higher being’ that created everyone, the idea that we are all one and the same is interesting to be seen in a period piece of literature, written more than thirty years ago. This is interesting due to the fact that in modern day society (I would define this from 1900 until present day) that those ideas are still not put into practice; even though we, as a general society, see ourselves as more advanced and more civilised people. The novel is set in Egypt during a pre-technology medieval age; a country, in present day, that many consider to be ruled by an oppressive and dangerous regime. The idea of equality, in terms of people and animals and class, in a time long before our “civilised era” seems unlikely, and a philosophy that not many people would have followed. Although this side of a more caring and compassionate humanity is presented in the novel, it’s a practice that seems to be very lacking in actuality. For example countries such as the United States of America, England and New Zealand pride themselves on believing in equality and justice, and in providing these kinds of living conditions to their citizens. However, we know that racism and sexism run rampant through these “civilised”  modern countries. Things such as the wage gap, double standards and stereotypes stop us from achieving real equality in genders; and racism provides barriers that keep classism alive and well in Western countries. From our main character’s perspective he treats the people he meets with continued respect and is ultimately saved by each of them in turn, as his willingness to accept others at no consequence to himself, it leaves him open to more possibilities of friendship and of knowledge; which is the whole point of his journey. Through the boy’s actions in his way of treating people, we as a reader and as a population can see how our own actions can affect others, and how the kindness and respect for others will mean an abundance of respect and compassion shown towards us, as we will have a more empathetic understanding of each other, as we see each other on equal terms; an idea that I believe in quite passionately making this novel even more appealing a a teaching device. 

One of the more interesting themes in the novel I found, were that in the “The Alchemist” there was the same respect for people learning in different methods/ by different means, as others. Throughout the story, we see the young man mainly through his own mind, but occasionally we see him from different character’s perspective. This gives us as the audience an omniscient experience where we learn with him and see how other types of learning affects him and those around him. One such scene, is where the boy and an English scientist have a chance meeting; they then travel through the Sahara desert together. The boy watches the road and nature around him learning through listening and looking, through his connection and through having this physical experience, learns from what is right in front of him. He is able to distinguish happenings around him;  things such as time, season and information on the plant and animal life in the desert via observation. In contrast the English scientist prefers to read his books all day to learn the same thing from the desert, he does not observe and does not experience while still gaining the knowledge required to survive the desert. When the two swap methods, the scientist to now observe and the boy to read, we see how these different methods of learning effect each character: “It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.The English scientist comes to the conclusion that he can learn nothing from simply observing the desert. The boy also finds the books more confusing and too complex than the simplicity of reading the land. As the audience we learn with these two character how they both are intellectual in their own right, each has the information needed and can express opinion and have a discussion around the knowledge they have gathered; the means of how they got to this point are irrelevant when the discussion can still be had, and still be understood by both parties. In his book, the author Paulo Coelho focuses on the message he believes to be important. That there are different ways to learn the same thing, some methods work for some individuals and that method may not be the best for others. We often see in modern environments that some methods of learning and gathering knowledge is considered to be higher, or is more deserving of respect that another. Others dictate what way of learning they believe to be best, rather than what is best fit for the students. Something that I agree can be learned from the characters in the novel, by our modern learning environments, is that how the learning occurs does not matter; how that learning can be communicated and used is what is most important.

In the novel, “The Alchemist,” written by Paulo Coehlo we discover some of its main lessons. Some of which are, that we are all one and the same and that we each should live with this in mind, another is that people learn in different ways and that the knowledge is more important than the ways of getting it. And that we all have a deep rooted connection to our planet and to our respective environments. These are points that are important to the development of our modern societies. Not appreciated in it’s early editions, Paulo Coelho’s story has lasted for over 40 years and has been translated into 67 languages, making it a long lasting cultural classic.  I believe that It shows these progressive ideas in a way that is simple and reminds us, when we have our judgments clouded by the pressure of modern life, of all that should be considered some of the  more important things. Aspects such as learning and equality that will allow us to actually move forward in a more positive means.