Crafted writing

Statement of intent: The purpose of my writing is to develop an overall understanding of the issues surrounding child soldiers, and how New Zealand’s differing society can help guide these corrupted nations towards a more balanced and non-violent existence. I would like to show how war was something New Zealand went through, and how it isn’t an environment children should grow up in. War was something that helped shape our identity, but it is also one of the worst parts of our history. If we can take this knowledge and experience from our own participation of the war, we can use it towards helping to stop young child in foreign countries from having to face the same fate. The issue of child soldiers needs to end. The style I aim to use with this piece of writing is formal and persuasive, and the text type will be a research essay/report. My writing is aimed at teenagers, to help them understand how different the lives of the unfortunate are compared to our own. I want them to gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding child soldiers, including the environments they grow up in, the increases in numbers of child soldiers, and how different their lives are to ours. They need to understand the links between New Zealand’s participation in the war, and how similar the experiences of the soldiers who fought there would be to the child soldiers of today. I intend to engage my audience through the use of language features and by relating to today’s society. Using these techniques will allow them to relate it to their own experiences and gain a more in-depth understanding of what I’m going to discuss.

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“Children belong on playgrounds, not battlegrounds. The use of child soldiers is one of the most egregious human right violations of our times”

The issue of child soldiers dates back for hundreds of years. It should be ancient history by now, it needs to end. Children should be playing “catch the villain”, not kill the villain. Even the most basic of human rights should be preventing this obvious breech of children’s safety, however the numbers are ever increasing, and the environments in which these children grow up in are far from ideal. Being denied access to food, water, or other basic human rights is a common occurrence for these children. In New Zealand, we have been privileged with a wonderful way of life that is almost the complete opposite of the lives given to child soldiers. These privileges ensure a far safer and happier childhood for kiwi children than these soldiers, simply because because of the environment they were lucky enough to grow up in. To put it into context, if a child was born in New Zealand, to a family who were not as well off as you, to a family who struggled to put dinner on the table each night, would you sit back and allow the child to be forced into slavery? Would you let any child of New Zealand be taken unwillingly from their homes, to be forced into murdering other children that sit in a similar position? No. You wouldn’t. Why not? Because that child could be your own, because that child could be your niece, or nephew, because that child could have grown into an influential and integral part of New Zealand’s future development. So if you wouldn’t let a child of New Zealand be taken, why would you let a child of any other nation? I think the answer is simple. These children? They don’t live here. You don’t know the child affected. In fact, you don’t know anyone affected by such a corrupted government system. You think, “why should I care, this has nothing to do with me”. Maybe not, but if that was your child getting abducted and forced into cold blooded murder, would you want people to help? If you knew that there were people who could save your child, would you want them to? However, for many people, the reason they don’t get involved, don’t try to help these children is because they don’t know how. But it is not a time to wait for everyone else to find a way of fixing this evident problem, it’s a time for you to. There are ways in which we can, and need to help. For example, promoting awareness of these issues, before child soldiers become an act of normality. New Zealander’s were participants in the world wars, and understand the horrific circumstances of which it can put a society into. War was something that helped shape our identity, but it is also one of the worst parts of our history. If we can take this knowledge and experience from our own participation of the war, we can use it to help stop young children in foreign countries from having to face the same fate. The main issues surrounding the issue of child soldiers are the growth in the numbers of children growing up in armed conflict, the increase in child soldiers, and the massive differences between the societies they live in, compared to those of teenagers living in safer environments, such as our own.

The increase of children growing up in armed conflict is becoming a mounting problem in which greatly affects the individual lives they lead. It results in a decrease of the levels of education these children are getting, and highlights issues around the safety of children in refugee camps. If children are growing up in armed conflict, chances are that the levels of education they’re receiving are low. When the children are taken, they are told that once they have killed someone, they can no longer go back and lead normal lives with their families. This consequence is horrific for young children to be facing. If you were taken away against your will, and told that the only way to survive was to kill or be killed, how would you react? If you were then told that if you were to kill anyone, you can never go home and live as you had previously, what would you do? If you were told that if you so much as tried to escape, you would be killed, what would you say? In New Zealand, we are privileged with good education, and therefore it is often hard to understand the daily struggles in which these kids go through to access education. “If countries continue to employ four times as many soldiers as teachers, education and social systems will remain fragile and inadequate, and Governments will continue to fail children and break the promises made to them through ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child”. This quote depicts the errors in which governments are making, and illustrates how the need for teachers is far greater than the need for soldiers. Education is a far more useful weapon than guns and explosives, and the education of children will see a more substantial change in the structures of the country than soldiers and war. For example, it the Ugandan government focused on developing and improving their country rather than forcing its economic growth, rebel groups wouldn’t be so common and fewer children would be deprived of education. A switch in the focus of a powerful government could save the lives of thousands of children. Another issue that is produced from children growing up in armed conflict is how they often feel excluded from mainstream society, and eventually turn to war. “The children most likely to become soldiers are from impoverished and marginalised backgrounds or separated from their families.” This quote explains how most child soldiers often come from backgrounds filled with violence and conflict. They stay in circumstances of which they grew up in, because to them that’s normal. To them, the horrors of war are what they grew up with, and therefore continue that into their adult lives. In New Zealand, the soldiers that went to war were doing it as a heroic act, and as a form of patriotism. They left homes of safety to find danger and adventure. For children in these war ravaged countries, they’re becoming soldiers because they need to leave their homes of danger, to find the safety in which the army will provide. The increase of children growing up in armed conflict is becoming a mounting problem to today’s society. This problem leads into how children in these circumstances don’t get the same access to substantial education, and how those who grow up in violent and war ravaged areas, often are the most likely to become child soldiers. To end the use of child soldiers, these problems need to be fixed.

Increases in child soldiers are another issue that needs to end. This increase is generally caused because the armies and structure of the conflict regimes are often attractive to homeless or less privileged children, because it proposes a means of survival. This also shows flaws in the structures of refugee camps, and how we need to improve the protection of children. “Sometimes, children become soldiers simply in order to survive. Children may join if they believe that this is the only way to guarantee regular meals, clothing or medical attention.” This quote explains how a common reason for children to become soldiers is because it provides a sense of security and survival for them. If a child is faced with the decision between joining an army where they get clothes, food, water, and shelter, or struggling to survive alone around their hometown as their families are already dead, it’s easy to understand why so many choose the former option. The prospects of becoming a child soldier are more attractive to underprivileged children as they often provide a more solid means of survival than simply trying to survive on their own. New Zealand has almost always provided a means of basic levels of safety for all of its inhabitants. To be living in this kind of violent environment is practically unheard of here, but it was once a reality for our ANZAC troops. We have laws in place to uphold the protection of children, and is another reason why we should be standing up for the rights of children in other countries living as child soldiers because it’s the only means of safety and protection they can access, as our rights have already been stood up for. Another issue that’s causing an increase of child soldiers is the little amount of protection provided to children in poorer areas, and refugee camps. “Armed conflict leads to a breakdown in the family support systems so essential to a child’s survival and development. Other forms of protection also slip away, particularly government and community support systems”. This quote explains how when children are growing up in areas of armed conflict, it isn’t uncommon for many of their social structures to fall down as well. This means that the need for child protection is an ever increasing problem for the younger generation, and is something that needs to be improved should any serious action be taken against attempts at decreasing the number of child soldiers that there are. The structures of New Zealand’s society are very strong, and would model well to those in more under developed countries. The only armed conflicts that we have participated in were to support other nations, and the only wars seen on our home ground haven’t been active since the Maori land wars. This shows that children in New Zealand haven’t had to grow up in circumstances like those of child soldiers, and therefore should be something we need to help develop in other countries. We can spread our ‘Kiwi Culture’ across other nations, and be a role model in which other societies can develop to. Increases in child soldiers are a mounting problem that needs to be resolved. When looking at it, there are two main factors which contribute to its increase greatly – how becoming a soldier provides survival for homeless and underprivileged children, and how great increases in the level of protection of children need to be taken. These problems need to be fixed before any real change in the declining of child soldiers will be seen

The differences seen between the societies that we live in compared to those of child soldiers are huge. Two factors that stem from this are how different our “normal” is, and how war should not be stealing children’s futures. “Somebody being shot in front of you, or you yourself shooting somebody became just like drinking a glass of water “. This quote was taken from a young child soldier who grew up with the horrors of war. It is describing how to them, murders and violence is just everyday life, it’s how their day goes and that’s how they live. However to us, the idea of this being any kind of normal is horrifying. Our normal is to go to good schools with good education, live healthy lives, with good families, but to them, that’s more than they could ever dream of. For there to be such different circumstances to live in is almost unbelievable. This leads onto the second point of how war should not be stealing children’s futures. “We don’t want to see another child giving up their dreams and visions about their life for being in harsh circumstances they don’t belong to. War is already a bad circumstance for adults, let alone for innocent children that are supposed to taste the excitement of education. War should not steal a child’s future and for whatever reasons, it will never be justifiable. Children are dropping out of childhood.” This quote depicts how children should not have lives of horror and war, they should be having educated lives with dreams they can achieve. War shouldn’t be taking this opportunity away from them, and they shouldn’t be removed from their childhood’s. It’s just not right. New Zealand kids get access to almost every opportunity under the sun. We can create any future we like, and we know that we can achieve that from the day we develop these ideas on our future. The differences seen between our society and the societies of child soldiers are far too much. The contrast seen between our “normal” and their “normal” isn’t acceptable, and neither is war stealing a child’s future. These issues need to be resolved before we can start helping and preventing child soldiers effectively.

