A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths were made as a way for people to explain what was at the time deemed unexplainable. This is important because what man does not know, he seems to fear or hate. This would not make for a good way to live in a world where you cannot explain everything with your present knowledge. Man made myth to explain certain things he did not understand.
Myth has been around so long that it has become very important to us. It holds our history, it holds our ethical foundation. One such a myth or belief was about what people thought deformed babies were. They thought these babies were changelings, and performed tests to prove to themselves that this was true. These creatures from the supernatural were called faeries. Not those bite-sized little flying people like Tinker Bell in the movie Peter Pan; those are fairies. The faeries that are being referred to are those that are in fairy tales. A gnome would be considered a faery. The evolution of the faery beliefs have coursed through time for many centuries. It has gone from the ideas and beliefs of the Celts to explain natural events they could not explain with their intellect to a full religion with ceremonies, practices, and rites with which one could deal with the supernatural world the fairy beliefs created. As it slowed down, and other religions began to take hold in society, these beliefs turned into superstitions and held to the background of everyday life. These kinds of beliefs did not stop there; they traversed into the world of science. Superstition made its way into that realm, and dealt out such things as stress causing ulcers, or that bees came from heaven (so people traditionally used candles made from wax). Also, from these faery beliefs come children's stories like Snow White and The Seven Dwarves, which were often used to amuse or teach. Today, we have satires and literary allusions. To understand better how the Celt's faery beliefs have made their transition from one point to the other, one must look closer at their meanings.
To begin with, most belief systems are based on what people perceive as true. The Celts came from the Northern British Isles or what is known as Scotland. Their supernatural beliefs dealt with what was thought of by the Celts as only explainable as unnatural. Then again, the unnatural was probably natural to them. These beliefs were called faery beliefs because of what they mostly dealt with, and that was supernatural creatures, often referred to as a faery. The best explanation of a faery is that a faery is a creature that dwells in a realm apart from man's reality and only on certain times do they come out.
One such a belief stems from little dark-skinned people who lived in the forests of Northern Europe and the British Isles. They were conquered by invading Germanic and Celtic tribes. These people lived in little dome-shaped huts that looked remarkably like mounds. They wore green clothing, and the Celts thought they were faeries, which meant that they must be evil. They were called Goblins and were blamed for many of the misfortunes that befell the Celts.
A second creature was one called a Banshee. It is said that a Banshee had long hair and fire red eyes. They were always wearing some kind of burial shroud; they were always crying because of the hardships they must endure. These hardships had to do with the message that they always brought, and that was death. When a person died, a Banshee would show up at a person's place of birth, often for several days.
Another creature was the Troll. They varied in size, but were larger than most fairies. They were hairy and very grotesque. Trolls hated most everything even their own kind, and were very mean. There were also things like the Incubi and the Succubi that were magical creatures, one male and the other female, who were said to visit people in the night and procreate with them. There were so many bad beliefs and supernatural creatures that seemed to roam the world that there was a need to overcome them in a spiritual manner. Thus, the religion that formed was a result of their faery beliefs.
A religion is a system of attitudes, beliefs, ceremonies, and rites by which an individual has a relationship with god or a supernatural world, and uses a set of values to judge events in the natural world. The Celt's faery beliefs fit into this definition perfectly. It had many ceremonies and rituals that were used to ward off evil spirits or faeries. Religion can control much of man's everyday life, making the religion more powerful than the man. This has been evident throughout history. Greek and Roman Gods are such examples, as are the mythical creatures of the Norse Universe.
There were things such as gargoyles, who seemed to watch what people did throughout the day atop their perches on many Gothic buildings. Gargoyles were said to represent demonic or lesser forces in the universe. Mostly, though, these beliefs were used to show that one needs to obey God and to keep people from sinning. Even then, the Celts made rituals to protect themselves and appease their gods and spirits. One of these rituals or ceremonies had to do with wood. This was where touching or knocking on wood was used for a common evil-averting ritual, usually done after bragging or expressing hope for the future. This ritual was used to avoid tempting fate or the spirits from puncturing your pride or depriving you of your good fortune. This ritual and others were an everyday part of the religion, but as with many religions it lost its support of the society.
Having lost its support, it then became a superstition. Being a superstition, it still had a hold on society and was working in the background. A superstition is basically a religion that has gone lax, many of the rituals have been lost or replaced but it still has retained many of its sayings or ideas. There were quite a few superstitions that survived, such as the superstition that lighted candles serve as protection against spells. It was also said that if you carefully watch how they burn, they will tell you about your future life. If you blew out the candles then your wish would come true. A second superstition was that if you sneezed your soul was said to leave your body. People would say "God bless you!" so that your soul would find its way back to the body before it was snatched up by evil spirits. Another superstition is where it was thought that a tombstone held down the corpse and payed homage to the good spirits that resided within the stone. A fourth superstition was where having a cake at a celebration, like a birthday, was thought to insure fertility, good luck, and riches as well as to drive away all possible evil. However, as has happened many times in history, people have made new discoveries to disprove their past beliefs. Thus, the beliefs of the supernatural become a science of real life.
The purpose of science is to best explain what happens in the world around us in a calculated, but not necessarily rational way. In the myths on the Greeks and Romans, it was believed that power of the world was held by the gods, so for one to live, one must obey them. If someone disobeyed them, then something unfortunate would happen as a punishment from the gods. A more concrete way to explain what the science was is to tell what herbs were thought of. For example, it was believed that rosemary was an aid to memory. Also, it was said that sage could heal infirmities, or render men immortal according to the faery races. A multiple healing compound was said to be mustard which could heal toothaches, bruises, cricks in the neck, or hair loss. Another herb was Basil which was said to be good for the heart and could eliminate stress in a person's life. There were many things that the Celts used to aid in life; these were just some of them.
