Mary Wollstonecraft Day - 2001
The Third Annual Political Postings Day
for Male Voices
May 1, 2001
The third annual Mary Wollstonecraft Day, unhappily, falls in the midst of our hiatus; however, both Cheryl and Linda have expressed a need to get something out of their systems, so I decided to post this highly abbreviated version. (Besides, I have something I want to burden you with myself!)
Once again, I remind everyone that the Male Voices bulletin board is not, in general, intended as a place for political messages, social commentary, or discussion of current events. Rather, it is devoted to an exploration of the literary vision of Jane Austen. However, one important part of this study must be the context for Jane Austen's development and that context was one of radical political thought, rhetoric, and action. For that reason, we thought it might be useful--and fun--to emulate those conditions for at least one day of each year. Mary Wollstonecraft was a political radical, a feminist, a bisexual sexual-libertarian, and a contemporary of Jane Austen. Ms. Wollstonecraft was many other things that Miss Austen was not. So, this day is devoted to that other extreme and, in fact, should be considered a celebration. That is to say we devote this single day of the year to emulate Mary Wollstonecraft and express our own frustrations along with our utopian dreams.
If you need examples of the sort of thing that is expected, here are links to
Here is a List of Contents for this year.
Our service men and women are back from China. And their return didn't come as a result of saber rattling, or brinkmanship, or even diplomacy, though both governments are trying hard to convince us of the latter. This was a victory of Capitalism. Certainly it's not the wild rout of 1989 when the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its failed economic policies--a victory so aptly symbolized by the sound of hammers and chisels on reinforced concrete.
The sounds of today's victory was subtle, barely heard unless you knew what to listen for. It was the sound of thousands of pages of trade agreements being pulled out and mulled over; a realization on both sides of the Pacific that there was too much at stake to do anything other than find an agreement that would allow both sides to save face.
There was a second sound though, very quiet, almost furtive. It was the sound of 200 million Americans looking though their possessions, turning them this way and that only to find the words "Made in China" on virtually everything in their homes.
So in the end, it was the dark side of Capitalism that returned our citizens. The Chinese government, learning from the mistakes of the Soviet Union, knows that it can't afford to lose the foreign capital that powers their regime. The Bush administration knows it can't afford to pursue an economically disastrous policy. The Chinese people can do nothing against an army well supplied by foreign money.
The American people however, have a choice and they've chosen to make a pact with the devil. Their rich lifestyle is a result of a new form of imperialism, which, if not necessarily more evil, is certainly more immoral than that of the past. At least the imperialists of the 19th century bloodied their own hands, sent their own sons and daughters out to die of fever or violence. Americans, on the other hand, pay a proxy government to do our dirty work, relieving us of any burden greater than being forced to watch the occasional re-run of the Tiamen square massacre.
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Apparently the under 40 set have not seen as many 'dumb blond' (read dumb women) movies as I have. Unfortunately, it is only in the last few years that I have recognized them for what they are.
I experienced the many westerns that were all the rage on TV circa 1960. There was hardly anything else on. Like almost everyone else, I sat and watched - drooling over the hunks. Then one day light dawned! I noticed that the stories followed basically the same formula no matter which show you watched. All of a sudden I felt like an idiot! I felt as if I had been 'taken for a ride'. Now at my age, I can cut through the cr ... comedy and see what's really happening.
Lately, the same feeling emerged concerning the feminist movies - but... but... you say they are so funny! And the hunks! Wow! The latest example is Bridget Jones Diary. My opinion is based on the movie. I haven't, and probably never will read the book. Yes, it's funny. Yes, it has Colin Firth. Yes, Bridget is liberated. Butt, sorry, I meant to say but, it is the same old story (even if it is modeled after P&P) with a few twists. You have a woman who is sloppy, scatterbrained, and with one principle goal - look for a man to define her life and who she is, and 'to love'. And don't forget she sleeps with every other man who just happens to pass through her life. [An aside question: Why do they call it 'sleep with' when that is not what they mean at all? That sounds so stupid to me.] Then there is usually the secretary and/or businesswoman who is the token female 'brain', who usually wears glasses, is reserved but has the hots for the boss. It probably all started with Ann Sothern in "Private Secretary" 50 years ago.
