Sports have been a significant aspect of this course, not only teaching us about political theory, but also inspiring us to think about their implications in society. As the semester wraps up, one can only tie up the discussion of sports by considering how competitiveness has merged with modern technology through what is known as eSports. ESports, as discussed in lecture, are rapidly gaining in popularity, and relate to many aspects of the course spanning from the definition of play, to the transformation of sports as well as the portrayal of athletes in media.
In chapter IV of On Liberty, John Stuart Mill shares some insightful opinions on political theory, which have become very relevant in American politics today. Specifically, he discusses the basis of legality, claiming that any action which affects only the person doing the action, should be legally permitted. Though he specifies that most actions do inherently affect more than just that one person, he believes that something should only be deemed illegal if it hurts another citizen in any aspect, whether financially or physically. Crimes like murder, theft, or harassment, are illegal because they clearly abridge the rights of some citizens, but what about the consumption of marijuana? Mill’s argument has resonated in society today through the campaign for the legalization of marijuana consumption in numerous states.
After Colorado and Washington have deemed the recreational use of marijuana legal, many positive changes seem to have occurred. Including a lower crime rate and increased government revenue from sales, the legalization of marijuana in those states has inspired numerous other states to adopt the same policy fighting any resistance with the claim that it affects only the consumer, no one else. Though I personally do not support the consumption of marijuana, there is substantial political support which may eventually lead to legislative change in the very near future. Based on Mill’s premise that marijuana consumption is not really harmful, there seems to be no reason for its illegality. If proponents have such compelling evidence to promote the legalization of marijuana consumption, why is it illegal in the United States?
In the 1930’s, marijuana was named a drug by the United States Narcotic Drug Act. It was not allowed to be consumed or sold in the United States, until individual states began abolishing restrictions decades later. The reason for its prohibition stems from its effects on one’s physical and mental health. Marijuana, previously known as cannabis, is known to be detrimental for both brain development as well as lung health. Heavy users may have decreased lifespans due to marijuana’s effects on the lungs. Even though this can be considered harm, who is it really affecting? If smokers smoke, they are hurting no one but themselves, and that cannot be controlled by the government. Mill would agree that all people deserve personal freedoms, such as the right to smoke weed, as long as no other citizen is affected by the smoker’s actions.
Consider an average middle-aged man, Mr. Smith, who is politically engaged, economically stable, and physically healthy. If he one day decides to come home and smoke marijuana for recreational use, who would he be hurting? He certainly would not be abridging the rights of any other United States citizen, so why is marijuana illegal? What right does the government have to take away that personal freedom from Mr. Smith? If this issue was presented to Mill years ago, he would support the legalization of marijuana solely because of the personal freedoms that every American citizen is promised.
Following the same example, Mill would only oppose if Mr. Smith’s consumption of marijuana was in some way detrimental to society. For example, if he purchased marijuana while he was in debt to someone else, that would be a completely different story. Mr. Smith owes money to whoever lent it to him, and that is an obligation he must honor. If society adopted Mill’s political ideology, consuming the marijuana itself would not be considered criminal activity but failing to honor the loan would be.
To conclude, Mill would certainly enjoy modern political debates regarding the legalization of marijuana in several states. Taking a relatively liberal stance, he would support personal freedoms like the consumption of marijuana, as long as no other citizens are affected. Mill’s political ideology is certainly distinct from most other theorists of his time, and even centuries after he was born, his influence lives on. It is not difficult to apply his opinions to modern politics especially through efforts for numerous issues involving personal freedoms. Granted that all American citizens have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Mill just aimed to ensure that everyone can practice these rights while maintaining societal harmony.
John Stuart Mill, in Chapter 3 of On Liberty, says individuality is needed for society to thrive. Though he advised that society strays from conformity over a century ago, his advice has still not been taken, leading to a major problem today in the 21st century. As opposed to every citizen attempting to match the majority, everyone should focus on their own individuality as a source of strength. He claims that society can only benefit if every individual is built upon, which can only be done by ignoring conformity and focusing on individuality. This concept is not widely accepted especially in society today, affecting many things including the education system.
