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A Case of Peer Pressure in Red Scarf Girl

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Peer pressure; can be defined as going along with a choice due to temptation from the crowd. It’s where that desire to become just like everyone else forces you to betray your very own idealism and conscience. Peer pressure, is almost in every way, is a fear. After all, fear is the main weapon for peer pressure. The fear of disobeying or severing ties to your peers, is the psychological gun. And the very moment when these peers make this request, is like holding a man at gun-point. If no, consequences are horrid. This exact range of emotions is portrayed through the eyes of Ji-Li, a teenage girl struggling to stay upright in the whirlwinds of the Cultural Revolution. The era of free democracy is crumbled by a new emerging government form. Dictatorship, authorized by the one and only, Chairman Mao. This dictatorship puts forth the ideal that Chairman Mao must be represented in society as a God-like king whose needs and demands are higher up than heaven or hell. What other way to gain supporters, than to target the most vulnerable yet mobile of the Chinese people. Children; yes, what I say is quite true.

Chairman Mao used the nature of fear to place an ideal inside every child he encountered. An ideal of which consisted of committing treason unless you were to join his cause. The gullibility and fear that struck these children’s minds were influential enough for them to break away from their parent’s guidance. As more of Ji-Li’s classmates turned red-guards, it left her up to no choice but to be questioned endlessly? Are you for or not for Chairman Mao? Are you a betrayer of the new government?! These endless questions spread Chairman Mao’s reverence like a virus spreading through its subjects. All it took was a little intimidation and finger-pointing. Of course, my opinion on this is quite clear. I strongly disagree. The pure notion of peer pressure has always been represented negatively. It’s not about the factual evidence more it is on the mental state of mind.

An example would be teens and drug use. Whether it’s the offer to smoke a joint or sniff cocaine, the desire to become engaged in the actions a group you associate as “cool” overwhelm you into the trap. Even the simple words, “I dare you”, have resulted in arrests, deaths, and horrible consequences ever since the phrase’s inception. One must come to see things through their own point of view. Using their own judgment from their own state of mind. Making a choice solely based on what is right possesses more moral significance than to go with the mainstream beliefs just because they exist. What is loyalty in this world? What does it mean to be loyal? Loyal to what? Our beliefs? Or what is right? Often we ask ourselves whether loyalty to ideal is right. Is it honorable? Or is it absolutely crazy? That is why we must learn to stay loyal not to a certain someone or a certain something, but to stay loyal to what is morally right. We must realize as humans that the only one thing that needs loyalty more than anything else, is your conscience. In “Red Scarf Girl”, Chairman Mao demands his followers to eradicate anything that represents the previous society meaning books, journals, beliefs, and almost anything conceived before the government was brought forth. Those who still bathed in this old world thinking were considered to be committing treason. “Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people,” said by Heinrich Heine, attempting to survive past the Nazi regime.

Chairman Mao not only wants to burn the inanimate objects from the past, he wants to rid of the men and woman who still sought after this lost vision. This is where Ji-Li comes to her fork in the road. Do I join these Red Guards and betray my family, or do I stay loyal to my parents and commit treason? In this dictatorship, loyalty is not earned by the people, but rather forced upon, unless they wanted to endure harsh consequences. This often comes into play in many circumstances. Let’s say the option of insider trading is at your hands. Would you rather stay loyal to your boss and go forth with this illegal money multiplier, or do you stay loyal to your morals and disobey your one boss. As a congressmen, do you vote yes on a certain bill for a bribe offered by lobbyists, or do you deny and vote solely based on your morals. In almost every circumstance, the choice must be made. Shall I stick to my morals or advance in whatever career I’m in? If you choose to accept, you advance in your career. If you decline, you gain something no promotion could ever attain. Honor and character; something of which very few people possess. In reality, there’s often no room for the both options, which leaves the enormous piles of greed, scandals, and chaos to envelope in our congress, banks, and corporations in general. We must realize as a whole, that loyalty’s sole place belongs in the moral compass, and not anywhere else, no matter what the consequences.

