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roles. How others see us, judge us – that fear effects every decision we make and every action we take. Acceptance plays a more subtle role, because it means, ideally, no fear or hatred, only understanding and reasonable judgment. Applying acceptance in our lives, whether it’s accepting our individual self, accepting those around us, or accepting entire groups of people and their beliefs, is something that could potentially solve many problems. But it isn’t something our society is likely to pick up in a realistic, reasonable time frame, to any effect. This paper will discuss how acceptance of others and one’s self is beneficial, logically and rationally sound, and morally justified, as well as how the media generally impedes our progress, with the exception of outlets like NBC’s Heroes, which puts our reaction to differences under a microscope and analyses it. Take a moment to ruminate on what the world would be like without fear of different cultures, without judgment of different lifestyles, without hatred of different races. Look even further in. Glance at the choices people make, and how different they could be if they weren’t shadowed by the hard looks from friends and family. How fulfilling those choices could be to the individual without the fear of judgment. A person would be their utter, best self. Imagine that individual accepted the choices their friends or family made as well. The support that would come from all quarters would be astounding. This isn’t to say that every decision would be good or without consequences. But it would be a world less focused on greed and fear and business. There would be less violence, because acceptance would be universal, and the fear of the unknown would
dissipate in light of one’s individual potential. The statistics for suicide, depression, and divorce would likely go down dramatically, if not completely. The benefits that the world could reap from a mere open mind would be nothing short of phenomenal. There would still be problems, of course, but those problems would be dealt with differently, and possibly more effectively. Now, this world is idealistic, and highly unlikely in the near, or even different future, but focusing on the differences acceptance could make in the world show us the gaping holes aching to be filled. We’d be left with a happier, healthier, more peaceful world. And every small step is still a step closer. Now we delve into the individual struggle that each of us personally have. Humans are innately selfish creatures, but that trait can actually be beneficial if used correctly. As Mohinder states in Heroes, “For every being cursed with self-awareness, there remains the unanswerable question – who am I? We struggle to find meaningful connections to one another. We are the caring friend, the loving father, the doting mother, the protected child. We fight and we love in the hope that somehow, together, we can understand our significance in the universe; but in the end, no one can share our burden. Each of us alone must answer the question – who am I? What does it mean to be alive? And in the vast infinity of time, how do I matter?” (Mohinder’s Narrations) Selfishness can be present in many different forms. Several of those are self-destructive, such as focusing on material gain, hoarding and reveling in power, or seeking constant pleasure. But a few of those forms help us come to realizations in our lives, such as who we are and why we are here. The thoughts or events that occur and give us direction in our lives are technically ‘selfish’ but point us towards being our best or worst semblance of self. Taking this selfishness and figuring out who we are can eventually benefit others, because once a person is comfortable with themselves, they are more likely to be more accepting of others. In Tsui’s article, she talks about our need to define ourselves,
“Individuals are assumed to have a desire to maintain a high level of selfesteem and a positive self-identity. In order for individuals to know how to feel about others, they must first define themselves. They do this through a process of self-categorization in which they classify themselves and others into social categories using characteristics such as organizational membership, age, race, status, or religion.” (Tsui 551) We do have an innate need to be part of a social group, but we also need to feel useful and individual in that group. We must first come to terms with ourselves and where we believe we fit, and eventually we will be more readily able to accept others, all the while benefiting the world around us through the more informed decisions we make. Expanding on self-identity, we come to the term ‘normal’. Many people would agree that ‘normal’ is a relative term, and considering how different each person really is, there is no ‘normal’, by definition. One could argue that the media sets the precedence of what is ‘normal’. As Derbyshire says, “In seeking to understand what defines us, we cannot help learning about what divides us.” (Derbyshire 41) In Heroes, almost every character struggles with the fact that their ability sets them far apart from the world’s view of ‘normal’, and often they long for a ‘normal’ life. They could potentially be bullied or prematurely judged, and Sweeting claims, “Victimisation may be a process, beginning with labelling based on ‘factors perceived subjectively by others as being removed from the norm’” (Sweeting 20). But the fact that these characters are so different, that they are given a set of traits that makes them even more unique than other individuals, has made each character fulfill a potential that they otherwise could not have, through extreme situations. Their will and their precise natures are constantly tested through the conflicts they face. Heroes gives extreme situations, but there is a definite seed of truth within the plotlines. As we try to find our place in society our need to be different yet accepted is an internal, eternal conflict. The decisions we make, therefore,
define us. Joy states, “The need to be different is, then, expected to underlie experimentation with alternative lifestyles, ideas, and sources of stimulation, such as that seen in many persons of so-called "artistic" or nonconforming" tendencies. It should also underlie some of the originality of thought that may be considered a necessary, though not a sufficient, precondition for creativity.” (Joy 325) Our view of self leads us to create or destroy, though in some individuals it is more obvious, and in some more subtle. There is also the topic of ignorance to consider. Some may argue that ignorance keeps an individual safe, since staying away from a certain culture or unstable individual will put them at less risk, but active ignorance of a race, a gender, a culture, a religion, will only hurt us more by giving up the opportunity to expand our knowledge, and throws the blessing of being alive onto its head. People may say they feel content in their ignorance, or even deny ignorance all together, but even our need for friends and relationships is pointing toward our broadening horizons and learning about others, which leads to informed acceptance. In looking at the moral consequences of acceptance, it could be argued that not taking the time to understand and accept others leads to events such as Columbine and other school shootings, suicide, general bullying in all ages, and even cultivating sociopathic tendencies in serial killers, such as the character Sylar in Heroes. Sylar takes on the abilities of other people with special abilities, thanks to genetics. “ Mr. Bennet points out to Sylar that everyone else the Company has met has had only one ability, while he has taken on several. Sylar replies that it's what makes him special. When Mr. Bennet rhetorically asks Sylar if being special is important to him, Sylar responds that it is important to everyone.” (“Special (theme)”) If those premature, ignorant judgments didn’t exist, if the human psyche was given a higher importance than