The modern American education system is nearly entirely based on standardized assessments or quantitative data. While many high school students may spend their time and efforts focusing on special skills that may not exactly be in tune with the majority of others. If a high school student receives a lower ACT or SAT score, he or she may not get accepted to a respected university. That same student may have been technologically inclined providing critical thinking and reasoning skills that will certainly be beneficial to society in the long run. The individual skills of that student have the potential to form an enormous contribution to society, but because of widespread emphasis on conformity, that student cannot join the academic program he would like to. This is happening to millions of young adults in the United States of America. Because students are so stressed about traditional requirements for certain educational or employment opportunities, they are eventually becoming incapable of succeeding in the workplace. Students graduate top tier schools but lack essential skills needed to thrive in the fast paced economy of the 21st century.
From a personal perspective, as a first-year student applying to the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, I will shortly be going through an application process again. Looking at grade point average, extra-curricular activities, and essays, there are many aspects of a student’s life that will not be considered for admission. For example, one must know how to effectively communicate with others, especially in any field of business. An individual skill like this can be essential to success in the professional world, but can easily be overlooked by admissions directors at Ross. Though I am working hard to meet the fit that Ross normally accepts, I am discouraged by the fact that many of my personal strengths will be ignored by the admissions committee. If all the applicants aim to fit the conformist trend and strive solely for a strong GPA, the Business School will simply accept one type of student and let one type of student into the workforce. Though my long term goal may be to be a qualified employee, I still have to adapt to the majority’s skill set in an effort to obtain the opportunity to work in the business field.
Though I can only relate to the admissions process for the Ross School of Business, I am sure that this flaw in society affects many other graduate programs. Medical school may ignore the other personality traits that doctors need to thrive in their profession by solely focusing on standardized test scores and grades throughout college. Nearly every profession will be affected if conformity is favored. There will be little diversity in skills, strengths, and interests, affecting not only the educational institutions, but also society as a whole. For society to progress forward, Mill claims there must be originality brought forth by “freedom, and a variety of situations” (Mill). Individual specialties should be focused on as opposed to the strengths of the majority because not only will it provide knowledge for the conformists, but it will also bring originality and true genius to a world that needs to advance from the ground up.
Though one can certainly argue that there needs to be a method of standardization for application processes, there also should be more emphasis on uniqueness. Striking a balance in this case may be difficult, but the strong trend on conformity will lead to more competition, and less genuineness in the world, which will affect the arts, technology, as well as business. Mill’s political opinion needs to be enacted at a large scale through institutions of higher education as well as employment. If schools and companies being to look for unique qualities, they will come to see that many qualified applicants can bring success to their institution in numerous ways. In addition, it would provide motivation for students and prospective employees to focus on the distinct qualities that will allow them to contribute to society in a nonconformist manner.
Edmund Burke, in “Reflections on the Revolution in France”, expresses his opinions on the French Revolution and the consequences of rebellion. His opinions later formed what came to be known as a conservative ideology. Favoring tradition and the status quo, he became known as the father of conservatism, which can also be seen in modern politics today.
He claims that attempting to change society through revolution is not a feasible triumph, therefore it will easily fail. “The management of the state” he says, “is a thing to be settled by convention” (Burke). In regards to politics, he simply advises that people stick with what they have set in place for them already. Though his influence on political theory certainly had enormous implications, I disagree with some fundamental aspects of his political opinion.
Over Fall Break, I went home to New Jersey to see my friends and family. While I was there, I was fortunate enough to attend numerous sporting events for my former high school. Friday night when I arrived, I went to Lombardi Field for the annual Powderpuff football game. This is a game hosted yearly, in which girls play a competitive game of football, and guys cheerlead for the girls! This game attracts an enormous crowd, filling the bleachers every year. This specific game is also very relevant to the course in terms of both lectures as well as course readings specifically regarding gender distinction.
