American Literature Week 2 Cabeza de Vaca vs Las Casas

Prompt: “Which book was more memorable, Cabeza de Vaca’s or Las Casas’s? Why?”

Cabeza de Vaca’s memoir Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America was an autobiography describing his experience exploring the previously unknown Americas. He befriended native tribes, acting as a traveling doctor. Although some details of his account can be seen as unrealistic, his memoir became a very popular adventure story throughout Europe. People were thrilled to hear tales of the new land, and Cabeza de Vaca’s unique and descriptive writing style captured peoples imaginations.

Las Casas wrote A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, a historical account of what he witnessed while exploring central America. He described the Spaniards attacking, butchering, and enslaving millions upon millions of natives. While his story may not have always been completely accurate, he may have exaggerated because he was strongly advocating for their human rights. He was one of the first social reformers, pushing for the natives to be treated with humane dignity. To fight for their rights he wrote detailed accounts of the horrors befalling them. He called the Spaniards devils disguised as Christians, for according to their beliefs they were sending all the unbaptized natives straight to hell.

Both pieces of literature are interesting and memorable in their own ways, but if I had to personally choose to read one a second time I would go with Cabeza de Vaca’s memoir. The main difference between the two accounts are their tones. Vaca’s memoir is a classic adventure tale, a story of a man traveling lands unknown and helping those he meets along the way. His vocabulary is so descriptive that its easy to get sucked into the world, and I can imagine it being extremely engaging to a 16th century European.

Casas’s account, although well meaning, was much darker. As someone with some native blood the details and descriptions can be very disturbing. Its a piece of literature that tells the reader all about mass racial extermination and enslavement, and most of the time it doesn’t hold back on the unsavory details of it all. Casas tends to exaggerate throughout it, giving very unlikely first person testimonies. For example he tells of a slave ship carrying natives, its destination no farther away than a week long journey. But for whatever reason natives begin starving by the hundreds while aboard this ship, and the crewmen are forced to throw their corpses overboard. So many corpses get thrown into the water below that it creates a trail of death, and Casas explains that one could follow the slave ship based off the numerous dead bodies floating in the river.

Perhaps I’m yellow bellied, but that sort of visual doesn’t sit the best with me. I can see how someone could really enjoy Casas’s descriptive vocabulary and his heartfelt fight against mindless violence, but this account gives so many detailed examples of mindless violence that it left me feeling rather woebegone. That’s just my personal opinion on the matter, i’d prefer to read the upbeat adventure story rather than the mass murder tales.

Economy Week 2 First Class vs Coach

Prompt: “If you were flying across country, would you rather sit in first class, or would you rather your parents gave you the difference between the first-class fare and the coach fare?”

The difference in cost between first class and coach is much bigger than I initially suspected. Coach airline tickets on average cost several hundred dollars, this price can go as high as 1,200 depending on the distance of the flight. First class on average cost several thousand dollars, and can approach ten grand depending on how ritzy the particular flight is.

If my parents offered me several thousand dollars I would be elated, but the last thing I  see myself doing with that is taking a first class vacation somewhere. It seems like a waste to spend so much more on luxury when a basic coach flight can get you to the same place. It may not be as glamorous, but instead of spending money on glamour I’d rather invest it or save it for the future.

Scarcity imposes costs, first class tickets are much more scarce than regular passenger tickets. This is because first class ticket holders are treated as kings of the airline. They get the ritziest food, the fanciest seating arrangement, and all the legroom they could ask for. But to get these luxuries they can end up paying 3-5 times more than a regular passenger, and to me this extra several thousand dollars is much more valuable than unlimited legroom.

American Literature Week 1 Cabeza De Vaca’s Memoir

Prompt: “The most memorable story or description in the memoir — and why.”

Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish explorer during the early 1500’s. His memoir Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America was one of the first pieces of literature describing the previously unexplored Americas. Vaca was very perceptive, and often noticed details about the landscape that the rest of us would give no mind to. For example, as he traveled through Florida he noted that there were three different species of mosquitoes. But the more interesting parts of his memoir have to do with his interactions with the natives during his travels. He acted as a traveling doctor, of sorts. Honestly he had little training in the area, his cures mostly had to do with calming psychological ailments by reciting the lords prayer over the afflicted.

But according to Vaca he was a miracle worker. He tells of an experience with natives in which he was asked to remove an arrowhead from one of the warriors. The arrowhead had been lodged in the man for years, and before Vaca no one had been able to remove it. Vaca cut out the arrowhead, then stitched the man up with a sliver of deer bone. According to Vaca the wound miraculously healed over night, and the next morning there was no trace of it. As we can see by this statement Vaca’s work dabbled into the realm of fiction, which made it all the more interesting for the people of Europe to read.

Vaca’s work was memorable mainly for the details and visual language which Vaca used throughout. He had a real knack for making scenes interesting, using distinct vocabulary and literacy skills meant to paint a picture for the reader. He was also memorable for the people of his time because he was describing a previously unknown land. People of Europe were captured by his daring adventures in the new world, and they were curious about what the new world had to share. Since he was one of the first to travel through and document his experiences, and since he knew how to be vibrant and exciting with his vocabulary, his memoir became very much beloved throughout early Europe.

