Totsi literary essayTopic 1
Gavin Hood produced a film that comments on the struggle to maintain social norms in sub-standard socio-economic circumstances. First we asses Totsi's standard of living, then explore the poverty cycle of which Totsi is a part and thirdly comment on the way in which film techniques enhance this topic. Lastly we compare the environmental circumstances through analysis of topic.
Initially, after analyzing Totsi's standard of living, we can understand the motivation behind his actions. Totsi lives in a squatter camp where people queue for water and have only basic shelter and comfort. There is no sense of pride in his home. This is shown by the dim light and gloomy atmosphere within Totsi's room and is supported by the sound of hooting taxi's and kwaito music that is heard from outside. Totsi lives without luxuries and entertainment includes drinking and dancing at the shabeen. This suggests that Totsi lives a mundane life and this form of entertainment triggers aggression. The kwaito music at the shabeen provokes emotion and negative feelings are usually expressed. The standard of living makes life a struggle and lack of appreciation for life. It provides an excuse for crime, as expressed when the shot of Totsi living in the concrete tunnel is shown before the robbery. Totsi 'has not yet learnt to drive' since he cannot afford a car and travels by taxi it is not necessary that he knows how to drive. The lack of resources in the environment makes it difficult to maintain social norms.
Additionally, when we explore the ongoing cycle of poverty, it is visible that values shift and morals change. Living in poverty and having no money makes education a luxury. Many children won't have an education and instead of attending school they join gangs, resulting in a lack of morals. Lack of education and morals leads to low employment and financial crisis. Healthcare is limited and the sickly do not have support. Morris is crippled and must survive on small change that he manages to collect, but he lives only 'to feel the sun on his hands'. People like Boston turn to substance abuse to escape their issues or debts. A drunken person is unreliable and loses his decency. Totsi's father was a drunk and became aggressive. Totsi could not 'live this way' and ran away from home out of desperation. The thunder and stormy weather enhanced this desperation. The technique used is called pathetic fallacy and it is effective because the weather reflects the emotion. The desperation and lack of guidance or direction leads to crime. Crime is unacceptable but it becomes a way of life and basic values such as decency changes from 'having respect for yourself and others' to 'making a fucking decent living'. The murder scene on the train is well filmed. The hand held camera creates a feeling of involvement and the viewer is afraid. Living a life of crime leads to an unstable income and raising a family in poverty is the beginning of the cycle. The cycle of poverty is almost impossible to fall out of and the sense of desperation causes one to detract from socially acceptable behavior and morals.
Lastly, the comparison of environment through setting between poorer and wealthier households will allow us to understand the struggle to maintain social norms. The wealthy home has security; a gate and an alarm. Homes in the squatter camp do not have security. Miriam asks Totsi to 'please don't hurt my baby', after he followed her and easily made his way into her home. Poor people cannot afford the security of fast transport. Miriam's husband was ' walking home from work one day and was never seen again'. The wealthy home has technology unlike Totsi, who does not own a car or a phone. Totsi must first fulfil his basic needs, which is food and a place to sleep before he can enjoy luxuries. The wealthy home has easy access to healthcare. The woman that was shot recovered in hospital but 'can never walk again'. Totsi does not have basic healthcare. His mother was sick and dying but 'he must stay away from her' incase he gets sick. When Totsi attacked Boston, Boston did not receive medical assistance. This shows the opposing living standards. In the wealthy home, people have an education, well-paying jobs and good morals. In the squatter, there is a lack of intellect and morals. This explains why Totsi does not understand or appreciate life, until the very end when he shoots butcher and saves an innocent man. Aap asks ' when is it my turn' after Totsi displays action based on his conscience for the first time. The opposing environmental circumstances prove that living an abundant life makes it easy to be a good person and that going without basic needs such as security, healthcare and education is a major influence on the attitudes and beliefs of people.
Hood's film makes it clear that it is difficult to maintain social norms in sub-standard socio-economic circumstances. The basic standard of living already sits the poor in a position of helplessness, which is further worsened by the poverty cycle that sucks its victims in. Here it is visible that values shift and desperation overcomes logic. The comparison between a wealthier and poorer living environment allows us to see how Totsi is continually breaking the social norms. This film proves that those who live with little have only little to give to mankind.
