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Henry and Speeches May 20, 2011

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One fo the greatest talents of Henry the Fifth is his ability to make speeches to influence the common man.  Henry makes many great speeches during the invasion of France, St. Crispin’s Day speech, and in response to the Dauphin.  The majority of these speeches are used to influence the common soldiers to continue fighting.  In these speeches Henry uses feelings of patriotism, nationalism, and ambition to make the men understand the importance of fighting.  Henry also uses feelings of guilt in St. Crispin’s day speech by saying that anyone who wishes to leave, may do so.  The other thing Henry does to arouse pride is to deny a ransom paid for himself and he says it in front of the entire army.  The key question is: does Henry really mean his actions, or are they all tools that are used as means to an end?  Henry may be able to say anything he wants to, to inspire the soldiers but may easily make an opposite decision.  The important thing is that Shakespeare makes no explicit reference to the actions of Henry to suggest that Henry does not follow through on his promises or actions.  The only mention that invading France does not constitute a just war is when the bishops talk about distracting the king from the bill that would require the church to give up lands to the public and to pay money to the king.  The importance of speeches is prominent in all Shakespearean plays demonstrated by Mark Antony, Brutus, Romeo, and Hamlet.  One instance where a leader turns back on a speech is Mark Antony’s “Friends, countrymen, lend me your ears” in which Antony says that Caesar willed all park lands to be distributed among the people.  At the end of the speech Antony says to a guard to guard the parks to make sure that the public cannot posses the land.  Henry makes no action of this sort which leads me to believe that Henry’s speeches are just or at the least very disguised.  Henry does not have many close confidants in the play so it is hard to gather his thoughts and feelings because Henry V appears to be a very guarded individual.

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Henry V May 20, 2011

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In Shakespeare’s Henry V, there is a key question presented by the role of ordinary people and leaders.  On the one hand Henry represents a perfect leader with his oratory talents and with his masterful planning; but, Henry represents a unique leader, a once in a generation mind.  Shakespeare must understand that not every person has the same leadership potential or same skills.  Which begs the question how must people act in the presence of a superior leader, do they become blind followers or do they need to question the leader?  In Henry V, only a few people question the King, and they are the Henry’s closest advisors.  The common men never make an outright challenge to Henry’s authority or actions, they keep the criticisms to themselves but they become evident when Henry takes a midnight stroll around the camp.  Shakespeare seems to suggest that brilliant leaders should be followed, if they are as brilliant as they are suggested.  Even if the common soldiers did not know the plans for battle, Henry did have the plan in place and did win the battle.  The problem is that while Henry did win the battle and the war, he died shortly after winning.  Which could mean that Shakespeare does not have sympathy for Henry or it could simply be the facts of history.  To me, Shakespeare seems to punish Henry for his actions and turning his back on John Falstaff.  Just because Shakespeare acknowledges Henry’s brilliance does not mean that he thinks it was the right choice.  Henry seems to turn full circle from his earlier days which represents an action for the best of England, but may not be the best for Henry.  Would Shakespeare want the common man to make more of an impact on politics?  It doesn’t appear likely because Pistol and Nym are viewed as cowards and low lives.

Father Paneloux May 19, 2011

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One of the most interesting characters in the plague is Father Paneloux.  In the beginning of the novel he is described as a militant jesuit and throughout The Plague he is best known for his high-minded sermons about the plague.  The first sermon Father Paneloux gives says that the plague is the result of the sins of all the citizens.  He criticizes the church attendance of the members, he criticizes the habits of the church goers, which basically amounts to, a critique of the town and how it functions.  Father Paneloux correctly places importance on the habits of Oran which are seen as entirely business-like and uninterested in “living” at all.  These criticisms appear to be correct because even when the plague breaks out there is still a market for the pleasures of pre-plague times because Cottard becomes involved in providing alcohol.  The key problem with Father Paneloux’s sermon is that Jacques Othan dies, and Jacques is a young boy who never committed any crimes or sins.  Rieux even criticizes Father Paneloux for this exact reason because he knows what Father Paneloux’s sermon was about.  Father Paneloux even asks for God to spare the child, to the point of almost breaking down.  The response however is another sermon.  In this sermon, Father Paneloux says that the only logical explanation for the plague is that it is a test from God.  This is a clear change from the earlier sermon because this sermon places the focus of the plague on God rather than the actions of the people.  Tarrou explains that this is the only logical response because Father Paneloux must either give up religion or must continue to keep the faith in light of Jacques Othan’s death.  Father Paneloux then dies of a unknown disease, not the plague.  It is an extremely interesting character because it speaks more about Camus than a relative importance in The Plague.  Does Camus suggest that religion is often overemphasized and often wrong?  It would appear so because the situation that Father Paneloux places himself is absurd.  If life is absurd, an idea that life has no meaning as in the case of the plague; Camus says the only answer is to fight nobly against an  unending foe.  Religion would almost seem to act in counter force to parts of  this idea, because religion would suggest that it is right to fight against wrongs but for the end goal of heaven.  Camus would say that people must fight against the enemy because it is the only thing to do, not because there is motivation to accomplish the act.

