Archive for April, 2011

Society: A Villain?

Society is everywhere. Whether one’s eating, walking the dog, going to class, etc, we cannot do anything without being influenced by social standards and pressures. It is nearly impossible to escape. Society is full of many dominant cultural expectations, some which may be against the moral wellbeing of some individuals. And if one is against the norm, society begins to hammer them down, slowly causing them to break down and shatter.

Society tells us how to live our lives: how to dress, how to act, etc. In our current society, there are many social stereotypes that are considered “inferior”. Such lesser groups are decided by a large groups of people pushing ideals down peoples’ throats. Homosexuality can be considered a lesser group, as it is not considered “normal” to be gay. African Americans for most of our country’s history were treated like dirt, and any interaction with them was looked down upon. With these and many other social stereotypes, it stimulates hateful action. Continuing with the previous example, such violence against homosexuals has been seen throughout history, especially in California during the 1970s. These social pressures thus cause people to harass other people if they act somewhat out-of-line according to the norm.

Media plays a large role in the rigging of social practices. For example, in the 19th century, the media often stereotyped Irish Americans as being violent amongst themselves and other ethnic groups, prone to alcohol, and controlled by mob bosses and other criminal organizations. Catholicism, at that same time, was openly mocked by Protestants. It even progressed to a point in which Protestants refused to hire any Irish Catholics. Even in our current media, most of the headlines on television and in newspapers are about negativity. Is there any good news? Hearing one negative story after another is not too pleasant or hopeful to hear about. Believe it or not, people do love hearing happy stories as well. With the media enforcing such hateful beliefs and negative values, a perpetual cycle is created, continuing the hatred, segregating the people, and even sparking some violence.

The solution to society’s rigor and homogenous views is education. Throughout all the examples above, ignorance and a one-sided opinion seem to be both crucial overlying factors. By providing differing views in school and in the media, the individual is able to see a poignant, well-rounded picture. With new ideas and lessons, people will begin to become more accepting and less strict about political and economic views and cultural practices. Solidarity amongst the people will begin to form, creating a new and improved societal system.

Society is naturally not perfect. With the negative communication practices in the media and homogenous cultural system, it is clear that society simulates a villainous persona. Living in a villainous society obviously does not benefit anyone as it stunts individuality and overall growth. The only way to end such villainy is to promote a heterogeneous education, in which many opinions are permitted. Yes, society is overbearing, but if we conquer above such hateful thought, our people will flourish. Who doesn’t want that?

 

 

 

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Adolf Hitler: Using Trickery to Distort Heroism

No one could be thought of as more villainous as Adolf Hitler. Yet, the fact that he deceived the majority of the German people into believing that he was a hero is a truly sickening fact. As the leader of the Nazi Party of Germany, he publicized and propagandized his distorted idealisms of Aryan race supremacy and extremist views of nationalism. He targeted his propaganda against the peaceful co-existence of the world’s nations created by the Versailles Treaty that, in essence, ended World War I. With the Treaty essentially blaming Germany for the war and imposing financial penalties, it was quite easy to unite the German people. But Hitler escalated the attack when he turned his attention to different factions, such as communists, Catholics, homosexuals, paraplegics, and, most importantly, the Jews, creating false generalizations in order to stir up more xenophobic anger and animosity amongst the German people.

Hitler used his skills of persuasion to mold Jews as a target of an empire, stating that Jews were directly responsible for all of Germany’s domestic issues. He used his intimidation and determined persona to obtain power by convincing the German majority of the need for another Reich, rising to the role of dictator of the Third Reich in June, 1934. He eventually solidified his dictatorial rule by uniting the positions of Fuhrer and Chancellor in August, 1934, after the death of Fuhrer Paul von Hindenburg. Thereafter, the German army swore an oath of obedience to Hitler and his Nazi cause, establishing the Gestapo, the secret police, with the authority to incarcerate and even kill any German deemed anti-Nazi. This, in turn, created a sense of unease and fear intimidating the German population into submission of Nazi rule.

