Month: January 2014

Technology and Privacy – Are they Mutually Exclusive?

The Kodak Fiend:

When the Kodak Camera was first invented in the late 19th century a public outcry erupted with the emergence of the ‘Kodak Fiend’ – the handheld camera so convenient that many individuals patrolled beaches snapping amateur photographs of unsuspecting sunbathers. The camera’s slogan “you push the button, we do the rest” resonated with the public and although the camera cost a huge amount of money then, shop owners struggled to keep up with the demand. A technological revolution had occurred much similar to the technological trends of today.

While technological advancement must be welcomed and utilised there are greater concerns which must first be addressed, that is, that the right to privacy must override the need for greater technological freedom. While the freedom to develop, own and use technology, especially cameras must not be conceded, a guide of social conventions must be established and adhered to.

A poster from 1984 - a story from George Orwell where the original term 'Big Brother is watching you' came from. Is this our society now?

The size and quality of cameras is both good and alarming:

Cameras are in all nearly all devices now where the quality and size of the camera is now so advanced that the stand alone camera is almost exclusively revered by professional photographers. You’ll now find a camera in most appliances and devices – televisions, fridges and every smartphone, tablet and laptop. Cameras are increasingly becoming used as dash-cams in cars, police wear cameras as a part of their uniform, cameras are used by blind people to read labels and street signs, surgeons use cameras every day during surgery and cat-lovers dress their pets with a collar-cam to track their wandering cat’s movements.

Most technology will have a positive benefit and a negative consequence. Police-cams will discourage criminals from making false complaints against officers and will also prevent police from abusing detainees. Dash-cams help resolve insurance claims and catch drivers committing driving offences. Surgeons are able to perform key-hole surgery using endoscopy cameras without completely opening patients.

Cameras are ubiquitous:

On the other hand, however, there are serious privacy concerns that accompany the advancement of technology and the implantation of cameras into many areas of our lives. Just like the Kodak Fiend concern of the 1890s, today the ubiquitous nature of cameras in smartphone means photos can be snapped and shared to millions in matter of seconds. School bullies take photos from their phones and upload them to social media to embarrass their victims while women are being secretively snapped in order to be shared with a wider audience.

On an even deeper and more concerning level are the cameras operated by computer networks for large businesses and corporations which, with facial recognition, are able to extract information about individuals by tracking their every movement. With the added element of us sharing our information on social media the sophistication of computer algorithms means we may not be far from a society where we can be walking down the street and know everything about everyone we encounter.

Google Glass:

The newest threat to the eroding privacy that technology has created is the Google Glass, a pair of spectacles with a built in camera and glass screen which projects into the wearer’s eye line. Google Glass is essentially a smartphone that is worn right before your eyes where information is directly available to you at every moment. While there is no doubt that Google Glass is an amazing example of the endless frontier that is technology and an example of the benefits to economic productivity that technology continues to provide, there are some ethical questions that must be confronted first. Google has tread lightly with civil libertarians thus far. Facial recognition has been left out of their product and video can only be taken in limited intervals – but for how long? Without appropriate laws and regulations in place to ensure individual privacy these companies will continue to push the boundaries and eventually change our perception towards the technology until we grow to disregard the privacy concerns.

Life Logging:

The idea of ‘life logging’ which the technology of Google Glass opens is both an inspiring and confronting one. Wearing a camera that takes a photo every 30 seconds means every moment of your life is captured. The idea came about after a man lost both is parents to cancer and wished he had memories of the more candid moments he enjoyed with them. Many people often take photos at special events but the intimate moments shared with family and friends are often the ones most worth capturing. Creating an electronic memory in theory sounds great but other concerns arise. While capturing the most cherished moments, you also capture the unhappy moments you would wish to forget. Furthermore, the privacy of everyone you encountered is compromised. Most people wouldn’t even realised they had just been photographed and if they did would they approve of it.

Technology will continue to improve, new technologies will always be discovered and technology will continue to improve our quality of life. Technology must be embraced – there’s no alternative. Technology must aid humanity – not reduce the rights of humanity. As technology becomes integrated into mainstream society many questions must be asked of its social progression. Law makers must act to protect privacy while ensuring society embraces the many improvements technology provides. With the greatly increased power that technology provides, comes an even greater responsibility.

Now where do I buy a pair of Google Glasses?

Privatization – A neccessary agenda to cut debt

Consider the following scenario: you are heavily indebted and you’ve reduced your spending as low are reasonably possible, however, you have a number of unneeded or under-used assets. Just like the majority of Western governments, would you not think it appropriate to sell off a number of assets or property in order to straighten your financial situation? This is exactly what governments should be attempting to achieve in order to eliminate debt.

There are obvious things a government would never sell. National icons with diverse historical importance or heritage listed properties such as the Louvre in Paris, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming or Australia’s Uluru would and should never be sold off. However, there are many other assets governments should look to privatize. A 2011 audit found that of the one million buildings the US government owned, at least 45,000 were deemed unneeded or under-used. Furthermore, one-fifth of the country’s land, which beneath it lies vast quantities of gas, oil and minerals, is unable to be explored due to government ownership. Throughout Europe these examples of unneeded or under-used assets and property are plentiful. Italy, for example, with debt equaling 132% of GDP, an extensive privatization plan would help to stabilize their debt burden. While Italy has a vast amount of government owned assets (more than many richer countries) its privatization agenda is non-existent. In OECD countries alone, the sale of such assets would tally almost US$9 trillion – that’s 20% of these countries’ combined debt.

Not all Privatizations are appropriate:

There is a reluctance from governments, however, to attempt to privatise assets as it is generally met by fierce opposition, just as Reagan experienced as he tried to sell land in America’s West and was met by a vehement coalition of left-wing activists and ranchers. The ranchers had a legitimate reason for concern of losing their grazing rights, however, many may well have been better off under more stable economic conditions. It is a political gamble for many governments and, if not considered and implemented appropriately can in fact cause greater problems, both financially and politically.

It is important to note that not all privatizations are appropriate. There are many services which should never be privatized to ensure all of society has access to them including healthcare, education and law enforcement. This is the widely held view from those of the center-right of politics. Left-wing activists have this fundamentally wrong where the failings of extreme instances such as the Soviet Union’s communist agenda exemplify. Even modern China, which was built upon communist principles has now moved into the realm of capitalism and operates as the world’s second biggest economy.

 

The privatization of a range of government assets and property is important to create more competitive markets which in turn offers the best possibility of increased productivity. When the private sector is able to build capital there is more incentive for performance improvement and when performance increases productivity inevitably follows. Privatization is not merely stripping assets away from the public sector but a comprehensive strategy for restructuring welfare systems and public services.

Australia’s example of Privatization:

Many people will argue at this point that increased profits will lead to greater disparity between the rich and the poor. It may be true that the gap becomes wider, however, in most circumstances the standard of living for the poorest citizens dramatically increases as real wages will rise. Where there is incentive and opportunity to do well it is imperative of the human condition to work harder. With greater opportunities employment rates will drop, consequently lowering the welfare burden on governments.

An example of effective privatization occurred in Australia over the turn of the millennium. The center-right Government led by John Howard in 1996 inherited $96b debt (>$138b today) during the worst recession the country had seen since the Great Depression. With his liberal economic policies, Howard moved to privatize government assets, including the government-owned telecommunications provider, Telstra. Along with deregulating the market and implementing tax cuts Howard and his Treasurer paid off the $96b debt and within 2 years delivered a budget surplus which they would continue to do for the 12 years they held government. John Howard showed the political courage and determination to do what was right for his country even in the face of public dissent and disapproval.

History has shown exactly what systems work in order to create robust and productive economies – that is the free market economy. Privatization complements free markets by introducing competition and supplementing productivity. At a time when markets are showing improvement governments must be looking to privatize inefficient, unneeded or under-used assets and property. Leaders of the world today must look beyond personal politics and implement the appropriate economic reforms – its time to privatize!

 

Why is Vaccination so Important?

Vaccination saves lives!

The human immune system is fundamental to maintaining health as it is trained to resist and fight off disease causing bacteria and viruses. At every moment there are swathes of hostile bacteria, fungi and viruses which swarm on our body. Yet we are able to remain relatively healthy – most of the time. Our immune system is uniquely able to provide immunity against pathology-causing organisms, or pathogens. Certain pathogens are so virulent, however, that our immune system cannot provide immunity quick enough before the disease causes long term impairments or death. This is where vaccinations become so overwhelmingly critical, not only to individual health but to the health of entire populations.

