“For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle.”(p7) On general principle when reading wordy books I try to keep my laptop close at hand, how much easier it is now to look up words than the days of my youth when I had to either stop to look the words up in the dictionary or write them down for later. But now alas, a new problem has occurred, which definition should be used. I had never heard of the Pythagorean maxim and considering I have not taken math in two years had long ago forgotten my friend the Pythagorean theorem, so I looked it up. Low and behold I found two different maxims, one “in a right triangle, the square of the length of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the lengths of the sides” (my Pythagorean Theorem from long ago). I guess this could make sense, something about strait lines from the front to the back of the ship and the length from the wind at an angle, the fact that I stumbled upon it at "mobydickthewhale.com” also encourages this interpretation but then, down in my Google results I saw a link entitled “The Strait Dope” and when I clicked on it informed me that the true Pythgorean maxim was “don’t eat beans” which was then confirmed by some of beans religious connotations in ancient Greece. A quick Wikipedia search confirms the Pythgoreans did not eat beans as part of their ascetic diet and the possible fart joke fits so well it seems to be true, but in the depth of Ishmael telling us of his suicidal tendencies he decides to make a fart joke? So is this comic relief, an upturning of the spirit before he enters the coffin Inn or just a silly misunderstanding on the part of some fun-hearted readers?
For its time, the structure of Melville’s text was not all-together that common. There are continuous references to the book itself, a self-awareness that is uniquely Mellvillean, constant fragmentation of the narrative, and chronological gaps and jumps. Not to mention the curious etymology and extracts sections before the book even begins. Furthermore, there seem to be three almost creative non-fiction chapters within the book, one on the classification and taxonomy of Cetacea, and another two on the defensive for the necessity and honor of whale hunters, which is only very loosely tied into the narrative: “As Queequeg and I are now fairly embarked in this business of whaling; and as this business of whaling has somehow come to be regarded among landsmen as a rather unpoetical and disreputable pursuit; therefore, I am all anxiety to convince ye, ye landsmen, of the injustice hereby done to us hunters of whales” (Melville, 118). This is prescient of the modernist rejection of traditionalism, but more importantly, it tries to take a poetic – artistic – view of very blue-collar, proletarian professions. In the very next chapter, “Post-script” Melville reminds us that the oil upon the heads of kings is thanks to none other than the whaler. This benevolent and admirable view of whaling certainly comes from Melville’s own experience as a whaler, but also, it serves to placate, rather than intensify (revolt against) perceptions of class differences. And what would Marcuse have to say about that?Therefore, through the eyes of Marcuse, is the voyage upon the Pequod evidence of what Marcuse would consider to be our 1960’s era predicament where internal strife and conflict is engulfed and eaten up by the societal structure? Is the whale, and the economic and adventurous opportunities that chasing and catching it allows for smooth over the individuality of each man on the voyage? Consider each person’s reasoning for entering the ship: the captains’ financial possibilities, Ishmael’s cure for haziness, Queequeg’s avoidance of his kingdom – are any of these actually considered or important one the Pequod leaves the harbor, or has the voyage itself rendered them pointless and inconsequential?
When reading Marcuse, I find that I often have to reread certain paragraphs upwards of three times. Every sentence is packed with ambiguous earth-shattering-esque knowledge. Half of my brain thinks it knows what the man might be saying, and the other just can't seem to process the amount of information coming in. This next quote is a prime example of the type of quote from Marcuse that both completely fascinates me, and at the same time, utterly perplexes me. "However, to the degree to which the established technical apparatus engulfs the public and private existence in allspheres of society—that is, becomes the medium of control andcohesion in a political universe which incorporates the laboring classes—to that degree would the qualitative change involve a change in the technological structure itself. And such change would presuppose that the laboring classes are alienated from this universe in their very existence, that their consciousness is that of the total impossibility to continue to exist in this universe, so that the need for qualitative change is a matter of life and death." (Marcuse, 25-26)This quote proceeds a paragraph on advanced capitalism and Marx's proposed qualitative change in the technical community towards the satisfaction of an individual's needs. However, Marcuse counters that change would completely alienate the existence of the laboring classes. It appears that Marcuse is suggesting that Marx's call for qualitative change is wrong. I suppose my question is this; for the most part, throughout the majority Marcuse presents the reader with one critique after the other of both capitalism and Marxism, however, at least in what I have been able to discern, he provides no proposition of a new system. This might be just me, but is it wise to dissemble two major political theories and propose no new alternative? Or is his critique of these two political entities a call for a less radicalized political leaning? In general, I'm curious as to what Marcuse's motivations are, and the reasons behind not only his ideas and critiques, but also, the complex and dramatic language he employs to get his thoughts across.
