Humans and animals relationship: we all share this world.

We humans are living a world that are homes of millions of other creatures. We are fully aware of this, but we are also aware that we are the most superior among all species. Indeed, human beings are ones that have developed themselves comprehensively in terms of both physical and mental aspects, which can be seen in our civilization today. With all the achievements going far beyond other animals’ capability that we have gained, we can proudly say we are the most developed.

No matter how developed and superior humans are, it cannot be denied we are also animals. It is the same as a $600,000 Rolls Royce Phantom and a $20,000 Toyota Corolla, they are both cars no matter what. Therefore, human beings have to view the relationship between them and all other species as co-existing, as we all share this world together. However, humans tend to assume that they are as superior as they can exploit other animals in order to serve their purposes, which can be defined as “speciesism” (Horta 2010) . I am not talking about the fact that humans eat other animals, because that is how life works. The strongest stay on top of the food chain, and vice versa. I want to mention the way we look at our relationships with other animals and the way we treat them in regard with that relationship.

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Species tend to pay attention and have a good impression on ones that are similar them to some certain degree. That is how they realize members of their communities as well as of communities within the same lines (Coppinger 2017). As what you can see in this video, the baby tiger and the house cat get along well with each other because they can recognize that the other are in the same Felidae lines (the cats family) , although they are different species. Humans are no exception. We are interested in seeing animals imitate us in terms of expression or gestures which are visible elements (Charles 2017). In return, animals understand that and they do attempt to impress humans in certain ways. Let’s look at several examples:

It was not 100% accurate, but no doubt we can say they did try 100% of their ability.

This is a really touching short film featuring an old Japanese woman living alone with two cats. Her husband passed away years ago and this is still breaking her heart now. Understanding that their owner still feels upset thinking about her husband, the two cats learn how to perform human-like gestures in order to cheer her up. Obviously this film is staged to a certain degree, but it cannot be denied that the emotions it conveys are genuine.

The two examples clearly show that our pets in particular, and animals in general, do want to co-exist with humans in a respectful way. We like them to perform like us, and they do understand that. Therefore, in order to make our relationship with other species a mutual and co-existing connection, we should do the same in return (Howard 2014). “Instead of respecting their wildness, humans want to hold, cuddle, feed and photograph orangutans; they want to treat orangutans as if they were human … [which has] caused them to become endangered by a rampant pet and zoo trade” (Sowards 2011). This is not how it should be working. Animals show their respect by allowing humans to perform natural habitats and even adapting themselves to it, so why can’t we do the same ? We want to express our love to orangutans, but we are doing it the wrong way. We want them to be happy, but how can they be happy when feeling uncomfortable not being in their natural status ?

Humans and all other animals co-exist in this world, that is obvious. In order to co-exist harmoniously, humans have to know how to respect other species, especially when we are the superior. Try to understand them, and if possible, adapt ourselves to it. This can be seen in this another video, when humans finally try how to please cats, but in cats’ way.

It did not work 100%, but at least they tried.

Reference:

Charles, N 2017, ‘Written and spoken words: representations of animals and intimacy’, Sociological Review,  Vol. 65 Issue 1, pp. 117-133.

Coppinger, B 2017, ‘Studying audience effects in animals: What we can learn from human language research’, Animal Behaviour,  Vol. 124, pp. 161-165.

Howard, D 2014, Human and Animal Relationships, Springer, New York.

Horta, O 2010, ‘What is Speciesism?’, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental EthicsVolume 23, Issue 3, pp 243–266.

Sowards, S. K 2011, Gender representations in orangutan primatological narratives: Essentialist interpretations of sexuality, motherhood, and women, Berghahn Books, USA.

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Poverty porn: calling for change, not charity.

Since the media industry is developing significantly, new genres of media product have been emerging. Among those depicting ordinary topics, there are some that dig into more sensitive, strange and narrow aspects. In this blog post I will focus on the case of ‘poverty porn’, a genre that can be defined as any type of media exploiting the poor’s condition to create sympathy in order to sell newspapers, attract charity donations and support people (Roegnigk 2014).