Since many of these beliefs dealt with behavior, such as how people should act so as not to anger a god, it seems fitting that fairy tales came about as a way to teach children.
These children's stories were used as a way to teach the young about how to act in life and society. Though teaching is their main purpose, they are also used to amuse and entertain people. These tales mostly involve those mythical creatures of the Celtic belief; hence the name fairy tales. An example of one of these stories is Little Red Riding Hood. In this story a little girl called Little Red Riding Hood has to go and deliver a basket of food to her grandma's house. On her way she met a wolf, who was hungry. The wolf beat her to her grandmothers house, then tried to eat Red. A woodsman, hearing the screaming, comes to Reds rescue and kills the wolf. The lesson that this story tries to impose is for people to beware of strangers--they may be a little bit stranger than one thinks. Another example of such stories is The Frog Prince. In this story, a princess drops her ball down into a well and pleads to a frog to get it back for her. He gets the ball, but then says that she must give her a kiss to pay back for his deed. She does so and the frog turns into a prince, thus they live happily ever after. The lesson in this story is that when you do something nice to other people they will in turn do something nice to you. A third example of these fairy tales is the story Snow White and The Seven Dwarves. In this story there is a Queen who is very vain, but she has a daughter who is fairer than she is. Thus, does she reveal her other side as an evil witch. Snow White is poisoned by the witch who has given her an apple but she is saved by the seven dwarves and a handsome prince. The lesson in this story is that friends will help you out when the need arises. This does not, however, always work in a changing society and sometimes the lesson or moral of the story needs to be changed to fit societies' needs of the time.
This leads to politically correct fairy tales; which means the wording of a fairy tale has been changed to be more politically correct, thus showing some aspects of today's society. This is often called satirizing, hence these stories are called satires. The purpose of a satirized fairy tale is to make them fit more with society and also to try and reach kids. A more firm definition is to make fun of society to exact change. The stories mentioned have been affected by satirization. Many of their phrases have been changed, almost making it an entirely new story. One such a phrase from Little Red Riding Hood is, "Furthermore, her grandmother was not sick, but rather was in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult." This phrase means that not all elderly people needed to be taken care of. Another phrase; from Snow White and The Seven Dwarves is, "She was apparently unfettered by the confines of regular employment." This phrase was used to say poor in a nice way. Another phrase from The Frog Prince is, "...middle-aged, vertically challenged, and losing..." In this phrase, the writer was trying to say short in a nice way. A third phrase from a story not mentioned before is from Rapunzel. This phrase is, "There Rapunzel grew to wommonhood." This was used because in today's society women do not want to be dependant on men. This is perfect to prove a point, society may have gone too far with things like this. Society changes as time goes on, one may not even recognize this society a hundred years from now. Some of these changes may be just a bit too drastic or exaggerated in their effects; such as a woman not wanting to be dependent on man. This is fine, but one does not have to demean man or any such thing. That is where satires come in. They can be used to show society how exaggerated some of these changes are. Now one may think it stops there and that these myths will just fade into children's stories. This is not true however, they are present in advertising, writings, and even speech.
These myths are everywhere in today's modern world. They are in the advertising, the cartoons, how people speak and write, even in the names of computer programs. An example of advertising can be seen in the name of the car repair company Midas. Midas was the name of a king who's touch could turn anything to gold. So the name of the company means that their service is gold and that they are successful. Another literary allusion can be seen in the word cereal. This word comes from the Roman god Ceres. Ceres was the god of wheat and breakfast. A third example of a literary allusion can be seen in the name of a computer program. This is not necessarily a good program but it does live up to its name. It is called the Trojan, which comes from the Trojan War. Like the Trojan horse in the war, it hides behind a simple program but then when inside the computer, it reveals its vicious fangs and shows that it is a virus ready to hurt your computer. These myths may sort of fade out and their origins may be forgotten, but they will never go away. They will always stay with us. They are a part of everyday life, and are a part of who we are and our past.
Myths have been man's creation throughout time. The Celt's faery beliefs are just one example of what has happened to them and how they affect us in society today. The Celt's belief have gone from ideas and beliefs of natural events they could not explain, to religions with ceremonies, practices, and rites so one could protect them. It later slowed down and other religions began to take hold in society, then turned into superstitions and held on in the background of everyday life. They even transversed into the world of science. The fairy beliefs also turned into children's stories, like Snow White, which were often used to amuse or teach. Today, we have satires and literary allusions that affect us in many different ways. These myths are very important, they not only helped the people of that time to understand events that seemed unnatural to them, but also they show man's need to understand. It is evident that humans need to understand the reality around so that they can exist without being in constant confusion and fear. They attempt to explain what they see and feel throughout their existence. Myths have been around for a long time. Fact in times long ago became myth now, and in turn, the facts that we have today may become a myth in the future. Who knows, maybe Dog will become a mythical creature in the society of the future who does not have Dogs among them.
posted by dharh 2:28 PM Aug 3rd, 2007 via idt
Look around you. Note where you are and the things around you. Take a piece of paper and a pencil and write these things down. Note the Bedroom, bathroom, outside, mall, etc. Then write down the things around you-- things like a telephone pole, chair, computer, bed, TV, car, tree, man with a knife running after you. These things are important, they are what you perceive of reality. What is meant by that is: there is a reality. Reality in its pure form is unlabeled and undistorted by the senses. It is the senses that see, hear, smell, feel, and taste reality. There were some people, a long time ago, one of which was named Immanuel Kant, who said that one cannot know reality. That one cannot know a tree is a tree, or that ground is the ground. Most of all, he said that reality is determined by each individual's mind, therefore creating different realities for each person, and not independent on man's mind. This is wrong many times over. Objects of reality have labels, they are what we call them because we labeled them so. Reality is not different for each person, but each person perceives reality differently. The laws of reality make the things that Immanuel Kant talked about impossible. Some may be confused or do not fully understand. Sure enough, some may not know the laws or reality. So let me explain further.
