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My thoughts on Les Misérables (2012) movie

“To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.” – Victor Hugo. As soon as Les Misérables movie came out in DVD at my university library, I rented it and watched it right away. I still remember when I first saw this trailer in the movie theater in the summertime. I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to see it. One of the best musicals ever made takes to the big screen in a massive production with a fantastic cast, including some of my favourite actors like Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and others. I have been looking forward to this film for so long now, and to start it certainly did not disappoint.Pilt

The beginning and the ending part of the movie was definitely my favourite. In the middle of the movie, at some point it did get a little boring but I never had a thought that I should stop watching the movie. Because I saw the trailer for the movie, I was definitely looking forward to Anne Hathaway’s performance of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. I was captured by her emotional rendition of ‘I Dream a Dream’! By far, the most emotional performance that I’ve seen from an actress. I was shocked when I found out that all the performances in the movie were sang live. All the actors did such a great job with their performances, and they all deserve a lot of recognition. Of course, Anne Hathaway got her Oscar for best supporting actress which she obviously deserved, but another great actress from the movie deserved a lot of recognition (perhaps even an Oscar), it was Samantha Barks, who played Eponine. Her performance of the song ‘On My Own’ was just incredible. I still listen to it on my iPod all the time. My absolute favourite scene from the movie was the ‘Master of The House’ by Thénardier (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Madame Thénardier (Helena Bonham Carter). I loved the whole cast, but they definitely stole the show. The scene was funny and very well done.

In conclusion, this movie was definitely one of the best movies of the year (if not the best) and I can’t wait to see it again. For me, this movie is like ‘Titanic’, I will probably watch it again many times in the future. The movie was long but I never got bored. Les Misérables is not just a story with a message, it is a realistic account that brought France to its senses and influenced the entire French Revolution.

Should citizens be allowed to carry guns?

According to the FBI, between 2006 and 2010, 47 856 people have died gun related deaths. That would make 34 people every day. I also found an interesting fact on Barack Obama’s official Twitter account: Since 1968, more than 1.3 million Americans have died from gun violence. That’s more than in all of the wars in American history combined. That is some shocking statistics and something has to be done. It is clear that there is always going to be people who are either pro or against the gun laws, but U.S. can’t go on like this anymore. There are way too many gun related deaths in the United States. Over many years, there has been a heated debate about gun control. There have been many deaths in the past in relation to guns, therefore making many people be against the access to guns in the United States. I am opposed to this viewpoint. I say this because there are many things that people do not realise like the fact that criminals are criminals, they will find a way, and the fact that crime rates have risen in countries that have banned firearms.  But should citizens be allowed to carry guns? How much control should be placed on them?

No citizen should feel unsafe in his own home. Having the right to a firearm to protect oneself should not be taken away from any citizen. Some might look at that number of 34 people a day and might be outraged. I, however, see that this helps my point very well. About 45 percent of these deaths are delivered from guns from the black market, and 40 percent are the killing of criminals with legal guns. And yes, I do care about rest of the 15 percent of criminals attacking innocent or innocent people killing innocent people with legal guns, and I find that a problem, but this will continue to happen, even if there are laws that outlaw all guns. People will buy weapons from the black market anyway. Criminals are criminals. They will never learn. Mentally unstable criminals will find a way, no matter what law is in their way. Since when have criminals abided by laws? If these laws are passed it will only encourage crimes that show the government who is in charge. In the US, 44.1% of criminals go to jail more than once. In England, where all firearms are banned, the crime rates have risen 89% from what they were before there was a ban on firearms. This happens because nobody has a form of protection. Nobody can brandish a handgun to a threat to scare them away. It may seem scary to have people have the power to kill you all the time, but one must trust others and dismiss any paranoia that could result by this.

