Making Progress as a Woman in a Man’s World

In Emmeline Pankhurst’s Speech From the Dock, she outlines the failures of the women’s movement in the past “we have tried every way. We have presented larger petitions than were ever presented for any other reform; we have succeeded in holding greater public meetings than men have ever had for any reform… we have faced hostile mobs at street corners… we have been misrepresented, we have been ridiculed, we have had contempt poured upon us” (471). One interesting thing to me was the equation between the past methods and acting traditionally feminine and the way that they are acting now with traditional masculinity; “we have tried to be womanly. We have tried to use feminine influence, and we have seen that it is of no use” (470). Pankhurst makes it clear that women have both been held to an impossibly high standard and that there was no way to create progress in the women’s movement quietly. Personally, I know that it wasn’t until the adoption of such militant tactics in the United States by younger suffragettes that we really made progress which ended with the passing of the 19th amendment. Do you see an alternative to the kind of strategy that Pankhurst alludes to throughout the document? Why or why not? 

Wish Fulfillment

In this excerpt of Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, he analyzes a dream he had about an interaction with a patient, Irma, where he examines her again and finds that she is still struggling with her health. However, after analyzing it the next day, he realizes that in the dream, none of the complications could be a result of his actions and therefore cannot reflect badly upon him. Freud is arguing that his dream about Irma is a form of wish fulfillment that was brought on, at least in part, by a conversation he had with a mutual friend who told him that “She’s better, but not quite well” (131) and the suspicion that his friend was unhappy with him as he felt annoyed by even the slight implication that he was to blame for her struggles. In a lot of ways, his argument makes sense and supports the claim that “when the work of interpretation has been completed, we perceive that a dream is the fulfilment of a wish” (142). However one of my reservations is that the act of interpretation itself is unreliable, I believe that to a certain extent that you can take numerous meanings out of the same event and I wonder how much one’s subconscious desire colors the interpretation instead of the dream presenting a clear example of wish fulfillment. Do you think Freud’s argument is strong?

What you pass down (and what you don’t).

The exploration of the relationships between parents and children seems to play a central role in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Okonkwo lost his mother at a young age and he grew up regarding his father as a failure, both as a man and therefore in life. He looked to his father, Unoka, as an example of how not to behave and this clearly influences how he interacts with his children and partners; “Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives… lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children” (4). His oldest son, Nwoye, however is already displaying attributes that Okonkwo associates with his father and therefore abhors especially an “incipient laziness” (4). I would argue from this small portion of the book that the author is setting up a cycle where a parent (Unoka) behaves a way that drives their child (Okonkwo) to “hate everything that his father… had loved” (4) and therefore act the opposite way when they are grown, however that extreme behavior alienates their child (Nwoye) who might grow up to live to try and be the opposite of his father. Do you see the author making this point? How do you factor in the role of the mother in this, does it change the dynamic? As Uchendu comments “when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in it’s mother’s hut” (44) does the presence of a mother or another parent have an effect on this pattern? I think it is important to consider since one difference between the generations is that Okonkwo lost his mother as a boy but Nwoye still has his.

Daddy Issues

Although the sections are short, one of the recurring themes I saw in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is the performance of masculinity. In fact, a large part of the protagonist is centered around his dedication to behaving as masculine as possible. Okonkwo is very physically strong and behaves aggressively; “whenever he was angry and could not get his words out quickly enough, he would use his fists” (1). It is clear through his actions and attitudes that he equates masculinity with worthiness or virtue and this is coupled with a virulent distaste for femininity, in both women and men, especially his father. In fact, “[Okonkwo] had no patience with his father” (1) and attempts to be the antithesis of him, where his father was thin, he is huge, where his father was a coward who can’t stand the sight of blood, he is a man of war who welcomes it. In essence, his “whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness… it was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father” (4). In the beginning, these actions and attitudes have brought him wealth, fame, family, and respect but we see later in the reading that he faces some consequences and is exiled for seven years. What is your impression of the message that Achebe is trying to convey? Are Okonkwo’s displays of toxic masculinity something to condemn or is there another problem with his character? How do you view his feeling about his father and how he allows them to drive his life?

Social Benefits: A Conservative Idea?

In this Speech on the Law for Workmen’s Compensation, the Chancellor of the German Empire, Otto Von Bismarck, is grappling with questions about the role of the government or the “state” in both the private sector and the individual lives of its citizens; “does the state have the responsibility to care for its helpless fellow citizens, or does it not?” (422). He ultimately argues that yes, it is the state’s role, at least to some degree, and he goes on to give examples on what that impact might be on the private companies and citizens as well. Bismarck is appealing to those who might otherwise turn toward Socialism, arguing that socialist leaders grow more powerful when there are more dissatisfied workers. In fact, he points to France’s failures to legislative protections for its poor workers as the reason for their “social conditions” being “unsettled” (423) and he predicts that it is unavoidable for France to continue on the same path of “distance[ing] themselves so far from socialism that poor laws do not exist at all” (423). In the vast majority of my experience, the ideas being proposed by Bismarck, for a larger governmental role in the lives of citizens, are usually found on the left side of the political spectrum, have you had the same experience? How do you evaluate these ideas coming from a conservative figure opposed to a progressive one? What are the key distinctions to be made with the changes that Bismarck is proposing compared to others we have looked at in the past?

