Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Poetry

I'll be sharing some more poetry in the future.  I try to give credit if another poets style shines through my work, or if they inspire a line.

"Untitled 1" by Kevin

We live in a homogenized world of valley girls and bros.
Like this, buy this, act like this.  Prescribing identity like pills.
Gone are the great thinkers of the past, no more Kants will be born,
and Plato will have the cave beaten out of him until he daren't see shadows on
the walls. 
Creativity is a crime, thou shalt NOT think.

Insincerity and feigned politeness have replaced human connection, or what's left,
humans made machines making humans in their own image.
Now WE are the machine, and you will perform within specifications.

Language, once a fountain of creation gurgling forth metaphor creating new understanding,
has degraded into decorative syntax for the most
primal of human needs,
more easily expressed using grunts.
Once a tool for expanding the mind, it is now a means of controlling it.

The children of prosperity are poor indeed!
Lobotomized by luxury, the Id, fed on a never ending stream of unachievable images of what it should want,
hunger increasing with every bite.
Music videos inspiring lifestyle envy, and no one sees the hologram.
Cars and watches break and beauty fades like old photographs.
But ideas cannot be killed, ideals are bulletproof,
and humanity will live on, if only on the shelves of libraries.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

 "Hi" and "Hello", although slowly going out of use in some circles, still remain some of the most used words in our daily lives, yet what do they mean and where do they come from? Here is some information gained from old style dictionary reading.

On the origins of "Hi" and "Hello".

According to Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary, "Hi" is an interjection "used especially as a greeting", Middle English "Hy", 15th century.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists "hi" (a parallel form to "hey") as an exclamation used to call attention, and dates it to 1475. "Hey" is a call to attract attention; also, an exclamation expressing exultation, incitement, surprise, etc. dating to 1225.

"Hey" in the Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, by Walter W. Skeat, Oxford University Press, is an interjection; from Middle English "hei", and is a natural exclamation and interjection, i.e. "hei", "hey", and "ho". Historically used in literature in 1445.

The Webster's 1828 dictionary lists "hey" as an exclamation of joy or mutual exhortation.

Webster's Third New International Dictionary, unabridged, seconds the Merriam-Webster's 11th, and lists "hello" and "hi" as greetings.

According to the Kindle Oxford Dictionary of English, "Hello", also "hallo" or "hullo", is of late 19th century origin, and a variant of earlier "hollo", and related to "holla". "Holla" is an archaic exclamation used to call attention to something; originating in the early 16th century and used as an order to stop, cease, or "hold", from French "holà", from "ho" + "là", "là" meaning "there".

According to Webster's 1828 dictionary, "holla" and "hollo" is an exclamation, used among seamen in answer to one who hails, equivalent to "I hear, and am ready". It is also related to "halloo". "Holla" and "hollo" is related to Saxon "ahlowan". "Halloo" seems to be related to the family of "call", French "haler". "Halloo" means to cry out; to exclaim with a loud voice; also to call or invite attention, or to encourage with shouts.

An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, by Walter W. Skeat, Oxford University Press, lists "halloo, hallow": to shout; Middle English "halowen", to chase with shouts; from Old French "halloer", meaning to pursue with shouts. Of imitative origin, derived from "haller", or encourage dogs with hallowing.

The listing for "hello" in the Oxford English Dictionary states that it is a variant of "hallo" and is an exclamation to call attention; also expressing some degree of surprise, as on meeting anyone unexpectedly.
"Hallo, halloa", a later form of "hollo", German "hallo, halloh", also Old High German "halâ, holâ", emphatic imperative of "halân, holân": to fetch, used especially in hailing a ferryman. "Halloo" (perhaps a varied form of "hollo" and suited to a prolonged cry intended to be heard at a distance) is an exclamation to incite dogs to chase, to call attention at a distance, to express surprise, etc. "Hello" dates back to 1883; "hallo" dates back to 1781; and "halloo" dates back to 1605, and, as a variant of "hallew", and meaning "to urge or incite with shouts", dates back to 1568.

"Hello" appears to have started with mimicking the sound of a dog's howl, or as a natural expression that is a result of exhaling with intention to express notice. "Hi" also seems to have started as a natural expression of surprise, similar to "oy".

