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Archive for the ‘Section 13’ Category

Envision the television show: Speed Date; however in this weeks episode, there will only be three participants: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Eminem. Imagine the Find your Friend special where Eminem will sit down with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. and then choose ‘his new best friend’.

Throughout the late 1990’s and early 2000’s Marshall Mathers developed into an icon within the hip-hop community. His obscene lyrics, offend women activists, the gay and lesbian community, and viciously lashed out against the American government. Eminem’s music expresses ideas of violent rebellion and calls Americans to join in the fight for true freedom.

In Eminem’s conversation with Martin Luther King, Mr. King cries out “Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city…Its record of brutality is widely known…There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches.” (King, 2). Mr. King continues on to say, “we…engage in nonviolent direction action” (King, 6.). At this point Eminem has lost all focus on Martin Luther King and proclaims, “We gonna fight, we gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march” (MOSH by Eminem). Then storms away.

Eminem continually perpetuates ideas of violence in his lyrics and his demeanor. In a song entitled Kill You Marshell Mathers states that he “invented violence”. Mr. King’s non-violent action is carefully orchestrated and civil compared to Eminem’s impulsive and violent methods. It is unlikely that Eminem will select Martin Luther King because of their opposite philosophies’ on effective revolution.

Next up is Malcolm X. Eminem situates himself and immediately starts with a line from his song We As Americans,  “I’d rather see the president dead, its never been said, but I set precedents”. Malcolm X responds with a gleaming smile, “I believe in action on all fronts by whatever means necessary.” (Malcolm, 1.) Eminem and Malcolm begin to vent their feelings of oppression to each other. Malcolm expresses that “I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American…I’m speaking as a victim of this American system”. (Malcolm, 3.) It is clear that Malcolm’s extremist attitude is fueled by his resentment at the discriminatory American legislation. In a final attempt to seduce Eminem, Malcolm says that,  “If we don’t do something real soon, I think you’ll have to agree that we’re going to be forced either to use the ballot or the bullet.” (Malcolm, 2.). Nodding, Eminem turns to the show’s host with his thumbs up. Eminem has chosen Malcolm.

Eminem, an advocate of violence, agrees with Malcolm’s ‘at all costs’ attitude, and therefore chooses him as his new best friend. Mr. Mathers would consider Mr. King’s “four basic steps” in a “nonviolent campaign” (King, 2) ineffective.

Today’s episode leaves me questioning whose methods are truly most effective?

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Mill in Sociology

Mill’s Subjection of Women bears a striking similarity to the philosophies of sociologist Emile Durkheim. Durkheim coined a phenomena known as social construction: the concept that society teaches and shapes individuals behaviors, and personalities through institutional arrangements, culture, and an individuals’ search for identity. The most interesting similarity is Mill and Durkheim’s discussion of the negative impact that society has upon the liberties of women. Society molds them into believing and becoming subservient to men by constraining them into believing its natural and by restricting their experiences. However, neither Mill nor Durkheim discuss this argument fully, rather Mill covers many of the questions that Durkeim does not.

Mill and Durkheim argue that the socially constructed ideologies help to perpetuate the subordination of women in society. The ideological ‘utopian’ woman is depicted as fragile, subordinate, and at the mercy of her male counter-part. As women idealize these emphasized females, they strive to be more like them and forfeit their identity in hopes of molding to the societal norm.

Mill’s ideas in the Subjection of Women are those of a sociologist fused with a political theorist. Mill and Durkheim both agree that society shapes women to become naturally subordinate to men. When Mill wrote, women were rarely educated and their primary job was to manage the household. Mill does not frame the idea with a specific term, but, when he explains that, “All women are brought up from the very earliest years in the belief that their ideal of character is the very opposite to that of men; not self-will” (659 Mill), he is referring to the same principle that Durkheim calls social construction. The result of these societal constraints upon women has had an enduring impact on womens’ access to resources and the authority they can hold within societies. Mill writes that, “the disabilities of women…in which laws and institutions take persons at their birth, and ordain that they shall never in all their lives be allowed to compete for certain things.” (661).  I agree with Mill and Durkheim, that our society is designed in such a way that restricts women’s access to certain liberties.

