Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Nature of Evil

Evil is something which is extremely hard to define, due to the duality of human nature. Little to nothing in life is black and white, and all people are a mixture of good and bad, making it very hard to classify someone as "evil". Instead, it is easier to look at acts as evil, and then judge people by a collection of their actions. Several theories exist within philosophy to define the nature of evil, each of which, in my opinion, hold a part of the truth. One of the theories said to treat others as they wanted to be treated, in order to best respect their own humanity. I agree with this in theory, however when it comes to practice it is impossible, since every person can not be treated exactly as they want to be. Another theory was the idea of doing the least harm, meaning that the right choice was the one which helped the most people, even if that meant hurting some. Again, this theory has good qualities, but in practice it dehumanizes people and ignores the fact that everyone has a right to be treated equally. To me, being good means combining these in a way that tries to make choices which will help the most people out, but also respects everyone and treats each individual fairly. Going by this, that means that evil is when a person is dehumanized, treated poorly, or a decision is made that purposely harms a group of people. When comes face to face with evil, they have to make a choice. The easy one is usually to do nothing, and let it continue, but the right choice is to say something and stop evil from spreading. The nature of evil is that, when left unchecked, it will always grow, and it will always continue to harm people. By speaking up, each person can help in the fight against evil. Hearing from a real holocaust survivor helped put into perspective how important it is to speak up, even about the smallest things. Hitler did not start out by killing millions of people, he started with small, dehumanizing acts of discrimination, which snowballed into an unfathomable atrocity. This happened because people allowed it to by sitting quietly and watching. As Mr. Sztajer said, evil is a cancer which must be taken out piece by piece. Evil to me is not only just doing the acts yourself, but also allowing them to continue unchallenged. Good people have to think about and respect others, try to do the most good, and actively stand up against others who are doing evil.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

End of the World and Apocolypticism

Do I believe in the end of the world? That is a difficult question for me to answer, since I feel very unsure about the answer. My fearful side wants to say no, the world can never end, and we are all safe. However, rationally, I understand that many things could bring about at the very least an end to the world as we know it. In my opinion, the most likely cause of the world's end would be use of nuclear bombs, because I believe that if a single one was set off it would cause a chain reaction leading to full on nuclear warfare, and the death of huge amounts, if not all, of the world's population.

With all this being said, I do not believe almost any of the common end of the world "prophecies", which are constantly circulating through society. Part of this is probably because many, although not all, apocalyptic theories are centered around religion, and I am not a religious individual. This brings me to the difference between apocalypticism and millennialism. Apocalypticism means that it is a theory which centers around some sort of divine intervention, while millennialism is a more broad term which can cover secular ideas as well. Millennialsim has seven branches that were discussed by Dr. Krebs, and of these five I find two to be somewhat believable. The first of these is the progressive view, which says that a new world order may come about with out the catastrophe. Essentially, this is a political theory which focuses on the way that new, better political regimes can be put in place with out some kind of horrible destruction. This theory appeals to me because it eliminates the more fantastical elements of catastrophe, leaving behind real people making the world better. An example of this would be true communism, which has never been practiced in the world.

The second theory is the environmental one, which says that the breakdown of the environment will lead to the destruction of the Earth. As a believer in global warming, this theory definitely speaks to me. We are constantly polluting the environment, and I definitely believe that people need to be more cautious about what kind of world we leave for the next generations. However, I do not believe that this will ever come true during my lifetime, but instead will be something that might occur hundreds of years from now.

Overall, while I do find apocalyptic theories to be very interesting, I do not think that they are particularly realistic or have any real benefit to society.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Extra Post: Children of Men

The Hunger Games and Children of Men share a lot of common themes, as well as a similar overarching message. Both these stories are dystopian, telling about a world where something has gone crucially wrong and society has fallen into a bleak, anti-utopian, state. They also share the commonality of having a conflict centered around children, albeit in very different ways. Children of Men's dystopian conditions are caused by the loss of fertility in all humans, leading to war, chaos and panic all around. This idea of lost fertility is very similar to the plot of The Handmaiden's Tale, another famous dystopian novel. In the movie, the only government left is in Britain, but it has become a cruel dictatorship to cope with the chaotic society. Another group has also risen up, a rebel group called the fishes, who kidnap the main character to supposedly smuggle the only pregnant woman on Earth into Britain. One parallel between this movie and The Hunger Games is the presence of both an oppressive government, and a rebel group, with the similarity getting stronger when it is revealed that the rebel groups in both stories are corrupt and using others to serve their own purposes. Theo in some ways parallels Katniss, for the fact that he is taken from the government, deceived by the rebel group, and eventually realizes both are corrupt and works for what is right. In the same way that Katniss kills Coin in Mockingjay, Theo refuses to allow the new baby to be used for the revolution and instead delivers Kee to the "Tomorrow" group.

"The Hero's Journey" in The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games follows a lot of the traditional "Hero's journey" characterisics, while also deviating in several interesting ways. Typical hero's journey tend to have these steps in them; the call to adventure, the refusal of the call, the meeting with the mentor, the crossing of the threshold, challenges and temptations, the belly of the whale, transformation, and the return.

