Land of the Free?

“You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day,” is the intro of the series Person of Interest. This secret system intercepts every single transaction, movement, or progress of Americans. Michel Foucault describes the perfect surveillance mechanism through the Panopticon, which was used during the Plague. This same idea was featured in modern times through surveillance cameras, location finders, cell phone calls and messages being recorded, transactions stored, and even social media updates. American government has kept this idea of Panopticon to locate and document citizens at all times. Government has invaded the privacy and freedom of Americans across the nation.

The picture above depicts the concept of Panopticon through mockery. The ‘O’ in Panopticon is illustrated to replicate ABC. ABC controls a network of technology that citizens use on a daily basis. Through their monopoly power, Americans have been hypnotized to believe the norm is being fed lies and under constant supervision. Although there has been terroristic threats throughout the nation, government has made it their duty to mark every American as guilty until proven otherwise. Through their theory, they have turned a free nation into a prison. The picture also marks humans as worms as if we are belittled to overpopulated maggots that only eat and desecrate. This depicts how government and monopolies view us. According to them, we are insignificant and gullible to believing the lies portrayed in media. The televisions only emphasize the idea that Americans are fed lies through services like ABC. I believe that behind networks like ABC are more powerful people who closely work with government officials. By that, I mean the companies will present the material that needs to be distributed to the citizens thus conducting the brainwashing effect.

The Panopticon is constructed in this idea that the prisoners cannot see each other nor the guard in the tower; however, the guard could be watching them at any time. In modern times, prisoners are citizens and guards are government officials. From what I have interpreted from Foucault’s claims is that the government believes a “prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector,” (201). Therefore, Americans cannot go out of the country without documentation and cannot leave the state without needing to have a check point – whether it’s a gas station or TSA. The location of a human is always documented because even if there aren’t those check points, there are still cameras and cell phone frequencies that give away a hiding place.

That makes me think: why is it so hard for police to locate a criminal if they can easily access their location through the multitude of technology? Is it a scam? How is the government using the information they have obtained? The scam could be this idea that Americans are not free. Although the nation is tamed, in a sense, the government ensures this through surveillance. The government could also act as a paranoid authority waiting to capture a perpetrator. The idea of their surveillance is for “those who take pleasure in spying and punishing,” (202). Government directly falls under that category. The technology they use is intended to protect the good of the human race. Therefore, they must take pride in spying and punishing. The government is led on nothing but “the curiosity of the indiscreet,” (202). They feel as if it is valuable to document all acquisitions to accustom to their idea of freedom.

Presumably, through the rise of technology, the idea of free has been altered. No longer are our amendments upheld. The Fourth Amendment states unreasonable searches and seizures are only enacted with warrant or probable cause. This amendment is not even an important asset when they is no privacy. There will always be a probable cause since there is significant evidence through surveillance technology. Although this does stop crimes, it also instils fear in all citizens making the safety factor decrease – even though the primary idea could have been to ensure safety. The new technology also creates problems with innocent citizens who are accused based on false pretenses in some cases. For example, if a citizen decides to buy products that could be marked red for security purposes, the government has reason for a search or seizure even if it was an innocent purchase.

Therefore fellow readers, are we free? Has government adapted the idea of Panopticon? You decide. The only rational reasoning for government’s need to invade privacy is for the “knowledge [that] follows the advances of power,” (204). If the government holds power over us, they hold the world. Anything they need, we are at their feet. There is a line that needs to be drawn. How long will it take until the nation finds itself entangled in their own lives?

VR vs RL

In a “Tinysociety” lived people from across the nation that worked together to escape reality. The use of this tiny society was through a program called LambdaMOO. Within this virtual world, people had the ability to illustrate themselves as they wanted and become any person they wanted to be without affects on the real world. Where does the real world and virtual reality collide though? In Julian Dibbell’s “A Rape in Cyberspace,” the author examines the crimes of Mr. Bungle and Dr. Jest to uncover the truth about societies.

Within LambdaMOO, many users believed they could finally create a sustainable world where they are genuinely happy and excited to go to. As there could be troubles in the real world, as soon as the user logs into their character, they become that character. I knew a guy named Mason who struggled a lot with social interaction. He was socially awkward in some aspects and didn’t truly enjoy the human interaction that he encountered at school. He was different and was judged on his appearance. He told me almost every day that he was so excited to get home and play World of Warcraft because he could finally be around people that liked him for him. Not only did his online friends share a common interest, but they had no way of judging him based on appearance. On top of that, the socially awkward comments were less likely to accumulate because he felt comfortable typing instead of confrontation. With societies like LambdaMOO, the users have the same ability to build themselves the way they want to and not be judged based on appearances or social anxiety.

