Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Section 4’ Category

Charlie Chaplin Modern Times

On December 7th lecture Professor LaVaque-Manty alluded to the film Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin (1936). Although filmed some time after Karl Marx and Friedech Hegel’s The German Ideology (1845) and The Communist Manifesto (1848), Chaplin’s first talkie cites some Marxist concerns. Modern Times displays Marx’s idea of alienation and the worker being part of the machine to exhibit the lower-class struggle during the Great Depression

As stated in lecture, Chaplin presents an extreme and comical interpretation of Marx’s concept of alienation.  At the beginning of the film, Chaplin’s character is mindlessly screwing in cogs without being allowed the satisfaction of seeing the end product. Marx describes this isolation as the, “material life appears as the end, and labor, the producer of material life…appears as means” (796). The protagonist is only a source for the machine, feeding it, instead of the machine being used by the worker to create something. This idea is reiterated further in the next scene of a machine being used to feed Chaplin in order to decrease his lunch break. Because of the desperate times of the depression and the structure of capitalism, Chaplin’s character has little choice but to submit to, “the existing totality of productive forces not merely to achieve self-activity but to secure their very existence” (796). In order to survive, the character develops “individual capacities corresponding to the material instruments of production” (796). Marx’s concept of appropriation is shown humorously as the main worker is unable to stop his hand jerking motion. His degree of appropriation has reached such an extent that he is sent to the insane asylum to get rehabilitated. As stated, “the isolation of individuals and the particular private gain of any individual have become accidental” (797), meaning that it is surprising if any worker, including the character of Chaplin’s film,  actually benefits from his work.

In addition to the Marx’s alienation theory, the idea of workers being only fractions of a machine is also displayed in Modern Times. Chaplin’s character, although comically, physically displays this “cog in the machine” belief by being rolled through moving gears in the large machine. He is, as Marx suggests, “an appendage of the machine” (802). Furthermore, Marx argues that the laborers direct their attacks, “not against the bourgeois condition of production, but against the instruments themselves” (802). Chaplin’s character is unable to stand up to his bosses but does manage to destroy a hefty bit of machinery as he runs from the police. Also, Chaplin shows the idea of humans as just materials when the woman of the film is thrown aside as an orphan, “like a commodity…exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market” (802). The hunger of her family or herself is of little consequence to the capitalists.

Ultimately the alienation and dehumanization of laborers not only degrades their labor but also their means of life. Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times displays this merging of industry and individual satirically but also utilizes important concepts of Marxism.

Read Full Post »

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels explored the struggle and inequality between social classes in The Communist Manifesto as on of the major faults of capitalism.  The Manifesto focus on the distinction between the upper-class, capital-owning bourgeoisie and the working-class proletariat – two classes sustained by a capitalist society.  The inequality encompasses the exploitation of the proletariat as they work for minimal wages to make the rich bourgeoisie even richer. The land and capital remain with the bourgeoisie, and are passed down through inheritance; this means the proletariat is trapped in its exploited, low-wage position with no way to escape and move up.

I thought the ideas that The Communist Manifesto addressed were similar to some of the problems and inequalities of globalization and world trade businesses have faced over the last few decades.  In Thomas L. Freidman’s book, The World Is Flat, A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, the argument is made that 10 aspects of technology (called “flatteners” by Friedman) have leveled the metaphorical “playing field” of world trade in the global economy. His 10 “flatteners” that have helped give businesses everywhere a chance to be internationally competitive are:

  1. The collapse of the Berlin Wall
  2. The launch of the Netscape browser in 1995
  3. Workflow software (programs that perform medial tasks such as computations and data entry)
  4. Uploading – the ability to share information with others
  5. Outsourcing
  6. Offshoring
  7. Supply-chaining
  8. Insourcing – company’s employees perform services for another company
  9. In-forming – search engines such as Google
  10. “The Steroids” – tech bits that help make the other “flatteners” that much more effective; texting, smart phones, videoconferencing, voice over IP, instant messaging, etc.

(For more details on and explanations of the “flatteners”, please see Freidman’s book.)

Marx and Engels suggested revolution was the only way for the underprivileged and exploited to escape their class role and have new opportunities; new technology systems could be thought of as the modern equivalent of revolution.  While certainly less drastic or rapid than a violent overthrow, these technologies have a global impact and affect millions of firms.

While these 10 “flattening” technologies have aided capitalist systems, the focus of this post is about distributing market power and the ability to compete to all kinds of firms, regardless of their size, age or geographic location.  For example, when Netscape launched in 1995, anyone, anywhere with a PC and an internet connection could communicate with anyone else with the same (relatively cheap, easy-to-use) equipment.  This meant that if you were looking to sell a product, but were in a geographically-isolated area, you could still compete with other, larger booksellers by having your own website and sharing the product information with consumers all over the world.  While a small bookseller certainly does not have the market power of a giant such as Borders or Barnes and Noble, the internet and email communication allow a small company to compete for a market share that was previously dominated by larger firms who were able to simply have more, larger stores in the most heavily-populated locations.

