I am Legend

I am Legend (2007) is a film based on a novel with the same name by Richard Matheson written in the mid 20th century. The film is set in 2012, three years after a genetically re-engineered version of the measles virus, created as cure for cancer, mutates into a strain that infects humans and some animals. Flashbacks in the film reveal that in this time, over 90% of the world’s population had died, 9% had become infected but not died, and now prey on the survivors. Less than 1% of the population is immune to the virus, and many of those who are immune either committed suicide due to isolation or were killed by the infected. The film follows US Army virologist, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Neville who remains in New York City to attempt to discover a cure for the vaccine. Robert is the last man in New York City, and he believes, in the world. The infected humans are shown to be hurt by the sunlight, and thus are nocturnal.

Each day, Robert experiments on rats infected with the virus to find a cure, and goes throughout the city searching for food and supplies. Every afternoon he waits at the South Street Seaport and makes radio broadcasts calling for all survivors to meet him there. Robert’s only companion is his dog Sam, who he is forced to strangle after she too becomes infected with the virus while defending him against an infected “dark-seeker.” Robert’s wife and daughter were ostensibly killed in a helicopter crash in 2009 during a military evacuation. Robert has resorted to setting up mannequins in a video store, watching recordings of old news, in addition to his relationship with Sam for companionship. Following Sam’s death, Robert goes on a killing spree at night out of anger. This is when Anna and a child named Ethan come to rescue him. When they return to his home, Robert realizes he has discovered a cure created by a vaccine using his own blood. Robert ultimately sacrifices himself for the sake of humanity after the infected follow them back to his home in Washington Square and gives Anna the vial of the blood from the infected human he was in the process of curing to take to a safe town in Vermont. The film ends with Anna and Ethan arriving in Vermont safely and Anna handing over the vial with the cure.

This post-apocalyptic dystopia relates primarily to the theme of science and the relationships of humans. I am Legend seems to present the idea that we must be cautious with scientific advances so that in the process of attempting to cure an illness, we do not create one that ends society. For instance, one fear by some scientists is that in the process of over-medicating or creating different vaccines, is that some viruses evolve to resist the treatment. This film highlights a more extreme version of this fear. I am Legend also shows the importance of human contact and interaction in society. As the last man in the city, Robert Neville begins to speak to mannequins, even flirting with one at one point, when he loses his dog (his only companion), Neville cracks.

This clip shows Neville’s mental breakdown following Sam’s death and his need for human interaction:

He goes on a nearly suicidal mission in retaliation. In order to maintain a sense of interaction and normalcy, Robert also watches old news broadcasts daily as well. Together, these highlight the importance of interaction on the individual.

In contrast to being the only person left in the world, Lord of the Flies by William Golding sets his novel with a group of boys left stranded on an island. While I am Legend highlights the importance of human interaction, Golding displays the cruelty of human nature. Golding uses the conflicts between the boys on the island and the danger that ensues in order to show the loss of innocence that results from scarce resources. Also a post-apocalyptic work, Lord of the Flies shows how competition and fear can lead even a group of preadolescent boys to steal, kill, and torture one another. While I am Legend emphasizes the need for an individual to engage with society, Golding emphasizes the dark state of human nature when a small group struggles to survive.

A Vacation Gone South

Part 1: A Vacation
My boyfriend and I had decided to go on a little vacation. Summer was nearing and we both put in a request for vacation dates. We currently live in a cute little apartment in Astoria. He works for the MTA five days a week from 2 to 10pm and I work in an office from 10 to 6. Because of our schedules we don’t always have time to see each other. He seems to be more tired and out of it lately. I wonder if something happened. Hopefully this vacation will bring us closer because I sense we are drifting. We decided to go to Hawaii. I have always wanted to visit Hawaii because it is the only state that is an island. Neither of us has been there and the atmosphere there seems to be more relaxed than it is here in New York.
Part 2: A Tumble
We finally landed in Hawaii. The temperature was high and we could see the blue ocean sparkling. After dropping off our bags at the hotel we decided to have dinner and call it a night. With the itinerary I printed out, tomorrow will be a long day. The next day we rented a small boat and paddled out to the ocean. The sun was high in the sky and the waters were clear. It was great. Suddenly the boat started to rock and flipped over! I treaded in the water and looked over to find my significant other missing. Panic and dread filled me. Where did he go? Is he alright? What happened? I put my goggles on and looked underwater. I saw him moving deeper and deeper into the ocean. I swam after him.
Part 3: A Glimpse
I dived down to the depths of the ocean and saw him drifting towards a cluster of caves. After a minute underwater I had to resurface to breathe. I sucked in extra air and dove down again. I caught up to him and noticed that his eyes were closed and he was not fighting for air like he should be. He looked peaceful like he was in a deep sleep. I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly creatures were among us. They looked human from the waist up but they also had tails instead of legs. By the time I noticed, they had surrounded us. Due to shock I lost the air in my lungs. With my last bit of strength I took my partner’s hand.
Part 4: A Transformation
I must confess I do not know how much time had passed. I was lying face up on a table of some sort. My body had just awakened from a restorative sleep. I could hear high-pitched squeaks and squeals, which my ears adjusted to quickly. I kept my eyes closed just to observe the environment with my ears. I heard two voices discussing what to do with the newcomers. I tried to stretch out my toes and realized I was unable to. I didn’t have toes. I didn’t have feet. In fact I didn’t even have legs! Instead I had a tail. I had somehow transformed into a mermaid! I opened my eyes and looked around. I had been placed on a table made from sponges. The walls that surrounded me looked like the tentacles of a sea anemone. I felt safe but also lost at the same time. Where did they take him? I quickly got used to moving around with a tail. It was like doing the dolphin kick in swimming class but all the time. As I was practicing two figures, presumably doctors, entered into my so-called room. They explained that my partner and I were almost couldn’t be saved but we were lucky. They talked about some complicated scientific medical procedure that allowed them to turn us into mer-people. It sounded like black magic to me. They directed me to my partner’s room at my request. There he was lying on the sponges. His face was as serene as the last time I saw him. It seems that he hasn’t woken up yet. I took his hand in mine and to my surprise he woke up.
Part 5: A Decision
Now an important decision had to be made. Should we attempt to travel back to our original homeland or explore this new underwater Atlantis-like place? I still didn’t understand how both of us could “breathe” underwater. Maybe the doctors said something about that in their long explanation. My boyfriend said that he wouldn’t mind staying and studying the area since we are still on vacation even though this was not the kind of trip he expected. I agreed that exploring the region would be interesting but what if we want to go back to land? What about our jobs and families? There were so many things that were just up in the air. I finally decided to stay. Now we need to learn about this species before anything else.
Part 6: A Lesson
One of the doctors volunteered to tell us about the mer-people of Melloasis, which is what they called their society. We learned about the elders who lead the villages and the equality of all citizens. Similar to communism they live as a community without using money and everyone does their role to keep the place going. There are hunters, doctors, caretakers, and their jobs can switch at any time. The flexibility of job positions seemed interesting. If each mer-person was able to choose a job that he or she wanted how would they make sure that all jobs were filled? Each mer-person takes as much food as needed and everyone is generally happy. Since the young are raised communally they do not have the same type of attachment as humans do. I was taken aback by the idea of having numerous partners even though I understand that it is a way to keep their population at a stable number. My partner and I just didn’t concur with the notion but we had no complaints since the mating season was already over. Melloasis is very green place. Everything the mer-people use can be recycled and they try not to disturb the nature and other creatures among them. The doctor explained that it is their society’s responsibility to maintain harmony with nature by not doing anything beyond preservation. This seemed like a great place to be and almost like a utopia.
Part 7: A Misfortune
We decided to go explore the childcare center to see how the caretakers work. The childcare center was tucked away in one of the corners of the cave. Inside the caretakers watch over the newborns as they lie on beds of seaweed. When the young ones wake they are fed plankton and other small fish. They interact with each other and play with shiny objects or trinkets. The caretakers take note of which object or objects a particular mer-baby plays with and how he or she interacts with the other children. This is taken into account with the caretakers have their meeting with the village elder about which role each mer-child should fulfill when he or she turns of age. My partner decided that we should see how the hunters catch fish. We made our way outside the cave and watched the hunters from afar. They were both mermen and mermaids. Some used a net composed of seaweed and others used driftwood as hunting spears to collect their fish. The strength of these hunters was impressive seeing as they were able to carry all the fish they collected and drag them back inside the cave. While we were observing the hunters, I suddenly heard a grunt from my partner. I looked down and his tail had been pierced by a sharp piece of driftwood. His scales started to turn a shade of red. I pulled the driftwood out and threw it away. I spotted a dangerous looking fish in the distance. It started swimming this way and I realized it was a shark. All the hunters started to head back into the cave. With all my strength I pulled my partner into the cave. A stream of red liquid followed us. The hunter who accidentally threw the spear in our direction apologized and asked what we were doing in the line of fire. Before we could answer the two doctors from before appeared and pulled us away saying they had to clean out the wound.
Part 8: A Problem
The doctors brought us back to the place where both of us had woken up. While one of them dressed the wound the other asked me what happened out there. I communicated that we went out to observe the hunters in their roles and one of them accidentally speared my partner. A report would have to be made to the elder. I asked about their policy on outsiders. The doctor told me they never had any outsiders. They were five self-sufficient villages that were just trying to survive in harmony with nature. I asked about the scientific process they used on us. The answer was that it was an experiment to save our lives. Since we were not born in Melloasis we are not instinctively inclined to appreciate nature. The elders may believe that we are a danger to the mer-people. I asked what happened to a mer-person who did not appreciate nature. He or she is exiled. The other doctor and finished dressing the wound. I told my partner that we might be exiled from this society. He replied that if that were the case then we would need to turn back into humans and return to our homeland. We asked the doctors if they could reverse the process. They told us they would look into it but there were no guarantees. Suddenly an older mer-person arrived and the doctors introduced the elder of their village.
Part 9: A Command
The elder looked at us and told us the hunter made a report about us. I told the elder that we were observing the hunters and my partner was hurt in the process. The elder studied us and asked if we were from another village. I replied that we were actually humans who have been turned into mer-people by the two doctors. The elder was taken aback and glared at the two doctors. The elder explained that the right thing to do would be to change us back to humans to keep the balance with nature. Either that or exile because we do not have the strong appreciation for nature that the other mer-people have and we led a shark near the cave opening. Either way the elder wanted us to leave.
Part 10: A Fabrication?
I guess it would make sense that they would want us to leave. We are outsiders and they have their whole balance of nature thing. We talked it over with the doctors and they decided to try to reverse the process but they were not completely sure that it would work. The experiment began on both of us simultaneously. And I was out. I awoke to my partner calling my name. I opened my eyes and saw the sun’s bright rays. I felt sand under me and stretched out my toes. My boyfriend breathed a sigh of relief and hugged me tightly. I thought you would never wake up. I asked him what happened. He said that we went out to sea on a boat and I wasn’t paying attention and fell into the water. He brought me back to the beach and tried to revive me. For a while I was unresponsive. I coughed out some water but didn’t do anything else. He was very worried. I asked him about the underwater society. He looked at me like I was crazy. I think you need some rest.

Stanisław Lem’s Futurological Congress

Decades Old, Yet Relevant Questions in Stanisław Lem’s Futurological Congress

Futurology analyzes the successes and failures of present technologies in order to predict new scientific innovations that may arise at any point in the future. In Stanisław Lem’s novel The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy, a large group of hilariously incompetent individuals who call themselves futurologists are gathered to solve the sociopolitical issues that have plagued mankind for as long as it has existed. In their solutions, the most difficulty is encountered in their obligation to respect the basic rights entitled to all citizens. Thus, they decide to look past such a minor formality in order to put in action all the spectacular ideas that have been conceived. One of these men will be unwillingly sent forward in time to observe the ripple effects of the policies that result from this congress. Through satirical yet astute criticism of a dystopian alternate society and its obliviously governed inhabitants, Lem’s novel forces us to ponder the extent of authority in our own lives, our use of perception-altering drugs, and other topics of controversy that have only become more relevant since the book was first published in 1971.

We are introduced to our protagonist, a Mr. Ijon Tichy, as he travels to Costa Rica to participate in the eighth world futurological congress. Tichy is a space traveler who is invited to participate by futurologist Professor Tarantoga, who is a recurring character throughout the book. Things are not well in Lem’s caricature of our world: the population is rising at a tremendous rate, terrorism is omnipresent to the point where Tichy’s hotel room comes with a guarantee of being bomb-free, and the members of the congress are desperate to come up with answers. After several futurologists present their own absurd solutions, the meeting becomes the target of a government-administered attack of euphoria inducing “benignimizers,” which are dissolved into the water supply and sprayed into the air. Tichy and Tarantoga escape to the sewers underground, but Tichy suffers from a series of intense hallucinations, in which he sees sewer rats standing upright playing bridge in one moment and is flying around with an imaginary jetpack in the next. Finally, Tichy, believing everything around him to be his hallucinations, is shot by an escaped criminal whose bullet Tichy is sure is just another invention of his own imagination. Our protagonist wakes to learn that he has been preserved for decades in an effort to cure him of his psychological and physical ailments, and now must live in a world where the issues futurologists were tasked with solving are masked from the populace by an abundance of complex drugs suited for any purpose.

This sudden revival in the year 2039 marks a dramatic change in setting as well as style of storytelling. Here, Lem explicitly explains that several of the absurd scenes Tichy witnessed in the past world have been hallucinations. In the later part of the narrative, it is left to the reader to judge the validity of the obviously delusional protagonist’s observations. In both halves of the novel, Lem presents far-fetched, overreaching resolutions to social issues that are exaggerated in the traditional black humor approach to sociopolitical criticism, known well amongst satirists such as Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. Lem’s opinions on such issues manifest themselves in his explanation of the ridiculous policies that allow society to function at a debatable degree of success.

In the first world presented to the reader, Lem demonstrates the absurdity of the congress from which the novel takes its name. The incompetence of Lem’s futurologists and the superfluous fanfare surrounding the whole event is essentially Lem’s criticism of the luxuries enjoyed by powerful men. While they enjoy performances “in which an all-girl orchestra played Bach while performing a cleverly choreographed striptease” (Lem, 6), the world seems to be on its last hinges around them, with the frequent mentions of kidnapped diplomats, assassination attempts, and dwindling resources. When they finally come around to discussing the plights of their society, it is hilariously inefficient:

Each speaker was given four minutes to present his paper, as there were so many scheduled—198 from 64 different countries. To help expedite the proceedings, all reports had to be distributed and studied beforehand, while the lecturer would speak only in numerals… emphatically repeating: 4, 6, 11, and therefore 22; 5,9, hence 22; 3, 7, 2, 11, from which it followed that 22 and only 22! Someone jumped up saying yes but 5, and what about 6, 18, or 4 for that matter; [futurologist] Hazelton countered this objection with the crushing retort that, either way, 22. (20)

The reader may already be scoffing and realizing Lem’s point in criticizing the seemingly organized discussions that are political debates. By the time the next line is read, the reader is likely giggling and shaking his head at the absurdity of the congress as a whole: “I turned to the number key… and discovered that 22 meant the end of the world.”(20)

In the events leading up to our protagonist’s hibernation, we observe the government experimenting with the administration of calming chemical agents upon its citizens. “Benignimizers” are unknowingly consumed; “Love Thy Neighbor” bombs are dropped from planes. Tichy describes his thinking under the influence of such compounds as docile and accepting: “Every analytical reflex was as if submerged in thick syrup, wrapped and smothered in a porridge of self-satisfaction, all dripping with the honey of idiotic optimism…”(16)

The world of the future is where most of Tichy’s narrative takes place, and it is the setting in which the government’s ambitions to control the populace culminates in a final and tremendous abuse of power. Society is manipulated by the administration of various chemicals; meticulously developed variants of the original “benignimizers” of Tichy’s time. Citizens are either coerced into taking these drugs or unknowingly consume them, and are under their influence during every waking moment of their lives. Pills are commercialized for every possible derivative of basic human necessity. For anybody who is lonely, “… you can take a drug called duetine which doubles your consciousness in such a way, that you can hold discussions with yourself on any topic (determined by a separate drug).”(81) For the overly ambitious, there’s “… authentium. Creates synthetic recollections of things that never happened. A few grams… and a man goes around with the deep conviction that he has written The Divine Comedy.”(81) There are apparently even chemicals to alter physical appearance, as Tichy speaks of a group of black men who have effectively changed their ethnicity with the help of a drug called caucasium (97).

As Tichy becomes increasingly familiar with his new environment, he realizes that the societal struggles he was tasked with solving as a futurologist are not only still present, but also have considerably worsened. There are 29.5 billion living people on the planet (67), but somehow Tichy is made to believe that all the strife that defined his previous life had disappeared. It is still not apparent how these drugs managed to inspire such extreme widespread benevolence until we once again meet Professor Tarantoga, this time in the future world. He explains to Tichy that present society is functional due to a heavy dependence on chemicals known as “mascons,” which simultaneously induce sensory, visual, and auditory hallucinations to “falsify the world.”(113) Unbeknownst to Tichy and the entire population, they are administered these mascons with every meal they eat, every glass of water they drink, and every breath they take. The drug is simply everywhere. Over dinner at a luxurious restaurant, Professor Tarantoga offers Tichy a separate, illegal drug that will block the effects of these mascons, and only under its influence does Tichy understand that everything before him is a façade:

The magnificent hall, covered with carpets, filled with palms… the orchestra in the back that played exquisite chamber music while we all dine, all this had vanished. We were sitting in a concrete bunker, at a rough wooden table… The music was still there, but I saw now that it came from a loudspeaker hung on a rusted wire… the silver dish with steaming pheasant had turned into a chipped earthenware plate containing the most unappetizing gray-brown gruel…(114)

Professor Tarantoga brings the point home with a blunt affirmation of an inevitable truth: “Ours is simply a world in which more than twenty billion people live… In such a world, where are you going to find Chablis, pheasants…? The last pheasant died a quarter of a century ago.”(117)

It can be assumed that in some consecutive meeting of futurologists, held while Tichy was nothing but a frozen block of ice awaiting revitalization, this was suggested as a final solution to exponential growth of the population, opposition to authority, free will, and other pitfalls of humanity’s existence: mind-controlling drugs, to be administered forcefully or under the illusion of choice. Over years of chemical experimentation, starting with the benignimizers and Love Your Neighbor bombs of Tichy’s time, it has been found that a mind whose judgment is clouded by a veil of meticulously designed artificial satisfaction is open to complete manipulation. It’s eerie how relevant Lem’s observations remain forty years after Futurological Congress’s publication. In today’s prescription drug culture, chemical imbalances are quickly diagnosed and pills are prescribed to stimulate the brain, relax it, or anything in between. Lem’s fictional authority, so indifferent in its control, also parallels recent reports suggesting an authorized total invasion of our online privacy. Tichy’s memoirs leave us questioning our own relation to our leaders and the psychoactive chemicals we allow ourselves to consume, and Lem’s tongue-in-cheek approach to observing and criticizing these same issues is how he skillfully balances his work between social commentary and science fiction.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

 

Nausicaa is a young princess in the Valley of the Wind. She’s the heroin of the story, where she actively does her best in saving the valley of the wind, and nature in general, from an aggressive kingdom named Tolmekia.

The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where industrialization has poisoned the soils of the earth to the point where jungles and its creatures (predominantly insects) have mutated. Everyone in this world knows that jungles are poisonous, and actively tries to avoid being in the jungle, and also they FEAR the jungle, especially its largest creatures known as the Ohm (creature with multiple red eyes in the picture)

Biggest Theme: Ecology

Since the environment has become toxic, everyone in the world fears it. Everyone wears a mask that prevents him or her from inhaling toxic air emitted from the jungle. However, this is not the case with Nausicaa and The Valley of the Wind.

Nausicaa is unafraid of the jungle. On the contrary, she is compassionate and caring for the jungle and its creatures. She admires the beauty of the jungle, and regularly visits it. Having these values in her, and being so respected for her compassion and intellect, the citizens of The Valley of the Wind learns from Nausicaa’s values. That is why the people of the valley learn to live in peace with nature.

The Valley of the Wind, naturally having constant flow of wind, is free from the toxic air. But I don’t think that this solely attributes to the valley’s geographical position; it also attributes to the people’s relationship with the jungle and its creatures. In the movie, when the Tolmekians sparked a war with all parties including the Ohms, the Valley of the Wind experiences no wind for the first time.

Later on, when Nausicaa comes back to the valley to save her people, she again uses her kindness to calm the Ohms down. Although she was greatly wounded from the war, the Ohms, having healing powers, chose to heal Nausicaa because of her kindness. Ultimately, the wind returned to the valley.

I feel that Miyazaki, the writer and director of this movie, is trying to convey that we not only have to be kind to human beings, but also nature and all of its beings too. It takes one person to affect an entire village of people, so if we adopted this behavior, we could affect even more people, and soon it will also improve our environment.

Other Notable Themes:

Science and Technology

The entire setting of the movie is based upon human’s irresponsible use of technology. This technological abuse has corroded the soils and mutated nature. I also think that the reason to why technology has destroyed the earth is due to human’s need for instant gratification. This is emphasized in the movie when the Tolmekians tried to revive the same disastrous technology that destroyed the earth – The Great Warrior. However, the attempt for reviving The Great Warrior has backfired during the war, and the Great Warrior died almost instantly upon being summoned.

Relationship between the Sexes.

While romance between male and female characters can be spotted, it is not actively displayed through the movie. The movie, however, showcase women in power and , ultimately, women who save the day. While it does have male characters in it, they are almost all supporting characters to the female leaders. For example, when the Tolmekians caught Nausicaa, she did manage to get free through the help of a male friend named Asbel. However, after that, Nausicaa proceeds to save an entire village of people through her flying skills, her intellect about nature, her compassion for the creatures, and her self-developed technique in taming the creatures.

I really enjoyed this animation, and I would recommend everyone to watch the movie!

A Crystal Age by W.H. Hudson

How it all began…

This utopian novel was about a man named Smith who woke up on a pile of stones from an unknown accident (although Smith believes that he had fell on to the pile of stones). He wakes up, wanders around and stumbles upon a society in The House. The people in The House were in the middle of a funeral service. Although Smith tried to remain unnoticed, his ‘unusual’ dressing, compared to the people, gave him away. The people then took him in, and that’s how Smith started to learn about this utopian society.

Important characteristics of the society

This society practices an entirely different set of cultures and common sense.

To start off, this society worships nature. They’re entire lifestyle surrounds understanding, admiring, and learning from nature. The citizens of The House believe that nature is how God communicates with them. Although the word “God” was not formally used, words like “the Builder of the world” and “the Father of the world shows that they believe in God. Understanding and learning from nature is their priority above anything else. Therefore, even though people in this community have their own tasks and jobs, their main responsibility as citizens of The House is to learn from and admire nature.

They don’t know about any other societies or places, like England or India, and they’ve never heard of people like Alexander the Great, Confucius, or Shakespeare. Logically, they don’t practice our common language, and law. In terms of language, these people do understand English but not in the written word. In fact, they don’t know English as “English”, but rather, the “language of human beings”. They adopt a Hebrew-like writing system, which sounds exactly like English when read. However, they do not understand the figures of speech that Smith uses. In terms of law, the people are punished for indecent behavior like lying, and minute mistakes in performed tasks. They also punish people when they fall ill because falling ill shows that one is not taking care of himself/herself well. All punishments are usually solitary confinement in varied length of time.