First of all, there are the three laws of reality: the Law of Existence, the Law of Identity, and the Law of Consciousness. The first law, the Law of Existence, asserts that existence exists and that one must accept the existence or reality. When one makes the claim "Reality does not exist", they are one; making a specific claim about the nature of reality, thus admitting that reality exists to have a property, and two; claiming that they or nothing at all exists, for reality is the sum of all that exists. If reality does not exist, then nothing can exist. The second law, the Law of Identity, states that every existent entity (which is the only kind of entity there is) is what it is; something specific. It has the properties it has and no others; it has an identity; it exists. The third law, the Law of Consciousness, asserts that all things with a brain have a consciousness. This asserts that man is conscious. Man also has the ability to reason and think. To say this is not true you must assert that you do not think it is true, but if it is true you could not think.
Given that man can reason and think it can also be said that man can use his senses correctly. Using the five senses, man can sense reality. Man can hear a car horn, see a tree, taste a donut, etc. Now, for the sake of a point, let us use the word "object" in the sense that, for instance, a car is an object with certain properties. These properties include four wheels, a hood, an engine, a steering wheel, etc. These are also objects themselves. Man can see the properties of an object and figure out what it is. Using all the laws of reality we can strengthen this idea. By the first law we can say that existence exists and that objects exists. Objects are a major part of reality. Much of reality consists of masses, or objects. A rock is a solid form of mass; it is an object in reality; it exists. By the second law we can say that these objects are something specific. These objects have specific properties that make them what they are. They have these properties and no others besides. These properties give the object its identity in reality. Making it not just an object but an object with properties different from another object. The third law was discussed in the beginning of the paragraph. This as a whole could dispute Kant's and other's theories, but there is more to reality.
Secondly, reality is independent of man's mind. Some people tried to say that reality was dependent of man and that man's mind created a reality for each individual person. For this to be true then some things could not exist. No new things could be discovered. At least for me anyway. Since I have never seen China and I do not know China, then, under Kant's and others pretense, it would not exist in my reality. Yet year after year, people go to China for the first time. New things are discovered. If my reality were different, then how could I communicate with other people? I would think I'd be speaking a completely different language. In fact I would say no one with a mind could exist in my reality, because then their reality would interfere with mine. Hogwash, eh? Yes. As I have stated before, there is one reality. Pure with all its object and all its things that exist. All living entities use senses to survive in reality. All entities with the ability to reason and think do more than just exist and survive, they think and reason out what their senses tell them. They take an object with certain properties and give it a name. It has been this way for thousands of years. It is called labeling.
Thirdly, an object is what I call it because I have labeled it that. Take an object, for example, that has big words on the front called a title. There is a picture too, and inside are several other words on things called pages. Now many people would call this a book. If I wanted, I could call it a book too, or I could call it a "partiplus". A weird sounding word at best, and one that no one but me would understand the meaning of. Still it is my word, it is my label with the meaning: Front with title and picture and has pages with words inside. That is what a label is. A word with a meaning to parallel the properties of the object in which it is applied. If I label an object a TV then thats what it is. What has happened though, over the years, is people have made universal labels; labels all people use, with pre-set meanings. This is what is called a language. A language is a bunch of labels put together to be used in communication between people. Labels also allow the mind to turn huge definitions and concepts into a simple word. Labels are as much a part of human lives as objects are.
In conclusion, reality is knowable by man. It is not dependent on man's mind. Objects in reality are what they are. The labels given to them have meaning that correspond with their properties. Man's senses take what reality dishes out, then correlates that data to allow man to deal with reality. Reality can only be independent of man's mind, for if it were not, there would be more than one reality. Then it would be a swirl of chaos since there are many minds out there. Otherwise, if there were separate realities for each person, then they would all be entirely different. There would be different names for things, different appearances, different ways of life, etc. Even birth and death would be different. In birth, the mother's reality is having the baby. That baby would not be able to have a mind or it would start changing and interfering with the mother's reality. Therefore, the entire race of these "reality controllers" would die out into mindless drones. In fact, once the mother died, then the child and that entire reality would no longer exist. That is certainly not the case. There is only one reality and there is more than one person who can think, but then there are actually people who cannot think and also those who refuse to. Imagine a reality tied to that kind of mind, a mind without a thought. What would be filled in that kind of reality? Nothing. Pure absolute nothingness.
posted by dharh 2:25 PM Aug 3rd, 2007 via idt
"Northerners were impatient to hear the South say 'Uncle' and admit their defeat. The Southerners needed to be told what to do."
This quotation clearly demonstrates that the North wanted revenge for the South's secession. They wanted to make the South sorry for causing the Civil War; and the North would do so with a vengeance. The Civil War was fought because of the North and South's opposing ideas over whether the Union was one nation or a group of states that could leave whenever they wanted. The mere implication of "North" and "South", instead of "Union", shows there was friction. It was this friction that caused the Civil War, not slavery as is sometimes believed. Slavery was only a way for politicians to harness the emotions of the people.
Because the North refused to relent and the South went its own way, a four year long war ensued with over 600,000 casualties in 1861. Americans fought each other over some of the very freedoms that precipitated their earlier war for independence from England. After the North won the war, it left a conquered South to be readmitted into the Union. Deciding the best way to readmit the South was a problem because people had different ideas.
Some - like Lincoln - wanted to readmit the South with open arms, while others - like the Radical Republicans - wanted to punish and seek revenge. Lincoln's plan with its "malice toward none" would have proven far more effective in healing the nation's wounds, for he had a simple set of rules that would have preserved Southern honor and respect, would have generated a kindlier attitude toward the newly freed slaves, and would have eased the racial strife before it occurred. However, the North did not see it this way. The North had several different plans for the readmission of the South into the Union. The Radical Republicans had harsh plans to abuse the rights of American citizens.