Child soldiers are not something that should be accepted into today’s society, and need to be something New Zealand helps to abolish. The leading factors to it are how children are already growing up in violent areas of armed conflict, which thereby decreases the levels of education they’re getting, and how children become child soldiers because they’re living in the same circumstances in which they grew up – it give a sense of familiarity. Increasing numbers of child soldiers is also a factor, as well as how it provides a means of survival to homeless and underprivileged children, and how these child soldiers need far better means of protection if we want any hope of decreasing the numbers in which they’re growing. Finally, the differences between our societies are far too big, and the contrasts between our “normal” is far too much. This also went onto the point surrounding how children should not have their chances at good futures taken away by the violence and atrocities of war. War was something New Zealand went through, and how it isn’t an environment children should grow up in. War was something that helped shape our identity, but it is also one of the worst parts of our history. If we can take this knowledge and experience from our own participation of the war, we can use it to help stop young child in foreign countries having to face the same fate. There are far too many problems with the way our society is attempting at rectifying the problems surrounding child soldiers. More needs to be done to take them away from such horrifying situations, and we need to start decreasing the gap between how different our lives are. Children should be playing “catch the villain” not kill the villain. The use of child soldiers needs to stop.

By Dharma Bratley

Statement of intent: The purpose of my writing is to develop an overall understanding of the events leading up to World War I, and how New Zealand’s participation in war affected our society. I would like to show how war was something New Zealand, and the world, went through, and some of the key reasons why it occurred. War was something that helped shape our identity, but it is also one of the worst parts of our history. If we can educate more people about the reasons behind war, we can both help prevent it from occurring again, and hopefully inform more people how even the smallest of activities can produce the largest of consequences. The style I aim to use with this piece of writing is formal and expository, and the text type will be an article. My writing is aimed at teenagers, to help them understand why war occurred, and how our actions often have much bigger consequences. I want them to gain a better understanding of the this. They need to understand the links between the build up to war, and how similar this can be to our simple, everyday lives. I intend to engage my audience through the use of language features and by relating to the simplicity of everyday life. The use of these techniques will allow them to relate it to their own experiences and gain a more in-depth understanding of what I’m going to discuss.

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A single bullet sparked World War One.

Just one single gunshot lead to the mobilisation of 65,038,810 forces.

One death led to 8,528,831 others.

21,189,154 injuries.

That’s 37,466,904 casualties that were counted. 274,111 Anzacs.

It doesn’t include the 7,750,919 men that didn’t return home because they were prisoners, or simply were never seen again.

That’s 45,217,823 men that didn’t go home without injury.

19,820,987 men were the lucky few who only lost their minds and hearts on those battle fields.

Just one bullet.

But of course, history has never made a simple mistake. It’s made many. These soldiers were the creators of history. Their letters, poems, and seemingly insignificant memories are what we remember them by. Sad, lost boys who left home looking for a sense of adventure, and gained far more than they needed. Understanding the reasons behind such catastrophic casualty rates is like trying to understand why a butterfly can fly; there isn’t a reason so much as it could. It could fly so it did. The war could happen, so it did. But looking into the process of a flying butterfly, of the creation of war, is where it gets interesting.

We all know a butterfly’s cycle. The first step is the egg. Now, a butterfly egg is quite small and seems rather insignificant compared to the other stages of the cycle, but it is the beginning, and therefore one of the most important. German aggression was the egg of the war. Kaiser Wilhelm II was the king of Germany, and had a twisted view of the world. He believed Germany should be a world power, and thereby introduced Weltpolitik to achieve this. The policies of Weltpolitik varied, but together they produced an arms race. This was where Germany wanted to try and get more land to seem more powerful, and the only way to do that was to take it from other people. So Germany tried to take more land, and everyone else tried to protect theirs and get more themselves, thus causing an arms race where everyone tried to get bigger guns to both protect their country and use it to get rid of anyone who tried to stop them taking other land. This led to the development of the Schlieffen plan, where Germany attempted to invade France and take Alsace Lorraine, a strip of land between the two counties. In theory this was a good plan. As Germany is a landlocked country, shutting down one border would mean they would only have to fight on one side rather than two if war were to break out. However, the execution of this plan went a bit pear shaped, and resulted in France getting angry at Germany, who didn’t get the land, and had to fight even harder on two fronts. So the egg of the war was planted, and the European countries were both angry, and wanted to show off their guns to prove how much of a world power they were – a deadly combination.

The second part of the cycle is the caterpillar. A bug with lots of legs that can move and eat and meet other caterpillars like itself. The caterpillar is a strange creature, much like a human. Of course, we’re not 5 centimetres long, green and yellow striped, with too many legs, but we share the quality of strangeness and a predictable unpredictable-ness. Almost everyone ever born has a certain patriotic streak for their country. If not the country you were born in, then certainly one you grew up in or spent a while exploring. Patriotism is good. Patriotism is the reason so many soldiers stalked the dead men before them into such a blood and bodied wasteland. But nationalism is not. Nationalism is the extremity of patriotism, where people put down other countries to make their own sound better. The anger and resentment was widespread across Europe, and it wasn’t long before nationalism seeped into education and literature. The effects of these were not positive. Children were being brought up in a society that openly degraded and blamed other nations for their own failures. French children were told Germany had tried to steal their two children: Alsace and Lorraine, while Germans were taught that they were surrounded by enemies who could not be trusted. These ideas meant that whole generations were bred to despise each other, and never looked upon each other kindly. This would only fuel the war further. Literature romanticised war, and encouraged the ideology that war was a good thing, and would quickly and effectively solve disputes between nations. They explained that war was a necessity for history, and further for the developments of mankind. It started the ideas of nationalism which were further promoted by newspapers. Newspapers often stretched the truth for publicity, and brought an intensity to the idealisation of of war. Nationalism was the moving, growing, evolving caterpillar for the war.

The third stage of the cycle is the cocoon, where the caterpillar winds itself up into a little comfortable pouch, and develops into a glorious butterfly. However, as an analogy for war, this stage is closely linked to the relationships, alliances, and diplomacy that developed in the years leading to the war, as this is where it’s developments and creation finally start to develop. The first was the French/German rivalry that developed after the dire attempt of invasion by German forces, the Schlieffen plan. The relationship between these two nations was not at its best. The second was the triple entente, an alliance between France, Russia, and England, something that shocked Germany because France was known for being indecisive about what side they were on, a quality which the English had a strong distaste for. However, although Germany was mad, they still decided to create the dual alliance with Austria-Hungary, because neither country stood any chance against the triple entente. This further led to the third development, the Treaty of London. This treaty was between England and Belgium, whereby Britain swore to protect Belgium as it was a neutral country.

This of course led to the butterfly. On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand (the son of the emperor of Austria-Hungary) was shot dead in Sarajevo by six Serbian assassins. The reason for his death was an attempt to break off Austria-Hungary’s South Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia. Austria-Hungary was look down upon Serbia for this, and after much debate over the punishment of the assassins, Serbia decided to begin an invasion by mobilising its army. They sent a few members of their military across the river between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, while the Austro-Hungarian soldiers fired warning shots. Austria-Hungary then declared war and mobilised its army, and due to the Dual Alliance, Germany was obliged to support Austria-Hungary in these endeavours. However, under the Secret Treaty of 1892, Russia and France were forced to mobilise their armies if any member of the Triple Entente mobilised. As Russia was such a strong world power, their mobilisation was reacted to by Austria-Hungary and Germany by full mobilisations. It wasn’t long before all of the great world powers had picked sides and gone to war. Except Italy.