Durkheim’s theories never suggest a solution; rather they state how these limitations on women have been constructed. Mill proposes a solution to women’s’ subordination. Mill believes that, “the amount of intellect available for the good management of its affairs, would be obtained, partly, through better and more complete intellectual education of women…women in general would be brought up equally capable of understanding business, public affairs…”(692). Mill urges that if women were educated the overall intellectual capacity would theoretically double and therefore serve to help society as a whole. As women become educated society will alleviate the restrictions and women will raise their position in society.

By comparing political theory to sociological theory we are able to have a deeper understanding of how political theory is intertwined with the functions of society. I find it compelling that almost two hundred years later, the same societal constraints still function. Women have integrated into societies’ institutions of higher education, yet their position in society is still below men. The modern day presence of the gender binary posses question to the validity of Mills feminist ideologies…

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The Future According to Marx

Given our current economic, social, and political structure, how would Marx predict the future outcome of our society? Marx was without question a revolutionary thinker and extremist for his time. His arguments against materialism and capitalism were seen as crazy by his peers, yet make astounding empirical sense for an industrial society. However, in 2009, the defining feature of humanity is not production, but rather knowledge. We live in a world that emphasizes information and technologies, but is still reliant on physical capital. As a result, Marx would predict the mechanization of industrial production and establishment of a robotic proletariat class.

In the 20th century, labor was defined by physical productions. However, in 2009, Marx’s contention that man’s purpose is to labor, not to serve, takes on a new meaning. Intellectual production has become the new goal of humanity. Yet, it is obstructed by man’s materialistic needs. Marx argues that in order for the Bourgeoisie to continue their exploitation of the proletariat class they need to revolutionize their “instruments of production, and hereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society.” (800) Currently, we rely on industrial nations for our material concerns. However, as each of these countries transition to post-industrialism we will need a new source for our needs. Marx, seeing the development of machines, would envision a mechanized system for satisfying human materialism.

The next step in Marx’s vision would be the establishment of machines as a political agent. Regarding human kind, man’s defining quality is his ability to “produce his own means of subsistence.” (776) Similarly, Marx would see the reliance of machines on humanity as inhibiting their progress. While machines currently produce physical capital efficiently, they lack the ability of producing the means of their own subsistence. Yet with the creation of increasingly intelligent technologies, mechanical self-sufficiency is inevitable. This premise may be founded in science fiction, but is seems like a salient concern for Marx. This progression leads towards mechanized self-sufficiency. The consequence of this self-sufficiency is the establishment of machines as political agents.

While the creation of a robotic proletariat class would be in our best economical interests due to its efficiency, it still poses a new challenge to the global Bourgeoisie. “The development of Modern Industry…cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the Bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products.” (804) Marx would see man’s creation of a self-sustaining mechanized class as the end of the human Bourgeoisie. The Communist Manifesto sets out a process where the exploitation of the proletariat class leads to revolution, and in turn, communism. With control of material production undertaken by the mechanized proletariats, the Bourgeoisie will supply them with the control of human subsistence. With the appeasement of this condition, “it becomes evident that the Bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society.” (804) Therefore, Marx would argue the machine’s realization that man cannot sustain himself would lead to the overthrow of the human Bourgeoisie and the establishment of mechanized global communism. This leaves the question: what will be the need for mankind in a world ran by machines?

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Although written more than one hundred years ago, the principles of the Communist Manifesto are more credible today than ever. Marx’s predictions of the interclass struggles between the proletariats and the Bourgeoisie have become a reality on a global scale and pose a significant threat to the Unites States and the global capitalist system.

The Communist Manifesto sets out a course of history in which the proletariats take over the Bourgeoisie as opponents of capitalism. Marx argues that we will live in a world whose industries “no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones”, and “industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe.” (800) America is a prime example of the described industrialized nation. We have become a country dominated by the service industry and reliant on other countries for goods. Marx also argued, “The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation.” (804) If Marx’s ideals are right, the world is approaching a new era where the global proletariat class fights back against America and the global capitalist system.

The Communist Manifesto describes the reliance of the Bourgeoisie on the proletariats for labor commodities. As America transformed from an industrial to a service based nation, it found itself desiring “new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion…we have intercourse in every direction.” (800) The service-based needs of the United States have created a global class division in which it demands goods from labor-intensive countries.

