Monday, April 29, 2024

Private Timothy E. Upham ; Was he a Coward ?


In the movie "Saving Private Ryan, Private Timothy E. Upham joins the team as a translator without combat experience. He is a naive, more sensitive and inexperienced soldier. Was he a coward? He was frozen when he saw the mortal dagger fight between his team member Mellish and the SS soldier. Upham had the opportunity to shoot the SS Soldier and save Private Mellish. But due to confusion and inability to make discussions in extreme situations Upham did nothing and Mellish was stabbed to death. Killing a Nazi was a moral challenge for him.

Upham went out of his way and demanded his teammates and Captain Miller not to kill the POW Steamboat Willie . Then he was set free and Steamboat Willie was able to rejoin with a team of SS soldiers. In the final battle when Upham came to know that Steamboat Willie shot Captain Miller, a transformation began and innocence was lost. Without a hesitation Upham kills Steamboat Willie and becomes a real combat soldier.

Upham is a complicated character and we cannot judge him.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Death of a Salesman- an Attack on the American Dream


Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D. 

 “He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back—that’s an earthquake, and then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you’re finished. Nobody blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.”
—Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller’s   Death of a Salesman is a superlative play that talks about the plight of a small man in a big system. According to the typical notion, the main character Willy Loman   pursues the materialistic success blindly until he falls into a pit where there is no escape. In a world where personal success is measured by one's financial prosperity, Wilily Loman is forced to be another member of a mad rat race. This race is decisive and given ultra-values by society. Those who are not up to the required standards are rejected as failures. They cannot further function in the system as responsible individuals. Their plight would be disastrous.   
The salesman Willy Loman's tragedy was linked to the social value system. He believed that personal and emotional growth and fulfillment could only be achieved through materialistic success. In a consumer culture, Loman had no other doctrine to follow, and basically, he was a waste product of the system. With the financial debacles and his self-punishing repenting and masochistic traits, Willy Loman the salesman is no longer a part of the American dream.  {The American Dream, commonly described as the ability to achieve any amount of success through hard work, is actually a great mixture of ideas, just as America is a great melting pot of cultures (Karim, 2020)}.
Willy Loman is a pathetic character who does not live in reality but is mostly trapped in his own delusional world. He strongly believes that there is a glass ceiling above him that prevents his success. Based on low self-esteem and low self-worth Willy Loman faces a competitive commercial world. The result would be inevitable, and he would become a loser. Hence, the Death of a Salesman is an individual tragedy as well as a family tragedy.

Willy Loman’s reactive depression is connected with delusions and self-punishing behavior. It is very hard to separate Willy's reality from his imagination. Although he is pursuing materialistic success, his final attempt at 'success', ends in self-destruction. It is a superficial tragedy that has no significant depth. The story of   Willy Loman does not reflect true human suffering. It is more like an artificial misfortune occurring in modern civilization.
Willy’s life philosophy was distorted. His obsessions and urge becoming a successful man only in a financial context make him miserable. False values and stereotyped social ratings give him a sense of failure. The Death of a Salesman is the result of human suffering in the industrial age, and his story reveals the paradox of human existence in a commercial world.
Arthur Miller was one of the great American playwrights who considered playwriting  as an act of self-discovery. He was influenced by the Greek tragedies. In Greek tragedy, the individual is influenced strongly by forces outside of the hero and he is not responsible for his actions. Arthur Miller implies that ideology destroyed the protagonist Willy Loman. Therefore he was not in control of the outside events. Many critics consider Willy a victim of society. He was exploited and discarded. (You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away - a man is not a piece of fruitDeath of a SalesmanWilly Loman, Act 2)
In a Capitalistic society the worker is exploited by the employer, and in a Socialist economy the worker is exploited by the state. Arthur Miller was (mistakenly?) regarded as a Communist who was propagating Socialist ideas in the USA. He was under surveillance by the FBI chief J Edgar Hoover.    Whatever was  Miller’s philosophy, there is a simple fact which says that Willy Loman was exploited, and that led to his tragic death. Considering his psychological condition can we think Willy Loman had better chances under the Socialist system?
Willy's reality profoundly conflicts with his hopes to keep his fragile ego up. His fantasies and day dreams and psychological anguish would make him vulnerable under any economic system. The salesman who is beginning to lose his grip on reality will not perform even under the Red system. One can argue that Willy has worked hard his entire life but he was not given a chance. The opportunity will never fall into your lap you have to grab it instead. This is a common rule in any system.
As a salesman, Loman produced nothing but dreams. As his elder son Biff said Loman had the wrong dreams. He exaggerated social values and strongly believed that the likability was his destiny. (He's liked, but he's not well liked; Death of a Salesman) He was self-critical and believed that he was not a fascinating personality. Willy Loman never had a noble purpose in life. His tortured memory, erroneous life philosophy and frustration were the key elements of his downfall. Therefore, Willy Loman became a forlorn failure.
Ironically, Willy Loman was not a victim of the system but a victim of his own fallacious life philosophy. It does not mean that the system in which he lived was friendly and humane. It may be a decadent and exploitive system, but still, millions of people lived under that system and did not become utterly depressed, fail, or commit suicide. As Dostoevsky said, people are resilient and they have an extraordinary adaptability to live under bitter life conditions. Willy Loman never faced the same life conditions as Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the Gulags or as Viktor Frankl   in Auschwitz. Willy Loman’s society was absolutely competitive, and everybody had to face the struggle. The naturalistic law of   survival of the fittest was around him, and obviously he had to face it. But he failed.
 Some critics speculate that Miller's Marxist interpretation of money as a measure of self-worth is emphasized in his drama. In 1983, Arthur Miller made some comments on the dramatically created character Willy Loman. He said, "Willy, as misled as he is, to the very end of the play is struggling."  "It's the opposite of a passive person. He's struggling for some meaning in his life. Furthermore, he seizes upon what we would mostly consider the wrong meaning. But the struggle is exemplary."