"Hi" and "hello" are apparently unrelated to each other etymologically, and also do not appear to be related to "hail" or "ahoy", but all are likely independently sourced in natural exclamations, similar to "ow", "ah", "huh", "wow", and "aaargh".

The beginnings of "hi" and "hello" are probably from the natural sound of breathing out ("H" sound) and vowel sounds that occur when raising the voice when heightened mental alertness responds to an external stimulus. Pain and surprise often cause vowel sounds naturally. Originally "hello" had an "o" sound that included raised, rather than lowered, tone. Lowering the tone at the end of a word often accompanies cold declaration or calm puzzlement, while raising the tone often accompanies curiosity or surprise.

It is interesting to note that one of the earliest written record of the use of the greeting interjection (hey) is the early 13th century, which is also the time when our records show many stories being transformed from oral traditions to documented literature. Writing from earlier times is not necessarily due to illiteracy, but probably from damaged libraries and lost records. The organic materials that early books were made of often do not survive time and its company. Creatures, rot, political unrest, fire, and pilfering often terminate documentation.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

On Job Creation and Economic Growth

It seems to me, that people are oftentimes confused when it comes to issues of job creation and economic growth. They applaud business owners for making simple tasks difficult and adding additional, often unpleasant, positions in order to create more demand for employment. Let us take for example an argument I have heard on more than one occasion against the installation of self checkout machines in grocery stores. The argument asserts that because it eliminates the need for cashiers, the installation of self checkout machines is an economically undesirable circumstance. It is undeniably true that less personal are required to man and maintain this system, but what really happens to the labour? The machines decrease the need for labour while fulfilling the same function the cashiers previously did without any noticeable decline in efficiency or service quality. The same amount of money is collected from customers, and the same amount of merchandise is sold, but less labour is required. In the western world we have this idea of individualism that pits every man against every other man, but by working cooperatively, all employees of this grocery store can collectively cut down on the amount of labour they must perform, while maintaining their previous level of income. Since no one is required to man the registers, this labour has been freed up and may now be applied to other areas of the store, perhaps produce clerk or bagger. Suddenly these workers are only required to work thirty hours a week because the additional ten hours has been taken over by the displaced cashiers. Nevertheless, there is still enough payroll left to pay both the cashiers and the produce clerks their previous wage. Unfortunately, this is not what usually happens in our individualist society. Rather than working collectively to reduce their shared workload, the cashiers are often cast aside and forced to pursue other employment while management keeps the payroll savings for themselves. A small contingent of workers benefits, while the plight of the rest remains unchanged. This is wrong. Not only does this lead to public dislike of technologies that could reduce the common workload, but it forces displaced workers to create additional, often unneeded jobs in the economy creating products or offering services that are wholly and completely unnecessary. This may be economic growth, but the gain to human happiness is negligible. Work hours, for the average worker are not decreased, resources are needlessly consumed, and societies focus on material acquisition rather than cultural and moral evolution is reinforced. If we were to adopt fully, all technology available to us, with the goal of minimizing labour while maximising time for the individual to pursue his or her own education, free expression and personal betterment I predict we would see an explosion of invention and adaptation equal to that which moved us from the realm of simple-minded cave dwellers to civilized society. Man, by nature, is industrious. If you place an individual in an empty room with nothing but a crate of building blocks, that individual will eventually assign meaning and purpose to those blocks, even if it is merely asthetic. In the same way, if a person is given free reign, to construct things and utilize his or her surroundings in whatever manner he sees fit it is inevitable that we should see unparalleled leaps in technology and art, the likes of which have never been seen before.

Monday, 1 February 2010

God, Humans, and Community: a few thoughts

God is infinite, and completely self-sufficient. God is in need of nothing. He is. He is and called Himself "I Am that I Am". He told Moses to tell the people "I Am has sent you". He is Jehovah. God is. God is one, but also three. Although one God, there are three persons in the trinitary Godhead. God sometimes refers to Himself as Elohim, a plural word, but used in the Tanakh in a grammatically singular context, showing that God is one trinity. The Holy Trinity consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In John chapter 5, Jesus explains that the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father doing, but also that the Son does as He wills and has life in Himself, as the Father has life in Himself, and all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father. In John chapter 14 Jesus explains that if you have seen the Son you have seen the Father, and if you know the Son you know the Father. God has perfect community in Himself. God is tri-communal.