The point being that it is degrading to women. We have lost our Pride and self esteem, intellectually and personally. We follow the crowd. Our Dear Jane did not. We should take her as our exemplar of womanhood. She did not cave in to marry for convenience though she could have. She managed! By her own ingenuity! She wrote books and tended to those in the sphere of her life. Those heroes and heroines (not the lesser characters) who did marry in her novels should be our exemplar for courtship and marriage. If they were, maybe we could avoid some of the pitfalls and learn from their mistakes.
Our Pride and self-esteem was lost even before the liberation movement came along. That movement gave us liberty to act and be treated like men, instead of having the liberty to be true to ourselves. It seems that when we declared our "liberation", we didn't know what to properly do with it - we tried to be "equal" to men and, at times unfortunately, not necessarily the best ones.
I may be the only human on the face of this earth to think so, but there you have it. The bottom line is this: Bridget is no Lizzie - but Mark Darcy is Fitzwilliam Darcy. Why? Think about it.
Love from Linda
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My attention has been directed recently to the subject of slavery in particular and Prejudice in general. Since I am a Southerner I am familiar with both.
One misconception is that we Southerners defend or condone slavery. That is not so. Since this present generation has never owned slaves, we have no desire for what we know nothing of.
Our feelings towards the South are sentimental ones based on what we have seen in such films as Gone With the Wind - and only heaven knows how close to or far away from the truth that is. Those feelings, in my case anyway, have nothing to do with "slavery". We have inherited some sayings that we repeat, such as: "The South will rise again!" And we don't even stop to think "What for?" Our usual smart aleck reply is "Above what?" And I would guess that most of our ancestors during the time of slavery did not own slaves. I will check that out when I get back into researching my family genealogy.
Since the Civil War the Blacks and Whites lived such separate lives that prejudices and stereotypes were created in the minds of both. Each calls the other by uncomplimentary names. However, since 1954 (when the first major civil rights law was passed) I have noticed that the attitudes have slowly changed for both. As we get to really know one another the prejudices are being overcome - we have a ways to go yet, but progress is being made. So ease up a bit - Rome wasn't built in a day!
We, white Southerners especially or it may be exclusively, are accused of hatred towards African Americans. Speaking for myself, I was never taught to hate anybody. My Sunday School teacher (and I do remember her name) explicitly taught us to love red, yellow, black and white people. So we did just that. We were taught to hate the sin, not the sinner.
There is a song "Carefully Taught" (to hate) in South Pacific originally penned circa 1949. Because of what my Sunday School teacher taught us, I was puzzled at first as to why the song was there, until I noticed that a soldier had his eye on a native girl and someone (I forget who) frowned upon it. What struck me as strange was that the song attributed the "frowning upon" to hatred. To me, it was simply a prejudice based on their beliefs - not necessarily because they were hated, but then it has been awhile since I have seen it.
I do understand that there are those who do go too far and commit violent acts against other races, but they are the exceptions. I can't believe that the vast majority is actually taught to hate. Just because we have preferences or prejudices does not mean we hate.
I cannot speak for African Americans, but I can speak for my feelings and for those I know. That said, my concern is to set the record straight in case anyone thought otherwise.
Love from Linda
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Love, considered as an animal appetite, cannot long feed on itself without expiring. And this extinction in its own flame may be termed the violent death of love. It would almost provoke a smile of contempt, if the vain absurdities of man did not strike us on all sides, to observe how eager men are to degrade the sex from whom they pretend to receive the chief pleasure of life. A love of pleasure or sway seems to divide mankind, and the husband who lords it in his little harem thinks only of his pleasure or his convenience. To such lengths, indeed, does an intemperate love of pleasure carry some prudent men, or worn-out libertines, who marry to have a safe bedfellow, that they seduce their own wives. Modesty is banished with the hymen, and chaste love takes its flight. Besides, there are many husbands so devoid of sense and parental affection that, during the first effervescence of voluptuous fondness, they refuse to let their wives suckle their children. They are only to dress and live to please them, and love, even innocent love, soon sinks into lasciviousness when the exercise of a duty is sacrificed to its indulgence.
