New Glasses

I’m getting new glasses today.

I’ve had quite a horrible day –

It seems like no one adjusts but me,

Despite me knowing that I can be

A little impatient sometimes

Although that’s really the smallest of crimes.

I’m getting new glasses today,

And I’m getting quite excited – I think I may

See things anew, if you know what I mean,

And maybe my family will seem a little less mean

Than they do right now –

It’s silly, I’ll avow,

But I wish

For more fish

Like the poor would

For more food.

I’m getting new glasses today,

And I dare to hope that it may

Be the beginning of something, something new;

Something glamorous and hope-filled too.

I could get a job;

I may write a book;

Or maybe get caught up

In the most glorious hook-up –

The possibilities are endless,

That’s what I’m trying to say;

Anything could happen –

I’m getting new glasses today!

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“Mein Kampf”, the Conspiracy Theory

The first principle of informed debate is to never allow the opponent an illogical initial premise. When reading Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” (“My Struggle”), the most important thing for a reader (especially one without a guide) to do is to pause at each statement and understand what makes it false – the first and foremost being his blaming everything on the Jews.

“Mein Kampf” reads like a conspiracy theory. He begins by seeing Jews in every institution he despises (conveniently blaming Germans’ behaviour in those fields on the Jews’ supposed influence) and goes on to build up a conspiracy theory in his head about Jews planning on taking over the world. Literally. By attributing invented motives to the entire race, and by seeing in each of Germany’s misfortunes the planned influence of the entire Jewish race, he sinks further and further into a sort of mania from which he never escaped.

The racist theory he’s known for – that of Aryans being the most superior race, springs from his notion that all the greatest creative advances in the world spring from the minds of men from the Aryan race. More than anything, this displays his (willful?) ignorance of the contributions of people around the world to science and progress, from the architecture and embalming practices of ancient Egypt to the mathematical, astronomical and medical knowledge of ancient India.

Although he proved himself a master manipulator, he conclusively proved little else.

“Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and , in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; but it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side.” – Adolf Hitler

One thing I admired about Hitler was his thorough understanding of politics. In the first volume of “Mein Kampf”, A Retrospect, he talks about the importance of building up a comprehensive understanding of ideals and opinions, or a Weltanshauung. This, Hitler believed, would mentally equip people to form their own opinions on current affairs, and would also prevent a person (particularly a politician) from being in a situation where he must either retract an earlier statement, losing the support of his followers, or continue to fight for a cause in which he has lost belief, which Hitler considered morally reprehensible and thought would lead to the ineffectuality of further activity in pursuit of that belief.

An interesting question is whether Hitler genuinely believed that Jews were the primary cause of Germany’s downfall until the end. From his book, his views on politics make clear that he has a poor opinion of the common man. He believed that multiple aims of a movement tend to divide its following, resulting in non-achievement of any of the aims. He thus suggests that one aim should be selected and impressed as the sole aim on the masses. He also states that altering the aims of a movement, once begun, can be detrimental to the movement as it opens up the fundamental principles of the party to debate and shatters the blind faith and obedience required to bring the movement’s aims to fruition. Could this be what happened with the Jewish question? We may never know whether Hitler stuck to his ideas till the end because he believed in them or because, despite being disillusioned, he believed retracting this belief would stop the movement and stop Germany’s efforts at grabbing back power.

Finally, it is easy while reading “Mein Kampf” to view it solely as a discussion on ideology and politics. Only when you read about the means he employed to reach his ends is it possible to understand to what extent he believed that non-Aryan races were lesser than human. Final words: Hitler’s mania might have been nipped in the bud if he had had access to unbiased information about other countries and nations. This speaks wildly in favour of educating children on world history and the promotion of international educational institutions. I read “Mein Kampf” mainly because I believe that every point of view is based on something, either fact or an experience, and I wanted to find out at what point Hitler’s statements veered from factual. I can happily say that after reading his defense of his beliefs, his very first premise is easily countered, making his entire argument, while extensive and on the surface well-rounded, entirely baseless.

I found myself agreeing with some of Hitler’s views on politics, including his opinion on the failings of the parliamentary system of democracy; on the whole, he displays a comprehensive understanding of national and world politics as well as psychology. It was truly sad, and instructive, to observe the effects racism, springing from misinformation and bias, had on a man with such potential.

"Mein Kampf", Adolf Hitler

Dear Doctor

Dear Doctor,

I warned you I’m a little phobic of injections. It’s not my fault you didn’t take me seriously.

It may not be a phobia, but it’s  definitely more than just a fear. I can see you don’t understand that. At all.

When a needle sticks me, (apart from the psychological part, fear) I start to cry.

I don’t care if you think I’m childish,I don’t care if you think I’m overly dramatic,

For the simple reason that you are not my friend. You are my doctor.

I don’t need your sympathy, or want it.