The Plague and Society May 17, 2011

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The plague is a very interesting critique of society by Camus.  The novel starts by describing the town of Oran which Camus describes as being centered on business and content with being set in endless bureaucracy.  The town lives for pleasure and does not care about politics or being involved.  This changes when the plague sets in because the people are confronted with an immovable object, an indestructible object.  The plague centers on the idea of that even though the plague is an unconquerable foe, it is noble, and the citizens should, continue to fight against the plague.  This ties in to Camu’s philosophy of the absurd man, where people have three options, they either live for pleasure as a “Don Juan”, live in 3 hours what takes people a life, or Conquer it because they realize there is no other option but to fight the absurd even if you can’t win.  The question becomes though, how do the citizens react to the plague?  The actions of some citizens are exactly what Camus wants, people who start the sanitation squads.  The majority of citizens however want to do nothing in the face of unbeatable  odds.  Are the citizens wrong in giving up against the plague?  Camus would say yes.  Applied to modern times would Camus say that people who refuse to participate in politics by voting because they feel that their vote does not matter are they absurd?  I think the point is yes.  The point is that people are fighting against an unchangeable system a system that has more money and power than they can have and yet most people will not try to change politics or the political system just like the citizens of Oran refusing to fight the plague.  The answer for citizens is to challenge government in positive ways to make sure they are accountable, not to just write it off as a complete loss.  While Camus can justify this as a noble fight, the other question to ask is why should people choose the noble path?  In my experiences this is the most solution to any debate about politics, it doesn’t affect me so I shouldn’t care or I don’t know so I shouldn’t care.  Camus must realize that it is not the path of every person to choose the hard path of nobility but it is the great ones that do.  Not everyone can be a leader as Tarrou and Rieux but citizens can at least be a Grand and do the right thing.

Henry and leadership April 15, 2011

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One of the points that Dr. Maloney brought up in class on Thursday was the idea that a leader must be cold and must be disconnected to rule effectively.  The case that he brought up was when the characters are talking about John Falstaff and Henry and how even though Henry broke Falstaff’s heart, he is still a good king.  This is a theme that is also evidenced in media where the hero must make a decision that is unpopular, but is nevertheless the right choice to be made.  It comes up in the Dark Knight when Batman must continue to hunt down the Joker even though Gotham would like Batman to give himself up.  I think this is not only a commentary on what we expect of our leaders but what we see out of the general population.  This can relate back to what Plato and the classical thinkers expect of society.  They would think the public too weak and having too many faults in character to know the best solution to solve problems.  The new question becomes does Shakespeare subscribe to the conservative thoughts of the classical thinkers, or does he subscribe to another theory?  I think taking into account the “bard’s” other works, he does appear to subscribe to the idea that people cannot be trusted.  In most of his tragedies, most characters end up dying, possibly because of inescapable human flaws.  In Hamlet the only character that is spared death is Claudius, who was responsible for killing Hamlet’s father.  I think that Shakespeare makes repeated suggestions that say people cannot be trusted.  His plays mostly focus on the faults people have which cause them to end in failure.  It is also interesting to notice the leaders in Shakespearean plays, because most have a flaw and demonstrate Shakespeare’s distrust of individuals.  Hamlet, Julius Cesar, and Romeo have all had crucial flaws which ended their leadership careersand their lives short of their potential.  It is also interesting because Shakespeare would not openly criticize the government structure that funds him, the monarchy of England.  It is also possible that it just added for dramatic effect because people would be naturally skeptical of a leader who is overly sucessful.  Some times it is also evident that Shakespeare is bound by history.  I think that the idea of a leader sacrificing their soul for the good of the state might be an insight into the lives of rulers who Shakespeare would have met.