But the wife, who has thus been rendered licentious, will probably endeavour to fill the void left by the loss of her husband's attentions; for she cannot contentedly become merely an upper servant after having been treated like a goddess. She is still handsome, and, instead of transferring her fondness to her children, she only dreams of enjoying the sunshine of life.
Personal attachment is a very happy foundation for friendship; yet, when even two virtuous young people marry, it would perhaps be happy if some circumstances checked their passion; if the recollection of some prior attachment, or disappointed affection, made it on one side, at least, rather a match founded on esteem. In that case they would look beyond the present moment, and try to render the whole of life respectable, by forming a plan to regulate a friendship which only death ought to dissolve.
Friendship is a serious affection; the most sublime of all affections, because it is founded on principle, and cemented by time. The very reverse may be said of love. In a great degree, love and friendship cannot subsist in the same bosom; even when inspired by different objects they weaken or destroy each other, and for the same object can only be felt in succession. The vain fears and fond jealousies, the winds which fan the flame of love, when judiciously or artfully tempered, are both incompatible with the tender confidence and sincere respect of friendship.
Love, such as the glowing pen of genius has traced, exists not on earth, or only resides in those exalted, fervid imaginations that have sketched such dangerous pictures. Dangerous, because they not only afford a plausible excuse to the voluptuary, who disguises sheer sensuality under a sentimental veil; but as they spread affectation, and take from the dignity of virtue. Virtue, as the very word imports, should have an appearance of seriousness, if not of austerity; and to endeavour to trick her out in the garb of pleasure, because the epithet has been used as another name for beauty, is to exalt her on a quicksand; a most insidious attempt to hasten her fall by apparent respect. Virtue and pleasure are not, in fact, so nearly allied in this life as some eloquent writers have laboured to prove. Pleasure prepares the fading wreath, and mixes the intoxicating cup; but the fruit which virtue gives is the recompense of toil, and, gradually seen as it ripens, only affords calm satisfaction; nay, appearing to be the result of the natural tendency of things, it is scarcely observed. Bread, the common food of life, seldom thought of as a blessing, supports the constitution and preserves health; still feasts delight the heart of man, though disease and even death lurk in the cup or dainty that elevates the spirits or tickles the palate. The lively heated imagination likewise, to apply the comparison, draws the picture of love, as it draws every other picture, with those glowing colours, which the daring hand will steal from the rainbow, that is directed by a mind, condemned in a world like this, to prove its noble origin by panting after unattainable perfection, ever pursuing what it acknowledges to be a fleeting dream. An imagination of this vigorous cast can give existence to insubstantial forms, and stability to the shadowy reveries which the mind naturally falls into when realities are found vapid. It can then depict love with celestial charms, and dote on the grand ideal object--it can imagine a degree of mutual affection that shall refine the soul, and not expire when it has served as a "scale to heavenly"; and, like devotion, make it absorb every meaner affection and desire. In each other's arms, as in a temple, with its summit lost in the clouds, the world is to be shut out, and every thought and wish that do not nurture pure affection and permanent virtue. Permanent virtue! alas! Rousseau, respectable visionary! thy paradise would soon be violated by the entrance of some unexpected guest. Like Milton's it would only contain angels, or men sunk below the dignity of rational creatures. Happiness is not material, it cannot be seen or felt! Yet the eager pursuit of the good, which everyone shapes to his own fancy, proclaims man the lord of this lower world, and to be an intelligential creature, who is not to receive but acquire happiness. They, therefore, who complain of the delusions of passion, do not recollect that they are exclaiming against a strong proof of the immortality of the soul.
But leaving superior minds to correct themselves, and pay dearly for their experience, it is necessary to observe, that it is not against strong, persevering passions, but romantic wavering feelings, that I wish to guard the female heart by exercising the understanding: for these paradisiacal reveries are oftener the effect of idleness than of a lively fancy.
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It may not, in this place, be improper to apply ourselves to the examination of that modern doctrine, by which certain philosophers, among many other wonderful discoveries, pretend to have found out, that there is no such passion in the human breast.
