Thursday, October 22, 2009

Struggle Against Tyranny

Everything that any human has ever known, felt, seen and done has been connected in some obvious or unseen way; The ancient Chinese Taoist culture created and believed in the meaning symbolized by the yin yang. Yin was to symbolize dark, feminine etc. and yang was to symbolize light, masculine etc. but the two could not exist separately, embodying the metaphor of seemingly different things and ideas being two sides to the same coin.
Animal Farm, is a political satire of soviet totalitarianism, most notably the Marxists. It is a riveting novel, personifying animals as specific characters from the communist era such as Stalin, Karl Marx and many others, written by George Orwell in 1945. The Matrix, on the other hand, is a science fiction movie based on the fear that humankind may not be able to control its creations, specifically computers and Artificial Intelligence. It was written and directed by the Wachowski brothers at the turn of the 21 century with the emergence of true-life artificial intelligence already well set upon the horizon. Both are extremely unique texts that, upon first examination, have little to do with one another but, upon further examination, some very profound similarities arise.
One can assume that the authors had a common thought in mind during the creation of their texts. This thought might have been, the realization that any limitations left unchecked in the hands of mere human or humanlike creatures only have the potential to work if all play fair.
Since the utopian idea of fair is nonexistent in any world evident on this earth, limitations are bound to be tested. If no one is up to the challenge of keeping up with and enforcing the limitations, than the limitations serve no purpose. Both texts seem to invite the thought and provoke the will for, any individual or group’s determination and dedication to the enforcement of their preset limitations (Orwell 7). In addition to this, the authors seem to stress the necessity of the fight against tyranny as well as against political or social ignorance.
The most obvious of the evident similarities being the use of the manipulated speaks candor to the above statement. The intellectual pigs of Animal Farm play the same role as the first artificially intelligent machine, already in power at the commencement of the Matrix; Both manipulate lesser intelligence, portrayed by humans or the non-pig animals in order to establish their power within their establishment, be it a computer or a society. The machines are now using the hatched humans as batteries (Wachowski 41:58). One may perceive that the non-pig animals and the humans who were not connected to the matrix, are fighting the same struggle against oppression.
The two tales tell that both the oppressed begin as, or established themselves as, the governing and are eventually found to be the governed. Towards the end of both texts, the situation of the used becomes almost unbearable. The animals are starving and the humans have little tolerance left for their mechanical keepers.
Animals led an oppression triggered revolt against the farmer, doing so in order to obtain the ability to govern themselves. After their struggle, the animals are very simply manipulated into being governed by and ultimately more oppressed than before by the pigs (Orwell 62-3).
Problems arise when one character or element perceives that it can “predict [others] interests…make [others] decisions for [them]”(Orwell 47-8). These words, spoken by the tyrannical Napoleon are comparable to the first machine deciding that it knew what was best for the humans. The humans created and controlled, for a time, artificial intelligence, the same intelligence that created the matrix, which now controls all human thought and action. The animals invented and established laws (Orwell 21) that would have made their society very prosperous, had they been followed. Since the rules were not followed, the animals allowed themselves to fall victim to oppression yet again.
Both texts point to humans as the source of all discontent as well as posses characters that were ’programmed’ to enact the oppressors’ will and enforce the oppressors’ oppression. Animal Farm paints the dogs as such characters in the fact of their being controlled or, more accurately, brainwashed by the personification of Joseph Stalin in the devious head pig, Napoleon. Comparatively, the agents of the Matrix are controlled by and made to do the bidding of the master computer. Napoleon and the main computer both employ tractable ‘muscle’, if you will, to enforce their protocol because the two posses little, and no significant, power of their own actions in order to otherwise establish control.
With the knowledge of their oppressors’ misdeeds, the groups decide to educate themselves in the ways of their despot. The animals, upon their overthrow of the farmer, educate themselves in the ways of tending the fields; The pigs go so far as to educate themselves in reading, writing, arithmetic and sophisticated living such as sleeping in beds, using electricity, bartering, etc. As the struggle against the Matrix’s control over humankind is waged, the protagonists are well aware that their every action and sometimes every thought has the potential to be known by the network of machines. With this in mind, they proceed to determine how the network operates in order to find loopholes within the system.
Overall, both tales tell a captivating story of revolt against tyranny. It seems that if both the humans and beasts had merely been aware that there was significant potential within their delineated plexus for manipulation then, perhaps, the manipulation would have had no opportunity to take place (Orwell 7).

