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Society vs. the Individual

Classroom discussion
by

Charles Cooper

on 7 August 2013

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Transcript of Society vs. the Individual

Society vs. The Individual: Wh0 controls whom?
Who are you?
Think about who you are for a moment. Try to come up with a list of ten or so things that make you who you are.
How many of these attributes were absolutely your choice?
If you were born to a Chinese family in the 1200s, would this
list have changed or might it be the same or similar? Is there ANYTHING
that would remain constant had you been born in China in the 1200s?
Further, Do you think you have EVER taken an action or made a decision that you can confidently say was completely your own doing? You had no input or help on any level from anyone at any time? The sports you play existed before you were born. The language you use existed before you. Societal norms did as well. So did gender roles and expectations. Are you really "free" to make any decision at all?
Society, in many ways, has forced you to become who you are, right?
Are you simply the creation of society? Can you ever escape this process?
As a side note, structuralism is the name of the discipline that we are currently discussing.
Look into it, if you are
interested!
Believe it or not, once we find an answer to this question ("Who are you?")...we will be a long way towards understanding what government IS and whether we live under a good or bad one.
What does this say about government's role in our lives?
If we are simply constructions of what society needs or wants, then shouldn't government have an OVERWHELMING say in who you become? Shouldn't government have the power to stop you from being bad or stupid (however they may define those terms)?
Societal Buffet Table
OMG!!! We (society) can not allow this to happen.

Is it her fault that she answered the quesion that way if she was simply passed from one grade to the next
because teachers kept thinking "bless her heart" (that's Texan for "I hope she marries well.").

Ultimately, when we explore the question from this perspective...
Which is more important, you or the government?...
isn't the correct answer "the government?"
How much of who you are
is "you"? How much of
you was forced on to you by
"society"?
For example, did you
choose your sex?
Your parents? Skin color? Century
in which you were born? What sort
of education you received as you
grew up?
Again, how much of your existence
can you attribute to your own
independent choice and how much has been predetermined for you?
Write this down as a percentage
please. (ex. 20% of me is unique
and 80% of me was predetermined
or forced on to me by society)
Write and discuss
Are "you" simply a series of choices made by you from the societal buffet table?
Like a Chinese Buffet, you can only choose what is offered on the buffet line.
If it's not on the line then you cannot have it. In this way, society limits who you can become.
Think abot the logical implications to this line of reasoning. If we're not really responsible for who we are, can we fully be held responsible for our actions? When a horrible human being commits murder, can't we place some of the blame on his surrounding? Why do we throw people in jail who aren't fully responsible for their actions?

How can we make ANY judgements on any people, if they are simply accumulations of experiences that society has forced them into?
Further, how can we possibly make any judgements on any person or any nation?

(Flipping a teacher off story optional)
Was Hitler really a bad person or was he
simply a product of his environment?
If you don't think about these issues then you will
fall victim to someone who has thought about this kind of stuff. Politicians think about these things constantly!
You may believe that Hitler was EVIL, but if you can't communicate it
because you haven't thought the issue all the way through then who
will listen to you? If you can't explain, after today, why Hitler was EVIL and
why he should be held responsibly for what he did...How can you ever convince
anyone on any topic who's answer is less obvious?
Next time, we'll take the opposite view.

For now, go home and ask your parents the same line of questioning we explored today. What will they say?

...and, no, I don't have any final answers for any of these questions. This is what government is all about. Putting together answers to questions that the greatest minds of the past struggled with.

Some of your brains may be hurting right now.
It's ok. It's called "thinking."
How many of those did you actually choose to be a part of and how many of those were forced on to you by society?
Full transcript