There are some caveats: while technology can help level the playing field, adopting it can be troublesome at times.  The cost of being an “early adopter” and learning how to use the technology and dealing with the kinks can be time consuming and potentially costly, and being late the show and failing to start using technology that all of one’s competitors are using can be dangerous for one’s business.  However, when done right, the benefits are prolific.

The Communist Manifesto describes the problems of inequality of a class-based order brought about by capitalism, and suggests that a revolution by the proletariat was the only way that (temporary) equality could be brought about.  Friedman uses his 10 “flatteners” to describe the leveling of the global playing field and the reduction of some of the inequalities between companies/countries that have existed for hundreds of year. These “flattening” uses of technology are contemporary equivalents of what a revolution would have done in the past; society becomes shaken up as there is no clear division of who has the power and control of the resources and who doesn’t.  Everyone has a somewhat equal opportunity to learn and master the new technology, and put it to good use for economically bettering themselves. While it may be somewhat ironic that I am equating a Marxist theory to equality brought about through primarily-capitalist systems, the revolutionizing roles technology innovations play in global trade can very much help level the playing field.

References:

Friedman, Thomas L. The World is Flat, A Breif History of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. Print.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche Second Edition, Edited by David Wooton (Hackett Publishing, Inc. 2008)

Read Full Post »

The idea of a communist revolution happening here and now seems ridiculous to us. Why? Because we believe that capitalism has evolved to a point at which there is no longer a bourgeoisie oppressing the proletariat, and instead, a large middle class that functions without oppression, through the principles of self-advancement, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Jobs today generally require enough skill and have pleasant enough working conditions that work is not characteristically dehumanizing. Equal opportunity is given to most to be able to elevate themselves from unsatisfactory lifestyles. And so the proletariat has turned into a lower middle class that can work hard and become an upper middle class, which is not far beneath the modern bourgeoisie in social status.

This is the norm in America, at least. Our “American dream” ideal of a common laborer using his skill and ingenuity to advance in life has permeated our cultural ideology to a point where we cannot fathom the concept of modern slavery, or the inability to progress out of an unpleasant position. But there is still a need for people to work unpleasant jobs—technology has done much to lighten that burden, but it hasn’t come close to lifting it completely. Marx’s proletariat has become the minority. We don’t live in a society in which the majority suffers daily in their labor, the benefits of which are enjoyed solely by the rich. Those are the premises on which Marx and Engels based the Communist Manifesto; we can no longer identify with the problem that they propose to solve.

However, globally, there is most definitely an oppressive upper class and a suffering lower class. Here in the USA, people from rich to poor are able to adorn themselves in status-symbol clothes and shoes, made by foreign workers whose wages would not afford them a fraction of that which they produce. Is this proletariat similar enough to Marx’s that there might someday be a global Communist revolution? In “The Communist Manifesto at 150”, Slomo Avineri points out that “although polarization did not, as a rule, take place within advanced industrial societies as Marx and Engels predicted, something quite like it did occur on the global level” (3). We’ve sent our proletariat to China, India, Taiwan—all of the countries whose names appear on the “Made in….” labels on clothes. As easily as globalization made it possible for us, the global bourgeoisie, to separate ourselves from the proletariat, it is only a matter of time before globalization gives the proletariat means to recognize the injustice that is inflicted upon them, and to remedy avenge their situation, be it a global revolution or just an economic crash.

True, a global-scale communist revolution would not work, at least in the next hundred-or-so years, because the world is not yet unified enough that a successful system could be put in place after the revolution. Wasn’t that one of the problems with the Soviets’ attempt at it? “[Communist revolution] can begin in less-developed Russia, but there can be no ‘Socialism in One Country’ there or anywhere else” (5), Averni says. The Cold War was not what Marx had in mind for interactions between communist and capitalist countries. In order for Marx’s vision to realize, nations must first gain each other’s trust. Communism relies on cooperation, so in order for it to work effectively, the world would have to be much more unified than it is now.

In that case, why not stick with capitalism? It’s working for us at the moment… or is it? With the global financial crisis, we begin to realize that cooperation will be necessary for the survival of the human race. In this cooperation comes the evening out of class differences. It’s quite possible that through capitalism we could achieve many of the ends of communism, but to do this, we must not be averse to considering the adoption of some socialist policies. Obama has been accused of being too “red” in his policies for Americans, but at the moment, we need some socialism to help fix the problems created by capitalism. With an ever- more unified world, something close to Marx’s communism might be inevitable someday. We do not need a revolution, but in the end, after all of our reforms, a state that resembles communism might just be the most just solution to many of the world’s problems.

Read Full Post »

Burke + Weems = BFF

Burke once said that the Queen of England should not be thought of “merely as a woman.”[1] He was implying that the leaders of nations should be considered to be more than just humans.  They should be revered and glamorized.  People should want to follow these leaders and devote themselves to their country.  This is especially prevalent in developing countries, who are young and in need of leadership.  One of the ways to ensure a stable society is to create myths about their country.  In order to get a young country to respect and follow their leader and develop some kind of nationalism was to create traditions and myths about their country.  Once people had something to rally behind, either their country or their leader, they would be more likely to follow rule and defend their country.  The people need a transcendent figure who they can look up to.  Burke believes that myths help maintain a society and are of vast importance.  A developing country needs to have nationalist aura around itself so the people can know what they are fighting for, Burke would have loved the myths associated with a young blossoming country that was slowly coming into its own.  It was starting to rally behind a leader, a man that would one day become the most well known man in his country.  Helping to rally the troops was a biographer, Parson Weems, who liked to stretch the truth in his biographies.  The country was the revolutionary United States of America and the leader was its first hero—George Washington.

