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Ruth Benedict's ideas of culture diversity advances harmony and balance in the society. Even though the individual lives his life independently, he is submerged in the ocean, which is the society. There is no friction between the individual and the society since they benefit from one another. Culture provides the individual with the framework on which he lives. If culture gives him the best, he benefits and can rise to very high levels. On the contrary, if it provides him with inadequacy, he suffers. The individual's private interest is served by the wealth or poverty of his civilization (Benedict, 253). He can only operate within the standards of the tradition in the society. The individual can add to the traditions, but his operations are limited to lie within the richness or poverty the society has provided him. Realization of his potential is influenced directly by what society has provided to him. For illustration, society imposes laws upon him, which influences and limits his actions. Nevertheless, cultures collective habit surpasses the need for creation of proper legal form of governance.
On the other hand, Ralph Emerson's essay the individual is king and directs his destiny. He commands and influences every activity and fate. The individual lives independently apart from society. His input is far more important than what society provides (Waldo par 3). He is the one that influences the society and his contribution has the effect of affecting the entire universe. Rather than listening to the many views that society may put across, the individual is far much better off obeying his thoughts. Ralph Emerson gives examples of exemplary individuals like Plato and Milton who influence society by firmly stating their thoughts. These men teach us that the individual should listen to his thoughts than to relay on the teachings of the society. The two authors thus, present conflicting ideas. Ralph Emerson says that the individual should influence the society while Benedict portrays that the individual and the society depend on each other.
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Emerson would agree with Benedict on only one issue. That in absence of society, the individual would do what is right. If the individual was to operate in an environment with no rules and regulation, no government and all the dictates that society easily put on the individual. He would live according to what his mind teaches him. Benedict points out such an illustration in referring to American Indians (Benedict, 258). He quotes them saying that in the days gone, there were no quarrels about hunting and fishing territories, there was no government or law and everyone did what he believed to be the right action. Likewise, Emerson asserts that it is proper for an individual to believe in his own thoughts. Believe that what is true for one is in his heart. This is what should initiate action for one will act according to his thoughts (Nordquist, par 6). He quotes that the innermost thoughts will soon be visible outside.
An individual should be careful to watch that which originates fro m his mind. Emerson would disagree bitterly with the idea that the society provides the individual with the structur in which he operates thus he should conform to it. As he puts it, to him the issue of an individual conforming to the dictates of the society is intolerable. He likens an individual to an infant who does not conform to anyone's wishes but all give in to his. The individual should be a nonconformist. Emerson believes that society is in conspiracy against the individual. Its desire is that the individual should conform to its teachings. It hopes that not a single individual will be self-reliant. All must respect its teachings. Thus, the society silences the thoughts we hear in solitude. It causes these thoughts to be inaudible as we grow into adulthood. The mind of an individual generates goodness that should be explored. Emerson believes that the society hinders this as it promotes the idea of conformity.
Ruth Benedict points that there must be a balance, an individual depends on the society and the society requires the input of the individual. One needs society for his or her own individuality. For the survival and progress of society, it needs the individual. The traditional stores in the society serve the interests of the individual (Globalshiksha, par 4). In individual in the context of society gets reassurance and security from it. Benedict argues that these factors shape the individuals religion, ethical sanction, dogma and ceremonialism, thus guiding him to his destiny. For instance, religion exists to soothe the individual. Illustrating from the Zuni religion, gods are similar to the individual. The individual dances as the gods, the individual is in this illustration sensual. She further argues that religion articulate the individual's imaginativeness.
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His imagination shows him a world beyond the ordinary, which the individual expresses in religion (Transcendentalists, par 8). Imagination can therefore direct social change. The individuals urge to direct events and elaborate fantasies transforming cultural available means and ends. Benedict compares religion and myths and explains that just as religion give the dreamer a supernatural quality, so does myth accords the details of daily life an extraordinary character. Thus the individuals desire to change prevailing conditions expands to an impulse to modify the universe. The individual considers these attempts as sacred. Benedict points out that this boils down to mass deception and delusion. Owing to the fact that the individual is crafty, he makes religion a pathway to success.
These arguments presume individuality. enedict believes that group values describe individuals' behavior but exempts motivation of his culture. The individual is submerged in his culture. Cultural pattern creates the individual. He is being molded by the prevailing culture in the society he lives in. society and the individual are protagonists. Culture in the society gives him the raw material that enables him to live his life. His every achievement or failure is determined by the culture in the society. He can only succeed if the culture has provided the required mechanism that generates such success. Society may bar someone and put them outside its boundaries since the individual do not connform to certain attributes of its culture. The same person may be accepted in another culture.
Emerson on the other hand disregards the existence of various cultures. He says that culture and society at large are in are in conspiracy to ensure that the individual conforms to their dictates. He refuses to buy this and teaches that each individual should be a nonconformist. The individual should refuse to listen to these voices. To surrender to culture should be hindered by all individuals. Each individual should only explore his own mind. He quotes that many educated Americans travel as far as England, Egypt, and Italy in the quest to retain self-culture. He says that those who made these places venerable in the mind began by sticking where they were. He concludes that the soul is no explorer. An individual should stay at home by going the missionary of wisdom. From these explanations, it is clear that Emersion and Benedict hold two opposing positions regarding culture. Benedict claims that culture and the individual are inseparable while emersion views both culture and society as components that derail the individual from being self- reliant.
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Surprise would engulf Benedict by the thought of an individual being a nonconformist. He believes that an individual does not choose whether to give in to the requirements of the society or not. In his mind it is not an option, one naturally conforms to the dictates of the society. Tradition or life cycle causes the individual to conform. The regulative activities of society naturally impose themselves on him. The society imposes laws upon the individual. An example is the speed that an individual must drive his vehicle. As much as the individual might love to be free from this law, he cannot. If this law can is removed, the individual is much freer. Society and the individual are always competing. Benedict refers to this as naivety. On this issue, his view is very different from Emersions'. Benedict says that society is only regulative at certain situations and that law and order is not comparable to the social order. Emerson on the other hand believes that the society is always putting pressure on the individual to conform. He further argues the individual should resist conforming to the voices of society. The individual should only conform to the voices in his mind, the dictates of his soul when he is in solitude.
Benedict thus supports the idea that an individual should conform to the dictates of the society. She views those who do not conform as being outside the game. She gives an illustration of someone who refuses to conform as his fellow brothers. Someone that do not show fear as everyone else in the society does. He does things that are considered by the particular society as scandalous. He pats women playfully in public, which other members believe is disgraceful. Benedict believes such a person is not in the game (Benedict, 254). Such behaviors may be fitting according to Emerson. He would support such behavior because they show that the individual is a nonconformist. The individual act according to what he believes is right and refuses to hear the voices of everyone else.
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