Many were blindsided and led into a promise of change and hope that was never properly envisioned. Hitler had amassed so much power that it was nigh impossible to control him. His total control over German society thus allowed him to establish outrageous and hateful institutions such concentration camps, which cruelly killed Jews and other oppressed groups deemed inferior to the Aryan bloodline. Furthermore, he enacted the Nuremberg racial laws against the Jews and furthered the destruction of churches and temples. Sneakily, Hitler concealed such evil enactments with his territorial expansion, campaigns of a united Germany and countless victories. Displaying nationalistic successes created a large sense of euphoria amongst the public, thus shifting the focus away from the atrocities. Then, the cause to expand the empire began, and World War II began. Using German Blitzkrieg tactics, Hitler attacked quickly and swiftly, first with aircraft bombers and fighters taking out airfields, communication stations, and military installations, using mobile armor and infantry to annihilate anything remaining. Such a brutal and ruthless strategy was extremely successful: Poland fell in less than a month, Denmark and Norway in two months, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg and France in six weeks.

However, what is more unbelievable and shocking is how this one man attained such power so quickly and then convinced a nation to support anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred. It is quite mindboggling that his ability to make powerful, cunning speeches was used as diversion to trick and to motivate such evil acts. Thankfully, modern-day Germany now has completely disassociated itself with Hitler and his regime, ashamed of that part of history.  

Despite such disassociation, Hitler remains a prime example of villainy. Society must always remember him as an example of a leader in order to avoid any repetition of such awful events, for it will definitely be an absolutely tragic day when another Hitler rises to power.

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James Bond: Hero with Swagger

Almost all of today’s Americans from ages 10 to 60 are able to accurately describe their very favorite James Bond scene in which a countless number of talented actors were depicted evading impossible situations and of course…getting the gorgeous girl.  James Bond is the epitome of a hero that employs physical as well as moral courage.  There are over 20 James Bond movies in circulation since the late 1950’s.  In each film, protagonist James Bond defies physics, gravity, common sense and the most of evil of villains with a wide array of gadgets and with an daunting aura of confidence.  I believe this aspect of Bond’s character leaves society with this sense of heroism towards Bond.  He is able to face such intense situations day in and day out without the blink of an eye.  Is that not what we all want in our heroes?  Someone that can defeat evil in its purest form and do so with apparent perfection.  Bond appears simply flawless in every aspect of his character from one movie to the next.  Whether Bond is taking down the infamous Dr. No or Goldfinger’s tyrannous reign, the viewer will ALWAYS find themselves on the edge of their seat rooting for the one and only Bond, James Bond.  This charisma surrounding Bond draws viewers and fictitious characters alike to him without fail and only adds to his heroic quality.  Society is drawn to that “cool” sense of heroism in which little apparent effort is required to perform a task such as saving the world, or getting the girl (for the 25th time…)  The influence of James Bond is endless in that his character has spawned other comedic characters such as Austin Powers and Johnny English.  These examples only increase Bond’s popularity as a kick-ass hero and truly show the wide influence this epic character has upon the film industry as a whole.  The aspect of Bond’s hero that remains distinct is his innate ability to remain immune to the effects of time.  As a society, we tend to oust of heroes shortly after our hyped infatuation with their abilities or personality in general.  Clearly defined by the success enjoyed by Bond’s creator Ian Fleming, we see that Bond’s status as hero has only increased as time has passed.

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Tradd St. Croix: The Pain of a Friend-Turned-Enemy

The Lords of Discipline, by Pat Conroy, is a novel that focuses on Will McClean, a young, nervous teenager entering his first year at the South Carolina Military Institute (a fictional military college based on the Citadel) in Charleston, South Carolina. Soon after he arrives, the dreaded life of the plebe begins; however, Will finds strength and hope in three of his classmates who become his best friends: “Pig” Pignetti, Mark Santoro, and Tradd St. Croix. Pig and Mark are big, strong guys from the North, and Tradd is from a very wealthy, “old Charleston” family with history at the school. The book follows Will in his journey to learn what it means to become a man and he faces many grueling challenges within the system, but the true villain of the novel is not revealed until the very end. The reader is meant to feel as shocked as Will does as he is forced to step back and re-evaluate all that has happened to him in the past four years. Even though it is not how you read the novel, I will explain the plot as it relates to the true villain of the story, Tradd St. Croix.