So I suppose all that is left is the flight of that poor innocent butterfly. As it opens its heavy, brightly coloured wings for the first time, it’s potential is still unknown. But for World War One? It was the greatest war, the bloodiest battle, one of the worst periods of history that the world had ever seen.

By Dharma Bratley

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Personal response #4 (Documentary)

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz:  Recommended

Director: Brian Knappenberger

Category: Film (Documentary)

When I watched this documentary, I truly believed it would be another film on some unknown guy that made something that changed the world. However, I did not expect to be so outraged at the American justice system, and to feel motivated to stand up for the rights of people from all over the world. The Internets Own Boy is a documentary on a man called Aaron Swartz. He was a child prodigy, and a gifted computer programmer. “If you had a magical power, would you use it for doing good in the world, or for making piles of money?” Aaron believed that programming was a super power. By the age of 19, he was already a millionaire, having built hundreds of websites and further developed business through. However, as he grew older he wanted to make a bigger difference. He started working on projects for the good of the people, he started to fight the government when they wanted to pass bills that could harm internet users, he stood up for everything he believed in, and then fought the justice system with it tirelessly. He made me realise that the world was far from perfect, and that that’s okay. Anyone, anywhere, can help change the world, you just have to start by fighting for what you believe in, and if your rights have already been stood up for, then go stand up for someone else’s. Young adults and other people in year twelve need to watch this documentary, because it enlightens the viewer on how badly corrupted the world is, and how it’s vital that we start to change that. This lesson is invaluable to learn because it’s shaping the future we’re about to grow up in, the future our children will grow up in.

Throughout the film, Aaron signified our ideas on changing the modern day culture we are forced to live with, and symbolised the links between the individual struggles he faced in the documentary, and modern day society. The lesson he taught in the documentary showed us how ordinary people from ordinary places really do have an undeniable power that will allow us to adapt the political opinions of billions of people. He tirelessly fought the government when the freedom of speech and innovation online was threatened. “On the internet, everyone gets a license to speak, it’s a question of who gets heard”. This quote represents his idea on how the digital freedom of our society is important, because the internet has proposed a way in which people from all walks of life have the opportunity to advertise their opinions, and the choice of who gets heard between these millions of people, should be up to us. Not the government. This is why when the government was passing a bill that threatened this freedom, Aaron was right up there trying to stop it getting passed. This is an important lesson, where it teaches young people to stand up for their rights and what they believe in, even if it goes against what the governments and people in positions power want. For young adults in year twelve, this lesson is something we need to keep in mind as we grow up, because it’s up to us to create the future we want to live in. “You know it’s easy sometimes to think like you’re powerless, like when you come out on the streets and you march and you yell, and nobody hears you. But I’m here to tell you that you are powerful. You can stop this bill”. This was a quote taken from Aaron during the protests to stop SOPA, and the bill that threatened digital freedom. He saw a problem with the government, and set out to fix it using the power of people. He told them that it’s easy to feel powerless and like you can’t make a difference in the world, but if you keep persisting and protesting, and doing everything in your power to change something, sometimes you really can. And they did. I greatly enjoyed this part of the documentary because it surprised me on how much they achieved. It taught me how powerful a group of people can be. I also think that this part of the film would be valuable for year twelves to see, because it shows how effective protesting is, and how important it is to develop our society.

Aaron had an ideology, where he believed he could change the world by simply informing people about it. He thought that by explaining the problems our world faces to everyone, that we could all realise how we can fix it. “Aaron wasn’t trying to make the world work. He was trying to fix it.” This quote represents Aaron’s ideas on this, where we can understand how he believes that the world doesn’t need to just “work”, it’s already pretty good, we just need to fix it a little bit. By doing this, we can make a safer and more positive environment for everyone. At the age of 19, Aaron was already a millionaire and chose to leave the money behind to persue more fulfilling activities. He wanted to use his computer programming skills for the good of the people, by pushing for political change, and putting himself on the line to gain public access to documents that should be public anyway. This is important for young people to learn these days, because people like Aaron are the ones who do change the world. They can see an opportunity where they have a chance to make a positive difference to so many people’s lives, and they leave the money behind to pursue that. “Aaron believed that you ought to be asking yourself all of the time “What is the most important thing I could be working on in the world right now?” and if you’re not out working on that, why aren’t you?”. From the whole documentary, I think that this quote has the most relation to today’s society. There are so many problems that wouldn’t even exist if people just took their daily lives, and worked on the things that were wrong, the most important taking priority. Young adults and year twelve could learn so much from this, because not only does this quote aim to push change, but it would also create more positive lives for people. Aaron’s ideas were well portrayed in the documentary, and I felt that the lessons I have highlighted would be very important for year twelves to learn, and therefore I would highly recommend this to other people my age.

One of the constant ideas through the text was Aaron’s interference with the law. The American government wanted to stop everything Aaron was doing, because they knew it wouldn’t benefit them. The laws against certain computer uses are too out of date. Almost all of them are based on a fictional film called “War Games” where the main character accidentally started a nuclear war from his computer. 11 of the 13 charges against Aaron hadn’t been updated since 1986. The amount that our lives have changed since then is extraordinary, why would they enforce laws that are almost redundant to modern day society? Nearly everyone has broken at least one of them, simply by using social media, Google, or copying facts for a research assignment. Aaron’s constant struggles with the law were supposedly due to the government wanting to make an example of him. They made a huge deal over his prosecution, because they didn’t want other Americans to access information like Aaron, and threaten the government. Knowledge really is power in this case, and the American government knew this. This part of the film shows how desperately we need change in order for our society to move forward. These laws are so outdated that almost everyone beaks them, so rather than trying to catch everyday citizens that mean no harm by their actions, why not create laws that will stop dangerous computer hackers, that pose more of a threat to American citizens than the citizens themselves? We are letting modern day be decided by the old world “He was the internet’s own boy, and the old world killed him”. Today, too many people believe that things should be as they were, because that’s how it’s always been. That we don’t need to change the world, because this is how it’s always been, and that’s worked pretty well for us, but that’s not true. “Growing up, I slowly had this process of realising that all the things around me that people had told me was just the natural way things were, the way things always would be. They weren’t natural at all, they were things that could be changed, and they were things that more importantly were wrong, and things that should change. As soon as I started to realise that, there was really kind of no going back”. This quote shows Aaron’s perspective on this, and how he believed that the old laws, and the old justice system cannot dictate modern day life, because it just won’t work. It present a distorted version of today’s society, and the more we enforce these, the worse it’s going to get. This is very important for young people my age to learn, because they’re the people who are going to go out there and bring the change. That is why I would highly recommend this documentary to year twelve.

This film is very important, because it showed me the perspectives of victims who hadn’t done anything drastically wrong. People who were actually doing more good than bad by breaking the law, something I hadn’t previously considered. That, for me, really showed how corrupted the American justice system is, if they’re willing to prosecute and bring people to suicide who could be the reason we find the cure to cancer. Aaron took hundreds of thousands of research papers that were legally public property, and gave them to the people who needed them. MIT and other educational institutes were previously charging for the downloading of each document, causing many professors and researchers to just not bother because it wasn’t worth the hassle. However, at the end of the documentary it was noted how one of the papers Aaron gave out, helped a young scientist to find a way to detect pancreatic cancer early, a cancer that previously was only detected when it was too late. The American justice system killed Aaron, even though he could be the reason that their children get to live longer, happier lives. If that doesn’t prove there’s a problem, I don’t know what does. This film is important because it showed me the perspectives of people like Aaron, a set of opinions I hadn’t previously considered. I think that it’s important for people to understand the things that Aaron fought for, because even if you don’t go and try to bring down laws and government actions, it’s equally important to question everything. “I feel very strongly that it’s not enough to just live in the world as it is, to just take what you’re given, and follow the things that adults told you to do, or parents told you to do, or society told you to do, I think you should always be questioning.”. Aaron couldn’t have done everything he did by going and doing things as people had told him before. If no one broke out of what’s normal, then nothing would change, and nothing would progress. Questioning things is how we learn about the world and how we can change it. If we didn’t question things, we would still be living like cavemen. If we didn’t question things, we would still have slavery, and no electricity. Questioning things is vital to human development. I highly recommend this documentary because it teaches you to question things and to do the things that people often try and prevent you from doing in a way that helps you understand it’s necessity and urgency.