To be honest, sometimes I really don’t feel that safe being in the U.S. Especially when I am in the bigger cities like Chicago or New York City. It’s probably because I come from a little European country where gun violence practically doesn’t exist, but the facts of the gun violence in the United States speaks for itself. There are just way too many gun related deaths in the United States. At the same time, private citizens legally owning guns enables people to protect themselves from criminals. Taking guns from law abiding citizens who use them for target shooting, hunting or self protection doesn’t solve anything. If someone wants to commit a crime with a firearm, they can get a hold of any type they want from the black market. Sure citizens owning guns makes it easier for a person who is not in organised crime to go on a shooting spree, however you cannot solve society’s biggest problems by taking the freedom away from everybody. Then you end up with north Korea. Small, extremely rare events such as the Connecticut shooting should not take the rights away from the millions of people all across the country who abide all gun laws and use firearms for legitimate uses. All the people who are opposed to citizens owning firearms are people who don’t have a need for firearms and have never appreciated the importance of firearms in some people’s lives. I don’t believe you can compare the US gun laws and firearm related crime rates to any other developed countries because other countries were created on completely different constitutions. The US has a violent past that was largely influenced by firearms. There is also vast amounts of wilderness in the US where hunting is a way of life for people. To take away guns would be altering traditions and ways of life that date back to before this country was confederated.

George Washington once said: “Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence.” There is a lot of people who say that military should only have weapons, not anyone else. And this is true, because without guns, Unites States of America would not have that good military. Why do they carry weapons? It is to protect themselves. Should citizens have a right to protect themselves? I think so. After all and I say it again, it isn’t guns who kill people, it is people who kill people. The thing is, with guns, if we outlaw them, that’s not stopping the bad guys from getting them, it is stopping the good people who abide by the law. There are already so many illegal guns on the street that law enforcement has their hands tied and banning them would just add that much more.  One more reason is that if we ban having a concealed weapon then wouldn’t we have to ban being able to carry a pocket knife? Or having a baseball bat. Vehicles kill people to! What would we do without cars? Banning handguns would not lessen the amount of guns on the street and would not lessen crime rate. I did some further research on the gun violence and self-defence in U.S. and found some very interesting statistics: Incidents of gun violence and self-defense have routinely ignited bitter debate. 12,632 murders were committed using firearms and 613 persons were killed unintentionally in 2007. Surveys have suggested that guns are used in crime deterrence or prevention around 2.5 million times a year in the United States. The American Journal of Public Health conducted a study that concluded “the United States has higher rates of firearm ownership than do other developed nations, and higher rates of homicide. Of the 233,251 people who were homicide victims in the United States between 1988 and 1997, 68% were killed with guns, of which the large majority were handguns.” The estimated in 1995 that the number of firearms available in the US was 223 million.

Guns do not decide to get up and shoot themselves. They must have a finger to pull the trigger. A human finger. People kill people. We humans are animate, alive, and we have the freedom of choice. Why should we change what is working? We should stay with the tried and true, and not risk the freedom of people. The guns used to commit crimes are stolen and black market weapons. Private citizens are threatened by these criminals and need a form of protection for themselves. Criminals will find a way to acquire weapons even if they are illegal for the private citizen. Then, the private citizen is just less protected than before.

‘The Great Symbol Drain’ analysis

Following text is my analysis of ‘The Great Symbol Drain’ by Neil Postman.

Aspects of human nature – like our capacity for language, reasoning or emotions – are subject to scientific analysis that looks at where they come from and how they work using tools like evolutionary biology, genetics, or neuroscience. But not everything about us that is important is innate. Some deeply entrenched features and characteristics of human life are actually contingent on our human history, not our human biology. Such aspects of the human condition – like marriage, sports, and war – are therefore not amenable to such scientific analysis and must be studied in a more humanistic way. Technology is changing and improving every single day, and so is world of advertisement business. Companies would do everything to get good sales of their products, and sometimes some geniuses are coming up with the craziest and most inappropriate adverts and commercials. Some are very racist, some are very sexist, some are insulting and some may hurt someone’s religious views. A lot of companies gain attention by their ”different” and ”inappropriate” adverts, and that is what they are actually looking for. Even if they are getting a lot of criticism, it is usually good marketing for their product or service. Sexist ads and commercials are very common and appealing among consumers, but have advertisers gone too far in using sex to sell products? I chose sexist adverts and tried to match them with Neil Postman’s ideas and theories.

