Alice’s Gattaca reflection – ESEM150: The Perfect Human

  • Vincent states in the movie that “it’s illegal to discriminate – ‘genoism’ it’s called – but no one takes the laws seriously.” This is in fact one of the standard criticisms of genetic profiling: if we have genetic data on people, then employers or insurance companies will use that data to minimize financial risk. Assuming that this will be true, would the benefits of genetic profiling still outweigh the costs?
  • Wouldn’t every parent want to ensure that their child was perfect and had the attributes of physical attractiveness, intelligence and athletic prowess to be able to do whatever he or she wanted in life? If so, why is the society portrayed in this film so devoid of happiness, vitality and fun?

The genetic technology in the movie has given the human society possibilities to give their children “their best chance” by providing them with wanted attributes. However, as the creator intentionally described, the world has an ominous color. I believe that the writers were trying to point out that the perfection that we are all seeking for will not bring happiness or social development.
The question we should ask first is what happiness is? How do we define what happiness means and what will bring happiness? People often associate happiness with success in life, achievements, ranks. From an early age, children are told by parents and adults that you have to succeed in life to be happy. We are often showing the picture of working-class citizens as unhappy. People with jobs like doctors, lawyer, businessman are considered admirable, while people who are janitors, restaurant workers are seen as lesser. We presume that people with this kind of job are inferior and that they are lazy or unskilled. When you look into the matter, we can see that this is only what society portraits. This issue is not a matter of who is inferior in some ways but how we treat each other. There are many examples of people who are considered poor but are far happier than rich people. Their happiness is not measured by the number of their bank accounts nor by the size their houses.
People who have many things, their expectations are high. For people who have little, they hope for little. Therefore, the definition of happiness is variable. In my opinion, happiness is being grateful for what you have, being happy is being at peace, being your true self. In searching for the meaning of happiness, I found myself wondered: If I disappear tomorrow, what will you leave in this world? Do my existence is necessary at all? Can one person change the world? I think that each person, no matter how much society believes they are capable, influences everyone around. The interaction we make each day can shape, influence, harm or save a person. Perhaps, what happiness means is to leave some meaning of your existence in the world. We can achieve this by inspiring, cherish others. Small acts of kindness from each person is a powerful force.
One may argue that one can reach their full potential if they know what they are naturally strong at and this can be done by looking at genetic testing. However, we forget that genetic testing can only give us probabilities and that human is far more complicated than just a set of number. There is more to us than just number; there are passion, love, emotion. How can you measure the potential and the impact of a person, what gives one the rights to decide what other faiths are? Human has always been defying against the odd. There are many real-life examples like Helen Keller, Nick Vujicic, etc. Looking at statistics, they should have lived a life of dependence on others. However, they defied their faiths and had made incredible feats; they inspired other and broke the barriers that we assume. There are millions of other similar stories around the world. They all prove that our will can overcome obstacles. They did not succumb to their given “disadvantage.” If they can’t do things the same ways we do it, they try to find different ways to achieve what we can and follow what they believe to surpass us.
Another point is that we can not accept failure how can we grow. I believe that though sadness, failure is horrible at first, they will build you up into being a better person. A person who will sympathize with others. A person who will not back down in front of unimaginable challenges. Furthermore, how can we appreciate and savor the sweet taste of victory and success without knowing the ache of failure?
Suppose that genetic testing does not bring happiness but it can bring other benefits like decreasing financial risk in business, I still believe that the benefit can not get out weight the cost.

When we have genetic information, we can misuse this information and change our ways in treating each other. In business, it is all about work, about making money; financial risk and possible benefits need to be taken into consideration. Under this logic, we can say that having certain genetic information is a huge benefit that is of top priority. However, a business does not stand alone; it stands in a community, society. Business is ultimately entangled with other aspects of society. Thus, we need to be a human being, before we are businessmen. The two side of the scale is profit and basic human rights. Profit is something we create to make life easier; it is a tool made by the human. There is no comparison it with a human being.
Also, if discrimination is allowed in workplace (where society functions), it will spread to other aspects. Like in the movie, genetic testing is all it takes to get into a prestigious space program. We can see clearly how the detective discriminates against an “invalid” – a parallel is racial profiling in our present. It also spreads to the decision of choosing partners. We can see that these testings allow for discrimination to happen.
These discrimination disguise them self as a way to help people. Though their society may have more scientific breakthroughs, they go back into the past morally. Looking at the present, from the viewpoint of an Asian, we are moving forward: many people were used to be considered as mere objects to be traded, women were seen as a pot of money just waiting to be sold to her husband. It changes now, but there are still discriminations, norms that force people to go through. From reality, we can already understand that laws can not be made to inhibit people from doing certain things but it does not hinder people thoughts, and the actions stem from beliefs. For a better society, we need to get past this hurdle and see that there are faults we currently cant see. There needs to be a drastic change in the mind of every citizen.
To sum up, the technology of genetic testing and designed babies, as shown in the movie, though may brings some benefits to society, ultimately, they do not create long-lasting happiness or social development.