America’s transition from an industrial to a post industrial society has set itself up for a repetition of the Marxist process on a global scale. As our reliance on other nations increases, we supply the global “ proletariat with weapons for fighting the Bourgeoisie.” (803) These modern weapons come in the form of trading control. New policies, such as the US Climate bill (H.R. 2454), are significantly expected increasing our international energy consumption. However, these social changes are not supported by all people. Over the past ten year the world has begun to see a rebellion among the global proletariats. A recent example has been the protests for the nationalization of the Bolivian gas reserves. The indigenous Bolivian population, who are employed as refinery workers, has refused to work causing a shut down of the gas exports. Their rebellion has begun to put them in a position of power over their trading partners. If you believe Marx, this will be a general trend among the proletariat societies we rely on. We are becoming slaves to the proletariat industrial power as we turn to them for our energy and productive needs. This dependence puts us in position “unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it was to feed him, instead of being fed by him.”(804) We dig our own commercial graves as we furnish the proletariat class with control of global production. Still, we trade our laboring power for our service needs. We have become an icon for global capitalism as we propagate hope to smaller industrialized societies that they too can reach the America capitalist dream. However, it is only a matter of time they realize that their true progress is obstructed by our materialistic needs. If this Marxist process continues, a global proletariat revolution is inevitable. And at its epicenter, stands America.

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On Consent

John Locke and Socrates talked about consent; how people tacitly consent by doing nothing, and expressed consent, when people state their consent.  I do not think that tacit and expressed are the only kinds of consent that we should consider.

Take homework for example- I do not expressly say that I am not going to do my homework, however I did technically make the decision not to do homework.   It is not necessarily express consent, but there is something between the two, express and tacit, I will call it conscious consent.  I may not say I am not going to write my blog post tonight, but I also did not just sit idly by and the blog post not get done.  I made a decision to watch Bones instead of do homework.  I consciously decided what was going to happen, maybe without considering the consequences.

I read a book by Dean Koontz called Velocity that reminded me of this tacit consent concept.  In the book the main character finds a note on his windshield- “If you don’t take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher somewhere in Napa County.  If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work.  You have six hours to decide.  The choice is yours.”  Thinking it was a joke the man does not do anything, and a schoolteacher is killed.  This was not tacit consent- the person chose not to report to the police because he thought that the note was a prank, not because he has something against blond teachers. 

This begs the question how do we decide when someone has consented to something.  When can we say that they consented because they allowed it to happen?  Is it fair to say that someone made a decision when they did not expressly make that decision?  Would that make this guy as guilty as the murderer himself?

Locke and Socrates would say that by not doing anything the man did decide.  Whether he meant to or not, he gave his consent for the schoolteacher to be killed.  Socrates said that by staying in Athens he had agreed to live by their laws and accept their punishment when they decided that he broke them.  Locke talked about people giving their consent by simply living somewhere.  While Locke and Socrates talk of consent in strictly a political sense- obeying the laws of where you live because you consented to them by living there- I wonder what they would have thought about Koontz’s main character and the murderers concept of consent.  Part of me wants to say that both would say that you cannot use tacit consent to justify murder.  However, the other part says that if they truly believe that people tacitly consent to things just by not doing something that they would agree with the murderer, the main character gave consent for the schoolteacher to be killed by not bringing the note to the police. 

Bibliography

Koontz, D. (2005). Velocity. Bantam Books.

Wootton, D. (2008). Modern Political Thought Second Edition. Hackett Publishing Company.

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Rachel Emery Section 13

The health risks of tobacco smoking are well known. The University of Michigan has announced plans to enact a campus-wide smoking ban to allegedly combat these risks. The ban, (Smoke-Free University Initiative) is part of their MHealthy initiative, “in which the university seeks to create a culture of health by offering programs that address the issues that most affect employees: smoking, obesity, and mental and emotional health.” The “ban” won’t be enforced punitively; instead the University will offer resources for smoking cessation to smokers. Mill would oppose the Initiative as much as a straightforward ban on smoking.

A smoking ban is an example of the majority deciding what a minority is allowed to do.  Smokers are no longer allowed to smoke inside, or close to the entrances of buildings, so the harm caused by secondhand smoke is minimal. If smokers harm themselves, Mill says they should be allowed to. As Mill says, “If [the individual] refrains from molesting others…he should be allowed…to carry his opinions into practice at his own cost.” Overenthusiastic members of society “who have the pretension that no person shall enjoy any pleasure which they think wrong” (636) can be told to mind their own business.

