Concept of Seeing and Being Seen

The Power of Seeing

When people see other people, they typically feel strong and in control of their lives; however, when people are seen, the reverse happens. In the early 20th century, academics and psychologists started to investigate the rationale for such a finding, but they have not yet reached a consensus. The idea served as the main subject of George Orwell's 1936 book "Shooting the Elephant." (Orwell 1). The book claims that seeing gives one strength. On the other side, people become helpless when they are seen. The article "The Eyes of the Skin" by Juhani Pallasma Psychoanalysis also examines the changes in a person's feelings as they watch others as well as when others are staring at them. (1). According to the researcher that people's capacity to empathize and show compassion diminishes while being observed (23). In contrast, few individuals lack the ability to interpret the attractive features they see in their environments. In most cases, the power of seeing inhibits peoples' ability to reason. Therefore, the psychosocial effects individuals experience while being seen are the distorted versions of both the positive and negative attributes they often observe in their environments, mainstream cultures, and real-life encounters.

Perception and Judgment

People define themselves according to the influential individuals or things surrounding their lives. Dillard argues that although there are a lot of things to see such as unwrapped gifts, birds, grass, creatures, and free surprises, individuals often choose to look at specific items that interest them (1). For example, many people ignore the plight of the malnourished and fatigued people but can spot gifts and pennies from a distance. The people from the conservative societies described in Orwell's novel also use religious beliefs and cultures as the lens for judging other people's behaviors, appearance, and gender. Such individuals spat on women but murmured insults at the influential European men who undermine their rights to freedom in their own country. Even the Buddhist priests lacked the courage to fight against imperialism. The priests have developed low-esteem because the authorities do not provide opportunities to control their lives.

The Power of Reason

The low-level members of society are programmed to judge themselves by the unfair policies imposed on them by the authorities. Since the beliefs are deeply stored in the subconscious mind, they can only observe as their peers are suffering and being flogged with bamboos in jail. That is, these disadvantaged could overcome bad governance. However, they have been forced by the circumstances around them into believing that they are powerless. The power of seeing or vision dominated their sense of reason, thereby hindering the ability to formulate strategies for regaining their freedom (Pallasma 23).

Expanding Perspectives

On the other hand, exposure to different environments or encounters not only triggers new memories but also acts as an eye-opener by challenging the individual to view themselves and their surroundings from a broader perspective. As Pallama says, focus vision raises awareness while peripheral observation envelops an observer into the flesh of the world (10). The more Dillard explores the universe, the more knowledge he acquires. The satisfaction he derives from watching insects encouraged him to move to new creatures and phenomena. As a result, he learns new things that contradict the false beliefs he had about the universe. The same experience gave the orator of "Shooting the Elephant" a profound insight into the impacts of imperialism on the Burmese population. The people observed helplessly as the elephant terrorized their villages, destroying property and killing their animals. In Pallasma's view, the society needed a liberating eye to overcome the disaster (13). The narrator provided the eye that was not limited by the previous negative experiences.

The Influence of Being Seen

Being seen also elicits power through admiration and desire that, in turn, motivates individuals to engage in particular activities. The twisted version of the admirable object does not just provoke envy but pushes people to go to extreme levels in pursuing their desires. The sight of the narrator as he pursued the elephant rekindled the Burmese sense of security. Orwell cites that the observers did not show interest in the elephant until the narrator appeared with the rifle (5). The whole community admired his courage. This is because the eyes conditioned their perception to associate the gun with safety (Pallama 16). Others also saw the encounter as an opportunity to access free meat. The desire for food contradicted with the narrator's feelings as he saw the elephant eating peacefully. The same mindset influenced Dillard's discoveries that vision is pure sensation without definite meaning (6). It is up to an observer to interpret what he/she sees in a particular manner. For example, just like a blind child that has regained her sight thinks that a drawing is a collection of black patches, an average Burmese in Orwell's novel views an elephant merely as a source of food and not a precious God's creation to be preserved.