A macrophage hard at work keeping the body safe from foreign substances.In brevity let us firstly consider the composition and basic physiology of the immune system: The Innate Immune System:

Composed of two separate divisions which complement each other the immune system is able to provide a complete defense structure. The innate division of the immune system is sometimes referred to as the non-specific immune system since it does discriminate on what foreign substances it protects against. Elements of the innate immune system essentially protect against all foreign substances, pathogenic organisms included. There are two divisions of the innate immune system – the first line of defence is the skin and mucosae (internal linings of mouth, nose, gastrointestinal tract etc). Secondly, there are a number of immune cells which circulate the body through the blood and lymph. The main immune cell which we shall focus on is the macrophage. Macrophages move throughout the body and essentially engulf foreign substances such as bacteria in a process called phagocytosis. Macrophages will only protect against foreign substances such as bacteria if they by chance happen to encounter them on their travels. They cannot actively seek out foreign substances in order to attack them – at least not without the help from other immune system elements.

A macrophage (red) engulfs a tuberculosis myobacterium (yellow)

If a bacteria penetrates the first line of defence and moves into the body encountered by cells of the innate immune system such as the macrophage, the bacteria is able to take hold of the host by reproducing constantly. As this happens the infected host begins to show symptoms of the disease that that bacteria causes. There are certain virulent bacteria and viruses that cause diseases that our immune system cannot respond effectively enough and in enough time to prevent long term damage or death. In such circumstances, our immune system may be helped by other components of the immune system now to be discussed.

Viruses and bacteria are the main disease causing organisms.The Adaptive immune System:

The second major division of the immune system – the adaptive immune system plays a significant role in long term immunity. This is where vaccination plays an important part. The adaptive immune system is quite complex and involves a wide variety of components, however, this article will attempt to address the concept simply. The adaptive immune system, as its name suggests, is able to adapt in response to certain foreign organisms such as bacteria and viruses that it has previously encountered. It is also called the specific immune system since many of the components of this system discriminate in terms of what they attack.

Antibodies have attached to a pathogen and have neutralised it. Now macrophages or T lymphocytes may come and kill the pathogen.

Humoral Division:

The adaptive immune system is further divided into subsections. The Humoral division of the adaptive immune system is concerned with the production of antibodies. Antibodies are Y shaped proteins which circulate through the body’s humor or fluids (Blood and lymph) and neutralize foreign substances. Every antibody has a unique target which is present on the invading organism or pathogen. This target is known as the antigen (Anti-body Generating). The interaction between an antibody and antigen can best be described like a lock and key. When the key inserts into the lock the antibody activates and the pathogen is neutralised. Antibodies do not eliminate the pathogen but neutralising them makes them available to other components which effectively kills and destroy the invading pathogen.

Antibody production:

Antibodies are produced within a special cell called the B lymphocyte or simply the B cell. On the first exposure to a certain foreign organism the B cell is said to be inactive. It does not begin to produce antibodies until it has encountered the foreign organism for the first time in a process called ‘differentiation’. Once the B cell is activated it produces many of these specific antibodies which seek out the specific foreign substance and neutralise it. When activated, some B cells become ‘memory B cells’ which are long living cells which become important on re-exposure to that specific organism at a later time.

Antibodies have attached to a pathogen and have neutralised it. Now macrophages or T lymphocytes may come and kill the pathogen.

On the second and subsequent exposures the memory B cell, already differentiated, instantly begins to produce antibodies and therefore your immune system is able to effectively defend against the foreign organism. In this scenario there is no delay period where the differentiation process has to occur and therefore with the much higher numbers of antibodies circulating the blood, coupled with the greatly reduced time the organism has to reproduce an take hold, our immune system will either completely prevent the disease progressing to show symptoms or will minimise the severity and length of time of the symptoms.

The problem with aggressive bacteria and viruses is that they may cause irreparable damage or death before our immune system can establish an effective defence against it. This is where the importance of vaccination is emphasised – by artificially installing a memory into out immune system of how to combat a specific organism, on exposure to the organism our immune system can act before the disease progresses.

B cells produce antibodies which circulate through the blood and neutralise pathogens.Vaccination is essentially a way of manipulating the immune system to create protection against a disease-causing pathogen without causing the disease within the person. There are a number of ways a vaccination may be created:

Killed or Inactive Viruses: This method is used primarily for viruses and involves treating the virus with heat or chemicals to ensure it is no longer infectious. These vaccines cause a significant antibody response and therefore create immunity through differentiating B cells so that memory B cells are available to ramp up antibody production on subsequent re-exposure to the pathogen.

Attenuated Pathogens: This method involves taking a disease causing organism and growing it in cells of other species so that the organism adapts to that species and therefore grows poorly in human cells. When the vaccine is introduced into humans our immune system will effectively remember how it defeated the pathogen on re-exposure.

Toxoids: Some pathogens cause disease by releasing toxins into the body. This method induces immunity by vaccinating specifically against the toxin. It therefore prevents disease when a pathogen releases toxin in the body.

Antibodies have attached to a pathogen and have neutralised it. Now macrophages or T lymphocytes may come and kill the pathogen.

The processes of creating these vaccines by using various chemical compounds is the argument that anti-vaxers mostly use to whip up hysteria over the dangers of vaccination. They’ll attempt to argue that neomycin and polymyxinB cause kidney damage and that streptomycin prevents protein synthesis and causes hearing loss. This is all true, however the age old saying ‘it’s the dosage that makes the poison’ continues to hold true. If anti-vaxers were in anyway educated on the processes of the human body then they would understand the flaws of their argument.

The DPT Vaccine:

Let us take the process of creating the diphtheria vaccine (usually administered as DPT for Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) for example: The process involves inactivating the Corynebacterium diphtheria pathogen using formaldehyde. Formaldehyde may be a toxic chemical, however the term toxic is misleading and overtly ambiguous. At high doses formaldehyde is toxic, however, the amount found in the DPT vaccine is so small it simply isn’t an issue. During normal body processes alone your body is generating and breaking down more formaldehyde than what is found in the DPT vaccine. In greater concentration many foods, including meat and fruit contain either formaldehyde or compounds which convert to formaldehyde in your body. An average adult contains about 2.5 micrograms of formaldehyde per millilitre of blood– that’s more than 10 times the amount more formaldehyde than the DPT vaccine contains.

Mercury is toxic in large doses. The insignificant amount which was once found in vaccines was not enough to be toxic.Neurotoxicity of Vaccines:

Furthermore, anti-vaxers will attempt to argue that neurotoxins, including aluminium and mercury (as thiomersal) cause various neurological conditions. The amount of aluminium found in vaccines is so insignificant compared to the amounts we ingest in our foods and drink. Our body has no problem metabolises these and therefore no problem metabolising the minuscule amounts found in vaccines. Thiomersal and thus mercury has been removed from vaccines since the early 2000s due to the scare campaign associated with the word ‘mercury’, however, a Japanese study found that autism incidence continued to rise with even greater pace after thiomersal was removed.

There is no reasonably argument that explains how these chemicals may cause problems when our body is at every moment generating and metabolising these compounds apart of the natural processes that passively occur without us even thinking of it.

This graph shows the period of time where Thiomersal was used in vaccines as the MMR interval. Incidence of Autism increased significantly after thiomersal was no longer added.

Herd Immunity:

This concept is incredibly important when we consider the overall health of the population, in attempts to control epidemics, pandemics and in achieving eradication of infectious diseases. It essentially describes a form of immunity whereby large proportions (a herd) of a population are immunised against a particular pathogen. It provides a larger chance of immunity for those who have not been vaccinated and where herd immunity is established and maintained, the spread of a disease is disrupted when a large part of the population are immune or less susceptible to the disease. Herd immunity holds that with a greater percentage of the population vaccinated the probability that someone who isn’t vaccinated will encounter another person who isn’t vaccinated is significantly decreased. Under these circumstances a link in the chain of disease transmission is broken and a disease can be contained. The herd immunity threshold percentage at which a disease’s begins to be contained is generally quite high. For disease such as Diphtheria, Polio, and Rubella the vaccination percentage required is around 80 – 85% of the population. For more virulent diseases such as Measles and Pertussis the herd immunity threshold percentage is in excess of 90 – 95%.