Sexuality has been employed in advertising since the beginning of advertising itself. Sexual appeals used in adverts are of many types and consist of a variety of elements. They often are grounded in visual elements, such as attractive models, and may portray varying degrees of nudity and suggestiveness. Over the past two decades, the use of increasingly explicit sexual imagery in consumer-oriented print advertising has become almost commonplace. Whether it is good or bad – sexuality is considered one of the most powerful tools of marketing and particularly advertising. So when it comes to creating an advertisement and you do not have too many clever ideas – always remember one general rule – sex sells. I think most of the people can agree with me that sex sells and a lot of people do like sexy commercials, but in some ways advertisers had gone too far in using sex to sell products. Use of sexual imagery in advertising has been criticized on various grounds. Religious Conservatives often consider it obscene. Some feminists and masculists claim it reinforces sexism by objectifying the individual. Moreover, the unrealistic importance given to body image has been blamed for the poor self – esteem and unhappiness among ordinary people, particularly the youth. At the same time, there are many adverts and commercials that are related to sex, but are very important part of our lives. For example – condoms, lingerie, so there is probably nothing wrong with these companies using sexuality to promote their products. One company that sells jeans has a picture advert with the young girl wearing only very short shorts and slogan on the ad: ”Sex sells. Unfortunately we sell jeans.” In my opinion, the girl on the ad looked like she was raped and she was not more than twenty years old. Some adverts are offensive and very inappropriate, and that was one of them. Another offensive and inappropriate ad was made by Dolce & Gabbana. In that ad, a gang of young men are gathered around one skinny model, who looks like trying to get away from them, but man on top of her is not letting her go and all the other are watching and waiting for their turn. The woman is in a very vulnerable and powerless position compared to the men, but all that the company seems to care about is that everyone supposedly looks good. After doing some research on this advert, I saw a lot of people who actually loved this advert. People said it is art, it is sexy and it sells. I can not disagree more. This is what NOW Foundation President Kim Gandy said about that Dolce & Gabbana advert, “It’s in Esquire, so they probably don’t think a stylized gang rape will sell clothes to women, but what is more likely is that they think it will get them publicity. It’s a provocative ad but it is provoking things that really are not what we want to have provoked. We don’t need any more violence.” This advert was definitely very offensive to women and made me very uncomfortable.

It is sad, that women discrimination and diversity still exist in our world, and declines very slowly. The way a lot of companies present diversity, racism, sexism and religious views in their adverts and commercials is just wrong and something has to be done to against it. There are four main points that advertising has to accomplish. First of all, attract a consumer’s attention. Then focus the attention onto the message. Third of all, make the consumer remember the message and last, cause the consumer to take the desired action. This is all psychology. Postman wrote in his book: ”Today, television commercial, for example, is rarely about the character of the products. It is about the character of the consumers of products. Images of movie stars and famous athletes, of serene lakes and macho fishing trips, of elegant dinners and romantic interludes, of happy families packing their station wagons for a picnic in the country – these tell nothing about the products being sold. But they tell everything about the fears, fancies, and dreams of those who might buy them. What the advertiser needs to know is not what is right about the product but what is wrong about the buyer,” (N. Postman, 519). I could not agree more with Postman ideas. I believe that effective advert and commercial should appeal three innate emotions: love, fear and rage. Even that Dolce & Gabbana was very offensive to women, it made me think about it, also see other Dolce & Gabbana adverts. Even though it is offensive and sexist, it is definitely effective. I am not saying it is right, but I can see how it sells. Of course, many ads tread very close to the pornographic border. Of course, sexually explicit imagery is proliferating elsewhere in popular culture as well. Television, movies and music videos routinely air images that would have been forbidden just ten years ago. A lot of music videos on video sharing website Youtube are forbidden if you are underage because they contain too much sexual content. But the fact is, American apparel and many other products are steadily losing business. Companies have to come up with something new and even better to sell their products, and I am sure they will.

Sex definitely sells. Adverts and commercials can be very offensive and inappropriate, but this is exactly what sells. World of advertising is deeply related to psychology. Effective advert and commercial should appeal three innate emotions: love, fear and rage. I am actually really happy to hear that American apparel and other products are steadily losing business and having to close down stores. The way they try to sell sex to make up for their bland clothing no doubt been their downfall. Not everyone wants to enter a store and see half naked men spraying you with cologne or want to take pictures with some hot girls. I hope they have learned their lesson and would stop this arrogant objectification of the human body.