Education; one of the most powerful things us humans can wield. Depending on how you use it, it can be a lightning bolt or a static shock. It’s a bullet in the very gun of your motives. Education is power. And with more power, comes fear from others. Ji-Li, an intelligent young girl, dreams of attending a prestigious school. But those dreams are crushed when, they learn the teacher’s school assignments were canceled, and that they could only attend schools in their district. Why? Why was this act put forth? Why was this brilliant girl forced to attend a school with lower educational standards than what she hoped? Fear; it’s as simple as that. Chairman Mao feared, that one day these gullible children whom he manipulated, will come to realize how much havoc he wrecked on their lives. And with that realization, comes education. And by allowing kids to only attend schools in their districts keeps them at level Chairman Mao sees as no threat. Knowledge is Power. The Southern Plantation knew it. Hitler knew it. Even the Taliban knew it. The Southern plantation owners knew that educating their slaves would only lead to them learning how to rebel and fight back. Hitler thought that if he burned every book he could find, the intelligence of his followers wouldn’t be a threat. Even the Taliban thought that if women weren’t allowed an education, they wouldn’t have any authority nor power. Look at Malala Yousafzai! Her thirst for knowledge only sparked fear into the Taliban, and with the survival of a gunshot to the head. She has been an icon to hundreds of millions across the world. I guess the Taliban inadvertently caused their own worst nightmare. I strongly agree to the notion that education represents power. Education is knowledge. And with knowledge of the world and its surroundings, you potential is truly limitless.

Inequality; the fabric of the global society as it is. The worlds tenth of a percent richest are equivalent to the wealth of fifty percent of the people on the globe. I strongly disagree that society can exist in a state where everyone is equal. Ji-Li’s family is known as rightists and anti-communist people, which drowns them in hatred and accusations from everyone who crosses their path. Ji-Li’s aunt, portraying her immense wealth wearing lavish clothing, is soon fed with the consequences that it brings. The wealth divide has blown to immense proportions. This can be related to the current 99% of us are enraged, and have shown our anger by the wall street protests. We even murdered every aristocrat we could find during the French Revolution. And this situation is almost identical. A communist revolution is put forth, and the wealth divide between Ji-Li’s family forces her to make the decision as to whether or not to betray them for her own good. A society that is equal is an ideal society, and idealism is absent in the presence of reality. Obscene wealth has always been to the world, not an icon of power, but an icon of greed. With the financial crisis in mind, America now is a prime example of how wealth is being distributed across the nation. With taxes for the rich being nearly eradicated, due to offshore accounts in Singapore or the Cayman Islands, the government is finding it harder and harder to bridge this two societal states together. The United Kingdom even reportedly lower the taxes for two billionaires to keep them in U.K. “We cannot have equilibrium in this world with the current inequality and destruction of Mother Earth. Capitalism is what is causing this problem and it needs to end,” said Evo Morales. Media; a tool in modern society that represents our singers, actors, sports stars, TV, etc. It also represents the way we visualize our society.

In “Red Scarf Girl”, Chairman Mao orders everyone to eradicate every material and possession that represents the olden society. The red guards even raid Ji-Li’s home searching for all materials possible. The reasoning however for these actions were purely based on how it belonged to the olden ways. Adolf Hitler, during his reign, demanded that every book that represent ideologies he despised were to burned and diminished from the public. In both communist realms, the books and media were solely destroyed based on the fact that they proposed ideas that would have seemed radical to both Chairman Mao and Hitler’s philosophy. Then there are the different perspectives in which banning media due to violent content. This was portrayed last year, when a man, in awe of the joker, took out an ak-47 and shot numerous beings in Aurora, Colorado. His motives, inspired by the “The Dark Knight”. Yet, when we look at the numerous amounts of content that displays some actions that might be harmful to society, it would cause an enormous uproar if these such contents would be banned, leading people to believe that our government was now a communist republic. I disagree that the media of games and movies that promote these ideas should be banned, but rather that you interpret these ideologies with your own judgment, as if your judgment was like a filter.

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