Americanculturalandintellectualhistoryfinal revised

8 the acceptance of inheritance is the denial of

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offered to us, — we must begin to consider if it were not the nobler part to renounce it...” 8 The acceptance of inheritance is the denial of individualism. From your birth you are assuming the mantle of those that came before you, proclaiming for all to see that you have been created in their image rather than creating your own. One must cast off the gilded shackles of past wealth and be willing to forge for themselves an identity uniquely their own from nothing but their own ability. With these facts in mind, it is unsurprising that Emerson does not look upon capitalism favorably. To him it is the antithesis of all that humanity should strive for. In Emerson's view capitalism, “is a system of selfishness; is not dictated by the high sentiments of human nature; is not measured by the exact law of reciprocity; much less by the sentiments of love and heroism, but is a system of distrust, of concealment, of superior keenness, not of giving but of taking advantage” 9 . It is a system that not only indulges the most base and vile aspects of human nature, but forces man to rely upon them to succeed. A system that encourages avarice, greed, covetousness, pride, selfishness, ego-centrism and claims to be bettering the lives of those that live under it is simply unacceptable to Emerson. America, since its inception, has been beautifully imperfect. A nation built on the foundations of freedom, allowed slavery. A nation that championed democracy, denied women the right to vote. A nation that stands for equality, is still plagued by racism, bigotry, and 8 Ibid 9 Ibid
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prejudice. From this you may think that I find America to be a rather disagreeable place, but to you I say that this is what makes America so incredible. We fought a civil war and ended the odious institution of slavery. We fought for the rights of women and now all citizens of age can vote. We fight for equality, to this day, and everyday forward. America is imperfect but we are trying to make it better, we are fighting for a future worth living in, if not for us than for our children, and it is for this reason that I find Ayn Rand's view of individualism inconsistent with the spirit of America. We are reformers, to our cores, to our foundations, and nothing is more American. Emerson's vision of individualism is the impetus that has driven America since its very creation, it is its very inspiration. The language of the most fundamental American documents, as well as the great thinkers that inspired them, such as John Locke, are undeniably in line with Emerson's interpretation of individualism. An interpretation that emphasizes an individual's responsibility to his community, and with a distinct attention paid to those values which stand in direct opposition to capitalism, such as altruism, humanity, benevolence, honesty, loyalty, faithfulness, and all the rest that comprise a decent and moral individual. Take for example this quote by John Locke, whose writing and ideas were integral to the formation of America, “ All mankind... being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions”.
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