Tag Archives: politics

Sterilisation, Utopia & Inferno

 

 “There comes a moment in history when ignorance is no longer a forgivable offense… a moment when only wisdom has the power to absolve”
(Dan Brown, Inferno)

What I believe the quote means, is that humans are selfish. Inherently selfish. Now, I assume that everyone that reads this will know and understand what I mean when I say the words; Global Warming. And yet, our brain switches off. We don’t care- and why? Because it is not our problem. By us, I don’t mean humans, I mean everyone alive and well at this present second. We are warned of global warming, of the melting ice caps, and the scorching earth, and the exploding sun- and then we realise- its not our problem. We won’t be alive for that, so what’s the damn point of trying to help? And this is our ignorance. It is not a forgivable offense, because we know what we’re doing. We’re passing down our shit, our issues (all of which we’re contributing to) onto others, because we won’t feel the effects. I will use Dan Brown (author of Inferno, the text in question) to show what I mean.

“It took the earth’s population thousand of years-from the early dawn of man all the way to the early 1800s-to reach one billion people. Then astoundingly, it took only about a hundred years to double the population to two billion in the 1920s. After that, it took a mere fifty years for the population to double again to four billion in the 1970s. As you can imagine, we’re well on track to reach eight billion very soon. Just today, the human race added another quarter-billion people to planet Earth. A quarter million. And this happens every day-rain or shine. Currently every year they’re adding the equivalent of the entire country of Germany.”

One of my modules is Apocalypse, Utopia and Dystopian fiction, and today we studied one of the Utopia (2014) episodes. Set in the 70’s, it showed a scientist, Philip Carvel creating a virus called ‘Janus’, the main gist of the virus is that it would automatically sterilise whoever it came into contact with, it’s intent is to cull overpopulation issues. He teams up with Milner (Rose Leslie, Game of Thrones) and together they form a bond over the project. When presenting how the virus works, Philip raises the idea that he can tweak the virus, allowing it to separate ‘groups’ of people, allowing them to be sterilised. One character points out that this is selective breeding, comparing it to Third Reich fascist ideologies of eugenics, and refuses the idea. I would heavily recommend watching the episode, even if you haven’t seen the show, as its so interesting and stimulating. The episode makes you constantly change your mind on a character and their ethics. When you think someone is good, they do something abhorrent, and when you see someone do something bad, they provide explanations and justification for that character. I’m being cryptic because I don’t want to ruin the episode, but it also delves into the election, and the rise of thatcher, fictionalising a large portion of history. After watching the episode, we all sat around and discussed it and it raised many debates on sterilisation, bringing me to my main query.

How immoral is the idea of sterilisation? Now, it’s not a form of genocide, surely, there is no actual murder involved, it is not even a form of abortion, as no life has been conceived yet. Yet it does remove choice and free will from people, bringing up ethical questions regarding human rights. I asked one of my housemates what he thought, and he said if we were to remove the chance of people having children, it wouldn’t be fair. And this is true- if I found out I was unable to have children, I’d be devastated. As a women, it’s been ingrained within me that one of the main goals/events of my life will be to bear children. And if I found out something or something was responsible, I’d be furious. Yet, aren’t we removing free will and choice for humans later on if we do nothing? If we allow global warming and over population to get worse and worse, then is that fair? Another point raised in the episode of Utopia is race. If sterilisation was to occur, what is to stop people from tweaking the effects, or controlling who received the virus, meaning certain races could be wiped out due to lack of breeding.

One friend suggested to me that instead of sterilisation, perhaps humans later on would inhabit and colonise other planets, like mars, and start anew. While this is a far out idea, it is not impossible. Yet isn’t it completely selfish and narcissistic of us humans to ignore the damage we have caused, continue being the problem and ruin other planets? If we do inhabit mars and other planets, and by some miracle, do not die and kill the human race, then surely things will continue and continue. Because global warming is not a seemingly near-problem, it seems that people do not care enough to try and save the earth. When I make general musings on sterilisation, I mean in general terms, not for selective races.

So, my general musing or query, is how ethical is sterilisation? Is it unthinkable, immoral? Or is it a logical solution to the overpopulation crisis?

In 1979, a policy was introduced called ‘The One child policy’ in China. I’m sure many people have heard of this, but to briefly summarise; the idea was to allow families to have one child and no more, to increase access to water and resources, to alleviate economical and environmental issues (such as crowding and overpopulation). Form what I gather, it was largely successful, with healthier benefits for infants, and helped decrease the intense over-population. I had heard rumours ( though I don’t know the truth of this) that the parents could be arrested if they had more than one child without… asking? Applying? I’m not sure- do you apply for your own child? Anyway, I’m not sure how it works, but from what I understand, fines were introduced if the family were to have a second child (as if having more than one child wouldn’t decrease bank amounts enough.) From what I hear (AKA, Wikipedia and other shady online resources, not actually from china government officials) the economic development was fantastic, etc. Apparently (again, if you’re interested, feel free to double check facts) above 70% of Chinese people supported the policy (2008) in a survey. As of 2015 the policy has now been changed to include a second child.