This documentary greatly adapted the way I viewed the world. Everything that happened to Aaron was completely unjust. He was brought to his death by providing the truth for the good of the people. We have given people who we think to be important such power over defendants, to which they use in a way we didn’t want them too – they try and force people to plea, break them. “Governments have an insatiable desire to control,” as said in the documentary, and we are sitting back and giving them even more control over us, giving them more power, even though what they’re doing is wrong. 97% of people in the American justice system plea, claiming they’ve done something wrong even if they haven’t, and going to jail for it simply because they feel they have no other option. Another recent study has shown that around 10,000 innocent people in America are wrongly convicted each year. The number of people in jail is overwhelming. We are in a position now where the justice system needs to be fixed, and we should be angry about that. By giving these people this power, we are saying to them “we think that what you’re doing is okay, and we want you to keep prosecuting and destroying people for even the smallest, most insignificant crimes”. But the truth is, it’s not okay. We are not okay with the justice system, we are not okay with the problems in the world, and we are going to do something about that. This film wants to highlight these errors in the justice system and help people to understand why we need to change it, and how we can. This documentary has outlined modern day issues that need to be resolved, and helped me to understand that it’s vitally important to fix them. It’s relation to today’s society was overwhelming, and deeply engrained throughout, by explaining everything in an easy to understand way. But overall, the main reason why I would recommend this documentary to other year twelves, is because of this: Everything that happened to Aaron shouldn’t have. It would be criminal for us to sit back and let government’s control and manipulate innocent people. “Aaron was willing to put himself at risk for the causes that he believed in”. Now it’s our turn.

By Dharma Bratley

Portfolio writing #2 (formal)

A single bullet sparked World War One.

Just one single gunshot lead to the mobilisation of 65,038,810 forces.

One death led to 8,528,831 others.

21,189,154 injuries.

That’s 37,466,904 casualties that were counted. 274,111 Anzacs.

It doesn’t include the 7,750,919 men that didn’t return home because they were prisoners, or simply were never seen again.

That’s 45,217,823 men that didn’t go home without injury.

19,820,987 men were the lucky few who only lost their minds and hearts on those battle fields.

Just one bullet.

But of course, history has never made a simple mistake. It made many. These soldiers were the creators of history. Their letters, poems, seemingly insignificant memories are what we remember them by. Sad, lost, boys who left home looking for a sense of adventure, and gained far more than they needed. Understanding the reasons behind such catastrophic casualty rates is like trying to understand why a butterfly can fly: there isn’t a reason so much as it could. It could fly so it did. The war could happen, so it did. But looking into the process of a flying butterfly, of the creation of war, is where it gets interesting.

We all know a butterflies cycle. The first step is the egg. Now a butterfly egg is quite small and seems rather insignificant compared to the other stages of the cycle, but it is the beginning, and therefore one of the most important. German aggression was the egg of the war. Kaiser Wilhelm the second was the king of Germany, and had a twisted view of the world. He believed Germany should be a world power, and thereby introduced Weltpolitik to achieve this. The policies of Weltpolitik varied, but together they produced an arms race. This was where Germany wanted to try and get more land to seem more powerful, and the only way to do that was to take it from other people. So Germany tried to take more land, and everyone else tried to protect theirs and get more themselves, thus causing an arms race where everyone tried to get bigger guns to both protect their country and use it to get rid of anyone who tried to stop them taking other land. This led to the development of the Schlieffen plan, where Germany attempted to invade France and take Alsace Lorraine, a strip of land between the two counties. In theory this was a good plan. As Germany is a landlocked country, shutting down one border would mean they would only have to fight on one side rather than two if war were to break out. However, the execution of this plan went a bit pear shaped, and resulted in France getting angry at Germany, who didn’t get the land, and had to fight even harder on two fronts. So the egg of the war was been planted, and the European countries were both angry, and wanted to show off their guns to prove how much of a world power they were – a deadly combination.

The second part of the cycle is the caterpillar. A bug with lots of legs that can move and eat and meet other caterpillars like itself. The caterpillar is a strange creature, much like a human. Of course, we’re not 5 centimetres long, green and yellow striped, with too many legs, but we share the quality of strangeness and predictable unpredictable-ness. Almost everyone ever born has a certain patriotic streak for their country. If not the country you were born in, then certainly one you grew up in or spent a while exploring. Patriotism is good. Patriotism is the reason so many soldiers stalked the dead men before them into such a blood and bodied wasteland. But nationalism is not. Nationalism is the extremity of patriotism, where people put down other countries to make their own sound better. The anger and resentment was widespread across Europe, and it wasn’t long before nationalism seeped into education and literature. The effects of these were not positive. Children were being brought up in a society that openly degraded and blamed other nations for their own failures. French children were told Germany had tried to steal their two children: Alsace and Lorraine, while Germans were taught that they were surrounded by enemies who could not be trusted. These ideas meant the generations were bred to despise each other, and never looked upon each other kindly. This would only fuel the war further. Literature romanticised war, and encouraged the ideology that war was a good thing, and would quickly and effectively solve disputes between nations. They explained that war was a necessity for history, and further for the developments of mankind. It started the ideas of nationalism which were further promoted by newspapers. Newspapers often stretched the truth for publicity, and brought an intensity to the idealisation of of war. Nationalism was the moving, growing, evolving caterpillar for the war.

The third stage of the cycle is the cocoon, where the caterpillar winds itself up into a little comfortable pouch, and develops into a glorious butterfly. However, as an analogy for war, this stage is closely linked to the relationships, alliances, and diplomacy that developed in the years leading to the war, as this is where it’s developments and creation finally start to develop. The first was the French/German rivalry that developed after the dire attempt of invasion by German forces: the Schlieffen plan. The relationship between these two nations was not at its best. The second was the triple entente, an alliance between France, Russia, and England, something that shocked Germany because France was known for being indecisive about what side they were on: a quality the English had a strong distaste for. However, although Germany was mad, they still decided to create the dual alliance with Austria-Hungary, because neither country stood any chance against the triple entente. This further led to the third development, the treaty of London. This treaty was between England and Belgium, whereby Britain swore to protect Belgium as it was a neutral country.

This of course led to the butterfly. On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand (the son of the emperor of Austria-Hungary) was shot dead in Sarajevo by six Serbian assassins. The reason for his death was an attempt to break off Austria-Hungary’s South Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia. Austria-Hungary was mad at Serbia for this, and after much debate over the punishment of the assassins, Serbia decided to begin an invasion by mobilising its army. They sent a few members of their military across the river between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, while the Austro-Hungarian soldiers fired warning shots. Austria-Hungary then declared war and mobilised its army, and due to the Dual Alliance, Germany was obliged to support Austria-Hungary in these endeavours. However, under the Secret Treaty of 1892, Russia and France were forced to mobilise their armies if any member of the Triple Entente mobilised. As Russia was such a strong world power, their mobilisation was reacted to by Austria-Hungary and Germany by full mobilisations. It wasn’t long before all of the great world powers had picked sides and gone to war. Except Italy.

So I suppose all that is left is the flight of that poor innocent butterfly. As it opens its heavy, brightly coloured wings for the first time, it’s potential is still unknown. But for World War One? It was the greatest war, the bloodiest battle, one of the worst periods of history that the world had ever seen.

By Dharma Bratley

Portfolio writing #1 (formal)

Statement of intent: The purpose of my writing is to develop an overall understanding of the issues surrounding child soldiers, and how New Zealand’s differing society can help guide these corrupted nations towards a more balanced and non-violent existence. I would like to show how war was something New Zealand went through, and how it isn’t an environment children should grow up in. War was something that helped shape our identity, but it is also one of the worst parts of our history. If we can take this knowledge and experience from our own participation of the war, we can use it towards helping to stop young child in foreign countries from having to face the same fate. The issue of child soldiers needs to end. The style I aim to use with this piece of writing is formal and persuasive, and the text type will be a research essay/report. My writing is aimed at teenagers, to help them understand how different the lives of the unfortunate are compared to our own. I want them to gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding child soldiers, including the environments they grow up in, the increases in numbers of child soldiers, and how different their lives are to ours. They need to understand the links between New Zealand’s participation in the war, and how similar the experiences of the soldiers who fought there would be to the child soldiers of today. I intend to engage my audience through the use of language features and by relating to today’s society. Using these techniques will allow them to relate it to their own experiences and gain a more in-depth understanding of what I’m going to discuss.

