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Vigilanteism is the act of taking the law into one’s own hands by punishing those thought to have done wrong. Acts of vigilanteism can vary from verbal taunts, physical force, and sometimes to death. This is usually done because the court systems have failed, or are presumed to fail. Vigilantes typically want justice and security for the ‘common man’ and will penalize those that endanger this ideal. Other times its fame and fortune that calls to people to act in this manner.

This moral concept lends itself to comics easily, considering many “heroes” could be labelled as vigilantes. Some of these figures work with the government, police, and other authority figures (“ISAs” and “RSAs”), but they’re still independents, as described by Hughes (547).  After the “Keene Act” is passed in the Watchmen universe any non-government sanctioned practicing hero would be considered a vigilante (Moore).

Dubose takes the concept of vigilanteism further by differentiating “police vigilantes” from the “proper” form of vigilantism. This strain of vigilanteism describes those that are aligned with The Powers That Be and who act for the sake of protecting the established order operating “in accord with society’s moral code.” They’re typically celebrated (918-921). Doctor Manhattan and The Comedian would fit this as they both worked with the US Government.

The truest (and most extreme) vigilante in Watchmen would have to be Rorschach, who is uncompromising in his fight against evil. He has a strict moral code and never wavers from punishing those wrong-doers.

 

Works cited:

Dubose, Mike S. “Holding Out for a Hero: Reaganism, Comic Book Vigilantes, and Captain America.” The Journal of Popular Culture. 40.6 (2007): 915-933. Google Scholar. Web. 10 November 2011.

Hughes, Jamie A. “Who Watches the Watchmen?”: Ideology and “Real World” Superheroes.” The Journal of Popular Culture. 39.4 (2006): 546-556. Google Scholar. Web. 11 November 2011.

Moore, Alan. Watchmen. Illus Dave Gibbons. New York: DC Comics, 1986. Print.

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Taiaiake Alfred tackles the issues of Aboriginal repression and the tactics for opposing Colonial rule in “The Ethics of Courage.” With this, and his other works, he really strives to strengthen Aboriginal peoples’ (Onkwehonwe) sense of who they are and urges them to speak up and to take a stand for their rights and beliefs. It’s evident early on that this is a topic close to his heart and he never stymies from driving his position home. Action is required to implement change, but not by any means necessary; this is something that Alfred makes stridently clear on many occasions. Violence has been applied by both sides in the past, and it will continue to be used in the future; he doesn’t present this as desirable, but simple fact. Defensive measures can be beneficial for survival in the present, but it doesn’t provide any real assistance for the future, so it’s being proactive today that Alfred encourages.

Some might think that Alfred condones violence if used to buoy his own cause, but he’s simply aware that it’s not only plausible but probable and therefore valuable to recognize as such. Violence is ingrained in our Western society with warfare and violence sold as glorious and honourable, and it’s often the pacifist mentality that is looked down upon as cowardly and weak. He states that the Government will always follow this path, and so describes the Onkwehonwe defending themselves. But as Alfred points out, non-violence is just as much a strategic choice as any other, and historically it actually garners “widespread and effective” results “against all types of repressive regimes (52)”. An objective is necessary for any action especially one of this magnitude, and Alfred details a broad and varied framework.

He is pragmatic in his vision and really gives you a comprehensive look into the flawed, and often prejudiced, doctrines that govern this New Continent. There are many facets to his declaration, but ultimately it always returns to one idea: a community, restored and unified, is a resilient one and that needs to be the endgame.

*Too short and not fully expanded on, but this is the original copy that I had a month ago.

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“On Dumpster Diving” contains Lars Eighner’s accounts of homelessness at the end of the 1980s. He chose to write his book (“Travels with Lizbeth”) as a manual of sorts, and is often a detached narrator. There are times however, when he breaks this character. This was a decade of high-consumerism and before the recycling initiatives implemented today, so I do not think it can be taken as an accurate source for our time. It can however, still give an over-all view of what that kind of life entails and the life experiences achieved. He speaks about the trials and tribulations of depending on dumpsters as a food source, but ultimately I found it to be a commentary of how North American culture is based on consumption.

            The bulk of the essay takes the form of Eighner recounting his experiences of searching dumpsters for his food, and in some cases his clothing and other necessities as well. Sometimes there were so many salvageable items that he had to implement such a rule so that he wouldn’t become bombarded with ultimately gratuitous things. He doesn’t however refrain from taking what food he can, even in cases where he could do without—he’s of the mind that he never truly knows when he will find enough sustenance for himself and his dog, Lizbeth, so it’s sound for him to eat when possible. Through trial-and-error Eighner has come to know the best spots for safe foods, and the appropriate measures to take in procuring his finds. There is always room for error as this is risk-taking after all, but he makes sure the results aren’t fatal for him or any of his companions. Through it all he does quite well for himself and actually gains weight in the process making his consumption more than the basic means of survival. 

