Pleeblandia

Thoughts from the front lines


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Can Love Cause Physical Harm?

What fascinated me the most about the final book of the MaddAddam trilogy was Toby’s reaction to Zeb’s death at the very end of the novel. When Zeb left, and never returned, he was presumed dead by the rest of the survivors. This caused Toby to fall into a deep depression, affecting her physical appearance, and eventually, leading to her own unknown death.

Throughout both the second and third novel, I viewed Toby as a warrior. She seemed very strong, and unaffected by what was happening around her. She knew how to fend for herself, and didn’t seem interested in men at all. But when she got together with Zeb, this all changed. She became jealous, insecure, and most of all, dependent. My opinion of Toby shifted drastically, almost to the point of no recognition. She became a stereotype, and in a way, she reminded me a lot of Lucerne, which was amusing, since she always seemed to judge her for being so ‘feminine’. But much like Lucerne, Toby too became vulnerable, and though she tried to hide it, extremely jealous. This was totally out of character for her, which made me wonder, can love really change who you are?

Yes, in fact, according to Health, love changes your body chemistry. It releases dopamine, which increases your level of happiness, as well as makes you feel more energetic. It also raises your level of oxytocin, testosterone, and norepinephrine: all chemicals that have a direct link to how good we feel when we fall in love. Losing your significant other can feel like withdrawing from a drug, and can lead to major depression, and sometimes even suicide, the drop of emotions can be extremely overwhelming.

Zebulon definitely changed Toby, but not necessarily for the better. Love is a beautiful thing, but when it turns you into someone you aren’t, it becomes unhealthy, and for Toby, the loss of Zeb lead to her death. She fell into a pit of sadness, and started losing a ton of weight. In her words, she had a wasting sickness that was increasing, and soon she would not be able to walk (Page 389). Toby was definitely madly in love, and sometimes love can effect you physically. Zeb was definitely the love of her life, and in a way, he took her life.

 

Works Cited

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20568672,00.html

MaddAddam; McClelland & Stewart, 2013; Bloomsbury, 2013; Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2013.


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The Practicalities of Painball and Our Real Life Killers

PTSD

Atwood’s novel MaddAddam again explores the recurring idea of Painball, a group of criminals who are offered the chance to be put into an arena to fight and kill other murderous criminals. The reward for victory is life; everyone else dies. The effects of being in the arena seem to be a systematic deconstruction of the human identity, resulting in, basically human monsters, once the victors are liberated from Painball. Most perpetrators, after surviving a session of Painball, return to the arena for the thrill of it. Outside of the arena, these men tend to be glassy-eyed, unstable individuals who require careful surveillance in order to ensure the peace. Given the fact that armies, institutionalized training programs revolving around teaching someone how to kill another person, it might be worth learning what exactly that kind of environment does to you mentally.

institutional killing
Against common conception, Mental health counselor Jim Dooley, in an interview, notes that it is not the loss of a friend that leads to the greatest mental trauma, but it is actually the act of taking a life. Dooley says, “I think it is a loss of yourself[…]. And I think that once they understand that, they can’t go back again They can’t say that it didn’t happen, or maybe somebody else did it” (Dooley psb.org). To take a life in an act of ownership of your actions that are beyond denial. There is understanding and there is a death of self.
The army’s response to that is to relegate the problem to PTSD and observe it very vaguely and impersonally, via questionnaires, asking the participant if they have PTSD. Military stigma against PTSD has declined in recent years, but it still exists and few people want to admit to having it. Despite that fact, PTSD seems to be what Painballers are suffering from. Sebastian Junger, a soldier who was deployed in Afghanistan, describes the experience of PTSD:

From an evolutionary perspective, it’s exactly the response you want to have when your life is in danger: you want to be vigilant, you want to react to strange noises, you want to sleep lightly and wake easily, you want to have flashbacks that remind you of the danger, and you want to be, by turns, anxious and depressed. Anxiety keeps you ready to fight, and depression keeps you from being too active and putting yourself at greater risk. This is a universal human adaptation to danger that is common to other mammals as well. It may be unpleasant, but it’s preferable to getting eaten (Junger vanityfair.com)