~~

“Children belong on playgrounds, not battlegrounds. The use of child soldiers is one of the most egregious human right violations of our times”

As we grow up, it is common for children to wonder what life would be like for other people. They’re curious people who are fascinated by the simplest of things, and amused by anything. As a child, I, personally, was intrigued by the lives of children less fortunate than myself. In my unimpeachable curiosity, I came across the story of a young boy named Charles. Charles is a 15 year old boy who was born in Uganda. He was from a poor family, that lived in a poor part of town, and had always lived with a poor quality of life. As a result of this unfortunate circumstance, Charles was taken, and forced into child slavery. The reason why he was taken, was because the recruiters of active guerrilla rebel groups knew that if a poor child from the poorer areas of Uganda were to be taken, it was unlikely that the child would be searched for. They therefore decided that the value of the lives of poor children from Uganda were worth less than those from wealthier backgrounds. However, does the wealth of a person define their worth? Or is every person equal? Equality is a common idea in today’s society, if someone believes in a different religion to you, you should still treat them equally. There are people fighting for gay rights to bring equality, and the black-equality movements are ever progressing. If all people truly are equal, then why should our lives be more valuable and precious than a poor African boy’s?

The issue of child soldiers dates back for hundreds of years. It should be ancient history by now, it needs to end. Children should be playing “catch the villain”, not kill the villain. Even the most basic of human rights should be preventing this obvious breech of children’s safety. However, the numbers of soldiers are ever increasing, and the environments in which these children grow up in are far from ideal. Charles explained that the conditions he was forced into surviving in were far from ideal. Being denied access to food, water, or other basic human rights was a common occurrence for him and the other children. In New Zealand, we have been privileged with a wonderful way of life that is almost the complete opposite of the lives given to child soldiers. These privileges ensure a far safer and happier childhood for kiwi children than these soldiers, simply because because of the environment they were lucky enough to grow up in. To put it into context, if a child was born in New Zealand, to a family who were not as well off as you, to a family who struggled to put dinner on the table each night, would you sit back and allow the child to be forced into slavery? To allow the child to be forced in to a rebel group designed to destroy what little governmental structure there was, a topic that they would have very little knowledge on? Would you let any child of New Zealand be taken unwillingly from their homes, to be forced into murdering other children from a similar position? No. You wouldn’t. Why not? Because that child could be your own, because that child could be your niece, or nephew, because that child could have grown into an influential and integral part of New Zealand’s future development, because our country isn’t in a situation where that kind of action would ever need to be taken. So if you wouldn’t let a child of New Zealand be forced to murder, why would you let a child of any other nation? Is it because they don’t live here? You don’t know the child affected? In fact, it’s unlikely that you would know anyone affected by such a corrupted government system. You think, “why should I care, this has nothing to do with me”. Maybe not, but if that was your child getting abducted and forced into cold blooded murder, would you want people to help? If you knew that there were people who could save your child, would you want them to? However, for many people, the reason they don’t get involved, don’t try to help these children is because they don’t know how. But it is not a time to wait for everyone else to find a way of fixing this evident problem, it’s a time for you to. There are ways in which we can, and need to help. For example, promoting awareness of these issues, before child soldiers become an act of normality. New Zealander’s were participants in the world wars, and understand the horrific circumstances of which it can put a society into. War was something that helped shape our identity, but it is also one of the worst parts of our history. If we can take this knowledge and experience from our own participation of the war, we can use it to help stop young children in foreign countries from having to face the same fate. The main issues surrounding the issue of child soldiers are the growth in the numbers of children growing up in armed conflict, the increase in child soldiers, and the massive differences between the societies they live in, compared to those of teenagers living in safer environments, such as our own. Just by telling others about what’s happening in countries like Uganda, you can save the lives of children like Charles.

The increase of children growing up in armed conflict is becoming a mounting problem in which greatly affects the individual lives they lead. It results in a decrease of the levels of education these children are getting, and highlights issues around the safety of children in refugee camps. If children are growing up in armed conflict, chances are that the levels of education they’re receiving are low. Before Charles became a soldier, he explained that the education he’d had was minimal, but was a far more positive and productive use of his time. When the children are taken, they are told that once they have killed someone, they can no longer go back and lead normal lives with their families. This consequence is horrific for young children to be facing. If you were taken away and told that the only way to survive was to kill or be killed, how would you react? If you were then told that if you were to kill anyone, you can never go home and live as you had previously, what would you do? If you were told that if you so much as tried to escape, you would be killed, what would you say? In New Zealand, we are privileged with good education, and therefore it is often hard to understand the daily struggles in which these kids go through to access education. “If countries continue to employ four times as many soldiers as teachers, education and social systems will remain fragile and inadequate, and Governments will continue to fail children and break the promises made to them through ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child”. This quote depicts the errors in which many failing governments are making, and illustrates how the need for teachers is far greater than the need for soldiers. Education is a far more useful weapon than guns and explosives, and the education of children will see a more substantial change in the structures of the country than soldiers and war. Although it is less common for governments to force children into slave soldiers, the size of the armies and defence forces corrupted governments are crafting calls for the immediate attention of rebel guerrilla groups who will force and abduct children to join their side. Another issue that is produced from children growing up in armed conflict is how they often feel excluded from mainstream society, and eventually turn to war. “The children most likely to become soldiers are from impoverished and marginalized backgrounds or separated from their families.” This quote explains how most child soldiers often come from backgrounds filled with violence and conflict. They stay in circumstances of which they grew up in, because to them that’s normal. To them, the horrors of war are what they grew up with, and therefore continue that into their adult lives. In New Zealand, the soldiers that went to war were doing it as a heroic act, and as a form of patriotism. They left homes of safety to find danger and adventure. For children in these war ravaged countries, they’re becoming soldiers because they need to leave their homes of danger, to find the safety in which the army will provide. The increase of children growing up in armed conflict is becoming a mounting problem to today’s society. This problem leads into how children in these circumstances don’t get the same access to substantial education, and how those who grow up in violent and war ravaged areas, often are the most likely to become child soldiers. To end the use of child soldiers, these problems need to be fixed.

Increases in child soldiers are another issue that needs to end. This increase is generally caused because the armies and structure of the conflict regimes are often attractive to homeless or less privileged children, because it proposes a means of survival. This also shows flaws in the structures of refugee camps, and how we need to improve the protection of children. “Sometimes, children become soldiers simply in order to survive. Children may join if they believe that this is the only way to guarantee regular meals, clothing or medical attention.” This quote explains how a common reason for children to become soldiers is because it provides a sense of security and survival for them. If a child is faced with the decision between joining an army where they get clothes, food, water, and shelter, or struggling to survive alone around their hometown as their families are already dead, it’s easy to understand why so many choose the former option. The prospects of becoming a child soldier are more attractive to underprivileged children as they often provide a more solid means of survival than simply trying to survive on their own. New Zealand has almost always provided a means of basic levels of safety for all of its inhabitants. To be living in this kind of violent environment is practically unheard of here, but it was once a reality for our ANZAC troops. We have laws in place to uphold the protection of children, and is another reason why we should be standing up for the rights of children in other countries, who are forced to live as child soldiers because it’s the only means of safety and protection they can access. We must stand for them as our rights have already been stood up for. Another issue that’s causing an increase of child soldiers is the little amount of protection provided to children in poorer areas, and refugee camps. “Armed conflict leads to a breakdown in the family support systems so essential to a child’s survival and development. Other forms of protection also slip away, particularly government and community support systems”. This quote explains how when children are growing up in areas of armed conflict, it isn’t uncommon for many of their social structures to fall down as well. This means that the need for child protection is an ever increasing problem for the younger generation, and is something that needs to be improved should any serious action be taken against attempts at decreasing the number of child soldiers that there are. The structures of New Zealand’s society are very strong, and would model well to those in more under developed countries. The only armed conflicts that we have participated in were to support other nations, and the only wars seen on our home ground haven’t been active since the Maori land wars. This shows that children in New Zealand haven’t had to grow up in circumstances like those of child soldiers, and therefore should be something we need to help develop in other countries. We can spread our ‘Kiwi Culture’ across other nations, and be a role model in which other societies can develop to. Increases in child soldiers are a mounting problem that needs to be resolved. When looking at it, two main factors contribute to its increase greatly – how becoming a soldier provides survival for homeless and underprivileged children, and how great increases in the level of protection of children need to be taken. These problems need to be fixed before any real change in the declining of child soldiers will be seen