Sorry to disappoint, but our first president told lies (possibly thousands) and (sadly) that famous cherry tree probably never existed.   Parson Weems was the first man to use the cherry tree myth[2].  He was a biographer who made most American icons larger than life by creating myths in their “factual” biographies.  A painting of Weems tells all.  The classic painting of Parson Weems shows Weems pulling a curtain back and looking straight at the viewer of the painting (to view this painting click the footnote here[3]). What’s behind the curtain? It is the scene in which George is telling his father that he did not cut down that famous cherry tree.  George is not a child—rather, he has the head of his adult self. Parson is in front of the scene, and is pointing at George and looking at the viewer with a sarcastic glare.  His expression reveals that the scene behind him is completely fabricated.  The symbolism of him pulling back a curtain also proves that this was in fact a myth.  It is as real as any play would be.  George’s old head reveals that nothing like this occurred during his childhood.

A myth like this is important and Burke would agree with Weems’ propensity to tell tall tales.  After winning the Revolutionary War, The United States was not so united.  It was a young country not used to governing itself completely.  So what did Weems do?  He created the myth of Washington to create America’s first icon.  People would respect him, look up to him and want to act like he acted, much like Burke thought the English people should think of their queen.  It made good sense for Weems to use the “never lied” myth as many people looked up to the first president as a role model.  They would copy his actions, and therefore, hopefully, would never lie.  America needed something or somebody to rally around and myths like this allowed them to do so.

Washington was America’s man, someone who had been born and spent his entire life in America.  People could honestly have an American hero for the first time.  This was something to fight for, something that helped build American nationalism.  While nationalism is a very dangerous concept it is of vital importance for a young nation.  It needs to prove to the world that it is a tightly knit unit that no one can bully.  Nationalist values help spread the notion that the newly formed nation is something worth doing anything for.  Myths help to add to nationalist views.   Burke loved tradition more than anything.  He was a devoted to religion—a fundamentally traditional institution.   He believed anything that could be spread on from generation to generation should have been.  Nationalism feeds off of traditions that people can take a part of, such as nationalist parades and holidays(i.e. Presidents Day, a celebration of the GW’s birthday).  It all adds into the point of being part of something larger than oneself and sharing that connection with millions of people.

Burke may not have been American, but he would have respected Parson Weems’ attempt to try to hold America together.


[1] Edmund Burke, “Reflections on the Revolution in France” in Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche, 2nd Ed., edited by David Wootton (Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2008),

[2] http://samantha.carrotware.com/default.aspx?tag=cherrytree

[3] http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/cp/vol-06/no-04/images/weems-home.jpg

Read Full Post »

Mill and Marijuana

Mill & Marijuana

                According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the United States.  Its prohibition began with the Marijuana Tax of 1937 and its use was further constrained by Regulations No. 1, and a bill prepared by the Bureau of Narcotics that more than 40 states have passed. Now, any type of use, possession or transfer of the cannabis plant is considered a federal crime. (Solomon) Despite the harsh penalties for use of this drug, it still is very popular, especially among teens and young adults in our country. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2002 that over 40% of American citizens 12 years of age or older had tried marijuana at least once (“The Science of Drug Abuse & Addiction”). There has been much debate to legalize this drug and our country has yet to make a final decision. However, if J.S. Mill could voice his opinion about this situation, he would vouch for the legalization of marijuana on the basis that because its use does not infringe on the rights and interests of the greater society and because we have information readily available about this drug, the final decision about its use should be left to the individual and not the law.  

            English philosopher J.S. Mill was a staunch advocate of individualism because he believed that it cultivated enlightenment and ingenuity within the greater society (p.624, 625). He stated that “men should be free to act upon their own opinions” and, therefore, if a matter did not concern others then individuality should assert itself (p.620).  In addition, Mill claimed society only has jurisdiction over an individual’s conduct if it is a danger to the interests of others (p.630). Studies have shown that the main repercussions of marijuana use only affect the individual.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports on the effects of marijuana. The main active chemical that affects the body when marijuana is smoked and/or ingested is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC. When marijuana is smoked, the THC passes very quickly through the lungs into the bloodstream where it is then carried to the brain and other organs. Marijuana intoxication distorts one’s coordination, perception, memory, and problem solving skills. (“The Science of Drug Abuse & Addiction”)

Studies have indicated that marijuana also affects one’s mental health, heart, lungs, and lifestyle. Chronic marijuana use has been associated with anxiety and depression, and in more severe cases with thoughts of suicide and schizophrenia. Users have a 4.8-fold increase of risk of heart attack within the first hour after smoking. Marijuana contains carcinogens that can irritate the lungs and smoking can lead to some respiratory problems, chest illness, and cough and phlegm. However, there is not sufficient evidence to claim that it induces cancer. Lastly, marijuana hampers one’s ability to pursue life achievement. Users have been more likely to be tardy, absent, and prone to accidents and job turnovers. (“The Science of Drug Abuse & Addiction”) Given all of these side effects that mainly affect the individual, Mill would argue that the individual should be free both legally and socially to engage in this action as long as they deal with the consequences (p.630). Some side effects in extreme situations would threaten the interests of others but I will address this matter later. These side effects are obviously not beneficial to anyone but Mill would still support its use because even though it does nothing to promote one’s life, it coincides with Mill’s concept of freedom and individuality.