Lincoln's plan was one such plan that infused forgiveness. His plan was to pardon all the Southerners, even the ones who fought the Union in the Civil War. All they had to do was take a solemn oath to support the Constitution and abolish slavery. When about one-tenth of the people of a state did this, the state would be readmitted.
On the other hand, The Wade-Davis plan showed the Radical Republican's harsh and vengeful view on the subject. The plan was to make a list of all the white males in the South. Only when a majority of these males took an oath to support the Constitution would each state be readmitted. Then a Convention would be called up, and a new constitution would be made for each Southern state. It would take several years for the new constitutions to be written, and until that time, the South would be under military rule. The goal was to punish the South and to make them feel sorry for their secession from the Union.
After seeing what the Radical Republicans had planned, Lincoln, not wanting a confrontation with Congress, let the Southerners choose the plan they liked. Clearly they would have chosen Lincoln's plan, but alas, Lincoln was assassinated. After Lincoln's assassination, Vice President Johnson decided to basically follow Lincoln's plans for re-admittance. While the initial forgiveness of Lincoln's plan was still there, Johnson added a few things that made it even better, such things as The Freedmen's Bureau and the Fourteenth Amendment.
However Congress passed the plan over Johnson's veto after Johnson became president. The impeachment of Johnson showed the Radical Republican's determination to exert power over the South. When the Wade-Davis plan was implemented, severe punishment had been spelled for the South. With Congress in the power of making decisions over the reconstruction of the South, they affected Military Reconstruction. This reconstruction consisted of dividing up the South into five military districts that would be ruled by Northern generals. There were both positive and negative sides to this. On the negative side, southern white males were not allowed to vote or hold office. Also, they were under military rule. On positive side, slavery was abolished and the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, giving long overdue rights to blacks.
Meanwhile, another reconstruction was going on at this time called the Black Reconstruction, which integrated blacks into society. Blacks were given government offices, and oftentimes, too many blacks were given jobs that made the southern whites resent them because blacks were not trained to do these jobs. Blacks were given many new rights such as the ability to vote, the ability to go to school, and the freedom to make a living on their own. No one can dispute that blacks, as people, deserved this right to liberty and equality. However, disenfranchising white southern males to bring about new rights resulted in prejudice, racial strife, and a hatred between races.
The Northern Radical's harsh plan for reconstruction of the South did not go without consequence. These consequences are blunders that still hurt us in the present. However not all of the consequences were bad. The Fourteenth Amendment gave blacks the civil rights that the whites had. The Freedmen's Bureau helped blacks to read and write. However, these good things were far outweighed by the bad. The negative consequences hurt blacks in ways we can never truly comprehend. After the southern white males were disenfranchised and no longer were allowed to govern themselves, they decided to forcefully regain control of the government by intimidating the blacks. In so doing, they could keep blacks from voting for the Northerners who were in power. Thus the Ku Klux Klan appeared roaming the South, doing unspeakable things to the blacks if they so much as lift a finger to oppose them.
Another consequence was the Jim Crow laws in the South. These laws enforced separate housing, transportation, schools, and even drinking fountains! Along with those laws came the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case that upheld "separate but equal" facilities. No race that is separate is truly equal because separate implies one is not good enough to mix with the others. Soon they lost all the rights they had gained under the Republicans. Many blacks could not vote because they could not afford to pay the "poll taxes", and some blacks were unable to get other jobs so they were forced to work in the farms like they had done before. These abominations to the rights of the human soul can only be construed as pointless and self demeaning.
In conclusion, all of this could have been avoided if only the Radical Republicans had looked at what they where doing and thought of the consequences instead of striving for the personal agenda of revenge. These consequences could have been avoided if another plan like Lincoln's had been drawn up. The North should have done the readmitting and reconstruction with more kindness and thought. The North should have let the South in with only an oath to support the Constitution and a Readmission Compromise. It would have mandated that the Southerners provide civil rights for all Blacks and integrate them into society as equals, or face punishment that would be given to anyone if any United States Citizen was deprived of his/her rights. Also, institutions would have to be made to help the blacks learn and be integrated into society. In exchange for this, the Southerners would have been readmitted into the Union with open arms, allowed to be in Congress, vote, and make their own constitutions. If this had been implemented, we could now be living side by side, not as a union together as blacks and whites, as it was with the North and South, but as a union of the human race.
posted by dharh 2:23 PM Aug 3rd, 2007 via idt
"I believe the power to make money is a gift of God . . . to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind. Having been endowed with the gift I possess, I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money, and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow men according to the dictate of my conscience."
As this statement clearly demonstrates, the people called the captains of industry felt that their success in the acquiring of money was due to the hand of God being on their shoulders and that their own morals would dictate to what good use that money would go to their fellow man. This was the beginning of a philosophy first coined by Charles Darwin, in a purely biological form, called The Theory of Natural Selection or Darwinism, later to be used by Herbert Spencer in a more social form for human applications in society, hence the name Social Darwinism. Industrialists who had gone from being captains of industry to Robber Barons wanted a philosophy to justify their means of acquiring wealth. Social Darwinism was one such philosophy. These Robber Barons used Social Darwinism as a justification and, even worse, as a moral to sanction their own actions, not considering that their own actions could be wrong. As time progressed, a change had come to the industrialists and their philosophy. Just as Social Darwinism changed, so did industrialists. They changed in reflection, from acquiring the means to support their fellow man, to acquiring the means to support themselves at the expense of their fellow man. Such was the influence of Social Darwinism on the Robber Barons and their methods in the late nineteenth century America. To see what influences Social Darwinism had and how its fundamentals could only lead to such influences, one must take a look at Social Darwinism's basic outlining premises (Angeles 63).