The differences seen between the societies that we live in compared to those of child soldiers are huge. Two factors that stem from this are how different our “normal” is, and how war should not be stealing children’s futures. “Somebody being shot in front of you, or you yourself shooting somebody became just like drinking a glass of water “. This quote was taken from a young child soldier who grew up with the horrors of war. It is describing how to them, murder and violence is just everyday life, it’s how their day goes and that’s how they live. However to us, the idea of this being any kind of normal is horrifying. Our normal is to go to good schools with good education, live healthy lives, with good families, but to them, that’s more than they could ever dream of. For there to be such different circumstances to live in is almost unbelievable. This leads onto the second point of how war should not be stealing children’s futures. “We don’t want to see another child giving up their dreams and visions about their life for being in harsh circumstances they don’t belong to. War is already a bad circumstance for adults, let alone for innocent children that are supposed to taste the excitement of education. War should not steal a child’s future and for whatever reasons, it will never be justifiable.” This quote depicts how children should not have lives of horror and war, they should be having educated lives with dreams they can achieve. War shouldn’t be taking this opportunity away from them, it’s not right. New Zealand kids get access to almost every opportunity under the sun. We can create any future we like, and we know that we can achieve that from the day we develop these ideas on our future. The differences seen between our society and the societies of child soldiers are far too much. The contrast seen between our “normal” and their “normal” isn’t acceptable, and neither is war stealing a child’s future. These issues need to be resolved before we can start helping and preventing child soldiers effectively.

Child soldiers are not something that should be accepted into today’s society, and need to be something New Zealand helps to abolish. The leading factors to it are how children are already growing up in violent areas of armed conflict, which thereby decreases the levels of education they’re getting, and how children become child soldiers because they’re living in the same circumstances in which they grew up – it give a sense of familiarity. Increasing numbers of child soldiers is also a factor, as well as how it provides a means of survival to homeless and underprivileged children, and how these child soldiers need far better means of protection if we want any hope of decreasing the numbers in which they’re growing. Finally, the differences between our societies are far too big, and the contrasts between our “normal” is far too much. This also went onto the point surrounding how children should not have their chances at good futures taken away by the violence and atrocities of war. War was something New Zealand went through, and how it isn’t an environment children should grow up in. War was something that helped shape our identity, but it is also one of the worst parts of our history. If we can take this knowledge and experience from our own participation of the war, we can use it to help stop young child in foreign countries having to face the same fate. There are far too many problems with the way our society is attempting at rectifying the problems surrounding child soldiers. More needs to be done to take them away from such horrifying situations, and we need to start decreasing the gap between how different our lives are. Children should be playing “catch the villain” not kill the villain. The use of child soldiers needs to stop.

By Dharma Bratley

Personal response #3 (Film)

The Imitation Game: Highly recommended

Director: Morten Tyldum
Category: Film

“Are you paying attention? Good. If you are not listening carefully, you will miss things. Important things. I will not pause, I will not repeat myself, and you will not interrupt me. You think that because you’re sitting where you are, and I am sitting where I am, that you are in control of what is about to happen. You’re mistaken. I am in control, because I know things that you do not know. What I will need from you now is a commitment. You will listen closely, and you will not judge me until I am finished. If you cannot commit to this, then please leave the room. But if you choose to stay, remember you chose to be here. What happens from this moment forward is not my responsibility. It’s yours. Pay attention.”

Movies affect people in many different ways. They can make you laugh or cry, they can make you understand things, or, they can make you see the world differently. It is not often you find a film that portrays its message from the perspectives of those that didn’t want to be recognized. We see war heroes as they were: valiant soldiers that gave too much up for our futures. We sit and watch as their horrific realities are played to us in HD, as the sounds of shrapnel and explosions fill the otherwise silent cinema rooms, as the characters on screen try to survive such horrific circumstances. Such contrast in realities often make it hard for the audience to understand and relate to the characters, which means much of the younger audience don’t understand how important the war was, and how sacrifical the soldiers really were. The Imitation Game is a movie in which the characters are ordinary people, with ordinary lives, from ordinary parts of the world. However, they created history. They were the war heroes no one knew, because the fired maths equations rather than bullets. The Imitation Game has characters that we can relate to even though it was based on times far before our ours, and this is possibly why it’s a good recommendation for year 12 students. They can have an understandable and relatable insight into what life was like for those that didn’t go to war, but still changed the world.

A main idea in this film is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, you can make a difference. This is a very important lesson for young adults to learn as they are growing up, because it can greatly affect the choices they make later on in life. The way this film portrays its message is through its characters. Alan Turing, the main character, is a middle aged, homosexual mathematician who was rejected by society. He was misunderstood and had few friends. Throughout the film we see his character develop and grow, and we learn that “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine”. This quote was said by his fiancee Joan, and explains how no one expected anything of Alan. No expected him to do anything great, to make a difference, to do anything extraordinary. However, sometimes it’s the people everyone else just skips over that make the difference. I personally believe that this idea is very important because it’s so relatable to today’s society. Young adults today worry about not fitting in, worry about not being just like everybody else, and worry about never amounting up to anything more than a supermarket shelf stocker. This part of the film teaches us that you don’t need to be like everyone else to do great things. You can be yourself and still change the world. During the time that this movie was based on, homosexuality was an illegal crime, and could be punishable with prison or hormone treatment. Many people, like Alan, tried to hide this so the could carry out normal lives like everyone else. Homosexualty and being accepted is still a real problem in today’s society. Although we have moved forward with accepting and recognising these people, they still don’t have the equality that should be a right. This was a underlying idea in the movie, and is also important for young adults to see because it shows how gay rights should be far more advanced than they are, and how society is still mistreating human beings for being, well, human.

“Of course machines can’t think as people do. A machine is different from a person. Hence, they think differently. The interesting question is, just because something thinks differently from you, does that mean it’s not thinking? Well, we allow for humans to have such divergences from one another. You like strawberries, I hate ice-skating, you cry at sad films, I am allergic to pollen. What is the point of different tastes, different preferences, if not, to say that our brains work differently, that we think differently? And if we can say that about one another, then why can’t we say the same thing for brains built of copper and wire, steel?” Alan Turing believed that his “Turing machines” (later developed into digital computers) were just as able to think as the average human being. That just because it’s brain looked a little different, worked a little different, and thought a little different, didn’t mean it wasn’t thinking. He explained that all brains are different, see things differently, and have different perceptions on many different beliefs, so why can’t a digital brain? This prospect is very interesting, and proposed the question that if a mechanical brain couldn’t think, then was a thinking brain not mechanical? People believed that a mechanical brain was not thinking because it was unable to feel human emotions, it was unable to empathise, to act like everyone else. In the film, many people related Alan to a mechanical brain because he was willing to sacrifice far more than anyone else, just to try and crack a code. Once he’d cracked it, he was willing to sacrifice everyone else to make sure no one found out. His work colleagues didn’t think a human would be capable of that, and if he wasn’t human, he must be a machine. This part of the film taught me the importance of opinions and perspectives. The machine was able to crack the german codes, and allow the british to know exactly where the germans were, and where they were headed. Alan’s colleagues saw this as a way to save everyone in the firing line of the german, but Alan knew that they couldn’t do that. They had to let people die to make sure the germans didn’t know they’d cracked the code. His unemotional response to killing british soldiers is why people began to question his humanity, and therefore compare him to a machine. “Was I god? No. Because God didn’t win the war. We did.” This quote explains how during the war, they played God. They chose who lived and who died. They sent warnings to people, they ignored others. They defied moral authority. But, like they said, the real god didn’t win the war. The real god didn’t alter history and change who won. They did. The opinions and perspectives of people showed sides of war that haven’t previously been portrayed effectively in other war movies. This is another reason why I greatly enjoyed the film, and why it would be such a good recommendation to other people my age.