The death penalty is a cowardly and primitive way of dealing with serious crimes. It should be abolished. If we have learnt anything from the past or grown as a civilization then it should be blatant that the death penalty is ineffective and inhuman.
The death penalty is described by the Wikipedia dictionary as, "the execution of a person by judicial process as a punishment for an offense. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences". The uncensored definition of the death penalty is the ultimate and irreversible denial of human rights. Article three of the Universal Decleration of Human Rights states that every person has the right to life, liberty and security. It is also stated that no one shall be sujbected to cruel or degrading punishment. The death penalty violates both these rights and ultimately condones barbaric behaviour. "The death penalty is not only degrading to whom it is imposed but also to the society that engages as in the same activity as the criminals"-Stephen Bright, Human Rights Attorney. The fact that 137 countries all over world have abolished the death penalty either in law or practice is enough to recognise its ineffectiveness. One third of all executions in America occur in Texas, yet Texas still has one of the highest rates of murder in the United States. This proves that the only positive aspect of the death penalty-being the reduction in number of serious crimes-is actually not being achieved.
Regardless of violating human rights, the death penalty was created by mankind who is bias and prejudice. Too many people have been killed based on wrongful convictions. Between 1973 and 1995 the American federal and state courts overturned 68% of death sentences that they reviewed as a result of serious errors in evidence. The death penalty makes an experiment out of life, leaving room for mistakes and execution of the innocent. The death penalty takes life away from more than the convicted; it removes the purpose of life from grieving loved ones and lends itself to a cycle of violence if the executed is innocent. The motivation behind the death penalty is vengeance, not justice. This motive is not worthy of a civilised society or the victims relatives.
Furthermore, the death penalty is extremely expensive because the Constitution requires a long and complex judicial process for capital cases. The convicted is allowed up to ten appeals of innocence that can cost $2.5 million each. It costs $90 000 more per year per inmate in California to sentence an inmate to death as compared to a life sentence without parole in maximum security prisons. All this money could achieve the desired goal in a much more effective way.
In addition, instead of wasting money on appeals that are often overlooked, it could be spent on education, roads, police officers and public safety programmes, after-school programs, drug and alcohol treatment, child abuse prevention programs, mental health services, and services for crime victims and their families. The punishment of life sentence without parole is worse than that of execution. Life with parole ensures that the convicted suffer the mental and social effects of their actions. Execution of offenders punishes their relatives instead of the offenders themselves. This is not fair and can create long term social rejection of the relatives or friends of offenders.
To be noted is the fact that the death penalty is an attempt to decrease the number of capital crimes by executing the worst offenders but also by acting as a warning to prospective offenders. This concept is positive and should have a promising outcome in theory but I highly doubt you have ever heard a criminal say that they thought about the death penalty as consequence of their actions prior to committing their crimes? I did not think so.
Is humanity so without conscience that we do not question who has the power to determine the right to life? The death penalty is punishment for capital crimes. The law is filled with data that can be misinterpreted or used in acts of prejudice. I cannot excuse humanity for allowing the law- such an imperfect source- to be the judge of someone's right to life. Only God has authority to make such decisions.
Lastly, as South Africans we can be assured that our country will not involve itself in such inhuman practices such as the death penalty. South African president, Jacob Zuma used the death penalty to gain support from white South Africans during the elections. Zuma said that he supported the death penalty; this statement won him hundreds of votes from nave South Africans. There will be no attempt to bring the death penalty to South Africa unless the ANC get a 65% vote and have the desire to change the Constitution. It would be completely pointless to invest money into capital punishment. Not only are we lacking in funds but with the country's history of corruption in law and government, it would be a liability for the country to bring back the death penalty.
I understand the merits of the opposing side but will state that they are effective in theory only and suit the likes of a false utopia. The death penalty is the inhuman and irreversible denial of human rights and should be abolished in all countries. It is in effective in its attempt to decrease the numbers of capital crimes, it has room for too many mistakes and false convictions and it is completely unauthorised by any human being.
"What says the law? You will not kill. How does it say it? By killing!" -Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables
- www.google.co.za/deathpenalty (26 Oct 09)
- www.udh.com (26 Oct 09)
- www.blogpolitics.com(26 Oct 09)
- www.wikipedia.org/deathpenalty(26 Oct 09)
- www.youtube.com/capitalcrimes (26 Oct 09)