The importance and efficacy of vaccination is well established within the vast majority of society and overwhelming advocated by the health profession. A vocal minority group of anti-vaxers who wish to believe the mistruths about the safety and importance of vaccinations places the entire population at an increased risk of disease. The science is compelling – the truths are there – the evidence is out – vaccinations have saved more lives than any other form of medicine and will continue to save lives into the future. Everyone must be vaccinated – so let’s make it compulsory!

Ideas of Religion and Peace within Christianity

What is peace?

The concept of peace may be superficially characterised as the absence of violence, conflict or war. However, the definition of peace can be more complex than this. It encompasses not only world peace where nations hold amicable relationships but also peace on a personal level – inner peace or a state of calmness and tranquility with oneself. Many ideas of peace have been formed through religious ideologies. Both Christianity and Islam have developed deeper ideas about peace through their teachings attempt to instil peace in the adherent, and consequently strive for peace throughout the world.

CHRISTIANITY: How is the understanding of peace informed through significant writings in the New Testament?

The New Testament follows the life and ministry of Jesus where peace is a frequent and ubiquitous theme. Notions concerning peace are expressed:

  • in the announcement of the birth of Jesus “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on Earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:14)
  • in the teachings of Jesus “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9)
  • in the life of the early church community “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22)
  • and is most commonly used as a form of greeting “Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7)

Since the New Testament is the story of the life and ministry of Jesus, and themes of peace are frequent, it can be said that at the heart of Jesus’ teachings is peace. Jesus himself is called the Prince of Peace “For us a child is born…and he will be called… [the] Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Christians are taught to model themselves on Jesus’ teaching which therefore means Christians are encouraged to emphasise peace in their everyday lives.

However, this peace is not explicitly emphasised as to not war against others, rather the New Testament explores how peace can be achieved on a personal level:

  • modelling Jesus’ life and ministry
  • placing trust and faith in God “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding , will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7)
  • forgiveness of others’ sins “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18)

New Testament on Violence and War:

While the New Testament offers obvious themes of peace, the majority are concerned with finding inner peace, rather than providing unequivocal prohibition of warfare. The strongest statements against warfare come from the preaching of Jesus:

  • “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other check” (Matthew 5:39)
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9)
  • “love your enemies and prays for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)

Although the New Testament does not explicitly prohibit war, reading of the New Testament would conclude that Jesus was a strong advocate of peace and thus opposed to violence. Therefore, drawing upon their reading of the New Testament, Christians, for many centuries refused to undertake military service and engage in warfare.

In summary, the New Testament informs Christians of peace through presenting Jesus as the model for which they should live their life. Christians should draw upon the teachings of Jesus within scripture and follow the messages of peace he preaches.

What are the principle teachings about peace in Christianity?

Ministry of Jesus: As mentioned Jesus’ ministry forms a principle teaching about peace. Jesus preached peace, not only in opposition to war and violence, but through faith to God, an overall sense of wellbeing and inner peace is achieved.

Pacifism: was the Christian position adopted during the early church and stated that all war was unjustifiable. With this Christians refer to Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek and thus refuse to engage in warfare or military service. However, during the fourth century, philosophical changes were made to the Christian pacifist stance in order to protect their religious freedom and property from theft or destruction. From this the Just War Theory developed.

Just War Theory: originated during the time of Constantine in the fourth century where it was said that to forbid ‘the state the right to go to war was to condemn it to extinction’. It sought to establish guidelines under which it was morally accepted to engage in warfare.

The Just War Theory maintained that nations are morally justified to wage war providing certain circumstances are met. Augustine proposed his theory to reconcile three things:

  • Taking human life is seriously wrong
  • States have a duty to defend their citizens and defend justice
  • Protecting innocent human life sometimes requires willingness to use force and violence

The Just War Theory is based on the premise that sometimes war is necessary to prevent a greater evil. In order for a just war to be waged:

  • It must have a just cause and not be for retribution
  • It must be used as a last resort
  • It must be waged by a legitimate authority
  • It must use proportionate means, target only combatants and avoid innocent loss of life
  • It must have a reasonable chance of success

 

Australia’s HealthCare System (Indigenous Australians and Native Americans)

Inequalities exist due to social determinants:

Within the Australian Health Care System inequalities exist due to the consequences of social determinants. In an attempt to reduce such inequalities, especially amongst indigenous populations, the importance of addressing these social determinants is emphasized. When specifically focusing on diabetes as an issue in both Indigenous Australian and American Indian communities, the determinants of geography, employment and education highly influence health levels. Within Indigenous Australian communities there are various initiatives, dependent on nurses that attempt to bridge inequalities existent between these communities and the general population. Similarly, when comparing the health issues of Indigenous Australians to the Native Indians of America, great insight can be obtained to highlight the successes and failures of the Australian Health Care System.

Indigenous Australians have a larger disparity to non-indigenous Australia:

The social determinants into which Indigenous Australians are born are directly linked to their health status. For Indigenous communities the isolation caused by their geography forms the first significant social determinant influencing their health levels. Because of their remote isolation, there is a substantial disparity in access to health services, compared to the non-indigenous population. Due to the unequal spread of funding across the entire population at Federal and State government levels, these remote communities are excluded from receiving basic access to nurses and general practitioners. In 2002, the Australian Government acknowledged the shortage of medical practitioners with 281 per 100,000 people in rural and remote communities compared to 312 per 100,000 people in more populated areas. Furthermore, as of 2001 78% of Indigenous communities were more than 50km from the nearest hospital and 50% of communities were also more than 25km from the nearest community health center. This clearly shows the inequality that exists due to the social determinant of geography and the disparity in access to basic health services.

Social determinants are the greatest deciding factor in health quality:

The societal conditions, or social determinants of health in which people live directly affect the levels of healthcare they receive. The many factors which essentially decide such social conditions include the environment into which people are born, events of early life, stresses of work and unemployment, social exclusion and support, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and substance addiction, food, transport and the healthcare system (World Health Organisation, 2013). While these factors directly determine social conditions, the dispersal of wealth, power and resources at global, national and local levels are indirectly critical in establishing the aforementioned social conditions (World Health Organisation, 2013). For Indigenous Australians the seventeen year gap in life expectancy compared to non-Indigenous Australians dramatically emphasizes the social inequalities that lead to disparity in healthcare levels. In his August 2011 article, Michael Marmot emphasized the idea of the social gradient of health, that is, “the lower the social position [of someone] the worse their health [is].” Marmot also provided several key areas which directly apply to Indigenous Australians which determine their position on the social gradient: early childhood development; education and skills development; employment and working conditions; minimum income for healthy living and sustainability of communities (Marmot, 2011). At the 2001 National Census the average household income for Indigenous Australians was just 62% that of the average non-Indigenous household. Furthermore, the unemployment rate of Indigenous Australians at 20% in 2001 was three times higher than non-Indigenous Australians (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002). As Marmot outlined such factors determine one’s position on the social gradient and consequently their level of healthcare. Therefore, it is because of the social conditions, or social determinants in which people live that directly affect their level of healthcare.

Rural and remote Australians experience greater disparity in healthcare:

Within the Australian Indigenous population, and especially amongst rural and remote communities, education forms an integral way forward when addressing the health inequalities. Education is fundamental in terms of social determinants and is highly responsible in determining one’s position on the social gradient. Statistics show great disparity in levels of secondary education between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. In 2008, 59% of Indigenous Australians who had year 12 education reported excellent health, compared to just 49% of those without this level of education. A greater disparity emerged within this group of indigenous Australians aged 35 and older; 43% reported excellent health compared to just 25% of those who never completed year 12. This shows that the social determinants of education is directly linked to health outcomes. Education is also critical within the health care system and amongst health care professionals. An increase in nursing education to respond to Indigenous history and culture is fundamental in reducing health inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This idea addresses cultural determinants and attempts to lessen racial barriers. It is thought that indigenous Australians consider Western health care culturally inapt and as a result are reluctant to access this form of healthcare. In the year 2000 only 30% of nursing schools had implemented studies of indigenous history, health and culture. This consequently affected indigenous Australians in a way that the majority of nurses have limited insight into the unique needs of indigenous Australians. Obviously, by providing this extra education to health care professionals, such cultural and historical appreciation can be afforded in the practice of health which consequently makes progress in reducing inequalities. According to 2007 report only 0.5% of the total number of nurses were indigenous. By promoting education of indigenous nurses to have a holistic understanding of indigenous health needs, the barriers between indigenous culture and western health care can be bridged. Education is therefore critical within both the indigenous population and amongst health care professionals in reducing health inequalities.