To begin with, Social Darwinism's infancy, in its biological form, was The Theory of Natural Selection, and its father was Charles Robert Darwin. Born in Shrewsbury, England, in 1809, educated at Cambridge and Edinburgh, and died in 1882, Charles Darwin developed the biological theory of natural selection (Angeles 63). This theory explains that natural selection is the process that brings about the survival of the strong and adaptable, and apparently, the destruction or devitalization of the weak and less adaptable. The theory of natural selection depends greatly on the variability of life over a long period, which will gradually result in structural changes called adaptions. Charles Darwin held that all living organisms adapt in different degrees and have a different number of random variations. There are variations that increase and there are variations that decrease the chances of survival for any living organism. The variations that increase the chances of survival or the rate of reproduction persist in existence. The variations that increase the chances of survival are preserved in the parent generation of a variant population of organisms, and are then transmitted to future generations. The variations that decrease the chances of survival in any given organism decrease or die out with the organism that they affect. Evolution had been in the realm of science before Darwin. The Theory of Natural Selection was Darwin's concept of evolution by natural selection. Charles Darwin said natural selection was natures way of choosing the ablest biological organisms to survive (Angeles 199-200). Charles Darwin's definition for natural selection was that the strong (those with variations that increase survival probability) survive and that the weak (those with variations that decrease survival probability) die or devitalize. Never in his life did he say "survival of the fittest", and never did he mean for his theory to be used in a social form. Herbert Spencer, with a few others, however, decided that was what Darwin meant and that it should be applied in social terms.
Social Darwinism was an application of Darwin's Theory of Natural selection to the society of the late nineteenth century America. Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, wrote that society had operated like a jungle in which only the fittest survived, and that, although this process was a cruel one, it promised long-term benefits that would gradually make for a wholly, just, and peaceful society. He emphasized, however, that Social Darwinism must be upheld, that the process of this social natural selection must be allowed to operate at its own pace and that efforts to improve society during this natural process would both be misguided and futile (Roner 999-1000). Social Darwinism held that when man is born, man has the necessity of sustaining his existence, which he will receive by a struggle against nature. This struggle is both to win what is essential to his life and to ward off that which is a danger to it. Nature holds what is essential to man, but nature will not offer it as a gift. Man must strive to get and take what nature holds.
The continuation of the race for health and vigor, and its success in the struggle to expand and develop human life on earth requires that the head of the family shall, at his own expense, be able to supply not only his own needs, but also the needs of the people who are dependent on him. If a man uses his energies to continue the struggle on behalf of himself and his loved ones, then that person shall have the right to dispose of the product exclusively as he chooses. The struggle to get a fortune gives strength of character, something a man who inherits his wealth rarely gets, but hereditary wealth transmitted from father to son is the strongest instrument to keep up a steadily advancing civilization. In the absence of the law of entail (the law to limit the inheritance of real property to a specific line or class of heirs) and perpetuity, it is inevitable that the capital will speedily slip from the hold of the man who is not fit, back to the man who is, and who can use it for the benefit of society (Persons 70-90). At first, this definition of Social Darwinism did not institute that man used man to get what he wanted, but that man should get what he needed to help man. When Social Darwinism was still in its first stages, industrialists and leaders of corporations clung to it as a way of life. During its first stages, Social Darwinism would fool everyone. What they missed was an underlining meaning that instituted that man must strive to survive and get what he wanted any way he could.
Finally, when times changed, the true underlining definition of Social Darwinism came about. Social Darwinists began to say that the strongest and best fit to survive were those characterized by egoism, ruthlessness, competition, ambition, manipulation, scheming, intelligence, energy, wealth, and power. They also said that the unfit are characterized as being noncompetitive, altruistic, idle, lazy, powerless, and poor (Angeles 63). They said that the poor were poor because they were lazy and that they worked in the factories of the rich for the same reason. They also said that if the poor had any ounce of energy and ambition, they could go out and succeed in life. Not only did they say this, but they said that the leaders and the industrialists were the fittest, and they should be able to employ any method they wanted to get what they needed. Anyone standing in their way was defying nature. Though the Theory of Natural Selection went from being a purely biological process into one that is social, it still implied that the process was natural. Social Darwinism had made its inevitable change to battle the ever present unions that said their workers were being mistreated, or not being paid enough. All the while, the industrialists were still bantering that their use of man was good for society and would make for a prosperous nation.
Secondly, although they were the men who made the industry in America during the late nineteenth century, and they were the men who were once called the captains of industry (a title given to them that spoke of the awe inspired by their accomplishments), they had never been universally admired. When the industry began to fail during the Great Depression of the 1930's and as their methods began to become more crude, they had begun to be called Robber Barons. This term was given to them by people who claimed that the working classes were brutalized by the factory systems (Kennedy 314). This is what Social Darwinism had done to the industrialists in the eyes of the people. They first saw great men who created an industry with great power to match it, but later they saw men who used high handed methods and used people for their own gains claiming that Social Darwinism gave them that right. Though not all the industrialists were bad and used methods to stagnate the competition, many of them made off with more money than is countable while leaving their fellow industrialists in the dust. To see what and who these Robber Barons were, one needs to look at their finest, their leaders: Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.
