Howard Goodman

Writing Workshop II

Prof. Julia Keefer

Donald Tei's Informal Journey

Through Environmental Hell

We're going to examine a typical day in the life of Mr. Donald Tei, an ordinary, hard-working family man who owns a home in New Jersey and operates a Chinese restaurant in Manhattan. As he carries out his everyday routine, from morning to evening, from home to work and back again, Mr. Tei will encounter and interact with - much to his surprise - all of the worst criminals that environmental hell can offer.

CIRCLE I: The AM Wake-Up Routine

As he awakens to his comfortable surroundings, the scoundrels of environmental hell have ensconced Mr. Tei. During last night's heat, he has been running that air conditioner throughout the evening for a total of eight hours, expending tremendous amounts of energy. Mr. Tei then quickly proceeds to flick on a few lights and the radio for good measure. A jump into a nice, hot shower followed by a flush of a few handfuls of toilet paper down the toilet will turn Mr. Tei's home into a virtual environmental-waste factory. Along the way, the C.F.C.'s from those cans of aerosol hair spray and deodorant Mr. Tei is using will deplete the ozone layer and remain in the stratosphere for the next century. And incidentally, that plastic bottle of shampoo he just finished off contains enough toxic additives to threaten the lives of much of the animal population on the planet if they happen to try to ingest it. That New Jersey tap water Mr. Tei rinses with has been too contaminated by bacteria for him to even swim in. His state's water reservoirs have been so acidified from sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide that drinking from them has been known to cause cancer.

Mr. Tei then grabs a bag of fresh, ground coffee out of his refrigerator which has been pumping gasses into the atmosphere 24 hours a day, and shovels a few tablespoons of coffee into his electric percolator. While he waits for his coffee to come dribbling out, Mr. Tei grabs the newspaper from off of his front porch and glances at the headlines, probably not realizing that paper is the fourth most energy-intensive manufacturing industry in the U.S., and that one-third of all the waste Americans send to landfills and incinerators is comprised of paper. As he sips his coffee and reads, the radio promises that getting through the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan will be extra-slow this morning, so Mr. Tei bolts out the door and into the car without further ado, to head into the city.


CIRCLE II: The Drive To Work

Mr. Tei first stops to gas up before getting on the highway and remembers he might as well pick up two cans of motor oil. What he doesn't remember is that used motor oil, if dumped on the ground, into sewers, or put into containers and then in the trash, will leak dangerous chemicals and heavy metals. The amount of oil from one single oil change from Mr. Tei's car can permanently ruin one million gallons of fresh water.

Now back on the road, it's bumper-to-bumper all the way. As Mr. Tei's car idles in traffic, that gasoline exhaust is polluting the air; its carbon dioxide emissions are accounting for one-third of all greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere, and its nitrous oxide is the main source of urban smog, which reaches hazardous levels in the summertime.

Mr. Tei, for his own sake, had better hope his car battery lasts for a long time because that battery contains about 19 pounds of lead - more than 70% of the total used in the U.S. The hundreds of thousands of tons of auto battery lead annually discarded may cause brain damage to Mr. Tei's unborn child or his preschool daughter. And the same goes for Mr. Tei's tires; when they are scrapped they will just add to the hundreds of millions annually dumped, and to the billions of tires already littering our landscape. Those dumped tires will create breeding grounds for rats and mosquitoes and release toxic chemicals into the air when burned, which contaminate groundwater. But enough of that; Mr. Tei's car races out of the darkness of the Lincoln Tunnel and into the imposing sights of the Big Apple, and it's going to be a busy day.


CIRCLE III: On The Job

At his restaurant, "Don Tei's," Mr. Tei's delivery men will slip hundreds of take-out menus under local residents' apartment doors every day. It should therefore be of no surprise to Mr. Tei that his restaurant is one of the many U.S. businesses which collectively pay almost 200 billion dollars each year to paper manufacturers. The tons of annual solid waste piling up in the restaurant's dumpster out back, created by Mr. Tei's daily use of hundreds of cardboard containers, plastic spoons, knives and forks, paper napkins, cellophane fortune-cookie bags, and plastic duck and soy-sauce packages, will become an insurmountable problem for Mr. Tei's daughter and her family by the time she reaches the age of thirty. But for now, the entire day's worth of trash and left-over food will be hauled off tomorrow to the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, already the largest one in the world.

In order to produce rice for each of the restaurant's customers - which usually ends up only half-eaten - entire ecosystems and their inhabitants will have to be annihilated in order to cultivate land for rice fields. And what kinds of hormones, chemicals and pesticides have to be given to all those animals and vegetables in order to make those nice, tasty dishes which are served at Mr. Tei's restaurant? Well there's really not much time for Mr. Tei to sit around and contemplate all of this; working all those hours has added up to one long day for him, he's tired and his family is eagerly waiting for him at home.


CIRCLE IV: On The Way Home

Mr. Tei first make a quick stop at the dry cleaners to pick up a few shirts. He doesn't suspect that the industrial solvents used in pressing those shirts - methylene chlorine, perchloroethylene, CFC-113, TCE, and TCA - are not only destroying his environment by contributing to groundwater contamination, ozone depletion, and cancer, but are also being directly inhaled by the tenants who have to live in the building in which the dry cleaner is located.

A visit to the supermarket for some groceries follows. The CFC's found in those refrigerators housing Mr. Tei's family's food are contributing some 20% of man's additions to the atmosphere. And those six paper bags, each with plastic liners, holding Mr. Tei's napkins, paper towels, his baby's diapers, and other groceries, could have been reused from Mr. Tei's last food shopping trip. But not much else is on Mr. Tei's mind at this point in the day other than seeing his family, a nice meal, and some relaxation.


CIRCLE V: The Evening Routine

Before dinner, Mr. Tei decides to tend to his backyard lawn and garden first. With all of those pesticides and that fertilizer that he's laying down, he had better realize to keep his baby and neighborhood pets away from there; the 25 to 50 million pounds of toxic chemicals used every year in this country, including the pesticide Diazinon, have been linked to human illness, pet deaths, and millions of dead birds. And of course Mr. Tei is aware that if he cuts his lawn regularly - before the grass grows too high - he doesn't have to bag the cut grass and create additional waste; he can just leave the clippings on his lawn.

Tonight's meal may hold grave consequences for Mr. Tei's family; much more than he realizes. The lead contained in those nice China dishes and bowls which everyone is eating from may be shortening their lives, especially Mr. Tei's baby. And the demand for the grain necessary to feed that chicken that the Tei's are enjoying is already creating a shortage, having outpaced the supply, and placing additional stress on the earth to grow more grain to produce larger animals than are already possible, to feed Mr. Tei's growing family.

This is already the second time this week that Mrs. Tei has run both the washer/dryer and dishwasher after dinner, consuming unnecessary quantities of energy and water, and sending destructive detergent phosphate chemicals into the environment. But in the Tei environment, after everything is finally folded and put away, the long, hard day has come to an end and it's time for bed.