Orwell, George. Animal Farm; A Fairy Story. Secker and Warburg. London, United Kingdom.1945
The Matrix. Dir.Wachowski, Larry and Andy.Per. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss. 1999.DVD.Warner Brothers.2003

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blame the Victim

Throughout the twentieth century and continuing into the twenty-first, patterns of behavior or ‘trends’ have shaped the American world such as the Big Band Hippie, and Disco Eras followed by the grunge/punk then rhythm and blues waves. American families also change with the times in which pets each family is interested. In the Twenties, a ferret was certainly not a commonplace pet. The ideal pet of the perfect American family is none other that the loyal dog. Dogs have been mans best friend for a millennia or more and, though the breeds may change, dogs have remained the preferred American pet.
Recently, beginning in Ontario, Canada, there has been a growing apprehension and bias against the group of dogs known as “pit bulls”. The phrase ‘group of dogs’ is used instead of ‘breed’ because pit bulls are in fact, a collection of breeds. “Generalizations involve matching a category of people (or dogs) to a behavior or trait…” He continues with, “…(F)or that process to work, you have to be able both to define and to identify the category you are generalizing about.”. It is excruciatingly obvious that this has failed to be done; who knows what “an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar” means?
In his article Troublemakers: What Pitt Bulls Can Tell Us About Profiling, Malcolm Gladwell tells of a conversation/interview with New York Cities police commissioner, Raymond Kelly. He quotes Kelly as having said, “We have a policy against racial profiling… It’s the wrong thing to do, and it’s also ineffective.” Here he continues to list numerous instances of people, all with different ethnicities, that have committed acts of terror. “Look at the diversity here. Who am I suppose to profile?” Imagine that you, a reasonably sane individual, have been told that you look like you might be crazy and therefore, will be institutionalized. This is the situation pit bulls currently find themselves in. They look fiercely intimidating and as a result people assume that they are something that in fact, they are not.
The number of breeds have multiplied and traveled far from the land in which they were bred. Every breed of dog was engineered for a specific purpose; some for burrowing after small game, some for herding, and others were bred for fighting. American dog lovers have taken a particular interest in the pit bull ‘breed’ in recent years; therefore their popularity has grown. With increased popularity, the pit bull is bound to stand out more prominently than other, less popular dogs. Gladwell best captured this concept in his ‘Troublemakers’ article with the words, “The kinds of dogs that kill people change over time, because the popularity of certain breeds changes over time.” This ideal revelation followed an interesting set of statistics in which he listed two, two year spans, one of which there were ten fatal attacks committed by Rottweilers, the other, there were none. Following it he quotes Randall Lockwood, a senior vice-president of the A.S.P.C.A. as having said, “If you wanted a mean dog, back then (1970s), you got a Doberman.”
This ban may be counted as exemplification of ever increasing, poor ‘human-canine relations’. It is simply ridiculous to ban a type of dog because of incidences where people were badly hurt by these dogs because their owner failed to install a high enough fence, or because their owner has been neglectful, or because their owner has trained his dog to be ferocious. Any dog, dachshund or pit bull, which is taught to be violent…will be violent! Contrarily, any dog that is trained, and trained well, to resist any natural urge toward violence. A dog, having had the most neglectful owner and poor care, is bound to have issues just as a child, grown up with parents who couldn’t care less, is destined for a maladjusted life. Does our society consider the tattered existence of the child to be the fault of the child. NO! Courts, Social Services and society in general, place the blame not with the victimized child, either by neglect or abuse, but with the one who did wrong by the child.
Consider a dog, left on a chain for days, weeks with no affection shown it. Now picture a child in the same predicament. Are you not appalled? A child, grown up with parents who cannot seem to feed, or bathe, or console him or her on a regular basis would be expected to act in a poor manner. If the child were perfectly adjusted, clean and happy, one would assume that their parents did all those things. Furthermore, if a person who is considered to be incompetent is persuaded to commit a crime, American courts place guilt with, not the perpetrator but the one who convinced him or her to do so. Therefore, to ban so-called ‘pit bull type dogs’ is to place the blame with the victim. Owners train their dogs to behave in a way that suits their individual needs. The dog is merely a reflection of its owner and consequently free of blame.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quotes from "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" and "Alice in Wonderland"

"A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself"

-tragicomedy "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" by Tom Stoppard

Consider Lewis Carroll's mind-altering novel, "Alice in Wonderland":

Alice: Curiouser and curiouser!... I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!
Eaglet: Speak English! I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and I don't believe you do either!
Alice: I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, Sir, because I'm not myself you see.
The Duchess: If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.
Alice: ...
The Cat: We're all mad here.
The Hatter: Why is a raven like a writing desk?
The Hatter: Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder what you're at.
The Queen: Off with her head!
The Duchess: Tut, tut, child! Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it.
The Duchess: Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.
The Mock Turtle: We called him Tortoise because he taught us.
The Mock Turtle: Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.
The Mock Turtle: Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense.
The King: Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.
Alice: I don't believe there's an atom of meaning in it.
The Queen: Sentence first -- verdict afterwards.
Alice: ...But then, shall I never get any older than I am now? That'll be a comfort, one way -- never to be an old woman -- but then -- always to have lessons to learn!