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Refuse then to put your faith in mere machinery, in party organizations, in acts of Parliament, in great unwieldy systems, which treat good and bad, the careful and the careless, the striving and the indifferent, on the same plan, and which on account of their vast and cumbrous size, their complexity, their official central management, pass entirely out of your control. Refuse to be spoon-fed, drugged and dosed, by the politicians. They are not leading you toward the promised land, but further and further away from it. If the world could be saved by the men of words and the machine makers, it would have been saved long ago. Nothing is easier than to make machinery; you may have any quantity of it on order in a few months. Nothing is easier than to appoint any number of officials. Unluckily the true fight is of another and much sterner kind; and the victory comes of our own climbing of the hills, not by sitting in the plain, with folded hands, watching those others who profess to do our business for us. Do you think it likely or reasonable, do you think it fits in with and agrees with your daily experience of this fighting, working world of ours, that you could take your chair in the politician's shop, and order across his counter so much prosperity and progress and happiness, just as you might order cotton goods by the piece or wheat by the quarter? Be brave and clear-sighted, and face the stern but wholesome truth, that it is only you, you with your own hands, you with your unconquerable resolve, without any dependence on others, without any of these childish and mischievous party struggles, which are perhaps a little more exciting than cricket, or football, or even “bridge” to some of us, but a good deal more profitless to the nation than digging holes in the earth and then filling them up again, without any use of force, without any oppression of each other, without any of these blind reckless attempts to humiliate and defeat those who hold different beliefs from ourselves, and who desire to follow different methods from those which we follow, without any division of the nation into two, three or more hostile camps, ever inspired with dread and hatred of each other—it is only you yourselves, fighting with the good, pure, honest weapons of persuasion and example, of sympathy and friendly cooperation—it is only you, calling out in yourselves the great qualities, and flinging away all the meaner things, the strifes, the hates, the jealousies, the mere love of fighting and conquering—it is only you, treading in the blessed path of peace and freedom, who can bring about the true regeneration of society, and with it the true happiness of your own lives.

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First, we must establish a system of complete liberty under which no set of men should endeavor to force upon other sets of men their own view of what is right, as regards social conduct or fashions of living, as regards religion or education, as regards trade or labor of any kind, as regards amusements or occupations. The system must be a system of such complete freedom, of such perfectly free enterprise, free trade, and free action in all things, that under it, in industrial matters, men will be entirely content to further their own interests by means of their own efforts and their own voluntary and self-directed associations; and content in social matters to obtain acceptance for their views by such moral influence as each is able to gain in the universal moral conflict. There must be the complete renouncement of force–that force which all the present governments of the world employ without hesitation–as the instrument by which the condition of men is to be improved; and in its place the following out and perfecting by voluntary means of that good, whatever it may be, which seems to each man or each group of men the truest and highest. Second, governments recognizing that the only justification for their existence is to be found in the acts of violence and fraud committed by men against each other, and in the right of self-preservation in presence of such acts, must employ the force which they possess for the one and single purpose of repelling force. They must simply defend the person and property of all persons from attacks by whomsoever they are made. Private and personal property must be fully and completely recognized, whether it be the property of the rich or of the poor man. We must close our ears to the careless and unthoughtful denunciations of property, and see that without the fullest recognition of property there can be no real liberty of action. It is idle to say in one breath that each man has the right to the free use of his own faculties, and in the next breath to propose to deal by the power of the state with what he acquires by means of those faculties, as if both the faculties and what they produced belonged to the state and not to himself. Private property and free trade stand on exactly the same footing, both being essential and indivisible parts of liberty, both depending upon rights, which no body of men, whether called governments or anything else, can justly take from the individual. Let us never yield to the superstition of magnifying the governments of our own creation. While we concede the power to governments to protect every man in his person and in his property from the attacks of other men, rather than leave this power in the hands of men individually, let me repeat that it is a mere survival of old forms of thought to suppose that there is any odor of divinity about whatever form of government it may be–imperial or republican–that we set up. In presence of the necessities caused by human wrongdoing, under the plea of self-preservation, as the means of preventing aggressions upon liberty, we may pass laws and carry them into effect against those who disregard the rights of others, and in doing so we may commit no wrong against such men, seeing that they themselves have violated the universal covenant of rights. But let us, for the sake of keeping undimmed our own perceptions of what is true, frankly admit that the laws, passed in Parliament and administered in courts of justice, are really and essentially in the same class as those acts of earlier days, by which men with their own hand provided for their own safety. The act of Parliament may be as necessary for self-preservation in our time as the steel shirt, or the stone walls of the castle, or the body of armed retainers was in the Middle Ages, but both are expressions of force, both are the instrument of the strongest, both in a strict and true sense are outside morality, which only has to do with the free choice and the free action of men.