According to Linda Loman , Willy Loman’s wife, her husband, was not surely the shining example of American dream. In Act 1 Linda, referring to her husband Willie Loman says that,  I don't say he's a great man. Willie Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never on the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention, must finally be paid to such a person.
Linda was correct; he was not a great man, and he was not super rich. Terrible things happened to him. These terrible things were around him before he was born, and Willy Loman could not survive the life struggle. He conducted his struggle with a wrong life philosophy and with pseudo-social values. His struggle was wasted. As a result of that he became history.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D. 

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder affecting about 3–5% of the world’s population. ADHD was first described by Dr. Heinrich Hoffman in 1845. He eloquently wrote about children with ADHD and their characteristics. Contemporary studies concur that the symptoms of ADHD are caused by a neurological dysfunction within the brain, mostly due to a deficiency in a specific neurotransmitter in the lower area of the brain. The principle characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years. Sometimes it may persist into adulthood. About 60 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD retain the condition as adults. These children need care and attention. When hyperactivity, distractibility, poor concentration, or impulsivity begin to affect performance in school, social relationships, or the ability to accomplish day-to-day activities, therefore, they need treatment.

According to the US-based statistics, an estimated three to five percent of school-age children suffer from ADHD. Although there are no statistics available in Sri Lanka, a considerable number of children are affected by ADHD, and many do not receive any treatment. In our school system, ADHD children are considered bad students who are disobedient. But the fact is, their behavior is caused by complex etiological factors, and they are not bad by nature.

They have a poor attention span. They have difficulty organizing tasks and activities. Furthermore, they act as if “driven by a motor” and cannot remain still. Difficulty remaining seated; Easily distracted; Gives answers to questions before they are completed; Difficulty following instructions from others. Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities shifts from one uncompleted task to another; Talks excessively; Interrupts others; does not seem to listen; Engages in physically dangerous activities without considering the possible consequences; is restless and does not follow the commands.

There are a number of risk factors associated with ADHD. Major etiologic contributors include adverse responses to food additives and intolerances to foods. Too much refined sugar, Chocolate and Genetically Modified Food can increase hyperativity in some children. Common food additives and colorings can increase hyperactive behavior; some artificial additives increase hyperactivity and decrease attention span in a wide range of children. Some have sensitivities to environmental chemicals, molds and fungi. Exposures to neurodevelopmental toxins, such as heavy metals and organohalide pollutants can precipitate the condition. 

General Strategies to combat ADHD are important. Parental Education is vital. The parents must be taught how to handle the children. Some parents use corporal punishment, which can lead to the damage the personality. Parent-coached social skill training gives insight and handiness to manage an ADHD child more effectively.  Medications are necessary since there is an imbalance in brain chemistry. The medications must be prescribed by a qualified medical professional. Ritalin (methylpenidate) is widely used to treat ADHD. Medications must be prescribed by a qualified Physician. 

Apart from drug therapy, special Psychotherapeutic approaches are essential. Behavior Modification Programs for Home and School can be used to minimize inattentiveness and improve concentration. Relaxation training advances emotional control and the child is able to face day-to-day activities without much tension. CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is important to improve motivation, problem-solving skills, and self-esteem. Some experts recommend Fun Cognitive Rehabilitation Exercises (Brain Training) to improve attention span. 

Cybertherapy is another mode of treatment that can be used for ADHD. In cyber therapy especially designed computer animation programs are used to enhance attention, concentration, eye contact and fine motor movements.  The therapist should allow the child to change work sites frequently while completing homework or studying. Behavioral approaches can be attempted to help the child concentrate on sitting still, staying on task or thinking before acting. Many ADHD children can be managed via music therapy.  Music therapy reduces their excessive stress factors. In order to enhance their productivity, guidance must be given to the students to verbalize a plan before solving problems or undertaking a task. 

The therapist should provide opportunities for students to show divergent, creative, and imaginary thinking. On most occasions, ADHD children have a good IQ, and if their massive energy is used prolifically a good results can be expected. Art Benjamin, the famous Professor in Mathematics was an ADHD child and he was able to conquer the illness. Therefore, ADHD is not a paralyzing condition. If positive guidance is given to the child, he/she can be a productive person.

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