Andrew Carnegie was a great businessman who was born in Scotland and whose family had come to the United States in 1848. His family had been poor, so at the age of 16, he took a job as a messenger boy for $2.50 a week. With whatever money he could save, he began to educate himself by reading books during his off hours. One day he met the manager of a Pennsylvanian Railroad and was offered a job with the railroad. Soon after that, Carnegie began to buy stock in other companies with some borrowed money. These companies grew very big and made Carnegie fairly rich; at the age of 33, Carnegie was making about $50,000 a year. In 1873, with the knowledge he had learned from reading his books, he turned his attention to making steel. Two years later, after visiting some steel factories in England and learning a new method of turning iron into steel called the Bessemer process, he decided that his mills in Pittsburgh should be using this new method. After his return from England, Carnegie built the biggest steel mill near Pittsburgh and started out using the Bessemer process. By 1900 the Carnegie Steel Company's profit was at $40 million a year. By the next year, 1901, Carnegie decided to retire and sell his business. He sold his company to a group of business leaders headed by a Banker in New York, J. P. Morgan. Morgan paid Carnegie $492 million for the company, making Carnegie the richest man in the world (Pech 132-3). Not all his wealth was luck and being able to use a better process than his competitors. What placed him over the top was his practices of putting his competitors out of business, cornering other businesses in the market and buying them at any price he named, and showing no mercy to anyone.
"The 14-year-old did not smile as he walked home from school in Cleveland, Ohio. Smiling, laughing, and enjoying himself were not important to him it was the idea of becoming rich. He once told one of his school friends: 'When I grow up, I want to be worth $100,000 and I'm going to be too.' He was not joking. Rockefeller rarely joked" (Pech 130). While he was young, Rockefeller learned a very important lesson about making money. During one summer he got a job from a farmer digging potatoes for 37 cents a day. Rockefeller saved all the money he got from the job and soon he had saved $50. The farmer that was employing him asked to be loaned the $50. Rockefeller agreed and charged the farmer seven percent interest. Rockefeller, having grown up, explained what this loan had taught him, "I soon learned," said Rockefeller, "that I could get as much money for 50 dollars at seven percent interest... as I could earn by digging potatoes for 10 days." Rockefeller developed a talent for managing his money and making it grow. While he was a young man he opened up a business buying and selling grain. The business made large profits in its first year and Rockefeller used those profits to buy an even larger business: oil.
Before the 1850's oil had not been used for much, usually for back rub medicine and certain drugs. Then in 1859 a railroad conductor, named Edwin L. Drake, dug for oil near Titusville, Pennsylvania. He struck oil and began producing 20 barrels of it a day. Since there was now enough oil to be refined into kerosene, kerosene lamps became the major means of lighting United States homes and offices. Other people rushed to put down wells in Titusville, making pumping for oil a thriving business. Refining also became a thriving business and Rockefeller and some others saw that Cleveland was a good place to start making refineries. In 1863, Rockefeller and a few other men built a refinery in Cleveland. Two years later after the American Civil War, Rockefeller bought out three of his four partners. Not even being 30, Rockefeller became a very rich man; his business could turn out more barrels a day than any other refinery. Still, the oil business was a risky one. Fortunes were made and lost overnight. To stay on top, Rockefeller had to sell more and more oil because some refineries were catching up. He not only wanted to be the biggest oil company in the country, he also wanted to be the only oil company in the country. He wanted to drive all his competitors out of business. To do this, Rockefeller made a deal with a railroad company to exclusively use them in exchange for a rebate, and because of this rebate, Rockefeller could sell his oil for less than his rivals. One by one, he bought up the other companies that were forced to sell at almost any price he offered. By the end of the decade, he controlled most of the piping, refining, and selling of oil in the United States (Pech 130-2).
Many business leaders did this, but Rockefeller only cornered one market: oil. There were many other markets like Carnegie and his steel company. Many people did not know what to think of these business leaders. It was hard for them to decide whether they were good men or evil men. These business men showed no mercy to their rivals and they wielded great power. Some men saw this as bad and that it was a threat to democracy. On the other hand, some people admired what all these business leaders had done. "Was it better, then, to think of these men as 'captains of industry' and praise them for making the United States into a strong industry nation? Or was it better to think of them as 'robber barons' who enriched themselves while hurting others? Some Americans in the 1900's answered the question one way - and some the other" (Pech 133). Tying Social Darwinism together with the Robber Barons was a perfect match, because both had the same principles. The industrialists saw Social Darwinism as a way to justify their actions, and it did for many years, until the people saw through their disguise. Social Darwinism had claimed that the wealthy were a product of nature, as when Yale Professor William Graham Sumner concluded that, "The millionaires are a product of natural selection." Not only did Social Darwinism institute that it was the effect of nature, it also instituted that it was a God given right for these business men to have money. John D. Rockefeller once said, "The good Lord gave me my money." Such is the product of a man who uses Social Darwinism as a way of life (Cashman 308-9).
In conclusion, Social Darwinism was a philosophy that instituted that the men of business had the will of God behind them and that natural selection was not only a biological factor, but also one of social selection. The philosophy of Social Darwinism influenced the ideas and methods of the Robber Barons, which seemed to fit perfectly with their existing ideas. It gave them better ways to defend their actions against society, which is clearly demonstrated by their more than eager willingness to adopt Social Darwinism as their own philosophy. Not only is the implication that Social Darwinism gave them the divine right to use their methods wrong, but so was their idea that Social Darwinism gave them sanction against their high handed methods toward their workers and rivals. Man may have the right to do anything they want with their product, sell at any price to any person, but man does not have the right to use people for their own gain. Man does not need moral sanction from society, which people like Andrew Carnegie seemed to think they needed.
