William Blake’s poem “Little Black Boy” is fairly controversial for its time. Written during the 1700s when slavery was still legal, this poem states incredibly progressive views. The poem insinuates that in the eyes of God, all are equal no matter the race. Blake writes, “Look on the rising sun: there God does live”, and later refers to “black bodies and sun-burnt face” implying that blacks are closer to God, and writes that the English have pale and white skin (“I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear”) making them further from God. Not only is this a criticism of slavery, but a direct call-out to the Christian church for largely excluding blacks. Historically, the Church has not taken kindly to minorities, and Blake makes a different assumption that perhaps whites are not the “elite” and chosen few that earn God’s love. A bold move for the time, I applaud Blake for his efforts, considering the time period that he wrote this in. Blake’s opinions were not widely-spread at that time, since the movement for abolition was barely starting. “Little Black Boy” has a melancholy tone that recognizes the harsh life that slaves endured, a progressive opinion that I am sure did not win Blake much favor. As a lover of politically-correct and social-justice related things, this poem warmed my heart to read.
Author Archives: zoe redfield
Hobbes argues in book 15, that the natural state of man is chaos and war, and that “every man aught to endeavor peace, as far as he hope of obtaining it”. He writes that we should follow the first and fundamental law of nature; “to seek peace, and follow it”. Not only does this warm the cockles of my pacifist heart, but it gained more respect for Hobbes in my eyes. Though he may be boring, some underlying ideas that he has are quite good. Ideas such as the “social contract” in which everyone basically says they will trust each other and protect their community from war, as well as his “second law of nature” where everyone essentially all agree to give up their things to “be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.” Though Hobbes does not focus his work on pacifist ideology, I can appreciate his ideas and would like to think that if he lived in this day and age, he could agree with me that the world should focus on promoting peace, instead of having a fascination with violence, hyped-up masculinity, and lack of compassion for fellow human beings.
The lack of female presence in The Tempest is depressing from a feminist perspective, considering that the only two females do not shed positive light on their gender. Miranda is passive and rarely makes a real contribution to the play, besides being a prop that the male characters use. Sycorax, who never even appears in the play, is portrayed as an evil witch and another negative image of females. Ultimately, females are very much put in the back-seat in the Tempest. However, I have seen a film version of the Tempest in which Prospero is a female. This drastically changes the dynamics of gender in the play. Women are no longer shown as weak and incapable of doing anything. Prospero is portrayed more as a severe and over-protective mother, rather than a self-absorbed and tyrannical conquerer of Caliban’s lands. Prospero is a mother trying to connect with her teenage daughter Miranda, and protect her from various evils the world throws at her. Not only is Propsero a bit more likable, but also puts a bit more of a feminist spin on The Tempest. A well adapted version, and perhaps a more modern take on the play, I highly recommend it.
Although Plato’s Republic was incredibly dry and a rather difficult read for me, I found a few of his nuggets of wisdom to be quite interesting. Plato, speaking through Socrates, is annoyingly very full of himself and his ideas, but a few of them stuck out to me that I quite appreciated. When I read the Republic I tried to focus less on the most popular philosophical ideas like the Allegory of the Cave (which took me forever to comprehend when I read it in high school) and the Myth of Er. Instead, I wanted to familiarize myself with some of his ideas that I hadn’t ever heard of before.
When I took world history, I remember learning that Ancient Greece was not in the least bit friendly towards women, so Plato’s ideas of equality between the sexes came as a bit of a surprise. Although what Socrates and his companions say is still biased and not completely encouraging ideas of equality in a politically correct way, it warmed my feminist heart to read at least the start to some justice for the women of Ancient Greece. On page 144, 455d-456b4, Socrates argues to Glaucon that women who show strength in the qualities of being a guardian have just as much of a right to be a guardian as men. Although he still refers to women as “the weaker sex”, his argument is progressive for the time. Admitting that some women could be suitable in the role of a guardian is definitely a start to shedding positive light on gender equality. You go, sort-of feminist Plato!
Another piece of wisdom that stuck out to me was Adeimantus’ opinion of being blunt with people. On page 110, 426b 3-4, he says, “Being harsh to someone who tells the truth is not charming.” Although the general argument that Plato is making in that passage is a bit extreme, I quite liked the small wisdom that Adeimantus says. I like to think that this can reign true in our own lives today, to appreciate those who give you the honest truth, even if you don’t like it. Pertaining to Arts One, this can be applied to tutorial. Although we may want to be told that our paper is the best ever written, it won’t help us to be lied to. We may hate the person for pointing out our flaws, but it is incredibly helpful and will only help us get better. Even though it can be hard to hear, I agree with Plato on this one, we should appreciate the truth over false niceties. As rapper G-Eazy puts it in his song Been On, “criticism’s worth some more than compliments.”
So even though the Republic was hard to get through, thanks Plato for sharing some wisdom I can agree with.