Good and Bad in Sula by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison writes the book Sula with the intention of questioning the idea of good versus bad. The novel talks about good vs bad and compares them between two main characters. The author uses the characters Sula and Nel; their values and qualities to prove her point. The actions taken by these characters gives examples of good vs bad.
Sula and Nel
In this novel there are many characters; few characters are portrayed as good and few portrayed as bad. The author compares the theme good vs bad using the character Sula and Nel. The character Sula seen as evil. Throughout the chapters we read how she is evil, and it displayed quite obviously, Sula, s lack of action after accidentally killing chicken little and watching her mother, Hannah, burn in a fire, show how Sula is metaphorically portrayed as evil. Nel and the other characters are good compared to Sula’s evil.
However, the character Nel is a small-town conservative and a quiet girl. She hides behind innocence, when her heart is evil. Sula is city girl that is completely independent and blunt. Though she does seemingly evil things, she is still honest and prideful which makes her heart good. The book Sula goes from the time periods of 1919-1940. During this time, we read about two girls, Sula and Nel as they grow up.
The Girls’ Childhood
The book takes place in ‘The Bottom.’ White landowners guaranteed liberated slaves a bit of paradise by giving them a chance to live in the medallion city, Ohio. The white landowners would take the richer version of the city leaving the liberated slaves with an unpleasant life. In the start of the novel at 1919, the two young girls Sula and Nel simply start to meet. They become best friends in their teenage years. In Nel’s family, they are respected members of the society they traditional. Her house is steady and more conventional than Sula’s. It represented as good because the family goes to church; they appear to be decent, and the house is perfect and clean. Sula’s house is very different. She lives with her grandma and her mom Hannah, who later passes on; both are viewed as odd and nontraditional to the town because house is disordered; the ladies have sex with different men, and there is no male figure in the house. Regardless of their differences the young girls become closest companions and live together. One day an accident happened. Sula swings her friend Chicken Little into a nearby river and he drowned. Nel and Sula agreed to never tell anyone about the accident.
After that the two girls starts to grow apart. Later Nel reflects on this incident remembering “the good feeling she had when chicken little hands slipped” (Morrison,170). While Sula had cried and cried when she came back from Shadrack’s house but Nel had remained calm. This quote shows us who’s heart is really evil, while Sula is showing remorse, Nel is excited to see the boy drop in the river.
The Later Life
Later in the novel we read how Nel settles down and gets married and have children. However, Sula lives an independent life and she travels for ten years; then returns to bottom. When she returns it seems that bad things follow her, beginning with her shipping of Eva off to a home then she breaks up Nel’s marriage by sleeping with Jude. Additionally, Sula even causes Mr. Finley to choke on a chicken bone and die. Many of these incidents are nothing but accidents it doesn’t prove that she is evil. Sleeping with Nel’s husband is an exception before we judge her actions that is not acceptable in the eye of society. I want to argue that we take a look at her family background its not hard to understand that growing up she didn’t have anyone to teach her the right things.
As I mention earlier in the 4th paragraph she grew up in a chaotic environment; her mother freely loved men. Growing up she watched her mother and thought it was okay to be sexually free. This does not prove that she is evil Throughout the novel the theme, good versus evil is shown. Nel is known as good overall. She is innocent, while she is also conservative and shy. She is married with children which makes her follow the female patterns of the town. With those qualities, she is an all-American good woman. In society Sula is showed as evil and offensive. She decides to go off to college and does not come back for ten years. When Sula returns, she comes back with a plague of robins. The robins came with “to much heat, or too much cold, to little rain, rain to flooding” (Morrison 81). Sula was also assigned the role of evil because she was free with her sexuality and freely flaunted her sensuality and her independence
However, Nel sleeps with her husband Jude because she feels as if it’s another job of hers. She is not free of her sexuality. She is confined to think her only goal during sex is to please her husband. During that time, it was normal for women to think that way. That was considered being a good wife. However, Sula did not want to fall into that category. Sula’s sexual expression is not attached to anything outside herself. Therefore, she does not see it as being sinful or evil she sees it as being free of herself.
In the story, Sula gets blamed for several things. The towns people blamed her for the boy falling, the man choking on a chicken bone, the lady getting a stye on her eye by looking at Sula and for bringing the plague of birds. These things considered Sula evil. However, what the towns people did not realize is that Sula brought a presence that improves the community. Sula was different. She embodied what all the wives wanted freedom which was something weird so that all cast her as evil. A true evil person would just bring a dark cloud to the community with a heavy unpleasant emotion.
After the incident with Jude, Nel became like the towns people. She judged Sula because she did not live by rules of the society. She was simply free, and everyone was jealous of that. Soon Sula falls in love with Ajax. He is the only person to see Sula for what she really was and independent women. She reminded him of his mother. He loved the fact that she was not domestic and that they considered each other as equals. Sula soon falls under the pressure of being domestic which is everything she is against and soon she left him.
Sula is a book about uncertainty. It questions good versus evil. Sula was blamed for being evil and bad, but she lived her life honestly. Nel lived her life private and as a lie. Honesty is a trait of someone with a good pure heart where lie reflects someone with an evil heart. This book questions beliefs about what is good and what is evil.
