This is fantastic!
Jack Kennedy takes a swim – Framework – Photos and Video – Visual Storytelling from the Los Angeles Times
This song makes me feel infinite.
Today, I was talking with an old neighbor of mine, and we kind of got to talking about life. Just life. Ya know, the thing that many claim to have an answer to. Usually that answer is “It’s crazy,” or some variation of uncertainty. Well, she just said that people grow up, go to school, get jobs, work until they cannot work anymore, and basically wait to die. Is this really life, though? I’m only 17, so I don’t claim to have some kind of answer for what exactly life is, but I’m pretty sure that there is more to it than that. When Thoreau went to the woods to suck the marrow out of life and forget everything that was not life, he was running away from these institutions. He deemed that going to college and working at a job until retirement is NOT life. Has our media, society, or education led us to believe that life is all about the things that she mentioned? Probably, but still some fault has to be given to we who live in this society. Since people report the news and their interpretations of it, since people form and mold society, since people teach us how to think and sometimes WHAT to think, we are responsible for this emotionally and aesthetically vacuous perception of what life is. In fact, it is usually this kind of thinking that leads people to thoughts of suicide or even the enactment of these thoughts.
In his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus says that we are drawn to this brink because what we want to find in the universe is irreconcilable with what actually IS in the universe. This is known as the absurd. Camus thinks that the way to living a novel and fulfilling life is to 1). accept that these things are irreconcilable and 2). remain perpetually aware of how irreconcilable all of this is. We must rebel against any attempt to answer or reconcile these two things, accept that we’re free to do whatever we want, and live life with a diverse array of meaningful experiences.
That’s not much better. In fact, thinking about that kind of depresses me. I can accept the second and third propositions, but for some reason I cannot accept that what we want and what actually is are irreconcilable. If you were to make it your life statement to do what you want, when you want, and however you want it, wouldn’t your life become a pursuit of passion? And if you pursue passion, wouldn’t this allow you to find it in the universe? And if you’ve been wanting it (you must, since you are pursuing it), then by logical conjunction, you have just reconciled something that is irreconcilable. Perhaps this is how we should live. Live passionately. Never put yourself out of any moment, since they can offer you some kind of intrinsic reward, no matter how dull or trite it is. Try many many many things. Try it all, if you want. Teach your mind how to misbehave and find the fun in any situation. But most of all, make it MEAN something! Anything! Even if you present a life that means there is no meaning, you still have made it mean something to you that you can accept and, hopefully, be proud of!
I know this is really broad, but it surely is a start. This same formula can work for anyone leading any kind of life, from atheists to the most pious men, from journalists to scientists, from children to the oldest maids. The point is LIVE! Don’t just live in a way that now dead men have lived. Make your own way.
As Emerson said, “envy is ignorance and imitation is suicide.” It seems that most of our mentors, most adults want you to commit suicide through imitation. If you are refusing to be who you really are, you are killing who you really are. If you envy anyone, it is because you do not know what exactly they have to live with every day, what they must do, the path they must walk.
In the same essay, Emerson went on to say “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members… The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.” Especially today, schools are pushing to teach students how to be scientists and engineers and other such jobs, which they are noble pursuits (if this really is your calling, go for it), but what about the students who hate math, detest science, despise the postulates and theorems that we are forced to regurgitate for the teacher’s paycheck? Are we really any smarter or wiser because of this? We must be taught how to think, examine ourselves, know how to do with others, basic functions (like cooking, maintaining cars, etc.), and that is about it. The rest is either speculation or garbage that someone else wants us to know. We need to strike out, learn what really matters to us, and run with that. Stick to your guns, kids.
Again, I do not claim to have any kind of answer. This is merely just a proposition similar to Camus’s. Perhaps he is right. Maybe there is no answer nor meaning to it after all. But we cannot be afraid to search for the answers and meaning. We can make of life what we wish. Our minds are that powerful. Use yours how your calling needs you to use it, and before long, you will find your nirvana.
Now more than ever in the history of western civilization, people are worried about their weights, what exactly is in what they consume, but most prevalently their appearances. Now, it is normal for one to wonder what is in Dr. Pepper- many who find the answers to such questions become vegans- but should this inquiry be set forth by the government or individuals? Many zealots have joined the crusade against sugary and fatty foods, but these diehards seem a bit out of touch with the majority of people. No one argues for the consumption of unhealthy food, but none can deny that healthier foods tend to be more expensive, and especially in these hard economic times, many families cannot afford the healthy stuff and so elect to buy what will allow them to subsist. In addition, not only is pressure being put on individuals to buy healthier foods, but also tremendous stress is being placed onto the shoulders of many businesses. Some organizations have threatened businesses with boycotts if they do not refuse to sell unhealthy snacks to children. These businesses cannot help what kids like. Why should they even try if faced with this lose-lose ultimatum? Finally, in asking this question, one is asking whether or not the government has the right to impose upon free will. Does anyone have the right to impose upon the free will of anyone else?