God has perfect community and fellowship within Himself. In Eden, the garden before sin, when everything was perfect, God and man had perfect community and fellowship. When God made the world, He looked upon it and said that it was good. In the beginning of the book of Genesis, God said that His creation was good, complete, whole, proper, as it should be; but after He made Adam, the first man, He said it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 3:18). In Eden, the garden of perfection, heaven on earth, when God and man were in harmony, God said it was not good for man to be alone. God, by design and decree, made mankind for community and marriage. Mankind needs fellowship and community because of God's design and decree.

God made His creation to function with certain needs. Humans have need of food, water, shelter from harmful atmospheric conditions, protection from radiation, and a breathable oxygenated ambience. Humans not only have physical nutritional needs and physical protection needs, but also have emotional needs. God created humans as relational beings. God created man and women for each-other and designed them to need and desire each other. God created and designed family, and it is important and necessary. Mankind needs community, fellowship, and relationship. Monasticism and hermithood are unbiblical practices that lead to problems. Christians are not to forsake the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:25). Christians are to encourage and edify each other, building up the Body of Christ. As believers, Christians have Jesus, but God says they also need other believers. God is a god of community and fellowship, and designed His creation to also be a creation of community and fellowship. Relationships are an essential ingredient of God's creation.

Relationships and marriage are God's making. Needing and desiring it is how God made humans, and it is obedience to possess such needs and desires. God said that from the beginning He made them male and female, and they are to leave their parents and be joined together (Mark 10:5-9). What God has joined together do not separate. Romans 1 describes evil people and their sins, including rebellion against and perversion of the natural design of marriage. 1 Corinthians 7 says that it is better to marry than to burn. God has designed humans for relationship. It is unbiblical and wrong to belittle the need for intimate relationship. Division between men and woman is a form of attacking God's design, attempting to separate what God has decreed is to go together. One can serve God and follow Him best when one is obeying the intention and design of the Almighty, and therefore one who is not called to singleness does not reach full potential, nor pursues God best, when single. God intended man and women to work together in a romantic relationship, and humans function best and pursue God best when following God and His design.

When a communal, relational being is forced to be alone, it rends the soul and mind. Loneliness will drive you insane.


(A little note of interest.: The Bible says that a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife. In Hebrew culture, the man stayed at his father's estate and added to the family house, therefore leaving his parents to join his wife is important, for the family is still residing in close proximity. The woman left her family estate to live with her husband on his dynastic estate, and so was naturally distanced from her parents by the physical geography. The man did not have the same physical distancing, and so needed to make sure that his new family unit was distinct from his old.)

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Kantian system of ethics: introduction and defense

For this essay I shall be writing on Immanuel Kant. Kant was a brilliant philosopher of eighteenth century Prussia, but his history and life are not of interest to the purpose of this essay. The purpose of this essay is to behold Kant’s system of morality. I shall examine this system by first looking at Kantian ethics and then at some of the beneficial aspects of it. I shall also examine a few objections to this system and show how these objections are not significant.

There are several important items in Kantian ethics; these being the use of reason, the importance of duty, the significance of the good will, the categorical imperative, and human dignity. {Oliver A. Johnson and Andrews Reath, Ethics: selections from classical and contemporary writers (Belmont, C.A.: Thomson Higher Education, 2007) 183-205.}

Reason is that rational human thought that enables us to contemplate, question, and answer. There are two methods of thinking, rational thought and emotional thought. Emotional thought has no intelligent credibility and leads only to fickle, flawed guidance; it should only be used as a thermometer and trusted as a broken one. Emotions change with the most trivial of influences, and can be manipulated intentionally or accidentally by a myriad of options viz. food, music, light, smell, and imagery. The pressures of a schedule or the passionate speaking of a charlatan or the enticing photographs of an advertisement all influence emotions. To be guided by emotions can be equated to a sailor using a spinning child’s top as a compass. {A top being a commonly cylindrical or conoidal device that has a tapering point on which it is made to spin and that is used especially as a toy. To select north as the direction in which such a toy falls would be fickle guidance indeed!} Emotivism is useless in ethics. Reason is rational thought, and by reason we can understand what emotion confounds. Rational thought takes input and analyzes it using information gathered elsewhere and at other times. Reason uses logic and intelligence to explain what needs to be understood. Through reflection and examination we can learn what are the natural laws that govern the world around us.

