Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Standing Army


The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others— as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders— serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few— as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men— serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are
commonly treated as enemies by it. A wise man will only be useful as a man, and will not submit to be "clay," and "stop a hole to keep the wind away," but leave that office to his dust at least:
"I am too high-born to be propertied,
To be a secondary at control,
Or useful serving-man and instrument
To any sovereign state throughout the world."
[William Shakespeare King John] 

25 comments:

  1. I think Thoreau tried to communicate that war changes the lives of the citizens and that many people should be wise.

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  2. I can connect this paragraph to the paragraph about voting. Thoreau feels that society treats men like they are disposable. The heads of the government do not lead with their hearts, while those who truly care about a cause do.

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  3. When a man begins to use his conscious, he'll stop being a cog in the machine, and thus will cease to support the state. "-serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part-;".

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  4. Another thing Thoreau does is use many examples. I can see that when he had a certain idea, he used examples to create a larger understanding of the story itself. His writing makes sense to me more than Emerson because his ideas are quite organized, and I can see the deep meaning behind some of his sentences.

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  5. Thoreau relates a mass body of men to a machine, and criticizes that when there is an military of men, then they cannot think for themselves, and they practically become a mindless machine. Thoreau uses a lot of examples and imagery to convey this thoughts, which I prefer more then Emerson's writing.

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  6. This is rather interesting in that Thoreau, having gone to prison for not paying taxes, probably sees himself in the category of people who serve the state with their consciences. Perhaps he's not quite so different from Emerson, who thought that the great men were the ones most misunderstood?

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  7. As I have been reading,
    his ideas seem to be going a little too far. His suggestions are so unrealistic.

    Not all patriotic ideas or revolutionary ideas were good- as we study history, it always did not lead to the best conclusions (the poverty as a result of the Haitian Revolution, for example).

    Thoreau's ideas are very persuading, and there are many concepts I can agree with,
    however his suggestions seem to be very "impossible" -like.

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  8. I agree with Kanaidar's opinion. Thoreau has many good criticism and have idealistic ideas. However sometimes they are too idealistic.

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  9. I am surprised by how judgmental Thoreau is in this piece. After reading "Walden", I got the feeling that he is a lot more open-minded than Emerson. He kept talking about living to the beat of your own drum, but in this he is putting down the professions of others.

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  10. When i think of humans as machines, i think about people doing things without thinking. I also think of emerson's "non conformity" and when people are machines, they conform to the society around them.

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  11. This paragraph shows Thoreau’s disgust with the act of people following the majority, and not their own belief. This is a key belief to transcendentalists. \

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  12. EMMA TAKAHASHI

    Thoreau believes that this corrupt society has made workingmen into machines and has been manipulated by their bosses and even their own factory itself. Imagery was key in this paragraph to show the real emotions of the people. It made everything more realistic.

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  13. Thoreau describes the military as a mass of men functioning like one big machine. I cannot disagree with his statement, since military groups are strictly organized, like a group of robots with the commander holding the remote control.
    I am very surprised at Thoreau's tone/attitude here, since he is writing in an entirely different tone from "Walden". When I read "Walden", I imagined Thoreau to be an optimistic, open-minded individual, not a close-minded man bashing at people he disapproves of. His idea of making government officials resign seems too unrealistic to me.

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  14. I can see how strongly Thoreau believes in following your own heart by saying that people who cannot think for themselves are machines. He also states that politicians and lawyers serve their state with their heads, while wise men use their heart or conscience. Seeing him criticize the ways other people think makes me wonder how Thoreau sees himself as. Does he think highly of himself and believe that he is superior to others?

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  15. I can see more of Thoreau's strong judgement of humans through this piece of writing. He's criticizing the human race and how they choose to live their lives when he himself is also a human. I agree with Maya that he most likely thinks highly of himself and believes he is superior to others. The reason why he thinks he is better than others I don't really know though.

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  16. Thoreau mainly objects to a standing army, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool. Yet Thoreau recognises that the desperate need is not for a society with out a government but for a well organised government that does not attempt to dictate single ethics.

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  17. Thoreau shows just how expendable and conforming men are in this paragraph. He considers them to be tools carrying out basic tasks and is baffled by the fact that they are awarded from their monotonous service to the government. Instead he believes that a man who is truly wise would not fit into the molds of society but rather become independent.

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  18. Men First explains when to apply one's conscience. For example, a man should not resign himself to believe a law to be right or correct in nature simply because it exists. He (Thoreau) believes the conscience, the knowing of what is right and wrong, is more important than doing what you are told only because the law decrees it.

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  19. Thoreau relates a standing army to machines and they only do as they are told and follow the majority. He is very repetitive of the idea that people should follow what they think is right rather than the majority and society. It is interesting to see that he uses a variety of examples that helps us understand his point of view.

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  20. Thoreau's writing in this piece is focused on his thoughts on the idea of conformity, and clearly he is a non-conformist. His comparison of people under the law, and machines is a very true one in my eyes also. Those of us under the law must do not think on certain things, we just do things almost like we were programed to do it.

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  21. Thoreau likes to criticize society, as shown in the paragraph about the voting. Unlike Emerson, he puts a lot of effort into writing details about what he believes should be changed of society.

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  22. I believe Thoreau is trying to show the gap between soldiers fighting the war in mexico and the politicians who sit in their offices without having to risk their lives. The army is like a machine following orders from the government without thinking about its actions. America during this time period had gradually become imperialistic bringing its talons throughout South America, Caribbean, and the pacific. Thoreau being a anarchist and transcendentalist probably wanted Americans to realize the path that America was taking to become a world power which seems unnecessary for someone like Thoreau who hates the government

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  23. I think through this passage Thoreau was saying that men are treated as if they were machines or “equipment”, despite the fact that everyone is unique and is an individual. Men lose their own thoughts and opinions and become a part of the crowd and do what is told of them, as if they were a controllable machine. Thoreau says that a few men, however, have the confidence to rise up against the status-quo and offer their opinions and thoughts to society rather than just letting society use their bodies for war, labor, etc. He refers to Shakespeare’s “King John” as a reference, indicating that he was well versed in history and literacy.

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  24. The truly greatest men are the ones who rise up and share their views, even though society and others reject and oppose their beliefs. That is my Thoreau is greater than Emerson, he continues to study nature even though society calls him lazy for it

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  25. The life of a soldier is the epitome of conformity. As a soldier you have to dress, speak, walk, and move the same way as everyone else. So its understandable for Thoreau to disagree with society treating them this way.

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