Many projects have been put in place to try and bridge disparities:

In an attempt lessen the health disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in terms of cultural differences, the Yapunyah Project educates nurses in Indigenous history and culture. The Yapunyah Project, designed by the Queensland University of Technology attempts to educate nursing students with emphasis on cultural beliefs and highlights traditional life ways of Indigenous Australians and integrates this knowledge with the practice of health care. A pre-project questionnaire found that just 51% of nursing students understood the concept of culture and its inextricable link to indigenous identity. The project found significant changes in nursing students’ attitudes and understanding of indigenous history and culture. As a result this led to a significant degradation in health inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians when in the care of these nursing students. The Yapunyah project provides a clear example of the benefits of addressing the social determinants of race and education on cultural awareness which consequently reduces the inequalities of health.

Similarly to Indigenous Australians, the Native American Indian population suffers similar health inequalities when compared to the non-indigenous American population. Education within this ethnic group highlights the inequality compared to the non-indigenous populace. In 1992 just 6% of American Indians had a university degree compared to 23% of the white population. According to Marmot (YEAR!) who argues that one’s position on the social gradient, is directly linked to their level of health, American Indians have substantially poorer health than the white population.

The inequalities that exist within the Australian Health Care System are the consequences of the social determinants of health which are incredibly important when attempting to reduce these inequalities. Education is an integral determinant in healthcare in both the Indigenous Australian and American Indian communities. In an attempt to reduce inequalities, the Yapunyah Project provides education to both nurses and indigenous peoples, improving their position on the social gradient and consequently their level of healthcare.

Inequalities of Modern Healthcare

Modern medicine is increasingly influenced by economic interests:

Originally providing a social critique on the capitalist economic structure of the mid-nineteenth century, today Marxist critique mirrors developing trends within modern medicine and the healthcare system.The Marxist model explains an evolving definition of health, as medicine becomes shaped by corporate interests in a highly capitalist society. The movement of healthcare from a local public service to being driven by the intentions of large corporations encourages a social division and inequality between classes.

According to basic Marxist philosophy, healthcare originally facilitated profit-making of other industries by reducing illness that affected productivity. In this capacity the motivations for providing healthcare become blurred with economic prosperity. Originally, as 19th century Harvard University president Charles Elliot wrote, “the objective of research in medicine is to prevent industrial losses due to sickness and untimely death”. The impact that capitalism had on medicine was profound in transforming a profession based on caring for the ill to one driven by economic interests. This significantly altered the definition of health to reflect the motivations of healthcare to support other industries to sustain their profits.

Work Environments are closely linked to health status:

The Marxist perspective furthermore claims that health is closely related to work environments such that unequal social structure should be considered more important to health issues than individual frailty or weakness. While this was largely evident during the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution, such models reflect modern trends and the impact on health due to class division that modern capitalism causes. In the United Kingdom between 1991 and 1993 the incidence rate of lung cancer was almost five times greater in the unskilled population compared to the professional workforce. As the Marxist perspective explains, capitalism blurred the lines between providing healthcare and maintaining profit so that healthcare becomes related to one’s work environment and therefore social class.

Technology has increased medical capital and with that economic interests dominate:

The rapid evolution of medical knowledge and technology has led to a significant increase in medical capital, obscuring the motivations of administrators in providing healthcare to make profit. From the earliest days of healthcare, physicians could do little more than provide comfort for suffering patients. With little medical infrastructure, small public hospitals which serviced the poor, and charity supported private hospitals provided relatively indiscriminative medical care. Marxist theory explains that with insignificant amounts of money being spent on healthcare at the turn of the century, the business of medicine was not economically lucrative. Because of the lack of infrastructure and investment in medicine, healthcare, although relatively poor at this stage was not socially divisive.

Towards the middle part of the twentieth century an acceleration in medical knowledge and technology saw a rapid increase in medical capital:

By the early 1980s 6.3% of GDP was being spent on healthcare at a cost of $10.8 billion. In Australia today, this has grown to over 9% with over $120 billion being injected into healthcare. With an increasing amount of finance within the medical industry Marxist theory explains that a once charitable and service orientated profession is now shaped by an entrepreneurial mentality. Medical administrators and corporate directors gain unchallenged power which they use to exploit the medical market for further profit. In this situation healthcare becomes a socially divisive service, even in an Australian setting where the public system is not discriminative to who is provided with healthcare, however, healthcare quality still varies amongst social classes. Wealthier citizens who can afford private healthcare have greater control of hospital and doctor choice and have minimal waiting times for elective surgeries. Furthermore, however, there is an argument that with massive amounts of profit flowing to medical practitioners and hospitals, a growing patient distrust has emerged since doctors are now tainted by capitalism and money. While the quality of healthcare may be related to social class, the significant increase in medical capital has seen the definition of health, change universally among social classes to reflect the emerging capitalistic motivations for providing healthcare.

A Medical-Industrial Complex exists between the state and medical industry:

The Marxist model contributes significantly to the explanation of a developing Medical-Industrial Complex where an intricate interplay between governments and the medical industry has a profound effect on the distribution of healthcare. In Australia and similarly in all capitalist countries, both the private and public systems contribute to establishing an entrepreneurial approach to providing healthcare since the state funds in part both systems. All medical equipment and pharmaceuticals are bought by the state from large medical supply and pharmaceutical corporations, therefore contributing to the super profits of these companies. With ever growing profits brings greater power to such corporations who in turn use such to exploit the medical system to gain monopolistic control over this market sector and thus minimizing competition.

Taking patents on all newly developed technologies or drugs eliminates competition and establishes a market monopoly for that product:

This currently occurs through the research and production of drugs to the point that pharmaceutical companies have abandoned the manufacture of certain essential drugs on the basis that they’re not profitable. The American Society of Health Pharmacists (ASHP) reports a critical shortage of a drug called Fluorouracil which treats a variety of cancers.The ASHP attributes this to the fact that manufacturers have simply ceased its production due to its lack of profitability. Drug companies would rather focus their investment on, for example blood pressure drugs which a patient would need to take on a daily basis.

Political motives become increasingly self-interested with a growing medical economy:

With patients forced to spend substantial amounts of money on additional treatments a socially divisive element is introduced where their ability to afford such is determined by their social position. In Australia both state and federal governments have politicized medicine and the healthcare system in return for short term political gain, subsequently altering the medical landscape. With overwhelming and increasing investment in treatment, rather than prevention of illness, governments are able to maintain short term satisfaction with voters. Governments are hardly prepared to make sizable investment in preventative programs which the effects, if even noticed at all, would arise well after their term in government. Since lower social classes experience the greatest susceptibility to disease and illness the lack of preventative measures furthermore makes this a socially divisive issue. A medical – industrial complex contributes significantly to the degradation of the idea of health, as motivations alter.

Consequently, the idea of a medical-industrial complex where the state contributes to the monopolistic tendencies of medical companies exemplifies the Marxist claim that just because medicine is organized as a national system of healthcare it is not necessarily free from capitalist influence.

The effects of capitalism are profound on how we define health and contributes significantly to the evolving motivations for practicing medicine:

In our highly commercialized society medicine has become yet another commodity exploited by large corporations for profit. Because of the economically lucrative nature of medicine, providing healthcare has become a socially divisive yet fundamental need. With increasing medical capital and a developing Medical-Industrial Complex, Marxist theory provides a critique on the exploitative nature of capitalism and its effects on the evolving motivations for providing healthcare for profit.

 

 

 

Paul Keating’s Republican Address at the Funeral of the Unknown Australian Soldier

Paul Keating, the Australian PM at the time serves a primary purpose to present a funeral address appropriate for a neutral state occasion.

A subtle subtext is employed to criticise the monarchist system in Australia and present Keating’s favour of republicanism

Context – 1993: Keating presented his speech on the 11th November, now recognised as Remembrance Day celebrating the armistice of the First World War. Furthermore heightening the exposure to the of the speech was that 1993 was the 75th anniversary of the armistice – a major occasion.

Keating personally, was raised in a poor family who joined the Labor Party as an adult, traditionally favoured towards the working class. His political position was surely influenced by his upbringing where Keating would not have agreed with the class division that monarchies traditionally created. His own personal context would have influenced his republican views and therefore his address. Furthermore, Keating served as a junior parliamentarian under the Whitlam Government who was dismissed by the monarchist system. This would have ensured hatred and resentment towards the monarchist system.