The categorical imperative, that being the principal of do as you would be done by, is an important aspect to ethical reasoning. The categorical imperative is a counter for the self-exception clause. All to often one of high moral standards will conjure excuses or reasons for a breach of ethics when the situation involves themself. It is hard to see clearly when one is in the middle of events, and so it is easy to hold oneself to a different standard. The categorical imperative is designed as a kibosh for this self-exception. The categorical imperative states to act only on that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. {Oliver A. Johnson and Andrews Reath, Ethics: selections from classical and contemporary writers (Belmont, C.A.: Thomson Higher Education, 2007) 196.} This way, when someone is going to conduct an action, that person can ask if it would be desirous for everyone to behave in the same manner; if the action does not pass this test, it must be amended or abandoned. The categorical imperative is not a method of determining right from wrong but merely an aid; it is a filter to check for double standards and to ensure the absence of inconsistency. This is not for the purpose of obtaining uniform results, but for the purpose of maintaining rational consistency.

“Nothing in the world ... can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will.” {Oliver A. Johnson and Andrews Reath, Ethics: selections from classical and contemporary writers (Belmont, C.A.: Thomson Higher Education, 2007) 183.} The good will is what makes actions good. Many things that would be otherwise considered good may actually be bad in the absence of a good will. The good will is not good because of what it accomplishes but it is good in and of itself. It is good because it is willing. It is the intentions, not the results, which declare what is and is not good. It is not what is intended but the intention itself that is important.

A right action must be done from duty. If the action is against duty it is not a right action even if it does have some apparent benefit. The good will of doing one’s duty is more important than a seemingly desirable result. If an action is not done from duty but rather from selfish intentions, that action is lacking the good will and is not good. An action could be done in accordance with duty but not from duty, and that action would have no moral value. The worth of an action is in doing it from duty with a good will. It might be one’s duty to do something, but if that person does it for reasons other than duty, the action being dutiful is merely coincidental. An action must be done because of a sense of duty and not selfishness to possess any ethical worth.

Every human has dignity. This dignity must be respected. All of humanity must be treated with this respect; one must always consider the value of a single human being. It is important to treat a person as an end and never as a means. Whatever course of events is planned and for whatever reason, if it involves a person, it is necessary to imagine that the course of events stops at that person, and what that will mean for that person. If someone were to lie to someone else in order to acquire something needed, the first would be treating the other as a means to acquiring the needed something. If the person were to be treated as an end, the end of being wrongly deprived, instead of as a means, the means of acquiring something, it becomes apparent that the maxim of the action is unethical. The person should be treated as an end, as if nothing would occur after the encounter with that person, rather than a step in the process of something else. This is the basic principle of human dignity, that a person is always an end and never simply a means.

There is good reason behind Kantian ethics. The principles of the system provide guidance that enables people to live together in peace and harmony. Selfishness is the blight of society that destroys both from within and without. A problem with selfishness is the phenomenon of maintaining a different maxim of behavior when it relates to the self then the maxim of behavior when it relates to others. Another problem is that of considering it permissible to exploit a person when it will provide something the selfish person thinks is expedient. Selfish people often think that they need something and that they even deserve it; if someone else has what they want the selfish person thinks that they have a right to have it, and may justify reasons to abscond said item. The principle of the human dignity and the categorical imperative, when properly followed, retard selfishness. When people are treated as ends and not means they are not merely steps in a process but are respected as human beings with dignity. The categorical imperative provides a rational groundwork for maintaining consistency. The categorical imperative causes people to treat others as they would want to be treated. These two principals provide an important basis for people to treat each other well.

When results are sought at the expense of the methods, there is no end to the evils that can be justified. This is the phenomenon that has racked peoples throughout history; if something, however heinous, is perceived as being necessary for a desired end, that something will be viewed as acceptable. People can do the wrong thing when they think it is necessary for them, or not do the right thing when they fear the consequences. When people are moved by duty, the ends are not important. Motives driven from duty demand the right action and forbid the wrong action regardless of the ends that are desired or feared. The ends can not be known, but only predicted. The actions that are performed for the purpose of achieving those ends are what are important, and these actions must be actuated by duty with a good will.