In The House, there is no such thing as money. The prime medium of trade is labor or requests. When Smith wanted to have clothes that the people were wearing, his payment was in the form of a 1-year labor contract. On another occasion, when the Father of The House wanted the special ink pen that Smith has, in exchange, The Father granted his daughter, Yoletta, as Smith’s guide/teacher.

As everyone in this world lives a long life, everyone looks younger than his or her biological age. Hence, this is precisely the reason why there aren’t many children around as there is no need for sexual reproduction. It works well for the society too, since everyone regarded each other as only brothers or sisters, there’s no possibility for a “romantic” relationship to develop. However, the only exceptions to this rule are The Father and The Mother of the house. In addition to being The Father and Mother to everyone in The House, they also have their very own biological children.

The driver of the story, and how it ends.

A Crystal Age, and Smith’s new life, is hugely driven by the character “Yoletta”, who is the most beautiful person to Smith, and Smith falls quickly and deeply in love with her. However, in this society, romantic love does not exist; the only kind of love that exists is sisterly/brotherly love, which extends to all inhabitants of this utopian society. Everyone regards each other as a brother/sister.

Throughout the story, Smith tries to understand the “passionless” nature of this society. He eagerly tries to explain to Yoletta how much he loves her, and that his love is not the love that Yoletta shares with everyone else, but a love that he only reserves for Yoletta. Yoletta, unexposed to Smith’s notion of love, struggles to understand how can anyone love one person in a different way that one would love brothers and sisters.

Being Smith’s teacher, Yoletta spends more and more time with Smith. As time passes, her love for Smith grows, but still not as what Smith has hoped for – a romantic love between them. Smith is incredibly troubled by the passionless nature of this society, and he struggles o find out why. His obsession with this thought drained his soul, and he became less joyful than he originally was. Knowing that Yoletta will never be able to love him the way he wants her to, he thought he might as well learn to be “passionless”.

He stumbles upon a potion in a library that reads “When time and disease oppress, and the sun grows cold in heaven, and there is no longer any joy on the earth, and the fire of love grows cold in the heart, drink of me, and for the old life there shall be new life”. He thought that this potion would help him become “passionless”, and after some deliberation, he drank the potion. As he reads the book by the potion, he slowly feels his bodily sensation fade away. It turns out that the potion was actually poison.

The story ends with Yoletta coming by his side, and the hint that Yoletta and Smith were the appointed new Mother and Father of The House.

Final thought

It seems like Hudson, the author, is trying to convey that romance and sex are sources of unhappiness. In addition to the fact that Smith has died precisely because of his passion, the fact The Mother was also allowed to be the only one in The House to be “unhappy” tells me so too. The Mother, supposedly being the one who has ultimate happiness, is also the only one who is NOT punished for falling sick because childbirth is a natural source of suffering. While one may think that the suffering of childbirth is a temporary one, the only two Mothers (the current one and the preceding one) mentioned in the story were both suffering one way or the other.

The Ahwahnee Principles and New Urbanism

Urbanism means the lifestyle of city dwellers. New Urbanism, is a movement for urban planning and design that hopes to increase the sense of community within a any city dweller’s lifestyle.

The concern for the lack of sense of community started after World War II. Since the 1950s, the development of streetcar and affordable rapid transit has caused cities to spread out, which in turn creates “streetcar suburbs”. Later, during the automobile industry boom, cities became less centralized, causing societies to isolate themselves within urban sprawls.

Urban sprawls describe the expansion of communities away from central urban areas. This structure is both the creation and the promoter of heavy automobile usage.

To bring back more communal spaces, New Urbanism was slowly in development. There are a few main qualities that New Urbanism pushes for. According to the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), they are:

  1. The creation of more walkable, human-scaled neighborhoods.
  2. Bring destination within reach and allow for frequent encounters between citizens. A key measure is the accessibility of these spaces to people with a range of physical abilities and financial resources.
  3. Increasing the amount of shared spaces. E.g. plazas, park, squares, cafes, etc.
  4. Sustainability through Green Designs. This pushes the use of walking, bicycles, and transit use.
  5. Reuse and renew old, damaged regions. E.g. transforming a damaged housing area into habitable mixed-income neighborhoods

New Urbanism only became prominent after the establishment of The Ahwahnee Principles.

In 1991, Peter Katz, a staff-member of the Local Government Commision and author of The New Urbanism, brought together various architects to develop a set of rules to new urban spaces and communities. They met at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, and hence the name “The Ahwahnee Principles”. The group of architects was asked to find the common characteristics between various urban planning movements, namely, “Neotraditional Planning”, “Sustainable development”, “Transit-oriented Design”, “New Urbanism”, and “Livable” Communities.  Then, from the common set of community principles, they were asked to develop regional principles.

Here’s the official list of Community Principles, Regional Principles and Implementation Principles.

Many cities in the U.S has started to incorporate The Ahwahnee Principles in their urban planning. Most of these cities are on the east coast; cities like Pasedena, San Jose, Sacremento, Santabarbara, San Diego, and Walnut Creek. An example of a simple implementation some of these cities, is by building new shopping malls in near transit rather than off freeways.

Although New Urbanism seems like it is fostering better, more “liveable” spaces, there is also a criticism that argues against New Urbanism. Peter Gordon, a professor of Urban Planning from University of Southern California, spoke in favor of suburbanization because he thinks that New Urbanism ignores the consumer’s preference for the free market; people moved towards car-oriented development  that is what people want.

My presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1_STMJfhooZPvGMB4adEetlLcOkuyagFaZZLIezBbU58/edit?usp=sharing

Stranger in a Strange Land By Robert Heinlein

The actual Church of All Worlds: http://caw.org/content/

  1. Background information on Heinlein and on Stranger in a Strange Land (1991 Edition)

Robert A. Heinlein has been praised as one of the most prominent science fiction authors whose books were some of the first to be published on the New York Times Best Sellers list. According to The Heinlein Society, a membership society which preserves his work, he was born in Missouri in 1907 and was enamored with astronomy and science fiction by the time he entered High School. Some of his favorite authors that were mentioned include Tom Swift and H.G Wells. In 1929, he graduated from the Naval Academy and served in the Navy until he was medically discharged in 1934. After a stint in politics, he ended up entering learning about Thrilling Wonder Stories’ new policy that encouraged submissions from unpublished writers. He wrote his first short story, “Life-Line”, and instead sent it in to Astounding Science Fiction. Heinlein continued his writing and eventually met Virginia, a friend of his from the Navy, who would be his third and final wife. He was a four-time winner of the Hugo Award, an award for great works of science fiction and fantasy work. The Heinlein Society also credits him with urging the Navy to take up space exploration and creating the waterbed (hydraulic bed, Page 19).

The earliest edition of Stranger in a Strange Land was published in 1961 with the removal of scenes that the editors believed would be offensive to public taste. In the novel, both parts four and five explore the idea of religion and free love which were not the norms of the conservative culture in the fifties. According to the preface in the 1991 original uncut version, Heinlein’s wife, Virginia, states that his publishers feared that this book was “too far off the beaten path”. Originally, he was asked to cut the manuscript down to 150,000 words from 220,000 words, removing almost a quarter of the book. Heinlein was able to cut the book down to 160,087 and the cut version remained in print for 28 years. After Heinlein’s death in 1988, Virginia was given authority under the new Copyright Law of 1976 to renew the book and cancel all of the old contracts. She obtained the original uncut version from archivists at the University of California at Santa Cruz and realized that it was a mistake to cut out so much of the book.

As far as the concept of the book, Virginia reveals in the preface that she suggested the idea of human infant, raised by an alien race. After brainstorming for a short story to publish in a 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, Heinlein liked his wife’s idea but left the notes alone for several years. It was not until eleven years later that Stranger in a Strange Land was completed and readers were introduced to Valentine Michael Smith and The Church of All Worlds. Contrary to popular belief about the novel, this was not a “blueprint for a new society”. According to the 1990 New York Times article entitled “Heinlein Gets the Last Word” by Kurt Vonnegut, “The novel was not written, he explained to one fan, to promulgate any set of beliefs. ‘I was not giving answers. I was trying to shake the reader loose from some preconceptions and induce him to think for himself, along new and fresh lines. In consequence, each reader gets something different out of that book because he himself supplies the answers … It is an invitation to think — not to believe.’” The Library of Congress named the 1961 edition as one of 88 “Books that shaped America”. According to the Library of Congress, it was the first science fiction novel to become a bestseller.

 

  1. Summary of Stranger in a Strange Land (1991 Edition)

The novel is broken up into five parts: His Maculate Origin, His Preposterous Heritage, His Eccentric Education, His Scandalous Career, and His Happy Destiny. It chronicles the life and death of the stranger, Valentine Michael Smith, who is returning to earth at age 25 from Mars. He has no understanding of humans or our peculiar ways.

A quarter of a century after Envoy was sent to Mars and crashed, a second space ship called Champion is sent. When the new space mission arrives, they discover that there is life on Mars and there is one survivor of Champion – Valentine Michael Smith, also known simply as Mike in the novel. Since he was raised by a group of Martians for the past 25 years, it is obvious he will not be able to adjust to life on Earth. Captain Willem Van Tromp radios ahead to Bethesda Hospital and states, “my passenger must not, repeat, must not be subjected to the strain of a public reception (Page 19)”. The public was hoping that the expedition would bring a Martian back with them to “gawk” at but it seems the crew becomes more focused on the discovery of Mike. Later, the reader learns that Mike is the rightful heir to a large inheritance as the sole survivor of the Envoy expedition. It does not take long for the public to learn about Mike and for the government to use a body double to present to the public.

After hearing from her boyfriend Ben about Mike and that the government is keeping him a secret, Jill is determined to meet Mike. Pretending to be a nurse, she sneaks into his room and they share a glass of water. In Mars, sharing water is considered sacred and they become Water brothers. Every person Mike shares water with becomes another Water brother. Jill dresses Mike up as a nurse and sneaks him out of the hospital. When the police arrive at the apartment where they are hiding, the reader learns that Mike is able to make people vanish out of existence. “The older ones have taught him well…he reached out and Berquist was no longer there (Page 92).” In need of a place to hide, Jill reaches out to her friend Jubal E. Harshaw, L.L.B., M.D., Sc.D., bon viviant, gourmet, sybarite, popular author extraordinary, and neo pessimist philosopher, to take care of them. The introduction of Jubal in the novel represents the beginning of Mike’s education and assimilation with human life. Since he had spent the last 25 years living on Mars, he must learn all aspects of how humans live as well as the language. Out of all aspects of human life, Mike seems to love using his powers to take off women’s clothes and having sex. Eventually, Mike is tracked down but the government is forced into negotiations for his fortune with Jubal as Mike’s lawyer.

The end of the negotiations leads to the beginning on a long list of adventures that Mike embarks on with his money. The most significant adventure is when he discovers the Fosterites. It is a religious movement that mixes gambling, drinking, and sexuality with evangelicalism and decides to commit himself to creating his own church – The Church of All Worlds. Ben, Jill’s friend and once lover, discovers that the parishioners of the Church of All Worlds are learning the Martian language and their philosophy. Everyone is a nudist and can have multiple sexual partners. Once they can understand Mike’s teachings, they can gain Martian powers. At first, Ben seems very disgusted but the reader learns that he ends up joining the church. In the end of the book, Mike’s church is burned to the ground. An angry mob forms outside Mike’s hotel and when Mike attempts to preach to them about God and his offering of the water of life, the crowd throws bricks at him. Even as he is attacked, he still smiles at the crowd of people. When they douse him with gasoline and set him on fire, he still tells them that he loves them. Mike’s message is carried on through Jubal and Mike goes to heaven where he is greeted as Archangel Michael. Jubal, who some critics believed was Heinlein himself, begins writing a story titled “A Martian Named Smith” and Mike goes to the afterlife.

 

III. Historical context and religious references

Although Heinlein wrote the book throughout the fifties, it became an important part of the counterculture movement in the 1960s. Some writers credit Stranger in a Strange Land with starting the counterculture movement. There was a huge anti-establishment movement occurring in the sixties as the West attempted to contain communism. In the novel, there is this element of government control as they try to keep the discovery of Mike a secret and fool the public. The sixties were also a time of questioning America’s conservative values and experimenting with free love and drugs. The Church of All Worlds is symbolic of the rejection of conservatism and the acceptance of experimentation. On page 447, Ben asks Jubal if he finds the Church of All Worlds to be moral. Jubal responds, “I haven’t had a chance to examine details – but yes: all of it. Group orgies, and open and unashamed swapping off at other times…their communal living and their anarchist code…and most especially their selfless dedication to giving their perfect morality to others.”

This entire novel has satirical references to religion from the choice of character names to the death of the “stranger”, Valentine Michael Smith. The title itself is a reference to Exodus 2:22 in the King James Bible which states “And she bore him a son, and he called his name Gershom [that is, A stranger there]; for he said, “I have been a stranger in a strange land.” Before the novel begins, it states “NOTICE: All men, gods and planets in this story are imaginary. Any coincidence of names is regretted.” Throughout the novel, I found there to be a number of parallels between Michael and Archangel Michael as well as Jesus. In the preface, Heinlein’s wife writes that the given names of the chief characters have great significance – Michael stands for “Who is like God?” This is a direct reference to Archangel Michael, the top angel to God. Additionally, the first part of the book is “His Maculate Origen” is a reference to the Immaculate Conception. Unlike the Virgin Mary who became pregnant free of the original sin, Mike was conceived sex. As Mike creates his church, The Church of All Worlds, he gains disciples that are all working towards becoming like him. Mike’s death is also very similar to the death of Jesus. When Mike goes to meet the crowd of people to preach to them, he is stoned and beaten. Eventually, the crowd sets him on fire but he still preaches and tells the people he loves them (pages 516-517). When Jesus was crucified, he did not curse the people who killed him. Instead, he asked God to forgive them. In the preface, Heinlein’s wife states that Jubal is also a religious reference whose name means “the father of all”. Jubal does guide and support Mike throughout his time on earth. He is the patron saint of The Church of All Worlds (Page 416). On page 519, Mike says “I’ve got some things to attend to. I love you, Father. Thou art God.” After Mike goes on to the afterlife, Jubal takes charge of carrying out Mike’s will.

 

IV: The Church of All Worlds as the Utopia

I struggled with identifying whether this was a utopian or dystopian novel. It was not until the fourth part of Stranger in a Strange Land that I realized where Heinlein was going with the meaning of his novel. After Mike experiences the human world, he finds his purpose for being there – to be ordained and start a church. The reader learns about this church through Ben and Jubal’s interactions with each other and with Mike.

The most prominent aspect of The Church of All Worlds is the concept of the Nest which is where a group of people live together and have deep feelings for each other. There are about twenty people in the Nest but not all of them have fully reached this enlightened stage associated with being a Martian. Since this is a communal group, there are bowls of money next to the door. If someone needs to leave to go shopping, they can take money as they walk outside. When Ben asks if anyone keeps track of the money, Patty (one of the members) is confused as to why they would need to. Members of the church also practice free low and there is no jealousy in regards to sharing partners. Members are also nudists. They also do not have medicine because they believed they did not need it.

There were rumors that Charlie Manson used Stranger in a Strange Land as his bible but this was a rumor put out by an anonymous publisher. However, there is an actual Church of All Worlds in California that was set up after the founder read this book and fell in love with the concept of the Nest.

 

Sources:

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/12/smug-messiah-robert-a-heinleins-stranger-in-a-strange-land

http://www.heinleinsociety.org/index.html

http://caw.org/content/

http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/09/28/lifetimes/vonnegut-stranger_heinlein.html

Monsanto House of the Future (1957)

Established

This House of the Future was founded in 1957 as an attraction site in Disneyland (Anaheim, California), built by the Monsanto Company, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Walt Disney Imagineering. It was closed in 1967. Within its ten year period, approximately 20 million people have visited this attraction.

Monsanto Company
The Monsanto Company, heavily involved with chemicals, desired to expand its presence in the home construction industry. For this attraction, their goal was to design a home that explored the optimized utilization of plastics as a building material. They pushed plastics as a new and creative candidate for building materials. Today, the company is best known for producing genetically modified seeds and other agricultural solutions.

Blueprint of the rooms inside the house; outside view of the house. This house was built for a nuclear family (2 parents and 2 children), with no pets.
Inside kitchen and living rooms. The bottom right photo is the living room that was “updated” in 1960.
Bedrooms, sneak peek of the master bathroom, and the kitchen.

House Description
This walkthrough attraction featured a home set in the year 1986 (three decades into the future), highlighting futuristic materials, styles, and household appliances. The future was depicted as an absence of traditional furniture styles and natural elements, and an embracement of ultra-modern synthetics—mainly, plastic. However, one key aspect still seen as contemporary (at least, to our current standards) was the color scheme of the furniture and décor—it was all very 1950s.

The house, with four wings extending from a center, “floated” on a pedestal above a modern landscape. It was approximately 1300 square feet, with each wing measured at 8’ H x 16’ W x 16’ L. It included a family and living room, kitchen, dining room, master bedroom, master bathroom, two children’s bedrooms (one for each gender), and a shared kids’ bathroom.

The builders designed a home using wings, or cubes—straying away from the usual square exterior—to maximize access to daylight for each room and add privacy for various activities. This design could also be implemented into any location—whether a rocky mountain or steep hill, the pedestal would turn any bad location into a workable one. The structure on top of the pedestal could even be rotated to change the views.

Governing Philosophy & Rules
This utopia indicated no information about the future state of government, laws and politics, and human rights/rules. There is no federal, state, or local government designation.

Science & Technology
The Monsanto Company and its collaborators studied how plastics were being used in construction in the 1950s, and they experimented how its particular properties could be practically applied in the future. The exterior consisted of 16 “molded polyester-urethane” layers, while the interior consisted of “reinforced epoxy support columns, laminated wood beams, and laminated safety glass” (Yesterland.com). All of the structural properties were made to last in outstanding condition. In fact, the demolition crew’s wrecking balls bounced off the structure after the site was closed down. Ultimately, they had to resort to choker chains to break up the plastics into manageable, smaller pieces. This house demonstrated an increased acceptance of plastic as an exploitable material for the construction industry.

One of the major revolutionary indicators was the kitchen. Inside this home, household appliances either hung from ceiling cabinets or popped up out of the counter. A smaller microwave oven (they were inconveniently large at the time) was a prophetic indicator of the evolving appliance. Today’s modern fridge drawers mimic the home’s “cold zone” units that fit inside several cabinets.

There were other “revolutionary” features inside the house that accurately reflect our society today. Some items include the electric toothbrush, built-in stereo system, wall-mounted televisions, and security screens to see who is at the front door. Dimmable ceiling lights found inside the house back then are also a common element found in homes and other buildings today. The push-button speakerphone with preset dialing, installed by Bell Telephone, is echoed today via speed dial buttons on mobile machines.

Plastic does seems to be a bigger part of our lives today—hello, Ikea furniture—but it is not everything. While we do incorporate plasticware and plastic furniture, today’s society does not find plastic particularly elegant or classy. In today’s time, people look to other elements (steels, woods, bricks, ceramics) as higher quality materials.

1967, Closed
This attraction was closed down in 1967 to make way for another attraction, Adventure Thru Inner Space, which was also sponsored by the Monsanto Company.

 

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 8.04.14 AM
Inside the Innovations Dream Home– the Magic Mirror.

2008, Innoventions Dream Home
Disney announced that it would bring back the attraction in a renovated form, renamed as the Innoventions Dream Home, with a more modern and accessible interior. In collaboration with Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Lifeware, it was a house focused more on modern technology rather than foundational material.

2014, Today
Although the attraction is now closed, the reinforced concrete foundation still exists in its original location. It is currently being used as a planter in a garden space within the park—hiding in plain sight!

Trivia
–   Three years after it’s opening, the house underwent a major update because many of the things that seemed “futuristic” in 1957, became contemporary in 1960. It underwent another major update before it was closed.
–   In 1956, 15% of plastics made in the U.S. was allocated to construction, compared to 23% today

“Foundation” (1951) by Isaac Asimov

Foundation is the first book of Isaac Asimov’s acclaimed trilogy, published in 1951. The hit science fiction series was the recipient of a Hugo Award in 1966, claiming the title of “Best All Time Series.” Asimov was a Russian native who emigrated to America with his family at the young age of three. He studied chemistry at Columbia University and went on to get a PhD in the subject, a credible scientific interest which is certainly reflected in his writings. He later became a faculty member at the Boston University School of Medicine. Asimov produced more than two hundred works, most popularly science fiction such as I, Robot, in addition to many works of non-fiction.

Foundation drew its initial inspiration from The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by historian Edward Gibbons, an account read twice by Asimov. Foundation is a combination of five short stories spanning about one hundred and fifty years in the interstellar Galactic Empire. Rather than trace the story of an individual hero in an isolated period of time, Foundation zooms out on the larger picture of civilization over a wide span of time and setting while touching on how forces such as technology, religion, and government all work together.

Asimov relates this concept of emphasizing the bigger picture of the world over the short-term individual to the existing cultural landscape of his own lifetime, where a strong sense of nationalism was on the rise. In particular, Asimov lived through the beginnings of the Cold War tension between Communist Russia and Capitalist America. Both countries isolated themselves from the other and pitted against each other in a head-to-head rivalry. However, Asimov favored a more global unification of this split: “To my way of thinking, the biggest obstacle to solving the problems we have…is that the world is dividing up into separate nations, all of which are more concerned over their own short-term interests than over the long-term survival of the human species. And as long as that is so, then I don’t think we will have a chance, because we will all go down the tube quarreling, so to speak” (Konstantin). Asimov supported unification over disagreement in order to promote the existence of humanity. He was also a strong liberal, a staunch opponent to the Vietnam War, and a supporter of political candidates who focused on grassroots movements as the force of change rather than bureaucratic governmental forces.

Foundation begins with an introduction of Hari Seldon on Trantor, the capitol planet of the Galactic Empire. Seldon is a dying old man who has perfected his own science coined “psychohistory.” This branch of psychology uses statistical science to predict the course of future events, and according to Seldon’s predictions, the Galactic Empire comprised of countless planets is doomed to fall within three hundred years. The data project a thirty thousand year of recovery from this fall rife with anarchy, a parallel to the Dark Ages following the fall of Rome. In response, Seldon formulates a plan to create a new civilization that will survive the fall and change the course of history, cutting the post-fall recovery period down to a mere one thousand years and emerging as the center of the Second Galactic Empire. Seldon is accused of treason for bringing his radical predictions to the government’s attention, yet cleverly negotiates a deal with the Emperor to found a new civilization of scientists on an insignificant planet called Terminus, located all the way on the outer rim of the galaxy. Terminus is created as a small community of scientists working on a scientific Encyclopedia, a disguise for its true setup of the community that will reunite the Galactic Empire in one thousand years.

The remaining four stories track the progress of Terminus in its role, in which it rises to become an all-encompassing political, religious, and economic power. The only catch is that the population of Terminus is not made aware of this plan until fifty years after its initial settlement, when a civilization is already established and there is nothing else to do but stay put and follow Hari Seldon’s plan. This is why Seldon makes intermittent reappearances in the lives of prominent and capable politicians who arise as mayors of Terminus, such as Salvor Hardin and Hober Millow. Prior to his death, Seldon had recorded short clips of himself, which can only be viewed by inhabitants of Terminus when an otherwise unbreakable Vault unlocks every few decades. The timing of these viewings chronologically lines up with Seldon’s data that predicted that Terminus would be in the midst of a major clash of internal and external crises. These “Seldon Crises” are the key points that move the Foundation along the path of rebuilding the Empire. The crises revolve around the other planets on the periphery of the Galaxy that have been forgotten by the declining Empire and left to their own barbarically independent devices.

