Advanced Essay #4_ Environment and Change

My goal for this paper was to explore in depth my question which was, how does a world different from our norm compel us to commit violent acts? I was curious to explore other ways other than soldiers changing. This is one goal that I was able to accomplish. I was able to read an article on feminism which held the same ideas that I had developed after watching Zimbardo's TED talk. I think I was able to go through this piece with a lot of organization. I was able to fully understand how I could connect all of my research to my piece and from there I chose the strongest sources and quotes. I believe that through the peer-editing process I was able to get even more analysis out of my piece. I decided to end my piece with the story of the image because I had gotten really caught up in making a story with the image and it had helped me build my thesis for this paper.

As the war continues, two brothers take cover. They hide in their home, watching through the crack in the door. Hoping and waiting for the day when the war will end. They wait for the time they will be safe. The older brother positions himself in front of the younger brother, shielding him from any harm that may come. Their eyes tell a story. A story of loss, a loss of family and a loss of hope. They watch with saddened eyes as their home get torn apart by the soldiers and rebels. The younger brother is filled with more hope than his older brother. The younger brother is still innocent and does not understand what the war means or what is occurring. The older brother is weighed down by the reality of this war and has trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. As each second passes we can see them age. Each bullet fired adds a year to their age.   

On March 2003, United States soldiers in a prison in Abu Ghraib, Iraq began to torture and abuse the Iraqi detainees. Images were released in January of 2004 and an investigation was underway to determine who the abusers were. Some of these graphic images depicted a woman soldier holding a prison with a dog leash. What caused these seven soldiers to commit such violent acts cannot be explained. Susan Sontag writes “No: the horror of what is shown in the photographs cannot be separated from the horror that the photographs were taken -- with the perpetrators posing, gloating, over their helpless captives.”

Sontag brings up a key point, the horror not only was in the image but the fact that these soldiers took these photographs and posed for them. Humans can be thought of as sculptures made of clay. Everywhere we go and everything we do and see done changes our shape. Environment molds us into a different shape. Humans are very influential and easily misguided to do things they would not do in their “natural habitat.” Abu Ghraib was an environment that challenged these seven soldiers and challenged who they were and their morals. It only took one to change for the rest of them to succumb to the environments changes. We see many instances where people change their environment and often turn out happier and prosper in this new environment. So it’s shocking for us to hear and see an environment break a person. What’s most shocking however is the degree at which Abu Ghraib changed these soldiers.

Abu Ghraib is only one of many examples of environments changing us and our natural sense of right and wrong. Kim Turcot DiFruscia wrote a piece on feminism and spoke about the same issues that we see occur in war. However, the war she writes about is not a war fought with weapons like guns and explosives, this war is fought with words of hate and oppression of the opposite sex. DiFruscia writes “In many situations you cannot decipher which particular individual has this specific responsibility because it is the coming together of various forces that produces a particular action.” She states that “various forces” cause a “particular action” to occur. We cannot determine how an individual will react to a situation. We do not know what has occurred previous to this action therefore we cannot determine the outcome of their reaction. We cannot determine how they will be forever changed. Later on in her article she writes “Not by escaping, but by assimilating the violence and weaving your life in it.” One never gets rid of all the violence and pain they have endured. Instead they learn to live with this pain and they learn to mold it into something that is beneficial to them. How one takes this violence and how they mold it is completely dependent on the “coming together of various forces.” In some ways this relates to post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, something very common among soldiers coming back from war. We cannot always point out who suffers from PTSD but this is because there are varying degrees of this disorder. Some soldiers learn to weave this disorder into their life and others try to escape it.

Our surroundings affect us and who we become more than we tend to realize. People who grow up in and move to war zones change and become shaped by their environment. We hear many stories about soldiers doing things that are not what we would consider normal., such as the horrifying acts committed by the soldiers in charge of the prison in Abu Ghraib. We tend to ask ourselves how can this occur? We know these people and know their characters. They could never commit such acts. But a world so different from our norms can compel us to commit these violent and sometimes horrifying act. If a place can change you for the better, can’t it also change you for the worse?

The younger brother, Armin had fallen asleep, on the cold stone floor. None of their beds were left. Covers were a luxury they could not afford. He watched his younger brother as he slept, as he did every night. He listened to Armin’s soft snores which the older brother, Arya was glad for. He slept so peacefully, almost as if the world they lived in did not exist and as if Arya was the one trapped in a nightmare. Armin turned in his sleep and Arya felt a sinking feeling in his chest when he saw his brothers face. The smooth curve of his nose, the long, dark eyelashes, and the thick eyebrows. All replicas of his own facial features. The only difference between the two brothers was their hair. Armin had short straight hair that barely reached his eyebrows. Arya had thick curly hair that was growing long, almost covering his eyes. Arya was grateful for the home they had left. But he was also left to think about his brother’s innocence and how this war would affect him.  

Work Cited:

DiFruscia, Kim Turcot. Listening to Voices. An Interview with Veena Das(n.d.): n. pag. Web. 10 Mar.

2016. <>.

Sontag, Susan. "Regarding The Torture Of Others." The New York Times. The New York Times, 22

May 2004. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. <>.