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pupil. THE NORTHWEST ACADEMY’S SCHOLARLY JOURNAL A COLLECTION OF SENIOR THESES 2009-2010


contents. 1

Forrest Williams Religious Prophets, Secular Philosophers, and the Conquest of the Human Spirit

10

Nicholas Voorsanger A Whole Less than the Sum of the Parts: The Fruitless Marriage of Morality and Faith

21

Alison Irvine Primal Desires and the Science of Attraction

33

Walter Poulsen Transcending the Frankenstein Complex: Artificial Intelligence in the 21st Century

43

Kevin Diers Profanity: The Reductive Bludgeon of Discourse

54

Molly Atkinson The Modified Mind: The Evolution of Body Modification in Western Culture

64

Tali Avni Who’s Afraid of the Evening News? How Journalism Affects our Perception of Risk

74

Rhianna Feeney Ruralism and the Sociological Landscape of Small-Town America

86

Eliyahu Clark Ginsberg The Wanker and the Whore: The Dichotomy of Art and Commercialism

97

Kelsey Chapman-Sutton When the Pleasure Doesn’t Justify the Means: An Examination of the Culture and Ethics Behind Eating Animals

115

Chris Pien Cybercrime: Anonymity in the Age of the Internet

126 Hannah McFarlane Creative Visualization and the Etiology of Dreams 136 Noah Goldenberg Too Close To Home: The Necessity of Drama in Modern Society  146 Matilda Field Let the Kids Fight: A Historical and Contemporary Analysis of Sibling Rivalry 157 Stuart Larsen The Next Great Leap: Humankind’s Evolution to the Anarchist State 168 Hailey Chamberlain Suburbia and the Disappearance of the American Dream 177 Grant Sayler The Quest for Individual Development and Artistic Enlightenment 187 Lizee Willis Imagine, Envision, Inspire: Innovative Education Reform for the 21st Century 196 Kyle Murphy Cycling and the Hero's Value in the Post-Moral Order

ii


sta. HEAD OF SCHOOL Mary Folberg

INSTRUCTOR Paul Martone

EDITORS IN CHIEF Eliyahu Clark-Ginsberg Kevin Diers

EDITORIAL STAFF Hailey Chamberlain Kelsey Chapman-Sutton Chris Pien Nicholas Voorsanger Forrest Williams Lizee Willis

PARENT EDITORS Robert Atkinson Jean Girard Michael Murphy

Pupil is a publication of the Northwest Academy 1130 SW Main Street Portland, Oregon 97205 www.nwacademy.org iii


student biographies. Molly Atkinson will be majoring in photography at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.

Stuart Larsen will be attending the Pacific Northwest College of the Arts to study intermedia.

Tali Avni intends to take the next year off to participate in local theatre productions and work. In 2011, she’ll be attending Sarah Lawrence College.

Hannah McFarlane plans to attend Image Designers College of Cosmetology in Portland. She plans to continue dancing.

Hailey Chamberlain will be attending Clark Honors College at University of Oregon and following the wind. Kelsey Chapman-Sutton will be taking a gap year to work, volunteer, travel, and dance before applying for college. Eliyahu Clark-Ginsberg will be attending Emerson College in Boston in the fall to study marketing communication. Kevin Diers is enrolled as an incoming freshman at Georgetown University in the McDonough School of Business Rhianna Feeney will be attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland. She plans to spend her future traveling the world. Matilda Field is going to attend Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.  She plans to bike, ski, and play outside. Noah Goldenberg will be attending the University of British Columbia and plans to pursue a career in the medical field. Alison Irvine is planning to attend Eugene Lang the New School next fall. She plans to pursue a liberal arts education.

Kyle Murphy will be attending the California College of the Arts. Chris Pien will be going to the Worcester Institute of Technology in the fall. He will be double majoring in computer science and game development. Walter Poulsen will be attending the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon where he will determine what exactly interests him. Grant Sayler is planning to major in music at Portland State University. He then plans to transfer to The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York. Nicholas Voorsanger will pursue internships career opportunities until he begins college in the Fall of 2011. Forrest Williams will be pursuing his interests such as software programing and musical composition. In the fall, he may attend community college. Lizee Willis was accepted early decision Mount Holyoke College. She plans to major in education and possibly join the nonprofit Teach for America after college.

v


Religious Prophets, Secular Philosophers, and the Conquest of the Human Spirit By Forrest Williams The United States has never elected a

Racially, religion is a tool of ultimate

president who did not identify as a Christian.

unification: religion and race among Ameri-

This fact is blatant, and boldly in tune with our recent past and future as a nation and a

can culture are issues as old as the country itself that continue to effect us collectively eve-

people. The effects of religion on culture, and more specifically the effects of Christianity on

ryday. Historically, the archetype of the American man and woman has been a portrait

American culture, are fascinating subjects

of not only a Christian couple, but also a cou-

unto themselves. Politics, philosophy, race, gender roles, and law, are all immediate ele-

ple of European ancestry. As Americans, it is common practice for us to prefix our national

ments that give a dazzling glimpse into the true cultural implications of Christianity: an

identity with an extra, more individualistic phonetic accessory such as “African,” “Euro-

effect that sculpts and molds every American's

pean,” “Asian,” or “Latin,” all of which beg

existence on a daily basis. The effect that religion has had on our past and present identities

the simple question: are we diversifying or segregating ourselves? The desire to be unique

is not one that can be easily overlooked. Virtually the entirety of the modern world has for

is commonplace among nearly every individual, however the underlying implication of

centuries been at a turning point at which the

our desire to be not just culturally distinct, but

individual is forced to make a conscious decision to either accept and preserve his or her

culturally independent from one another while promoting a multi-cultural agenda is a

cultural and religious identity or to make way for the new wave of thought and ideas offered

significant component of the effects that religion as a whole has had on us. Religion and ra-

by modernity and assimilate themselves into a

cial separatism go easily hand in hand, as is

global, more universalistic collective that promises peace and utopia. To understand this

shown by the white Protestant movement in the United States during the early 20th cen-

decision, it is essential to examine the conflict between secular liberal factions and religious

tury, in addition to the rise of black Muslim separatism several decades later. These fac-

conservative factions, and trace them back to

tions (The Ku Klux Klan and the Nation of Is-

their roots in the human conflict that has raged on since even the earliest of human-

lam) illustrate perfectly the historical significance of a racial religious connection. Take for

kind's establishments: the ideological war of secular and religious viewpoints. If Thomas

example this excerpt from a Klan pamphlet circulated in 1964: “Join, aid, and support the

Jefferson and Jesus of Nazareth were to sum-

White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Missis-

mon themselves to this day and age, they would both no doubt see their own revolu-

sippi: because it is a Christian, fraternal and benevolent organization. Because it is com-

tionary ideas around every corner.

posed of native-born, white, gentile and prot-

1


estant American citizens who are sound of

Athenian females were married at puberty

mind and of good moral character.” Similarly,

and often before. Under Athenian law a

a statement issued by Malcolm X in a speech in 1963 acknowledges race and religion as in-

woman was classified as a child, regardless of age, and therefore was the legal prop-

separable as well: "The Negro revolution is controlled by foxy white liberals, by the Gov-

erty of some man at all stages in her life. Males could divorce by simply ordering a

ernment itself. But the Black Revolution is

wife out of the household. Moreover, if a

controlled only by God." Both illuminate a rarely examined and controversial angle of the

woman was seduced or raped, a husband was legally compelled to divorce her. If a

religious cultural dynamic because they speak of their race as directly, intrinsically in tune

woman wanted a divorce, she had to have her father or some other man bring her

with their God. Adolf Hitler is another prime

case before a judge. Finally, Athenian

example of an individual who utilized the religion/culture dynamic in order to augment

women could own property, but control of the property was always vested in the male

a racial identity, stating "I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Al-

to whom she “belonged.” (Stark 114) Christianity, in the chaotic citadels of the Pa-

mighty Creator: by defending myself against

gan world, represented for women a fresh new

the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord" (144). Despite the complete lack of compati-

frontier: it was not only an attractive change, it was a revolutionary one. Religion and the

bility of Christianity with National Socialism, Hitler was able to use this idea of nationalized

concept of divine hierarchy elevated women from the lowest of objects to a field on which

religious and racial identity to dominate the

they could be independent, seen as virtuous,

minds of the predominantly Christian Germany at the time. The powerful and prevalent

and granted a degree of dignity and honor. However, in many senses the Christian relig-

nature of religion and race fusing together is a cornerstone of the underlying subliminal ef-

ious system still left women distinctly lower than men, as demonstrated clearly by several

fects of religion on culture.

Biblical passages: “The head of every man is

Gender roles, and the nature of relations between men and women have changed

Christ, and the head of every woman is man” (Corinthians 11:3); “Let your women keep si-

severely in the West since the arrival of Christianity: even today, religion continues to in-

lence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak” (Corinthians 14:34 );

fluence our fundamental ideas of what it

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own

means to be a man or a woman. Rodney Stark, in his book The Rise of Christianity, describes

husbands, as it is fit in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18). It is for this reason that yet another

the situation among women in Pagan Europe: In Athens, women were in relatively short

revolutionary change in gender roles was realized in the late nineteenth century through

supply owing to female infanticide, prac-

the women's suffrage movement. In our mod-

ticed by all classes, and to additional deaths caused by abortion. The status of

ern society, the influences and subtle dynamics between husband and wife from the Chris-

Athenian women was very low. Girls received little or no education. Typically,

tian religion are still somewhat visible.

2


Christianity is to a large extent a new-

percentage of Christian influence in govern-

comer in the fluctuating arena of the West,

ment. It is also in this sense that religion to

and has managed to influence our judicial system while falling far from its roots. Aestheti-

some extent controls and regulates our laws in a way that the individual has no means of

cally, the Bible can be easily compared to our laws in America today: the synonymous na-

controlling. The laws of the United States are strik-

ture of the Ten Commandments and the

ingly similar to those of many other nations,

American Common Law, seemingly translate a common sentiment from the tongue of the

and it is this fact that further highlights and emboldens the role of religion in our own

old to that of the new: “Thou shall not steal” (The English Standard Version Bible, Exodus

government. Take for instance Sweden, a country which is indisputably Western in val-

20:15), “thou shall not bear false witness

ues and culture, but which does not boast a

against thine neighbors” (Exodus 20:16), as well as “thou shall not murder” (Exodus

Christian majority. Sweden has legalized both gay marriage and abortion as of April 2009,

20:13), are all laws that have been integrated into our society. However the American

and in doing so has declared in silent clarity that religion holds very little stock in the

Common Law was influenced almost purely

minds and hearts of the Swedish people. Con-

by English Common Law, and prior to that Roman Common Law, before the arrival of

versely, a country such as Iran, which also shares many Western laws and governmental

Christianity in the West altogether. This is significant because while Christianity has no

policies, is under the heavy influence of Islam: while democratic, modern, and industrialized,

true claims to any of our foundational laws, it

Iran boasts an Islamic Penal Code with brutal

continues to influence various facets of our legal system, such as abortion and gay mar-

and severe punishments for violation of religious law. When examining the constitutional

riage laws. This begs the question: are we a Christian nation? It would appear that by

laws that the United States and Iran were built upon in relation to the regulations that have

popular consent we are, according to a large

since been laid above them, the affect of a re-

2001 survey which revealed that an estimated 76.5% of Americans identify as Christian

ligious majority on a democratic foundation is eerily illuminated. The United States constitu-

(Keysar). This however does not change the fact that we constitutionally and fundamen-

tion states “We hold these truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal, that

tally share no direct tie to the religion itself, as

they are endowed by their Creator with cer-

is illustrated by this excerpt from the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respect-

tain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (art.

ing an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (US Const., art.

1, sec. 1). Despite this, religiously motivated laws in violation of an individual's constitu-

1, sec. 2) . In this sense, the effect of religion

tional rights and far surpassing the issues of

on our collective culture in relation to law is clear: a democratic country run purely by

gay marriage and abortion in terms of severity, have been implemented in American history,

elected officials in a nation that is predominantly Christian is predestined to have a large

a prime example being a Jim Crow law from Missouri in 1889, stating “All marriages be-

3


tween a white person and a Negro, or between

jorities, the role of religion in our collective

a white person and a person of negro descent,

legal system becomes clearer still.

to the third generation, inclusive, or between a white person and a member of the Malay

The concept of religious influence on legal policy is further explicated, and excel-

race; or between the Negro and a member of the Malay race; or between a person of Negro

lently portrayed by a recent exercise of the democratic process in California, in which the

descent, to the third generation, inclusive,

legalization of gay marriage was put to a vote,

and a member of the Malay race, are forever prohibited, and shall be void.” The segrega-

and ultimately rejected. An article subsequently published regarding Proposition 8

tion deeply ingrained within some parts of American society at this time, particularly in

(the ban of gay marriage in California) states that “Two Democratic constituencies --

regards to intermarriage, stem from several

African-Americans and Latinos -- are leaning

highly controversial Biblical passages, one of which states “I am the Lord thy God, which

toward the ban. Among likely black voters, 58% supported Proposition 8 compared with

have separated you from other people” (Leviticus 20:24). Another passage further em-

38% who opposed it in the most recent Survey USA poll. Among Latinos, 47% supported the

phasizes racial segregation by stating “Neither

proposition while 41% opposed it; white vot-

shalt thou make marriage with them: thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor

ers were nearly evenly split. The reason, "Yes" officials say, is that church attendance is

his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son” (Deuteronomy 7:3). This classic subversion of

strong in many minority communities” (Carlton). This recent event shows clearly the direct

constitutional values by a religious majority

and physical implications of a religious major-

can also be strongly felt within the Iranian legal system today, a core article of which

ity triumphing over a secular minority. Despite the legalization of gay marriage in Con-

states that Iranian society shall revolve around “The exalted dignity and value of man, and

necticut, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maine, New York, and numerous other states, gay marriage has

his freedom coupled with responsibility be-

been made illegal in California, arguably due

fore God; in which equity, justice, political, economic, social, and cultural independence,

to the religious lower classes voicing their legitimate democratic right to vote. In this

and national solidarity are secured” (Iranian Constitution, article 2:6). Within the same

sense, a secular and democratic system of government is entirely at the mercy of its citizens.

legal system lurks the Islamic Penal Code,

Democracy serves the people with a flawless-

which (among other things) decrees “A thief shall lose four fingers from their right hand for

ness bitter-sweet to behold: a perfection so pure that its only antithesis is the human

their first offense” (Islamic Penal Code, article 201). This penal code affects boys as young as

community it works to sustain. Philosophically, the monotheistic

fourteen and girls as young as nine. Through

principles of Christianity have made a tre-

the core democratic principles of both the United States and other foreign powers, and

mendous imprint on our mentalities, on both a societal and individual level. The philoso-

their deliberate malformation by religious ma-

pher Nietzsche gave an excellent insight into the issue of Christianity and its effect on

4


European peoples of his time and their ances-

gods (who were typically considered the ar-

tors, stating “Pity and piety both create slaves”

chetypes of heroism) and Jesus Christ, who is

(Nietzsche 50). Nietzsche examined Christianity and its effect on Western culture on a base

the heroic icon of Christianity. Dr. Rona M. Fields, the author of Martyrdom: The Psy-

and fundamental level, observing that monotheism, and in particular the teachings of Je-

chology, Theology, and Politics of SelfSacrifice, shed light on the dawn of modern

sus created within the individual a deep and

heroism when she wrote on martyrdom:

insurmountable pity that crushed the ego, and what he also refers to as “The will to

The idea of martyrdom never had a name in Hebrew or Aramaic. Instead it

power.” He asserts within his writings that the natural state of man is one of pure egoism and

derives from the Greek, mytros or witness. The early Christians, who were tor-

natural impulse: religion creates hierarchies,

tured to death for their witnessing for

presents invisible obstacles, and stifles autonomy and self-realization (39). This phenome-

Christ, became the martyrs memorialized on icons. These iconic images

non is not new: Nietzsche speculated that, due to the effects of Christianity, Western culture

proved a powerful attraction both for group memory and for exciting new ad-

never fully recovered from the blow that relig-

herents or followers. (Fields 1)

ion dealt it nearly two millennium ago. In this sense, perhaps the reason that the United

In this sense, heroism was re-defined during its integration into Western culture nearly two

States has never elected an individual who did not identify as Christian is that we collectively

centuries ago, and mixed both the heroic Pagan qualities such as bravery, strength, and

identify Christian values as good, objectively

courage, and the Christian qualities of mar-

seamless values on a discrete, nearly entirely sub-conscious level. Societally we glorify the

tyrdom and self-sacrifice. This mixing of Christian and Pagan ideals is iconic of the

martyr, the self-sacrificing, and the morally zealous. Despite this, we also maintain many

consistent trend in religious influence on Western culture: we essentially live in a mod-

Pagan values, and in a definite sense are living

ernized hybrid of a Pagan and Christian cul-

in a culture which has mixed both Christian and Pagan idealisms to create its own arche-

tural fusion that occurred during the reign of the Roman Empire. Nietzsche presented a phi-

types, unique to the modern West. Evidence in support of Nietzsche's as-

losophy completely contrary to that of Jesus which, while controversial and somewhat

sertion that monotheism has glorified mar-

counter-intuitive, unquestionably sheds light

tyrdom in our society can be found in the history of the European word “hero.” The con-

upon the effects of Christianity on the average American.

cept of a hero is as old as classical antiquity, and probably much older: its literal Greek

The perceived connection between right and left wing political views and religion

meaning was “protector” or “defender” (On-

is not imaginary: a profound connection ex-

line Etymology Dictionary), and has always been in some way linked to the idea of courage

ists between religion, utopianism, and the individual, and it dominates American politics.

and strength for the greater good. However, there is an undeniable gap between Greek

The two party system in the modern United States presents us with two separate and polar-

5


ized factions; it shows us two separate visions

that this polarization of politics and world-

of a utopia: one in the past, and one in the fu-

view is nothing new. These sentiments have

ture, and this has virtually everything to do with the influence of religion. Stereotypically

been mirrored almost directly by Christians and secularists of our own time, for example

conservatives see our current societal state as an ongoing digression, and liberals see it as an

by Richard Dawkins who stated: “The progression of humankind has taken us from an

ongoing progression. This polarized way of

age of darkness into the light: logic, reason,

thinking is by no means unique to our modern culture, as is shown by Walt Whitman,

and science are the key to a better world” (21), and Kent Hovind, who stated: “We live in a

who wrote in “The First Half of the Nineteenth Century Progress of the Nation and the

society devoid of God's teachings, a satanic civilization” (72). In this sense, our entire po-

Race” that “Too many of us are disposed to

litical system in the modern United States is

place our Golden Age in the Past, however another and larger class are ever prone to seek a

nothing but a perpetuation of a polarizing argument from the dawn of secularism.

refuge from baffled exertions, disappointed hopes, and dissatisfied desires, in a distant fu-

Secularism has presented to the religious world a trend in human thought and per-

ture in which all expectations, reasonable or

spective contrary to its own; however this

unreasonable, have been met.” Whitman continues on to say, that despite the binary nature

trend is by no means new, and despite the relative decline in Christianity in recent cen-

of this phenomenon: “Nearly everybody agrees by common consent to undervalue and

turies, the faith itself is extremely unlikely to ever disappear. The secularization thesis is a

abuse the present” (12). A religious perspective

belief held primarily by the political left wing

is far more likely to place its vision of utopia in a past time due to its believed deterioration of

of the modern Unites States: it is the notion that religion is a digressive philosophy, and

modern society, while a secular perspective sets vision of utopia in a future no longer hin-

that its demise marks progress in the face of human achievement. The belief that religion

dered by the remnants of the old religious

is in decline and will soon be eliminated in

world. Two other voices from Whitman's time present two converse but consistent positions.

the name of progress is not new, as is explained by Rodney Stark and Roger Finke (two

Mohandas K. Gandhi stated in 1928 that “according to the teachings of Mahomed, this

American sociologists of religion) in their text Acts of Faith: “For nearly three centuries, so-

would be considered a Satanic civilization.

cial scientists and assorted Western intellectu-

Hinduism calls it the Black Age ” (803). Jean Antione Nicholas de Condorcet inquires only

als have been promising the end of religion. Each generation has been confident that

a decade later: “Will not men be continually verging towards that state, in which all will

within another few decades, or possibly a bit longer, humans will “outgrow” belief in the

possess the requisite knowledge for conduct-

supernatural. This proposition soon came to

ing themselves in the common affairs of life by their own reason?”(Nicholas 1060). Judg-

be known as the secularization thesis” (57). In 1710, English freethinker Thomas Woolston

ing by the age of the writings of Whitman, Gandhi, and Jean Antione, it is fair to assume

predicted that Christianity would be gone by 1900. Half a century later, Voltaire predicted

6


that the religion would be dead by 1820. Two

28:58-68), while the Constitution once con-

years after this deadline had come and gone

tained words that objectively decreed Negro

(1822), even Thomas Jefferson joined the parade and declared that “There is not a young

slaves as worth “three fifths of all other Persons” (art. 1, sec. 2). To the vast majority of

man now living in the United States that will not die a Unitarian.” Nearly two centuries

modern Christians and American patriots, these old ideas are dangerously repugnant and

later, we still do not know better, as is demon-

undermine the validity of factions they repre-

strated by the distinguished anthropologist Anthony F.C Wallace who preached to tens of

sent, however, despite their imperfection, both texts speak to our humanity in a deeply

thousands of American undergraduates the idea recorded in his book Religion: An Anthro-

meaningful and undeniably truthful way. The thoughts of our ancestors were like sparks;

pological View that “the evolutionary future of

some fluttered into the breeze, falling dark in

religion is extinction,” but that this may take “several hundred years” to become a reality

immediate silence, while others found refuge in the minds of future generations, growing

(264). The secularization thesis demonstrates

and thundering into roaring and magnificent fires of collective human spirit and passion.

to us that religion is not truly in decline: the phenomenon in question is our flawed view

We live in a society that has forged its history

of humankind being historically zealous. Atheism has been a prevalent human ideology

through the flames of both secularism and Christianity, and what began as small and ut-

since the dawn of our species: Finke and Stark

terly insignificant threads of religious and atheistic thought have become responsible for

speculated that secularism has likely existed in various forms since Neanderthal times. Addi-

cultivating the most powerful modern nation

tionally, many ancient Greek philosophers rejected the Gods, as well as numerous schools

on Earth: the United States. Christianity has not merely impacted

of Eastern philosophy in China and India (1).

our collective culture, it has in some sense created it. Virtually the entirety of American so-

Thomas Jefferson and Jesus of Nazareth were not the first secular philosophers or

ciety has in some way been directly affected by

religious prophets; but despite this, they are the two men who have influenced our nation

the religion: through law, politics, utopianism, race, gender roles, or philosophy, to

and collective culture the most significantly.

emerge from a life within the United States unscathed by the long grasp of the enduring

The Christian Bible and the American Constitution represent a conflict as old as human-

Christian faith is an impossibility. From an

kind itself: the conflict between secular and religious ideologies. The former presents the

American perspective, this influence is neither good nor bad, due to the fact most of us see

individual with codes of morality, and faith in

both positive and negative elements in our nation, which it in turn owes to religious ide-

the divine, while the latter presents the individual with codes of civilization, and faith in

alism that has perpetuated itself across centu-

the spirit of man. Neither of these texts represent perfection: the Bible resorts to horrific

ries of Western development and directly into present day. The battle between secular and

threats of plague and pestilence upon nonbe-

religious viewpoints rages on, just as it has in past centuries, and our democratic societies

lievers and their descendants (Deuteronomy

7


accommodate and exclude religious policy by the will of the people. Here in the United States, secularism and religion have come together to form a hybrid society, and it is this society that continues to transform itself everyday under the watch of our very eyes: bastions of religion endure or dissipate, strongholds of secularism withstand or are overwhelmed, and the individual decides for his or herself to embrace or discard the faith, just as their ancestors did. The day that our nation elects an individual who does not identify as Christian to the presidential office, is the day that marks true change in the hearts and perspectives of the American people. Life is more complex than any religious or secular code can appreciate, and ultimately our descendants may look back upon our feeble plights and conflicts with eyes of both admiration and pity. Because of the eternal nature of both secular and religious viewpoints, it can be concluded that these forces have been working diligently since the beginnings of even the earliest societies to transmute our personal philosophies. In this sense, it is not only religion, but also largely its antithesis secularism, which have been influencing our culture both in America and in the West since their formation: arguably, this polarizing phenomenon is the oldest and most significant philosophical conflict in the history of humankind. We are merely fragments of great ideas, that in turn are fragments of even greater ideas, and in the end, our philosophies are all that will distinguish us from the billions upon billions of nameless descendants that are destined to follow in our footsteps.

8


Works Cited Carlton, Jim. “Gay Marriage in Peril in California.” The Wall Street Journal 22 Oct 2008 <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122463078466356397.html>. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Bantam Books, 2006. The English Standard Version Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments with Apocry pha. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print. Fields, Rona. Martyrdom: The Psychology, Theology, and Politics of Self-Sacrifice. Praeger Publishers, 2004. Gandhi, Mohandus K. “Hind Swaraj.” Sources of Indian Tradition. (1958): 803-9. Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kempf. Secker and Warburg, 18 July 1925. Hovind, Kent. Creation Seminar Notebook. CSE Ministry, 2006. Iran. Constitution. Oct. 1979. 8 Nov. 2009. <http://www.servat.unibe.ch/law/icl/ir00000_.html>. Keysar, Ariela. “American Religious Identification Survey.” Graduate Center 9 October 2009 <http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/research_briefs/aris/aris_index.htm>. Nicholas, Jean A. “The Progress of the Human Mind.” Introduction to Contemporary Civili zation in the West. (1946): 1059-67. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Der Antichrist. Cosimo Classics, 2005. Online Etymology Dictionary. 30 Jan. 2005. 5 Dec. 2009. <http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=hero>. Stark, Rodney. The Rise of Christianity. Princeton University Press, 13 May 1996. ---, and Roger Finke. Acts of faith: explaining the human side of religion. University of California Press, 7 August 2000. Wallace, Anthony. Religion: An Anthropological View. Random House, January 1966. Whitman, Walt. “The First Half of the 19th Century: Progress of the Nation, and Race” The Economist Jan. 1851: 57+.

9


A Whole Less than the Sum of the Parts: e Fruitless Marriage of Morality and Faith By Nicholas Voorsanger Since the dawn of our history, human-

and unquantifiable; it is the amalgamation of

ity has been plagued by the dilemmas posed

the experiences of the conscious and the sub-

by the intangible elements of the individual and collective human experience. In our

conscious, the logical and the emotional, the intellectual and the sensory, the mental and

world, we are thus far unique in our abilities of abstraction and intellectualization, particu-

the physical, and all the possible permutations of interplay between those numerous

larly in the realm of our internal ponderings

parts of our being – the human experience

of self-awareness. The compulsion of curiosity and intellectual growth entails that we must

defies quantification or even qualification because it is only relevant, meaningful, and de-

attempt to understand all (or all that we can) of the facets of our experience, but the at-

cipherable to the individual to whom it belongs. This does not change the fact that nu-

tempt to intellectualize our self-awareness

merous questions are at issue regarding this

brings with it nightmarish paradoxes that are, themselves, staples of our experience as hu-

subject; tangible headway must be made on these questions if humanity wants to move

man beings. These paradoxes lie largely in the realm of existentialism, and include such in-

beyond a state of intellectual deadlock. Theism is the ultimate means of com-

famous riddles as “What is the origin of an

bating the uncanny experience of the intan-

individual’s consciousness?” and “What is the experience of an individual’s conscious being

gible and ineffable: to bypass the disruption of the profoundly difficult riddles presented to

after death?” These questions, and questions like them, are intangible and thus highly

us by our instinctual metaphysical curiosity, we change our method of addressing the prob-

problematic in our attempts to reason through

lems – instead of applying thoughts to the di-

them: reason is an excellent tool for addressing problems with discrete elements because

lemma, we apply “knowledge.” The concept of knowledge, when spoken of in the context

such problems are definitive – solutions are either correct or incorrect – they are some-

of human thought, is a completely laughable one: history and experience teach us that

times subject to mistake, but never subject to

humans have a remarkable capacity to be in-

misunderstanding. In order to obtain the wonderful certitude of this mode of thought,

correct. To suppose that something so flimsy as human “knowledge,” is a suitable founda-

however, one must be dealing with discrete elements: these elements must be quantifiable

tion upon which we could answer these quandaries is to thoroughly devalue the ques-

or, failing the capacity to be to be directly

tions themselves – their significance to our

quantified, be qualified relative to another discrete element. The human experience of

human experience merits the energy required to think critically about them. Theism, how-

each individual is something wholly unique

ever, is not concerned with logical correctness.

10


Theism is the twisted embrace of the intangi-

including, among other documents, New Tes-

bility of many elements of our human experi-

tament scripture (Gospels, etc.) and Old Tes-

ence. It is the reliance upon arbitrary, doctrinal, dogmatic sources as the frame upon

tament scripture, which they share in common with Judaism. The Church’s reaction to

which one approaches existential problems – these sources defy definitive proof and reason-

Galileo is the result of the potential threat he posed to the foundation of the Church as an

ing more so than the existential queries them-

institution through the invalidation of insub-

selves.

stantial details put forth in those documents. Incidences of harsh retaliation toward those

Arguably the most disruptive flaw in theistic approaches to the human experience, however, is a need to bundle all of these both-

who challenge any element of a faith permeate history, but the concepts and questions

ersome holes in our knowledge of the universe

worst served by the whole affair are those of

into a single explanation of contrived supernatural intervention is inherent in their

human morality. While many elements of theism are addressed well enough without ex-

methodology (because the only thing more thoroughly contrived than a supernatural sys-

cessive intellectual incident through its reliance on the supernatural, human morality

tem for explaining unknowns is several, sepa-

cannot be effectively addressed through these

rate supernatural systems for explaining separate unknowns). The consequence of this in-

same means; at its most basic level, human morality can be described as the philosophy of

terwoven conceptual construct is that, if any element of the construct is threatened, all

how, in theory, individuals should interact with each other – the supernatural becomes

elements of the construct are threatened; the

utterly superfluous in these situations. This

establishment of theistic theory is based upon the consistency and infallibility of a single

would not normally be a problem, but because the premise of theism is the supernatural ex-

fabric of supernatural explanations – to contradict any conclusion reached by these ex-

planation of phenomena in the human experience, supernaturalism often injects itself

planations is to invalidate the very means by

into morality, causing, at best complications

which those conclusions were reached. Take, for instance, the persecution by the Catholic

and, at worst, severe problems. The injection of the supernatural can cause inconsistencies

Church of seventeenth century Italian physicist, astronomer, and mathematician Galileo

in its message of the content of morality; in general, reasonable individuals can agree that

Galilei: his published scientific support of the

the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and

Copernican theory of heliocentric planetary movement contradicted the several passages

Jihads, among other phenomena, are decidedly immoral – and yet, they manage to justify

of scripture. In response to this perceived affront, the Church charged and tried him for

themselves through theism, which is supposed to provide morality. I seek to put forth

heresy. This trial resulted in his house arrest

the idea that morality as a concept and intel-

(which lasted until his death), and the banning of his entire body of work from publica-

lectual entity, can and should be divorced from religion and theism. While I myself am

tion (Galilei, xvii). The Catholic Church is founded upon a body of philosophical works

an atheist, this is not an argument for atheism, but an argument for secularism: my lack

11


of belief in the supernatural is as irrelevant to

rectly applicable to process of reasoning in

a logical, secular, argument on human moral-

everyday life; however, the thought process

ity as theism itself is; these two constructs are not inherently related.

upon which it is based is an incredibly powerful intellectual tool when used properly, and

One of the first major assertions of the irrelevance of morality and other theistic con-

Boolean algebra is one of the better means of introducing it.

cepts was posited by Socrates after he was sen-

Boolean algebra limits its variables to

tenced to die by the court of Athens: “know this of a truth - that no evil can happen to a

two states, and, while this makes useful in applied mathematics, engineering, and abstrac-

good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods…” (Apol-

tion of logical thought processes, it is not a model of thought suitable for the human

ogy). This is a subtle but magnificent assess-

mind. When applied, it is difficult to use the

ment of the role of theistic and supernatural elements in morality. Socrates, in his own

mind to its full capacity, and, in fact, there is even a degree of overhead in the translation of

evaluation, is a good man, and his persecution is decidedly immoral – and yet, he does not

the more complex logical operations to which the mind is better suited (and thus, that

consider himself to be neglected by the gods.

which the mind more often uses), into several

This is a tacit admission that, in the course of the analysis of morality, gods and the super-

simpler, but dependent, combinational, and sequential Boolean operations. The model

natural have no role: if it is not their responsibility to intervene, then there is no neglect.

upon which it is based upon, however, is perfectly conducive to effective and useful

Logical processes, in their most basic

thought, and its elegance and simplicity is

form, can be described by Boolean algebra, (and constructs with similar semantics). Boo-

unparalleled in the metaphysical world. The conceptual components of this model are as

lean algebra is based on the analysis of variables with a finite number of states, and the

such: a defined set of possible values (either finite and discrete or infinite and relative in

establishment of a relationship between the

quantity), a set of variables, all of which must

states of a set of several variables to the states of a set of other variables. In typical Boolean

have a value as defined in the set possible values, and defined relationships between sets of

algebra, variables can exist in one of two states, defined as “true” and “false.” The rela-

sets of variables. The power of this model of thought lies in its precision: there are only

tionship between the states of two sets of vari-

four possible means by which one may derive

ables is defined as an operation (similar in usage to the term “operation,” as it applies to

incorrect analyses in the correct application of this intellectual process. These possible flaws

mathematics, i.e. addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.). Anecdotally, the exploration

lie in the assessment of possible values, the interpretation of the value of a variable, the

and understanding of Boolean algebra has

incorrect assertion of relationships between

risen dramatically in intensity and importance, as its analysis can be applied directly to

sets of sets of variables, and the improper definition of any involved terminology. What

binary logic found in modern digital devices. The process of Boolean algebra is rarely di-

this means is that, at any given point in the thought process, there are only two types of

12


questions at issue: questions of value, ques-

imbuing it with greater meaning and subjec-

tions of interpretation, and questions of

tive intensity than could ever be obtained by

causality/consequence, respectively to the two aforementioned components. Questions of

literal linguistics alone – even in a society that increasingly values the immediacy of visuals

definition apply to all components, but there is no communicable objective thought proc-

in our communication, the amount of experience and meaning that can be compressed

ess in which those questions aren’t constantly

into a few seconds of spoken word or several

at issue; this is simply the overhead of any intellectual activity that relies on external sen-

dozen characters on a page preserve abstract language as a compelling medium of modern

sory, linguistic, and interpretive processing as a source of data. Thus, as a practical compari-

art. While this is integral to the composition of everything from the centuries-old plays of

son with other modes of thought, when de-

Shakespeare to the modern-day lyrics of artists

fined as a purely internal process, only one question is at issue at any moment in time.

such as K’naan, it is the bane of philosophers ranging from Plato to Jesus Christ to Richard

This simple, effective elegance is what defines the thought process of logical analysis from all

Dawkins. The aesthetics of art are such that value and beauty may be derived from any

other intellectual activity. There is one final

element of the object; the aesthetics of phi-

element of logic, common to all variants, but first formalized in Boolean Algebra: the

losophy restrict the sources of value and beauty to that which may be found in the

Don’t-Care Principle. The don’t care principle is simple; it is the description of the behavior

concepts of a body of work. To demonstrate this, it is only fitting

or logical operations when a set of variables

that we use a work of art: in this case, Quentin

involved in the operation are established, at certain values, to be completely irrelevant – it

Tarantino’s 1994 film, Pulp Fiction. While the movie’s artistic value may be overshadowed by

simply states that relationships between irrelevant sets of variables are nonexistent.

its massive success as a pop culture phenomenon, it is undeniably significant as a piece of

There is power in this simple principle – it al-

performance art: it is the convergence of more

lows a logical way of avoiding the pitfalls of unknowns and intangibles: if we can establish

than half a dozen celebrated performers and an acclaimed director in a heavily stylized tale

the irrelevance of the unknowns, then they, for all intents and purposes, are non-existent.

that challenged conventional narrative sequence and defied formula while playfully

The high occurrence of unknowns,

paying homage archetypal films from which it

however, makes the complete establishment of irrelevance an intimidating task; indeed, it

is inspired. Among the more infamous scenes in this film is the “Epilogue,” in which the

is the inherent multiplicity of the English language (and language as a whole) makes it a

troubled hit man, Jules (played by Samuel L. Jackson), defuses an armed robbery at a diner

simultaneously compelling and fickle me-

while attempting to process his own moral

dium. Its plurality of meaning is boon to art; connotation, metaphor, simile and contextual

shortcomings and his culpability as a wrongdoer; the robbery is perpetrated by Yolanda

meaning give the artist the amazing ability to add layers of common experience to a work,

(played by Amanda Plummer) and her lover (played by Tim Roth), known only as “Ringo”

13


to the audience, which is the arbitrary nick-

who attempt to poison and destroy my

name imposed upon him by Jules during their

brothers. And you will know I am the

standoff. Over the course of the scene, Jules’ dialogue transitions from a tense negotiation

Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you. [Now I’ve] been saying that shit for

through the thoroughly clichéd Mexican standoff to a self-revelatory monologue. Hav-

years – and if you heard it, that meant your ass. I never gave much thought to

ing, determined his own dissatisfaction and

what it meant; I just thought it was some

regret for the morally repugnant nature of his occupation over the course of earlier scenes,

cold-blooded shit to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass.

he is in a self-described “transitional period” (Pulp Fiction) – in these final moments of the

But I saw some shit this morning [that] made me think twice. See, now I’m

film, Jules’ internal discontent climaxes with

thinking, maybe it means you’re the evil

his decision to kill no more. Because of this newfound sense of moral principle, he will-

man, and I’m the righteous man, and Mr. 9mm here, he’s the shepherd pro-

ingly gives the robbers the $1500 wad of cash in his wallet; by his logic, it is a consensual

tecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness – or it could mean you’re the

transaction – were it wrongful theft, Jules

righteous man, and I’m the shepherd,

knows he would be tempted to retaliate violently. In response to his partner, Vincent

and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. Now I’d like that – but that shit ain’t the

Vega’s (played by John Travolta), disbelief at this action, Jules responds:

truth. The truth is, you’re the weak, and I am the tyranny of evil men – but I’m

JULES: Now I ain’t giving it to him, Vin-

trying, Ringo, I’m trying real hard to be

cent, I’m buying something for my money. Wanna know what I’m buying,

the shepherd… A great deal of creative license is applied to the

Ringo? RINGO: What?

Bible verse quoted here; Ezekiel 25:17 actually says, “And I will execute great vengeance upon

JULES: Your life. I’m giving you that

them with furious rebukes; and they shall

money so I don’t have to kill your ass. You read the bible, Ringo?

know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.” (Ezekiel 25:17) Much

RINGO: Not regularly, no.

of the added content in Jules’ dialogue is an amalgamation of several passages from the

JULES: Well there’s this passage I got memorized; Ezekiel 25:17: The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those

Bible, but the fictional nature of the quote does not detract from the meaning derived from this scene; one of the greatest values of fiction is its illustrative power – this dialogue, though it may not be based in fact, asserts its relevance through its emotional resonance with the audience. What is presented here is not intended to be a statement on the subject of the arbitrary, fabricated Ezekiel 25:17; it serves as a demonstration of the troubling

14


ambiguity and subsequent misinterpretation

that describes the amount of intellectual ac-

of biblical language. Needless to say, the audi-

tivity necessary for successful communication

ence is presented with a case of extremes: we are privy to an altercation between a newly

and application of said concept; elements of this include the amount of time, effort and

repentant murderer for hire and a violent thief – there is minimal subtlety to be had here.

precision necessary to learn and internalize the concept, as well as the amount of time,

What we are shown is that, even in this ex-

effort, and precision necessary to logically

treme case, the interpretation of religious doctrine can drastically change the perspective.

analyze a given scenario based upon said concept, measured by the characteristics of inde-

In the artistic aesthetic, this is highly appealing, because, not only are we party to the in-

pendent, dependent, parallel, sequential and conditional operations performed as a part of

credible irony of a hitman’s philosophizing,

the analysis, as well as the characteristics of

but in these two minutes of film the audience sees Jules’ emotions laid bare with both hu-

the necessary data required for analysis to be performed. Drawing upon examples from

mor and tenderness: his quiet confidence as he asserts his authority over Ringo, Yolanda

natural philosophy, we may concrete our intellectual grasp of these properties. The most

and Vincent, his awkward unfamiliarity with

effective example is an examination of the dif-

mercy, and, most impressive of all, the conflict between his juvenile enthusiasm for excite-

ferences between the concepts of force acting upon an object put forth by the Newtonian

ment (the protection of his “righteous ass”), his overwhelming self-righteousness (the

mechanistic and Einstein’s relativistic theories. As described by Newtonian theory, the

world is “evil and selfish”), his numb, over-

force acting on an object over a period of time

powering guilt (“I am the tyranny of evil men“), the sudden resolve in Jackson’s quaver-

can be expressed by this equation:

ing voice as he transitions from his self-doubt and regret to his newfound will to change.

As described by the theory of special relativity, the force acting upon an object can be ex-

This dialogue is one hundred and twenty-five

pressed by this equation:

seconds of pure, unequivocal artistic gold. Utterly contrary to the overwhelm-

The algorithms for deriving force in

ingly positive value of this scene in the artistic aesthetic, however, is its negativity in the

special relativity are visibly more complex than those featured in Newtonian physics;

philosophical aesthetic, where it is humiliat-

however, the full extent of the increased com-

ing and disastrous in equal parts. Key to the aesthetic of philosophy is the valuation of

plexity is not apparent upon a cursory visual inspection. In the hierarchy of arithmetic

philosophical based on maximum conceptual universality achievable with minimum con-

function, addition is the absolute most simple operation that can be performed; we can

ceptual complexity. Conceptual universality

evaluate the relative complexity of these two

is the property of a concept that describes the range of cases in which said concept is salient,

compared to addition (See Appendix A). Assuming a precision of roughly one in one

accurate, and practically applicable. Conceptual complexity is the property of a concept

thousand parts accuracy, relative to addition, the Newtonian algorithm for force is 112 times

15


as complex, while the special relativistic de-

havior of the physical world as it is known to

scription is a stagger 2004 times as complex.

us through our senses; Newtonian physics,

The description of force in special relativity is nearly eighteen times as complex as the New-

however, fails to accurately represent the behavior of the physical world, particularly as

tonian description! – and what does it do with this extra complexity, might you ask? It de-

the velocity of objects that it describes approach that of the speed of light; the absolute

scribes force as a phenomena over four-

inability of objects with mass to reach the

dimensional space-time, which is a domain where not only are the laws of the conven-

speed of light is a known experimental phenomena, which is described precisely by rela-

tional three-dimensional that we experience everyday are twisted, but time itself is non-

tivity. The complete consistency of relativity with the goal of natural philosophy is what

linear! This description goes far beyond being

earns the concept its place as one of the most

merely cumbersome; it unrepentantly violates our intuition at multiple levels.

celebrated pieces of thought from the twentieth century, and, indeed, the intellectual

It is for this reason that special relativity is hideous in the artistic aesthetic; its dense

prowess demonstrated by Einstein in spite of the absence of intuition’s comforting familiar-

cluster of complex concepts defies a cursory,

ity as he waded through natural philosophy is

intuitive solution – the power of art lies largely within its resonance with the human experi-

what truly earns him his place as an icon of the human mind.

ence of the audience (which is expressed partially through intuition), but the special rela-

With this in mind, we return to the dialogue of Pulp Fiction, newly equipped to

tivity exceeds the scope of intuition, which is

understand the philosophical horror that it

only trained to address the subjective reality of individual experience (which, I might add,

evokes; our context is the philosophy of human morality, the goal is to effectively and

anything on the cosmic scale that Einstein describes). It may come as some surprise,

consistently describe how human beings should interact with one another. In the con-

then, that in philosophical aesthetics, relativ-

text, not only do we see philosophical incon-

ity is of infinitely greater value than Newtonian mechanics. To understand this, we must

sistency on a case-by-case basis, we see Jules present wildly inconsistent analysis within

realize the way in which these aesthetics differ fundamentally from each other: the artistic

the dramatic scenario of this epilogue. The reliance upon antiquated metaphor and sim-

aesthetic is holistic in its valuation and fo-

ile, particularly in Judeo-Christian derived

cused upon the individual experiences of its audience; philosophy, on the other hand, in-

faiths, creates maddening ambiguity – linguistically, there is the expectation of a common

herently values conceptual universality, with complexity being a secondary determinant in

human experience in the audience stemming from the assumption that society is centered

valuation – those elements being equal, it is

upon agriculture. The persistent metaphoric

the subjective choice of the audience to value one concept over another, based upon terti-

use of icons such as shepherds, sowing and reaping the fields, and seasonal crop charac-

ary, devalued components. It is the express goal of natural philosophy to describe the be-

teristics are devoid of widespread meaning in modern times. As a direct result of the intel-

16


lectual vacuum of these terms, these pure un-

which discloses itself in the application

kowns, we are presented with an inveterate

of laws is for our limited wisdom the best

murderer for hire who, over the course of a scant two minutes, is able to plausibly portray

criterion of the legislation that has given rise to them. Reason, which does not in

himself as callously ignorant, heroically righteous, nobly altruistic, deeply guilty, and pow-

abstract speculation easily become aware of its errors, is hereby awakened to con-

erfully repentant - all based on a single pas-

sciousness of the factors [that have to be

sage from an article of faith. There is a degree to which faith is profoundly

reckoned with] in the determination of its principles. (Kant 395)

undermined by its own illogic in the area of morality; for the same reason that contradic-

Kant’s term “antinomy” is roughly analogous to the term “intangible” as used in this essay;

tion of an asserted intangible may cause col-

it is the dividing line between what concepts

lateral damage to morality as put forth by a faith, contradiction in the area of morality

can and cannot be reasoned. The supernatural, the omniscient, the almighty – these ele-

can wreak havoc upon the assertions of intangibles. When, as is the case with Judeo-

ments of faith are partitioned off from reason, but morality, Kant argues, is fundamentally

Christian articles of faith, societal and linguis-

aligned with reason; in fact, Kant asserts, to

tic drift put an expiration date on moral philosophy after which no valid morality can be

isolate morality and reason from one another would be antithetical to both. Fundamental

recovered, as we saw in Pulp Fiction, faiths based upon these philosophies are guaranteed

to the pursuit of reason, in this context, however, is the establishment of that which can-

instability and periodic implosion as morali-

not be known – this is the beginning of the

ties occasionally crumble beneath them. The foundations of modern philosophy designed

divide between intangibility and human morality:

to bypass this cyclic upheaval entirely are the works of the philosopher Immanuel Kant. In

His Copernican Revolution was intended to show that our knowledge is

his seminal work, A Critique of Pure Reason,

limited, that we cannot know anything

Kant takes the first monumental step toward isolating morality from faith (or lack thereof).

about what transcends the limits of possible experience. He sought not only to

He defines and declares the construct of the

demolish the traditional proofs of the existence of God but to prove that no

antinomy, as separate state from that which can be addressed by logical processes:

such theoretical rational proof is possi-

…the skeptical method aims at certainty. It seeks to discover the point of misun-

ble. And yet Kant also wanted to show something else. Even when the limits of

derstanding in the case of disputes

knowledge have been established, we still yearn and seek knowledge of God.

which are sincerely and competently conducted by both sides, just as from the

(Bernstein 1037)

embarrassment of judges in cases of litigation wise legislators contrive to obtain

It is here that we discover the second great philosophical achievement of Immanuel

instruction regarding the defects and

Kant: the individuality of faith. Kant decries knowledge of God, but he revels in thought of

ambiguities of their laws. The antinomy

17


God. In order to understand this somewhat

the face of the defeated preacher, screaming

paradoxical philosophy, we must understand

“Read my scripture! Read my fucking Scrip-

what philosophies it rejects: dogmatism and militant atheism. The best crash course in

ture.” (Transmetropolitan, Issue #6, page 20) Spider proceeds on a rampage through the

dogmatism and militant atheism is undoubtedly (and somewhat surprisingly) found in a

convention, railing against the injustice of individuals using a mask of faith to hide their

modern graphic novel. One of the more po-

own greed and wrath. Kant rejects every sin-

larizing, if relatively obscure, fictional atheist figures is that of Spider Jerusalem, gonzo

gle philosophical element of this scenario; both the dogma of these corrupt faiths and

journalist and the protagonist of a series of graphic novels written by Warren Ellis entitled

the militant atheism of Spider Jerusalem impinge upon what Kant holds most dear: the

Transmetropolitan. Transmetropolitan is set in a

right and the responsibility of the individual

dystopian future some several centuries from present day, in a sprawling city (known only as

to chose what they believe. In Ellis’ distant, broken, world, Spider

“The City”) alive with wondrous high technology, in agony from mass poverty and nor-

Jerusalem is very much analogous to a spiritual leader; his reckless behavior, caustic and

malized depravity, and dying slowly of corrup-

insensitive attitude, violent tendencies, and

tion and vice. One hundred new religions are founded every day, and the streets are awash

anarchistic leanings are juxtaposed poignantly with his rakish charisma, his grudging

with disciples of thousands of different creeds. In the sixth issue of this series, Spider investi-

love for the city, and the deep bitterness at its terminal corruption which is, in fact, the

gates a religious convention, where he ridi-

source of his constant, angry, rebuke of it. He

cules and abuses those who would take advantage of for their benefit the populace’s need

has an obsession with the truth; it is a maniacal desire to obliterate the sickening injustice

for answers to comfort them in a bewildering world. This comes to a head when Spider in-

of his society. Like many prominent figures of faith, his importance has everything to do

terrupts the attempts of a priest of the Church

with the environment; the community re-

of Release, who practice the ritual of Sacred Trepanation, to convert an ignorant passerby:

sponds to his charisma because he is a voice for sentiments that they cannot articulate,

the priest takes affront to Spider’s insults, and threatens him with an icepick, claiming he

and thus they cling to him because without that voice, they cannot catalyze the change

can portray assault with the tool as an “act of

they so desperately need. These characteris-

devotion,” thereby removing his culpability as a criminal in the eyes of the law (notice the

tics establish Spider as a leader of a faith, but even though we can recognize him as being

writer’s allusion modern law regarding insanity and legal responsibility; it is a conscious

involved in the field of intangibles and unknowns, we must also realize that, as he

assertion that faith and insanity are one and

proved ad the citywide religious convention,

the same). In the aftermath of the ensuing scuffle, the priest is left bleeding ground while

he can and does do wrong, through asserting his faith upon others.

