Tolethya Quillet July 25, 2002
Existentialism and the American Ideals:
Freedom, Patriarchy, and Racial Oppression
The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte is known to have established existentialism in France after the liberation of Paris in 1944. Existentialism is the philosophy that states that the values people choose influences the choices they make and how they interpret the meanings of their decisions. When existentialism was introduced in the United States, it challenged Americans to access their ethical standards from a different perspective.
America is associated with being "The land of the free". However, the American society has set standards on women's roles and racial castes and until these oppressions are eliminated the entire society will never have freedom. What is freedom? Freedom, as defined by Krisnamurti, is a state of mind in which there is no fear or compulsion, no urge to be secure. In the American society there is a need for security and there is fear. People conform to society's ideas to feel secure and fear being different, fear thinking on their own to set their own standards and choose their own values. Sartre's existentialist view of freedom is that it preexists value choices. Because people do not freely choose and follow their values, society creates ideals that control their views in life. These ideals are supposed to maintain order in society by showing everyone their place, but these ideals displace what society should stand for and prevent people from freedom. Should people follow societybs norm or become existentialists and think on their own?
Society has set limits on gender roles with ideals such as male privilege and patriarchy. Patriarchy is the political structure to control womenbs thoughts on their sexuality, laboring, and place in society so they become fixated on thinking they are sub-standard to men. Women are classified as physically, emotionally, politically, intellectually, and economically weaker than men. Women can uphold the same positions as men; but they are paid less, harassed more, and receive fewer opportunities. In the media, women are more exploited than men and it is often portrayed that women are inferior to men. Women and men are treated differently in society, and women have frequently been unable to participate fully in all social areas. However as society has become more technologically advanced, women have shown that they posses the same amount of capability and intelligence as men. Feminism works to change the unjust theories in society by replacing old ideals with a new perspective that women are not inferior to men but are equal. I believe that if society applied an existentialist view into their lives there would be no need for feminism because everyone would agree with what feminism stands for, and patriarchy and male privilege would cease. People would begin to choose values that would incorporate each sex equally because they would begin to think about how the meanings of their decisions affects everyone in society.
If people could begin thinking of how their decisions affect others, it could broaden their view that America is not "The land of the free" if minority races are still being oppressed in this country. Society stereotypes different races in the media, politics, education, and every other aspect of life. Society places certain races on a pedestal with stereotypes that they are better than others and stronger in most areas of life. Because of this belief, minorities are slighted for opportunities. Reasons such as location, past heritage, and stereotypical ways cause minority races to receive less funding for education and fewer job opportunities. In entertainment and the media minority races are belittled with degrading stereotypes of their culture that usually do not apply to everyone in that race and limit societybs perception of that race; there are also less roles for different portrayals of their cultural ways. Groups that put their culture in a view of supremacy cause other races not to strive for higher standards in life because of fears. These fears cause minorities to turn to other ways to try to achieve a better life that they are often oppressed from. Aside from the biases of minority races that crime and selling illegal substances confirms in society's views, it also weakens the entire society because of the lack of education and employment that these races suffer from. These views increase the crime and drug rate and oppose and depreciate the freedom, unity, and diversity our society is supposed to stand for. Instead of separating races from opportunities and having certain groups work to try and obtain equality, everyone in society b the majority races and the minority races- needs to work together to improve the conditioned views of society so that all people are equally represented in all aspects of life and society. The currency used in the United States by all its citizens is printed with the phrase "In God We Trust," and didn't God create all men equal? An existentialist view could help the majority races and upper-class people realize that their close-minded, stereotypical views and values are oppressing and discounting people with the exact abilities that they have and that those views and values weakening society. They could choose new values that would allow equal opportunity for all people and a better society would be able to come into existence. Minorities could use an existentialist perspective to improve their standards of themselves.
The American ideals on patriarchy, male privilege, and race will continue to oppress the entire society from freedom until these views can be changed as people realize what freedom really is. People must first free themselves from society's views by realizing that they have a negative affect on everyone. They must freely choose their own values. When people in society assess their ethical standards from a new perspective and become existentialist, freedom will preexist value choices and people will choose values with the equality of everyone in mind.