Sunday, September 18, 2011

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" must not have been liked by the politicians of his day. He focused on how people do not need to be blind followers of what the government says or promotes. It is not that Thoreau is rooting for any idea in particular but would rather people think themselves and make sure that what they do is going to be in accordance to their beliefs or, in other words, their conscience. Thoreau was really trying to better the government that was in place not remove it completely. He believed that it could help the government not only aid those in the majority but even down to the individual needs of the citizens. A government, just like those who created it, is imperfect and "unjust laws exist" which make the need for every man to examine their own thoughts and do what they feel is correct. Thoreau believed that acting against your conscience was almost unforgivable on the person's part because it results in "everlasting death" thus denoting the seriousness of the situation.
The part that was really interesting was when Thoreau mentioned that the rich man is always sold to the institution that makes him rich and that if you have more money then you have less virtue. It reminded me of how the businesses today really don't care about the consumer. All they care about is making money and keeping the clientele so they can keep on making money. For example, the cigarette businesses make billions of dollars a year but they do it by slowly killing their clients. The propaganda is used to lure people into smoking and creating that addiction and that's it, in comes the money. In reality those people do not feel a moral obligation towards the people around them.
Another point that got my attention was that the majority of the people voice their opinions while a visibly smaller percentage actually try to do something about helping society or our world become a better place. Thoreau used examples like Jesus, Luther and Washington to show how they made a difference in the world but at the same time were crucified, excommunicated, or deemed as rebels. This shows how Emerson and Thoreau come together because these people made a difference in the world regardless of the unjust laws that were set in place. All of them were looked down upon by their peers for doing something that was not popular but was right according to their conscience. The way these two writings were composed leads me to believe that this era was focused on acting on what the person believed and not really caring if it was right at the time as long as you felt that you were acting right. The examples of Franklin, Venture Smith, Stanton and others backs up this idea of self reliance and focusing on following your own code of ethics.
If everyone's conscience is different, in what way would this style of government work if there are so many people?
How can laws, if there are any, be enforced if everyone goes by their own standard?

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