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Human Event Paper #4

Human Event Paper #4 - Samantha Gustafson Jacquie...

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Samantha Gustafson February 18, 2005 Jacquie Scott-Lynch HON 172 MW 9:15 The Cycle of Alienation Everyone feels alienated at some points in his/her life. The most common first instance of this emotion is usually during childhood, when one child makes another feel inferior. Whether it is through teasing, not sharing toys, or excluding from the group, the resulting emotion is that of discomfort and separation that can often lead to bitterness and violence. Webster defines alienation as “to make hostile” or “to transfer (property) to another”. So how did the definition of alienation begin as a feeling of aggression and finish combined with the exchange of a material object? Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men indirectly but brilliantly explains how these two definitions of one word go hand in hand in society creating a brutal cycle through human selfishness and desire. Although Rousseau was concerned with the society of the 18 th century when he wrote this discourse, he was so correct in his accusations of the human race as a whole, that the problems that he speaks of are still present in today’s culture. Human alienation is caused by the very nature of humankind - their need to excel past one another, and the viciousness that this need creates. Rousseau outlines that the basis for all conflicts in the world is the cycle of human alienation, be it acquiring property, fighting for respect, or competing to outdo another person. A clear beginning to this process cannot be determined because each step is so intertwined in the circular process. As a foundation for the problems with human competition , Rousseau compares humankind and nature to illustrate people’s natural tendency to look out solely for themselves. When speaking of humans in a state of nature he describes: “we behold in him an animal weaker
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than some, and less agile than others; but, taking him all round, the most advantageously organized of any. I see him…finding his bed at the foot of the tree which afforded him a repast…all his wants supplied” (Rousseau 1). When comparing humans to other animals he praises him for his idealistic simplicity. He is admiring that all humankind needs are the necessities to survive and he/she is naturally content. He then describes humans in nature: “I do not doubt his being terrified by every novelty that presents itself…such circumstances, however
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Human Event Paper #4 - Samantha Gustafson Jacquie...

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