Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, a sixteenth century philosopher and writer, wrote and re-wrote “Essays”, originally published in the 1580s. Essay was a new form of writing in the sixteenth century. Montaigne’s subject is the philosophy of life and death.
Montaigne writes his collection of essays while cloistered in a château in southwest France. Donald Frame translates and compiles three volumes of Montaigne’ essays into one book–“The Complete Essays of Montaigne”, first published in 1957. One of the benefits of Frame’s translation is in asides that clarify meaning, place, and person.
Montaigne, born into a family of wealth, affords the luxury of time for personal reflection and contemplation. Aristotle wrote that life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation. In one sense, this quiet life is a weakness in Montaigne’s philosophy. Montaigne reflects on history and ancient times to explain how life should be lived when his life seems a shadow of most people’s reality, the reality of a day-to-day fight for survival. There is reader skepticism about Montaigne’s philosophy based on a 1% versus 99% life of most people. The irony of that skepticism is that Montaigne is consider by some to be the father of skepticism; i.e. believing nothing is proven true by the senses.
"The Complete Essays of Montaigne" is only a brief introduction to a person that lived as one of those rare human beings that "...have a superior perception of reality." If one has a spare 40 hours to listen, "The Complete Essays of Montaigne" offers some fine human insight.
It is past time for Americans to re-read Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man”. Though his primary purpose is to refute Edmund Burke’s condemnation of the 1789 French revolution, his observations on British Aristocracy are the essence of today’s American “Money-ocracy”.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are an amorphous scream of disgust by an educated population that resents American “Money-ocracy’s” control of the economy, elected representatives, the election system, and the “Rights of Man”. “Money-ocracy” is an inheritable line of an American aristocracy.
Stockholders in American companies need to fight employee compensation inflation that is disconnected from human productivity. Entrepreneurs that create productive enterprises should be rewarded by as much money, power, and prestige as their contribution warrants but not by ridiculous salaries that make a mockery of human productivity.
“Occupy Wall Street” is an unlikely precursor of another American Revolution; however, it may be a symptom of an American cancer that debilitates productive life without killing the patient. “Occupying Wall Street” is not a hippie “sit in” but a plea for reform of American “Money-cracy” just as Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man” was a plea for reform of Aristocratic inheritance.
By writing–women are human beings first–, Betty Friedan speaks truth to power. Friedan’s theme in The Feminine Mystique attempts to enlighten thick-headed males and doubting women about the equality of human beings. It is sad to realize that such a banal and obvious statement as “women are human beings first” so perfectly exposes the ignorance of prejudice.
Every rational human being has a brain that functions in the same way. This is not to suggest that genetics do not matter. It is not to suggest that environment does not matter. It suggests that sexual function, color of one’s skin, and culture are outside influences that create prejudice while the brain is an infinitely malleable organ that carries the potential for genius as well as stupidity.
Freidan’s concern is that women are not treated as equals even though women are approximately equal-in-number to men. Things have changed since 1963 but equality remains a work-in-process. Of the fortune 500 companies in the United States, only 25 have female CEOs. Women doing the same job as men in 2010 receive $.81 for every $1 paid to men, a 19% difference. Though house work is shared more now than in the 1960s, women work 18 hours a week homemaking while men work 10 hours a week (according to a PEW Research Study in 2011); i.e. the greatest burden remains with women. Without meaning to argue that the glass is half empty rather than half full, the revolution exemplified by Freidan’s book is incomplete. Many people continue to fight for equality of all human beings but many men and women continue to resist; to the detriment of society.