Your Own World

There’s no denying that our world is built atop social constructs and false systems. It makes no sense for values such as justice and love to have existed before humanity created them. Love doesn’t even have a true universal definition, so how can it be a concrete thing? Almost every person will give a different definition of what they think love is, and what they think of love is entirely based upon the love around them. It’s hardly even their own opinion.

However, if we assume that because we created the ideas of love, relationships, being a “good person,” happiness, etc. that they are not real, what is left?

We can argue that all social constructs hold us back. They limit our experiences, and in many ways, I agree with that. As society has grown, we’ve created rules that if aliens were to study our planet, they would look at in utter confusion. As we discussed in class, why must certain people dress a certain way? Or, why must we go to school for 12 years and then go on to college and potentially even graduate? What is money? What is God? Why is our world the way it is? Who decided these rules? What purpose do they actually have?

You can only reach radical subjectivity by acknowledging that our world does not operate in a sensible fashion. Things happen without reason. Even if you believe in a higher power, you must wonder how that higher power came to be? Why does the higher power not end suffering? Is a higher power who sits there while the world burns below them truly the benevolent higher power the people believe in? Why do people believe in a benevolent God at all?

Even God is not sensible.

But after you acknowledge that things happen without sense, that the world around you will act without logic, and that you are merely a grain of sand in a desert, you realize that you can act however you wish.

In doing so, you can choose to forego all previously learned constructs. You can believe that nothing is real. You can live in perfect nihilism.

Or, you can choose to make your own world. If nothing matters, can you not be your own teacher, your own government, your own prosecutor, your own God?

Thus, can you not choose to believe in nothing and everything at the same time?

If nothing is real and nothing matters, can you not choose to believe in your own versions of love, justice, and happiness? It doesn’t matter if you do or not.

Superiority in “Good Country People”

In Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Good Country People” the phrase “good country people” is repeated throughout the story. It is introduced as a descriptions of the Freemans and why Mrs. Hopewell kept them around: “The reason for her keeping them so long was that they were not trash. They were good country people” (1). While O’Connor doesn’t connote that “good country people” are bad people, by instituting the distinction between Mrs. Hopewell (the person who hired the Freemans) and the Freemans, O’Conner demonstrates that “good country people” are inferior. Then, as the story shifts to Hulga’s perspective, Hulga makes it clear that she too looks down upon “good country people.” O’Connor states, “Joy [Hula] had made it plain that if it had not been for this condition, she would be far from these red hills and good country people “(4). These two quotations infer that the Hopewells believe “good country people” to be inferior to them.

However, as part of his ruse, Manley Pointer introduces himself as a “good country person” (6). This then leads to Hulga’s desire to seduce and shatter Pointer’s innocence (which she believes he has because of his status as a “good country person). Nevertheless, Hulga doesn’t succeed and as Pointer steals her artificial leg and runs, she cries, “aren’t you just good country people?” (14). She is in disbelief at his crime because she believed herself so superior.

Thus, O’Connor concludes her story with the notion that no person is superior to the other. Hulga believed herself morally and intellectually superior; however, in the end, it was revealed that she wasn’t.

“Escape from the Spiderhead” and Humanity

“Thus every human is worthy of love”
“That’s all just pretty much basic human feeling right there” (70).

“Escape from the Spiderhead” contains many themes, but among all those, is the grand theme of “What it means to be human?” As Jeff watches Heather struggle with her dose of Darkenfloxx, he monologues that every person is worthy of love, to which Verlaine replies that he believe that feeling is common among all people. Since Verlaine is a reputable scientist, it can be inferred that he is a knowledgeable source. Thus, all people feel that others are worthy of love. Therefore, George Saunders introduces the concept that despite all our flaws, people are inherently good.

This claim is then supported again in the final moments of the story as Jeff formulates his plan. Having witnessed Heather’s fate, Jeff seeks to save Rachel, which he does by killing himself (77-79). Though Jeff’s fate is grim, his suicide can be seen as more of a sacrifice than a surrender. This is ironic because Jeff is a convicted killer. Yet, he is willing to give his life to save another person. In addition, Rachel is also far from a “good person”; however, Jeff still sacrifices his life for her, believing the she is worthy of saving despite her flaws. Therefore, Saunders continues his assertion that people are inherently good, even if they have committed past mistakes. He also states that being a “bad person” does not necessarily mean that one is not worth saving.

Meanwhile, the scientists, Abnesti and Verlaine are presumed to be “good people” and they certainly believe themselves so. Yet, they administer the drugs that result in Heather’s and presumably others’ deaths. This indicates that the line between “good” and “bad” is far more blurred than one may believe and societal position has nothing to do with morality. For instance, a criminal may be more human than a brilliant scientist. However, even so, Abnesti and Verlaine do commit acts of kindness (though many are arguably for manipulative reasons) and presumably have lives outside of the Spiderhead with families. Thus, they are not entirely “bad” people either.

Therefore, Saunders asserts that to be human is to have empathy and care for others; people are inherently good. There is no societal position that determines humanity; a person is not any less human because of their crimes or flaws.

Humanity is determined not by society, but by each and every individual.