Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Different Point of View

While at first “Prime Directive” may seem like another article criticizing the war, a deeper look reveals that it is about human nature especially in regards to pain and feelings of superiority. Griffith mentions the atrocities of Abu Ghraib many times from the perspective of one who can not understand and would never do such things but finally at the end he shows us that the tendency to take advantage of those who are weaker exists in every human in some form. He leads us to this conclusion throughout the article by first demonstrating his feelings of disgust towards Abu Ghraib from an observer’s point of view. He describes the incident as something that would “bring everybody down” but later begins to connect the exploitation of humans in Abu Ghraib to our own pop culture. He uses words like “near-naked” and “gyrating” to show us the humiliating way that the women in the music video are being exploited and then ties that in to the naked, humiliating pictures from Abu Ghraib. Slowly we begin to realize that people are being exploited in horrible ways even in America, though we don’t equate this kind of exploitation to that of Abu Ghraib because it is more voluntary and less cruel.
On a side note, I think that Griffith's emphasis of Star Trek’s Prime Directive and his depiction of himself as Captain Kirk kind of symbolizes how in America many times we don’t even consider that we could be capable of such horrible actions. We were all raised to respect each other and to not infringe on anyone else’s rights but we should ask ourselves if that is really how others see us. As Griffith went around the night before Halloween, he was mistaken a couple of times for the “one of the guys that dies” in an episode. He was mistaken for an extra that doesn’t even have an identity while all the time trying to be Captain Kirk, a protector of the Prime Directive. I think that this shows that while we usually think of ourselves as these great human rights people, we are often not just the people who inflict pain but, the faceless people who are dehumanized like those in Abu Ghraib and the extras that die in Star Trek.
Anyway, getting back to my main point, Griffith realizes how closely connected he is to the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib after taking a picture with a friend of his that mimics the Abu Ghraib pictures (his friend dressed up like Graner and carried around a camera and a hood). The next morning this picture makes him realize the fine line we struggle with in order to properly react to atrocities such as Abu Ghraib. It’s hard to find the balance between condemning Graner and those like him and recognizing our disgusting similarities. I think that this brings up another reoccurring theme of Griffiths, the idea that everything is unbalanced. Griffith points to this idea a few times throughout the narrative. He mentions the street light flickering in the beginning which gives us the feeling that things aren’t quite right. Griffith then adds to this feeling by describing how strange he feels in his empty apartment without his wife. We get the idea that he would normally not be doing the things that he describes in the story as he subtly ridicules the different parties and people, further insinuating that this night is strange.
Finally at the end of the article, Griffith demonstrates the extent of this unbalancedness. He first tells us that his neighbor Mel “is a kind, loving man,” and then describes how he helps Mel pass out candy and terrify children. In Mel, we see how even the most unlikely people can still derive enjoyment from the pain and terror of weaker individuals. Griffith takes a turn as the fake looking grim reaper and is supposed to scare the kids as they come for candy. He fails to convince the kids that he isn’t real and one suggests that the other kick him to find out if he is really dead. Griffith uses this depiction of a real person acting like an object to show us how we sometimes fail to see those weaker than us as people until they react to pain, and even then we may not understand. The kid’s natural reaction in order to find out if Griffith is fake is to inflict pain.
I think that “Prime Directive” shows us two different viewpoints that we normally would never see ourselves as. Typically we our Captain Kirk, always on top of things and doing what is right, but through the examples of Mel and the party picture we see our natural tendency to inflict pain. We also see that instead of being the inflictor of pain or the protector we can just as easily be the faceless object that is exploited. As Griffith waits to scare the trick-or-treaters, is mistaken as the dead guy, or describes the women in Chingy’s video, we see how we are so often unknowingly dehumanized in our culture.

1 comment:

Wendy Sumner-Winter said...

Really great, Lauren. Simply add analysis of tone, style, etc. and you've got your paper! Thanks, also for your input in class.