CIRCLE VI: Sleep

After the Tei's doze off into slumber at about 11:30, the television and lights linger on until Mrs. Tei wakes up two hours later to shut them off, while the air conditioner gently purrs throughout the night, keeping Mr. Tei and his family comfortable until it's time to begin a new day all over again. And unbeknownst to him, what a journey this day has been.



Stress Sets the Stage For A Hostile Work Environment
Paul Levy, paull@queens.lib.ny.us

Tension and conflict can lead to the build up of stress and the presence of stress on the job can set the stage for a hostile work environment in any organization. Colleagues and circumstances become the props and characters that set the stage for the creation of this hostile environment. Stress is defined as "physiological strain reactions in the organism when it is exposed to various environmental stimuli called stressors" (Levi 27). Each individual deals with stress in their own unique way and each person has their own tolerance level at which they can no longer deal with stress. Managers who must achieve the goals of their organizations will tell us that they use the positive elements of stress to mobilize their employees into action. In my utopia the positive elements of stress would be used and employees would learn how to deal with the tensions and conflicts that occur .

The Industrial Revolution brought people from the farms and congregated them into smaller factory spaces. Individual within these spaces bred new dynamics into how they will deal with conflicts that may arise. My department at Books R Us ends up being stressed each day by the bulk of information each person must process . On a farm before the industrial revolution if something went wrong then a family would loose money. Now if I fail at a particular task the company looses money and my coworkers may loose year-end bonus.

Consider the stage that is set for a former employee who returns to the work site and acts on his or her fear that the company is out to destroy them. On June 28 two employees were unable to resolve a conflict within their work environment. One employee decided the best way to resolve the conflict was to bite off a portion of his opponent ear, namely Mike Tyson. Does this mean that all stress is bad, consider the other employees who had problems with their bosses but found ways to resolve their conflicts. The resolution of a conflict defuses the situation and hostilities are avoided. Imagine if Mike Tyson had rechanneled his anger and punched Evander Holyfield a lot harder in the third round instead of biting him. Physiologically Tyson's coping mechanism already at a heightened state sent a synaptic message to street fight instead of dealing with this situation in a positive manner. There are many factors which led Mike Tyson to his decision to bite his opponent. First there was the stress of facing some one who had beaten him before, then there was the tension of the arena and the world watching this important match up. Tyson's work environment became a hostile one and his opponent was seen as his tormentor. I believe his hell was other people and a place - the ring.


Work Place Stressors


I have been working for Books R Us for the past 14 years in their receiving department. Presently we are in the process of reorganization. Management has decided to change the organizational structure and this will mean our department will be merged with the store room department . The company feel this will be the best move eliminating the need for two supervisory position and creating faster approvals. Transitions are difficult especially when so much is unknown and misinformation strives. The internal politics of the department is changing. Formal and informal structures are taking on new forms and all of this is encased within the unknown. My coworkers are feeling the tension and stress is seen in how conflicts are being dealt with. During this transition phase the company has named Mr. Alaska as acting head until a permanent head is named. In the mean time employees of both departments are encouraging Mr. Florida to apply for the new position . The realignment of allegiance and the changing internal politics is reminiscent of Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit . The externally strong Inez, tries to win the love of Estelle by helping her whenever she needed assistance. On the other hand, delicate Estelle tries to find a possible relationship with the self sufficient Garcin but this is impossible. Similar to these characters , my coworkers are trying to make the best of their situation while trying to figure it out.


Physiological Manifestations Of Stress


One particular coworkers Mr. Oklahoma, believes he is being pushed to contribute more by the interim head. He is describing his work day as an ordeal where he is constantly on edge and work has now become a sentence. The sentence he describes is similar to the one pronounced on Sisyphus by the god Mercury, of rolling a rock up a hill only to watch it roll back each time it was brought up. Management may argue that stress can be used to motivate employees but this is only when the employee is capable of handling the stress. The physiological manifestations of stress are poor health, increased pulse rate even heart disease. These human torments can single handily lift and usher a person from this world into the next.


Stress-coping Tips


In order to gain control and reduce the tensions that exist within the work environment employees can take advantage of the formal and informal structures that are available to them. On my job there are programs sponsored by the Union that can be used to help to resolve conflicts within the work place. The company has a generous health package which pay for preventative health screening. Employees can also avail themselves of informal structures such as fellow coworkers and relationships with management, staff who may be able to assist them in dealing with problems within their departments.

Therefore the employee's colleagues and circumstances provide the stage for a long and drawn out hostile working experience. Employees should not despair because help is available to them through formal and informal organizational structures. The proper use of these tools can help to transform our hostile working environment into one paved with streets of gold and gates of pearl - enter in.


Bibliography

Clarke, C.S. "Job Stress." Performance Resources, http://www.smart.net/~cclarke/jobstress.html.

Hirschorn, Larry. The Workplace Within. Cambridge: The MIT Press,1988.

Levi, Lennart. Preventing Work Stress. Reading: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1981.

"The Psychotoxic Workplace: Tracking Job Stressors." http://www.convoke.com/markjr/toxic.html.

"The Myth of Sisyphus." http://www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/hell/camus.html.

Stress Sets the Stage For A Hostile Work Environment

Paul Levy

Writing Workshop II

July 22,1997



MANIC DEPRESSION

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Manic Depression

Words and Music By Jimi Hendrix

Copyright © 1967, 1997 Experience Hendrix, L.L.C.

Jimi Hendrix is quoted as saying this song us about a "cat" who wishes he could make love to music instead of just a normal woman.

Manic Depression's touching my soul,

I know what I want,

but I just don't know how to go about getting it.

Feeling, sweet feeling

drops from my finger, fingers

Manic Depression has captured my soul.

Woman so willing, the sweet cause in vain.

you make love,

you break love,

it's-a, all the same, when it's, when it's over.

Music sweet music,

I wish I could caress, caress, caress.

Manic Depression's a frustrated mess.

Well, I think I'll go turn myself off and go on down.

Really ain't no use in me hanging around

Your kinda scene.

Visit a Jimi Hendrix Page!

The hero of Hendrix's song seems to be displaying signs of manic depression in that he wants to experience music in a realm that is beyond normal comprehension. Our hero is enamored with an inanimate concept that speaks to his desire to possess and be apart of the music, much like making love to a woman. This concept is linked to Jean-Paul Sartre idea in Nausea about dissociation and dehumanization. Objects lose their normal associations and take on an altered reality in the mind of a mentally ill individual Sartre describes. Unlike Hendrix's hero who wishes to embrace this disassociation, Sartre's character finds the shift in reality both frightening and threatening. He feels his existence and the world's existence is absurd as observed by himself and as observed by individuals in his immediate circle. Not only absurd but also "all soft, sticky, soiling everything, all thick, a jelly. And I was inside" (Kaplan 431).