After everything is said and done and history has passed, and we must face the future. The government was right in stopping the Robber Barons in the past, but now that things look better. There is no real need for strong government intrusion. However, government is still passing regulations left and right. Government may even be on a collision course. Only the future can determine what that collision will be against. What lies ahead of us, now that the Robber Barons of the past have made the people of the present wary of business men? What awaits us in this great society called America is possibly the end of capitalism, and even democracy. The one thing that has made the country so great, is awaiting its death. Many people have become disillusioned about capitalism, afraid possibly of more people like John D. Rockefeller in the time of the late twentieth century. The United States Government is cracking down more and more on the great companies of our time. Such as a few years ago, one company's trust, who was buying up all the small companies present in each town, was broken apart. While at another time, a few years back, another company that was doing very bad business, was poorly run, and had no money, had been given aid by the same government. This goes against everything that capitalism is about : private enterprise, which clearly means private property. Property is owned by individuals and by no means does the government have the right to intervene. If you take away the right of people to run their private enterprises any way they want, as long as it does not go against man's rights, then, in effect, you take away private enterprises all together, destroying capitalism. Since capitalism is the backbone of democracy, when you take that away you can only have three outcomes. One, democracy is still present, run by either socialism or weak communism. Two, you have no democracy but a form of governmental regulated life, close to what is presently taking place, where the government has laws for everything. Three, you have an angered people who feel that the Government has infringed on their rights and possibly a second revolution. Think about it the next time you see another law being passed, hindering some private corporation. Who knows, maybe some day, 20 years from now, you could be looking out a window in an apartment you paid for by working at a job, and at that job, you get paid the same amount as the next person even though you do the job ten times better than they do. Looking out that same window, you see a government run grocery store, a government run computer company, and a government run restaurant, and all the while thinking that all of this was made possible by a group of people, about a hundred years ago, who decided that Social Darwinism was a good philosophy to use. Bibliography:
Arnof, Dorothy S. A Sense of The Past: Reading in American History. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1973.
Boorstin, Daniel J. A History of the United States. Massachusetts: Prentice-Hall, 1990.
Cashman, Sea Dennis. American in the Guilded Age. New York: New York University Press, 1988.
Grob, Gerald N., and George Athan Billias. Interpretations of American History. New York: The Free Press, 1987.
Josephson, Mathew. The Robber Barons. San Diego: Harcourt Braces Jovanich Pub., 1962.
Kennedy, David M., Thomas A. Bailey, and Mel Piehl. The Brief American Pageant. Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1989.
Lawrence, Bell. Fascinating Facts From American History. Maine: J Weston Welch, 1982.
Peck, Ira, and Steven Jantzen. American Adventures: Old Hate - New Hope. New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1970.
Persons, Stow. Selected Essays of William Grakam Sumner: Social Darwinism. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1963.
Roner, Eric, and John A. Garraty. The Readers Companion to American History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.
posted by dharh 1:34 PM Aug 3rd, 2007 via idt
I think that Mark Twain had it right when he said that we are all liars. He may have said it in jest, but perhaps he was alluding to our growing use of the lie and what constitutes a lie. As Chris Rock observes, women provide the "visual lie," especially when dating. For example, women put on high heels when they aren't tall, they put on makeup to disguise how their faces really appear, and they wear the Wonder Bra to make their breasts look larger. With men, it's the "actual lie." They act differently than they really are when they are dating such as appearing to be interested in their date's hobbies when they really aren't. Then there are more profound lies such as lying to your mate about your fidelity. Which lies are "really lies," are lies wrong, and are some worse than others?
According to Charles Fried, even "[a] little lie is a little wrong but still something you must not do" (205). Immanuel Kant describes the issue as a "duty of veracity, which is quite unconditional" (198). Henry Sidgwick, however, has the view that "lies [are] sometimes justifiable under certain circumstances" (216). While Immanuel Kant and Charles Fried appealed to the deontological view that lying is wrong and regardless of the consequences one has a duty to not lie, others such as Henry Sidgwick have appealed to the utilitarian view that lying in and of itself is not inherently wrong and that a person needs to only consider what actions create the best consequences for everyone.
As rational beings and as part of the human contract of interaction, we have a duty to protect and to not impede an individual's rights and autonomy. There is an intrinsic value in a person's autonomy. A person does not have autonomy unless he or she has the psychological capability for rational decision making that is based on the truth. Any action that limits or deprives another person of their autonomy is bad and an intentional action to do this is morally wrong. Perhaps it is not a universal law that lying is wrong, but being lied to causes a person to have a view of the world that is different from reality, thus depriving them of their autonomy. Lying is also inherently exploitive and manipulative. Each person has a right to make informed decisions that affect his or her life without being manipulated by another person's lie.
It is wrong to lie most of the time, for most reasons. However, the "visual lie" as described is not necessarily a lie because the truth is obvious. Even with the best of intentions and believing the consequences of the lie will be positive, there is never a guarantee that the result will be positive, won't result in someone losing their autonomy, and won't be exploitive or manipulative. In a few situations when telling the truth would result in severe physical or emotional harm to another person or yourself, you can appeal to the utilitarian view that not lying will have far worse consequences; the lie itself is still wrong but not lying is more wrong. Truly, in those situations when the reasons for telling the truth are not clear, one must use their best judgment and take responsibility for their actions. A lie always has the potential to cause harm.
posted by dharh 1:31 PM Aug 3rd, 2007 via idt
Before we start I believe we should talk about the distinction between business and poverty inside and outside of this country. I believe there should be no distinction. As Peter Singer argues that "we cannot discriminate against someone merely because he is far away from us (or we are far away from him)..." (579). Businesses have the same obligations internationally that they have here. Likewise when it comes to poverty we should be fighting against it both here and abroad.
Wealth in itself is not intrinsically good or bad. John Hospers states that "[a] million dollars made on the free market means that that a great deal of money has filtered down to a very large number of people in the economy" (235). However, oftentimes top managers of a company make exorbitant salaries and share in most of the profit, leaving little for the workers who make the company the money. In a purely capitalist system there is little regard for the individual worker; there is only regard for that which creates the most wealth. I believe it matters how one accumulates wealth and that ethics is an integral part of our lives and should not be left out of the workplace. Robert C. Solomon explains that "[t]he bottom line of the Aristotelean approach to business ethics is that we have to get away from the 'bottom line' thinking and conceive of business as an essential part of the good life . . . " (262).