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Human beings do feel sorry for the inferior, which I suppose you guys will all agree with me. Once we see a starving kid, a homeless person, an innocent citizen suffering from war or similar stuffs, we feel sorry for them at a certain degree. I understand that, you understand that and above all, the media understand that too. It is not difficult at all to find poverty porn elements in everything we encounter on a daily basis. We see such pitiful cases in pieces of news, TV shows and even images on Facebook. Exposure to such media products do make us sympathize with ones featured, but have you ever wondered what are the purposes behind all these ?

Obviously we can all understand that by showing such content, the media want us to be aware of other sides of the world which we may not know or even think that they exist. Moreover, we have a chance to realize the degree of seriousness of them by coming up with materials capturing what actually happens.

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“If I don’t take pictures like these, people like my mom will think war is what they see in movies” – war photographer Kenneth Jarecke.

That is the way it is. If we do not know enough, we can never develop enough sympathy or empathy. In this way, it cannot be denied that the media is doing a good job by introducing poverty porn to inform people (Middendorp 2015). However, the consequent actions that are called from poverty porn is what actually worth concerned.

I still remembered one detail in the video above about the story of Hollywood actor Jack Black and a homeless kid in Uganda when the kid told JB “I want to go with you” and he replied “I don’t think I can take you with me”. I liked the whole video in which Jack Black tried to raise funds to offer homeless kids education, except for that detail. Personally, I think that detail makes the whole mood of the video seem to be hopeless. I was born and grown up in Vietnam, a developing country in Southeast Asia in a middle class family. Although I live in one of the most modern city in the country, Hanoi, which is also the capital, I still encounter similar circumstances quite often. I see homeless kids on the street all the time and like anybody else, I always want to help them. I am pretty sure that when I was small, more than once when I saw a homeless kid I told my mom: “Can we take him home with us?” and I received the same response: “No we can’t. We don’t take them home, but we support them. That’s the way it is” and mom gave me something, maybe a little amount of money or food, and told me to gave it to them. And from those moments on, I realized that is how life works. It is not fair for everyone, but who are more privileged can support inferior ones, to make it less unfair (Beresford 2016).

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The above points lead me to my final conclusion. I do not say that people should not adopt homeless kids or offer the poor people or those in harsh situations a new better life. The ones who do that are so admirable as they turn on the light in those dark segments of life. However, that should not be the purpose of poverty porn. By introducing poverty porn, the media should not encourage people to adopt homeless kids because that does not solve the problem radically (Dortonne 2016). There are millions of abandoned kids that we cannot adopt them all, and we avoid the issue by taking home the kids that stay in front of our eyes and fool ourselves to forget the all the remaining kids behind our back. Media makers, through poverty porn, should encourage people to support the inferior instead, by offering them opportunities to earn a better life themselves (for example, education) and beyond that, challenge the policies that push them into, or do not let them get out of those situations (Allen and Silver 2014). Instead of “neglect and obscure the systemic challenges and compounding disadvantages that people face”, the media should “deliver policies that can affect the challenging realities” (Allen and Silver 2014).

Poverty porn should call for change, not for charity. Because that is the way it is.

Reference:

Allen, K and Silver, D 2014, It’s easy to hate ‘poverty porn’ but harder to fight inequality, The Conversation, viewed March 31st 2017, <https://theconversation.com/its-easy-to-hate-poverty-porn-but-harder-to-fight-inequality-33555&gt;.

Beresford, P 2014, ‘Presenting welfare reform: poverty porn, telling sad stories or achieving change?’, Disability & Society, Vol. 31 Issue 3, pp. 421-425.

Dortonne, N 2016, The dangers of poverty porn, CNN, viewed March 23rd 2017, <http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/08/health/poverty-porn-danger-feat/&gt;.

