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Fight against Oppression through Education

Jean-Jacques Rousseau declared in his book Discourse Concerning the Origins of Inequality that oppression has its roots when humans started to settle in groups and establish agriculture on which people learn to descend into the level of servitude for the majority. This is where the concept of hierarchy came about. Because of servitude, mankind has become subservient to his/ her master, the way women are subservient to men. This phenomenon is opposed to the primitive times where according to Rousseau, life was simpler.

Mankind were contented living in their huts, doing domestic chores for themselves such as sewing clothes from animal skins decorated with feathers and shells. During these times, they live free because they only do tasks for the sake of their selves and they are not required to work for somebody else. This was the time when mankind lived a “free, healthy, good and happy” life (qtd in Wilson 1). In history, the advancement of civilization has been considered as the time where both oppression and progress of freedom proliferated.

For instance, Denis Diderot’s writings link the oppression of laborers to the production of commodities and the blind quest for wealth. Another notable theorist in matters of oppression would be Karl Marx. He is the first theorist that was able to formulate a systematic economic theory on the impacts of capitalism and industrial production. In his famous work Capital, he explained that workers could never expect that they could improve themselves in terms of skills progress and wealth because they will always be restricted on earning something that is only sufficient for himself and his offspring.

Marx has predicted that this kind of system would self destruct because it cannot sustain its oppressive powers. As a matter of fact, many theorists believe that the decline of humanity has something to do with the rise of oppression and hierarchy. Moreover, these feats and effects of oppression are not only evident in labor and in capitalism but also extend to aspects of life such as gender, ethnicity and race, social status, and education. This resulted to several mass movements which aim to fight for the rights of the parties concern (Wilson 8).

It is always the case that the dominant group / culture in the society control the rest of the members of a particular society. There are a lot of instances where this is the case in the history of the world. Two of the popular examples would be the dominance of men over women in a patriarchal society and the dominance of White over Black in the early United States of American history. According to Freud in his book Civilization and its Discontents, people would remain unhappy because this problem of the society does not have a remedy.

Even when people move or protest for the rearrangements of the external circumstances of the world this cannot be changed. For as long as civilization exists, it carries along with it a human unhappiness because self-repression is part of its nature (Wilson 8). However, this paper will discuss three of the most successful movements that brought about changes in the order of the society which brought in itself freedom again to the forces of oppression. First would be the Civil Rights Movements known to be lead by Martin Luther King Jr.

in the 1968 United States against the imposition of segregation among the Whites and the Blacks. He is most famous for his “I have dream” phrase. This dream is especially dedicated to the Blacks who struggled against oppression simply because they are different from the dominant class – the Whites. King’s dream would be that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, the world would be rid of poverty, violence and oppression, and communities would be filled with love for people instead of love for the material things.

He was considered to be one of the first Black Americans who have instilled Black consciousness among the African Americans. He reminded them their great historic contributions which stimulated pride among the Blacks that they have not felt for a long time because of oppression. Because of his eloquent campaigns and conscious-raising propagandas, the Blacks were able to stand their ground against racial injustice and brutality such as segregation schemes in public transportations and facilities such as buses, rest rooms, and schools in which the Whites have better accommodations than that of the Blacks.

Prior to this, there were also cases of slavery in the South were the Blacks were treated as lesser than that of their White counterparts. There were also cases of extreme violence among the Blacks were erring slaves are being lynched. King began talking in areas such as Boston and Montgomery about the rights of every one – Blacks and Whites. His speeches have sprouted awareness which actually was the underlying reason of the Montgomery bus boycott made famous by Rosa Parks. In other words, it was the efforts of that engender the better treatment that the Blacks are now enjoying.

As a matter of fact, the goal of King is not to elevate the rights of the Blacks beyond that of the Whites but just to make it equal with that of the Whites (Williams 37-41). Another very notable oppression in the history of civilization would be the oppression that women suffered due to the dominance of men. There were certain rights and privileges that a woman is not allowed to enjoy just for the very reason that she is a woman. One of the most famous examples would be the right to suffrage. Because of this, there were a lot of feminist activists and protests that happened not only in the United States but in different parts of the world.

