The intent of the first chapter of Walden is to give readers a feel for what Thoreau is doing and why he’s doing it. Here, specifically, his main goal is to set out to prove that living with less is living more. Essentially, not lusting after luxury will never satisfy, but living off of just what you need will make you happier. I am not too sure about this, and I think that it really is ingrained into people, Americans especially, to always want better. Now, I feel like even if one took Thoreau’s advice about living only with the essentials, they would not be any happier. However, what I do feel like could improve their state of being is a change in heart. Instead of lusting for more, be happy with where you are. Don’t allow this to be confused with being complacent with where you are, because I think it is a noble goal to want to better yourself, if done with the right intentions and not out of just selfishness.
Walden was written by David Thoreau- Walden in the 1800s. It describes a social experiment that he undertook to like alone in nature, and lays out in full detail what he did. Some parts of the book focus on his spiritual musings, others focus on social concepts that he develops. The book is sort of all over the place, but in a good way. I’m pretty excited to read it an share my thoughts with you.
It’s pretty obvious the intended audience of the Communist Manifesto. Take the last phrase of the document, for example. “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” If this is not loaded language then I don’t know what is. Nevertheless, this kind of call to action would resonate deeply with the working class of that time. Sometimes the best approach is not astounding logic, but a grandiose call to arms. This is something that you have to be careful of. It’s one of the best friends of leaders around the world. Always take a step back and question what their message actually is, not the charisma with which they said it.
One of the driving concepts of communism is that only through equality will everyone truly be happy. There’s a key problem with this. Everybody is forced to be equal and there is no room for improvement. The U.S.S.R. was plagued with massive food shortages for many reasons, but one of the main contributing factors was that the Russians had no incentive to work. If they were guaranteed the same thing as everybody else, then what was the point of working hard? In other words, Communism was boring, and not a healthy productive environment. They had nothing to look forward to until the day they were released from the workforce. Instead of everyone being happy, they just all shared in their misery.
In Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx is addressing various arguments brought against the communist political system. One of the ones that he brings up states the following: “Religious, moral, philosophical, and juridical ideas have been modified in the course of historical development. But religion, morality, philosophy, political science, and law, constantly survived this change.” Now, what this argument is essentially stating is that the five very things that communism seeks to completely reform are the ones that have survived the test of time.
Marx’s response is a bit extended, but it boils down to this. These things may survive the test of time, but they bring about different social classes and lead to the more influential classes taking advantage of the others. The problem with this is, however, that the reason that many communist governments have failed to this day is that their leaders live in the lap of luxury, whilst taking advantage of the country’s citizens and then controlling media so that the citizens think that nothing is wrong. Somebody is always going to receive the short lot. All communism does is decide who.
Equality- this main concept of socialism is, on paper, a thing to be strived for. Who wouldn’t want all the people of a country to be on equal groups, for there to be no poverty for anyone. What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine. I believe that socialism is a good concept and a noble goal. However, it has been proven throughout history that one way or another, socialism doesn’t work. Sometimes it is implemented against the people’s will, through whatever harsh measures are necessary. Sometimes it falls apart because there is no incentive to work hard if in the end, you’re just going to get the same thing as the next guy. Other times, it has fallen apart because of bad leadership and leaders who keep opulence for themselves. Throughout history societies have tried to implement this system of living, but so far, it hasn’t worked too well.
De Toqueville’s Democracy in America was no easy read, that’s for sure. Nevertheless, it did provide an insightful view into American politics from the past. Not only that, it provided a critical analysis of both the qualities and failures of the relatively new government. It also helps that de Toqueville was not actually an American. Because he was from France, it allowed for his view to be even more unbiased and really just add to the value of the book. While it was hard to obtain meaningful topics from the book to discuss here that are not simply repetitive, I expect a little more substance from my next book, Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.
Juries have been around in some form or fashion for thousands of years. Ever since barbarians held meetings to discuss the penalties of certain crimes within the clans, the jury has helped make the decision of punishment. In the United States, we employ a jury in our court system. Not all cases need juries, but when they do, the juries are drafted out of ordinary, everyday citizens. This is incredibly important because this is a practical way that citizens participate in government and governmental systems. This is also important because it does not leave the fate of people in the hands of just one person. People aren’t perfect, and there are many outside factors that could influence a judge’s decision about a particular case.
In the early stages of the American government, there were a lot of question marks concerning how well the system would work and how well it could be upheld. Those questions were put to rest by the overwhelming effectiveness of the governmental systems. In this section of the book, de Toqueville is examining how the government can operate. His home country of France tried to implement democracy, but the system that they put in place failed. The main difference between the two? One had the backing of the people, while the other did not. In France, de Toqueville observed that the French people despised the new government and did everything they could to push back against it. This, of course, makes it very difficult for any government to operate. Thanks to the original backing of the American people, we now have a government that can withstand adversity.
As a citizen in a democracy, it is one’s duty to be involved in government. Today, there are many, many ways that one can be involved in the government, but involvement among the American people is waning. Many people neglect local elections altogether, and have a minimal amount of participation in their community. Democracy was made to be by the people, for the people. If you aren’t going to participate, at least stay informed of current issues in your community and around the country. You’d be surprised how much these seemingly distant things affect your everyday life.