Power, education, wealth, poverty, and economic opportunity are all aspects, not the only aspects, which determine a societies progress and development. Throughout the duration of this class we have thoroughly examined these aspects and many more through books and movies. Books such as “The Republic” by Plato, “An Enemy of The People” by Henrik Isben, “The Laughing Sutra” by Mark Salzman, and “Nickled and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich. We have also found these characteristics to be common in movies such as “Wag the Dog”, “Moscow on the Hudson”, and “Manwate”. All of these previously mentioned forms of information have included one or more of the aspects that have either help build or helped destroy the society mentioned within the particular book or movie. In the following I will be discussing these certain aspects and how they have had an affect on the outcome of these societies.
Plato’s “The Republic” is a wonderful example of a society that is built or conditioned to use some of the best aspects to help form a perfect society. Even though Plato made it a point to not have classes amongst the people determined by how much money they made he still had groups of people that where better then others. Wealth wasn’t as big an issue to Plato as skills or education was. He believed wealth was destructive. A person who has wealth will be overcome by greed and not want to work and work was what his society was based on. Plato didn’t use poverty to keep people powerless since in his society money wasn’t a very important aspect of success. Keeping people more or less powerful was determined by what class of citizen they were. Classes shaped Plato’s perfect society. Some were born to be leaders, others were born to be guardians, and others workers. Opportunity for the economy to progress was Plato’s whole plan. In other words, Plato molded his society in a way that they would have and be the best of the best, so economic opportunity was very important and available. Plato believed that a perfect society can be based on equality but he also believed that there should still be classes of leaders, guardians, and workers.
In contrast to “The Republic”, wealth was so much more important to the society in “Enemy of The State”. Even though it was said to have equality amongst the people, wealthy people were the main one’s who were heard and allowed to speak out. Threats of poverty were used to keep people quiet and powerless. No one wanted to listen to Dr. Stockman’s advice because the society was very much controlled by greed. The town didn’t want to do anything that would affect the amount of tourist money coming in. The author makes the fact that there isn’t much economic opportunity available very obvious by pointing out how ignorant the society was. The author does show signs of hope for a better economy because even after the whole town is against him Dr. Stockman doesn’t give up. In this book wealth is also expressed as being a corrupting influence on the success of the society. The wealthy people are the culprits of keeping the town’s people ignorant.
“The Laughing Sutra” was mainly a book about enlightenment and one man’s fight for it. The possession of wealth wasn’t as important in this book in comparison to the previously mentioned books. The characters in this book didn’t need wealth to keep them happy. The country and certain criminal groups that are mentioned in this story, such as the “red guards”, were very much more concerned with wealth and respect for their beliefs. These groups also used poverty against some citizens such as the monks to keep them powerless. Economic opportunity wasn’t available for this country to move up the scale in some way. The societies leaders were more concerned with destroying all beliefs that didn’t agree with their own. Mark Salzman, the author of this book, does belief that things would’ve been much better economically wise if there was more opportunity and equality. He makes this evident by describing how marvelous the United States was to Hsun-ching when he took the trip. The author described all the things that Hsun-ching did and all the things he was capable of while in the U.S. It really wasn’t clear how the author felt about wealth and how it was or wasn’t a corrupting influence. Wealth to the author was important if it was pursued for the spirit and not for materialistic purposes.
“Nickled and Dimed” is a perfect example of how certain aspects of a society can determine economic or personal success. This story was mainly an explanation of how some of us struggle from a day-to-day basis with daily expenses. Wealth is very important in our society today not mainly for happiness but for comfort and peace of mind. Poverty is a big factor of keeping people powerless. Money and wealth are needed to accomplish many things that make a person powerful. Education is one factor of power where money is needed to accomplish. As much as authorities try to hide it, greed does shape how societies are formed and how societies are run. Economic opportunity is available in most situations but poverty is a big downside to the opportunities that are provided. There aren’t as much opportunities for a person making minimum wage then there is for a person who makes as much as sixty thousand dollars a year. Many people including the author of “Nickled and Dimed” do believe that more economic opportunity for the citizens who aren’t as wealthy as others would do a world of difference for the economy as a whole. Barbara Ehrenreich, the author, makes it evident that wealth can be corrupting but might not be so in every case. She explains how the employees who make more money seem unhappier then those who don’t make as much giving proof to the statement that wealth causes corruption.
In conclusion, economies and the factors that make them successful vary from place to place and from situation to situation. In all, wealth, poverty, education and economic opportunity are more important now then ever before. This can be found to be true by looking at the older books we have read in comparison to the more recent ones. As time passes the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider and if the reason for this are the factors that I have mentioned then we need to take immediate steps to lessen the gap. The opportunities for the less fortunate need to become more apparent so that the less fortunate can move up and the wealthier can learn how to share.