A good will and selfishness can not coexist. Selfishness drives people to pursue what will benefit them; a good will drives people to pursue what will benefit others. When people function with a good will, they do what should be done for everyone rather than what seems pertinent to their own desires. The will determines weather the person’s actions are just or unjust; even if a person manages to accomplish something desirable, if their intentions were coloured, then that person was not just in their actions. A person may be incompetent and accidentally effect an undesirable result, but if their intentions were honest and good, then the person can not be called evil; the results of their actions may be ill, but the person is not evil. It is important, however, that the person be moved from duty with a good will to do the right thing, and not simply to do the wrong thing to accomplish the right end. It is the method that must be done with a good will. An end sought with a good will is meaningless if the actions that are done to gain that end are not pure.

Some have said that the road to destruction is paved with good intentions. These people object to the value of the good will, saying that intending right is useless and only accomplishing right is meaningful. But would it be preferred that people act with ill intentions? If the road to destruction is paved with good intentions, how much more is it paved with bad? Evil action is not justified by good intentions, but neither are evil intentions justified by good results. Some people say that they prefer good results to good intentions, for good results benefit society when good intentions do nothing without the results; good results may be desirable, but the ethical worth of the individual is in their intentions, for that is the character of the person. The character of a person is where their moral value lies, and not in their accomplishments. Many factors control the results, and these factors are out of the control of the individual, but the rightness or wrongness of the individual lies in the individual itself, in the character, in the will. Good results may be desirable, but the ethical value is in the individual; morality is not about social harmony but about virtuous people. Virtuous people create social harmony. The righteousness of an action is not in what it happens to accomplish, either purposefully or accidentally, but in the purpose of the individual performing the action, in the motive of the method. Consider two cities, in the first everyone acts with ill intentions but accidentally always obtain good results, in the second everyone acts with good intentions but accidentally always obtain bad results; the first society would be better to live in but the second society would contain the ethical people. It may be more desirable to live in the first society, but such a society could not exist; evil intentions accomplish evil results more often than good, and the best way to ensure good results is to seek them with good intentions. Evil intentions do not seek good results, but merely stumble upon them accidentally on occasion. The best way to have a good society is to fill it with good people, nay, the only way to have a good society is to fill it with good people.

Thomas Nagel explained a scenario in which he considered Kantian ethics insufficient. {Oliver A. Johnson and Andrews Reath, Ethics: selections from classical and contemporary writers (Belmont, C.A.: Thomson Higher Education, 2007) 359-370.} He described a situation in which a traveler wrecked a car on a country road. The vehicle is inoperative and the passengers are seriously injured. There is no one else on the road and the only house in the area contains no telephone, but only a grandmother, her small grandchild, and a car. The whereabouts of the car keys is unknown to the traveler, and the grandmother finds the traveler’s story incredible and incarcerates herself in the bathroom. Nagel proposed twisting the child’s arm in order to compel the grandmother to divulge the location of the car keys, insisting that this was the expedient action to provide the passengers with the necessary medical attention. Considering the temporary pain of the grandchild a lesser evil compared to the permanent injury of the passengers, Nagel insisted that the action would be justified. Looking at it from the standpoint of Kantian ethics, the traveler may have the good will to rescue the passengers, but the intent of hurting the child is evil. The traveler may be moved from duty to save the passengers, but the duty to treat the grandmother and grandchild in a good manner would be violated. The most important aspect, however, is that of human dignity. The child should be treated as an end, the end of being tortured, rather than as a means, the means of acquiring the car keys. The grandmother should also be treated as an end rather than as a means, for what trauma will she endure from a stranger inflicting pain on her grandchild in order to steal her car. And the situation compels one to question, what were the traveler and passengers doing in order to fall into such a predicament? Were they driving too fast? Why should the grandmother and grandchild be made to suffer for the cause of lessening the pain of the traveler’s error? The traveler and passengers encountered great trouble, but what right have they to force the innocent residents of the country home to share in their trouble? Nagel is suggesting that it is morally right, or even morally obligatory, to torture a child, torment a grandmother, and steal a car when one’s actions bring harm on one and one’s companions, regardless of the involvement of the aforementioned child and grandmother. This scenario provides an interesting thought question, but in reality, would there be any other options? Nagel made the parameters of the scenario quite plausible but perhaps there would be a tertium quid (Latin for third way), perhaps there would be a different option that did not require the evil of Nagel’s suggestion. How badly injured are the passengers; is there a first aid kit in the house? Even if there is no other way, how could it be right to inflict the evils before mentioned on the hapless victims in the house? When considering the principles of human dignity and responsibility, it becomes apparent that Nagel’s suggestion is unethical.

