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Places and Forms of Power

Introducing the notion

Yasmeen Diana C.'s insight:

When we talk about places and forms of power, we are really talking about the ability to influence others (across different places, such as classrooms, regions, countries, and even across the world). There are different forms of power, among which we can distinguish three main categories: political power, social power, and the power of technology. The power of technology can also be described as more of a means to attempt to influence others on a political or social scope.  Just as it is often used as  a tool to spread or enforce power, technology can also be used to challenge this very power and call it into question.

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Places and Forms of Power: The Veldt and Dangers of Technology

Places and Forms of Power: The Veldt and Dangers of Technology | SPECIALTY | Scoop.it
Yasmeen Diana C.'s insight:

Technology was a recurring theme in many post modernist stories by authors such as Ray Bradbury or Kurt Vonnegut aiming to show the world how easily power could be abused by the wrong people and for the wrong motives through dystopian scenarios. A perfect example of this is the short story “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury. This story tells the tale of a family whose kids have come to rely more on the house - which happens to be alive and able to cater to their every need- than their own parent. In a special room designed to project their imagination, they create an African jungle in which they trap and murder their parents. Bradbury is looking to warn us of the power of the technologies we create which can then turn against us. The story shows that in a world where the power rests in technology, it is easier than we think to lose the aspects of ourselves that make us human.    

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Places and Forms of Power: The Shawshank Redemption

Escape from Shawshank Prison.
Yasmeen Diana C.'s insight:

 

Across the world, there are many different ways one can hold power over another. An especially prolific piece of literature that truly showed that is the story “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” written by Stephen King. This story is representative of the notion of power for the main reason that it takes place in a jail. In theory, the power in question is clearly explained: the warden has power over the guards who in turn have power over the inmates. One inmate, Andy Dufresnes, puts this power scheme in question when he manages to find a way to go against all stereotypes (by being actually innocent of the crime he has been accused of committing and not letting other inmates take advantage of him in the prison) and escape his cell by using his intelligence and carving himself a tunnel out of the jail hidden by a poster. This carefully executed plan does raise the question of where power truly lies. In the film adaptation, this is even more relevant seeing as Andy manages (from Mexico) to alert authorities of wrongdoings at the prison which in turn provoke the warden into committing suicide in his own office.

 

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Beowulf: an old perception of a hero

Yasmeen Diana C.'s insight:

The movie Beowulf, based off of the ancient tale of Nordic vikings and dragons, leaves no doubt as to what a hero is (or should be). Beowulf, a brave and skilled fighter, is one of the most traditional examples of a hero. He is a strong and brave man who uses his courage for the benefit of others. He slays evil demonic creatures others have repeatedly failed to tame. He puts the well-being of entire kingdoms on his shoulders and yet never fails to disappoint them. He is, by all means, the stereotypical "perfect hero". 

His extreme bravery is shown through the quote "When it comes to fighting, I count myself as dangerous any day as Grendel. So it won't be a cutting edge ill wield to mow him down, easily as I might. He has no idea of the arts of war, of shield and sword-play, although he does possess a wild strength. No weapons, therefore, for either this night: unarmed he shall face me if face me he dares. And may the Divine Lord in His wisdom grant the glory of victory to whichever side He sees fit.” (677-688)

 This passage demonstrates Beowulf’s heroism because it shows how willing and eager he is to fight and defeat Grendel, the monster who has been terrorizing the inhabitants of Heorot for all of twelve years. He asserts himself to be “as dangerous” as Grendel, although it has been proved time and time again that the troll possesses the strength and skill of thirty men. Beowulf’s courage is also shown through his confidence when he asserts that Grendel has “no idea of the arts of war” and that the evil being would “face him if he dares” which implies that Grendel should be afraid of their upcoming battle instead of him.

Although this representation of the hero is basically perfect in terms of what it takes to be considered as one, the heroes represented in more recent times are never so one-dimensional and usually possess characteristics that aren't so redeemable. Does that make them any truer or better heroes? 

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Heroes: a popular misconception?