The World Without Child Labour is Possible

Child labour is an issue of international concern as it can have negative effects on the child’s health, educational achievements, and quality of life. United Nations children fund (UNICEF) estimates that there are 100-200 million child labourers in both industrialised and developing countries. Estimates for Africa are that 25% of children between the ages 10 and 14 are involved in labour while children comprise 17% Africa total labour force. By the same estimates, India with 15 million bonded child labourers which have the largest child labour force in the world (Human Rights Watch 2004). Latin America too, is estimated to have been 15 and 20% of children in work; Pakistan records 7.5 million, Thailand 5 million, Senegal, 500,000 and In Nigeria, 12-15 million minor work more as a consequence of abject poverty hunger and destination. (www.marxist.com, 2004) Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour, because there are many different jobs that are just perfect for children, and it is actually a great way for children to gain some work experience before it is time to start earning their own money. Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive. This includes activities like helping parents doing some work at home or in the family business, as well as earning some pocket money selling ice cream or doing some other physically and mentally easier jobs.

child labour in coal mineChild labour usually starts with children whose parents are homeless on the streets, some are abandoned runaway and have no families. Children who live with families; these include those who hawk all day on the streets and go home at the end of the day; go to school and hawk on the streets before and after school, during weekend and holiday. Child labour results in urban unemployment as they pickup jobs meant for adults. A lot of countries are not collecting data on their child labour statistics, but child labour among working children is definitely worst in Africa, India and South-America. Child labour is a curse to our society and a crime against humanity. Children should not work, they are supposed to play, have fun and go to school, however, across the world, millions of children do extremely hazardous work in harmful conditions, putting their health, education, personal and social development, and even their lives at risk. It is not fair! Countries and their governments are not doing enough to prevent this issue. United States Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman said once: ”If we can’t begin to agree on fundamentals, such as the elimination of the most abusive forms of child labor, then we really are not ready to march forward into the future.”

About 250 million children between the age of five and fourteen work in developing countries. At least 120 million of these children work on a full-time basis. In India the conservative estimate is about 11.3 million (according to the 1991 censure), but the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated it at 23.2 million. Both estimates include full-time and marginal child workers. Most working children in rural areas are found in agriculture, many work as domestic labourers, urban children work in the trade and services sector, while some other work in manufacturing and construction. Such children range from four-years-old doing petty jobs to seventeen-years-olds helping out on the family farms. Denied education and a normal childhood, some children, confined and beaten, are often reduced to slavery. At times they are denied freedom of movement – the right to leave the workplace and visit their families. Some are abducted and forced to work. Instances of human rights abuses in such practices are clear and acute. All these statistics are public and official. This is just terrible and sad. Children in that age should not work. They should play and have fun with their friends and go to school. This is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children. Child agricultural workers frequently work for long hours in the heat, haul heavy loads of grains, are exposed to toxic pesticides, and suffer high rates of injury from sharp, dangerous tools. Children working in factories often work near hot furnaces, handle hazardous chemicals like arsenic and potassium, work in glass blowing units where the work harms their lungs, damages their eyes and causes disease like tuberculosis, asthma and bronchitis (Human Rights Watch, 2012). Some are injured in fire accidents. They become unemployable at the age of 20. If injured or incapacitated, they are mercilessly discarded by their employers. Child domestic workers, mostly girls, work for long hours for little or no pay. They are subjected to verbal and physical abuse, at times even sexual abuse. They may be fired from their work, losing not only the job but their place of shelter as well. Millions of children are involved in work that, under any circumstances, is considered unacceptable for children, including the sale and trafficking of children into debt bondage, serfdom, and forced labour. It includes the forced recruitment of children for armed conflict, commercial sexual exploitation, and other illicit activities, such as drug trafficking. This is not the world we want to live in. Millions of children do not have a childhood and missing out on education which is a very important nowadays. Without an education, it is very hard to get a good job today. I could go on and on about the consequences of child labour. A world without child labour is possible with the right priorities and policies: quality education, opportunities for young people, decent work for parents, a basic social protection floor for all.

The prevalence of child labour is a slap on the conscience of society. It harms not only the present generation but also the posterity. The origin of the problem of child labour can be traced to some complex social vices illiteracy, poverty, inequality, failure of social welfare schemes, population explosion, etc. The root cause lies in the economic insecurity of families that results from job loss, natural calamities, and sickness of parents in poor families that are often in debt and have no savings. Children of the poor have become an expendable commodity. The children either supplement their poor parents’ income or are the only wage earners in the family. Discrimination based on gender, race or religion is also responsible for the problem of child labour. Domestic employers often compel poor children to work for minimal wages. Also, work is relatively easy to get in households. Thus, the household sector employs the largest number of children labourers. Sometimes, child labour is deliberately facilitated by vested interests to get cheap labour. Employers justify this with the logic that it saves children from starvation and prevent them from being sucked into the world of crime. The “nimble finger theory” (India Legal Service) holds that children are better producers of certain products such as knotted carpets and other such kinds of goods. That is why, poor children are hired, exploited and made to work and produce such types of goods. The government says that it is not easy to completely end child labour, therefore, has only tried to improve their working conditions–reducing working hours, ensuring minimum wages and providing facilities for health and education. It can be said that the government measures have three main components legal action focusing on general welfare, development programmes for child workers and their families, and a project-based action plan. Rose Schneiderman, United States labor union leader, socialist, and feminist of the first part of the twentieth century once said: ”Of course, we knew that this meant an attack on the union. The bosses intended gradually to get rid of us, employing in our place child labor and raw immigrant girls who would work for next to nothing.”