Middendorp, C 2015, Poverty porn: look at these vulnerable people, The Canberra Times, viewed March 23rd 2017, <http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/are-pictures-of-the-vulnerable-poverty-porn-20151003-gk0qv6.html&gt;.

Roegnigk, E 2014, 5 Reasons poverty porn empowers the wrong person, One.org, viewed March 23rd 2017, <https://www.one.org/us/2014/04/09/5-reasons-poverty-porn-empowers-the-wrong-person/&gt;.

The branded self: transition, not elimination.

In this digital era, it is common and essential for young people to establish their online personas. With an online profile, people are able to connect more easily as others can partly understand their characteristics by looking at the content they upload on social media. Living in a digitalised world where people have virtual lives in parallel with their real life, a social media persona rich in content is really useful in broadening our communication network.

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Having realized the importance of online profile, employers are now paying much attention on their candidates’ activities on the Internet to further understand them. Therefore, a lot of people have started to establish strategies to customize their online personas in certain ways to achieve professionalism. For example, Filipino fashion blogger Bryanboy has dedicated his whole online life to express his passion in fashion by establishing his own website along with his accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. As a result, Bryanboy received invitation to cooperate with world-famous fashion designers such as Marc Jacob. My UOW fellow Mitchel Trench has huge interest in global media and travelling, therefore he established his own Facebook page and Youtube channel to upload videos sharing his travelling experiences all around the world and this contributes to his employment in several travel agencies. I myself experience the same case as I am an amateur viner with my own Facebook page where I upload vines that I made. This Facebook profile helped me to gain an internship opportunity in a viral marketing agency when I returned to Vietnam, my home country, the previous summer break.

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The above examples have partly proven the importance and advantage of having our online profiled tailored in a professional and strategic way. However, a lot of people are engaging in this process too excessively. By using several examples, Gershon (2014) indicated that young people when deciding to professionalize their online personas tend to give up their existing habits, change the way they interact with friends (or even narrow down their friends list), hide the information or delete contents that they consider no longer appropriate. This is what Gershon (2014) consider a ‘paradoxical and recursive process’ of young people to ‘inhabit their corporate personhood’. Only by doing this do they feel that the transition process happens thoroughly.

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However, I argue against this as I do not think that process can be called a ‘transition’. By hiding information or deleting contents uploaded, a person is also deleting what is inherent to his/her characteristic. Therefore, I might call this an ‘elimination’. Defined by Cambridge Dictionary, a transition is ‘the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another’. However, in this case, we could not see evidence of the former state prior to the transition as people have hidden or deleted contents from their profile. Without such evidence, other people cannot see the contrast between their profiles at two different stages to properly consider that a ‘transition’. Argued by Berger 2011, “a person’s present self talks about the past self to the future self”. Moreover, the contents uploaded on Facebook present the “aspects of identity work which are tied to imperatives for self-promotion in the current conjuncture” (Goodwin et al 2016). Therefore, a person’s proper transition to a branded self must show others that “I realized the importance of changing myself, and I want people to know that”. By observing someone adopting new patterns of using online platforms alongside with keeping the original contents, we can see how that person developed from a naive, innocent stage into a more mature one in his/her life (Berger 2011). It creates a big picture about one’s characteristic for the audience and also for that person as he can fully develop his self-awareness to effectively improve himself in the future.

Everything you do reflect yourself, you might stage it, but you cannot stage what you really are, and that is your truly ‘brand’.

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“You are just doing it for attention, and you will be back”.

Reference:

Berger, A 2011, ‘The Branded Self: On the Semiotics of Identity’, The American Sociologist, vol. 42, no. 2/3, pp. 232-237.

Gershon, I 2014, ‘Selling Your Self in the United States’, Political and Legal Anthropology Review, pp. 281-295.

Goodwin et al 2016, ‘Precarious Popularity: Facebook Drinking Photos, the Attention Economy, and the Regime of the Branded Self’, Social Media + Society, Vol 2, Iss 1.