To begin, it does not take John Forbes Nash, Jr., to tell people that healthier foods cost a little extra than the unhealthy stuff. With worsening economic conditions, many families are having to buy off-brand products and foods to save money. There should not be an unfair ultimatum imposed on these families just to appease mobs of carrot stick snacking zealots. People have the right to choose what they purchase and consume. This is a right that should be respected and left alone.
Sadly, not only is this taunt going for individuals but it is also aimed at businesses. The same zealots are placing responsibility in the hands of business owners to make healthier foods and refuse to sell children unhealthy foods or else face a boycott. How unfair is that? The business owners are no more in control of what people want to eat than diehard health fanatics. Honestly, why should businesses bend to these organizations, which comprise the minority, since either way they would be hurt?
Finally, I think these two points are based on one basic question: Do the government, organizations, and other institutions have the right to interfere with the free will of others? The answer to this question will ultimately define one’s opinion on this topic. Honestly, no being, entity, society, or institution has any right to impose upon the public’s free will and sense of choice. This is a freedom held dearly by every democratic, morally just society. Saying that the government has the right to interfere with free will on one issue basically gives them the thumbs up to interfere on all matters of choice. After all, one should not do anything if he or she is not willing to go to the furthest implications of the action or decision. If one is unwilling to live with the consequences of the government being able to control what is sold and what people can choose between, one should not think that way.
In short, wellness is extremely important, but free will is paramount. Nothing should impose upon people’s right to decide what they like, even when it comes to food. In addition to being invasive, this thinking is also very unfair to business owners, since they do not control what people eat or drink, nor should they. Ultimately health is in the hands of the individual, but he or she should not be pushed into consuming only healthy products. People should be able to decide what they want to eat, not be bullied into their choices by health fanatics.
“Money is the root of all evil.” Almost everyone has heard this bromide at least umpteen times growing up. This maxim differs from most of the trite utterances that people grow up with, since this claim actual has some legit proof. Wealthy people tend to be less charitable and open-hearted than those who do not have the advantages of having a plethora of America’s green, dead presidents. In spite of this, economist Kaushik Basu argues that using money to achieve the goals of international business should be allowed. Basu argues that bribery should be justified as long as it is going toward receiving services that people are entitled to. Now this argument opens up a new world of ethics in business. What defines a service which people are entitled to? Is it fair that this puts already industrialized countries at a huge advantage over countries with struggling fledgling economies? If people are entitled to services, why should they have to pay for said services? This thought is riddled with holes. Bribery should not be made an acceptable means by which to conduct business. Saying something is acceptable does not make that thing a morally right solution. Stratifying the entire world’s economy by the wealth of each nation cannot be justified. Paying money to receive something that one is entitled to is not a fair means by which to conduct business or anything else.
First off, if someone told you that you would not be punished if you killed a person, is murder still immoral? Of course it is! Just because one will not be punished by law does not mean that the action in itself is morally right. Some actions are inherently corrupt, such as bribery. Bribery consists of exchanging money to receive a pass on the rules and get a result that typically would take some amount of effort. Is this ever right? Why would it be?
Pursuing this further, one should think of the economic implications of Basu’s theory. Suppose no business in the world would be punished for using bribery to receive services. If all countries were allowed to use bribery as a legitimate method of conducting business, what would happen? Well, industrialized countries would be at a significant advantage, since they already have plenty of money to spend on receiving services. However, fledgling economies would struggle to get the same services, since businesses would be busy lending services to the highest bidder. Is it right for already well-established economies to take all of the services and wealth while other countries stumble through a desert of poverty? Why should these wealthy nations receive all of the benefits while other countries struggle just to survive? The world we live in would become a greed-fixated one where countries are run by businesses which are only concerned about what they will receive while everything else can rot.
