Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Family Pictures, Lord of the Flies: Chaos and the Individual

I was digging through a box of family pictures the other day, and after pouring through tons of pictures, I came to a startling conclusion. My brother has tons of pictures, in all his uniforms, from ROTC to Police officer to whatever. Even my cat has around 30 pictures taken of him in different poses. And don't get me wrong, my brother and even my cat are very photogenic. But after going through that box of pictures, all the pictures taken after 2000, I could find only 2 pictures that were clear and were taken of me. It's a shame really, that only a handful of pictures were taken of me after I finished my English degree. When I came to Borders and observed this phenomenon, I found I was not alone. Most of the people that worked with me just didn't have pictures taken of them that are recent.

Now, there's something to be said for getting pictures taken every few years in order to give the police something recent to go on, and it's also reasonable to assume that pictures are much more often taken of children and people in uniform more than regular people not doing anything. And pets. Hopefully I'll be able to put more pictures on my Myspace page when I get some made, not just of me, but of my friends (which will be so that only those friends can see them), and maybe some other things as well. Anyway, I was miffed at the lack of pictures of me at the moment. You'll have to forgive the moment of self-centeredness.

I just realized that I've been doing this for a year now, and I've written 75 blogs in that year. I've learned so much doing this, being able to write and extrapolate and cogitate, mixing theories and possibilities, and realizing how much more I have to learn, socially and physically and mentally. Balance is the most important aspect of anyone's life, and it's something that, right now, I'm lacking in.

CBS is currently running a show called Kid Nation, which is a reality show with little pretense that it actually is a show where children make all the decisions. Of course there are adults on the other end of those cameras, and there are doctors and educators and all kinds of people taking care of the actors and actresses. This is less about a social experiment and more about contrived entertainment. More of a true social experiment was the novel (and subsequent movies) Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The social experiment in the novel was that children were stranded on an island without adults, and they had to survive, create a social structure, and organize a society in which everyone could survive. Well, according to Golding, it is impossible, and the children turned into savages and the ones who couldn't survive, didn't. Of course, Golding was also paralleling the idea of the island as a microcosmic social experiment to the Earth and humans as the so called children who are trying to survive. As a novel that is actually a social commentary, the novel works excellently. The movie made in the 1990's shows this explicitly as, after the boys are rescued, there is a shot of bombers flying overhead toward their destination, in some past war. This shot alone instantly compares the animal behavior of the children with the primitive ideas of mankind that blowing each other up would actually solve anything. The social and political heirarchy will break down into chaos. And while this is normally true, I believe, because cahos will always reign over order, it does not always have to be this way.

Where Golding falls short in his experiment (or perhaps he does include it in the two main characters), is that individuality often succeeds in maintaining order and goodness while society degrades itself into anarchy. This is such a Romantic idea that most cynics cannot see it in modern times. I cannot help but think that an individual who maintains the ideas of right and wrong and keeps them solidly has to overcome most of the temptations that would lead one down the path of societal denigration. A child by themselves, when faced with his own morals and beliefs, will come closer to doing what's right than a child influenced by , say, a school class of his peers. Morality and ethics only preservere in the individual, and will constantly break down in the face of society.

But I've often wondered if that idea of individuality could be harnessed in such a way that the society of individuals that exist in that microcosm might withstand the temptations of the unmaker (OSC reference) and maintain the heirarchy intact. And I'm not just talking about a society or a town or a classroom (for an interesting read on this, try The Butterfly Effect, by an author I can't remember right now, but rather a family structure where children live basically without the effect of a competent parent. Would it be possible, given individuals that have an ingrained moral and ethical code (which I believe most people have), to have a collection of children that could maintain the social heirarchy and not denigrate into cahos the way Golding would have us believe? I do believe it is possible. I once thought about writing about a program where orphans or children who had been put in foster homes...etc... would be put into a program where they would live with themselves, govern themselves, and use their skills to contribute to society. It had sort of a Lord of the Flies feel, and also some of the more nostalgic elements that I was talking about in my last blog. And I have found that, in some instances, it can work, for individuals. In a world without parental guidance, some children can grow up with ethical and moral values and function quite well in society. Of course, I have a feeling that such cases are rare. But of course, there wasn't a plot, just an idea, a philosophy.

Of course, this blog post is connected to one I did earlier about Golding's work Darkness Visible.

(I don't like the cover of the book below, try finding the green one in a used bookstore someplace)

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