Context – 2012:

Keating’s speech today would appeal to many Australians considering Australia’s position within the world being a dominant and influential nation. Many may consider Australia no longer needs a monarchist constitution as the monarchy no longer influences Australia and its politics. There is strong debate about the relevance of continuing such a system with the decreasing monarchist links we hold with Britain. Furthermore, Australia is heavily influenced by American culture where the ideas of republicanism are ubiquitous within most forms of media. Australia holds increasing links with America especially in military with American deployment of troops in Darwin this year. Australia today fights alongside America in wars in the Middle East. As time continues and Australia continues its sway from Britain to America, Keating’s speech becomes increasing relevant for its sub- textual purpose.

Paul Keating, Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996

Kairos:

Keating’s tone is formal and reflective, appropriately fitting the occasion of a state event. Keating’s speech, therefore, holds authentic to the requirements of Kairos. Furthermore, holding the funeral on the 75th anniversary of the armistice adds depth to the purpose of commemorating the Unknown Soldier and gives Keating a sizeable platform for his subtext. Although remaining constrained to the demands of Kairos, Keating subtly presents his subtext. This subtlety is critical in remaining true to the demands of Kairos as explicit criticism would be inappropriate for a neutral occasion.

The Tomb of the Unknown Australian soldier represents all Australians who died in war.

Section 1:

Keating starts his speech by creating an everyman and allows the responder into the conversation where they are invited to mould their everyman in whatever way they hold suitable. This is important as Keating moves on to connect Republicanism with the Anzac legend and then provide the Anzac identity as the suitable model for their everyman.

In the opening paragraphs, Keating introduces the universal identity of the soldier by inviting the responder into the speech saying “he is one of us”. This is an immediate appeal to pathos where Keating continues thereafter his enigmatic presentation of the soldier through anaphoric repetition and first person plurals “we don’t know” and “we will never know.” This allows a connection between the responder and the unknown solider where the idea is created that his identity could belong to all responders.

By listing the many things unknown about the soldier, Keating is in fact providing a template that can be filled in by the responder in whatever way they wish. Furthermore, the idea of the soldier being a kind of everyman is emphasised through Keating’s balanced contrasts so that anyone “from the city or bush”, “married or single” can access the identity of the soldier. By presenting the universal identity of the soldier Keating effectively invites the responder to participate in the conversation and thus, invokes a personal response.

By reversing the anaphoric repetition from what we don’t know, to something we do know about the soldier, Keating humanises the cold facts and numbers. In affirming “he is one of us”, Keating employs the use of inclusive language to further emphasise the soldier belonging to all Australians. Short sentences add to Keating’s dramatic impact, heightening the enforced personal response.

Australia's War Memorial during an ANZAC day ceremony

Section 2:

Once Keating has introduced the Unknown Soldier and offered him as they everyman he subtly moves on to his subtext – criticism of the monarchist system. At all times Keating remains commemorative and honourable towards the soldier, however uses his sacrifice to blame the monarchy and outline the irrelevance of such a system in Australia.

Keating begins his persuasive subtext by outlining the irrelevance of a monarchy in today’s times. While continuing to fulfil his main objective – commemorating the Unknown Soldier, Keating says “this Australia and the Australia he knew are like foreign countries”. Here, his use of syllepsis (using a word two ways) and simile coupled with the negative connotations of “foreign” explore the drastic and negative changes Keating believes Australia to have undergone in the previous seventy-five years. He continues to portray this idea by employing the hyperbole in “so vast and all consuming” and “beyond the reach of the imagination” where their negative connotations force an emotional shift in the audience away from the monarchy.

Keating expertly constructs his speech to honour the war dead while using their sacrifices as a way to present his republican views. His simple manipulation of rhetoric through the juxtaposition of “king and country” and thus monarchism, to “political incompetence” enforces a connection between the two. Although this is subtly presented using alliteration of the ‘c’ sound, it is effective in forcing an emotional shift away from the monarchy. Keating does not move away from honouring the war lost soldiers but delicately persuades his audience to consider whether these soldiers died for no other reason but the glamour of fighting for the monarchy.

The Wall of Remembrance at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra lists the names of all Australians who died in war. The Poppies are a symbol of the armistice as they began to flower at that time in the North of Belgium and France.

Keating makes it quite clear that his purpose is not to glorify war and thus gives no credit to the monarchy, but in fact praises the contribution this Unknown Soldier made. In doing this, however, he discretely blames monarchies for necessitating their loss. After making the connection between political incompetence and monarchism, Keating continues to declare “the war which was supposed to end all wars in fact sowed the seeds for a second more terrible war” and furthermore adds “we might think this Unknown Soldier died in vain.” Here Keating makes the argument that monarchies started these horrible wars where millions of innocent people were killed. Therefore, after so many years of change in the world why does Australia still have a monarchist constitution? Surely so many Australians did not fight so see no gain? By degradation of the monarchy for its responsibility for the incredible loss of life, Keating is in fact presenting his favour of a substitute form of government – a republican system. He employs the use of cliché and dramatic language to relay his ideas and effectively invokes a personal response by maintaining the honour of the lost soldier.

Keating continues to move his audience away from monarchism and towards his ideas of Australia as a republic through his manipulation of language and rhetoric. He offers the war as a “lesson which transcended the horror and tragedy and the inexcusable folly” which through the use of emotional language and repetition implies Australia has moved on – that Australia learnt how to be independent of the folly or British and thus a republic system should be implemented.

Section 3:

Keating has created his everyman in the beginning of his speech, and has connected the monarchy to the terrible loss of life through war. The responder is in a position where they have rejected the monarchy and are now waiting for Keating to offer a substitute for which they can accept. He does this by linking the Anzac legend with ideas of republicanism and then offering this identity as the acceptable model for their everyman, thus his responder is persuaded in favour of the republican system.

He initially makes an appeal to ethos through his humble degradation of politicians of which he is one. This helps to lower himself to our level where we are more likely to respect his idea if he is not projected as above us. As a result, he effectively invokes a personal response within us which forces a shift in our favour to a republican system.

Keating moves on to portray the ANZACs as the model of Australian identity. He relates these ideas back to his subtle subtext and favour of republicanism by offering us the accessible ANZAC story. Keating, through inclusive first person challenges us “to believe in ourselves” which fundamentally is the basis of republican ideology.

Mateship was a dominant trait, recognized by many, as the ultimate example of the ANZAC legendHe then relates this idea to the ANZAC “legend of free and independent spirits”. Furthermore, the positive connotations linked to these words reverberate with his idea of republicanism. It could be said this is the climax of Keating’s speech. It is here that his argument is clearly presented. Although remaining subtle and, in continuing to commemorate the Unknown Soldier as his primary purpose, Keating introduces the ideas of “real nobility”, “courage”, “ingenuity in adversity” and “mateship”. This emotional appeal links all aspects of his speech, where the everyman from the beginning is shaped to represent the Australian identity. This identity is strongly distanced from monarchism and connected to the ideas of republicanism.

In the concluding paragraphs of his speech Keating reaffirms the irrelevance of the monarchy in Australia where a shift to a republican system is central to the development our Australian identity. Keating offers the juxtaposition of what has been sacrificed for gain. Although “we have lost a 100,000 lives… we have gained a legend”. Employing the use of first person plurals, Keating challenges us to call for a republic and equalise the disparity created by the monarchy.

 

Comparisons between Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s BladeRunner

Shelley’s Purpose:

Shelley had a number of purposes for writing Frankenstein. Overarching, which was influenced by her Romanticist values, was to explore the consequences of disturbing the natural order the status quo. In exploring this critical idea, Shelley examines humanity’s inextricable link with nature, the usurpation of God, the dangers of knowledge and science and social injustices.

Scott’s Purpose:

Scott created Blade Runner to warn of the many issues which he regarded as the outcome of a world that would existed forty years into the future. Similarly to Blade Runner, Scott provides a stark warning against the disruption of the natural order. By the absolute negation of it, Scott explores the importance of nature. Furthermore, he examines the morality behind the usurpation of God, the dangers of knowledge and science and the importance of social justice.

Both texts, although set in different times, explore universal themes concerning the disruption of the natural order to create artificial life. Both composers present a harsh critique of the society in which their text was created. This is particularly explored through the similar issues concerning class division and the social injustices this afforded citizens.