Red Scare

When looking back on recent American history, communism is brought up frequently especially in relation to the Cold War and relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. One common theme that I’ve seen is the demonization of the political theory especially with events like the Red Scare which had a huge impact on the country and resulted in the execution of two people. Although those events are often acknowledged as a case of hysteria and unfounded fears causing violations of civil liberates, I continue to see and have been taught to view communism in a certain, almost exclusively negative light. Instead of the text and theory being objectively analyzed for it merits and downsides in the same way that we analyze the work of people like John Locke, Adam Smith, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Have you had the same experience? After reading the Communist Manifesto, do you see a correlation between that teachings of Marx and Engels and the way communism is viewed as a whole in the United States?

“Just an Opinion”

In John Mill’s “Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion” he discusses the place that opinions have in society, arguing that there is no place in society for the suppression of opinions, by a governmental power or otherwise. Mill grounds his reasoning in the idea that diversity of thought and opinion is inherently beneficial to society as a whole, which is something that I agree with. I also agree that the idea of a government operating on public opinion is flawed because the fact that a majority of people hold the same beliefs is in no way a guarantee that those beliefs are not incorrect, misguided, or harmful. Also, a majority means there is a minority who, if those opinions are acted upon, are usually being ignored or suppressed. There are many cases that come to mind where at the time an opinion held by a minority was repressed but now looking back, the opinion has been adopted by the majority, the fight for women’s suffrage is one of those examples. I also think it is important to note who’s opinion is typically in the minority, usually those who are disadvantaged by society already whether based on race, class, or sex. 

One idea that I have been struggling with is something that is connected to an idea that Mill’s discussed in chapter four, where he argues for individual liberty and that there is no place for punishment or even intervention for people whose actions are not harming anyone but themselves. But I would argue that opinions can be harmful to other people as well and in some cases, I don’t necessarily believe all opinions are created equal. What comes to mind for me is the belief that some people are inferior whether that be based on race, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. Some people may consider those ideas, simply opinions, but I would argue that holding those opinions or implementing them freely can definitely be harmful to others, so should there be an intervention then? I am not arguing for suppression of such thought because I think that is an artificial solution which rarely has long term effects but do you think Mill’s addresses when opinions can be harmful? Do you think it is enough to say that to find the “truth” those opinions (even if they are harmful) are necessary to society? 

What is loyalty?

On thing that personally became clear to me while reading the Documents on the Status of German Jewry and the Debate over Jewish Emancipation is how little I knew about the history of Jewish people in Europe before World War II and I’m glad that I know a little more after reading this primary source. However I do feel like I was able to better understand the history of antisemitism and why it took shape and was either widely accepted or widely ignored in Germany over a hundred years later due to my knowledge of that time. 

Going to Heinrich Paulus’ letter to Riesser, this idea that the responsibility is on the individual to demonstrate their loyalty to a certain nation even when other people born in the same nation do not share the same burden seems to play a recurring role throughout history (155). When large groups of Irish immigrated to the United States throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was the idea that they couldn’t be trusted because their loyalty would always belong firstly to the Pope and the Catholic Church. Another instance is after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the treatment of Americans of Japanese descent, specifically with Executive Order 9066 and the internment of Japanese Americans in internment camps. This paired with the fact that there was no comparable effort to protect America from Americans with German or Italian descent even after we went to war with both, shows it was more at play than a wartime protection.

Although these situations are not the exact and therefore not a perfect comparison, I still do see similarities on this idea of loyalty has allowed people to restrict the rights and classify entire groups of people based on a common belief system or ancestry. I wonder how much that has been used as an excuse to make the racism or xenophobia which is really driving people. Since loyalty is such an abstract idea, to me, it seems like it is creating an impossible standard for the group in question to achieve, allowing them to be treated differently or worse. Do you see other examples of history where this rhetoric of “other-ism” has been interconnected with this idea of loyalty? Do you agree that it is just a way to mask prejudice or do you see it differently? Finally, do you think that the extensive history of antisemitism makes what these sources are discussing (Jewish Emancipation) unique when comparing them to the examples I gave above? Especially because in all of the examples I gave, the treatment of those people in America had passed relatively quickly.

Counterfactual Regarding the Congress of Vienna (9/1)

The global impact of the American Revolution doesn’t often go unnoticed and most look at the French Revolution as directly inspired by the events that occurred in former colonies. However I think it is clear that the ideas which connected these two revolts are found in a collection of other Revolutions that occurred throughout mid nineteenth century; including a desire for unification of some nation states and a turn away from absolutist monarchies and towards more representative governments (Week 2, video lecture). How did the actions of those in the Congress of Vienna enable the Age of Revolutions which soon followed and could the political repercussions have been limited at that moment in time? Or were the rebellions that followed inevitable with the spread of democratic ideas and growth that the European colonies experienced. As with Spain’s former colonies who saw the weakness in the mother country and seized the opportunity. How important was the fact that these nations witnessed the success in America, France, and Haiti, among other places? Are the revolutions even comparable in this way since the circumstances and motivations varied between each country revolting and the response from forces like the various alliances?