What I do want, is: after it’s over, when my burning face vibrates, and my arms,

And my legs feel too light and too leaden by turns,

When my breathing is coming heavy and when I’m shuddering from the shock,

When I ask you, dear doctor, through my chattering teeth and wavering voice, to

“Please give me a minute” to collect myself, I expect you to give it to me.

I understand you see many patients. I understand many of them may be exactly what I profess I am not. But that is irrelevant to me.

When I am covering my mouth while crying in gasps, ashamed, trying not to make a scene, and I ask you, firmly but politely, for “just a minute”, I expect you to look away for sixty seconds until my breathing is back to normal. Not mock me and refuse to let me cover my trembling mouth, while asking unrelenting questions in a misguided, patronizing attempt to “divert” me.

I know it may be hard for a learned, busy person like you to understand, but most of us really do know what’s best for ourselves. Not in everything, but at least the basics.

I don’t care if you go home and make fun of me to your family. I don’t care if you never understand this thing, this fear, but I don’t believe that understanding is a requisite for you to show some courtesy as a doctor to your patient. You may owe me no courtesy, but I have not paid for discourtesy either. I have paid for medical care, and that includes giving me a minute to catch my breath.

Sincerely,

A Disgruntled Patient

P.S. Trypanophobia, a fear of needles and injections, includes among its symptoms: feeling faint, nausea and panic attacks. My exact symptoms. Just so you know.

P. P. S. I would’ve included a picture, but I’m phobic. Pictures also cause some symptoms. And yes, that’s a real thing.

P.P.P.S. I won’t be back.

 

 

Divergent: Strengthening Prediction of Totalitarian Rule

I watched ‘Divergent’ this weekend. I’d been meaning to read the book forever, but the movie plan was spontaneous, so I read only half the book before going for the movie. (Afterwards, obviously, I finished the series.) And what I found, was that the first book at least resembles Lois Lowry’s ‘The Giver’ to a great extent, besides having the feel of  the ‘Hunger Games’ series. Not a novel observation.

Now, first and foremost, this is not a critique. I thoroughly appreciated the Divergent series – I loved the story and, despite its formula-based beginning, the last book gave wonderfully rich fodder for intellectual debate. Second, I’m going to take this opportunity to give readers a SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t read any of the abovementioned series, or are halfway through one, please don’t read ahead. Suffice it to say that I believe, like Tierney Sneed, that conscious/subconscious piggybacking and bandwagon-jumping have led to this whole block of young-adult-fiction-inspired movies that are like different kinds of cupcakes – different-colored icing, same muffin-y thing underneath. But that’s not the problem – the problem is our ubiquitous prediction of dystopian futures, period.

I read ‘The Giver’ in the sixth grade, as I’m sure many of you must have. Enthralled by the story, I couldn’t confine myself to the pace of the class, and read ahead. The book was the first one, I think, to illustrate the meaning of ‘haunting’ to me. ‘The Giver’ shook me. In my mind’s eye, I pictured a circle of adobe huts, with palm trees and a trickle of a creek – all of which is far from scary. But then you get to the plot. Each of the children, at the age of 12, are chosen for a job by the Elders depending on their nature and aptitude. The protagonist, however, is chosen for the most important job of all – that of the Giver. It turns out that in this dystopian future, the people have been boxed into a community where things like vocabulary are regulated and everything that makes people different has been removed – including memories and even color.  All the memories of Earth and our past, the good and the bad, are passed down from Giver to Receiver, who is eventually trained to become the next Giver. What clues this boy in to his individuality is that he starts seeing snatches of the color red, first in an apple, and then in a girl’s hair. Slowly as his training progresses, he learns of both happy moments, like sledding, and horrible ones, like war. He comes to the conclusion that a world where people know of these things would be more meaningful, and finally unleashes his memories on the village, before escaping the confines of his village.

Similarly, the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy features a world of citizens divided into Districts which determine their  profession. As ever, the community is ruled by keeping people so caught up in their predefined jobs that they have no time or energy to question the way things are being run. Eventually the protagonist, Katniss, is caught up in a  rebellion against the Capitol and overthrows it to establish (hopefully) a better government.

 

             

 

Divergent follows suit, with children choosing Factions, or communities, at age 16, which they will then have to place above family. It is later seen that this is actually a measure of control. A girl with special aptitude, Tris, is the only one able to resist certain controlling measures of the governing body (the various serums) and so is uniquely placed in a situation that allows her to defy and go against the current state of affairs. Again, the people in this world are all walled up in one city, cut off from the world outside, and this enables their control. This turns out to be because the entire city is an experiment. Due to a nationwide attempt to improve society by improving our genes, and its utter failure, most of the population dies out, leading to experimental cities like the one Tris lives in formed to correct the error. Outside these cities, the ‘genetically damaged’ are treated as inferior by the government and blamed for violence, etc etc, much like racism-based conflicts today, while the government covers up war prior to the genetic experiment to maintain ‘genetically pure supremacy’.