Alice’s Reflection: Community – ESEM150: The Perfect Human

Do I remain faithful to my own understanding of the truth, even if it means being the sole person to speak for it?  Do I have the wisdom to discern when to stand aside, allowing a consensus to emerge?

Remaining true to one’s beliefs can be challenging. There are many views in the world, and we are all trying to defend our view. Through my experiences, I now understand that there needs to be a balance between supporting and developing my opinions.
The communities I grew up in all have one aspect in common. They all believe that to one question, there is only one correct answer. This correct answer is come up by the leaders, or it is from generalizing situation given by a social norm. Therefore, I often find myself without the option of expressing my ideas or the push to start thinking about the nature of the things. When I was given a chance to make some difference in a small community like my class, I tried my best but because my method was not good enough, the results were non-existent, and this discourages me. Another aspect was that I found that it was easier for me not to have an opinion and only follow what the majority or support what I was told was right. I was a timid kid, and I want to please everybody. This desire is the reason why I was willing to change my point of views so I can be accepted and not to be judged. I stop thinking about how I can improve the community and instead just follow whatever other people are saying. I continued with this attitude for several years. However, gradually, I got tired of pretending to be someone else.
While forming and starting to defend my understanding, I also begin shaping my identity. Therefore, I believe there is a deep connection between personal identity and belief. The changing point for me was not when my community change but when I start to change how I view thing. I used to resent my community for shutting me down every time I tried to be creative. To express this anger, I let go of my voice. Now, looking back, I see this as a silly decision. When I stop focusing my energy on anger and transferring it to look at the issue from the other side, I develop my own opinion and can sympathize with the other side. Now, I have the confidence to say that I do have my own opinion. I can stand firmly on my stance, though I am open up to hearing reasons from another side.
As I believe, belief is relative. Whether a belief is personal or social, it can be right now, but it might not be tomorrow. Also, there is a lot of views in a community. Therefore, I see the community is a place where I can practice my ideas and be challenged to develop a broader perspective. During this process, another Earlham’s principle that I also practice with is “Respect” as we can not have a productive and civilized conversation without respect. The diversity in view can help heighten creativity in finding solutions and develop the community intellectually, emotionally. Also, the variety can be the glue to hold the community together as once we see pass the difference, the bond is stronger.
While I do stand firmly on my ground, I still think that there are times when we should follow the consensus. I am a part of a community, so I do understand that agreement is needed in community decision making. Therefore, if a method different from mine but still able to achieve the same goal, I am willing to step aside and agree with the consensus. I might not be entirely pleased with it, but I understand that it is not bad. I will, however, not step aside if I believe a consensus is brought harm to a part of the community.
The change of heart is because I finally understand that I can not pretend to be someone I am not to please other for the rest of my life. I need to be myself while taking into consideration what others judgment has to offer for my development. There needs to be a balance that only myself can distinguish and adjust.

Alice’s Reflection: Peace and Justice – ESEM150: The Perfect Human

Do I think about power: who has it, and how it should be used? Am I careful to use my own power for just and constructive ends?

