WARNING: Spoiler-filled post! Read at your own risk.
First, The Crucible
I would like to talk about art and its capacity to change the world.
In 2005, a school in South Korea became the topic of controversy after reports surfaced that teachers and its principal sexually molested their deaf-mute students. A concerned teacher had already informed human rights groups, but it was only after the victims agreed to appear on TV networks that the police opened a formal investigation. Four out of the six perpetrators were sentenced to prison, while the two were discharged on the grounds that the statute of limitations of their crimes had already expired.
Based on reports I’ve read, two of those jailed were soon released after less than a year. Four out of the six perpetrators were then reinstated in the same school where they committed their crimes.
The 2011 film The Crucible (international title: Silenced), which is based on the events that had taken place, sparked a public outcry against the negligence of the local government. Having watched it, I also felt nothing but anger toward the court rulings that led to the release of these criminals.
You can watch the film’s trailer here. Fair warning, though: it can be disturbing.
Owing to the power of cinema, investigators reopened the case, with lawmakers drafting bills for the human rights of vulnerable groups. Two months after the film was released, Gwangju Inhwa School was shut down for good by the city, and in 2012, the court sentenced a former administrator to 12 years of prison time for sexually assaulting a student. The story is far from over, but the incident illustrates the power of art when it comes to informing people of the various injustices happening around the world.
In Cindy Pon’s Want, art also plays an important role in spreading awareness among the wealthy living in futuristic Taipei. Near the end, Daiyu, daughter of a money-hungry CEO, opens a theater with the aim of showing films that portray the beauty of past Taipei. After years of turning a blind eye to the polluted state of the country and its effects on the underprivileged, the wealthy citizens of Taiwan, those who can afford the high-tech full-body anti-dying suits produced by greedy CEO, begin to advocate for legislation to protect the environment and lessen the pollution.
It’s far from over, though. Jin, the CEO and father of Daiyu, plans to create a new facility outside of Beijing. This, after our main characters successfully blew up the old one. When asked by a reporter if he plans on focusing on the environment, especially since, you know, his daughter is advocating for it, Jin replies, “Childish, naive dreams. We humans are consumers; we use resources and we buy things.”
His response made my blood boil, but I can’t help but acknowledge the truth at the core of it. We cannot deny the fact that humans do consume products without taking the time to know how they were made. We use straws without comprehending where these sticks of plastic go as soon as we throw them away. It is an unfortunate tendency, one that corporations are highly aware of. These companies will do what it takes to shoot to the top. Manufacture items without a care for the environment, even influence governments to (coughs) withdraw from international agreements that mitigate global warming. I wouldn’t even be surprised if thousands of Jins around the world are also responsible for propaganda that attempts to discredit climate change.
Human tendency, of course, is counterbalanced by human desire. A desire for a better life and a cleaner world. The battle between these two concepts is what Want is all about. As its title suggests, the novel demonstrates a need for a pollution-free world, where people of all capacities can head outside and smell the air without the threat of illness.
The story allows us to ask: why have tendency and desire battle each other when they can be one and the same? The characters of Want have their own ways of contributing to the betterment of the world. Arun produces an antidote that cures a flu strain. Lingyi leads a resistance to eradicate the evil-doings of Jin. Daiyu, as already mentioned, uses her father’s money against him, opening a theater to spread awareness on how beautiful Taipei would be without all the pollution.
In the end, the novel transforms into the very same thing that defines The Crucible and Daiyu’s new theater.
Want is a call to arms.
Click here to get your hands on a copy.
- As a Filipino, it makes me incredibly joyful to see a Filipino character portrayed so wonderfully. A character who is cool and nuanced at the same time. I imagine Vic wearing a Barong Tagalog and attending a party with a cup of lambanog in his hand.
- Lingyi and Iris are my new OTP.
- At the heart of Want is a story of friendship. My favorite chapter, the thirteenth one, was handled superbly as far as relationships are concerned. Here, Cindy Pon skillfully presents how the gang feels for another. This is where the novel opens our eyes to the truth behind it all. At the end of the day, we are reading about a group of people—characters with simple dreams of living a better life—who would stop at nothing to look after one another.