The comparison to Rome is clear as both the Empire and Terminus were often under pressures both from without and within, which Rome ultimately collapsed from. The references to outside “barbarian” planets parallel the invading tribes that threatened the borders of the Roman Empire. Asimov projected this world far into the future with such strong parallels to likely advance a cyclical view of history in which events repeat themselves. As he said himself, “I was essentially writing future history, and I had to make it sufficiently different from modern history to give it that science fictional touch” (Seiler). The brilliant politicians constructed by Asimov, who play a main role in the resolution of each “Seldon Crisis,” do as little as possible to rectify the problems. Instead, they choose to let the course of history play out on its narrow path, making improvised moves that work around this greater sense of course.

In the context of the time period of the writing of Foundation, countries such as Russia, the United States, and Germany had all begun to play with the idea of space travel. By this point, rocket designs were being drawn and the first monkey was even launched into space in 1948. A futuristic view of spaceships was a fascinating new concept at the time, made even more appealing in its growing accessibility. Comparable technology in Foundation mirrored the rising technologies of Asimov’s time via thinly disguised names: for example, people crowded around visors in their homes, which are essentially televisions.

The first mayor of Terminus, the clever Salvor Hardin, must convince the writers of the Encyclopedia who run the planet (before being made aware of Seldon’s plan) that there is another purpose behind their civilization, and that the neighboring planet of Anacreon presents a severe threat of takeover that must be faced and overcome. He maneuvers out of the situation with his sharp insight and break from traditional means, getting Anacreon and its surrounding three kingdoms to fear Terminus, particularly its use of nuclear power, which has been absent from the periphery planets for decades. In the course of the Foundation’s history, this nuclear power is the main leverage Terminus has over the surrounding warlords of the planets. Salvor Hardin actually forms a religion around the sought after power source: “a fluffy flummery to get them to accept our science without question” (134). The barbarians on other planets see this nucleic power and science as a magical power. Therefore, on Terminus, priests are taught the way of the “Galactic Spirit” and are sent out to the periphery planets to perform their religious duties of operating the equipment, which are in essence a guise for technological power controlled by an all-knowing political force.

Technology clearly is a prominent theme throughout Foundation, particularly the role that nuclear force plays and its entwinement with religion and government. Here again, the theme of the work parallels Asimov’s own life, which witnessed this powerful nuclear force being advanced and utilized in both World War II and the Cold War. During this period of history, nuclear warfare dominated the political landscape, and countries competed for advancements that would enable them to have the military edge. The Foundation, wielding its small supply of nuclear power, therefore makes surrounding planets rely on them for power, economy, and life. The planets become dependent on power plants and technology, while citizens blindly hold fast to this since it is their religion. This pseudoreligion is nothing more than a tool of political conquest paralleling Christianity with its concepts of paradise, hell, a spirit, and even commandments. One example of this combination of government and religion is the divine kingship on Anacreon, where nuclear power allows the divinely crowned king to rise in the air with a beautiful aura surrounding him. This display is proof that he has been specially selected. Asimov’s emphasis on technology as a strong force when combined with government and religion reflects his personal belief in the prominence of technology for human existence both in his time and in the future. Asimov thought technology could be wielded for the good of society, promoting a more optimistic view than many of his science fiction counterparts.

Asimov himself was an atheist and a rationalist who believed in reason alone. Asimov was also a Humanist, philosophical view that credits humans as the guiding forces behind society rather than attributing these to a God. These beliefs led to his representation of religion in Foundation as a usefully constructed tool of government to trick the masses and exercise control. This idea reflects the views of Karl Marx, author of the Communist Manifesto, who said that religion is the “opium of the people.”

Aside from the intermingling of government and religion, another major theme of Foundation centers on the corruption of many governmental systems, which leading political figures of Foundation, beginning with Harry Seldon, exist to outwit. Indeed, mayor Salvor Hardin evades two Seldon Crises using mere improvisation and common sense. Often, the lords and kings of the planets surrounding Terminus are mocked as humorously pompous and overly extravagant with nothing very intelligent to say, and are easily outwitted by Terminus’ capable mayors. These dysfunctional reigns are marked by divine kingships, totalitarian governments, or feudal estates which employ harsh punishments reminiscent of totalitarian dictators, including assassinations to gain power and gas chambers. It seems as if Asimov’s ideal Foundation government centers on scientific progress ruled by the intellectually elite and centered in a representative democracy, as exemplified on Terminus.

The use of science as the focal point of society is reminiscent of Salomon’s House in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, which focused on the advancement of humans via scientific progress. Much of the scientific language employed in Foundation was also very reminiscent of “We” with its application of mathematics to human life. Here, mathematics was applied not to emotions but to broad historical concepts and events on a large scale through the statistics of psychohistory.

Foundation is a captivating story with many themes; the most fascinating of these is the interplay of technology, religion, and government. While reading this novel, the cyclical view of history presented was a reminder that the Galactic Empire is not a completely far-fetched, fictional society. Foundation is not only meant to be an outline of the past, but a reflection on modern times. Asimov poses the weighty question to readers as a takeaway: “Can we afford to take chances? Can we risk the present for the sake of a nebulous future? We must – because the future isn’t nebulous. It has been calculated” (119).

My presentation

 Works Cited

 Asimov, Isaac. Foundation. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1951. Print.

Konstantin, Phil. “”An Interview with Isaac Asimov.” “An Interview with Isaac Asimov”- by Phil Konstantin. Southwest Airlines Magazine, 1979. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.

Seiler, Edward. “Isaac Asimov FAQ.” Isaac Asimov FAQ. N.p., 1994. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.

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Asimov calls religion and politics a “lethal” combination.

 

The Israeli Kibbutz / Kibbutzim

KIBBUTZ – KIBBUTZIM (PLURAL)

(https://prezi.com/us7epswcz8sf/the-israeli-kibbutz/)

Kibbutzim are voluntary democratic societies where people live and work together on a non competitive basis. There is communal property, social justice and equality.

“Kibbutz” means communal society in Hebrew. The first kibbutz was established in 1909 by a group from the BILU movement. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, members of the BILU movement previously tried to create a society based on Marxist values and one that lived off the land. These members were fleeing anti-Semitism and wanted to establish a socialist society. After a few unsuccessful attempts, members created the first Kibbutz, which was called Degania. The founders had little to no experience in agriculture, little funding and were working with desolate land. Both the unsuccessful and successful attempts were built on land in Palestine that was bought by the Jewish National Fund.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

In the earlier years, the kibbutz movement was based on agriculture. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, this movement played a crucial role in the development of the state. They also helped assimilate the new immigrants.

Family and Gender Roles
In earlier times, children lived in a communal children’s home. Children now stay at their parental homes till high school. Also, there has been increased support for parents to have larger roles in their children’s lives and for more time for women to be home with their children.

Women are equal participants in the labor force and can hold any job. In earlier years, women sought to prove their worth by doing “men’s work”. A majority of women in kibbutzim today prefer jobs in education, health, and other services.

Daily Life in a Kibbutz: Citizens are “Kibbutniks” 

People are here voluntarily and are assigned a role for varying lengths in time while more routine tasks like dining hall or washing dishes. The members that work outside of the kibbutz turn over their incomes to the kibbutz. Compared to the earlier times, members now have more individual choice in the community. Members have a certain amount of credit they can spend each year as they wish. Additionally, they celebrate Jewish Holidays and Festivals. Many host films, professional performances and choirs in their auditorium. This is not a utopia that cut itself off from the outside world. Rather, they embraced it while still staying to true to their founding principles.

Government and Expansion
The kibbutzim have  democratic systems. They hold weekly meetings in order to decide upon issues. There are elections for administrative members – Each administrative member leads an economic branch for 2-3 years. All inhabitants are provided for with life necessities (food, housing, clothes, social and medical services). Additionally, all property and wealth is communal.

By the early 2000’s, there were over 250 Kibbutzim established throughout Israel. Members make up 2.5% of Israel’s population and it is important to remember that no one is forced to be in the society.

How do they make Kibbutzim work in modern times?

As economic trends changed, the kibbutzim realized that they could not survive on agriculture alone and welcomed in new types of industries to sustain the community. Many Kibbutzim have branched out into other industries to increase productivity

Every child after High School is still required to do mandatory army service. Members have been involved in politics and held office but numbers have dwindled in recent years

Most importantly…. TOURISM is a huge industry for them…. You can volunteer on a Kibbutz for only $690!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kU4Rhnu6Vuk

 

Sources:

1. http://www.kibbutzprogramcenter.org/about-kibbutz/

2. http://i-cias.com/e.o/kibbutz.htm

3. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Society_&_Culture/kibbutz.html

4. http://www.jpost.com/Jerusalem-Report/Adult-Children-of-the-Dream

5. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/bilu.html

Star Trek “The Apple” and “The Way to Eden”

Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek has always showed an idealistic future that didn’t run away from the tough questions.  In the season 2 episode “The Apple,” Captain Kirk and company beam down onto a planet that seems like a paradise… until it starts killing off his crewmen.  It turns out that the planet is peopled by a primitive tribe under the leadership of an intelligent machine called Vaal.  Vaal is a benevolent dictator that provides fruit of the tribe to eat, ensures that the people will never age or get sick, but in return, the primitive people are like children.  They don’t even know what sex or love is as Vaal has prohibited closeness and touching between men and women.

Mr. Spock and Doctor McCoy engage in a debate very similar to the one at the end of Brave New World: is it better to be happy or free?  Spock argues that the people are happy and well cared for by Vaal, and they should not interfere.  McCoy argues that the people aren’t living, they’re merely existing, as they have no freedom, and they should recue them from mindless obedience to Vaal.

In the end, Vaal, rightly deciding that Kirk’s landing party is a threat to him, orders the people to kill them.  Kirk stops the attack with only one crewman dead and in return, kills Vaal by draining its power supply, thereby freeing the people and setting them on the path of social evolution.

In addition to the parallels between “The Apple” and Brave New World, the primitive people of Vaal are very similar to the Eloi in The Time Machine.  Both groups are primitive and child-like because they are under the care of someone or something else.  In The Time Machine, the Morlocks have malevolent intentions and the Time Traveler is unable to rescue the Eloi, while “The Apple” has a decidedly happier ending.

Briefly, the Star Trek episode “The Way to Eden” has a bunch of hippies rebelling against authority.  They hijack the Enterprise ad redirect it to a mythical planet called Eden where they plan to create their own primitive society away from the Federation’s technology.

Their idea of man’s nature is benevolent; man doesn’t need the intense rigid structure that characterizes the society in Brave New World.  They just need, to, like, be free and get back to their roots, man.   In this case, they would probably like to live simply, like the Eloi or the tribe in “The Apple” – as long as there aren’t Morlocks or Vaal

ruling over them.

 

Biosphere II

Biosphere II was a real-utopian community for about 3 years. It is located in Oracle, Arizona. It is named Biosphere II after out planet Earth, which is the first biosphere. The inventor/director or research is John Polk Allen, a ecologist and engineer. He is now the Chairman of Global Ecotechnics Corporation. After being owned by different companies, five biome areas were created in addition to an area for human habitat. Two missions that included about 8 people were conducted in 1991 and 1994 to test survivability and whether a small community could develop and live in a self-sustaining colony.

The first mission in 1991 was not so successful. By 1992 members had lost weight because of low food production and the oxygen levels were low. Chickens were not producing enough eggs and pigs were eating the biospherians’ food so the farm animals were eaten instead. Also there were rumors that they smuggled food from the outside. The second mission only lasted 6 months because of management disputes. Now it is a scientific research institute for the University of Arizona.

Some of the course themes include Ecology, Economics, and Science and Technology. Recycling is a key part of living in Biosphere II. Each person uses the same water and recycles all their waste. Using half an acre of land to grow food, they also keep the land fertile and only use non-polluting pest control methods. Each person is assigned different tasks to fulfill. These tasks include researching within different biomes, coordinating the technical system, planting and harvesting crops, and preparing meals. In Biosphere II, technology is used to control the systems such as waves, waterfalls, temperature, and humidity. The biospherians conduct research on how to restore endangered habitats by using their controlled environment. They try to find out how different elements affect the land.

Information from:
http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2011/09/years-glass-biosphere-2-mission/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2
http://www.biospherics.org/biosphere2/results/5-biosphere-2-facts/
Images from Google

A Utopian Society: Melloasis

 

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THE UNITED CONSTITUTION OF MELLOASIS

*While each mer-person understands the constitution, it is not a formalized, legalized document. Rather, it is something that can be orally recited and referred to through song. While it is recorded below in English (human form), it only exists in Mermish as a beautiful melody. Often times, you will hear bits and pieces of this beautiful song throughout the villages as a constant reminder and celebration of the mer-people’s unified endeavor to be in tune with nature.

PREAMBLE
We, the citizens of Melloasis, hereby declare ourselves to always strive to be harmonious with nature, maintaining the equilibrium between our society and our surrounding environment.

CHAPTER I: SOVEREIGNTY
Article 1: MELLOASIS
This utopia is officially known as Melloasis, a combination of “mellow” and “oasis”. 

Article 2: FOUNDING PRINCIPLES
Melloasis is founded on the principles of respect for nature, the preservation of ecological harmony,  the communal bond, and the pursuit of nondestructive happiness.

The reasoning behind the mer-people’s passionate respect of nature dates back to an old fable concerning a land-species, named humans, who destroyed its mother nature over the course of thousands of years, Eventually, humans’ actions and behaviors brought about disturbances in the global climate, sea levels and water temperatures, the atmosphere’s chemical makeup, and were directly held responsible for the unnatural extinction of many animals and plant species. Therefore, the forefathers of this society determined that a peaceful co-existence with nature was a crucial necessity for their species’ long-term survival.

Article 3: POLITICAL SYSTEM
Melloasis shall be an oligarchy of five Elders, composed of the oldest (and therefore, wisest) merman or mermaid from each of the five villages.

Article 4: LANGUAGE
The mer-people of Melloasis shall communicate in their original language, Mermish. This language consists of squeaking and squealing intonations, similar to that of dolphins, as well as beautiful song, similar to that of humpback whales–but in their distinctive Mermish dialect.

CHAPTER II: RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS OF INDIVIDUALS
Article 5: NONDESTRUCTIVE FREE WILL
Melloasis encourages an atmosphere of free-will, in which individuals have the right to be relaxed and in a blissful state of mind, as long as equilibrium with nature is not affected. Although there are no written, strict laws and rules of conduct, cheerfulness and productivity is highly encouraged. Thankfully, in this society, most members are naturally inclined to behave and perform in this manner, and a pessimistic or dangerous character is rarely found.

Article 6: EQUALITY OF MER-PEOPLE
All mermen and mermaids are equal before the law. There is never any negative discrimination concerning gender, age, nor status. Elders are looked upon in a slightly more favorable light, however, because society relies on them to peacefully exist in equilibrium with nature.

CHAPTER III: RULE AND LEADERSHIP
Article 7: THE OLIGARCHY
There are five Elders who work to preserve harmony in this utopia with nature; they are the most wise mer-people in society at any given time. One’s wisdom is measured solely by age, and Elders often live up to 200 years old. The oldest mer-person in each village holds this position for life. Once an Elder passes, the now (new) oldest member in that village becomes the Elder.

Article 8: ELDERS’ LEADERSHIP
The Elders do not create solid, strict rules, but there are certain types of behavior that are celebrated. It is easy for them to encourage a harmonious relationship with nature, both individually and communally, because the mer-people of this society are already predisposed to behave in this way.

Because they are the most wise mer-people of this society, each Elder is trusted with the task of making decisions that affect each mer-person. Whether it is deciding to pause hunting on a specific species of fish, or exiling a rare rogue member out of society (which happens once in a blue moon), they always work to maintain a balance with nature.

CHAPTER IV: SECTORS WITHIN SOCIETY
Article 9: ECONOMICS
Mer-people specialize in roles such as fish hunting and gathering, medical assistance, and reproduction caretaking. However, these roles are not set jobs that are worked on the daily for a specific number of hours. For example, while a certain group of mer-people may be great hunters, this does not restrict others from hunting on their own free will. These skillful hunters, also, are not obligated with the responsibility of feeding their entire village.

Their roles can also easily change depending on the situation. If there is not enough food for everyone in this society, everyone (who is able) will focus on hunting to feed themselves and other members.

Everyone in each village will share the food and other goods, either obtained through earning, gifting, or bartering. There will be no form of money.

Article 10: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Fire and electricity do not exist in this underwater world. Their technology depends on the natural behavior of the sun/sunlight, water and waves, and the surrounding species with special characteristics. Most importantly, the water functions as a medium for communication. Sound travels father in water than in air, and about six times more effectively. The mer-people communicate while hunting, mating and reproducing, trading, and playing.

Because their technology is limited by water, the mer-people use surrounding materials to benefit their lives. They use things they can discard back into their environment, always in a way that is not harmful to nature.

Article 11: ECOLOGY
Melloasis’ ultimate goal is to maintain harmony with nature. With every action completed with careful and thoughtful consideration, the inseparable bond with nature always strives to be kept at equilibrium. Therefore, it is this society’s responsibility to maintain harmony with nature by not doing anything beyond natural preservation.

Article 12: RELIGION
Members of this society do not practice any religion that idolizes objects or unseen gods, mainly because “religion” is a human concept. The only omnipresent force they believe exists is nature– but they understand that they cannot influence it with prayers and incantations. They do not worship nature, but are often in awe of it. They admire the natural beauty of their environment, and are thankful to be living as witnesses to it—such as the stillness of the deep, blue sea; the colorful illustration marked on sea creatures and marine life; and the natural wonders of whirlpools.

Article 13: RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE SEXES
There is no discrimination based on gender, and gender roles are nonexistent. Any merman and mermaid can specialize in any role depending on their availability, capability, and aspirations. A mermaid may be an excellent hunter or a respected Elder, while a merman may be a wonderful nurturer and caretaker.

The distinction between a merman and mermaid is simply based on their role in the mating and reproductive process. The mermaid carries and lays the eggs, and the mermen fertilizes them.

There may also some physical differences, in which mermen are inclined to expose their bare torso, while mermaids favor placing some kind of ornaments on their torso (such as a starfish).

Article 14: FAMILY AND REPRODUCTION
Mermen and Mermaids choose multiple partners for reproduction (approximately between 3-5 in their lifetime), usually based on genetic compatibility. Love is not an important factor in mating.

Most mermaids lay an average of five eggs, via external insemination, per each successful mating. Not all eggs are guaranteed to hatch, because of accidents, predators, and by chance. The eggs are cared for by the entire community, with extra attention given by the specialized nurturers, and once born, the mer-children are raised communally as well. Furthermore, the mer-people live communally in underwater caves and are not organized into nuclear families.

Article 15: ETHICS AND LAW
Mer-people are instinctively inclined to understand and appreciate nature; everyone automatically behaves appropriately—in a way that is positively helpful and valuable to nature. In this society, everyone puts in an equal effort to sustain harmony with nature.

Punishment does not exist in this society because: 1) no one is intentionally bad, and 2) there is absolutely no good that punishment would bring to nature. If problems arise, the mer-people work together to re-establish the peace, and continually encourage a sense of community through expressive and meaningful interactions.


Expanded Information:

Physical Setting
Melloasis exists somewhere off the coast of an area that echoes Hawaii. Thriving in warm-water temperatures, the mer-people live near the surface of the water, up to 200 meters (656 feet) below the surface—which is known as the euphotic or “sunlight” zone. Melloasis approximately spans a territory of a comfortable seven cubic miles, they rest in underwater caves, which are found in sporadic clusters. These underwater caves are categorized into five different villages, with 100 mer-people belonging to each village. They live in peaceful co-existence to other marine life within this territory.

Physical Appearance
Adult mermen and mermaids both range in height from 5’4” to 5’10.”  A typical weight for them ranges from 120 lbs to 180 lbs.  There are no malnourished or overweight mer-people, but each merman and mermaid has its own individual body shape and size (they are not cookie-cutter or cloned-looking creatures).  On the whole, mermen are slightly larger than mermaids but only by an inch or two at the most and ten pounds to twenty pounds heavier.  There are no appreciable differences between the sexes in terms of strength that would affect the types of jobs they can do.  Neither sex has nipples nor belly buttons, and they gestate their young externally like sea horses.  Both sexes are human from the waist up and fish from the waist down (with legs-length tails, covered in scales).

The scales are the same colors as the particular mer-person’s hair, which typically vary from different hues of blue, indigo, and coral.  This is a genetic occurrence that happens naturally. Because of this natural, geneticoccurrence, if some mer-people choose to dye their hair in a different color, they will most likely dye their individual scales into a similar color as well, to keep their head-to-tail appearance consistent.  Some mer-people like to have different color patterns on their scales such as a striped black-white pattern to show their personality and individuality (their hair will mostly likely be some sort of incorporation of both black and white/blond as well).

The dye is an oil that is excreted from the leaves of the Sea Cress plant.  The plant grows plentifully on the sea floor outside their caves.  The Sea Cress Plant come in shades of red, orange, yellow, green, brown, and purple.  One application of the oil into a mer-person’s hair or scales will dye them the color of the oil and a second application of the same oil will wash it out.  Because the dye is oil based, the ocean water will not wash out the dye though the color will fade slightly over time.

Mer-people live to the advanced age of 200, they age a bit slower than humans.  Mer-children reach physical and mental maturity at the age of 25 instead of 18.  Their correspondent growth as children is slower in proportion to this fact.

Government
Melloasis is divided into five villages with roughly 100 members each. Each of the five villages has one Elder who is the oldest in his or her village. The Elder’s age ranges from 150 to 200 years old and holds the position for life. Once a mer-person reaches the age of 150, he or she is qualified to be an Elder if there isn’t already an Elder in place. As a mer-person ages, their wisdom also grows with them so it would only make sense that the oldest mer-people are the Elders and they are in charge of their villages.

The Elders do not create absolute, strict rules, but there are certain types of behavior that are celebrated. For example, being idle is not looked down upon, but being productive is celebrated. The mer-people are free to explore their territory and be playful, while being generally productive. Being productive is considered hunting for fish, swimming around finding trinkets or shells to collect, observing other maritime species, exploring the territory, taking care of and feeding the young, and grooming themselves.

Economics
There are mer-people who specialize in roles such as fish hunter/gatherer, doctors, caretakers, etc. but their roles can be easily changed depending on the situation. For example, if by chance a shark enters their territory and some of the mer-people are hurt. There are mer-people who are doctors but that may not be enough to help these injured individuals. At this point an announcement will be made and caretakers and fish hunters will come and help out the doctors. Another example is if a hunter is injured or deceased. In this society everyone is free to find their own food but the hunter is their main source of food. Since the hunters are very efficient fish hunters within the society, the absence of one hunter can largely affect the food supply. In this case the mer-people will automatically chip in help lend additional support.

As a mer-child grows up he or she shadows or is an apprentice to an expert in the field of his or her choice. This is to prepare the mer-child for adulthood. The Elders delegate the responsibility of having an apprentice to the experts. When a mer-child reaches the age range of 18-25, he/she has a meeting with the Elder to discuss entering adulthood and the specialized role he/she may possibly fulfill. The specialized roles are ultimately chosen by the Elders because they are the most wise, but if a mer-person dislikes the role, he/she is allowed to suggest a different role to fulfill and explore other options.