There is an objection to Kantian ethics specifically targeted at the categorical imperative. This objection is that it is considered good to hold to a principle of “always give and never receive.” When put to the categorical imperative, this principle does not pass. If everyone were to give and never receive, there would be no one to give to, and the giving would never be permitted to occur. This objection to the categorical imperative is actually evidence in support of it. The principle of always give and never receive is a flawed principle, and the categorical imperative demonstrates this. It is possible for a society to have principles of etiquette that are impractical or unethical. It was the custom of some Inuit tribes for a man to share his wife with a visitor, who would have her for the night; this may be the custom of the society, and may be considered proper etiquette, but is in fact deeply unethical. Adultery is always wrong regardless of the laws or customs of the society or culture. Ethics is universal, not cultural. It may be considered plausible for a person to hold to the principle of always giving and never receiving, but this practice is in fact discourageable. If someone is willing to receive, that person should also be willing to give; and if some one is willing to give, that person should not deprive another of the joy of giving either. Refusing a gift is unkind, and a slight against the kindness of the benefactor. In some societies, the medieval Scandinavian societies for example, it is considered rude to refuse to give or receive hospitality, and refusing someone’s hospitality was an insult to that person’s honour and could even spark a feud. Principles that violate the categorical imperative are detrimental to social harmony. If enough people adhered to the principle of always give and never receive, it would become a great plague on society and the fallacy of this practice would be obvious. Both the practice of always giving without receiving, and the practice of always receiving without giving, are ill practices and should be avoided and never praised.

Kant devised an ethical system that has many beneficial aspects. The use of reason and the respect of human dignity are fundamental to morality. The categorical imperative assists in determining what should be considered good and provides a protocol for rational consistency. The Kantian value system promotes individual good character and responsibility. Respect of human dignity and consistent reasoning are necessary for a functional society. The objections to Kantian ethics suffer from flawed values and fallacious reasoning. Kant’s ethical system is indispensable for living a moral life.

{This is adapted from an essay that I wrote for a class paper. Due to online formatting constraints, I have attempted to replace endnotes with in-text notes. Other formatting has also been lost, and consequently this online form of the essay is inferior to the correctly printed version}

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A very brief introduction to European Feudalism

European feudalism developed out of expediency in the times of the fall of Rome. Germanic tribes were divided from each other and nations did not exist, but territories were occupied by groups of people with warrior kings at their heads. Tribal migrations and pillaging warrior bands created a European scene marked by danger and strife. The majority of people lived off the land as farmers, and even the higher ranks of society were farmers. In the time of Roman rule, those under Roman authority also had Roman support, but the collapse of the Roman Empire reversed the scene so that Rome no longer protected people from Germanic tribes, but instead Rome was invaded by Germanic tribes. This changed the power base of the continent.

Warriors gained power by gaining support from warrior-farmers, and these warriors became tribal leaders and kings. Multiple tribes could unite, and even multiple kings united under high kings (Ireland is notorious for its plethora of kings with stratified rank). Warrior leaders obtained their followings and maintained personal security forces by gift-giving; silver, gold, weapons, and even food were generously released from the leader's possession to his comrades. This wealth needed to have an avenue of supply, and although food could be sourced from the landholdings of the leader, the primary supplier of the treasure used by leaders to buy support was the victims of plundering raids. These raids targeted the less defended villages because of the danger of equal combat in battle. The strong preying upon the weak was a defining characteristic of the early medieval European pillage and gift economy; in light of these practices, it is apparent why the stage was set for the mutual dependency relationship of reciprocal vassalage.

Feudalism developed as a means of survival. The lower ranks of society needed land and protection, and the higher ranks of society needed labourers and soldiers. Without land, a person could not farm and would starve; without labour, a landowner could not run a farm and would have no food production. Without a warrior leader, villagers could not form an organised militia and would rout easily when attacked. The European mainland nobility came from the ranks of former Roman military commanders, or were non-Roman warrior leaders, and therefore understood combat and fighting forces; they knew how to fight, but needed soldiers. Although these warrior leaders often had personal followings of household troops, the forces were small and not adequate for defence against major assaults, but were only sufficient for contending with pesky neighbouring warrior leaders. The feudal system started as a simple co-operation movement of people uniting for survival.