Finally, Basu’s argument presupposes the idea that people are born with rights and services should be provided to them based on these rights. If people are entitled to goods and services, why should bribery be means by which to achieve these ends? In fact, if people are born entitled to goods and services, why do they need businesses to procure these services? Why could these services not just be provided to everyone regardless of wealth? Basu’s argument not only decays the ethics of the world but also removes the need for business in the world. Everyone would become slaves to the businesses that run the world if Basu’s theory were carried out far enough.
In short, the situation goes back to what parents tell their children. Perhaps money is the root of all evil. With this in mind, one should ask his or herself why businesses need so much of it to provide people with goods and services that they are entitled to. The answer to overseas business relations does not lie in bribery or any other unethical activity. The answer lies in honest relations, open minds, and ethical decisions.
Who do farmers grow crops for? Barely a century ago, this question would seem preposterous, but now with environmental advocates like Al Gore showing humanity the effects of their actions on the environment, society is moving away from the unnatural and harmful. This has led the world to a crossroads. With this call to preserve the earth and its wonders comes the need for countries to develop alternative sources of energy and fuel. Many countries have begun utilizing the cassava root, corn, and other crops to meet these ends, but with adverse economic effects. The cassava root is a mainstay in the diets of many Africans, while corn is found in almost literally every conceivable product in America, from diapers to batteries to cereal to plastics. Since the number of crops devoted to simply feeding these people is being fractured with countries buying and selling these crops for the development of biofuels, prices of these crops are steadily rising, putting these essential foods out of the price ranges of the world’s impoverished. Is this the route that society should be taking? No, because what justifies starving millions just to have energy to run overly expensive vehicles? What justifies dismantling economies just to claim to be more “green”? Finally, what justifies the long-reaching ripple effect of these actions such as annexing land from subsistence farmers, destroying forests to make room for fields in which to grow crops for biofuels, and placing countries in the precarious position of having their economies run by one or very few crops? Is saving the earth really worth destroying its denizens?
Before automatically dismissing this issue to a “save the earth” mentality, one should consider the economic effects growing crops exclusively for their use in biofuels has on participating countries. Countries that divide their crops between feeding its citizens and exporting for the development for alternative fuels have to produce much more of the crop to compensate for the splinter caused by exporting the crop. Since not every bit is being sold within the country, the prices for these crops are steadily rising. This means that the countries’ impoverished cannot afford the cassava that their families desperately need or the corn to survive. The country’s people should definitely come before the development of fuels.
Next, one needs to think about the ripple effect entailed with this trade-off. Honestly, it is a snake consuming its own tail. If the workers who harvest the crops cannot afford the food for their families, they will begin dying off, and if they begin dying off, eventually none will be able to harvest the crop needed for export and sustaining the country’s people. By doing this the participating countries are placing themselves in a very precarious predicament. Inevitably the choice will come down to either exporting their crops to bring in more money or not exporting as much to feed the citizens. What for? Why is this trade-off necessary? Just to say that a country is more or less eco-friendly? Is human life really this expendable?
The final thing to consider is whether or not the means by which countries are able to grow these extra crops for export are justified. Many countries are annexing land from subsistence farmers and destroying forests – three cheers for irony! – just to be able grow the extra crops necessary to export for the development of biofuels. Aside from these obvious injustices, much like the Confederacy during the Civil War, countries are being placed on a teetering economic playing field by having one crop supply all of the means of economic development. However, these countries are in a much worse position, since humans had not and still have not gained the ability to eat cotton. This precarious position always loses balance and results in economic collapse. Then where would these countries be?
In short, as Rob Corddry said, “Ethanol is, in its purest form, just as much of a sham as oil.” Behind the guise of progress and environmentally friendly energy, the development of this energy claims many more lives than heat strokes due to global warming. Many countries need to be focusing more on feeding the hungry within them instead of splitting these crops with others trying to develop biofuels. Hunger, and thus human life, is paramount.
Government: what is it good for? Many find themselves asking this question on a nearly daily basis. Especially now in these dark economic times, the hoi polloi is wondering what exactly the government owes them. However, before one can establish exactly what he or she believes about government, he or she should first (1) decide how he or she thinks about ethics, morality, etc. and (2) examine all forms of government, weigh the pros and cons, and decide what aligns with his or her personal ethics. While no essay will truly enlighten anyone on his or her own character, it is paramount for individual to learn about the various forms of government, their moral bases, famous documents arguing for them, and how they correlate to human happiness. Upon doing this, perhaps one can synthesize an “ideal” government that satisfies, protects, and fulfills those it governs. If one does not decide what he or she believes about government, how can one know if he or she is being truly fulfilled by his or her government or if he or she agrees with the courses of action his or her government take? Indeed, determining and evaluating what one believes about the responsibilities of government is without a doubt one of the most important odysseys he or she will ever embark on.