Everyone in the village shares the food and other goods will be obtained by bartering with other members. Different levels of value are not placed on traded goods/services. Rather, whatever a mer-person needs/wants and does not need/want at a particular moment dictates what they trade. For example, a mermaid may trade a fish (when they are not hungry) for a coral “hairbrush” because their desire for smoother hair is higher than their current appetite level. Once her hair is smooth, however, she may later trade it for bunch of seaweed because her hunger has grown.

There is no form of money. The mer-people do not have many personal belongings because that would crowd up their caves. They are allowed to keep maybe one or two trinkets such as pretty, shiny objects like pearls, or shells. These items should be able to be found naturally in the sea. A mer-person should not be keeping anything that is foreign or human made. If an individual desires an object that another mer-person has, the individual can offer to trade an object for the desired object. Each item in the trade must be considered equal or around equal value just to make sure it is a fair trade.

Science/Technology
Fire and man-made electricity do not exist in this underwater world. Their technology depends on the natural behavior of the sun/sunlight, water and waves, and surrounding species with special characteristics.

The sun/sunlight gives natural lighting to their environment and gives an indication of the time of day. They spend most of their day performing activities while the sun is out, and they usually spend the night resting or sleeping after the sun has set. The water offers hydration and sustainable life to the ecosystem’s species and food sources. The characteristics of the waves offer indication of the weather of the current and surrounding environments (e.g. hurricanes). The water also functions as the mer-people’s medium for communication. Sound travels farther in water than air (and about six times more effectively). The mer-people are able to communicate with each other while they hunt, mate, and play—through cheerful squeaks that are similar to dolphins and in beautiful song that is similar to whales.

Other underwater creatures inherently offer help to the mer-people. Bioluminescent marine life, such as plankton and small fish, offer lighting underwater. This is particularly useful to the mer-people on cloudy days where sunlight is unable to penetrate through the water’s surface. This also enables the mer-people to continue tasks and explore their environment even after the sun has set—they do not necessarily have to go to sleep right away.

Because their technology is limited by water, the merpeople use surrounding materials to benefit their lives. Driftwood becomes a hunting spear and seaweed becomes a temporary net—things they can discard back into their environment in a way that is not dangerous to nature. With careful and constant observation of their environment, however, they are able to enhance some of their daily activities. They pick up seashells from the sand and use them as megaphones—they are able to project their sounds not only from a farther distance, but also at a greater volume. They also use coral to comb their hair and smooth out their scales.

Ecology
This utopia’s ultimate goal is to maintain harmony with nature. With every action completed with careful and thoughtful consideration, the inseparable bond with nature always strives to be kept at equilibrium.

The underwater world is a place for all maritime creatures. Nature has its ways for recycling and reusing natural waste, therefore, preserving life. Nothing supplementary is needed to sustain the beauty of marine life. Therefore, it is this society’s responsibility to maintain harmony with nature by not doing anything beyond preservation.

At times, the mer-people are very interested in observing their environment, discovering new species, and gaining stronger understandings of marine life—but it is always in a way that does not disrupt nature. Anything “(mer)man-made” does not cause permanent damage to nature, always considering environmentally-friendly values. The reasoning behind their passionate respect to nature dates back to an old fable concerning a land-species, named humans, who destroyed its mother nature over the course of thousands of years. Slowly, and then all at once, humans’ actions and behaviors brought about disturbances to the global climate, sea levels and water temperatures, the atmosphere’s chemical makeup, and were to blame for the extinction of many animals and plant species. Their destruction ultimately made earth an un-livable planet for the humans, and they eventually sought refuge on other planets within the Solar System. Therefore, the forefathers of this Melloasis determined that a peaceful co-existence with nature was a crucial necessity for their species’ long-term survival.

The mer-people’s population is controlled by predators (larger fish, sharks, whales), accidents, and natural occurrences (death by old age), and they, in turn, keep other species’ populations in check—it’s the natural circle of life. Also, unlike similarly-intelligible humans, the mer-people do not domesticate animals nor enjoy ownership of pets.

While mer-people may hide from (in caves or seaweed fields), swim out of reach of, or use distraction techniques against predators, they do not set up physically dangerous traps of any kind because it is not natural– they are not the predator. Their village is not an optimal swimming location for their predators (mainly due to insignificant sea level for whales, or unsatisfying food options for sharks who prefer seals), but predators will occasionally cross borders since there aren’t any definite “fences” of any kind. Moreover, any mer-person who swims outside of Melloasis also risks being in an area where predators are more likely to be around.

Religion
Mer-people never developed a religion in the sense of believing in a god or gods. This is an abstract idea to these creatures because religion is a concept developed by humans.  They don’t need to rely on idols or gods because the only power underwater is nature– a natural force that cannot be swayed through faith. They are not spiritual and see no need to create blessings or prayers.

They do, however, have an awe of and appreciation for nature.  They are also very observant of their surrounding environment– understanding the circle of life, the food chain, and existing predators. Because of this, they appreciate nature in the sense that they recognize the full worth of the fish they eat, the sharks they fear, and their own part in the larger whole.  They accept that each part is vital and necessary to the health of the whole. They show this by taking great care in their hunting to keep the food chain in balance and being very concerned with the ecology of their environment in the whole.

They also find joy appreciating the natural beauty of their world– from naturally occurring whirlpools, the presence of colorful coral reefs, and the hypnotizing way the sunlight reflects off certain objects.

The Relationship between the Sexes
Mermaids and mermen do not have defined gender roles.  Since mermaids and mermen are physically very similar; the main difference being an inch or so of height and only a few pounds in weight, there are no jobs that physically, only mermen or only mermaids can do.  Also, since mermaids to do not gestate their young internally or breastfeed, care of mer-children from conception can be done by either sex.         Because there are no gender roles, there is no discrimination based on gender either.  Any mer-person can have any job specialization they want including Elder once they hit 150 years of age.

There are minor physical and role differences when it specifically comes to reproduction; the mermaid lays eggs and the merman fertilizes them.  However, since mating is only for survival of the species and both mermaids and mermen have multiple partners in order to maximize egg hatching potential, there is no jealousy or other negative relationship-based problems among the sexes.

Sexual Reproduction
All mer-people start reproducing when they hit the age of sexual and physical/mental maturity at 25 and have started their adult lives.  They have a natural urge to mate when spring starts and the weather gets warmer because the changes in the temperature of the ocean affect their hormones.

Since there are only 100 mer-people in each village and mer-people can reproduce from the ages of 25-55, only about about 20-30 mer-people are fertile and able to mate each year.  In order for the best chances of the eggs to hatch, mermaids and mermen choose multiple partners based on which physical and mental characteristics that they have and which characteristics a genetically compatible partner would have to have in order to produce viable children.   In order to have the best chance of viable eggs, merpeople will conceive with all available genetically compatible partners within their village.  The relationships between one mer-person’s choices of partners and other mer-people’s choices of partners will intertwine to form a spider’s web.  Because of this and the small selection from which they have to choose from, each mer-person will average between 3-5 different partners.

By the end of spring, most mermaids have produced an average of five fertilized eggs via external insemination.  Because not all eggs hatch, and mer-children are raised communally, birth control is not practiced and most mermaids will produce approximately 30 fertilized eggs over the course of their lifetime.  The eggs are kept in special incubator rooms in the childcare cave which is a specific complex within each village of 100 merpeople.  Approximately one to two eggs hatch from each mermaid’s conception for a total of about 15-20 new mer-children a year.  About the same number of merpeople die from old age or accidents per year so the communities even out in terms of population numbers.

The reasons not all eggs hatch are infertility/egg/sperm problems in a particular mer-person, various genetic defects in the fertilized eggs that make them non-viable so they never hatch, improper handling by the childcare workers in charge of the eggs that would cause them to break or become damaged, environmental problems in the ocean that would affect all the eggs for that year, predators managing to swim into the childcare center and eat the eggs, or just plain bad luck.

Family and Reproduction
Mer-people are a hybrid of different species of fish that have slowly developed intelligible thoughts and behaviors similar to human intelligence. Through millions of years of evolution, mermen and mermaids have come to exhibit mental abilities (e.g. emotions) that differentiate them from most simple marine life.

Mermaids and mermen both have the same degree of emotional attachment with their children, which, since they are produced and gestated externally, are weaker than human bonds.  Therefore, they have no problem swimming over to the childcare center in early May with their freshly fertilized eggs for them to be raised communally by other mer-people.  Some mermaids and merman are born with stronger bonds to children so it is their calling to work in the childcare center and communally raise all the children of their particular village.

Because mer-people are a hybrid of fish (simple animals that gestate very quickly), and humans are much more complex (and therefore take nine months to gestate), it takes on average between 2-5 months for fertilized eggs to hatch. Mer-children are born similar to infant humans (being a small, naive form of adults that undergoes much development with time) but instead of needing breastmilk, they eat plankton and other small fish that don’t require chewing. They are already born able to swim as it is an innate necessity (like sharks).

They grow up in the childcare center and stay there while they prepare for adulthood by shadowing or being an apprentice to an adult mer-person who has a job they might want.  After the mer-child reaches the age range of 18-25 and met with an Elder to discuss their specialization, they are allowed to move into the communal adult cave system.   Each village of 100 mer-people live communally as a whole since they are not organized into individual families (in multiple clusters of caves, not just one cave).  Mer-people do not have individual homes but will sleep in whichever cave in the village they want and may change caves as often as they like.

Mer-People Rights
In Melloasis, it is ideal that everyone contributes to the society, but that is not always the case. There may be one mer-person who has been influenced in a certain way that what he or she does in his or her daily life will negatively impact the community. If any of the mer-people suspect another mer-person to be adversely affecting the village, a report should be made to the Elder. The Elder will have a personal conversation with the said mer-person and if the suspicions are deemed true, the Elder will have the power to exile him/her from society. However, some suspicious reports could happen from misunderstandings and miscommunications– that is why all reports go to the wise Elders.

If a mer-person finds an unnatural object (such as a human-made object), he/she must report it to the Elder. This object could be harmful to the society. The Elder will have a meeting with the Elders from the other villages and come up with a way to properly dispose of this object.

Ethics
Mer-people are instinctively inclined to understand and appreciate nature; everyone automatically behaves appropriately—meaning they behave in a way that is positively helpful and valuable to nature, or in a way that is neutral. In this utopia, everyone puts in an equal effort to sustain harmony with nature. Inappropriate behavior is anything that negatively harms nature– such as over-hunting, or developing tools that cannot be recycled back into the environment. However, it is not in the mer-people’s nature to act inappropriately (although there are random, rare exceptions due to genetic mutations).

Punishment does not exist in this utopia, simply because: 1) no one is intentionally mischievous, and 2) there is absolutely no good that punishment endured by mer-people would bring to nature. The only problems that arise within this utopia come from accidental misfortunes, such as an accidental harpooning of another hunter while catching fish, or an unintentional overhunting of a small fish species. In the case of a “friendly fire” death, the entire community may mourn over the lost life, but the “killer” is not punished. Instead, everyone works together to re-establish the peace by putting in slightly more effort to make up for the lost work of one body, and by encouraging a sense of community through expressive interactions such as hugs and smiles. Everyone works to take care of the nuclear family “left behind” collectively, because they are all part of one larger family– everyone in its community is entwined. With a loss of a life, there may be a memorial, but never a burial (because it is an unnatural action).

If someone accidentally hunts too much of a fish species to the point that its population becomes endangered, the mer-people lay off hunting that particular species until it naturally repopulates itself to a safe level. However, if it becomes extinct even after the mer-people have stopped hunting that species, it is looked upon as a natural and inevitable termination.

Now what if someone deliberately breaks the code of being one with nature? Although this is a species where everyone is innately born with the understanding and appreciation for nature, there is an extremely rare occurrence of an outlaw. It is natural for a species to experience some individual abnormalities, such as a clownfish born with a deformed fin (e.g. Nemo). Although very uncommon, a merman or mermaid born without an appreciation for nature is possible. Once an Elder realizes that an individual mer-person does not follow the natural code, they have the power to exile him/her out of the society. Once cast out, this mer-person is soon expected to die because they are incapable of surviving by themselves. It is nearly impossible to survive on their own because they come from a species that significantly relies on one another. No remorse is shown by any mer-person inside the society because they only uphold equilibrium with nature.

iLand Getaway

A Satirical Utopia by: Cate Larsen, Anjelica Mantikas, and Kai-Cong Fam

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We the pixels… in order to form a civil society amongst the chaos and confusion do ordain and establish this Constitution for iLand Getaway.

Section 1.

All legislative power shall be given to the five Founding Fathers and no other persons will take any place amongst them as long as they are living.

Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Larry Page, and Dick Costolo

Section 2.

A priority must always be given to anti-social members of the world and their acceptance into iLand Getaway should be expedited. All other applicants must wait for available spots.

Section 3.

Members will not be allowed to leave their cubical complexes once they enter into the society. All activities – sleeping, eating, using the bathroom and entering the virtual world must be done in each individual member’s complex. They must trust that the founding fathers have their best interest in mind with every action they take.

Section 4.

If a member of iLand Getaway does not follow any instruction given to him or her by the founding fathers, they will be separated from their Internet connection to suffer from severe boredom, or asked to leave the society altogether. The founding fathers will punish accordingly depending on the severity of the crime and repetition of offenses.

Section 5.

If a member is caught hacking any part of the system or cyber-bullying, they will be punished accordingly or asked to leave. Additionally, any person may leave if they do so choose. Any exit is permanent.

Section 6.

Each citizen of iLand Getaway has the right to free speech as long as it does not interfere with the rules of cyber-bullying. Debate is encouraged for entertainment. Caps lock is discouraged.

 

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Governance:

As ISIS militants advanced to the United States and Ebola began infecting millions more throughout the world, a group of tech company founders and CEOs decided to create their own utopian experiment: iLand Getaway. Since the real world had become a dystopia, this new society became a way for people to escape the realities that surrounded them. The five Founding Fathers of our society are Bill Gates (Co-founder, Microsoft), Tim Cook (CEO, Apple), Larry Page (CEO, Google), Mark Zuckerberg (CEO, Facebook), and Dick Costolo (CEO, Twitter).

The government is run by the five Founding Fathers and their primary role is to make sure the virtual world is always working. Perhaps the most important task the Founding Fathers have is to make sure the Wifi connection never drops. They also assign jobs and watch over what society members are doing in the virtual world. While each founding father is respected highly, it is Mark Zuckerberg that is idolized most by the society. Therefore, he often addresses the society members and secretly is behind god’s Facebook page.

Each member of this utopia has willingly joined this society through an application and interview process. The Founding Fathers read each application of those who wish to enter into the society, and decide what role each will play based on his or her skills. Those who are accepted must pay a fee of $1,000 to the Founding Fathers. There is an ongoing affirmative action initiative for anti-social nerds since this is a lifestyle that they have always desired. There is no oppression or attempt to create a divide between the people. Those who have worthy applications but are lacking appropriate funds are permitted to work their way in by manning some of the aspects of life within the buildings where iLanders reside.

The Relationship between the sexes:     

When a member is accepted into iLand Getaway, he or she will never again be face to face with any human being. Thus, he or she is able to choose their gender when they enter into the society. Once their gender has been chosen, they cannot change it because it is not just an image but their very being. All relationships – and subsequently all dates – are online. When two members are dating, they engage in private chat messaging for an hour or so depending on how great their “date” is going. They may surf the web together, play games, and match their avatars. They can also send gifts such as new clothes or 3D printed food they coded. Since a majority of the members are anti-social nerds, they prefer these types of relationships. There is no physical contact between two people in a relationship. This is satisfying enough to the members of the society.

Members are attracted to each other based on personal profiles in the virtual world. Each member has a personal profile and an image of their virtual avatars. This allows a fifty-year-old woman to become young and beautiful again in this new society. It does not matter if this is a lie, because no one will ever meet! When a person is not happy with how their virtual avatar looks, they are able to get surgery to make them more attractive. By adding pixels to their body and taking away some pixels from their nose, the virtual person can look brand new!

Men and women in the virtual world are also friends. Unlike the chaotic dystopia outside their society in which women are seen as unequal to men, this society treats everyone the same. Virtual men are respectful towards virtual women in this society and both can hold the same types of member roles which they receive the same amount of virtual pay for (game creators, coders, etc.).

Religion:

There is a god of iLand Getaway, and he indirectly communicates with society members through the Facebook page of the technological visionary Steve Jobs, who has passed away and now is an intercessor. Citizens post questions on his wall and Jobs is presumed to place the request before god and promptly respond from the afterlife. While people believe it is really god answering them back through the medium of Steve Jobs, it is actually Mark Zuckerberg. He programmed the same automatic responses to people’s Facebook posts since many of the questions are silly and repetitive. By analyzing wall posts that are requesting something (prayers), Mark Zuckerberg is able to take this information and deliver the virtual services that people want such as new avenues of social media or faster WiFi. His response is proof enough to the people that god exists.

The members’ interest in speaking to god has more to do with curiosity than dedication to religion. Other than the occasional Facebook post, religion is not highly regarded in the society. Most members left the dystopia in hopes that they would forget their pain and sorrow from that world. Thus, religion does not play a major part in their lives unless they really need something.

Science and Technology:

iLand Getaway would not be a possibility without the existence of certain technologies, as every waking moment is lived in the cyber world. Citizens experience this world via a contact lens they put in their eyes called an iLens, courtesy of Google CEO and founding father Larry Page, with an Apple-inspired name from Apple CEO Tim Cook. This contact lens takes minimal experience to operate. Once worthy applicants are admitted into the community, they insert a lens into each eye and have instant access to the Internet directly in their field of vision! In the cubicles they call home, citizens use their iLens to perform basic keyboard and mouse functions. They are therefore able to scroll, select, and type using their eyes. Certain blinking patterns “click” on things. These efficient technologies make for a limited use of electricity. As a matter of fact, the compounds in which citizens live use up little to no energy at all, as no lights need to be on for a person who is not living in the real world. All light and life comes from the iLens; that is reality. The human body has been replaced by a virtual graphic avatar, which can be modified via Photoshop at any time. Another important piece of technology is the 3D food printer, a food source on special occasions. Citizens customize a food design online and print it, the greatest effort they will ever need to take when it comes to their meals.

Health and Wellness:

In order to keep the eyes functioning well, users must insert eye drops to charge and moisturize their lenses every single day. A few additional health concerns arise with this world of virtual reality. Clearly there is the essential component of exercise missing from this virtual life. Fortunately, the technological innovation of the founding fathers provided for this: citizens have a comfortable chair in which they sit all day and live the majority of the rest of their lives. The chair has a footrest, which is set on a timer to automatically push up and down, leading the citizen’s resting legs to stretch and move with it. Windows are built into each room, allowing the sun’s rays to provide sufficient amounts of nutrients like vitamin D, crucial for wellbeing and survival.

As for essential liquid consumption, it must be revealed that this living chair is nothing but a glorified toilet, the only source of electricity in the community, and powered by the outside workers who labor for their admittance into the community due to a lack of funds. When a citizen needs to drink, they pull a tube that extends from one of two small holes in the top of the chair. All they need to do for a gulp of fresh and purified water is a quick sip from the tube. The second tube emerging from the adjacent hole in the “chair” has the other end surgically placed inside of the citizen before their entrance into the society. In this way, inhabitants of iLand Getaway are literally attached to the chair. When excretory needs occur, citizens can therefore release themselves without ever having to get up or leave their world and press a lever located on the back right of the chair to get rid of waste.

Inside of a flap on the right armrest of the chair is a compartment filled with approximately 100 small pills called Foodamins which are promptly refilled by the outside workers. These mass-produced pills are a source of essential nutrients created by the Founding Fathers and their teams of scientists so that citizens no longer have to eat food, which is both expensive to produce and buy, and takes too much time to cook and consume. Each pill is compacted with all essential nutrients, is ingested three times a day, and is refilled once a month by the previously mentioned workforce. On special holiday occasions, a 3D printer installed in the room uses a design program and electricity reserves to print out steaming artificial meals that at least taste like the real thing.

When diseases arise and worsen to an unbearable degree, the afflicted citizen can appeal to the god profile page for help. God then Direct Messages the patient a link to an online chat with a medical doctor in the outside world. A technology in the iLens is able to monitor the citizen’s vital aspects such as breathing pattern, heart rate, and blood pressure. After the doctor peruses this information, the two text back and forth about the symptoms in question, and the doctor assigns pills which are readily brought by the workers and inserted into a flap on the left armrest. Sometimes the doctor will suggest that the citizen drinks more out of their water tube. If a life threatening illness arises and a pill cannot help the citizen, he or she is unfortunately deemed inadequate to function in iLand Getaway, and is deported back to the outside world.

Human Rights:

Every person in this virtual reality world has sacrificed his or her right to privacy. They are never truly alone, despite the fact that they live on a chair in a small, empty hole. All Internet activity is made public on their many social profiles and monitored by the Founding Fathers’ staff made up of the outside workers. Hourly updates must be posted daily (though it is not uncommon to see much more) on what is going on in one’s life: “Had a great chat-date with John280 tonight!” “Just took a refreshing sip of water from the tube!” Though they are not allowed to hack into and manipulate each other’s accounts, the Founding Fathers are permitted to hack into theirs if a rule has been violated that needs to be erased. This widespread publicity makes any dissension easily apparent.

All citizens are given full, unrestricted rights to free speech. On forums and in discussions they are entitled to hold, and even fight over, their own opinions as long as no rule is violated in the process. Any of the members are able to leave the society if they feel it is not for them. However, once they leave, they are not welcomed back.

Ethics:

The rules governing this society are adhered to and violations are quickly prevented, spotted and corrected due to the public nature of daily life. There is absolutely no hacking or viruses of any kind allowed. This type of hacking is not merely changing somebody’s Internet presence, but violating their very existence, in essence their virtual entity. On a similar note, cyber-bullying is a punishable offense. Because every action on the Internet leaves a record, there is no private space in which demeaning bullying can be secretly done. Finally, nobody is allowed to access any information from the outside world. This is a readily followed law, as members want absolutely nothing to do with the real, destructive, and painful world. Such a law is never rebelled against, as existence in iLand comes about by voluntary admission and in order to escape from that dystopian world. The Founding Fathers and their employees may hack into anybody’s profile not adhering to the rules and delete inappropriate posts, temporarily deactivate the account as a form of punishment (leading to severe boredom), or even permanently delete it as the most severe form of punishment. Since this is a mostly virtual society, a hacker is endangering the members of the society and must be dealt with accordingly. The only way a member is forced out of the society by the five Founding Fathers is if he or she hacks the system repeatedly. Repeat offenders are returned back into the real world where they will have to deal with disease, terrorists and daily interactions with other human beings.

The Founding Fathers also have access to everybody’s online history, which cannot be erased from their records. Certain red flags in one’s Internet history alerts the CEOs to inappropriate activity, which is then quickly dealt with according to the degree and quantity of the violation.

 

Education:

In iLand Getaway everyone receives an education because the Founding Fathers believe that every one of their members deserved a great education. However, everyone receives an individualized education based on his or her aptitudes and interests. Upon his or her first day in iLand, each person is given recommended subjects to study, with the exception of basic computer programming. Basic computer programming is taught to every member because it allows them to appreciate the virtual world built by the Founding Fathers, and it is also necessary for most members to develop their own careers and sense of purpose in the virtual world.

