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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?
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.
Posted in Uncategorized on March 4, 2011
Nearly ten years have now passed by since that dreadful day in 2001. Chaos, panic and hopelessness seeped into America’s souls as the two planes crashed into the seemingly indestructible Twin Towers. Yet, even in such piercing pandemonium, heroes do emerge, shining through the thick smoke and falling ash. Such a hero is my dad, Thomas Murphy, as he risked his life to make sure no one was left behind.
My dad worked on the 60th floor in Tower Two (the second tower hit, the first to fall). On September 11th, he rode the subway to work as he would on any other weekday. He arrived and began to work as usual. Then the plane crashed into the other tower. Papers streamed out of a gaping hole, raining down upon the streets of New York City, and thick black smoke swept the sky. Following mandatory protocol, all of the workers retreated to the elevator docking floor (located on the forty-second floor), and after some time, the head of security decided to send the workers back to their jobs. As people shuffled into the elevators to return to work, the second plane collided into their building. Each one of the twelve elevators on the 42nd floor exploded in succession, the impact forcing my dad to crash into the side wall.
His descent began. Even though he was petrified of the situation, he lost his sense of self, risking his life to help his fellow coworkers. He was not focused on his own well-being. He did not flail, push anyone out of the way, or sprint down the stairs to save himself. No, he stayed with his fellow workers, volunteering to help them along the way. For example, he offered to carry a Jamaican custodian with a bad leg, but the stubborn man insisted that my dad should not worry about him. After descending thousands of steps, my father escaped the building. And as he dialed our phone number and was talking to my mom, boom! The line went dead, and, like a tumultuous waterfall, his tower crumbled to the ground. A hurricane of gray ash swept through the streets, blanketing the city. He was only a couple blocks away when the tower imploded. He led his co-workers and others to safety in a company “war room” established to handle a Y2K crisis that never happened a year earlier. As he corralled and directed all to safety, he watched in horror the falling bodies and the panic.
I have never truly appreciated my dad’s courage or selflessness until later in my life, for I did not understand what my dad had endured. Although he is constantly reminded about the horrors of that day, he chooses not to dwell on the despair. His altruism for not only his coworkers but for all that he met that day is truly heroic, for he sacrificed his safety to prevent the destruction of another. And even though he is considered to be an “invisible hero” in society, he is no less brave than any other hero. My dad gives me hope to push through whatever adversity that I face. At times when I think a particular situation may seem chaotic, frantic, or even hopeless, my dad’s journey and example help me to persevere and conquer my fears.
Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2011
Human kind has a natural obsession with the “flawed hero”. We crave redemption, hoping that the particular hero finds that inner motivation for a better life and chooses moral behavior over selfish interest. And though there are many stories about the rise of heroes, none are as dramatic and outstanding as the story of Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.
As a young child, Beah was entangled in Sierra Leone’s violent civil war, struggling to cope with horrific actions and events of vicious hostility. After Beah, his brother, and his friend went to a neighboring village for a hip hop talent show, the rebel army pillaged their home village of Mogbwemo. Displaced from home, the boys were forced to rummage for food. All hell broke loose when the rebels invaded the new village where they were staying, forcing them to escape into the jungle. Being plagued with morbid dreams and haunted by the deaths of many fellow people, Beah continued to scavenge and scrounge for food until another rebel attack separated him from his brother and his other companions. Immense feelings of loneliness and fear tormented him, incinerating his innocence as each day passed by. Eventually, Beah was captured by government militia and was forced to fight as a child soldier. The war morphed his mind, convoluting his perception of “good” and “evil”. To numb himself from such a horrifying experience, Beah succumbed to the pressure brought upon by the soldiers and became addicted to drugs.
Despite seeing his friends die and living with pure hopelessness, Beah did recover; he enrolled in a rehabilitation center run by UNICEF. At this facility, Beah rediscovered his inner child and regained some of his boyish innocence. Even though his experience was heart-wrenching and ultimately damaged his persona, Beah was spared.
And as time went on, Beah discovered the importance of spreading his experience. In 1998, he moved to the United States and enrolled at Oberlin College. After graduating, he began advocating for the plight of child soldiers, not only in his country but all around the world. He published his memoir and addressed this issue at many events, including at the United Nations General Assembly.
Beah’s transformation is a clear beacon of hope in light of such terrible civil unrest. He needed to have such determination and strength to endure the tragedy of death that surrounded him and the coercion of war that portrayed the bleak circumstances of a morally bleached society. And even though he had committed foul deeds during that time in order to survive, Beah revived his persona, understood his past faults, and strived to change himself, and in turn, society as a whole.
Ishmael Beah, to this day, continues to advocate for the child soldiers whose innocence is painfully wrenched away. He provides people with a sense of hope as illustrated in his book: “When I was young, my father used to say, ‘If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die.’ I thought about these words during my journey, and they kept me moving even when I didn’t know where I was going. Those words became the vehicle that drove my spirit forward and made it stay alive.” Such a philosophy to life is why he is a true and inspirational hero.