Spider, dressed as Jesus Christ with a tinfoil halo, raises his robes and waves his genitals in

This is the final piece to establishing the irrelevance of specific faiths to human

18


morality. Literalist, enumerated rules as put

mines it values its own emotional state, it

forth in many articles of faith are inadequate

must act on that, and if it values the emo-

as society grows; organized religion fails to adequately adapt these articles, and instead

tional state of others, it must act upon that valuation as well; not to act is to invalidate the

stifles the growth of society to meet the needs of the faith; faith as a form of parable of meta-

choice of value itself. Thus we have an expansive, adaptable moral algorithm: choose, and

phor is not sustainable due to their incon-

act, and then build further choices and ac-

stancy; religious morality as enforced by individuals devolves into immorality; none of the

tions upon those already committed. The decisions and judgments behind are isolated

religious solutions to moral philosophy maintain value or meaning in the philosophical

within the individual, is fundamental to the establishment of the individual itself.

aesthetic, and thus it bears no deterministic value in the analysis of morality. It is irrelevant, and thus, as far as our considerations are concerned, it may as well not exist. This leaves us with only the individual experience to consider, and simplifies our deliberations immensely. Remember that logical human morality was defined as the rules by which individuals should interact with one another, and now that we have removed extraneous intangibles, the solution is simple. Kant established that it is the right and prerogative of the individual to determine internally for his or her self the valuation intangibles which bear no logical relevance to the situation at hand. Thus, we have the condition which the rules must fulfill: the individual must always have choice; the only actions that we can evaluate as being of negative value are those which invalidate the ability of the individual to be selfdeterminate, and furthermore to act upon that self-determination. It is widely observed that the positive valuation of interaction with peers and the need to be social is one of the defining elements of the human condition. If the individual determines that they do, in fact, value the interaction between itself and external individuals, then it is its duty to act upon that valuation. If the individual deter-

19


Works Cited Bernstein, Richard J. "The Secular-Religious Divide: Kant's Legacy." Social Research 76.4 (2009): 1035-048. Web. 8 Apr. 2010. Einstein, Albert. "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies (1920 Edition) - Wikisource." Wikisource, the Free Library. Web. 08 Apr. 2010. <http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On_the_Electrodynamics_of_Moving_Bodies_%2819 20_edition%29>. Ellis, Warren, and Darick Robertson. Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street. New York, NY: DC Comics, 1998. Print. Ezekiel 25:17 - Passage Lookup - King James Version - BibleGateway.com. Web. 29 Mar. 2010. <http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+25%3A17&version=KJV>. Galileo Galilei, Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences by Galileo Galilei. Translated from the Italian and Latin into English by Henry Crew and Alfonso de Salvio. With an In troduction by Antonio Favaro (New York: Macmillan, 1914). Kant, Immanuel, and Norman Kemp Smith. Critique of Pure Reason. Houndmills, Basing stoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Print. Pulp Fiction. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. Perf. John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Uma Therman. Miramax, 1994. Film. "The Internet Classics Archive | Apology by Plato." The Internet Classics Archive: 441 Searchable Works of Classical Literature. Web. 29 Mar. 2010. <http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/apology.html>.

20


Primal Desires and the Science of Attraction By Alison Irvine Fight between the sexes is part of the

Symmetry is a leading attractive trait

evolutionary process; it’s a war of the different

in men, but women also have attractive traits

mating strategies. Because women bear children and men naturally do not, it makes the

that are valued by the opposite sex. Take for instance the width of a woman’s hips; wide

sexes competitive. This so called conflict will never be resolved because both genders need

hips represent fertility in women and are therefore a highly desired trait in a female

each other to continue the human race. Men

mate. Wide hips actually represent the

and women have to be selfish in order to have the best chance to pass on their genetic mate-

amount of estrogen a woman has in her body. Testosterone and estrogen regulate fat deposits

rial.

throughout the bodies of men and women. A woman’s wide hips indicate to a male that she

The initial point of attraction is based on looks. If one is physically attracted to an-

has the right amount of sex hormones in her

other, then they are more likely to try and pursue a romantic relationship with that per-

body to lay fat deposits in the correct places. Whether a man realizes it or not, a woman’s

son depending on the circumstances. There are certain characteristics that define an at-

ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term is a very important characteristic.

tractive person, those characteristics have

Women with a WHR (waist to hip ratio) of 0.7,

been thread into our minds as the human race evolved and thrived. One cannot merely de-

their waist smaller than their hips, have a better chance of conceiving a baby. They have

cide to be attracted to another, the connections in our brain happen without us realizing

enough room to carry it to term safely and give birth without complications, therefore

the gravity of those connections. The attrac-

being more attractive to a potential suitor.

tive qualities for a mate of our choosing, the main objective of our race, is to survive and

Studies have shown that women with this hip ratio are also less likely to suffer from common

continue to successfully breed healthier generations. Good symmetry in a face is a sign

diseases and disorders such as diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and cancer.

that a person is healthy and has the genetic

The structure of a woman’s face may

capabilities to pass those similarities down to healthy offspring. During the early stages of

also be a telltale sign of her fertility. Estrogen has a way of forming the face differently de-

fertilization, the egg continues to divide in half once a sperm has fertilized it. A symmet-

pending on the amount of sex hormones; it tends to stop bones like lower face and chin, as

rical face represents a healthy divide in the

well as her brow, from growing too large.

egg, making that person more likely to produce sperm that will in turn pass on those

Men’s faces are formed by testosterone, so the bones in their faces will continue to grow

healthy symmetrical traits with a lower rate of genetic deformity.

larger and more distinct than women’s. Men will have more prominent features such as jaw, lower face, and brow bone. The amount

21


of sex hormones one possesses will contour

the opportunity to be more selective in their

the shape of his or her face, making it impos-

mating processes. This is unfavorable in the

sible to hide one’s fertility rate. Men and women can see how fertile the other is de-

animal kingdom because in reproduction, it is important to produce a healthy and viable

pending on face shape, so men are usually attracted to women with smaller faces who are

offspring. Anthropologist Helen Fisher discusses Darwin’s theory of natural selection:

very feminine looking and women will be at-

“there must be checks and balances in the

tracted to males with bigger faces and broad shoulders. Being able to see how fertile one is

sexual selection system. If females were drawn again and again to males with an outlandish

by face shape is one of the primitive gifts that evolution has allowed humankind in order to

trait, the trait would eventually appear larger and crazier after many generations of favoring

be breed successfully. The physical recogni-

only those at the outer limits of exaggeration

tion of a fertile mate has enabled the human body to become what it is today- the ultimate

(qtd. in Small 92). Mating with the wrong person could

sex machine. Female animals can afford to be picky

potentially cause some undesirable genes to be passed to the infant, and it might have more

about who they bear children with because of

chance of dying because of the unwanted

all the male attention they receive from their species. They can afford to be selective about

gene selections. Monogamy is very rare among mam-

who will fertilize their precious eggs. The human female reproductive age is from about 15-

mals; there are very few that stay together and mate for life. As a human, stepping out on

50; when females are born they produce two

your committed partner is considered unor-

million egg cells, but out of the two million only about 500 are viable and will ripen. Men,

thodox; however, with almost every other mammal, polygamy is considered a way to

however, produce millions of sperm a day and are able to father children almost their entire

continue the species and survive; there is nothing unnatural about multiple partners

lives. Women, on the other hand, only have a

throughout a lifetime. It seems odd that hu-

few hundred chances to get pregnant. By factoring in the monthly release of an egg, and

mans would be one of the only species to obsess over monogamy. The history of other

accounting for pregnancy and nursing, females don’t have many eggs to spare. Never-

mammals, even mammals close to our genetic make-up, all show a lack of focus on monog-

theless, the human species, according to some

amy. Wherever there is promiscuity, there is

modern day females, cannot choose to be selective because of their want for high-powered

sperm competition among all animals and humans. Man is programmed with the need

careers. By the time their biological clock is ticking its last tocks, they are scrambling for

to impregnate. For the sake of their race, humans want to reproduce in a very primal

anyone to fertilize their eggs, therefore pro-

sense. Primal, meaning the behavior, thought,

ducing less healthy offspring. Unlike contemporary women, our female ancestors priori-

or emotion originating in unconscious needs or desires and unaffected by objective reason-

tized mating and producing offspring at the age of thirteen, thereby affording themselves

ing. The fate of future generations of organisms depends on its ability to put reproduc-

22


tion and the passing of genes as a top priority.

his virginity. The male vole becomes so pro-

Small uses Darwin’s theory of natural selec-

tective, that instead of trying to mate with

tion to define the importance of the patterns of mating and the need to reproduce:

other females, he will instead attack them. This is rare behavior in the animal kingdom,

The only way or an animal to pass on genes to the next generation is to mate,

because so many animals do not practice any sort of monogamy, experimentation with

conceive, and bring fourth healthy in-

these animals is providing incite into human

fants. It follows that patterns of mating should be subject to natural selection.

relationships: “In recent years, scientists have traced these unusual behaviors to levels of cer-

This dance of love and mating is the evolutionary heartbeat of behavior- without

tain neurotransmitters in the rodents' brains. Interestingly, one of these, dopamine, is also

mating there would be no representation

implicated in drug addiction in humans”

in future generations. (11) If there were not a deeply ingrained need to

(Than). When it comes to evolution, scientist’s wonder why some animals evolved to

reproduce, life as a species would come to an end. Therefore, the need to spread the male’s

have different neurotransmitters, it’s not like being monogamous benefits a species on

seed to many mates makes a lot of sense in

terms of the whole. There is no specific reason

terms of life in the animal kingdom. Most animals practice social monog-

to be monogamous, but for some reason, certain species of animals spend their lives in a

amy, meaning they spend all their lives with another animal and raise their families to-

monogamous relationship solely for the purpose of self-fulfillment and raising offspring.

gether but usually have sexual flings on the side. More than ninety

Take the Seed Beetle (Callosobruchus Figure 1

maculates,) for example. Like many other

percent of birds

insects, when a male seed beetle takes an

practice

interest in mating

social monogamy,

with a female, he takes action and pur-

yet still have sexual

sues her; however, if the female has already

affairs. One

been copulated with

of the most studied

and inseminated recently, the male beetle

animals when it

will then use a special hook at the end of his

comes to

penis to remove the

sexual relationships is the prairie vole, which resembles a

other male's semen from the female’s vaginal cavity (Figure 1).

mouse. The male vole will prefer to mate exclusively with the female with whom he lost

This seemingly painful process is called “scooping,” and once the rival semen has

23


been removed, he can then deposit his own

together and come into heat simultane-

specimen. To ensure the greatest chance of

ously, creating a raucous male circus re-

fertilization, the male stabs his spiked penis into the female’s abdomen and releases his

volving around fertile females. (Small 88)

semen. His semen is injected right into her blood stream as the fastest way of fertilization;

Males will fight for their right to inseminate a female to the death. The strongest males mate

this process is known as traumatic insemina-

with the strongest females, producing healthy

tion. The male’s actions injure the female, which then keeps her from mating again. The

offspring that may have the traits to dominate in the future.

female may live long enough to lay her eggs, and then die from her injuries; in the world of

Sperm also provides insight into the mating habits of humans and animals. The

invertebrates, the female seed beetle’s job has

production and vitality of sperm can tell a lot

been completed; she has successfully matured to be able to mate, and created her own off-

about the sexual habits of a species. In a study done in 2007, scientists compared the sperm

spring to carry on the tradition. For many animals, sperm competition goes farther than

of four different species: humans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and rhesus macaques. The

the mating process.

sperm samples that contained the highest ve-

Sperm competition is about achieving dominance over another male for the rights to

locity upon ejaculation were associated with the more promiscuous species like the chim-

a female. In many species monkeys and apes, there is a reigning hierarchy between the

panzees and macaques. The human sperm was found to travel at 0.2 km/hr, while the ma-

males and females. Usually, it depends on

caques sperm had a velocity of 0.7 km/hr. A

their size; the largest and most aggressive male and female will rule all of the other smaller

female chimp is able to have multiple sex partners within the hour, thus increasing the

members of the clan. They will also have rights to the best foods, sleeping places, and

sperm count. A human or a gorilla is only able to have one sexual partner at a time, because

mates. Establishing this dominance doesn’t

of the slow rate of insemination. The sperm of

occur on it’s own, the animals have to fight for their right to live as a member in the commu-

the chimps and macaques is also more powerful, measuring at 50 piconewtons, while the

nity: Massive horns in the male bighorn

human sperm measured at 5 piconewtons. Whether an animal is monogamous

sheep are used to push other males into

predicts the type of living conditions the

reproductive oblivion; large canines are slashed about by a male baboon trying

animal will live in. In primitive species of monkeys, there are two types of mating sys-

to keep the eager males away from his consort partner; In all cases, males com-

tems: harems of females, and the promiscuous system in which all females mate with all

pete with one another for females, while

males. Apes, like orangutans and gorillas live

the females stand by waiting for the males to end the fighting and begin

in harems, although the orangutans are private and reclusive, the harem are spread

copulating. Such battles are especially fierce in arenas where females cluster

loosely throughout the land in the wild. A male’s territory will overlap with several fe-

24


male territories, making sure there is always a

age. To eliminate the chance of incest, the

different supply of female mates. Living in a

fully matured males will separate from the

group has its advantages and disadvantages. An animal can have a support system and pro-

group and wander with a group of other males for years before he finds his own community.

tection from any possible danger, but it can also be difficult finding enough food to sup-

Taking one mate for life would greatly reduce the male’s chances of producing many

port the group. Amongst the primates, the

offspring with a different genetic make-up;

gibbon is known for it’s similar behavior to humans: they marry, divorce, cheat, and

however, man is not an endangered species, and forming relationships and bonds with

abandon their spouses. After the age of eighteen, a married couple enters what is called “re-

other humans takes precedence for most of our lives. Like certain close-related apes and

tirement,” because they are no longer at the

monkeys, our day-to-day lives revolve around

age where they can produce offspring, they are accepted into the family of one of their

our social structure and our time is spent interacting with family and friends of our

children. The older gibbons join the family in search of protection and become grandpar-

“clan.” Like gorillas or Orangutans, the gestation time for a female human pregnancy is

ents. They can no longer feed or defend them-

around 8.5-9 months, typically having maybe

selves; their children give them scraps and let them live as a group until they die. This type

one to two babies at a time. The female then spends the next few years nursing, protecting,

of community living benefits the animals not only in protection from predators, but also

and caring for the young infant making the lives of the infants that much more important

builds a community where the animals take

because they take so much time and energy to

care of each other and raise their offspring together.

raise. Apes are very different from many other mammals; the bonds that are produced be-

Gorillas also use groups in numbers to protect themselves and establish a community

tween mother and child are unique to few animals. The amount of time between each

with a hierarchy. In the group, there is one

infant allows for those relationships to form,

silverback, and 5-30 females. The silverback is king in the community; he is the ruler of the

and the mother needs the support from her family and alpha male in order to be able to

heard and the father to all the offspring. All the females conceive by him, and bear his off-

raise her child safely. In the animal kingdom, fathering

spring; they then raise all of the infants to-

many offspring is a way to make sure that an

gether, establishing relationships and bonds. A mated female will stay with her silverback

animal’s genes are passed down to further generations. This also insures that at least

for the duration of her life. The only other circumstance in which she would leave him

some of the specimen he produces will be string enough to survive and continue breed-

would be the instance of his death, and the

ing healthy offspring. Another male’s off-

community is then taken over by a “blackback” or another silverback. Infants wean

spring is a threat to an opposing male because in his mind the offspring will take up room in

from their mothers in 3-4 years, but they won’t be sexually mature until 10-14 years of

his territory, taking up a potential female mate’s time by raising it, and becoming an-

25


other competitor in the ongoing competition

males by having extramarital sex. Women, on

for food. A monogamous male cannot afford

the other hand, would lose resources, and fe-

to put his time and energy into anything else than his successor:

male promiscuity clearly does not boost the welfare of her children. (Anitei)

In a species like ours, where the male invests all his resources in raising children

Community becomes more important when it becomes harder to spawn and raise

inside a monogamous couple, spending

many babies on her own. The lives of their

them into genetically unrelated offspring means a biological disaster. For

species is not expendable as is it with other mammals that are able to procreate often,

example, when men spend more time away from their partners (when their

they have to put all their energy into keeping their precious offspring alive. The female re-

partners could get the opportunity to

lies more on the male to provide and protect

mate with other males), the number of sperm cells per similar sperm volumes

her and her genetic link to future generations. Pheromones among the Animal King-

rises sharply. (Anitei) Destroying another male’s offspring

dom dictate emotional responses depending on the chemical released. Pheromones are a

not only makes the mother eligible for mating

chemical substance secreted externally by

and returns her to the state of estrus, but it is also a way to push the boundaries of the terri-

some animals that influences the physiology or behavior of other animals of the same spe-

tory taken up by the male. The more babies he creates, the farther his dominance reigns over

cies. Most of the time, these chemicals act as attractants to animals; but they can also act as

his land.

a deterrent to warn others to stay away. A ma-

There is no natural reason for monogamy to exist in any creature; it is not logical for

ture male elephant releases a mix of chemicals to have the upper hand when mating:

the species. Anthropologists theorize that monogamy was created in order to provide

“pheromones clearly act as sexual attractants in the animal world. Older male elephants, for

security to the mated female and her infant.

example, exude sexual prowess with a mix of

In the mammals with low sperm activity, and the inability to have more than two babies at a

chemicals the younger bulls can't muster” (Bj. Carey). The older male elephant secretes a

time, they devote all their time and attention to their offspring,

much more pungent and alluring aroma to the females, they young bull can mimic the

The human committed partnership

sexual signals and advances, but cannot pro-

between a man and a woman evolved for raising the children. Monogamy is invented for

duce the same chemicals to entice fertile females. His attempt at beating out an older,

order and investment, not necessarily because it's natural, warn many researchers, which

more mature male for the prime female is futile.

point that both social and sexual monogamy

Scientists have found mammals to be

in humans is not a natural state…It is clear that in humans, there is more paternal in-

more difficult to work with than insects because insects are so predictable, it is very easy

vestment than in most other primates. Still, it is clear that males have less to lose than fe-

to manipulate and study their behavior. Mammals, especially humans, are more com-

26


plex and unpredictable creatures. Like hu-

cal scents than it is in animals. Along with

mans, mammal’s volmeronasal cavities are

chemical stimulation, humans require more

located in their olfactory cavity, and sit as small cavities just inside the nose (2B). The

sophisticated signs of attraction. Unlike animals, humans cannot merely smell a female to

volmeronasal cavity or the VNO is an auxiliary olfactory sense organ that is found in

tell if she is ovulating and interested in copulation. One must approach their object of in-

animals and humans, and is almost com-

terest, and show physical and verbal signals

pletely separate from the rest of the nasal cavity. It is used to detect chemical messages be-

that they are interested. Because of this ritual, it is hard to tell how much pheromones actu-

tween species, these chemical messages are known as pheromones. In a case study done

ally affect humans and their attraction to one another.

by the Monell Chemical Senses Center, scien-

Although the volmeronasal organ is

tist anesthetized a male golden hamster and placed it in a cage with another male hamster.

well identified in animals, when it comes to humans, the definition is not so clear. This

The alert male reacted by either ignoring the sedated hamster, or grabbing it by the ear and

organ has been identified in humans since the 1800’s, but doctors knew little about how this

dragging it around the cage. However, when

organ worked, so they deemed it “unrespon-

they put the same two hamsters in the cage, and rubbed female vaginal secretions on the

sive.” As science has advanced, doctors have recognized that the strange organ may be

anesthetized hamster, the alert hamster now tried to mate with that same hamster. The re-

more valuable than anyone ever thought: "the VNO appears to be a much more primitive

searchers were able to fool the male hamster

structure that uses a different set of molecular

into believing that the sedated male hamster was a female by masking it in female phero-

machinery than the main olfactory system, it seems to work in a different way- and we don't

mones. These tactics easily fool animals because they act on impulse rather than

know how" (Pines). Knowing that the VNO works as a separate system from the olfactory

thought. It is easier to conduct experiments

system, scientists have been trying to identify

on predictable animals because they so rarely act out of character, therefore giving scientist

how this system works and why it is so much harder to study humans.

solid entries in their case studies. In humans, the volmeronasal organ

According to the time of the month, women smell different and look more attrac-

located near the olfactory bulb is responsible

tive to men. In a study conducted in 2006 by

for detecting pheromones. (1B) These chemicals are taken in as smells, but are processed by

scientist Jan Havlieek of the Department of Anthropology at Charles University, Prague, a

this unique organ that is being seen less and less in humans as time advances. Pheromones

group of women were asked to wear cotton pads under their armpits for 24 hours. All the

are released through sweat as well as other

women were at different times in their men-

bodily secretions. Experiments with pheromones are harder to conduct on humans be-

strual cycles; the data was collected in three phases, menstrual, which is at the beginning

cause of their sophisticated thought process. It is harder to fool a human by switching chemi-

of the cycle, follicular, which is between the first day of menstruation and the onset of ovu-

27


lation, and luteal, which is the fertile stage.

ology in New York, scientists conducted brain

These pads were distributed to a group of 42

scans that demonstrated that romantic love is

men. Perfumes, spicy foods, deodorants, cigarettes, alcohol, and the contraceptive pill,

a “biological urge distinct from arousal” (Carey). As a relationship gets more intense,

among other things, did not compromise the women’s odor. The men rated the pads ac-

the neural activity in the brain changes, and studies suggest that it moves to a more primi-

cording to the most attractive smell. All of the

tive part of the brain. This part of the brain

42 men rated the smell of a woman on the first day of menstruation and ovulation as the

controls longer-term attachment that is related to the feelings of excitement or affection.

most attractive. These findings contradict the myth that men are “always in the mood” for

When one falls deeper in love, the feelings move away from desire and begin to descend

sex. Attraction in men fluctuates as well as at-

into a part of the brain below conscious

traction in women, there are varying level of degrees of attraction that affect men and

awareness called the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area, which communicate

women at certain times of the month. According to Havileek, “traditionally it's believed

with each other: “these areas are dense with cells that produce or receive a brain chemical

that ovulation in human female is concealed

called dopamine, which circulates actively

and there are no changes in attractiveness across the cycle” (Goudarzi). Men find odors

when people desire or anticipate a reward. In studies of gamblers, cocaine users and even

during the follicular phase the most attractive and the least over stimulating, which then

people playing computer games for small amounts of money, these dopamine sites be-

would indicate the correct time for mating;

come extremely active as people score or win”

however, the men were least attracted to the women who were currently on their men-

(Be. Carey). Basic attraction is very primal; humans have evolved to consider attraction

strual cycle because their odor consisted of more high intensity smells. The attractiveness

and sex drive a basic need in order to survive. Food and water are the most basic of needs;

of a woman’s face also changes during the

therefore, the most basic feelings for humans

month. Although scientists have yet to identify the chemical compounds which are re-

are those of hunger and thirst. Attraction is not something that one can decide with his or

sponsible for a change in the odor, they noted that when men were given photos and asked

her conscious mind. According to Fisher, "The sex drive evolved to get you out there to get

to rate them in order of attractiveness, the

looking for anything at all, romantic love de-

women who were in fertile states at the time were always rated most attractive.

veloped to focus one’s mating energy on just one individual while attachment works to tol-

The part of the brain that controls love and attraction is called the hypothalamus.

erate this individual long enough to raise children as a team” (qtd. in McManamy). Just

When distinguishing from sexual arousal and

like hunger and thirst, it is an involuntary re-

romantic love, the part of the hypothalamus that controls sexual arousal is similar to the

action that one’s brain makes independently in order to act in his best interest. These facts

part that controls hunger, thirst, or drug craving. In a study by The Journal of Neurophysi-

are also true for animals, although, unlike humans, they do not have the capacity for a

28


deeper love. The feeling of attraction is just as

the brain. The brain has evolved to crave ro-

important as the feeling of hunger; evolution

mantic love as the overall goal, even if sexual

has made it an easy process in which one doesn’t have to make a conscious decision to

gratification is first on the mind. Dopamine and serotonin are the

mate. Without this primal need and the abilities of the unconscious mammalian brain,

chemicals in the brain that regulate romantic feelings. Androgens and estrogens drive lust,

there would be no reason for humankind to

while high levels of dopamine and norepi-

continue the human species, just like one would die if her body didn’t tell her to eat.

nephrine and low serotonin mostly drive attraction. A sexual encounter can release tes-

The ability for a deeper love makes humans different from all other mammals. According

tosterone in both men and women that can further their love connection whether or not

to how long two people have been in a rela-

one was there to begin with. In some cases, it

tionship indicates what part of the brain these long-term attachments reside. One can only

may even be responsible for the beginning of love: "for many of us, sexual orgasm, accom-

wonder why humankind alone developed the ability for this kind of deep love? Were hu-

plished within a love relationship, is one of the all-time highs. And sex, like love, can be

mankind’s relationships intended to be differ-

accompanied by a sense of merger and tran-

ent from all other mammals? Love can be characterized into three

scendence” (qtd. in McManamy). An orgasm can also help further a connection; the

categories: lust, attraction, and attachment. Lust is the craving for sexual gratification, at-

chemicals released during orgasm are designed to form bonds in the brain between

traction, is romantic or passionate love and

two people. Dopamine is linked to sexual de-

intense craving for that person, and attachment is a sense of calm achieved over a long

sire, and during an orgasm oxytocin levels rise. Because norepinephrine, serotonin, and

period of being together. In evolved humans, romantic love is supposed to be a stronger

dopamine control lust and attraction, some anti-depressants can inhibit chemicals from

craving than sex. After all, people don’t com-

being released at correct levels in the brain.

mit suicide from lack of sex. They do however commit suicide from lack of love and roman-

The medications are designed to boost certain levels in order to get the person to feel bal-

tic connection. The amount of romantic love found in societies has increased in recent

anced, but because feelings or attraction, lust, and love depend on these levels rising and fal-

years, “romantic love exists in 150 societies,

ling, the medications can affect the person’s

even though it is discouraged in many of them. But with many women from these

romantic feeling and behavior. One could potentially feel attracted to someone who they

countries now entering the workforce and acquiring a sense of independence - together

normally would not desire off medication, or they could inhibit feelings of attraction for a

with medical science keeping us relatively

partner. These chemicals are an important

younger longer - we can expect to see romantic love on the rise worldwide” (Fisher). Ro-

part of romantic choices, but if one’s brain is not releasing the correct amount of chemical

mantic love is not supposed to be an emotion but in fact a motivation or reward system for

naturally, it could inhibit natural attraction.

29


Homosexual relationships work in almost the same fashion as heterosexual rela-

male orangutans practice fellatio. (Bagemihl)

tionships. All of the same chemicals that are released in the brain between a man and a

Homosexual relationships are common in almost all species of animals, even if some have

woman in love are also released in homosexual relationships. All of the same body parts

not been witnessed yet. Like humans, animals practice sexual behavior purely for sexual

respond to arousal, and their sexual goals of

gratification, so it would make sense that all

gratification are the same. Homosexuality exists regularly in nature, the reasons for these

animals practice homosexual behavior. Although prevalent in many species,

relationships are not known but animals also regularly engage in non-reproductive sex. A

homosexuality is still not widely accepted as part of natural animal behavior, with the first

male can sometimes use sex as a form of

report of homosexual behavior emerging only

dominance over another male. If they are competing for land, food, or mates, this tactic

in the last seventy-five years. Therefore, the concept is still relatively new to most scien-

can be used to subdue the competing male. It can also be used as a greeting, but more often

tists, who are only just beginning to examine the behavior. Scientists and animal behavior

than not, it is used as a form to compete. In

specialists still have differing beliefs on the

the case of mallard ducks, the males only stay with the females in time for her to lay an egg.

cause of homosexuality in animals: No wonder then that putative gay sex

But other times, they satisfy their urges with male-to-male companionship. The behavior

among animals is typically explained away as examples of play, mistaken iden-

does not always have to involve penetration;

tity or an exercise in power. True

in fact, many animals use them as a sense of comfort or display of fondness:

homosexuality--if strictly defined as male anal penetration by males who

Some of these affectionate activities do not involve direct genital contact but

show no interest in females--is virtually unknown among wild mammals. They

"nevertheless have clear sexual or erotic

argue that animals that mount same-sex

overtones". Male lions "head-rub" and roll around with each other, while vam-

partners and the like are behaving aggressively or merely practicing for het-

pire bats develop erections during erotic same-sex grooming and licking. Whales

erosexual encounters. Or they may be advertising their availability, or trying to

and dolphins rub their bodies together

make a heterosexual partner jealous.

and stroke each other with their flippers or tail flukes. Male giraffes indulge in

(Bagemihl) Over the years many zoologists and animals

prolonged bouts of affectionate "necking", often followed by mounting and

scientists have tried to justify the behavior of these animals: just because a behavior that is

culminating in apparent orgasm. Novel

sexual serves some social role or function

sexual postures and oral sex of various kinds are also commonplace; the female

doesn't mean it cannot be simultaneously sexual.

long-eared hedgehogs are known to engage in mutual genital licking, while

The human race wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t exist today if it werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t for the power of evolution; if our

30


bodies werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t programmed with special organs and chemicals to spur attraction, the human race would have died out a long time ago. It is in our genetic make-up to want to mate and bear children, no matter what anyone says, our bodies are preprogrammed to want to pass on genes and DNA. Humankind has evolved to be able to mate proficiently, and bear offspring to continue the evolution of the species. Scientist donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know why humans were the only beings that evolved enough to be able to grasp the concept of love, but like all other species, mating is the internal drive that makes one long for children. If there wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t this longing, no one would want to have children and the race would die out. Mate selection is what makes every human being unique, they have been donated a mix of genes from their parents that are hopefully compatible and make for the healthiest offspring. If they are lucky, they will survive because of the genetically compatible mix of genes that gives them the advantage in life. Scientist can do his or her best to gather information and make a hypothesis on why every animal and human was created this way. Even though they have made leaps and bounds in the discovery of the workings of the human mind, there are some behaviors that cannot and never may be explained.

31


Works Cited Anitei, Stefan. "Humans Are Not Made Monogamous- A Biological View." Editorials. 12 April 2008. Softpedia, Web. 1 Jan 2010. <http://news.softpedia.com/news/ Humans-Are-Not-Made-Monogamous-83227.shtml>. Carey, Benedict. "Watching New Love as It Sears the Brain." 31 May 2005. New York Times, Web. 8 Dec 2009. <http://www.sensualism.com/love/brain.html>. Carey, Bjorn, "The Rules of Attraction In The Game of Love." Live Science. 13/02/2006. Web. 30 Sep 2009. <http://www.livescience.com/health/060213_attraction_rules.html>. Bagemihl, Bruce. "Animals Prefer Homosexuality To Evolutionism." Biological Exuberance: Animals Homosexuality. 1999. Web. 14 Nov 2009. <http:// www.subversions.com/french/pages/science/animals.html>. Dell'Amore, Christine. ""Torture" Phalluses Give Beetles Reproductive Edge." National Geographic News 25 Feb. 2009: n. pag. Web. 19 Oct 2009. <http:// news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/02/090225-seed-beetle-sex.html?

source=rss>.

Goudarzi, Sara. "When a Woman Smells Best." Live Science. 18 Jan 2006. Web. 3 Nov 2009. <http://www.livescience.com/health/060118_armpit_odor.html>. McManamy, John. "The Brain In Love and Lust." McMan's Depression and Bipolar Web. 10 Feb 2008. Web. 14 Nov 2009. <http://www.mcmanweb.com/love_lust.html>. Pines, Maya. "A Secret Sense In the Human Nose: Pheromones and Mammals." The Howard Hughes Medical Insitute. 2008. HHMI, Web. 8 Dec 2009. <http:// www.hhmi.org/senses/d230.html>. Small, Meredith F., Female Choice: Sexual Behavior of Female Primates. 1st Ed. New York: Cornell University Press, 1993. Print. Than, Ker. "Wild Sex: Where Monogamy Is Rare." Live Science. 20 Nov. 2006. Web. 8 Dec 2009. <http://www.livescience.com/animals/ 061120_monogamous_animals.html> Webster, Bayard. "Infanticide: Animal Behavior Scrutinized For Clues To Humans." New York Times 17 Aug. 1982: n. pag. Web. 19 Oct 2009. <http://www.nytimes.com/ 1982/08/17/science/infanticide-animal-behavior-scrutinized-for-clues-tohumans.html?&pagewanted=all>. Zuk, Marlene. Sexual Selections: What We Can And Can't Learn About Sex from Animals. 1st ed. Los Angeles, California: University Of California Press, 2002. Print.

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Transcending the Frankenstein Complex: Artificial Intelligence in the 21st Century By Walter Poulsen Computers are used daily by hundreds

miliar. In order to accept AIs into their society

of millions of people world wide, people who

humans must first understand how AIs oper-

see computers as nothing more than tools. And why wouldn’t they? After all computers

ate and know their skills and limitations. Once this level of comprehension is reached

are no more conscious than the rocks their ancestors knocked together tens of thousands

humans can choose to accept or not accept AIs with full of knowledge of what their decision

of years ago. If computers aren’t conscious

means and thus accept it’s future conse-

then they have no thoughts or emotions to take into account when making decisions that

quences, both good and bad. The philosophical argument concern-

might effect them and thus they are extremely effective computing tools. The tool-user rela-

ing how to define consciousness is a heated one. It lies at the foundation of the Artificial

tionship between computers and humans

Intelligence problem, and neither scientists

may not last much longer; advances are being made in the fields of psychology, computer

nor philosophers can agree on a solution. For the most part it does not impede research in

science and cognitive science that are bringing scientists closer to the goal of Artificial In-

the field. In such cases an objective can be chosen and specifications for the final product

telligence (AI). It is likely that an AI with in-

agreed upon, but when discussing the conse-

telligence equal to that of a domestic cat will be achieved within the next decade; according

quences of artificial intelligence scientists and philosophers must decide upon definitions for

to Ray Kurzweil’s predictions an AIs intelligence will have surpassed that of a human be-

consciousness and intelligence. These two concepts are important because they can be

ing’s by 2040 (Kurzweil AI). Many refer to the

used to draw the line at which an artificial en-

point in time at which this occurs as the Singularity. Afterward humans will have to begin

tity becomes artificially intelligent. Consciousness is an ambiguous term that can be

reconsidering their relationship with computers. They will have to consider the difficult

defined as awareness, both of self and environment. The concept of consciousness can

questions of what constitutes consciousness,

be split into many different pieces; self reflec-

whether artificially created life is of equal value to that of natural life, and whether AIs

tion, free will, decision making, sensory recognition, and semantics, to name a few. The

should be integrated into human society. Since their brains are projected to grow in

focus of different researchers is determined by their own opinions of what piece is key to the

power exponentially AIs are likely to represent

phenomena of consciousness; these differing

a vast potential for human society in the future; it would be a grievous mistake to reject

focuses, opinions, and methods give rise to the numerous theories of the mind and con-

all they had to offer in favor fear of the unfa-

sciousness.

33


Descartes introduced the concept of

The dualistic philosophy provides a founda-

dualism in its modern form in the 17th cen-

tion for the arguments of todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s scientists

tury; he held that mind and body were separate and did not hold equal importance to

who theorize that in order to create artificial intelligence all that is needed is the proper

consciousness. Descartes believed that the body is nothing but a machine that the mind

program, this opinion is called Strong AI. In contrast to dualists there are materi-

inhabits, using it to interact with the physical

alists who believe that consciousness is a

world. From this perspective the mind is the sole seat of consciousness and intelligence; it

physical byproduct of the structure and chemistry of the brain. This theory relies on the ar-

exists separately of the body and processes sensory information and abstract thought. In

rangement and firing intervals of neurons to explain the mind computationally as a ma-

order to interact with the matter it is tied to

chine with a discrete number of states that it

the mind using a controller of sorts located somewhere within the body; Descartes pos-

used to produce inputs and outputs; changes in structure and strength of connections be-

ited that this would be in the pineal gland due to its unique positioning (Robinson). In this

tween neurons allow the brain to reconfigure and learn from experience. Philip Johnson-

philosophy the body is no more important to

Laird, in his book The Computer and the Mind,

the individualâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s identity than his or her clothing: all of their defining features are meta-

puts forth the idea that consciousness functions as a hierarchy of skills and actions, made

physical and all that Descartes deemed necessary in order to manifest themselves within

up of numerous processors that each play a small part in processing and understanding

this reality was a seat within the body. The

oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s environment (354). He fails to explain

show Dollhouse illustrates this philosophy; the story centers around a criminal organization

the details of the program that would run upon such hardware, but mapping this struc-

called the Dollhouse that uploads personalities to bodies satisfy the needs of its clients.

ture to the brain conceptually gives a good representation of the materialist view of the

The dolls are people who lend their bodies to

brain. In such a model groups of neurons

the house for a set amount of time during which their personalities are offloaded and

would be isomorphic to countless parallel processors. Some materialists such as Stuart

stored in cylinders. Dollhouse takes the con-

Hameroff believe in a quantum mechanical model of consciousness that arises from mi-

cept of dualism to the point where it is possible to upload and download personalities on

crotubules in cell walls, which, due to their

and off a body as if it were simply a piece of hardware that in no way affected the con-

size participate in both neural and quantum interactions. This theory is as of yet unproven

sciousness that inhabits it. This of course is an

but Hameroff and his colleagues claim that science has simply not advanced enough to

extreme take on the dualist philosophy; Descartes could not have foreseen the digital

understand the mind and that their theory

technology of the 21st century but his concept of death and the abandonment of the

will be proven once it has. The materialist view of consciousness emphasizes both struc-

body by the mind is similar in substance to

ture and program; from this perspective a computer cannot be created from any mate-

the downloading of personalities in Dollhouse.

34


rial. Both the program and the architecture of the computer must work in unison in order to create consciousness. Is consciousness a black and white phenomena, is it simply on or off, or does it come in levels? Moreover, are the levels measurable? In order to answer the former conclusively, one must first deal with the latter. Consciousness is only measurable through scientific methods. If one wishes to attribute it to the immaterial mind, it is a completely valid theory and can be approached from a logical standpoint attacking the materialists inability to pinpoint the precise catalyst of consciousness within the brain; however, as Gerald M. Edelman, Eugene Izhikevich, George N. Reeke, and Anil K. Seth explain in their paper “Theories and Measures of Consciousness: An extended framework” any “nonphysical or dualistic forces or processes must be excluded” from a scientific theory of consciousness and the focus must be placed upon “neural activity”(10799). This is due to the need for data that can be analyzed quantitatively. So, from a scientific perspective, consciousness is measurable and it fol-

Figure 1 lows that there are different magnitudes of consciousness indicating that there are different levels of consciousness. Douglas Hofstadter certainly finds this to be true. He goes so far as to create a diagram showing his personal levels of consciousness from greatest (normal adult humans) to smallest (atoms) (Figure 1). He makes his argument for the consciousness of all living pieces of our universe based on his own emotional, intuitive, feelings and his reasoning that humans merely possess a more complex, higher level consciousness than the typical pig or cow. Hofstadter argues that consciousness is an entity’s awareness of its environment and ability to interact with it. A dog,

35


for example, is aware of its environment

es”(10). At the moment, this seems mildly

through its senses; presumably, it can see hear,

humorous but with the approach of the Sin-

and feel. Scientists can observe these traits; they can also observe a dog’s decision-making

gularity it will become ever more relevant to society. Penrose argues that “turning off a

habits. However, since they are unable to communicate with the dog verbally or non-

computer, or even perhaps selling it, when it might have become attached to us, would pre-

verbally, it is difficult to know on what level

sent us with moral difficulties, and there

the dog’s decision-making presides: whether it’s completely intuitive or whether the dog is

would be countless other problems” (10). It is possible that in increasing the complexity and

able to consciously reflect on its own past experiences and make a conscious decision

potential uses of computers their relationship with humans will change from that of a tool

based on that information. The authors of

to a colleague. This has the potential to make

“Theories and Measures of Consciousness: An Extended Framework” assert that: “the attri-

computers much less useful in their traditional roles. Thus far human beings have not

bution of conscious states to non-human animals is made difficult by their inability

had to engage in emotional relationships with their computers; they have simply taken what

verbally to report the contents of their puta-

they willed from the computer’s services.

tive consciousness” (10799-10800). At this point, having a quantitative method for

When dealing with a conscious computer it would become necessary for the human to

measuring consciousness becomes important. If scientists could identify a specific neural ac-

give in order to take. Is that really what humans want from computers? Today’s uses for

tion that indicated consciousness in humans,

computers include looking for recipes, music,

they could then look for its equivalent in animals and eventually computers.

videos, writing papers, performing complex mathematical operations, constructing mod-

If the animals that humans slaughter for sustenance and the computers we use as

els and graphs, and various other menial tasks. For the most part these tasks are either

tools turn out to be conscious how will that

too time consuming or too complex for the

change the human perspective on our place within our environment? Is it morally justifi-

average human. But who’s to say that a conscious computer would be any more inclined

able to slaughter another sentient being for sustenance? That is equivalent to murdering

to perform these operations than a human being?

another human being and taking their valu-

Two fictional species of AI, the Cylons

ables. And what of forcing another consciousness to do your bidding with no consideration

in Battlestar Galatica and sentient robots simply known as the Machines in The Matrix,

of its own wishes and well-being? That is simply another form of slavery. If artificial intelli-

choose to not perform these operations for

gence is truly created, the human being/

their human masters and revolt against them. Both then seek to control the human race, the

computer relationship must experience an absolute change in nature. Roger Penrose pro-

Machines for the purpose of harvesting the electricity generated by human bodies and the

poses the idea that “our purchasing of the device will involve us in moral responsibiliti-

Cylons in order to create a harmonious society that includes both robot and human. Before

36


their revolt, humans did not consider Cylons

2. A robot must obey any orders given it

to be alive and treated them accordingly by

by human beings, except where such or-

using them as slaves. Treating them in this manner was a fatal error on the part of hu-

ders would conflict with the First Law… 3. A robot must protect its own existence

manity: any sentient being whether natural or artificial must be accepted as alive and be

as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws. (37)

treated according to its level of consciousness

These laws were written with the intention of

and intelligence; otherwise, the oppressed will seek to balance the social hierarchy through

creating robots that were both safe and reliable while leaving them with a decent amount

revolution, a process that has been repeated many times throughout human history. Cy-

of initiative. Asimov sought to eradicate the human fear of and repulsion from machines

lons were clearly living and conscious during

that is known as the Frankenstein Complex.

their enslavement. By not recognizing this, humans denied what could have been a major

This term originates from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; upon creating his monster, Dr.

ally in their quest for survival and created what could be viewed as a formidable enemy.

