Posts Tagged ‘2003-04’
The editorial committee of e.g., UW’s online journal of 100-level writing, is pleased to announce the winning essays for 2003-04:
Sacrifice,Patriotism, and Pat Tillman
The Contemporary Demon
Mary Janessa Jusayan
Lessons from Culture
Rapper/hip-hop artist Eminem grew up in the ghettos of Detroit living in two different cultures by being a white man in a predominately black community. There he was able to compare and experience both cultures which gave him the unique characteristic of being a cultural hybrid. Eminem picked up his skill as a hip-hop artist by listening to rap, the mainstream type of music in that community, and later wrote some of his own lyrics in which he expressed the confusion and emotion he felt of being a cultural hybrid. He found breaking into the rap industry especially difficult due to pre-existing intercultural and unspoken rules that discouraged a white man from succeeding in a predominately black market. Eminem’s success finally came after record producer, Dr. Dre, signed him to his production company. Eminem’s current success has earned him 5 albums, 5 Grammys, a movie, an Oscar, and millions of fans. Eminem has become the cultural symbol of a man blending two cultures and by doing so he is changing both cultures.
“On what basis should we grant rights to non-human species?” questions Robert P. Harrison, in his essay “Toward a Philosophy of Nature”. On what basis indeed? How does one define a non-human species? Harrison answers by exploring the difference between human and non-human species and what rights truly are. He comes to the conclusion that, according to our culture, there are few differences between humankind and animals, and that “rights exist solely because they can be violated” (435). Mankind’s society and culture generally accepts that humans are the established superior species, and thus are the “natural” rulers who determine what our “natural” rights are. By examining concepts of domination, relationship, and change in culture, Octavia Butler, in her story “Bloodchild”, suggests that anyone’s concept of “natural” stems from his frame of reference, which then challenges socially accepted views regarding what the “natural order” truly is.
2003-04 Winner: “Constructing Knowledge: The Role of Human Limitations in Scientific Reasoning” by Katherine Liu
Humans have always relished organizing the world into neat and definite quantities, to which they can easily relate. It is a pursuit that has consumed man throughout the ages. Modern scientists feverishly search for the governing laws of the universe, just as Chinese scholars once scanned the stars, and Greek philosophers debated the meaning of life. Science is born out of speculation and observation. It provides a means for mankind to grasp at the divine, and explain the inexplicable. Like an artist molds a work of art from a formless wedge of clay, so science seeks to press the universe into quantitative models. These models reflect the complex interactions within nature, as the artist’s sculpture attempts to embody emotion. However, no artist possesses the skill to define ‘devotion’ or ‘grief into physical depiction. An artist is limited by the nature of the medium, and the complexity of the concept. The emotion is too intricate, and although it may be copied, it can never be fully replicated. It follows that in this way no scientific model can be completely accurate. A model is simply “an object of imitation . . . an idealized description or conception of a particular system” (Oxford). Science is built upon the strength of its models in approximating the universe. So although science may provide a good representation of the way things are, it provides nothing more, and may not be taken as an absolute. Models are applied to the world in attempts to understand it. Sir Isaac Newton utilized models in his attempt to understand the complicated concept of gravity. He took the force and described it simply and concisely, in a way we as humans could understand. Yet it eventually fell short of describing the full properties of the force, and it has been long since replaced.
In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.
What our reputation holds in the eyes of others is of obvious significance in our lives. Yet, all too often, how we are perceived does not coincide with what we, ourselves, identify as the truth.
The greatest injustice to a name is to brand it with a single word. By doing so, the entirety of that individual’s character is confined to that one defining label. The practice of placing figures on one flank of a scale between “good” and “evil” has been a common one, perpetuated by our educational system, the media, politics, and even those who write history. The placement of the individual on this scale is intrinsically subjective and changes between one assessor to the next. One contemporary figure, Osama bin Laden, has come to represent a diabolical villain in the eyes of millions of Americans through his role in the September 11th bombing of the World Trade Center. The general public knows little about his past with the exception of a few facts and video clips provided by the news media, all of which are secondary to the image of a pitiless terrorist. This essay is not intended to defend Osama bin Laden and present the case that he is a sympathetic character but to merely point out the perils in portraying him as solely evil. An equally detrimental form of one-dimensional representation is James Loewen’s concept of “heroification” described in “Handicapped by History,” which has the opposite effect of generating exemplary figures from the not-so flawless. Both “heroification” and the practice of demonizing individuals, like Osama bin Laden, oversimplify the complexity inherent in human conflict while overlooking the causal relationship between motive and behavior.
In the media, stories are often carefully selected, romanticized and expanded to express larger principles. Such stories may sell more papers, but they also shape beliefs by engaging emotions, suppressing reason and ignoring divergent information. In Sentimental Journeys, Joan Didion introduces the concept of a sentimental narrative through the lens of the popularized 1989 rape and murder case of the New York ‘Jogger.’ The essay discusses the effects of the contrived story on individuals and society, namely, perpetuating class disparities and compromising the effectiveness of the justice system. One particularly sentimental account in the media today, emerging from the current effort to ‘fight’ terrorism, describes the death of professional football player, Pat Tillman, in Afghanistan on 22 April 2004 at the age of 27. The story idealizes Tillman’s choice to join the armed forces as the ultimate sacrifice and deems him a hero for his courage and unquestioning patriotism. The rhetoric is highly sentimental in its talk of sacrifice, courage and heroism. Furthermore, the language has been adopted by public figures who knew or have sympathy for Tillman, offering the media further material with which to idealize the account. Tillman’s early death is sad; but, the idealization of his story marginalizes other noteworthy but peaceful efforts to decrease acts of aggression by operating under the assumption that engaging in armed warfare is the most noble and practical approach to fighting terrorism – engendering the idea that one should join the armed forces and fight like the demonstrated hero, Pat Tillman.
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