These circumstances are exactly what the Painballers are experiencing. Their fear, a result of living in a kill-or-be-killed world is completely rational in the realm of survival. Considering the fact that some Painballers are multi-seasonal, it makes sense for them to have adopted this fear into their daily lives. Atwood describes them:

Fueled by their greyworld celebrity position, the Painball vets were pumped full of I-won hormones and thought they could tackle anyone, and they welcomed the chance to take a poke at large, solid-looking bouncer such as Zeb the Smokey Bear. He was warned by Jeb never to turn his back on a Painballer: they’d whack you in the kidneys, blam you on the skull with anything handy, squeeze your neck till your eyes popped out of your ears.
How to recognize them? The facial scars. The blank expressions: some of their human mirror neurons had gone missing, along with big chunks of the empathy module: show a normal person a child in pain and they’d wince, whereas these guys would smirk (Atwood 297).

These Painballers display a complete lack of empathy and the ability to inflict physical violence ruthlessly and without concern. Whether this is the result of PSTD eroding their empathy, or a choice that they have made after deciding that killing is the life that they enjoy, it is hard to tell. But the idea that killing makes your crazy is solidly found in our society, and the idea that the army propagates teaching how to kill is a problem. Without proper treatment, is it possible for groups of soldiers to become like the Painballers, intent on destruction and pain? Institutionalized death is an idea that is frowned upon in Atwood’s works, but at the same time, our real world institutionalizes death as a form of political defense, even though, in recent years, our armies have been deployed into foreign countries pro-actively instead of being used as a defensive measure.

The lack of empathy found in the Painballers exists as a real problem Toby and company. MaddAddam is coming to a point where a conflict between our protagonists and the Painballers is inevitable, and considering their lack of empathy, and the effects of living with PTSD, as well as the vile nature of the Painballers, established throughout the series, it is possible that the MaddAddam group will lose many people, as well as the group of Pigoons. Could empathy solve this problem? Is it even possible for the Painballers to feel empathy again? Or will Toby again be praying to the Liobam for strength, believing that it will grant her what she needs to remove these killing machines as a threat to her friends and family?

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Resources:

Atwood, Margaret. Maddaddam. Vintage Canada. 2013.

Dooley, Jim. “The Impact of Killing and How to Prepare the Soldier”. PBS.org. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/heart/themes/prep.html

Junger, Sebastian. “How PTSD Became A Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield.” Vanityfair.com. June 2015. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/05/ptsd-war-home-sebastian-junger.

Keevil, Rosemary. Addiction and Veterans. 2016. Wordle.  http://www.rosemarykeevil.com/3969-2/

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” Canadian Mental Health Association. http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/#.WP1qidLyvIV

“Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – causes, symptoms, treatment & pathology.” Youtube, uploaded by Osmosis, 5 September 2016,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzSx4rMyVjI.

Sengupta, Kim. The British Army. 2015. Photograph.  http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/the-british-army-isnt-large-enough-to-halt-refugees-let-alone-take-on-vladimir-putin-10428872.html

Shrivastava, Pratyush. US Army Camoflague. 2015. Photograph.  http://www.eteknix.com/the-us-army-introduces-a-new-camouflage-design/

“Understanding PTSD’s Effects on Brain, Body, and Emotions | Janet Seahorn | TEDxCSU” Youtube, uploaded by Tedx Talks, 14 March, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEHDQeIRTgs.


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A New Beginning

The idea of a new beginning along with the theme of starting over are what drive the plot of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam. Throughout the story, the humans as well as the Crakers attempt to create a new life for themselves in a world destroyed by the waterless flood and now inhabited by dangerous painballers. Restarting society is a theme that is also very prominent in the real world, namely in countries that suffer massive disasters, whether they be natural or man made.