First of all, it should be noted that most high schools around the nation do not have a football team for girls. Is this an example of institutionalized discrimination against women? Is this simply because of historic traditions regarding that football was originally played by men? Regardless of why females playing football is not a common sight, it is clear that a distinction exists between males and females regarding sports. Some sports are generally played by men while others are almost exclusively played by women.
Even in “The Playing Fields of Eton“, by Mika La-Vaque Manty, it is stated that heavier runners get their own weight class. Heavier men may be slower runners than men who are not so heavy, so they get their own category to compete. To maintain fairness and equality, categories are created to help heavier men compete against others who have the same disadvantage in regards to the sport. Women are also significantly different from men, yet they do not get to play football for an official organization. There is no professional institution for female football players. While the integration of both men and women playing a sport may be seen as impossible, the pure existence of “single gender sports” says a lot about society. Specifically, the integration of both genders in football as well as any other sport is nearly impossible at least for a very long time. Powderpuff emphasized equality in our school and made it known that girls can play football like boys, and that boys can cheerlead as well as girls can, but will this local high school game ever reach out to a higher level? I have never pondered that societal mystery until examining a long lasting high school tradition in regards to political theory.
The day after that intriguing and highly spirited football game, there was a girls volleyball game against a historic school rival. A game that was anticipated for months, very competitive in nature, and truthfully entertaining to watch, had attracted nearly no crowd. The bleachers to the main gymnasium had countless empty seats and the only supporters included me, some parents, and very few student fans. This connects to another major issue discussed in the readings. La-Vaque Manty, in “The Playing Fields of Eton” discusses how women rarely attract large crowds for sporting events. Even though legislation has been created for public institutions to treat men’s and women’s sports equally, sports for men have always generated more revenue. Women’s sports are rarely lucrative attracting only a small crowd at most events. The girls’ volleyball game was just as competitive as any boys’ volleyball game, and given that we were playing a historic rival should have made more spectators want to watch the game. As La-Vaque Manty discusses the social implications of the politics of women’s sports, I simply wonder why such a large distinction exists in spectator base. At the Olympic level, there are many spectators for events of both genders, but this is not so at every other level of competition. The fact that men’s sports and women’s sports are treated so differently, almost makes me question whether both genders are even playing the same sports. Sports are competitive, free, and voluntary, regardless of who is playing the sports. In
fact, sports are so competitive that fairness is ensured by the creation of classes either by weight in some cases, gender in nearly all cases, and disabilities. Caster Semenya for example, was considered one of the fastest women in the world, but she was harassed for her lack of certainty in regards to her gender. She went through numerous biological tests and regardless of her social classification since birth, she was tormented. Other women did not want to run with someone who seemed to be more of a man. This not only created great controversy, but probably has caused Semenya a fair share of emotional damage. Putting her in a tough position, the world would not let her compete in a sport she loved simply because of controversy regarding her gender.
Though competition aims to create equality in sports, it ironically tends to do the opposite, creating differences in both performance as well as spectator bases. If competition exists in sports for all, why is there a difference in the number of spectators? Going to the girls’ volleyball game gave me direct insight into this issue, making me realize that regardless of the equality that may seem to exist, in society today, there is unfortunately an underlying discrimination towards women in the United States. As discussed in class often, through guest speakers, course readings, and discussions, women and sports form a huge aspect of political theory. Considering how much can be assumed of human nature given gender differences and the sociological impact of sports, it is not hard to relate female sports events to political theory.
As manager of a competitive cultural dance team on campus, I made several parallels with Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, specifically regarding the methods of leadership. The dance team captain, let’s call him Adam, can be compared to a prince, while the dancers are all his subjects. Machiavelli, throughout the Prince, gives political advice in regards to how a leader can maintain his kingdom without his subjects rebelling. Numerous concepts emphasized by Machiavelli affect a person leading any type of group, including a captain leading his dance team while keeping all the dancers satisfied as a prince would do for his subjects. If the dancers are not satisfied, they will refuse to dance, affecting the general performance of the team negatively. If the team performs negatively, other teams, which can be seen as other kingdoms, will gain more glory at competitions. If other teams win competitions, it is analogous to an outside kingdom gaining political power in the form of military action.