Alan was a very strange man. He saw things very differently from everyone else, which was a reason why watching his character in the movie was so interesting to see. We get used to being like everyone else, acting like everyone else, that seeing someone do the opposite shows just how different human beings can be from one another. Personally, Alan was one of my favourite characters in the film because he showed me that humans are still the same, even if we’re different. We can still see things and build things, and be ourselves, and having this difference is what sets you apart from everyone else. I also thought that this part of the film related well to society because many people worry that being different is wrong. “Now, if you wish you could have been normal… I can promise you I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren’t.” This is another quote said by Joan, telling Alan that his differences is what changed the world. That because he thought differently and saw things differently, he made the world different. Better. This is a very important lesson for young adults to learn. The film was about a very strange, and different man, who changed the world with his difference. However, it was the same world that changed him. He altered the history of the world. He saved more lives than any soldier could have, yet the world still looked down upon his difference, even when it was the very thing that saved it’s humanity. Alan didn’t want his difference. He wanted to be normal, and to be allowed to live like a normal person. Joan was one of the few characters who told him: No. The world is better because of you, you might want to be normal but normal doesn’t want to be you. Different does. And that’s okay. I thought that this part of the film was the most relatable because it teaches us that different is okay, and that different is what changes things, not normalicy.

The way this film was made is possibly one of the reasons it had such a big impact on my view of the world. War films are normally very sad, depressing and filled with death and darkness. The war heroes are portrayed as innocent boys forced to grow up to be killers, and if they didn’t kill, they would get killed. They make the characters almost unrelatable because of the things they’re put through, and as as result, many people struggle to relate to them because the setting of the film is such a contrast to their own. This film is different. It’s not just a story of war and death. It’s not another depressing, action packed, murderous film, nor is it a scientific documentary on the technological advancements war created. No. It’s a story about a boy, who grows up to be more than anyone could have imagined. It’s a love story. It’s a thriller. It’s a comedy. A main idea that runs throughout the movie is this perception of the world where anything is possible. A few men built a supercomputer to crack a code thought to be impossible. There are few lessons more important to teach young adults than the idea that anything is possible, and therefore makes this film such a good recommendation. The plot is filled with unexpected surprises and life changing decisions – not only for the characters, but also for us. The storyline was deep and imaginative, and so were the characters. They were portrayed in such an ordinary way, that it’s easy to relate to them, to understand what they did, even on a basic level, and therefore understand what historic roles they played. They’re the war heroes that make sense. The war heroes that saved more lives than any soldiers, and probably killed more too, just from a room in small town England. Throughout the film, you slowly develop a much better understanding of the characters, and how the roles they played changed the world for good. This film was loosely based on a true story, and therefore students in year 12 would both immensely enjoy the film, and learn many historical things from it.
“Now, Detective, you get to judge. That’s how the game works. I answered your questions. You know my story. That’s the point of the game. We are all pretending to be something. Imitating something. Someone. And we are no more, and no less, than what we can convince other people that we are. I like solving problems, Commander. And enigma is the most difficult problem in the world. So tell me: What am I? Am I a person? Am I a machine? Am I a war hero? Or, am I a criminal?”

By Dharma Bratley

Personal response #2 (Poem)

So you want to be a writer?: Recommended

Poet: Charles Bukowski
Category: Poetry

“unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.”

Poets and fiction writers gain their fame and fortune by making stuff up. They lie, they cheat, the words they use are perfidious, mendacious, folly. However, this is also a gift. To be able to manipulate the reader into reading, is to an author what saving lives is to a doctor. Second nature. This poem is different. It tells the cold, hard, undeviating truth of so many things – do what you love and love what you do. If what you’re doing doesn’t make you excited, if you’re not passionate about doing it, don’t do it. Even if you believe that this is what the world needs, whether that be more writers, doctors, etc., do not do it unless you love it. This is the main message in the poem, in which the author accurately portrays easily.

I personally believe that the truth this poem explains is so relatable to people of many ages, especially young adults. This may be because we are still ignited by a passionate, frenetic energy that hasn’t yet been substituted for broken dreams and too many debts, or maybe it’s because we can still be whoever we want to be – trying to figure that out is the problem. Charles Bukowski has managed to guide us with his ideas on only following your passions, which is a critical lesson teenagers must learn before making any future choices or decisions. He has written this poem exactly as we would organise our own thoughts on the matter, in a repetitive and structured manner that manages to make as much and as little sense as possible, all at the same time. I personally felt that this poem was relatable because of this repetitive mantra shown in excerpts like “if you’re doing it for money or/fame,/don’t do it.”, where the author explains the real reasons for doing something. Young adults and teenagers can relate to this well because we are all in situations where we need to start deciding on careers, on our future goals, on our lives, and this poem teaches us an important lesson of never do something for its rewards, always follow your passions because the rewards you’d reap from that would be far more valuable than any amount of money or fame could be to you. My response to this is that these ideas the poet can portray have been written so angrily and seriously that it makes you want to listen. I like that a poet can draw your attention and make you try and understand the deeper meanings of their poems because it makes the piece of writing more influential on you and your life, and makes you really consider exactly what the poem conveys, and exactly why it was written. This is why it would be an excellent piece of writing for a year 12 book club to read.

This idea was developed well throughout the poem, with the use of vivid imagery like “if it never does roar out of you,/do something else.” Which makes the reader see what the poet tries to convey. It’s describing the act of discovering your passions – when you find exactly what you love to do more than anything else, it won’t let you know quietly, or softly, or simply appear, when you finally find it, it will “roar out of you” and you’ll never be the person you were again. I personally found that this part of the poem was important because it shows people that you will know exactly when you need to do something, you just have to wait, be patient, and it will show itself. Other people may interpret this message of only following your passions as laziness of lack of ambition because before you discover what you love, you may not put all of your efforts towards it because you don’t understand why you’re doing it. I think that people could perceive this poem to be promoting not becoming a writer because of the way it’s worded and laid out. However, I believe that this poem explains that writing, and any other career, should not be something you need to force, it shouldn’t be difficult or cause stress, and it shouldn’t be something you tell yourself you should do because it’s what other people are doing. Do not follow other people’s passions. Follow your own. What he means is while writing, it should just happen, it should flow from you and should be your natural way of expressing yourself. He also explains that just because writing may not be your passion, it doesn’t mean that you’re passionless, it simply means you haven’t found yours yet. And that’s okay. This poem shows how passionate Charles was in his writing and how many others bother him because they’re not following their own passions.

The other side to this is that it’s also important to get involved, to try and provoke your passions and to try and discover them yourself. This can be done by simply getting involved, doing more of what you already enjoy, or even talking to other people about their passions and how they got discovered. This is a really important lesson for young adults to learn because it not only broadens their understanding of themselves, but also increases the spectrum of people they’d normally socialise or talk to. If they wanted to understand, truly understand, what this poem means by not doing something unless you love it, you have to see both sides of the story. You must put all of your effort into things you like but aren’t necessarily passionate about to understand how it feels when you are passionate. The poem manages to describe this in an easy to understand way that’s been written into the text obviously rather than shown as an underlying meaning. “if you have to wait for it to roar out of/you,/then wait patiently./if it never does roar out of you,/do something else.” This quote explains how if you think you’re passionate about something, but aren’t, it’s okay to leave and try something new. It tells the reader how sometimes things change and you don’t love things like you used to and that’s okay – you just need to go out and find your new passions and embark on new adventures. As this is a really important lesson for younger readers to learn, this poem would be a really good recommendation for a year 12 book club.

Possibly one of the parts I enjoyed most about the poem was the way the author wrote it. He managed to write such a complicated truth so simply, in a way that’s not only easy to read, but allows you to really think about what the poem is trying to explain. To me, this is an important quality of any piece of text, and has been developed well in this poem. When I researched other poems by this author, they had very similar themes and styles but changes in topic, meaning I would also recommend other pieces by this poet as well. This poem is a good recommendation for a year 12 book club, and is important because it shows Charles Bukowski writing as if he were reflecting his own poem – passionate.

By Dharma Bratley

Personal response #1 (Novel)

Looking for Alaska: Highly recommended

Author: John Green
Category: Teen fiction (novel)
Publisher: HarperCollins

“How will I ever escape this Labyrinth?”