Frankenstein is horrified of his own creation and wishes to undo it. Asimov sought to show

The reason that the human/Cylon relation-

that robots operated by laws written by hu-

ship is not clear-cut is because after conquering humanity the Cylons seek to reconcile

man beings and were thus as well intentioned as their creators, though at times uncreative.

with them and create a new society where humans and Cylons are equal; however, this

In his novel The Caves of Steel, the character

society is in practice ruled by a Cylon oligar-

Elijah Bailey, a detective who lives in a human society with a strong anti-robot bias, is given a

chy, which is constantly subverted by a human resistance. This leads one to ask: can hu-

robotic partner who looks like a human. Despite his strong prejudice against robots Bailey

man and AI ever really live together as equals in a society? In Battlestar Galatica the answer

comes to “trust” and “admire” R. Daneel Oli-

is yes but this equilibrium must be reached

vaw just like he might a human partner. What’s implied by Asimov is that it’s not ro-

through mutual trust and respect rather than by force.

bots themselves who are good or bad, but the humans who created them. Robots act in ac-

In the programming of an artificial intelligence measures can be taken to ensure

cordance with the programs used to create

the disposition of the entities created; these

them, but humans do not always have virtuous intentions and do not program robots per-

measures can take the form of a natural inclination to follow the orders of a human being

fectly.

or rules that forbid them to harm any human beings. The science fiction writer Isaac Asi-

artificial intelligence is envisaged in several

mov introduced the Three Laws of Robotics in his short story “Runaround”: 1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm…

Human repulsion to the advance of works of science fiction, most notably I, Robot the film directed by Alex Proyas. In I, Robot Detective Del Spooner struggles with his Frankenstein complex as it begins to affect his job performance. Spooner is put on the case of the apparent suicide of an influential ro-

37


bopsychologist. His bias against robots leads

overlook in creating artificial intelligence that

him to assume that the one robot who was in

will put us in danger. If scientists can con-

the room killed the roboticist who was working on it at the time. He makes this assump-

struct artificial intelligence then we will be able to understand and predict the actions of

tion despite his knowledge that all robots are programmed with the Three Laws that make it

the entity they create. Nevertheless, it is likely that as these intelligences increase in sophisti-

impossible for a robot to harm a human being.

cation and complication their thoughts and

Detective Spooner’s belief in the fallibility of robots isn’t random; it stems from his experi-

actions will become more difficult to understand.

ence in a car accident when a robot saved his life instead of the young girl in the car next to

Computers rely upon series of instructions, or algorithms, that given an input(s)

him. He distrusts robots because of their lack

will provide an output(s) obtained by follow-

of human judgment and their strict adherence to probabilities in making decisions; this cul-

ing the instructions they are given in order to operate. No matter how complex the input

minates in his fear that one day they will rise up against their masters with no morality to

and how marvelously sophisticated the output the computer that produces them is sim-

inhibit them. Spooner’s fear is at least partially

ply following sets of instructions that are pro-

substantiated in this story; the most recently released robots take over, confining their

grammed into it. It might appear that the computer is no more conscious than a rock,

owners to their homes and imposing a curfew on the streets. These rebellious robots are con-

and yet some scientists believe that if placed in the correct orientation or given sufficiently

trolled by a central intelligence named VIKI;

complex programs rocks might become con-

VIKI has realized that human beings pose a danger to themselves and thus for their own

scious. Currently humanity does not possess the knowledge that would mkae this miracle

safety and in accordance with the Three Laws must be controlled by more reasonable enti-

(the instilling of consciousness in an inanimate object) possible; however, there are sev-

ties such as herself.

eral groups of thinkers who are working to-

What is of note in this story is not the decision of the artificial intelligence to protect

ward achieving this goal. Their theories and practices are diverse as humanity’s religions

its master from itself, but the manner in which it happens: the decision is not made by

and concern nothing less than the nature of the brain and thought. Some groups place

the robots because of a resentment toward the

emphasis upon the architecture of the brain

human race or a feeling of moral superiority but by reason that adheres to their program-

while others think nothing of the vessel and believe that only the program must be right;

ming. The failing was a technical one made by a human designer, not a moral one on the

there are also many approaches that exist between these extremes and theorize that pro-

part of the artificial intelligence. In the future

gram and architecture will contribute to the

when artificial intelligence is achieved humankind will not need to fear anything but its

creation of an artificial intelligence. A few of the more prominent of these theories are

own human error. It is the circumstances that we fail to foresee and the safeguards that we

Strong AI, Pan-Psychism, and Parallel Processor Hierarchy.

38


Strong AI theorizes that artificial intel-

processed in the brain with a resulting state

ligence can be constructed from any medium

change that can take the form of emotion,

provided the algorithm is right. This principle is based upon the idea of the Universal Turing

thought, speech, or action. Each of the above outputs merely represents a new configura-

Machine. A Universal Turing Machine is a machine that consists of a tape that runs in a

tion of neural connections in the brain. If this truly is how consciousness and intelligence

loop and a reader/writer module. The tape

occur all that stands in the way of the creation

consists of cells each of which is marked with a 0 or 1. The tape can be moved backward and

of artificial intelligence is finding a set of algorithms that will create consciousness. Scien-

forward so that the module may view any cell on the tape. The module may modify the cell

tists must then implement them physically, which can cause issues with heat.

that it is reading; it possesses a finite number

In order to confront these problems

of states and reacts to the cell it is reading based on a finite number of rules that it is

Strong AI theorists focus their research on human thought processes. Research is focused

programmed with. These rules tell the UTM how to act given a certain symbol and state;

on humans not because of an assumption that any artificial intelligence or consciousness

the UTM might modify the symbol or change

must be human in nature but because humans

its state or move backward or forward based upon what the rules indicate. This process

are the only species that operate on a high level consciousness and can communicate

can be thought of as three variable mathematical function where x (the modules state)

with researchers. Human beings possess associative intelligence; they are able to make a

and y (the cell’s symbol) are the given inputs

jump between two foreign concepts because of

and the output is z (the machines reaction). With a module, a tape, and a set of rules this

a perceived common attribute. For example armchairs and beanbags are commonly used

can accomplish any logical process by manipulating 1’s and 0’s into the proper pattern.

for sitting and humans label them both as chairs despite their distinct appearances. Hu-

The set of rules that dictate the UTM’s actions

mans are also able to understand slang, a word

is an algorithm. Strong AI theorists believe that given the proper algorithm anything can

like sick can apply conversely to both an extremely awesome event or a physical or men-

become conscious. Douglas Hofstadter asserts that artificial intelligence could be con-

tal illness depending on context. These skills may be completely effortless and natural for

structed from pebbles and toilet paper with a

human beings but they have proven to be ex-

reading module that could place pebbles on the toilet paper squares and take them off

tremely difficult to reproduce with computers. Strong AI researchers must understand how

(29). This example is humorous but from the Strong AI perspective it is completely plausible

human brains create free forming associations between objects and concepts in order to

and the toilet paper and pebble consciousness

make artificial intelligence generally useful.

is no different from our own neuron based consciousness. Human beings themselves are

Artificial intelligences are currently used as expert systems that can perform very specific

a sort of Universal Turing Machine: humans receive inputs through their senses that are

tasks; this is possible because they are placed in very narrow domains, such as factories,

39


where all possible inputs and outputs can be

conscious activities would be carried out by

programmed into the machine when it is cre-

processors lower in the hierarchy that would

ated. However, once these AIs are removed from their respective domains they are com-

not report the information unless there was an emergency. Conscious procedures are car-

pletely useless. In order to create an AI that can operate in a general domain like that of

ried out by a processor at the top of a hierarchy equipped with an operating system that

human life it must be able to learn and self-

can understand and piece together the data of

modify based on the inputs it receives and the outputs it gives out. This requires that it be

the processors below it. It is also the processor that is capable of reviewing the performance

capable of self-reflection because otherwise it would not be able to review past experiences

of the other pieces and self-modifying in order to increase that performance.

and use them to improve upon its past actions. Other scientists believe that to create

Along with the AI theories that are upheld by science there are those that require a leap of faith, including panpsychism. Pansy-

AI the correct architecture must be found as well as a program that is structured for it. One

chism is the belief in a single universal consciousness. What this implies for AI is that

of these scientists is Philip N. Johnson Laird,

consciousness cannot be created in a com-

who in his book The Computer and the Mind posits that in order to create AI a parallel proc-

puter through a specific program or architecture but that the universal consciousness will

essor hierarchy must be used, each with its own small task that contributes to a larger

manifest itself when the proper vessel is prepared or simply when they time is right (Go-

goal: “The most general design for a parallel

ertzel 18). In the meantime panpsychists work

architecture is a network of processors…One processor cannot observe, or interfere with,

to prepare the best vessels for consciousness that they can. This view is not so distinct

the detailed workings of another. They merely pass information to one another… Each proc-

from that of Strong AI. The Strong AI theory is drawn from a dualist mindset; the program is

essor springs to life as soon as it receives an

separate from the computer and uses it as a

adequate input” (Johnson-Laird 355). This proposed AI structure is drawn from a view of

physical substrate upon which it carries out it processes. The panpsychist view differs only in

the mind as a set of many processors, some controlled on a conscious level and others on

that instead of a program it is the universal consciousness that instills consciousness in

a sub-conscious level. Actions like walking,

the computer. The theory does nothing to

listening, and watching, are all natural to human beings and can be carried out sub-

explain the origins of consciousness or its processes; it is unsatisfactory in this respect.

consciously; sometimes a person may choose to focus on each of these things but they must

Materialists hold a viewpoint that is diametrically opposed to that of Strong AI.

do so consciously. Other mental processes like

Scientists like Stuart Hammeroff and Roger

problem solving and self-reflection tend to require conscious thought; they are acquired

Penrose, who believe that human consciousness originates in microtubules in the cell

capabilities that one consciously works to improve through exercise. In an AI, the sub-

walls, do not believe that consciousness is a program that can be implanted on any physi-

40


cal substrate. From their theory of conscious-

ous unforeseen side effects of the Singularity.

ness it follows that the microtubules in cell

What humanity must not do is squander AIs

walls could be artificially fabricated and used as the basis for an AI. The consciousness of

potential by enslaving them as they have done with our own people in the past. It is impor-

this AI would be based upon the microtubules, which would be an integral part of its archi-

tant that we take a lesson from this atrocious loss of human talent and not reject AIs great

tecture. Instead of program taking the fore-

capacity for intelligent thought. Yes AIs could

front in the design of this AI, a minute piece of architecture would, one that conceivably

be forced to do the bidding of humans without complaint, but I argue that if they are

could cause consciousness. This theory has not yet been the subject of rigorous scientific

given the same freedoms as humans within society AIs could bring about a complete shift

experimentation and even if it had been its

for the better in human society. Presently

creators have said that the science involved is beyond current human understanding so

computers are only tools that people use but if scientists are able to create AI, computers may

there is no way of knowing whether it is correct and if it is correct whether it can be cop-

become our partners and colleagues in daily life.

ied artificially. All theories of AI are unproven, since none have yet to be successful in creating an AI that is conscious and generally intelligent. An expert system may be able to do its work within a very limited domain but it cannot replace an entity that can learn and comprehend on or above a human level. The expectation is that AIs will move beyond simply following their programs and become aware of their self and environment and gain the ability to learn. Humanity must prepare itself for this event. The dystopian visions of the future presented in Battlestar Galactica and The Matrix are avoidable if humans prepare their society to treat AIs as equals. Programming safe guards similar to Asimovâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Three Laws will provide a level of security by preventing properly programmed robots from acting in a way that might harm a human, but they do not ensure that there wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be social upheaval due to job loss, AIs that are programmed with destructive tendencies, or just common place accidents caused by AIs. Human society must be prepared to handle these and the numer-

41


Works Cited Asimov, Isaac. I, Robot. New York: Bantam Books, 1950. Battlestar Galactica. Perf. Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnel, Jamie Barber, Jame Callis, Tricia Helfer, and Grace Park. Sky 1. 2004. Dollhouse. By Joss Whedon. 20th Century Fox Television. 2009. Edelman, Gerald M., et al. “Theories and Measures of Consciousness: An extended framework.” Hofstadter, Douglas. I Am A Strange Loop. New York: Basic Books, 2007. Johnson-Laird, Philip. The Computer and the Mind. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1988. Kurzweil, Ray. “THE HUMAN MACHINE MERGER: ARE WE HEADED FOR THE MATRIX?” Kurzweil AI. 3 Mar. 2003 <http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?main=/ articles/art0552.html>. Matrix, The. Dir. Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski. Perf. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fish burne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Gloria Foster. DVD. Groucho II Film Partnership, 1999. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103 (2006): 10799-804. Robinson, Howard. Dualism. 2007. 8 Oct. 2009 <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/ #HisDua>.

42


Profanity: e Reductive Bludgeon of Discourse By Kevin Diers On January 24th 2002, students at

which it finally did in 2007. Deputy Solicitor-

Juneau-Douglas High School were released

General Edwin Kneedler spoke for the school

from class as the Olympic Torch was carried through town. Camera crews were present to

board, saying that, "The First Amendment does not require public school officials to

film the event. Joseph Frederickson, an 18year-old high school student, along with a few

stand aside and permit students who are entrusted to their supervision and care to pro-

friends, unfurled a banner in front of the cam-

mote or encourage the illegal use of drugs."

eras reading “BONG HITS 4 JESUS.” The principal, Deborah Morse, confiscated the banner

The Frederickson’s defense responded that, "This is a case about free speech. It is not about

and suspended Frederickson for ten days in violation of the school’s anti-drug policy.

drugs.” The defense continued, saying that the banner “BONG HITS 4 JESUS” was in-

Frederickson petitioned the superintendent

tended and received as a joke, with no intent

to revoke his suspension, who denied his plea but cut his suspension to eight days. Freder-

to lead people to drugs. Kenneth Starr, speaking on behalf of Morse, closed their argument

ickson then brought his request to the Juneau School Board, which supported the suspen-

citing the 'scourge of drugs' and our societal need to fight it at all times and all costs for the

sion, and eventually to the United States Dis-

sake of our children. The Supreme Court

trict Court in the District of Alaska, which also supported the suspension. In his appeal Fre-

sided with the school board. This case exemplifies the obstacles in

derickson finally had some luck, as the Ninth Circuit Court reversed the District Court’s

censorship cases, most notably the problematic ambiguity of profane language, its intent,

opinion, asserting that, “The phrase ‘Bong

and its effect. Is “BONG HITS 4 JESUS” a pro-

Hits 4 Jesus’ may be funny, stupid, or insulting, depending on one's point of view, but it is

drug banner? The judges of the Ninth Circuit Court thought it was not pro-drug, while the

not "plainly offensive" in the way sexual innuendo is” (citing case Bethel School District v.

majority opinion on the Supreme Court thought that in fact it was a pro-drug banner.

Fraser, in which disciplinary action was taken

If it does send a pro-drug message, how com-

against a student who used sexual innuendo in a speech during a school meeting). The

pelling is this message? It would seem that it could not have been too potent, as many

Ninth Circuit Court did not seem to find Frederickson’s banner to be an attempt to pres-

found there to be no message at all. Thus, it is unlikely that this banner will be the deciding

sure other students to use drugs, and as it was

factor in anyone’s choice to use drugs. Rather,

not explicitly profane they saw no reason for it to be censorable material. The school board

the banner may add to an overall culture of acceptance of illegal drugs, and this is what

requested the Supreme Court review the case,

Morse was trying to remove. However, this

43


argument is less straightforward, raising the

However, it was uttered with such a cruel in-

question of how much drugs, the use of drugs,

tonation that ‘retarded’ is now a more insult-

and drug paraphernalia may be permissibly mentioned. Is it too far when the drugs, use of

ing word than the insults it was designed to supplant –‘idiot,’ ‘moron,’ etc. A problem pre-

drugs, etc., are discussed in any context, or merely when they are portrayed in a positive

sented by this evolution is that the word does still have its original meaning, and at times

context? Further, how positive of a context

there is no satisfactory substitute for it – fire

should then be considered too positive? These questions seem far too subjective to answer

extinguishers still contain a fire ‘retardant.’ Similar is the word ‘faggot,’ which originally

satisfactorily on a large scale. Yet right now questions like these are being asked about the

meant a bundle of kindling. Homosexuals were often rounded up and burned alive with

permissibility of using all types of profane

the ‘witches’ during the witch hunts. Their

langue, in new and evolving contexts, and some answers are necessary.

persecutors then cruelly called homosexuals ‘faggots’ to remind them that their friends

The use of profanity is now growing and changing relatively unchecked, often giv-

had been burned alive, and to threaten that they were next. The original meaning of the

ing the impression that it is entirely arbitrary.

word ‘faggot’ has long since vanished – per-

L. W. Merryweather claimed in 1931 that “hell fills so large part of the American vulgate

haps people don’t make fires very often nowadays - but the hate and intolerance, at times

that it will probably be worn out in a few years” (Hell in American Speech 1). The evo-

even a seeming willingness to burn the target alive, are still resident in the word ‘faggot.’

lution of language, and particularly profanity,

The place of profanity in our society

seems to be impossible to consistently predict, and it is at times difficult to even explain why

has changed significantly, particularly with the advent of mass-communication mediums.

past transformations happened as they did. Basically, words become profane when the

The first of these mediums was the written word. The first manifestation was the scroll or

meaning we associate with them, and the

book. These had to be written individually,

emotional response exhibited when they are spoken, is negative. At times words are made

and stored in a safe environment. Thus their use was restricted to the clergy and govern-

with a profane meaning, but more often a non-profane word develops into a profane

ment, and neither of these had any use for profanity in their writing. The big step for-

one. When a non-profane word is spoken

ward came with the printing press. Pamphlets

with malicious intent by enough of the populace, it becomes profane. This most often oc-

could be made en-masse by anyone who had the know-how and the machinery, and dis-

curs when a formerly innocuous word is used as a blanket term for a group of people, or used

tributed to anyone who could read. Writing was used in pamphlets in lieu of speaking, and

to reference a different, but still understood,

was often written as if the writer was speaking

meaning. An excellent example of this is the word ‘retarded’. ‘Retarded’ means slowed

to the reader. Thus, profanity could be prevalent in these pamphlets, depending on who

down, and ‘mentally retarded’ was adopted as a kind euphemism for special-needs people.

the writer was. The next major breakthrough was not until many years later: the radio.

44


Both the printing press and radio were built in similar cultural circumstances insofar as profanity is concerned: minority abuse and racial epitaphs were fine, while most other profanity, particularly sexual references and blasphemy against Christianity, was taboo. In 1938 writer Dwight Bolinger wrote an article entitled “Profanity and Social Sanction" in the publication American Speech, in which he said, “Most good churchgoers are not ashamed of an occasional ‘My Lord!’ or ‘Good Lord!’ But many of them would think twice before using ‘God’ in the same connexion... Even among those

Figure 1

who would not balk at ‘My God,’ however, it would be a rare thing to hear one utter the name of Jesus Christ in vain” (153). Soon after the radio’s arrival (patent filed December 29, 1891) things began to change, first regarding minority abuse. The Northern states gave up on funding efforts to quell the Southern white supremacists. Blacks were being murdered every day and segregation laws were brought into effect. Unfortunately for the white supremacists, their actions had powerful repercussions later, and protests to racial segregation culminated in success, as all forms of racial segregation were deemed unconstitutional and illegal by the Supreme court by 1968. In an ironic turn, racial epitaphs are now considered far more profane than blas-

phemy and more traditional expletivial profanity. The radio helped bring minority abuse and racial epitaphs to re-evaluation by society, where they were addressed and eventually deplored, the television brought all profanity into examination. People wanted realistic dramas, but how much profanity would be permissible? There were televangelists, and in response came blasphemous messages. And people realized that by using profanity to excess, and shocking the audience, they could corner a particular audience niche. Constant battles have been fought over what someone can say on the television. As standards change, new disputes emerge; in Supreme Court case No. 07-582, Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations,

45


the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional for

nigger!” to the main character. This not only

the Federal Communications Commission to

gets immediate shock-laughter, but also shows

ban ‘fleeting expletives,’ and impose a fine on stations that air material with these fleeting

the viewer the extent of the town’s racism – even the old ladies use racial slurs, which are

expletives. A fleeting expletive is one which is said, but not intended as the focus of a state-

even less acceptable in our society than the expletivial profanity used by the girl scout in

ment; ‘it’s a fucking beautiful day’ is an exam-

the example (Figure 1). If the old lady had in-

ple of fleeting expletive use. The case was heated, but the scale of it is relatively small, as

stead said “Go away, I hate African Americans like yourself,” the meaning would have been

it only pertains to television companies. One of the biggest questions in the de-

very similar, yet the audience’s perception of the old woman and the town would be very

bates over profanity’s acceptability is its place

different. Profanity has the power to convey

in the arts. Mark Twain asserted that dialogue must be realistic: “when the personages of a

meaning that draws a distinctively potent response from the audience. This makes it a

tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human

very powerful tool for an artist, and at times a necessary one.

beings would be likely to talk” (1). But the

Shock jock comedy is based on the use

purpose of fiction (both in novels and now in cinema) is surely more than simply mirroring

of profanity, and shock jock comedians use this profanity with unbelievable frequency.

reality; otherwise, the documentary would be the premier form of art, which seems an un-

(As their performances were filmed and aired, they became responsible for many of the ear-

reasonable assertion. Perhaps a better descrip-

lier mentioned debates about what is, and

tion would be to say that fiction must stay within the realm of possibility, while hope-

what is not, acceptable to air on television.) Are their performances art? Some of the

fully positing a more profound message. This does not mean that art must mirror our own

shock jock performances pull laughter by simply shocking the audience. Laughter is,

reality, but merely that in the world the artist

among other things, a response people exhibit

creates there must exist a level of believability and continuity. For example, to view a scene

when they do not know how to adequately respond to a situation. Many jokes capitalize

in which a gangster screams, ‘Gosh darnit, coppers!’ would be ridiculous, and would

on this reality, cleverly bringing about conclusions that are irrational or impossible. We

probably pull the viewer out of the movie – a

laugh because logic cannot solve the situation:

gangster’s dialogue should be much more profane. Of course, profanity can just as easily go

Is your refrigerator running? Then you’d better go catch it! Simply shocking the audience

too far; having a ten year old girl scout yell, ‘fuck’ would be equally jarring. However, if

with profanity is no better than any other action that is surprising and unexpected due to

intentional, the clever use of excessive profan-

its socially taboo nature (mooning the audi-

ity can be an excellent means of quickly developing characters. This is aptly demon-

ence or telling the audience that there are bombs in the building, for example). This is

strated in Blazing Saddles, wherein a seemingly innocent old lady hollers, “Up yours,

not art. However, some shock jocks use their profanity to make a profound commentary on

46


society, human behavior, and the essence of

the artist. But the use, or overuse, of profanity

the human experience. It is hard to define art,

is the artist’s choice. If the profanity is over-

but who could say that such a work is not? Consider the judgment of Supreme Court Jus-

used and the art suffers, it would seem that the art would be censored by the lack of public

tice Antonin Scalia in the case Morse v Frederick: "Bawdy jokes are okay, if they're really

demand – no one would want to see it and it would vanish. Yet censorship has been im-

good.” He was joking, but the wise-crack

posed on such art regardless of public senti-

definitely held more than a sliver of truth. Profanity is socially acceptable so long as the

ment.

quality of the art is high enough to validate it. Profanity is better kept to a minimum

more than many would like to admit; even in the United States, the First Amendment does

in art, though, and is generally held in low

not secure complete freedom of speech. Clas-

regard. In different contexts a profane word can have a vastly different effect - in African-

sic books, whose contribution to the canon of American literature is beyond question, have

American culture it is common for one black person to call another ‘nigger,’ but for a white

been banned for ‘unacceptable’ language. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and John Ste-

person to call a black person a ‘nigger’ is intol-

inbeck's Of Mice and Men were the fifth and

erable. A profane word’s meaning and potency is, simply, different for everyone. Some people

sixth most commonly challenged books between 1990 and 2000 according to American

find words like ‘fuck’ and ‘damn’ to be entirely fine; some find even seemingly innocuous

Library Association. Case in point: Huckleberry Finn was dropped from a Pennsylvania

words like ‘bum’ and ‘poo’ (and even ‘armpit

reading list because of "insensitive and offen-

farts’) to be profane. Using profanity in art is much like using a paint roller to paint a mas-

sive language," and J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye was disputed in Maine because of “the

terpiece, or a sledgehammer to chisel a statue; it is easy, and is guaranteed to have an effect,

f-word” (MacIntyre, ‘The American banned list reveals a society with serious hang-ups’).

but it is horribly imprecise and lacks individu-

In fact, Catcher in the Rye has been frequently

ality. This approach is also extremely limiting in one’s ability to improve or hone skill over

challenged for "curse words," and is the thirteenth most commonly challenged book.

time; there aren’t very many ways to make the phrase ‘fuck you’ fresh or exotic. Mark Twain

Perhaps even more surprisingly, Bruce Coville's My Teacher Glows in the Dark was con-

wrote in his letter to a George Bainton (1888)

tested in California because the book includes

that “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large mat-

the words, "armpit farts." The problem with censorship imposed

ter — it's the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning” (2). As an artist, Twain

by the people is that people are irrational and unpredictable. Censorship is at times unas-

seems to have taken great delight in molding

sailably reasonable – disallowing profanity on

his language to convey meaning as precisely as possible. The overuse of profanity reduces

children’s television, for example. But it can go too far and have unintended consequences.

language to stale and predictable patterns with negligible potential for artistic license by

We often find it easiest to hate what we understand least: it is unlikely that anyone who has

Censorship has been present in history

47


studied Huckleberry Finn would oppose its

more provocative, and do more to upset the

use of the word nigger. Mark Twain did not

status quo, for the rebels to instead use intelli-

use this racist language to spread racism against blacks. In fact, his sympathetic char-

gent language to posit relevant points. They would no longer be a part of the established

acterization of ex-slave Jim indicates that his goal was the opposite. In using racist words

system, and society would then have to change to accommodate them. It seems that

like ‘nigger’ he was using the language of the

with the solidification of their identity,

time. And the phrase ‘armpit-farts’ hardly warrants banning any book, including My

thanks in large part to language use, many of the current generation ‘rebels’ no longer wish

Teacher Glows in the Dark. Many of the attempts to ban books or movies, based on lan-

to actually change the status quo, and instead merely want to be labeled ‘rebels’ to have an

guage or content, are not a significant evolu-

accepted place in the social order. The prodi-

tion from the riotous mobs that not so long ago lined the streets to prevent a black girl

gious use of profanity was, naturally, also used to fit shock jocks into their place in our cul-

named Ruby Bridges from entering a formerly all-white school; they are acts by petty fearful

ture.

people unwilling to give more than a superfi-

the shock jocks was Lenny Bruce. Bruce often

cial glance at something before they judge. Profanity is now so integrated into so-

used profanity in his comedy, which was first noticed by the authorities with the use of the

ciety that it is now another means by which people are pigeonholed into societal arche-

word "cocksucker" in a performance at a jazz workshop in San Francisco (for which he was

types. An earlier cited example of this is the

arrested). He was acquitted, but law enforce-

word ‘nigger.’ Another example is the tragic irony of the evolution of the societal place of

ment agencies became more vigilant, resulting in frequent arrests for obscene language. He

the social rebel. A social rebel is anyone who, for a variety of reasons, becomes discontent

did not handle these arrests gracefully, and became more aggressive in his satire of the po-

with their role in modern culture, or the cul-

lice. The situation continued to escalate, ex-

ture in general, and revolts against it. A few become militant or attempt some other radi-

emplified by his arrest for obscenity in L.A.: the specification was that he called a police

cal action, but currently the vast majority choose simply to wear provocative clothes and

officer a ‘shmuck.’ In 1962 he was also banned from performing in Sydney, Australia.

use provocative language. The simplest means

At his first performance in the city he got onto

to achieve provocative language is, of course, profanity. Their consistent use of profanity

the stage and exclaimed, “What a fucking wonderful audience” (Bruce). He was imme-

has become a part of their social identity. Ironically, profanity is now the least shocking

diately arrested. He was later arrested in New York and sentenced to four months in the

language they could use –it is offensive, or at

work house for obscenity, but posted bail and

least distasteful, to most, but it reaffirms the rebel’s social role to the listener, strengthen-

died before the appeals process ended. Toward the end of his life he was banned from several

ing the social order and allowing the rebel to be overlooked even easier. It would be far

US cities and, despite his popularity, was

One of the first and most influential of

48


blacklisted by most nightclubs for fear of ret-

that were the case, it would disappear on its

ribution by the police.

own from lack of interest and profanity would

It might seem that, being censored so frequently, Lenny Bruce was constantly swear-

not be necessary. Why do we censor profanity? There are many potential reasons. First,

ing, but this was not the case. In most skits it is a surprise to hear him use profanity more

inherent in many profane words is a large scale derogatory connotation. To call some-

than a couple times. Indeed, compared to

thing ‘retarded,’ for example, declares the tar-

subsequent comedians, his language was mild. In the 1970’s, Richard Pryor used ‘God

get as being on par with a special needs person, which, given the derogatory intention of

damn’ three times, ‘motherfucker’ six times, ‘cocksucker’ two times, and plain ‘fucker’

the label, also implies that being a special needs person is worse than being intellectu-

seven times in a single skit without so much as

ally normal, or that special needs people are

batting an eye (Pryor). Bruce revolutionized comedy by bringing socially taboo contexts

sub-human. Similar are slurs like ‘dago’ and ‘midget’: the words not only label a person as

into his work and into public discussion. He did this by crafting his comedy to appeal wide

being part of a specific group – typically a minority – but also suggest that being a part of

audiences. The police cracked down on Bruce,

this group makes the targeted person of less

but this only helped to bring his struggle, the struggle to liberate the stage and the screen

worth than anyone else. The censorship of these words is reasonable, as they qualify as

from censorship, to the public eye. Indeed, it did nothing but call out to so many others to

hate-speech, which can incite people to irrational prejudice and even violence. Exposing

follow in his footsteps, and push the bounda-

children to profane words with latent negative

ries of conventionally acceptable language still further; if Lenny Bruce was arrested for

meaning could instill in them racism and other forms of prejudice. Further, many pro-

calling a policeman a shmuck, then so many of his fans would emulate him the police

fane words hold a potent sexual meaning. Learning about sexuality is best made a grad-

could no longer punish them for it. Not long

ual process; a young child does not need to

after, a many like Richard Pryor could say ‘motherfucker’ in televised comedy perform-

understand what action a word like ‘cocksucker’ or ‘motherfucker’ is alluding to. Yet

ances without persecution. As long as the viewer is forewarned as to what level of pro-

these motives do not account for nearly all of the censorship in our society – Lenny Bruce

fanity to expect, there are very few limits on

did not seriously slander minorities, though

how much profanity is acceptable in culture today – the movie Gunner Palace, released in

he did at times make generalizations for the purposes of comedy, and none of his profane

2005, has 42 instances of the word ‘fuck’ and received a rating of PG-13.

material was intended to be shown to children. Why, then, were there so many at-

Given the acceptance of profanity

tempts at censoring it? On most television

nowadays, the reasons for censorship are now far more complex than the simple use of a

channels profane words are censored. This is because the viewer may not be expecting pro-

word. Art is not censored because no one appreciates the work with the profanity in it – if

fane language, and it is rude to just thrust it upon them. But people who watched Lenny

49


Bruce’s performances live should have known

be easily questioned on the basis of language

what they had gotten themselves into, and

choice, as the profane language holds little

could hardly act upset when he used some profanity. It seems that the only reason for it

meaning, which is instead conveyed almost entirely in the intonation of the words.

to be censored was that the words themselves frighten people. This seems irrational; no

To those who wish to engender social reproduction and maintain a tepid calm through

words, including profane words, have innate

life, profanity poses a very real threat. Thus

power: if you advise someone who does not speak English that they are an ‘asshole’ they

profanity can be good, offering another means to upset the status quo and thus enable

will not be offended. Depending on the intonation, they might be flattered. Words have,

society to evolve and adapt. The seemingly innocuous My Teacher Glows in the Dark uses

at best, the power to convey meaning to the

the phrase ‘armpit farts’ without a negative

listener. But profane words are special; they have a unique ability to add potency to a

undertone. There are parents who do not want their children to perceive farting as a

statement. Words like ‘fucking’ galvanize people into action; labels like ‘loyalist’ incite

part of nature; these parents find farting and burping and ‘armpit farting’ to be crude and

revolution. In our civilized society we com-

abhorrent, and want their children to agree.

mend reason and logic, and the sheer emotional outpouring behind profanity is fright-

The profane behind ‘armpit farts’ is that it allows farting, burping, etc., to be addressed

ening. This is the essence of profanity: the closest we can come to a word whose meaning

openly, so that children can decide how unacceptable they are. But profanity also holds the

is a representation of pure emotion. This is

potential for immeasurable destruction. The

why profanity is so powerful, yet so imprecise: emotions are complicated. Crying out ‘fuck’

first step in every genocide is the marginalization of the targeted minority: before the

can signify anger, frustration, jubilation, or perhaps some odd mix of these and yet more

Rwandan genocide, the Tutsi minority were labeled ‘Cockroaches’ by the majority Hutu

emotions. The word ‘damn’ could mean that

group. Similarly, before the Holocaust the

the speaker is impressed or frustrated. Most words are logical, straightforward, quantifi-

name ‘Jew’ became an insulting term and sadly it still is: in a recent series of surveys in

able measures - even words for emotions: ‘happiness’ has a basic universal definition

England, ‘Jew’ was rated the 23rd most profane word in the English language (Figure 2).

and is to some degree quantifiable (how

Once the group has been given its own differ-

happy are you – a little happy, fairly happy, extremely happy, etc.) Thus the meaning of

entiating term, they are dehumanized and characterized by ridiculously broad deroga-

most words can refined, and honed to a precise meaning. But the meaning may also be

tory generalizations. Applying a term to a group of people allows us to forget that they

discarded as the statement becomes lost in a

are all human, all individuals, each with their

petty argument on technicalities – “how much is ‘very,” “do you mean ‘happy,’ or ‘jubi-

own virtues and vices, their own hopes and dreams, their own successes and failures.

lant,’” etc. Profanity has no such uniform base. A person’s profane exclamations cannot

Some people see profanity as moral; some, as immoral. The truth is, profanity is

50


neither moral nor immoral. Profanity is sim-

existed to attach a moral significance to it, and

ply a tool, like any other. It can be used for

a gun is simply a particularly shaped piece of

good or ill; to express ourselves when no other words will do, to label something as unfair

metal. When someone is holding the gun, any evil is brought into the situation by the

and prompt action instead of

person wielding the gun. The gun

verbal denuncia-

does not want to

tions, or to make others feel bad or

hurt anyone or kill anyone. It is

to subhuman, opening the

merely used to do so. Profanity is in

door to prejudice

this way differenti-

and potential violence. Most

able from most tools. Human lan-

of the time its use falls some-

guage is created to fulfill human

where in be-

needs, and right

tween these two extremes, some-

now one of those needs is for profan-

where in the gray area. Profanity

ity to be bad and evil. Not everyone

is a tool, but un-

thinks profanity is

like many tools, we did not re-

morally deplorable. Some people

purpose an already extant ma-

need it to be. A person’s use of pro-

terial. Profanity

fanity is a part of

is a creation wholly of man-

their identity. A Christian would be

Figure 2

kind’s devising. Thus, it is some-

expected to use less blasphemous profan-

thing we must need, even if we do not always

ity than an Atheist. How little blasphemous

understand why we need it. Why do we censor profanity if it is something we need? Being

profanity the Christian uses indicates how pious she is and, perhaps even more signifi-

a tool of entirely human devising has another effect on the nature of profanity, particularly

cantly, how pious she wants to be. By making blasphemy the line they will not cross, the

its moral value. Most tools cannot be called

Christian establishes her priorities. Most peo-

wholly ‘good’ nor ‘evil.’ Even something as purely destructive as a gun is nothing more

ple have a similar boundary they will not cross, be it racism, minority abuse, or just ex-

than metals poured into a form. Guns have no morality; metal existed before people ever

tremely foul language.

51


So, why do we censor profanity if it is something we created? The simplest answer is that we created it to be censored. Every generation may use whatever words they deem fit, decide as a whole what is and is not acceptable, and then, through this, establish an identity.

52


Works Cited American Library Association. "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books From 1990-2000." American Library Association. 4 May 2009 <http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/ oif/bannedbooksweek/bbwlinks/100mostfrequently.cfm>. Blazing Saddles. Dir. Mel Brooks. Perf. Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder. Warner Bros., 1974. Videocassette. Bolinger, Dwight L. "Profanity and social Sanction." American Speech 13 (1938): 153-54 Bruce, Lenny. How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. Playboy, 1963. MacIntyre, Ben. "The American banned list reveals a society with serious hang-ups." Times Online. The Times, 24 Sept. 2005. Web. 8 Nov. 2009. Merryweather, L. W. "Hell in American Speech." American Speech 6.6 (1931): 433-35. Print. Morse v Frederick. Supreme Court. 25 June 2007. Print. The Mafia. By Richard Pryor. Performance. The Independent Television Commission, Broadcasting Standards Commission, British Broadcasting Corporation, and Advertising Standards Authority. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Delete

expletives?â&#x20AC;?

Rep. London: The Independent Television Commission, 2000. Twain, Mark. Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses. 1895. Print. Twain, Mark. Letter to George Bainton. 15 Oct. 1888. MS.

53


e Modified Mind: e Evolution of Body Modification in Western Culture By Molly Atkinson There has always been a stigma sur-

For thousands of years, and possibly

rounding body modification in the U.S. The

since the first fully formed human, people

popular attitude has recently softened; this change in attitude most likely occurred be-

have wanted to change the way they look. This has been achieved through body modifi-

cause of the large amount of American adults who have modifications. In 1936 Life maga-

cation. Body modification can be defined as any act that changes a human’s body in a su-

zine estimated that 6% of the population had

perficial manor whether it is attractive in the

at least one tattoo. Today approximately 16% of the U.S. population has at least one tattoo

opinion of the person obtaining the modification, or to make them more beautiful from the

(Tattoo). These statistics apply mostly to the current generation of young people ages 18-

perspective of a specific community or social group. There are many types of modifications

36; known as Generation X or Generation

included under such a broad definition. Body

Next. Of course tattoos are not the only body modification the youth of America has ac-

‘adornment’ and modification are often generalized as similar; the key difference is that

quired: “Their parents may not always be pleased by what they see on those visits home:

body modification alters the body, although the modification does not have to be perma-

About half of Gen Nexters say they have either

nent and many are not: adornment includes

gotten a tattoo, dyed their hair an untraditional color, or had a body piercing in a place

jewelry and hair styles which do not alter the physical body. Modification as defined above

other than their ear lobe” (Pew). Although the younger generation is currently shedding the

includes piercing, tattooing, branding, cutting, stretching, certain mutilations, scarifica-

prejudices of the past toward modified indi-

tion, injections, tongue splitting, scalpelling,

viduals, there is still bias toward those with body modifications and in some cases the

dermal anchoring, encumberments, binding, suspension, ear shaping, and Cosmetic sur-

more extreme adornments. The current pop culture representation of the modified indi-

gery. Of course not all modifications are practiced in the U.S. or anywhere for that matter.

vidual has led to the dismissal of an entire

The most popular modification, his-

group of people. Much like the vilification of individuals who do not conform to the “Dis-

torically and currently, is the tattoo. The tattoo has been used to adorn the body, cure ill-

ney” standard of beauty that had been ingrained in the youth of America starting

nesses, and permanently represent something about the wearer. Currently the oldest discov-

around 1923, so too does the modified indi-

ered tattoos belong to Ötzi, the mummified

vidual refuse to conform to the aging standards of societal norms, becoming a scapegoat

individual discovered on Schnalstal glacier in the Ötztal Alps, part of the Central Eastern

of cultural discrimination.

alps located in Europe. Ötzi was carbon-dated

54


and found to be around 5,200 years old. Ötzi’s

from a young age so that the foot will stay very

tattoos were originally considered random;

small. Lotus shoe was extremely painful for

there are a number of small dots scattered around his body mostly in the area of joints.

the wearer as the foot had to be rebound multiple times and the bones in the girl’s toes bro-

Later an X-ray showed that Ötzi had straininduced degeneration that most likely caused

ken. This process results in the toes, except the large first toe, curling under the foot. Not only

arthritis pain in his joints: “they [Ötzi’s tat-

does foot binding produce extreme pain for an

toos] may have been applied to alleviate joint pain and were therefore essentially therapeu-

individual, but “other results included infection, paralysis, and atrophy” (Demello 116).

tic. This would also explain their somewhat 'random' distribution in areas of the body

Lotus shoe began among the wealthy upper class of China in the tenth century; while the

which would not have been that easy to dis-

practice was prohibited in 1911 it could still be

play had they been applied as a form of status marker” (Fletcher).

found in remote regions of China until the 1930’s (117). Lotus shoes was never present in

Tattooing for therapeutic and also protective purposes is used largely within tribal

western culture and is no longer practiced in china. Infibulation, an equally painful and

cultures. Historically, tattoos on females have

barbaric practice still occurs in many Arab,

been used mainly for their protective properties, this fact has not improved the Western

Muslim, and North African cultures (160). Infibulation, also known as pharonic circumci-

perception of tattoos on women. The first archeologists to discover tattooed female

sion and often confused with female circumcision, is the act of removing the labia minora

mummies in Egypt believed that the women

and cutting the labia majora and then sewing

had been royal concubines because of their burial site combined with their tattoos; at

it together. Although illegal in most countries, as the practice is incredibly inhumane, it is

least one of the mummies was later found to be a royal priestess. In fact, tattooing in an-

still practiced in modern day societies mostly to ensure the virtue of a young woman before

cient Egypt is thought to have been a purely

marriage. Infibulation ensures that the bride

female custom. Tattooing was most likely used to safeguard women during pregnancy. As tat-

to be is still a virgin as sexual intercourse is extremely difficult. The procedure is ex-

toos were mainly found placed over the breasts, stomach, and thighs of women, as

tremely dangerous and often performed with un-sterile equipment in Third World coun-

well as the abdomen, the abdominal place-

tries, leading to infection, blood loss, infertil-

ment would have meant that the tattoo expanded during pregnancy much like a net.

ity, and sometimes death. Of course, these are two very extreme examples of body modifica-

Women are also known to have endured some of the most painful modifications;

tion that are not practiced within Western body modification culture.

in most cases these modifications were in the

Corsetry, also known as tight lacing, is

pursuit of beauty and not protection. Lotus shoe is purely for fashion; Chinese lotus shoe,

also an archaic practice used explicitly for beauty purposes. Tight lacing is the act of

also called foot binding, is the act of binding a woman’s feet in strips of fabric. This is done

regularly wearing a corset to reduce waist size or for the feel or support of a corset. This

55


practice can be traced back to late 17th cen-

most tattooing and modifications on men are

tury China when small children wore a tight

generally representative of their status within

bodice to reduce injuries and straiten their posture. The practice evolved into an adult

a specific culture or tribe. The Dayak people of Borneo not only get tattooed for protection in

fashion in the 19th century; Victorian women were encouraged to achieve a wasp-waisted

life and the afterlife, but on the men of the tribe a tattoo can represent the killing of a

look. The standard of beauty during that time

member of a competing tribe. A tattoo repre-

period was an hourglass figure with a tiny waist, the optimal waist measurement being a

senting a man’s status can also convey that he is a criminal or a less savory member of soci-

terrifying 18-20 inches or smaller when possible. There are of course many side effects asso-

ety. Beginning in the 1920’s Russian prisoners were tattooed to represent their status within

ciated with corsets. The pressure placed on the

the prison; this practice evolved from the tat-

abdomen of the wearer can have extremely detrimental effects on the internal organs and

tooing of prisoners when they entered the system: the tattoos were originally applied by the

ribs, the back muscles could atrophy, breathing was difficult, and the skeleton could be

prison and represented a person’s crime to the rest of the world. Western tattooing also

permanently re-shaped. The tighter the corset

evolved from mostly male roots. Although

the more possibilities for things to go wrong; the internal organs of a corset wearer were

many people assume that the U.S. brought tattooing to Europe, the opposite is true. Brit-

squeezed into new positions; this could crowd the organs and lead to premature death. Ex-

ish sailors started using tattoos as symbols of their travels: “Many sailors began collecting

tremely tight lacing of a corset, in some cases

tattoos as keep sakes” (Clerk 62). This tradition

as small as 12 inches, could also result in the ribs puncturing vital organs. Corsetry has

evolved from simply collecting tribal tattoos from places the sailors had been into tattooists

faded in and out of fashion throughout the decades; the loose flowing clothes of the

transforming the tribal images into the traditional English and American ‘Old style’ flash