Metaphors Go Beyond Comfort by Veiling the Corporate Factor in Medicine
Patient care has risen to become a significant factor when considering treatment for any ailment. When deciding which hospital to entrust with care, patients will consult reviews of their insurance-approved facilities before selecting one to entrust. Reviews of said hospitals are no longer focused solely on the efficiency of treatment or the cleanliness of a facility, but also on whether or not the services were provided “with a smile”. Often times, facilities with lacking “customer service” will be scored lower regardless of how effective the treatment was. Patients have come to expect to have staff put the “treat” into treatment and live up to caring about the care they give. A lot of that sense of personal care comes in the form of doctor-patient communication.
It is common practice in patient care to use metaphors as a tool to explain a given ailment. Susan Sontag focuses on the metaphors in medicine in her work: Illness as Metaphor. Sontag’s point is that metaphors do not have a place in medicine because disease itself is not a metaphor. The issue with that point is that it does not offer a better way of trying to explain disease to common people with little to no baseline medical knowledge. The intent of using the metaphors on the part of the medical professional is to aid in the understanding of the ailment in common vocabulary. Sontag’s point fails to consider the need for medical professionals to inspire patients with positive metaphors enough to convince them to entrust the hospital with their care which in turn directly effects how profitable a hospital is.
Metaphors serve as not only a way to inspire, but also mask the corporate side of the medical field. The corporate presence in medicine is presented in Lesley Sharp’s argument around organ donation in her article, “Commodified Kin: Death, Mourning, and Competing Claims on the Bodies of Organ Donors in the United States”. This is shown when Sharp states: “…the United States emerges as a dominant and exemplary model, where organ transfer has become increasingly corporate in structure” (116).
In death, organ donors and their kin become nothing more than objects in the organ transplantation market: products ready to sell to the highest bidder (or in most legal cases to the sickest patient). Part of that comes with the fetishization of the dead who are viewed as incubators for healthy organs as opposed to living patients in need of time and active caring. Fetish in this case meaning: an object believed to have magical power to protect or aid its owner; broadly: a material object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence (Merriam Webster Online). Considering Sontag’s argument is plainly: “the healthiest way of being ill-is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphoric thinking,” it is reasonable to conclude that Sontag would be in support of the United States’ approach to organ procuration (3). Donor kin may feel neglected as a result of this fact, but as far as Sontag’s approach, that “neglect” is really just evidence of the medical professionals staying within their area of expertise which should ideally be curing illnesses and not creating masterful images that divorce the illness from its medical roots. However, Sontag does not acknowledge the need to mask the corporate side of medicine from kin during the grieving process which occurs after her timeframe of argument: the illness phase. Sharp does address this very point. She goes on to say that veiling the organ donation industry in metaphors is extremely prevalent, “… social worth of human organs [is] framed by transplant’s demands; the reality of donor’s deaths; and the imaginative metaphorical reconstructions of the donor body, all of which ultimately disguise the true origins of donated body parts” (Sharp 118). By giving donor’s lives this meaning through metaphor there is this separation between industry and the humans whose lives it costs to keep the industry afloat. The use of metaphor does not change the outcome of what happens to the donor. The donor dies with or without the metaphors. But for the people they leave behind it helps them to process the donor’s wish to not keep their body in tact in death. The metaphors work to romanticize the cutting apart of their loved one. There is a clear difference in the emotions conjured up with metaphor heavy explanation as opposed to a more clinical one. Sontag and Sharp really only partially agree on the use of metaphor in medicine as there is a divergence presented on the part of Sharp after the illness period has concluded and the grieving process has begun. Sharp is weary of “the vulture factor” (123). That is something that the donor kin are ideally shielded from, just how vulture-like the OPO counselors are. The donor kin are meant to feel very calm and very much in control when governing over the organs. The veil of metaphors shields them from the truth of the industry seeking the organs as quickly as possible. Without, the metaphors in this area of medicine there would be a significant shift in organ donation rates if donor kin felt badgered by OPO counselors. In a highly emotional time, the last thing anyone wants is someone hounding them for an immediate answer to a question when there is a laundry list of other issues to be dealt with. The is a heavy emphasis placed on the language used to communicate the organ procurement process with families in a more beautiful way than say using plain, simple English to explain it. By removing metaphors from the explanation of ailments in medicine a lack of “caring” can be felt on the patient or donor kin end. Medical explanations in general are hardly soothing and often times is littered with long, unpronounceable words.
