Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"The Damned Human Race": Live Blogging


Use this blog to participate both thoughtfully and frequently as you listen to the inner circle's discussion of Mark Twain's "The Damned Human Race."
Remember to use proper spelling and capitalization, to refer to the name of the person to whom you are responding, and to hit the F5 key to refresh.
Enjoy!

81 comments:

Laurenc said...

Am I the only one who thinks that Twain seems dead serious even after reading it a second time?

hannahl said...

Laurenc - Ya, it is pretty dry humor for sure.

lizc said...

Lauren- No, your not. I think so also. He likes to bash the human race all the time and he does it in his other writing. Huckleberry Finn is very racist and bashes humans a lot.

maddief said...

So my question is after reading this, is whether or not morality separates us from animals. Also, does morality inhibit us in the long run?

amyw said...

@laurenc---I agree. He seems really serious and straightforward, which is a juxtaposition to the satire. I think it makes the satire more intense.

morgant said...

Lauren- I think it's kind of hard to distinguish between when Twain is being satirical or serious. That is just what makes it hard to read, but for sure I kind of thought he was being serious.

lizc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurenc said...

lizc - Do you think this 'dislike' for the human race was based on the time period Twain lived in or do you think he would say the same things today? I thought about that a lot while I was reading but I couldn't really come up with a clear answer.

meganu said...

Lauren- I still think that Twain is completely serious. He says a lot of the same views that I have about the human race.

maddief said...

Lizc, do you mean that he is racist or that he is mocking racism? I felt like in this piece he was opposed to slavery.

ParkerH said...

I thought he was definitely kidding/being satirical a couple of times. Like during the "Man is the Religious Animal" section, it comes across to me as being satirical. Like the line, "He is the only animal that has the True Religion, several of them". To me, that stuck out. I laughed when I read that the second time, actually.

sabrinad said...

I thought that he was pretty serious. But it was frustrating because he was talking about humans which he was! Sometimes I feel he was writing as something "superior" to humans. Although I do agree with some points it is necessary I disagree pretty strongly with his points.

lizc said...

I'm sorry, I just have to say that man is not the only "animal" that engages in war. Many animals will fight and kill if their territories are invaded, like ants :) Maybe we are more eager for blood, but animals do fight.

MattN said...

Lauren- I totally agree i tried to see satire, but sadly, it all seemed true and dead serious which is the scary part!

morgant said...

maddief- I think on the whole morality thing that Twain is just trying to say that we should have no right to be mean to each other. We have the sense of right and wrong, and animals don't, yet they don't want revenge, or any of those immediate reactions that humans have towards each other.

alexf said...

I personally didn’t hate the piece, but at the same time, I didn’t like it either. I can understand where he is coming from and why he thinks that we are deceiving ourselves, but honestly, I think that he only went halfway. I think that instead of accusing, Twain needs to look at what animals do to each other! We aren’t the only ones that harm others. He really exaggerated just to prove his point.
Also, look at all the good things we have done!

EmilyJ said...

I feel like although Twain is making fun of the human race's lower status than animals, he is also putting himself lower. However, I think he is contradicting himself by writing this. This document shows the intelligence of the human being, and that he is able to decipher the attitudes of both and conclude and analyze from there. So it is almost like he is disproving his point, just by composing this essay.

KiraW said...

I think that this whole thing was a little confusing. Did Twain think he was above humans or was he a superhuman? He did bring up a few good points but over all he was really bashing on other people.

amyw said...

@laurenc---Exactly. We don't fight for the same things really, but both animals and humans do fight...it's instinct. Humans fight in war for territory and to have the most territory. Animals fight for food and survival (survival of the fittest).

lizc said...

Maddie- The way that he wrote Huckleberry Finn made him seem extremely racist and it is a banned book because of the racist elements. Personally, I don't like his writing.

shannanp said...

I think that Twain contradicts himself alot. He said that there are higher animals with man at the bottom (page 2), but then he says "He [man] is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throart if his theology isn't straight." (Page 4).

meganu said...

My whole thinking while reading this piece was that even though our expanded minds free us and allow us to think on our own, they also imprison us and screw us over, putting it bluntly. We are very conscious about ourselves and our status over everyone else. I think this complexity of our brains has allowed them to become corrupt.

melissaz said...

Can anyone help me, I don't know if Twain is supportind Darwin's theory or bashing it. I did a little research and know he supported Darwin's theory, but I can't tell what point he is trying to get at through this. What do you think his bigger picture is?

marissas said...

Lauren, I took Twain literally even after reading it a second time. Whether or not he was being satirical or trying to be humorous, I still found it very offensive.

hannahl said...

Did anybody agree with some of the things Twain said? How does this relate to world civ. (if you are in Hawthorne's class you know what I am saying)?

ParkerH said...

People, the point wasn't that this was all right. He was being satirical. The whole point was that it isn't true! No offense to anyone.

lizc said...