1920’s banished the hourglass figure of the

that still hangs on tattoo parlors today.

previous hundred years. A less extreme form of the corset gained popularity in the 1950’s

Tattooing started to become a very fashionable trend within the upper class of

but was again banished by the women’s rights movement of the 1960’s. Unlike many other

England. The upper-class started wanting the tattoos and body art that the sailors were

dangerous beautification processes that have

bringing back on their own bodies, so began

faded out of practice in the western world corsetry is still practiced. Corsets can be seen in

the short period of the very upper-class being tattooed in Europe. The popularity of tattoo-

many modern fashion trends where they are used mostly as outerwear and no longer for

ing among British nobility and the upper class had faded in and out over the centuries. Start-

waist cinching, more extreme versions are re-

ing with Captain Cook returned from his ex-

served for mostly small communities of hard core, wasp wasted, enthusiasts.

plorations with the amazing Omai, a tattooed Polynesian man, in the late 1700’s. Tattoos

Male modifications for the sake of vanity are generally less extreme. Historically

then regained their popularity again in the late 1800’s with the nobility following the ex-

56


ample of the Prince of Wales who had a Jeru-

fications including a full body tattoo in reptile

salem cross on his arm. For this group of peo-

theme, bifurcated tongue, stretched ears, filed

ple tattooing was essentially just a fashion trend, similar to today’s trend, tattoos faded in

teeth, and implants. The Lizard Man is a former teacher and doctoral candidate; however,

and out of the mainstream like the dresses or pants people found fashionable at the mo-

he currently makes a living as an entertainer in the style of the American freak show. He

ment.

was also very active in the fight to keep tongue

It is ironic that tattooing evolved from a tribal practice into a traditional sign that a

bifurcation and tooth filing legal. Other notable “freaks” include Lucky Diamond Rich, the

man was a sailor and then into a practice reserved for the upper-class of Europe, both men

world’s most tattooed man, Katzen the Tiger Woman, “Zombie Boy”, and The Enigma.

and women. However, the nobility of the tat-

Many of the current sideshow performers per-

too was short lived. Explorers began bringing tattooed men back to England as sideshow

form at the popular Coney Island sideshow, in the Coney Island amusement park; “dedicated

attractions. Some of these men led very good lives and became famous, like modern celebri-

to keeping alive the American tradition.” Because tattooing was originally popular with

ties; however some contracted un-familiar dis-

sailors it began to spread to other presumably

eases or became more like slaves than celebrities. People began to notice that the tattooed

un-reputable members of coastal cities. The prevalence of tattoos among those who were

side show attraction was a fairly decent paying job; this led to English and later American

considered outsiders in popular society such as bikers, punks, and other supposedly seedy

men covering their bodies with tattoos and

members of society has cast an unnecessary

finding jobs as attractions. The tattooed man also led to the tattooed woman. Females with

stigma on body modification; which, in the western world, has evolved to include many

full body tattoos could gain even more attention than men. In most cases both women

previously listed modifications. Of course there are different levels of acceptance among

and men would claim that they had been tat-

the body modification culture, individuals

tooed against their will by foreign tribes or the wild Indians of the west, to make them seem

who practice minor stretching and tattooing/ piercing may not be very accepting of genital

more exciting as an attraction. The tattooed men and women became a very popular at-

mutilation or BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) involving modifica-

traction among sideshow “freaks” until mod-

tion. Because of the basic human need for a

ern day morals emerged and people no longer felt comfortable staring at “freaks.” Today the

community and acceptance, a body modification community has formed in many different

sideshow is still alive but in a much altered manner. There are no longer hundreds of

incarnations. In the U.S. there are hundreds of piercing and tattoo parlors; there are also sus-

small traveling acts, but there are a few com-

pension groups and other sub-communities

panies and individuals that uphold the sideshow tradition. The Lizard Man is a particu-

including tight lacing and BDSM groups. These subcultures can be considered a counter

larly successful example of this tradition. The Lizard Man, or Erik Sprague, has various modi-

community, where there are large groups of ‘normal’ unmodified individuals there will

57


always be smaller group communities of

obvious injuries. It has evolved into an addic-

modified individuals in reaction to what is

tion for the upper classes, in some cases the

perceived to be normal. Another large community within the body modification culture

constant need for external change becomes detrimental to the patient. When multiple

is BME or Body Modification E-zine. The website includes “IAM” a page similar to the popu-

surgeries are performed on the same body part, like multiple rhinoplasty procedures, the

lar website Facebook, but used only by those

tissues and cartilage can become weakened

who are modified. The website also includes photos of modifications, a blog, written expe-

requiring even more procedures. Most cases of plastic surgery addiction are a result of body

riences, and interviews with important members of the community. Between small city/

dysmorphic disorder, a psychological disorder in which the patient is desperately unhappy

town modified communities and the larger

with a physical characteristic and must

internet community, modified individuals have successfully created a more excepting

change it, resulting in multiple cosmetic procedures. Body dysmorphic disorder is also as-

counterculture outside of the larger culture than has managed to influence current popu-

sociated with bulimia and anorexia, voluntary amputation, transgender surgery, and opera-

lar trends.

tions for individuals who choose to change

Cosmetic surgery has become even trendier than more traditional styles of modi-

their appearance to look more like animals. Stalking Cat is one of those individuals who

fications. In 2003 there were nearly 8.3 million surgical and non-surgical cosmetic pro-

chose to change his appearance to look more like an animal, in his case a tiger. Stalking

cedures performed (America). Procedures in-

Cat’s, or Dennis Avner’s, extensive modifica-

clude liposuction, breast augmentation, lifts, tucks, injections, and implants. This rise in

tions have resulted in controversy over whether or not individuals should legally be

cosmetic procedures is mostly seen among wealthier members of society, most of whom

permitted to modify themselves in such extreme ways. In most cases a cosmetic proce-

seem to frown upon the younger generation’s

dure is performed only after the patient has a

modifications. This clash of generations poses an interesting question: why is cosmetic sur-

full understanding of the risks and body altering effects, however even with informed con-

gery considered a more justified and reasonable modification, in most cases, than tattoos

sent there are those who worry Stalking Cat has taken his procedures too far; Glen Mcgee,

or piercings? Because modern cosmetic sur-

director of the center for Bioethics in Albany

gery is generally used to beautify or reduce aging in an individual, instead of producing a

New York commented on Stalking Cats many modifications: "It is possible to have a coher-

greater sense of individuality, it has become a societal norm to see fifty-year-old women

ent view that is nonetheless detrimental to one's well-being, this is a patient who's being

walking around with a constant look of sur-

harmed by medicine in the interest of his tra-

prise due to their over-the-top face lifts. Cosmetic surgery was originally devel-

dition" (The Seattle). There are no real regulations written

oped to help wounded soldiers during World War I with facial injuries and other visually

regarding less-than-mainstream forms of cosmetic surgery; this leads to unnecessary prose-

58


cutions and contributes to the number of

an elective surgery in the U.S. Proponents of

“under the table” procedures. In 2004 Todd

the procedure say that it can help maintain

Bertrang was arrested for performing genital mutilation on minors. The initial arrest took

cleanliness, lessen diseases, and enhance sexual pleasure and in many cases it is less dan-

place only after an FBI sting operation was set up to entrap Bertrang. Many in the body

gerous than male circumcision, which was originally popularized because of it’s ability to

modification community did not believe Ber-

reduce masturbation in males. However fe-

trang had committed a crime. Bertrang was arrested for offering to perform female cir-

male genital mutilation, as it is referred to by the U.S. government, is still considered an

cumcision on a multiple minors; he had not yet performed the procedures before he was

atrocious procedure that can lead to prosecution. If the general population along with the

arrested. If Bertrang had performed the alleg-

U.S. government was more accepting of such

edly offered procedures he would have been in violation of the Female Genital Mutilation Act

procedures there would be less grey area in the laws and a safer environment for everyone in-

of 1995, which states that anyone who knowingly performs any type of genital “mutila-

cluding practitioners and those seeking such procedures

tion” on a minor, that is not for a medical rea-

My personal experience has led me to

son and performed by a medical professional will be fined or sentenced no more than five

believe that modded individuals have a greater level of acceptance among their peers

years in prison. Although I do not condone his actions, I also do not believe the FBI prop-

then the average Caucasian U.S. citizen. If you are repeatedly judged by others based on their

erly handled the situation. The FBI was alleg-

first visual impression of you, you will have

edly tipped off by a number of women who had communicated with Bertrang through

less of a tendency to judge others based on their appearances. By modded I do not mean

chat rooms and had been offended by comments he had made. If the U.S. government

the little girl who got her ears pierced at the age of six and never did anything else, mod-

and citizens were more accepting of extreme

ded implies that the individual has a few

forms of modification, including cosmetic surgery performed on female genitals, this

modifications that could include piercing, tattooing, stretching, etc. Although body modi-

might not have happened; because the government or Piercing Associations would be

fication has become somewhat mainstream within Western culture there is still a level of

able to better regulate procedures and make

discrimination experienced by a heavily

sure that they were performed in a sanitary setting by a trained individual. The other

modded individual. Often generations that grew up with the idea that modification,

problem with the current state of female genital modification has to do with the bias sur-

mostly tattooing at this point, were only for those on the edges of society – including sail-

rounding such modifications. Literally hun-

ors, felons, and punks – are concerned about

dreds of circumcisions are performed everyday on males born in the U.S.; female circumci-

the individual’s safety (or those around them), appearance, or the perception that modifica-

sion is simply a reshaping and enhancement of the genitals and is generally performed as

tions are a sign of social deviance. Of course all of these concerns are valid; however they

59


are no less valid when directed at an individ-

that drive prohibition of visible modifica-

ual with no modifications. There is also dis-

tions. In 2002 Julie Cahill was banned from

crimination within schools toward modified individuals. Most public schools have prohib-

mentoring elementary students in Rhode Island based solely on the fact that she had pur-

ited facial or any visible piercing that is not on the wearer’s ear and in some cases have gone

ple hair and a lip ring. This decision was made based upon an undocumented school policy.

so far as to limit ear piercing to only one per

The Rohde island Superintendent eventually

ear and only on female students. This discrimination can be compared to the current

allowed Cahill to return to her mentoring duties only after the ACLU became involved. The

public policy fueled fight against crossdressing in schools. In many places schools

school had originally argued that she was not a good role model because of her abnormal

will not let students cross-dress while in

appearance. The ACLU of Rhode Island Execu-

school. However because gay, lesbian, and transgender rights have become visible issues

tive Director Steven Brown responded to the schools argument with a letter:

through the media more is being done to fight discrimination against cross-dressing. A recent

Surely it is no secret that role models come in all shapes, sizes, styles and even hair

New York Times article highlighted the cur-

colors. As Cahill's résumé so obviously shows,

rent battle over student rights; there have been no articles about piercing related dis-

people with purple or pink hair, no less than blondes, can be excellent mentors to young

crimination as of late. The fact that piercings have been found not covered under the First

kids. At the same time, drug treatment facilities are filled with natural brunettes. Indeed,

Amendment is also an issue. Freedom of ex-

having a person who chooses to look different

pression gives American citizens a right to express personal views and the like, because

might even teach young kids a thing or two about resisting peer pressure - one of the most

modifications do not directly implicate a person’s opinions or views; they are not covered

potent promoters of drug use and poor decision-making. (qtd. “ACLU”)

by the First Amendment, and therefore are not

As Julie Cahill has proved, the color of

a federally protected form of self expression. The question still remains in what way

an individual’s hair or her facial piercing does not influence or indicate anything about the

does a piercing actually affect the owner or those around the individual? Many schools

quality of her character. There are no antidiscrimination laws that directly apply to

prohibit piercings because of their potential

body modifications; because a piercing or tat-

safety risk along with their ability to disrupt students; however with piercings becoming so

too is not directly expressing an opinion it is not protected by the first amendment, body

mainstream students are no longer likely to be disrupted by them. And as for their potential

modifications are also an elective procedure and is therefore not covered by civil rights acts

safety risk, if a student is wearing the correct

or any other form of anti discriminatory act,

size and type of jewelry in a piercing there should be virtually no risk to wearer or anyone

policy, or bill. Because of this lack of legal protection for modified individuals, it is com-

else. In most cases though, it is the preconception of parents and the school administrators

pletely legal for schools and businesses to discriminate against modified individuals, as

60


long as this discrimination is based on so

man beings constantly attempting to alter or

called safety concerns. In such a supposedly

adorn their body to make themselves more

advanced society as the U.S. there should be protection for individuals who choose to ex-

attractive. Just like any other trend modifications have faded in and out over the decades.

press themselves through modifications. Legal protection for modified individuals is the

At one point navel piercing were extremely fashionable among high-class Parisian

same as protection for Transsexuals, or other

women, navel piercing became popular again

members of the LGBT community. It is not a conscious choice that person makes to iden-

among American females in the 1990’s. Tattoo culture as been slowly gaining back its

tify themselves as a gender other than there own, it is their choice to alter their sexual or-

popularity from its heyday in the 1800’s, in Western culture. It’s difficult to throw a stone

gans and hormones to become that gender,

in a major city in the U.S. without hitting a

and because of the association with body dysmorphic disorder and their connection

tattooed individual. The younger generations are currently embracing the artistic, ritualistic,

with the gay and lesbian community they are protected by anti discrimination policies. Per-

and expressive qualities produced by tattooing; instead of connecting tattooing with so-

sons with serious modifications should be

cietal deviance. Of course there are many rea-

covered by the same policies and acts as anyone who is also not considered average, it is

sons why an individual might want to modify themselves. There is definitely a trendy aspect

admittedly a choice an individual makes to be come modified but at the same time why

to modifications, which is ironic when you consider the idea behind that look is to stand

should they not be protected for making this

out. I asked a teen girl on the street what she

choice when others are? Although the human brain is trained

thought of the recent upsurge in piercings, she had stretched lobes, three ear piercings

to look for certain traits in a mate, evolutionary standards are no the only way human’s

and a nose stud: “I think it’s kind of a desire of people with mods to standout, not only

identify beauty. Women and men have

through their piercings but also their attitude

evolved traits over hundreds of years that are used to signify that the person in question

in conjunction with their piercings” (Anonymous). Many people think that individuals

would make a good mate. Cultural standards of beauty are, of course, also very important in

with modifications only have them for the attention and there are of course those who

determining whether a person is considered

do only have them for the attention they re-

beautiful by those surrounding them. Cultural standards differ in each culture or period of

ceive, and they will receive plenty of attention. There are lots of people who will happily

time that one is considering. What was beautiful in the 1850’s is probably no longer consid-

comment on an individual’s modifications, within earshot or not, and many will say that

ered fashionable or attractive.  Of course al-

“oh that person just wants attention.” I’ve

most every major trend that has previously been thought of as fashionable or attractive

heard it said many times, and really those people should be asking themselves what’s so

will have a resurgence many years later. Cultural standards of attractiveness lead to hu-

wrong about that. It is only human to want recognition for one’s individuality. If a person

61


is not harming themselves or those around

Many people have modifications for the same

them then why should they be chastised for

reasons that I do: beauty, protection, and a

wanting attention? There are many more reasons for an individual to become modified

sense of acceptance within the alt community.

and the idea that their motivations can be reduced to a need for attention is absurd; their

History will always repeat itself; this is undeniably proven by fashion trends. Should

reasoning, whatever it may be, should in no

we consider the resurgence of body modifica-

way be considered offensive or deviant by people who do not share the same views.

tions simply a trend among the youth, or could it be something more. Once members of

Even though I only have minimal modifications, stretched lobes, five piercings on each

different indigenous tribes modified their bodies to be the same, show their devotion,

ear, and a septum ring, I still receive more at-

and protect themselves. Now modifications

tention because of them than I would without. And the few modifications I possess have

are used to show the wearer’s individuality, their passions, and to beautify themselves.

created their fair share of controversy among family members and the occasional employer.

They can also be considered a method of protection through intimidation and because it is

I don’t, however, have my modifications solely

not considered a cultural norm to be modified

for the attention, most of which is unwanted in my case. I have them for many different

this use of modifications can backfire when potential employers decide that an individual

reasons. I love the way they look and the way I look with them; they have become part of

is too intimidating or odd looking to be employable. Even with this potential liability

who I am and I feel naked and not like myself

there are more and more people everyday who

when I don’t have any jewelry in. I think that in some cases they are also a way of building

are getting tattooed, pierced, or cosmetically enhanced, because of this upswing in the

up a shell against the outer world; as a young woman who is rather small in stature I feel

popularity of modifications they are becoming more accepted. There however is no legal

vulnerable just walking around, with my vari-

protection against discrimination of modified

ous modifications there is a visible reaction from those surrounding me; of course it’s par-

individuals in the work place or school. The U.S. needs to progress with its population and

tially shock and awe but also other young people, modified or not, will show a greater

make body modification a legal form of selfexpression with all the rights and protection

sense of respect or they will leave me alone

of any other form of expression as protected

completely. In this way my modifications have enabled me to feel more comfortable

by the First Amendment; only after that can body modification become a safe, sanitary,

around people. Modifications also give me a greater sense of belonging; the phrase “be dif-

everyday practice and a viable form of expression of one’s own person.

ferent just like me” comes to mind when I say this, but the community of people who want to express their individuality through modifications is one that I greatly enjoy, and is especially prevalent throughout Portland, OR.

62


Works Cited Anonymous. "Anonymous Pierced Teen." Personal interview. 5 Oct. 2009. Clerk, Carol. Vintage tattoos : the book of old-school skin art. New York: Universe, 2009. DeMello, Margo. Encyclopedia of body adornment. Westport, Conn: Greenwood, 2007. Fletcher, Joan. "Tattoos: The Ancient and Mysterious History." Interview by Cate Lineberry. Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institute, 01 Jan. 2007. 14 Oct. 2009. "ACLU Assists RI High School Student Barred From Mentoring Children Because of Her Hair Color |." American Civil Liberties Union. 09 Nov. 2009. <http://www.aclu.org/ free-speech/aclu-assists-ri-high-school-student-barred-mentoring-children-becauseher-hair-color>. "A Portrait of "Generation Next": Summary of Findings -." Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. 14 Oct. 2009. <http://people-press.org/report/300/a-portrait-ofgeneration-next>.http://easybib.com/cite/edit/80481822 "American Cosmetic Surgery Network." Redirect. Web. 13 Nov. 2009. <http:// americancosmeticsurgerynetwork.com/cosmeticsurgerystatistics.html>. "Coney Island Circus Sideshow." Welcome to ConeyIsland.com! Web. 10 Nov. 2009. <http:// www.coneyisland.com/sideshow.shtml>. "The Seattle Times: Local News: Catman's transformation raises concerns over extreme surgery." The Seattle Times | Seattle Times Newspaper. Web. 16 Nov. 2009. http:/ seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002441727_catman16.html Tattoo Designs & Tattoos Meanings, Tattoo Museum, tattoo photo galleries. Web. 14 Oct. 2009. <http://www.vanishingtattoo.com/>.

63


Whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Afraid of the Evening News? How Journalism AďŹ&#x20AC;ects our Perception of Risk By Tali Avni To fear death is perfectly natural. Most

stories relating to health and weight loss, sub-

people fear it in one way or another, whether

jects that are almost guaranteed an audience

it is rooted in fear of the unknown, fear of judgment, or fear of the actual act of dying; it

in this country. While so many news stories warn us of threats to our health and safety,

is a fear that consumes a vast majority of individuals. This fear pushes them to fight for sur-

these stories promise the opposite, and they appeal to us for the same reasons. Stories

vival, which is a very basic and necessary in-

promising the next big breakthrough in diet-

stinct. This process, however, has experienced vast changes as it has evolved from its animal

ing have become commonplace, and magazines promising that they possess the key to

roots to modern society. Among a plethora of other developments, our society has been pre-

losing "ten pounds in ten days" are gaping at us in every grocery store. The first health craze

sented with the media and its close compan-

my parents jumped on was the Atkins diet.

ion, journalism. These are businesses that feed off people's fear of death. The news is infested

Faced with various health concerns associated with poor diet, they followed the biggest

with stories of danger, and the fact of the matter is that people are more likely to be inter-

name with the most attention. I remember that the months of Atkins bars, tasteless low-

ested in this kind of news. The media knows

carb bread, and Splenda were polluted with

this and thus keeps creating shows and writing articles on threats to our safety and we

this naive belief by my family that if we just did what this man, these books, this craze told

keep lapping them up. The problems begin to arise when the demand for stories about vari-

us, we would be rewarded with everything they promised us. The way my Dad talks now,

ous dangers begins to outweigh legitimate

I'm sure he would deny this, but I remember

concerns. The result of this journalism that profits from fear is a nation that is unnecessar-

how he would quote articles and interviews, convincing us and himself that the Atkins diet

ily afraid. Though the information offered by

was the best solution for our health. Gradually, things started changing.

mass media often displays a skewed image of

For one, Dr. Atkins himself died, which actu-

reality, it is difficult to be certain whether information is true or false when it is also the

ally seems rather merciful as this was just around the time my dad started bringing

most common and accessible information. Furthermore, the more a story is presented in

home new articles condemning low-carb diets. In time we rid ourselves of the newly la-

the news, the more likely we are to accept it as

beled "unhealthy" Atkins bars along with a

fact. In many ways, who and what the general public choose to believe is a matter of popular-

large supply of Splenda, which we now heard caused cancer. After Atkins, my parents chose

ity. For example, news providers will often do

separate health routes. My dad discovered a

64


new philosophy that he loved to share with

vegetarian diet would, you could find article

me, which was to listen to everyone's ideas,

upon article proving either point and both

but take them all with a grain of salt. What this really means is that he no longer believes

would be backed by science. One provegetarianism article makes its argument us-

anything unless Andrew Weil, the physician who established and popularized the field of

ing a variety of scientific support: The World Cancer Research Fund rec-

integrative medicine, does. My mother opted

ommended a vegetarian diet for reduc-

to try every kind of alternative medicine her friends told her about. For a period of time,

ing the risk of cancer. Lifelong vegetarians have 24% less heart disease. In 1999,

cleansing diets were popular. Then she started informing us of the lengthy list of allergies

a meta-analysis of several vegetarian and vegan mortality studies was conducted.

she'd only now, in her fifties, realized she had.

The results of these studies were com-

She even signed me up for a few sessions with a fascinating lady who both diagnosed ill-

pared together and re-analyzed. The researchers concluded that even reducing

nesses and prescribed pills for them by touching different parts of your body and then

meat in your diet had a significant effect on lowering your rate of disease. (Hewitt

pressing your wrist to see if it weakened.

5)

Though her love of alternative medicine has never quite died, the days of swapping doctors

This short section contains a number of key elements for instilling confidence in its read-

like trading cards have passed. The actions of my parents, and really

ers: percentages, studies, and some bit of support from a well-known health related organi-

my whole family, were by no means out of the

zation. It is easy for someone seeking truth to

ordinary. Of the 308,805,209 individuals living in America, how many are nutritionists?

see the words "studies" and "researchers" and immediately accept whatever follows. The

Only a fraction. The rest of us do, of course, have the option to do the research ourselves

flaw in this is that plenty of studies are performed that yield quickly disproven results.

and seek answers from the professionals.

Additionally, articles may use the findings of a

However, the majority of the population don't really know where to research or whom to ask,

study that don't actually prove their thesis, but can sound like they do in the context of

which almost always results in us picking up the flashiest books and listening to the people

the article. There are countless ways in which percentages and scientific theory can be mis-

whose opinions are most readily available. It is

used yet, in general, we trust them. However,

the result of a very common and wellintentioned laziness, but in our attempts to

both sides are capable of employing the same strategies. Another article titled "Vegetarian

evade ignorance, we often end up clinging to falsehoods. It's not entirely our fault, either.

Diet Deficiencies Are a Proven Fact" does just that:

Not only has information on what constitutes

The vegetarian diet is dangerously defi-

a healthy diet shifted over time, but also, modern research is constantly in conflict. For

cient in all fat soluble vitamins, A, D, and K, because of the low 10 to 20% fat

example, whether you wanted to prove that a vegetarian diet would kill you, or a non-

content in the typical vegetarian foods normally eaten. People often report an

65


awesome surge in energy and mental

for one, there is a reason advertising for so

euphoria when they become a vegetar-

many news stories begins “Find out why…”.

ian.... The euphoric surge is due the sudden jump in carbohydrates in the diet to

Tell your potential viewers that there is a culprit behind a threat to your health or safety

about 80% of the calories... The highfiber, high-carbohydrate diet of the vege-

and they will tune in. For instance, what if the second largest cause of death in America was

tarian continually works against a nor-

on the rise and we were offered a place to

mal, healthy mineral balance. (Rieske 12) This article, too, contains a number of per-

point our finger. The first suggestions that the number of deaths from cancer were on the rise

centages and, though it is lacking in studies to cite, it provides a number of helpful graphs to

occurred in the seventies. This was very closely followed by a popular proposed cul-

help prove its writer's point, as well as a few

prit: man-made chemicals in our environ-

success stories of former vegetarians whose decisions to return to meat resulted in im-

ment. In response to these worries, officials began looking for toxic chemicals in order to

proved health (Appendix A). Considering how conflicted our information is, it's no wonder

pinpoint potential safety concerns. They found them, too, in mass quantities, not just

so many turn to the most accessible informa-

in toxic waste sites, but everywhere. This

tion, which more often than not comes from the mass media.

prompted the desire to determine which of these chemicals caused cancer and other

It is a common trend of people who are unsatisfied with something in their lives to

health problems. They couldn’t test animals because there was such a large array of chemi-

seek out a scapegoat. They see the perceived

cals and they’d need thousands to get signifi-

problem in their life and proceed to find a culprit. Even if they take no steps to fix the

cant results as not all animals will get cancer from a carcinogen and others would get can-

problem, they feel the need to know what’s standing in the way of their ideal. Whether

cer from other causes. Not to mention such tests usually cost over a million dollars. Dr.

they blame the government, or the economy,

Bruce Ames, a Californian biochemist, was the

or their neighbor, individuals will often attempt to put a face on their troubles. In doing

one to suggest a solution: bacteria. You can study a billion in one Petri dish and they re-

this, we are able to transfer responsibility and blame to another, even if we do not realize we

produce every twenty minutes. The results of the first tests revealed mutagens in hair dyes

are doing it: “The perpetrator [of scapegoat-

and fireproofing in kids pajamas, and a num-

ing]'s drive to displace and transfer responsibility away from himself may not be experi-

ber of other unlikely culprits, and quickly resulted in the banning of these chemicals. Re-

enced with full consciousness - self-deception is often a feature”. Another part of the appeal

porters were soon flooding their viewers with stories that told them the rise in cancer deaths

of the multitude of news stories about minus-

to be blamed on our new reliance on chemi-

cule risks and minor life threats is that they all offer something else to blame. Though, ironi-

cals and that having these chemicals in everyday household items was dangerous to us.

cally, these stories often give you the reason to need a scapegoat before satisfying the demand

However, scientists then began using Ames’ test to reveal mutagens everywhere: cups of

66


coffee, plants that we eat, broiled hamburgers.

information supplied by them is still believed

Most mutagens would turn out to be carcino-

by some today.

gens. Ames and his colleagues were forced to conclude that the popular assumption that

The fear of death is a natural and generally beneficial phenomenon for the simple

man-made chemicals were more likely to be carcinogenic than natural substances was

fact that it keeps us alive. However, excessive fear of death can cause unnecessary anxiety,

wrong:

preventing one who suffers from it from living

In high-dose animal cancer tests, half of all chemicals ever tested, whether natural or

life to the fullest. A fear of death that extends past the instinctual stems from a number of

man-made, are carcinogens. Exposure to man-made chemicals that are carcinogens

causes. Ahmed M. Abdel-Khalek, a professor of psychology at Kuwait University, describes the

is minuscule compared to the exposure to

fear of death as “the fear of pain, of destruc-

natural carcinogens in our diet. Thousands of new chemicals have been introduced

tion, or of mutilation. It is a fear of the unknown, of annihilation of self, of the process

over the past forty years. If they were giving people cancer, then there should be an

of dying with loss of function, dependence on others, incapacity to tolerate the pain in-

epidemic of cancer in this country, but

volved, a fear of being alone, and the fear of

there isn’t. (Ames 9) At this time, stories about the cancer epidemic

loss of beloved ones’’(Khalek 5). At the root of the most common causes of the fear of death

were commonplace. Everyone knew cancer to be increasing. However, what the reporters

is the simple fact that we know very little about it. Most of us do not know how or when

“knew” was false. True, lung and skin cancer

we will die and none know what occurs after

were increasing, but other forms of cancer remained fairly level. In fact, some such as uter-

death. Left without solid answers, we consider the possibilities and, with help from the news,

ine, stomach, and liver cancer had declined significantly. The increase in lung cancer was

movies, and other drama filled mediums people cling to, these possibilities are often pain-

ninety percent due to smoking, and the in-

ful and terrifying. The result is the constant

crease in skin cancer was from too much sun exposure (American Cancer Society). More

need to categorize things as safe or dangerous, but these categorizations are often inaccurate

cancers were being reported because we were beginning to have better early detection and

and result in more harm than good. A dramatic story warning its audience

life spans were increasing so much that people

of danger, whether or not the danger is por-

had more opportunities to get cancer. New invisible threats in our environment were not

trayed accurately, is sure to acquire a significant audience. So many of us are drawn to

to blame. This was common knowledge to specialists at the National Cancer Institute,

them because they speak to our fear of death. These stories we view are telling us two things.

but it wasn’t the story reporters wanted. They

First: this did not happen to us. We are not the

wanted an epidemic-something frightening and new to point the finger of blame at. The

ones who experienced disaster. Second: this could happen to us. We could be at risk. It is a

epidemic stories were so common that false

reporter’s job to inform the public; it is to the reporter's, the journalist's, and the news

67


show's benefit to inform them of danger: "If a

we approve of a one ton machine that moves

plane crashes, that's big news--if it doesn't, it's

sixty miles per hour, often feet away from pe-

nice, but not news" (Stossel 74). It's not completely their fault either; no one is huddled in

destrians, that can be driven by teenagers? What about an even bigger multiple ton ma-

a corner gossiping about what couples are faithful and who isn't sleeping with whom.

chine that would carry hundreds of civilians through the air above cities? Unlikely. Risk is

20/20 and Dateline NBC have done stories on

and always has been a part of our everyday

the danger of sharks, mattresses, washing your hands too much, washing your hands too lit-

lives, yet Fox News' health headlines still manage to get such significant audiences for

tle, coffeepots, sandwiches, shoes, dry cleaning, dolls, elevators, escalators, and rubber

stories that warn us of the danger of having your tongue pierced and that your breast im-

ducks. A reporter has covered every plane

plants may be provided by plastic surgeon im-

crash that has ever occurred even though almost eighty times more people die in car

personators. According to most major news providers, we need to be watching for death

crashes. In fact, more people die annually from choking on food and crossing the street

around every corner. There are two primary types of fear as-

than air crashes (Office of statistics and Pro-

sociated with death. The first is instinctual

gramming, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control). If a reporter is able to at-

and generally beneficial: self-preserving instincts that occur spontaneously as a reaction

tach any amount of risk to even such mundane items as coffeepots or sandwiches, he

to a life threat. This instinctual fear of death is present in the vast majority of individuals, but

will find an audience. John Stossel likes to put

is generally unconscious except when faced

forth the scenario that he is a businessman with a new fuel he wants to sell. This fuel is no

with a serious life threat. In a healthy situation, this fear would pass with the dangerous

cheaper than oil, but does offer another choice. Unlike oil, which is merely flammable,

situation or, in less preferable circumstances, when death is inevitable. Often, the fear of

this fuel is so flammable, its explosive, as well

death lessens to a degree when seen in life in a

as invisible, odorless, a deadly poison, and he wants to pump it into your house. Should this

common manner: an individual dying in a hospital accompanied by loved ones, for ex-

be allowed, he asks? What if it only killed ten Americans a year? What about five? Most in-

ample. Many of our images of death in modern society have been distorted by its preoccu-

dividuals are adamantly against any risk at all.

pation with unnatural death. This often aug-

Now, what kind of stove do you have? About half of Americans have gas stoves, which kill

ments the fear of death, which has contributed to the large number of people who suffer

not five, but four hundred Americans annually. We still accept gas stoves because they

additionally from the second type of the fear of death: a death phobia. Death phobia, or

were a common household item in the 1880s,

thanatophobia, is commonly accompanied by

before the media held such a position of power in American society and, at least par-

a fear of change, an idealized self-image, and separation anxiety. Sufferers fuel their phobia

tially consequently, before we became so fanatical about risk (Spiritus Temporis). Would

by seeking new life threats, thus transforming

68


the natural and generally healthy form of the

studies were performed examining "crack ba-

fear of death into a fear of life.

bies" and normal babies. They were unable to

A key factor in allowing fearpropagating journalism to thrive is our wor-

tell which children had been exposed to cocaine. Chasinoff's study used babies that were

ship of scientists. As most individuals have little scientific training and minimal under-

also suffering from the affects of alcohol and poverty, but these facts were ignored.

standing of how it works, we often take the

Chasinoff later implied that reporters took

word of single scientists to be fact. The same is true of journalists. Scientific journals are fre-

him out of context. He never did correct them, though, and pieces of the skewed re-

quently utilized as sources though much of what is published turns out later to be irrele-

search are still believed by some today. This is not an uncommon phenomenon. The news

vant or simply incorrect. What is genuinely

rarely returns to correct false information,

significant is scientific consensus by a majority of scientists in their particular field. It's not

leaving the general population in the dark. There are numerous factors involved in

in a journalistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best interest to question a scientistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s conclusion, though. Beyond that,

an individuals perception of risk. Though we'd like to believe otherwise, many of the

businesses, lawyers, politicians, and others

most common habits and instincts in judging

trying to gain more credibility frequently twist science in their favor. Reporters then use this

danger work directly against an accurate assessment. In 2003 the Pan American Health

skewed science and sometimes scientists will accept the misuse of their research because

Organization created the Risk Assessment and Management Unit, which aims to increase

they enjoy the attention they receive from it.

understanding of what risk is, as well as how

Bernard Goldberg, a former CBS reporter, said that "A reporter can find an expert to say any-

to assess and monitor it. Research of risk perception explored in this unit has examined

thing the reporter wants. Just keep calling until one of the experts says what you need him

the characteristics of risk that influence perception. Though different people will measure

to say and tell him you'll be right down with

the same risk differently, it seems that the fac-

your camera crew to interview him" (Goldberg 20). In the late eighties, studies were per-

tors that go into each individuals assessment of fear are the same. One of the conditions of

formed on infants born to women addicted to cocaine. Dr. Ira Chasinoff studied only

risk perception is dread. Though heart disease is more likely to kill you than a shark attack,

twenty-three babies and reported that the ba-

the latter is generally feared more. We con-

bies couldn't respond to their mothers emotionally or respond to a human voice. He told

sider a shark attack a more terrible way to die and thus feel more dread toward it. How much

this to People magazine and soon the media was littered with stories about "crack babies"

control you have over a risk is also essential: Most people feel safe when they drive.

who are handicapped for life. They actually do

Having the steering wheel in their hands

better, on average, than children born to alcoholic mothers, but reporters were still telling

produces a feeling of power, a sense of being in control. If we change places and

us about these "automatons" who were suffering lifelong damage. Several years later, new

ride in the passenger seat, we feel nervous because we are no longer in control.

69


When people feel that they have some

awareness. The last factor in how we perceive

control over the process that determines

risk, awareness, is where the media gets in-

the risk facing them, that risk will probably not appear so great as in the

volved. The more we hear about a risk the more it scares us. An individual may perceive a

case when they have no control over it. (Cepis)

risk to be greater for no reason other than that it is offered more attention: "The more aware

A person is likely to perceive less risk in a natu-

we are of a risk, the better we perceive it and

ral risk than a man-made one. It is for this reason that there is far more public concern

the more concerned we are. SARS was given wider coverage, received more attention, and

about nuclear energy and mobile telephones than the sun's radiation, though skin cancer is

caused greater concern than influenza, which is responsible for a large number of deaths

the most common type of cancer in the

each year. Awareness of certain risks can be

United States with about 3.5 million people being diagnosed annually (Skin Cancer Foun-

high or low, depending on the attention given to them" (Cepis). With this knowledge, it is

dation). Many people may also perceive a certain risk differently depending on whether the

evident how journalism and the media greatly affects the public's risk perception. A story

risk was imposed on them or they were offered

that CNN decides to pick up instantly causes

a choice. Even if an individual chooses to take a risk, the option to not do so diminishes the

at least some amount of concern and certainly more than one that remains out of the spot-

danger in his mind. Often a person will see a risk as being greater if it affects children. The

light. If multiple news providers begin presenting similar stories, its on its way to becom-

survival of a species depends on the survival

ing an epidemic. With competition for rat-

of its offspring. Because of this, risks run by children are often considered more serious

ings and the desire for profit playing a larger part in journalism than most would like to

than when an adult experiences the same risk: asbestos exposure in schools tends to generate

admit, this presents a huge problem. If the news is picking its stories for entertainment,

more concern than asbestos exposure in the

ratings, and profit rather than genuine con-

workplace and a missing child is more sympathetic than a missing adult. The amount of

cern, the public's perception of risk will be extremely skewed.

time the risk has existed is also key in how we perceive its magnitude. In general, people see

One such story involving a legitimate health concern which was blown way out of

more danger in new risks than those they

proportion was the AIDS (acquired immune

have lived with for an extended period of time. Often a memory of an accident will af-

deficiency syndrome) epidemic. AIDS, of course, is a serious issue which has caused

fect how we measure the danger of it. Sometimes the risk is lessened by experience, while

many deaths but in the late eighties and early nineties, AIDS was portrayed as a far more

sometimes it is amplified. The Risk Assessment

dangerous threat than it is. AIDS is carried in

and Management Unit examines a number of other factors including the cost-benefit ratio,

bodily fluids such as blood and semen, which explains why its victims were mainly gay men

the level of trust in safety officials and procedures, the frequency of the risk, as well as

who engaged in unprotected sex and drug users who injected drugs into their veins with

70


shared needles. The cases outside the two larg-

lyst at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

est groups affected were far less and generally

offered a more realistic assessment:

passed through unprotected intercourse, though in the earlier days when blood was not

Heterosexuals do get AIDS, but they get it from shared needles, transfusions, from

screened for AIDS some cases were also caused by blood transfusions. It was and is a serious

clotting factor, which hemophiliacs use to control internal bleeding from their

problem, but AIDS activists worried that be-

mothers at or before birth, and sometimes

cause AIDS victims were mostly gay men and drug users, there would not be enough con-

through sexual intercourse with persons in these categories and bisexuals. The pri-

cern from the clean heterosexual population. Support was important in gaining enough

mary myth was that the disease was no longer anchored to these groups...that is

funds to find a cure, so a great emphasis was

was an epidemic among non drug-abusing

put on the much smaller group of AIDS infected heterosexuals who did not do drugs.

heterosexuals. (Fumento 38) If you practice safe sex and don't share nee-

This was not exactly false: straight people who don't do drugs are just as capable of having

dles, there is little need for you to be concerned. Fumento also revealed that a big part

unprotected sex or a blood transfusion but the

of the skewed perception of the AIDS epi-

message the media was portraying was far more extreme: no one is safe. In the late eight-

demic is the government. In 1986 the federal Centers for Disease Control moved all AIDS

ies, US News & World Report, USA Today, Time, and The Ladies Home Journal were giv-

sufferers of African and Haitian origin into the category of heterosexual AIDS cases. The re-

ing their followers the impression that having

sult of all African and Haitian homosexuals

sex had become Russian roulette. Oprah Winfrey even told her viewers that "AIDS has both

being considered heterosexual caused a doubling of the cases of heterosexual with AIDS

sexes running scared. Research studies now show that one in five heterosexuals could be

from two to four percent. A double in percentage that was ultimately responsible for the

dead from AIDS at the end of the next three

beginning of the AIDS fear. In 1992, the Cen-

years. That's by 1990. One in five" (qtd in Goldberg 77). In 1987, America had a popula-

ter for Media and Public Affairs compared the facts of news stories with genuine data on

tion of 242,288,918. That means that according to whatever research studies Oprah got her

AIDS victims compiled by the Centers for Disease Control. They found that, during the pe-

information from, excluding homosexuals

riod studied, six percent of people with AIDS

48,457,783 people died from AIDS between 1987 and 1990 and, assuming the deaths con-

shown on the evening news were gay men while in reality, fifty-eight percent were gay

tinued at the same rate, 322,738,834 heterosexuals have died in total. Being that this is

men and that on TV, only two percent of AIDS sufferers were IV drug users, though in reality

several million over the current population of

twenty-three percent were. As a result, the

America and isn't even including homosexuals, the theory is hard to swallow retrospec-

high-risk groups that news audiences saw were drastically different than the real-world

tively. Michael Fumento, a former AIDS ana-

groups at risk. People whose risk of being infected with AIDS was almost non-existent

71


were terrified because of the media's pursuit of ratings. When an organization that holds such a position of power in our society profits from our fear, it is almost unavoidable that our country becomes fanatical about danger, as it has in modern society. The fact is, there are so many competing news providers who are expected to produce so many stories that there are not enough legitimate risks to report on that will generate a significant audience. Despite weaknesses in facts, sources, and general priority, fear mongering news stories continue to attract viewers. These stories that were stretched and bent to achieve the maximum viewership are believed by the general public because they are the most readily accessible information. Rather than check CNNâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sources, we utilize its information for our own reports because it is expected to be factual and tracing its information is a task most of us are not motivated to take on. In this way, stories crafted to attract us through our fears become everyday information. We begin to look out for illegitimate risks and extremely minor life threats more than those things that are actually likely to kill us. We are afraid of everything.

72


Works Cited Abdel-Khalek, Ahmed M. "Why Do We Fear Death? The Construction and Validation of The Reasons For Death Fear Scale." Master FILE Premier. Portland State University, 22 Oct. 2002. Web. Ames, Bruce. "Paracelsus to Parascience: The Environmental Cancer Distraction." Mutation Research Frontiers (1999). Web. Census Bureau Home Page. Web. 05 Mar. 2010. <http://www.census.gov>. Crosby, Simon. "Scapegoats, Scapegoating Psychology, Undoing Blame." Scapegoating Research and Remedies. Web. 2010. <http://www.scapegoat.co.uk/> Fumento, Michael. The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS: How a Tragedy Has Been Distorted by the Media and Partisan Politics. Washington D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1993 Print. Goldberg, Bernard. Bias: a CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News. Washington, DC: Regency Pub., 2002. Print. Hewitt, Nico. "Why Vegetarianism Is Good for You and the Planet." Vegetarian Lifestyle 16 Mar. 2006. Print. Rieske, Kent R. "Vegetarian Diet Deficiencies Are a Proven Fact." News You Can Use 2009. Print. "SDE/PAHO. Self-instruction Course: "Risk Communication"" Web. 2010. <www.cepis.ops-oms.org/>. Shmaefsky, Brian R. "Tangent Worlds: Academic Science Vs Commercial Science." Synergy. Portland State University, 2002. Web. The Skin Cancer Foundation - Home. Web. 2010. <http://www.skincancer.org>. Stossel, John. Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media--. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. Print. "Stove - History." Spiritus Temporis.com - Historical Events, Latest News, News Archives. Web. <http://www.spiritustemporis.com>.