As the words get longer, the level of understanding drops. With ailment names such as: Cystoureteropyelonephritis and Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, it can be quite daunting to have to deal with an ailment you cannot pronounce. If the explanation of the ailment has little to offer in terms of easily understandable, common-knowledge descriptions of what is happening in the body, the patient could feel completely confused and terrified about the extent to which their ailment is severe. The lack of understanding could lead to the veiling of the complexities of the disease. But Sontag is not arguing to use these long medical definitions. She wants to remove metaphors in favor of plain English explanations. In that case, Sontag enters this realm of using generic terms to explain illness, which is a very personal experience. This suggestion of using plain English can lead down a path of very generic wording which is supplemented by things as opposed to words something that Barbara Ehrenreich addresses in her piece, “Welcome to Cancerland”. Ehrenreich’s reflects on her breast cancer diagnosis saying, “where I once was … the surgeon’s implication … [is] I have been replaced by it [the cancer]” (44). This conclusion comes following the diagnosis of “there is a cancer” (44). There is no metaphor presented there. What has happened is dehumanizing on behalf of Ehrenreich. She is equated with the cancer, her person removed from the situation. She has become an unwilling member of the “cancer fighter group”. What is interesting to note though in this membership is the surgeon she is speaking to does not grant her the membership. It is really only after going to forums to talk to other patients that this membership is gained. From Sontag’s point of view this is interesting as the member of the medical community is not the one presenting the metaphor. This is what Sontag is arguing for. In fact, Ehrenreich also in a way appreciates that the surgeon was not the one inducting her into the ‘pink ribbon cult’.
Ehrenreich shares Sontag’s distaste for the metaphors used to describe cancer. It was the community response to Ehrenreich’s “sappy pink ribbons” comment that showed that this distaste is not shared by a majority (50). For her distaste, Ehrenreich earns comments that do nothing to validate her personal experience. Instead she is labeled as bitter and angry, words that do not fit with the image of the pink ribbon. What that pink ribbon represents is femininity and a dainty, emotional characterization women earn by being associated with the color from birth. She goes as far as to say, “femininity is death” (Ehrenreich 43). Pink does not connote anger or bitterness. Ehrenreich is encapsulated by the metaphorical meaning behind a color, something that Sontag would agree does not help in recovering from an illness. But the pink image has become a part of consumer culture at this point, becoming a selling point for companies who claim to donate a portion of their profit from their pink-ribbon endorsed merchandise. Where verbal metaphors have not been used, they have been replaced by physical images that work to entice human consumerist behavior. Even if the metaphors disappear from the diagnosis, they have become heavily entrenched in marketing. The advertisements appear in the very magazines in screening rooms for patients to immediately consider (Ehrenreich 43). Consumer culture together with the subliminal, unrelenting advertising are here to stay.
The verbal use metaphors could fade, but the meaning will still lie behind the pink ribbon image plastered across products every October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month). Even as Ehrenreich agrees with Sontag in terms of removing these symbols that have become more marketing opportunities than anything else, she even finds the doctor’s use of plain English dehumanizing. Ehrenreich is equated with cancer upon diagnosis and is then surrounded with cash grabs that want to capitalize on her self-loathing by selling her things to remind her of the very thing she cannot change. The pink ribbon wielding teddy bear will not help eradicate the cancer. It will not make the physical effects of chemotherapy less severe. That bear was mass produced in a massive factory on a line with thousands of identical bears. There is nothing special about the cheap plastic filling or the generic bear face plastic pieces. The factory workers iron on a pink ribbon. The manufacturer sells the bears wholesale to gift shops, online stores, and drug stores in massive quantities, who in turn hike up the price to turn a profit and then potentially donate a portion of the sales or not. Sontag did not acknowledge what the metaphors and in Ehrenreich’s case the visual representation of said metaphors masked. Getting sick has turned into a massive sales opportunity. Metaphors provide comfort in a harsh society fixated on capitalizing on human suffering. Metaphors in medicine are not there to actively work against the patient. They are present to work to comfort and explain the prognosis to the patient at times meant to motivate them to not waver or forgo treatment. This is ethically positive. The doctor-patient relationship is based on a want on behalf of the medical professional to be able to provide a service that helps the client.
At the same time, this ethical cause is also an opportunity for financial gain on behalf of the hospital said doctor is employed by. After all hospitals can only operate if they have money. To have money, they have to earn it by charging for the necessary life-saving services they provide. When patients do not have the money for the treatment they need they will turn to donors, who in turn support ‘cults’ such as the pink ribbon one which in turn increases profit for other businesses. Then it turns into a question of supply and demand on the part of the sellers of these products as opposed to being about what the symbol on their products means. In larger cities where hospitals are competing against each other for clients the use of metaphors could be implemented to score more points on arbitrary rating scales online as they provide potential emotional support while masking the marketing spiel doctors are hiding in their diagnosis to convince patients to choose their employer over another hospital. Sontag’s encouragement to remove the metaphors would only work to make people feel dehumanized and completely objectified in their vulnerable state. Especially when patients do not have the medical background knowledge to actively engage with their doctor about their diagnosis in a meaningful way, doctors need the metaphors to act as a crutch to bridge the gap in understanding to benefit their employer financially, but also fulfill their ethical duty to provide “care”. It is in the best interest of the medical world to continue the use of the metaphors until a better veiling method is found to hide the fact that hospitals, among other businesses are profiting off of human suffering.
The Literature Review on Metaphors Effects in Suskind Perfume
The novel Perfume by Patrick Suskind, narrates a story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the person who possesses an incredible sense of smell, however, doesn’t have a smell of his own, who in order to create the ”ultimate perfume”, that later will let him to be accepted by the society, commits a series of murders, the main focus of which are young and virgin females. By using various metaphors throughout the novel Perfume, Patrick Suskind paints a clear picture of the Grenouille’s thoughts as well as challenges our understanding and interpretation of the novel by letting us look at it from various perspectives.