Twain, in a way, is making fun of his own knowledge. It seems like he thinks that we aren't worthy of what we have, and how much knowledge than we can hold in our minds.

alexf said...

Oh Sabrina, I totally Agree! As I was reading this I was like, “ok, I see where you are coming from, but really, what are you trying to say?” I think that he should have at least come up with ideas to fix this instead of just accusing.

maddief said...

Based on the inner circle discussion, I think that Rya's dog has an idea of what is okay or not okay. However, this isn't based on morality, it's based on fear and punishment. Humans' morality is a result of society/religion deciding good and evil.

amyw said...

sabrinad---I don't really think he was acting superior; he was making fun of everyone including himself.

hannahl said...

melissaz- I think that he might be bashing those who don't agree with Darwin, possibly. I say this because he is showing how ridiculous all of the alternative theories must be.

lizc said...

I thought it was odd how he was "performing" experiments. I'm sure that he made them up. Was anyone else confused with that?

roser said...

I thought it was acually a funny essay and agreed with many of his points...humans seem exactly the way he describes

catem said...

Sabrina~I think that a lot of the essay was focused on how humans are so quick to judge others, but judging ourselves and our actions is one of our large weaknesses.

Laurenc said...

In response to Meganu's comment I'm wondering how many of you agree with Twain to any extent. Does he have a point or is he completely out of line? What do you all think?

Personally I can see where he is coming from but it makes me sad to hear someone who has lost so much faith in their own race. It's almost like giving up and setting yourself higher then the rest of your fellow men.

marissas said...

Kira- I think he was in a sense putting himself above the rest of humanity. Of course, he himself has never sunk as low as we humans have. He may have been being satirical about this though.

ParkerH said...

Kira~
It says in the beginning that he was just studying the "lower animals" or whatever and he was contrasting them to man, and that he "found the result humiliating". So he was saying this as a human, not anything else.

shannanp said...

Sabrinad-
It really did seem like Twain was writing as though he felt that he is so much better than man and that he is apart of a superior human family. Why do you think he feels this way? Do you think that he thinks that humans are very ignorant.

catem said...

Lizc~ I think that his reference to experiments is just another way to enhance his satire.

mollyd said...

I agree with some of the comments other people are making. How can he keep bashing humans when he himself is a human and has made the same mistakes. I also found his back up and research very interesting. He takes one event that happened in the animal world and the human world and then stretches both to make a weird and outlandish assumption.

meganu said...

Liz- Yes, I'm completely sure he was making up his experiments. I think he was just trying to prove a point by making it say he has hard, proven facts.

Oliviak said...

lizc
the difference between animals fighting and humans is we go to war and we fight in big groups where animals it is usually only one animal against one animal.

KateP said...

shannanp- I agree, throughout the article I kept finding Twain contradict himself too.
Reading this kind of made me angry because it is really hard to know when he is being satirical. The first time a read it, I thought that he was completely serious.

MattN said...

maddief- I totally agree! How do we differentiate between mans intelligence and animals intelligence! I believe animals have just as much feelings and thoughts as we do!

rachels said...

The first time I read it I had troubles seeing what he was satirizing at first too. I'm not sure if Twain is dead serious throughout the entire peice, but overall the tone is really bitter towards humanity. Does anyone have any ideas about what this is possibly supposed to be satirical of? I thought maybe our own feelings of superiority or people who don't agree with Darwinism, but his style of writing makes it hard to be sure.

alexf said...

I can understand where he is coming from and why he thinks all this, but I also found it a little demeaning. If this is all true, then apparently we are horrible horrible people. However, the thing that bugs me is that he never actually proposed ideas of how to fix mankind…instead, he just criticized…

sabrinad said...

Cate-
I agree with you. We are slow to judge ourselves, but I think that he pushed it too far. The entire paragraph on moral sense explains this because I think that morals also keep us doing GOOD things.

KiraW said...

Do you guys think that he had any people to help him with these experiments, or do you think that he by himself found all these things?

EmilyJ said...

lizc- Yes I was thinking about that too! He doesn't seem like much of a scientist, and he didn't have any proof to confirm he did these experiments and got results. So I almost think he made it up too.

catem said...

Marissa and Kira~ Do you think that part of the satire was that he was insulting all of the faults of humanas when he himself is a human?

lizc said...

Olivia- That's what I meant by ants. They fight in packs and with their colony, but they have better reasons.

maddief said...

Alexf, I totally get what you're saying. Twain only focused on our short-comings, not how far society has actually progressed. Today we bother to make peace treaties, unlike in the past where every group of people was out conquering others. However, Twain's point is that there is still war on others period.

melissaz said...

Shannan- I totally noticed that point while I was reading. That line really stood out to me and in the midst of all of his criticism, or satirical criticism, some of his points could be argued the other way. I personally think our Moral Sense is a gift. Yes evil comes from it, but so does positivity.

Laurenc said...

maddief - Exactly! It's all based on what you can get away with in the animal kingdom. A dog might try to get the peanut butter off a mousetrap and if he gets snapped he won't try to do it again. It's the same with humans. The majority of us wouldn't even think of hurting someone because we know we'll get in trouble.