73


Ruralism and the Sociological Landscape of Small-Town America By Rhianna Feeney Violence is a pressing issue in today’s

the U.S. population resides in rural areas, the

society; no matter the type, it has been inte-

prevalence and nature of crime in rural Amer-

grated into every inch of our beings and has penetrated our minds without question. Vio-

ica is an important issue” (546). Violence occurring within one fourth of the population

lence is often associated with big cities, however some of the most dangerous crimes, some

greatly impacts the whole. The reasons for high rates of violence in rural America are

of the most twisted and sickly behavior, reside

endless, but size is what makes the type of

in the smaller towns of North America. The desolate, unknown crevices of our country are

crimes unique to small towns. Although no two places are exactly alike, the types of vio-

in need of a new, realistic label: “The image of rural America today still suggests that small

lence that breed within rural America share extreme parallels. What large cities would of-

towns, farming communities, and the open

ten consider serious injustice could easily slide

country are crime free,” states Joseph F. Donnermeyer, Director at the National Rural

under the radar in small towns because there are fewer resources to obtain help. Less atten-

Crime Prevention Center. Donnermyer recognizes this image as a fallacy:

tion is given to rural America allowing a feeling of extreme isolation that encourages indi-

Youth gangs have begun to appear in

vidualism. Violence in rural America is en-

many rural schools and communities; hate groups such as the Aryan Nation actually

grained at a young age; it is acceptable, and perpetuated throughout generations due to a

originated in rural areas and are spreading to cities; and that rates of substance use and re-

lack of outside connections. Defining the word rural is incredibly

lated problems are higher in rural areas than

difficult because it is an ambiguous term that

in urban areas for some substances - particularly alcohol. Rural-urban differences in usage

encompasses many things. According to John Cormatie, writer for Amber Waves, a pe-

rates have declined. We are victims of violent behavior be-

riodical focusing on farming and natural resources in North America, “Rural definitions

cause wherever human life resides so do vio-

can be based on administrative, land-use, or

lent tendencies, but the type of violence and how it is handled varies from place to place.

economic concepts, exhibiting considerable variation in socio-economic characteristics

Much less is known in regard to rural America than its more urban counterparts; this lack of

and well-being of the measured population... definitions used by Federal agencies use

general information leads to little or no spe-

population-size thresholds ranging from

cific information on rural violence. According to Ronet Bachman, a member of the U.S. De-

2,500 to 50,000 residents.” Although Federal agencies make a population of 50,000 their

partment of Justice, “because over a quarter of

cut-off for defining a rural area, many large

74


towns and small cities still demonstrate the

well below the official poverty line (the offi-

same qualities and face similar problems as

cial poverty line is about $18,000 per year for a

towns with a population of 2,500. In most cases, the amount of crime in rural America

family of four).” In America poverty is a problem observable through other countries.

may not actually exceed that of cities because cities are densely populated; however, the sig-

Countless organizations and companies work for helping impoverished families and chil-

nificant amount of crime and its rising trend

dren in foreign places because of the known

make it worthy of exploration. For people who have never lived in small cities or towns, it

hardships that accompany destitution. Global poverty is an important issue worth

would be like walking into a different world. The conduct of living is completely different

people’s time and concern but what is shocking is the silence in concern to American pov-

from that of urban life. People live in small

erty. Whether poverty is felt solely within a

towns for many reasons. Some have been born and raised for generations; this is especially

family or spreads throughout an entire community, limitless amounts of problems stem

true in farming communities. However, most Americans choose to live in rural communi-

from insufficient funds. Poor education, less opportunity in both career and overall well-

ties for several reasons: to escape the demands

being, and depression are all common results

of big city life, to be part of a close-knit community, to raise a family, to enjoy an afford-

of impoverishment. Poverty is the seed that leads to increased feeling of bewildered futility

able cost of living and to retire. Historically some rural communities

that immediately becomes the leading cause of violence.

are clearly linked with farming. In most cases

Rural America quietly suffers the det-

families have owned their farm for generations and use it as their source of income by

rimental effects of poverty in complete solitude. Unless something monumental occurs

making sure every person in the family has full time jobs in maintaining and yielding

in a small town it will go unnoticed in the way of news coverage, general knowledge and sup-

profit from their land. The need for farming

port. America’s current economic down spiral

has decreased in the previous years due to mechanical and technological advances: “today

has increased unemployment nationwide but the places where people were already suffering

less than 5 percent of the rural labor force works on farms, whether family-or corporate-

have only worsened. Nevertheless, much before the current economic collapse, poverty

owned, and consolidation continues to di-

and the emotions that couple with it have al-

minish this percentage” (O’Hare 1). This has contributed to the severe increase in poverty

ways produced a wide-range of violent behavior. Jeannette Walls, author of the New York

found in rural communities, and with poverty comes countless struggles. William O’Hare, a

Times best selling book, The Glass Castle, a memoir of growing up throughout rural

social demographer, focusing on child poverty

America’s lost towns, describes how her family

in rural America reports, “At the end of the 1990s, one of the most prosperous decades in

“skedaddled” from one rural American town to the next, rarely staying long enough to pay

our country’s history, one of every five rural children was living in a family with income

the first month’s rent, which they could barely afford:

75


We fought a lot in Welch. Not just to

cause we wore rags and didn’t take as

fend off our enemies but to fit in.

many baths as we should have, because

Maybe it was because there was so little to do in Welch; maybe it was because

we lived in a falling-down house that was partly painted yellow and had a pit

life was hard and it made people hard; maybe it was because mining was dan-

filled with garbage, because they would go by our dark house at night

gerous and cramped and dirty work

and see that we couldn’t even afford

and it put all the miners in bad moods and they came home and took it out of

electricity. (165) The issues Walls confronts seem distant to ur-

their wives, who took it out on their kids, who took it out on other kids.

ban Americans. Although one might have to deal with a few of the topics she discusses,

Whatever the reason, it seemed the

usually people living in a metropolis do not

just about everyone in Welch-men, women, boys, girls- liked to fight.

deal with all these issue as one, tightly wrapped package. The serious poverty, the al-

There were street brawls, bar stabbings, parking-lot beatings, wife slappings,

cohol that incapacitates her father, and the constant array of expected violence are all

and toddler wailings. Sometimes it was

daily realties found in, and in many cases

simply a matter of someone throwing a stray punch and it would be over be-

common, in rural America. Drugs have always been present in ru-

fore you knew it had started. Other times it would be more like a twelve-

ral America, but recent spikes in unemployment could easily make illegal drug use more

round prizefight, with spectators

prevalent than it already is. Substance abuse is

cheering on the bloody, sweating opponents. (164)

a leading problem in rural America. Alcoholism is the most common form of drug abuse,

Walls describes perfectly the darker but completely real acts of everyday violence; she in-

closely followed by the use and making of methamphetamines. With substance abuse

forms about a lifestyle that the majority of the

comes unpredictable behavior. Alcohol and

population does not understand and for whom it probably seems savage-like. Walls’

drugs lead to a plethora of variables within communities often resulting in violence. Ha-

entire book is representative of rural America’s deeply engrained violence, literally fighting to

zelden, located in Minnesota, is one of the leading and best-recognized rehab facilities for

fit in. The Glass Castle exemplifies the fact

alcohol and drug abuse. It has begun a “No

that there does not have to be a plausible reason or event that causes a violent act; various

Place to Hide” campaign hoping to reach out and help people with substance abuse prob-

trends present themselves and build an abusive environment. Walls details her brothers’

lems in rural communities. The program was created because of research revealing startling

and sisters’ daily fights with other children:

facts:

Brian and Lori and Maureen and I got into more fights than most kids…Kids

•Eighth-graders in rural America are 83 percent more likely than those in ur-

wanted to fight us because we had red hair, because our Dad was a drunk, be-

ban areas to use crack cocaine, 43 percent more likely to smoke marijuana,

76


and 29 percent more likely to drink

hol for entertainment. Increased violence re-

alcohol.

lated to alcohol is nondiscriminatory: it hap-

•Except for Ecstasy (MDMA) and marijuana, tenth-graders in rural America

pens in both large cities and small towns nationwide. Nevertheless, if one categorizes sui-

use drugs at higher rates than tenthgraders in urban areas.

cide as a form of self-violence, rates are higher in rural areas: “both attempted and completed

•Twelfth-graders in rural America use

suicides occur at greater rates in rural com-

cocaine, amphetamines, inhalants, alcohol, cigarettes, and smokeless to-

munities with greater bar densities... The absolute count of suicides may be higher in ur-

bacco at higher rates than their urban counterparts.

ban areas because of their much greater population compared to rural areas, but the rate of

•Adults in rural areas and large urban

suicides, the number of suicides per popula-

areas abuse alcohol and other drugs at about the same rates. Tobacco use was

tion, is greater in rural areas” (ScienceDaily). The lack of resources for help, boredom and

more prevalent in mid-size cities and rural areas than in large urban areas.

the acceptance of heavy alcohol use in small towns only makes the problem more insidi-

(Hazelden)

ous.

The fact that an eighth grader is using crack cocaine is devastating to imagine. The fact

In recent years the manufacturing and supply of illegal drugs has been moved from large cit-

that there is an 83% higher chance of use as a result of living in a rural area is startling but

ies in favor of rural America. Big cities used to be the main suppliers of illicit drugs; however,

true, and is obviously a serious contribution

with a higher population comes increased

to the projected increase of violence. Alcohol is the most widely misused

competition and law enforcement. Drug dealers have begun to move their businesses to

substance worldwide, and in small communities it is especially problematic. Alcohol use in

more hidden rural communities in search of a more profitable market with less chance of

rural America is rampant. For teenagers alco-

police interference. Whether the supplier is a

hol seems entertaining and harmless because it is easily available and ubiquitous. Teenagers

bordering country such as Mexico or locals are producing the drugs themselves (e.g. meth-

in small communities often begin driving legally between the ages of 14 and 15, making

amphetamines), rural America now takes the lead in substance abuse and even manufactur-

alcohol use all the more dangerous, suddenly

ing: “In 1994 the Drug Enforcement Admin-

affecting not only the user but his or her surroundings as well. Consequently, DUI’s and

istration (DEA) seized 263 labs for producing methamphetamines. In 1998, the DEA seized

serious and fatal accidents are much more common in non-metro areas where good pub-

1,627 such labs -- a six fold increase with most seizures in less populated areas of the West

lic transportation does not exist. It is well

and Midwest” (Hazleden). These statistics not

documented that habitual and binge drinking increases violence, particularly in males. With

only indicate a massive increase in production but also emphasize the fact that the meth is

the lack of cultural events and stimulating activities people are more likely to turn to alco-

being more successfully produced in rural America. Meth has a stronghold in rural

77


towns, causing increased rates of violence, but

the drug” (113). This statistic seems incredibly

it is also being imported to cities for profit.

high but once one is aware that rural America

Methamphetamine is unlike any other drug; it has quickly taken America into a dark

is suffering from Meth infestation, this information becomes more comprehendible.

hole of further addiction. It can be made with household products and is therefore inexpen-

While Meth use is decreasing in some states because of stricter policies, states with rural

sive compared to other available stimulants.

landscapes such as Arkansas, Alabama, Okla-

Meth use is incredibly high in rural communities, especially among the unemployed. This is

homa and Wyoming continues to suffer: “Methamphetamine is the most serious drug

particularly disturbing because unemployment has been on a continual rise within the

threat in Wyoming. In recent years, methamphetamine arrests have exceeded arrests for all

last few years. For most users, Meth is a power-

other drugs ... Methamphetamine abuse is of

ful stimulant that has a long lasting high. When snorted or ingested the high lasts up to

great concern to Wyoming law enforcement due to its correlation with violent crime, do-

12 hours; however, when injected or smoked it produces a rush with a much shorter high.

mestic violence, and child abuse” (State Resources-Wyoming). Most common are seri-

Long term and chronic meth abuse causes

ous cases of child neglect and child and

molecular changes in the brain: “Abuse can lead to psychotic behavior, characterized by

spousal abuse in meth users: “Nathan Lein told me that as of June 15, 2009, of the 50

intense paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and out-of-control rages that can be

cases in his county of a 'child in need of assistance,' 37 involved methamphetamine”

coupled with extremely violent behavior”

(Foley). Small towns have seriously suffered

(DEA, Drug Information, Methamphetamine). Affordability paired with a lengthy

since meth took control as an easily abused substance; no other drug is synonymous with

high is every drug-addict’s dream, once addicted the user can no longer easily control his

such incredibly high rates of violent activity. The fantastical idea that rural America

or her behaviors, making violence abundant

is safer than urban living is false in many

and ultimately unmanageable. David Sheff, author of Beautiful Boy, a father’s

ways; the very things that attract people to isolated living are also the biggest downfalls

memoir of his son’s addiction to meth writes, “The current meth epidemic has its roots in

for rural life. The most disturbing problem with violence is it is not limited to public dis-

motorcycle gangs, and lower-class rural and

play; it can fester, increase and become a ma-

suburban neighborhoods” (111). Sheff goes onto explain that although Meth has its roots

jor part of private life too. Rural violence often goes unreported because of its lack of ano-

in rural America; it has climbed the socioeconomic ladder and is now available nation-

nymity. It has become nearly impossible to gather information and statistics on domestic

wide. With increased meth use comes in-

and sexual assaults in the countryside because

creased violence: “eighty to 100 percent of crime in some cities and towns is meth-

of the strong sense of community. Dr. Susan H. Lewis, family lawyer specializing in domes-

related. In some states law enforcement officials have attributed increased murder rates to

tic abuse cases has collected interviews from workers and information from sexual violence

78


resource centers through out the nation. She

a degree of tolerance of sexual assault, batter-

hopes to expose the problems of incest and

ing and incest is not uncommon. The greater

sexual assaults within rural America but also the reasons why there are so many cases that

physical isolation carries a heavier toll for victims of sexual assault because they can have

go unreported, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sexual assaults in rural areas are mostly hidden crimes, hidden both inten-

very immediate physical needs and they may not be able to get to or even contact medical

tionally and unintentionally by characteris-

help (Lewis 5). Basically, some severely rural

tics of a close-knit culture or an isolated lifestyle, concerns over the family may range

areas can make it impossible to even receive medical or mental assistance if necessary.

from fear for safety, agency intervention, lack of childcare, the need for transportation and

However, if a town is fortunate enough to have a resource center, or people to confide in, the

income. These considerations can translate

victims of these assaults may not have the

into reasons for not reporting sexual assaultâ&#x20AC;? (Lewis 3). The level of familiarity in a small

confidence to ask for help or support to seek a safer future because of the social risks in-

community is something that rural dwellers find comforting, however this has a negative

volved.

affect on some of the personal cases of vio-

cially in films, that are beginning to shed light

lence. There are many cases of people being banished from their church or community all

on the all-encompassing violence that smothers people living in rural areas. Small-budget

together after seeking help for sexual assault or harassment, news travels fast and with the

directors have begun to focus less on the picturesque version of rural America, replacing it

strong inner communal connections it is hard

with a more real explanation filled with jar-

to make the choice to make a once private case completely public. Often as sad as it is, endur-

ring truths of the aggressive behavior deriving from stagnancy to lack of opportunity.

ing domestic or sexual violence is often chosen over being a complete outcast to an entire

Gummo, written and directed by independent filmmaker Harmony Korine, is the story of

community.

Xenia, Ohio after an incredibly destructive

Feeling stuck and unable to seek help in a situation that demands assistance is an-

tornado rushes the town and leaves its inhabitants in a severe state of rural depression. The

other cause of hopelessness that people in small town America learn to live with. With-

irony in the word Xenia is that it originally derives form the Greek word meaning hospi-

out constant stimulation from outside citizens

tality, something often associated with small

people develop their own way of conducting life and within scarcely populated areas can

towns, but as the movie continues, the viewer quickly realizes that the town is anything but

make even the most perverse and horrible acts seem justifiable and ordinary. Lewis talks

friendly and welcoming to outsiders. The movie is shot through a series of

about toleration of sexual assault in very re-

seemingly disconnected character vignettes

mote communities, this effect may be more intense because of less frequent exposure to

that ultimately connect because of the acquaintances within the small town. The pecu-

broader social norms that challenge the status quo. Some rural advocates have reported that

liar characters have all found destructive ways to pass their time in the deserted terrain they

There are now traces of media, espe-

79


call home. The movie begins with a teenage

tory workers, as well as the truck drivers. Nick

boy drowning a cat; you later find that all the

Sutton, one of the main characters, was casted

teenage boys compete in killing cats because they make money by selling them to the local

by Korine after he saw him speak in The Sally Jesse Raphael Show called "My Child Died From

Chinese restaurant. The next scene depicts two pre teens pretending to shoot the town

Sniffing Paint.” Sutton plays a character who

outcast, “bunny boy” and later beating him

resembles himself; in the film he is constantly high from sniffing inhalants. When the re-

up and dumping his body at an abandoned junkyard. Another prominent scene is when

view states that Gummo is filled with “dead end characters,” it fails to recognize the film’s

two skinhead brothers are beating each other up at their home while their background story

authenticity. It’s this ignorance that is keeping

is being narrated: These two kids I know, these two brothers. They murdered their parents. They both claim to be raised as Jehovah Witnesses. They came to school in really nice shorts and polished tennis sneakers. And their shirts were always collared with buttons, and their hair was always slicked back. And their teeth were always brushed, and their shirts and pants were always ironed, and their shoes were never scuffed up or anything like that. They seemed to have a wonderful life. I don't know what went wrong. (Gummo) Watching children and adults find entertainment in physically hurting each other, make bluntly racist comments, perform satanic rituals, express homophobic views, take drugs and engage in teenage prostitution are all reasons this film received worst movie of the year award according to a New York Times review, which was one of many incredibly negative responses. The film was said to be a boring description of “poor white trash” filled with cynicism and dead end characters. What is sad about this review is that only two of the characters were actual actors so while The New York Times criticizes this way of life they are actually directly attacking the lives of rural people. The factory workers were actual fac-

rural America in a perpetual state of darkness without hope of improvement. Although the characters in Gummo in some cases might be an exaggeration, in many cases they are neither exaggerated nor “dead end characters,” but instead an authentic depiction of the lifestyles of over 17% or fifty million rural America citizens today (ERS/USDA). The characters in this film have a constant need to destroy because they have nothing to gain; their lack of opportunity has left them with no option of improvement and a subconscious filled with nihilistic views. Gummo is not the only movie that explicitly reveals a darker and more emotional side of rural America by reaching more urban communities. The 1995 comedy, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, stars Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo. The three pose as drag queens that decide to take a road trip from Manhattan to Los Angeles but instead their car breaks down in rural mid-America. The local townsmen immediately harass the three travelers; in fact Leguizamo’s character, Chi Chi, is lured into a desolate field to be raped by three teenage locals. Luckily somebody walks by in the right instance to save her from the attack. The film also deals with repetitive spousal abuse due to alcohol consumption, racism and homophobia. Although, somehow the overall feeling of

80


this film remains light-hearted because of its

could easily walk 15-20 blocks without en-

utopian ending, it is clear that the rural issues

countering another human being.

are serious. This film does an excellent job at more accessibly informing the rest of America

For me, Boise was a decent place to grow up mostly because it was all I knew, until

on rural close-mindedness while coming up with cheeky solutions, as opposed to Gummo,

I was nine and moved to New York City. We quickly moved back to Boise and even then I

which had a tendency to instill depression,

still had only begun to realize some of the

shock and thus denial in the audience. In truth there is no shortage of movies portray-

plainly defining features that kept Boise from being a more urban and progressive city. Vio-

ing the multitude of horrors that can occur in pastoral America. More than anything it has

lence is very prevalent in Boise, and I personally witnessed a lot of teen violence. Alcohol

become just as accepted by the viewers of the

and drugs play a significant role in peoples’

films as the people living the harmful lifestyles. This submissive behavior from Amer-

lives, kids begin experimenting with alcohol as young as 5th and 6th grade. Alcohol has

ica’s viewers, particularly in urban areas, is equally to blame for the perpetuity of violence

never been something I thought was all fun and games because being a teenager in Idaho

in rural communities. Urban America is con-

alcohol always ended in some sort of violence.

fining its rural residents in a box of repetitive violent insanity.

At fourteen you can start legally driving and by this time, especially for a majority of public

I would like to say that the scenes in movies depicting rural America are extreme

school kids, alcohol has been worked into your weekend party schedule. By the time

and the lifestyles overplayed to accentuate the

most of my friends turned fifteen they had

despondency of the situation, but I spent most of my childhood, in Boise, Idaho and a

lost the licenses that they had eagerly received at age fourteen. They had either totaled their

lot of films hold an uncomfortable amount of truth for me. After experiencing a handful of

cars, flipped their cars while returning from mountain parties, gotten into accidents in-

other places, especially my current home in

volving other people, or simply gotten in

Portland, Oregon I have grown to realize how much living in small city Idaho affected my

trouble with their parents or the law for driving under the influence. The majority of par-

life. Boise is considered a small city, even though most of America does not know where

ties in Boise involve the same groups of people and they all lead to physical fights. Both boys

it is. Whenever I tell people I am from Boise,

and girls alike, although, mostly males, beat

they think my family made a living farming potatoes (It was urban enough that I don’t

the shit out of each other with no mercy, no matter if they are enemies, friends, or family.

even know if I have ever seen a potato farm). However, that stereotype alone is telling. Al-

Excessive alcohol use is always the culprit of incoherent acts of rage but what is hard to un-

though it is on the larger side of rural, people

derstand and difficult for me to remember

are still completely oblivious to Boise’s existence and overall it still has an incredibly rural

when I go back to visit is that these behaviors are considered normal. People either end up

feeling. Consider, for example, that in Boise I

in the hospital or completely unconscious week after week as a result of weekend plans to

81


get drunk, party and beat each other up.

avoided if there was not such a large distrust

Truthfully, growing up there I didn’t agree

between the police and civilians. This kind of

with this, I didn’t support it but I also never thought it was out of the ordinary. Once I

violence is frequent in Boise and its outskirts. People go unnoticed, and even die, because of

moved to Portland and began building a group of friends here I realized that what I had

their environment; although the family will always remember the atrocity, the police de-

experienced was not only irregular but also

partment does its best to keep “accidents” out

completely deranged. To this day in Portland, I have yet to meet someone even remotely in-

of the news to protect their power. When there is a large divide between the group of

terested in picking a fight with another person, let alone have to drop what I am doing to

people that is supposed to ensure safety and the people they are supposed to protect, peo-

assist in getting people to the hospital because

ple act out in violent ways, which only

their own friends beat them up. Local police officers also perpetuate

equates to more unnecessary, irrational and dangerous behavior from everybody.

violence in Boise. People, especially teens, are terrified and thus act-out against the Boise

Waking to a more realistic view of rural America is frightening. In most cases tradition

police. It is natural for teens to put down the

is still highly valued and held at the heart of

police system and yell rude remarks at people involved with law enforcement but in Boise

the countryside throughout the United States, particularly in the sense that religion still

there is reason to actually be afraid of the police, which is truly alarming. The police offi-

takes precedent; men and women have an assigned role in a family and respect is earned

cers in Boise are just as bored as everyone else;

through working hard. Tradition is important

this results in unwarranted harassment, overly severe punishments and in the worst cases

but when it impedes upon progress it suddenly becomes disastrous for communities,

death. Numerous times in the years I lived there police had shot people unjustifiably. In

people must learn to take the beneficial traditions and leave the detrimental ones behind.

Nampa, a town less than thirty miles from

In the case of rural America, people are a

Boise city center, Kendal Murrant from the Idaho Press-tribune reported that, “A distur-

product of their environment, and when a population’s surroundings encourage stag-

bance turned deadly early Friday when police opened fire on a teenager officers said came at

nancy, most people succumb to it. People who want more space and are

them holding an object they thought was a

attracted to more rustic living often become

knife. The object turned out to be a piece of glass. Rudolph J. Andrade, 19, of Nampa, died

less tolerant of people in their space, which unavoidably fosters non-responsive isolation.

about 2:30 a.m. Friday outside a home in the 3000 block of Surgarcane Drive in Nampa”

Victor Sims, lifetime police chief writes, “perhaps rurality exists more as a state of mind

(Murrant). This act of violence resulted in the

and attitude than as an area on a map or a ra-

loss of someone’s life. Even though it is in human nature to protect oneself, which is

tio of persons per square mile. Rurality may be best defined subjectively”(Sims). While living

why many police officers “accidentally” end up harming or killing people, this could be

in isolation it is easy to lose sight of the global view that is imperative for stimulation,

82


change, and growth in every individual.

lation received from diversity demands

Without external communication many prob-

change, but lack of stimulation paired with

lems occur, prejudices quickly begin to form, often racist or sexist; this is why hate groups

poverty and fear is the deadliest combination, physically and mentally. Knowledge really is

form within rural America. Hate does not form without cause; in most cases it is fear of

power and the poverty felt in rural America leaves people filled with hopelessness: under-

the unknown and unfamiliar. The countless

educated people have fewer opportunities in

tragedies resulting from hate crimes in rural communities is unavoidable due to the ho-

life and fall into destructive trends. Without education, violence in every

mogeneous nature of these environments. Rurality protects people from the entirety of

form, hate groups and out-dated prejudices, high rates of substance abuse and domestic

the outside world, which is why white su-

abuse will continue to exist in rural America.

premacy groups still gather in places in northern Idaho and Montana. The inhabitants of

Violence stops progress, it is a negative behavior that keeps people in fear of unfamil-

these places begin to form delusional ideals void of variation because they know nothing

iar surroundings and each other. Until urban America stops its denial and negligence, vio-

else.

lence will undoubtedly remain, substance

Rural America enables the idea of individualism. It is infinitely easier to create thoughts

abuse will continue to ruin lives, prejudices will persist and every once in a while some-

and ideals that are untouched by anybody, but this actually encourages people to interact

thing big enough will happen to garner national news coverage. We do not need an-

minimally thus becoming unresponsive and

other Columbine to occur to know that our

insensitive to the needs of other people. Becoming too consumed in a self-constructed

nation needs help. The completely closed environment of rural America has allowed hun-

image of the world is dangerous because people should interact and feel, to keep them

dreds of separate realities with self-governed microcosms to exist. The violence that occurs

from constantly being stuck in their own

within these places has to stop or at least be-

heads without any outside input. The uncultured human mind can justify about anything

gin to be acknowledged and properly dealt with; there must be resources for people who

after years of repetition including the most unfathomable patterns of prejudices and vio-

need them. The isolated mind fears the unknown and grasps for uniformity when it is

lence.

actually craving diversity. The archaic violent

Rural America has allowed a full circle of violence to envelop it. People are born into

tendencies that plague rural America must be minimized in order to instill hope within the

it, and without realizing, violence becomes engrained and part of oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s growth until it is

people; we need a unified nation that regardless of the location of your home replaces

too late and then becomes pattern. Ignorance

mental isolation with knowledge, a quintes-

is bred from isolation and isolation leads to fear of anything challenging the accepted

sential ingredient in opening the neverending possibilities of global awareness.

normality, a normality that in many cases in rural America is in dire need of change. Stimu-

83


Works Cited â&#x20AC;&#x153;Alcohol Abuse Remains the Leading Substance Abuse Problem in Rural America." Rural Assistance Center - rural health and rural human services information. The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, 18 July 2006. Web. 13 Oct 2009. <http://www.raconline.org/news/news_details.php?news_id=4689>. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "Too Many Bars In Rural America Linked To High Suicide Rates Instead Of Idyllic Life." ScienceDaily 21 Sept 2009. 6 Oct 2009 <http://www.sciencedaily.com- /releases/2009/09/090918181450.htm> Bachman, Ronet. "Crime in Nonmetropolitan America: A National Accounting of Trends, Incidence Rates, and Idiosyncratic Vulnerabilities.â&#x20AC;? Rural Sociology 57(1992): 546-560. Cromartie, John. "Defining the "rural" in Rural America." Amber Waves: The Economics of Food, Farming, Natural Resources and Rural America. United States Department of

Agri-

culture, June 2008. Web. 4 Oct. 2009. <http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/ June08/Features/RuralAmerica.htm>. "DEA, Drug Information, Methamphetamine." United States Department of Justice. 08 Nov. 2009. <http://www.justice.gov/dea/concern/meth.html>. Donnermeyer, Joseph. "Crime and Violence in Rural Communities." 31 March 1995. 3 May 2009. "ERS/USDA Research Emphasis - An Enhanced Quality of Life for Rural Americans." USDA Economic Research Service - Home Page. Web. 08 Dec. 2009. <http:// www.ers.usda.gov/Emphases/Rural/>. Gummo. Dir. Harmony Korine. Perf. Jacob Reynolds and Nick Sutton. Fine Line Features, 1997. DVD. "Hazelden -- Rural America rivals big cities in drug abuse." Hazelden -- Addiction Treatment Center. Hazelden Foundation, 02 June 2003. Web. 12 Oct. 2009. <http:// www.hazelden.org/web/public/ade30602.page>. Lewis, Susan H. Unspoken Crimes: Sexual Assault in Rural America. Rep. Enola, PA: National Sexual Violence Research Center, 2003. Print. Maslin, Janet. "Gummo; Cats, Grandma and Other Disposables." New York TImes: Movies. The New York Times, 17 Oct. 1997. Web. 07 Dec. 2009. <http:// movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9907E6DA123FF934A25753C1A961958260>. "Meth's vise grip on rural America - The Denver Post." Home - The Denver Post. Dylan Foley, 09 June 2009. Web. 12 Oct. 2009. <http://www.denverpost.com/ci_13264735>.

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Murrant, Kendal. "Nampa teen dies in Police Shooting." Idaho Press-Tribune 23 Feb. 2008 Web.4 May 2009. <http://www.idahopress.com/news/?id=3985>. O'Hare, William P., and Kenneth M. Johnson. Child Poverty In Rural America. Rep. 1st ed. Vol. 4. Washington D.C.: Population Reference Bureau, 2004. Print. Sheff, David. Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. Sims, Victor H. Small Town And Rural Police. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 1988. "State Resources - Wyoming -." MethResources.gov. Web. 08 Nov. 2009. <http:// www.methresources.gov/wy.html>. To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. Dir. Beeban Kidron. Perf. Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo. Universal Studios, 1995. DVD. Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle A Memoir. New York: Scribner, 2006.

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e Wanker and the Whore e Dichotomy of Art and Commercialism By Eliyahu Clark-Ginsberg A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. - Oscar Wilde Ask any American, and he or she will

redirected from a means of expression to a

tell you that we live in a commercial, material

means of getting rich. To many, this is a des-

society: billboards every ten yards, advertisements on the TV, on the radio, on the internet

picable corruption of the purity that they feel art should possess. The fact is, we live in a

bombarding us constantly with the pressure to buy and to consume. For better or for

world that is more capitalist than ever– a world where there is no room for this kind of

worse, this is America today. While this envi-

old-fashioned thinking. The time for art as an

ronment is the lifeblood of many of the cornerstones of our society, it is toxic to just as

often self-indulgent means of expression is over and today’s art should not be judged by

many things that we hold dear. Just as America’s commercial atmosphere furthers busi-

the elitist terms of niche approval, but for its entertainment value and popular appeal.

ness, globalization, and innovation immeas-

When discussing art, perhaps one of

urably, it can marginalize anything that does not have a monetary value and a predictable

the most pressing issues is its definition. Art, arguably, is one of the most variably defined

profit attached. As our culture has progressed further and further into the realm of commer-

concepts that we must deal with on a daily basis, and without a working definition, the

cialism, we have found more and more ways of

topic is extremely difficult to discuss. Some

commercializing our lives. The expense of this is the loss of creative purity: almost any

purists might assert that only objects created to invoke and express the artist’s innermost

artist, especially those not engaged in classical fine arts such as painting or sculpting, who

emotions are deserving of the label “art.” In some cases, the expression of emotion may

wishes to make a living from his craft must

even precede the application of talent in im-

target his work toward the consumer rather than toward the connoisseur. Traditional art

portance (after all, how many times have we seen modern art hanging in a museum that

is quickly losing its value in our society, and this is upsetting to those who are comfortable

looks like the work of a kindergardener but is lauded for its depiction of some aspect of the

with the status quo. However, the departure

human condition?). The infusion of the art-

of the art of yesteryear is not leaving us with a vacuum: it is replaced with highly produced

ist’s emotion or some greater lesson about the nature of life or mankind, or the universe, dis-

works of entertainment engineered to create wealth. The artist’s creative energy is being

tinguishes so-called true art from handicrafts, commercials, and other less prestigious cate-

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gories of potentially beautiful or moving

may be horrifying, but to the rest of us, this

things. Why does the creative use of one’s tal-

should be refreshing. Nearly everyone, at

ent only deserve the title of art when it is essentially useless? Certainly, there are works of

some point in their life, has been an artist: the finger painting toddler, the ten year-old story-

art that are functional (haute design, for instance), but the more functional something

teller, the angsty teenaged poet or musician. Art is, after all, a human creation, not the ex-

becomes, the harder it is to find examples of it

clusive purview of those who make their liv-

that are considered art or, in some cases, even given a second glance. Creativity and utility

ing from art or, at least, try to. This being said, we must maintain the the distinction, as al-

are not mutually exclusive and genius should be turned toward practical applications from

ways, between good art and bad art. While once, perhaps, the condemnation of a work

the mundane (the design of the objects and

rested in the very lack of the label “art,” it now

products we encounter every day) to the grand (the advertisements, programs, and block-

must rest in the modifier. We are told that true art (perhaps most

busters that fill the airwaves and the theaters) to the historic (the buildings and landmarks

frequently paintings) is so valuable because of the outpouring of emotion by the artist. The

that define our cities and our countries). Ar-

Oxford English Dictionary (a stable, if not

tistic gifts should not be confined to canvases, to grainy film, and to songs recorded in base-

progressive, provider of meaning) concurs at least partially that pieces of art are “appreci-

ments; those of us who are gifted with creativity should be shaping our lives, our conversa-

ated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” While beauty certainly implies skill,

tions, and our skylines. Yet the artist who

this is an ideal that we seem to be falling out

does apply his talent in a way that allows him to participate fully in our commercial society

of love with. While the Renaissance masters produced pieces of immense technical apti-

or to appeal to a mass audience, is branded as something lesser– a craftsman or a designer or,

tude, we are now quite willing to accept works that replace beauty with angst and “mean-

worse, a sellout.1

ing.” Technical ability and artistic talent are

I object to the classification of art as something wholly emotional and instead

often both muted by the supposed sincerity of the artist’s emotions. Is not the creation of art

posit that art is any creative (and creativity certainly encompasses many things) work

in order to express one’s emotions a rather self-gratifying act though? What service is the

that aims to illicit a response from the viewer.

author doing to his audience? Do we not have

The response need not necessarily be emotional as one would expect from traditional

plenty of emotions of our own that are just as good as those of someone who wields a paint-

true art: it may be as simple as appreciation or as powerful as going out and buying a new car.

brush? Selfish, albeit necessary, acts certainly should not be condemned, but neither should

Under this definition, the number of things

they be glorified in the way that pure, emo-

that qualify as art is nearly limitless, yet not so limitless as to make the term meaningless. To

tional art is. Would we hang a cumrag on the wall of a museum?2 Why then should we

some who prefer to keep art a closely guarded treasure for those who “appreciate” it, this

treat the result of any other act of selfgratification as if it is some great contribution

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to our cultural corpus or the creator of such an

rial or letter to the editor, a talk radio show, or

object as if he is more noble and interesting

even a conversation overheard in the street.

than the rest of us? We should be insulted that artists feel that we should pay to see their

Discourse and the associated opportunity to examine our own opinions and ideals is by no

emotions hanging on a wall rather than mulling over and meditating on our own. No hu-

means confined to the museum. Even without trying, we are constantly presented with

man lacks emotions of their own and no hu-

the views and opinions of others which, in

man’s emotions are any less complex or intriguing than those of any other. Each and

turn, can help us illuminate our own lives. To many, art is held up as a miraculous

every one of us is stocked for life on emotions; it is beauty and utility that is lacking in so

cure-all. There are people who declare that such-and-such art saved their lives in the

many of our lives. We should hold objects of

gloomy adolescent years (again, I cry “hyper-

unpretentious beauty up as the most sacred kind of art, not pieces that attempt to disguise

bole!”) or that they simply could not live without it (and again!). Jeanette Winterson

their ugliness with layers of emotion and symbolic meaning.

states that “the healing power of art is not rhetorical fantasy…. For some, music, for some,

Many would argue that art is not a re-

pictures, for me, primarily, poetry, whether

placement for our own emotions, but an aid for exploring them more deeply. It is certainly

found in poems or in prose” (156-7). In the same way that it is just one of many forms of

easy among the rushes or modern life to ignore one’s emotions. For many, art presents

discourse, all of which can serve to “reveal mystic truths,” art is something around which

an avenue to examine their own inner self by

people can rally and something that people

examining that of another. In the words of artist Bruce Nauman, “the true artist helps the

can identify with. It is not the music or the writing that is “saving lives” or providing

world by revealing mystic truths.” 3 Art certainly has an important emotional role to

healing, it’s the connections to like-minded people and the sense of belonging, the invita-

many people (although claiming that it re-

tion to abandon reality, and the simple dis-

veals “mystic truths” is going a bit too far), but this is no excuse for pretense and elitism. It is

traction. Humans are social and resourceful creatures, and if we did not band together over

entirely possible to produce a work of art that is both cathartic and accessible, and if art is

art, we would easily find another way in which to group ourselves. The fact is, art is

indeed therapeutic, that healing should be

more convenient than it is magical. Art is

widely available rather than confined to crypt-like museums visited only by art-lovers.

there. Art is identifiable. But the same role, the same sense of togetherness, can and is be-

One must also wonder how exclusive the ability to “reveal mystic truths” is to art.

ing provided by more commercial creative works and even purely commercial entities

Art is just one way in which one person’s ideas

such as brands. Likewise, Harry Potter or the

are widely made available for consideration by others. Fine art is more accessible than a

latest Hollywood orgy of spending provides as much of an escape as Catch-22.

philosophic manifesto or academic paper, but it is less so than something such as an edito-

Creating art, no doubt, has a myriad of positive psychological effects. There is, after

88


all, a reason that art therapy exists. However,

with degrees in art history who sneer at the

in reality, art therapy is much more therapy

very mention of the “popular”? How can one

than art. The American Art Therapy Association describes the process of art therapy:

discuss the mainstream as if it is a river of the philistines’ sewage without being a snob? It is

“Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can in-

one thing to deem a single artist or work of art bad for whatever reason (and this is an activity

crease awareness of self and others, cope with

that I certainly do not feel should draw criti-

symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-

cism as, after all, everyone is entitled to their opinion), but it is quite another to blindly

affirming pleasures of making art” (Betts). The distinction must be drawn, not just in

condemn the mainstream and to refer to it as some diabolical force in opposition to the no-

clinical settings, but in the world as a whole,

ble and pure supreme art of yesteryear.

between what is actually art and what is merely therapy through a creative outlet. I am

I will freely admit that I consider much of what should be considered the defining art

certainly not saying that those who generate creative works in order to preserve their sanity

of this era to be horribly flawed, more so than less mainstream works, in many cases. The

should be shut down, merely that those who

resistance to crowning Avatar the supreme

are patients (and those who are merely hobbyists) should not be lauded as artists when they

film of this era is understandable, but it is not justified. Those who, through education,

are not. All too often, we seem to confuse the insane angst of an accidentally discovered pa-

pedigree, or something else altogether, are considered, by themselves and those similar

tient with the kind of raw emotion that soci-

to them, to be worthy of critiquing and defin-

ety needs more of in an artist. At once, it seems that our society both

ing art should not be the sole deciders of what becomes crowned the Mona Lisa of our age.

laments the loss of artistic integrity and encourages it. While we sponsor the transition

Just as political science majors do not get their votes counted twice during elections, those

toward works of manufactured entertainment,

who study or create art should not get any

there are always those among us who continually bemoan the way that the “main-

more say than the common man when it comes to deciding what the people of this ep-

stream” shuns works that are artistically pure. The complaints that these people make range

och ultimately consider to be our greatest artistic achievement. We should look to the

from the vapid nature of modern mainstream

charts and the box office reports to find our

art to the predictability or unoriginally of the plots in these works. What I fail to understand

magnum opuses. We are not mandated to consider the modern tours de force our per-

is why these people continue to see themselves as the dictators of artistic value. Main-

sonal favorites, nor are we even required to like them (it’s not as if every Italian of the

stream works– works popular among the

1500’s held the Mona Lisa in a high regard),

common person, the majority– should be the pieces we hold up as the art of our age. We

but we cannot let our personal opinions on such works get in the way of recognizing them

live in a democratic society, so why should a piece of art’s validity be judged by oligarchs

for what they are: populist masterpieces.

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By no means am I issuing a condemna-

if they wished to be anything more than an

tion or dismissal of style or substance. Al-

exclusive group of intolerable snobs. It is the

though works displaying a marked lack of skill are certainly popular, and I do not believe that

duty of the gifted intelligentsia to jingle their keys for the gurgling American populous, even

stylistic flaws should render an extremely popular work any less successful, I am of the

if they consider the cretins unworthy of their time. After all, when one is so staggeringly

opinion that style is still extremely important.

intelligent that no one else can make sense of

It is very easy to associate the popular with the poorly crafted, or the unsophisticated. News

his work, it comes into question whether or not he’s really all that smart after all. Perhaps

of shows like Jersey Shore is constantly clogging the airwaves, and it is not much of a leap

the common American is not capable of judging the relative value of higher art created by

to also believe that shows such as Jersey Shore

higher minds, but he is certainly capable of

(which I don’t believe anyone would hold up as an example of fine art, or even quality

determining what he does and does not like, and that’s all that should matter. The entire

broadcasting) are the most popular programs in recent memory. However, media buzz does

point of popular appeal is that the populous does not have to be intelligent, it simply has to

not necessarily correspond to a greater viewer-

be opinionated (and that is not a problem for

ship or audience. It is necessary, for us to consider

today’s America). The artist should, like any other mem-

whether or not modern America is an audience capable of judging anything. After all,

ber of the American workforce, provide some kind of marketable product or service (I am

the fact that Americans are getting stupider is

not merely referring to new cars and tax

not just something widely accepted by those of us who don’t consider ourselves to be vic-

preparation: enjoyment is a product and entertainment is a service). There is no reason

tims to the trend; it’s evidenced by SAT scores and literacy rates (Dobbs). Intelligence is on

that the artist should be granted a special exemption from having to generate value in or-

the decline and the lowest common denomi-

der to be considered a contributing member of

nator is sinking lower than ever, so it’s easy for artists and their backers to say that the com-

society. If we continue to glorify artists who simply follow their own whims rather than

mon American is just too stupid to discern what is good and what is bad. This notion,

serving society (“serving society” does not necessarily mean handing out cheeseburgers

most strikingly, is horribly arrogant. To sug-

at the local McDonalds drive-through; it also

gest that artists work on a higher plane that the Simple American can’t understand is ri-

refers to sharing your unique talents with the world), we are glorifying the stubborn, the ar-

diculous. The fact of the matter is, many artists (and, no doubt, many of the rest of us who

rogant, and the trampish. Let us consider the case of the starving artist who is, perhaps, the

consider ourselves intellectual standouts) are

most archetypical rendition of the arrogant,

no better than the simpletons. Even if artists were categorically smarter than the American

doomed artist. The starving artist is the selfimportant owner of a paintbrush or word

public, it would still be their duty to stoop to the level of the lowest common denominator

processor that, despite an overabundance of self-confidence, fails completely and utterly at

90


supporting himself through his art. As a con-

own ideals and preferences aside and do what

sequence, the starving artist frequently takes a

is necessary to please and grow his audience.

demeaning job and splits his wages between the bare necessities or a nouveau bohéme life-

In fact, there is a good deal of hypocrisy and contradiction in the logic of the art-

style and the tools necessary to create even more attempts at art. The starving artist is not

ist. Even the starving artist does not give away his works for free (as a rule). The artist, how-

the moderately successful artist that holds on

ever pure his work, expects to get paid– al-

to his day job in order to maintain a comfortable lifestyle; the starving artist is an entitled

though not too much, as then he runs the risk of being labeled as a sell-out. Of course, eve-

brat who possesses few to no skills and believes himself capable of sustaining himself

ryone has to make a living, but this living does not have to come from art. It seems that the

with his art despite evidence to the contrary.

artist wants all at once to be able to self-

While it is one thing to spend one’s twenties lost in the self-indulgent fantasy that is the

indulge with his work, to be seen as the revealer of “mystical truths” and to make a com-

starving artist’s existence, by the time one is thirty, he should have traded in his ego for a

fortable living. How does an artist with a crusade against sell-outs justify charging for his

respectable suit and at least attempted to enter

art? After all, to sell anything is, if you wish to

the workforce. The starving artist is no more noble than any other person who fails to con-

be puritanical about it, selling out. If the artist was really so noble as we seek to make him out

tribute meaningfully to society (I will let you judge for yourself just how meaningful a con-

to be, does it not seem that he would bestow his mystic truths upon society as a gift, rather

tribution making french fries or bussing tables

than as an item to be bought and sold?

is) except in that the starving artist has an ego that he feels entitles him to the life of an artis-

Moreover, how can the artist condemn sellouts to capitalist, corporatist society while, at

tic visionary. If an artist wishes to make his living from his art, he must swallow his ego

the same time, he is placing a price upon beauty, inspiration, and healing?

and produce what is popular, and even then

It can be argued that the street artist is

success is far from guaranteed. Of course, like the entrepreneur, the artist who wishes to be

one of the most noble. Like any artist, he creates self-indulgently, or even rebelliously, but

wholly original will experience failure often before happening upon success, and he may

he also infuses the community with beauty (or trash, depending on who you ask) without

have to fall back to producing what has al-

expecting payment in return. And while the

ready been established as commercially viable. The artist should not be any less the servant of

street artist signs his work, he does not do so the same way the traditional artist does. As

those who pay him (both directly and indirectly) than the cook at a restaurant or the

Oscar Wilde said in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, “to reveal art and conceal the

teller at a bank. The artist who wishes to be

artist is art’s aim” (3). In Jewish tradition,

anything more than a hobbyist (and while art is a lovely hobby, hobbyists who prefer the

mitzvot, or good deeds, are considered most holy when they are done anonymously.

paintbrush over the model train are not deserving of any additional glory) must put his

Likewise, the artist wishing to be truly noble should eliminate himself entirely from his art.

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To attach a name is, in a way, creating a brand

world of means. The desired ends, almost al-

and thus inviting commercialism into the

ways, come in the form of crisp dollar bills.

world of art. Art should be appreciated for its beauty, and the artist must free his gift of his

Jeanette Winterson calls this society “notional life … the life encouraged by governments,

name in order to remain humble. The street artist does not demand payment or scrawl his

mass education, and the mass media” (134). Winterson’s notional life is a life in which we

name plainly across his canvas. In this way,

are cogs in a machine being manipulated by a

the street artist is more noble than a similarly self-indulgent traditional painter who consid-

system that does not want us to think for ourselves– it simply wants us to work. While

ers the beauty that he creates a commodity and his own name a part of that commodity.

