It is wonderful to be back at writing for another OWLS blog tour. However, the circumstances between the last time I wrote for a blog tour and this one are extraordinarily different. Back then, I was taking about the grandiose idea of peace with the onset of the Inter-Korean summit and comparing it with Avatar: The Last Airbender. Now, we’re in a dark time with the global health crisis affecting our families and communities. This brings us to this month’s prompt put forward by the OWLS blog tour:
Right now, we all have lost something or gained something in return during this dark time. Our lives have been completely altered due to coronavirus. For this month, we will be talking about anime series and other pop culture media where we have characters having to adjust to changes in their environment. Whether it’s adjusting to a new school or heading towards an isekai fantasy world, we will be discussing characters that had to make changes within themselves in order to adapt to the circumstances they are in. This will also give us an opportunity to express our own personal lives as we try to adjust to a “new normal.”
– OWLS “Adapt” Blog Tour
Although I would have been thrilled to talk about this prompt more with Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, I wanted to go for more underrated and niche characters from the RWBY series – Oscar Pine and his previous lives.
Who is Oscar Pine in the world of RWBY?
For people who have not watched and aren’t familiar with the RWBY series, it is a show set in the fictional world of Remnant where young people train to become Huntsmen and Huntresses to fight the monsters of Grimm. However, the story takes for a complex turn with the introduction of Oscar Pine and his role in saving the world from Salem, an ancient and immortal being capable of wielding magic from Remnant’s distant past and controls the monsters of Grimm. You see, in this show, people can only wield magic through the medium of dust.
So who is Oscar Pine in this grand tale of the fight against the forces of evil? He is but a simple farmhand who received a sort of calling, if you will. At age 14, he became the current incarnation of the ancient warrior of legend, Ozma. With his newfound magical powers, he carries the burden of a thousand souls who risked their lives in the fight against Salem. Quite a huge burden for a young farmhand who, for the entirely in his life, knew nothing but tended the fields and took care of his aunt’s farmland. Although he did wish to become more than a farmhand, taking on the daunting task of saving the world isn’t what he thought.
I find myself relating to Oscar in these past few months under lockdown. Indeed, who would have asked for a global pandemic? In the face of confusion, our methods of adapting have been a range of stupid decisions, valiant actions, and complete loss. My girlfriend has exclaimed that she “didn’t want to be involved in a historical turning point of humanity’s existence” – which I share the same sentiments. A lot of things have been lost for me: life as a normal university student, hanging out with friends, spending time with loved ones, and just the concept of “normal” seems so abnormal now.
Although I am not confident that I can share the correct answers on how one should be acting in such a distraughtful yet unique event in our lives, I wish to impart of you Oscar’s development and how he adapted to his own daunting challenges. Perhaps this retelling and my commentary will comfort you in this troubling time.
Charging into the unknown
Oscar had to make the choice: remain a farmhand or take charge of the burden that fate had entrusted on his shoulders. In this great question, which may change his life forever, the boy had only one single criteria in his decision and that was doing what he felt was right.
This decision was made with the thought process of weighing what was “right thing” for him to do as a person burdened with the responsibility of great power and enormous expectation to save the world. But it is foolish for us to simply say this was Oscar’s burden even if he had no choice but to do it – the young boy had to do it because only he could do it. We can only sympathize with his situation just as we are living with our own burdens right now as well.
In this global health crisis, each one of us is shoved with daunting responsibilities to ourselves, our families, and the people around us. Stories of healthcare workers and medical personnel working around the clock to tend to the infected. Family breadwinners breaking back and bone, risking infection, in order to put food on the table and continue earning a living. Good people losing loved ones and sometimes not even getting tested to know if they had the virus or not.
I think this crisis gives us an opportunity to show the greatness of humanity and what being human means – which means doing the “right thing” as Oscar did. Acts of selflessness, care for community and fellow man, and many valiant acts reveal the light inside each one of us in this darkness. This is the time to show that we, ordinary folk, can go beyond this system of selfishness and give ourselves in the service of our loved ones and community.
Much like Oscar, we charge into the unknown armed with the sole desire of seeing our loved ones and our communities triumph over this daunting threat to our lives. All of us do this selflessly and genuinely because the uniqueness of this virus has motivated us to care for others. New normals like social or physical distancing, wearing masks, and staying healthy isn’t just for our own safety but to protect others from the threat of infection.
We are the many Oscars burdened with the weight of this cane we now wield with the capacity to inflict harm or provide warmth for other people – to save ourselves and each other amidst this crisis. However, as much as I glorify and try to share the bright side of this global issue, there will always be hesitation and that is a totally acceptable state of be in.