THESIS

Manic depressives, individuals suffering from a generally hereditary disease, are subject to a wide range of moods from despair to hyperactivity that affects their everyday functioning, but the state of mania has been proven to provide some manic depressive individuals with exceptional creativity. However, while the disease ravages lives, it can not only lead to misdiagnosis of the symptoms because the cause of the disease cannot be quantified or qualified but can also lead to creative frustration and deeper despair if the individual is unable to function.

STATS & DESCRIPTION

Manic depression affects one percent of the population. This may sound like a small number but this equals approximately two million people, and many more concerned loved ones' lives are affected by the ravages of this disease. The manic depressive personality becomes hard to know and predict, hard to be comfortable and normal around and can even become suicidal. The individual's moods generally swing from one extreme to the next: from manic, hyperactive behavior to the depths of deep depression and despair.

These changes take place because of a chemical imbalance in the body which can be regulated by a number of different medications on the market, the main drug being Lithium whose use was pioneered by Dr. Fieve. Not all individuals who display manic depressive symptoms, however, respond well to treatment.


"The brain is more like the Internet. Just as clogged phone lines or misrouted signals can slow down or lock up a computer, misplaced molecules and malfunctioning nerve cells can slow down, confuse or lock up the mind. Disorders of thought and emotion have perplexed medical scientists for centuries. Only half a century ago, few scientists understood that mental disorders reflected faulty brain chemistry. Today, the molecular basis of mental illness is as well-established as Copernican astronomy. But just as Copernicus didn't really know how the planets orbited the sun, biologists don't yet know exactly how the interactions of molecules and cells turn a normal mind into a mental nightmare" (Siegfried 1).

The cause of manic depressive illness can not be quantified and its effects cannot be measured and monitored physically. This makes the diagnosis of manic depression a reaction to outward symptoms displayed by the individuals, and the full manic depressive disorder cannot be determined until the person cycles through both a depressed and a manic state.

A danger of diagnosing an individual with only depression is that there is a chance that the individual is in fact manic depressive but has not gone through a manic episode. There is a grave danger of mis-medicating the individual displaying symptoms of depression who really has manic depression. Antidepressants can easily trigger a manic episode in individuals who are predispositioned for mania unbeknownst to the doctor by observation.

Other dangers of premature diagnosis are for a person to be misdiagnosed completely. Signs of manic depressive illness while the person is experiencing a manic episode such as sleeplessness, weight gain or loss, irritability, and chattiness can be symptoms of other illnesses such as stimulant drug use, malnutrition or even severe premenstrual syndrome.

TRIGGERS

Many of life's stresses can contribute to the onset of a manic or depressed episode such as the loss of a job or a loved one. Generally, sleep plays a major role in the onset of and the gauging of mood switches that are dangerous.

STRESS - SLEEP = MANIC

STRESS + SLEEP = DEPRESSION

DIAGNOSIS

One of the creators of the following scale innovated successful use of Lithium to regulate the moods of manic depressives. This scale describes the various moods manic depressives experience and rates there severity.

Fieve-Dunner Manic-Depression Mood Scale

RATINGDESCRIPTION TREATMENT
100Medical emergency. Wildly manic and psychotic; can't stop talking; incoherent, overactive, belligerent, or elated. Not sleeping at all. At times delusional; hallucinating. May be either violent or paranoid. Inpatient
90Extreme elation so that patient can't rate self; in need of more medication and control. Completely uncooperative. Inpatient
80Severe elation. Should be admitted, or if in hospital usually wants to sign out of ward. Sleeping very little; hostile when crossed; loss of control. Needs medication. Inpatient
70Moderate elation. Overactivity and talkativeness; irritable and annoyed. Needs only four to six hours' sleep. Socially inappropriate; wants to control. Outpatient treatment has been advised by doctors. Outpatient
60Mildly elevated mood and many ideas for new projects; occasionally mildly obtrusive. If creative, the energy is highly useful. Hyperperceptive. Feels wonderful, on top of the world. Increased sexual drive; wants to spend money and travel. Treatment may be contraindicated or not needed. Outpatient
50Mood is within normal range (45-55). Outpatient
40Mildly depressed mood, but noticeable lack of energy; chronic lack of optimism and pleasure. Feels slowed down. Treatment may not be desired, although it may be indicated. Decreased interest in sex. Decreased motivation. Outpatient
30Moderate depression. Loss of energy; disinterested in others; early weight, sleep, and appetite disturbance; able to function with effort but prefers, if possible, to stay in bed during day; doesn't want to go to work, but may force oneself; feels life is not worthwhile. Little sexual interest. Outpatient treatment advised by doctors. Outpatient
20Severe depression. Takes care of daily routine but needs prodding and reminding; loss or gain of weight; sleep disorder is serious. Volunteers suicidal feelings; very withdrawn, may be paranoid. Inpatient
10Extreme depression. Actively suicidal, totally withdrawn or extremely agitated. Difficulty rating self on mood scale. Inpatient
0Medical emergency. Unable to eat or take medication; can't follow ward routine; delusional, suicidal. Stuporous. Stares into space; very little response on questioning. May require tube feeding. Inpatient

QUIZ

The following quizzes where developed to help manic depressive personalities monitor their moods. I find that the questions point towards the state of mind and common symptoms of manic depressive individuals on both ends of the spectrum.

THE GOLDBERG MOOD SCALES

Note: These scales are designed to measure changes in the severity of depression and mania that result from psychotherapeutic or psychopharma-cologic treatment. Changes in either scale of five or more points are significant These scales are not designed to make a diagnosis of either depression or mania. If you score high on either or both of these scales and suspect that you are depressed, and/or manic, arrange for an immediate psychiatric evaluation.

Name______________________________________ Date________________________

GOLDBERG DEPRESSION SCALE

The items below refer to how you have felt and behaved DURING THE PAST WEEK. For each item, indicate the extent to which it is true, by circling one of the numbers that follows it. Using the following scale:

0 = Not at all 1 = Just a little 2 = Somewhat

3 = Moderately 4 = Quite a lot 5 = Very much

1I do things slowly0 1 2 3 4 5
2My future seems hopeless 0 1 2 3 4 5
3It is hard for me to concentrate on reading 0 1 2 3 4 5
4The pleasure and joy has gone out of my life 0 1 2 3 4 5
5I have difficulty making decisions 0 1 2 3 4 5
6I have lost interest in aspects of life that used to be important to me 0 1 2 3 4 5
7I feel sad, blue, and unhappy 0 1 2 3 4 5
8I am agitated and keep moving around 0 1 2 3 4 5
9I feel fatigued0 1 2 3 4 5
10It takes great effort for me to do simple things 0 1 2 3 4 5
11I feel that I am a guilty person who deserves to be punished 0 1 2 3 4 5
12I feel like a failure 0 1 2 3 4 5
13I feel lifeless - - - more dead than alive 0 1 2 3 4 5
14My sleep has been disturbed---too little, too much, or broken sleep 0 1 2 3 4 5
15I spend time thinking about HOW I might kill myself 0 1 2 3 4 5
16I feel trapped or caught 0 1 2 3 4 5
17I feel depressed even when good things happen to me 0 1 2 3 4 5
18Without trying to diet, I have lost, or gained, weight 0 1 2 3 4 5