Mutual obligation between the people in the feudal relationship provided for the needs of both parties. As Europe became more unified, countries emerged. Kings owned the territories they controlled, and as their influence grew so did their landholdings. For these kings, who emerged out of the petty warrior kings of the past, officers were essential. Officers were needed for an army, and an army was needed to keep the kingdom. Officers were also needed to enforce the kings control over the regions of the kingdom, otherwise the king's court was all that empowered rule, and so the king's influence only lasted and extended to the locations and times of the royal court's residence. Lords emerged out of the warrior leaders of the past, and became leaders of manorial estates that took the form of plantations. These lords needed landholdings for their farms and peasantry, and the king needed taxes; if the king did not receive taxes, he would confiscate the land, which he thought belonged to him, and give it to a loyal lord. Lords also needed protection from the armies of other kings. This became a multi-levelled system of service and land giving. Kings lent land to lords, who in turn lent the land to peasants. Peasants promised service to lords, who in turn promised service to kings. This basic system became more complicated as time went on, with added ranks and variations, but remained the same structural essence.

The feudal system was very much like the modern system of employment, in which employers need employees under them for work to be accomplished, and employees need employers over them to supply them with work, both seeking the other out because of mutual need. In feudalism, nobles needed vassals and sought them out, and vassals needed nobles and sought them out, entering the relationship out of desire for the benefits contained therein. The most important aspect of European feudal life was the reciprocal relationship of mutual need. The lives of the serfs may have been miserable, but they were less miserable than they would have been if they were out of the feudal relationship. Manorial villages provided community and protection for everyone. The feudal system was because of survival expediency.

Feudalism originally was not a form of slavery and oppression (as understood by people of today, mostly influenced by France and very late Medieval and Renaissance times as viewed through the chronological bias lens of later eras trying to make their own time look better by changing the image of earlier years, a form of propaganda generated by Enlightenment persons) but was a system designed to protect people by forming a syndicate; the peasants were given land and protection from the lord, and the lord was given labour and military service from the peasants. The term "lord" comes from "hlāfweard" meaning "loaf-ward", or the keeper of the bread; the meaning of "lord" displays the concept of provision and generosity being the defining attributes and honour of rulers. This feudal system provided for the vital needs of the people and supplied protection, and protection was an important concern in a violent age with many marauding tribes pillaging and plundering and exacting treasures from their neighbours. Feudalism originated from freemen voluntarily becoming peasants under more powerful local chieftains (voluntary is a loose term, for circumstances and the land possessions of the chieftains, coupled with the political instability and violent hazards, gave them no other option).

Friday, 27 November 2009

Hamlet: his problem

King: He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found the head and source of all your son's distemper.
Queen: I doubt it is no other but the main, his father's death and our o'erhasty marriage.
Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2, lines 54-57


Hamlet had problems. He had internal and external conflicts, including difficulty in knowing who to trust. Can he trust the new king? Can he trust the apparition? Can he trust his friends? Can he even trust himself? Is he delusional or of sound mind? Did he of a truth experience conversation with the ghost of his father, or has his mind, or perhaps a villainous spirit, implanted these notions of a murderous explanation to king Hamlet's demise? Can he justly impregnate his uncle with the blame of murder? Is his own mother trustworthy, or has the hasty transfer of spouses displayed her true colours? Both the internal and external are combined in the dilemmic conundrum of Hamlet's social conversation during the navigation of the metaphysical labyrinth.

Junior Hamlet's father died; his uncle had both taken his father's crown and wife. Hamlet was displeased at the lack of a grieving period of proper duration. Hamlet's mother married too soon after Senior Hamlet's death. This swift marriage looked to Hamlet as a form of infidelity, a lack of dutiful love and devotion to the Late King Hamlet. This tragic, unsuspected death and impatient matrimonial union both in combination caused Hamlet to, in a form, lose his entire parental unit. Even before the spectral visitation, treachery was suspected, although not treacherous murder but a similitude of treachery on the part of those who's rightful occupation should have been mourning. Hamlet's father had been erased without warning, cause, or reason.