The founding fathers created one school which is mandatory for every member to attend. The school exists as a virtual campus where avatars gather and learn in virtual classrooms. The school offers classes that could be taken within the campus and also purely online. Pure online classes are classes that are already prerecorded, and could be taken at any point of time. An outside teacher records himself/herself explaining a subject, and he/she uploads this recording on the class portal for students to learn. Hybrid classes are classes that combine online learning and conference learning. In addition to pre-recorded videos, students (in the form of their avatars) have to meet with their teachers on campus for discussions.

Work and Economics:

            There are two spheres of work in iLand Getaway: one that takes place within the community, and another from the outside. Plumbing, Foodamin deliveries, WiFi maintenance, and resolving of 3D printing issues, for example, must be manned by outside workers. As previously mentioned, these are people who did not get into iLand immediately upon application, but were selected to have the opportunity to buy their admittance in via work. They must gather five years of good work before admittance is allowed.

In iLand Getaway, most members code for a living. Upon application review, citizens are assigned to aid in the functioning of certain types of websites, whether it is gaming, dating websites, advertisements, or Photoshop. Members code to make the virtual world a better place. Coding is instrumental in making iLand a more enjoyable residence. From the construction of new user-friendly websites to new applications, coding gives members the great satisfaction of literally creating their own utopia, as opposed to their previous lives over which they had no control. The owners of certain websites and apps are continuously running maintenance, creating updates to fix any bugs, and keeping up with current technological trends.

Citizens do not have a strict 9-5 work day. Rather, they work for as long as it takes per day to update their respective websites. They are paid in the form of a virtual currency called BitCoins each time they make an update, promoting creativity and technological advances. They also receive revenues from the apps and websites they have created. Since the members live in the virtual world as their avatars, they don’t need much because they can simply code what ever they wish to have such as avatar appearance and clothing. However, all applications and some website services cost money, as does the 3D printer food. The rest of their earnings mostly go to the government in the form of tax, in which their BitCoins provide for all that the members need to live as a human being in the physical world (for example, Foodamins and toilet plumbing).

Above all, the members are motivated to work for fame. In this world, fame is highly esteemed by every member. When a member codes something remarkable, the whole population of iLand Getaway will know them, allowing him or her to have more social interactions in the virtual world.

Many members also become famous through their electronic musical talents, intellect, and other forms of creativity. When one becomes famous, he or she becomes a public commodity, known as a Socialite, which other members bid on via “likes”. When a member gives a Socialite a “like”, he or she is essentially investing in the Socialite. If the Socialite does something remarkable and becomes even more “likable”, then all investors earn a small sum of BitCoins and vice versa. The generated BitCoin currency in iLand Getaway contributes nothing productive to the outside world or helps it to be a better place. Everything exists solely for iLand citizens and their virtual pleasure, which is why fame is worth so much more than the BitCoins.

 

Family & Reproduction:

Since iLand Getaway recruits members based on application, there is no need for reproduction. There are members that are related by blood, but they no longer interact. The majority of citizens form their own family after living in iLand for some time, including the adoption of pseudo-children.

When a group of members decide to commit to marriage or become a family, they have to file an application with the Department of Kin, attend an interview, and go through a period of probation and observation before they are officially family members. Once they become official family members, then their family status on Facebook and other social media will be updated accordingly.

Ecology:

In the virtual world, there are no plants at all. However, plants exist in the physical world to provide oxygen for the members through their one window.

Our Great Society- OGS

OGS

Philip Kubiak, Domanique Borges, Laila Metjahic

BE IT DECLARED, HEREIN LIES THE CONSTITUTION OF OUR GREAT SOCIETY, TO BE FOLLOWED TO THE VERY LAST WORD, LEST WE ENDANGER THE PERFECTION OF THE BROTHERHOOD THAT IS OGS

  1. Any citizen who follows the rules set forth by The Constitution Of OGS is considered a good and right citizen in the eyes of our governors, The Sanitation. All such good and right citizens are considered equal in OGS, regardless of sex, creed, height, or girth. The Professors are a force sworn to protect and respect all the good and right citizens of OGS as well as finding out any citizens who are not good or are not right.
  2. Each citizen shall belong to one of five districts of OGS: District Adrenaline, District Sadism, District Knowledge, District Authority, and District Sin. Citizens are required to keep within their district, associate amongst their district, live, sleep, and work in their district.
  3. Every citizen over the age of sixteen years must report to their assigned work stations at 800 hours and may not leave before 1800 hours. This time is reserved across all districts every day for every citizen to contribute to the well-being of OGS. Citizens under sixteen years must study their trade and the glory that is OGS during this time.
  4. Every citizen must spend the hours between 400 and 700 in their Vitality Chambers. This is necessary for each citizen to be properly rejuvenated after a night of excess and ready to serve OGS at full capacity.
  5. Outside of these times, citizens are required to participate in extreme activity as mandated by the heads of their own respective district. Any moderation will be met with severe punishment.
  6. Each citizen has the obligation to observe his fellow citizens and report any suspected moderation to a Professor.
  7. The Sanitation reserves the right to relocate any citizen who is not good or is not right to District Sadism so they may learn to adjust their behavior.
  8. Citizens must not speak of, or associate with, the sect of criminals known as “The Moderates.” Any knowledge of the whereabouts of any suspected member must be reported to a Professor immediately.
  9. There are to be five districts in OGS: District Adrenaline, District Sadist, District Knowledge, District Authority, and District Sin
  10. All citizens must follow the laws and statutes created by OGS
  11. All citizens are created equal under the law and must be treated as such.
  12. No citizen’s life is worth more than the other, and the loss of a life is not consequential.
  13. There is to be no established religion in OGS.
  14. Murder, theft, rape, and arson are morally apprehensible and banned.
  15. Any action seen as morally apprehensible by OGS or The Sanitation is prohibited.
  16. Any such action that violates the liberty of another citizen is prohibited.
  17. Any such action that physically harms another citizen is prohibited.
  18. Any violation of criminal law can and may result in the revocation of citizenship.
  19. Only citizens are guaranteed equal protection under the law and the benefits the law provides.
  20. The citizens of Our Great Society are only to engage in sexual intercourse or carnal activities if approved by the governors, The Sanitation.
  21. If approved for carnal activities by The Sanitation, citizens must commit at minimum three (3) of their nights a week after 1800 hours to engaging in carnal/sexual activities.
  22. If a citizen who has not been approved for carnal activities by The Sanitation, is caught engaging in sexual acts at any time they will be considered outside of the law and relocated to District Sadism as set forth by Section 7.
  23. Whether or not a citizen is permitted to engage in carnal activities no citizens are to engage in carnal activities outside of their districts.
  24. All students will be required to spend a minimum of 6 years within the Educational System of Our Great Society, The Direction
  25. Concerning matters of the health all citizens are to be examined one time per week by an appointed citizen from their district- known as the Health Guardian (HG). During this weekly examination all citizens will be examined for any defects physical or otherwise that may deem them unfit for our glorious society.
  26. As per moderation is not allowed it is absolutely necessary each citizen be implanted with a small device that will detect the adrenaline level of citizens during the hours which work is not being performed, this device will also be monitored by the appointed health guardian of their district during the weekly health check, who will report lower levels of adrenaline to The Sanitation.

Our dystopia, Our Great Society (OGS), is riddled with numerous laws created to govern society. The primary objective of the government, referred to as The Sanitation, and its laws is to ensure that each citizen lives entirely without moderation for a period of the day. After centuries of dissatisfaction with their mundane lives, The Sanitation rose in power over the nation. The government has now been created in order to prevent this same dissatisfaction and boredom that characterized daily life throughout the previous 21 centuries.

The community is divided into five districts: District Sadist, District Knowledge, District Authority, District Sin, and District Adrenaline. Each society has developed their own interpretation regarding how to live life to the extreme. Those who break any law are sent to District Sadist, where the sadistic followers use the criminals as a means to pursue their extreme desires. The punishment may be extreme, but that is the aim of the government. District Knowledge pursues intellectual studies and art to the extreme, while District Authority contains the rule-enforcing body, called The Professors. The Professors serve as middlemen between the other districts and OGS. They serve as the enforcers of the law and watchmen over the citizens. District Sin is a society of those who pursue their extreme life following the seven deadly sins: lust, greed, envy, gluttony, sloth, pride, and wrath. District Adrenaline is a society of thrill-seekers who pursue daredevil acts as a means of extremism. Citizens are required to keep within their district, associate amongst their district, live, sleep, and work only within their district.

Each community lives independently in harmony beneath one overarching authoritarian regime, referred to as The Sanitation. Each citizen works at a job determined best suited for them by OGS and performs these tasks from hours 800 to 1800. From hours 1800-400 each citizen is required to engage in extreme activity. This workday serves as a reminder to citizens of how life was before OGS took control and perpetuates their desire to release through extreme activity at the end of the day.

Laws and extreme activity are created and enforced by The Sanitation; with each patrolman called a “Professor”. Each citizen is obligated to observe his fellow citizen and report any suspected moderation to a Professor. The Sanitation reserves the right to relocate any citizen who is not good or is not right to District Sadism for behavior readjustment. Citizens must not speak of, or associate with, the sect of underground criminals known as “The Moderates.” Any knowledge of the whereabouts of any suspected member must be reported to a Professor immediately. Any moderation will be met with severe punishment. All citizens are bound to follow the laws and statues created by the OGS. There are no elections, and there is no system of private property. The society is a communist, totalitarian oligarchy run by The Sanitation. This does not mean, however, that the citizens are unhappy or dissatisfied with their government or lives.

Our Great Society exists many years into the future, and it funnels most of its resources into research and technological development in order to increase the efficiency of the manufacturing it heavily relies on for economic wealth. In addition to industrial innovations, Our Great Society uses new technology as a primary means of controlling its citizens.

One of the several scientific breakthroughs that has allowed for the success of Our Great Society is the ability to clone. There are complex facilities located in each district where humans are produced by the thousands every day. These clones do not necessarily all look alike or have the same personality; each clone inherits random genes from a master gene bank that is separate for each district. There are some traits that every person has in common, such as sterility and a penchant for excess. Humans in our society skip early stages of development and are cloned into ten year old children, with each person having basic language and life skills already programmed into their brains. They are born as empty shells; the school system they attend for the first six years of their lives will complete them with an assigned role and a passion for extremity, often through the use of propaganda.

Cloning is understood by all citizens as a huge benefit to OGS. An explanation lies in the fact that the society suffers from an extremely high rate of mortality. This is not because of disease, malnutrition, or killings, but actually comes as a result of OGS encouraging extreme lifestyles. Accidental deaths are a commonplace occurrence across all districts. Citizens of District Sin may drink in excess until their liver fails to function. Citizens of District Adrenaline may die in freak accidents. Suicide is also something that is not forbidden in OGS, it is seen as another extreme means to an end. These kinds of ethics inevitably lead to a shortened average life span in addition to a high rate of mortality. A sizable proportion of OGS citizens die everyday, and they all die young.

Thus it was at one point decided by the Sanitation that large-scale cloning was necessary for the constant replenishment of OGS’ population. The crucial block in cloning research before this was an argument over the ethics of the practice. Once OGS declared its necessity, the science was quickly developed and perfected. Cloning is now a vital aspect of the society as it allows its rulers to control the amount of citizens living in each district. With no need for reproduction, citizens are sterilized and have no need for any structured family.

Another facet of technology heavily relied upon in our society is the vitality chamber. All citizens are required to spend three hours every night inside of this device, which is present in every home across all districts. The user of a vitality chamber is placed in an extreme state of rest in which this short amount of time rejuvenates the body and mind with the same effectiveness as would eight hours of sleep. This machine allows a vast majority of a citizen’s hourly activity in the day to be spent working or occupying themselves in their respective district’s necessary activities.

The use of these vitality chambers was found to be of such benefit to OGS that its use was quickly mandated and written into the constitution. Since all citizens need only three hours for their sleep cycle, hourly activities in a day could be standardized throughout all districts. It was thus declared that the period between 400 hours and 700 hours should be spent in vitality chambers, and the period between 800 hours and 1800 hours is the designated work day for all citizens. All other hours are left for citizens to follow the rules of the constitution as they wish. This daily routine was developed by the Sanitation to maximize production while simultaneously allowing citizens free time in their districts.

Our Great Society places a heavy emphasis on their manufacturing industry. The focus of our society on large-scale production contributes to OGS enjoying a strong, constantly expanding economy. Most people work in huge factory complexes, where they manufacture goods for use in the districts and for trade amongst other countries outside of our society. Other, more competent citizens are trained from a young age to devote their work hours to science or engineering in order to continue the development of the technological advances that are crucial to maintaining order in OGS.

The working life of a manufacturing employee is not something to be envied. The work is incredibly labor intensive, there are long hours to be worked without breaks, and there is no possibility of advancement. Factory life is also very dull and monotonous, as the routine is the same for those ten hours of work every single day. The working lifestyle of most OGS citizens is extremely undesirable, and this is not by mistake. Herein lies one of the great secrets as to the economic success enjoyed by OGS: the laws demanding the exercise of extremity are designed to distract each citizen from their unsatisfying work lives. A good and just citizen of OGS is one who serves in his industry for ten hours every day and is too distracted with satisfying the extreme desires instilled in their minds by their government to notice the terrible conditions of their lives. Anybody who acts otherwise is found out and severely punished, and anybody who dies in the process is quickly replaced. Thus production is kept at the highest possible level at all times, and Our Great Society prospers thanks to the manipulation of its citizens.

Our Great Society owes much of its success and efficiency to the use of several controversial practices, such as cloning and harrowing work conditions. Another scientific breakthrough that allows OGS to prosper is the recycling of the human body. A high mortality rate inevitably leads to an abundance of corpses to dispose of. Instead of burying the dead in the ground or cremating them, their bodies are processed by the Sanitation, harvested of their proteins and nutrients, and repackaged to be sold as quality cuts of meat. This all ensures the nutrition of OGS citizens, eliminates the need for domestication, and takes advantage of a resource that is readily available. The possibility of citizens questioning the ethics of such recycling is what has lead Our Great Society to keeping this miracle of science a secret. The product is simply labeled as a certain cut of red or white meat and citizens of OGS may obliviously enjoy their hearty dinners. This is an example of how the Sanitation will set any rules to manipulate and control the citizens of OGS, even if it goes against the very same values of honesty that citizens are told to regard highly.

Human rights are convoluted in our great society. All citizens are created equal under the law and must be treated as such. All citizens have a duty to respect their neighbor and are obliged to do no harm to another citizen. No citizen’s life is worth more than the other, and the loss of a life is not consequential. Human life in our great society is disposable and the loss of a life is met with celebration, awe, or apathy, but never sadness. Actions that violate the liberty of another citizen is prohibited. Additionally, any action that physically harms another citizen is prohibited. Only citizens are guaranteed equal protection under the law and the benefits and securities the law provides. Violation of criminal law can and may result in the revocation of citizenship. Those who lose their citizenship are sent to District Sadist for rehabilitation. Those who are not citizens may be physically harmed or treated unequally under the law by citizens of Our Great Society, or by The Sanitation and Professors. Citizenship may potentially be reinstated after a sufficient period of correction within District Sadist, but it is not guaranteed.

Citizens within Our Great Society share a strong code of ethics and morality. All actions declared immoral by The Sanitation are hereby banned in the society and may be treated with punitive measures. Honesty is one of the most highly regarded moral standards within Our Great Society. Without a strong code of honesty, society would fall apart and citizens would not be able to trust one another in their daily life. In addition, honesty is required in order to continue the system of citizen’s watching one another as they ensure that each citizen is living to the extreme. Theft, murder, and all acts that violate the liberty of another citizen or physically harm another are regarded as morally apprehensible in this society. While The Sanitation maintains complete control over the population, no citizen is morally allowed to assert themselves in a position above another citizen.

Religion in Our Great Society is abolished. Before The Sanitation took control, religion served as a stratifying force in society and created a sense of superiority amongst certain groups. This stratification and feelings of superiority violate the strong system of equality created by OGS. Thus, living as a brotherhood with citizens sharing all goods and wealth in common, there is no room for religious beliefs. The only religion heard of in Our Great Society is that which belongs to the group of fugitives known as “The Moderates.” The Moderates seek to destroy all that we have created in trying to live fulfilling, extreme lives by doing all things through moderation. The Moderates hold that balance is the key to a fulfilling life. There is no place for them in our society and any knowledge of their activity or whereabouts must be divulged to Division Authority within 48 hours. Any citizen who fails to do so is liable for treason and will immediately be sent to District Sadist for rehabilitation without a trial.

Since there is cloning in OGS there is no need for health checks for the purpose of checking for presence of disease or other gene mutations that may occur with old age, during childbirth, or during conception between opposite sexes. However, it is imperative that the Sanitation is able to bring to justice any member of the society that does not engage in extreme duties every night. Although citizens are expected to be vigilant and report any signs of behavior that indicate another citizen is not participating in their extreme duties, the Sanitation cannot expect that citizens will always be aware of the lack of extreme behaviors in others, as they will be consumed with their own extreme activities.Therefore they employ the help of trusted Health Guardians- appointed by the Sanitation. The Sanitation monitors the Health Guardians work ongoingly but it the Health Guardians role to be proactive and diligent in their very trusted role. Subsequently, each student that successfully graduates out of the education system of Our Great Society is implanted with a special chip, the size of exactly 6 ½ rice grains, that monitors and stores the data about their adrenaline levels for the past 8 days.

The major role of the Health Guardian in each society is to check the levels of these chips referred to as “Membranes”, and report directly to a Professor any findings of a citizen who has had adrenaline levels lower than expected during times of expected extreme behavior. If caught with lower than expected levels the Health Guardian will contact a professor in their direct vicinity when the findings are discovered. Following this the Health Guardian must complete a full report outlining their findings that will be submitted to the Sanitation for usage during the prosecution of the citizen in question, before they are sent to the District Sadist as prescribed by the Great Constitution of OGS.

The Health Guardian in each district will work an additional two hours per day because of the overwhelming population in Our Great Society. However the Health Guardian will still be responsible for completing their extreme duties at the end of each shift. This causes Health Guardians themselves to perish at a quicker rate than the other citizens, and on average each district has a new Health Guardian every year because of the amounts of work they are completing each day to check all of the citizens on a weekly basis.

The citizens of OGS appreciate the work of the Health Guardian in their individual district and are thankful to the Sanitation for providing them free health care. They are unaware of the many checks that are happening during these visits but do understand the importance of attending the appointments each week. The citizens who are taken in by the Sanitation for lack of extreme behavior are not missed because people are always dying in OGS. This helps in the Sanitations efforts of covering up the true purpose of the frequent health checks, so citizens are not aware that this is an actual spot check for ensuring extreme behavior.

Another role of the Health Guardian is to ensure that the citizens who have passes for carnal activities don’t become infected with a virus called Revelations (RLS) that allows for reproduction. Although the citizens are cloned and unable to reproduce there was a rare case where a male citizen and one of his female partners were able to conceive. The cause was never determined and there have been no more cases, but, the Sanitation is convinced there was a sort of new growth of the reproductive organs. Of course this was a cause for great concern, causing the sanitation to do all that they can to proactively prevent and detect this regrowth phenomenon from reoccurring.

The education system in OGS is known as The Direction. All citizens, when created at the age of ten years old, are to be educated by the Direction for a period of no less than six years and no more than six years and six months. Students are called Lost Ones. Lost Ones who stay  in for the longer period of time may show potential in more than one area of passion and therefore need more time to be sorted. Otherwise the longer period may be for Lost Ones who have not assimilated well and are on course to being exiled from Our Great Society and sent to the Sadism District and later to be consumed by the remaining children.

During the six years in the education system children will be educated on matters concerning the extremist lifestyle. The children are to spend ten hours per day focusing on their education just as the adults in the society spend ten hours working. Two hours of each day will be used specifically for the training of life in a specific district. Year one the two hours will focus on the District Sadism. This is helpful because if a Lost One does not end up in the District Sadism more time has elapsed and it is easier to “help” them forget what has been learned about this area of the society. Year two is spent focusing on the District Sin, followed by the District Knowledge, which is followed by District Adrenaline, and lastly District Authority.

The other 8 hours of the day which the children are required to be engaged in educational activities are spent on different brainwashing activities that have been approved by the Sanitation. These activities help to shape the minds of the children around the many ideas of Our Great Society. The sanitation also requires that the Lost Ones spend three hours focused on the constitution every day for the entire six years they are in the education system. The Sanitation believes it is important for each member of the society to know their rights, and restrictions. In this light each citizen is born into the society with the laws ingrained in them. So there be no confusion down the line in case of some unfortunate event in the future where a citizen violates the laws.

The Direction is responsible for helping Lost Ones find a path to follow once in the society. Mentors who are known as Enemies are there for guidance and help with adjusting with the many ideas that the citizens of Our Great Society subscribe to. This is very useful in ensuring that the Lost Ones are being properly brainwashed and assimilated into the ways of the society as Enemies are required to report back to the Sanitation if they believe that a student will not be susceptible to the ways of Our Great Society. These Lost Ones which have been identified as potential non-followers are then put on watch and closely monitored in case it be necessary to eradicate the child.

The Direction plays a huge role in shaping the society and is closely monitored by the leaders of the Sanitation for issues and for quality and assurance purposes. The majority of the Lost Ones actually do enjoy the environment in The Direction as it is made to be otherwise a friendly place outside of the strict learning environment. The Lost Ones also know they could be separated at some point so they really do enjoy their time together.

 

The Giver- Lois Lowry

The Giver was written in 1994 by author Lois Lowry. She is an esteemed young adult/ children’s writer and has written over 40 books including the Giver. Her background is very important to the story of the Giver as it shows us where the inspiration for such a book would come from. Although it is often depicted as Utopian/Dystopian literature she wrote the book as an actual thought experiment after an episode dealing with her elder father who was at the time losing his memory. She quickly rejects the idea of the book being a Dystopian novel saying: “I didn’t think of it as futuristic or dystopian or science fiction or fantasy.”[1]  After realizing that her dad had no memory of her sister and her passing away at the age of 28 to cancer, she “…began to think about writing a book about people who had found a way to manipulate human memory, so they wouldn’t have to remember anything bad.”[2]

Lowry was born in March of 1937, making her well into her 50’s at the time of The Giver’s publication. She grew up changing schools constantly, because of her dad’s occupation as an Army Dentist. Lowry found herself having to deal with the many nuances of the different schools she spent time in. Only to figure it all out, and to have to move on to the next school where things were always undoubtedly different. She didn’t actually become an author until the age of 40.  After she was already married, had four children, and divorced in 1977, actually the same year her first book, A Summer to Die, was published. This book actually mirrored her own life as it is about a young girl who has to deal with the death of her sister to cancer. Lowry herself lost her sister to cancer when she was 25 and her sister was 28 as I mentioned briefly.  Lowry says of the books she writes that they are about “the same general theme: the importance of human connections.”[3] They center on “that of the role that we humans play in the lives of our fellow beings.” [4]

With that said, it is still easily understood why the book still falls under the genre of Dystopian Literature as the books many commenters would suggest- myself included although my personal thought is it seems at times more Utopian than Dystopian. Her explanations back it up actually, as Utopian and Dystopian literature is usually based out of the need or want for an alternative way of life. They are thought experiments, what ifs so to speak. That is exactly what writing The Giver was for Lois Lowry. It was a thought experiment; it was a want for an alternative way of living because the way of living we know may sometimes be too harsh.

