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The Truong' s Foyer

Truong Ngoc Tung

few words
Great Ideas
the world of the man
special problems in sociology
The Truong's Foyer
beauty and art
theology and metaphysics


Statue of Liberty

   " Le moi est haissable", but my son, a genious son is worthed for praise...
     Before writing the topic, I would like to dedicate this page for him...
  Hanh's Family Tree
     Truong Ngoc Hanh                                                                                           Nguyen Thi Kim Long
                1                                                                                                                       1
                                              Truong Ngoc Tung

      When I (Truong Ngoc Hanh)  was a kid,  about two or three y.o.,  and was living in the revolutionary region a My Hanh Dong  , where my Father  was the principal and teacher of the school. 
      Under a heavy shelling by the airplanes,  we all had to move to the cellar.  The cellar was built under the  great bush of the roots of bambou,  behind the Foyer  of the family of my mother ( The Vo's Foyer )  .The cellar was wet and dark due to close to the river.
       I thought about the family. We did not want to see anyone in the family wounded by the bomb.  The relation between all the members in family  was very important to me since then!...

equalite of men...
        First, we need to see what said the Old Statement for human equality. Most of them were men of affairs with a lot of experience. They were aware that people do not haveedentical physiques, minds or possessions. They had only to look around them. They knew that the talents and virtues are very uevenly divided in this world. However, we are all men together, all human beings. All of us belong to the same species of animal, but each of usm shares, at least potentially, in the specialcharacteristics of that species. We have personality,rationality, free will, and responsibility. As the result of these things we have individual dignity or worth.
        We share in a common inheritance and a common destiny.Each of us has a personal way to make in the world, an individual destiny. So, men cannot rightfully be treated as if they were things, not a person. And because they are persons,it is wrong to use them merely as means.
        The authors of the Declaration did not mean that there are no differences between human beings. They did mean that all persons share equality,because they are all human beings., in certain rights that cannot rightfully be taken away by any government. They believed these rights to be natural and unalienable. Let us look again at what they said:
            We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are LIFE, LIBERTY and the pursuit of HAPPINESS.
         This message doesn't mean that Judy O'Grady and the Colonel's Lady were endowed with the same setup. had the same breaks, or having the same amount of money in the bank. But they are sisters under the skin and having the same Right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Ths application of the phrase was in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, in the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, and in the others documents.

        Now you can press me further, ansd say. of course,... this is all a bunch of hypocrisy. Where in our world do allmenhave equal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Arabs clamor for equality in French North Africa. It seems as if those who have the power decide how much...equality they have.Or, as the late George Orwell said in Animal Farm..." All pigs are equal,but some pigs are more equal than others...
       You might have gone further and noted that many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were slaveholders and that the Constitutionin its original form counts a slave as 3/5 of a man. Slavery was a respectable social institution in those times. Probably most of the signers of the  Declaration saw no contradiction  between the equality the proclaimed between Englishmen and Americals and the slavery that prevailed for Negores under Whites. However, Thomas Jefferson and a few other leaders opposed Negroslavery. And note that the Declarationdid not say:"All whitemen are created equal." The proclamation was universal; it opened the door to Freedom and Equality for all men.
      If you pay close attention to the way men argue for such enequities and injuctices, you will notice that they plead practical exigencies rather than ultimate right. In recent times, no one except Nazis and Fascits has actually argued for inequality among men as a matter of right.
     The writers of Declaration drew largely on the English philosopher John Locke for their theory of natural rights and their views on liberty and equality. You might, therefore, be intrerested in the passage from Locke'sessay: " On  Civil Goverment"
      Though I have said above " That all men by nature are equal"  I cannot be supposed to understand all sorts of "Equatity". Age or virtue may give men a just precedency. Excellence of parts and merit may place others above the common level... yet all this consists with the equality which all men have in respect of jurisdiction or dominion one over another."