Foot Binding Essay - 1101 Words

I come now to another great evil belonging to our system. The effort to provide for the education of children is a great moral and mental stimulus. It is the great natural opportunity of forethought and self-denial; it is the one daily lesson of unselfishness which men will learn when they will pay heed to none other. There is no factor that has played so large a part in the civilization of men as the slow formation in parents of those qualities which lead them to provide for their children. In this early care and forethought are probably to be found the roots of those things which we value so highly–affection, sympathy, and restraint of the graspings of self for the good of others. We may be uncertain about many of the agents that have helped to civilize men, but here we can hardly doubt. What, then, is likely to be the effect when, heedless of the slow and painful influences under which character is formed, you intrude a huge all-powerful something, you call the state, between parents and children, and allow it to say to the former, “You need trouble yourself no more about the education of your children. There is no longer any occasion for that patience and unselfishness which you were beginning to acquire, and under the influence of which you were learning to forego the advantage of their labor, that they might get the advantage of education. We will give you henceforth free dispensation from all such painful efforts. You shall at once be made virtuous and unselfish by a special clause in our act. You shall be placed under legal obligations, under penalty and fine, to have all the proper feelings of a parent. Why toil by the slow irksome process of voluntary efforts and your own growing sense of right to do your duty, when we can do it so easily for you in five minutes? We will provide all for you–masters, standards, examinations, subjects, and hours. You need have no strong convictions, and need make no efforts of your own, as you did when you organized your chapels, your benefit societies, your trade societies, or your cooperative institutions. We are the brain that thinks; you are but the bone and muscles that are moved. Should you desire some occupation, we will throw you an old bare bone or two of theological dispute. You may settle for yourselves which dogmas of the religious bodies you prefer; and while you are fighting over these things our department shall see to the rest of you. Lastly, we will make no distinctions between you all. The good and the bad parent shall stand on the same footing, and our statutes shall assume with perfect impartiality that every parent intends to defraud his child, and can only be supplied with a conscience at the police court.” This cynical assumption of the weakness and selfishness of parents, this disbelief in the power of better motives, this faith in the inspector and the policeman, can have but one result. Treat the people as unworthy of trust, and they will justify your expectation. Tell them that you do not expect them to possess a sense of responsibility, to think or act for themselves, withhold from them the most natural and the most important opportunities for such things, and in due time they will passively accept the mental and moral condition you have made for them. I repeat that the great natural duties are the great natural opportunities of improvement for all of us. We can see every day how the wealthy man, who strips himself entirely of the care of his children, and leaves them wholly in the hands of tutors, governesses, and schoolmasters, how little his life is influenced by them, how little he ends by learning from them. Whereas to the man whose are much occupied with what is best for them, who is busied with the delicate problems which they are ever suggesting to him, they are a constant means of both moral and mental change. I repeat that no man's character, be he rich or poor, can afford the intrusion of a great power like the state between himself and his thoughts for his children. Observe the corresponding effect in another of our great state institutions. The effect of the Poor Law –which undertakes the care in the last resort of the old and helpless–has been to break down to a great extent the family feelings and affections of our people. It is simply and solely on account of this great machine that our people, naturally so generous, recognize much less the duty of providing for an old parent than is the case either in France or in Germany. With us, each man unconsciously reasons, “Why should I do that which the state will do for me?” All such institutions possess a philanthropical outside, but inwardly they are full of moral helplessness and selfishness.

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