Nozick April 8, 2011

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In class we have been discussing Robert Nozick contrary to John Rawls.  Where Nozick clearly differs from Rawls is in the belief that no central authority has the right to redistribute wealth or services for the benefit of others; and, the idea that government cannot distribute the resources to others.  Nozick’s point is that he believes government has no authority to collect resources from the people to distribute even if there is injustice in people not having the same opportunities.  Nozick doesn’t believe that there is any reason for government to take resources and distribute them to groups that are less privileged.  He thinks that interactions to provide resources to deserving groups should be provided on an individual basis and not as a mandated effort.  I can understand where Nozick is concerned but I feel that government can be better trusted than I have faith that people will help those in need.  I think that government is held more accountable to the people because of elections and because of a visible nature.  If there is an issue with accountability it is not a fault of government it is a fault of the people in government, which means that responsibility falls back to the voters to choose a representative that conveys their interests.  As to address the point that Nozick makes saying that government has no authority to distribute and redistribute wealth, I think that it exists in what we desire government to do and the history of government tell us to expect of government.  In history when the Articles of Confederation were enacted as the basis for government in the United States, there was a definite lack of services provided and even in history there are other instances where people desire services from their government and demand them from their government.  I do admit that is harder to justify the the authority to redistribute wealth to those in need, but the question becomes: if people are in charge of helping others as Nozick suggests, but cannot fufill that duty as Rawls suggests, who shall help people out?  In that situation I think that the government has the most authority and the most accountabilty to provide support for those that need help.

Rawls for the good of society April 1, 2011

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One of the main points that we have discussed from the Rawls’ reading was the idea that people should contribute resources for the least advantaged.  Rawls justified this position by using the veil of ignorance and original position which state a situation where a person would not know into what position they would be born into, and would naturally want to provide for the instance that if the person was the lowest class in society, it would be made easier for them.  Rawls suggests that people would make the lower class better off by contributing money to the point where it is not detrimental to the higher classes of society.  This is significant because it does not advocate that everyone is put on equal footing as would be possible with communism but it suggests that people would be on more equal ground and not with a large gap in incomes.  The difference between Rawls and other thinkers that advocate change and helping the lower class of society, is his insistence that it needs to be mandatory because people will naturally “shun” their obligations and will not help those less-advantaged especially when people expect others to pick up the slack.  This is evident in daily life when there is a piece of trash on the sidewalk, many people will walk past the piece of trash without picking it up because they believe that someone else will do the job.  Rawls’ point is even strengthened when looking at charitable donations for natural disasters.  The American Red Cross asks for donations during a natural disaster, they do not use the money for the current disaster they use the money for the next disaster because they do not expect people to donate when there is no motivation for them to do so.  I feel that Rawls is right in the instance that people need to do this because otherwise they won’t contribute on their own.  I think that it could also be applied to corporations and the economy, many corporations will not make significant donations in charity without incentive (and most hardly make the effort even with incentives).  I am reminded of a quote from The West Wing, where Sam Seaborne speaks about income taxes: “I left Gage Whitney making $400,000 a year, which means I paid twenty-seven times the national average in income tax. I paid my fair share, and the fair share of twenty-six other people. And I’m happy to because that’s the only way it’s gonna work, and it’s in my best interest that everybody be able to go to schools and drive on roads, but I don’t get twenty-seven votes on Election Day. The fire department doesn’t come to my house twenty-seven times faster and the water doesn’t come out of my faucet twenty-seven times hotter” (West Wing Season 2).  I think this illustrates the point that Rawls makes and included with the point that Dr. Maloney made about Michael Phelps, in tribute to the advantage that the upper class has gained they should pay for the society that allows them to accomplish this and let someone possibly have the chance. I think that this should be kept in mind when people in the upper class search for every loophole possible or demand that their taxes be lowered.