Before one sets off down the road of moral and political discovery, he or she should make his or herself familiar with the basic types of government and common recurring themes in famous political and social treatises. One should know that there are five basic types of government, each with its own moral presuppositions and level of control. However, one should know these forms on a basic level before he or she analyzes them any further. Anarchy, the form of government with the lowest level of control, can be defined on a basic level as the absence of authority, such as a natural state. A democracy has a bit more government authority than an anarchical state, but most decisions lie in the hands of the majority. A republic lies in the middle of the spectrum of government control, ideally with an equipoise of individual freedom and centralized power. The oligarchy is a government in which executive power rests on a select few and is wrested from the general population. Finally, a monarchy, the absolute rule by one individual, is least concerned with individual liberty. Of course, there is a myriad of other types of governments, but they all fit nicely into one of the preceding categories.
The last thing that one should know before he or she sets off to find his or her ideal government is that all ideas of government are based on answers to the question “What is justice?” This question was first answered by Socrates in Plato’s Republic, and many authors of works that define a form of government answer the age old question of justice in their own ways. One needs sharply examine the arguments set forth by authors in their political works in order to effectively evaluate what his or her ideal form of government is. With all of that out of the way, one can begin delving into the deep oceans of political and social thought.
If one starts anywhere, it may as well be from the very beginning, and Plato’s Republic is certainly the first. The Republic was one of Plato’s mid-life works, where his views were layered on top of those of his mentor Socrates. Plato’s political views spring from his belief that knowledge is the greatest of virtues and his aristocratic and noble birth. In the Republic, Plato is the first to work out the answer to the question of justice. In the story, Socrates asks some of his friends what exactly justice is. One answers that justice is fulfilling one’s legal duties with honesty and returning what he or she has borrowed. Socrates countered this definition by asking if it would by just to return a knife to someone who had gone insane since the person had borrowed it. Another friend answers that justice is being benevolent to friends while striking against enemies. Socrates then states that knowledge is required to know the difference between friends and enemies and that harming enemies simply makes them worse, which is unjust. Another friend answers that justice is whatever is in the interest of the strongest person, since he or she would enforce laws. Socrates rebuts this by saying that rulers do not always know what their interests are and make mistakes. By his rebuttals, one can infer that Socrates believes that government is directed toward the interest of the hoi polloi and that rulers should have intelligence to rule his or her self and others. Socrates goes on to say that the state, or government, is analogous to the individual in that a healthy individual has his or her reason, will, and natural desires, such as hunger, in complete harmony. The rulers represent the reason of the state. Rulers are to be trained in philosophy for their entire lives and will take the throne when they are of age. The soldiers and other such guardians represent the will of the state, while workers and artisans represent the appetite, since they are all working to fulfill their natural desires. What was previously described is Plato’s utopia. This utopia declines when the balance shifts from the philosopher kings to the “unknowing” majority. The Republic describes an elitist, intellectual oligarchy. However, even if one studies philosophy and music his or her entire life, can that person be assured to never make a mistake or two? Also, contrary to the father of philosophy’s theory, the majority of people generally do know what they want, and if their government is not securing their desires, revolt is certain. Perhaps it would be better for people just to be more educated and for the philosopher kings to work in conjunction with the masses to secure true justice.
Some of the next great political writings were created by Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes strongly believed that empirical logic should be applied to the questions of government and justice, and his line of reasoning is exemplified in his treatise Leviathan. In Leviathan, Hobbes spins his definition of natural law into the treatise to reinforce his idea of an absolute monarchy. His natural law is basically a set of regulations that any reasonable, thinking being would follow for his or her advantage. Hobbes states that man obeyed the law of self-preservation. In other words, humans would do whatever it took to survive, regardless of the morality of their actions. This becomes a dilemma, since people are equal, for the most part, in strength and cunning, no one is really safe in a natural safe. Simply put, until a civil government arises from this natural state, society is a “war of every man against man.” This civil government will be created whenever one person rises up to gather others under his or her wings and protect them all. According to Hobbes, the only purpose of government is to protect man from man. Society is basically a means to an end for man’s need for self-preservation. Everything deeper than that is left up to the sovereign, who is the person who promises and procures the protection of the populous. Subjects surrender all individual liberties and rights at the price of protection. While this is empirically sound, this theory leaves much to be desired on an individual level. Look at it like this: if people must surrender the things for which they live just to be safe and to survive, what exactly are they living for?