Early on in his chapter about the Closing of the Political Universe, Marcuse discusses how Communism and the universal fear of it has a unifying effect on not only people but, political parties within our capitalist society. The “threat from without,” as Marcuse terms it, encourages us to put aside our differences and over come our political affiliations in order to prepare a defense against communism and hinder it’s spreading. The ideology, according to Marcuse, claims that this will improve quality of life for Americans. He states that “mobilization against the enemy works as a mighty stimulus of production and employment, thus sustaining the high standard of living” (21). I read this statement as characterizing this phenomenon as a problem and I am just wondering why he sees it that way. I feel as though most people; most American’s rather need a common enemy in order to have any sense of nationalism. To fully pledge their allegiances to our country they must be against some other country or thing. What better thing then an arbitrary idea of Communism. I would contend that the average middle class American doesn’t fully understand what true Communism is and more often than not no physical or direct action can be taken against it. To most people the only way to show that you are against Communism is to show that you are a patriotic capitalist. And if showing that means there is slightly less tension between political parties and there is an incentive to be more productive at the industrial level I do not see where the huge problem with that is.
“How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts’ honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg—a cosy, loving pair.”(Melville, 58). The last paragraph of the tenth chapter says much about the relationship between Ismael and Queequeg. Because the two are put into a position where they are codependent on one another, it drives them to be very close. This is very similar, if not exactly the same, as the relationship between shipmates on a boat. They are put into a position where they are all extremely inter-reliant and therefore connected in a way that can be compared to the relationship of a man and wife. However, what strikes me as odd in this coupling is that this leads people to overlook the negative aspects of Queequeg across the board. The closeness of bedmates drives Ismael to overlook Queequeg’s paganism though it is strictly against his religion to do so. Ismael even goes as far as to defend Queequeg’s paganism as harmless, which goes against a major basis of Christianity; the oneness of God. Furthermore, the Captains of the Pequod overlook Queequeg’s obvious paganism because they are bound to benefit from his enormity and experience as a whaler. This may be a critique of relationships of dependence as a whole. We are willing to overlook negative aspects of others if we will benefit in the long run. Ismael; a bed, and a fellow whaler with much experience, the Captains; an experienced ship mate capable of making their expedition a success.
The character of Ishmael in "Moby Dick" is remarkable in several ways, but one facet of his personality that struck me more than others is his cathartic relationship with the ocean and whaling. His passion for the sea is one based in both fatalism and adventurousness, drawing both from the suicidal release of Cato as well as the magnetism to the shore Ishmael observes in young men. Perhaps we should take this obsession of Ishmael's in an industrial context, even though the setting of the novel is decades before the full blooming of the Industrial Revolution. He speaks of people "tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks", emphasizing their constrictive relationship with their work (4). Although working aboard a ship certainly involves work, it is a type of labor that frees Ishmael from the sort of drudgery he sees in many others. The naturalistic nature of nautical activity is set in sharp contrast from the repetitive, drab cycle of work that more conventional labor imposes on its employees.
“The society of total mobilization … combines in productive union the features of the Welfare State and the Warfare State. Compared with its predecessors, it is indeed a ‘new society.’ … The main trends are familiar: concentration of the national economy on the needs of the big corporations, with the government as a stimulating, supporting, and sometimes even controlling force” (Marcuse 19). As is the case with his first chapter, Marcuse opens the second chapter with another provocative opening statement. He is saying that the “new society” has some familiar trends that he doesn’t seem to shed a positive light on. The reliance of economy on big business is difficult to debate as much of today’s society is now almost monopolized. However, his description of the actions of government entails a great deal of issues. Describing the government as stimulating and supporting would recognize the fact that sometimes the government must step in for the free market system to remain intact. When he says that the government is a controlling, it seems to be the opposite connotations made by the first two adjectives. If the government were controlling, it would not be stimulating and supporting society, but dictating the actions of it. I just thought this was an interesting sentence that seems to have two different views put in it.
"Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian" (Melville 26).Up to this quote I liked Moby-Dick. After this point, I loved it. Yes, it's funny. But it's also interesting. In a book that is packed with allegory, the character of Ishmael is, while being named Ishmael, casting a negative light on Christianity by creating a situation in which he chooses a cannibal over a Christian. Beyond the power of alliteration though, I would be interested in discussing how everyone else responded to this moment in the book. Do you feel it is in fact Ishmael's way of condemning Christianity? And if so, how does that function within a story that's entire purpose is so strongly connected to biblical references and motifs? Or is this a condemnation of hypocrisy in general, in that Christians, by their own set of values, should probably refrain from heavy drinking to begin with, and thus Ishmael would prefer a cannibal over a hypocrite. Or is this Ishmael's way of saying that Christians are hypocrites, and if so do we as readers buy that it is in fact a reflection of the character of Ishmael's religious beliefs, or is it actually a reflection of Melville's?
The aspect of Moby Dick thus far that facsinates me the most is the differing descriptions of the christian based religion and the pagan religion that is practiced by Queequeg. From the very first sentence, askin the reader to refer to himself as Ishmael, sets up a large influence of the Bible on reading the text. Melville even spends an entire chapter on a sermon about Jonah and the Whale. While these Biblical names are present, it doesn't seem like Ishmael himself is very religious and though not stated perhaps may even be agnostic or an atheist. At the time that this was written, this may have been more of a controversial aspect of the reading than it is reading it in this century. The contrast with the ultimately positive descriptions of Queequeg, a devot pagan would perhaps further stir up some controversy in an audience of Melville's time. Ishamel shares pillow talk with Queequeg the canabal at the same time is very critical of Bilbad and his relgion, Quakerism. With regards to Bilbad practicing whaling and being a Quaker Ishamel states "He had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man's religion was one thing and this practical world quite another. This world pays dividends"(Melville 75). The fact that this comes up when discussing a Quaker rather than when discussing Queequeg's practice is interesting.
”Rejection of the Welfare State on behalf of abstract ideas of freedom is hardly convincing. The loss of the economic and political liberties which were the real achievement of the preceding two centuries may seem slight damage in a state capable of making the administered life secure and comfortable. If individuals are satisfied to the point of happiness with the goods and services handed down to them by the administration, why should they insist on different institutions for a different production of different goods and services?” (Marcuse, 50).When I read the preceding quote in One-Dimensional Man, it really made a great deal of sense to me. I believe that the Welfare State has made our society too comfortable to ever aspire to bring about the change that Marcuse is suggesting. Many would never want to venture away from our Welfare State to chase some philosophical idea of freedom, and why should they? It is hard to think of a better alternative that would be an easy transition for us to undergo. Our Welfare State does a decent job of caring for those less fortunate in our society, those who are in bad health, unemployed, or of poor socio-economic status. I do not believe that there is a better alternative for our society at this time. Why would we want to risk implementing the change the Marcuse suggests if we already have a system that a majority are comfortable with? How are we to trust that the ideas presented in One-Dimensional Man are really superior to the system that we already have in place? I think the success of America compared to that of other countries speaks for itself.
I think Marcuse places a bit too much evidence on the presence of governments when paired with industrialization as a means of oppression and control. I would argue that the text is at least showing some of its age by not bearing witness to the extent of globalization within current markets and governments. The government may have some level of autonomy but it is intrinsically tied to business, how would anyone ever be able to run for election without the backing of business, both personal and outside? We often make jokes about what politician is in what lobbies pocket but this quips contain more truth than we may realize. How is it that Facebook can dump a cookie into your directory that catalogs every website you visit and stores that information on Facebook servers without some lack of over site from a government watchdog? Business has greater influence now than over 50 years ago when this book was first published, the industrialization has moved to a much larger global scale. Industry has always been global but not to the extent we see today. Marcuse argues that the government and industry are feeding off one another but I would say that given enough time business could eliminate the need for government, no longer the United States of America but the United Apple Alliance, the Confederacy of Verizon/ATT. This is all very hippy corporations will rule the world man but that doesn't mean its wrong.
It seems to me that Ishmael has an extraordinary calmness with the prospect of death. In the extracts at the beginning of the novel, and also within the novel itself, the danger of whaling is mentioned and repeated over and over. Ishmael refers to his turning to the sea as his "substitute for pistol and ball" (3), basically his own form of suicide. Whether this suicide is metaphorical or a roundabout way of literal suicide is not yet clear, but nevertheless, Ishmael approaches the danger of the whaling ship with an astonishing amount of apathy. He does not seem afraid so much as excited for the adventure. Perhaps this nonchalance is due to the fact that the reader already knows that he has survived, is writing thereafter, and therefore his tale lacks the urgency of one facing mortal peril. Is his eagerness to go out whaling a soul searching endeavor or does he actually wish to die?