It is natural to have some concern about others and how these side effects could potentially harm them. Even though the consequences primarily involve the individual, Mill notes that we do not live in a world where we are apathetic of the conduct and well-being of others  but he still concedes that no one person or persons has the right to keep one from doing what he chooses if it is in his own interest (p.630). He does, however, offer a better way to persuade people into abiding by what is believed to be good without using “whips and scourges” in the literal and figural sense. He claims that education convicts, persuades, and compels one to do what is right (p.630). We have plenty of information on marijuana use and its side effects including books, the internet, drug awareness programs in schools, etc. According to Mill, we should therefore be able to make our own decisions given our education about this drug.

Although Mill would argue for the legalization of marijuana because it does not infringe on the rights of others and that we have an immense amount of information to make a well-informed decision, he would still set some provisions. For instance, Mill would not vouch for this drug to be available to children. He does not deny that in one’s youth, they should be taught the benefits and consequences of decisions made during the human experience (p.620). On the other hand, he did argue that once one reaches maturity, they should be able to interpret the human experience in their own way. They can make decisions according to their own circumstances (p.621). Therefore, if marijuana were to be legalized, Mill would advocate for a smoking age to be set in order. He would also support other regulations such as outlawing smoking while driving, working, operating machinery, or in other public settings to ensure that the interests of others are not compromised. While Mill would advocate marijuana use in your private life, he would realize that its use in public situations would be a nuisance to others and threaten their interests. Finally, Mill argues that the error of allowing others to constrain an individual into the behavior that they believe is right is worse than the errors committed by an individual partaking in wrong actions despite advice and warning against these beliefs (p.631). The legalization of marijuana, in this case, would provide us with freedom from this wrong.

Works Cited

Solomon, David . “The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.” Schaffer Library of Drug Policy N.p., 2000. Web. 10 Dec. 2009. <http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/mjtaxact.htm&gt;.

The Science of Drug Abuse & Addiction National Institute on Drug Abuse, 22 July 2008. Web. 10 Dec.2009. <http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Marijuana/Marijuana2.html#scope&gt;.

Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought : Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. , 2008. Print.

Read Full Post »

Enlightment in the 21st Century

Enlightenment in the 21st Century

            Kant defines enlightenment as “man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity” (p.522).  Immaturity is one’s “inability to use their understanding without guidance from another” (p.522).  Kant notes that when freedom is present, enlightenment is inevitable (p.523).  The people in Kant’s age were not entitled to freedom. Public officials restricted freedom by demanding that the people mindlessly do as they were told (p.523). Kant claimed that he was currently living in an age of enlightenment rather than an enlightened age because although the men of his age were not exercising their understanding in the public sphere, they were proceeding to gain the courage to do so as the obstacles of restricted freedom diminished (p. 524). We have come a long way since the German Enlightenment. Our Constitution equips us with the rights to use our understanding freely in public matters. However, in reference to our current age, Kant would still conclude that we are living in age of enlightenment rather than an enlightened age because socialization and the media inhibit the exercise of our understanding.

             Unlike Kant’s age, we do not currently face the obstacle of the restriction of freedom by public officials in our age of enlightenment.  Our U.S. Constitution provides us with the rights of freedom of speech, press, assembly and petition all within the first amendment (Mount).  These rights enable us to cultivate and practice our understanding freely within the public sphere without interference from the government and public officials.  Our country’s citizens pride themselves on the uninhibited ability to exercise our understanding in our decisions. On the contrary, the decisions that we do make are not based on our own understanding but rather on the ideas imposed on us by socialization and the media. 

            Socialization is defined as the continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his/her social position (“socialization”). Socialization is a normal and inherent part of human life because it is the transference of human culture. It can, however, be detrimental to one’s understanding because it imposes ideas on someone based on their social identity. Socialization guides one to depend on the ideas of their culture rather than their own understanding which could lead to what Kant defines as immaturity (p.522).

            Like socialization, the media also has its good and bad uses.  A basic function of the media is to provide information to the public. This purpose is distorted when it strays from an objective standpoint and tries to persuade the public to think in a specific way by not disclosing all information.  For example, Fox News is a prominent reporting show but it is also notorious for its conservative bias.  An article by Seth Ackerman entitled “The Most Biased Name in News” notes that this may come from endorsements from the GOP, its association with the partisan Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal, or its many conservative Republican employees (Ackerman). The same could be said about MSNBC which is known for its liberal tilt. Keith Olbermann, a popular anchor for the station, admitted it himself (Sheppard).  This shows that the media, therefore, is an obstacle for enlightenment because it blocks one from understanding. If one relies solely on the news and does not apply their own understanding, they are engaging in immaturity (p.522).