Rawls March 18, 2011

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One of the key points that we have talked about in class has been the notion of original position and the veil of ignorance.  Original position has to deal with the idea that parties and people would choose the laws and structure of the society if they had to start society all over again.  The veil of ignorance is the idea that people would not be able to know if they would be born into the higher classes of society or the lower classes of society.  The idea that Rawls tries to promote is the fact that since people would have no idea of their position in society, they would try to make society as best as possible for everyone.  This appears to be a very believable action of how society would function, when Rawls mentions the ideal of the overlapping consensus, or the idea that despite all the competing doctrines that people believe, there are certain values that cut across doctrines.  While this a very optimistic view of society and the world, it might be overly optimistic in the fact that it assumes values that cut across doctrines.  Certain cultures might be okay with certain downplays in their rights as it might relate to their values, i.e. a man being okaywith a woman being oppressed because it relates to his culture even if he would be a woman.  This view also assumes that people are intellegent enough to make conditions conducive for what ever situation they would be placed in.  A person of higher class could easily assume that conditions of the lower class are not that bad and should not be changed to make conditions easier for the lower classes of society.  It would be interesting to see the common values that exist despite the competeing doctrines because different societal traits are valued by different cultures.  As Samuel Huntington pointed out in the “clash of civilizations” not every culutre is in favor of democracy or other values asscociated with democracy and would prefer a different structure of government.  The case being that the veil of ignorance is a useful tool for predicting how people would change society to benefit the common good, however I think that it takes a very optimistic view of human nature to say that people would choose to promote the world more than hurt it.  It also does not take into account the fact that some people do not want to change anything about the world and would rather leave it as is.

Locke and the governed March 11, 2011

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Today in class Dr. Maloney brought up one point again and again.  The idea that if government does not function when it does not perform the actions that the people want.  He cited examples of 1992 when President Bill Clinton was elected in favor of incumbent President George H.W. Bush.  He has also cited the 2006 congressional elections when the American people voted a Democratic majority into power and in the 2010 congressional elections when the electorate reversed these trends by voting a Republican majority into office.  This is also an interesting topic to consider with Wisconsin’s situation and Governor Scott Walker.  The unrest created by the decision to remove the collective bargaining capability of public worker unions, would almost guarantee a Democratic victory in the state government according to Locke.  However, looking at earlier times in America’s history unrest did not create an instant change in American government.  The earlier decades of American democracy there were broad injustices commited against populations like Ethnic minorities, women, and people of lower economic status.  Under Locke these people would not have stood for the government that did not give them rights.  So the question remains, why did they stay?  They obviously were not staying because they were happy with what they were experiencing.  Some of these groups left conditions that were worse in their previous country or were just as bad.  Women during a certain time would not benefit from moving elsewhere in the world because most of the world shared their perception of women.  The reason that these groups did stay was becasue they believed that they could make things better and that one day their situation would be the same as everyone else.  Women achieved the right to vote with the passing of the 19th ammendment, ethnic minorities recieved more support for their right to vote with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Yet while there were great strides made, these groups still experience discrimination.  And again the question is asked why do people continue to partcipate in the system?  There haven’t been any major movements to remove public officals because they do not actively try to change this reality; yet, the people will vote a party out of office for not producing economic growth for the citizens.  Understanding that people are still waiting for expanded change, after more than 200 years when can people be content with the status quo?  Under Locke when can they be content with the system of government before they demand a change?

John Locke and punishment March 3, 2011

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One of the topics discussed in class today was the capital punishment within a system of laws.  What was discussed in class was the an evaluation of whether Locke would agree that capital punishment would not fit within his ideas of system of laws.  The conclusion that was eventually reached was that people would wish to have a person that murdered their family killed but society has developed a system of laws to make sure that society does not crumble.  In the book Locke states again and again in his faith in the reason of human beings for his ideal society.  Locke makes important distinctions between the state of nature and the state of war but while recognizing the similarities.  Tying this in with punishment I am still a little confused on Locke’s views on punishment, does he advocate for extreme punishment as long as it is sanctioned by the law?  When talking about a state of war Locke states: “Thus a thief, whom I cannot harm, but by appeal to the law, for having stolen all that I am worth, I may kill, when he sets on me to rob me but of my horse or coat; because the law which was made for my preservation…permits me my own defence, and the right of war, a liberty to kill the aggressor, because the aggressor allows not time to appeal to our common judge, nor the decision of the law.” (15).  This quote does uphold the right of self-defense for force but can it also show that decisions for defense in the heat of the moment which places the authority in the person?  Is this too much faith to put in humanity that a person will be able to control themselves in the heat of the moment?  A person that is clearly angry has the possibility of not controlling their actions because they are unaware of the punishment they are doling out.  I think that this perception of humanity puts too much faith in human reason that they would be able to reason appropriate response to crimes or attack.  I understand Locke’s faith in humans that eclipses Socrates’ perception of human potential however, simply stating that all humans have the potential for reason does not mean that human beings are reasonable 100% of the time.  For this reason it is important to consider this possibility and try to prevent instances where people overstep their boundaries without reason.