A simple question that could lead to a million answers, possibilities, and never ending confusion. What is the Labyrinth, and how to escape it is exactly what Miles, Chip, and Alaska spend much of their time wondering, and one of the few constant ideas through a story line packed with mischief, friendship, unrequited love, and life changing plot twists. When Miles transfers to a boarding school, it’s not long before he meets his roommate Chip, and his best friend Alaska. Together they act like your average reckless teenagers: drinking, swearing, pulling pranks, and breaking almost every rule in the book. This is possibly why the characters are so easily relatable and hilarious to read about, because they are based off the stereotypes of today’s generation of teenagers. “The nice thing about the constant threat of expulsion at Culver Creek is that it lends excitement to every moment of illicit pleasure. The bad thing, of course, is that there is always the possibility of actual expulsion”. By taking every opportunity to do something reckless, dangerous, daring, or just plain stupid, the characters in the book are exactly what we want to be, and do the very things that we’ve never quite had the guts to attempt. As the book is written mainly about their everyday experiences, people who don’t generally read books will find this particularly entertaining, and can follow it easily. It also has underlying themes and twisted sections of text, which you have to read between the lines to figure out. It takes the time to explain the thought process behind many activities performed by teenagers, and as a result produces many different lessons that that age group can learn from.

The main question that comes from the characters in the story, is what does it mean to be alive? For Miles, it’s being able to form meaningful relationships (for example, good friendships) that helped him grow into the amazing character he became. For Chip, it’s living a life of adventure – taking risks and following his crazy plans, as he finds that what makes him feel alive is what it means to be alive. Or maybe, like Alaska thinks, it’s to love and to loose. That to be alive, we must fall in love with people and loose them, and understand that when you suffer a loss, it means you had something worth loosing. From these perspectives given by the characters, I personally found that the meaning of being alive is a mix of all of these. The meaning of life is to create the meaningful relationships that Miles looks for, and to share the daring adventures with them that Chip looks for, while you grow attached to them. Eventually you will loose both them and your adventures, just like Alaska, teaching you that the meaning of life is to enjoy what you have while you have it. These lessons are developed and grown throughout the story line with the authors plan to write about ordinary, simple teenage lives, mixed in with illustrious philosophical introspection, that go hand in hand with the hard-hitting life issues, and shocking plot twists that would make almost every reader question who the characters really are. The novel allows you to question, if not for the first time, what it means to be alive, and what we can do with it. It teaches you life lessons that are important for teenagers to learn, but, as it is written in a book, is a way they can learn and understand without actual doing the dangerous and stupid things that are discussed. John Green knew this, and he even added the quote “Teenagers think they’re invincible” to solidify this connection between the teenagers in the story, and teenagers in today’s society. It is both a simple read, yet completely and utterly complicated, meaning that it would suit all kinds of readers and all kinds of people. This is exactly why it is a perfect recommendation for a year 12 book club.

The most significant turning point of the book is Alaska’s death. It brings an urgency to Miles and Chip figuring out the Labyrinth, as they believe it will help them understand what Alaska was going through the night that she died. This will draw the readers in to conclude their own ideas on what happened to her, and how to figure out their own Labyrinths. I think that for young people, the Labyrinth is an important idea that represents this never ending maze of long school days, and what happens when we are no longer teenagers. The characters in the book link it to what happens after you die, but for a teenage audience, this can easily be related to what happens after you leave home – because in some ways, it’s almost like you’re loosing one life to start on another. You spend each day searching this maze, learning new paths and occasionally getting a grasp on where you are, where you’re going, and what you’re doing, just as the maze changes, turns, or flips upside down. It represents the idea that we are not able to leave home and go find our way in the world, we’re too young. But we’re also too old to be shown around and told what to do and how to act. Instead we are stuck in this middle ground, the Labyrinth, where nothing is ever as it seems, and the only constant is change and confusion. Looking for Alaska taught me that there is no escape to the Labyrinth, you just have to keep on going, and take every piece of advice and information you can. To escape, you have to try, to get out of your comfort zone, to make new friends, loose old friends, do stupid and reckless activities. But the only way to escape, is to enjoy and value you the time that you have there, because once you escape you’re all on your own – you don’t even have the high walls and shelter from the real world to keep you company. For the readers to better grasp the sudden urgency in discovering the Labyrinth, the book is visibly split into two sections. The first is before her death, and the second is after, helping the reader to really see the impact of her death on the characters and their relationships with each other. We learn that Miles is the kind of person who bases his perceptions on fact, and not knowing exactly what happened to Alaska greatly affects him. “So we gave up. I’d finally had enough of chasing after a ghost who did not want to be discovered. We’d failed, maybe, but some mysteries aren’t meant to be solved”. He wants to understand, but it takes a while for him to come to terms with the fact that we won’t always know the answer to everything, and that sometimes it’s better to leave mysteries as mysteries.

Personally, I found that this part of the book had the biggest impact on my views. It teaches you that sometimes ignorance is bliss, and that it’s better to live with this mystery that we can create our own fantasies on, rather than knowing the actual truth. People don’t like the idea that when we die, we go into a huge black space of nothing. Religions are based around this idea that we go somewhere after we die, but what if we don’t? It taught me that the reason people believe in religions, the reason they come up with different views on what happens after we die, is because we, as people, can’t bear not knowing the answer to such a controversial question. Yet if we ever did find the answer, somewhere, somehow, it would destroy the world. “I still think that, sometimes. I still think that, sometimes, think that maybe “the afterlife” is just something we made up to ease the pain of loss, to make our time in the labyrinth bearable”. Therefore, it helped me understand that sometimes mysteries are supposed to be just that: something with an unobtainable answer. This is one part of the book that we can relate to society the most. As today’s society is shaped by this idea of what happens after you die, it creates a unique connection between the story and the real life world that the reader can’t help but see. This connection again makes it easier to understand, but will also make the reader think about what the author is trying to portray. This idea eventually leads to Miles discovering that for him, the way out of the Labyrinth is to forgive. That for us to survive this idea of not knowing, we must forgive those who leave without giving us the answers to the mysteries we so desperately want to solve. “Before I got here, I thought for a long time that the way out of the labyrinth was to pretend that it did not exist, to build a small, self-sufficient world in the back corner of the endless maze and to pretend that I was not lost, but home”. This shows how Miles’ views change over the course of the book, as after Alaska’s death, he finally decides “… that I forgave him, and that she forgave us, and that we have to forgive to survive in the labyrinth. There were so many of us who would have to live with things done and things left undone that day. Things that did not go right, things that seemed okay at the time because we could not see the future. If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless”. Once again, the story covers philosophical questions that few authors of teen fiction manage to grasp. This book is such a good recommendation for a year 12 book club because gives subtle insight into a deeper meaning for our own lives. It is a book directed at teens, yet has challenging content that has been portrayed in an easy to understand way by involving them into such ordinary lives.

John Green has managed to pull off a writing style that is both an easy and challenging read, but accurately defines how teenagers act and think through how we communicate best: our actions, arguments, conversations, and confusing mixed signals. He has used witty comments, and quick comebacks, items taken from everyday dialogue, most commonly seen in the vocabulary of teenagers. It’s just a book that’s fun to read. You create a connection with the characters. They make you laugh, cry, worry, and feel like you’re almost as much as part of the story as they are. He describes the characters through conversations between themselves, and is able to express their feelings and perspectives without it being heavy and hard to read. This relates well to society because when we meet new people, we find out who they are through conversations both with the person and with other people about them. He has described and portrayed the characters in a way that we would meet others in real life, rather than just writing down exactly who they were, what they looked like, and how they thought. This connection not only allows us to contrast it with today’s society, but also be introduced to the characters as if we were meeting them on the street, as if they’re actual people. Depending on the topic of conversation, Green is able to alter his style of writing depending on what he wants the reader to understand. For example, the bits of arguments and action between the characters and their relationships are often fast paced dialogue to allow him to fit more into the story, whereas the parts where he wants you to understand deeper meanings and philosophical concepts, he uses long paragraphs with detailed descriptions that are easy to follow, just to ensure the reader doesn’t get too confused. By stretching out these parts of the story, he allows the reader time to absorb the information he’s feeding, and to revitalise the story before speeding off into the next fast paced section of the book. I have found that this makes the story easier to read, and means that you are always able to understand what’s going on in the book. All of the reasons here means it makes Looking for Alaska a good recommendation for a year 12 book club.

By Dharma Bratley