Government 1B Week 17 The Miracle of Aggregation and Political Representation

Question 1: Are voters informed? If not, why not? According to Professor Caplan, is the problem ignorance or irrationality?

The miracle of aggregation states that even if voters are uninformed it will not matter. It states that half the uninformed will vote one way, and half will vote the other. This way the uninformed will cancel each other out, and the true vote will be left in the hands of the informed. Bryan Caplan challenges this notion, explaining that voters errors are statistical rather than random. He states that uninformed voters are more likely to lean in one direction, since “false beliefs are cheap” and easy for the masses to digest and believe. If someone has a false belief about a medical concern for instance, the result of this belief will be immediate and personal. The person will personally suffer for their false beliefs. With politics on the other hand there is no immediate punishment, so its much easier for the masses to all go along with a specific agenda.

Question 2: Professor Casey claims that the idea of political representation is an empty one. How does he defend this argument?

Professor Casey is very grounded in his belief that political representation is not an accurate representation of the public. It should be obvious to most, a political agent is not an omniscient being with access to every citizens wishes and agendas. A political agent is simply a person with their own agendas, who attempts to emulate the basics of the public’s beliefs. He has no way to communicate with the thousands of people hes representing, and therefore cannot act as a representative for everyone. A good way of describing political representation is through the metaphor of grocery shopping. In an ideal world you could take your shopping cart and fill it up with everything you want, you could get eggs, berries, and meat for example. But in the world of political representation there are several shopping carts standing before you that have already been filled. None of them have exactly what you want, but a few have pieces of what you want. One may have meat and berries, but also bread and cheese. You may really want the meat and berries, but have no need for the bread and cheese. But you have to buy them all together, just like you have to vote for someone with many different viewpoints. Political representatives are a bundle, a bundle of agendas, beliefs, and points of view. They may hold some of the beliefs you want, but more often than not they will have beliefs you don’t want. Since they have these beliefs you have no interest in, you cannot realistically call them a representation of the general public.

 

 

Government 1B Week 16 Living Standards After the Industrial Revolution and the Cause of The Great Depression

Question 1: How was the standard of living affected by the Industrial Revolution?

The industrial revolution sparked an enormous amount of protests against poverty, and on first glance that may make you think the industrial revolution lowered living standards. But in reality the living standards rose exponentially. Pre industrial revolution people were suffering enormously, as they had been for hundreds of years. People starving to death was the norm, and anyone hoping to protest these tragedies was simply fantasizing. Once the industrial revolution hit the factories began financially rescuing people. The factories weren’t dragging housewives away from their kitchens and children away from their play, as has been suggested throughout the years. The housewives kitchens had no food, and the children were starving in the street. The factories gave people a chance at making money, where as before there was none.

Peoples newfound ability to protest poverty was revolutionary! It wasn’t because their living standards had dropped and they had become fed up, it was because they had a newfound sense of hope and could actually imagine their living standards bettering. Before the industrial revolution there was no hope at bettering ones living standards. After the industrial revolution people could actually imagine their lives improving, and the protests against poverty which resulted are the proof.

Question 2: Evaluate this claim: “The New Deal was a wise series of government actions that healed the problems afflicting the economy.”

I would argue The New Deal did just the opposite. The governments hope was that creating stability instead of competition within industries would lift everyone. So they passed laws requiring business’s to pay their workers more. Unsurprisingly this lead to mass amounts of unemployment throughout the 1930’s. They also required business’s to have a minimum price for their products, meaning they could not lower prices the way the market demanded. This lead to overproduction on things that no one could afford, and it also lead to many small business’s having to shut down. Small business’s could not compete with big business’s on things like location and service, but they could compete with price. The government assigning a minimum price obliterated any chance these smaller business’s had to compete.

The government also had some ideas of how to raise crop prices, since the farmers weren’t making enough money. This brilliant plan was simply to destroy a significant chunk of the farmers agriculture. This way there would be less plants, so they would be in higher demand and consequently cost more. They also murdered a large amount of farm animals with the same goal in mind. You can probably imagine what came of this lunacy: the US stopped producing enough food to feed everyone. So because of this overzealous government intervention unemployment went through the roof, people couldn’t afford to buy new products, small business’s across the country were forced to shut down, and now people were starving because the crops were needlessly being burned. This was an attempt to prove that government intervention can be more efficient than capitalistic competition, and it created the worst economical depression that our country has ever seen.

Civilization Week 33 Modern Individualism Vs Collectivism

Prompt: What is one issue that reflects the individualist versus collectivist outlook in your own times? How does it do this?

An issue that I have noticed has been growing rapidly in today’s world is the problem of political trending. Voters often choose to spend their time doing something other than researching politics. They’ve got better things to do, things that will have an immediate effect on their lives. This phenomenon is referred to as rational ignorance. More often than not people depend on social interactions to sway their political beliefs. Conversations with their peers, interactions on social media, trending articles and news stories to name some examples. The problem with this is sometimes the more popular belief outshines the political truth, whats going on behind the scenes is never as flashy as whats going on onstage. This can lead to false information, wrongfully assumed ideas, and manipulation of our voters and thus our countries political ring.