At the Institute, there is an exclusive secret society named The Ten. The alumni of The Ten are some of the most powerful at the Institute, and men in the military. One of their purposes, which increases their need for secrecy, is running out the plebes who they consider unacceptable to wear the Ring, which students receives upon graduation. The Ten will resort to unfair, and even violent action to eliminate weak plebes. Tradd’s father attended the Institute, and is a member of The Ten. Tradd, despite his small stature and unintimidating nature, is bound to be inducted into the society. He is, yet he does not tell his friends. For most of the novel, Will tries to do the right thing, and often he comes into indirect contact with The Ten. The novel is set during the 1960s, and as an upperclassman, Will is asked by one of the officers to serve as a mentor to the first black cadet to enter the school. Will agrees and takes his role very seriously. Of course, a black student is just the type of abnormality that the Ten try to run off campus. Once Will is personally involved in the situation, he begins to learn a lot about the Ten and who is involved that both scares and empowers him. Since Will is linked to the black student, Pierce, he also becomes a target of The Ten. While all of this is going on, Will’s roommate, Tradd, knows how much Will is suffering and struggling. While he consoles and attempts to help, he also maintains his allegiance to The Ten.

This is simply one example of how the Tradd/Will conflict increases as Tradd continues to hide his secret. At the end of the novel, Will is able to put the pieces together, but he realizes that his best friend, someone he had trusted, had been a contributing factor to the great challenges Will faced while at the Institute. Their friendship is forever destroyed. Maybe Tradd had little choice in whether her became part of The Ten or not, but he continually lied to, deceived, and sold out his best friend, a villainous choice that resulted in death, ridicule, violence and anger.

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Judith Sargent Murray: A Feminist Ahead of Her Time

Judith Sargent Murray lived before the term feminist existed; however, she displayed advocacy for women’s rights in a manner that would have surely earned her that title in a different era. Murray was born in 1751 in Massachusetts. She first became aware of gender inequalities in her own household. As children, her younger brother began studying the classics, a subject that her parents refused to provide for their daughter. Murray became very familiar with this type of gender inequality – especially in education – all during her life. Murray married young, a common practice for her time. In the world she lived, women were always dependent on someone: their father until they were old enough to marry, and then they were to be dependent on their husband. When her husband, John Stevens, began experiencing financial issues, Judith wanted to be included, but her husband refused. Murray believed in an equal partnership between husband and wife, because she witnessed herself the distance that could be driven between the two when they were not able to work together, as equal partners. John’s debts continued to grow, and he was not able to handle the situation he had created. He fled to the West Indies – without Judith – to escape his creditors. He ended up dying there.

Murray was left widowed, with children and no way to provide for them or herself. This experience cultivated some of her strongest ideas about improving women’s status. She realized, however, that before women could be given opportunities remotely equal to men, society would have to dismantle the fixed belief that women were inherently inferior to men in almost every aspect of life. Murray was left in America a defenseless widow. She believed that that alone was reason enough to prepare women for financial independence. Women could not simply rely on the men in their life to support them forever.

We know about her forward-thinking ideas because Murray was a writer. She wrote many short stories and poems – some of which were published – that included characters and themes that promoted her ideas. Most famously, Murray published a three-volume book of essays under a male pseudonym, The Gleaner. Writing as a man gave Murray the liberty and credibility she would not have had if she had written under her own name. And that was exactly the problem she was trying to address. She did not believe it was fair to treat men as though they were more capable than women in any field. The Gleaner was famous within its own time, and established Murray as a successful author. One of her most famous publications was actually published under her real name: “On the Equality of Sexes.” Her ideas were radical for her time, and they questioned issues that were still existent in the early twentieth century society. Judith Sargent Murray is a hero because she actually addressed the problems she faced in her own life. Thousands of women probably faced similar situations, but Murray was not content knowing she deserved better. She set a ball in motion that is still rolling today. Believing that women and men deserve equal education is a given in our time, but it was not until very recently. It is because of women such as Murray that the status quo was changed, that centuries-old traditions of treating women as inferiors were abolished.

