Maggot Moon

This book is for kids? I beg to differ. This book is for adults. Yes, kids may read it. Will kids “get” it? I am not so sure. Yes, the language is easy to read and easy to grasp. Yes, the font is so huge, you’d think a blind person would be able to read the book. But this book is not just for kids. It’s meant to be read by adults too.

An alternate-reality science-fiction, this book is set in the time of the space race and nations trying to get to the moon. The book was so eerie, I thought it was set on the moon {also thanks to the title that deceived me into thinking so}. It was firmly set on earth but oh, what a dystopian future! The book was writ from the point-of-view of a 15-year-old, who can’t read or write too well but who’s intelligence is to be rivalled. He shows us his world, where ethnic cleansing is the norm, specially with the killing of those “flawed” in some ways. He told us of how people “disappeared” in the middle of the night, including his parents; where food was sparce, television was a banned commodity, a luxury not allowed; and where spies ran underfoot telling on each other, having “detectives” show up and take people away to be “re-educated” or to just become “maggot-meat”. The country was ruled by the likes of a regime analogous to the Nazis (there was no mention of a name except that the country had a black and red flag – very telling of the ideology in power) and whose morality and values, rife with oppression and authorotarian policing.

The book, however, told the story of this kid, who was bullied at school because he had heterochromatia (one blue eye and one brown), who had trouble breathing and who wore short-pants instead of the long-pants, that were a sign of esteem in his school. It was a story of an underdog, who in his own way, stood up and single-handedly brought around a hopeful revolution, bringing down the entire regime. The hero, who was the only solution and the only hope to a desperate people. And he did it not for himself, but to save his friend or his love. It was a heart-wrenching story and the message is as clear as day. You have to be a special kind of stupid, to take this story just at face-value.

Walking Dead and Sociology

I got into reading the Walking Dead comics a couple of years back. I had, however, gotten through several of the volumes before I saw the underlying theme of the book. The underlying theme isn’t immediately apparent though. After all, the books are about zombies. Aren’t they?

No, they’re not. They’re not about the zombies or about fear or the horror or the apocalypse or about the survival. It is about the survivors. The people left behind. It’s commentary about the role society plays in our current world and a prediction of what might happen if something so disastrously destructive happened that it took away the society we lived in and changed all the rules.

Even though back then I had no idea what sociology is or what it means and how important the role of society in our lives is, I did seem to get an inkling of the broader concept when I read these books. What struck me was that they didn’t even attempt to explore exactly what had happened. And what surprised me was that I was ok with it. I was fine with them not going after the cause.

The books are about people left behind who realized that there were no rules anymore. There was nothing holding them back. They could do whatever they wanted. That they had to make the rules; had to create a new form of society. What kind of society they created, how they built it back up from the ashes of the last burnt-out phoenix of a society zombies had decimated was up to them.

“To me, the best zombie movies aren’t the splatter feats of gore and violence with goofy characters and tongue in cheek antics. Good zombie movies show is how messed up we are, they make us question our station in society… and our society’s station in the world. They show us gore and violence and all that cool stuff too… But there’s always an undercurrent of social commentary and thoughtfulness.

…To me zombie movies are thought provoking, dramatic fiction, on par with any Oscar worthy garbage that’s rolled out year after year. Movies that make you question the fabric of our very society is what I like. And in GOOD zombie movies… you get that by the truckload.

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With the THE WALKING DEAD I want to explore how people deal with extreme situations and how these events CHANGE them. I’m going in for the long haul. You guys are going to get to see Rick change and mature to the point that when you look back on this book you won’t even recognize him. I hope you guys are looking forward to a sprawling epic, because that’s the idea with this one.”

We were recently studying Durkheim in Sociology class. He is known as the founder of cultural studies. Its true too. Reading the books he wrote and trying to understand his perspective and suddenly it was an ‘AHA’ moment for me when I realized that Kirkman had done what Durkheim had tried to do by writing; he was showing his perspective, his world-view of society. Obviously, he was making things up as he went but is the Walking Dead so far from the truth? What do you think will happen when society devolves into this barbaric world where there is no sanity to be found in any crevice? Aren’t we all already reduced to blood-thirsty wild animals? What place does society- this invisible glue holding us together- have in our world and how important is it? What value does it add to our lives?

I’ve always been cynical of the role society plays in our life. It is a man-made phenomena. Us humans have bumbled our way into applying some organizational rules and patterns onto our collective lives so that we all behave in a similar and expected way. No ugly surprises, nope. The rules of society haven’t been sent by God in most cases. Society gives us a way of life and so do some religions. But that is an argument I will make later.

