In class, we were discussing what Thoreau meant about being truly awake in his book, Walden. In paragraph 14 of “Where I lived and What I Lived for” he writes,
“Little is to be expected of that day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudgings of some servitor, are not awakened by our own newly-acquired force and aspirations from within, accompanied by the undulations of celestial music, instead of factory bells, and a fragrance filling the air—to a higher life than we fell asleep from; and thus the darkness bear its fruit, and prove itself to be good, no less than the light” (Thoreau, 1854).
We are not truly awake if we are content to live in a manner that does not fulfill us. It is so much easier to exist in a state of half-consciousness, where our actions are not derived from true inspiration. By living as others direct us, we abandon our inner callings and instead turn to work on something that holds no meaning. Thoreau changed his whole world in order to “live deliberately”; to shake off the mindless drone of purposeless life. He sought the meaning of what it is to be truly awake and shared what he discovered with us all.
Thoreau’s mission of trying to wake people out of their mindless monotony is still ongoing. In 2014, The Huffington Post published an article that aligned with Thoreau’s beliefs about living. I invite you to read it and share what you think.
Karl Marx argues that the price of capitalism is dishonoring the value of human dignity and natural rights that belong to the people that compose the labor force. Marx illustrated the idea that working in such conditions leads to the dehumanization of workers in his first Economic & Philosophic Manuscript of 1844. He criticized the economic system of his time when he stated,
“Now, therefore, we have to grasp the intrinsic connection between private property, greed, the separation of labor, capital and landed property; the connection of exchange and competition, of value and the devaluation of man, of monopoly and competition, etc. – the connection between this whole estrangement and the moneysystem” (Marx, 1944). Marx argued that in a purely Capitalistic environment, workers are reduced to nothing more significant than profit machines, stripped of the power to live with the freedom every human deserves.
This reminded us of the the struggles women have experienced throughout the United States history. They too have shared this dehumanization when it came to being acknowledged as worthy of basic rights. In The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Elizabeth Cady Santon mimicked the structure of The Declaration of Independence in order to stress a need for change in the treatment of women in society. Women had no voice in their government, just like the people of the American Colonies has no say in their own regulation prior to the revolution. Santon essentially called for a cultural revolution because the living conditions placed upon women were so highly restrictive that their human dignity was ignored. Women’s sense of humanity was estranged because society
“Having deprived her of this first right of a citizedn, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides” (Santon, 1848).
Our group found it intriguing that even though these two documents appear to be unrelated, they share the common theme. Both documents demanded more humane treatment from the ruling power, whether it was the economic system or the government. We then discussed how those demands have and have not been met in the present day.