Whether these philosophers be the same with that surprising sect, who are honourably mentioned by Jonathan Swift, as having, by the mere force of genius alone, without the least assistance of any kind of learning, or even reading, discovered that profound and invaluable secret that there is no God; or whether they are not rather the same with those who some years since very much alarmed the world, by showing that there were no such things as virtue or goodness really existing in human nature, and who deduced our best actions from pride, I will not here presume to determine. In reality, I am inclined to suspect, that all these several finders of truth, are the very identical men who are by others called the finders of gold. The method used in both these searches after truth and after gold, being indeed one and the same, viz., the searching, rummaging, and examining into a nasty place; indeed, in the former instances, into the nastiest of all places, a bad mind.
But though in this particular, and perhaps in their success, the truth-finder and the gold-finder may very properly be compared together; yet in modesty, surely, there can be no comparison between the two; for who ever heard of a gold-finder that had the impudence or folly to assert, from the ill success of his search, that there was no such thing as gold in the world? whereas the truth-finder, having raked out that jakes, his own mind, and being there capable of tracing no ray of divinity, nor anything virtuous or good, or lovely, or loving, very fairly, honestly, and logically concludes that no such things exist in the whole creation.
To avoid, however, all contention, if possible, with these philosophers, if they will be called so; and to show our own disposition to accommodate matters peaceably between us, we shall here make them some concessions, which may possibly put an end to the dispute.
First, we will grant that many minds, and perhaps those of the philosophers, are entirely free from the least traces of such a passion.
Secondly, that what is commonly called love, namely, the desire of satisfying a voracious appetite with a certain quantity of delicate human flesh, is by no means that passion for which I here contend. This is indeed more properly "hunger"; and as no glutton is ashamed to apply the word love to his appetite, and to say he loves such and such dishes; so may the lover of this kind, with equal propriety, say, he hungers after such and such women.
Thirdly, I will grant, which I believe will be a most acceptable concession, that this love for which I am an advocate, though it satisfies itself in a much more delicate manner, doth nevertheless seek its own satisfaction as much as the grossest of all our appetites.
And, lastly, that this love, when it operates towards one of a different sex, is very apt, towards its complete gratification, to call in the aid of that hunger which I have mentioned above; and which it is so far from abating, that it heightens all its delights to a degree scarce imaginable by those who have never been susceptible of any other emotions than what have proceeded from appetite alone.
In return to all these concessions, I desire of the philosophers to grant, that there is in some (I believe in many) human breasts a kind and benevolent disposition, which is gratified by contributing to the happiness of others. That in this gratification alone, as in friendship, in parental and filial affection, as indeed in general philanthropy, there is a great and exquisite delight. That if we will not call such disposition love, we have no name for it. That though the pleasures arising from such pure love may be heightened and sweetened by the assistance of amorous desires, yet the former can subsist alone, nor are they destroyed by the intervention of the latter. Lastly, that esteem and gratitude are the proper motives to love, as youth and beauty are to desire, and, therefore, though such desire may naturally cease, when age or sickness overtakes its object; yet these can have no effect on love, nor ever shake or remove, from a good mind, that sensation or passion which hath gratitude and esteem for its basis.
To deny the existence of a passion of which we often see manifest instances, seems to be very strange and absurd; and can indeed proceed only from that self-admonition which we have mentioned above: but how unfair is this! Doth the man who recognizes in his own heart no traces of avarice or ambition, conclude, therefore, that there are no such passions in human nature? Why will we not modestly observe the same rule in judging of the good, as well as the evil of others? Or why, in any case, will we, as Shakespeare phrases it, "put the world in our own person?"
Predominant vanity is, I am afraid, too much concerned here. This is one instance of that adulation which we bestow on our own minds, and this almost universally. For there is scarce any man, how much soever he may despise the character of a flatterer, but will condescend in the meanest manner to flatter himself.
To those therefore I apply for the truth of the above observations, whose own minds can bear testimony to what I have advanced.