Oh, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! Oh, God! God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on 't, ah, fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead! Nay, not so much, not two.
Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2, lines 129-138.


The anguish of Hamlet's recent life happenings were complicated by the message delivered by none other than the phantasm of his father. The spirit informed Hamlet of its condemnation to purgatory and the suffering thereof, and gave reason for the recent death. Murder, foul and unnatural, untimely and traitorous; the mutineer the thief. King Hamlet was killed by his brother before his recent sins could be accounted for, and so lost life, kingdom, wife, and amnesty from purgatory. Grave tidings indeed, and much evil accusation on the head of young Hamlet's uncle.

Following the ghastly herald's visit Hamlet must, in the midst of the emotional storm caused by recent events of death, marriage, and haunting, resolve the puzzle laid before him by his father's spirit. Is the ghost worthy of trust? The ghost's authority and the validity of the tale are things Hamlet was unsure of, but had sincere suspicions upon. A test had to be devised for the purpose of proving the new information. Should the test reveal accuracy in the apparition's story, the riddle of right action becomes the argument of the mind.

Further complications were imposed on young Hamlet by the members of the royal court. The king and queen, as well as their courtiers, were concerned about Hamlet's depressed countenance and further alarmed when he behaved with a semblance of insanity. After the encounter with the ghost, Hamlet chose to act as if he had lost his wit so as to defend his purpose of espionage. Normal behaviour was reserved for Horatio, Hamlet's only trusted partner and fellow investigator. When alone or with his detective associate, Prince Hamlet lost his disguise, but in all other company a facade of madness was instilled. Thus perturbation marked the brains of Elsinore, giving hospitality to the guests scheme and plot. The king and his cohorts directed shenanigans to solve their problem of Hamlet.

Hamlet needed to retribute the assassination, but first the facts about the coup needed to be verified. Is Hamlet's uncle a treacherous killer? Guilt must find it out. For this purpose, Hamlet staged a theatrical display of regicide in order to gage the countenance of the king upon his observation of the spectacle. Hamlet needed to acquire a second opinion to insure the trial, but a single juror was all he could muster because his friend base was well nigh vacant, for his mother's defection and the presence of betrayal and intrigue left him quite alone to solve the matters, and Horatio was his only comrade. To forbid the existence of misinterpretation Hamlet employed Horatio's witness to appreciate the king's response to the entertainment. The enlisted ranks were small but adequate for the task, and guilt was found in the royal person.

Hamlet's problem of discovering the reason behind his father's death, and the guilty party, were solved without excess of difficulty, but his main problem was still at large. The major problem was what to do about the crime. The princely vigilante set about to avenge his father and sort out the mess, and complications and resolutions occupied the majority of Shakespeare's play, with the final action of Hamlet and his solution falling within the finale. There were other issues, but they are side or sub items adding flavour.

The business of Ophelia was a concern of Hamlet's, but not counted among his problems. His relationship with her was put on hold, and later ended. Hamlet's sincerity in regard to Ophelia may be postulated upon, and he did have love for her even if the quality of that love could be subpoenaed for doubt. When conversing with her under hidden watch, Hamlet admitted to loving her once, but also stated that he loved her not; later at her funeral he declared his past love for her. Her death and the accidental manslaughter of her father added to the complications, but Hamlet's problem was of his father's murder and the responses to his antics. The Ophelia affair was but a segment of the problem of the royal court's dealings with Hamlet, and the royal court's responses to the prince's behaviour was but a convelusion to the problem of the regicide.

Fortinbras and the Norweigan conflict was even more removed from young Hamlet. The murdered king had a war with Norway, and this lead to further military conflict between Norway and Denmark, but the international conflict was between people who were segregated from the immediate concerns of Hamlet with the exception of the king of Denmark, but the matter was only a distraction and not pertinent to the Danish prince affair. Norway was a part of the story but not of Hamlet's problems.

The saga of the Prince of Denmark bears many storylines. There are problems, solutions, conspiracies, concerns, and affairs, but most are decorations to Hamlet's problem of his father's death. And so, although garnished with many side and sub stories, it becomes apparent that the tale of Hamlet is that of a man plagued with the disease of family problems.