Yasmeen Diana C.'s insight:

This article, originally written by Kira Archibald in 2006 for her local high school newspaper, tells the tale of a local soldier who had just been injured. This, Kurt Power, does indeed resemble what we might define as a hero. He is a man who was brave enough to fight for what he thought was right and rose above and beyond to fulfill his duty to his country. However, this article does show that the definition of a hero nowadays is much harder to define. Some may say that going to other countries and committing armed acts of violence is anything but heroic. The way Powers speaks of his actions, we must wonder: has he faced any true challenges - mental and physical - the way a true hero does? Has he done anything that truly helped another the way heroes are often, if not always, depicted doing? Furthermore, the way the article is written does not help the reader make a trustworthy informed decision: the many mistakes riddling the text are enough to make an English teacher faint. 

The notion of what a hero constitutes is much harder to define than previously and poses the ultimate question regarding the notion "Myths and heroes": what is a hero?

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Places and Forms of Power: The Role of Technology

Places and Forms of Power: The Role of Technology | SPECIALTY | Scoop.it
Yasmeen Diana C.'s insight:

 

The role of technology in the acquisition of power is basically fundamental in our world. Technology is how people communicate, spread their ideas, and even impose certain opinions upon others. The use of technologies to guarantee ownership of power is commonplace in many areas of the world as well as in literature. The media, which can be constituted of movies, music, television, radio, magazines, the news, etc., plays a big part in showing people what they want or need to see to understand the world around them and develop an opinion on it. This is why propaganda is a big issue to factor in when considering who truly has power and control over others, especially in governments such as Stalinian USSR or Nazi Germany. In literature, many authors tend to use technology as a warning of its dangers and the risks it poses to freedom and how it could affect power in a certain area. A widely used example of this would be the novel 1984 by George Orwell, who used technology such as telescreens to show the dangers that it may pose to society.

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Places and Forms of Power: Control Through Security

Places and Forms of Power: Control Through Security | SPECIALTY | Scoop.it
Britain has a CCTV camera for every 11 people, a security industry report disclosed, as privacy campaigners criticised the growth of the “surveillance state”.
Yasmeen Diana C.'s insight:

The use of technology to hold power over others is not outdated, it is in fact more current than ever. Even in more developed “free” countries, the government often rely on technology such as traffic cameras to keep control over the population. This article proves the immense surveillance network set up all over Britain, a democratic country where all inhabitants are guaranteed constitutional rights. According to the article, there are 5.9 million closed circuit television cameras all over the country, or one for each eleven people.  These security cameras are everywhere and people are constantly under supervision. The cameras are “an invaluable source of crime detection and evidence for the police”, which really amounts to a better way to control and hold a certain power over the population.

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What makes a hero?

Yasmeen Diana C.'s insight:

According to Joseph Campbell, a hero is a person who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. A hero is also often depicted as the person embodying a certain myth, whether it be fictional (belonging to Greek mythology, for example) or real. A hero can take many shapes or forms, ranging from the Little Engine That Could all the way to Superman. Hence, the hero defines the notion of “myth” depending on its particular characteristics. As Campbell has expressed in his work The Hero With a Thousand Faces, a hero typically embarks on a journey occurring in a cycle consisting of three specific phases: departure (where the hero leaves to embark on his adventure), initiation (where he is subjected to a series of challenges to prove his worth), and return (where he may bask in his success with the others whom his actions have benefitted). This model, a summary of what makes a hero a hero, applies on many different levels and almost redefines the term “hero” as it is commonly interpreted by society. 

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Beowulf: the portrayal of a hero

Beowulf: the portrayal of a hero | SPECIALTY | Scoop.it
Yasmeen Diana C.'s insight:

Although Beowulf is a work of literature that practically defines a certain aspect of the notion of hero through its very essence, these quotes are most representative of the heroism portrayed by the narrator(s) of the story.