            Kant admits that it is very easy to be immature. There were books, doctors, and pastors that allowed for immaturity in his age and we have not only that but other devices that encourage it in our age. (p.522) When we allow ourselves to emerge from our self-imposed immaturity, we can enter into what Kant defines as enlightenment (p.522). One could argue are currently living in an enlightened age because an array of information is available to us and where we are not restricted in any way to gain this information. Therefore, we should have no problem in cultivating our understanding without the guidance of others and we should be taking advantage of the opportunity to use our understanding publicly. I do agree with this argument but I still believe that we live in an age of enlightenment because the majority of the population is ignorant and/or apathetic of these opportunities and thus relies on what culture and the media dictates.  Our generation is currently beginning to rely more on our own understanding instead of what our culture and/or the media dictates. We have so many tools at our disposal such as the internet, research, and schools that we can use to formulate our understanding and we have outlets in the media to express it. We just have to be cautious of not relying solely on socialization and the media because the only thing blocking us from enlightenment now is ourselves.

Works Cited

Ackerman, Seth . “The Most Biased Name in News: Fox News Channel’s extraordinary right-wing tilt .” Fair: Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting N.p., July 2001. Web. 6 Dec. 2009. <http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1067&gt;.

Mount, Steve . The United States Constitution Ed. Steve Mount. N.p., Feb. 2009. Web. 6 Dec. 2009. <http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Am1&gt;.

Sheppard, Noel . “Keith Olbermann Admits MSNBC is Liberally Biased.” NewsBusters N.p., 15 Sept. 2007. Web. 6 Dec. 2009. <http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2007/09/15/keith-olbermann-admits-msnbc-liberally-biased&gt;.

“socialization .” Dictionary.com. N.p.: n.p., 2009. Web. 6 Dec. 2009. <http://dictionary.reference.com/&gt;.

Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought : Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. , 2008. Print.

Read Full Post »

NBA/WNBA Merger?

Recently in my discussion class, my classmates were arguing about the merits and limitations of integrating women into classically male institutional sports (such as the NBA) and into more gender diverse sports (such as running, swimming, etc.) in the context of Mill’s ideals about gender equality. While thinking about how women would fare if such integration were forced to occur, I kept thinking about Professor Leveque-Monty’s use of the phrase “meaningful competition” (p. 143)[1] While he argues that everyone has a chance to succeed, whether because of natural gifts or amount practice time, I tend to disagree with that theory.  Sure, one can successfully argue that the world’s fastest woman could beat virtually every man alive in a race since she most very well can.  However, there are physical limitations that will not allow her to beat the fastest small percentage of men, no matter how hard she practices and trains.  Times for male sprinters and swimmers are much faster then those of their female counterparts.  There are some people that cannot do what others can.  I am not saying that this is fair or the way it should be.  However, I am arguing that in general, the way sports institutions are currently configured (with no integration of gender), is the best possible system that we can have for the most competitive sports. I agree with the fundamentals of Mill’s views on women.  However, I do not think they are applicable in the world of professional male sports and women’s place in them.  If there was forceful integration of gender into the male leagues it could dilute the competitiveness of the sports.  I will address the effects of hypothetical gender integration of sports situation in two different ways—one for gender diverse sports and the other for classically male oriented sports.

If Olympic sports were forced to integrate men and women into the same competitions for sports how would this turn out?

This certainly would be the most fair of gender integration.  Women and men compete in nearly all of the same Olympic events.  They have all trained equally and for the same amount of time as any other person, since the Olympics are a gender diverse sport.  There is definitely the chance for “meaningful competition” of men and women to succeed in these sports.  However, I conclude that this integration would be harmful to women rather than empower them. If woman want to be known as “the best sprinter” rather than the “best woman sprinter” they would have to adhere to the same rules as the men would have. If we suppose the events were based off of pure performance, and would not have to fill out gender quotas of a 50-50 distribution, women may not be represented at the Olympics at all.  Of course some would win in some events and they would probably win those events.  However, more classic events, such as running and swimming would surely be male dominated.  The women may not even be able to qualify for the Olympics.  So what would they rather have: a gender divided sport in which they are only considered the best woman sprinter (rather than best sprinter) or not even be able to compete at all?  I believe it’s the former.  The current system gives women recognition they deserve.  Creating the divide allows for more press and praise of women then if they would not even participate.  Of course some women could climb to the top and surprise everyone, but the small percentage of those women who succeed would undermine al of the other potential woman athletes that cannot be recognized because they could not qualify.  I will now discuss the effects of a mandatory quota system in gender integrated sports leagues.

What if the NBA and the WNBA were forced to integrate?  My supposition includes the mandatory quota of a 50-50 gender distributed team in which 2 women must play at all times.  How would the concept of meaningful competition play out in this situation?  A lot of girl basketball players are very good- as they excel in the WNBA.  They have natural abilities such as shooting that cold be used efficiently in the NBA.  However, the average heights in the WNBA are roughly between 5’11” and 6’0” and they weighed an average of 167.90 pounds [2] In the NBA the average height fluctuates between 6’6” and 6’8” and the average weight is around 224 pounds.[3] In a physical game, such as basketball, size matters.  And simply put, WNBA players pale in comparison to the sizes of the NBA players.  They would not be able to be effective on a floor with a lot of men because of their size.  If they were forced to play, it would dilute the playing level of the game.  When the athletes best suited to play against each other cannot, the game experience suffers.  Women may be ostracized because they would not be able to compete meaningfully with the men, thus creating a weaker game overall.