Karl Marx argued that our very nature is to work and that in a capitalist system we are alienated from the product of our labor ultimately depriving us of our being and connection to our community. Solomon agrees with Karl Marx and believes that working should be a "worthwhile" activity that provides "meaningful substance" and is a "source of our sense of self-worth..." (263). There is room in a capitalistic society for an individual to be successful and become wealthy, for a company to make a profit, and for both the individual and the company to have a sense of community.
When it comes to poverty there are of course two main opposing camps, those who have an altruistic ideal and those who have more of an individualistic responsibility or a utilitarian ideal of advancement of civilization though some may suffer more than others. Ayn Rand argues that we have only a duty to pursue self interest both rationally and long-term. That altruism devalues the individual self and sets us up to being prey to be sacrificed for moral criteria to the beneficiaries of one's actions. An individual knows his own wants and unwanted charity degrades ones self-respect and self-reliance as well as being invasive.
Garrett Hardin described a possible outcome of providing food for countries not willing or able to save due to population growth as a tragedy of the commons where all will suffer. Andrew Carnegie argued for individualism, private property, the law of accumulation of wealth, and the law of competition. Without such things as the law of accumulation of wealth everyone lives in squalor. He argues that "while the law [of competition] may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department" (588). However, Carnegie also argues that vast inequalities promotes discourse and revolution and must be reconciled. His solution is by giving in a slow but increasing amount the estate upon death to the public.
In the opposing camp Peter Singer believes we have an obligation to give until it becomes detrimental for us (578). Only in spreading the wealth evenly to all people can we be ethical. Amartya Sen argues that starvation and hunger are failures of entitlement, that famine is often not a result of lack of food but lack of entitlement of many peoples access to the food in the country. He argues for the rights of the people not to be hungry.
In my opinion the individual is most important when it comes to both topics of business ethics and poverty. It is the individual who needs virtues and the separation of outside life from work life is both needlessly conducive to unhappiness it separates us from virtuous acts. To leave our virtues at home it promotes a business and workplace without virtues. Perhaps like Carnegie I believe in private property and the laws of accumulation of wealth and competition but I also believe in the ethical accumulation of that property, wealth, and practice of competition. I believe in the right of people to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in that order further I believe in the right of people not to be hungry. Perhaps not at the excess of what Hardin suggests but we have an obligation to provide for the entitlement of as many people as possible to get food. This is of course not to say we force feed people, if people beyond reason do not wish to take charity then that is their right of liberty. If we are to promote the idea that capitalism and commerce is good for the common good because it promotes advancement and uplifts civilization then we must also argue that towards that same goal excessive salaries for top managers and CEOs of corporations should be diverted back to the business to provide for more jobs and growth of the business.
posted by dharh 1:27 PM Aug 3rd, 2007 via idt
In looking at racism and sexism we can outline several things in which to think about. First, what does it mean to be a racist or a sexist? Second, what are the reasons or background for being racist or sexist? Third what are possible similarities, differences, and issues between sexism and racism? Further we can look at the current issues of sexism and racism as we deal with them today. Such as minority groups and feminist groups and their practices of exclusion or correction programs like affirmative action. Finally we can ask the questions of why it is so important to rid ourselves of racism and sexism and what possible ways we can do so.
Racism is the view that ones race, particularly your own, makes one superior than another while sexism is the view that ones gender, particularly your own, makes one superior to the other. For example men are seen to be more independent, capable, and powerful than woman. Whites are also seen this way against those of color. The further removed one is from what is considered the normal the more inferior you are.
Jean-Paul Sartre in his description of the anti-Semite asserted that "[if] the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him." Further explaining that the anti-Semite chooses to hate because this passion fills him when otherwise we would be empty (338-339). Others such as Marilyn Frye might describe racism less insidiously as she does sexism, "cultural and economic structures which create and enforce elaborate and rigid patterns..." (413). Perhaps it depends on different people and circumstances, it can be one or the other or even a little of both.
In The Erasure of Black Woman Elizabeth V. Spelman argues against the ideas that sexism is more fundamental than racism, that if you get rid of sexism all racism would be gone, and that sexism is much harder to eradicate. My argument would be that sexism is the most pervasive, while perhaps sexism is not the most fundamental, sexism accounts for at least half the population, racism can account for far less. Sexism occurs to those even who would be oppressors, such as the white woman. Spelman argues that you can't equate a black woman's experience of sexism with a white woman's experience, and that the black woman experiences oppression uniquely different from of the black man.
In describing her participation with feminist groups Bell Hooks "found that white woman adopted a condescending attitude towards me and other non-white participants" (363). Shelby Steele argues that minority groups and feminist groups have forgotten the objectives that called for their existence in the first place. In direct opposition of the integration sought in the mid-sixties they sought sovereignty and collective entitlements. Steele describes collective entitlements as "always undemocratic" and inherently exclusive (365 - 369). Both Michael Lind and Shelby Steele had problems with racial preference policies or programs such as affirmative action. Michael Lind described it as a "tokenism embodied in racial preference and multiculturalism" (374). Shelby Steele explained that affirmative action "has very little real impact on the employment and advancement of blacks" (366).
Shelby Steele described the reasons for getting rid of racism and I would assert sexism when she wrote, "[i]ntegration had little to do with merely rubbing shoulders with white people... [i]t was about the right to go absolutely anywhere white people could go... [t]o be anywhere they could be and do anything they could do [is] the point" (367). How can we get rid of sexism or racism? We can't do it by policing people's minds, locking them up for merely thinking sexist or racist thoughts. It is not the role of government to change public opinion. I would even assert that people have a right to think anyway they want. We can however begin to rid sexism and racism through education. Even now the next generation has a harder time understanding their parents racisms. It may not be as quick as many would want it but it can be done slowly by ensuring as Shelby Steele described it as "the inclusion of all citizens into the same sphere of rights, the same range of opportunities and possibilities" (369).
posted by dharh 11:45 AM Aug 3rd, 2007 via idt
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