Monday, October 27, 2014

Which ideology is the most ideal?

Between the first French Revolution and the many conquests of Napoleon, 19th century Europe saw many huge changes to who controlled what and how they chose to lead. Each ruler had different ideas as to what makes the best society. People who shared similar ideals were grouped together resulting in the three major political ideologies of the time: Conservatism, Liberalism, and Nationalism. To distinguish the 19th century meaning from what they have come to represent today we discussed what we believed their meanings to be based on what we know. Then we split into groups to each read about it and create a creative one minute project explaining what our ideals were trying to do during the 19th century.

Different groups of people in Europe discuss their feelings on liberalism. 
My group had Liberalism and our project showed how different groups of people felt about it. The liberal leaders believed in the natural freedom and rights of the people. Famous leaders of liberalism were philosophers known for their contributions to   like Adam Smith and John Locke who thought free will and human rights of people would help the economy and society the most. Liberals questioned traditions Europe had been following forever deeming a lot of them to be oppressive. The use of logic in laws and rules evolved into Utilitarianism later on. Liberals believed a middle class was necessary for power to be spread in order to prevent tyranny. They did not think the aristocracy should be the only privileged people. The aristocracy however did not like sharing their power especially with people who weren't nearly as rich as them. Forgotten in this movement were the poor and women who were once again denied power and basic human rights. 

Conservatives and Nationalists also had a large part of the 19th century. Conservatism wanted to uphold the old way everything was and preserve the monarchy/absolutism. Conservatives supported tradition to prevent revolutions from happening again. They believed New ideas and change had caused many wars and failed revolutions. Everything worked better when it was run the way it always had been and that was the safest way for a government to run, the way they knew how. After Napoleon was defeated, the main powers of Europe decided to put the monarchy in again since they were led by conservatives. Finally, nationalism is the idea of unification by a shared culture, language, and history. Nationalists thought that banding together as a nation made them stronger as a country and would help the progress of society. Some wanted to kick out all foreigners while other nationalists wanted to expand their country to other lands. Italy and Germany adopted this ideology after Napoleon gave their many separate groups a feel of unity. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sadness: The Story of a Young Success Who Lost Everything

In class last week we did an interactive lesson with candy so clearly it was very fun. However, the purpose of it was not nearly as fun, we learned firsthand how Karl Marx's theory on the evolution of economy would start with the anger of the poor and eventually end with total communism for everyone. It started unfairly to begin with everyone had two Hershey kisses except for two jerks who were handed eight with no reasoning. As the war of rock, paper, scissors went on most people lost their two and had to sit down, all angry about the loss of their candy and how the people who started with eight were still in. I happened to be great at rock, paper, scissors and after losing my very first match quickly gained a lot of candy through my hard work.
A sad reminder of my humble beginning

Though each match was nerve-wracking and I had some ups and downs along the way I ended up more successful than those who had started with a guaranteed wealth.

"Started from the bottom, now we here" -Drake
But the harsh realities of unequal class systems and a struggling economy were not through with me yet, and soon the oppressed rose in protest of the inescapable poverty they were trapped in. The complaints and actions of the large majority forced the government stepped in to steal from the successful in a socialist redistribution of resources. They took control of everything and seized the fruit of my life achievements to give everyone no matter if they had nothing or everything to begin with. We each got two pieces of candy in the end, and the government could have as much as they wanted while acting like everyone was equal. When given the opportunity to play the free market again, the majority of kids said no since they didn't want to risk losing what they had. 

Karl Marx's theory of the people taking a road of anger and fear until they reached communism worked out perfectly in our class. He believed that the clear divide between rich and poor would drive those in poverty, most of the population, to lash out at the wealthy through violent protests until the government interferes in an attempt at creating a class-less society. The goal is to achieve complete communism, a society that agrees to share resources equally and does not need a government to regulate the distribution. 

Karl Marx

Adam Smith had a different approach to helping the poor and the economy while still keeping freedom of businesses and a better class system that allowed for people to succeed or fail themselves. He called this system the invisible hand, which we now refer to as Capitalism. The invisible hand is the idea of competition and consumers choice. In order to be the most successful businesses had to draw people in by selling the highest quality products for the lowest price. It would help the poor by encouraging any company that wanted to be successful to pay their workers enough that they could then go out and buy from the business they work for. Eventually, once people were paid enough to engage in commerce and spend less for higher quality of those  products, they could, if they wanted to, create their own business and new ideas and products to keep the market moving and improving and making consumers even happier. With this system, the free trade of the people would run the economy, businesses constantly changing to the consumers's wants and needs. Government would not need to interfere in the process at all. 

However, capitalism wasn't perfect. It takes a very long time to work itself out and often has long ups and downs in the middle, as anything run by the general population would. It also still has class divisions, very successful business owners become wealthy enough for the rest of their future generations to never need to work again and with competition, for one person to win another one has to lose, leading to job loss and bankruptcy which causes the government to try to help again. It's even worse today with things like advertisements and name brands guiding consumers more than high quality and low prices do. 