File:Heroesjourney.svgKatniss is obviously the hero in The Hunger Games and therefore the similarities can be seen through her own journey. Very clearly, Katniss's call to adventure is Prim's name being called in the reaping. This moment begins her journey through death, revolution, and knowledge of the greater world. Refusal of the call is less easy to pinpoint, but it could be said that she refuses the call somewhat by not allowing Prim to take any tesserae, instead hunting extra so Prim will be safer. However, Katniss is very ready to take the place of her sister, and rises up to the call for heroics. Once in the Capitol, Katniss crosses the threshold into the new world, officially beginning the transformation step of the journey. Haymitch plays the role of an older mentor, by training Katniss, as well as sending gifts to her in the arena. Challenges and temptations occur constantly while in the arena, as the hero struggles to defend herself, maintain her morals, decide who is a friend and who is enemy, and make all the decisions which a life or death situation demand.

Being in this terrible situation really transforms Katniss into a new, more aware person. Before going into the games, Katniss was a sort of quiet rebel, who only did what was necessary to keep herself going. Through the brutality, Katniss transforms into the beginnings of the mockingjay, the rebels leader. The other books of the series show her return home, as well as her teaching her new knowledge to others, completing the cycle of the hero's journey. One of the big deviations was the lack of supernatural aid, as The Hunger Games does not have any kind of supernatural component, only futuristic ones. Another change is the lack of the goddess figure along Katniss's journey.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Extra Credit Blog: Leadership Qualities and Different Leadership Roles

Different backgrounds can produce very different types of leaders. These leaders will in turn use greatly differing techniques to control the population, with varying degrees of success. In the Hunger Games we see several different types of leaders, from a totalitarian dictator, to a president who, while using democracy as a front, uses duplicitous means to stay in power, to a revolutionary war hero who is thrust into power against her will. So what makes each of these leaders the way they are? By looking at how they rose to power you can forsee what type of leader they will be.
President Snow started out by using deception and force to gain his position as president. In order to crush political enemies, president Snow would poison himself and others, and then take an antidote to save himself. While this plan was successful it left him with permanent scars, both mental and physical.The sores in his mouth were nothing compared to the paranoia which plagued Snow after rising to power in such a brutal way. Between his history of violence, and his fear of being overthrown, it is no surprise that Snow turned into a harsh, strict leader. In order to squash any uprisings before they even began Snow ruled with an iron fist, restricting freedoms of speech, assembly, press and the works. Snow also used propaganda and fear, the biggest of these being the hunger games.
In a completely different society, President Coin rose to power democratically, through her own merit. This following of the rules can help in predicting her leadership style, which is generally pretty fair. However Coin also came to power in a desperate time, when people were looking for someone to create order in a chaotic society. As a direct result of this, Coin is a very direct ruler who does not tolerate any kind of dissent or flaunting over authority. Her type of power is a sort of mix between actual democratic rule, and the authoritarian style of Snow. When unchallenged, Coin is able to stay fair, but as soon as someone causes her to feel threatened, Coin begins to use deception to maintain her position. Coin's leadership style is influenced by the unstable society she lives in, causing her to be harsher and more paranoid.
Differing greatly from the other two leaders, Katniss is someone who never sought out power. Instead, she is a fiercely independent war hero, who had power thrust upon her by desperate people looking for help. Katniss lives in a world where she is constantly lied to, which makes her value the truth more than anything. This quality is shown in her leadership, as she is very careful to always spread the truth. She also gains a great respect for life from all the violence she sees in the hunger games, which makes her wary to commit the terrible acts which the other leaders are willing to do.
With such different upbringings it is no surprise that these leaders have such vastly different leadership styles. The history and life lessons learned throughout their lives teach them the "correct" way to lead. It is really only through the wisdom of different life lessons that great leaders can be made.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gender Relations and Romance

Anyone who has read more than a few chapters of Hunger Games will pick on one fact quickly, Katniss is not your average "damsel in distress" female character. In fact, she seems to take on some almost masculine qualities through her actions in the books. So why is this? Katniss is beautiful, she has relationships with men, and she has many physically feminine qualities. So why then does Katniss get labeled as masculine by readers, and so quickly? The answer is that Katniss challenges gender relations by taking on the role of fighter or protector, while allowing Peeta to take on the role of nurturer.
Within our society we have learned certain social expectations for each gender, and therefore have associated different roles with femininity or masculinity. In Western cultures, women are seen as softer, more gentle people, therefore being given the roles of nurturer. Men are in turn seen as the strong, more emotionally stable ones, and in turn as generally expected to be the protector, the bread winner, and the fighter. As much as many people may reject these roles and choose to pursue paths outside of gender stereotypes, there remains an almost universal knowledge of their resistance. This is what makes Katniss stand out so much, especially with Peeta present as a foil to her.
Even before the games start, Katniss presents a masculine air by acting as the provider for her family through hunting. At this point though Gale is still there to prevent a very stereotypically "manly" image, which makes Katniss's actions less noticable. Once entering the games, Katniss immediately goes into survival mode, hunting, killing, fighting, and ruthlessly surviving. When Peeta is injured, Katniss is hopeless at the feminine aspects of caring for him, such as medicine, but excells in the physical protection. She shows a violence, and a willingness to fight which is seen as very masculine.
Peeta acts as an excellent contrast to Katniss, as he has almost the exact opposite characteristics. His feminine actions begin with his sacrificing himself for Katniss, as the act of self sacrifice in a non-combative situation is generally considered a female quality. Once in the cave, Peeta begins to rely on Katniss for everything from food, to shelter, to actual protection from enemies. His passivity, and reliance upon another cast him in a very feminine light. Essentially, Peeta and Katniss have switched traditional gender roles. The Hunger Games still contains the usual boy saves girl and then they fall in love motif, it simply changes it to girl saves boy. The series does not break any new ground as far as the development of romance, it simply switches up the genders, and in doing so questions the whole system of gender relations.