Thoreau does not like the government. He believes that the government should basically just stay out of people’s lives. I do not completely agree with Thoreau when he says that “that government is best which governs least.” I think that the government does need to have some control over the people they govern, but the government shouldn’t have total control. If there was no government control then there would be chaos, but too much control and people would start abusing the power that they have. The government should be used to protect the people that don’t have much power. Ideally, the government would make things fair and equal so that the rich and powerful don’t take advantage of the poor, but if the government has too much power, they become the people that take advantage of the less powerful. Obviously we don’t live in a perfect world, and governments abuse power all the time. The kind of government that would “command my respect” would be a government that does help ensure fairness and equality. The rich and powerful usually take advantage of people that can’t do anything to stop them, so it is the government’s job to prevent that from happening. We run into a problem when the government is the one exploiting people because there isn’t much the average person can do to stop them. This is where Thoreau’s idea of civil disobedience comes in. The role of civil disobedience today is to remove governments that are not taking care of their people. If the government isn’t doing its job, then the people have to try to change the government. In America, we can vote for who is in the government, so that is one way to change things, but other countries don’t always have that option. One of the other options is to protest. There are peaceful protests, like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and there are more violent protests. In certain countries, it doesn’t seem to matter if the protest started off peacefully because the government responds with violence no matter what. If the government doesn’t care enough about its people to take care of them in the first place, then they probably don’t care about the people who are protesting., so the protests don’t always work very well.
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Thoreau’s writing is pretty similar to Emerson’s. Both Thoreau and Emerson want to connect to nature. In “Nature,” Emerson describes how nature is a beautiful place where you can connect with the world around you. Thoreau took that to heart and spent two years in the woods. Both of them believe in connecting with nature. They both also do not like how society influences people. Thoreau describes how to simplify your life to only meet your needs instead of doing unnecessary things just because society tells you to. Emerson believes in being true to your beliefs even if society doesn’t understand you.
The main idea of “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For,” is that we should live freely and simplify our lives. Thoreau describes imagining buying many different farms, and how he lived in the woods. He says, “It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.” He believes that we should be free, not tied down and committed. Thoreau also describes how simplifying your life will improve it. Thoreau says, “Our life is frittered away by detail…Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” He believes that we should only do the most simple, basic things to take care of our needs. In “The Conclusion,” Thoreau describes how being poor is not a bad thing. He believes that being poor and not tempted by material goods is better than being a dishonest rich person.
There are some benefits to Thoreau’s experiment in the woods. One possible outcome would be to test the idea that society is what corrupts man. If he isolates himself from society, then there would be evidence that society is to blame. It wouldn’t be at all conclusive, but it would be a start. There is no way I could ever live in the woods. I can barely even go camping. I have absolutely no idea how to do anything and I’d probably starve or freeze to death. If I did somehow manage to actually stay alive, I don’t think I would be able to stay in the woods for more than a few days, let alone two years. At first it would be nice and peaceful, but then I would get really lonely. I’m way too lazy to ever live in the woods.
Most people would probably think that transcendentalism isn’t very applicable to modern life, but there are still some lessons we could learn from it. The ideas of taking care of nature, getting rid of things you don’t need that only make your life more complicated, and working hard without worrying about what others think are all still very good lessons for today.
Image from https://quotabulary.com/transcendentalism-quotes
I definitely think differently about arguing now. There is so much that goes into constructing an argument. Usually we don’t think much about what we’re saying when we argue with someone. Most of the time it just turns into no you’re wrong and I’m right. I think that part of the problem with the way that we argue is that we really never listen to the other person. We’re just convinced we’re right from the start, which makes most arguments useless and frustrating because the other person doesn’t even address anything you’ve said against them. Most high school kids don’t construct arguments very well. They just insist that they’re right without really backing it up at all. Adults argue in a similar way. They just tell you that they’re right and they just think that you should just listen to them because they’re adults. Not many people actually make good arguments with good reasoning behind them. I used to think that arguing, and especially debating in class, was pretty pointless. Now I’m realizing that I thought that because we’ve never actually had a good argument or debate because we don’t know how to.
Honestly, I absolutely hated the debate. Developing a persuasive speech is not easy at all for me. I can put information together, but using that information to try to persuade someone is a lot harder. I also didn’t really expect to beat Jamie at debating because she is more experienced than I am with being on the forensics team. She as more experienced about taking notes during a constructive and she did a good job at addressing all of my points. When we were actually debating, she started talking faster than I could process what she was saying, so it was hard to rebut a lot of what she said. Overall, the debate wasn’t too terrible, but I still don’t like debating at all. I’m a little sad that I didn’t get to see how the other people in my class debated. That would have been fun to watch, and it would have been interesting to see how they constructed their arguments.
Image from https://medium.com/@skylerjokiel/how-to-win-an-argument-without-arguing-f87ba8b666de