American Literature Week 4 Bradford’s Account on the Settling of the Plymouth Plantation

Prompt: “Was Bradford’s account a morality tale for future generations?”

 

Bradford wrote his account on the emigration and settling of the Plymouth Plantation. The Puritans emigrated to America looking for religious freedom. The Anglican church was quite hostile towards them, and they had trouble finding a home in Europe. Bradford states the simplicity of the new testament should be highly valued, and that the public worship of the catholic church was not what God really wanted. On their way to the plantation the settlers faced many hardships, but Bradford was adamant that it was all part of Gods will. He described it as destiny in a way, which is one of the only parts of this account that can be taken as motivational.

The account is a Jeremiad, which is a Puritan preaching method made up of four main points. The first is that God judges our sins harshly, stepping out of religious line will absolutely lead to your soul sizzling on a lake of lava for all eternity. Secondly, God delivers us from our sins through the threat of punishment. Again, step out of line and mild torture is gonna be your only relief from the endless suffering you’ll experience in the afterlife. Thirdly, now that the settlers have landed and have access to extremely basic sustenance they will undoubtedly be seduced by greed and gluttony. They may indulge in several more raspberries than their share for instance, an unforgivable crime by any account. Fourthly, because of our sinful nature God will soon intervene and create a tragedy so horrendous everyone will realize how helpless they are. Humility will be attained through trauma. One will only make it to heaven if one has lived an entirely sin free life; repentance, shame, and and admission of guilt seem to be the only way to divine salvation

This is a morality tale, though the strictness of the morality these early Puritans were preaching is rather unhealthy for an individuals mental health. The basis of their beliefs is God created you flawed, hates you for being flawed, will continuously create tragedy and violence against you because he hates you for being flawed, and then will torture you obscenely for all eternity because you had the audacity to be flawed in the first place. Life is pain, death is pain, and its all your fault.

Its interesting to take a look back at peoples beliefs hundreds of years ago, if only to establish how far we’ve come as a culture. Settlers of the Americas were in a really difficult situation, and it seems this was their way to cling to determination. If God wasn’t malicious in their eyes they’d have much less motivation to work backbreaking labor every day. If death wasn’t seen as absolute fear and torment they’d have less reason to make it through the strife of their everyday lives. Its a very sad scene, but one our country had to go through to mature.

So, was this account a morality tale for future generations? Although I admire some of the tactics these early settlers used to promote their take on moral conduct, many of their views were quite extreme. Its a definite contrast to the modern view of ecclesiastical morality. We don’t have to feel like a God of hatred and punishment is constantly judging us, our minds don’t have to be religious prisons. We’re free to believe in a God who actually values our existence, a God of love, mercy, and justice.

In today’s society we learn from our mistakes and do our best to not repeat them. In yesterday’s society there was much less forgiveness, much less tolerance. One had to learn morality the hard way, from getting it forced into you. After reading Bradford’s account I feel extremely lucky to live in a world where love and acceptance are valued higher than fear based moral.

Economy Week 3 Garage Sales

Prompt: “If the state regulated garage sales, would poor people be better off?”

Garage/yard sales are ways for people to sell products they no longer need at a discounted rate. They are wonderful for buyers looking for a bargain, and wonderful for sellers looking to get rid of clutter.

If the state attempted to regulate garage sales I imagine one of two scenarios would unfold. One option is the state raising prices of products through taxation, regulation, or unnecessarily thorough inspection. This would lead to buyers looking for a bargain to lose interest, and it would lead to buyers only able to afford a bargain to be unable to participate.

The other option would be the state trying to lower prices even lower than the regular used item discount. In theory it would be a way to attract discount hungry patrons. But it would also be a deterrent to sellers. Garage sales take work and time to set up, and the sellers put in this work and time because they’d rather get a decent amount of money for their used products than throw them away. But if that amount of income the sellers made from the garage sale was suddenly cut in half there would be much less interest in investing the time setting things up.

Garage sales are ways for people who own used products to sell them directly to the buyers. The sellers get to choose the price they think is right for the item, and the buyer has the option to haggle where they see fit. The state stepping in and attempting to regulate garage sales would be detrimental to both parties participating, and could lower the popularity and relevancy of garage sales entirely.

American History Week 2 Evidence of Pre Columbus Exploration of the Americas

Prompt: “Why do you think the information that I have covered in the first ten lessons is not covered in American history textbooks in high school or college?”

In the first ten lessons we talked in depth about theories stating that Christopher Columbus was not the first to link the eastern hemisphere with the western. There have been numerous inscriptions found on ancient stones referencing Celtic, Hebrew, and Christian theologies that date back far before Columbus. These pieces of evidence seem to hint that not only were their pre Columbus explorers, but that they communicated with and left a lasting impact on the native Americans.

Prior to these discoveries historians insisted on the theory that Columbus was first. Then they revised this thesis, saying that vikings had landed on American soil but had left shortly after without making any real impact. But these stone inscriptions should force historians to take another look at the issue. The gravitas of this discovery could completely rewrite the way we think about ancient exploration, the intertwining of eastern and western cultures, and Europe’s previously assumed dominance over uncharted terrain.

So the question is: why aren’t historians making a big deal out of this? Its potential is unmatched by any other pre Columbus discoveries, and it could be extremely eyeopening towards what actually unfolded in our countries history. But historians do not seem especially interested, and I would think there to be several reasons why.

The first is a basic human flaw: pride. Many historians have spent their lives work dedicated to detailing Columbus’s achievements. They’ve risen the ranks in the historical world, climbing the ladder high enough that their work is now displayed within every basic history textbook. They’re satisfied with their findings; their reputation, name, and lives work will now be held on a pedestal of unquestionable historical knowledge. That is, until a discovery like this comes along and threatens to rewrite the textbooks they spent so long refining. Not only that, it could also discredit a hefty chunk of their research. This leads to many historians preferring to sweep it under the rug and keep their personal studies as the “accurate” historical account.

Another reason these new discoveries have not gone entirely mainstream is that there is no organized written thesis displaying all the details and theories about these stone inscriptions. There are short essays about them scattered around the internet, but one would have to do a decent amount of research to link them all together. Its almost as if these discoveries were unearthed just to be buried again, but instead of under dirt they were buried within the “hypothetical” descriptions of the internet.

The last reason behind this historical cover-up is what fuels most historical cover-ups: money. It would take a lot of time and money to bring these new discoveries to light. Add on the fact that this could discredit many major historians, and that no one has taken the time to properly stitch all the facts of this case together and you’ve got a historical thesis ripe to be swept under the rug.

Its a shame really, but there is an upside. That is if a brilliant historian came along who cared more about the truth than about the textbook writers pride this could be the case of a lifetime. This could really make a name for someone, a name built on the foundation of truth, justice, and righteous integrity. For the sake of our children’s education, and the accurate story behind our country and our world I hope that brilliant historian raises their head from the sand and takes a bite of this case. Because if you ask me, this case is pretty damn juicy.

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.