The Tradition of Being Seen

The relationship between being seen and disempowerment is a longstanding tradition that began during the Roman Empire and would continue exposing virtually everybody to irrational decisions. Davidsen cites that gazing was a culturally encoded sign with power to elevate or demean a person in the Roman Empire (5). An observer preserved his/her subject's bodily integrity by withdrawing a gaze. Whereas staring at somebody for a long time deprived him/her of the bodily integrity. The perception influenced the narrator to shoot the elephant even though he did not want to. He lost the confidence to do so not because the Burmese populations confronted him but rather due to being seen.

The Influence of the Media

The media also plays a multifaceted role in influencing an observer's psychosocial reactions while seeing and being seen by others. Pallasmo argues that observers attach meanings to artistic expressions rather than understanding their actual meanings (25). For example, mainstream cultures often portray good looking and smartly-dressed people as successful, heroes, kind, generous, and hardworking. According to Ratner, the average-looking guy rarely becomes a hero in favorite all-time movies and novels (200). As a result, the mind programming processes influence people to relate particular qualities with certain facial features, body shapes, and hairstyles. Good examples include the stereotypes in mainstream cultures that associate slimness, six-packs, and biceps with sexiness.

Societal Pressure and Self-Image

Like the low-esteem Burmese citizens, the current generations alter their looks to portray the image expected by society. Many people are developing life-threatening nutrition disorders such as anorexia and bulimia in their quests to please others through their looks. In this case, anorexia is an emotional illness resulting from an obsessive desire to lose weight. Bulimia is also a nutritional disorder caused by consuming diuretics and unhealthy physical exercises (Ratner 200). Many plus-size people who believe in this demeaning stereotype starve to shed off a few kilos of body weight.

Cultural Influence on Body Image

The disadvantaged individuals develop such a self-destructing attitude by observing events around them. Ratner found that the cultural pressure to maintain a certain body type is the leading cause of bulimia (200). The researcher argues that women's admiration of slenderness is also attributable to the cultural hermeneutics of the modern capitalist society. The Western nations attach greater values to sleek, thin, light, and slim consumer products such as mobile phones, televisions, and laptops. Even architects prefer sleek lines and sharp angles (Pallasma 26). The clothing designers adopted such a concept and launched campaigns that are impacting the consumers' life choices. Freudian referred to this idea as Scopophilia (Davidsen 6). The Hollywood film directors use the idea that people derive pleasure from viewing sexually explicit content. This has resulted in a fashion trend where women would rather be seen in trendy dresses, skinny jeans, and hipsters rather than lead healthy lifestyles. The individuals believe that others admire their looks just like they gain pleasure by observing the super sexy models as well as the sleek tablets and iPhones.

The Complexities of Seeing and Being Seen

In conclusion, the concept of seeing and being seen is as complex as understanding the adage that "beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder." There are no specific definitions of admirable qualities. Therefore, most people always modify their behaviors and looks in an attempt to portray particular pictures or messages to the observers. Such perceptions are influenced by an individual's surroundings and cultural beliefs. The twisted versions of social norms' power are pushing virtually everyone to adapt cultures that undermine their personal values and freedom. The fear of being seen forced the Burmese population to endure dictatorship as well as the narrator to kill the elephant against his wishes. In the same way, many people in contemporary society shy away from reality by altering their natural looks because they are afraid of being judged by the observers.

Works Cited

Davidsen, Camilla Irene Fauskanger. The Power of the Gaze: Seeing and Being Seen in" Nineteen Eighty-Four" and" The Handmaid's Tale". The Arctic University of Norway Press, 2014. Internet Resource.

Dillard, Annie. Seeing. Norwich: Cantebury Press 1974. Print.

Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant. Detroit: Cengage Learning, 1936. Print.

Pallasma, Juhani. The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2005. Print.

Ratner, Carl. Macro Cultural Psychology: A Political Philosophy of Mind. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.

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