Maslow was surely correct when he surmised that people, individually and as a society, must have their biological needs (food, housing, sex) met before they are truly able to concern themselves with safety, belonging, and self-fulfillment. The Enemy of the People – Arthur Miller Miller’s presentation of the political machine’s dealing with scientific truth is, to me, a frighteningly realistic portrayal of ANY society’s response to the perception that their livelihood is being threatened.
The scene set in Enemy shows a town’s response when they feel their security threatened, and have those fears fed by corrupt politicians. Although some people might find it odd for brothers to betray one another, politics and research are essentially on opposite ends of the truth and ethics spectra. Politics, in this case the mayor, represents the causes of big business and forms its response based on economic consequences which could impact the next election. Researchers – in this case Dr.
Stockton – are consumed with the question of WHY things happen, and occasionally as an afterthought how to improve the human condition. Taking into account Maslow’s hierarchy and the one sided information the town was given about what they perceived to be relatively minor illness, the overly inflated predictions of financial doom, and the understated future ramifications of their decision, it is not difficult to see why they began attacking the person they perceive as universally responsible for attempting to ruin their lives.
Although the attacks may appear to observers to be intended to cause bodily harm, similar attacks have been used through out history to intimidate people into silence considered to be for the good of the masses (and ALWAYS for the good of the attackers). Perhaps if the illnesses had impacted the town more directly, or had the townspeople received unbiased information before they had formed their aggressive opinion, the reaction would have been more “humane” and better thought out.
My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult My Sister’s Keeper offers a personalized view into the situation that has haunted bioethics since the dawn of stem cell research – where is the line between expecting people to part with an un needed fluid (i. e. blood) through a painless procedure and using one person to keep another alive.
Medical and counseling research has shown repeatedly that many parents, when faced with illness in a child, tend to focus primarily on fixing the illness – by whatever means are available, then on the “general” health of the sick child – this emotional workload leaves very little support available for the parents themselves – much less any other children in the family.
Despite the fact that Anna feels that, to her parents, her sole reason for existence is to be used as a life support system for her sister, it is likely that her parents feel her resentment is unfounded due to their own willingness to do anything to help Kate. The parents seem to be essentially unaware of the feelings of resentment and unloved-ness that both Anna and Jesse are harboring NOT necessarily because of the amount of attention that Kate receives due to her illness, but to the dearth of attention and concern that their parents are giving to them.
And the Band Played On This docudrama showed with remarkable clarity the development of the AIDS epidemic, and highlighted many of the causes that they felt contributed to the severity of the problem. Given the conservatives’ political opinion that AIDS was a plague sent by God to rid society of homosexuals, until it began massively attacking people the plague should not target, they had no real reason (in their mind) to concern themselves with eradicating the problem.
Had they been correct about its targeting only the homosexual community, it would have ended itself at the conclusion of its mission. What this film leaves for the most part uncovered is the fact that, although society has decided that this is something we want to fight, social inequality still plays a huge factor world-wide in who gets the drugs and EVEN who gets the disease. Myths still persevere in areas about how it is spread, how it is prevented, and how it can be cured (sex with a virgin).
Due to social inequality in many African countries between adult men, women, and children, the disease continues to spread among people who seem to have no choice but to suffer. Overall, these three selections highlight the contrast between what society says and what it supports. We say that each individual has the right to decide what is done with their body, and expect public warnings to be issued by our government, despite the fact that – as shown in The Enemy – we often make financial decisions that negatively impact our safety.
We assume, individually, that others should be willing to make extreme sacrifices in order to save the life of someone we love – and will enforce those “choices” should the need arise. We expect our government to make decisions that are in our best interest, ignoring the fact that politicians are necessarily short sighted and focused on those items which will have an effect by the next election, if for no reason other than the fact that people – voters – care more about immediate measurable effects than we ever will about far reaching impact that may or may not happen.