In terms of natural disasters, the 2010 Haiti earthquake was devastating, and forced an already poor Haitian society to restart from scratch. The earthquake had a catastrophic magnitude of 7.0 Mw and affected an estimated 3 million people. At least 52 aftershocks of 4.5 Mw or higher were recorded prior to the initial earthquake and the death toll ranged between 100,000 and 160,000 people. Additionally, 250,000 residential buildings and 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed or were severely damaged. Immediately, many countries and organizations came to Haiti’s rescue by pledging funds and sending medical and rescue teams as well as engineers.

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Unlike the group in MaddAddam, Haiti received a lot of help from many different sources, and although the country is still recovering from the natural disaster, they have and still are rebuilding much faster thanks to the external help.

In terms of manmade disasters, the nuclear bombs dropped on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th of 1945 were perhaps the most destructive and tragic disasters in human history. This was the first time ever that weapons of this magnitude were used, and they were deployed by the United States military under President Truman in the final stage of World War II. Although the initial explosion was devastating, the worst part came later as radiation exposure continued to affect people many years after.

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This aspect can be compared to MaddAddam. Both the bombs and the disease created by Crake were manmade. Additionally, they both continued to have large impacts after they were initially used. Much like how the effects of radiation exposure were passed on from generation to generation, the disease created by Crake was passed from person to person and its effects are still very notable in the third book of the trilogy.

It therefore appears as though manmade disasters tend to be more catastrophic than those that are natural due to the fact that their effects seem to last much longer. While the earthquake in Haiti is definitely still having negative impacts on the country, its effects will certainly not last as long as those created by the nuclear bombs used against Japan in 1945.

Thankfully, over time, Japan was able to rebuild their societies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Haiti is also in the process of rebuilding their society, much like the group in MaddAddam is having success in rebuilding theirs. It therefore seems as though societies will always rebuild no matter how badly they are destroyed.

Is there anything capable of completely ending societies, giving them no chance of resurgence?

 

Sources

“Earthquake in Haiti.” International Rescue Committee (IRC), 12 Jan. 2015, http://www.rescue.org/article/earthquake-haiti?ms=gg_nonb_hai_thre_NK_130503&gclid=Cj0KEQjwofHHBRDS0Pnhpef89ucBEiQASEp6LJMauSiijuUY-ELOaaFSGvGNfhvURKpKOcDkIRpk488aAjUV8P8HAQ.

History.com Staff. “Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/bombing-of-hiroshima-and-nagasaki.

 

 


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We Are What Our IDs Says

From what we have gathered from the lives of Toby, Adam, and Zeb, we learn that they have lived under different identities, and it was for all the same reasons: to hide from the authority. Though they have been quite MIA from the Compounds, they still managed to find jobs and they travel around quite easily, which involves showing some kind of identity. This got me thinking of how easy it is to make a pretend to be someone else or to hide from one’s self.

In Maddaddam, Adam and Zeb constructs identities out of cardboard. Then, they replace them with improved IDs by piecing together information of different people, and Zeb even steals one from a man. Though Zeb does say that these cards are not secure, they can still move around safely at some extent. Therefore, it is not that hard to live without a solid identity in their world.

If you google “Fake ID”, the first website it leads to actually sells fake IDs! I have a feeling that this website is a scam, but if it is real, then you can see how accessible it is to get a new age, name, or even citizenship. Although we can’t do much with that kind of uncertified pieces of plastic, the numbers that our country gives us (social insurance number, bank account, etc) can do you much harm if someone gets hold of it. In fact, as our lives becomes more electronically involved, the risks of theft or cybercrimes are rising. Through the works of hackers, millions of data can become accessible for everyone. For example, there was a case in the Swedish Medical Center at Seattle where data of many employees got exposed meaning that anyone could have wrote down their Social Security number, a form of identity. Thus, becoming someone else is pretty tangible, for identity is a physical thing.