Where is the line between children working in the summer to save money for school or child labour? In fact I agree that starting working in early age will give a child a good life experience, as well as some pocket money or money to pay for tuition or something else. I started earning money when I was fourteen. I hated asking money from my parents and I always wanted to earn my own pocket money. It is all normal when you go to school and you do not work long hours. After doing some research on the child labour issues in the U.S., it turned out, that there is a lot of children working in the agriculture area 14 to 16 hours per day, seven days a week. Lunch breaks are often only a half hour and as with most farm workers, bathrooms and even clean water to drink are rarely supplied by the growers. Federal minimum wage is $7.50 an hour, but because farm workers are paid by the bucket rather than by the hour, their wages often average out to as low as $2.38 an hour which in my opinion, is totally unacceptable and very outrageous. For children, payment for labour presents a unique problem. Because children are often too young to collect their own pay, parents are paid instead. While it may not necessarily be a bad thing for kids to give their earnings to parents to help with bills, it does seem ironic at best that children are working full-time jobs but because they are not officially on the books, they are not eligible for worker’s compensation should they get sick or hurt, unemployment benefits during any period they are not working, nor are they even getting credit for paying into social security. Research also showed that a lot of parents are making their kids work because they are either very lazy to work themselves or just do not have enough money to survive. In my opinion, children should never be in this situation. “I really didn’t have a childhood, and I don’t want [my own children] to go through what I did.  You’re a kid only once. Once you get old you have to work.” – 17-year-old boy who had been cutting Christmas trees, picking tomatoes, and working in other crops since age 12 in North Carolina (Human Rights Watch). Another 17-year-old boy who started working at age 11 said: “[When I was 12] they gave me my first knife. Week after week I was cutting myself. Every week I had a new scar. My hands have a lot of stories.” Another sad quote by 15-year-old girl hoeing cotton in Texas: “I don’t remember the last time I got to school registered on time. . .  I’m afraid it’s going to hold me back on my education. . . . I got out of math because I was a disaster. I would tell the teacher, ‘I don’t even know how to divide, and I’m going to be a sophomore.’ I’m going from place to place. It scrambles things in my head, and I can’t keep up.” From parents’ point of view, mother whose 11-year-old daughter worked hoeing cotton and caring for her younger brothers said: “I tell my daughter, ‘I’m so sorry I stole your childhood from you.”

Childhood is a critical time for safe and healthy human development. Because children are still growing they have special characteristics and needs, in terms of physical, cognitive (thought/learning) and behavioural development and growth, that must be taken into consideration. Child labourers are at a high risk of illness, injury and even death due to a wide variety of machinery, biological, physical, chemical, ergonomic, welfare/hygiene and psychosocial hazards, as well as from long hours of work and poor living conditions (United Nations Recourses). The work hazards and risks that affect adult workers can affect child labourers even more strongly. For example, physical strain, especially when combined with repetitive movements, on growing bones and joints can cause stunting, spinal injury and other life long deformation and disabilities. Children often also suffer psychological damage from working and living in an environment where they are denigrated, harassed or experience violence and abuse. In addition, child labour has a profound effect on a child’s future. Denied the right to a quality education, as adults they have little chance of obtaining a decent job and escaping the cycle of poverty and exploitation. International Labour Organization director Juan Somavia said: “No to child labour is our stance. Yet 215 million are in child labour as a matter of survival. A world without child labour is possible with the right priorities and policies: quality education, opportunities for young people, decent work for parents, a basic social protection floor for all. Driven by conscience, let’s muster the courage and conviction to act in solidarity and ensure every child’s right to his or her childhood. It brings rewards for all.”