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Discussion--Week 3

First, a reminder that you need to get your response to me by 10:10 a.m. on Monday if you want it to be counted for the week. You are allowed to skip 5 of the 15 weekly posts. If you aren't sure how many you've done, check with me.

Discussion for this week has to do with the Thoreau readings for Monday.

Have you read either of these essays before? I do expect you to re-read them if it has been more than a year. If you have, has your perception of them changed since your first reading?

Whether this is your first time reading them or not, please choose one point you agree with, and one you disagree with, and discuss them very briefly in your post.
Compare and contrast Thoreau's writing with one of the other authors or essays we've read so far. Be specific; don't just say "the language was harder to understand." That's a given, considering both pieces were written over 150 years ago.


I believe in Thoreau's statement that when "machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer." He makes a very persuasive point that a sixth of the population without individual rights and the invasion of Mexico warrant more of a revolution than being taxed.

I disagree with Thoreau's proposal that "we should be men first, and subjects afterward." It would be really hard to run a society if people went by their gut feelings. Nowadays, since religion and culture play important roles in our opinions, it is almost impossible to settle on an issue without getting into some kind of conflict. Issues such as war, gay marriage, the environment, abortion etc all admit conscience on various levels, thus at what point does the government need to step in and make a decision? If Thoreau is strictly addressing the welfare of all citizens, then on that grand scale, the value of life comes before the state.

I disagree with his statement, "That government is beast which governs not at all." To me this doesn't even seem realistic. If there wasn't a government to govern wouldn't America be sort of how Iraq is without a leader? People would create more ciaos than there already is. I would hate to live where there wasn't government really involved.

I agree with him when he says simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. I feel as if people are getting too into little things that aren't necessary. Back when my grandparents were growing up they never really worried about how thin or fat they were or even how much money they made. They wanted to live life! Today it seems as though people have forgotten about living. There seems to be a lot more depressed people in this world. Maybe they never used to record things like that but I still feel as though people want too many things.

I read these essays both last year, but I re-read them anyway. My opinions of them didn't really change-I still like them both. I found it difficult to find something I disagreed with in Thoreau's essays. My reasoning for this is a) because they are his opinions and I am a big proponent of differing political views as long as they are well-informed and well-thought out (which his quite obviously are) and b) I probably would have/ really do now agree with most of what he has to say. I suppose my one qualm with Thoreau's essay was that he quite frequently spoke of the bible, such as when he is speaking of the lack of "genius for legislation" and references the New Testament. While I am not going to argue his point, I do think that while he is talking about freedom of ideals, religion should be taken into account (although I really don't think he was saying otherwise).
As I said before, I agreed with most of the essay. One idea in particular that I liked was when he said, "how can a man be satisfied to entertain an opinion merely, and enjoy it...unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them...?" I agree that too many citizens complain about the state of our country without taking an proactive measures to create change. Merely having the idea that change needs to take place will not right wrongs.
Also, did anyone else have problems with the pdf? I couldn't get it to print and I couldn't read it on the web, so I had to find another copy...

I read both pieces in 10th Honors English for a unit on Trascendalists. After re-reading them, I have to say that I appreciate them a lot more now than I did then, and my perspective has shifted somewhat. I find myself agreeing more with Thoreau's philosophies, probably because I can get a better grasp of the concepts at an older age (it's only been three years, but it makes a difference).

One of Thoreau's points that I agreed with was, "There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, who...sit down with their hands in their pockets, and say they do not know what to do, and do nothing" (Resistance to Civil Government). This point can apply to modern day events, such as the genocide in Darfur. The world recognizes it as a grotesque violation of human rights, yet sits by idly and does little to stop it. Meanwhile, the United Nations reduces its efforts to merely keeping a body count.
There are countless injustices that are accounted for, but unaddressed directly, essentially "letting them slide."

On the other hand, a point I disagreed with was, "Law never made men a whit more just..." While it's true that the legal system is imperfect, without it, serial raptists would be walking the streets and homicidal criminals would remains unpunished. It is unfair to say that no justice results from the law.

I do not agree with Thoreau’s belief that government should not exist at all and will cease to exist when men are ready. I think it is inevitable that all governments will fall, but only because in the scope of forever, a human establishment could not possibly last. Not because men are “ready? to live ungoverned. Anarchy would only be plausible for humans if most of the world’s population were to die and each human lived in isolation with no competition for power or resources.

Even though Thoreau’s essay started off with a ridiculous opinion, I found myself agreeing with a lot of the things he followed with. I agree with his opinions on activism. If you are aware of a problem and you do nothing about it, you are responsible for allowing it to happen. Thoreau applied this belief to slavery and the war in Mexico, but it is still very relevant today with issues such as foreign wars, outsourcing, and civil rights.

I disagree with Thoreau's belief that the best government is none at all, but only in the respect that he wants it gone all together and I would only like to see some of it abolished. I think that the fact that people go to war with people they have never met on matters of political ground is absolutely ridiculous. I would be willing to bet that most of the people fighting in Iraq or anywhere have never looked at the culture of the "enemy" and have no personal quarrel with any individual from the "enemy" place. However, I do think that the need for government comes in the area's of trade because certain places don't yield certain foods or fabrics or other material good that a group of people want. In this situation, it seems easiest to me for a government to instigate trade and handle matters of that sort.

I agree with his statement that "I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad." I don't want to live in a bad place, and, as I'm sure most people do, I want to help make it a better place. However, living is the key point. Living--in a good or bad place--is what you should focus on so that, when your time comes, you have nothing to wish to had done.

Thoreau's extremist beliefs and sense of elitism were both quickly apparent to me in each essay. I believe he is aware that the measures he takes (or claims to, at least) will not be adopted by the general public but he hopes that they will inspire people to think about and question their society. In "Resistance to Civil Government", Thoreau admits that he "know[s] that most men think differently from [himself]", but uses uses such persuasive language as to inspire the inner anarchist in the most obedient citizen. I disagree strongly with his outlook on his fellow townspeople, though. Thoreau recalls, when he is released from prison, that "[he] saw to what extent the people among whom [he] lived could be trusted as good neighbors and friends; that their friendship was for summer weather only; that they did not greatly propose to do right; that they were a distinct race from [him] by their prejudices and superstitions." I believe that this is a gross misstatement of the nature of humans. I do not think that people are inherently "bad" or completely self-centered. In general, people like to affect positive change and be a part of something beneficial to others.

Thoreau's underlying theme that freedom is of the mind and not the physical body is a powerful outlook. I agree that one's outlook (on life and the events in life) can greatly affect his or her mental, physical, and social health. A positive outlook and the belief that one cannot be broken if they do not want to be can be contagious. I do not know any statistics to back this up, but I would guess that effective leaders often have this quality of always ascending encountered hardships.

I agree with Thoreau's commentary on voicing our opinion about what we feel should be improved in the government structure. Instead of being "no-government men" and complaining generally about the inadequacy of our government system, we should "make known what kind of government would command our respect" instead of merely condemning the current system.

I disagree with Thoreau that voting for the "right" is doing nothing for it. In voting, we do leave the outcome in chance's hands, but I feel that voting, in our current state of affairs, does represent an action toward the "right".