Examine your heart, my good reader, and resolve whether you do believe these matters with me. If you do, you may now proceed to their exemplification in the pages of our authoress: if you do not, you have, I assure you, already read more than you have understood; and it would be wiser to pursue your business, or your pleasures (such as they are), than to throw away any more of your time in reading what you can neither taste nor comprehend. To treat of the effects of love to you, must be as absurd as to discourse on colours to a man born blind; since possibly your idea of love may be as absurd as that which we are told such blind man once entertained of the colour scarlet; that colour seemed to him to be very much like the sound of a trumpet: and love probably may, in your opinion, very greatly resemble a dish of soup, or a surloin of roast-beef.
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It was over twenty years ago when I sat in the office of a high administrator of a weapons research laboratory in Los Alamos. I was there to hear more about a recent announcement that the lab was to convert part of its facilities and manpower. That was to be a conversion to research on innovative engineering designs for consumer power generation and conservation. It all sounded very green to me and, so, I was excited and eager to learn more. The administrator was very candid with me and helped me understand that, in fact, the high-powered technical community was to remain very ashen. Recently, the Green Party - much to its everlasting shame - helped to elect a very ashen President, and that is the subject of my posting today.
That Los Alamos administrator proudly informed me that it was he who had come up with the idea for the new directions and then he explained why. He explained that there "had been an erosion in congress for nuclear-weapon financing"; however, congress was eagerly funding research on renewable power generation (this was during one of our periodic "energy crises".) His brilliant idea was to hire new people on a number of these newly budgeted consumer-power projects and then use them, part time, in nuclear-weapon research. He made it very clear that no one would be hired for energy research who refused to do weapons work as well. He was very clear and explicit - I'll give him that.
An "erosion in congress", eh?
We sure have heard a lot recently about the possibility of humungus asteroids striking the earth. The high-tech community has been instrumental in measuring the iridium layer at the K-T boundary, explaining this in terms of a asteroid strike, and in advertising the implications for the extinction of the dinosaurs. Also, there have been several Hollywood films of earth/asteroid collisions - scary! I can't help but notice that all this comes at a time when there has been an erosion in congress for funding anti-ballistic-missile weapons. (Some folks think we should meet our treaty obligations instead - go figure! Others notice that they would be funding a very expensive defense system that could be circumvented easily.) Well, I am as much terrified of asteroid strikes as you are, but I keep thinking of my ashen-administrator friend. I mean, I suspect that it is likely that any system that could intercept asteroids could be modified to intercept missiles launched from here on earth - coincidentally, I am sure.
Next, I would like to point out that our current "power crisis" is not an "energy crisis." Our brand-new ashen President would have us believe that it is an energy crisis instead. See here folks, the problem is that we don't have the power-generation capacity - it is not that we don't have enough fuel for those plants. Don't be fooled into thinking that we must exploit environmentally sensitive areas in Alaska in order to solve a power problem! - I mean, don't listen to George Bush. (Any new oil coming out of Alaska will likely go to Japan where the profits are greater.) And why is our power-generation capacity low? Electrical capacity is low because the public insists on strict environmental standards for new construction. I guess some folks don't want a Chernobyl or another Three-Mile Island in this country - go figure!
Our new, ashen, EPA Director suggests that our response should be to discuss nuclear power again! (Well, at least she doesn't confuse "power" with "energy.") I thought we already discussed nuclear power in this country? I thought the answer - "No!" - had already been decided upon? That seemed to me to be a clear erosion in the nation and in congress for nuclear power generation. Well, that was before all these blackouts. (If any thing, I think we should discuss generation from wind and ocean waves - those are the areas where there has been dramatic technical advance.)
The Green Party leaders are a bunch of babies. If they can't have their own way, they withdraw their support so that the ashen folks will win and teach everybody a good lesson. They withdrew their support of Gore and the result was that the ashen party marched into the White House without the support of a majority of voting Americans. (The Ashens had the critical support, the political support of the majority of the Supreme Court - does anyone remember Dred Scott?) I consider Bush to be the Green Party's President, they deserve him - but my grandson deserves better. I won't give a dime to the Green Party, and I won't vote for a Green at any level unless the candidate repudiates the party's actions in the last election.
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Read a brief comparison of Jane Austen's nature
and biography with that of Mary Wollstonecraft
Here is a link to Mary Wollstonecraft day - 1999
Here is a link to Mary Wollstonecraft day - 2000
Here is a link to Mary Wollstonecraft day - 2002
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