Mutual Recognition in Our Life

In Benjamin’s theory, she talks about mutually recognizing the other people in your relationships. I think that mutual recognition can also extend to people with different ideas.

Our society is full of people who have dissenting ideas. In politics, our country is becoming extremely polarized and people cannot agree with each other politically. There is rarely compromise between parties or people. I think that political parties and political ideology can be binaries, even though political viewpoints are ideas and not an inherent part of you. I think Benjamin would argue that mutual recognition and binaries can be applied to ideas and politics.

rereading for the right purpose

This summer, I read the book “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi. The book followed the descendants of two half sisters, one who is sold into slavery, and the other who marries an Englishman. The essay intertwined history with storytelling and made you feel entrapped in the story. After the story ended, I took a day to sit on it and reflect on the book. The story was extremely moving and impactful, and I knew that I needed to reread it. I needed to relearn the history, re immerse myself in the character’s stories, and find more meaning from the book.

When Nabakov talked about how good readers are rereaders, I instantly thought about me wanting to reread Homegoing. Even though I wanted to reread Homegoing, there are many other books I haven’t considered rereading. There are also so many reasons why someone would want to reread-they wanted more emotional depth, they didn’t understand it the first time, or they just loved the book in general. I think that a good reader can be a rereader, but they don’t have to be. I think that a good writer makes books that readers reread because they love the book or they want to get even more depth and meaning out of it. I wanted to reread Homegoing because Gyasi was such an amazing writer and I needed to lose myself in the book again.

Mutual Disregard in Neal Shusterman’s Thunderhead

For my summer reading, I chose Scythe by Neal Shusterman, and I enjoyed it so much that I got the second book, Thunderhead. The novel takes place in a dystopian future where issues like death and poverty have been eliminated. In order to keep the population under control, “Scythes” are appointed to “glean” (kill) a certain quota every year. The story follows Citra, a Junior Scythe, who finds herself in the middle of increasing turmoil within the Scythedom. Although she despises her responsibility of ending people’s lives for good, she knows she must keep her role as a Scythe in order to quell the corruption emerging around her. Like “Escape from Spiderhead,” if not more, the premise of this story is highly absurd. However, that doesn’t mean it fails to relate to Benjamin’s theory of mutual recognition.

In this novel, society has lost all respect for individual life. With no such thing as death, the lives of people seem to have little value. In this world, it is apparent that no one thinks about anyone else. In fact, when a Scythe is finished gleaning someone, their family cares more about receiving immunity for a whole year than their recent loss! This is the complete opposite of mutual recognition.

Additionally, I find it crazy to think that the heroin of this story takes pride in the fact that she, unlike other Scythes, gives her unfortunate victims a month to decide how they wish to die: “Of course, this method of gleaning [creates] double work for her – because she [has] to face her subjects twice. It [makes] for an incredibly exhausting life, but at least it [helps] her sleep at night” (31). That is how low the bar is!

I take this book as a warning as to what can happen if we, as a species, completely lose sight of Benjamin’s theory. She says that in order to establish healthy identities/relationships we need to not only see ourselves as worthy entities, but also others. If we can’t value each and every person as a unique and important story, then perhaps we will find ourselves gleaning one another someday…