These stories bring to mind the movie ‘I Robot’ and the classic parent of all dystopian books, ‘1984’.  ‘I Robot’, based on a book by Isaac Asimov, features a dystopian future where the world is almost taken over by robots, and is saved only by a man with a deep mistrust of robots. ‘1984’, as I see it, is the ultimate in dystopian futures, and is about a world where people are constantly watched by the government and controlled through language, thought, expression, living spaces, family planning, you name it. It is a beautiful representation of absolute perfect dominion of a government over its subjects.

Now, to the point. Many people have noticed and remarked on a trend here: books and young adult series seem to be following the same storyline, give or take: a dystopian future in which the governing body controls the population by the classic divide-and-conquer strategy, a ‘hero’ and an attempted rebellion, successful or otherwise. While it is generally believed that this is a result of piggybacking off pathbreakers’ success, I have too much appreciation for these books and the subtle but key differences between them to believe it is entirely so. Although I don’t deny the effect of  influence, I believe that these plots are essentially each the author’s own – which makes what I have to say of more import. Does it not disturb anyone else that all the future-based books and movies we’ve seen of late are dystopian?

From books like ‘The Giver’, ‘Divergent’ and ‘1984’ with oppressive ‘divide-and-conquer’ governments, to those like ‘After Earth’ which show the destruction of Earth as an inhabitable planet, when did we get so negative about our future? It feels like ‘The Jetsons’ was the last positive depiction of our future in the last couple of decades. Why can’t someone make futuristic action movies, or movies about politics or romance or mystery set in the future? Or is it a result of audiences demanding something “deep”? Has the concept of a “deep” plot come to be unshakeably associated with oppression and rebellion?  Or is it just that we’ve finally become pessimistic (some would say realistic) about our odds of survival, freedom intact, in this world plagued with divide, violence and power-hungry politicians?

vs.

Each of these works of fiction, disturbingly, warns us against the government. And yet, despite popular culture going from subtle to blatant in its warnings, we seem to be doing nothing. For example, the United States’ highest turnout of voting-age population in the past 50 years was in 1960: 63.1%. [ http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781453.html]

In general, there appears to be a negative trend in voting turnout.

 

With increasing distance between the rulers and the ruled, and increasing tendencies to label ourselves for whatever purpose, total domination by government, an idea once planted firmly in the field of fiction, is beginning to look more and more like a realistic future.

Authors and the literati have long been held in esteem for their insight. How does it bode for us that most of them are beginning to predict totalitarian rule? As always, I’d love to hear your views, so if you have anything to contribute to this discussion, please comment below!

While I Cry

                                                                                                                                 ~

I know I love you

But, dear, when it comes to you

I’m never sure why.

~

Nor, it seems, are you.

But, dear, when it comes to that,

I’m too scared to push.

~

You love me, you say

But, dear, it scares me so much

Hearing what I need.

~

I try explaining

But, dear, when it’s said to you,

Words always fall short.

~

I take time to trust

But, dear, when it came to you,

I forgot briefly.

~

My voice stumbles, falls,

And, dear, I fear it happens,

You misunderstand.

~

Meant as confession,

You take offense, but that was

Not ever what I meant.

~

You are everything

I prayed for all those long years

When I had nothing.

~

You, my dear, all that

Never seemed possessable

But, dear, I was wrong.

~

I have told you this

But, dear, so have too many more.

I’m too weak to shout.

~

You first, you tell me.

Belief comes harder than trust

So I fear to call

~

In fear of the day

I rely to no reply

So please forgive me.

~

I want to share all

But I’m not half who you are –

I cannot lose you.

~

You’re leaving too soon

What will I do without you?

No one else loves me.

~

My sweet, sweet heart, love,

You’ve restored crushed hope, I thought

But now I wonder

~

Was it therapy

Or an anti-depressant?

I will find out soon.

~

I want to beg you

And elicit promises

But bondage breeds fight.

~

Repression always,

Now I see regression too.

Old cures come to mind.

~

It is a dark road

One I’ll make sure you won’t see

For whose good, can’t say.

~

Don’t fault my brusqueness

I use it like lavender

Or as reminders.

~

I want you to know

With absolute assuredness

That, dear, you are loved;

~

If even you take

A thing from me, from our years,

That it be just this.

~

You are loved, my dear.

You are my role model, dear.

You are beautiful.

Fear

Trifextra: Week Ninety

Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia, wrote, “It’s like the smarter you are, the more things can scare you.”  We are looking for a 33-word explanation of what scares you (or your character).

We sit together, my best friend and I, in comfortable silence.

Then she walks in, my other best friend; suddenly his jokes are only for her.

Et tu?

I know what comes next.