This is a record of the amount of cybercrimes in just the United States

As Zeb and Adam are running around the continent with different identities, Toby hides in the Pleeblands avoiding spilling information about her own. She throws away her ID because she does not want to be discovered alive by the Corps, and her resources come from sketchy paying places that do not consult anything from her. Then, to be safe from Blanco and the Pleeblands, Toby is arranged to go back to the Compounds as Tobiatha, a new identity. The last time she needs to be this new girl is when the waterless flood wipes out everyone.

How does changing one’s identity so easy in a world where technology is said to be on the edge of being invincible and where security is apparently so well built up? Is make me think about how we are identified: are we just a piece of paper that proves our existence?

Sources


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What would a World of nothing but Perfection be like

The theme of perfection is arisen through Margaret Atwoods Maddaddam Triology. I find it very interesting how this theme is brought up and how her novels somewhat show individuals who haven’t reached perfection while others have been designed to be perfect; they are know as the Crakers.

As I have come across this theme, I have come to think of what would a world of nothing but perfection be like. Would human beings simply be happy? Or on the contrary, would perfection lead to our unhappiness?

Not the pursuit of happiness but the pursuit of PERFECTION

In the long run, I believe that pursuing perfection would somewhat lead to one’s unhappiness which could then lead to their own destruction. We shouldn’t want to attain perfection; we should just accept ourselves. We may want to improve ourselves but we must not want perfection as us individuals are perfect just the way we are. We have been brought up into this world as all being different from one another which is what makes us unique. If we were to live in a world were there was nothing but perfection, we would not be able to evolve nor to learn and to educate ourselves. In life, we fail and we do mistakes and these mistakes are the ones which allow us to educate ourselves. If we were perfected beings, what would be left to learn? What would we learn from? Who would we learn from? I guess by just talking about it, it is somewhat hard to think about.

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Image taken from: https://steemit.com/parenting/@rarcntv/a-photo-of-perfection

The idea of perfection may certainly vary from a person to another. I may have a certain perception of what perfection is while someone else may consider it as being something completely different.

My in class presentation about this topic has inspired me to think more in depth about the topic and to write this blog as I believe that we must all like ourselves for who were are. I know that some of you might think that it seems “cheesy” and that in our world, we all want to attain perfection but I think that that shouldn’t be the case. Why want to attain perfection while we could just strive for progress; just be a better you than being someone who aren’t.

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Our IMPERFECTION is what makes us PERFECT

Personally, I think that it is our imperfection that makes us perfect. The fact that we are all different and unique makes us perfect. We should all embrace our imperfection.

The second book in Margaret Atwood’s trilogy, The Year of Flood, presents the topic of perfection and how at the end, perfection was the route to destruction of humanity rather than it being the route to happiness.

What is perfection? Does it actually exist?

According to me, perfection is just an idea that we have created. It is an idea that does not represent reality. It is not realistic.


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Religion, When In Need

What struck me the most about the novel The Year of The Flood were the Gardeners, and how religious belief was still so prevalent in post-apocalyptic times. The Gardeners still believed in God even with all the revolutionary scientific discoveries, like splices, and cloning, as well as when the world was coming to an end and they were dying of starvation one by one. This amazed me because as technology rises, people tend to stop following ideologies without proof. This is due to the growth of intelligence amongst people in society, and the rise of questioning.

Of course, religion is still common in our society today, although its clear that amongst millennials, it is less practiced. I was curious as to how common it is, and if it’s died down over the last decades, like I predicted.

To back up my assumptions, I decided to do some research, and so I dug into the world of religion, and how it has slowly started to fade away and become something far more “passé” amongst our generation.

First, we must analyze how much the use of technology has increased over the decades. According to Brookings, homes with internet access have almost tripled worldwide in just 9 years, going from being in 18% of homes worldwide, to 44%, in less than a decade.

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From this chart we can conclude that technology has definitely risen and become more common amongst society in the last decade, going from being a luxury to a necessity. The increase of technology has definitely changed a lot in our society, making news more accessible, facilitating communication, and allowing us to express ourselves more freely through blogs just like this one. These changes have welcomed different ideologies and allowed us to open our eyes to issues we normally wouldn’t be exposed to, such as flaws in religion, through the blooming of science.