Ticks are parasites that could easily be find on animals, birds, and reptiles. Throughout the novel, Patrick Suskind draws a comparison between Grenouille and a tick in order to demonstrate Grenouille’s appearance and role in the society as well as his true intentions. ”The lonely tick, which, wrapped up in itself, huddles in its tree, blind, death, and dumb, and simply sniffs. . . it could let itself drop. It could fall to the floor of the forest and creep a millimeter or two here or there on its six tiny legs and die-it would be no great loss. But the tick, stubborn, sullen, and loathsome, huddles there and lives and waits” ( Suskind 25). The description of life that is lived by a stubborn and unstoppable tick is being compared to the life of Grenouille in order to underline the main character’s ability to survive on the smallest amount of nutrition and the lack of impact he brings to the world around him. Grenouille remains alive without knowing what is the true reason behind his existence.
Later in the novel, the metaphor changes its meaning. Now, a tick represents the way people view Grenouille. “The tick had scented blood. It had been dormant for years, encapsulated, and had waited. Now it let itself drop, for better or for worse, entirely without hope. ” ( Suskind ). Greenville’s ability not to care about anything makes it clear that he is not familiar with a concept of morality. He was not taught what is right and what is wrong, therefore it was bearable for him to take scents and lives from the people, just like a tick, a parasite that sucks the blood out of alive subjects without feeling immoral.
Not to mention, throughout the novel Patrick Suskind was attempting to highlight the thought that in society people are not always what they appear to be and in order to be successful at this task Patrick Suskind used a metaphor of Baldini and Grenouille. Baldini, a wealthy perfumer with no actual talent who “ learned the language of perfumery…by using the obligatory measuring glasses and scales” ( Suskind ). Grenouille, however, was a complete opposite character, born with a sharp sense of smell, who was able to produce great perfumes without measuring cups but with a presence of driving passion. Therefore, the point that Suskind was trying to make by making two men opposites of each other are to emphasize that in society there are people who are “book smart” and they do things because they learned how to do it, they know the exact formula, and on the other hand there are people like Grenouille, who have a passion, who create things due to the dedication and unstoppable drive.
Metaphors in Praying Drunk
In Andrew Hudgins’ poem, Praying Drunk, the speaker portrays the act of writing as something important, mysterious, and difficult when sober, and compares it to the act of praying, which, for him, is equally complicated. The entire poem is in the form of a prayer, which provides an insightful look at the motivations for faith, the pursuit of truth, and the struggle to come to terms with both. When these ideas are applied to the act of writing, they reveal the complex struggle that a writer faces in developing confidence in his own ideas, while maintaining a degree of credibility that will encourage an audience to care about what he has written.
The poem begins with the speaker addressing God as “Our Father who art in heaven” (1.1). If this prayer is a metaphor for writing, it would seem that the he is actually speaking to the audience, the group of people who will ultimately judge his writing and his ideas. The casual nature of the prayer is partly based on the fact that the speaker is admittedly drunk on red wine, but also because the writer is trying to establish a relationship with his audience: A rapport with his readers is important to a writer’s success. He thanks his readers for the red wine, because it is they who have made it possible for him to maintain a lifestyle wherein he can afford the wine, and this wine acts as the liquid courage he needs to write in the first place.
The speaker in this poem claims that praying follows a “simple form,” because it “keeps things in order” (1.7-8). This can also be said about writing; at least the kind of writing that follows a prescribed formula, such as, the sonnet or the five-paragraph essay. Writers often use these structures, because the methods are established and have been proven successful in the past. This speaker, however, expresses difficulty in following a formula. In a prayer, one should start with praise, while in traditional writing; one usually begins with a main idea or a chosen topic. “Praise comes hard” (1.3-4) to this speaker, however, because he stutters. His trouble with articulating praise can be compared to the writer’s inability to find the right words or the appropriate place to begin a piece of writing. This dilemma is often referred to as “writer’s block.” Praying drunk seems to relieve this problem, however, and he proceeds to discuss a woman, whom he taught this prayer or writing formula. Perhaps she is an aspiring writer who has asked him for guidance in her writing. He asks his readers to take care of her, which is a plea for them to give her ideas the same attention that they have given his writing. With this request, he is deviating from the blueprint, to which he is trying to adhere, which suggests that writing, much like life, does not always follow a prescribed formula, and that creative ideas do not always conform to the standard.
The speaker returns to the prayer structure in the second stanza when he begins his confession, “the dreary part” (2.1). He considers his confession to be dismal, because much of it focuses on his desperate attempts to work within the constructs of the expectations of his audience. He cannot figure out why deer are beautiful, because he thinks “they’re like enormous rats on stilts” (2.3), and he recalls trying to shoot and kill rats when he was twelve. This shows a conflict between what the speaker feels and what his audience expects. The deer and the rats represent the preconceived notions of his readers regarding what constitutes good writing and that which is bad. He expresses how difficult it is to conform to these opinions and to change these attitudes, because they want “to live more savagely” (2.13-14) than he does. They are so entrenched in the readers’ minds, that it is futile to try to extract them. The speaker’s garden, which the deer eat, is synonymous with the store of his creative ideas. As a writer, he is watching his garden disappear because he is limited to producing the type of writing that his audience anticipates, and many of his ideas may not live up to these standards. He could “plant more beans” (2.16), or concoct new ideas to write about, but he assumes that these will also be rejected.