The name of Elizabeth Cady Stanton is known as the chief organizer of the first-ever organized women’s rights movement in the United States. Apart from being the organizer of the group, she was also the one who formulated the philosophy of the group or also known as the core thinkers. She challenged the conventions of nineteenth century on the traditional and domestic roles of women. She does not believe that because men and women have physical and biological differences of males and females, they should be treated as different species.

She argues that women should not be restricted in restrained in these roles but rather they should participate in activities that involved the public sphere. In this so called cult of domesticity, men are alleged to be the stronger and the more intelligent as compared to women who are portrayed as emotional and delicate. Apart from being a critic of the patriarchal impositions among women, she has also developed sources and solutions to the subordination of women. Her principles were relied on the liberal-egalitarian arguments which argue that natural rights should be equal among men and women.

She believes that this can only be done through a change in the fundamental aspects of social, political, and cultural arrangements of the society. Among the many reconstructions that the women’s movement in the United States has achieved is the realization of the right to vote among women in the late 1800’s. The American Woman Suffrage Association or commonly known as AWSA fought that the states should not in any case or by any means prohibit the right of every citizen to vote regardless of race and of gender. Moreover, Stanton and her companion Susan b.

Anthony organized another women’s rights advocate group which did not only seek the constitutional right to vote of women but also to secure women’s rights and privileges in work, education, and marriage. These protests and movements still have gone a long way before women were able to gain the status that they have today. As a matter of fact, feminism as a concept was unknown during the lifetime of Stanton, but she is among the precursor of the movement that paved the way for women involvement and acknowledgment in the society (David 7-18).

Another aspect of woman oppression happened in Ireland during the period of instability and suppression in the Catholic Church. There was an attempt to control the institute’s convents regarding the contribution and involvement of women in the Catholic Church. It was in 1749 that Pope Benedict XIV formulated the Quanvis Iusto where the nuns and the sisters were given. For so long, women are controlled by the diocese and the popes. Moreover, the nuns and the sisters do not have any involvement in terms of decision-making and other intellectual matter of the church.

However, with this new implementation, the whole institution has conceded that women have rights to form their own religious community where they can control their own standards and rules. This was the end of the enforced enclosure implemented among nuns and sisters. Moreover, they also allowed religious women to work outside their convents. Even those who did not observe perpetual cloister were already granted canonical legitimacy within the Catholic Church. Their legal existence was already acknowledged by the whole institution.

This paved way to the development of the modern sisterhoods and new congregations all over Europe. It progressed dramatically that a total 6% of the total Catholic workforce were women. It continued until Catholic religious women had already an autonomous role in the Catholic Church (Magray 5-10). Even when Sigmund Freud is clear in saying that oppression and unhappiness is part of the civilization it has been proven by the illustrations mentioned in the earlier paragraphs that oppression could be eradicated. Paulo Freire believes that the answer to oppression is simply education.

Many believed that education could be a form of domination, for Freire’s perspective, education is an instrument for liberation. As a matter of fact, he believes that the intellectuals have the great privilege and opportunity to challenge the power structure of the society. This has been proven as true in the cases of Martin Luther King and Elizabeth Cady Stanton which brought forth the fight for racial and women oppression respectively (Moacir 131). Works Cited Davis, Sue. The Political Thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Women’s Rights and the American Political Traditions. New York: NYU Press, 2008.

Magray, Mary Peckham. The Transforming Power of the Nuns: Women, Religion, and Cultural Change in Ireland, 1750-1900. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998. Moacir, Gadotti. Reading Paulo Freire: His Life and Work: Teacher Empowerment and School Reform. Albany: University of New York Press, 1994. Williams, Clarence. Reflections of the Dream: 1975-1994. Twenty Years of Celebrating theLife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cambridge: Massachusetts Press, 1996. Wilson, Catherine (ed). Civilization and Oppression. Canada, University of Calgary Press, 1999.

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