wealth or power has, we would understand, or at least take the time to try to understand, and in doing so, help prevent situations like Columbine, or situations like serial killings from happening in the first place. It seems like a valid moral obligation to help others by listening and accepting them for who they are and who they want to be, instead of shunning and avoiding them. We can help them along their path, all the while benefiting ourselves by expanding our knowledge and understanding of others. At last we come to the media, and the vast amount of stereotypes that it produces and reinforces. The media tells the general public what to think of certain groups of people, what is popular in fashion and consumerism, and what to think concerning political issues. Because the media is so far reaching, one has to take a moment to consider how the world would function without it, or at least without the bias it shadows on everything. Would the world and the economy as we know it fall to pieces at our feet? The likely answer is yes. However, that in itself could be beneficial. With less business and stress we’d have more time for our self and interests, and wouldn’t need illegal or morally ambiguous outlets, since we’re content doing what we love. There would be more equality among more variety, which is what our Constitution calls for anyway. “Ours is a nation founded on the proposition that all men are created equal. Of course, nobody ever supposed that to mean that we are all equally tall, equally strong, or equally clever; but if different human groups, of different common ancestry, have different frequencies of genes influencing things like, for goodness’ sake, brain development, then our cherished national dream of a well-mixed and harmonious meritocracy with all groups equally represented in all niches, at all levels, may be unattainable.” (Derbyshire 42) Derbyshire claims that there are genetic differences that can’t be ignored, as evidenced in the above quote, but if people being more open-minded and accepting is calculated into the equation, there is a high likelihood that what our Constitution claims could be
achieved. Consider what the media’s standards do to those with sociopathic problems, however small or large. This leads back into the concept of ‘normal’. People have a need to be accepted, as part of their human nature, but that need, or the rejection of others can drive some to do dangerous things. The media could prevent this, as well as prevent to ridicule and stereotypes of other cultures, religions, and lifestyles. “Although stereotyping is inevitable, when media producers erroneously attribute characteristics of a minority of a group to the whole subculture, stereotyping becomes problematic. Stereotypes usually fail to reflect the richness of the subculture and ignore the realities from which the images come. This action can result in social injustices for individuals who make up that subculture.” (Cooke-Jackson 186) Learning more about a culture, religion, race, or even gender enriches our lives and gives us a better perspective of ourselves and the world around us. A community that embraces cultural and individual differences is the opposite of communism, and what America’s founding fathers were hoping for. What our society has become is unfortunately extremely biased and unequal, and it only hurts us as individuals when we fall victim to the massive bombardment of stereotypes and expectations that has been created by the media. More and more people are realizing this, and we fortunately get productions such as NBC’s Heroes, which give us an exaggerated view of ourselves and what our society has become. It presents issues and projects how our society as a whole would deal with them, and the answer to that seems to be full of fear, violence, and little to no regard for individual life of freedoms, proving that we could only benefit from supporting and accepting ourselves and those around us. Exorcising fear and unnecessary judgment from our lives will help us lead a better life, and contribute to a better society.
Works Cited Cooke-Jackson, Angela, and Elizabeth K. Hansen.. "Appalachian Culture and Reality TV: The Ethical Dilemma of Stereotyping Others." Journal of Mass Media Ethics 23.3 (July 2008): 183-200. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, UT. 1 Mar. 2009 <http://search.ebscohost.com.tproxy01.lib.utah.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN =33522902&site=ehost-live>. Derbyshire, John. "The Specter of Difference." National Review 57.20 (07 Nov. 2005): 40-42. The National Review Archive. EBSCO. Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, UT. 1 Mar. 2009 <http://search.ebscohost.com.tproxy01.lib.utah.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nch&AN =18645078&site=ehost-live>. Joy, Stephen. "Innovation Motivation: The Need to Be Different." Creativity Research Journal 16.2/3 (Apr. 2004): 313-330. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. EBSCO. Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, UT. 1 Mar. 2009 <http://search.ebscohost.com.tproxy01.lib.utah.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pbh&AN =14487552&site=ehost-live>. “Mohinder’s Narrations.” The OWI-NBC Heroes Fan Forum. 11 December 2006. 1 March 2009. <http://primatechpaper.yuku.com/topic/394> “Special (theme).” Heroes Wiki. 6 January 2009. 1 March 2009. <http://heroeswiki.com/Special_(theme)> Sweeting, Helen, and Patrick West. "Being different: correlates of the experience of teasing and bullying at age 11." Research Papers in Education 16.3 (01 Oct. 2001): 225-246. EJS EJournals. EBSCO. Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, UT. 1 Mar. 2009 <http://search.ebscohost.com.tproxy01.lib.utah.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eoah&A N=414575&site=ehost-live>. Tsui, Anne S., Terri D. Egan, and Charles A. O'Reilly III. "Being Different: Relational Demography and Organizational Attachment." Administrative Science Quarterly 37.4 (Dec. 1992): 549-579. Family & Society Studies Worldwide. EBSCO. Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, UT. 1 Mar. 2009 <http://search.ebscohost.com.tproxy01.lib.utah.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=flh&AN= MFS-9306166618&site=ehost-live>.