This brings me back to my general argument. If couples were allowed to have one or two children, THEN were sterilised, would this remove all argument? People still get the family they desire, but within limits. People don’t keep popping out babies by accident. Someone raised the issues the other day that women over the age of 30 that were already mothers were more reluctant to consider abortion as an option. And if people wanted a larger family, then adoption could be an option? I’m not a mother, and I’m not in a position to continue having a family yet, so I don’t know. I guess I’m curious as to what others think about this. I’m trying to remain neutral, but there is a logical, calculated sense in the idea. Think of the hundreds and thousands of childrens without families, without homes, that are not adopted. Think of people that have children simply to claim benefits, and their children go neglected and unloved. Think of the future humans that have to suffer the consequences of our actions. Despite us all doing a bit of recycling, it seems that no one seems either aware, or rather, seems to care, about these effects. I’d like to state as a disclaimer that I am in no way for sterilisation, it’s just a musing from one of my seminars. it does lead to some very interesting questions, however. What would the effects be? Are there any more reasons for or against the idea? If anyone does read this, then please, let me know your thoughts. And to really instill the fear within you, here’s one last quote from Mr Brown.

“Ozone depletion, lack of water, and pollution are not the disease—they are the symptoms. The disease is overpopulation. And unless we face world population head-on, we are doing nothing more than sticking a Band-Aid on a fast-growing cancerous tumour” -Dan Brown, Inferno.

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POST-STRUCTURALISM + LIT THEORY

Currently studying English Literature at University, this weeks lecture was based on Post-structuralism. I couldn’t find much stuff online, so I thought I’d post this in case someone stumbles across it needing help on the subject or if anyone actually finds this interesting.

Theory is not the same as knowledge or expertise in a certain field, because theory is a speculation. Structuralism doesn’t have to be based on anything concrete, just based on something feasibly explainable. Many other types of Literary Theory spawned on from Post-Structuralism. New theory and criticism is developed as human society and culture continues to grow (e.g. – Lesbian criticism is now accepted. Academia wouldn’t have accepted it in the 60’s).

To decode post-structuralism we have to understand what structuralism is- Peter Barry compares structuralism to the ‘chicken and the egg’ in which Structuralists focus on the chicken rather than the close analysis of the egg that liberal humanists do. It is a belief that things cannot be understood in isolation but seen in the context of the larger structures- The bigger picture, as it were. Structuralism came about when revolution was in the air, socially, politically and intellectually. It’s linked very closely with Linguistics. Saussure’s a ‘History of Linguistics’ – claims how any word in any language, doesn’t actually have any relevance to the thing it describes.

Frederick Nietzsche states truths are illusions; we create language like we would fiction. Edith Kurtzwell in ‘The Age of Structuralism: From Lévi-Strauss to Foucault’- states that the structuralism that Levi-Strauss invented is dead, but has prepared the ground for the various ‘post-structuralisms’

Barry argues post-structuralism is a form of rebellion against it, and more of a cultural than intellectual movement, derived from philosophy rather than linguistics. Post-structuralism is conceptual, questioning the very notions of Truth.

Language systems are illogical, and Saussure’s ‘Course in General Linguistics’ states that word meanings are arbiturary. It regarded truth as an effect rather than present ‘in something’ and everything was defined in terms of everything else- Saussure’s theory of relation. That process itself was relative and constructed, maintaining while words have no central meaning, language is an essential tool of social power.

Texts are open to an unlimited variety of meaning, making us question the world itself as radically uncertain, for language does not reflect the world but shapes it. It raises questions such as if language is deceptive, then who is in control of this system?

Post-Structuralist thinking attaches a more rational and acceptance towards the words and story in a text, looking for a meaning that might seem on a different level than the author may have intended. They do this by referencing the text with the ideology of the time and culture that they are reading in that day- much like to the close reading we as English literature students do.

I personally believe that to truly understand a text we don’t need to know all the social and political context- you can gather your own meaning in relation to how our society and viewpoint stands today, despite the author’s  original intent.

Post-structuralism essentially creates the ‘death of the author’ by creating the ‘birth of the reader’– a concept devised by Barthes in which he argues that readers construct polysemas texts, having many authors and meanings. Barthes argues that we cannot rely on the author’s identity to serve as an explanation for the text, we cannot understand what the writers intentions were and that the author was not the prime source of the work’s semantic content.

In Peter Barry’s talk ‘The ends of theory’ he said to always start with the text rather than the theory itself. He stated structuralism actually takes the reader further away from the original text, into more abstract questions rather than giving us more illumination on the meaning of the text. Barry discusses how Roland Barthes essay ‘The death of the author’ (1968) “makes a declaration of radical textual independence” and is “free of all such restraints”.

Herein lies the debate and the clearest distinction between the two- does the context behind a text help discover, or hinder it? Do we need to see the bigger picture or to focus on the text in hand? It is not something to ever be decided- everything we’ve learnt so far is that there is no ‘truth’ or ‘fixed meaning’, since, as Barry sates, “there is no truth about these matters which exists outside language