“Understanding” Your Place

It’s true that the human population is full of unique individuals, for we are not a species that are meant to be carbon copies of each other. Despite our status as one species (or more like the remaining one after evolution) for hundreds of thousands of years, a deeply rooted xenophobia still exists in today’s modern world. Lately, the term “species” still un/conconsciously equates to “race” despite all the scientific evidence that says otherwise. Not everyone may have grown up in the same conditions as everyone else but that doesn’t mean we can’t be aware of these differences as a society and handle them in a respectable and appropriate manner.

Reactions toward these differences rely heavily on these developing conditions; more specifically, in what type of community you were raised in. An individual does not act in a certain way just because of the color of their skin, contrary to the old [?] medical stigmas of white physicians that Harriet Washington brought to light in Medical Apartheid. Personality is not based off of complexion nor gender. However, these stigmas are often effects from the formation of physical and social barriers between these groups. At times, these groups become so isolated from one another that it never occurs to them that other cultures may exist. The distance encourages egocentrism in that only their story matters while others only deserve a “single story” as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie puts it. Oftentimes, many well-intentioned “altruists” believe that understanding their own place in relation to the world is equated to identifying the ostracized with a story of pity.

In an attempt to “save” these poor people, these do-gooders actually tend to do more harm than good. For an example in present day, Professor Wes Kennison mentioned that pre-health students studying abroad in developing countries often ask whether they can volunteer in the local (and only) hospital during their time there. In such a competitive field, it is no wonder that these students are focused on what can get them to the top of the candidates list to future employers. These students fixate on the poor state of which the healthcare, education, and economic systems are in, in order to boost their own character. They do not stop to consider the bigger picture where these hospitals are actually severely understaffed and do not have the time to look after and train someone completely inexperienced when they have over a hundred patients a day to attend to. In fact, according to Professor Kennison, employers turn down applications of such volunteers for overreaching, which is seen as a bad judgement call. Blindsided by their own careers, these students might not seek out other ways they could help. For example, one of Professor Kennison’s students worked with a local artist to make medication instructions more coherent to the natives.

This reality check reminded me of Zulus; more specifically of Alice Achitophel, Kevin Peters,, and the government. All four are isolated from each other: Alice is socially rejected due to her body image, Kevin lives alone and separate from the camp, and the government is a center of monotony and hopelessness. Each has a different perspective on how to handle and fit into the post-apocalyptic world due to their own sense of community. On one hand, Alice believes that bringing back fertility and living freely is the solution for humanity as she herself wants to break out of the bubble she has been trapped in all her life. On the other hand, the government believes that the human race is doomed and should slowly die off, almost like a euthanization. The government does what it knows best, implementing a system/plan for the people in the hopes that the vast majority is content. Meanwhile, Kevin seems to see this more as torture and believes that everyone should be wiped out at once, to save the planet at least from the hands of the human race (from what he’s seen from both the rebels and the government).

All of these are considered answers, but who’s to say which is the right one?

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