the reality of progress...
       Would you regard the discovery and development of a new idea as a sign of  progress? The reason I mentioned because... the idea of progess is just an idea...It was first clearly stated by the  Abbe Saint - Pierre in the XVIII th century. It has been developed mostly in the last two hundred years.
         The basis notion of progress is that change for the better occurs inevitably in the ongoing course of time. Itr implies thatthere is real change in human history and that eventsdo not repeat themselves. Il also implies that this change is directed toward improvement or perfectio in human affairs Progress may have a definite goal, such as the classless ociety or perpetial peace, or it may be an endless process.
        The ancients take what is called a  cyclical  view of history. As they see things, everything that goes up must come down - in human affairs as well as in the world of bodies. History as well as Nature, has its seasons and its cycle of birth and decay. Cities rise and fall. Civilization advances for a while, and then it begins to decline. Aristotle even supposes that the knowledge which men have accumulated in the arts ansd sciences can be lost and will have to be regained again.
       From this point of view, which a modern writer such as Spengler shares, progress is an illusion. There appears to be some progress in human affairs if we look only at the upward side of the cycle of rise and decline. But that is only half the story. The other half is the very reverse of progress.
      But those who believe in progress can point to the advance with men have made since the beginning of history in the development of usefultools and instruments, in the improvement of all material conditions of life, and in the accumolation of knowledge. We have made tremendous advances in the part three hundred years in scienctific knowledge and technology, in the useful arts, and in the production of wealth. Not only have we made great progress, but we seem to be making it faster and faster.
     Will such progress ever come to an end? Not unless we destroy the conditions for making further progress by using the new weapons of destruction which progress has given us. This brings us to the really difficult questrion about progress in morals and politics. Will men ever become wise enough to devise and adopt institutions that will eliminate war together with all other forms of destructiveness?
    There is some evidence, however slight, thatr the human conscience has slowly improveds over the ages. We have witnessed in this century treatment of men by men which was as inhumane and cruel as trhe worst brutalities recorded in ancient history. Nevertheles, there are more human beings today who are deeply shocked by such treatment than ever existed before. We are more conscious of human rights. We have a profounder sense of the dignity of the individual man than our ancestors did.
    Some writers, such as Hegel and  Karl Marx , hold that moral and political prgress is inevitable. As they see it, the most fundamental law that governs history is the law of necessary progress. Opposed to them are writers like  Kant and  J. S. Mill, who think that progress is achieved anly by human effort. There is nothing necessary or inevitable about progress, they say. Whether human society improves or civilization advances depends entirely upon the choices men make.
    The deepest issue about progress concerns human nature itself. It all the progress that is possible restricted to improvements in human institutions, in the arts and sciences, and the externals of life? Or is human nature itself capable of progress or, as we might say, evolution from a lower to a higher form?
    The German thinker Friedrich Nietzche prophesies a superman-a new type of creature, beyond man as heis presently constitued. Marxists and utopian socialists look forward to a sup[erior human being as a result of achieving the perfect society. Religoious thinkers also hope for the development of a now type of man through a spiritual renaissance.
   I take the oppositer view.egard human nature as a constant and unchangeing factor which sets limits to the progressman can make. But while limited, much progress remains to bne made - much more than we have seen so far. And every step forward man realizes his potentialities more fully.
  I think it unlikely that man was closer in the past to the full realization of his potentialities than he is now or will be in the future.
the population explosion...
           Thomas R Malthus, an English clergyman and economist, started the modern discussion of the population problem in 1798 with his  Essay on the Principle of Population, as it  Affects the Future improvement of Society.  Malthus  asserts that the increase in population always tends to exceed the increase in the means of subsistence.  He believes that  a proper balance  between population and subsistence is attained through the decimating effects of war, famine and pestilence, and the debilitating effects of misery and viceamong the poor classes. Malthus  later modified his grim piocture to suggest that late marriage  preceded by strict continence might check population growth, but he had little hope that many people would exercise such restraint.
     Malthus wrote his essay to  prove that it is impossible to perfect society so that all men may live free from want or anxiety  about their subsistence.  Nature, he says, cannot provide for all, so only the fittest survive or live free from misery and want. When  Charles Darwin wrote his famous work,  The Origin of Species ( 1859 ) , he applied Malthus' idea  of..." the struggle for existence " to the whole organic world, but did not deal with the problem of human population growth in society.
