Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rousseau Reflections

"One would see the leaders fomenting whatever can weaken men united together by disuniting them; whatever can give society an air of apparent concord while sowing the seeds of real division; whatever can inspire defiance and hatred in the various classes through the opposition of their rights and interests, and can as a consequence strengthen the power that contains them all" (Blue Book 89).

I wanted to present this quote to promote discussion on some of Rousseau's briefly mentioned ideas that  we didn't have time to focus on in class because we were more focused on his big ideas in the essay. When I read this section, I immediately circled it and wrote in the margins: "Britain with India's Hindus and Muslims." I sat in on a class early this semester that discussed the roots of India's revolution. Before class we had read Gandhi's Critique on Civilization (1908), where he discusses (I'm simplifying this, but it's very interesting to read) how he essentially blames railroads and technology as the downfall of India because they allowed man to travel farther than his feet naturally could take him--leading him to communities different than his own and to cause race and religious tension. (I actually didn't remember this until I started writing this blog, what I was going to bring up was...) While (Wikipedia tells me) Britain was not the first to build railroads in India, they were responsible for expanding it. In class, Professor Moss Roberts discussed how one way the British raised and maintained their political power in India was by pushing the Muslim and Hindu communities toward conflict. So rather than working together to push out the British, they were pre-occupied with land and religious tension.

While my first thought went to that seemingly far away history lesson, it seems to be this foreign politics tactic has been reused again and again, existent even today--in our own government.

Did any other particular "truths" pop out to you guys in Rousseau's text that are prevalent to our history?

1 comment:

  1. Kyra, I love the idea in Ghandi's "Critique of Civilization" that targets the expansion of human interaction to the tensions that divide religious communities and difference factions of people that were maybe never meant to interact with one another. The concept in Rousseau that there are two states of nature makes me think about the corrupt "state of nature" we live in today as a result of civilization and anarchy. The idea that man was never supposed to go farther than the distance which his "own feet naturally could take him," is fascinating when thinking about diversity and intermingling as a negative thing. In society today, we view the concept of exploring beyond one's social norms as the ideal path to development of understanding and gaining a diverse perspective of the world, but that is also the same thing that has led us to focus on and recognize the vast spectrum of difference amongst all of us. The original state of nature which was "not social" may have been more tranquil, but in my opinion limited the potential of man in every aspect of life almost making them a pointless, mindless being walking the Earth. Without the development of interactions, property and ultimately language to bring us to the "corrupt" state of nature we have today, man would fail to develop as a species and perhaps fail to fulfill its destiny as an intellectually complex, antagonistic being.


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