Next, I wanted to find proof of actual change amongst generations, so I found this chart dividing belief by generational cohort.

Age distribution by belief in God (1).png

According to the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life study, only 18% of those aged 18-29 absolutely believe in god, compared to 34% of those aged 30-49. Another shocking difference was the 38% of those aged 18-29 who absolutely do not believe in God, compared to 12% of those aged 59 and up.

Lastly, I wanted to see if there was a general drop in religious views over the last couple of decades to make sure that the change in religious views wasn’t just dependent on age, so I found the following chart

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According to Religion News Service, “Religiosity in the United States is in the midst of what might be called ‘The Great Decline.”. This graph has no specific scale since it factors in a combination of different measures, but it’s clear that it has been steadily declining. Those who attend church are far less frequent, and those who associate with no religion are growing rapidly.

The counterargument would be that in desperate times, most turn to what they know, which is religion. But then again, believing may be hard when the waterless flood wipes away all that you know.

So, fellow classmates, my question is this: Do you think that in our future, religion will still have a place in our society? Or are you a firm believer in the power of evolution, and that evidence has yet to prove the existence of a higher power?

 

Sources:

http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/belief-in-god/

http://religionnews.com/2014/01/27/great-decline-religion-united-states-one-graph/

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2014/07/16/three-graphs-that-show-the-rapidly-changing-world-of-ict/

 


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Silence

I really enjoyed reading The Year of the Flood over Oryx and Crake. The story telling was much more intriguing and fast-paced than the first novel. Amongst the many elements Margaret Atwood incorporated in the sequel, Toby’s experience at SecretBurgers is what spoke to me the most, as well as angered me above all things. The conditions she succumbed to were horrendous, and sadly, she barely had no way out. Let’s not forget that Blanco was the worst part of it all. He played a big part in washing away the little bit of dignity Toby still had during that period of time in her life. Though her stay at SecretBurgers was simply in the early chapters, I look back on it and still feel mad only hoping that she would have spoken up or rebelled before AdamOne’s appearance.

Not needing identity or further information on Toby, her job is a reflection of the battered compounds she has no choice to settle in. Though her sexual abuse, she was demanded to work overtime without any lunch breaks. If it were me, I would have been gone in a flash. In this case, fear and dominance played big factors in her decision to stay. Blanco. Blanco. Blanco. As dumb as his name sounds, through him, Atwood depicts the hidden truths of fast food corruptions of the real world.

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Take a look at this website: http://www.alternet.org/economy/10-worst-things-about-working-fast-food-and-retail . It briefly enumerates the problems there are with the industry, and if you can remember correctly, you will find which ones correspond to Toby circumstances the most. (Trigger Warning) Sexual harassment is number one in this case and is a prominent problem in SecretBurgers, undeniably. “Over one third of sexual harassment complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission were filed by women working in restaurants.”  With Blanco, he is relentless,  not forgetting that he is capable of quickly disposing the disposable.

As a McDonald’s employee myself, being overworked under stressful conditions is a task worthy of a break. Certainly, there is a sentiment of feeling like you are replaceable or disposable. What reassures me is that I can speak against such actions, however I only wish Toby would’ve done the same had she not been brutally oppressed by Blanco. Then again, already immersed in an illegal fast restaurant chain, such a complaint would probably have worked against her.

All in all, I believe AdamOne saved her life by recruiting her, however for the sake of being petty, Toby should have given Blanco a harsher punishment he deserved than she did when they meet again toward the final chapters. All this to say that silence has the power to cast you away, and Atwood does phenomenally in depicting how oppressive and abusive conditions may freeze you in silence, but also cage you in, in the process.

 

 

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. Vintage Canada: 2010.

Luce, Stephanie. “10 Worst Things About Working in Fast Food and Retail” Alternet, 13 December 2013. http://www.alternet.org/economy/10-worst-things-about-working-fast-food-and-retail. Accessed 4 April 2017.