The speaker’s lack of faith in his writing is addressed in the third stanza when he confesses to hoping that a giant wave would “come and wash the whole world clean” (3.6). He wants to eliminate his reader’s expectations, so that he will be free to create in an environment where the audience has nothing with which to compare his writing. This desire is compared with the sin of despair, and for him, it is the belief that nothing he writes will ever be adequate when evaluated in the current context. He admits that this is his favorite sin, and he celebrates it with wine and prayer. When applied to the writing process, his despair is likely the cause of his stuttering or “writer’s block.” He is telling the reader that in order to overcome hopelessness and to find the courage to write, he must drink.
It is apparent that the speaker is not satisfied with the customary practice of recycling writing material when he compares it to the act of one elephant searching for “the goodies hidden in the lump” (4.10) of feces from another elephant’s ass. He is suggesting that audiences ask for so little in life when they commend hackneyed methods of writing for the simple reason that these concepts were once considered fresh and brilliant. He is also reflecting on the fact that he feels stifled by these uninspiring styles of writing, and compares himself to a monkey who, in order to be successful, must model the great writers of the past. Throughout the poem, as he “lurch[es] from metaphor to metaphor” (4.18), which he claims is a form of praying, he is using a traditional poetic device, which illustrates his formal confinement.
In the final stanza, the speaker continues with his prayer to the reader and solicits a means of escape. He is embarrassed to ask, because it is “as if [he’s] stayed up late and called the radio and asked they play a sentimental song” (5.2-3). He feels as though his request is meaningless to anyone other than himself or, perhaps, other writers who appreciate his plight. He asks for the usual, “a lot of money and a woman” (5.4), but more importantly, he asks for vanishing cream. He expects that the vanishing cream will allow him to be invisible, while allowing his audience to be aware that he still exists. He compares the ability to be invisible to the nature of his audience, the group of people that is out there, somewhere, waiting to judge his next piece. Invisibility would grant him the capability to relate to his readers and to understand what they want from him. This would give him the wisdom to create on another plane, one that deviates from the norm, while still producing something that his audience will want to read. He would not need to have faith in himself or his ideas, because he would be taking no risks.
Even with his prayer, and his wine-induced courage, the speaker still despairs. He compares himself to “the poor jerk who wanders out on air and then looks down” and “below his feet, he sees eternity,” when he realizes that “suddenly his shoes no longer work on nothingness” (5.12-15). It is as though he is submitting to the reality that, if he steps beyond the safe borders of the proven approaches to writing, there is no magic potion that will guarantee his success. Nevertheless, he appears to be willing to take his chances, and, ironically, he does so with this prayer, which is stylistically unconventional. In a desperate attempt to remind his readers that he was once considered a good writer in the event that this poem does not meet their traditional standards, he makes one final request: “As I fall past, remember me” (5.16).
Tripartite: a Special Conceptual Metaphor
The tripartite is a conceptual metaphor utilizing the concepts of critical tourism studies to elucidate suicidal tourism behaviour. The processes between the interconnecting points are the vectors influencing persons with MDD’s suicidal touristic behaviour. In the context of suicide tourism, the authentic self is a process of negotiating the totality of a ‘hopeless, incurable’ objectively-analyzed state in using the doctor to quantify their misery. The process depends on the gamut of a latent signifier, that is, a dormant mode of being that is dependent on the coded-approval in signifying the doctor’s will as affirming themselves, (the applicant,) as the object of their self-resentment. The transferential agency is the displacing of one’s own actions to be self-determinable in the eyes of another. Wherein the doctor’s will usually succumb before the patient’s will to die wears out. The ‘hopeless’ prognosis then transfers self-reliance, self-determination, and self-capacity to a singular mode of self-management in preparing for an ‘undeveloped’ life. Therein, the aim is to show that the phenomena of suicide tourism can be further expounded upon by existing tourist practices. It is not considered a conventional act of suicide tourism, the essay however does consider Godelieva de Troyer’s decision part of the phenomena that is turning into a practice.The case study will be referred to as highlighting possible ambiguities when it comes to accepting euthanasia applicants under the pretence of MDD. The essay will try to make sense of de Troyer’s decision and how it may be related to phenomenology studies. The results are to show that the applicant’s mood may be further assessed in a touristic perspective as a means of elucidating their desire. However before the connection can be made, it has to be noted a delineation between euthanasia and suicide tourism distinguishing features.