            Much of the food found had indeed been thrown out for good reason, expiration and mold being frequent cases, but there is plenty that’s simply thrown away without any real thought given.  Eighner recalls that residential neighborhoods weren’t worth the effort of scavenging as the finds were typically minimal, but areas where college students propagated were well worth it. Whether it was fridges and cabinets emptied at the end of a semester or during breaks between classes, Eighner “[found] it advantageous to

 keep an eye on the academic calendar”(201). This was food that even if touched was fairly fresh, or thrown away prematurely in case of future spoilage.

Food wasn’t the only thing being thrown away, Eighner found everything from old letters and homework, campaign buttons, sunglasses, and some other interesting finds. It wasn’t too uncommon to find change either, which he especially liked when he wasn’t the first to pick over a dumpster.  Eighner credits these experiences with allowing him to see material possessions for what they are, and now exclusively possesses pre-owned materials “proving that what I own is valueless to someone” (207). He declares his shock that many material items aren’t worth acquiring, but he can now never go back. If it doesn’t have any value or use to him he doesn’t want it, no matter what kind of worth it may have. It’s not the physical object that holds sentiment, so he can let go.

It took Eighner living on the streets for three years for him to free himself of the possessiveness, and materiality that affects today’s humanity. This shows that one can’t simply “quit” what you’ve been taught from a young age, not when it’s an integral part of society. He has made the change now, and doesn’t sound like he regrets this discovery.  It may have even been therapeutic now that the day-to-day struggles are hindsight.

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Jonathan Swift is well-known for his political writings, of which A Modest Proposal surely does not disappoint in its satirical gravity. A Modest Proposal not only addresses the cruelty of the times, but self-imposes them with such mockery and disdain in the belief that you will question your own role. This Juvenalian essay was first published anonymously in 1729; otherwise his works were always published under pseudonyms. Typically his writings were pamphlets, a tool greatly used for mass-production at the time, but he also wrote some novels, most famous of these is the now named Gulliver’s Travels. He was truly a master of satire, and is even perhaps the foremost satirist in prose (of the English language). “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick,” as it was originally known, practically reads as an epic as Swift flawlessly introduces the more unusual aspects of his rhetoric. The titles aids this maneuver by sounding so reasonable, but is actually filled with such condescension.

At first his bizarre proposal slips in so unobtrusively it hardly registers, but soon after one is flung about aboard this most instructional trip on the merits of selling babes as the latest cash crop. Why not? “their [the Irish] corn and cattle being already seized and money a thing unknown,” the impoverished Irish were not ignorant of the harsh reality of being subject to political strife ("I grant this food may be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for Landlords, who as they have already devoured most of the Parents, seem to have the best Title to the Children."). This new measure: encouraging the breeding of infants purely, or especially for financial restitution, albeit harsh and irreversible, would garner results—history, time and time again shows humans as capable of nearly anything given the appropriate circumstances. Beyond simply surviving, improving one’s quality of life is certainly a strong motivator “and the money will circulate among ourselves, the goods being entirely of our own growth and manufacture.”

            Perhaps most effective was Swift’s grasp of our perceptions and how easy it can be to override our senses. He never ceases in his speech, using all in his arsenal to stupefy you. By painting such a terrifying scene and really not one so impossible in theory, he really derides your own preconceptions and allows you to fully take in the core of his argument: the failure of social and political structure by the hands of the empowered few. With such an extreme situation he allows the voice of the real issue to be heard. “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” He must first bring this principle to mind, and what better way than to astonish you with such a grand display of human’s oft defective nature.

            His strategies are made possible by the early usage of detaching the reader from the topic. He takes away his subjects’ humanity with labels, such as: breeders, charge(s), and food. Swift also likens the mother’s to animals on a few occasions, notably when pregnant, and the children being prepared for the slaughter. Such monikers allow for the reader to bypass the individuals in such roles, and perceive the grand scheme pragmatically.

Swift was irrefutably a well-educated man, but his numerous mathematical examples boasted the so-called authenticity of his claims. His argument was otherwise persuasive, but the addition of such evidence had to be all the more convincing. It isn’t coincidental that such measures are still in use today, and in many cases totally fabricated. He also took advantage of the over-all outlandish setting and infiltrated this with his true ideals, following “let no man talk to me of other expedients…”

Through his political substitution (turned away from the Whig party in favour of the Tories who were far more sympathetic toward his aims), Swift hoped to better the lives of the poor and mentally ill. However, in the case of ‘A Modest Proposal’ it was the timing of Queen Anne’s refusal to reward him for his political services that must’ve goaded his writings for the Irish cause. In turn he did not shy away from announcing his grievances with the current social standards of Ireland, nor the English government’s involvement (“…I could name a country which would be glad to eat up our whole nation…”).

It shows that his works have lived through the test of time remaining a topic of discussion even today, some two hundred years later. The true scope of satires as an art form may have diminished in time, but critics are still pouring over every syllable applied from Swift’s hand. The original target may have been his fellow Anglo-Irishmen but I doubt he’d mind the expansion. Swift became known as an Irish Patriot after this essay, with his attention to brutality at the time and well-argued standpoints it’s easy to see why he gained this status.

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