We didn’t ask for this. No one did. Oscar didn’t – and yet, we remain despite charging into the unknown filled with fear. So how does a young farmhand like Oscar Pine handle fear in the face of so much uncertainty and risk?
Who we become in fear’s clutches
Before we go on further, I wanted to emphasize that Oscar isn’t alone in this heavy burden that show puts on him – the entire cast of RWBY has their own responsibilities and challenges to overcome. These teenagers didn’t even get the chance to graduate in order to become Hunters and Huntresses. All of the skills that they have now are a culmination of the many volumes worth of trials, tribulations, and near-death experiences in order to be who they are now.
Not trying to diminish the efforts of each character within this show but I chose Oscar because he best resembles how we might all possibly feel in this crisis: lost, confused, and yet, rising to the occasion. But this is a crisis and it is scary to think about the looming uncertainty. For starters, the global pandemic has brought longstanding issues to the foreground and made them exponentially worse.
The housing crisis is brought to light once again with millions of families at risk of being evicted or losing their homes due to the inability of paying for these things as a result of the lockdown. Food security is at a low with people signing up for unemployment and relying solely on subsidies from their government. Mass testing is still outside of our reach as the convoluted bureaucracy hinders us from achieving peak contact tracing and being able to identify infection centers.
Governments and reprehensible politicians are making a buck or benefiting from this pandemic. Sometimes to the point of outright ignoring their mandates as elected officials and leaving their voters to rot. Education is stunted as people lack the means to access online platforms for schooling. This pandemic has created an absolute shitshow and it is our hard challenge to brave through these many trials.
In my own country, people who do not adhere to imposed lockdown rules are either imprisoned or shot by police. Families are not assured essentials like food, water, and shelter with people living in their own cars since government authorities have blocked major roads connecting one city to the other. Huge stigma is now present for those infected and most people are trying to shun infected people and healthworkers alike in fear of contracting the virus.
Personally, this pandemic has caused a great deal of hurt for me. My mental state is flip-flopping from zero to a hundred with the many burdens I have to carry with me: not being able to see friends, my significant other, having to bear with the struggle of accessing online education, food security at risk, and living in a COVID-19 hotspot. Although I am considered by many as lucky to not have contracted the virus despite my situation, it does not make my worries lesser than anyone else’s.
I have come to experience a number of emotions but the single denominator for all of these things that I have realized is that they are all motivated by fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of death, and many fear of many things brought about by this crisis. In this delicate time filled with fear, I cling so much to the words that Ozpin, the previous lifetime of Oscar, on his realizations about fear.
The single quality that is common across every living creature on this planet… is fear. It’s funny then, that as common as fear is… we so easily underestimate its power. Fear of growing close to someone, a subsequent fear of loss, fear of failure. And as more people depend on you, those fears can take on greater power. But fear itself isn’t worthy of concern, it is who we become while in its clutches. Will you be proud of that person? Will you forgive them? Will you understand why they felt the need to do the things they did? Will you even recognize them? Or will the person staring back at you be the very thing you should have feared from the start? I suppose we all find out… sooner or later.
This monologue from Ozpin raises the most important questions that we should also ask ourselves as we are face fear brought about by the global pandemic:
- Will you be proud of your actions?
- Will you forgive yourself for your actions?
- Will you understand why you did these actions?
- Will you even recognize and acknowledge yourself after all of this?
- Or will you come to hate yourself in the end?
In these five questions, the underlined idea is to do things as you feel that they are the “right thing to do” and engage in self-reflection if you can reconcile with these decisions that you have made. Fear can take on many forms, but over it all, we must come out and be comfortable that this fear that we have is a part of us.
Running away from your fears is futile. But being fearful is okay.
It is okay to weep.
It is alright to grieve.
It is okay to feel sad.
It is justified to feel mad.
It is alright to be confused.
It is okay to be unproductive.
It is normal to be irrational.
It is your right to feel.
There is no shame in fear.
But there is shame in actively ignoring your fear.
In the end, I don’t think I can ever come up with a solution for each of our personal woes. This was never the intention of my write-up for the OWLS “Adapt” blog Tour. Rather, I wish to tell everyone that it is okay to fear and own that fear.
I hope I was able to reach you personally with my writing and show you how, through the inspiration of characters like Oscar Pine, we can be proud of ourselves as we trudge along this confusing and uncertain time. Binge on anime, read books, listen to music, remember to take care of yourself and each other. And most importantly…
Own your fears.
For the Enemy of Trust is Fear.
If you missed the previous entry of the OWLS “Adapt” Blog Tour, you can check out BeckNaja’s post here. For the next one, go on and head to Mel’s entry about “Band of Brother” here.
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Thanks for reading!