     However, economists such as  Willian Graham Summer  used Darwin' s theory of natural selection to justify the competitive economic system of the XIXth century, with its attendant want and misery. Like  Malthus,  they hold that there are only so many places at nature' s table, and the extrapersons - who are competitively less fit - have no moral right to subsist.
     The most vigorous and bitter opposition to  Malthus  and the " social Darwinists" comes from  Karl Marx  and  Friedrich Engels,  the founders of modern communist theory.. They hold  Malthus' s  theoriy to be vicious and inhumaine defense of the iniquities of capitalism.  Marx  calls it " This repulsive Blasphemy against man and nature ".  They also consider  Malthus' s  eternal law of nature- which says that population always outruns subsistence - to be  utterly unfounded and unproved.
      Marx  and  Engels  ascribe the misery and want of their time to an ineffective and outmoded economic system, not to overpopulation. Men, unlike animals, are pruducers as well as consumers, they say.  More mouths also mean more hands,  Marx and  Engels  seek the remedy for human  want and misery in the better system of production and distribution, not in restricting  population growth. In a primitive economy, even one person to the square mile may be too much while in the modern industrial economy the same area may support 1000 persons without strain.
     The principles stated by Malthus  and  Marx - Engels  still dominate the discussion of the population problem today. A decreasing death rate accompanied by an intensive birth rate in countries like India and China, and a merely moderate increase in food production, has given new life to the Malthusian fears. Social and biological scientists have again raised the specter of too little food for too many mouths. Unlike  Malthus, however, they look to a decreased birth rate, not to an increased death rate, for the solution. Unlike  Malthus,  they do not seek to make life harder and shorter for the poor, but they seek to make it healthier and more dignified.
      Present day, anti - Malthusians  still look for the solution in better organization of production, more equitable distribution, and intensive utilization of natural resources. But they are usually not Marxists,  oppose communism, and want to work within the existing system of ownership.  They include people who for religious reasons oppose the artificial restriction of births.  Some  anti - Malthusians  agree with Malthus'  suggestion of delayed marriages preceded by strict continence, especially for countries like India.
     Many persons now advocate a middle position between the extreme Malthusian  arguments.  They want to combine more efficient production and distribution with limitations on birth, but they differ among themselves on the proper method of birth limitation.
What about conformity...
    Conformity  to the moods, tastes and opinions of the general public is a strictly modern phenomenon. The uprooting of the old social order after the French Revolution, the developement of mass communications, and the preponderant power of " public opinion " provided the conditions under which conformity  became a problem and a menace. This is by no means the same as the old problem of the tension between individual freedom and social authority, embodied in the state of the church.
   The modern " public "  as  Kierkegaard  pointed outmore than a century ago,  is not a real community made up of real persons. It is an abstract collection of individuals, " at the moment when they are nothing ",  that is, when they are being like everyone else. This is the public, the mass, the crowd, the ' they " to whose will and opinion we are all supposed to conform.
   In the poast century many perspective writershave dealt with the problem of conformity to this phantom public. One of the most masterly treatments of conformity comes to us from the pen of  John Stuart Mill.  It apprears to his famous work "  On Liberty ". It was written a centurty ago, but it sounds as if it had been written today.
     Mill  agrees with Kierkegaard  that the  individual is lost in the crowd. Uniformity is the ideal. Everyone is supposed to think and feel and act like everyone else. Collective mediocrity rules. Most people, says Mill ..." read the same things, see the same things, go to the same places, have their hopes and fears directed to the same objects "  ( This was before television ! ).
   According to Mill, there is no one to lead the masses or to resist their will. The thinking of the masses " is done for them or by men much like themselves " who speak to themand for them through the daily press. No class or institution can withstand the new government by mediocrity -  what the late  Georges Bernanos  call " mediocracy ". Nonconformity is left without an ally, even in high places.
   In the new order practically everyone conforms, whether his social position id high or low. What " others "  think is suitable prevails, not one' s own personal preference.  Mill  says  that conformity  affects not only our keeping up - or down -  with the Joneses,  but even the presumable sanctuary of intimate pleasures and feelings. "  Even in what people do for pleasure, conformity is the first thing thought of; they like in crowds; they exercise choice only  among things commonly done; peculiarity of taste, eccentricity of conduct, areshunned equally with crimes ".