Copyright (c) 1993 Ivan Goldberg


Name_________________________________________ Date_____________________

GOLDBERG MANIA SCALE

The items below refer to how you have felt and behaved DURING THE PAST WEEK. For each item, indicate the extent to which it is true, by circling one of the numbers that follows it. Using the following scale:

0 = Not at all 1 = Just a little 2 = Somewhat

3 = Moderately 4 = Quite a lot 5 = Very much

1My mind has never been sharper 0 1 2 3 4 5
2I need less sleep than usual 0 1 2 3 4 5
3I have so many plans and new ideas that it is hard for me to work 0 1 2 3 4 5
4I feel a pressure to talk and talk 0 1 2 3 4 5
5I have been particularly happy 0 1 2 3 4 5
6I have been more active than usual 0 1 2 3 4 5
7I talk so fast that people have a hard time keeping up with me 0 1 2 3 4 5
8I have more new ideas than I can handle 0 1 2 3 4 5
9I have been irritable 0 1 2 3 4 5
10It's easy for me to think of jokes and funny stories 0 1 2 3 4 5
11I have been feeling like "the life of the party" 0 1 2 3 4 5
12I have been full of energy 0 1 2 3 4 5
13I have been thinking about sex 0 1 2 3 4 5
14I have been feeling particularly playful 0 1 2 3 4 5
15I have special plans for the world 0 1 2 3 4 5
16I have been spending too much money 0 1 2 3 4 5
17My attention keeps jumping from one idea to another 0 1 2 3 4 5
18I find it hard to slow down and stay in one place 0 1 2 3 4 5

Copyright (c) 1993 Ivan Goldberg


SOLUTIONS

Dilemmas faced by individuals diagnosed as manic depressive would best be solved collectively. Manic depression is an illness which cannot be diagnosed absolutely because this particular mental disorder cannot be measured quantitatively by medical science. An individual displays symptoms outside of a range of normal behavior at either end of the spectrum in varying degrees: from extremely depressed and withdrawn to psychotically extroverted and irritable. However, it is exactly these mood shifts that presents the manic depressive person with the problem of relating to and listening to other people. And being that the illness cannot be physically diagnosed, those individuals displaying symptoms have the likelihood of being misdiagnosed and suffering the hell of a forced recovery from the wrong illness, possibly and most likely making their real illness worse.

A scenario that would assuage and alleviate the hell of manic depression would be to have a God who understands and accepts the creative energy of the human mind and passes this knowledge onto his believers. This problem-solving image of God would need to attribute credit to His creation for their growth ad progress under his care and not simply demand complete credit and obedience. God would give free will and ask that humans use it for more than just deciding to follow Him blindly or not to follow Him blindly.

MORE INFO…

Many famous people suffer from Manic Depression, and a link between the creative mind and the alertness of the state of mania has been observed. Famous writers, poets, actors, and musicians have suffered from this illness and have gone on to produce some of the most inspired creations.

Genetics

Manic depression is mostly believed to be hereditary. Manic depressives now have mom and dad to thank for a healthy, sound mind. Actually, just dad. It has been studied and preliminarily discerned that manic depressive disorder is passed through the father's side of the family tree.

Drugs

There is a link between drug abuse and mental illness. Some manic depressive individuals many be subconsciously medicating themselves to combat the symptoms of their illnesses, a danger in that the person not only still has to deal with the consequences of this illness but with a substance abuse habit as well.

Click below to visit a site with a complete list of famous deceased and current celebrities suffering with manic depression. This site is updated frequently with famous people who are alive today who have admitted to coping with manic depression.

Visit a Site with Info on Celebrity Sufferers

Voices

Check out writings by people living with Manic Depression


Visit the Homepage of a Writer Contemplating Manic Depression



QUESTION

How can existentialist believe a person is ultimately and only responsible for their destinies? In my research, manic depressive illness is most likely hereditary and can be debilitating. If a man is completely responsible for himself and has no one to blame, how fair is it that all people do not grow up with the same advantages? A person who is mentally diminished cannot have the same responsibility as a person who is not.

POSSIBLE ANSWER

Nobody postulates that life is fair. How can it be if you live in it and observe what goes on in it. I imagine the existentialists believe that responsibility is not directly related to advantages or disadvantages or to any prior condition that might affect a person for that matter. The person's responsibility adjusts to wherever he is or whoever he is.


DO YOU HAVE THOUGHTS?

Please e-mail me at jsc207@is6.nyu.edu on this questions or any other question or comment you have about these pages. Thank you for stopping by.



Dora Fong

Writing Workshop II

Professor Keefer


The Conception of an Inconceivable Perfect Society

Preconditions determine our perceptions of others and ourselves whereas inequality affects the condition of our lives. Preconditions are things and traditions that are taught and presented to us; some may no longer be relevant to our present lives. Inequality is a confrontation between superiority and inferiority that creates unfairness which may produce all kinds of negativity. To improve the quality our lives, we must introduce an equal social system as well as emancipate ourselves from obsolete preconditions hence we may enter a common society. Thus, the project that will follow is mainly concentrated on achieving equal standards for children, family, men and women, and to revise social preconditions. The goal is neither to prepare individuals to compete in the career arena nor to measure intelligence, but to raise the awareness of social problems and introduce a series of remedial schemes.

In order to investigate the core of the problem confronting our lives, I interviewed four subjects coming from different social standings and occupations. On July 3rd I interviewed my first subject, a Buddhist monk who has practiced Buddhism for ten years. He told me that he was born in a poverty stricken farm in China. He has eight brothers and sisters, but their parents were awfully poor, and his father died when he was only a few years old. He and his brothers and sisters had to work extremely hard to support themselves at a very early age. He viewed the world as unfair, and agonized over the unfairness and sufferings that was brought to his family. One day, his brother came home with a book on Buddhism, he started to study the book and practiced Buddhism ever since. He told me that he feels much happier after he became a monk, Buddhism has helped him to dissolve negativity, and he has given him a better grasp of the world. He believes that unfairness and sufferings are the work of karma as well as ones good and bad actions.

On the same day, I interviewed Mr. Law, a jewelry merchant who has practiced Buddhism for three years. He told me that his jewelry business started to run downhill three years ago, and that was the time he felt most confused and frustrated. He couldn't make sense to life, except that he has always been hard working and run his business diligently. He thought the world had been unfair to him, and he tried to explain why he and his business had to suffer. Mr. Law started to talk to a long time friend of his, a senior Buddhist monk, which has led him to his present belief. Mr. Law is able to achieve serenity through practicing Buddhism, and is more at peace with himself.