MattN said...

mollyd- I totally agree with you! He stretches his facts and they make little to no sense!

morgant said...

Alex- I totally agree with you!! I almost felt like he was dehumanizing us by putting us on a level "below animals." I felt it was kind of weird. And, you are right, he didn't offer any ways to fix the problem he's accusing us of.

lizc said...

EmilyJ- So maybe the experiments were adding to the effect of things. He wanted to make a point so he was using "scientific" information that he made up as part of his cryticism. Also, it is supposed to be dry humor, and that is an addition to it.

amyw said...

I think that a lot of people are shocked by this piece because some of the stuff in it really is true but we don't want to admit it...every species has downfalls and he is being very straightforward about ours.
Keep in mind that this is satire; not all of it is meant to be taken seriously. A big part of satire is exaggeration.

amyw said...
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melissaz said...

Hannah- I did find myself agreeing with some of his ideas. Although some of his paragraphs were harsh, he had some valid points about a large portion of the human race. There are parts that I disagreed with, but also some things I understood.

marissas said...

Cate- Yes, I can see where your coming from. I guess it makes more sense, seeing as he does use a lot of satire in his writing.

catem said...

Sabrina~ I know it seems like he is pushing it too far, but I think that he pushes so far because if he didn't people may not realize it was a satire.

ParkerH said...

MorganT~
I wouldn't say he's "dehumanizing" us. I know what you mean, but seeing as he's saying that every single one of us (in his satirical way) is some bad person that has all these bad attributes, we kind of stay on the same level. I can't come up with a good word for it, but he essentially elevated everything else above us, not lowered some portion of us down to "below human" standards. Does that make any sense at all?

Oliviak said...

I think Twain's main point is that man wants to have the most and wants to be on top they want to be the king its just what we do.

melissaz said...

Hannah- Thank you, that helps!

KiraW said...

Cate:

Possibly, if you do look at that satirically than it makes sence, but his entire research seems that he was trying to prove humans are bad and evil while he himself was human.

alexf said...

MaddieF~
True, but I think that it’s just how you look at it. (Half-full or half-empty?) What I mean by this is, yes, there will always be bad things happening, but at the same time, there is always good happening too. I think that, although I did find his piece very funny, he is just being utterly pessimistic whereas anyone else could write a totally opposite piece revealing all the good things that we have done.

sabrinad said...

Lauren-
I disagree with you. I think that most humans do not harm others not because we are afaid of getting into trouble but instead because we know that is horrible and would not wish to be hurt ourselves. Does that make sense?

Laurenc said...

Hannahl - As much as I hate to admit it I could also see Twain's point and agreed with parts of it. I think that even with that said however you can't judge such a diverse race entirely on the actions of one portion. The evil is always focused on while the good is overlooked.

rachels said...

catem - I definitely think that is part of the satire. Do you think he could be satirizing our own cricisms of a society that we're a part of?

mollyd said...

Kira- To me it seems that he was alone in his "experiments". He is the only person who ever mentions anything like this so I think he was on his own and got a bit carrieed away.

EmilyJ said...

lizc- I agree with you. I can definitely understand why he would be saying that to add to the effect of things, because it captures people's attention and makes his point seem more believable. You can tell that his goal in these "experiments" was to add to the satire, which is a good effect.

amyw said...

parkerh---That makes a lot of sense. He's speaking in terms of everyone and mocking everyone, including himself. He brings himself down to the level that he brings everyone else down to.

MattN said...

Parker!!! Yo...I totally agree with you! I tried to read it with a satirical mind and i found most of it funny, but there where those steps where his explanations are scarily true and it scares me to know that humans actually act that way!

Laurenc said...

Sabrina - oh I understand what your saying completely. But think of this. I'm not saying everyone thinks that way but let's think of how much more horrible the world would be if crimes went unpunished. Wouldn't there be a lot more crimes commited?

morgant said...

Parker- Well, yea, I agree. 'Dehumanizing' isn't a very good word for it, I just said the first thing that came to my mind. I just think he was putting animals above us which almost makes us less than them.

ParkerH said...

Alex~
I have to agree. The obvious counter-arguement to something like this kind of helps prove his satirizing of it all. He wouldn't be able to write this sort of thing if we weren't at least a few things that put us above animals (like the ability to have languages, both written and vocal) ;)

hannahl said...

I think that love can exist in animals, the only difference between ours and theirs is that ours is fake and based on television.

amyw said...

I think the experiments were a way of taking the satire even further. Everyone reads about "studies" and their findings, and in a sense I think he was making fun of this.

alexf said...

Parker H~
I see what you’re saying about not dehumanizing but rather elevating others, but he never actually said the bad things that animals do also!

catem said...

Yes Rachel, I do. I think that he is just trying to show how one of our largest faults is realizing our faults, and the satirical part of this is he isn't critizing his own faults.