The “ban” on smoking going into effect on campus turns out not to be much of a ban at all, because “campus officials do not plan to take a punitive approach to enforcing the ban. … Instead, the university will offer outreach and support to those who are observed smoking on campus grounds” (Bogater). According to Simone Himbeault Taylor, associate vice president for student affairs, what’s important is making “folks aware of options and to make thoughtful decisions.” In other words, they aren’t expressly keeping smokers from smoking, but rather encouraging other options.

So the Smoke-Free Campus Initiative will offer aid in smoking cessation and “healthy choices,” not outlaw a frowned-upon practice. Mill says, “human beings owe to each other help to distinguish the better from the worse, and encouragement to choose the former and avoid the latter” (Wooton 630). He also says, however, that there needs to be “protection…against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rulers of conduct on those who dissent from them” (594, italics mine). I think this shows a contradiction in his philosophy. It is not up to us to enforce our ways of life on someone else, but at the same time we should encourage certain modes.

Mill still opposes the desire to “create a culture” as the University wants to do. That falls under influencing, not simply “informing.” Although the majority considers it smart to not smoke, it cannot do anything but inform smokers of the benefits of abstinence from tobacco. If a minority enjoys a pleasure that the majority thinks is wrong, “the offender may then be justly punished by opinion, though not by law” (630).

The Smoke-Free Campus Initiative does not truly ban smoking because the measure cannot be enforced punitively. No better, it will encourage smokers to quit, still infringing on their right to make their own life decisions. It’s laudable that U of M will offer smoking cessation resources, but why call that a “ban”? The current plan will hinder smokers from freely choosing how to conduct their own lives. Mill’s philosophy in On Liberty argues the benefits of allowing each his or her own way of life, and would oppose both the Initiative.

Sources:

Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche.

Bogater, Jillian. “Informational meeting addresses smoke-free university plans.” http://www.ur.umich.edu/0910/Nov16_09/04.php

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I found Malcolm X’s argument compelling.  I especially liked when he talked about not being an American.  I was fascinated by this concept, I have never really thought about being an American.  He said “I am not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate and call myself a diner.”  That is an interesting concept.  How does one define what makes them American?  Being born here? Malcolm would say not “As long as you and I have been over here, we aren’t Americans yet- If you and I were Americans there would be no problem.”  He is saying that African Americans are second class citizens, that because their votes are not counting, they cannot even consider themselves Americans.  “They don’t have to pass civil rights legislation to make a Polack and American.”  He says that the government that they voted in has been a waste of a vote, the administration “has seen fit to pass every kind of legislation imaginable, saving you until last, then filibustering on top of that.” 

He says that the black man “doesn’t intend to turn the other cheek any longer.”  “They haven’t got anything to lose, and they’ve got everything to gain.  And they’ll let you know in a minute: ‘It takes two to tango; and when I go, you go.’”  I realize that Malcolm X said “by any means necessary,” but I feel that he would never have even talked about taking the movement to violence if there had been another option.  I think that when you back people into corners for a long enough amount of time, they will strike back.  I feel that Malcolm would have been all for MLK’s non-violent campaign if it had worked more quickly.  His problem was that the black man had waited too long to be given what had already belonged to him.  “How can you thank a man for giving you what’s already yours?  You haven’t even made progress, if what’s being given to you, you should have had already.”  He is saying that because these rights should have been the given to the black man to begin with, fighting (with violence) is justifiable when one is being deprived of something they should already have.

Malcolm X said “The ballot or the bullet”, I think that is a sign that he was willing not to turn to violence, if there had been another option.  He made the point that if the government would have given black people a real voice, they would not have had to turn to violence.

While MLK would not agree with the possibility of violence, under any circumstances, you cannot deny that the two men were fighting for the same things.  They both believed that their rights were being, not just violated, but they did not truly have these rights in the first place.  King advocated non-violence; however he was willing to go to great lengths to achieve these ends.  He ultimately gave his life for this cause.  I think that if the white man would have done what he had promised he would do, the civil rights movement would never have had to turn to violence, and I think that Malcolm would agree.

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