Hobbes’s theory was generally accepted as the way to go until the Enlightenment period in the eighteenth century. During the Enlightenment, writers such as John Locke argued for a more democratic, constitutional government. In fact, John Locke’s treatises on civil government are still widely read today and are regarded as some of the most significant writings on government ever created. Of course, Locke agreed with Hobbes that the government should protect its subjects, but that is about all they agreed on. Hobbes stated that morality and laws are subordinate to the sovereign, but Locke argued the exact opposite. Locke’s natural law also differed from Hobbes’s in that Locke believed that people are born with innate rights and liberties and that government and society arise to protect these rights. Simply put, even though these theories cannot be empirically proven, Locke argued that the government should be subordinate to individuals and their liberties, morality, and man-made law. One can see some flaws in this thinking, namely the lack of empirical evidence. Rather than marrying common law and society, Locke created an inherently impotent body to protect individual liberty by assuming that preserving the common good and society are means to the same end. While this certainly seems true, Locke cannot offer any evidence as to why this is convincingly true, making the task of dissecting his arguments a challenge.
Locke’s theories, along with other writers of the Enlightenment, had a direct impact on the development of the American republic. America was one of the first countries to have a completely constitutional and democratic setup. Most Americans believe in the arguments put forth by Enlightenment thinkers, but many disagree about how much power should rest on the government. In fact, because of these differences, America has pretty much always been a two party nation politically. Back in the days of Adams and Jefferson, the two parties were the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. Federalists wanted greater government intervention, while Jeffersonian Democrats wanted a laissez-faire approach from their government. Eventually, the founding thinkers of the Federalists died off, and with the inauguration of President Jackson, the Whig party was born. The Whigs did not have many standard beliefs, but the ranks of the party were filled with anti-Jacksonites. Jacksonian-Democrats wanted the government to help out the common man, giving rise to the spoils system, while the Whigs just wanted the opposite of what Jackson wanted. Since nothing can really stand on a ground composed of doing the opposite of one person, the Whig party fractured and died off, giving rise to President Lincoln and the Republicans. Nowadays, Republicans want smaller government, while Democrats want stronger government that helps out those it governs. It is open to debate whether or not America has idealized the republic, but upon its founding, many considered the United States a bastion of freedom in a world full of overbearing governments.
The next major development came as a colossal threat to America and democracy: communism. A Communist Manifesto by Carl Marx was one of the first examples of communist writing and is still read today. In his manifesto, Marx lays out that the “march of history” advances to the tune of the exploitation of those who have little or nothing by those who have plenty. It seemed to Marx that all revolutions in history simply reassigned the powers of government to new systems and leaders. In order to break this cycle, he proposed that a new kind of revolution must occur: one that destroys all forms of ownership, thus eliminating societal classes. However, as time has shown us with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia that led to the establishment of the U. S. S. R., communism fails to give the people their human needs. Without any feeling of a possible upward mobility, why should people work hard at their jobs? Why should people work for anything if it is assigned to them by the state and there is no chance for anything improving?
Finally, there is one more movement that is gaining popularity today that calls for an end to government in general. Anarchists like Emma Goldman write bashing all forms of government and have developed a surprisingly human definition for this non-government state. Here is a definition provided by Emma Goldman in her essay Anarchism: What It Really Stands For: “ANARCHISM: The philosophy of a new social order based on individual liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence and are therefore wrong and harmful as well as unnecessary” (Goldman). Anarchists really believe that anarchy is really getting rid of everything that is wrong with humanity by overthrowing governments. Really, why do people need governments anyway? Suppose that there was no government. How would life change for people? Well, for starters, there would be no law enforcement to protect man from itself. There would be nothing protecting the rights and property of people. People would have no assured health care or doctors to help treat their illnesses and injuries. Finally, people would not be educated formally. People might know how to hunt and farm and track animals and gather berries, but other than that, what could they possibly learn? Also, what kind of life is a life devoted solely to survival?
In short, government has taken on many forms throughout the years, including a lack of it. All forms of government rest on various morals and fast-held beliefs, but in the end, they boil down to the same thing. Ideally, government should protect its subjects, ensure individual liberties, and eliminate persecution and injustice in society. All throughout history, it seems as though this is what people really want from their government. Not overbearing, but still present enough to protect them. If our governments can do these simple things, people would be genuinely satisfied with the way they are ruled.