In order to properly assess suicide tourism, in the context of persons with MDD applying for euthanasia similar to de Troyer, a distinction should be made from what differentiates it from euthanasia tourism. Suicide tourism involves a suicidal individual travelling within regional/residential sites to end their lives in synchronistic fashion. The phenomena is not new, but the sites are defined by the phenomena of travelers to a particular destination to end one’s life. Euthanasia tourism describes a irremediably or terminally-ill individual traveling out of region to non-residential places which lawfully sanction assisted suicide in asserting his/her right for a dignified death. The circumvential practice centralizes around the fact the individual cannot lawfully be assisted. The study’s research points to the conflation of suicide and euthanasia tourism, both in the lexicon and discursive practice. Beginning with the former, the lexicon had drastically changed between 2007-09. “Suicide Tourism in Manhattan, New York City, 1990-2004” discussed how “little research has studied “suicide tourism,” the phenomenon of out of town accompanied by suicide” (Gross et al. 2007, 755). A follow-up periodical by the Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health (2008) stated that the Gross et al. articles “[were] the first known report” (5) documenting the phenomena of suicide tourism . In 2009, the epistemology of suicide tourism transcribes around the lexicon of medical discourse. Due to growing debate over changing legal policies and regulations prohibiting assisted suicide, individuals seeking euthanasia were traveling out of region to circumvent prosecution. The medical discourse of bioethics promulgated the semiotics of suicide tourism as involving travel by a suicidal individual from one jurisdiction to another, in which s/he will (or is expected to) be assisted in their suicide.The argument shifted from places of suicide to spaces permitting suicide. The medical ascription of suicide tourism has effectively replaced the ‘prior’ phenomena of individuals traveling to commit non-residential suicide. Gauthier’s et al. (2015) study, “Suicide tourism: a pilot study on the Swiss phenomenon,” substantiates the lexicon shift by stating the “phenomenon of suicide tourism has been growing over the years and is still increasing unabated”—yet this in the context of euthanasia, and not non-residential travel to commit suicide without assistance (616). Precisely, the non-residential suicide by one’s hand stipulating the critical tourism studies definition of suicide tourism, has been overlaid by the medical discourse of bioethics in repurposing the definition of suicide tourism as euthanasia seekers circumventing legal prosecution.
What the paper desires to draw attention to is not only the possibility of the phenomena of suicide/euthanasia conflating lexicon, but the transitioning of the discursive practice itself. The Gauthier study (2015) describes the Swiss phenomena of the increasing number of traveling euthanasia applicants. While the majority of applicants are suffering from terminal illness, there is a percentage of mental health applicants accepted as “medically diagnosed hopeless or incurable illnesses” (Dignitas). Before suicide tourism was semiotically warped into the lexicon of medical discourse and epistemology concerning right to die, the Gross et al. study (2007) stressed that “whereas prevention efforts have been aimed at certain sites that are often used for suicide (i.e., suicide fences at the Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building), we know very little about the reasons for the concentration of suicides in specific locations, nor about the characteristics of people who commit suicide in particular destination places” (756). Again, medical discourse dismisses the phenomenological aspects of the consciousness in terms of how the body and subject is oriented to/by discursive images, symbols, and significations. The prominence of suicide tourism localities are sites made popular in the general population. These sites are emblematic of cultural narratives and that the person committing suicide forfeits their life to it, sacrificing their life for a signifier greater than his/her own. Non-residential suicide is a mediated suicide. The site itself is symbolic to the person as a totem of all their regrets in life. It is a metaphysical death by society. This form of mediated tourism, the flux of imagery pertains to how the Dignitas pro-euthanasia website reinforces the ‘aid of dying’ imagery circulating the representation of a voyeuristic touristic experience. For persons with MDD this would be to authenticate the self in death, the imagery of flowery meadows, the ‘good’ end, presented as the Dignitas website banner, obfuscates the fact the applicant will be ending their lives in a Dignitas apartment. Similar to a tourist that books a vacation and is satisfied only with staying at the resort. There are no pictures of Zurich on the website. There are no alternatives for the applicant to explore the land which they wish to end their life in. Could applicant ‘s not be granted a temporary stay based on compassionate grounds? The moment away from ‘host-life’ and the phenomenological breath of sensory intakes, the new sights and sounds,may they not jostle their proportionate thinking?
Certain reinforcements put in place complicate the phenomenological circle of (self)representation. The applicant ‘s prehistory is funneled between border international nexuses (from home to guest doctor) and their authenticity in exercising ‘competent’ self-will, is dependent on the site itself: “rather, the tourist is an active audience who ‘searches out the meaning, drawing on the “bricolage” of meaning systems (Levi-Strauss 1966) which comprise the cultural baggage one takes to any situation’” (Jenkins 2003, 314-15). In the case study of Godelieva de Troyer, it is not unreasonable to suggest places like Dignitas are synonymous with the phenomenons happening at prominent tourist destinations. Persons with MDD are in a perpetual process of self-destruction: “[a]ccording to Casteur, a second concluded that she could still be helped; the psychiatrist observed that when Godelieva discussed her grandchildren she became emotional and expressed doubts about her decision to die” (Aviv 2015). After hearing of her plight, Dr. W. Distelmans granted de Troyer’s wish. Here is the absence of pleasure normally sought in death, de Troyer’s prior indecisiveness is indicative of suicidal ideations rather than euthanasia forethought. Suicides pertaining to family relation cannot bear thought of a pain they might have caused their significant others, and is spurred on by being unable to improve because of some hopeless ‘deficit’. The trouble with persons with MDD is that they consider the outcome of their death as it being tied in relation to another person or thing. De Troyer desired not to call her grandchildren because it would break the (non)authenticity of the grant from the Doctor in competence and autonomy. Thus, two main observations are noted: (i) persons with clinical depression are in a medically ‘grey,’ and legally-binding area; (ii) a need to address the gap between the medical and social science disciplinary models. The phenomena of suicide tourism is seen in both a semiotic, lexical shift, and a paradigmatic shift in applicant ‘s discursive practice which has led to the conflation of euthanasia practice with suicidal touristic ideation.
