The course epigraph, a quote by Dionne Brand, says “My job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice,”. The first thing that came to my mind after reading this quote a few times was a sense of awareness. The idea that one should not only be aware of all the things that go on around them, but also know what they are presenting to others and what they are aware of. Additionally, it made me consider how an individual needs to be aware of the fact that what they are perceiving may not be the full picture. How one perceives others, the world around them and how they themselves are perceived has played a big part in much of the worlds’ history, and has also featured prominently in several of the works we have read since the start of the semester. In both fiction as well as nonfiction literature, the world views of the characters are often radically different based on what they notice in the world around them. This can also apply to real-life personal relations, as well as real world current events. And throughout our texts, one of the major throughlines throughout each of them seems to be one’s awareness of themselves and others.
One of the texts that I noticed about this idea was in the Journal of Clinical Investigation article by Peter Hotez, America’s deadly flirtation with antiscience and the medical freedom movement. The article discusses how, for as long as vaccinations have been around, there have been vocal groups that have actively opposed their usage for a wide variety of reasons. These beliefs stem from the ideal of medical freedom, and the alternate medicinal methods and counterarguments that have been suggested range from herbal medications to nutritional supplements, and even to the belief that the “…measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine replicated in the colons of children to cause pervasive developmental disorder (autism),” (2) These beliefs have become more and more prevalent now that the threat of Covid-19, and are an example of how one’s perception of the world can end up being a negative. By locking oneself into the belief that vaccines can only cause harm, you endanger both yourself as well as the people close to you to avoidable diseases. These groups fail to notice the overwhelming evidence that claims the vaccines are safe, and are seemingly trapped by their perceptions of what they deem to be ‘proper’ medicine. While it is definitely important to have medical freedom, it is also important to be able to notice the benefits that vaccines offer.
Another aspect of the article that fits this idea is the section about specific groups being targeted by this mentality. Many groups have been targeted by these kinds of groups, such as the Somali immigrant community in Minnesota in 2017, the Orthodox Jewish community in New York and New Jersey and the targeting of African American communities in places such as Harlem. Due to many of these campaigns, many people ended up sick with easily avoidable diseases. By viewing these sorts of groups in a harsher light, these anti vaccination groups end up putting these communities in danger simply to prove that their viewpoint is the correct one. This ties in to the idea of how one notices others, as these anti-vaccination groups take notice of groups like these and target them with their own perceptions of vaccinations. They alter what these groups notice in an attempt to control how they view a medical procedure that works to keep people safe, rather than allowing them to form their own independent opinions. And it is groups like these that make me want to better understand the work I am reading as I read it. Groups like these can come to be based on a belief that has little to no evidence backing it, and it’s a scary thought that they would put others in danger because of it. When I experience an article or book in the future, I believe that it will be extremely important for me to gather my own research on a topic I don’t understand before my opinion of the subject is affected by the author’s bias. And although I cannot affect the actions of the people in the groups mentioned before, I would hope that they would do the same.
Toni Morrison’s Home also portrays several interesting ways in which characters notice the world around them, particularly with the main character Frank. Having grown up in the small town of Lotus with parents who are hardly around, a grandmother who hardly loved him, and a sister who he constantly had to look out for, Frank’s childhood was filled with a fair amount of stress and fear. Because of this, he and his two friends grew to hate both their town and what it represented, and longed to leave it and join the army. However, when he returns to his hometown when his sister is in desperate need of medical attention, he begins to notice small things about the town that he had never seen when he was a child. As he walks down the road to pass the time, he notices small things about the town, and comments “Had the trees always been this deep, deep green?” (116). His view of his hometown had before been so affected by the circumstances of his childhood, but having returned to the town with fresh eyes. he suddenly see it for all the beauty it has always had. This ties in to the idea of how one can perceive the world around them, as so much of what you notice as an individual can tie in to your past experiences. While most people will not have as much of a troubled past as Frank, the experiences one has throughout life will nonetheless tint the way you see the world and form opinions. And it is precisely because of this that you must inform yourself about subjects before forming these opinions instead of relying entirely on pre-existing biases.
Both the article as well as the book make it clear that informing oneself on a subject before forming an opinion is vital if one is to properly perceive the world around them. And I believe this can extend to a much smaller scale as well. Even in cases like the in-class discussions that we have had so far, gaining as much information on the subject matter before the class can be a great boon for the discussion, as you may be able to provide more to the conversation. Having the course epigraph mention how important it is for me to notice things makes it quite clear that I must continue to strive to be aware of all the factors surrounding both me as well as the works we read in class. Due to this, I keep the epigraph in mind as we continue with the semester, and will pursue self-growth in regards to how I view the world around me.
Morrison, Toni. Home. New York: Vintage Books, 2012. Print
Hotez, Peter J. “America’s Deadly Flirtation with Antiscience and the Medical Freedom Movement.” Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol. 131, no. 7, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1172/jci149072.