In the society that Lowry describes in the Giver there is no hunger, no pain, no fear, no illnesses, or conflict. There is no money in the society and no class structure, every citizen is equal and there is the characteristic of “Sameness”, which eliminates any racism or discrimination. The citizens are led by the Committee of Elders and the Chief Elder (a position that is newly elected every 10 years), following strict rules that govern not just their language, occupation, roles in the society, but also the way their families are structured. The family unit as we know it is dissolved. In order to be chosen for a spouse a citizen must apply to The Committee and in the eyes of The Committee they must have the emotional capacity to connect to others in order to actually be assigned a partner.

Children are not conceived in the conventional way by the paired husband and wife, again they must submit an application and wait for approval from the committee before receiving a child. Fifty newborns are allowed each year and they are delivered through birthmothers and then given to a family that has been approved after 1 year of being nurtured by the Nurturers- a group of nursery workers essentially, who are responsible for the emotional and physical needs of all the children under the age of one in the society. If a child does not develop well in that first year they are released from the community and the child is not given a name or a family. However, most children are assimilated into the society well and the December after their birth the child takes part in the age ceremonies where they are given to a family approved for a child and given a name.

Each family is allowed at most one son and one daughter. Every December as the children age they complete another major milestone. The nines (9 year old children) are given their first haircuts and given their bicycle- which is the mode of transportation in the society used by every citizen over the age of nine. The ceremonies end for the children after they become twelves and are given their role in the society. This role is carefully selected for the child after being observed by the Elders and they decide in what ways their personalities and talents align to specific roles in the society. There are many roles or jobs such as Doctor, Laborer, Birthmothers (who conceive 1 child per year for three years and then spend the rest of their “careers” as Laborers), Nurturers, roles in the Department of Justice, Fish Hatchery Attendant, Assistant Director of Recreation, and many more roles that each play a part towards helping the society run smoothly.

We start out meeting the main character Jonas who is anxious about his upcoming age ceremony in December, as this year he will become a Twelve. We are also introduced to his father who is a Nurturer in the community, his mother who holds a role in the Department of Justice, and his younger sister Lily who is a Seven. This would be his last year of being a part of the age ceremonies and he would be given his role in the society. These ceremonies are very important in the society as they essentially decide the lives of all the members of the society in the Giver. The first few chapters are about Jonas and his apprehension for the upcoming ceremony. We learn about the rules in the society and we are painted a wonderful picture of what life is like in this Utopian Community that takes very good care of its members in return for their cooperation with the rules that are imposed on them by The Committee. The citizens do not lie and if they do act outside of the rules such as insensitive chatter- calling attention to the things that are different about others- they are chastised. After three infractions a citizen will be released from the community. “For a contributing citizen to be released [from the community] was a final decision, a terrible punishment, an overwhelming statement of failure.” The only time release was looked upon as a ceremony or time for celebration is for the release of an elder in the community, who had lived a full life that was well lived.

By the time Jonas is ready for his assignment we have learned much about the government (The Committee of Elders), the rules and the norms of the society, and the family structure. The family is constructed of a mother, father, brother and sister; however they are not biologically a family as they have all been placed together strategically by the Elders in the community. They are birthed by birthmothers who do not take care of or get to know their own children. It is quite the opposite actually as birthmothers do not become a part of family units. Other things also become evident, like the strong hold that the Elders have on the thinking and the behavior of the citizens. Through sometimes what I consider passive aggressive tactics they get citizens to do as they are told and the citizens seem to truly believe that to act outside of these rules and the norms put in place by the elders, is a crime of sorts; even a sin.

During the ceremony Jonas is anxiously waiting for his turn to be given an assignment but has to wait through the ceremonies of the 18 other children before him as he was the 19th child born the year he was born. He learns the roles of his two close friends and it is finally his turn to learn his role! Yet he is passed over and the Elders do not immediately give him his role. At the end of the ceremony the elders explain that Jonas has not been given a role but has been chosen for the highly respected role of the Receiver! This is an extraordinary event and causes for a speech by the Elder explaining the new appointment.

He is given the rules for his new role as the Receiver of the community and he is taken aback by their briefness (he had been given only 8 rules that fit on a single page to while others were give thick packets to go with their new jobs in the society), and he is shocked that he is told he is permitted to tell lies which is strictly forbidden in this community besides he has never told a lie in his life.

Jonas immediately begins to train with the current Receiver an elder of the community, who asks to be called the Giver from now on since Jonas is now the Receiver. The Giver has the memories of the past stored within him. He has the knowledge of the world before them- not just the world that the community knows of, but of the world that they are being deprived of. He houses within him the memories of all that has happened in the world up to that point. It is his role to use that knowledge to guide the elders of the community in their decision making and to shield the rest of the community from the knowledge as well. Through his training with the Giver, Jonas begins to receive the memories of the past.

Jonas is startled by the many things he learns about his community and his life. Jonas becomes aware that neither he nor the rest of the community is able to see in color, he begins to learn that they do not understand the true feelings of love, happiness, pain, and hurt. He begins to understand that his community is being deprived of the basic value of life because they are being shielded from reality by the extreme rules put in place by the elders. He also learns of the secrets that the Elders are keeping from the community and of the dark and sinister ways that were unapparent to him before his training with the Giver.

Jonas not only has seconds thoughts about his community because of what he is learning from the training with the Giver but he also starts to dislike his own father because of the truths he learns out about his role in the community. He learns that there is more going on than he first assumed about his community and when a small baby named Gabe, that his father has been caring for is set to be released because he has not adjusted well in the community Jonas decides to escape.

With the memories that the Giver has given him he hopes to survive his attempt to escape the community he once thought that he loved. Jonas will continue to reflect on the community from which he is trying to escape as he makes his journey out into the unknown world of Elsewhere. As in much dystopian/utopian literature the community is separated from the outside world with a forest that has not been ventured in to. The book ends with Jonas trying to escape and us hoping he makes it out and somehow finds a better place for himself and the small baby Gabe…

Class themes:

Similar themes to those discussed in class are the idea and the role of the family unit. Here the family unit is created through strategic placement by the elders after couples have been together for more than three years. The couples do not have sex and the feelings of sexuality are repressed through pills that are taken after the age of puberty. They must apply for children- and only 50 children are created a year.

Another class theme is the ideal role of the government. Here we see the Elders and the Committee in this society as the governing class that rules in this society. The use and the notion of the “great lie” that is told in order to create a sense of reasoning behind their actions. The expect that there citizens behave in a ethical way that constitutes everything from the way they speak, to the way they dress. These things are monitored through the watchful eye of the elders and because everyone in the community buys into the laws and the order set forth for them.

The relationship between the sexes is not that of love but one of necessity. There is no love involved physically or emotionally. There is no religion in the society and there seems to be no idea of God or a higher being.

Although not explicitly mentioned it seems that there is some technical advances they have been able to make in order to have women reproducing without having sex (the birthmothers). It seems technology is also responsible for the fact that they are unable to see in color and the suppression of certain feelings.

 

[1] http://www.npr.org/2014/08/16/340170478/lois-lowry-says-the-giver-was-inspired-by-her-fathers-memory-loss

[2] http://www.npr.org/2014/08/16/340170478/lois-lowry-says-the-giver-was-inspired-by-her-fathers-memory-loss

[3] http://www.loislowry.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=67&Itemid=196

[4] http://www.loislowry.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=67&Itemid=196

Divergent (2014); Faction Before Blood

“I don’t want to be just one thing. I can’t be. I want to be brave, and I want to be selfless, intelligent and honest and kind.”Four

Summary:
Divergent (2014), directed by Neil Burger, takes place in a futuristic post-war Chicago, where a totalitarian society is separated into five factions, or groups where people share a primary characteristic. Erudite are the ones who value knowledge and logic; Amity farm the land and are always happy and harmonious; Candor are truthful and value honesty; Dauntless are the brave and fearless protectors, and police, of the city; and Abnegation, or Stiffs, are selfless, simple public servants who are trusted to run the government.

Beatrice Prior was born into Abnegation, along with her brother Caleb. They both undergo the obligatory aptitude test, which determines which faction they are best suited for. Although teens usually receive the result of the faction they are born into about ninety-five percent of the time, Beatrice’s results are inconclusive. Knowing she has a hint of Dauntless inside of her, she makes the bold move to choose Dauntless as her new faction during the Choosing Ceremony.

Training starts immediately and she must learn to be both physically and mentally fit to earn her stay within Dauntless. Now known as Tris, she steadily climbs the performance chart with her determination and dexterity. Meanwhile, she must protect her secret of being Divergent, or someone with multiple attributes of several factions. Divergents can think independently and creatively, and the government cannot control their thinking. Therefore, they are considered dangerous threats and are aggressively hunted down by Erudite, who are trying to gain control as the ruling faction.

Once society turns chaotic with the Erudite takeover, it’s up to Tris and others (who realize the system is flawed) to stop them.

Society reminds people of the terrible war of the past, in which the rest of the world was destroyed. The founders built a wall around the city to keep its people safe and divided everyone into five factions to sustain peace: Erudite (intellect), Amity (peaceful), Candor (truthful), Dauntless (brave), and Abnegation (selfless). This system was put into practice to prevent future conflicts. If anyone is Divergent, or conveys traits from all five factions, he/she is unable to be conformed or controlled by the ruling party—and therefore, are considered a threat to the “peaceful” system. Another group that does not belong to the five factions is Factionless—people who do not belong to any faction. Both Divergent and Factionless pose complications for this society’s effort at utopia.

Since Abnegation is selfless, they are entrusted with the power to rule and govern society. Erudite aggressively work behind the scenes to gain control of society and eliminate Abnegation, because they believe that intellects deserve the power to rule. This brings up the question: should a society be ruled by smart people, or selfless people?

Jeanine, the fascist leader of the Erudites, believes that intellect deserves to hold power. She believes that human nature is a sign of weakness. It is natural for people to “keep secrets, lie, steal” and she wants to eradicate this enemy to peace. She praises the faction system because the sense of conformity “removes the threat of anyone exercising their independent will.” In order to carry out her personal scheme, she has Dauntless injected with a controlling serum—they become mindless soldiers and exhibit no self-control. With chemistry, she is able to wipe out their history, emotions, and thoughts. She uses this army to round up and eliminate the Abnegation faction, whom she believes is a threat to the faction system.

There are strong parallels in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We. This dystopian society is surrounded by a Green Wall, which separates its people from outside nature. It is set in the future after a great, painful war that has destroyed the rest of the world.

Similar to the idea of a serum used to control Dauntless, in D-503’s last journal entry, he shares his encounter with the “Great Operation”—a procedure that is mandated for all citizens in order to prevent acts of rebellion. This operation aims to remove imagination and emotions from its people, and turn them into mindless and controllable soldiers. This idea of a soldier—someone who carries out given orders—emphasizes the absence of individuality and freedom.

In Divergent, each teenager is given an aptitude test which, based on one’s personality, indicates a suitable faction. Each individual, however, has the free will to choose his/her permanent faction, regardless of the results. Yet, if any teenagers choose a faction that differs from their parents, they are unable to see/visit their parents.

By allowing individuals to choose their factions, these young individuals either succeed in earning their place by upholding or developing the main characteristic of their unit, or fail to belong and consequently become Factionless. Since some do succeed, people from different factions intermingle and produce children who may carry a mixture of traits from their parents. Over time, it is reasonable to assume that someone could be born with all the strengths of the five factions—therefore, this system actually encourages the inevitable creation of Divergents. While in Abnegation, Tris had an insatiable craving to be Dauntless, and her instinctive bravery is explainable by the fact that her mother used to be Dauntless herself. Maybe Tris has ancestors down her family line from every faction.

In Plato’s Republic, he discusses how people are composed by gold (commanders), silver (auxiliary), brass and iron (craftsmen)—predetermined by God himself. The species are generally preserved in their children, as they will most likely share a composition to that of their parents. However, “a golden parent will sometimes have a silver son, or a silver parent a golden son.” Plato continues to state that parents should observe the natural elements in their offspring, because nature may call for a “transposition of ranks”. He also mentions that no one should be disappointed if their offspring show elements of a lower “class” because it is part of the natural order. In Divergent, the teenagers’ right to determine their place in society themselves is not really a celebrated freedom. Before the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice encounters Jeanine, who tells her, “I’m sure your parents will support whatever choice you make.” Beatrice responds, “I thought it wasn’t supposed to be a choice. The test should tell us what to do.” “You’re still free to choose.” “But you don’t really want that.” Once Beatrice makes the decision to join a different faction, she sees the look of disappointment on her parents’ faces—the same look they expressed when they found out Caleb had also joined a new faction.

Although she has a Dauntless element inside of her, this society does not commemorate change that is not controllable by the ruling faction. In an effort to maintain some strict order within the system, there are rules. Once a decision has been made, the teenagers cannot change their mind about their faction and return to their old faction. In fact, if they fail inside their chosen faction, they must join the undesirable Factionless. Also, they must assume the “faction before blood” mantra. When Tris goes to see her brother at Erudite, he brushes her off and puts his devotion to his faction before his family. This in-group sense of identity keeps the five factions manipulatable. [See clip below]

Just as Divergent ends with the “revolution” still not yet won by Divergents (and allies), We ends with the future state of One State uncertain. Although parts of the Green Wall have been destroyed and there seems to be an increase in social rebellion, the survival of this society is still questioned. Divergent, however, does seem more hopeful in bringing about the near-future destruction of the totalitarian city-state—mainly because of a likeable, capable female lead who seems to be natural catalyst for change.

Andrew Niccol’s “Gattaca”

Gattaca, a 1997 film starring Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman, tells a thrilling tale set in the “not too distant future” as the opening scene chillingly states. The narrative follows a young man named Vincent Freeman, who lives in a world where one’s genetic makeup determines their entire life.

Vincent’s parents conceived him naturally in a world where eugenics reigns as the norm and parents can use technology to construct their own babies, picking the traits before birth that they desire most from gender to eye and hair color because “we have enough imperfection already.” Without such bioengineering to his advantage, Vincent is born and nurses instantly check the specific statistics that will determine his entire life. The expectations are not very promising: he has extremely high chances of attention deficit disorder, near-sightedness, and most importantly heart failure that forecasts his expected life span to be a startlingly young age of 32. Vincent grows up with messy hair and goofy glasses next to his brother Anton, who was genetically engineered and perfect, unlike him.

Genetic engineering and precise statistics of life expectancy are central to the Gattaca world because they determine one’s education, social class, and career. Those who are not reproductively structured for perfection like Vincent are “invalids” and cannot have high-ranking positions due to a short life expectancy and the problems caused by disease. As Vincent puts it:

My real résumé was in my cells… Of course, it’s illegal to discriminate, ‘genoism’ it’s called. But no one takes the law seriously. If you refuse to disclose, they can always take a sample from a door handle or a handshake, even the saliva on your application form… an illegal peek at your future in the company.

Unfortunately, Vincent is a bright boy and his dream is to go to space—he leaves home and gets a cleaning job at the space station Gattaca in order to be as close as possible to the flights. He realizes that he can no longer merely stand just watching the spaceships take off one by one without being a passenger, so he decides to resort to illegal measures. Vincent illicitly seeks out a man on the DNA black market to help him take on the identity of a young man named Jerome Morrow, a valid with perfect genetic makeup who was paralyzed from the waist down in an unrecorded accident out of the country. Jerome’s future is down the drain as a result of this accident, and he therefore shares a room with Vincent in which he donates the dreamy invalid his urine, blood, and even skin samples in return for money.

After he fixes up his appearance to look more like Jerome, Vincent finally applies to be on the team for a space mission. He instantly gets a position with an interview consisting of only a blood sample rather than any questions on ability. When he meets coworker Irene, we find that even the relationship between the sexes is genetically based: Irene presents him with a strand of hair to be genetically evaluated to see whether she would be a worthy partner.

Every morning Vincent must scrub himself raw in a shower to get rid of the loose skin that may fall off and reveal his identity in this extremely controlled world, and apply a skin sample filled with blood to his fingertip to be pricked as his entrance into work. Controversy ensues upon the murder of the space mission director near which Vincent’s eyelash is found, and Vincent must fight for his dreams, lying to authorities and living as a “borrowed ladder.”

In this world, the class system of elites versus lower workers on the bottom reminds me of The Time Machine’s divided workers, strictly separated based on how they were born rather than their skill level. There were certainly also historical parallels to be made in this movie. One such comparison is that between DNA discrimination in Gattaca and racial discrimination in the real world, especially when it comes to advancement and job opportunities. Vincent says “I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the color of your skin. No, we now have discrimination down to a science.” The eugenics of the world of Gattaca, or the control over birthing a “perfect” population was also eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s Nazi regime. Eugenics is a prominent feature in Gattaca, and it is no coincidence that the real Jerome requests to be called “Eugene” when he gives over his identity to Vincent. The parallels run into the eugenics class system of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. This genetically engineered form of mass reproduction reminiscent of cloning is called Bokanovsky’s Process, and is used to mass produce the Gammas, Epsilon and Deltas who perform working class servant jobs. This idea even has strands that go as far back as the metals myth employed by Plato in The Republic: the “noble lie” told to citizens that everybody is born equally, some just have gold in their veins while others have iron and therefore perform skill-based roles rather than leadership. Everybody must therefore be content in their class and career because it is embedded in one’s very being, quickly shutting down many incentives for revolt or effort to change the way things are.

The coldness of the movie’s colorless setting also reminded me of Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We.” Every surface area is engineered to be as flawless as the DNA of its elite, clean and sterile. It seems as if this world is a dystopia for the invalids, and a utopia for the valids. However, with a little rebellion and enough determination, Vincent makes it into space and concludes:

For someone who was never meant for this world, I must confess I’m suddenly having a hard time leaving it. Of course, they say every atom in our bodies was once part of a star. Maybe I’m not leaving… maybe I’m going home.

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gattaca-review-20080314041052316-000

Cool fun facts about the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119177/trivia

The most interesting fact I found from this is that the name Gattaca came from an arrangement of the four beginning letters of the nitrogen bases of DNA (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine).

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is the film rendition of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel. The film is set in the futuristic America, governed by the religious right. Past pollution has left only 1% of women fertile and capable of bearing children. Determined to continue the human race, the government has designated the task of childbearing to Handmaids, women who are still capable of bearing children. In this society, bearing children if you are able is a duty to society, not a choice. The film follows Kate, a woman who witnesses the murder of her husband and kidnapping of her daughter as they try to flee to Canada. Kate, a fertile woman, is forced to train as and become a Handmaid. The role of a Handmaid is to bear the children of the man to whom she is assigned. In the case of Kate, she is assigned to a Commander and his wife. While in the Commander’s home, Kate begins an affair with his chauffeur, Nick. Eventually, Kate becomes pregnant with Nick’s child. Ultimately, Kate kills the Commander and with Nick’s help, flees in order to escape her job as a Handmaid and her crime, as well as attempt to find her daughter.

Four of our course themes are extremely prevalent in the film, the themes of: human rights, the family and reproduction, ethics, and religion. In The Handmaid’s Tale, the individual is subordinate to society and is used as a means. The women who are fertile are kidnapped and educated (brainwashed), in their role as a Handmaid. Their task is seen as a duty to the nation morally; the failure to conform to their set of beliefs is met with severe punishment or death. Their freedom is entirely stripped in order to serve society. The role of the family and reproduction is also represented. Kate’s family, for example, is split apart in order to use her body as a Handmaid. Because fertility is rare, even in the men, few families are able to reproduce or have the opportunity. Few families are assigned a handmaid as well. Reproduction and fornication out of wedlock are punishable by public hanging which all partake in. You can see it here:

Ethics and religion also play strong roles in The Handmaid’s Tale. America in the film is run by the extreme religious right. The population is expected to repeat religious phrases such as “bless it be,” and protest against the sins of the past including fornication and abortions. One example in the film is when a girl being educated as a Handmaid is told to tell her story to the rest of the women about how “bad it was back then.” In high school she was raped by multiple classmates and became pregnant as a result. Her mother forced her to abort the child. The educators and women around her began aggressively shouting that it was her fault for being a slut, for leading them on, and ultimately committing the worst crime: abortion. The role of ethics and religion became a force of brainwashing unification in society in order to keep each member in line. The film is also a contrast to the society in Herland. In Herland, while women have freedom in decisions and most are capable of bearing children, only those deemed “fit” for bearing children are allowed to. It is seen as a privilege to give birth, rather than a choice. In The Handmaid’s Tale however, childbearing is seen as a dutiful obligation, rather than a choice. In a sense then, the two are similar by taking exact opposite views.

V is For Vendetta

The movie V is for Vendetta was released in movie theaters on March 17, 2006. Directed by James McTeigue and produced by Joel Silver, Lana (formerly Lawrence) Wachowski , and Andy Wachowski, the film is based on a comic book of the same name by David Lloyd and Alan Moore, although both asked not to be credited. The movie takes place in the future and is set in the United Kingdom which is the last surviving country as the rest of the world is in turmoil including what in the movie is called the former US, the United States.

Immediately you can tell that the society is a dystopian one where the government, known as the “party”, is a fascist one that rules under strict orders and curfews for the citizens. There are not only these rules that the society must follow, there is also the British Television Network that is run by the government and is used to instill fear and to outright lie in order to control the citizens. Citizens who disobey the orders of the government risk being arrested by the Fingermen (a separate government run police), and sent to concentration camps.

Another way the “party” controls the society is by using listening devices to spy on people’s conversations and figure out if they are actually believing the lies that they are being told.  This fear and the cruel nature of the “party” keep the citizens in order. There are loudspeakers on every corner of the town, that frequently remind citizens of their curfew and the other laws that are imposed on them as a country.

When the movie comes on we can hear a voiceover of the main character Evey- played by Natalie Portman saying:

“Remember, remember, the fifth of

November, the gunpowder treason and

Plot.  I know of no reason why the

Gunpowder treason should ever be

Forgot.”

She continues to speak in the background while we are shown the story of Guy Fawkes, a man who threatened to blow up the House of Parliament in 1605 but failed. Instead he was caught and killed.

Evey continues to speak:

“He was caught in the cellars with enough gunpowder to level most of London.”

“Sometimes I wonder where we would be if he hadn’t failed.  I wonder if it would have mattered.  I suppose the answer is in the rhyme.  More than the man, what we must remember is the plot itself.  For in the plot we find more than just a man, we find the idea of that man, the spirit of that man, and that is what we must never forget. This, then, is the story of that idea, of that spirit that began with an anarchist’s plot four hundred years ago.”

At this point the scene changes and she continues to speak in the background now speaking of her childhood and when things in the world changed. She speaks of how the society in the United Kingdom got to where it is “They offered such a simple deal; give up control and we will restore order.”…

After we are given the full background we meet Evey,( Natalie Portman) who is in her house watching the British Network Television station (where she also works), and getting prepared to go outside. We learn from the broadcaster “FATE” the date is November 4th in the year 2019 and it seems Evey is getting ready for an important date perhaps. Simultaneously, who we later find out to be V, is in his house getting prepared for what also seems to be an important date and is also watching the British Network Television while he gets ready.

Evey then leaves her house and while going to her destination is targeted by the Fingermen for being outside after her curfew. She gets into a fight with them and they are just about to rape her when “V” played by the actor Hugo Weaving, comes into the scene and kills the Fingermen. At this point he asks her to join him as he is a performer and wants her to hear his music. :

Fast forward and the next day V is able to break into the British News Network where Evey works and he broadcasts a message to the society over the emergency channels:

His goal throughout the movie is to kill off as many corrupt political officials and leaders to not only seek out his own revenge but in order to help rile up the citizens in London. He keeps Evey locked up in his home as he fears they may try to capture her in order to find him. She is later captured and sent to a concentration camp where she is tortured in order to hopefully obtain information about V. She becomes a different person during this time and not only transforms physically but also emotionally and mentally.