      Because " they like in crowds "  says  Mill,  people cease to have any truly personal opinions or feelings. They cease to have  any real personality or character, because the springs of individuality and spontaneity have dried up. Personality and character are built by the exercise of discrimination, evaluation, and choice. If these personal faculties are not used, they grow blunt and dull and finally wither away.  When this happens, a man becomes depersonalized, a human automaton.
    Mill  maintains that individuality  and spontaneity  are essental for human well - being - both for the individual and for society. A society in which people merely copied one another or conformed to prevailing custom would not be human. A real community consists of real individuals, not of cabon copies. The more real life there is in individuals, says Mill,  the more there is in the society which they constitute.
   Mill calls for an extreme remedy in the present crisis, where we feel like moral lepers if we do " what nobody does "or do not do " what everybody does ". He says that it is our dutyto be eccentric. " In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. That so few dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time...".
the grounds of censorship...
      The controversy over censorship  goes back to the earliest times and is still being carried on today. The question is a difficult and delicate one, as are all questions concerning official control over matters that effect public morality.  Broadly speaking, three  main positions have been taken on this issue.
      You may remenber that Plato decided to banish  the poets ot dramatists from his ideal republic, because of the harmful influence  that he thought they would have. Plato insists that all the arts in his society shoud serve prescribed moral and political ends. He makes all of them, therefore, subject to governmental control.
      The rulers of the state sonsider themselves the custodians of virtue. They are under obligation to suppress any artistic activity that would weaken virtue and support artistic activity that would cause it to flourish. Plato' s views are typical of the FIRST POSITION, which advocates total political control of the arts and their products.
     Far at the other end of the scale is the position which insists on completely unfettered freedom for the arts. The classic defender of the position in John Milton . This notion is considered as the SECOND POSITION...He writes:
     I cannot praise a furtive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and un breathed, that never sallies out and sees the adversary... that which purifies us in trial and trial is by what is contrary. The virtue therefore which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure..."
       Milton makes a strong act of faith in human nature .He conceives it as more robust and far less corruptible than Plato  does. Accordingly, he recommends that individuals, aided by sound moral education, should be exposed to both good  and evill. They will, he believes, then choose the good. In his view, the virtue that results will be sounder for having been thus tested.
      The  THIRD POSITION lies between these two and borrow something from both. It asserts that the state should not determine what kinds of arts are permitted. This position, however, is distinguished from that of Milton by its insistence on reserving  to society some control over the exhibition  of works of art to the public at large. This is, in fact, the middle ground that we have adopted in America.
       Artistic activity, whatever its intention, can be regarded as contributing to or detracting from human welfare. In other words, art can and does have social effects. This does not mean that moral instruction is the primary function of the artist. The fact that works of art can be used by parent, minister , or teacher to serve his ends does not make the artist a moralist or teacher any more than it makes him a parent or minister. But insofar as art can have social effects, it is argued, it should be subject to some minimal social control.
       Understood this way, censorship is a way of protecting   the adolescent, the physically unbalanced, and the foolishl gullible from those who pander to and profit from their weakness. But everyone realizes that prohibitions are far less effective than ronust intellectual  and moral habits  which render human nature less frail.
       It also clear to many that censorship can be easily abused and can easily degenerate into arbitrary interference  with art. Censorship, for example, cannot assume responsibility  for the accidental effects of genuinely artistic works. It may be true that the very young, the emotionally disturbed, and even normal adults seeking excitation do, in some instances, find a particular play, book, or movie a stimulus of immortal conduct. But more often than not that has something to do with the particular spectator or reader and not with the work itself.
      The use or abuse of any social control exercised over the arts depends almost exclusively on the prudence, the discretion and the liberality of those who exercise the power of censorship. More important, however, is the reduction of censorship itself by raising private and public morality to the point where the necessity for censorship becomes negligible.
Orange mushroom
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                                             March 29 2010 ...The nature of a profession ( the world of the man )