By: Jose Saramago
When defining the word blindness, it can be interpreted in various ways. Either it can be explained as sightless, or it can be carefully deciphered as having a more complex in-depth analysis. In the novel Blindness, Jose Saramago depicts and demonstrates how in an instant your right to see can be taken in an instant. However, in this novel, blindness is metaphorically related to seeing the truth beyond our own bias opinions.
Saramagos novel clearly illustrates themes that describe the importance of the awareness of others, in terms of feeling oppressed by fear, lack of trust, dehumanization, and segregation. He describes in full detail the importance of the governments involvement in the lives of the blind victims, which allows the reader to understand and recognize our own societal misfortunes in health care, as well as other world problems. For example, our government allows Hispanic women to be eligible for Medicaid or state-sponsored child health insurance programs, yet many Hispanic American families fear that enrolling family members in such plans could be used against them when they apply for citizenship (Minority Womens Health). Not only are Hispanic Americans afraid of getting ill while without health care, but they also fear that having health insurance could devastate their chances of acquiring a citizenship. Moreover, the government is obviously not seeing the pain and suffering through the eyes of the less fortunate, and in turn robs them of their freedom and vulnerability for being in a lower class.
In Saramagos novel, the governments commands, instant decisions, and fears about the blind epidemic is what the blind infected, vulnerable characters are terrified about the most. Look here, blind man, let me tell you something, either the two of you get back to where you came from, or youll be shot theyre terrified and are only obeying orders (63). With a large number of people going blind quickly and with no apparent cause, public health officials panic and the blind internees are not only afraid for their lives in terms of their sickness, but they are also terrified of the governments command to shoot and kill the infected internees. The most important things in life is not power and the ability to instill fear on others, it is compassion, love, and understanding. Without these three qualities, we become blind to others feelings, and dismiss ever truly feeling sympathy for another person.
Trust is another issue that is important when thinking about people who surround and interact with you on a regular basis, as well as those you encounter as a minor acquaintance. For instance, Hispanic women are more likely to be dissatisfied if they feel they have been treated badly by providers and staff and if they do not trust doctors (Guendelman, Wagner 118). If the patient does not feel a sense of hospitality and see a welcoming smile, it discourages the patient to visit the physician because they feel they are not getting the right medical attention, and tend to be sicker. In addition, the sicker individual risk exposure to more insults, and this leads them to pull back from the health care system (119). In a physician/ patient relationship there needs to be a balance between actually caring and giving your patients the attention and satisfaction that they deserve. Some physicians take advantage of their patients vulnerability of being sick by pushing them aside, and worrying more about the fastest way to make money. However, the physician then loses another patient because of greed.
Saramago represents trust in a very similar manor, yet instead he describes a man who is suddenly overcome with a white blindness while stopped at a red light. He explains how an onlooker has offered to drive the blind man home, and takes advantage of the frantic mans situation by stealing his car, that good soul, has taken our car He took advantage of your confusion and distressed and robbed us (11). Just as physicians take advantage of their patients in their time of weakness, Saramago describes how some people only see their needs as a priority, and are blind to the obvious truth that what goes around, comes around.
The third characteristic that Saramagos novel has in relation to our current world news is the dehumanization that his characters felt. Many times when people feel worthless and insecure with their actions and feelings, it is because they are stuck and do not know how to escape the unspeakable torture that is occurring. Domestic violence is one example that demonstrates dehumanization in out society. In Moscow a vast amount of women are suffering because of their husbands need to feel like a man.
According to the Interior Ministry, in Russia there are up to 4 million domestic “disturbances” (to put it mildly). Each year there are up to 3500 domestic homicides Moreover, only one-fifth to one-seventh of all battered women receive any medical assistance (Nadezhdina), not only do these women fear for their lives, they are also not getting the right medical attention that they need in order to survive. To illustrate this, the Courier-Journal Louisville, Kentucky printed an article stating that even though a womans boyfriend verbally and physically abused her, the Kentucky Supreme Court refused the domestic violence order because the couple did not live together. Wiley alleged that Barnett had, among other things, banged on her car window, threatened to kill her and tailed her car “in a reckless manner” from Frankfort to Lexington But the construction cannot be unreasonable,” Johnstone wrote. “The phrase ‘living together’ implies some sort of cohabitation. The justices sent the case back to Franklin Family Court with instructions to vacate the domestic violence order (Wolfe). Because the court did not grant the woman the domestic violence order, she is probably still fears for her own safety, with a low sense of self worth because her cry for help was not recognized.
Saramagos representation of dehumanization is shown through the cleanliness of the institution, and the nonchalant attitudes the soldiers have towards the blind internees. He begins by describing the doctors search for the lavatories and explains, The stench choked him. He had the impression of having stepped on some soft pulp, the excrement of someone who had missed the hole of the latrine or who had decided to relieve himself without any consideration for others (92). The blind internees where living in their own filth, which could have contaminated the internees, and take away their lives. Sometimes people do not realize that life is too short, and in reality, people must make the best possible decisions for themselves to insure security, and safety.
Lastly, segregation was and still is a major factor when describing our civilization. A study released by the New York Civil Rights Coalition found that programs geared towards minorities were actually hindering multiculturalism and fostering separatismistic (Progen, Staff). Not only are minority students being separated from the white majority of the students during organized events such as the ALANA job fair, but they also feel that because it is especially for minority students, it is as if they are being told that they arent good enough to compete against white students in a regular job fair (Progen, Staff). Numerous people feel that if you are not like them (the majority), then you are not a person, and should be treated as a second-rate citizen.
As the blindness epidemic took its toll, the Minister thought of the idea to round all the blind victims and those who have come into close contact with an infected person and place them into quarantine. Once the victims settled in the mental institution a woman over the loud speaker announces many instructions which explains that the blind victims must fend for themselves, with barely any help. The woman then continues saying, the isolation in which they now find themselves will represent, above any personal considerations, an act of solidarity with the rest of the nations community (43). If a person has an understanding that minorities are less than human, and can be set aside, has an absurd psychological way of thinking. People should not devalue others because they are weaker, or different from him/her.
Fear can cause blindness, said the girl with the dark glasses, Never a truer word, that could not be truer, we were already blind the moment we turned blind, fear struck us blind, fear will keep us blind (Saramago 129). In todays society, people are more concerned with their own little world, rather than looking at the extensive perspective of life. One reason why people can sometimes be classified as being blind is because people fear the unknown, and rejects the unfamiliar. Many people are not comfortable with stepping out of their shell and exploring their surroundings, let alone trying to look through the eyes of the segregated minority. In the novel Blindness, Jose Saramago metaphorically uses the word blindness as a term meaning, the truth that we cannot bear to see. To avoid the outside world, many people tend to shelter themselves from the obvious reality, and tend to focus of their own meaning of reality. However, when our vision is stripped from our secluded selves, reality is all you can truly see.