Just a few months ago, I had a very different view on power from now. I used to though that there are two kinds of power: the power of each and power of someone has authority.
I used to think that individual only has the power to change their own lives and not others. Only people with authority have the power to influence others life. People with authority can be divided into two groups: holding jobs which have legal or economic authority and being high orders in the social hierarchy. In Vietnam, it is the norm that people holds important jobs in the government are people who are born into families with high social positions and many connections. Vietnamese people have the tradition of respecting older people and thus, this tradition gives some people the power over others. The tradition is taken seriously to the point of not encouraging people from lower orders to raise their own opinions. While there are many exceptions to my observations, in general, I believe that these understandings have turned into truth in life. One may argue that helping others is essential; however, I used to think that individual’s power and influence are insignificant.
Now, I see that one person can have an unimaginable power. Reading stories and watching others, I realize that the smallest action such as a smile can influence and potentially change someone life. I once read a story about a man say that he was going to end his life if it wasn’t for a boy he rides the bus smiling at him every day. A small action can change people’s perception, prejudice, and stereotypes. I am taught that blue collar jobs are for lazy people who did not work hard in school. When I look at workers in Vietnam, they always look so tired, unhappy and they always talk in a hostile tone. Also, those people never say or act like they love their job. Thus, I have set a stereotype on blue collar worker. But this change when I start seeing documentaries of Japanese people saying how and what they love about their jobs. Then when I came here to Earlham, I see how all the faculty and staff love their job and seem to have fun doing it. They all change my perceptions.
Now, I see that the thing we do every day has an unintentional effect on people around us. I now understand that we all have power. This power manifests in the shape of our actions, interaction in everyday life. We should use it to improve the life of those around us. Life is difficult, life is hard and fills with conflicts. However, each person has the power to change it.
Now that I notice my own power, I see myself as responsible to speak out against the unjust I see and help others. Though I can see my power helping to construct a better society, there are still questions that I ponder. I am scared of being judged and rejected by society. Also, in Vietnam, having opposing ideas is usually considered a bad thing or something unimportant both socially and legally. Therefore, I just can’t help but think that though I have the power of helping those around me, I am limited when I want to do something bigger, greater. Unjustly is not uncommon in Vietnam. We usually read articles about how people with power or money can get away with most of their demeanor. Most of the time, I see that people will just speak aggressively on social media and not do anything in reality. Those who do stand up and take actions are considered to be disrupting the community. Thus, currently, I do not see how I can help to create a community where justice is present. I believe I need to learn more and develop my ability in order to address such problems.

Alice’s Reflection 5 – Respect for persons – ESEM150

Do I examine myself for evidence of prejudice, and then work to overcome it?

Growing up, I used to always listen to what adults tell me, I used to let them decide for me what is right and what is wrong. I never questioned why they believed such things because a “good” girl always listens and never talks back. However, as I got access to the internet, I started questioning my belief, I started to wonder if what I had been told were right. Then, I began seeing prejudices in my community in forms ranging from small everyday activities to huge decisions in life. That is also when I started to examine myself for prejudice, bias opinion, and belief.

The first prejudice which I had overcome is the sexuality of man. When I was small, I never saw two men married or in love. Thus, when I first knew about men being in love, I felt uncomfortable with this idea. I thought that it is not natural for two men to be together. Then, I read a love story between two men without knowing at first that the two characters are both men. When I realized this, I was shocked because I ultimately found no difference in the love between a man and a woman and two men. I watched videos of people sharing what is like to be gay men in this world. Their words hit me hard as they told about how they are being rejected just because of who they are. I did not understand till then that I had been indirectly hurting other people basing on no rationale, no fact, no truth. I knew then that my past belief was wrong. However, my prejudice did not disappear. Deep inside, I still had a bias as I still saw differences between straight and gay men. Surprisingly, the thing that eliminated my prejudice was a Facebook post. One day, I came across a post with a photo of a college classroom. In this photo, the professor assigned a set of questions as homework for students. The question that broke my prejudice was: Why do you think that it is normal for you to like the opposite sex? After some thinking, it struck me that the “normal” standard that I had held onto was only based on what I saw in the majority. I was so fixated on being like everyone else, scared of the things I didn’t understand that I forgot to look at the true nature of this issue.

From these experiences, I keep on looking back to my belief and ask myself these questions: based on what rationale, do I believe this; what is normal and who set this standard; what do the other side think and why do they think so. This process combines with the power of information pushes me to eliminate other prejudices.

However, I believe that it is complicated to realize our prejudice as we always think that we are right and we tend to get defensive if our beliefs are challenged. Therefore, I need a subjective way to examine my prejudice. An incident has identified for me a way to test and overcome prejudice. Just before coming to the US, my grandmother told me to learn and explore the world, but she ended that conversation by telling me that ultimately, I should find a good man to marry because that is where my happiness will come from. Through this incident, I realize that respect and prejudice are relative and they are based on the wisdom, and experience each person has. Therefore, to be able to erase prejudice I must expand my knowledge and perspective. I need to actively learn more about things that I feel uncomfortable or disagree with to go to the core of the problems and test if it is a prejudice or not.

In conclusion, I see that it is my duty to keep on examine myself for prejudice, for bias and learn more about these subject to broaden my view and eliminate divisions. Furthermore, I also see that it is necessary for me to speak out about the prejudice that I understand and have overcome. As I see a part of what helps me remove my prejudice is little push from the world, so I want to do the same for other people.