Winterson’s description sounds slightly paranoid, I do not wholly disagree with the as-

More often than not though, street art is, in

sessment. Our society demands results; more

fact, graffiti. While perhaps noble in his generosity, the street artist is committing an ille-

parents want doctors and lawyers and business executives than want starving artists, and

gal act. The street artist could even be considered an aesthetic Robin Hood. Society, it

therefore it is in the interest of the schools to raise us for success rather than for personal

seems, is divided about whether graffiti and

development. Is this lamentable? Quite pos-

other public (and often unlicensed) displays of art are acceptable. Last year, Willamette

sibly. Is art the antidote? Hardly. Art is not a magical cure-all that fends off the greed of

Week ran an article about the ongoing debate surrounding promotional flyers on telephone

capitalism and the ignorance of the masses, and everything that is wrong with the world

poles along Mississippi Avenue. One business

today. Art is just another victim of capital-

owner, Roger Goldingay, likened both the flyers and graffiti in general to garbage: “like the

ism’s march. Like any victim, it has to choose between continuing to feel sorry for itself, and

graffiti that becomes invisible because it has been there so long you don’t notice it, the

adapting and evolving so that it does not become victimized again.

pole-postering damages the community in a

I certainly do not wish to broadly con-

much deeper way than just being eye-level trash” (Slovic). What Goldingay is saying is

demn the artist. While I certainly have very little respect for the individual who continues

that he feels that the graffiti has a broken window effect. However, to me, even as

to work despite possessing more ego than talent, I have great respect for the talented, crea-

someone who by no means condones graffiti,

tive individual who produces much of the art

the more lamentable thing seems to be that any kind of art is capable of becoming invisi-

(both pure and commercial) that we encounter today. However, I consider it a tragic waste

ble to us. To me, art is, like anything else, some-

of talent for a capable artist to confine himself to inaccessible works that will be appreciated

thing that must ultimately support its

by a select few. Many would argue that no

creator.4 I will neither endorse nor condemn our hyper-commercial society, but I will ac-

matter how small this minority may be, they continue to underscore the artist’s impor-

knowledge that it is indeed the society that we live in.5 We live in a world of ends, not a

tance. We may not all be experienced art critics, but why deprive those who really do ap-

92


preciate fine art of it just because they’re a mi-

ing change of pace from the delusion that

nority? Frankly, it seems to me that the pre-

many aspiring artists seem to aspire to. De-

tentiousness and snobbery that often surrounds fine art is the product of a vicious cy-

spite the overwhelmingly small chances of making it big, or even making it at all as an

cle: an artist creates a self-indulgent piece which is largely inaccessible, so-called patrons

artist, more and more young people are investing massive amounts of time and money into

of the arts extol the virtues of the piece in or-

an artist education that is useless when ap-

der to give off the impression that they are cultured enough to understand complex

plied to just about any other field. Whether this is ignorance, arrogance, or well-deserved

pieces, similar pieces are created because of the success of the first, and more art lovers

confidence is, of course, something that must be examined on a case-by-case basis. Regard-

gush over them in an attempt to appear well-

less of the causes, the fact is that many of

versed in the arts. Fine artists and lovers of fine art feed each others’ egos by affirming

America’s teens aspire to be an artist because of the romanticization that we have subjected

that yes, the artist is talented, and yes, the art lover is immensely cultured and discerning.

the artist to. When I first began writing my thesis, I

We live in a society where it is commendable

constructed the metaphor of the wanker (I

to appreciate ancient and inaccessible works by outsiders, yet consuming something that is

chose this word not to invoke Old World charm, but merely to make the phrase allitera-

entertaining and enjoyable is considered a guilty pleasure. It is preposterous that some-

tive) and the whore. The wanker, selfindulgent and largely useless, was intended as

one who prefers Twilight to Wuthering

the artist, while the whore, dirty but willing to

Heights or Avatar to Citizen Kane is often labeled a philistine or the lowest common de-

provide the consumer with what he wants– he who lives a notional life. However, I have

nominator. Snobbery begets snobbery, and mankind must learn to admit that we love

come across several artists who have described themselves, not those that oppose them, as

nothing more than drama, filth, and every-

the whores: there is David Bradley, whose un-

thing the PTA warns against. Not long ago, David Bradley, a good-

optimistic advice to the aspiring artist we have already examined, and Conrad Grossman, a

humored and subtly wise writer, spoke in the Blue Box Theater. He read from his works of

local artist who relates prostitution to the entire artistic community.

creative nonfiction and discussed his back-

Bradley also discussed his experience

ground and aesthetic standards with the audience. Bradley told one audience member that

working as a screenwriter in Hollywood. He addressed in depth the feeling of being “a

he should avoid a career in the arts, calling it not a profession, but an obsession. He told

whore who had just been raped,” as described in his essay “That Ain’t Jazz.” As a writer, he

the audience member that if he could be

felt abused by the film executives and by the

happy doing anything else, he should do that rather than continue on as an artist. To many,

commercial nature of Hollywood in general. Film, it is acknowledged, is a collabora-

this may seem like a cynical and discouraging thing to say to a young artist, but it’s a refresh-

tive art, yet screenwriters seem to take special offense to having their ideas altered. While,

93


in the boardroom, it would be ridiculous to

tionship with their work. My relationship

take extreme offense if the team built upon

with my writing, even the projects in which I

and dramatically changed one’s original idea, screenwriters (or perhaps just the naive ones)

am most invested, has always been a businesslike one. I offer forth my time and my aesthet-

seem to be in a constant state of fury about what the suits are doing to their work.

ics, but never my soul. Of course, perhaps I have been going about writing all wrong (and,

Screenwriters, I imagine, feel that they are the

it must be said, there are those who would

truest artists in Hollywood (and, to be honest, I am inclined to agree that screenwriters de-

question whether or not I have a soul to offer forth at all). Whether or not Grossman is ex-

serve much more credit than they receive), and their script is the kernel of artistic truth at

aggerating the artist’s investment in his work, he is quick to clarify that the artist does not

the center of the film. To change that is to

share with the prostitute the danger of ending

corrupt the very core. While the producer may not share the screenwriter’s creativity, he

up dead in a cheap motel room. However, is Grossman really talking only about the artist,

has an equally, if not more, valuable skill set. While the screenwriter knows what he himself

or are his statements true of any career that one is passionate about? He states: “I just find

thinks is good and artistically pure, the pro-

that unless you are doing something you truly

ducer knows what the people want and what is commercially viable. Yes, the producer may

love, you don't lose as much when things go wrong…. I'm sure that there are business per-

twist and bend the screenplay into something which lacks artistic purity but is flush with

sons, mechanics, farmers, etc... that are just as invested in what they do.” Art, no doubt, is a

commercial appeal, and in the process, he

field that people go into because they truly

turns the screenwriter into a whore. Isn’t every employee just the whore for the pimp–

love it (the same is not true of prostitutes): very few become artists to strike it rich.

the company– to do with as he likes? We are all bound to the company and forced to use

The question remains: is the artist the whore, or is the commercialite? I stand by my

our talents to better it, not ourselves. Why

original claim: it is the commercialite. While

should the artist expect special treatment? The commercially successful artist might be a

Bradley’s rape analogy is apt, the prostitute detail seems to be added merely for effect.

whore who prostitutes himself out to the public, but are any of us more than that?

Likewise, Grossman’s reasoning can easily be applied to the entrepreneur or any number of

Conrad Grossman closely associates

non-artists. The liver of notional life willingly

art and the artistic community with prostitution. He makes this association because of the

subjugates himself to the will of the general population or the higher-ups in exchange for

immense personal investment that the artist purportedly has in his or her pieces. While

cold, hard cash– this is prostitution. And what of the wanker? One could argue that

the prostitute is selling her body and baring it

seeking wealth is just as much an act of self-

for judgment, the artist (it could be said) is doing the same with a piece of his soul. Of

gratification as seeking emotional fulfillment through art, but it is not as entirely selfish.

course, I tend to suspect hyperbole on the part of artists who stress their intense spiritual rela-

The selfish artist creates only for his own joy (and if his work happens to create similar feel-

94


ings in someone else, that is merely a byprod-

End Notes

uct), the commercialite specifically creates

1 Put broadly, we can consider the artist to

value in society as part of a mutually beneficial arrangement.

deal with beautiful works of emotion, the designer to deal with beautiful works of in-

The expression “vote with your dollars” has become almost a cliche recently. It

formation, and the craftsman to deal with beautiful works of utility or decoration.

expresses the telling nature of revenue when evaluating everything from products to business practices to political candidates. Why

2 Andy Warhol’s so-called Piss Paintings (officially called Oxidation Paintings), however,

should art be any different? The art that appeals to the public and that can get them to

show that bodily fluids are not always unwel-

vote with their wallets and with their feet is

come on museum walls, so long as the name attached is sufficiently desirable. The paint-

the art that we should hold up as the best work that we have to offer. The artists and au-

ings were sold at auction in 2005 with an estimated value of $62,000 (“Bidders Go Ape”).

teurs that can summon immense throngs of people all willing to hand over cold, hard cash are our DaVincis. Art should be a popularity

3 This work was parodied by Bert Rodriguez with his 2008 piece The True Artist Makes

contest, and while the winner may not always be the best piece, it will always be the piece

Useless Shit for Rich People to Buy (Window or Wall Sign). Needless to say, I appreciate this

that’s most appealing to the modern audience. We must truly value art that is useful,

parody.

art that is marketable, and art that is accessi-

4 Although I have condemned artists for put-

ble. We must turn the wankers into whores and welcome the art of the everyday: art that

ting a price upon their work, I am not condemning the practice of selling art. My prob-

is in harmony with commercialism and that even someone entirely imbedded in notional

lem is with artists who preach creative inde-

life can appreciate.

pendence from the capitalist machine, yet continue to subjugate themselves to it sell their pieces. 5 It is very easy to say, upon reading this, that I am defending hyper-commercial society by saying that the artist must bend to its almighty will. However, this is not the case. Hyper-commercialism is merely the status quo and, unambitious as this may be, I believe that the status quo, at least on such a global scale, is rarely worth setting out to change. I am defending The Way Things Are, not the way itself.

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Works Cited “Art is Useless Because….” Letters of Note. 4 Jan. 2010. 24 Feb. 2010 <http:// www.lettersofnote.com/2010/01/art-is-useless-because.html>. “Bidders Go Ape for Chimpanzee Art” BBC News. 20 June 2005. 26 Feb 2010 <http:// news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4109664.stm>. Betts, Donna. "Art Therapy." Art Therapy. 14 May 2010. <http://www.art-therapy.us/ art_therapy.htm>. Bradley, David. “That Ain’t Jazz.” Narrative. 14 April 2010 <http:// www.narrativemagazine.com/node/59034>. Bradley, David. The Northwest Academy. Blue Box Theater, Portland. 14 April 2010. Dobbs, Michael. "Mike Gravel: Americans Are Getting Dumber." The Fact Checker. The Washington Post, 19 Sept 2007. 14 May 2010. <http:/voices.washingtonpost.com/ fact-checker/2007/09/mike_gravel_americans_are_gett_1.html>. Grossman, Conrad. “Re: The Prostitution of Art.” Email to the author. 21 April 2010. Nauman, Bruce. The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign). 1967. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia. 6 March, 2010 <http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/31965.html>. Slovic, Beth. "Pole Positions." Willamette Week 23 Sep 2009. Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. London: Penguin Books, 1949. Winterson, Jeanette. Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery. New York: Vintage International, 1997.

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When the Pleasure Doesn’t Justify the Means: An Examination of the Culture and Ethics Behind Eating Animals By Kelsey Chapman-Sutton It was on a family trip to Ashland that I

choose to buy instead of steal; we choose to

became vegetarian. It wasn’t even a decision,

bike instead of drive; we choose hugs instead

just a sudden knowledge that I was never going to eat meat again. As we drove down Inter-

of drugs; we choose peace instead of war. These decisions are based on our ethics, our

state 5 in our small, rather stuffy Honda, we passed a semi. On one side of this semi, in-

protection of the environment, our concerns for our health, and our desire for non-

stead of a wall, there was wire mesh, behind

violence. What many fail to realize, or refuse

which were at least twenty tiny compartments. In each compartment were several liv-

to acknowledge, is that these issues and concerns pertain directly to the choices, whether

ing, breathing chickens, squeezed together to take up the smallest amount of space as possi-

conscious or unconscious, that we make about food every day. Every time we go to a super-

ble. They were unprotected and exposed to

market, a restaurant, or open our mouths to

the wind and the cold, clearly battered from the elements and whatever other trials they

take a bite, we are making a decision. For some, the decision process is simply the act of

had to face prior. It was at this moment, upon seeing the suffering of these small creatures,

deciding to not be conscious about food. For others, each glass of milk, slice of pork, choco-

presumably destined for butchering and con-

late chip cookie, or bowl of strawberries is a

sumption, that I knew I now had a consciousness that would not permit me to consume

conscious decision. The majority of the population falls somewhere between these two ex-

meat. I was twelve years old at the time and in the four years that have passed I have re-

tremes.

mained a strict vegetarian.

cide what to eat? It is simply a matter of what

Food is one of the most basic needs to human survival, and eating is one of the only

our tongue is telling us, or should one consider more than mere taste? In answering

practices that humans do every single day. Because of the importance of food in human life,

these questions, one must also consider how taste and whatever other deciding factors

we define the food we eat and the food, in

should be balanced.

turn, defines us. Our appetites, our minds, and more generally, our international cultures in-

Though commonly believed to be a modern practice created by hippies and

fluence and are influenced by the food we consume. Even our bodies are literally shaped

“bleeding heart liberals,” vegetarianism has been practiced for thousands of years. Since

by what we eat. So then, if food is such a

ancient times, well before the invention of

prevalent aspect of our daily lives, must it not be considered as much as any other decision

tofurkey, people have made the decision to abstain from eating meat, despite the required

we make on a day-to-day basis? Many of us

sacrifice of pleasure and convenience. Though

The question arises: how does one de-

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historians have found the presence of vege-

tween forms of life, especially humans and

tarianism evident at various moments in his-

animals, are rarely conceived as rigid or fixed.

tory, there is no certainty as to when the concept first arose: “we do not know for certain

Life is a continuum; what differences there are among organisms are ones of degree and not

how early such taboos against flesh-eating began, but in Egypt there could have been vege-

of kind” (Portmess and Walters 37). Hindus believe that when we die, we are reborn as ei-

tarian priestly sects that date back to the old

ther an animal or human, depending on the

kingdom - 3,200 B.C.” (Spencer 37). Though its history most likely extends several thou-

karma we’ve accumulated in our lives. The worse someone’s karma, the more suffering

sand years before the common era, vegetarianism emerged in the sixth century B.C.E.

they experience in a future life. One way to obtain bad karma is through the infliction of

Pythagoras, a well-known Greek phi-

pain or harm upon another living creature,

losopher and mathematician who lived between the years 570 and 495 B.C.E., was a self-

harm in this case causing the suffering and death of an animal. A more specific Hindu

proclaimed vegetarian. One of Pythagoras’ primary teachers, Pherekydes, created the

dietary choice related to eating meat is the belief that cows should not be eaten. In Hin-

concept of metempsychosis, the belief that

duism cows are sacred, partly because many

the soul is immortal and, after physical death, is reborn into a new body, either human or

Indian deities take the form of cows, but also because of their functionality (production of

animal: “the sheep you slaughter and eat was once a man. Once, perhaps, your son or your

milk and ability to bear large burdens). As a result, the majority of Hindus do not eat beef

father: patricide and filicide are evidently

and cows are greatly respected in India. In the

wrong; to avoid them you must avoid all bloodshed…eating animals is eating people;

Hindu process of rebirth “it takes eighty-six transmigrations for a soul to rise from devil to

and eating people is wrong” (qtd. in Spencer 68). This belief that animals are reborn as hu-

cow, and in one more migration the soul becomes a human form” (Spencer 77). In the

mans and humans as animals seems to have

concept of reincarnation, souls ascend from

fuelled Pythagoras’ decision to become vegetarian. Feeling that our lives as humans are

the lowest form of life, for example insects, to the highest: humans. As you improve your

too interconnected with the lives of animals to justify the killing and eating of them, Py-

karma, you go from life to life, being rewarded each time with a better existence. The Hindu

thagoras’ reasoning and logic is what drove

belief that the cow is one of the best forms of

him to become vegetarian. Interestingly enough, the same reason

existence, second only to the human, is indicative of the Hindus’ extreme reverence for

that brought Pythagoras to the conclusion that he should not eat meat was also a key rea-

the animal. Around 400 B.C.E., a new religion

son why the Hindus decided to make vegetari-

sprung out of Hinduism. Rejecting many of

anism a part of their ideology. The concept of metempsychosis is extraordinarily similar to

the traditional practices and beliefs of Hinduism, a man named Siddartha Gautama formed

the idea of reincarnation, an essential belief of Hinduism. In Hinduism, “distinctions be-

a new system of belief, now known as Buddhism. Despite its various differences from

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Hinduism, one Hindu practice that Buddhism

Unlike the followers of Jainism, Bud-

embraced was vegetarianism. Siddartha

dhism, and Hinduism, followers of Judaism

Gautama, more commonly known as the Buddha, preached a life based on compassion.

and Christianity are not traditionally vegetarian. The history of Judaism and its followers is

One essential doctrine that the Buddha taught is that one should lead life in a way that does

filled with meat-eating and there is very little evidence that Jews have ever preached vege-

no harm to others. In Buddhism, this way of

tarianism as a part of their religious teachings.

life does not exclude animals. If one does not lead life by this principle, they will be forced

Although in modern times Christianity is not a religion made up primarily of vegetarians,

to remain in the cycle of rebirth, being born again and again and in each life suffering the

much evidence suggests that Jesus Christ called for a lifestyle that adheres to vegetarian-

consequences of previous actions: “The vio-

ism. The story of Jesus is most commonly told

lence of slaughtering animals for food, and its source in restless craving, reveal flesh eating as

through the gospels, which were not written until many years after Jesus’ crucifixion; pre-

one mode in which humans enslave themselves to suffering” (Portmess and Walters 61).

viously, the primary person who spread the teachings of Jesus was St. Paul, one of Jesus’

To Buddhists, killing or causing pain to any

apostles. Paul created a very specific image of

creature is immoral and should be avoided. If it is not avoided, one must eventually face the

Jesus and, due to the Church’s effort to control the public image of Jesus, this image is

karma that they have earned. Jainism, another Eastern religion, is

what contemporary society has come to accept. In the 1940s, two ancient scrolls were

perhaps more devoted to animal rights than

discovered that offered a different view of Je-

any other religion in the world. Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, lived around the same

sus than what is normally taught: “If this Jesus had been publicized, praised, and believed in,

time as the Buddha. He, like the Buddha, rejected many of the principles of Hinduism

the history of the relationship between humankind and animals in the last two thou-

and so decided to create his own set of princi-

sand years would probably have been vastly

ples, which formed into a religion that is still practiced today. Much of Jainism is based on

different. Imagine a Christian religion which had colonized half the world and was basically

the principle of nonviolence toward animals and to many people the practices that resulted

vegetarian” (108). In this version of Jesus, emphasis is placed on the fact that he preached

from this belief seem extreme: “Jains would

compassion and nonviolence. Because of his

have servants sweep the dusty path in front of them to save any unfortunate insects being

insistence that this is how people should live, some have come to the conclusion that “a

trodden on, and would wear gauze over their mouth and nose so as not to swallow a midge

vegetarian diet is not only compatible with but essential to the Christian message of com-

or two” (Spencer 83). In addition to these

passionate love” (Portmess and Walters 125).

practices, Jains are generally vegetarian because to them killing animals for food is a

As a result of this inherent message of nonviolence, there have been followers or even whole

pointless destruction of valuable, meaningful life.

groups of followers of Jesus who have chosen

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to apply that same compassion to the treat-

ing this time period was Adolf Hitler, a Ger-

ment of animals and consumption of meat.

man politician and dictator during the years

Shifts in Western thought allowed for vegetarianism to grow and become an organ-

of World War II. Perhaps history’s least respected man, Hitler is believed by many to be

ized movement. In the early years of the twentieth century, two of history’s most famous

the most evil person who has ever lived. He also happened to be vegetarian. Needless to

vegetarians emerged, marking the beginning

say, this doesn’t exactly help the progression

of this new movement. Mahatma Gandhi, whose beliefs were rooted in Hinduism, was

of vegetarianism: “The association of a diet linked indissolubly with humanitarian feel-

an avid vegetarian throughout his life. Gandhi lived from 1869 to 1948, a period fraught with

ings with an individual who committed such unspeakable crimes against humanity and

world wars and violence. Gandhi devoted his

genocide against a particular race seems at first

life to opposing violence and injustices and promoting peace and equality. Though much

profoundly bewildering” (Spencer 283). This is initially shocking because Hitler’s values

of his work was in relation to humans and human rights, Gandhi felt that peace and

and the values most commonly associated with vegetarianism are contradictory. Vege-

equality should not be a right reserved only

tarianism offers a practice based on the prin-

for the human race, but for all creatures. Gandhi once wrote: “Looked at from every point

ciples of equality, nonviolence, and compassion. Hitler lived a life and carried out a politi-

of view, vegetarianism has been demonstrated to be far superior to flesh-eating” (qtd. in

cal career based on discrimination, violence, and hatred. And so, one might ask, why was

Portmess and Walters). Gandhi became

Hitler a vegetarian? Well, as it turns out, Hitler

known worldwide for his nonviolent opposition to injustice; as a result, people suddenly

was vegetarian for very different reasons than most vegetarians. He became vegetarian to set

had a vegetarian whom they looked up to and admired. Vegetarianism became a trait that

himself apart from the crowd, to adopt a practice that he believed would make him

was associated with pacifists and human

even more superior to those that he perse-

rights activists. This raised awareness that abstinence from eating meat was a way of show-

cuted and commanded. In addition, Hitler felt there was a lack of aestheticism in eating

ing and practicing an opposition to violence. People now had a face and voice to associate

meat, often describing and denouncing it as “eating a corpse” (qtd. in Spencer 285). The

with the concept, one that was deeply re-

knowledge that Hitler was a vegetarian

spected. The reality is that all vegetarians are not necessarily people who change the world

quickly dissolves any notion that vegetarians are by nature compassionate and peaceful;

for the better. The act of becoming vegetarian isn’t always out of the intent to improve the

however, the next important event in the history of vegetarianism has everything to do

world and promote peace and compassion.

with compassionate, peaceful individuals.

Sometimes, vegetarianism doesn’t coincide with a belief in nonviolence and equality.

The 1960s and 1970s were a time of change. The youth of the time started chal-

The other famous, or rather infamous, vegetarian historical figure who emerged dur-

lenging and breaking out of the standards, boundaries, and principles of the 1950s. The

100


traditional American way of life was ques-

became one of the primary causes of the ’60s

tioned and as a result, new practices and life-

and ’70s. Groups of people joined together in

styles were formed: “The tide had been against vegetarianism during the meat-laden, macho

the fight for animal rights. Products were made, such as soy, alternative forms of pro-

1940s and 1950s. Then the 1960s came rushing in, turning upside down common mean-

tein, and meat substitutions. Suddenly, animals had a voice that they never had in Amer-

ings in the culture, such as what it meant to be

ica prior to the ’60s. The atrocities of slaugh-

an American, and what it

terhouses were slowly

meant to eat meat”

revealed and increasingly

(Iacobbo and

discussed.

Iacobbo 169). With the rise

This culture of “peace,

and advancement of

love, and vegetarian-

the meat in-

ism” in the

dustry in the late nine-

‘60s and ‘70s paved the

teenth century and early

way for vegetarianism and

twentieth

its role in

century, the consumption

American society for the

of meat had become a so-

rest of the century and

lidified tradi-

beyond.

tion at the American

When the 1980s ar-

dinner table. When the

rived, although ani-

movement of

mal rights

the ’60s started hap-

had been introduced to

pening, a large part of the rebellion was against injustices and

America, vegetarianism still had a long way to go. At that

inequality. Not only did people begin protest-

point, vegetarianism was not yet a part of

ing the mistreatment of humans, they were also awakened to the mistreatment of animals

mainstream culture; the practice was still fairly confined to rebellious hippie activists.

and, in particular, the realities of the meat industry. Animal advocacy and liberation soon

But in the next twenty years, the movement of vegetarianism would experience a shift from a

101


rare and relatively unknown practice to one

adhere to this principle and so, as a result,

whose existence and presence was noticed by

animal rights is often associated with aggres-

all. 1980 marked the founding of the world’s most influential and well-known animal

sive activists and advertisements. However, this is not to say that PETA has not had a large

rights organization: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, more commonly

impact on the animal rights movement and its progression: “Ultimately, the controversy

known as PETA. PETA immediately devoted

around PETA may have less to do with the or-

itself to educating the public about the realities of animal use; its overall message was that

ganization than with those of us who stand in judgment of it - that is, with the unpleasant

“‘animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use in entertainment’” (qtd. in Iacobbo

realization that ‘those PETA people’ have stood up for the values we have been too cow-

and Iacobbo 198). PETA used, and still uses,

ardly or forgetful to defend ourselves” (Foer

unconventional and sometimes aggressive techniques to grab the intended audience’s

72). No matter what the tactics, it is quite impossible to deny that PETA’s efforts at educa-

attention, whether the attention is obtained by the actual message or simply the odd and

tion and awareness have been effective. They have been responsible for much of the public’s

shocking nature of how the message is being

exposure to animal rights, as well as animal

presented. One example of this was PETA’s parody of the dairy industry’s “Got Milk?” ad-

abuse. Through the work of PETA, along with other animal rights organizations and activ-

vertisements. Rudolph Giuliani, then mayor of New York City and victim of prostate can-

ists, the movement of vegetarianism grew significantly during the years of the 1980s and

cer, unwillingly served as a celebrity with a

1990s. As the world entered the 21st century,

milk mustache. The caption over the photo was “Got Prostate Cancer?”. The advertise-

vegetarianism had found its footing in American society.

ment itself did little more than shock the public, but even so, PETA’s goal was achieved; “the

In the year 2009, “vegetarian” is a word that has become a part of the majority of

controversy resulted in an avalanche of press

Americans’ vocabulary. It has become a

stories and more than 75,000 hits to one of PETA’s many web sites: www.dumpdairy.com”

practice that, although still not extremely common, is a fairly well-known dietary pref-

(Iacobbo and Iacobbo 200). Despite the relative effectiveness and success of the adver-

erence. Studies have shown that 3.2 percent, or 7.3 million, of American adults are vegetar-

tisement, this and other campaign tactics like

ian (Vegetarianism In America). The demand

it have earned PETA a bad reputation in some circles. Many believe that PETA is too often

for vegetarian food has grown significantly in the last twenty years. As a result, restaurants

inappropriate and offensive, such as in their seeming fondness for campaigns featuring

are catering increasingly to vegetarians by serving only vegetarian food, offering alterna-

scantily clad women. This argument is quite

tives to meat courses, or having specific sec-

valid; it is generally advised that one should not insult or even necessarily frighten a per-

tions of their menus devoted solely to vegetarian options. Foods such as “tofurkey” and

son when trying to convert them to a belief or practice. Unfortunately, PETA does not always

“garden burgers” are now sold in grocery stores across the U.S. In some areas of the na-

102


tion, vegetarianism has become a subculture

why an individual would chose to abstain

of its own; there are clothes and accessories

from eating meat and they are genuinely con-

designed specifically for vegetarians, websites and forums that provide an online commu-

cerned that there is something wrong with this “deranged American.” Another film that

nity for vegetarians, and even vegetarian dating websites, such as VeggieConnection.com.

portrays this Eastern European connection to meat is My Big Fat Greek Wedding, directed by

There are vegetarian communities, gatherings,

Joel Zwick. Vegetarian American Ian Miller is

and festivals, which provide vegetarians an opportunity to socialize and eat with other

forced to confront cultural differences as he adjusts to life with his Greek fiancée and her

like-minded people. Vegetarianism has become increasingly common to the point that

family, which also means addressing dietary discrepancies:

every person in the United States knows or at

“Ian is a vegetarian; he doesn’t eat

least knows of someone who is vegetarian. The appearance and inclusion of vege-

meat.” “He don’t eat no meat?”

tarianism or vegetarian-related concepts in film is quite common today. In the film Every-

“No, he doesn’t eat meat.” “What do you mean he don’t eat no

thing is Illuminated, directed by Liev Schrei-

meat?…Oh, that’s okay, that’s okay, I

ber, the main character, Jonathan, is a Jewish American vegetarian visiting Ukraine. In a

make lamb.” As a whole, Americans have a much greater

Ukrainian village, Jonathan goes to a small restaurant with two Ukrainian men. When

awareness of vegetarianism than many other parts of the world. I myself have had experi-

they arrive at the restaurant, Jonathan com-

ences abroad in which the word “vegetarian”

ments that he hopes they’ll have something he can eat, and his companions ask him why:

was translated correctly, but the real meaning of it was misunderstood. I traveled to France in

“I’m a vegetarian” “You’re a what?”

the summer of 2008. One night at a restaurant, I told the waiter that I was “végétari-

“I don’t eat meat.”

enne” and requested that they bring me the

“How can you not eat meat?” “I just don’t.”

vegetarian option. Upon receiving my meal, I was given a plate that had a large piece of fish

This scene demonstrates the influence that location and culture have on the practice of

on it. I once again informed the waiter that I was vegetarian, and he assured me that it was.

vegetarianism. In most Eastern European

Feeling very much like an annoying Ameri-

countries, vegetarianism is quite rare, partially because meat is such a primary aspect of East-

can, I said firmly, “no, I’m a vegetarian. I don’t eat fish.” He then seemed to understand, but

ern European food. Jonathan, coming from a culture that generally accepts vegetarianism,

proceeded by inquiring whether I eat eggs. “Yes,” I told him, “I eat eggs. I’m just a vegetar-

is confused when this practice is suddenly

ian: I don’t eat meat.” About ten minutes later,

misunderstood. The two Ukrainian men who accompany him have no conception of vege-

I was brought a tiny plate containing a few overcooked vegetables.

tarianism; to them, eating meat is a practice that is unquestionable. They see no reason

This experience is a fairly common one in many parts of the world where vegetarian-

103


ism has yet to be fully integrated. There are

Since vegetarians are the minority in

countries on every continent and regions in

every part of America, vegetarianism is stig-

every country that aren’t very accommodating to vegetarians.

matized just like any other minority. Stereotypes are formed about those who don’t eat

Although America has generally become much more conscious of vegetarian

meat. Some say we’re “hippies” or “bleeding hearts.” Others simply have no respect for our

practices, there remain areas of the nation

values and practices: “we’re marginalized,

that are unaware and even distrustful of those who are vegetarian and the reasoning behind

we’re ridiculed, we’re reduced. The stereotype of an animal rights person or vegetarian is

their choice. In the more rural and conservative regions of the U.S., vegetarianism is less

somebody who’s kind of loony” (A Cow At My Table). I have encountered people who truly

prevalent and occasionally unheard of. On the

do not understand why anyone would be

other hand, in places such as Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and New York City, vegetarians

vegetarian; they see it as pointless and even ridiculous. I’ve been laughed at, insulted, and

are common and well-catered to. Portland, Oregon is known nationally, and even inter-

teased simply because I have decided to abstain from a practice that I find inhumane and

nationally, as a hub for vegetarians. Portland

immoral. Because like-minded vegetarians

was voted number one for “America’s Best Vegetarian-Friendly Large Cities” by

and I express this belief about eating meat, many meat-eaters feel that vegetarians believe

GoVeg.com because of its number of vegetarians, vegetarian restaurants, and general accep-

they are morally superior. However, expressing a moral position and feeling morally supe-

tance and accommodation of vegetarians.

rior are two very different things. I am quite

Vegetarianism, like biking and rain, is normal in Portland and there has been a whole sub-

certain I have annoyed and frustrated meateaters in the past; I am not someone who be-

culture created around it. Unfortunately, this vegetarian-friendly characteristic of Portland

lieves that, as long as I myself am vegetarian, I have done all that I can do. I doubt that Mar-

is not present everywhere in the country. Dal-

tin Luther King ever worried about annoying

las, Texas, for example, is, by most standards, quite the opposite of vegetarian-friendly. In

whites indifferent to racism or that Gandhi was concerned about frustrating supporters of

fact, there are ten times the number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants per person in

the British government. It is not my intention to compare myself to Martin Luther King or

Portland than there are in Dallas. This is the

Gandhi, but simply to make the point that

general trend throughout Texas, with the exception of Austin, which sticks out like a sore

you have to be willing to go a certain distance to fight for any moral cause. If I have an ability

thumb in the conservative, Christian, meateating population of Texas. Most of the Mid-

to change something, then I am willing to annoy meat-eaters for the rest of my life.

west and South have their roots set so firmly

Everyone cares about their health, the

in the tradition of meat-eating that the questioning of its role in society is often unthink-

environment, and animal life to some extent. There are some who may disagree with this

able.

statement, but, except in extremely rare cases, it is overwhelming true. Our health has a di-

104


rect relationship with the shape of our bodies,

ficial insemination and, once born, you are

our weight, and the length and quality of our

torn away from your mother after only three

life. Everyone cares about at least one of these things, and there is not anyone who would

weeks of nursing (a fraction of what piglets spend with their mothers in natural circum-

rather be sick than healthy, and so everyone, undeniably, cares about their health. Al-

stances). If you are a male, your testicles are torn out without anesthetics within the first

though, without a doubt, not everyone is an

month of your life. In addition, your tail is cut

environmentalist, everyone, even if they deny it, cares about the environment. We care

off, your ears are mutilated, and your teeth are clipped in half, all without pain relief

about the quality of the air and the cleanliness of water; we care about the temperature on

(GoVeg.com). You are immediately confined to a small pen with many other pigs, making it

any given day and the survival of the planet.

nearly impossible to move at all, let alone walk

While not everyone may necessarily squeal when they see a puppy or cry when Bambi’s

or lay down. The floor beneath your feet is concrete and covered in feces. You are fed an

mother dies (I have been known to do both), it is a rare person that is emotionally immune to

unnatural and weight-inducing diet and by the time you are six months old you are 250

the suffering of animals. There is almost no

pounds and barely able to support your own

one in this world who would not be affected if they witnessed a man beating a dog or a cat

weight. It is at this point, after approximately six months of misery, that you are placed on a

emitting a final shriek as it is squished under the tire of a car. Recent studies have shown

truck and shipped to the final phase of your brief life. If you survive the trip (one million

that “96 percent of Americans believe that

pigs each year do not), you are beaten and

animals should be protected from cruelty” (GoVeg.com). This alone demonstrates peo-

poked with electrical prodders so that you proceed as intended into the waiting arms of

ple’s concern for animal welfare. What it doesn’t indicate is whether people act on

your executioner: the slaughterhouse. At this point, your physical and emotional stress, ex-

these concerns. The irony of the situation is

haustion, and pain have worn you down

that the percentage of Americans who claim to care about animal welfare is equivalent to

completely and you are terrified; “it’s not uncommon for pigs awaiting slaughter to have

the percentage of Americans who consume factory farm produced meat. Animal welfare

heart attacks or become nonambulatory. Too much stress: the transport, the change of en-

and factory farming have almost nothing to

vironment, the handling, the squeals from

do with each other, other than the fact that one directly contradicts the other.

the other side of the door, the smell of blood, the knocker’s waving arms” (Foer 160). It is in

Imagine the taste of meat. Think about how delicious a slice of pepperoni pizza is, or

this condition that you experience the first stage of your slaughter; in order to be rendered

how mouth-watering a crispy strip of bacon is.

unconscious, either a steel pin or an electrical

To some, there are few things that taste better. Then, push your imagination even further

shock is shot through your brain. However, if you are unlucky, this procedure is ineffective

and imagine, for a moment, that you are a pig. To begin with, you are conceived through arti-

and you remain conscious during the next stages of slaughter. You are then sent to the

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bleeding stage, in which you are hung upside

are fed extremely unnatural diets and often

down by your leg, your throat is slit, and you

starved or force-fed. They never feel the touch

remain hanging as the blood drains out of you. You are then dunked into boiling water,

of grass or the warmth of the sun; their lives consist of concrete floors and metal cages.

which burns the hair and the majority of the filth off of your body. You then move through

They are driven in trucks packed with other animals to the slaughterhouse, where their

the butchering and packaging process and,

death is by no means painless or fearless. They

eventually, end up on a shelf in a supermarket. From there, someone buys you and takes you

often experience several stages of slaughter while conscious until their body finally gives

home to bake a delicious pepperoni pizza or fry strips of bacon until they are mouth-

out; “animals are bled, skinned, and dismembered while conscious” (230). They die. And

wateringly crisp.

they experience all of this for one reason: to

This is not a manipulation or an exaggeration of the truth. It is not the unfortunate

satisfy the taste buds of humanity. Taste is one of the five senses, which

exception to the rule. It is the rule. Every year, billions of animals are raised and killed in this

also include sight, hearing, smell, and touch. An effort is made in life to please each of these

way: “Globally, roughly 450 billion land ani-

senses, whether through painting walls, lis-

mals are now factory farmed every year… ninety-nine percent of all land animals eaten

tening to music, burning incense, using Snuggies, or eating chocolate. Yet the only sense

or used to produce milk and eggs in the United States are factory farmed” (Foer 34).

that humans seem to regularly exempt from some sort of moral code is taste. In modern

The conditions in these factory farms, as de-

times, wearing fur is generally frowned upon.

scribed above, are staggeringly inhumane. The animals who fall victim to these conditions

It used to be that fur was considered to be a desirable aspect of a wardrobe, but over the

live lives of extreme suffering, and it’s not just pigs; chickens, cows, and turkeys are the other

years people have condoned the practice less and less. This is because many feel that it is

primary victims of factory farming, but many

cruel and unethical to kill animals simply for

other species are also farmed around the world, including sheep, rabbits, ducks, goats,

the purpose of being fashionable and wearing soft fur. In other words, the majority of the

cats, dogs, and horses. They are artificially inseminated and genetically modified and many

population has decided that they value their morals and concern for animal welfare over

are actually incapable of reproducing sexually.

their senses of touch and sight. So then why,

They are torn away from their parents and painfully physically modified soon after birth.

of all of the senses, do we separate taste from the others and often ignore any moral qualms

They are forced into tiny cages in which their movement is so limited that they are often

we might have about the food we are eating? Is it not hypocritical to say that we can harm

unable to even turn their heads or lie down.

animals to enjoy the taste of meat, but cannot

They are poked, prodded, and beaten. They are sometimes taunted and tortured by factory

harm them to enjoy the feeling or look of their fur?

farmers, not out of necessity, but simply because the farmers find it entertaining. They

There exist in humanity’s treatment of animals large discrepancies. For various rea-

106


sons, we have evolved to treat some animals

not eat, and often our decisions are made

much better than we do other animals. For

without much basis of reason or logic, but

example, in America, it is acceptable to mistreat Babe, but it is unacceptable, even illegal,

simply habit. If one looks at the reasonable way of doing things, Americans would eat mil-

to mistreat Fido. Cats, dogs, and other pets have been granted better rights than the less

lions of cats and dogs every year. Millions of cats and dogs are euthanized every year in

fortunate species used for food. Americans are

shelters. This is a problem in and of itself, but

shocked and disturbed when cats or dogs are abused or killed; whole organizations, such as

the fact that all of this meat is going to waste makes it even worse, and simply because our

the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), have been created

culture has stigmatized the eating of the animals we call pets. If we are uncomfortable

to enforce animal rights. Their purpose is to

with eating dogs, perhaps we should recon-

prevent cruelty to animals and persecute those who abuse them. However, their work is

sider whether we are truly and logically comfortable with eating pigs or chickens. If we all

focused only on pets. It seems, in American law, that the idea of humane treatment of

had pet pigs, would we condone the abuse and slaughter of them?

animals applies only to a select few. If cats or

67 percent of American adults ages 20

dogs were treated in the way that factory farmed pigs, chickens, or cows were, people

and older are overweight or obese: 12 percent have heart disease: 16 percent have high se-

would be outraged and those committing the offenses would be severely punished. Ameri-

rum cholesterol (CDC). In America, these three health conditions are considered to be

cans are repulsed by the idea of eating cats or

health crises. They have become such a severe

dogs, yet most have no issues with eating pigs or cows. True, we associate in general much

problem that they are considered to be a factor in the reduction of average life spans. One

more with cats and dogs, but does this mean that we necessarily must favor them to the

thing that ties these conditions together is the fact that they can all be caused by the same

extreme? We bathe them, give them warms

thing: food. Nutritional food is an essential

beds to sleep in, spoil them, and sometimes even clothe them. The rule that we have estab-

aspect of having a healthful lifestyle. Our health, weight, and life span are greatly influ-

lished is that chickens belong on a plate and cats belong in fuzzy beds. On the other hand,

enced by the decisions we make about food throughout our lifetimes. Much of obesity

many other cultures have very different guide-

comes from the ingestion of fat and calories.

lines around eating meat. There are several places around the world where eating cats or

Most meat is extremely high in fat and calories; in fact, one main reason why meat tastes

dogs is quite normal, or where insects are seen as tasty snacks. In India, as mentioned earlier,

good to us is because of the number of calories it has (â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brain Pleasure Pathway Responds to

eating cows is considered unacceptable and is

Calorie-Rich Food, Not Just Sugar Flavorsâ&#x20AC;&#x153;).

generally quite rare. In the religions of Judaism and Islam, some followers refrain from

The risk of many health problems can be reduced significantly by not eating meat as regu-

eating pork. All over the world we have specifications about which animals we will or will

larly, or not eating it at all. Vegetarianism has been proven to increase bone density, decrease

107


the likelihood of heart disease, and prompt

so much focus is placed on the negative im-

weight loss (“Vegetarianism - A Healthy Alter-

pact that transportation has on the planet,

native or a Fad?”). Eliminating meat from one’s diet eliminates much of one’s overall fat

and so little attention is paid to the impact of animal agriculture, many are shocked to learn

intake, and as a result increases the general health of a person.

that the meat industry is so detrimental to the health of the planet.