The effort of Godelieva was to express her authentic self, in relation to the cathect impulses of the trip, (death, hopelessness,) in semiotic relation to the doctor in process of transferring agency . De Troyer had been asked endless if she wanted to call her grandchildren, which is the same as asking a depressive patient if they want to be happy. Of course they do, but its phenomenologically numbing when one does not have the language to recuperate such losses. What could she have said to them? Here, palliative care (family support) should have been an option in trying to reconnect de Troyer with her son and grandchildren. The person with MDD is seeking the authentic approval of a dismal quality of life. It is dissimilar to applicants seeking euthanasia which have a feeling of euphoria, a right to a ‘happy’ death, than persons with MDD who are void of that euphoric basis in seeking an end to an unhappy life. Dignitas has become a referential point for persons of MDD to commit death by society in having someone affirm the irrationality of their decision. The phenomena of suicide tourism to places symbolic of societal qualities, (the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower,) has started to sporadically channel or shift into the power grids and emblematic presence of Dignitas. It represents a collusion of the tourist ‘s death drive which gazes at Dignitas in immense pleasure for accepting their wish, so much so they forgo commenting on the dedication, will, and determination sought in approving one’s death, how it may be translated into safeguarding one’s life.
I-dosing Phenomenon in Modern World
The Cultural Power of the Moral Panic over I-Dosing
Moral panics surrounding the health, wellbeing, and behavior of teenagers have flared up consistently over the past decade, from getting drunk off vodka tampons to getting ‘high’ off MP3s downloaded on the Internet, or i-dosing. The popularity of the Internet among youth has inflamed moral panics, in which parents shift the blame onto a media form due to their fears about a new technology or a cultural phenomenon that they cannot control, and which they perceive as negatively impacting society. In his article The Cultural Power of an Anti-Television Metaphor, Jason Mittell discusses how framing a perceived societal ill as similar to a drug makes people believe it is a public health threat. The scientifically baseless moral panic of i-dosing illustrates the fears of parents, community authority figures, and the media that the Internet facilitates teenagers engaging in immoral behavior.
The moral panic of i-dosing began in a small Oklahoma community, Mustang, before spreading to national US media and beyond. In March 2010, three students of Mustang High School in Oklahoma, seemingly intoxicated, were taken to the principal’s office for questioning (Colberg). The teenagers blamed their state on a phenomenon known as i-dosing, in which users listen to music that plays a different tone in each ear, creating binaural beats (Colberg). Supposedly, i-dosing can alter brainwaves and induce a drug-like state. These three teenagers—who previously were known as clean-cut kids—created a storm of concern from parents and authorities alike. The district’s Superintendent became involved, followed by the city of Shawnee’s Chief Operating Officer of Gateway to Prevention and Recovery (Colberg). Less than a week after the local Oklahoma newspaper ran the story, the Huffington Post picked up the story with the headline “DIGITAL DRUGS: How Teens Are Using The Internet To Get ‘High’” (Smith). A few days later, CBS News picked up the story with a video segment.
International media, including The Daily Mail and BBC News from the United Kingdom, soon ran articles about the phenomena. Both international news pieces cited a statement put out by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs warning that parents need to “take action” to “save these kids” from the dangers of i-dosing and the Internet more generally (Iwasinski). The moral panic of i-dosing peaked in the summer of 2010, but has continued to persist in some form, as reflected by the introduction of the April 2013 Undergraduate Research & Community Engagement Symposium at the University of North Carolina Asheville centered around i-dosing (University of North Carolina 2013). The website “nobullying.com,” which assists parents and teachers in eradicating cyber-bullying, still maintains a page about the dangers of i-dosing that was last updated in September 2016 (nobullying.com).
The entire moral panic of i-dosing began with one incident at a small Oklahoma high school that may have been fabricated. Unlike physical drugs, the presence of i-dosing cannot be detected in the bloodstream or through any other medical proof. As Duncan Geere explained in his article for Wired Magazine, any reactions a teenager claims to have from i-dosing could range from a placebo effect to simple peer pressure—if their friends believe i-dosing works, they will too (Geere). Media, such as The Daily Mail, cited as proof for the effects of i-dosing sources including YouTube videos and comments on websites about i-dosing detailing its effects (Bates). However, comments about the drug-like effects of i-dosing on websites dedicated to selling i-dosing MP3s are unreliable source of information. Further, the origins of i-dosing (the use of binaural beats) can be dated back to the research of Heinrich Wilhelm Dove in 1839 (Doyle). These binaural beats have since been used to treat anxiety and clinically research sleep cycles; yet there is no proof that it can actually intoxicate someone (Doyle). Despite almost two centuries of scientific consensus that i-dosing is safe, one incident at an Oklahoma high school with formerly “straight-laced” teenagers and a multitude of YouTube videos and Internet comments of dubious reliability were enough to spread this moral panic.