V’s pursuit is simple he hopes to succeed where Guy Hawkes failed. The film follows the events that take place over the year and is filled with suspense as Evey is catapulted into the events of V’s journey and is desperately trying to understand if this man who saved her when they first met is actually a friend or enemy. She struggles with who he is and who she is, while we see V is always determined and strong.

We are lead through the story of a corrupted government and the potential overturning of that government. It all depends on V and if he can go through with his plans.  The dystopian society is based on many of the themes we have discussed in the course. Fear and Government are the main ones that come through as the citizens are in fear of the government and are ruled by that fear.

The notion of the great lie also is evident as the government has lied about many of the events that have taken place in history and events currently taken place in their lives. They lie not only about their country but other countries as well. Devising chaos and turmoil is another way that they try to convince citizens of their need for the “Party”.  The end of the movie brings all of these themes together and we learn the final fate of Evey, V, the “Party”, and the dystopian society they live in.

The Hunger Games

The movie “The Hunger Games” is based on the book of the same name written by Suzanne Collins.  “The Hunger Games” is set in a dystopian society called Panem.  Panem which is divided into the Capitol, where the rich people in government live, and 12 Districts where the citizens live in abject poverty.  Many years before the movie is set, there was a civil war in which the then-13 Districts, rebelled against the Capitol.  The Capitol won the war, in the process, District 13 was completely destroyed.

Every year, to remind the citizens of what happened the last time they rebelled, each district has to give up 2 tributes: one teenage boy and one teenage girl, to fight to the death in the Hunger Games.  These are broadcast live throughout Panem.

The movie itself, follows the two tributes from District 12, Katniss Everdeen, and Peeta Mellark.  The plot of the movie, centers around them getting picked/volunteering for the games, getting ready for the games, fighting, and ultimately, in a rebellious act, threatening to commit suicide simultaneously when they are the last two tributes still alive, in order to become the first couple to win the Hunger Games.

This movie has dystopian themes of governance and human rights.  In this society, there is a totalitarian government headed by one man, President Snow similar to the government in the novel ­We, where the head of the government known as the Benefactor, is supposedly elected but the outcome is assured.  In both the “Hunger Games” and We, the individual is only important to the functioning of the society.  In We, there are no ‘people’ as such, only the citizens have numbers instead of names, while in “Hunger Games” the society isn’t a collective, there is still that theme of individual sacrifice for the greater good of the society when it comes to the tributes.

Every year, 24 teenagers are selected knowing that only 23 will come out alive, and this is cheered and emphasis is placed on the tributes’ bravery and sacrifice, knowing that they have no choice in the matter, once they’re chosen, they must fight, for the good of Panem.

This movie is also similar to the novel The Time Machine when it comes to the class system.  In The Time Machine the society is divided between the aristocratic Eloi and the proletariat Morlocks in a world where the Morlocks are in control and the Eloi are herded as sheep.  In “The Hunger Games” the aristocrats and other wealthy people in the Capitol want for nothing and are in control of the society, while the proletariat citizens of the districts are treated like sheep led to the slaughter.

The members of the capitol are tone-deaf.  They cheer on the tributes and place bets on their favorites to win.  They don’t seem to realize that these are real human lives being lost: picked up from poverty to kill their fellow citizens, for the entertainment of those whose children will never be picked.

Fahrenheit 451

The film Fahrenheit 451, directed by François Truffaut and distributed by Universal Pictures is an adaption of the dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury published in 1953. The film depicts the life in the world of a dystopian society that is ruled primarily by the Firemen- who exists to ensure that there are no books in the society. Those caught with books are sent to jail. Any books that are found in searches or during raids are publicly destroyed and burned by the Firemen in order to show the rest of the society what will happen if they are caught. The Firemen rely heavily on random searches and the citizens to report if someone is known to be in possession of the forbidden fruit in this society- books!

We learn early on and throughout the film from the main character Montag and the Fire Captain- Captain, that books are the source of unhappiness for people and leave them longing for things that are impossible to achieve in their own lives. The society instead relies on the news and other television programs which are broadcasted in their homes over wall screens (modern day flat screen televisions mounted on the wall). The newspapers are not news at all but instead are comic strips filled with pictures but no words.

Throughout the film we learn more about the cause of the destruction of any and all books primarily from the things that the Captain says in conversation with the main character Montag. We learn the following about the harsh nature of books and the societies view on them:

  • They make people unhappy about their own lives
  • They make people want their lives to be something they cannot be
  • There is nothing good in books and we can expect to gain nothing from them
  • He criticizes the philosophers and the fact that the work of philosophers is all contradictory
  • The Captain criticizes biographies and autobiographies- saying the authors only want to satisfy their own vanity- they are looking to stand out from the crowd
  • Reading is a form of separating people and a way of creating inequality

The main character slowly begins to have second thoughts about the society he is living in and does the unthinkable- he reads a book! After this he is faced with many internal challenges and comes to realize he is very unhappy with his own life and his wife Linda, who is very much immersed in the dystopian culture of the society. As he continues to read he no longer relates to the world he lives in. He also no longer fears the tactics of that are used by the Firemen and the Captain who are the source of government in this society. The way that they are able to control the other citizens with fear of the knowledge in books, Montag  instead is able to embrace the unknown and yearns for another way of life. Once he found knowledge in the words of the books he read he was able to break away from the fear.

In the end Montag is found out by his co-workers and is forced to escape the society he lives in. He ventures out to another town far from his own home. He heads to the town of the book people. In the new society he arrives in, which can also be seen as a dystopia, each member has committed to memory one book which they can recite from memory. This is a way to preserve the books in the world without risks of being caught or risk of the books being taken away from them. Instead they learn and memorize each book and burn the books as to not be caught. The irony is that in one society they are afraid and scared of the books and the power/knowledge within them on the other hand you have this separate alternate society where the members are slaves to books and do nothing but spend time trying to preserve them.

 

 

http://ffilms.org/fahrenheit-451-1966/  (Link to full film)

“Brazil” by Terry Gilliam

 

It is unclear when the term “bureaucracy” first began moving from its definition of a well-organized governance system of competent individuals to take on the negative connotations for which it is mostly used for today, but the clumsiness of the over-reaching ministry depicted in the 1985 film Brazil certainly does not bring the term any redemption. Throughout director Terry Gilliam’s socio-political satire, his authoritarian party mistakenly captures innocent citizens, sloppily covers up any erroneous incident, and constantly sends its employees running around to seek out individuals to sign stacks of paperwork that will inevitably be returned for lack of the proper amount of official stamps.

One such government employee is our own protagonist, Sam Lowry. A wiry, balding, day dreaming type, Sam’s work consists of collecting and organizing the paperwork which his ministry seems hopelessly reliant on. When he falls in love with one of the several citizens his government falsely accuses of being a terrorist, he joins a group of dissenters who are the only sane characters Gilliam presents to us. The crux of the film centers around Sam using what little power he has to protect his lover and advance the fight against the ministry while keeping his rebellious actions hidden from his rulers. As the plot progresses, we see our protagonist develop from a nervous and dissatisfied do-gooder to a spontaneous and motivated activist.

The ruling body remains unnamed throughout the film, but displays power through ambiguous and rather ridiculously named branches, such as the crude but somehow separately distinct ministries of “Information Retrieval” and “Information Distribution.” The party has become adept at pulling a hood over the eyes of its citizens, masking all of its vast inefficiencies by blaming them on missing paperwork or the actions of an undefined sect of extremists curtly dismissed as terrorists. Such elaborate ruses are what prevent society from noticing they seem to be governed by a haphazardly organized group of unelected imbeciles. The design of Gilliam’s governing authority is likely in some level influenced by the Orwellian totalitarian regime. Although there is a conspicuous lack of telescreens or any form of “thought police”, the technologies of Brazil are equally as ambitious yet extremely unreliable. There are paperwork processing machines that commit errors ultimately costing human lives, computer terminals that flicker and malfunction when displaying citizen information, and even breakfast machines that spill coffee over burnt toast. Throughout the film we observe the action amidst muted, grey set designs that are overwhelmingly bleak and instill a feeling of hopelessness and submittal. Gilliam is cleverly ironic when he names the overcrowded, run-down apartment building in which Sam makes his residence the “Shangri-La Towers.”

Another criticism Gilliam sneaks into several scenes throughout his film is that of society’s obsession of image and the way they present themselves. Sam’s own mother and her group of friends are the victims of grossly superfluous plastic surgery. One of these women is forced to wear bandages over most of her face after a botched procedure, and as her state worsens she tells Sam in a pleasant tone that it’s “just a minor complication, the doctor told me I’ll be beautiful soon,” until one of the last scenes of the film is the woman’s funeral. However, Sam’s mother’s surgery is such a success that she refuses to speak to her own son in order to preserve her youthful appearance. Background advertisements are ubiquitous throughout the film, often for ridiculously useless products that fit such an absurd society, such as fashionable air duct vents. A notable scene is when Sam is driving down a highway whose walls are completely made up of various billboards; the camera then zooms out to show that these multi-colored walls hide a barren, smoky wasteland through which the roads intersect.

Slogans hung about ministry buildings declaring “The Truth Shall Set You Free” or “Suspicion Breeds Confidence” offer a perspective into the insecurities that lie behind Gilliam’s paranoid governing powers. The political criticisms of Brazil offer the viewer a satirical look into a lackluster bureaucracy that’s scrambling to maintain their shaky control over a blissfully unaware populace.

 

 

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984).

Who controls the past controls the future, who controls the present controls the past

Based on the book 1984 by George Orwell, this film offers the viewer a glimpse into the life of Winston Smith as a member of this futuristic dystopia, Oceania. As a member of the outer party, Winston holds a government job rewriting history at the Ministry of Truth. Although the viewer is unsure how Winston got to this place in Oceania, it becomes apparent quickly that he thinks beyond what most other members of the superstate are capable of. Winston becomes close with Julia, another outer party member who also thinks for herself. They end up renting a room in the Proles’ neighborhood from a man who actually is part of the thought police. Winston and Julia get caught because a picture frame in the room had a camera behind it – in the scene, the frame falls down and we see Big Brother’s face and hear a voice commanding them to stop what they’re doing. Both go through torture and return back to their lives after they are deemed fixed by O’Brien, an inner party member.

1984-1984

Oceania is broken into three social classes with “Big Brother” as the omnipresent, revered ruler. The Inner Party is the ruling class that has the most freedom to do as they please and they seem to be the real eyes of Big Brother. The Outer Party is held under the most rigid ruling. They are supposed to be constantly patriotic and obsessed with Big Brother. They are ALWAYS watched by the television in their room, they are subject to daily worshiping of Big Brother and daily hate of Goldstein, a former party member who wrote a book exposing the realities of the state. The Inner Party may be using Goldstein as a possible scape goat that is used by the party to unite them against a common enemy. The Proles are the biggest group and are seen as the work force that takes care of the all the meaningless labor. The Inner Party keeps the proles busy by allowing them to engage in behaviors that are forbidden to the outer party – although the outer party is so brainwashed, it seems that Winston and Julia are the only ones who truly realize this.

613px-1984_Social_Classes_alt.svg

 

There is never a time that the viewer sees Big Brother in person and it makes me wonder if he even really exists OR if he is a symbol created by the highest, ruling class – the Inner Party.

Winston Smith: Does Big Brother even exist?

O’Brien: Of course he exists.

Winston Smith: No, I mean… does he exist like you or me?

O’Brien: You do not exist.

Historical context: When Orwell wrote this book in 1949, he most likely envision this to be the world in 1984 in the Soviet Union. Many elements of Big Brother are compared to Stalin and the USSR. The enemy of the state, Goldstein and his book, are compared to Trotsky and his book denouncing Stalin and the USSR. The thought police and vaporizing (erasing oceania traitors from history) are similar to the death sentence of any one in the USSR who went against the party and how they were literally erased from history.

Voroshilov,_Molotov,_Stalin,_with_Nikolai_Yezhov nadezuivering

Compare/Contrast: After reading We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, I am reminded of various aspects of the movie, 1984. In class on October 23, Professor Muzzio said that Orwell has said he was inspired by this book and that is why there are similarities. For instance, Big Brother in 1984 & The Benefactor in We are omnipresent rulers. People in both societies are also closely watched (mostly the outer party in 1984) – In 1984, they have big brother on all of their televisions that cannot be shut off and there are cameras hidden everywhere. There are also thought police constantly paying attention to their every move. In We, citizens live in glass apartment buildings so that they can be watched by the secret policy and the guardians unless there is a sex appointment. Both Winston and D-503 have important jobs within their societies – Winston works for the Ministry of Truth and actually has to rewrite history. D-503 is the head engineer that is working on the Integral space ship. Both characters do fall in love which leads them to break the rules of their society (which regulates sex in different ways). Both also keep journals that they are writing for unknown readers. I see 1984 as more of a hopeless society especially through Winston’s eyes. To D-503, it seems that One State is a cohesive group and although he questions it at points, he ultimately stays loyal to his society when he betrays his lover to the Benefactor.

Five elements essential to creating the perfect dystopian society, like Oceania.

Get rid of anything enjoyable for the people you want to control: Get rid of it all! Delicious food and real coffee, books, real friendships, leisurely sex, orgasms… get rid of it all. While the Inner Party can most likely enjoy these things, the Outer Party (Winston’s group) is completely deprived of them. A group of people cannot be controlled if they are not a little deprived, a little dumb and a little empty inside.

http://movieclips.com/vGyWk-1984-movie-do-you-like-me/

Thought Police & Thought Crimes: As an outer party member, you should be acting and thinking in a certain way. What you believe is always wrong if it goes against what Big Brother says. For example, Winston has to rewrite part of Oceania’s history after they change allies in their war, which may or may not be completely real as well. After a rewrite of history, it must be accepted that this is truth and truth is only what Big Brother tells us is truth.

http://movieclips.com/GfZ7z-1984-movie-it-creeps-up-on-you/

Be in a constant state of war: War is meant to be continuous and victory is not possible. According to Goldstein’s book (which Winston secretly has hidden within the pages of the Newspeak dictionary), war is meant to keep a state’s people are the brink of starvation – It is meant to keep the structure of society in tact.

http://movieclips.com/mgPV-1984-movie-victory-is-not-possible/

Get rid of the ability for people to use words: By the time the viewer enters into the world of Oceania, the state is already on its 10th edition of the Newspeak dictionary. Each edition becomes smaller as the state tries to control language in an effort to control the people.

Syme: Beautiful thing, the destruction of words.

Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect?

Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here

[the larynx]

Syme: , not from here

[the brain]

Create a common enemy that is blamed for EVERYTHING: Goldstein – the hated traitor that once was a member of the inner party before he committed possible thought crime or rebelled against Big Brother. Throughout the film, there are public apologies displayed on the television screen… the last one being Winston’s… and they all admit to reading Goldstein’s teachings and betraying the state like he did.

http://movieclips.com/Qo3qw-1984-movie-two-minutes-hate/

Fourierism

Charles Fourier: 1772-1837

Charles Fourier was born in 1772 and lived until 1837. He was the influencer of many utopian societies that emerged in the US around mid-1800. He influenced the likes of Karl Marx and also Albert Brisbane, who influenced the Brook Farm utopian society in Massachusetts.

During Fourier’s lifetime he did not witness any of the societies or communities that that followed his teachings, which were called associations, but he did die trying to acquire funding to build one of his very own and was in the process of doing so when he died. The communities he inspired were called associations and followed what was known as associationism.

LIFE & ABOUT 

Charles Fourier was born in Besancon, France to parents Charles and Marie Fourier.  His dad was a wealthy cloth merchant. When he died in Paris in 1837 he was regarded as “Near illiterate”.

Throughout his life Fourier resented the intellects of his time, because they ignored his ideas. Some of his more fantastic ideas about the future of society were people would grow to a height of 7 ft., live to be 144 years old, have powerful tails, and lastly he believed that inevitably there would be a communal association of people who worked and lived together- all a part of the human future.

He had strong beliefs about women and the rights of women. In 1837 he coined the term Feminisme. He also disagreed heavily with the treatment of European women and the family structure (perhaps why in his ideas and theories he later suggested women would have 4 husbands and have a different family role).  As early as 1808 he was quoted saying “level of development of any civilization could be determined by the extent to which women are liberated”

 

WHAT IS FOURIERISM? GOVERNING BELIEFS & THEORIES OF FOURIER

Fourier’s governing philosophy comes out of his books which start with the book Theory of Four Movements. Fourier believed that the structure of economics, politics, and the social system, – prohibited the pursuit of God-given passions. This prevented people from achieving a state of universal harmony. He believed that through an understanding of the process Fourier called “social science” new economic and social formations called associations could be formed.

Fourier believed there were 32 stages of society. He believed he was living in the 5th stage Modern Society. Modern society was based on capital and labor- the era of the salesman- selling goods through the work of the middleman – he called this civilization and blamed it on the cause of fraud, waste, human unhappiness. The stage Modern society would be followed by Stage 6 when Modern Society vanishes and Guarantism follows. It is based upon principles of “universal insurance” guarantee of employment, labor, and security of capital. Stage 7 Simple Association was based on the cooperative enterprise of like bodies of farmers, artisans, etc. as distinct groups. Stage 8 Compound Association/ Harmonism was the stage where all pursuits would join in large associations shattering economic lines

Charles Fourier believed there were scientific laws which governed social interactions. The natural passions of man would, if properly channeled, result in social harmony- the Phalanx.  For these ideas and beliefs he created Fourier believed he was as important as Isaac Newton for his discovery of the fundamental source that drives social development.

12 Basic Passions of humanity– grouped around three branches of a passional tree (luxurious passions, affective passions, and distributive passions) Fourier believed that this is how the future world would be shaped

Passional attraction/ System of Passions

12 passions:

5 passions of the senses- (sight, hearing, touch, scent, taste)

4 passions of the soul (friendship, love, ambition, parenthood)

3 passions that related to work (love of variety, rivalry, conspiracy)

Fourierism Structure based on class themes: Economics/ Family and Reproduction/ Political and Government/ Ecology

Economics – economic output in a Fourier community comprised of:

    • Labor
    • Capital
    • Talent

Each of these parts was important to production and needed to be compensated for prosperity of the association. Compensation would be based on the time of labor, difficulty of task, desirability of the task, and level of skill needed for completing the job.

Family and Reproduction (Social Life) – Phalanxes would be made up of 1620 people of various social classes. They would be arranged in occupational series with major division between industries.  Producers and agrarians separate from each other. Divided first by job, then divided in smaller groups to conduct various aspects of work. There would however be the ability for mobility between groups according to personal wants.

Political / Government– Fourier never suggest any government and suggested voluntary participation for the phalanxes to work. Emulation of the initial community would be inspired by the first community and spread because of the benefits that the community would have and produce.

Ecology– because of the eventual international spread of Fourierism, Charles believed war would be eliminated in our society and armies would arise only for large scale projects that would engage in mainly ecological projects such as climate transformation.

WHY FOURIERISM- Charles Fourier’s ideas for Fourierism arise from a need for a better work environment and liberty for all. Although he felt industry could produce wealth he thought its methods were alienating. The Phalanx would be a type of work unit in which work was distributed on a rational and rotating basis. Fourier thought that the phalanx would produce triple the products of industry because of the industrial attraction and concord of the passions in the Phalanx communities. Fourier thought that his ideas would produce liberty for all. He felt liberty if not enjoyed by all is unreal and with Fourierism we would be able to secure liberty.

Fourierism  – PowerPoint with photos.

Metropolis

Metropolis is set in futuristic utopian-like society where the residents are living carefree lives. They have skyscrapers and fun leisure activities and have no worries. They know little about the ones who work to keep their city this way. The Master of Metropolis is a man named Joh Frederson. One day his son, Freder, catches a glimpse of a beautiful woman and discovers the underground world of the working class. He is quick to turn against his father and wants to help the working class. Joh Frederson ruled Metropolis as a dictator where everything he said was absolute. If he wanted another building to be constructed the workers would have to work overtime to complete this task. While the working class worked underground all day, Freder and other wealthy individuals enjoyed themselves at the “Club of the Sons”. It seems that if you were born into the “right” family you could have a carefree life. The working class was unhappy with their situation and that nothing was being done to improve it. The whole Metropolis is like a large body. The Master of Metropolis is the mind, he requests projects to be done, and the workers are the hands, they do all the work. A common ground was needed and it was said that the mediator between the mind and the hands is the heart. They looked up to a woman named Maria because she predicted that one day a mediator would come to settle their differences. It could be said that Maria is an embodiment of religion because she instilled beliefs in their mind of this mediator. The working class would listen to every word she said. This was the reason that Joh Frederson created a robot in her likeness to try to “control” his workers. You would think that the future workers would have more robots doing their jobs for them. What I found was interesting was that on the surface Metropolis looks like a utopian society, but underneath lies a dystopian society. This reminds me of Lost Horizon by James Hilton geographically because Shangri-La is is hidden utopia within a mountain and usually mountains are quite an elevation off the ground. Once the citizens descend the mountain they realize they will sooner die. Shangri-La is ruled by the High Lama but he does not command his population. Most of the citizens do not even get to see the High Lama. Other than that if you lived within the utopian section all your life, you would not know that there was anything else.

“The Iron Heel” (1908), Jack London

The Iron Heel (1908), Jack London

Summary:
The Iron Heel is a multi-level story of the past, present, and future—all at the same time. Avis Cunningham (Everhard), a middle-class-lady-turned-revolutionist in the United States, writes a manuscript of events that have occurred in her past (1910s), but narrates it in the present tense. She writes about the ongoing revolution to topple the capitalist system, not knowing that it would actually take multiple revolts after her for capitalism to finally fall.

The plot within the manuscript first focuses on Cunningham’s encounter with Ernest Everhard, who eventually becomes her husband. She first meets Everhard, a man from the working class, at her father’s dinner party. Everhard challenges the higher classes to recognize the contemporary flaws and inevitable crumbling of the capitalistic system, debates socialist theories with them, and describes the current reality of the working class. Everhard opens up the door of socialism for Cunningham, Dr. Cunningham, and Bishop Morehouse—gradually allowing each to come to accept a revolutionist’s perspective.

This ultimately leads Everhard to state, “That, gentlemen, is socialism, a greater combination than the trusts, a greater economic and social combination than any that has yet appeared on the planet. We meet combination with greater combination.” (London, Ch. 8).

Cunningham discovers real flaws within the capitalistic system—from company negligence to unjust courts, and from dirty conspiracies to bribes and treason. There are multiple confrontations between Everhard and capitalist defenders. In one instance, he reveals the hypocrisy of middle-class merchants, who support capitalism but rage against “bigger dogs” who have taken their profits. Everhard describes the rise of the socialism, and how a impactful uprising throughout the world is in the works.

The entire second half of the novel deals with the physical revolutionary action against the “Iron Heel”. The revolutionaries plan to seize power and control through a coup d’etat, rather than a social revolution. The proletariats/laborers plan to take power from the ruling class, from the trusts, and gain control of all the machinery. Cunningham goes into secret hiding, changes her identity, and sends and receives messages to/from other revolutionaries—all for the socialist cause. Cunningham and Everhard, even though briefly jailed and separated, continue their plans for the First Revolt with enthusiasm.