On July 8, I interviewed Ms Lee, an executive secretary working for a corporate company, who has practiced Buddhism for five years. She told me that she couldn't understand why some lives are better while some are miserable. While she was trying to find an answer to justify all these unfairness, the Buddhist monk who gave lectures on radios when she was a small child came to her city and gave live lectures; she attended the lecture and has ever since practiced Buddhism.

On July 14, I interviewed my last subject, Mr. Lo, a senior corporate manager; he is the most educated subject in the study. Mr. Lo, a non-conformist believes in fate; certain things are destined to happen in life. He consoles himself when facing misfortunes and unfairness; he believes they are part of his destiny. His ideology of religion and virtue is to refrain oneself from evil deeds and wrong doings even though one will never be punished for such acts, and commit oneself to compassion even though one will never be rewarded or recognized for being kind. He said everything one does should come from within ones heart, and one derives joy and pleasure from being a good person for the sole purpose of wanting to be a good. Mr. Lo told me that his conservative family and cultural background have given him a clear concept of moral standards, and also helped him to develop a certain degree of self-discipline. He believes that the trust and faith he has in himself along with his knowledge and experience has enabled him to make life more endurable.

On the surface, the interviews undoubtedly supported religion is the speediest and the surest way to salvation, but the interviews also discovered that inequality is the common cause of sufferings. Base on the study, we can safely postulate human sufferings are stemmed from inequality, and a conventional approach to dissatisfaction is through religion. Though three of my subjects are able to neutralize external negativity through religion or a philosophical and psychological belief, the actual problems have never been resolved. The last subject, a non-conformist, who takes an upbeat and creative approach to deal with the true nature of the problems unconventionally and ingeniously, has also shown satisfactory results. Therefore, it can be theorized that a practical approach to salvation through life is a possible alternative. In order for that to happen, we need to redefine conventions, make men, women and children truly equal, and take control of oneself through body, mind, and spiritual training. The following schemes are contrived to resolve the problems that the three subjects had experienced before they were being salvaged by religion; also an attempt to achieve salvation through applying solutions to the society and onto oneself.

1.

Childbearing

The childbearing scheme is conceived to solve the problem of children living in poverty, which has caused the sufferings of my first subject, the Buddhist monk. As understood from the study inequality contributes largely to our sufferings; therefore, we ought to make every effort to curb such sufferings so as not to spread from generation to generation. This requires an entirely new concept in childbearing. Families who want to have children need to bear one important mission in mind -- to raise a well-educated, responsible, fine person. The scheme is to prevent the consequences of causal, impulsive, and irresponsible acts, and such acts should strongly be prohibited. Families who plan to have children need to follow the procedures stipulated by the government. First, couples need to get approval from the government, who will then evaluate the couple's income, household and financial background such that each couple is able to provide minimum support for the child; mainly a decent living standard and tuition.

Then, a background check will be conducted on each partner's health, the severity of genetic or transmittable diseases, conducts, and criminal offenses. Family can re-submit their application once they have corrected their situations or their conditions have been improved, whereas criminal offenders will receive additional examination from different psychiatrists to determine the suitability of parenthood. Applications need to be re-evaluated each time when the couple plans to have additional children, and each additional application will be assessed on a tighter scale. When the family has fulfilled the first two requirements, they must proceed to the court and testify their commitments to raise the child according to the standards stipulated by the government. The stipulations involve the number of hours each partner will spend with their child from birth until he or she enters college, monthly family visits from government agency to monitor the development of the child and ensure the child receives proper care from both partners. Deviation or broken commitments will relinquish both partners' further rights to apply for additional children, and require them to perform volunteer works.

In order to prevent and prohibit illegal childbearing, men and women are required to receive annual contraceptive implants after college, otherwise one would be subpoenaed; ignoring such would subject himself or herself to perform volunteer works every Saturday for a consecutive twelve-month period. Bearing children without the approval of the government is a civil offense; the law stipulates the offender to live in a convent or monastery with the child and perform volunteer work until the child enters college. The government and the institute will provide food and lodging to the offender, and subsidize education for the child, and at the same time to insure that the offender provide care and guidance to the child during their stay.

Same penalty applies to teenage pregnancies. The government ought to introduce sex education as well as the concept of childbearing mission to schools continually before the age of ten until they finish college education. In addition, government will provide a variety of free contraceptive consultation, paraphernalia, or implants to schools and anyone who has reached childbearing age. This is not to encourage teenage sex but to stress the importance and serious responsibility of creating a human life. The project will not only prevent teenage and unwanted pregnancies; most importantly it creates an equal environment for children to receive maximum guidance and quality care established on the same platform.

2.

Partnership and Parenting

The scheme removes social labels and redefines traditions so that a homogeneous environment can be revealed; this is to help the third subject Ms. Lee to see each individual's life is being placed on a equal setting. Marriage and housewife are terms to become obsolete. The commitment we have within a marriage is more symbolic nowadays than spiritually binding. True love is based on mutual trust and respect; a joint signature on a certificate no longer guarantees marriage, nor married couples are more devoted than otherwise. Partners may feel threatened by insecurities within the relationship, and started to pay more attention to the spiritual commitment in order to stabilize the relationship. When marriage is abolished, there will be no divorce, no stepparents, stepchildren, illegitimate children, and stay home housewives. Children, men, and women will not suffer from the trauma and the pain of divorce and custody fight. The family commitment, especially legal proceedings and protection for children are covered in the childbearing law. As children are getting the same education and career opportunity, men and women will become equally self-sufficient; therefore, alimony and child support are made redundant. Children will continue to receive the same contribution from both partners even though they are no longer live together. Since parents are the initial human bondage and trust a child sees through the world; therefore, the biological parents must maintain a close relationship with the child after the relationship is terminated, and the non-custodian partner will be granted equal access to the child. Under the partnership jurisdiction, the non-custodian partner must visit or receive the child at least 96 hours per month.

With the equal platform scheme, neither men nor women are financially more stable or educated than the other; therefore, the commitment between two partners will truly be based on genuine love rather than staying together for the wrong reasons. The new partnership scheme will prevent bitterness resulted from divorce mainly affect children and housewives.

There will be a totally new approach to resolve custodian rights. Scientists and biologists need to develop a way to surgically and biologically engineer man to employ childbearing capability. If one partner, either the man or the woman voluntarily takes up the responsibility to bear the child, the person who gives birth to the child will naturally get the custodian right. The jurisdiction will overrule when the child bearer voluntarily gives up his or her own right, or the primary custodian proved to be mentally, physically, and financially unfit to live with the child. The same will apply to naming children; the child will inherit the last name of the partner who gives birth to the children.