 

 

 

          “So every elder and experienced councilman among my people supported my resolve to come here to you, King Hrothgar, because all knew of my awesome strength. They had seen me bolstered in the blood of enemies when I battled and bound five beasts, raided a troll nest and in the night-sea slaughtered sea-brutes. I have suffered extremes and avenged the Greats (their enemies brought it upon themselves, I devastated them) Now I mean to be a match for Grendel, settle the outcome in a single combat. And so, my request, O king of Bright-Danes, dear prince of the Sheildings, friend of the people and their ring of defense, my one request is that you wont refuse me, who have come this far, the privilege of purifying Heorot, with my own men to help me and nobody else.” (419-433)


            Beowulf has arrived to the land of the Danes. He is begging their king, Hrothgar, to let him and his men fight the terrible beast Grendel, who has been terrorizing their mead hall for the past twelve years for his own amusement. Every man who has dared face him has lost his life. This beast was untouchable. That is, until Beowulf had the courage to finally stand up and volunteer to fight Grendel in an attempt to stop the relentless and unwarranted attacks.

 

 

 

          “When it comes to fighting, I count myself as dangerous any day as Grendel. So it wont be a cutting edge ill wield to mow him down, easily as I might. He has no idea of the arts of war, of shield and sword-play, although he does possess a wild strength. No weapons, therefore, for either this night: unarmed he shall face me if face me he dares. And may the Divine Lord in His wisdom grant the glory of victory to whichever side He sees fit.” (677-688)

 

          This passage demonstrates Beowulf’s heroism because it shows how willing and eager he is to fight and defeat Grendel, the monster who has been terrorizing the inhabitants of Heorot for all of twelve years. He asserts himself to be “as dangerous” as Grendel, although it has been proved time and time again that the troll possesses the strength and skill of thirty men. Beowulf’s courage is also shown through his confidence when he asserts that Grendel has “no idea of the arts of war” and that the evil being would “face him if he dares” which implies that Grendel should be afraid of their upcoming battle instead of him.

 

 

          “Beowulf got ready, donned his war-gear, indifferent to death; his mighty, hand-forged, fine-webbed mail would soon meet with the menace underwater. It would keep the bone-cage of his body safe: no enemy’s clasp could crush him in it, no vicious armlock choke his life out. To guard his head he had a glittering helmet that was due to be muddied on the mere bottom and blurred in the upswirl. It was of beaten gold, princely headgear hooped and hasped by a weapon-smith who had worked wonders.”(1442–1452)

 

         Beowulf is getting ready to fight Grendel’s mother, a vicious underwater beast. He is donning several types of armor as a precaution to avoid the death he seems to be so indifferent to. His intent is clear in the text: he intends to get his hands dirty, so to speak, and put his life on the line to protect the Danes from having their mead hall ransacked time after time (again). He is demonstrating extreme courage by wanting to take on this absolute monster who has proved she is ruthless and will stop and nothing to get her revenge to protect a kingdom he isn’t even a part of.

 

 

          “Yet the prince of the rings was too proud to line up with a large army against the sky-plague. He has scant regard for the dragon as a threat, no dread at all of its courage or strength, for he had kept going often in the past, through perils and ordeals of every sort, after he had purged Hrothgar’s hall, triumphed in Heorot and beaten Grendel.” (2345-2353)

 

          Beowulf is demonstrating his courage by asserting that he wants to fight the dragon single-handedly, much like he fought Grendel and his mother earlier on in the tale. He is not afraid to take on the beast on his own. However, since Beowulf is now fifty years older than when he had fought the other two creatures, this decision can be interpreted as courage but also as foolishness. Indeed, taking into consideration the strength of the wild beast in comparison to his, battling it ensures that Beowulf will be making the ultimate sacrifice: he will be sacrificing his own life to ensure his kingdom’s safety.

 

 

          “As God is my witness, I would rather my body were robed in the same burning blaze as my gold-giver’s body than to go back home bearing arms. That is unthinkable, unless we have first lain the foe and defended the life of the prince of the Weather-Geats. I well know the things he has done for us to deserve better. Should he alone be left exposed to fall in battle? We must bond together, shield and helmet, mail-shirt and sword.” (2650-2660)

 

          In this passage, Wiglaf is speaking to the soldiers of Beowulf’s kingdom, saying that courage is the most important virtue one can possess. It is by that courage that these men can prove their allegiance and worthiness to their king. They must, like he has time and time again, rise above their fear of danger and the unknown and rally together to fight this beastly dragon. Beowulf has proved to them his courage and now deserved to have them all by his side, fighting against the deadly creature.

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