The Immense Power of Limitations

Swine flu in America represented by pig dressed as doctor with American flag Stock Photo - 8025184

Stockphoto- Swine flu in America represented by pig dressed as doctor with American flag

During one of the seminars I attended for my biology class, my professor introduced the session a new species that scientists have created. By manipulating the DNA of a bio luminescent jellyfish and inserting them into an embryo, scientists have created glow-in-the-dark pigs!

Yes, it is not a new species but it is highly intriguing and might I add, quite “cool”.

These scientists hope that the glow will be able to help track diseases such as cancer or to escalate the idea of adding proteins to ill patients, such as fabricating a gene to synthesize blood-clotting enzymes for people with hemophilia. The possibilities of changing DNA in order to create healthier lives is riveting.

However, these types of experiments will be challenged in its ethics, techniques, and even put under investigation by the law to check if they are appropriate. Such limitations could cause a ruckus between the opposing and the supporting groups, that could possibly lead to ultimately halting these or similar experiments or even watering it down, making it much less efficient.

Why bother going against the tides of what you believe is right if it would only be drowned by the wails and power of ordinary citizens and the government? Unless you want to constantly move from country to country in order to avoid such backlash, like a particular screenplay writer named Bertolt Brecht, then it is worth the risk.

Brecht was alive during an era rampant of bloodshed, World War II. During that time, he created a screenplay called Mother Courage and Her Children, a story staged in the time period of The Thirty Years War. The main character, Mother Courage, uses the war as a means to flourish her business, ensuring her own survival but undoubtedly causing the demise of herself and her family. His story is meant to invoke a reaction from the audience to think and question when the characters of Brecht’s play would rather adapt to the violence and bury their virtues.

War. The merciless and corruption of war that forces society to expect it and accustom to it, creating the illusion that there is no power for individuals to stop it.

Could one single person stop it? Brecht would disagree, he did follow a communistic ideology of  group-thinking and acting as a community to solve issues. It made sense why he held that belief, as Germany in its Nazi regime was increasing in power, it could have been dismantled if more citizens worked together to have stopped it, perhaps even preventing the destruction of the beginning of World War II.

I live in a country where my opinions are supposed to have meaning, that my voice is significant for both the government and America itself. Yet, I am only a young girl, how can I even possibly make a difference?

Maybe I can’t right now, there is certainly a process I have to follow, and  many men of American history had to work hard to make a change, and one of my personal favorites is a man called Thomas Paine.

Common Sense by Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine, a figure that I dressed as for a project in my European History class in high school. Paine is also a figure who wrote a pamphlet called Common Sense in 1776 which helped begin a chain reaction of rebellion amongst the thirteen original colonies to fight against the British. The work was written in response of how the monarchy that the colonies were ruled by are abusing their powers, therefore, the states must be prepared to defend whatever rights that were slowly being stripped away from them by the king.

It was not just about the story of a bunch of liberty fighters throwing tea off a harbor because the taxes were too high, the background of the Boston Tea Party held more significance than that over-simplified story.

King George III was a reactionary ruler, and by the time the colonies established unique laws and cultures due to his lack of supervising of the thirteen states, he immediately taxed and paraded them with laws that were not agreed upon between them and the monarchy. The issue was not about the taxes. No, it was the lack of say the colonies had during the sudden change of their life. Their “representation” in the king’s establishment were British senators who barely even walked in the colony’s territory.

When Common Sense printed and spread throughout the colonial population, an upheaval of independence swayed to and fro and declarations for freedom rung the air. The American Civil War was fought and the colonies earned their independence.

Two Bald Eagles Who Love America

Perhaps an individual could make a difference, but only with support. Thomas Paine realized that communication was key in writing his pamphlet, and he wrote the language of it in a way that made it easier for any civilian, rich and poor, to understand it. Common Sense may have made him a target for attack, he understood the risks he was taking if any British soldiers decided to stop by his home and gun him down.

Paine was not alone in his efforts, but he did ensue the beginnings of a war with his own words and his own actions in a book. Yet, if no one read his work, his effort would be for nothing. People need a leader, and a leader needs their followers. Both rely on one and the other to accomplish their goals. Both are limited of what they could do, allowing a balance of control on both parties.

This is certainly a limitation of agency if an individual could not do fully what they want unless they are allowed to. Of course this may cause a constant battle between both groups, such as the example I used for the pig experiment.

As I read and finished Mother Courage, my belief that war is inevitable was reinforced, a reaction that Brecht may not be very happy with.

To an extent, the violence could stop if both sides were to agree that punches and bullets are forbidden during the argument, but there is still a “war”. The diversity of ideas and beliefs is a curse and a blessing. Whatever I say may not lead to my death but there will be backlash for my opinions and ideas. Two very different people could both intelligent and stubbornly disagree with the other on mind-numbing topics.

The glow-in-the-dark pigs arouses the ideas of ethics and its borders in the scientific community. Were there any immoral activity involved in the research? Should we change the DNA of species to suit not only our health needs but also for our pleasure? How many restrictions should be established during the process of these experiments?

Even if the experiments did help society, there needs to be a battle to fight about, there needs to be a challenge of ideologies. Balance is more crucial than what is deemed to be “better” for the world.  If people were to simply accept anything just because it may sound or look good to avoid hurting the emotions of their peers or follow the status quo, what exactly are we accomplishing?

Let me change pigs to humans, and scientists to Nazis. Sound familiar? Their experiments used on Jews helped understand the human anatomy better, should we continue with these practices, even if it made us understand the limitations of our own skin better? No. What if they agreed to such horrific testing? Usually we would send people who think harming themselves is good to therapy.

The Drama Teacher-Theatre of War

There is a constant war, constant battles needed for us to grow and learn. Stability overrules what could be deemed as “better”. If the British regime created a perfect peaceful society for America but the consequences are following their culture and laws completely without a any sort of argument to it, the conflicts would arise immediately, no matter the perfection of it.

Brecht is right in that being swept up by events would promote no meaningful change, such lazy ideology to just adapt could only bring about nothing.

We do have the capacity as individuals to change the conditions of the world through our actions, but the limitation of agency is a necessity not only to establish a sense of order among a population but to create a balance of powers to effectively allow such actions to follow through. I promote people to go against the grain of society if they believe that their thoughts are worth to be expressed, but do not cower away if a war needs to be fought, because you may not be the only one with the same idea, and building that support could bring about the change you so desire.

To quote Thomas Paine: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way”.


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