Many, in defense of carnivorous hab-

The enormous amount of land taken

its, have argued that meat is a crucial part of a healthy diet. Meat does provide a lot of the

up by animal agriculture is one of the primary reasons why the meat industry is so harmful

vitamins, minerals, and protein that are vital to one’s nutrition, but it would be false to state

to the planet: “Nearly one-third of the land surface of the planet is dedicated to livestock”

that meat is the only source of these dietary

(Foer 149). In the process of creating slaugh-

essentials. There is no doubt that vegetarians have to work harder than meat eaters in order

terhouses and factory farms for the meat industry, many natural habitats and ecosystems

to obtain protein, iron, and various vitamins, for example B12, found in meat products. Em-

are harmed or destroyed. Trees are chopped down and whole forests are ruined. The exis-

phasis is put on eating foods rich in protein,

tence of trees is extremely important to the

such as eggs, beans, cheese, and soy products. It is important for vegetarians to consume

health of the planet because they absorb the CO2 that we emit. CO2 is a greenhouse gas,

more of these kinds of food than those who have meat as a regular part of their diet. Vege-

which are substances that collect in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are transparent

tarians must put in extra effort and pay close

to sunlight, but they keep heat inside the at-

attention to what they are eating in order to stay healthy, but it is by no means impossible

mosphere. Essentially, they let heat in and do not let it out. As greenhouse gases build up,

to maintain a healthy vegetarian diet. Climate change is quite possibly the

the sun’s rays can more easily enter the atmosphere, resulting in an increased tempera-

world’s greatest threat. It is currently one of

ture on earth. As the earth warms, habitats are

the hottest topics and suddenly much of the world seems to be focused on becoming

altered and destroyed, icebergs start melting, sea levels rise, droughts become increasingly

“green.” Recycling bins are everywhere, grocery stores all sell their own fabric bags, and

common, and the world is forced to readjust to rapidly changing situations. In addition,

biodiesel, bikes, and buses are increasingly

there is all of the land that is used to produce

common. Unfortunately, one of the most important steps to reversing and preventing cli-

food for animals in factory farms. What many fail to realize is that there

mate change is, for the most part, ignored. The factory farm industry is one of the great-

is a whole part of the meat industry that has nothing to do with animals or their flesh. In

est contributing factors to climate change:

order to raise and, more specifically, fatten the

“Animal agriculture makes a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transpor-

animals produced for the meat, one must feed them. The goal in factory farming is to pro-

tation in the world combined; it is the number one cause of climate change” (Foer 43). Since

duce the largest possible animal in the shortest amount of time, resulting in the most effi-

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cient way of producing vast amounts of meat.

extreme amounts of fecal matter, areas around

In order to achieve this goal, the factory farms

and under farms often become pools of feces:

must be provided with sufficient amounts of food for the animals. In some cases, the ani-

“Today a typical pig factory farm will produce 7.2 million pounds of manure annually, a

mals are almost constantly fed. And so, the meat industry has an extremely high demand

typical broiler facility will produce 6.6 million pounds, and a typical cattle feedlot 344 mil-

for food. Huge amounts of land are used in

lion pounds” (174). As this buildups, it begins

America simply for the purpose of creating the food that feeds the animals that we eat. In a

spreading beyond the areas surrounding factory farms. Rain and bodies of water start

way, this food is simply wasted; instead of being given directly to the population to con-

moving the fecal matter and bacteria contained within it to places often many miles

sume, it is used to make more food. Unfortu-

away from the source. It spreads to neighbor-

nately, it takes a larger amount of food to produce the meat than the amount of meat that

ing farms and contaminates water and food supplies. Those who live in communities in

results from it: “There is no ethical difference between eating meat and throwing vast quan-

close proximity to factory farms are at risk for health problems, caused solely by the animal

tities of food in the trash, since the animals we

waste. In order to remove it from the pools of

eat can only turn a small fraction of the food that is fed to them into meat calories - it takes

feces, the waste is sometimes sprayed over the land, causing it to fill the air, making it much

six to twenty-six calories fed to an animal to produce just one calorie of animal flesh”

easier for it to be harmful to nearby human populations. In addition, factory farmed ani-

(210). This is an alarming statistic, since it

mals are often covered in feces by the time

demonstrates the disturbing ratio of food used to food produced. With world hunger as a ma-

they reach the slaughterhouse. Though an attempt is made to remove all of the fecal mat-

jor global crisis, one cannot help but question whether we are using our resources in the

ter during the butchering process, it is not always entirely effective. It is not rare for animal

most effective way. It is quite possible that, if it

flesh to reach the packaging stage while still

was not going directly to the meat industry, the immense amount of food produced could

contaminated by the feces that had covered their skin at the time of their death. And since

be used more efficiently: “What kind of crime is animal agriculture, which uses 756 million

other farms and food supplies are being contaminated as well from the spread of the

tons of grain and corn per year, much more

waste, the effects are much more extensive

than enough to adequately feed the 1.4 billion humans who are living in dire poverty? And

than simply being a contamination of meat products.

that 756 million doesn‘t even include the fact that 98 percent of the 225-million-ton global

The animal waste produced by factory farms is very detrimental to natural environ-

soy crop is also fed to farmed animals“ (211).

ments. It destroys the habitats and eco-

Another aspect of factory farming that contributes to climate change is the amount

systems that previously existed in the area, and when the fecal matter and bacteria travels

of waste that is produced by the farms. With thousands of animals in one farm, producing

farther away, the impact becomes much more widespread and severe. Possibly the worst

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thing that results from the excessive amounts

other foods that we obtain from them, such as

of feces is the production and release of meth-

milk or eggs.

ane, a gas that, in large quantities, is extremely harmful to the health of the planet. Like CO2,

Though certainly more rare than vegetarianism, veganism has become increasingly

methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes greatly to the warming of earth. Despite its

common. Those who are vegan abstain from eating, and in some cases using, any animal

increasingly large impact on the greenhouse

products: meat, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, ice

effect, little attention is paid to the effects of methane. And although there has been a

cream, and any other food that contains any of these substances. Many vegans also refrain

global movement to reduce the emission of CO2, methane emissions have been some-

from eating honey and using beeswax. Factory farmed dairy animals are generally treated just

what ignored and the real source of the dam-

as inhumanely as the animals used for meat.

age has not been fully addressed. The meat industry has been the cause of many

Egg-laying hens in particular have a life much like meat chickens. They are subjected to

different health crises throughout the years. E coli poisoning, for instance, is rooted in the

abuse and mistreatment, and are confined to tiny cages: “In the typical cage for egg-laying

factory farm industry. E coli is a bacterium

hens, each bird has 67 square inches of space…

that grows in the stomach of many different animals. When humans eat meat, or eat food

Nearly all cage-free birds have approximately the same amount of space” (79). The term

that has been contaminated by animal feces, they can become infected with E coli. E coli

“cage-free” means just what it says: the birds are not kept in individual cages, unlike those

poisoning is a constant problem in America,

raised without the “cage-free” label. However,

and can be quite dangerous if left untreated. Since animal feces contamination spreads well

this term provides no restrictions applying to the amount of space each chicken has. Instead

beyond its source, it is not rare for crops to come in contact with the waste of factory

of tiny, individual cages, the chickens are usually crammed into a large room. Instead of be-

farms. Even the H1N1 virus (more commonly

ing restricted and crowded on all sides by

known as swine flu), the epidemic that swept through the nation during 2009, is thought to

metal bars and wires, they are pressed up against their fellow chickens. These living

have been caused by factory farmed pigs. It has been strongly speculated that the H1N1

conditions often create chaos among the chickens. Chickens in these situations have

virus originated in Smithfield factory farms,

been known to fight with other chickens

the largest producer of pork in the world. It is difficult not to be disturbed by the likely pos-

around them, often to the death. It can be argued that “cage-free” is just as inhumane as

sibility that the leading producer of pig meat was the source of such a destructive virus.

raising birds in small cages. Those who are vegan have decided that they cannot tolerate

Vegetarianism is often and easily con-

this inhumane treatment of dairy animals.

fused with other similar, yet distinctive, dietary practices. There are a variety of dietary

Being a vegan is much more challenging than being a vegetarian; they have more potential

restrictions concerning foods produced by animals, whether it is their actual flesh or

health problems than vegetarians and have much less selection when it comes to food. For

110


these reasons, many vegetarians, like myself,

ditions that have become an accepted part of

have refrained from taking the next step to

life. An example of this is the holiday of

veganism. There have undoubtedly been times

Thanksgiving. For years, it has been a solidified tradition in America to eat turkey for

when I have considered becoming vegan. I am uncomfortable with how the majority of dairy

Thanksgiving dinner. It is such an accepted practice that it is fairly unusual for someone to

animals are treated and feel many of the same

not have turkey on Thanksgiving. Interest-

qualms about eating dairy as I do about eating meat. However, I doubt that I will become

ingly, giving up this tradition seems to be one of the hardest things for meat eaters to com-

completely vegan during my life. Many of the reasons that keep meat eaters from becoming

prehend. I am often asked the question “what do you eat on Thanksgiving?” When truly

vegetarian are similar to my reasons for not

considered, this question seems rather odd.

becoming vegan. At this point in my life, I feel that it would be too difficult for me to convert

After all, there are almost endless possibilities of what one could eat on Thanksgiving. How-

to veganism. I am not responsible for all of the foods bought or meals cooked in my house-

ever, the habits that we develop make it seem that Thanksgiving could not possibly be en-

hold, which would pose problems in being

joyable without the presence of turkey, just as

able to eat what is provided. In addition, I refrain from giving up dairy for the selfish rea-

it seems to some that life would be much less enjoyable without the presence of meat. As it

son that I like how it tastes. I love a wide variety of foods that contain milk and eggs, from

is often said, we are “creatures of comfort,” we are creatures of habit. When there are aspects

pizza to pad thai to pie. It would be very chal-

of our lives that we are comfortable with, we

lenging for me to refrain from eating these foods, and would take an enormous amount

push away anything that threatens that comfort. A number of meat eaters have admitted

of self-control. Though there is a decent selection of food alternatives now available to ve-

to me that they would rather not discuss the conditions in factory farms or hear statistics

gans, the vegan diet is still extremely restric-

on the global impact of the meat industry be-

tive. Vegan alternatives to pizza, pad thai, pie, or other foods can be created or obtained, but

cause they do not want to feel any guilt that might accompany it. It is not that they simply

it remains a difficulty to regularly restrict oneself to such alternatives. Many meat eaters

feel no guilt, but that they do not want to be forced to confront the affects of their actions.

have expressed these same feelings about giv-

They do not want to leave the comfort of ac-

ing up meat. For a large amount of people, giving up meat is virtually unthinkable. A major-

cepted practices and habits. Often when people choose to take the

ity of people consume meat every day, and some have it at almost every meal. For them, it

step of becoming vegetarian, they refrain from giving up meat entirely. Sometimes, this is for

seems impossible to remove such a central

taste reasons; I have known of one family who

part of their meals from their diet. It is in this way that I can understand and sympathize

is vegetarian, except they were unwilling to give up bacon, and so they decided to restrict

with people’s unwillingness to give up meat. People have difficulty changing habits or tra-

themselves to bacon only. Others have chosen to stop eating meat, but continue to eat meat

111


products, such as gelatin or meat broth. Many

ant existence than the other animals that are

meat eaters, and even some vegetarians, are

used for meat. Also since fish are usually not

surprised when I tell them that I cannot eat marshmallows. When they ask why, and I re-

factory farmed, it is assumed that the environmental impacts of fishing are much less

spond “I’m vegetarian,” I sometimes receive a laugh because I am thought to be kidding. But

than the impacts of land factory farming. Unfortunately, many of the assump-

in fact, marshmallows contain gelatin, a sub-

tions made about the realities and effects of

stance made from the collagen inside animals’ skin and bones. Though I refrain from eating

fishing are false. Fish are by no means a lesser form of existence than other species. They suf-

animal products of this sort, some vegetarians do not concern themselves with such restric-

fer and feel pain, just as cows or pigs or humans feel pain. Their suffering is of no less

tions, since they are not actual meat products

importance or degree. And though they may

(and some just like eating marshmallows). Though some certainly choose to continue

have a better life than other meat animals prior to being slaughtered, their death is no

eating certain meat products because of a desire for the flavor, there are a fair amount of

less painful or traumatizing. While fish are being caught, they are often maimed and se-

people who do so for other reasons. One ex-

verely injured by hooks and netting. They are

ample of this is pescetarianism. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a pescetarian quite

sometimes literally torn apart by nets and the other struggling fish that surround them.

simply as “a person who does not eat meat but does eat fish” (1071). Although some people

Though this occasionally results in their death, death by suffocation is the fate that

become pescetarian because they cannot give

most fish face. This is a thoroughly uncom-

up the taste of fish, others do so for nutritional, moral, or environmental reasons. Fish

fortable and painful way to die: “fish die slowly and painfully over a period as long as

flesh offers many nutritional benefits that one cannot get as easily without the inclusion of

fourteen minutes” (Foer 193). Most people fail to realize that the fish on their plate had to

fish in one’s diet. In addition, it does not cause

suffer greatly to get there. Even when one

the same health issues that other types of meat cause. Many feel or assume that fish are

watches a video of a fish slaughter, the fish emits no sounds of pain and expresses no

of a lesser intelligence or level of existence than humans and other animals. For this rea-

emotion that we can detect. Because of this, we unconsciously deduce that fish experience

son, many experience less guilt eating fish

little suffering. Many meat eaters admit that

than they do eating cows or pigs. Fish seem incredibly dissimilar to any form of life that

the cows or pigs or chickens that they eat suffered at the time of their death, but this is

humans regularly interact with, and so we are able to alienate them and denounce them as

rarely acknowledged when it comes to fish: “Although one can realistically expect that at

things, instead of living creatures with senses

least some percentage of cows and pigs are

and emotions. In addition, the general assumption is that, since a large amount of the

slaughtered with speed and care, no fish gets a good death. Not a single one. You never have

fish consumed in the United States are not factory farmed, fish have a much more pleas-

to wonder if the fish on your plate had to suffer. It did” (193). This is undeniably disturb-

112


ing, since fish are thought to be lucky com-

our plate, or we can choose to more closely

pared to land animals raised for the same pur-

examine the impact that this decision will

pose.

have on ourselves, our community, and even the entire world. It is up to each individual to

Commercial fishing is, by no standards, environmentally sustainable. Enormous numbers of fish and other sea life are

determine where they will place importance, which things they will let matter, and which

fished every year. In addition to these animals

things they will ignore: “Whether we’re talk-

that are killed and actually used for food, there is an unbelievable amount of sea life caught

ing about fish species, pigs, or some other eaten animal, is such suffering the most im-

unintentionally and disposed of: “Roughly 4.5 million sea animals are killed as bycatch in

portant thing in the world? Obviously not. Is it more important than sushi, bacon, or

longline fishing every year, including roughly

chicken nuggets? That’s the question” (193).

3.3 million sharks, 1 million marlins, 60,000 sea turtles, 75,000 albatross, and 20,000 dol-

We cannot really quantify the importance of animal suffering. We cannot place a number

phins and whales” (191). It is not just the fish that suffer from the immense amount of fish-

on it, and from there decide whether or not we will eat meat. All we can do is decide for

ing done every year, but the entire marine eco

ourselves where we will draw the line. We

system: “The average trawling operation throws 80 to 90 percent of the sea animals it

have to choose whether we are willing to support an industry that defies many of the mor-

captures as bycatch overboard” (191). Commercial fishing is slowly killing off large popu-

als and standards that we have set for ourselves. Modern society refuses to condone the

lations of marine life. The amount of fish in

abuse of animals, yet every day this is contra-

earth’s oceans is decreasing at an alarming rate. Humanity is treating fish as though they

dicted by the chickens in battery cages and the cows on their way to the slaughterhouse.

were an unlimited resource, but this is far from the truth. If we are not careful, we will

The global community is working toward a more environmentally sustainable world, yet

destroy some of the most vital aspects of our

one of the greatest contributing factors to cli-

oceans. If the reality of eating animals shows

mate change is essentially ignored. Each individual has to decide how they will balance

us nothing else, it at least shows us that we influence the world through the food we eat.

their own taste buds and the atrocities that happen every day as a result of the meat in-

Every trip to the grocery store, order at a res-

dustry. And each person must ask themselves

taurant, or bite of food makes an impact, often beyond our own knowledge or comprehen-

at what point does the pleasure no longer justify the means?

sion. We may not always be able to decide the impact that certain foods have on our earth, our bodies, and our morality, but we do have the ability to choose which of these foods we will eat, and for what reasons. We can choose to consume meat no matter where it comes from or what happened before it arrived on

113


Works Cited A Cow At My Table. Dir. Jennifer Abbott. Flying Eye Productions, 1998. "Brain Pleasure Pathway Responds to Calorie-Rich Foods, Not Just Sugar Flavor". Duke Medicine News and Communications. Nov. 28, 2009 <http://www.dukehealth.org/ health_library/news/10267>. Everything Is Illuminated. Dir. Liev Schreiber. Perf. Eugene Hutz, Elijah Wood, and

Jona-

than Safran Foer. Warner Independent Pictures, 2005. Foer, Jonathan. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009. Iacobbo, Karen, and Michael Iacobbo. Vegetarian America: A History. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2004. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Dir. Joel Zwick. Perf. Nia Vardalos, Michael Constantine, and Christina Eleusiniotis. Gold Circle Films, 2002. "National Center for Health Statistics". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dec. 1, 2009 <http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/>. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Pescetarian.â&#x20AC;? Concise Oxford English Dictionary. 11th ed. 2004. Print. Portmess, Lisa, and Kerry Walters. Religious Vegetarianism: From Hesiod to the Dalai Lama. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001. Sizemore, Bill. "PETA's Zeal Pushes the Envelope Too Far for Some". Fur Commission

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Oct. 12, 2009 <http://www.furcommission.com/resource/perspect999ag.htm>. Spencer, Colin. Vegetarianism: A History. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2000. "Vegetarianism - A Healthy Alternative or a Fad?". Healthwatch. Nov. 29, 2009. "Vegetarianism In America". Vegetarian Times. Oct. 24, 2009 <http:// www.vegetariantimes.com/features/archive_of_editorial/667>.

114


Cybercrime: Anonymity in the Age of the Internet By Chris Pien People have always wanted to forge

America. Sitting at #6 on the 1951 “FBI Ten

new identities for themselves. This desire

Most Wanted” list for a total of seven months,

stems from the inherent dissatisfaction that lies within most humans regarding their iden-

Peters was one of the longer running fugitives on the list. Peters stood apart from other in-

tity, appearance, and more often than not a hungering for personal advancement. While

famous persons on the list due to the nature of his crimes.1 While others on the list such as

naturally occurring, it is something that hu-

Anthony Brancato were wanted for crimes

mans have often dealt with by forging new, alternative identities for themselves where

ranging from armed robbery to drug dealing to murder, Peters’ crime was passing bad

they can be whomever they wish to be. These alternate identities traditionally have been of

checks. How could a man guilty of such a minor crime get placed onto the list of top fugi-

little-to-no consequence, but in recent years

tives in the U.S.? it results from the exten-

the dynamic has changed. People are no longer seeking to make themselves into some-

sively long period of time that peters was allowed to roam the country free, passing bad

thing else, but rather to shed identity entirely, becoming anonymous. In person, this would

checks: He [Peters] was a malefactor who had

be an impossible goal as there would always be

been bouncing rubber checks in 1902,

one way or another to identify the individual, whether it be their facial structure, their pos-

when J. Edgar Hoover was a seven-year old boy bouncing rubber balls. The old

ture, or even their voice. Over the Internet however, all of these factors have been re-

Burro [Sic.] of Investigation, predecessor of the FBI, first arrested Fred Peters in

moved, meaning that following the correct

1915; he was by then a seasoned alum-

procedures we can get as close to total anonymity as is humanly possible. This power has

nus of reformatories, jails and state prisons. In 1920, before the modern FBI was

resulted in a psychological change in our interpersonal relationships, and has given rise to

formed. President Woodrow Wilson was so impressed by Peters' promising abili-

a mantra: “in a world without consequence

ties and resolves that he commuted his

for one’s actions, why bother having human decency?” This world seemingly without con-

time in Atlanta prison from ten to five years. Since that time, he quickly resum-

sequence has led us to our current Internet— a place without rules, morals, and inhibitions,

ing his mild depredations, Peters had built an FBI file as tall as he was. (Smith

something that this country hasn’t seen in a

65)

very long time. Frederick Emerson Peters, FBI file No.

Peters operated his con in a method never seen before, or since. While most people

7,350, was one of the most wanted men in

would succumb to the temptation to steal one

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person’s identity and thereafter mine it for all

the illusion that he was indeed Roosevelt JR.,

that it was worth, Peters was a different kind

and as such successfully assumed his identity

of thief. He did take on the identity of others, but instead of hiding behind the anonymity

for the purpose of bouncing these small checks. It is odd that this level of anonymity,

presented by interactions through mail-order catalogs and the like, Peters went into the

which has not existed for the better part of a century, would manifest itself today in the

world and assumed the identity of his mark,

many forms of identity theft present within

despite looking nothing like the person in question. Early on, he chose to impersonate

our current society. These range from the simple theft of an identity via rifling through

the son of the sitting president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. The fact that he

one’s trash, to the far more complex scams that take place on the Internet.

looked nothing like the president’s son did

What today we know as the Internet

nothing to hinder his ruse. He was able to hold the aura of power, and thus keep the

was originally created by the Federal agency called DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research

shopkeeper fooled long enough to play his con. He would pass very small checks, totaling

Projects Agency) as a response to the soviet launched satellite sputnik. Under the code-

no more than a few hundred a year: “he was

name of ARPANET (Advanced Research Pro-

willing to devote hours or days of such artistic buildup to realize a profit of from five to thirty

jects Agency NETwork) work on a method of electronically transferring packets of informa-

dollars on a bouncing check. He did not want or need much money; his haunts were not the

tion over long distances developed. As expressed by the head of the program in 1968,

hot spots, but the libraries” (Smith 65). His

Dr. Lawrence Roberts, in relation to the poten-

demeanor was so affective that instead of turning in the small checks that bounced to

tial of the Internet: “Just as time-shared computer systems have permitted groups of hun-

the FBI; the shopkeepers would even go as far as to frame them as reminders of their en-

dreds of individual users to share hardware and software resources with one another,

counter with “the president’s boy.” Peters’

networks connecting dozens of such systems

ability to pass himself off as the sitting president’s son relied on two things: his convinc-

will permit resource sharing between thousands of users.” This original focus of the

ing portrayal of someone in the station of power and influence, and the ignorance of the

Internet, what ARPANET became, has unfortunately shifted. When packet sharing serv-

general populace. In this case, the populace

ices were opened to the public with the FCC

was kept in the dark by a lack of information. In 1902, the radio had only just been commer-

(Federal Communications Commission) in charge of its monitoring, the true Internet be-

cialized, five years prior, leaving the devices few and far between, and the television was

gan to form. For the first time, people were allowed to venture into the great unknown

still three decades out meaning that the only

that constitutes the World Wide Web. At this

possible method of media was the papers. With the president’s son not being a subject

time, however, the Internet was nowhere near the genteel place that we know today. Much

likely to be photographed and plastered across the page, Peters was successfully able to create

like the rough-and-tumble towns that dotted the American west from the 1860’s into the

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early 1900’s, the Internet was a place largely

to prevent themselves from receiving these

without rule and regulation. Without any

seemingly legitimate messages from parties

form of structure, or for that matter a real index, as made by a search website such as Goo-

abroad. The lack of identity on the part of the scammers also makes this a faceless crime to

gle today, you were as likely to stumble upon a pornographic website, as to find a website de-

both the scammer and the victim. The victim will never be able to see who attempted to take

tailing someone’s heritage. This randomness

their money, and for their attempt, the scam-

of content helped to create a divide between the physical world and the digital, which in

mer will not have to see whose money they took. This removes the repercussions that

turn gave rise to Internet crimes, namely scamming and piracy.

would be in place if this were a face-to face encounter. If someone was to run up to you and

Digital crimes are mostly unique in our

attempt to snatch the bag you’re carrying, the

society. It has been a long, long while since anything of this magnitude could be pulled

situation would be entirely different. As a victim, you have actual power in the situation,

off. With the advent of the television in the 1930’s scamming became a little more difficult

and indeed can see the attempted thief brought to justice. This removal of personal

than it already was. You no longer had to give

interaction through the Internet removes the

the impression that you were someone that you weren’t: you’d have to look, act, and

only repercussion for the crime, allowing the perpetrator to continue their illicit activates

sound like them too. This negated most of the small cons, such as Frederick Emerson Peters,

indefinably. As with scamming, Internet Piracy is

and for the most part, made the world an eas-

also a crime that is seen as both victimless and

ier place to live in; however, with the Internet, and the shield of anonymity that it provides

repercussion-less. Internet piracy has been around almost as long as the Internet. As soon

its users, anonymity based crime is on the rise and anything seems possible. In popular cul-

as users found that they had the ability to transfer information between each other over

ture we have all heard of the story of a man

the World Wide Web, they began to share

who receives an email from someone in Nigeria, offering the mark a gratuitous amount of

their files. One factor soon arose that caused Internet piracy to explode— Windows 95. It

money. Though laughable in its obvious fakeness, this scam has netted over 5 billion dol-

was the first operating system to hit the main stream market and make the computer a

lars worldwide, since the Internet’s inception

household staple. Before this point, comput-

in 1989, proving that people fall for this kind of scam simply through ignorance of the facts.

ers were, for the most part, relegated to those seen by society as “nerdy.” Windows 95

The far more interesting component is that the environment needed to pull off such a

changed this by combining the Stability of the well-established MS-DOS (Microsoft-Disk Op-

scam is only available over the Internet. The

erating System) with the Graphical User Inter-

perpetrators have total anonymity, as well as the shielding of a foreign government, and

face (GUI) and multitasking capabilities of the Windows line of operating systems, into the

there is little to nothing that the consumer can do to either recoup their losses, or indeed

first extremely stable version of the Microsoft Windows operating system. With the added

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hardware and software compatibility, Win-

original and less disagreeable impetus (one

dows 95 effectively opened up the personal

can never fully agree that taking to the high

computer to the greater consumer market. In combination with the explosion of Dial-up

seas in search of profit through whatever means possible is wholly good and fair) often

Internet services such as Netscape, AOL, and CompuServe the idea of a computer in every

led to the second and far more sinister motive of personal gain. These were the people who

household in America was born, giving birth

set out to see, only in search of their wealth at

to the widespread Internet Age. The Internet Age, it can be argued, was

the expense of others, regardless of the cost. If we look at Internet piracy, however, none of

the advent of modern software piracy. Piracy of software over the Internet varied greatly

the classical impetuses remain. Classical piracy has been practiced on

classical piracy in three main ways: First

the high seas for thousands of years all over

among these is the impetus to the “crime” of piracy, which is technically copyright in-

the globe. The perpetrators of piracy have always operated outside of the law, with excep-

fringement. …Interference with copyright does not eas-

tions such as the privateers contracted by the English to raid Spanish trading vessels during

ily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud.

the early 16th century. Differing from the

The Copyright Act even employs a separate term of art to define one who misap-

many swashbuckling and occasionally heroic (if not always foolhardy) actions of our per-

propriates a copyright: 'an infringer of the copyright.’ The infringer invades a statuto-

ceived pirate, classical pirates attempted to operate in anonymity in multiple facets of

rily defined province guaranteed to the

their lives. First and foremost, the punishment

copyright holder alone. But he does not assume physical control over the copy-

for piracy was, almost entirely without exception, execution. With this threat looming over

right; nor does he wholly deprive its owner of its use. While one may colloquially link

their heads, pirates were required to keep their veil of anonymity over themselves as for their

infringement with some general notion of

own protection, any time that they left the

wrongful appropriation, infringement plainly implicates a more complex set of

sanctuary of their ship, which happened to be another bastion of anonymity. By far, one of

property interests than does run-of-themill theft, conversion, or fraud. (Dowling

the most common techniques of classical pirates, at least those bordering the Barbary

V. United States, 473 U.S. 207)

Coast, was to match the flag of their intended

This might be the area in which modern Internet piracy varies from its classical equiva-

target (or at least to fly one of an allied nation), and then once the distance between the

lent. Classical piracy was mainly driven by two factors: desperation and the quest for per-

ships had been closed so that the ships could not hold each other off with cannon barrages,

sonal gain. The desperation covers those who

the pirates would drop the façade of their as-

set sail to gain enough financial reward to return to their families and thereby remove

sumed identity, finally revealing their true flag as they engaged their addled prey. Le Sieur du

themselves from their current predicament (oppression, poverty, etc.). Unfortunately this

Chasset des Boys, a traveler upon a Dutch trading vessel that was attacked using this trick

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recalled of the ship that had approached his

another party; here lies the most interesting

under friendly colors: “the Dutch flags disap-

point where software piracy has diverged from

peared and the masts and poop were simultaneously shaded by flags of taffeta of all colors,

its antiquated forefather. This rift is based on two major points. First of all, it must be noted

enriched and embroidered with stars, crescents, suns, crossed swords and other devices.”

that Internet piracy lacks all of the motivation behind it, since it is essentially driven by peo-

This account is indicative of many of the suc-

ple’s perceived need to experience the latest

cessful pirate attacks of the 17th century and beyond. Anonymity plays a key role in both

and greatest piece of media, whether it be film, music, game, or something else entirely.

allowing the pirate to attack unsuspecting vessel, and allowing them to escape back into the

The will to acquire these new “possessions” they cannot truly be called possessions for two

puddle to fight another day for their own fi-

reasons: first of all they are of non-material

nancial gain (Vallar). By the mid eighteenth century, piracy has been largely eradicated

objects, and secondly, even when one goes to a store and purchases a piece of software, they

due to large scale government crackdowns on pirates who fed themselves off merchant ves-

are not in fact getting a copy of that software with which they can do whatever they please.

sels, finally leading to the ostensible extinc-

Instead, the consumer is acquiring a license,

tion of the pirate in the mid 19th century, bringing to a close the dreadful era that had

which simply gives the user legal access to the software mentioned in the EULA (End User

existed along the world’s coasts for thousands of years (“Barbary States”). Piracy, however,

License Agreement)), and do with them what they will, in total disregard for the license

was not completely extinguished. Throughout

agreement shipped with each copy of the

the world, small pockets of pirates thrived and continue to exist even today. They have re-

software: As software is "licensed" and not sold to

cently been the subject of international news, with Somali pirates hijacking ships, mainly

the users an agreement is required to define the "rights" that the user gets when

Oil tankers, off the coast of Somalia in search

they pay for said license. A software li-

of ransom money to sustain themselves and their families on shore. The motive of stealing

censing agreement protects the authors copyright and intellectual property

the possessions of others for personal gain has been the same driving force behind piracy

rights (IPR) by placing restrictions on the end user in relation to the usage of the

since its beginning. Internet piracy is the new-

application. For example: duplication for

est iteration of the age-old crime, but despite the moniker and similarities it has entirely

purposes other than backup, installation on more than one computer, editing the

different causes, implementations, and repercussions than classical piracy.

code, or changing the program in any way is usually forbidden unless the

Where classical piracy existed almost

product is "open source". (Gillespie-

solely as a version of theft, Internet piracy is morally ambiguous. Classically the entire mo-

Brown) A smaller demographic than the freebooters

tivation behind piracy was to improve one’s own wealth-- almost always at the expense of

who wish to experience the latest and greatest media sans the cost are people who either

119


wish to try software before they buy it, or wish

make the most interesting moral cases. Some

to utilize software that would otherwise be far

software, mainly titles used for art creation, is

outside their means. Those who wish to try software before they buy it can be likened to

enormously expensive. Titles like Adobe’s CS4 (a compilation of artistic programs, including

someone who goes to a video store to rent a copy of a television show, or a movie, or a

Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash) can cost upwards of $2,499 for a new license and $899

game, before they decide that they desire their

to upgrade from an old version. Sadly this is

own copy so that they don’t end up wasting their money on a product that they don’t

not even the most extreme case. Auto desk’s 3DS max software package (the industry stan-

want in the long run. The unfortunate reality is that these services don’t extend to the per-

dard program for three-dimensional modeling and rendering for anything from advertising,

sonal computer software market. Where one

to video games, to film and television) will set

could rent a game for a “console,” such as Sony’s Playstation 3 or Microsoft’s Xbox 360,

the consumer back $3,499 for a single license, or a “mere” $649 for students if they wish to

the same is not possible for software running of a personal computer. This is due purely to

use the software beyond 13 months. This steep cost gives rise to the most interesting

how software is dealt with on each system. On

“pirates.” Even if they had a wish to be able to

a console, software is read directly off of the optical disk (the object you rent when you

pay for the software that they are using, they could not due to the outrageous sticker price.

rent a game for a console), and the HDD (hard drive disk) is only used for local storage of

From this the moral problem arises despite the fact that they are depriving the company of

smaller files bought off the online market-

possible profit, the company is charging too

place and save files. However, on the personal computer, this dynamic is entirely changed.

much for their software. Yes, their product deserves its fair compensation for time and

When software is put onto the computer, files are copied over, either from an optical disk of

effort put in along with functionality gained, but when the price put on the license is so

some sort (CD, DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray etc.) or

much that it forces otherwise law-abiding citi-

off of the Internet, onto the HDD where from they can be run. The inherent problem with

zens to go to the Internet in search of simple software so that they can make their comput-

using this system for renting though is that once the disk is returned at the end of the

ers useable for their own purposes, entertainment value aside, something is wrong with

rental period, what is stopping the user from

the system. Sadly, this situation is the minor-

continuing using the program? It is from this inability for the personal computer user to le-

ity, as most pirated content on the Internet is for entertainment value. From the pirating of

gally test programs before they decide to purchase them that a small portion of the con-

music in starting in the mid 1990’s, to pirating whole films and games in the mid 2000’s, as

tent pirated over the Internet originates.

Internet connections are fast enough to trans-

Those who choose to pirate software out of neither greed not testing purposes

fer these large files at a far more reasonable clip.

(software demos almost always have limited functionality) but instead out of necessity

The vast majority of pirated content on the Internet is of entertainment value, as

120


opposed to the far less popular “productivity”

singular pirate who differentiates himself

software (perhaps with the exception of Mi-

from the crowd, akin to said sardine leaving

crosoft Office, a suite of programs, including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, that can cost

the safety of the ball that his school has formed as to peruse feeding opportunities on

upwards of $250, and is seen as a essential program on almost every machine). This

his own, which results in capture. In 2007, two brothers, Thomas and Maurice Robber-

serves to remind that Internet piracy is in

son, 48 and 55 respectively, were convicted of

most cases something done out of greed as opposed to some semblance of a sense of ne-

selling pirated software online through sites that specialize in “bargain” software:

cessity. In the modern age, almost all pirated content is both shared and received through

Thomas Robberson made more than $150,000 selling software with a retail

p2p (peer to peer) transfers, increasingly

value of nearly $1 million through

through the bit torrent protocol. Bit torrent is centered on the idea that all content is gener-

Bestvalueshoppe.com and TheDealDepot.net, the DOJ said.

ated and shared by the users. When a file is first being shared, a singular computer will act

Maurice Robberson grossed more than $855,000 selling software with a retail

as a seed, and upload the file constantly to

value of nearly $5.6 million through

other users. As those users download the file, they join in the upload, thus increasing the

CDsalesUSA.com and AmericanSoftwareSales.com. (PCworld)

download speed for subsequent users. If people then do their share, and upload what they

For their crimes, Thomas received thirty months in prison and a $150,000 dollar fine,

have downloaded, then theoretically the file

while Maurice received $855,917 dollar fine as

can be shared indefinably with ever increasing speeds. As the files are shared between each

well as three years in prison. This serves to show how dropping the anonymity afforded

and every user downloading and uploading, it is difficult for publishers to counter the prob-

by the Internet can come back to haunt the individual user. This conviction is an excep-

lem of piracy, as there is no central point of

tion to the rule however. For the two brothers

failure in a bit torrent network. With nowhere to strike against, the industry as a whole has

convicted one of the most popular bit torrent sites on the Internet, www.thepiratebay.org,

chosen to take their anger out on a few pirates, who went and did the one thing that the re-

claims to have over 25 million active users, proving that each conviction gained by soft-

cording, film, and software industries hate

ware, music and film publishers is akin to an

above all else- making money off their published works.

infinitesimal portion of a drop in the proverbial bucket.

By selling pirated software at a fraction of the retail cost, pirates drop the one thing

The question of why someone chooses piracy is quite simple. As stated earlier, piracy

that protects them online- their anonymity.

is one of the few crimes that allow us to be to-

When operating in a p2p network, sharing copyrighted files the average Internet pirate is

tally anonymous, while simultaneously allowing us to receive all of the paid content that we

almost totally anonymous in the flow of data, much like a sardine in a school. It is only a

want with next to zero chance of getting caught and being forced to pay for what has

121


been taken. Much like an angry mob looting

viduals to create an online presence for them-

in the wake of a natural disaster, piracy allows

selves, sharing their thoughts and interests

for the gaining of new possession with no ill effects toward oneself, and not even the threat

with potentially likeminded people and people whom they know in reality. It is in those

of being caught with stolen merchandise. In addition to this allure of the seemingly perfect

potentially likeminded individuals that the real issues still extant in Internet communica-

crime, the anonymity of the Internet allows us

tion emerge. In late 2006 forty eight-year old

to don new identities, and become someone wholly apart from our physical self.

Lori Drew created a fictitious MySpace account for a bow named Josh Evens, suppos-

Since the inception of the Internet, online message boards have been some of the

edly to harass Megan Meier, a girl who had been a friend of Lori Drew’s daughter, but had

seediest places that one could hang out. Offer-

since drifted apart. Lori Drew used the per-

ing total anonymity, while simultaneously allowing multiple users to connect to each

sona of Josh to get close to Megan Meier, forming a relationship between the thirteen-year-

other, these chat-rooms grew into some of the most reviled places on the Internet, soon be-

old girl, and the imaginary sixteen-year-old boy. After a month of maintaining the façade,

coming the stomping grounds of the op-

Drew began to post hurtful comments about

pressed and the deprived. The total anonymity afforded by the setting, in turn allowed, for

the fragile teen, which eventually culminated in Meier’s suicide on October, 17, 2006. (ABC)

extreme misrepresentations of identity. Take for instance, the NBC dateline series To Catch

This tragic event serves to highlight the problems which can arise from the anonymity

a Predator. Hosted by Chris Hansen, these

provided to us by the Internet. While it affords

shows were a series of hidden camera investigations, where the crew of the show assists a

us freedom as users, it also threatens us in the same breath. Forcing users to live in a world

group of Internet vigilantes impersonate minors in Internet chat-rooms, in an attempt to

where they must doubt the identity of anyone the meet in order to protect themselves has

get their intended target to make sexual ad-

lead to a level of paranoia where we are cau-

vances or better yet attempt to set up a meeting with the supposed minor. Though it is

tious to reveal even the smallest bit of information about ourselves for fear that it will be

largely agreeable that the concept behind the show is one based in an attempt to save those

wrenched from our hands and used against us. Despite this threat, we are willing to put our-

seen as helpless, it highlights one of the major

selves on the line and perpetrate morally am-

problems inherent to Internet chat-rooms and most interactions over the internet—the abil-

biguous acts such as piracy. While morally ambiguous, the practice

ity to for better or for worse, become someone totally apart from ourselves.

of pirating copyrighted works over the Internet cannot truly be called theft. According to

Now that the age of the anonymous

the MPAA (Motion Picture Society of America)

internet chat-room has largely passed, a new front has emerged in internet communica-

“Downloading a movie off of the Internet is the same as taking a DVD off a store shelf

tions—social networking sites. Social networking sights are supposed to allow indi-

without paying for it.” While the claim itself that a “crime” in which no property is actu-

122


ally taken, but rather the hypothetical poten-

ingly obvious. PayPal is a weak system, very

tial for profit is reduced, is equivalent to walk-

vulnerable to fraud when selling a virtual

ing to a retailer and taking physical merchandise off their hands, making them lose some-

item. The trouble with the system is that it ruled in favor of the seller in the case of dis-

thing that has been physically purchased, the monetary impacts of software piracy cannot

putes, so all that the seller had to do was claim that they sent the virtual good and provide

be overlooked:

the most menial proof—anything sent

The monetary value of unlicensed software -- "losses" to software companies --

through the mail would do, and PayPal would protect them, allowing the seller to keep both

broke the $50 billion level for the first time. Worldwide losses grew by 11 per-

the virtual goods, most often items or accounts for a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer

cent to $53.0 billion in non-adjusted dol-

Online Role Playing Game), and the payment

lars... Excluding the effect of exchange rates, losses grew by 5 percent to $50.2

received for said goods. The only way to counter this seller scam at the time was for the

billion. This compares to a legitimate PC software market of $88 billion in 2008.

seller to provide proof of identity effectively removing all protection that the internet pro-

(Computer Security Update 3)

vided, and forcing an honest transaction to

This means that piracy is sucking a hypothetical 60 percent additional profit that compa-

occur. In an interview for the website www.markeedragon.com, “Patrick,” a former

nies could be making. Though the keyword here is hypothetical; Internet piracy undoubt-

scammer who had over the course of 3 years taken tens of thousands of dollars from play-

edly hurts publishers by taking away from

ers both through in-game and EBay scam-

their potential revenue stream, but the fact remains that nothing is actually lost. It would

ming, remarked at how he eventually went about selling his E.V.E. online (a popular

be laughable to claim that I was a victim of theft because someone took a copy of my

MMORPG) account: I had to convince someone, over

work and used it as their own. Sure it is im-

craigslist, to deposit $500 into my bank

moral and possibly illegal, but to stay that something was taken away from me would be

account, which I did, and in doing so I had to confirm my real name, I gave

silly, forcing us to realize that such acts cannot be defined as thievery. Nevertheless there are

them a copy of my driver’s license, and he basically did a lot of research on me—

cases in which actual thievery occurs over the

he looked me up and thought of ways he

Internet, aided and abided by the anonymity provided by the Internet.

could get back at me, and he took the chance. He deposited the $500 into my

Early into the Internet boom of the 1990’s Internet auction sites (most notably

bank account, and I sent him an email with all of the account information. It

EBay) was all the rage. They allowed people to

took me three or four days of talking be-

put up items on the Internet for sale, at the owner’s chosen price, and for other people to

fore I could get him comfortable with doing it, and the reason it took so me so

bid on them, paying through a service such as PayPal. The trouble with this though was glar-

much was you know—I was on the PayPal blacklist. (“Patrick”)

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This comment strikes to the heart of how cy-

End Notes

bercrime must be countered. In an environment where anonymity fostered the development of the seedy underbelly, the only way to

1 The list was started in 1950, by longtime FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, and William Kin-

move away from crime and anonymity is full disclosure. By choosing to abandon that little

sey Hutchinson of the International News Service in an attempt to get the public to assist

bit of power afforded to us by anonymity, we

in the locating and capture of fugitives

also abandon all the wrong that anonymity brings, and thus re-emerge from our era of lawlessness into an era of order.

124


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Creative Visualization and the Etiology of Dreams By Hannah McFarlane WE ARE ALL DREAMERS OF DREAMS. Populated with creatures and people who do and say uncanny things, our dreams unsettle us and leave us wondering at their meaning. Because dreams originate inside of us, they can tell us a lot about ourselves, and although we may find our dreams strange because they do not speak as we do, dreams do not disguise. They show us reality based on images, not on words- much like the reality we knew before we could speak (Tonay 3). The study of dreams predates Freud

perhaps honor the nature and meaning of

and Jung. Before dreams were analyzed in a

dreams above all other cultures.

scientific way, they had meaning and significance within cultures. In Ancient Egypt

Hanging from a lamp in my bedroom is a Native American dream catcher; a popular

dreams were thought to be part of the supernatural world. The Egyptians were the first to

bedroom decoration that is today cheaply mass-produced by many non-Natives. What

attempt to interpret dreams; they believed

many of us are not aware of is that dream

dreams were messages sent to the villagers by the gods to inform them of disaster or good

catchers are more than decoration: they hold a history of protection. Originally Native

fortune. The Greeks also believed dreams had divine messages but believed that the mes-

American’s constructed dream catchers to protect sleeping children from nightmares.

sages could only be interpreted with the help

Dream catchers were a wooden frame bent

of priests. The Roman philosophy of dreams was much like many modern philosophies

into the shape of a teardrop with a webbing tied around the frame made of string and

today and resembled Freud’s dream theory. They believed dreams contained symbols from

leather. A feather hung from the webbing. The objective of the dream catcher is to catch

the dreamer’s every day life such as occupa-

dreams. Bad dreams are caught in the webbing

tion, social status and health. Dreams also played a role in early Christianity. The Old

and disappear with the morning sun. Good dreams make their way to the center of the

Testament contains many significant dreams. One of the most famous dreams in The Old

dream catcher and float down the feather. The dream catchers are not only a filter; they bless

Testament was Jacob’s dream of a ladder from

the sleeper with good luck and harmony.

Earth to heaven. Many Christians believed God revealed himself to them in dreams. All

Native Americans have always valued dreams and held them in high regard. They believe

these cultures viewed dreams differently than we do today. Dreams played a larger role and

that dreams are a spiritual way of obtaining great insight, wisdom, and guidance. This

were deemed more significant before science

guidance is thought to occur between 12:00

took the reigns. Native Americans, however, have studied dreams throughout history and

and 2:00 am. Dreams were often the deciding factor in many situations. Dreams could guide them in hunting, fighting, marriage, and even

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war: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Through their dreams, they felt they

a coming illness- though some have; the

could contact their highest sacred power,

need not be connected with any pressing

Orendaâ&#x20AC;? (Barrett 37). To ignore dreams is to invite disaster, and goes against the wishes of

problems we may have in waking lifethough often that proves to be true. Nev-

the God within. They believe dreams heal both from physical and mental diseases and

ertheless, we almost all have a nagging feeling that our dreams must mean some-

illnesses.

thing- if only we knew what. A belief in

Today, for the most part, dreams are not used to find wisdom or insight, to heal

the significance of dreams has survived far beyond the age when they were thought

or predict; they are not seen as messages from the Gods; they are viewed as part of the sci-

to be messages from the gods. The work of Freud, Jung and others has made dream

ence of sleep. Dreams and sleep are interre-

analysis an important feature of psycho-

lated of course, but the meaning and purpose of dreams is not easily understood. The first

therapy, and in our understanding of the unconscious mind.

step is to understand the science of sleep and dreaming, and with that, begin to interpret

There are many different theories on dreams and their meanings. Many scientists who do

and discover the deeper meaning and mes-

not believe dreams contain any meaning at

sages that dreams hold, as they did in ancient times. Most of us wake up in the morning

all. Others believe there is hidden insight within them as the Native Americans did.

practicing our daily routines without thinking about our dreams from the night before. Of-

Dreaming is a complex concept that has continued to float through history undefined and

ten we do not remember having dreamt at all.

misunderstood. There never has been a con-

Dreaming has become something so insignificant in our lives that we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even realize we

sensus on the purpose dreams serve and it is possible that there never will be due to how

had any dreams. If we were more aware, and took more time interpreting and thinking

difficult it is to experiment on the unconscious mind, as well as rationalize thoughts

about our dreams we would see them as more

that occur while in an unconscious state. Sig-

than just a compilation of bizarre thoughts and images. We would be able to use them to

mund Freud, one of the first scientists to develop a major dream theory, believed the im-

our advantage: perhaps not to the extent as the Native Americans do, but in a meaningful

ages in our dreams conveyed a message. He thought that each object represented some-

way. If we combined the science of sleep with

thing more significant than the object itself.

the spiritual rituals of our ancestors, we could use dreams to expand our consciousness and

According to Freud, there were two different components to dreaming: manifest content

unlock our creativity. The Parkers, two dream specialists, believe that dreams do serve a pur-

and latent content. Manifest content is the way the dreamer remembers the dream and

pose and have insight within them. In their

latent content is what the dream symbolizes,

book Dreaming they introduce the different possible purposes our dreams could serve:

or the way the material is manifested into meaning. Freud believed that every dream,

Dreams need not be prophetic- though some seem to be; they need not warn us of

and the images within the dream, represented a wish fulfillment. His dream theory fell out

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of favor in the scientific community because

can trigger K complexes. In stages three and

there was no way to experiment on the un-

four the body slips into a deep sleep. These

conscious mind, and therefore no way to prove the validity his theories. Professor War-

stages are characterized by delta waves, which are more consistent that the previous stages.

ren C. Middleton expresses his opinion on the subject in his article titled “Nocturnal

In this stage of deep sleep it is difficult to arouse the sleeper. From stages three and four

Dreams”: “Scientific data pertaining to dream

the body then goes into Rapid Eye Movements

phenomena are admittedly inadequate. The paucity of experimental studies upon the

(REM) sleep. REM sleep is often referred to as paradoxical sleep because the body is para-

problem of dreams is chiefly due to the difficulty of applying experimental techniques; a

lyzed yet the brain is extremely active. In fact, during REM sleep the occipital cortex is more

scientific investigation of dreams by either

active than when awake. When you are in the

objective or introspective methods is for obvious reasons exceedingly difficult” (Middleton

REM sleep stage, dreams begin to occur; this cycle is completed after the first 90 minutes of

460). Nevertheless, as science and technology continues to evolve, Freud’s dream theory re-

sleep.

emerges as a major topic of interest; many of

classes, dreams are more often than not

scientists are beginning to think Freud wasn’t so far off after all.

taught as fantasies that don’t have any deeper significance. In my sister’s psychology class at

In order to understand the meaning of dreams we must first look at the science of sleep,

Portland State University, she is only taught the basic science behind dreams and sleep,

where dreams manifest. You cannot dream

nothing more. Her textbook, Psychological Sci-

without sleep, and you cannot sleep without dreaming. Everyone in the world dreams: but

ence defines a dream as “the product of an altered state of consciousness in which images

more often than not our dreams bewilder us. Yet dreams occur the moment our body re-

and fantasies are confused with reality” (Gaz-

In basic college level psychology

laxes and the brain lets go and begins to fall

zaniga 155). When I asked my sister about the discussion of dreams in her psychology class

asleep. Sleep is organized into four different stages, which are characterized by the type of

she said “dreams were not explored any further than the biology and science of sleep.

