Governance and Equality
The debate about governance and equality has been ongoing for many years with a special focus of women rights and roles as compared with the role of men. On one hand, the idea that women have historically been abused by men has a deep origin in biology and human psychology. On the other hand, it can be argued that women face oppression because men do not understand women. While the first statement is pessimistic in nature in that it assumes that the situation cannot be reversed, the second statement is more optimistic in that it put some hope on tools of education and persuasion in regard to changing the situation. Beyond the gender role, different systems of society have promised equality and democracy to no avail and the end product has been a long string of lies that widens the equality gap even further. The purpose of this paper is to explicate the issue of governance and equality as depicted in literature with a special focus on the Utopia, 1515 and In Praise of Folly and how these depictions define equality.
In praise of Folly, as written by Desiderius Erasmus is a satire where a feminine personality by the name Folly is used in exposing the contradictions and weaknesses that characterized church leaders after institutionalization of Christianity. Most importantly, In praise of Folly touches on issues such efficacy of the saints, indulgences and their buyers, the role of the priests in popularizing indulgences and saints and the disputations executed by scholastic theologians as well as the monk’s activities as compared with the teachings of the Christ. Utopia, on the other hand, is an attempt to visualize a society where all men and women will be equal, where things will be shared publicly and where freedom will be accorded to each and every member of the society. In this new society, it is expected that all people will be happy and contended with life and communal ownership of property would ultimately lead to abundance.
The two writings begin by describing societies in which there are strict prerequisite rules for happiness to be achieved. It is anticipated that in are people are treated equally and that there is no distinction between a man and a woman. In describing the equality between men and women, Folly the main narrator points out that “So nobly were they taught that there was neither he nor she amongst them but could read, sing, write, play upon several musical instruments, speak five or six several languages…”. This suggests that men and women in this society are given the same rights including the right to education. This can also be depicted from utopia where every man “Throughout the island [Society] …wear the same sort of cloths without any distinctions, except what is necessary to distinguish the two sexes and the married and unmarried.”. In this perfect society, women are given the same role and are treated the same with their husband with the only distinction being one’s sex.
The two writings also condemn the reliance on academicians as the best people fit for governance role. In his book for example, Erasmus sees philosophers as absurd, unfit and se-congratulatory to be able to govern any kind of a province. In this context, Folly argues that the personality and behavior of philosophers and theologians do not add to social gatherings as they are reticent and generally dour. For example, while referring to the theologians, Folly points out that they “…in their self satisfaction may be ranked…the religious and the monks both terms quite wide of truth, since a good part of them are a long ways from religion…”. This indicates that in utopia society, it is not always the right decision to be ruled by the elite since not all they think they know may actually be true. In fact, Folly makes reference to supernatural powers as the source of help. In utopia, reference is also made to acceptance of singular rule. More specifically, utopia warns against property ownership arguing that it would lead to formation of titles and eventually unequal division of wealth. More points that “…plentiful soever a nation may be, yet a few dividing the wealth of it among themselves, the rest must fall into indigence”.
In terms of humankind’s abilities and vanities, The praise of Folly gives a good idea of the humanistic reforms and their effects on the society. In a way, this discourages reforms and gives insights into continuing problems in life. More importantly the author is keen to note the problems associated with institutionalized reforms such as the case where Christians are misled to believe one thing while the opposite is the truth. Folly points out that the “…apostles knew the mother of Jesus, but who of them could philosophically prove how she was preserved from the sin of Eve, as our divines”. This indicates that while Christians are made to believe in the teachings of Christianity, the saints and the apostles cannot prove the subtleties involved in refining the earlier teachings.
While accepting that women and men should be treated equally, both utopia and The praise of Folly suggests that there are subtle differences in societal expectations on the two genders. In utopia, the leader of the family is the oldest man in the family. “Wives serves their husbands, and children their parents, and younger serves the elder”. Every society is divided into four sections and the middle of them is where the marketplace is located. For the most part, “… [women] deal in wool and flax, which suit best with their weakness, leaving the ruder trades to the men”. In The praise of Folly, the narrator speaks of the importance of flattery pointing out that only flattery can have unified the primitives. Folly also explains that a man as compared with the woman has a higher degree of reason. She however advises man to take woman as a companion arguing that though they are stupid and clumsy animals at the time, they are also endearing and funny. To this end, Erasmus reinforces the traditional role expectation of women by the society by displaying the woman as a property or as being inferior to men. This is despite the fact that Folly herself is a woman who claims to have power over all other things. Presumably, it is out of their beauty that women have power over men.
In conclusion, In the praise of Folly attempts to discuss or visualize a society where people would enjoy maximum happiness and where property would be communally owned to avoid inequality. The two writings are categorical on gender equality arguing that both men and women should be treated as equals. In terms of gender roles however, the two stipulates some gender specific roles with women serving the roles that are relatively simple or which requires less energy. In terms of governance, the two authors seem to share the notion that a society does not have to be ruled by the elite for it to succeed and that it is this group of leaders who orchestrate inequality in the first place.