The downfall that comes with these virtual societies is that they can be easily interrupted by the same mean people that are faced in the real world. In Dibbell’s piece, an incident that has been titled as “rape” invades the privacy and civility most users thought were practical. Exu the victim of Mr. Bungle’s rape, states, “I trust people to conduct themselves with some veneer of civility,” (6). These virtual worlds are places that most users established as safe communities. It was unlikely that someone wishing to do harm to the community would even enter such a place as LambdaMOO; however, as all societies virtual or real, there are those people that will interrupt the safety of a community for his or her own amusement. This is where the lines of VR and RL connect. There is never an escape from the real world because there will always be the same instances.

The community of LambdaMOO thought that “toading” Mr. Bungle would suffice; unfortunately, the character only arose again as a new character named Dr. Jest (18). One main difference to point out, however, is that the two characters – Mr. Bungle and Dr. Jest – were played by two different people. Mr. Bungle was sought out as a joke to harass the virtual world for their own amusement; however, Dr. Jest returned as a single student getting off on a strange fetish.

What surfaces with the discovery of such incidents like the LambdaMOO one is that there is truly no escape from the real world. With every society comes choices on how to act. Personally, I believe that virtual worlds only amplify the dystopian societal aspect. If there truly are no consequences for such behavior, what stops the perpetrators from perpetrating. The freedom that reigns in the virtual world is untouched by governmental intervention; therefore, there will be no democratic society. Although it is possible to ban such behavior by eliminating a character, it is very easy to reinstate one’s self just as Dr. Jest did.

So the collision happens at the very beginning. Imagine, with an unbiased opinion, someone is reincarnated. They have all the rights to do what they want and become who they want. They are new again and are building a name for himself or herself. That is what LambdaMOO allows. A new name and identity for every user that interacts – of course the only differences are, again, the legal actions. The everything is similar between the two societies except for the governmental structure.

It is important to remember that there will always be a problem with communities whether they are real or virtual. The “freedoms of expressions” cannot be banned and therefore acts will always be disapproved by some party (28). The freedoms that are allowed to be expressed prevents a utopian society to form. The author was wrong to think that there were “truer” and “more elegant” things to find on LambdaMOO (28). The escape from the real world does not mean the virtual world will take away all the craziness you disapprove of. It means there is an even more likely chance for destruction to happen because as Dr. Jest and Mr. Bungle thought, there are no legal consequences to their actions since after all, it is just a virtual world.

Good-bye Copy Cat

Propaganda of Kim Jong Un and Kim Il Sung

North Korea will always being an investigated state. The government’s control closely exemplifies the ideas brought to attention in 1984. I, myself, have spent time watching documentaries and reading articles about North Korea. The country fascinates me with the way the government has enabled itself to brainwash its civilians; however, the country is undergoing radical changes which will ultimately lead to a new era for North Korea.

In every moment, the citizens are expected to treat Kim Jong Un and former dictators as kings, gods. They are to worship them. Not only are they to worship him, but he must be hung in every home. Why? I feel as this is a tactic for the government to put eyes into every home. In 1984, there was an abundance of propaganda stating, “Big Brother is watching.” This parallels to this idea that you are watched by the supreme. North Korea also spies on its citizens. As Schmidt knew, “we were told ahead of time to assume that everything was bugged,” (3). Tourists did not even have the ability to have privacy for themselves. The citizens definitely do not because they are not even allowed to have some of these devices that the hotels had – the ones Schmidt experienced. In 1984, there were televisions that watched and listened to each civilian to ensure law abiding behavior.

That leads me to another thing. North Korea fantasized what the actual country looked like. They were sure to only bring her to the most luxurious and well-kept places; however, North Korea has rations and little money. There is extreme poverty in some places, and there are only a few markets – with strict rules about tourists being unauthorized to bring cameras or any devices inside the markets. Everything is controlled by the government. The government was sure to leave Schmidt with the impression that North Korea is well off to prove to America that their type of government is just as efficient. According to North Korea, “American sanctions” are also to blame “for just about everything,” (9). I remember a documentary I watched where a mother was teaching her little girl a song about how America is to blame for North Korea’s problems, and that, ultimately, we are the enemy. I could not believe what I heard. South Korea and the United States work together at the border to protect South Korean citizens; America is known to have helped some North Koreans. Unfortunately, North Korea masks the good the United States is doing for them because of their stubborn appeal.