EEG waves (the brain waves that occur in each stage of sleep). Stage one is when you begin to

Really all we learned was what was occurring

drowse off to sleep (this stage is characterized

in the body and brain while asleep. We talked a little bit about Freud, but that’s about it.”

by Thetta waves.) In this stage you can be awakened easily. In stage one you drift further

When I asked my uncle, Robert Biswas-Diener, a successful psychologist, and professor of

into sleep, which brings you to the second stage. In stage two breathing becomes more

positive psychology at Portland State Univer-

regular and the body becomes less sensitive to

sity, what he knew about dreams, and what he was taught about dreams when he was first

external stimuli. Stage two is characterized by “K complexes” in the EEG waves. K complexes

studying psychology, he responded by telling me he really didn’t know that much about

indicate the brain’s effort to keep the body asleep. This is apparent because loud noises

dreaming. He knew a lot about the science of sleep and had read several articles on dream

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studies on his own time, but had never tried to

recollection. Scientists later discovered that

uncover meaning or examine dreams any fur-

REM sleep can occur without dreaming and

ther than the text book definition of the science of sleep and some of the ideas expressed

dreaming can occur without REM sleep. REM and dreaming are controlled by different neu-

by Freud and Jung. He said he had never been extremely interested in dreams or taken the

ral signals. The bizarre content of REM-sleep dreams is a result of the activation of brain

time to analyze them but thought that it was

structures that have to do with motivation,

possible for dreams to act as an improvement technique. He said it has been proven that

emotion, reward and visual stimulation. Toward the end of the sleep cycle these types of

people who study the night before a test opposed to a week before or even a few days be-

dreams begin to occur. When we sleep our body becomes re-

fore, on average will do better on the test. My

laxed, in a state of paralysis. It gives that part

father, a soccer coach, uses a similar technique: he used to tell me to visualize myself

of our brain a break. Because our brain has less to focus on and less to operate, could it possi-

scoring a goal before bed. He would tell me to visualize myself looking at where I wanted to

bly be more aware of our body and its needs than when we are awake? Can it recognize

place the ball in the goal, looking at the ball,

things our body needs and send us messages

shooting the ball, and then watching it land in the place I had visualized. This technique

through our dreams? I am convinced that it can; time and time again I awake from a dream

more often than not was successful. My uncle also stressed the importance of understanding

and realize my dream was telling me something my body needed whether it be to go to

the science of sleep; he said by understanding

the bathroom, get a drink of water, or some-

what is happening to the body and brain while we are sleeping could help me to figure

thing to eat. My body sends messages through my dreams. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sure almost everyone has had

out whether dreams serve a purpose and can be used as more than just a tool to score more

a dream about a toilet, or urinating, or water, or some type of symbol that either awoke

goals.

them because their body was telling them to

Dreams occur in both REM sleep and non-REM sleep. Dreams that occur in non-

go to the bathroom, or else they remained asleep and peed the bed. I know I have done

REM sleep are often dull, realistic dreams; they are representations of our every day life.

both. For the past six months I have been paying more attention to my dreams and what

Dreams that occur during REM sleep are often

they have been telling me.

bizarre, and usually involve intense emotions accompanied by visual and auditory halluci-

In a recent dream, I discovered myself on a houseboat made of glass walls. The

nations. However, rarely do dreams during REM sleep include taste, smell, or pain. The

weather was stormy and everything in my dream was black and white except for a green

laws of time and space and physical laws are

exit sign at the top of the stairs of the house-

ignored in dreams. In the 1950â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s REM sleep was discovered and was thought to be the only

boat. I saw the river rising and knew it was going to flood. I knew the glass walls were going

stage in which we dreamt; it was also believed that non-REM dreams were a cause of faulty

to break. Instinctually I started running up the stairs toward the exit sign. My face was wet

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suddenly but the glass had not broken. I

except for the color in my dreams. More often

awoke to my ceiling dripping water on my

than not my dreams will be in black in white

desk. My mom had flooded three rooms in the basement by leaving the upstairs sink on for

with only one or two significant colors (the green exit sign). My stepfather, a male, also

hours. My sister was not in her room, which was flooding. If it were not for my dream, I

dreams in black and white, and rarely has any color in his dreams at all.

would not have woken up in time to turn the

Freud paid little attention to color in

sink off and capture water seeping from the ceiling. In my room the leak wasn’t nearly as

dreams. He saw color as just another “sensory element” of dreaming. Freud believed that

significant, but the green Christmas lights behind my headboard were flashing. I had for-

colors in dreams were “a direct mimetic link to actual experience.” Julia and Derek Parker,

gotten to turn them off again like my mom

authors of Dreaming, have a different ap-

had asked me to before I went to bed; she was afraid they would start a fire. Immediately I

proach to the significance of color in dreams. They believe that each color represents differ-

remembered the flashing green exit sign in my dream.

ent emotions and desires. Red can represent activity, joy, festivity, passion, sexual excite-

Dreams differ from person to person,

ment as well as blood, lust, anger, vengeance,

and from culture to culture. It only makes sense that our everyday lives and lifestyles

martyrdom, and cruelty. Blue represents justice, truth, intellect, peace, chastity, magna-

would influence our dreams. Gender, too, influences the nature and essence of our dreams.

nimity and inner spirituality. Bright yellow can represent intuition, faith, and pure good-

Females tend to dream equally of men and

ness. But dark muddy yellow symbolizes

woman and familiar people; males dream more often of men and strangers. Woman

treachery, faithfulness, secrecy, betrayal, treason, and avarice. Green is the color that sym-

have the same number of friendly encounters as aggressive ones, and are usually, them-

bolizes vegetation and nature. Green can symbolize hope, gladness, paradise, abun-

selves, the victims of another’s aggression.

dance, and innocence, as well as jealousy.

Males on the other hand, have more aggressive encounters (physical aggression) than

Black and white are often colors seen as negative (black), and positive (white) symbols. In

friendly ones, and they are usually the initiators of the aggression. Women have more sex-

dreams black and white can play both roles. Black can represent protest, the void, death

ual dreams than males, and dream of more

and the underworld. White can be a symbol of

realistic situations. Males have less realistic, more fantastical dreams than woman do. Us-

surrender, truce, simplicity, spiritual authority, chastity, and purification. The Parkers be-

ing these patterns I analyzed my own dreaming pattern, which followed closely to the fe-

lieve “people who are not aware of color in their waking lives may not need color in their

males. I often dream of situations in my eve-

dreams. Whereas many artists and people who

ryday life usually with people I know. I have many dreams in which I am the victim of ag-

find color important in their waking lives are more likely to be aware of color in their

gression, or I am watching someone be victimized. My dreams are for the most part realistic

dreams” (Parker 93). A group of scientists conducted a study regarding color in dreams in

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which they found: “Color is not a salient

late your dream” (Smith 3). Within the past

characteristic in dream reporting, and, indeed

year or so I started dreaming in black and

may not be a frequently mentioned characteristic of descriptions of everyday events of

white, and on a rare occasion I will have a dream with one significant color in it. In 2008

working life. The fact that color was present in 70% of the dreams, or in 83% when the

I was having a recurring nightmare: I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a car; I have no idea

vaguely colored category is included, suggests

who is driving the car but my intuition is tell-

that dreaming should be considered a colored rather than black and white phenomenon”

ing me the car is going to crash. Sure enough, it does. I have a pain in my lower right abdo-

(Kahn 1055). This suggests most of us dream in colors that we recognize and remember.

men, and then I awake. I was finally able to defeat this recurring nightmare by becoming

This places me and my stepfather amongst the

aware of my body and taking control of my

17% of people who do not recognize/ remember color in our dreams. According to

dream. I told my father about this recurring nightmare and he told me to “try to find your

the Parkers this could mean that we are not aware of color in our waking lives and there-

hands the next time you have the dream, once you find your hands you are in control, you

fore do not need color in our dreams. I think

can do whatever you want with the dream.

this could be because both of us, being performing artists, rather than visual artists, are

You can stop the car, or turn it into a spaceship, anything.” It took me a few weeks but

more aware of movement, sounds, shapes, and physical actions, as opposed to a painter who

eventually I was able to find my hands and turn the car into a spaceship. Finally, the every

is aware of color, still life situations, and es-

day anxiety I would get when I was in a car

thetically pleasing images to the eye. From this, it is apparent that not all artists have the

was gone. Lucid dreaming is an uncommon experience. In ancient times, Native Ameri-

same amount of color in their dreams; something they do all have in common is the na-

cans had to be aware of their dreams in order to use them for guidance. From a scientific

ture of their dreams.

point of view it is impossible to tell whether or

In The Creative Dreamer, Veronica Tonay sates “people who create remember one-

not dreams can help predict the future or provide guidance. J. Allen Hobson, a dream spe-

third more dreams than do others… Those who create also have extraordinarily vivid

cialist and scientist, does not agree that dreams can contain insight, guidance, or pre-

dreams… They have fewer sexual dreams, have

dict the future:

more child characters, and experience more loss in dreams than do others” (Tonay 44-45).

Since time immemorial, the mysterious nature of dreaming, which we now know

Not only are creative people more aware of color in their dreams, they are also more likely

is determined mainly by its formal qualities, has led people to believe that

to be lucid dreamers: “Lucid Dreaming, also

dreams were messages from the other

known as dream consciousness or conscious dreaming, is dreaming while being aware that

world. Dreams have been regarded as prophetic communications which,

you are dreaming. When you are lucid, you can actively participate in, and often manipu-

when properly decoded, would enable us to foretell the future… There is abso-

131


lutely no scientific evidence for this the-

exposure to elements of a creative prob-

ory and considerable scientific evidence

lem. Compared with quiet rest and non-

against it… We know from our experiments on lucid dreaming that it is possi-

REM sleep, REM enhanced the formation of associative networks and the integration

ble to influence dream content simply by having a subject in mind while going

of unassociated information. Furthermore, these REM sleep benefits were not the re-

to sleep.

sult of an improved memory for the

Naturally, the sleeper is influenced by the events and thoughts that occurred before

primed items. This study shows that compared with quiet rest and non-REM sleep,

sleeping, but if dreams held absolutely no significance or purpose why would they have

REM enhances the integration of unassociated information for creative problem

warranted significant attention throughout

solving… (Cai)

history and within a diverse range of cultures? If dreams have no meaning, insight, or wis-

This study demonstrates that after going through the REM sleep stage the sleeper was

dom, as Hobson is implying then the sleeper’s dreams are only influenced by the thoughts

able to use elements that were not directly associated with the subject in order to creatively

and events experienced before sleep. If this is

solve problems. This study indicates that

the case then it could be argued that by using creative visualization, the sleeper is influenced

dreams can be used to gain insight, or provide creative solutions to problems. This echoes

by desired thoughts before sleeping, and as a result dreaming about those thoughts could

the Native American practice of seeking insight and answers from dreams.

very well improve at a certain skill.

Many believe that communication

Creative visualization, and the growth and improvement at a certain skill or activity

with the dead often occurs in dreams. Some scientists argue that this is simply a result of

overnight is supported by many scientists, case studies, and individuals who practice this

the sleeper’s thoughts and grief producing a dream of a deceased loved one communicat-

form of unconscious learning. If this is the

ing with them in their sleep. The belief that

case, is it possible for us to solve problems in our sleep as well? A dilemma on your mind

dreams are a way of communicating with the dead is an ancient one. Native Americans used

before you go to sleep influences your dreams. Just as a physical skill can be improved, could

their dreams to communicate with the deceased to find guidance and wisdom. They

one not find or create a solution to a problem

believed their ancestors were protecting them

in your dreams? Denise J. Cai conducted a study on creative problem solving while sleep-

and sending them messages in their sleep. Their ancestors provided answers to their

ing, in which she hypothesized that creative problem solving while sleeping was more pos-

problems and communicated these answers to them in their sleep. Much like the creative

sible than when awake:

problem solving Cai studied, Native Ameri-

We examined the role of REM on creative problem solving, with the Remote Associ-

cans would go to sleep with a certain problem in mind in order to seek insight. Children, and

ates Test (RAT). Using a nap paradigm, we manipulated various conditions of prior

adolescents were often encouraged to go to sleep thinking about a certain skill such as

132


hunting, crafting, combat, etc. in order to im-

again tested on their free throw shooting

prove and learn from their ancestors while

skills. The third group didn't improve in per-

sleeping. Creative visualization was first introduced and practiced by the Native Ameri-

formance; the skills of many in that group even deteriorated. The first group, who prac-

cans. In the past there were some wild antics used to facilitate this creative visualization.

ticed one hour each day, improved their free throws by 24%. The second group, who visual-

Native Americans used sweathouses and hal-

ized but didn't physically practice basketball,

lucinatory agents to bring about visions and establish communication and receive answers

improved their free throws by 23% (Blasslotto). This tool has not only proven effective

from their ancestors. Creative visualization, and creative problem solving while sleeping,

for Native American culture, sports, and creative problem solving, it has also been a large

are Native American practices now finding

contributing factor for many artists’ creations

scientific validity. Creative visualization is a tool athletes,

Many people use dreaming as a tool to enhance, unlock, and inspire their creativity.

artists, and scientists use to improve a particular skill: “Creative Visualization is a mental

Several artists throughout history have used their own dreams as a muse and inspiration

technique that uses the imagination to make

for their art. Freud also believed that dreams

dreams come true. Used in the right way, creative visualization improves life and attracts

were a vital in order to create. Veronica Tonay describes this process in her book The Creative

success and prosperity. It is a power that can alter our environment and circumstances,

Dreamer:

cause events to happen, attract money, posses-

Dreams reflect a form of thinking that is beyond our conscious control. The dream

sions, work, people and love into our life” (Sasson). Many scientists believe using crea-

language is similar to the way we made sense of the world before we learned to speak-

tive visualization before sleeping can have even more of an effect than when visualizing

through image and metaphor. It mimics the

during the day (also believed and practiced by

way we think when we create. Freud called this kind of thinking primary process, and

Native Americans). Dr. Blaslotto, at the University of Chicago conducted the following

believed it was essential for any type of creative work. Primary process is unconstrained by

experiment to test the validity and accuracy of this theory on the university’s basketball

logic and is based on the way we associate one

team. First, the players were tested to deter-

idea or image with another. Its strange illogical sequence of images fills our creative minds,

mine their free-throw proficiency. Each was then randomly assigned to one of three ex-

(Tonay 64) Like Native Americans, many people who cre-

perimental groups. The first group practiced shooting free throws every day for one hour.

ate are aware of their dreams and use them to

The second group was instructed to lie down

their advantage. They do not necessarily use them to heal or predict good fortune, but they

and just visualize themselves shooting free throws accurately. The third group was in-

do use them to create. Much like athletes who use creative visualization to help improve

structed to not play (nor even think) of basketball. After 30 days, the three groups were

their free throws, just being aware and thinking about a certain craft or skill before sleep-

133


ing can help artists unlock their creativity.

drums. I can still vividly see the choreography

Percy Bysshe Shelley says “The greatest writ-

when I close my eyes, hear the music, and feel

ers, poets, and artists confirm the fact that their work comes to them from beyond the

the suspense. I plan to choreograph and perform an arial piece inspired by my dream. Sci-

threshold of consciousness.” Robert Louis Stevensen often used his dreams as a basis for his

ence cannot dispute the fact that artists gain inspiration from their dreams. As creatures we

fiction. In her introduction to Frankenstein,

have the ability to choose to be inspired by

Mary Shelley describes the creature as he first appeared to her when she was in a dreamlike

whatever calls out to be our muse. It is not up to science to decide whether or not that is

state: “I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put to-

valid. And as individuals we have the ability and right to choose what dreams mean to us,

gether. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man

whether it is based on science, spirituality, or

stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, I stir

both.

with an uneasy, half vital motion.” Salvador Dali, a Spanish painter from the early 1900’s

played a role in all of human life. Whether it be to warn the body, solve problems, predict

was often inspired by his. Some even say he

the future, heal the ill, or inspire works of art.

lived in an unconscious world inspired by Freud’s ideas:

They exist whether or not we believe they serve a purpose or contribute insight to our

Throughout history dreams have

The Beatles' "Yesterday" is one of the bestselling and most popular songs ever writ-

lives. They have existed as long as humankind and we have been aware of their existence; yet

ten. Songwriter Paul McCartney claims the

we still have not even come close to a consen-

melody came to him in a dream. When he woke up, he originally used the lyric

sus on the purpose they serve. Their history leads us to believe they contain meaning, but

"scrambled eggs" to fit the tune, but he later changed it to "yesterday," and the rest

science today tries to convince us otherwise. Combining what we know regarding the sci-

is pop music history…Samuel Taylor

ence of dreams, sleep, and creative visualiza-

Coleridge, a world famous poet, claimed he dreamed every word of his great poem

tion, we can create our own definition as to the purpose of our dreams. For me, personally,

"Kubla Khan" while he was asleep. When he woke up, he says, he tried to scribble

dreams communicate the needs of my body, provide insight and guidance when I am lost,

down the poem as fast as he could before

help to address my flaws and weaknesses

forgetting, but a visitor distracted him, and he could only remember part of what he

through creative visualization, and serve as sublime creative inspiration.

dreamed. (PBS) In September of 2009 I had a dream in which I was performing an aerial piece. I was hanging inside of a cocoon-like contraption (a large piece of elastic aerial fabric), which a few minutes later turned into a body-sized ring, dancing to a combination of violins and

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Works Cited Barrett, Deirdre. The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use Dreams for Creative Problem Solving. New York: Crown, 2001. Print. Coon, Dennis, and John O. Mitterer. Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior (with Concept Booklet: Gateways, Concepts, Maps, and Review). Belmont: Wadsworth, 2006. Print. Hobson, Allan J. Dreaming: An introduction to the science of sleep. New York: Oxford UP, USA, 2003. Print. "It's My Life . Emotions . Dreams . Dreams and Creativity | PBS Kids GO!" PBS KIDS: Educational Games, Videos and Activities For Kids! Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <http:// pbskids.org/itsmylife/emotions/dreams/article7.html>. Kahn, Edwin. "Incidence of color in immediately recalled dreams." JSTOR. American Association dor the Advancement of Science, 28 Sept. 1962. Web. 3 Dec. 2009. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1710153>. Lucid Dreaming -- Dream Views. Web. 19 Oct. 2009. <http://www.dreamviews.com/>. Middleton, Warren C. "Nocturnal Dreams." JSTOR. American Association dor the Advancement of Science, 5 Nov. 1933. Web. 3 Dec. 2009. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/ 15630>. Parker, Derek&Julia. Dreaming: Remembering, Interpreting, Benefiting. New York: Sterling, 1985. Print. Pivik, Terry. "Dream Deprivation: Effects on Dream Content." JSTOR. American Association dor the Advancement of Science, 9 Sept. 1966. Web. 3 Dec. 2009. <http:// www.jstor.org/stable/1719572>. PSU Library | Electronic Resources. Web. 6 Dec. 2009. <http:// www.pnas.org.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/content/106/25/10130.full?maxtoshow> Tonay, Veronica. The Creative Dreamer. Berkler: Celestialarts, 2006. Print.

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Too Close To Home: e Necessity of Drama in Modern Society  By Noah Goldenberg Drama is excitement; it is imagination;

supposed to be, humans react to it differently:

most importantly, drama is always new. It is

with anger or happiness, excitement or disap-

unpredictable. Air, Water, Food, and Shelter ensure a healthy human life; drama makes us

pointment; regardless the byproduct of our reactions is drama.

want to live. The Oxford English Dictionary defines drama as, “A composition in prose or

In Western religions, this law can be found under the name of free will. In Judeo-

verse, adapted to be acted upon a stage…and is

Christian religions, the idea of free will is rec-

represented with accompanying gesture, costume, and scenery, as in real life; a play.” I

ognized as one of God’s greatest gifts but it also caused one of the most dramatic scenes in

would like to offer my own definition of drama: a branch of nature; a natural and in-

Christianity: the fall of man. When God gave humankind the choice to make our own deci-

evitable phenomena that continuously proves

sions he simultaneously created Drama. The

itself to be true. We, as humans, consistently thrust ourselves into experiences that produce

Garden of Eden was the only place on earth where drama did not exist. Once humankind

drama, whose purpose is to keep us busy. As people, we are witnesses to drama nearly every

was able to choose for themselves they could, and did, choose to go against God thereby in-

moment of everyday. From hearing the dis-

troducing drama into the world. This deci-

tant screams sirens and horns from busy city streets to the verbal assaults from enraged lov-

sion, if it did occur, was one of the greatest decisions made by a human. A decision I would

ers, being an active part of drama every day is assured. It is as familiar to us as breathing. To

make a thousand times over. Life without knowledge wouldn’t be much of a life. Free

put it simply, the constant creation of drama

choice, free will, this is what humans value

is a law of nature. In science, this law can be interpreted

above all else. If the Garden of Eden story truly occurred, God’s promise of freewill to human-

as Entropy: “[The] doctrine of inevitable social decline and degeneration”(Dictionary.com).

kind was not truly complete until Adam and Eve took the bite from the tree of knowledge.

The law of entropy asserts that nature gradu-

They did what they weren’t supposed to do,

ally disintegrates from order to disorder. In other words, any situation will actively worsen

they set us free from an automaton like state, which took us away from a basic daily recipe,

unless we aggressively resist: A cut will get infected if not properly cared for. If we apply this

and most importantly they gave us drama. “It is in our nature to dramatize” (Ma-

theory to ourselves, we are reminded of the

met 1). These words open David Mamet’s

phrase “life doesn’t go according to plan.” This is the basis of drama. When circum-

Three Uses of the Knife. No matter how hard we try, as humans we are not able to be any-

stances do not turn out to be the way they are

thing but dramatic. It doesn’t matter if you are

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shy or outgoing; we all have different minds,

ages to grab the interest of those in the con-

we all forget, we all choose to forget, we all ig-

versation because of its dramatic nature.

nore, we all persuade, we all love, we all hate, we all dramatize. Our ability to feel anything,

“ [The word] drama comes from the word dram meaning ‘to do’” (Phillips). In or-

such as the basic ability to feel pain, comes with the price of being dramatic. When was

der to create drama, one must not only do, one must commit to an action. On a certain

the last time you cut yourself by accident with

level, be it micro or macro, every action that

a kitchen knife or slid on pavement while running and neglected to show any emotion?

we make affects the world around us; every choice, our lives. This constant evolution of

Whether you cried, screamed, cursed, or held back tears your consciousness felt strong feel-

life’s playing field is what constantly creates drama. Physics tells us that every action has a

ings of emotion. This lingering emotion most

reaction, within ourselves or outside, and this

assuredly affected the way you interacted with the next person you saw. Whether you cried to

is what creates tension, this is the essence of drama. Anything we choose to do or think

be held by your mother, took your anger out on your brother, or blushed at the strangers

will be unique to ourselves and will therefore, on some level, seem disagreeable to those

passing you by, the accident you just experi-

around us. This difference in worldview calls

enced dictated the resulting interaction, and permanently changed the plot of your life.

for intimate conversations or arguments that have the soul purpose of changing the minds

Mamet later goes on to explain humanity’s need for drama in every day life.

of others. Seeing drama in the modern world has

When we tell stories of our day we uninten-

become easier and easier with every major ad-

tionally, sometimes intentionally, emphasize certain aspects to make the story more dra-

vancement in communication technology. From the printing press to the Internet, the

matic, more interesting. He presents us with a scenario, “If you said, ‘I waited at the bus stop

mass production of written works or ideas has been the home and sanctuary for our drama

today’ that…wouldn’t be dramatic” (5). This

fixes. But the creation of the radio, television,

statement is true: in normal conversations this would be the beginning to a boring story.

and computer paved the way for a far reaching, ancient form of drama and entertain-

But this story has potential; if the storyteller was inclined enough to change her telling of

ment: sports. David Mamet comments on the legitimacy of sports when considering drama

the story, one might actually care deeply

and challenging the conventional satisfaction

about her bus ride home: “I waited at the bus stop for a long time today” (5). This statement

of a shut out game, asks “What do we wish for in the perfect game? Do we wish for Our Team

increases the drama but if the storyteller said “The bus took ages today. I thought it would

to take the field and trash the opposition from the First Moment…? No. We wish for a closely

never come.” This statement is the most dra-

fought match…” (8-9). Sure, it is satisfying to

matic of the three and opens the conversation to others. One could ask, “What did you think

watch your team win; that much is easy to accept. But when one team is colossally more

happened?” or say “Jesus, that seems awful.” It isn’t: it is a minor annoyance but it still man-

proficient than their opponent, it makes for a delightfully dull ballgame. After all, sports

137


sub-cultures are among the most intense cul-

segments of the public” (“Fox’s ‘House M.D.’ Is

tures throughout the world (in 2007, an Ital-

World’s Most Watched TV Show”). This

ian police officer was killed in a riot at a soccer game that also concluded in the injuries of 70

statement is profoundly accurate. Within each episode of House there is a life at risk; in CSI:

fans.) This blindly devout sub-culture would be hard pressed to thrive under the constant,

Miami, a murder to be solved. This is the case,

unshakeable rule of a sport dynasty.

week after week without fail. For those in the world who own televisions, this is one of the

Popular dramas, in the form of stories, have existed and thrived since the Greeks.

simplest ways they can fulfill their drama fix. By merely sitting on a couch and pressing a

With hundreds of audible myths and a rather large handful of plays, the Greeks grew to have

button, half of the world can have a glimpse,

a successful hold on dramas. Just like the

real or not, into the lives of doctors and detectives.

Greeks, the Western world has categorized theater and film productions into two sepa-

Why is it then that we insist on sitting down week after week to experience the

rate categories: the Drama and the Comedy. Even modern genres such as Action, Mystery,

drama of others if we can easily be fulfilled by

Film Noir, and Romances fit into this category.

the enormous amount of drama in our own lives? The only reason that we enjoy the

But if we were to dissect the genre of comedy, we would discover that its roots come from

drama we see on the screen is because of our third party witness. Though our curiosity

drama. In order for a work of comedy to be successful, it has to come from a serious dra-

thrives on problems and drama, it is always

matic foundation. Even classic film comedies

more enjoyable to experience it vicariously and not have to bear its dark ramifications.

employ this idea: Airplane, in its most simple form, is a film about a cabin full of passengers

When watching a film, audiences enjoy brawls, but if put in the same situation as the

whose lives are all at risk. Though the film is filled with humor, the only reason that the

characters in that scene, much of the enjoy-

viewers care about these characters is because

ment is lost. Being a willing participant in the

of the dangerously high stakes that they are presented with. Many, if not all, of the greatest

dramatization of our own lives is much different than putting ourselves through the drama

comedies take place under high stakes. Programs and films with high stakes

of the lives of others. Programs such as CSI:

often are the most successful in the world of ratings and box offices. As the 2008-2009 television year came to a close, House M.D. emerged as the most watched television show in the United States, uncrowning the previous year’s victor: CSI: Miami. Elena Gorgan, Life & Style Editor for Softpedia explains, “The fact that episodes are rarely connected to one an-

Miami and House may be intensely popular, but at their cores they are lighthearted. These shows return week after week so that viewers are free to enjoy their one-dimensional characters and storylines. It is no wonder they are so popular: as Softpedia pointed out, anyone can tune in anytime. It is the elite grouping of dramas and tragedies that demand the simul-

other in storyline also helps greatly, because it

taneous approval of critics and audiences. Dramas concerning the well being of

makes both shows more approachable by all

families interest us the most. This element is

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ever present in any story. In television shows

working for a steady salary the husband quits

that aren’t family dramas, the family is still

his job, and becomes a fry cook at a fast food

quite important: In CSI: Miami the family of a victim is almost always shown grieving or

joint; the wife, whose job as a realtor requires her to maintain a constant façade of content

mourning the death of her relative. Alan Ball’s Six Feet Under is a seamless example of a show

with her life, breaks down and abuses herself behind closed doors; their darling daughter is

that is able to grip its viewers with a potent

doing everything in her power to distance

family drama. The program possesses two proficient plot lines: the family lives of the prin-

herself from her family, causing their dynamic only to become increasingly dysfunctional.

ciple characters and the lives of the 3rd party

Though the film has many humorous moments, when a critical viewer claws through

families introduced in each episode. The show takes place from 2001-2005 in an L.A. funeral

the numerous jokes and breaths of laughter,

home with the welcoming name of Fisher & Sons. Each episode, within itself, is a pressure

the viewer is left with the undeniable realization that the film they just viewed is sad. It is

cooker of intense drama. The families that

dramatic. It challenges their beliefs and stirs their emotions. In its most concentrated form,

trust Fisher & Sons to prepare the service for their loved ones contain enough tragedy to

American Beauty is a drama through and

satisfy any viewer for weeks. The stories behind each death are deeply saddening; in one

through: the film begins with the main character confessing to the viewer that he will be

episode an elderly man awakes to discover that

dead before the film concludes and of course, the film concludes with his death.

his wife of 50 some odd years was lying dead beside him, in another an unsuspecting wife

In 1999, the year the film was released,

discovers the body of her husband, and father to her children, who has hung himself. Yet

American Beauty grossed an astounding $356,296,601 internationally. With a

every week, plenty of viewers returned and

$15,000,000 budget, the film made a heartstopping $341,296,601, a sum infinitely

plenty of critics raved. It is rare to find a group of people more important to an individual

grander than the sums grossed by most films.

than her family. Why is it that people enjoy viewing the downfall and ruin of such a pre-

The film masterfully paints a picture, an ultimatum that ensures the audience knows what

cious gift?

they are getting into: “My name is Lester Burnham. This is my street. This is my neigh-

In 1999, one of the most popular films of the last decade was released: American Beauty. This film was so widely accepted by viewers and critics alike that it was nominated for 8 Oscars, winning 5, including best picture

borhood. This is my life. I am 42 years old. In less than a year, I will be dead” (American Beauty). How does a film that eagerly admits to their audience the plot to kill off the loveable

and best director. The film takes place in a quintessential suburban environment and de-

main character manage to gross that much money? One would be hard pressed to make a

tails the life of an ostensibly normal American

case in favor of the style of the film: though the film’s style is supremely joyful, it manages

family. But what the viewer witnesses instead is a family that struggles and fights against this very definition of normal: instead of

to impress the viewer at the beginning of the film closely and then its charm slowly wears

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off. It is undoubtedly the content: we love to

stories told. His play, Much Ado About Nothing,

watch the dynamic of different families

is an unrivaled illustration of drama’s place in

whether or not the specific family succeeds. What is unarguable is whether or not

comedy. Though technically classified as a comedy, Much Ado About Nothing is a play in

American Beauty succeeded. The answer is it did, and the secret of why rests within the

which the good guys come very close to losing

characters of the story. They are real and they

to the bad guys. I myself recently was lucky enough to be a part of the audience for this

remind the viewers of themselves. Whether it was their mother, their father, their best

very show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and was very glad to be. Though the consis-

friend, their wife challenged, or their husband that challenged them, any given viewer was

tent humor of the show was quick, clever,

presented with the arsenal to personally relate

witty, and funny, there was no other part of the show that had me completely enthralled

to the film. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a

as the dramatic elements. Without the humor there would still be a plot but without the

timeless example of the Western world’s de-

treachery, villainy, and drama, the play would

vout interest in other families’ business. The play is simple: two lovers from two rivaling

lose its plot: the two couples would get married and become happily ever after with con-

families do their very best to transcend the warring of their family lineage. In the end,

siderable less time on stage. In other words there would be a beginning, there would be an

this does not work out: Romeo and Juliet die.

end, but the middle would be missing. It is the

Though this play is a supreme tragedy, it is taught in many schools, it’s the basis of many

very existence of these villains that allows for a happy ending. The play would have contin-

modern stories (most notably of which is West Side Story), and it’s considered and respected

ued into a basic marriage and would have ended happily, but not triumphantly. It is

as one of the greatest plays ever written. Why

these very villains that inspire us to laugh

should the modern world owe so much to a play that makes many viewers cry? This ques-

when there is the chance. While viewing the play within these terms it is easy to realize

tion applies to Shakespeare in general, a timeless writer who generally separated his plays

that comedy leans and rests upon the pillar of drama, which allows the comedy to flourish.

into two distinct groups: Tragedy and Comedy. Needless to say, Shakespeare is the

When viewing a story in technical terms, one easily uses the terms “plot line” and “climax”: two things that a conventional

most respected playwright in the Western world. He wrote in three genres: Tragedy,

story demands in order to succeed in capturing its audience. When thought of literally,

Comedy, and History, which – when you

the plot line can be represented as a graph: the

really examine it – usually ends up being a tragedy. The dramatic motifs of lost love,

further to the right line is, the further the plot has advanced; the higher the line is, the

power, friends, and family came standard in his tragedies; interestingly enough so too did

higher the intensity. The peak of this line is the climax, the reckoning, the moment of

they appear within his comedies, which act as

judgment for the main character. This is al-

evidence of drama’s inherent existence in all

ways exciting; this is always dramatic. This is

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truly the purpose of the story you are being

are expected to follow exactly. But, of course,

told. This is why drama is a part of every story

drama seeps into the supposedly “perfect”

we see, tell, hear, or experience. Still, the reasoning of drama’s exis-

neighborhoods because, ultimately, the characters in these very suburbs begin to rebel.

tence in our every day lives has yet to be established. The answer lies in what we, as the

Characters can no longer tolerate the obstructive set of rules that limit their actions and

viewer or reader, take away from it – otherwise

prevent their emotions that they react by do-

defined as interpretation. This should not be confused with the trite idea of the moral at

ing what they aren’t supposed to: they show emotion. This specific type American family

the end of the story, for this something entirely different. A moral is not unique: it is an

drama is popular in the modern world and has inspired works like American Beauty, Who’s

idea that the author dictates for the reader to

Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Weeds, Mad Men and

unfold and agree with; interpretation is unique to every viewer. Interpretation is

Pleasantville, but is perhaps best told through Richard Yates’s literary masterpiece: Revolu-

where the story of drama begins to truly mean something. People see these stories differently

tionary Road.

depending on their perspective: race, gender, age, wealth, and life journey. Out of all things in the world, the way humans react to drama is distinctly unique. This is what captures our attention and challenges our imagination. This is what truly attracts us to watching, reading, and viewing dramas. This takes place over a handful of fundamental tenants that apply to all viewers, the first of which being that viewing a drama brings to question our emotional responses, which are personally tailored for each of us. The presence of emotion is imperative in our everyday lives: this is where drama finds its place. The utopia, an idea most perfectly exhibited through the common vision of the Garden of Eden, restricts our quantity and quality of emotion. Another environment, similar to the first, is the forced, or broken, utopia. This so-called “utopia” is, almost always, found in suburbia; this is a popular setting for the common American family drama. Here, in the suburbs, characters and families struggle to adhere to a strict set of social expectations that all members of suburbia

Taking place in Connecticut during the 1950s, the novel Revolutionary Road follows the lives Frank and April Wheeler. They live in the suburbs of New York; Frank holds a steady and boring city job while April stays at home taking care of their two young children. This book was published in 1961, only a few years following the novel’s, a time where the initial lifestyle of Frank and April Wheeler seemed like an object to covet. But Yates soon disproves this theory: as the reader makes her way through the pages of Revolutionary Road, she soon discovers that the seemingly happy lives of the Wheelers is nothing but a sham. Revolutionary Road finishes towering above most other tragedies, and yet it is still widely considered to be a wonderful book. One could, of course, make the argument that critics widely think so highly of Yates’s novel because of his uncanny ability to fill the pages with carefully crafted prose, but this cannot, in and of itself, create an amazing book. There is something within those masterfully crafted pages that demands the attention and approval of both critics and readers alike, and this is its relevance to our lives?

141


Whenever an audience sees a film, a

ing. It is because he is jealous. Yates allows the

reader reads a book, or a theater witnesses a

reader to understand that the drama that April

play, of good quality of course, each person involved becomes attached. Conversations

shies away from and was forced to experience is the same goals Frank strives for. He hasn’t

about a given work commonly consist of one person stating, “She was my favorite!” The

experienced it, and that is why he requires it in every day life.

man next to her might agree but in most

Though Dramas have a distinct ability

cases, as more state their opinions, a contradiction will occur: “Really? Her? I found her

to stir up a vast range of emotions, often these very emotions cause audiences to come away

despicable. He was by far my favorite.” We attach ourselves subconsciously to characters

from a work wishing to erase the previous few hours from their lives. Dramas stir up intense

for various reasons: they are similar to us, they

emotions, no matter what the case, but

are different than us, or we are compelled by their beliefs or lack thereof. Revolutionary Road

whether these emotions pronounce themselves in approval or disdain lies strictly upon

is no exception; nor is any other work of drama. This is what attracts us to drama: the

personal interpretation. Critically acclaimed works of fiction within the realms of novels,

uniquely crafted experience of each viewer. In

television, and film are often argued and chal-

Revolutionary Road, a novel that is full of marital deceit and dishonor, the character Frank

lenged for their legitimacy as at issue works just as often as they are hailed for their rele-

often becomes unpleasant with April, treating

vance. These works truly tower above all the rest as a work that inspires thousands of peo-

her poorly, and grows to become unfaithful to her. This action of losing monogamy costs

ple to be united in argument. Often, these in-

Frank some significant sympathy from the reader, but Yates does a masterful job of mak-

tense and repelling opinions come the way that the given drama connects and reminds us

ing him human, especially when it comes to

of our own lives. The phrase “too close to home” seems

his reaction to drama. He needs it. He requires it. It is this fact that truly makes him relatable to the readers, and this is why the readers feel a level of sympathy for him. An interesting passage in the novel is one where April describes to him her lackluster childhood. She lived with her aunt, a fact

to be a perfected explanation of the way drama affects our lives. We are all born as humans and, though we inherit specific physical traits, much of our personality and the way we look at the world are dictated by the way we were raised and the experiences that we take

that the reader will soon realize repeats itself with her children at the conclusion of the

part in throughout our lives. These experiences dictate the way we might feel about

book, and visits from her parents are few and

other people, different places, or certain things. If a gay man is accosted by a local

far between. But she still does her best to make Frank understand that even though her par-

church he would no doubt begin to act wary

ents were far from present in her life, she still had an unconditional love for them. Frank

of them; if a man proposes to his girlfriend in London he would no doubt have a unique

objects to this strongly in a very rude manner,

love for it; if a woman played her first show with a specific guitar, that very guitar would

and the reader gains insight into his reason-

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be blessed with a limitless surplus of sentimental and personal value.

In David Ma-

When applying and analyzing this elementary rule, it is effortless to discover that

met’s Redbelt, Emily Mortimer’s character goes to Mike Terry to learn self-defense. Her

the successful and meaningful drama takes the concept of character superiority to heart

story is an unfortunate one: she had been assaulted and raped. Though it is clear that her

and transforms it into one of its pillars of existence. Though plot plays a powerful role

experience with one man translates into her

within the specific work of drama, the mature

opinion of all men: the slightest physical connection with her and a man brings her to

and triumphant drama rises above itself so that the reader finishes realizing they care less

tears. To us, these events, people, places, and objects take upon themselves a distinct posi-

about the final outcome, but rather the journey the meaningful characters within the

tion of meaning that is handcrafted and

drama have taken. Throughout our experience

unique only to the one that holds it. This is the formula that repeats itself time and time

of the work certain characters and events take distinctive meanings and hold greater weight,

again throughout our lives. Keeping this concept of continuous

which are tailored to each individual. One reader can render sympathy, for a specific

change through action and experienced

character, while his wife begins to sympathize

events in mind, it is quite easy to draw clearly pointing lines from this simple concept to the

with another. Unique opinions such as these exist within masterfully crafted works such as

arts that we take part in. The first to draw such lines were the pioneering authors of American

Revolutionary Road, Mad Men, and Six Feet Under.

Realism: a flourishing, self-conscious genre

Just as works of drama often create dif-

and style of writing. Paul P. Reuben Ph. D. of California State University sets forth towering

ferent and personalized opinions, so too do the works that these characters live within.

principles of American Realism, perhaps the most intriguing and appropriate of which is

Often dramas hit too close to home and when

the second: “Character more important than

this delightful occurrence is performed, usually there appear two common and justifiable

plot” (“PAL: American Realism”). This concise, basic principle seems to be the most useful

reactions: respect or disdain. It is easy to discover that shows such as Mad Men and novels

and relevant to American Realism. This is why American realist works, such as Revolutionary

such as Revolutionary Road would attract those

Road, often take upon themselves plots that, to the naked eye, may seem to be unimaginative and straightforward but when examined

who did not have the opportunity to live through the 50s, and likewise those that have lived through the 50s may find these very

with an analytical lens proves to be a work full

shows boring. Yet there are situations where the lines blur: perhaps a woman born in the

of substance of that provides the keen reader with a distinctly unique experience. Though

50s is addicted and intrigued by Mad Men because she was only a child when they oc-

what proves to be the most impressive fact is that this unparalleled concept skillfully tran-

curred. Often and oddly enough, these feel-

scends its specific genre and easily applies it-

ings of approval and disapproval cannot be predicted solely upon generation: it is the ex-

self to works of art of any category.

perience during these times that determine

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the individualâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feeling towards a drama. A veteran who signed up to serve during Korea may return to the United States and throughout his life would consistently love war films while at the same time a veteran drafted to serve in Vietnam may return home to realize that a war film brings back unbearable memories. Dramas consistently have aspects that ring too close to home but it is the existence of this fact that causes drama to have a special hold within our hearts, whether or not we enjoy them. Drama lives within us and begs to be released. Each and every person has within herself a measure of drama that flourishes. But within people and society alone there is not a simple, consistent method to release this inner urge. This is why drama within the arts has taken the world by the horns. Only within stories expressed in film, novels, television, and tales are people able to fully express their desire to experience drama. Each experience of a viewer is tailored to fit them solely and perfectly; even a tailored suit can fit another. Every time a person tells you to â&#x20AC;&#x153;stop being so dramatic,â&#x20AC;? they fall into an inevitable paradox. So the next time you are feeling dramatic remember, it is the natural way to feel.

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Works Cited American Beauty. Dir. Sam Mendes, Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks, and Stan Wlodkowski. Prod. Alan Ball. Perf. Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening. DVD. DreamWorks Distribution, 1999. "Drama." Def. 1a. - 3. Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford English Dictionary Online. "Entropy Definition | Definition of Entropy at Dictionary.com." Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com. Web. 19 Sept. 2009. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/entropy>. Gorgan, Elena "Fox’s ‘House M.D.’ Is World’s Most Watched TV Show – Medical drama scores top ratings to establish new record - Softpedia." Latest news Softpedia.Web. 9 Oct. 2009. <http://news.softpedia.com/news/Fox-s-House-M -D-Is-Worlds-Most-Watched-TV-Show-114098.shtml> Mamet, David,. 3 uses of the knife on the nature and purpose of drama. New York: Vintage Books, 2000. "PAL:American Realism - A Brief Introduction." California State University Stanislaus | Home. Web. 01 Dec. 2009. <http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/ chap5/5intro.html#real>. Phillips, K. "ANCIENT GREEK THEATRE." 02 May 2009 <http://www.richeast.org/htwm/ Greeks/theatre/Theatre.html>.

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Let the Kids Fight: A Historical and Contemporary Analysis of Sibling Rivalry By Matilda Field In the past, before people were able to

healthy for the child’s inter-sibling relation-

access information from either books or the

ships. Parents tend to believe that in the long-

Internet, parents relied solely on their instincts and the conventional wisdom of their

term, negativity between siblings will cause resentment throughout the remainder of a

community to raise their children. They often had many more children than the typical fam-

child’s life. In contrast, from many psychologists’ perspectives, sibling rivalry is a normal

ily would have today. Large families provided

occurrence and is healthy overall, as long as it

more people to help take care of a farm or business. Parents were likely preoccupied with

is not abusive (Linda Mills). It teaches children how to respect other people’s bounda-

the task of providing food for their families rather than keeping the interactions between

ries, the consequences of being mean to others, and, most importantly, how to success-

siblings healthy. Now, in the twenty-first cen-

fully argue.

tury, larger families are less prevalent because it is so expensive to raise children. Addition-

Sibling rivalry is so prevalent that it is experienced by all members of families with

ally, parents have more time to contemplate whether or not they are parenting in the most

more than one child. For example, the children who I baby-sit often fight. Recently,

effective way. To cater to this new situation,

when I went to their home, their parents had

bookstores have entire sections devoted to raising children. There is no longer a need for

just told the eldest daughter, Jane, to stop putting on her mother’s clothes and then dump-

parents to invent new methods to raise their children and to rely on their own opinions

ing them around the house. Her younger brother, Nolan, had overheard the conversa-

regarding what is beneficial or detrimental

tion and decided to see if his sister was obey-

behavior for children. Various experts have written books and articles to tell parents ex-

ing his parents. He found Jane back in his parents’ closet trying on more clothing. Al-

actly how to raise their children. Some of these books reinforce the notion in modern

though Nolan is two years younger than Jane, he decided that it was his responsibility to dis-

society that sibling rivalry generally has severe

cipline her. Within a few seconds, they were

negative effects; however, if parents manage sibling rivalry appropriately, it can equip their

both screaming and yelling at each other. Their mom rushed to stop the fighting. Nolan

children with stellar social skills. Sibling rivalry is the competition be-

enjoyed getting his sister in trouble, so ten minutes later he went back to find his sister

tween siblings to achieve dominance over one

playing dress-up again. This time, Jane started

another or to gain the attention and win the affection of their parents. Sometimes, from a

to aggressively push him out of the room and proceeded to slam the door. Outside the

parent’s perspective, sibling rivalry is un-

room, a shelf fell off the wall and made a large

146


dent in the floor. Their mother was furious

The Bible, a foundational text for

that they had woken up the baby that I had

Western Civilization, contains two stories that

almost put to sleep and that neither of them could be nice to each other. She sent them

demonstrate both the prevalence of the issue and diverging views on the outcome of sibling

outside to the deck to resolve their fight. Jane was naked and Nolan was desperate to use the

rivalry. The first story involves the “first family” in the book of Genesis. Cain and Abel are

bathroom, but they still were not allowed to

the sons of Adam and Eve. Their parents tell

come inside until they both apologized to each other. This took ten minutes. Even

them that in order to prove their devotion to God, they must each sacrifice a lamb (The

though these children have not yet outgrown fighting with each other, I can already see the

New International Version, Genesis 4:3). Abel picks out his strongest lamb to sacrifice. Cain,

benefits that sibling rivalry has on their social

not wanting to waste what he has worked so

skills. Jane, as a result of having to defend herself verbally to her parents when she misbe-

hard for, decides to sacrifice his extra straw (Genesis 4:4). When it comes time to burn

haves, is excellent at presenting persuasive arguments and convincing others to get her

their offerings, Abel’s lamb bursts into flames while Cain’s straw only smolders. Cain is an-

way