I do agree that women sports should be promoted more.  People would respect and have more interest in women’s sports if they were advertised better.  A typical Sportscenter has around 5 out of its 60 minutes devoted to women’s sports.  I believe this statistic needs to change so the women’s leagues could e promoted more.  The only problem with that is ESPN is a business and it shows what s demanded to its target audience.  This audience is almost exclusively males who are interested in male sports.  However, if they could find some way to integrate women’s sports in a creative way, it could spur interest.  A problem with women’s leagues is that most of the leagues also compete during the off seasons of the male leagues, meaning people have little interest in that particular sport when they are playing it.  If the WNBA and NBA played at the same time (women and men sharing the home courts while the other team is on a road trip) it could create some genuine interest.  However, integrating these sports leagues would hurt the respective leagues in a large manner.  People want to see the best product they possibly can and that is not a diluted league.  If women want to try out for the men’s leagues, I would say that they absolutely should.  If they are good enough to make an NBA roster then they should be able to compete.  However, I think that forcing men and women to compete together is a wrong approach to help the women’s interests.


[1] Lavaque-Manty, Mika.   “The Playing Fields of Eton: Equality and Excellence in Modern Meritocracy.” (Ann, Arbor: University of Michigan Press)

[2] http://www.wnba.com/statistics/survey_height_2003.html

[3] http://www.nba.com/news/survey_height_2004.html

Read Full Post »

The equality of men and women is a very important issue, especially in the United States. Many laws have been put into place to assure that there is no discrimination against women, but there remains one area in which many people still disagree: sports. Currently most sports teams follow the principle of “separate but equal”; meaning that men and women do not play on the same teams or play with each other, but they are still considered equal. Some people disagree with this idea and believe that the separation of men and women in sports is discrimination against women, and that it is unequal treatment to not allow them the opportunity to play alongside men. However, as Professor LaVaque-Manty states, “In some cases equality requires the acknowledgement of differences” (133). This is the policy that is currently employed in men and women’s sports to ensure that each gender is given an equal opportunity. Although the separation of men and women in sports may appear to some as discrimination, women’s separation from men is beneficial and actually encourages equality among athletes.

One aspect that separation in sports promotes is deserved recognition. For example, Professor LaVaque-Manty mentioned in lecture that a female athlete may earn a first-place score when playing against other women, but when her score is compared to that of men in the same sport it may just look average. This means that if women and men were to play together on the same teams in sports then many excellent women athletes would be overlooked when put alongside men athletes. It is important to acknowledge that men and women’s scores will differ and that the separation of them in sports allows women to be recognized for their extraordinary athletic abilities, even if they may not appear as exceptional when judged against men’s scores.

Not only would there be potential problems among athletes if men and women were to be integrated in sports, but problems with fans could also arise. Men and women’s sports generate different audiences. The combining of men and women’s teams could make fans upset and cause less attendance at certain events. Thus, it would harm revenues of the team, an important aspect of keeping sports successful. As many of us know, there is currently the problem of women’s sports generating less publicity than men’s sports; this is confirmed by LaVaque-Manty, who states, “no women’s sport is what universities call a “revenue” sport—that is, a sport so popular that its paying spectators make it a major business” (132). If women athletes could garner positive publicity that displayed their skills as opposed to just sexual exploitation this would help them gain prestige, an important aspect to athletes. This in turn would promote their equality in sports compared to men. Also, because fan bases are an essential part of every sport; without the support of fans many teams would become discouraged, something that would not be beneficial to women, or men athletes. The separation of women and men in sports allows the fans to create the most profit to the players and teams as a whole.

In addition to fan base, the quality of competition would be degraded if women and men were incorporated on the same team. For example, men athletes would feel like they need to lower their skill level or be less aggressive in order not to offend or hurt women athletes. This idea that men would have to put themselves on an “even playing field with women” would demean sports teams and could also be a factor in the loss in fans. On the other hand, some women athletes would not feel comfortable competing with men due to difference in size, build, etc. While this does not apply to every single athlete, it is true in many cases and would cause conflicts damaging the quality of the game. However, if women and men remain separated in sports it will guarantee that both genders can compete equally without any hindrances.

Some people may argue that combining women and men together in sports would cause women to work harder and improve their skills. This, however, would not be the likely result. As I mentioned earlier, even women athletes who are outstanding and train extremely hard do not usually have records that are as good as the best men athletes in the sport. In the end, this could prevent women athletes from having an equal opportunity to compete because their skills do not match up with their male teammates. Therefore, the result of combining women and men on the same team would most likely have an adverse effect on women as opposed to a beneficiary one, but the separation of men and women ensures that these problems will not occur.