Whats more is that social media can be very wrong, and that incorrect ideal can be pushed on the masses very easily. For example, a company like Google is an extremely left wing company. Thus when someone researches politics on Google its very likely the first several articles they’ll see will be left wing oriented. This makes it difficult for the unbiased neutral to stay neutral, with article after article of dramatic leftist controversy being shoved down their throat. I hate to call it propaganda, as i’m sure many news reporters are genuinely trying to share the truth. But others are simply riding off the political trend and putting on a show to sway anyone who is politically neutral. At this point you can’t even share any right wing related beliefs without being publicly shamed by your friends and peers. Its as if some higher up leftists have wised up to the power of the internet and now are manipulating what people see for their own political gain.

The debate has become a war, and those on the left seem ruthless in their pursuit of harassing republicans. Politics have become so overtaken by whats trending that you can’t even have a mature conversation about anything swaying away from the leftist political norm. Anyone who questions the lefts narrative has been silenced by threats and humiliation, and its obvious to me that this will lead to intense political bias and manipulation of the ways our politics can be discussed. It shouldn’t be the norm for everyone to blindly follow the more popular political narrative, and it shouldn’t be the norm to blindly attack anyone with the slightest difference in political belief.

We shouldn’t be turning against one another, we should be discussing and debating our points of view like mature adults. But the trend nowadays is not to be mature, the trend is to use high-strung emotional manipulation as the fuel meant to burn away the political foundation our country was built upon. This trend has also been pushing for socialism, which is a major step away from liberty. Socialism takes the spotlight off the individual and their personal goals and redirects it towards the power of the federal government. Its one step away from communism, which by definition takes away almost all of the power of the individual. Anything pushing for private property to be collectively stolen away by an enormously powerful centralized government is opposed to everything our country was founded to protect. Our country is a democratic republic, and we need to stand together to protect our individual rights and liberty.

I view this as a major battle between the individual vs the collectivist. People in mass amounts blindly follow the first thing they hear, and the left are pushing harder and harder to be the first thing anyone hears. It’s not even a battle of specific politicians at this point, its a battle of the right to debate and discuss. Debate and discussion have always been our way to suss out a situation, they’ve always been our weapon against mass manipulation. Socially throwing this right away is the equivalent to shooting the messenger before he can even enter the stronghold. It leaves little chance to attain accurate justice and gives way for a tsunami of emotion fueled ignorance to break through our carefully built political dam. Once this dam breaks we have little chance at rebuilding it, and the balance of our political spectrum will be overtaken by those unwilling to hear the other side of the story.

Civilization Week 32 The World of the Sixties and Seventies

Prompt: In what senses was the world a dangerous place in the 1960s and 1970s?

In 1947 the power struggle between Russia’s overbearing communism and America’s overzealous capitalism resulted in the Cold War. Both countries spread their power and overthrew many civilizations in their goal of global domination. While America and Russia never physically battled one another their spying and threats of nuclear destruction put both countries civilians in a constant mood of paranoia. To combat these nuclear threats the countries created a mutual destruction policy, stating that if one power were to fire a nuclear weapon the other power would instantaneously fire back.

In 1955 the clash of these titans resulted in the Vietnamese War. Russia and America fought brutally to implement their own dictators, and the Vietnamese people were stuck in the middle of the violence. Nearly two million civilians were eliminated during this conflict, and the forests and villages of Vietnam were irreversibly tainted by America’s agent orange. Many Americans were disgusted by these horrors; their protests and riots overtook lots of peoples daily lives. Colleges especially were ripe for riot, and many students ceased their studies to protest the war.

In 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated, panic and outrage ensued. The Warren Commission investigating this assassination was obviously biased, and people began realizing that the US government may not be telling the whole truth. Hippies began emerging in this era, rebelling against the system and experimenting with drugs and sexuality in previously unexplored ways.

In the panic caused by Kennedy’s assassination Vice-President Johnson manipulated the people and implemented the welfare state. He swore that it was Kennedy’s idea, and rode on peoples trust in the late president. It can be argued today that Kennedy was not planning on creating a welfare state, and that Johnson simply took advantage of peoples emotional insecurity. The welfare state was meant to provide for the poor, but in reality it just dampened peoples incentive to work. The poor began depending solely on the government, as Thomas Sowell puts it: “Welfare has not helped the poor, but it has created a permanent underclass in the U.S.” Ironically this failed attempt at lifting the poor ultimately costed four times as much as it would have taken to simply redistribute the wealth of the one percent, and a dramatic rise in poverty has continued to this day.

War, paranoia about nuclear attack, moral panic, peoples newfound distrust in the government, and a permanent welfare state are some of the dangers of the sixties and seventies. Although many of the issues have been sorted out over the years the damage caused by this era wont soon be forgotten.