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Tupac Shakur: Hero in Disguise

Some members of today’s society recognize the name Tupac Amaru Shakur while others simply know him as “2Pac” or “Pac”.  Shakur was a prominent West Coast gangster rapper of the 1990’s who transcended the restrictions placed on most of the musicians in Shakur’s line of work.  Tupac was born into a terribly troubled family in Harlem that was engulfed in serious legal issues from murder, sexual abuse and unthinkable prison sentences throughout Tupac’s adolescence.  Through this miserable upbringing, Shakur remained a positive influenced to those around him and continued his positive influence by spreading his message through his lyrics.  Many of his songs urge peace and prosperity amongst gangs and enemies alike.  The importance on Tupac may not be displayed through statistical analysis or other factual data but his message is clear to all of those exposed to his popular work.  Shakur’s influence was monumental during his period of popularity because he was able to use his fame and stature in order to promote good from coast to coast and across seas, wherever his tracks may land.  In comparison to other rappers of the 1990’s, Tupac created imaginative lyrics and an attractive persona, all-the-while preaching tolerance of race and freedom from discrimination.  While other rappers bragged on and on of drug life, murders and immoral lives in general, Tupac always remained the one constant through the headphones of the youths of America in the 1990’s.  The downfall of Shakur only adds to the public’s view of his heroism.  A drive-by assailant gunned him down following a boxing match in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Tupac Amaru Shakur was killed in the prime of his life with a booming career and an increasing influence on society as each day passed.  The tragic death of Tupac seemed to magnify his work as more and more people became aware of his music and thus his message of tolerance.  As the investigation continued, Tupac enthusiasts seemed to emphasize the messages preached by their hero and continued the legacy of freedom in place of their fallen idol.  Regarded as the first “socially conscious rapper”, Shakur is regarded as major opposition of police brutality, social injustice and poverty that seemed to encompass the community around him from birth until death.  Shakur grew from the deepest depths of evil and had the heroic ability to rise above and become a proponent for good.

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Spiderman: Friend or Foe?

Throughout American culture, people have historically attempted to classify nearly every influential individual as being either a hero or villain.  Most of the time this task is completed without question based on previous knowledge or an immense unexplainable vibe of good evil.  But what is to happen when society holds differing views of the same character?  You may view a specific individual as the essence of all that is wrong with the world while your next-door neighbor reveres this person for his or her influence on the world around them.  The most definite example of heroism and villainy debated is found in one of America’s most famous comic book heroes, Peter Parker and his alter ego, Spiderman.

The citizens of Manhattan, New York are viewed as flip-flopping often throughout Spiderman’s tenure as they find it difficult to determine the validity of the quasi-hero’s actions.  Spiderman is seen taking desperate measures and exploring personal interests through New York while fending off the multitude of bad guys.  However, these dangerous endeavors often cause some great catastrophe or other harm to persons of the city.  Due to this cause and effect parallel, the media portrays Spiderman as a hero on some days and blasts the costumed character as a villain on others.  I firmly believe that this unpredictable and uninformed portrayal of Spiderman in the media remains the major factor that shapes the mixed opinions of the public.  Citizens are seen as choosing sides for or against Spiderman as he attempts to continue to fight for what he believes is for the greater good.  This contrast of rewards and consequences forced onto society from Spiderman’s actions are continuously weighed and debated by viewers.  Whether the argument lies within one viewer or amongst Spiderman supporters and Spiderman scolders, this facet of Spiderman’s character provides immense depth and a much greater basis for analysis.

Upon further examination, the status of Spiderman’s true character seems to be fairly obvious to me.  I believe his true colors are shown throughout the plot in that his intentions are always seemingly innocent and are aimed to better the lives of Peter Parker’s loved ones.  Although the outcome may not always reflect the intention, it is the thought that leaves to label Spiderman as a hero rather than a villain.  In order to receive the “villain” title I feel that a character must be evil in nearly every facet instead of having more than a few unfortunate mishaps.  The hero in Spiderman shines through in his whole-hearted and selfless actions to save lives of those close to him as well as his willingness to protect the lives of unknown citizens of New York.

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