The First Revolt was planned for the spring of 1918. The revolutionaries planned to blow up wireless stations; transportation networks (bridges, tunnels); and seize officers of the Mercenaries, police, and Oligarchy. Other simultaneous events were to occur in neighboring cities and countries all around the world. It was doomed from the start, however. While undercover with the Oligarchs, Cunningham discovers that the revolutionary plot in Chicago–the “storm-centre of the conflict between labor and capital”–has been discovered (Ch. 22). Knowing that “Chicago is to be sacrificed,” she still makes her way to the doomed city, where Everhard is presumed to be. Although she is able to reunite with her husband, the destruction is obvious– bodies lay in red pools in the streets, suspicious traitors are questioned and executed on the spot, and bombs and explosions fill the city with noise and destruction.

 

Although the First Revolt fails, the revolutionaries quickly plan a Second Revolt—even with a recent passing of one of their capable leaders, Everhard (which is never explained). The story ends in mid-sentence, and it is suggested that Cunningham must have been rushed to hide the manuscript. She was never able to return to finish the manuscript, and her fate is also unknown. Unfinished and kept hidden until discovered 700 years into the future, the manuscript gets updated with footnotes and a foreword by Anthony Meredith, who provides useful historical context and explanations. By this time, Meredith is living under socialism.

Author:
Jack London’s view of socialism was not concrete. In fact, his political views were a personal cocktail of conflicting theories—emotional demands for social justice, racial superiority of the white race, and social Darwinism (Trott). This idea of social evolution was a part of his socialist thinking—he understood that class conflict and subsequent revolution were inevitable facts of nature (“The Iron Heel: A Jack London Novel…”). He became a member of the Socialist Labor Party in 1896, and joined the Socialist Party of America in the early 1900s.

By 1906, London had already abandoned the idea of a “mass working-class movement to overthrow capitalism and establish a new society” (Trott). Although The Iron Heel starts out with the strong belief that socialism can overwhelm capitalism, London indicates that socialism is not attainable in the likely future (multiple revolt failures)—declaring that the working class is actually powerless in freeing itself from capitalistic rule. Although the Iron Heel eventually topples a few centuries later, the capitalist system fails because of its own vulnerabilities—not through an overtaking.

The Iron Heel was “remarkably prophetic” in describing the actions of government during World War I, after London’s death (“The Iron Heel: A Jack London Novel…”). London discusses the utilization of secret police, reactionary mobs, spies, and terrorism the Iron Heel and revolutionaries participated in. He also describes the heavy censorship of papers and control of media, which proved to be a major disadvantage for the revolutionaries. The Espionage Act passed during WWI brought about paper censorship, jailed outspoken dissenters, and “protection groups” that went around towns dealing with unpatriotic people. His predictions were oddly foretelling.

Circumstances of the times:
The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw much economic and social sickness, including: the Depression of 1873, the Pittsburgh railroad strike and the July riots of 1877, the Haymarket Riot of 1886, the Great Panic of 1893, the mass demonstrations of the unemployed, the control of monopoly and large-scale production in just a few people (Vanderbilt, Moore, Rockefeller), and the establishment of trusts (Khouri). People struggled over power and money.

During this time, socialism and other movements against capitalism were quickly defeated. With an accelerated birth and growth of industrialization and a working-class movement, utopian and dystopian texts were published in great numbers. There seemed to be a collective pursuit of the “future and projection of utopian hopes or anguished fears” (Portelli). Also, the intellectual and economic analysis of socialist thinkers (like Karl Marx) in the early 1900s, started to make influences throughout the modern world.

Governance/Economics:
The society is broken down into three main classes: the Plutocracy (wealthy trusts), the middle class (professionals), and the proletariat (wage workers). In respect to governance, the Plutocracy holds the power over the machines, the economy, the law, and the force that supports the law. They rule with an “iron heel” that is as “relentless and terrible as any despotism that has blackened the pages of the history of man” (London, Ch. 9).

The central struggle occurs between the Plutocrats and proletariats. The Plutocrats have formed the Oligarchy and the Iron Heel to dominate every aspect of this society. The middle class is essentially either bought out by the Plutocrats, or joins the proletarian cause. Because of this separation of the middle class, it eventually dies out. There is no longer a medium, a neutral party—only extremes.

The Plutocrats rule with a capitalist stick. They suppress socialism with its secret agents and control of the press; they whip the Catholic Church into obedience and keep the church on a short leash; they rob the workingman’s vote (Ch. 13). The result? A great surplus they must dispose of abroad.

The proletariats, or revolutionaries, take on a socialist view as their ideal form of government. Everhard attempts to mathematically validate why capitalism is designed to fall, using Karl Marx’s theory of surplus value. According to the capitalist system, any unconsumed surplus must be disposed of overseas, because capital in its own country has already consumed as much as it is capable. Surpluses are sold to countries with undeveloped resources and, eventually, these countries become developed and have their own surpluses. With a limited number of countries on the planet, every country will eventually have a surplus, and will “stand confronting every other country with surpluses in their hands” (Ch. 9). In order to avoid this problem, countries should not generate any surplus by “returning to a primitive method of production”. However, Everhard acknowledges that the machines cannot be destroyed and the “tide of evolution” cannot “flow backward” (Ch. 9). Therefore, possessing power over the machines will allow for careful production. The proletariats do not want to destroy the trusts and the machines, but to own and supervise them.

In an effort to dismiss and discredit socialist theories, the Plutocrats manage the press. Respected thinkers presenting socialist views are written off as sick or mentally unstable, or are branded as anarchists. Certain middle class individuals are invited to join the trusts and enjoy increased wages with shorter hours, if they belong in a favored union (Ch. 15). Members of these favored unions are now relabeled as traitors to the lower classes, and a divided caste system arises (aristocracy of labor, the rest of labor, and military castes).

Human Rights:
The governing class very loosely respects the idea of human rights. When Cunningham investigates Jackson’s case (concerning fairness in the justice system), she discovers that there was absolutely no justice in the judge’s court. She remembers Everhard’s charge that the gowns she wears, the food she eats, and her rooftops all drip with blood of men and children—and she begins to shudder at the size of these stains (Ch. 3).

Speech and the press were often censored to the Plutocrats’ favor. Reporters twisted words out of context and described controlled comments as “howling anarchistic” speeches; socialist presses were destroyed or barred from being mailed; and the Black Hundreds (reactionary mobs) caused violence and havoc to later redirect responsibility to the revolutionary groups (Ch. 10).

People were thrown into sanitariums without sufficient reason. People were jailed but not charged (e.g. Cunningham was kept in prison for six months). People were drafted to serve in the military—forced to serving the Plutocracy by fighting against their own families and friends in their own home-fronts. People who refused to serve in the militia were executed. People disappeared without warning, never to be seen again. The Iron Heel controlled the peoples’ rights.

Religion:
Bishop Morehouse is a heartbreaking symbol of the vulnerable church. When Everhard first proclaims that the “Church is not teaching Christ these days…the Church is supported by the capitalist class” (Ch. 2), Morehouse experiences a revelation. Now alert, he goes on a “soul-sick” journey to visit the homes of the wageworkers and the slums of San Francisco and finds a renewed purpose. Morehouse states that the “palaces of the Church should be hospitals and nurseries for those who have fallen by the wayside and are perishing” and begins to preach the message of Jesus more passionately to show the church that they need to take a more serious, holy stand (Ch. 7).

His purified passion lands him inside a sanitarium, with the newspapers reporting of his mental instability (Ch. 12). His mandatory solitary confinement helps make him “sane” again, but only momentarily, out of fear. Everhard shares his bitterness with Cunningham by stating, “The Bishop obeyed Christ’s injunction and got locked up in a madhouse…Society has spoken.” This statement strengthens the disappointing realization that the church has strayed so far from the Word (gospel), heavily choked by capitalism’s deadly chains.

Morehouse eventually gets out again and disappears from the public light, continuously working for the Lord in quiet. In the end, his body is discovered in the streets of Chicago “torn and mangled” among other bodies (Ch. 24). Seeing a devoted Bishop die while fighting for the church, and with not much advancement, sadly reduces the level of supernatural hope that people want to have while enduring hardships.

Conclusion:
The Iron Heel narrates a determined, revolutionary effort against the Oligarchy. While the manuscript details a motivated effort to bring down capitalism and to replace it with socialism, the reader, through Anthony Meredith’s footnotes, is aware of its doomed ending. This dramatic irony channels the sarcastic humor of Jack London, who wanted to inform society that the working class is powerless at overwhelming capitalism, and socialism is not achievable in its near future.

 

A PowerPoint PDF with a brief overview is also available, here.

Sources:

London, Jack. “The Iron Heel.” Project Gutenberg E-Book. Dec. 2012. Web.<http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1164/1164-h/1164-h.htm#link2H_FORE>.

Khouri, Nadia. “Utopia and Epic: Ideological Confrontation in Jack London’s The Iron Heel.” Depauw. Science Fiction Studies. July 1976. Web. <http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/9/khouri9art.htm>.

“The Iron Heel: A Jack London Novel You Didn’t Read in School!” Daily Kos. 2011. Web.<http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/04/952595/-The-Iron-Heel-A-Jack-London-Novel-You-Didn-t-Read-in-School>.

Portelli, Alessandro. “Jack London’s Missing Revolution.” Depauw. Science Fiction Studies. July 1982. Web. <http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/27/portelli.html>.

Trott, Steve. Jack London’s The Iron Heel.” The Socialist Party of Great Britian. Jan. 2008. Web. <http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2000s/2008/no-1241-january-2008/jack-londons-iron-heel>.

The Time Machine: Communist Utopia/Capitalist Dystopia

H. G. Wells wrote The Time Machine in 1895 during the Industrial Revolution of late Victorian England. England at the time had a capitalist economy based on rich people making their money off the backs of poor factory workers. Wells was a socialist.  The Time Machine starts off as a deceptive communist utopia that is ultimately revealed to be an exaggerated future vision of capitalist dystopia.

At the time of his writing, industrialist capitalism had been going on for many years.  According to Hoppen, “By 1850 Britain had become the workshop of the world.  Manual power lay at the heart of the production process, assisted often only by the simplest of mechanical equipment.  Human beings were cheaper to install than steam engines and much more adaptable to their behavior than a self-acting steam or press” (59).

At the same time, critiques of capitalism were being written such as by Karl Marx, whose ideas most likely influenced Wells.  According to Bowles, “Marx argued that capitalism was based on the exploitation of the working class by the capitalist class.  Although it might appear that the buyers and sellers of labor met “equally” in the marketplace and entered “freely” into contracts with each other for mutual gain, this masked the reality of the capitalist system.  The capitalists had a monopoly of the means of production (firms) where workers had only their capacity to work to sell.  This was the basis of capitalist production: capitalists who owned firms hired workers who owned only their labor, and the former sought to use the labor that they had to make a profit for themselves” (63).

Wells, himself a socialist, wrote what seems at first to be a simple time-travel story.  In The Time Machine the reader is introduced to the man who is only ever named as “The Time Traveler” in the frame story where the narrator and other sundry guests are invited to dinner at the Time Traveler’s house in (contemporary to Wells) England.  The Time Traveler announces to his guests that he has built a working time machine in miniature which he then demonstrates to his guests.  It disappears from space into time unknown.  This, he announces is only a prelude to him finishing the full size time machine which he intends to use and report back to his guests, at another dinner next week.

The next week, after he has come back, bedraggled from his travels, the real story starts as he recounts to his guests when he went in time.  The meat of Wells’ story takes place in the year 802, 701 AD.

As he recounts, when The Time Traveler had stopped his machine, he had arrived so far into the future that most traces of British civilization had disappeared.  The earth was filled with “ruinous splendor” (Wells 24).  Humankind had evolved to become smaller, weaker, and with fewer distinctions between the sexes.  There were no longer family units; instead, the people who call themselves the Eloi lived 100 together in communes, large palaces that have tables and cushions.   The Eloi only ate fruit, and as the Time Traveler discovered quickly when he tried to explain how he got there, they had the intellect and attention spans of Victorian children (21).

This, at the time, appeared to The Time Traveler to be a communist utopia.  According to the themes of this course, in this utopia, the ideal form of government was that none was needed.  There were no quarrels because the Eloi were simple minded people without any ambitions or complex wants that couldn’t be fulfilled.  There was no technology in this society, the Eloi lived simply and spent their days talking, eating, sleeping, dancing, playing, and flirting.  No technology beyond the manufacture of their clothing was needed.  As The Time Traveler discovered later, this was the first hint that all was not what it seemed.  The relationship between the Eloi and the natural world was one of harmony with nature.  The Eloi picked fruit from the trees to eat and picked flowers with which they used to decorate themselves but didn’t cultivate the naturally occurring gardens.  In this future, nature had reclaimed the land, but while the buildings were in disarray there were no weeds or poisonous berries that the Eloi had to take care of.  The Time Traveler also never came across any old or infirm Eloi, he assumed they had eradicated disease some time ago, but this was also a clue…

Shortly after the Time Traveler arrived, his time machine was stolen.  The Eloi had not taken it.  When he tried to ask them what had happened to it, they didn’t even understand his questions but simply laughed at him (31). When he goes back to look for it, he thinks he spies a white animal out of the corner of his eye…

The bulk of the novel is spent with The Time Traveler investigating what happened to his time machine, the true nature of human civilization in this future, and a minor romantic subplot after he rescues an Eloi woman named Weena from drowning.

He quickly learns that the reason the Eloi sleep in communes indoors is because they are very, very afraid of the dark.  They have good reason for this, as The Time Traveler discovers when investigating underground ventilation shafts and discovers that the white animals he’s been spying are creatures named Morlocks who have taken his time machine.

The Time Traveler as he chases after the Morlocks in an attempt to get his machine back without being killed comes up with a theory for these two species, the Eloi and the Morlocks.  He notices that the Morlocks, which are furry ape-like creatures with large greyish-red eyes that reflect light in order to see in the dark, live entirely underground, and have some intelligence in order to maintain machinery and their ventilation shafts (39).

His final theory, after coming up with several wrong ones over the course of the novel, is that the Eloi and the Morlocks are both descendants of Victorian humankind.  The Eloi are the descendants of the ruling elite, the bourgeois capitalists that own the factories in England.  The Morlocks are the descendants of the poor factory workers who, having to work to survive, kept getting exiled out of the sunlight by the bourgeois until they had no choice but to live underground and adapt to the darkness.  The ended up living in pitch blackness for so long that their bodies adapted until they no longer resembled normal humans.

Throughout all this, the proletariat-Morlocks kept taking care of the aristocrats-Eloi until it became habit.  Eventually the Eloi, having everything they need provided for, no longer had any wants.  In consequence, their brains and physiques became stunted from lack of stimulation.  They stopped eating meat, and the Morlocks, who still required the nutrients that only meat could provide, started taking care of the Eloi as if they were cattle… and eating them as such as well (48, 52).  No wonder the Eloi were terrified of them!

And so we come to the dystopian aspect of our story.  Like the communist utopia flipped on its head, this dystopia deals also with the course themes.  A capitalist economy is not ideal; it creates a class system with an income disparity and a severe inequality.  The workers depend on their bosses for their livelihood but because poor people are a dime a dozen, and thoroughly disposable, the elites need not care for their quality of living one bit.

Capitalist production was characterized by a central antagonism: the interests of workers and capitalists were diametrically opposed.  It was in the interests of the workers to work as little as possible, and it was in the interests of the capitalists to extract as much effort as possible from workers while paying them as little as possible (Bowles 63).

When the [workers] broke down, the master did not have to pay them for repairs; when they made a mistake he could fire them; when there was no work for them to do he could give them the sack (Samuel 58).

Wells’ story served as a cautionary tale to the capitalists: if you don’t stop now, if you don’t provide welfare for your poor and get rid of this class system- this is your future.

To finish summarizing the story, The Time Traveler, with the help of Weena, though she unfortunately died in the struggle, eventually confronted the Morlocks and took back his stolen time machine.  Exhausted, he got on and travelled even farther into the future when there were no more buildings, no more human or human-like creatures, and eventually the Earth was dead.  At that point, demoralized, he went back home to Victorian England, arriving only a few hours after he left even though he had lived eight days on his travels.  He finishes telling his story, and it seems nobody believes him even though he still has strange flowers in his pocket that Weena had given him.

The narrator is intrigued and goes back to see The Time Traveler one more time only to see him get back into his machine and disappear again into time unknown.  In an epilogue, the narrator mentions that it has been three years since The Time Traveler disappeared and they have not seen him since.

In conclusion, Wells was a socialist who wrote an entertaining science fiction story to comment on the inequality present in his contemporary Victorian England caused by capitalism.  It explored what might happen if history stayed on its present course as a warning that it might be changed.  It also, in the beginning, provided a vision of a communist utopia that society might model itself on if it so wished.

Works Cited

Bowles, Paul. A Short History of Big Idea: Capitalism.  Great Britain: Pearson Longman                             2007.  Print.

Hoppen, K. Theodore. The Mid-Victorian Generation 1846-1886. Oxford: Clarendon Press,                      1998. Print.

Samuel, R.  “Workshop of the World: Steam Power and Hand Technology in Mid-Victorian                     Britain.” History Workshop Journal 3 (1977): 58. Print.

 Wells, H. G. Dover Thrift Editons: The Time Machine.  New York: Dover Publications          Inc, 1995. Print.

 

“The Village” (2004): Fear…and Love! But Mostly Fear.

The Village (2004), M. Night Shyamalan

Brief Summary (without spoilers!):
The Village (2004) is about Covington—a small, self-sufficient village in the woods that lives in isolation from the outside world. Consistent with the late 1800s, the village people wear traditional garbs, perform agricultural and domestic tasks, and live free of technology and modern medicine. Covington is run by a handful of men and women Elders, each of whom have a painful, secretive past in connection to the outside “towns”.

When an incident leaves one of the villagers fighting for his life, his lover asks the Elders for consent to enter the impermissible woods to reach the outside towns for much needed medicines. The lover and heroine is a blind girl named Ivy, daughter to the head Elder, Mr. Walker. He ultimately reveals truths about the village, the creatures in the woods, and the secrets of the Elders to her. With this information, Ivy journeys, alone, beyond the safety of her village into the woods and (hopefully) reaches the outside world in time to save her lover’s life.

Watch the entire film on YouTube, here.

At first glance, communal intimacy and youthful innocence portrays the village in a utopian light. There are frequent long-table dinners, barn wedding celebrations, and hide-and-seek games within the flowery fields. However, this society lives in vigilant fear of the haunting creatures lurking beyond their borders—which are attracted to the color red and are only referred to as “those we do not speak of”.

A discussion over a slain animal, in what appears to be an elementary classroom setting, shows the village children believing “those we don’t speak of killed it”… “they’re meat eaters”… “they have large claws,” (6:45). The Elder speaking to them stresses “We do not go into their woods, and they do not come into our valley. It is a truce.” This tells the younger generation that they must never leave the mental and physical safety net of the village; they must abide by the rules.

As with most children, some of the village boys have a daring appetite for rebellion or adventure. In one scene, a village boy has been dared to stand on a tree stump at the edge of the borders, with his back to the woods (14:40). His friends watch from a safer distance, seeing how long he can last before getting scared. Eventually, his fear gets the best of him and he runs away from the edge. They are all encouraged, by fear, to obey. Always.

Because of fear, the people lack courage. Only Ivy experiences such bravery, which is fueled by her deep love for her fiancé, Lucius. She has the courage to venture into unknown territories even though she is blind. She has the will to continue her journey even after her two assisters have abandoned ship. She also has the determination to face and defeat a creature that attacks her in the woods. In all of these instances, love conquers fear.

Ivy’s character is very brave, even though many people may view her blindness as a major limitation/flaw.
Ivy garners the courage to fight off a creature in the woods.

Unknowing to the village people, fear is the Elders’ method of controlling/governing them— they use fear to protect their village. It is all mainly to prevent the villagers from physically venturing out beyond their borders, and to squash any curiosity or interests of the outside world. No one ever leaves, and no one (an outsider) ever enters Covington.

A great clip on the villagers’ fear of “those we don’t speak of”:

There are other rules and regulations the village people also follow. People must be granted authorization to venture out; people need the blessing for a marriage; all accidents/incidents must be reported to the Elders. The men and women Elders make decisions altogether, always as one. The Elders even take turns being the chairman for meetings (although, Mr. Walker is the definite head Elder). They are seen as trustworthy, all-knowing, and right/true to their people, mainly because of wisdom gained from interaction with the “outside towns” before settling here.

What the Elders eventually realize, however, is that “heartache is a part of life” (1:14:00). Even though they had each tried to leave their painful pasts behind (dealing with a violent or unexpected death of a loved one) in the outside world, they still continued to experience the pain of losing loved ones inside the village (to disease and accidents). This reminds me of the people who scarcely age, in James Hilton’s Lost Horizon. The High Lama, or Perrault, himself has been living for over 300 years. Other people within Shangri-La, like Lo-Tsen, have been able to retain beauty and youth over many years—they are all about preservation, and relish in their carefree bliss. However, in Covington, the Elders work to erase knowledge about the outside world—and its population is not really expanding.

In Lost Horizon, Shangri-La is able to sustain its population by bringing outsiders into its valley; yet, it is so well hidden from the outside world, that Conway struggles to ever find his way back to paradise. Covington, on the other hand, prides itself on staying completely isolated from the outside world. Ivy later learns that the village exists somewhere deep inside a wildlife preservation, well-funded by her family’s estate to keep people out and planes out from sight. The Elders never look to invite outsiders to join the village, and its population grows only through existing lineages.

In terms of economy, money does not play a role in this society. Ivy’s father enlightens her that “money can be a wicked thing. It can turn men’s hearts black. Good men’s hearts.” (1:00:03). The village does not have a need for money since they are communal and they do not need to interact with other towns to exchange goods and services. The Valley of the Blue Moon, in Lost Horizon, seems to agree with this notion that money is not the most important center in one’s life. Henry Barnard, or Charlmers Bryant, is a financier who stole millions in USD and disappeared from America. He finds comfort in the valley and wants to stay—offering his services to prospect gold to improve life in the lamasery. It appears that the valley is inspiring Barnard to turn his greed for money around, and instead, to give him a newfound purpose of being a contributing member of society.

[Spoilers ahead]
Even though fear is the Elders’ main weapon to govern Covington, they use deception and secrecy as supporting tools. When Mr. Walker brings Ivy to an old, locked shed, he allows her to touch what hangs inside—there are three creatures with “boar-like masks inside their robes, and clawed hands. They are costumes.” (1:07:40). He then proceeds to explain to a very surprised and stunned Ivy that “everything is farce”:

Ivy: The screams? From the woods?
Walker: We created those sounds.
Ivy: The Ceremony of Meat?
Walker: We remove it ourselves. An Elder is always assigned.
Ivy: The drills… they are farce, too?
Walker: We did not want anyone to go to the towns, Ivy. 

We soon learn that each of the Elders have a painful secret—while living in the outside world, they had to deal with a horribly cruel death of a loved one. In fact, they all met each other at a counseling center! Walker shared an idea with the Elders one day (in the 20th century), leading to a mutual agreement to start a new life (one that mimicked the times of the late 19th century). With this new society, each Elder kept these secrets from their children and their children’s children, allowing for an innocently naïve society to flourish. Surprisingly, in the end, the Elders collectively decide to keep the society going, using the tragic death of one of their own to instill more fear in the village people.