Society, class and injustice: Frankenstein:

Shelly uses her novel and more specifically the monster’s narrative to make a critique on her own society, class division and the injustices this afforded citizens during the foundation of capitalist Europe. When exploring this in context Shelley saw such as a disruption in the natural order, thus Frankenstein forms a harsh warning against capitalism. In this sense, Frankenstein can be viewed through a Marxist lens although Marx’s Manifesto would not be written for some years later.

Influencing Shelley’s critique were three significant periods in European History. The English Revolution in 1642 saw Charles I oppose the parliamentary system where he lost the English Civil Wars and a republic was established, liberating citizens from autocracy. The French Revolution which occurred in the 1790s saw a movement away from the monarchy and aristocracy and towards a republic established on the principles of equality, citizenship and undeniable rights. The Industrial Revolution which dominated the turn of the nineteenth century saw a movement towards capitalism. Shelley, writing her novel under these influences and, with her parents being highly connected with these ideas, ensured such were explored in her cautionary tale.

Shelley’s novel is set during the Industrial Revolution. The idea of monarchies ruling had been removed from society which Shelley and her anarchist father and husband would have respected, but replaced with capitalism where a new ruling class emerged. In this society those with wealth assumed power, becoming the upper class. Everyone else belonged to the working class – the proletariat. This breakdown of ethical considerations at this stage was seen by Shelley as an absolute disruption in the natural order thus, Shelley makes an ardent warning against the effects that this oppression has. The industrial revolution challenged the values of compassion and community where human dignity was being sacrificed in the race for mass production and profits. Within the proletariat a human’s worth was determined only by their labour. Apart from seeing the working class as their way to profit, the upper classes had no compassion towards them.

Victor Frankenstein represents the ruling upper class. He is sympathetic of Charles I who lost the English Civil Wars and was overthrown by liberators. This is shown when Clerval and Victor visit Oxford. Victor proclaims “It was here that Charles I had collected his forces. The city had remained faithful to him, after the whole country had forsaken his cause to join the standards of Parliament and liberation.” Shelley employs a sympathetic tone from Victor towards an “unfortunate king”, rather than excitement towards the liberators. This establishes that Victor values the ideas associated with the ruling classes and oppression afforded by the Industrial Revolution.

The Monster, therefore, represents the working class of society, being physically bigger and stronger while Victor is weak but wealthy and educated. The Monster speaks “of the division of property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty; of rank, descent and noble blood.” Shelley employs the Monster as a symbol of the struggles of the working class against the privileged upper class. The Monster acts as Shelley’s symbol of the working class who is hated, rejected and oppressed. The Monster’s gargantuan stature reflects the tremendous population of the working class which far outnumbered the nobility. This is symbolised through the Monster’s statement to Victor saying “Thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine; my joints more supple.” Shelley employs the use of semicolons to emphasise the contrasts between Victor’s physical qualities to the immense superiority of the monster.

Shelley insinuates that the working class will rise above the ruling class “You are my creator, but I am your master; – obey!” The high modality that the Monster speaks with here represents the revolutionary warning that Shelley presents; it is a stark warning – that the ruling classes will create a formidable opponent in the working class (as victor who represents the nobility creates the Monster) who will rebel with destructive fury. Shelley’s critique on industrialised England and the subsequent oppression and exploitation of the working class is unmistakable and a further warning against the unequal distribution of wealth and the class system.

Blade Runner: Reaganism:

Scott, being influenced by the political policies of Reagan saw how the world would turn out in a 2019 Los Angeles setting. In his film he incorporated what he considered the eventual effects of Reagan’s policies undeterred. Amidst the threats of communism during the Cold War Reagan implemented policies to deregulate corporations, giving them more power. The effects are shown in Blade Runner where Los Angeles has become a degraded, dystopic society with little or no social construct apart from the obvious rule and dominance by corporation. There is obvious class division; shown as Bryant asks Deckard to come back and work as a Blade Runner. In response to Deckard’s rejection a close up shot shows Bryant saying “If you’re not a cop, you’re little people”. Bryant’s venomous tone forces Deckard to accept the position as he acknowledges the harsh truth in what Bryant says. This, coupled with the dull lighting exposes the lack of social structure that is caused by unregulated corporation. This is a similar warning projected in Shelley’s Frankenstein against the increased authority of business during the Industrial Revolution. She warned of the social division and injustices this caused.

Thatcherism:

The political policies of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also influenced Scott’s depiction of the future. Her almost autocratic style of government is depicted through the centralised government of the 2019 world. This is presented as Deckard flies to the Tyrell Building. The massive pyramid style buildings are depicted as the tallest, overseers of all society and is the only place where natural light can be seen, thus Scott warns that in such a society the ruling class will become more corporate rather than political.

As the elevator rises above the clouds, the cessation of the rain symbolises the division of the lower from the upper class. The owner, Eldon Tyrell is its autocratic leader who represents the upper class in society; he is above all other citizens. There is little differentiation between the upper class (Tyrell Corp.) and the lower classes; the proletariat and the replicants. This links with Scott’s warning against Reaganism where corporate dominated, centralised governments created social division and injustice.

Scott, in both his warnings against Reaganism and Thatcherism, similarly to Shelley presents a critique on capitalism for its disruption in the natural order which affords social injustices upon citizens. From the immediate opening of the film all the responder sees is industry. Here, in this 2019 Los Angeles, commercialisation and commoditisation encompass all facets of society. The inhabitants live constantly overwhelmed by building sized advertisements from massive companies such as Coca Cola, neon lights are omnipresent and dark towers of factories block out the sun. Scott presents a world under extreme capitalism that is completely devoid of nature that even beauty, pleasure and life are commodities with production value. Replicants and animals are not born but manufactured and produced where their value is determined by their labour. In this world, humanity is disturbingly stifled.

Nature:

Fundamental need to sustain the natural world:

Nature is linked to humanity itself for its nature that gives life. The natural world is inextricably linked to the human condition and provides support, both resourcefully and emotionally. Shelley warns that removing nature is like extracting part of the soul. The relationship between nature and human is emphasised due to Shelley’s Romanticist connections and influences where the Romanticist Movement at the time sought to restore the importance and beauty of nature, championing of human emotion, feeling and human connection. The romanticist movement grew from the dissatisfaction of the lack of ethics the industrial revolution began to afford.

Victor removes the natural elements in creating the monster which can be seen as a sin against nature. Because of this he is punished. This is can be seen through the literary allusions to Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner where the mariner sins against nature in shooting the albatross. Hanging it around his neck as a good omen for his sailors, this begins the destruction of his journey and life. Shelley directly alludes to this as Victor considers his marriage to Elizabeth, saying “Could I enter into a festival with this deadly weight hanging around my neck and bowing me to the ground.” Shelley employs the use of metaphor to make the reference to Coleridge’s romantic poem. Shelley’s warning is clear, removing ones link to nature, as Victor did results in the removal of one’s ethical system and thus that person will be punished for doing so.

The need to sustain the natural world is furthermore explored through the way nature temporarily reconciles Victor from his torment.

“My health and spirit had long been restored, and they gained additional strength from the salubrious air I breathed.”

“My spirits were elevated by the enchanting appearance of nature”

Here, as the romanticists believed, nature becomes restorative of his torment. It is critical in maintain his sanity for much of the novel.

Blade Runner:

While Shelley explores the importance of nature and its connection to the human condition by presenting positive aspects of nature, Scott similarly does this, however, through the absolute negation of anything natural. By removing any natural elements from his film, Scott warns against the lack or values and morality this ensures. (Compensations will be made – often leading to violence.)

Late Capitalism:

The promotion of capitalism was enforced through the political policies of United States President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Thatcher during the 1980s. Such policies sought to deregulate corporations amidst the fear of communism. As a result of living during this time, Scott used his film to provide a prediction of what the future would be like if corporations were given increased amounts of authority.

Such warning is presented through unrestricted commercialisation of the Earth where ‘off worlds’ are exploited for economic expansion. Scott employs low angles to show the flying advertising televisions which display commercials for brands including ‘Coca Cola’ and ‘Atari’. This ubiquitous advertising indicates the unrestricted and over commercialisation of the Earth.

Film noir techniques such as lack of lighting present the physical and ethical decay of society that resulted as a consequence of over exploitation by corporations. The film opens with an extreme long shot which affords the responder a view of the dystopian landscape and environmental degradation. The landscape, dotted with flames is symbolic of what hell may look like.