Ultimately, fears about i-dosing and the resulting moral panic stemmed from ongoing parental and societal concern about teenagers’ use of drugs. I-dosing and the Internet became a scapegoat for the already present societal ill of teenage drug use. Repeated across several news articles, and included in the statement from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, was the sentiment that i-dosing would tempt teenagers into trying harder drugs (Iwasinski). Regardless of the ineffectiveness of i-dosing, organizations and media touted it as a gateway drug. Websites that offer i-dosing downloads have ads prompting users to buy other illicit drugs and alcohol, inciting further concern (Colberg). While some i-dosing videos are available on Youtube, others must be purchased on harder to access websites (Geere). Karina Forrest-Perkins, chief operating officer of Gateway to Prevention and Recovery in Shawnee, Oklahoma, was quoted as warning, “Kids disappointed in their digital experience might try huffing paint or another chemical, or smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol” (Colberg). The health website—targeted at parents—called “health.more4kids.info” opens its page on i-dosing by reminding parents of the drugs they were exposed to as teenagers, then explains how i-dosing will prompt their children to try illicit drugs (More4kids).
As Mittell discusses, fears surrounding drug use are particularly potent for the sort of white, middle-class audiences that websites like “health.more4kids.info” target because they evoke images of poorer, non-white communities that are seen as different and inferior (Mittell 232). Something that acts as an avenue to drug use—in this case, free and uncontrolled access to the Internet—must be bad in the eyes of the general public because it leads to their children becoming like those “other” supposedly “lesser” communities (Mittell 233). Thus, whether i-dosing actually results in a ‘high’ is not the most important part to those fanning the flames of the moral panic. Rather, parents are more concerned with how access to i-dosing through unfettered access to the Internet by teenagers will lead them down a path to known vices—hard drugs and alcohol.
In the aftermath of the moral panic surrounding i-dosing, many dismissed not only the claim that i-dosing is effective at replicating drug-like effects, but also that it presents a danger to teenagers at all. An article on techdirt.com mocked the idea perpetuated by the mainstream media that teenagers who found i-dosing to be ineffective would instead turn to hard physical drugs, instead suggesting that it would turn them away from drugs altogether (Masnick). While authoring an article for the UK’s Wired Magazine, Duncan Geere tried listening to a i-dose himself and concluded that he had “never felt so sober in [his] life,” before dismissing i-dosing as an issue deserving attention (Geere). Further, he asserts that trying “extreme experiences” and then bragging about them to friends is a natural part of being a teenager, and says there is “nothing wrong” with those things (ibid). This disparate reaction to the moral panic of i-dosing can be attributed in part to understanding how teenagers consume media. Mittell explains how those that spread moral panics often view children and teenagers as vulnerable, passive, uneducated, and inexperienced media consumers (Mittell 230-232). Unlike adults, some argue, children and teenagers are not capable of adequately processing and understanding the media they interact with (Mittell 232). Conversely, those who oppose these moral panics understand that children and teenagers can be thoughtful and discerning in media encounters (Mittell 232). The techdirt.com and Wired Magazine authors illustrate this latter viewpoint, as they advocate the idea that teenagers are smart enough to actually realize that i-dosing is ineffective, and will not make the leap in logic that because they have tried one ineffective “drug,” they should try to find “effective” drugs.
Much like television, the Internet has often been characterized as an addictive drug. I-dosing is simply one moral panic building off the broader framework of this metaphor. Mittell argues that once something is classified as a “drug” in the minds of the public, it follows that the “drug” should be regulated for the good of public health (Mittell 234). Thus, the moral panic becomes a means of asserting societal control over a medium—the Internet, in the case of i-dosing (ibid). This can be seen with the calls across the mainstream media for parents to better monitor their children’s internet access and use, and in schools restricting access to cellphones in order to prevent the students from using them for undesirable purposes, such as i-dosing (Iwasinski). The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics specifically issued a “call to action” for parents, stressing that they needed to be more aware of how their children were using the Internet and not dismiss it as “harmless” (Iwasinski). Thus, the moral panic of i-dosing reinforced the idea that unfettered access to the Internet harms children.
Like most moral panics, the i-dosing phenomena was less about the actual dangers of i-dosing itself and more about a long standing societal concern—in this case, teenagers experimenting with drugs. Linking a medium with drug use, as Mittell explains, is an effective way to tie it to less socially desirable people, and present children and teenagers as susceptible targets to a scapegoat medium, in order to encourage regulation of that medium. The i-dosing phenomenon illustrates how the fear of a new technology can combine with fear of a deep-seated societal ill to fan the flames of a baseless moral panic.