Side note: Kim Jong Un is a very young and inexperienced leader. I think the government as a whole does more than he does. As seen in “The Interview,” this dictator is merely a child stuck in a position he is not fit for.

If citizens ever disobey the law, they will look into the eyes of their “leader” because, again, it is required for all citizens to have a portrait of the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Un. I find it extremely interesting that in the Netflix documentary, citizens were watching banned films and listening to the radio while the portraits were staring at them. This makes me believe times are changing. It has started, the time to rebel, and it is only a short amount of time before the citizens take action against the government. Social media is evolving and becoming ever more abundant. Within the documentary, I learned that there are countless citizens that disobey the law.

Only a few short years ago I watched a documentary on North Korea where the citizens were living in fear. Has the government began to simmer down? I understand they will still capture and, if necessary, be-head unlawful civilians; however, with more access to multimedia and national broadcasts, the citizens will be informed. They will understand what life outside of North Korea will be like and fight for their freedom. I also believe they will receive plenty of help from neighboring and passionate nations.

North Korea still has a long way to go but I truly believe there is going to be a revolution whether the government wants it or not. Although North Korea has tried to rewrite 1984 into modern day, all books get old and soon it will be nothing but a memory. But as Schmidt stated, “we’ll have to wait and see what direction they choose to take,” (10).
CHECK OUT THESE INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT NORTH KOREA! North Korea Fun Facts

Bharatnatyam

Indian culture has been a continued fascination for me. Everything that goes into their culture has a purpose. From meals, to clothes, to gestures, each tradition holds a higher meaning than what is seen by the naked eye. Specifically, their dances consist of flowing movement with gestures called mudras. Mudras are similar to sign language in that the hands create signs that represent words or meanings (3). Mudras range in meaning from a simple animal, to a complex ideal about the world. Indian dances, or Bharatnatyam, tell stories in ways that written words cannot express (4).

In the picture photographed by The Saaz, the woman is telling a story within one movement. To begin, the way her left hand is positioned can signify one of two things, either the “face of a lion,” or “a rabbit,” (1). Her right hand’s position did not match up to any of the research presented, so I have to presume that it is in a position that comfortably holds her story together. With my research and inferences, I came to the conclusion that this movement is telling the famous Indian children’s story about “the foolish lion and the clever rabbit,” (2). What happens in the story is that this ferocious lion has been attacking all the innocent animals until one brave rabbit makes a move. The rabbit tells the lion that there is another lion that challenges him to see who is the supreme ruler. The rabbit then leads the lion to a river where the unintelligent lion sees its shadow in the water and jumps in to attack the “other lion.” From there, the lion drowns. The moral of the story is that “intelligence wins over might,” (2). Her hands not only tell the story but her facial expression as well. Her eyes are piercing exemplifying the intensity between the lion and the rabbit, yet her lips have a soft smile and appeal to them that seem childlike. Not only do her gestures justify the dance but the colors chosen as well. The red painting along her feet and hands can represent fear. The fear could be from the rabbit facing the lion or even the lion facing another lion. Although painting on the feet and hands is common in Bharatnatyam, the colors used can indicate different emotions within the story.

The woman also signifies the role of Indian women in society. Here, the woman is meant for entertainment purposes and that exactly aligns with what this picture portrays. The women are intended to entertain the man and tend to their every need. It is culture for women to cook for the men, tend to the men, and look out for the men. It is also the woman’s duty to entertain the guest and make sure everyone is satisfied. Not only are they to entertain but to be a figure to gaze at. This woman’s make up is done beautifully and elegantly so that she mimics a man’s wildest desires. The look of a woman says a lot about who they are: what generation they are from, what marital status they are, etc. The customs behind the picture portrays the idea that woman are objectified and are meant for merely entertain.

Bharatnatyam expresses stories, love, theories, and more. The dance is more than just the movement. The way the dance is performed can say a lot about what emotion is being presented. The time and consideration gone into Bharatnatyam only underlines the Indian community as a whole. There is more than what meets the eye with their culture: whether that be the dance, the language, the food, or the tradition. India holds significance in that they are a beacon to look upon for guidance.

Anjali. “Simhamukha Hand Gesture (Mudra).” Online Bharatanatyam RSS. Online Bharatanatyam, 25 Mar. 2008. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. (1)

“Indian Baby Names, Hindu Baby Names.” The Foolish Lion and the Clever Rabbit. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. (2)

“List of Mudras.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Aug. 2015. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. (3)

“THE SAAZ (Music Academy).” THE SAAZ (Music Academy). Awesome Inc., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. (4)