Scott furthermore warns of the potential of corporations, if given sufficient authority will overpower government and establish themselves as corporate forms of government. This is explored through the projection of the Tyrell Corporation as the dominant corporation. Scott uses the camera to zoom over the ziggurat style building, showing it as the highest, thus establishing it as a corporate form of government. Only from the top of the Tyrell building can the sun be seen. Scott uses this image as a warning that corporation, if unrestricted will take what belongs to nature – the ability to give life.

Industrialism:

Romanticists, such as Shelley, hated industrialisation for the unnatural life it afforded those who had to work in the factories. Humanity was being sacrificed in the race for mass production and profit. This challenged the values of compassion and community. In company with Shelley’s romanticist allusions, her warning about the dangers of industrialism is shown through her presentation of Ingolstadt. It is at this industrialised city that Victor creates the “wretch” and is the genesis of all the evil that comes upon him. The city symbolises her rejection of industrialism.

Romanticism and Industrialism may be explored together. It was the Industrial Revolution that began to reform society which saw the Romanticist movement evolve. Romanticist allusions symbolise Shelley’s rejection of industrialisation and her rejection of industrialisation comes as a result of her being a romanticist.

Romanticism:

In reaction to the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ and ‘Industrialism’ which sought to reform society intellectually, Romanticism promoted liberalism and heighten emotion. Shelley’s closest friends were Romanticist writers. This is shown through her various allusions to Romanticist works including Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. “Because a frightful fiend doth close behind him tread” – This literary allusion foreshadows the trauma Victor will endure, paralleling the mariner killing the albatross which, in disturbing the natural order he is consequently tormented for life.

Romanticism saw a movement back to nature; away from the rapid commercialisation of cities. Natural landscapes are presented in Frankenstein as places where peace is sought. “…bending my steps towards the near Alpine valleys, sought in the magnificence.” – Emotive language, visual imagery.

Scientific Advancement:

Being well educated, Shelley read about Luigi Galvani’s experiments where he electrically shocked frogs into animation. Galvanism as it became known as is what Victor uses to “infuse a spark of being” into the creature – Metaphor describing the influence of galvanism and thus context on her character’s actions.

Thematic Concepts in Frankenstein:

Overreaching: The alternative title for Frankenstein was ‘The Modern Prometheus’ which says that Shelley saw a direct link between Victor and Prometheus. Overreaching is essentially going beyond one’s ordained position in the greater scheme of things. Like Prometheus, Victor begins with noble intentions, but his actions lead to dreadful consequences. Like fire in the Prometheus Myth, the monster is at first something good. However, through the actions of mankind becomes an evil force. The monster becomes Victor’s ‘eagle’ that punishes him for going beyond his ordained position to create life.

 

Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ and Roald Dahl’s ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’

“It only takes one witness to spoil the perfect crime”. (1999 re-release) Hitchcock’s Rear Window expertly explores this idea through his manipulation of the traditional crime genre. While he adheres to many of the conventions, Hitchcock cleverly employs variations to these in order to construct a more realistic setting. Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter challenges the conventions of traditional crime writing while exploring aspects of committing the ‘perfect crime’. Both Rear Window and Lamb to the Slaughter reflect prominent ideas and values of a 1950s American society.

Hitchcock’s setting of the apartment block conforms with the traditional closed circle, ensuring any crime would not go unnoticed. As the film opens the camera pans around the building complex, establishing the setting. These acts as a point of view shots as it also establishes what Jeffries can see of his neighbours. Hitchcock comments on society at this time where apartment living was common. In doing so, the morality of voyeurism is questioned. Although such actions of Jeffries ensures Thorwald’s crime is solved, Stella considers they’d “put out your eyes with a hot poker.” Initially, Jeffries’ voyeurism is perceived as “diseased” and reflects a “race of peeping toms”. However, both Lisa and Stella eventually become interested as the murder is uncovered. The setting in which Thorwald kills his wife would seem irrational to many. However, if Jeffries had not become suspicious the apartment block may have been the perfect setting to commit the crime as the formal detective discredits the idea. This is shown through Doyle’s conversation with Jeffries, saying “it’s too obvious a way to commit murder within view of fifty windows”. Hitchcock employs the use of high angles on Jeffries to enforce his lack of authority compared to Doyle. However, as Jeffries begins to present his evidence, although circumstantial, both Doyle and Jeffries are shot on an equal level, presenting Jeffries’ investigative potential equal to that of the professional. The apartment, while conforming to a realist setting ensures Thorwald’s crime does not go unnoticed. Therefore he could never commit the perfect crime.

Hitchcock’s detective characters form an interesting variation to the traditional crime writing conventions. While Jeffries is not a detective by profession, he plays the role. His personality is presented in the opening scene as the camera pans around his apartment, revealing a broken camera and action photographs. This establishes Jeffries as a brave and courageous man. Conventionally, he fits a realist detective’s characteristics. However, his impotence from being wheelchair bound restricts his physical ability. His conventional want of justice is conveyed through his relentless pursuit of Thorwald. This is achieved through the actor’s portrayal of the character who is always positioned at the window, intriguingly waiting for further developments. Confidence with Jeffries’ ability is instilled within the audience when he declares Thorwald is giving the “look of a man when he’s afraid someone might be looking.” This shows that Jeffries is competent in fulfilling the investigative role. Alternatively, the formal detective, Doyle, reflects police procedure of the time. Without evidence Doyle cannot search Thorwald’s apartment, commenting “a judge must ask for evidence” before issuing a search warrant. If a sole reliance was placed on formal investigation Thorwald may well have gotten away with murder. While Jeffries offers a variation to the traditional detective, his pursuit of justice ensures Thorwald could never commit the perfect crime.

The characters of Lisa and Stella challenge traditional conventions of crime writing, however, Hitchcock uses them to comment on the roles of women in 1950s society. Initially, these characters are presented as stereotypical women. Stella is a nurse who appreciates the ideals of marriage and dedication to her husband, while Lisa is presented as a glamorous femme fatale. As Jeffries convinces them of Thorwald’s guilt, Stella and Lisa become his physical investigators due to his physical impairment. This challenges traditional conventions where only males were detectives. Lisa’s courage is presented when she gets into Thorwald’s apartment. In finding Mrs Thorwald’s wedding ring Lisa plays an integral role in solving the crime. Thorwald’s inability to discard such evidence ensures he never commits the perfect crime.

Hitchcock’s depiction of Thorwald as the murderer fits within the traditional conventions of crime writing. From the outset of the film Thorwald is presented as the villain. This is established as the camera pans across Thorwald’s apartment, following his movement. He is seen fighting with his obviously ill wife. Furthermore, Thorwald’s villainous personality is presented in his backyard when he tells his neighbour to “shut up”. This personality fits the conventions for a traditional murderer. Furthermore, he is clever in attempting to cover up his wife’s murder. He evades Jeffries’ watch while disposing of his wife’s body, kills the snooping dog in the garden and disguises his mistress as his wife. In doing so, Hitchcock builds tension and suspense as the audience begins to question whether Thorwald is guilty after all. Jeffries also considers “for a minute [I thought] I was wrong”. Thorwald’s calculation in covering up the murder and his belief that he could commit the perfect crime conventionally fits with the murderer’s persona of traditional crime writing.

Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter offers distinct variations to the traditional crime writing conventions. In the context of a 1950s American society, Mary Maloney conforms to the ‘housewife’ stereotype, “waiting for her husband to come home from work.” However, with her becoming the murderer, the conventions of crime writing are challenged. Traditionally, only males were seen as murderers which is enforced as the police officers discuss it “impossible that she” would murder her husband. Although not explicitly said, Dahl implies through their dialogue that Mary’s husband is leaving her. This ensures the audience is sympathetic towards Mary and accept her motives to kill her husband. Dahl’s portrayal of the murder supports the lack of detail found in conventional crime writing. He writes she “simply walked up behind him and without any pause she swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and brought it down as hard as she could on the back of his head.” Dahl does this to maintain the audience’s support of Mary. She does, however, conventionally fit with a murderer’s attempts to conceal their crime. She creates her alibi by travelling to the grocery store to pick up vegetables for dinner. In doing so Mary is accounted for at the time of her husband’s death, and in establishing this alibi Mary is assured she committed the perfect crime. Dahl challenges the conventions in many ways as the audience generally wants the criminal brought to justice. In Lamb to the Slaughter the responder is satisfied that Mary evades punishment for committing the perfect crime.