American hero Ron Swanson sums up the true result of capitalism in modern day economics. (from the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness as seen on Parks and Recreation)

Even if capitalism isn't as great in practice as it is in theory it is still much better than practiced communism. While communism looks like a sort of brilliant idea on paper, no one has succeed in actually reaching complete communism of the people. Instead it has been used more for the basis of socialistic and dictator run countries like Russia and North Korea where no one can be rich or poor, unless of course you're part of the government, which strictly regulates every facet of business and trade. Either way with communism and every form based from it, it is impossible to get any higher in life through hard work and effort. I believe that neither form of economy is flawless and as long as humans live, we never will create one. It is impossible to have freedom and progress without class, in order for anyone to be successful others have to fail; if everyone is successful then technically no one is and you're back at complete and total equality with no individuality.  

The Lowell Experiment

The Industrial Revolution caused great changes in the way people worked and produced goods. Factories started hiring teen girls to move to the mills to run the machines. In Great Britain poverty was high and living space was low so they had plenty of cheap laborers all the time. However, in America people could always just move further west to get more land and there was less of a pestering thirst for work. In order to draw in laborers Lowell decided to appeal to people. They would make the town seem nice and highlight the benefits in order to convince girls to move out and work there.
"Starting for Lowell" a girl says goodbye to her family and leaves for work at the mills

The girls were attracted to the idea of the nice city environment. In the video Daughters of Free Men Lucy Hall is invited to move out to Lowell to work there. She really wants to go because she wants to earn her own money to buy things for herself. The girls are also enticed by the idea of freedom from their families, as all teen girls are. It is great for them because they are able to live on their own and work yet the mill makes sure they still are presentable and virtuous so they can get married later on. 

While the young workers did get education, free hours, room/board, paid, and a family environment, there were also many drawbacks that they had not been warned about. Lucy tells about her first day working and how if she didn't tie up her hair it could be caught in the machines and she could die, it happened to some other girls. The conditions of the work are also unpleasant. There's cotton dust in the air that makes it hard to breathe, she has long hours, repetitive motion that leads to chronic injury, and must sneak out in order to get any water or fresh air. She learns how to sneak away for breaks in order to not get in trouble with the supervisor who was the man that she was first told would be like a father figure. 

These girls are also powerless to wage cuts. In the video Lucy and her friends suffer pay cuts and try to stop it. At the time there was nothing like workers unions or strike laws, these were also women, who no one bothered to listen to anyways. The group of females in the streets were mostly regarded as unladylike freaks who would probably never get married. Yet they tried, the workers gathered whoever was brave enough to stand up for themselves and organised a march. The girls all refused to work until their normal pay was restored. But there weren't enough of them to make a huge impact on the factory work, the protesters were fired and replaced. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

MOSI Google Hangout

Recently my history class held a video chat with some of the workers from the Museum of Science and Industry in England to learn about the factories there during the Industrial Revolution. But before we could call the other side of the world we had to prepare back in America. The first thing we did was read the textiles page on the MOSI website and some of their linked documents on the side. Next, we watched a video of Jamie, the guy we would be talking to, explaining some things around the museum. We wrote down the names of important machines and other things that we didn't know and then looked them up so when we talked to him later we would be able to know what he was talking about. The final thing we did to prepare for the chat was create questions for Jamie to answer about the textile process, the evolution of machinery, impact of industrialization on people, and being a real life historian.

On the day of the call we went to class in the morning since England is 5 hours ahead of us and we got a chance to ask him our questions. Someone asked how long the entire textile making process would take. It's hard to know though because no factory did the whole thing, some even only did one part.
Google video chat was on the smart board for everyone to see
 We started by looking at the older machines and how families worked together to make their own clothes. This changed with the invention of the water frame. The water frame did the job a mother used to do but faster, better, and more efficiently. It would spin and twist four threads at a time and was powered by water. Jamie also taught us about the workers who used these machines. There were a lot of them going at once and each had a ton of moving parts so it was very loud, dangerous, and stuffy inside the factories. The work was not sanitary, women would put their mouths on wooden shuttles to suck the thread through giving each other whatever diseases they had while also inhaling machine oils and cotton fibers.

There were no windows in mills because these would misfire and could shatter windows
(lethal to be hit with since they were big and fast but workers were cheaper to replace than glass) 
 Often times the women would bring the wood up to their face too fast and knocked their teeth out with them. However, the most dangerous job was probably cleaning under the machines as they pulled out and slammed back in seconds.

Boy cleaning under machine 
 This was so dangerous that orphans were used so that nobody who worked there would be sad about losing someone from their family. If they weren't fast enough they would be cut in half by the machine.

I really liked this activity. It was a lot more exciting and interesting to have someone who works in a museum showing us the stuff and explaining at the same time. It was nice to see someone in the real world who had to know the things we've been talking about in school since we're always so confined to our classroom. I also felt like the aspects of mill work that we talked about went more in depth and the actual machines helped show what it would've actually been like. I liked how we learned about everything first so it made sense to us and then we got to ask questions on what we wanted to know more about. I would like to do something like this again for another topic if we could.