Although the integration of men and women in most sports would not work well, one sport that may be able to include both is golf. Because this sport is not aggressive, men would not feel as hesitant to compete with women and at the same time women would not feel like they were at a disadvantage due to size or build. However, even in golf men and women are separated and women start from a closer tee. This shows that even in less aggressive sports men and women are separated to insure fairness and equality.

The common misperception is that “separate but equal” is simply discrimination in a disguised form. A useful analogy to show that this is not the case, especially when it comes to sports, is LaVaque-Manty’s example of the separation of wheelchair marathon runners from able-bodied runners, “Wheelchairs affect athletic performance: on average, in the aggregate, they make the athletes faster than biped runners. A separate competitive division for wheelchair users is a way of making sure competition also remains meaningful for runners” (148). This benefits participants in wheelchairs because they are able to compete in races but it also insures that runners on foot are not negatively affected by them. In the same way, the concept of “separate but equal” is the best strategy to guarantee that women are given equal opportunities in sports-and that they benefit from their participation as much as possible. Not only is the separation of men and women in the best interest of the players themselves, it is also to the greatest advantage of the sport itself and the fans that watch it. Ultimately, the separation of women and men is the best mechanism to ensure equality and fairness in sports for both men and women.

Reference: “Being a Woman and other Disabilities” by Mika LaVaque-Manty

Read Full Post »

Upon examining the political beliefs of our Founding Fathers, it becomes quite clear that the America of today is nowhere near what they had idealized. The Founding Fathers were quite concerned with the creation of factions and believed that their existence would ultimately lead to the downfall of a government, if not controlled properly. Despite their endless warnings against factions and parties, the country they created has turned into a polarized battleground between the Democrats and the Republicans. Through investigating the beliefs of our Founding Fathers, we can see how their ideas failed to manifest themselves appropriately and the consequences that have followed.

Article No. 10 of The Federalist, written by James Madison in 1787, exemplifies the Founding Fathers contempt for factions. In this article, Madison goes into great depth about how the United States will be constructed in such a way so that factions will not be able to endanger the public good. He claims that there is no viable method to stop the causes of factions which are “sown in the nature of man” and that “neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control” (547, 548). However, Madison believes that there are other ways to control the effects of factions and that the best method of this would be to establish a large Republic. With this governmental structure, no factions would be able to gain power over the population. Minority factions would not be able to succeed because the majority outweighs them in votes. Nor could majority factions manifest themselves easily, because large Unions promote diversity and it would be very difficult to organize a majority of people under one unified cause (549). Even if a majority faction evolved, it would be even harder to get enough Representatives to spread their ideas to the entire Union. Thus, Madison concludes, a large Republic will be impervious to the effects of factions because “the influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States” (549).

George Washington’s “Farewell Address” shows the evolution of political opinions on parties and their effects. In his address to the nation, Washington gives some advice to the country and much of it dwells on the concern of factions. Instead of discussing how the Union will not be affected by factions and how they will not be able to take hold of the country, Washington takes a different approach. He accepts that factions do exist, especially those based on geography, but he pleads that people should be more concerned about the whole of the Union instead of their “immediate and particular interest[s]” (208). Washington agrees with Madison that the causes of factions are ingrained in human nature, but he argues that “religion and morality are indispensable supports” that will establish national morality and enlighten public opinion (212). Washington shows a progression in the approach to factions, from denying their influence to accepting that they exist and can hurt the unity of the country. He provides a solution to this problem by persuading people to be more concerned about “efficacy and permanency of [their] union” and that “no alliances … can be an adequate substitute” (209). This is significant because even within eight short years, Washington recognizes that the United States is not impervious to factions and that it will be something that the country will struggle with.

In the end, the Founding Fathers’ strong warnings against factions did not stop their occurrence. Even from the beginning, the country has almost always been divided into a small number of (usually two) political parties. From the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists to the Democratic-Republicans and the Whigs to the Republicans and the Democrats, parties have ruled politics in the United States for the vast majority of its history. Specifically, the polarization of the nation between the Republicans and the Democrats has been the mainstay of politics for almost 150 years. Although the Founding Fathers were quite against the idea of factions, the real question is: have political parties stifled the ability of the United States government to reflect public good for all? Madison specifically voiced concerns over the majority impinging on the rights and liberties of the minority and Washington discussed the lack of unity that would result from factions. Do these issues exist today because of the polarization?

Minorities do seem to get overlooked in such a black and white (or rather red and blue) political system. One way to examine minority influence is to look at third parties. Occasionally, third party politicians are elected into offices, but the overwhelming majority of people in office either adhere to the Democratic or Republican party. Since the beginning of the Republican and Democrat polarization, there has been no third party Presidents. There have been some third party presidential candidates like those of the Progressive, Prohibition, Socialist, and Green Parties, but they continue to be overlooked by the majority of the population. There’s a common sentiment that voting for a candidate who is not Republican or Democrat is essentially throwing your vote away, since they won’t be elected anyway. Generally, minority concerns will be overlooked unless they adhere to one of the parties. The dichromatic (two color) view of politics that stems from this polarization has blocked the growth of other parties and the concerns for the minorities.