3.

Developing the Young Minds and Discipline

The scheme might have helped all of the subjects to develop their underlying interests, and thus helps them to craft a self-nurturing life. The government is to enforce parenthood program to expecting parents one year before their expectancies. The program consists of nursing, nutrition, children psychology, as well as ways to teach and discipline small children. Parents and teachers are to closely monitor their children's interests, potentials and talents in order to place the individual child in related school where talented teaches and professors are concentrated in schools specializing in their respective fields and subjects. Children with prominent talents and inclinations will study in a customized vocational college to develop their special skills. This scheme is to develop the child to pursue his or her interest tenaciously throughout life and focus on an upright vision. Throughout the school years, children will be stressed upon the importance of conducts. Conduct, which includes manners, self-discipline, obedience, punctuality and overall attitude, will be one of the most important curriculums among all other subjects. Conduct grades will appear on all school certificates, diplomas, and degrees.

College or vocational college will be enforced within the age of twenty-five. Students within this age group will receive interest free college loans from government through their respective colleges. Students must repay college loans after graduation; otherwise they will be subpoenaed, and such record will be attached to their background information.

4.

Meditation and Physical Training

The scheme is to help individuals to improve self-confidence, create a sharper perception, and strengthen ones emotional and physical composition. The scheme could have been particularly beneficial to the second subject, Mr. Law who felt perplexed and frustrated in facing life's misfortunate. Meditation and physical training help oneself to take maximum control over ones body and mind by unifying and strengthening ones spiritual, mental, and physical entities harmoniously. Meditation improves concentration as well as enhances spiritual serenity and lucidity. Therefore, meditation will become part of the school curriculums parallel to physical education, and will be practiced throughout the school years. Solitude makes wise men. Children and adults are encouraged to treasure quiet time, and spend time alone habitually and as much as possible, for no amount of education or wealth makes people think more when they feel the impact of loneliness. This gives them a chance to reflect on life and to overcome fear.

Physical training is as important for the mind as for the body. Physical training boosts immune system, sharpens ones mind, improves body/mind stamina and coordination as well as aesthetically beneficial to ones self-esteem. Children will receive physical training with a body trainer to customize their unique physique throughout the school years, so that each individual adult will be able to carry on their own set of training after they leave school.

5.

Aging and Dying

The scheme allows all of the subjects to reign their lives, organize deaths in a matter-of-factly manner, and disillusion oneself from the myths of life and death. The government will send out a standardized Will by mail to citizens who have reached the age of thirty, to instruct medical personnel of their wishes to deal with organ donation and euthanasia in case of fatal incident, long term coma, mental or terminal illness arises. Citizens need to submit their initial Will in person, and thumbprint their Will along with a signature specimen before a witness. Thereafter, the Will can be reviewed and modified periodically either by mail or in person with an original thumbprint and a signature on the revision form. This takes away the trauma and burden of medical personal and family to determine our deaths when we are no longer able to speak for ourselves, and maintain our rights to live or die in dignity.

Geriatric citizens who are no longer enthusiastic about their lives due to deteriorating mental and physical endurance can reach the government medical agency to consult an option to terminate their lives in peace with minimal pain and sufferings with the assistance of a certified medical doctor at the hospital. The consultation is to advise against the candidate of such an intention, and gives the candidate one-year waiting period to deliberate upon his or her final decision.

Conclusion

We have to admit that we are all a bit rebellious and liberal, but at times old-fashioned. We feel especially comfortable to brace ourselves with old standards and conventions even when they may no longer relevant to our lives. Time has changed, human intelligence keeps evolving, the society certainly has not been quite the same hence traditions need to be revised, and society needs to be restructured. In order to achieve humanity and salvation in the society, we ought to insure that our children are not a result of spontaneous, selfish, and possessive act, but a mission to eliminate sufferings of mankind, and necessitate an equal, standardized environment to the society. The initial deployment of the schemes will not bring much positive effects to the society, as tremendous efforts and adjustments has to be made in order for the schemes to be successfully implemented. The result will become more defined as the older generation completely phases out and replaces by a newer generation; the newer generation will then be the true beneficiaries of the project. Before the birth of a perfect society, my subjects may have to turn to religion for salvation, or as my last subject Mr. Lo, depends on his own ingenuity to dissolve negativity. No matter what one chooses; there are alternatives. The perfect society is intended to develop a self-nurturing and yet a tenacious individual who is imbued with a strong sense of self-governance along with a clear, sharp, upright vision to alleviate self sufferings; an antidote to face life fearlessly and gloriously.



Spiritual and Secular Balance

by Julia Melancon

Historically placed in the middle of Western Cosmological Hierarchies, humans have been ordered between the gods and the animals, sharing qualities of each. With the gods we share the ability to reason, with the animals we share mortality. Also like the animals, the nature of our existence is predicated on the needs and appetites of our Mortal Bodies.

The paradox of the human condition is that by definition (due to our ability to reason, think abstractly, imagine, remember, and dream), humans have a need and desire to transcend the mere biological, survivalist aspect of our existence, without being able to abandon or escape it entirely.

Human beings, being the vastly creative creatures that they are, have invented innumerable ways of transcending life on earth. Roughly speaking, these methods can be divided into the following four categories: Religion, the Arts, Sciences, and the Body.

Throughout its history, Christianity has been an opponent of the Secular methods of transcendence because of its focus on the Afterlife and its incumbent shunting of the things of this world, particularly those insatiable human appetites and the desire for gratification of the sense.

Most pointed has been the polarity between Christianity and the unorthodox, bohemian methods of transcending exercised by many artists down through the ages, and the detrimental effects ensuing from the myopic excesses of both sides.

Christianity has characterized human desire as an enemy of the Soul, but the complete repression of the Dionysian impulses not only impoverishes a life, it can also result in self-loathing and self-destructive behaviors.

According to Nietzsche, this focus on Immortality is detrimental because it destroys our natural instincts for self-preservation and betterment. It takes away the incentive for creating common well-being and for acting in ways to ensure improvement for future generations.

Artists, on the other hand, and specifically writers, embrace the Dionysian and explore the volatile dichotomy between Body and Soul. In order to make these Moral Investigations, many artists have felt the need to extricate themselves from the stifling constrictures and enforced conformity of respectable, Christian society, in many instances turning away from Religion altogether.

Unfortunately, the Canon of great literature is replete with the names of those who, in their determination and exuberance of overthrowing societal constraints, went beyond the pale and destroyed themselves and squandered their talents through alcoholism and drug addiction.

The force or impulse which Nietzsche referred to as the Dionysian is a universal tendency in human life. This tendency to act in accordance with rebellious, irrational forces, especially the force of sexual desire, is as prevalent and as potent as the Apollonian impulse towards rational and order.

Following Aristotle's prescription of Catharsis through Dionysian Tragic Drama, it is apparent that the animalistic inclinations of humankind should be recognized, accepted, even affirmed, and thereby controlled, through the Arts, Sciences, and the Body.

The Dionysian impulses can be dangerous and a concealed danger has a much greater potential for destruction than one that has been exposed and explored.

Keeping in mind that we are not one dimensional beings, Creativity and Intellectual probing must be allowed to flourish in order to achieve spiritual well-being.

In order for transcendence to be effective and meaningful, it must be concomitant with Catharsis, which can only be maintained through a balance of the Spiritual and the Secular.

Julia


Edgardo Ramirez

Professor Keefer

TO TELL OR NOT TO TELL

Thesis: The decision to reveal a diagnosis of AIDS to family and friends is often detrimental. Many times fear and anxiety cause people with HIV to panic. This in turn has a freezing effect on the infected person. Like someone who freezes on the railroad tracks when a freight train is fast approaching.

When a person is diagnosed with AIDS, should he/she be forced to reveal his condition to family and friends even at the risk of rejection and alienation? Should a person with AIDS hide the truth under a more socially acceptable disease like Cancer in order to please friends and relatives? If after considering all the alternatives a person decides that it's nobody's business to know, why should anyone have a problem with that?.

No other illness has created the same paranoia that The AIDS Epidemic has had on the population. Since the AIDS virus is contagious and there is still no cure for it, many people go to extremes to avoid the possibility of being infected.

In the early years of the epidemic, we heard of paramedics withholding treatment for accident victims because of the possibility that the injured person might be infected with the AIDS virus. How many of us remember the school where the parents came to pick-up their children after it was revealed that a hemophiliac boy with AIDS had been admitted? This irrational behavior caused by a lack of knowledge and education about AIDS is still prevalent in many areas of the country. Because of these, many AIDS patients still refuse to reveal their condition for fear of being treated chastised.

Other reasons people with AIDS often consider in their decision whether to tell or not to tell they are HIV positive are:

a) Religious upbringing

b) Culture background

c) The effect this type of news will have on the reputation of the family

d) The effect it could have on the health of elderly parents, etc.

Consider the example of Emilio*, a young Hispanic male who first learned he was HIV positive in the early years of the epidemic. See if the same could still happen today.

On April 30, 1985, the life of Emilio was to change forever. Unknown to him, his doctor had taken an extra vial of blood during a routine blood exam and conducted a test to detect HIV antibodies in his system. The doctor was doing this to follow a hunch he had to explain Emilio's recent weakness in his immune system. When Emilio was told of his positive results, he did not think much of it. He was not Gay, but had used drugs since his early twenties. Because of peer pressure, he had started with pot, then cocaine and heroin. He had stopped using drugs after he met his girlfriend Mary and by the time they got married, he had been drug free for 2 years.

The doctor assured Emilio that it was not in his best interest to panic at this time. Very little was known about AIDS then, so if was better to take a wait and see approach while the research community came up with something more concrete. It seemed, that it would be just a matter of time before a cure or vaccine was found. At any rate, it was much better to be optimistic than pessimistic.

The doctor wisely thought that Mary should know of the results and gave her a call to schedule an appointment to see him and to have her checked-out for HIV antibodies also.

When it came to AIDS, Mary was in total darkness -- except for what she saw on television regarding Rock Hudson -- She too was not very much concerned about her husband's prognosis except to think that everything was going to be OK.

After the doctor's visit, the two of them went home a little worried but not enough to change any plans they had made together which included having kids someday. The only thing that had been emphasized by the doctor was that they should protect each other by using condoms -- something that was not a problem for it was the method they were using to avoid pregnancy.

Two weeks later, the doctor informed Mary that she was fine, but that Emilio had turned up positive again. Mary was relieved to hear the news, although in her mind, she had always felt she was going to be OK. With the same optimism as Emilio, she thought that everything was somehow to be fine again. They sincerely thought that either a cure was going to be found soon or simply that, the virus was going to lie dormant forever and ever. Emilio asked Mary to help him conceal his illness at all cost and she readily agreed.

The years passed and Emilio and Mary lived a normal life. The local news on television often gave conflicting reports on the progress of the disease and its cure. One thing was certain, Emilio was not about to accept that his life was ending. He chose an out of sight out of mind kind of approach that seem to work for a while. It worked because the beast inside him was sleeping. Any acknowledgment from him might be noise to wake it up.

One morning, Emilio woke up in sweat. He had felt fine before going to bed and was not sure if it was fever that caused it. He decided he had to see the doctor again. Further tests showed that the AIDS virus was spreading rapidly now. At this rate, full-blown AIDS was imminent. There was no way he could hide it any longer.

For the first time -- at least in his conscious mind -- Emilio agonized over the decision to tell his parents. Emilio's parents were getting old. His mother especially was frail and suffering from anxiety attacks every now and then. How could he tell his parents? -- he reasoned. How could he be the cause of so much pain for them now in their old age? What if his mother died as a result of the news?. They had provided for him the best home they could. His mother had been a friend for him all these years. She had been the one to provide support and understanding when it was revealed he had started abusing drugs.

All these thoughts were too much for him to handle. With the same attitude as when he first learned he had been infected, he decided to put up a front, oblivious to everything and everyone else around it. For him, this battle was his own. He alone could endure it. He alone could conquer it. His family was to be spared the shame of a member dying of AIDS. And on and on he went, thinking, planning, forecasting, wrestling in his mind with the ultimate outcome. The more he thought about it, the more he pretended it wasn't true.

Emilio needed the help of his wife in order to keep his illness a secret. It wasn't long before friends and relatives started asking questions about his health. He had tried to lose weight before when he got a little chubby, so the first impression he gave is that he was on a diet. As the months went by and he started to look sicker and sicker, his family started to worry about him and started to ask some questions, especially to Mary.

None of his family -- of course -- would ever think for a moment that he had AIDS. Their son was not Gay! Somebody else maybe, but their son and brother no! that was not possible!.

Still, there was no denying Emilio was sick. His family could tell he was hiding something, but they also understood that in all likelihood, Emilio was trying to protect them from hearing terrible news about him. They knew that Emilio was concerned for the well-being of his mother. For what Mary could hear from them, she was able to find out that they had come to the conclusion that Emilio had Leukemia.

It made perfect sense. Emilio's Grand father had died of Cancer at an early age. It was simple to "put two and two together" -- an expression Emilio's family often used -- so, having arrived to a consensus, Emilio's family began the task of helping him overcome his illness.

Cancer is not the death sentence it once was. As it was expected, the ideas and suggestions came pouring in. From changing doctors to moving to a better climate. From changing the doctor prescribed medications -- and its side-effects -- to turning to herbs and natural medicine.

As one suggestion after another was turned down by Emilio, the family turned to Mary for help in the battle to convince Emilio to "take better care of himself". Naturally, Mary knew that there was nothing those suggestions could do to improve Emilio's condition. Still, Emilio's family began to pressure her to join in "the fight for the life of Emilio."


A Tense Situation Develops

Mary agreed to cooperate with the rest of the family in finding ways to improve the health of Emilio. It was perceived by almost everybody, that Emilio was in total denial of what was happening to him. With the exception of Mary, his family believed that he was just simply refusing treatment. They felt that if it was cancer, he still had a chance at beating it. Mary on the other hand, was in a bind. She knew that AIDS is unstoppable in the last stages. She also knew that Emilio had repeated several times his desire to keep his illness a secret. On more than one occasion, Emilio and Mary had heard their friends discuss the topic of AIDS in a derogatory manner. Sometimes even joking about it causally -- as if it could never happen to them --, Mary Knew that Emilio was afraid of what his family and friends would think of him if they ever found out he had AIDS, but also realized that his family had the right to be worried about him.

One day, Emilio's mother approached Mary seeking her help in convincing Emilio to see another doctor. She had already made an appointment for Emilio to see her Chinese doctor. As it turns out, she had already discussed Emilio's case with him. The conversation between the two of them sounded more like Emilio was on the verge of becoming anorexic than anything like AIDS. This doctor had some patients that had been in similar conditions and who had recuperated a little with his treatment. The problem for Mary was that this was a holistic doctor, too unconventional to know much about AIDS, especially when he had learned his trade overseas. Instead, he was big on the idea that herbs and natural medicine accomplish just as much as chemically produced medicine. He had every reason to feel this way, for in China, before coming to the United States, he had been famous and well respected in this field. Emilio's mother knew all this, and using herself as an example, was sure that a series of treatments prescribed by her doctor could only be beneficial to Emilio.

Mary disagreed agree with this idea because Emilio was not going to tell him he had AIDS. She understood the dangers of drawing blood from an AIDS patient without proper procedures -- something she knew this Chinese doctor was going to do. Without the proper protocol for handling AIDS blood and disposing it, Mary could not in all conscience put the doctor and his patients at risk.

Her refusal to cooperate, was taken the wrong way by Emilio's mother. Mary understood this but was unable to clarify the situation. As Mary would later find out, her seemingly unwillingness to cooperate was viewed as "an uncaring attitude" towards Emilio. To make matters worse, Emilio's appetite had declined considerably and was not eating much. On the occasions that Emilio's mother cooked a meal and brought it home to Emilio, he would make a real effort and eat as much as he could. He would follow it up with a comment like "Thank You mom, it was delicious".

This only served to reinforce the idea that perhaps Mary was not taking "good care of Emilio", perhaps she was not cooking properly for him, or perhaps she did not care much to see him get better. As a result, Emilio's mother began to visit him everyday to take care of him. So much so that, Mary started to resent the implication that she could not take care of him the way his mother could.

Little by little, the good relationship Mary and her mother-in-law once enjoyed, started to go sour. The only thing that could put a stop to this misunderstanding, what telling the truth. This truth however, could only be told by Emilio.

Mary was also being pressure to give updates on his condition, especially on revealing the true nature of Emilio's illness. It was not long before family and friends realized that Mary and Emilio were hiding the truth from them.


The Truth is Denied

Research done by Emilio's sister on the symptoms he was experiencing, led her to conclude that he had AIDS. She found out that for the most part, all AIDS patients suffer the symptoms Emilio was suffering. Still she needed him to admit it. Most importantly, she needed to know how he had gotten it. Did Mary had something to do with it? Was he trying to protect her? Those were questions she was bent on finding out.

One day, when Emilio was home alone, his sister approached him. In a very mild way, with a lot of sympathy and understanding, she asked him if he had AIDS. If there was a time when Emilio could reveal his secret, this was it. Unfortunately, he denied everything. This created more confusion and unanswered questions.

Two months later, Emilio's condition deteriorated so much that everyone around him could see the end was near. By now, Emilio's family was feeling frustrated, confused and a bit angry -- particularly at Mary -- for her unwillingness to reveal Emilio's condition openly, and for refusing to do anything other than to wait for the inevitable.

On a snowy day in March 1990, Mary went to work as usual. Emilio's mother came home to take care of him. An hour later, Emilio started having cardiac arrest. In the panic that followed and while she was holding him tightly, he vomited on her. The ambulance arrived quickly and he was taken to the hospital. Two hours later, Emilio was dead.

At this point, emotions were running sky high. The usual reactions of guilt and anger that follow the death of a family member were taking its toll on the family union. There were too many questions unanswered and for the most part, they were directed at Mary. Mary on the other hand, clamed up in a shell and refused to answer anything.

When it was finally revealed that Emilio had died of AIDS, Mary was held accountable for putting the life of her mother-in-law in danger when she failed to inform her of Emilio's illness. An issue was made of the incident when Emilio vomited on his mother. Could she have been infected? if she had been infected, whose fault it would have been?. Little by little everybody started to resent the fact that they were not informed of his illness in advance. They felt that if they had been informed, they would have done more for him. A total new picture full of what could have been was drawn. No attention was given to the reasons Emilio had in concealing his illness.

The death of Emilio and the problems that resulted when he chose to keep his HIV status a secret are still debated today. Family and friends still feel betrayed by Emilio and Mary. They resent the fact that Emilio did not trust them. Without exception, everyone believes they would not have turned their backs at their brother and friend. Still though, that is something we will never know. We tend to argue in favor of what could have been and what should have been forgetting that indeed, it could have been worse.

Let's look at what Emilio was trying to accomplish by not revealing he had AIDS. It could be that he was having a hard time accepting he had AIDS because of a troubled conscience. It seems that he never forgave himself for not following his parents wholesome upbringing. Religion was something he had grew up with and his parents has stressed the importance of a clean conscience. Because he went astray of the path his parents hoped he took, it made it more difficult for him to accept it and talk openly about it. It brought him shame. The same shame he was trying to spare his family of.

Perhaps though, he simply wanted to live what remained of his life free of the pity and shame that people with AIDS receive from others. In the end, it was his life that was ending.

Some of the reasons Emilio had for keeping his illness a secret are:

  1. He felt that persons with AIDS are inevitably excluded from normal associations with friends and relatives.
  2. He was concerned for the health of his elderly parents and the effect AIDS could have on reputation of the entire family.
  3. He wanted to live his life independent of the shackles of AIDS even if it was just pretending.

On the other hand, Emilio's family and friends felt that they had the right to know. With a contagious and mortal disease such as AIDS, they felt they were put in unnecessary danger for not knowing. They felt left out of his thoughts and feelings; something that created more negative emotions, making the grieving process difficult and more painful.

We could print hundreds of pages both in favor and against the privacy of AIDS and still not arrive to a general consensus. The issues are not only complex, but vary from case to case. In considering the right thing to do, we should think of that famed question "Whose life is it anyway?."

*The names have been changed.



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