Papers of the Adam Family -Mark Twain.
It is in these lines written by Mark Twain that we see the hypocrisy and serpentine nature of society. Morally, that is, ideally, it is organization and utilitarianism where everyone is benefited. In reality, society is self-driven, motivated by money, and ambivalent about helping everyone out.
I noticed the title of this blog (the Cynic test). I’d like to say I’m generally optimistic, but I couldn’t help but agree with most everything Mark Twain had to say about the matter. (Does that mean I pass the test?). Anyway, here it goes.
Capitalism is something relatively new and relatively old. The idea of money has existed for generations; people use it for trade, power, buying goods, etc. However, the MURICA’ idea of Capitalism is something that is definitely new. We let it, quite literally, dominate our lives and our decisions. We let money dictate our transition to renewable energy because oil companies have too much power. Congressional lobbying, or as Mark Twain puts it, “electing purchasable legislatures, blatherskite Congresses”, shows how much lawmaking is dictated by personal interests/lobbyists support.
In Mark Twain’s time, this piece has particular relevance. During the period of Reconstruction, Congress abandoned the idea of creating equality for black people because they:
1. Had their own economic interests
2. Weren’t willing to divide post-confederate land to improve the social mobility of blacks.
This notion completely eradicates any black-white, North-good, South-bad idea. The reality is, both people in power and people in general let economic interests dictate decisions. (ehem…Slavery for southern cotton?).
But Twain isn’t ONLY TALKING ABOUT CAPITALISM! He’s talking about corruption, and ruining the environment, and factory-monotony, and labor-systems, and religious hypocrisy!
Wow, sounds a bit like Huck Finn, right? The more we discussed the book in class, the more we realized it was a book about all kinds of reforms. Huck Finn was a book where observation led to the conclusion that society is a little (bleeped) up. Twain’s view, albeit pessimistic, translates directly into Huck Finn. In every lesson or encounter Huck was involved in, there was an undertone of racism, hypocrisy, corruption, capitalism…etc.
This quote does have particular relevance. In fact, it might have even more relevance than it did in Twain’s period. We are a country with good intentions, mostly. We want equality and we want fairness. However, many aren’t willing to put aside their own interests in favor of the utilitarian approach. That is why Twain paints utilitarianism as the ideal. In truth, we can’t accomplish equality until we are willing to put aside racism, hypocrisy, and our own self-interests.
While Huck Finn ran off to the West, we were angered. And rightfully so. “Where is our great all-knowing, morally-reformed Huck going?” He is yet another example of Twain’s message. There are lots of problems; it is overwhelming. But we can’t run off now.