Mary, in Lamb to the Slaughter ensures she commits the perfect crime as she convinces the detectives to eat the murder weapon. Dahl uses black humour to depict the detectives as incompetent. He presents this through the use of dialogue between Mary and Noonan when she offers him a drink of whisky, saying “why don’t you have one yourself.” Mary cleverly distracts them from their investigation, highlighting their clumsiness and then urges them to eat the leg of lamb she used to murder her husband. Dahl employs dramatic irony here to heighten the black humour. The story ends as Noonan comments the murder weapon is “probably right under our very noses”, while eating the leg of lamb. This ensures there is no evidence and no way of solving the crime. Mary “begins to giggle” as she knows she will get away with the perfect crime. Dahl offers bold variations to traditional crime writing in satisfying the responder with no resolution to the murder.

In both Rear Window and Lamb to the Slaughter different aspects of crime writing are explored. While composers of both follow conventions specific to their context, they offer variations too. Hitchcock, in Rear Window explores the criminal’s belief in committing the perfect crime while Dahl constructs his story where a perfect crime is committed.

Rear Window, The Real Inspector Hound, Lamb to the Slaughter and The Mentalist

Significant texts in any genre arise from specific social and culture conditions and possess an enduring relevance:

Possibly the greatest driving force within any genre is a text’s contextually. That is, its ability to adapt and reflect specific social and cultural constructs. In any genre, and most certainly crime fiction, a composer’s adherence to, or rejection of conventions ensures a reflection on the society in which it was created. This is masterfully presented in Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound. A significant text within the crime fiction genre possesses enduring relevance due to its reflection of specific social and cultural conditions. Similarly, context plays an integral part in Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter and Heller’s The Mentalist where both composers manipulate generic conventions to express specific social and cultural concerns.

Texts in all genres, including crime fiction present moral concerns specific to the contexts in which they are created:

The ability for moral concerns to transcend contexts gives a text an enduring relevance. Hitchcock, in Rear Window explores the morality of voyeurism in a 1950s American society. This is presented through the construction of the setting which reflects the social conditions of apartment living. The film’s opening sequence masterfully captures this idea. The camera pans around the apartment complex and establishes, through a point of view sense what Jefferies can see of his neighbours. Hitchcock takes the traditional closed setting and adapts it expertly to reflect the changing social fabric of the 1950s. Having established what Jefferies can see of his neighbours, he begins to stereotype them according to appearance only, giving them names such as Miss Lonelyheart and Miss Torso. This is one of the dangers of voyeurism Hitchcock presents – essentially warning not to judge a book by its cover. Stella, Jefferies’ nurse speaks of “a race of peeping toms” and warns that “they’d put your eyes out with a hot poker”. Hitchcock presents different perceptions of the morality of voyeurism, as even Stella, who was the philosophical warning to Jefferies, also becomes tied up in voyeurism. Jefferies’ voyeurism, however, essentially means that he is able to witness what he considers a murder that has occurred in a neighbour’s apartment. The danger now is that Jefferies has to somehow deal with what he has seen and essentially he is in danger for doing so as Thorwald confronts him and attempts to kill him. The final sequences of shots are able to draw feelings of tensions and fear from the responder due to the uncertainty that Jefferies will survive. A reversal of depth of field shows Jefferies before a long shot captures his rescuers in the opposite apartment block. At this stage Hitchcock points out the dangers of voyeurism through creating a point of view sense of danger. Hitchcock, through his manipulation of the traditional closed circle setting, criticises the direction of humanity as a whole and effectively warns of the dangers of intruding upon the personal lives of your neighbours.

Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound, constructed during a time of incredible social and cultural revolution in the 1960s is heavily influenced by its context:

As there was a movement away from a clear-cut understanding of the purpose of humanity, Stoppard recognised that the traditional crime fiction conventions were also too simplified, logical and did not truly reflect the social and cultural conditions. Through his absolute absurdist creation of a traditional crime fiction story, Stoppard moves his audience to reject the over-simplification of the genre. He achieves this through a traditional closed circle setting of Muldoon Manor where it is characterised as “a strangely inaccessible house”. The repeated references to the isolated nature of the setting make it clear that Stoppard masterfully and deliberately makes a mockery of the genre obvious. His characters are exaggeratedly simplified, flat, often engage in meaningless dialogue and the choice of character names, such as Moon and Birdboot reflect the unrealistic nature of traditional whodunits. The non-sequential progression and irrationality of the plot is emphasised at the play’s conclusion. There are clues, but the resolution is unconvincing. The audience are left wondering “who killed Simon Gascoyne? And why?” Stoppard does this to highlight that justice cannot simply be found as the detective would in traditional whodunits and effectively presents the idea that classic crime fiction is no longer relevant for his audience. Thus, because of the social conditions of his society, Stoppard masterfully criticises the traditional crime genre in a way which reflects a movement into a more complex society.

A crime story’s conventions will inevitably be challenged to ensure its appropriate reflection on society:

Contextually, Mary seemingly fits the role women were expected to fulfil in the 1950s. Conforming to the stereotype as the housewife, Mary seems content on her domestic duties. Initially, the responder considers Mary the ‘lamb’ as indicated in the story’s title. Seemingly innocent, just as a lamb symbolises innocence, the responder considers Mary the lamb that will be slaughtered. As a convention of crime writing this innocent profile fits rigidly with the stereotypical victim. Therefore, Mary Maloney does not fit the conventional expectations as a murderer. What is strange about Mary, however, is that she makes so easily the transition from innocent housewife to a murderer. The responder is positioned to question her mental state and consider that she possessed traits of a killer all along. This works as a comment on the nature of humanity where even the ordinary, respectable citizen has the potential for cruel or destructive acts. Mary’s actions, however, fit the conventions of a calculated murderer. Her lack of emotion after killing her husband is evocative of a traditional murderer. Her measured actions in creating an alibi parallel the actions of her in the first part of the story where she had everything planned for her husband’s arrival. This explores emerging social conditions where idea that everyone has the ability to kill when provoked. Dahl again urges his audience to ask some confronting questions about themselves and their morality. Unconventionally, the sympathy the responder holds towards Mary the murderer completely overrides any sympathy directed at Patrick. Possibly, the innocent depiction of her at the start, coupled with the fact that she was pregnant and the fact that Patrick, although we’re never told, seemingly is leaving her for another woman, all ensure that sympathy remains with Mary and that the responder is satisfied when she gets away with the crime. Although the thematic convention of good and evil is blurred, the complexities of humanity’s instinctual behaviour explore emerging conditions within Dahl’s society.

Appropriate to context within a modern society, composers of crime fiction have manipulated the genre’s conventions to create endurance in their society:

Appropriate to technological advancement, the murder occurs due to a bomb’s explosion. The sleuth type character, Patrick is seen looking in the van where the victim is. Orchestral music drowns out the diegetic sound and the director’s editing transforms the film into slow motion as the bomb explodes, killing the victim. The graphic imagery of the murder challenges the conventions of traditional crime fiction where the murder is not seen or read about in bloody or gory terms. The crime, as Patrick begins to work out is linked to modern, consumerist flaws within humanity where the victim is a stock broker, responsible for the loss of many people’s money. This reverses much of the sympathy conventional victims were afforded and hence reflects the changing social and cultural conditions of Heller’s modern society. As an unusual play on the traditional crime story, Patrick becomes blinded by the explosion and so uses his other senses as a way of solving the crime. Although Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound moved audiences to rejecting the over simplification of the detective’s investigation, Patrick applies realistic and believable methods to solving the crime. He interviews a suspect by feeling his hands, concluding “artistic fingers…soft”. He realises that the murderer would had to of built the explosive device and hence would have tough, working hands and a strong smell of explosive material. Just through these logical observations Patrick can determine that this suspect is not the murderer. Patrick’s ability to solve the investigation and ensure justice is served is adapted to reflect the social and cultural conditions of a modern, consumerist and technologically advanced context.

Shaping a text’s adherence to or rejection of its genre’s conventions is the context in which the text is composed. The social and cultural conditions of the composer’s society are integral in creating a text’s enduring relevance. This is shown is Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Stoppard’s the Real Inspector Hound, Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter and Heller’s The Mentalist. These crime fiction stories adhere to and challenge the genre’s conventions so that the text reflects the responder’s society and ensures an enduring relevance.