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Posts Tagged ‘Sociology’

“Know ye all, that the life of this world is but play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting and multiplying (in rivalry) amongst yourselves, riches and children…” (Surah Al-Hadid, 57:20)

Although I’ve read this verse numerous times, I recently encountered a slightly different translation that caused me to think about the insight it provides into the nature of humanity, particularly the bolded words.

So, yes, we have heard numerous times the comparison/description of this current world as a place of mere indulgence in the follies of life. But the “mutual boasting” and “in rivalry amongst yourselves” part exhibits something much more insightful about the human condition in this world. One of the most significant contradictions and problems of the notion of a Utopia on earth has always been that, if everyone is equal, then there is nothing for humans to strive towards (I don’t mean spiritually, but sociologically) – the world would be stripped of all sense of any necessity for ambition. There are two ways this could happen:

1. If everyone is simply equal in socioeconomic status and is given the same position in occupation – (which is realistically impossible anyway)

2. If an Utopian world runs on technology that does everything for us and abolishes the need for jobs altogether (which would also create the problem of sheer boredom with idleness).

This is where the verse sheds more light. Humans are innately ingrained with 1. the necessity for some form of occupation 2. the desire to strive higher, to reach further, the ambition to be better than others. Especially when considering the modern world, we are always striving socioeconomically or personally. You might say the latter is not necessarily always true, for example, serfs in Medieval Europe who did not have any semblance of an opportunity to strive higher, or for people who are content with a simple life and means of living, like farmers – but the point is, they still had/have an occupation – they still have some form of meaning, some work by which they are occupying their lives. Without either of these two factors, society itself would become listless and feel meaningless (again, I’m not talking about spiritually, I’m talking about sociologically, the natural structures by which the society of this world functions). This is also of course where such ideologies of Capitalism and Socialism comes into factor, but that’s a whole other long conversation.

Thus, in such a supposedly Utopian society, we could never truly be happy (not on earth anyway) – which is of course why the concept of Utopia becomes paradoxically and ironically a “Dystopia.” This is why in verse 57:20 Allah equates the “the life of this world” to the ambitious nature of humanity – we are always “in rivalry among ourselves,” and that is the very nature of the life we live, because without it, the earthly life would not truly exist. This gives us a mere glimpse into the sheer understanding and knowledge Allah has of the nature of humanity, since he is the One who created us – and thus this provides a whole different understanding of how and why Allah knows what is better for us than we do ourselves. This is further exhibited through the next part of the verse:

“Here is a similitude (to this life): The rain and the growth which it brings forth, delight the hearts of the tillers; soon it withers; thou wilt see it grow yellow; then it becomes dry and crumbles away…And what is the life of this world, but goods and chattels of deception?” (57:20)

Ultimately, Allah reminds us that the the ambitions of this world will not matter – all of it will, eventually, some day, “crumble away” – because this is not the world to which we truly belong. The natural structures by which this world functions will never enable it to be where we truly belong, for the same reason why a Utopia on earth could never exist. It will never be where we truly belong because no matter what we have, where we are in life, we will always want more, strive for more, crave for more – and it will never be enough until we reach the very world for which we were created.

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Written for a sociology class on Social Change and Movements:

Where the declaration of truth is treason
Where undeniable evidence
Of truth on a screen
Distributed to the world through a web of electric veins
Can be manipulated, distorted
And the lie believed
Where humans
Are mere labels of identification numbers
Constrained, bound to a system
Of omnipresent panopticism –
A mere step away from
Big Brother
Is Watching You

Serve and protect
Is to mercilessly, callously, apathetically
Beat, shoot, blind, blame;
Serve the injustice
Protect the Façade

Apathy, the acceptance
Of “serve and protect”
Of injustice and the Façade

Dissolve from your mind
The lies and the propaganda
Insidiously fed you
Through the ever-deceiving media
To which you are so insistently and blindly inclined

Dissolve
In a whatever singularity
In a whatever label
A whatever number
A whatever identity
Watch them –
As they watch you.
They are only the 1%

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In “Panopticism and the Carceral,” Foucault establishes discipline as “techniques for assuring the ordering of human multiplicities.” As a power relation, he refers to it as the “physics or anatomy of power,” infiltrating almost all aspects of societal institutions – ranging from penitentiaries and correction houses to schools and hospitals. Foucault maintains that there are two significant reasons for the development of the disciplinary methods of the eighteenth century: an increase in the population, therefore resulting in more people to be “supervised” and “manipulated”; and also because of the expansions of the systems of production, resulting in more complex disciplinary structures required.

In Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, several different aspects of Foucault’s theory of discipline are evident. Firstly, that one of the primary objectives of discipline is to “fix.” Social institutions dedicated to this purpose cropped up more consistently during the eighteenth century, such as reformatories. As reformatories, they were designed to “reform” and “fix” criminality in individuals. The first instance in which such a institution is mentioned in The Moonstone is with the introduction of Rosanna. As a thief sent to a reformatory intended to “save forlorn women from drifting back into bad ways,” Rosanna is the representation of the character most acquainted with the eighteenth century institutional disciplinary system designed to counter recidivism.

The second applicable point about Foucault’s discipline is that it is an effective means for the division of labor. This division is apparent in the hierarchy throughout the Verinder household, ranging from the lady of the house and her daughter, to those who are near enough in their confidence to have the privilege of directly attending to them – such as Betteredge himself, and his daughter Penelope – and those even lower beneath the division, such as the other maids, including Rosanna. The prospect of power relation and division is most highly epitomized in the unfulfilled love which Rosanna – a housemaid – so persistently holds for Franklin Blake. The division of power relations renders this relationship to not only be beyond the limits of possibility, but Blake himself cannot even see through this division separating them from two different worlds to even recognize Rosanna’s heart-wrenching sentiments for him.

Foucault explains that panopticism creates the structure for the following: timetables, collective training, exercises and surveillance. Through the investigation carried out by one of the most heavy perpetrators of discipline – the police – these are all evident in their dealings with the servants in attempting to solve the case. The Superintendent determines their freedom of their “timetables” to roam the house, and Sergeant Cuff orders the Frizinghall policeman for constant surveillance of suspects, and, precisely as Foucault relays, “arrests and regulates movements,” and “neutralizes effects of counterpower.”

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With the rise of European colonization throughout the world, colonized nations and cultures became part of a process of cultural shifts. Throughout the globe, the colonized nations were left with the remnants of European influence that became intertwined within the fabric of their original culture, whether through language, ideology, mentality, tradition, or faith systems. Despite their desire to retain their culture, colonization nevertheless permeated their psychology: it changed their perception of themselves – they began to perceive their own culture and themselves through the mind of the Europeans: as inferior; whereas they, either subconsciously or blatantly, considered Western culture as the “objective truth,” the superior. They came to perceive their integration into white culture as the standard by which they measure their own worth and value. Colonization, therefore, left behind in its wake a global inferiority complex engendered through a historical process of psychological conditioning, one of the subjects of which Frantz Fanon discusses in his Wretched of the Earth.

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