Is society a bad thing? Do we not need it? Looking at the Walking Dead as an example of a situation where there aren’t enough humans left to form society and I think to myself, maybe we do need it. It keeps us all on one track. It gives us morals, ethics, and shuns those who don’t follow rules.

However, society is also constantly changing and transforming. These days some societies are really moving ahead faster and faster; which is great. But I think it’s imperative that we take a step back and out of the society that we currently live in and look at it from the outside and check to see the forces that are shaping the society we live in now. Is it fear that is changing our society? Or is the change being driven by something productive and positive? Are we changing into something better or are we being driven down a road by the unseen hands of other invisible entities that we don’t know are actually in control of the societies? There are so many things to think about just on one subject.

There was something I heard in the last episode of Bones that I watched. That the forefathers of the United States of America were seen as traitors in the time they were living in. Because they were rebelling against the society that was dominant around them. So what we see as evil and unforgivable in this time, do you think it will be seen as the usual in some later times?

And now for a more controversial question that just floated in my head. No offense meant but I do question these things so here goes: in the olden days even though homosexuals and transgender people existed, they were shunned and now they are celebrated. Which is great. Everyone has the right to a respectable life, which they have every right of choosing and making decisions regarding. However, in our times there are still people who are shunned. Pedophiles, perverts, murderers. Do you think our society will ever progress to a point where these people will also be respected for their conditions?

We are horrified by the very idea. But I am pretty sure, just 50 years ago people were horrified at the very idea that women would be given the right to vote, African Americans would be free from slavery and homosexuals would be able to marry each other and live freely and respectably in our society. What do you think will happen 50 years from now? What will be condoned and what will be condemned?

Do we make society? Or does society make us? What do you think?

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Learn to Learn

Today I need to talk about something really important. I came straight from sociology class so my ideas are fresh in my mind. Today we were talking about rationalization. What is rationalization? Its the action of organizing our lives in a way where we think that we are getting the most out of it. Not the most fun or the most worth or the most quality. No. The most quantity. Where we schedule and plan our lives to the point where everything becomes a chore and nothing is done for the purpose of doing a job well. To the point where the more work we can generate our of an action means more than allowing our actions to be meaningful and worthy.

We talked about a lot of things today. But what struck me was an idea I generated on my own today in class when asked for an example of an area of life that should probably NOT be so rationalized. I thought of education. The words that came out of my mouth were “cookie-cutter education”. How true is that if you think about it? How many of our educational institutions allow us to think creatively? Im living here in the States and I don’t see it. Multiple choice questions and answers, expecting students to memorize textbooks, not forcing them to apply what they learn; all of these things contribute to cookie-cutting. They’re making templates out of students. Whoever learns the system better, gets to succeed.

Cram enough information into one class and one lecture and overwhelm the student where they feel like they can’t cope. Don’t get me wrong. I am not that student. I am capable of handling everything and anything anyone throws at me. It’s not overconfidence either. It’s experience. It’s been done. I’ve overcome obstacles people thought were brick walls for me.. It’s everyone else. I see these people who settle for a decent grade and who don’t want anymore. Students who don’t want to learn. Who are not curious. Who don’t ask why. They just want a decent grade so they can get out and do their mundane 9-to-5 jobs, sitting at a desk, pushing papers.

Teachers don’t inspire. Don’t tie what they teach into a bigger picture. Don’t allow the students to have epiphanies. Don’t watch as the students go AHA! and look at their faces with the glow of understanding. Teachers are ok with just making sure that the students have rote learned what they have taught and send them on their way.

Teachers are the same everywhere. I have met very few teachers who have inspired me. Who have made me love their subject and made me want to worship them. Who have made me marvel at their genius; not only because of what their heads are full of but because of their genius in teaching. Because they make me want to know. They hold my interest and force me to be curious. I do remember one place that never reined in my mind. That never leashed it. Mind you, it wasn’t because it was what was best for a person like me, no. It was because no one knew any better and I was free to do as I please because I usually ended up being better than the teachers at it. But I guess thats what teachers should aim for isn’t it? Students who are better than them. That’s what shows that they have succeeded. When they are surpassed by their own students.

I’m getting off topic. There are some teachers here who inspire me. Who give me epiphanies. It is so sad that none of them teach a class which I call my major. If I ever found a teacher that taught computer science the way these teachers taught me sociology and psychology, I don’t think I would ever leave that teacher alone for more than a minute.

Teachers need to teach their students how to learn to learn.

That is all a teacher ever needs to do. Not cram information into a child’d head. But to inspire the child to go look for him/herself. Even if it means he/she doesn’t get straight A’s in every subject.

Ok I don’t mean that. Students should get straight A’s in every subject OKKKKK.