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People’s Attitudes Are Determined More By Their Immediate Situation Or Surroundings Than By Society As A Whole. - With A Free Essay Review

The statement that people’s attitudes are determined more by their immediate situation or surrounding than by society as a whole is closely related to human nature; what has a direct impact on us outweighs what is indirectly influencing us from afar. In this essay, I would argue that even though media helps people to get a clearer picture of the society as a whole, we are still under the predominant influence of our immediate situation and surroundings.

To begin with, I would like to explain what factors lead us to be more vulnerable to situations in our vicinity. First, human beings are largely animals that perceive the world by employing their senses, such as sight, smell, touch and so on. Places where they live tend to shape their ideas by directly exerting impacts on these senses, and only through these feelings are we able to fully understand the situation. It is universally acknowledged that when leading an affluent life in a rich area, people tend to ignore the needs of the destitute. That is also partly the reason why decision makers such as Premier Wen have to conduct on-the-spot investigations in earthquakes in order to form practical policies.

Second, conventional wisdom reminds us that “out of sight” usually is “out of mind”. Yes, we do know that the world is unequal; however, according to the study of perception of inequality in China conducted by Professor Whyte Martin in Harvard University, people judge the level of inequality by looking at their families, friends, and colleges—people who live right by their sides—rather than referring to the data released by any authority. And yes, we are aware that the divorce rate is alarmingly high nowadays, but when questions are asked to newly wedded couples, no one believes they are about to divorce in the future. That is to say, despite that we know the overall conditions of the society, we still cannot help but see the world as the same as our own community.

Surely the media has brought some changes to this situation. Pictures, documents and newspapers have extended the reach of impact from afar to our senses and constantly alert us that what is out of sight is no less real and serious. However, not everyone is interested in being exposed to media and many of them question the validity of the reports. There are also others, merely regarding news as something of conversational materials, who only seek information for fun. Just like we always hear, “I have no idea it is so before I actually saw it with my own eyes”, media does not fundamentally change the way we perceive the world.

Admittedly the society as a whole determines the situations of each of its community, human nature also decides that we genuinely care more about what happens around us instead of what is going on far away.


Essay Review

This is a difficult prompt in that it is not immediately obvious what a good answer would look like, but I have a feeling that you have taken the wrong approach here, if only because so little of your essay directly addresses the question of how attitudes are determined. I say that despite recognizing and appreciating your more or less philosophical approach to the question of how ideas are formed. You claim that our immediate surroundings shape our ideas by impacting our senses. I'm not sure what the value of this claim is for your discussion of the issues you raise, or for a possible discussion of the issues raised by the prompt. You seem to be arguing, ultimately, only that we are more exposed to our local environment, despite the existence of telecommunications (there are other means, of course, by which the prevailing values of society as a whole might filter down to the local level). That's not an unreasonable claim necessarily, although I think your attempt to discredit the idea that we are substantially influenced by the media is not very compelling.

Now between the claim that we are exposed (we don't really need to discuss the biological mechanism by which we are exposed to the world around us, do we?) to our local environment, and the claim that our exposure to the larger world is not very influential (if that is the point of the penultimate paragraph), you have, first, a statement about the rich ignoring the poor that is unsubstantiated (and it's also not universally acknowledged). You don't specify at all what you want your reader to think about this alleged fact. And your comment doesn't explicitly address the question of attitudes. The fact that some rich people ignore the plight of the poor is not itself an attitude, although obviously it could be a fact explained by any number of possible attitudes. Second, you have a claim about Premier Wen the significance of which is not clarified. It is not clear to me, at least, why you say that Premier Wen’s visiting earthquake zones follows in part from the fact that rich people ignore the plight of poor people. And it is not clear, again, what it has to do with the prompt. And finally you have a paragraph devoted to explaining why perceptions of inequality are informed by our "looking at ... families, friends, and colleges." And again it's not clear to me what this has to do with attitudes. If you meant "attitudes to inequality" instead of judgments of "the level of inequality," and if what the Professor was pointing out was that people adopt the attitudes of their families and friends, then the relevance of the discussion would be clear.

In order to begin to address the question of what determines our attitudes, you need to focus, obviously enough, on attitudes. Here are some examples of possible attitudes to the poor: The poor are lazy and don't want to work; the poor are unfortunate and deserving of sympathy; the poor are morally corrupt, social parasites; the poor are dangerous; the poor are a source of earthy wisdom; the poor are heroic; the poor are the bearers of authentic class consciousness; the poor are the bearers of disease. Those are all attitudes and we all have one or more of them whether we ourselves are rich or poor or somewhere between. We have all kinds of other attitudes too, of course; attitudes about other races, attitudes about men or about women, attitudes about our "nation" or "the motherland," or about lawyers or bankers or politicians or movie stars, or about food and clothes and music. What the prompt is really asking is how and where such attitudes might be determined. Saying that our ideas are based on information received through the senses seems barely relevant to me in this respect. You need to be thinking about the relative importance of parents, friends, teachers, pastors, books, television shows and movies, the internet, the news media, the president's speeches, and so on. In general, you need to be thinking about possible ways in which "society as a whole" might determine our attitudes (some attitudes do seem to be society-wide) and ways in which our local environment might determine attitudes; and then you might think about ways in which the views of society as a whole might trickle down (by way of media, or through nationally designed educational programs, or any number of other ways) to the local level.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: aqua

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