These dichromatic political views have also led to a great divide in the nation, something which Washington was particularly worried about. He stated that factions “tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection” (209). This has been quite evident throughout the history of the United States. There are many examples of how this polarization has caused a rift through the nation from the Civil War, to the Civil Rights Movement, to issues today like universal healthcare. The argument can be made that the two opposing factions will neutralize one another and thus end with a suitable middle ground. Although a fairly neutral government may come about due to this neutralization, the factions still polarize issues making things more black versus white instead of a diversity of shades of grey. Madison advocated that a large Republic like the United States should hold a diversity of opinions. However, in such a polarized country that diversity of opinions also becomes more polarized. Even if neutralization is obtained, it still leads to a more divided country which is against the Founding Fathers’ ideal of a unified nation.

The Founding Fathers’ hopes for the United States were not fully realized, especially regarding the issue of factions. Both Madison’s articles in The Federalist and Washington’s “Farewell Address” discuss their opposition to factionalism, but the country did not heed their warnings. As the nation has progressed, political party polarization has remained fundamental to American politics. Whether this helps or hinders the realization of the public good is more of a matter of personal opinion, but it seems clear that it subdues the ability of third parties to exist and ends up dividing the nation more than unifying it.

Citations

Madison, James. No. 10 “The Same Subject Continued.” The Federalist. Modern Political Thought: Reading from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. Ed. David Wootton. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2008. 546-549.

Washington, George. “Farewell Address.” A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents. Volume 1. New York, NY: Bureau of National Literature. 205-216.

Read Full Post »

In a recent dialogue over John Stewart Mill during my discussion section, the band Rage Against the Machine was brought up in regard to its recent appearance on Saturday Night Live. Throughout the band’s career, the members have used their right to free speech to protest many American institutions and values in a way that can be deemed controversial, offensive and anti-American. The band’s popularity, however, has risen dramatically despite their contentious nature. During the dress rehearsal before their Saturday Night Live debut, the band placed American flags upside down on every one of their amplifiers. They were asked to remove the flags and play the set without them, which they did for the remainder of the rehearsal. Just seconds before their live performance, however, the band put the flags back up, leaving no time for intervention before the camera started recording. In a panic, t he SNL producers cut to a commercial break as soon as they noticed the controversial display, and Rage Against the Machine was promptly asked to leave the premises.

            The discussion revolved around whether instances like this demonstrate a violation of free speech or free press, and if John Stewart Mill would defend or condemn Saturday Night Live and their decision to take Rage off the air. In Chapter II of Mill’s On Liberty, Mill describes “…’liberty of the press’ as one of the securities against corrupt or tyrannical government,” meaning that freedom to say what one thinks in public defends citizens from excessive government control that can easily lead to a corrupt, overbearing government with no desire to work for the needs of its people (Mill 599). He also asserts that every opinion must be heard in order for government to be able to correctly conceive the actual needs of the people. Finally, Mill discusses his conceptions of opinions considered to be ‘false.’ He states “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he…would be justified in silencing mankind,” (Mill 600). By this he means that just because a majority of society believes something to be true, does not mean that the opinion of the minority is false, or even that the opinion of the majority is true. Opinions can only be considered right or wrong when proved by history, experience and failed practice.

Therefore, John Stewart Mill would more than likely find the actions Saturday Night Live took against Rage Against the Machine and their attempt to voice their opinion against the current political situation in America, as a direct violation of free speech and freedom of the press. He would defend Rage in their attempts to express their opinions that are not only shared with their numerous fans, but may very well be correct due to the fact that time and experience have not proved them wrong. Even though Rage’s music and actions can be considered by many to be anti-American, corrupt, and even harmful, there is no historical proof that backs up this condemnation.  In the music video for the band’s song “Testify,” images of the presidential candidates, George W. Bush and Al Gore, are shown simultaneously with clips of starving, tortured, suffering people from around the world (“Testify”). It demonstrates the frustration that Rage, along with many other people around the world, has with American politics. Many people feel that American political policy is plagued by lack of activism for human rights, and that American politicians are concerned mainly with money, power, and the ability to bully its worldwide economic and political competitors. There is no hard evidence that this opinion is not true. In fact, villages have been destroyed, children have been orphaned, and innocent civilians have been tortured around the world without any American intervention, or even recognition. If anything, there is evidence that supports the controversial opinion of Rage Against the Machine. The lack of substantial American support and intervention during the Rwandan genocide of the early 1990’s is one of many examples of America’s negligence of human rights issues worldwide. John Stewart Mill would defend Rage, saying that without people in our society brave enough to voice opinions that could be condemned by others, or could offend those in opposition, the real voice of the people could never be heard, and those suffering from the government leaving “…all our interests uncared for, and all our duties unperformed,” would never see any change in our society (Mill 601).  I am quite positive that John Stewart Mill would view Saturday Night Live as wrong in their decision to suppress the opinion of Rage Against the Machine, and take them off the air.

 Claire Morgan

Works Cited

Mill, John Stewart. “On Liberty: Chapter II.” Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Company, Inc., 2008. 599-601. Print.

EditDelete

Rage Againt the Machine. “YouTube – Rage Against The Machine – Testify Music Video.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. 10 Nov. 2006. Web. 13 Dec. 2009. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JSBhI_0at0&gt;.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »