The Shia and Sunni Conflict in Relation to the Iraq War

Throughout history in the Middle East, a battle has been playing out between Shia and Sunni communities.  This conflict and mistrust began after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam.  The Shia and Sunni communities are the two major Islamic sects in the Islamic world.  Within the Sunni sect, they believe that the new Caliph (head of the Caliphate, ruler of Islamic Ummah) should not be from the Prophet Mohammed’s family, but instead believe that the Caliph should be elected and appointed by a Muslim Shura (governing body).  The Shia sect believes that the new leader should be direct relative of the Prophet Mohammed such as his cousin/son-in-law, Imam Ali.  The differences in each sect’s power and majority/minority status varies country to country.  For instance, there is a Shia minority in the countries of Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.  However, in the countries of Iraq and Iran the majority of their populations are Shia Muslims.  In Iran, the Islamic government has been ruled by the Shia majority since the fall of the Shah (King of Kings in Iran) in 1979.  In Iraq, the situation the Sunni minority ruled the country until the fall of Saddam Hussein.  Now with Saddam Hussein out of power the Shia within Iraq control the government.  The biggest reason for conflict between the Sunni and Shia is because that each side when in power, will often mistreat the other in terms of limiting opportunities related to employment, lifestyle, or social freedoms.

The following describes the relationship between Ali and the Prophet Muhammad:  “When Ali was six years old, he was invited by the Prophet to live with him, and Shias believe Ali was the first person to make the declaration of faith in Islam.  He fought in all the battles the Prophet did except one, and the Prophet chose him to be the husband of his favorite daughter, Fatima.  The Imamate began with Ali, who is also accepted by Sunni Muslims as the fourth of the ‘rightly guided caliphs’ to succeed the Prophet.  Shias revere Ali as the First Imam, and his descendants, beginning with his sons Hassan and Hussein, continue the line of the Imams until the twelfth, who is believed to have ascended into a supernatural state to return to earth on Judgment Day.  Shias point to the close lifetime association of the Prophet with Ali.  The Shia believes that Imam Ali should be the first leader of Islam while the Sunni believe that first leader should be chosen among people” (Library of Congress country studies May 1988).  This is essentially the foundation for the separation in ideologies regarding each sect.  Events that occurred over 1400 years ago set the stage for modern-day Shia/Sunni conflict. 

The segregation and mistreatment of each sect toward the other is often encouraged by  religious clerics on each side that wish to focus on their limited differences instead of similarities. This has led to a separation of people and ideas within the region.  The following outlines the history of  persecution of the Shia: “Among Shias the term imam traditionally has been used only for Ali and his eleven descendants. None of the twelve Imams, with the exception of Ali, ever ruled an Islamic government. During their lifetimes, their followers hoped that they would assume the rulership of the Islamic community, a rule that was believed to have been wrongfully usurped. Because the Sunni caliphs were cognizant of this hope, the Imams generally were persecuted during the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties ”(Library of Congress country studies May 1988).  Each side now views the other with mistrust and constant misunderstanding has become the norm and it will continue to be difficult for each side to overcome in Iraq and beyond.  The constant struggle taking place between the Shia and Sunni in Iraq is also the biggest reason that a civil war has been taking place in Iraq. 

When Saddam Hussein was in power he was able to maintain his Sunni dominated control of the country by the use of extensive violence as well as the threat of violence.  One example of his brutality was the gassing of the Kurds in 1988, towards the tail end of the Iraq-Iran War.  The Kurds that reside in the north part of Iraq known today as Kurdistan by those that live there have ties to their people in Turkey and Iran.  Much of the oil in the country of Iraq is in the Kurdish north (estimated to be the sixth largest oil reserve in the world) and Saddam Hussein was not going to allow this valuable resource to be possibly taken from his control.   In order to maintain his control he decided to gas the Kurds with deadly poisonous gas, which killed between 3,200 and 5,000 people and injured another 7 ~ 10,000 people (mostly civilians) with a combination of VX, nerve gas, and mustard gas, which earned him international condemnation for his actions (Jim Karygiannis 16th March 2010).  This action was also intended to send a message that he would not tolerate any dissension towards his rule within the Iraqi population.  After the First Gulf War, Kurdistan was made into a safe haven.  It became autonomous and was ruled by the Kurdistan Regional Government.  Hussein used intimidation techniques throughout his rule against other political opponents, but the gassing of the Kurds was one of the most brutal and extensive uses of force during his tenure. 

The Shia and Sunni may have not completely trusted one another during Hussein’s rule of Iraq, but in order to not get the attention of the ruthless dictator, they often remained respectful towards one another in public.  Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the full scale war that was to be later termed as Operation Iraqi Freedom, many Iraqis were praying together and felt national unity regardless of their religious differences.  However, after the war began, Iraqis soon turned on one another. 

A varied perception of who has been the most violent and radical sect in Iraq since 2003 is still up for debate.  Many Westerners that had their countries face off against Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda in Iraq may want to target the Sunni in Iraq as troublemakers, but find themselves reluctant to make a completely clear claim due to the extensive violence that has been conducted by both sides towards the other.  One such example comes from Jeff Stein, a New York Times reporter.  He writes the following:  “It’s a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia.  Or vice versa.  But I think it’s the Sunnis who’re more radical than the Shia… Al Qaeda is the one that’s most radical, so I think they’re Sunni,” he replied. “I may be wrong, but I think that’s right”(Nytimes Oct. , 17,2008).  The truth is that the majority of the Shia and Sunni in Iraq have the ability to live in peace with one another, but there exists radical fringe groups in each camp that only wants to resolve their differences through violence.  The Occupational Forces further complicate the issue because each either side that cooperates with the “invaders”, is portrayed as being both anti-Muslim and anti-Iraqi by the other side. 

In Iraq, the Shia population became more dominated by religious ideologies. One reason for this was that they were experiencing the loss of their jobs and their identities.  Many Iraqi men that were unemployed and restless during the beginning of the conflict were recruited by Shia clerics to be part of their militias.  These men were not trained or skilled soldiers and many were illiterate.  These unskilled soldiers may have left a lot to be desired in terms of military expertise, but they were easy to control  by their leaders.  Many of them were brainwashed into fighting their former Sunni neighbors and into resisting any cooperation with the Occupational Forces.  However, some Iraqis were and are still able to be analytical about the conflict understanding the enormous complexity of the situation. 

One such thoughtful analysis of the situataion comes from Riverbend, an Iraqi that has kept a blog during the war.  Riverbend writes, “I don’t hate Americans, contrary to what many people seem to believe. Not because I love Americans, but simply because I don’t hate Americans, like I don’t hate the French, Canadians, Brits, Saudis, Jordanians, Micronesians, etc. It’s that simple. I was brought up, like millions of Iraqis, to have pride in my own culture and nationality. At the same time, like millions of Iraqis, I was also brought up to respect other cultures, nations and religions. Iraqi people are inquisitive, by nature, and accepting of different values- as long as you do not try to impose those values and beliefs upon them” (August 22,2003).  Riverbend has written extensively about the conditions in Iraq throughout the conflict and he paints a depressing as well as frightening picture of the security situation in Iraq at the beginning of the conflict.  His writing has been very thoughtful and has been well received by many people throughout the world.  His assessment of his country, the people, and the state of the country following the United States led invasion is objective and powerful.  Riverbend writes about how Iraqi attitudes were formed about their own situation between the years of 2004-2006.  In addition, his real life examples of how the simple act of going anywhere in Iraq had become complete chaos.  Riverbend has written about how the simple everyday task of visiting his aunt who lives 20 minutes away from him became a several hour ordeal because of the lack of security.  Reading Riverbend’s blog is a powerful reminder that conflict does not happen in the abstract.  It involves the reality of life and death and an immense amount of misery for certain people within each side’s camp.  

One of the worst outcomes of the invasion of Iraq is the fact that the country is moving in the wrong direction in terms of opportunities for women.  Riverbend writes: “ Before the war, around 50% of the college students were females, and over 50% of the working force was composed of women. Not so anymore. We are seeing an increase of fundamentalism in Iraq which is terrifying.” (August 23,2003).  For everything that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had going against it, the country had opportunity for women and the current situation will need to be addressed if the new Iraq wants to be accepted by the international political and business community.  Limiting opportunities for women in Iraq will only hurt the country’s ability to succeed in the long run.  There is no way that even the neo-conservatives that preemptively went to work in Iraq would be happy with this outcome.  The neo-cons wanted to make Iraq into an example that the rest of the Arab world would aspire to be.  It would be a great irony and tragedy that the rival of Iran would have much more opportunity than Iraq for women. 

The Iraq War has been very costly in terms of human life, but the monetary costs that have been experienced by all sides are astronomical.  The conditions for a breakdown of civility between the Shia and Sunni were created by this war and have been very costly to each sect in terms of human and financial resources despite outside assistance.  In addition, the American people have been and will still be paying for this war for many years to come.  According to Joseph Stiglitz of “The $3 Trillion War”, he estimates the cost of the Iraq war to being in the vicinity of three trillion dollars.  However,  United States government officials have continually downplayed costs using a much more modest 50 to 60 billion dollar estimate for the cost of the war.  The Iraq war is the second most expensive war in the U.S history. 

One reason for such a discrepancy in war cost calculations is that the U.S. Government only uses accounting methods based on a “cash” basis, which only take into consideration what the government spends on a per day basis until now, while ignoring the future costs of this war.  Stieglitz’s accounting method was based on the “accrual” method, which includes the daily spending in addition to the future financial obligations of the United States.  The future explicit costs include long-term costs like medical care and disability benefits.  The embedded costs of the Iraq war involve such things as an increased cost of living that include an increased cost of Iraqi domestic oil prices.  These costs can be classified in two different categories. The direct cost, which means the loss of productive capacity of young American who have been under physically disabled that prevents them from working or young Americans who were killed.  The indirect cost includes rapidly increasing oil prices that will  affect the United States in a negative way.  When the oil prices increase, the United States will spend less money on other goods, which has contributed to the current lower economic output being experienced today.  

Between 2004 and 2008 alone there have been over 200 people killed and 350 wounded in four

separate attacks that used coordinated bombings near the Al Abbas Mosque in Karbala which also

happens to be the mausoleum of Abbas ibn Ali.  Imam Hussein said that Karbala is the place of Kerbin-

wa-bala , which means the place of “pains and torture”.  The Shia sect believes that all the wars,

tragedy that has occurred in Iraq directly relates back to the death of Imam Hussein. Throughout

history, Imam Hussein mentioned that Iraq would suffer from torture in the future and this place will

not rest in peace.  Riverbend correctly assesses the situation when he writes: “Don’t blame it on Islam. Every religion has its extremists. In times of chaos and disorder, those extremists flourish.  Iraq is full of moderate Muslims who simply believe in ‘live and let live’.  We get along with each other- Sunnis and Shi’a, Muslims and Christians and Jews and Sabi’a.  We intermarry, we mix and mingle, we live. We build our churches and mosques in the same areas, our children go to the same schools… it was never an issue (08/23/03).  The future of Iraq will depend on how much of the country will be controlled by the moderates of each sect and if extremism can be minimized to a level that no longer terrorizes the Iraqi population.  Compromise and tolerance that follows a Coalition Force withdrawal are the only things that will keep Iraq from coming apart and back into a civil war.  Iraq can be a peaceful country and it will need to implement a strategy of power sharing in order for the country to rise out of the ashes of war.  If it does this, it will have a much brighter future, but it will have to limit outside influence from Sunnis in Saudi Arabia, Shias in Iran, and Coalition Forces to solve its own internal problems.  External forces will only prevent the reconciliation that needs to take place from occurring.  There is hope that Iraq can pull out of its current divided posture when each side realizes that it is going to be necessary to live together as Iraqi citizens instead of separated as Shia and Sunni people.




Gadjo Dilo



Tony Gatlif directed the movie Gadjo Dilo in 1997.  This movie is about Stephane, a young Frenchmen that is searching for a singer named Nora Luca, which reminds him of his father.  During his travels, he befriends a gypsy named Izidor and this becomes the premise for his indoctrination into gypsy life.  The film shows how people from very different backgrounds can befriend each other and through shared experience can find a way to share culture, language, and love.  It is also a film that uses the experiences of Stephane with the other gypsies in order to explain how people are able to live and understand one another if they are forced to walk in each other shoes. 

At the very beginning of the movie, Izidor is seen crying and is very drunk because the police took his son.  Adriana, Izidor’s son is caught by the police and charged with being a thief.  Subsequently, he is incarcerated for six months.  Izidor meets Stephane while he is on his own personal long journey in search of Nora Luca.  He starts to ask Izidor about Nora Luca and then begins to play his small radio.  Izidor takes Stephane to his house and lets him sleep in his bed. The next day the gypsies are shocked because there is someone they do not know in Izidor’s house. When Stephane wakes up he goes out and brings Izidor some alcohol to thank him for letting him sleep in his house.  Later in the movie, Stephane becomes part of the gypsy community and they accept him as one of them.  Izidor and surrounding children start to teach him the elements of gypsy life.

One of the most powerful scenes is when Izidor’s brother dies and then Izidor begins to dance a traditional gypsy dance next to his brother’s grave after spilling alcohol on it.  When Adriana gets out the jail and the gypsies see him on the road, all of them come together sharing their happiness.  They essentially all become one unit.   Later in the film when Adriana dies, Stephane dances the same dance next to his grave.  This demonstrates how he has become part of the gypsy community and that he begins to adopt their traditions as his own.

 They share food, their lifestyle, and they begin to share everything with Adriana.   All the gypsies sing together while playing violin and other instruments.   The girls dance their gypsy dances and Sabina falls in love with Stephane.  This is despite the fact that he is not originally from the same culture or community.  Sabina is able to speak French enough to be able to communicate with him, which creates a bond between the two.
During the time, that Stephane is looking for Nora Luca, all the gypsy musicians help him look for Nora Luca while performing her songs in bars during their joint travels.  They care about him even though he is not one of them, but he shows his respect for their community and culture by the way he assimilates into their society.  Stephane essentially begins to feel what they feel.  

The article by Zygmunt Baumer explains how we define a stranger and that a stranger is neither a friend nor an enemy. When you have a friend you know how to interact with him. In the same way, if you have an enemy and you know who is and how to interact with him.  When a stranger enters your world, you cannot classify whether he is a friend or an enemy.  If a friend is in front of you, you know what to do, if an enemy is in front of you, you know what to do. However, when it comes to a stranger you do not know how to deal him or her. When people of different cultures come to a country they attempt to assimilate. However, if you go to different country and you understand the culture and change the way you behave to fit that culture, you still cannot change your identity.  Nationality is a tool that has been used to identify people so they will not seem so “strange”. These concepts are exemplified in the movie “Gadjo Dilo”. First, the main character, Stephane, sleeps in Izidor’s house and people do not accept him because they cannot classify him as a friend or an enemy.  He is a stranger just as discussed in the article.  Over time, Stephane is able to assimilate to their culture by speaking their language and adapting to their customs. Eventually he becomes a member of the gypsy culture.

Media Ethics !

The debate surrounding journalistic ethics and how they relate to both privacy and honest integrity has rapidly changed in the past twenty years. With the advent of new media and the explosion of Internet access, the means by which a journalist gathers information or respects the bounds of an individual’s privacy have evolved with current technologies. The case of Arthur Ashe, the world renowned tennis player, AIDS activist, and anti-apartheid advocate, stands as an example of where an individuals privacy was surreptitiously violated by a USA Today reporter. The reporter not only released the story overseas before Ashe’s requested publication date, but the reporter also forced him to admit his medical condition publicly. The reporter’s actions were indeed contrary to the way journalists today should be conducting themselves, especially in regards to their ethical and moral duties as journalists. The primary ethical issue in this case is based on the reporter’s refusal to wait to publish Ashe’s medical conditions publicly because of “the public’s need to know.” In other words, the reporter’s insistence on publicizing the information didn’t consider whether or not the information was necessary for the public to know. Furthermore, the reporter’s actions and didn’t serve the aggregate good or any level of informative justice.

There are several immediate facts a journalist should consider when making an ethical decision regarding how to cover Ashe’s case.  The first thing we must recognize in the Ashe case is that he put himself inside of the public arena what he chose to play professional tennis and become an outspoken opponent of Apartheid. Therefore, from a completely journalistic standpoint he could easily be defined as a social icon and celebrity. The second fact to consider is his possible connection to sponsors or some form of media. He could be contractually responsible to maintain a certain image. Both of these factors mean that he maintains some level of responsibility to his fans and sponsors in economic and social terms.

As a journalist, who you are responsible to is always subject to change. While journalists always maintain a responsibility to keep the public informed about important events, the degree of the responsibility largely depends on the relative importance of Ashe’s position in society. The claimants in this instance are restricted to his fans and sponsors. The public at large is not a claimant because Ashe holds no responsibility to the greater public like a politician might. For example, politicians who advocate for anti-gay legislation but secretly engage in homosexual activity should deserve little privacy because the very nature of their job is defined by the commitment to public service.  Ashe’s position in society does not afford him the same level of responsibility as that of the politician. In fact he really only owes any responsibility to the individuals and companies that support him.  In fact, as Thomas Bivins notes that when considering instances of individual privacy, the reporter should act in a way that is guided by social utility. He specifies that,” The moral agent must decide what information is essential or at least useful to the audience in understanding the message being communicated.  This principle eliminates appeals to sensationalism, morbid curiosity, ridicule, and voyeurism as a justification for invasion of privacy” (Bivins 260). There is only one possible harm that can come from Ashe not disclosing his HIV status. This would probably manifest as contract violation with a sponsor, something which journalist have no ethical duty to report to the large public unless the magnitude of the responsibility is deemed to effect those outside the sponsor/athlete relationship.

The reporter in this instance acted unethically and beyond his/her responsibilities when they chose not to give Ashe the 36 hours delay in running the story he requested. There are several alternate ways that the reporter could have acted that would not have blatantly ignored his/her responsibilities as a journalist. First, the reporter could have asked to interview Ashe about a subject that was sensitive. If Ashe disagreed, the reporter could have asked to speak to him confidentially about the circumstances surrounding the contraction of the virus. Lastly, the reported could have asked Ashe if he would like to work with the reporter in developing a story to support HIV awareness.

Any of these alternatives would have both honored the ethical responsibilities of a journalist while simultaneously honoring the field of investigative journalism. Furthermore, by pursuing any of these alternatives the best case scenario involves both respecting the Ashe’s privacy, whereas the worst-case scenario is rejection from Ashe’s involvement in the piece. While the reporter does maintain a responsibility the institution for which he/she is reporting, their greater responsibility lies in upholding their dignity and honor as a journalist. Since the content of the story doesn’t concern the public at large the reporter’s actions were purely motivated by appealing to,  “sensationalism, morbid curiosity, ridicule and voyeurism.” In other words, the actions of the journalist did more harm to Ashe and his family emotionally than they did well for society or possible sponsors. The aggregate good was not served whatsoever in this instance.

Based on this analysis the best course of action for the journalist would have been to ask Ashe if he would like to speak about the issue. If he refused the reporter should request Ashe to speak anonymously. The reported could easily spin the story as a human-interest story in which they could convince Ashe that his words would help educate the public at large about HIV and how it is spread. Again if Ashe refused, based on weighing the ethical requirements journalists are beholden to, the story should either be abandoned or approached another way.

Bivins, Thomas. Mixed Media: Moral Distinctions in Advertising, Public  Relations, and Journalism. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

The British Reform Act of 1832


                                                                                                  Photo taken by : ALAMY

England, like much of the world has evolved both socio-economically and politically throughout its great history.  In terms of political thought, one of the most important periods of change, it experienced was during the British Reform Act of 1832.  During this period, the British Parliament had many great debates on its floors involving two different schools of political theory, the British Constitution, and social reforms.  Social reform to benefit the middle class had the support of liberals such as Thomas Babington Macaulay.  Other more conservative parliamentarians such as the Tories Robert Peel and Robert Harry Inglis were equally defiant of moving from their political postures in opposition of reform.  Each side of the debate experienced their reasons for support or opposition to the reforms, but ultimately the reforms passed after impassioned pleas from both sides of the issue.  The reforms debated at this time, are not unlike the debates today in both British Parliament and the halls of the United States Capital.  Ideological differences set the stage for the argument, and each side used their own logic in order to set motion in the “rules of engagement” between the liberals and conservatives on the issue of social reform.   Liberals argued that without reform that the masses would become disenfranchised and angry at the British Government.  In addition, they argued that such anger could possibly motivate some to take arms in the form of an organized revolution if left without a voice.  Conservatives argued that they would not support a reform bill presented to them in a confrontational and frightful manner, while citing past bills that resulted in disastrous consequences for the country of England.  Using each sides own words from a series of speeches given during the reform debate it is possible to delineate the political “lines in the sand” that each side presents in their opposition or support of British reform during this era.  The speeches give insight as to the basic tenets of liberalism and conservatism in early-nineteenth-century England.

T. B. Macaulay gave a speech on Parliamentary reform in which he demonstrates his liberal approach to arguing in favor of giving more power to the middle class of England.  His arguments are founded on his belief that England will suffer dire consequences if does not adjust to the needs of its population.  Macaulay believes that the Parliament is not necessarily full of people that do not love their country or have bad intentions that oppose his theories, but instead he feels that the conservatives within the Parliament are misreading the need for immediate change.  He uses examples within contemporary England as to wealth distribution and voting rights as not being consistent with the population at large.  In addition, he looks to other examples in the newly formed United States that give credence to his belief that the English Government is capable of being more a partner of its population rather than being an adversary or entity with conflicting interests.  The following passage is from a speech his gives to Parliament: “Universal Suffrage exists in the United States without producing any very frightful consequences; and I do not believe, that the people of those States, or of any part of the world, are in any good quality naturally superior to our own countrymen” (Maucalay, 2 March 1831). Mauacalay is aware that he is speaking to a domestic audience when he states that he believes that England is not inferior to America.  He essentially is saying that if America is capable of giving universal rights to its people and it works for them, that the same should be possible in English society.   Macaulay’s tactics are not unlike the tactics conducted by any politician regardless of party loyalty or ideological preference.  He issues a challenge to his political rivals rooted in patriotism and competition.  This is a timeless political tactic, but for a country only a few decades separated from a Revolutionary War with the United States, his statements are even more biting in their strength.

Robert Harry Inglis, an ultraconservative Parliamentarian at the time, counters at liberal ideas for political reform by first refuting claims that his liberal colleagues know what is best for the country.  He discusses past failures in the following: “Members consider what must be the consequences of such a state of things in the present artificial condition of society.  To take one instance: one-third of the existing property of the country has been created by the will of Parliament, and may be destroyed by the will of Parliament.  The whole funded debt of England arose in the first instance, from votes of this House: and the credit thus established may be endangered—I will not say extinguished, by another vote” (Inglis, 17 December 1831).  Inglis, is telling the House of Commons that he has been down this road before, and the last time Parliament forced him to do something that he was skeptical about implementing the country paid the price.  Smaller government and less government are strong tenets of modern-day conservative thought.  His statements confirm that some of the political tenets of conservatism are still in place to this day.  Inglis expands on his mistrust of the House of Commons interpretation of British public will in the same speech:  “Now, even if I were disposed to admit to him, which I am not, that Reform is inevitable, I will never admit that it is needful.  I contend that it was not called for either by the wants or by the wishes of the people; and that the attempt to introduce a measure of this kind has been productive hitherto of nothing but injury to the interests of the country” (Inglis, 17 December 1831).  His statement starts defiant in his acceptance that such a Reform Bill will pass into law to begin with, but his statement serves him to attack the fact that the House of Commons will once again make a legislative decision that will hurt the country he loves.  Distrust for the government even by those that work in politics, is a common tenet of conservatism that extends from the nineteenth century to contemporary politics.

Other Tories that differ with Macaulay in terms of political perspective at this time include Sir Robert Peel.  Peel differs with his liberal colleagues in the Parliament that believe that Ireland was in a state of peace due to policy changes that resemble the English Reform Bill. Instead of giving credit to the policies in Ireland, he maintains cautiously optimistic.  He is a moderate conservative when it comes to this issue, especially when he gives praise to the government’s leaders.  This is an excerpt from a speech he gave to Parliament: “No party hostility shall ever prevent me from doing justice whenever justice should be done, or bestowing praise wherever praise ought to be bestowed.  I approve of the course pursued by the present Home department; I admire the conduct of the noble marquis now at the head of Irish government; ever since he has reassumed that office, I have seen nothing in his conduct but entitles him to praise” (Peel, 3 March, 1831).  He takes a populist position on this topic that does not completely conflict with his liberal colleagues.  Instead of attacking the actions of the House of Commons and the legislature introduced by other liberals, he focuses his criticism on the unknown or rationale given for the legislative change.  Another example of this occurring is within the same speech when he questions the intentions of moving elective franchises.  He states the following:  “For noble friend says, that if, in the year 1828, the late government had not refused to transfer the elective franchise from the borough of East Redford to the town of Pirmingham, we should not be now discussing the question of parliamentary reform; for that single measure would have quieted the people on this subject, and would have given general satisfaction.  If, sir, from so small an event, such mighty consequences should have flowed—if it really would have been possible, by so trifling concession as the transfer of the elective franchise from East Redford to Pirmingham; to have satisfied and conciliated all the classes of the community, it is surely of great importance to enquire what is paramount reason which should induce us at the present moment to make so extraordinary a change in the constitution as that which is now proposed” (Peel, 3 March, 1831).  Peel believes that legislative reform should not occur just because one group feels disenfranchised, and therefore he comes to the conclusion that there will always be people dissatisfied with their position within society.

Macaulay believes that the English had gone through many changes throughout their history.  In a speech to Parliament, he goes through a timeline of these changes and how England has progressed as a country due to these changes.  He says the following: “All history is full of revolutions, produced by causes similar to those which are now operating England.  A portion of the community which had been of no account, expands and becomes strong.  It demands a place in the system, suited, not to its former weakness, but to its present power.  If this is guaranteed, all as well.  If this is refused, then comes the struggle between the young energy of one class, and the ancient privilege of another” (Macaulay, 4 March, 1831).  In not so many words, Macaulay is saying that all progress is met with resistance, and that the conservatives around him are from another era that is resistant to inevitable change.

Macaulay’s ideas are representative of nineteenth-century liberal thought.   He firmly believes that the world is changing around him, and the examples of Ireland and the newly formed United States have shown him enough to understand that more rights for the population at large enable countries to progress both socially and economically.   He looks at these examples and thinks that England may benefit greatly from social reforms since it has already gone through substantial progress throughout its history.  Inglis and Peel represent the conservative mindset of the time.  They both have different reasons for their opposition to social reforms, but Inglis is much more of a radical conservative than Peel.  Peel is open a certain amount of change in English government policy, but he is weary of the method and reasons given to him by the English Parliament’s most liberal members such as Macaulay.  He is encouraged by the changes he has witnessed in Ireland, but is also quick to mention that the final verdict is yet to be determined since he views many social reforms as untested liberal policies.  Inglis was a conservative that when compared to other conservatives such as Peel seems even more skeptical of social reforms being offered by liberal parliamentarians.  He voices his skepticism by citing past failures or miscalculations of the House of Commons.  Although he gives logical arguments not unlike Peel, his tone and approach is one that uncompromising and fundamentally different from those given by politicians such as Macaulay.  As difficult of a challenge it was for Macaulay to reach his goal of passing social reforms in England, eventually his side won the debate.  Social reforms soon passed in the House of Commons enabling new rights and voice to larger segments of English society.  In this case, England became a beacon for change after Parliament passed some of the most battled legislature in its history.

Work Cited

“Peel’s speech on Parliamentary Reform :3 March 1831.” Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2012. <;.

“Peel’s Speech on Parliamentary Reform: 6 July 1831..” Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2012. <;.

“Reform that you may preserve.” Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2012. <;.

“Sir Robert Inglis’ speech in the Debate upon the Second Reading of the Reform of Parliament (England) Bill: 17 December 1831.” Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2012. <;.

Reading response for Frankenstein novel

The novel Frankenstein is a powerful piece of literature for several reasons.  It is extremely well written and engaging for the reader due to the fact that it was revolutionary for its time.  Shelley writes a science fiction novel that refers to scientific study and method combined with elements of supernatural horror and psychological evaluation.  Shelley accomplishes writing a complete novel while at the same time engaging in social commentary through the narrative of Victor Frankenstein.  This narrative is used to not only put emphasis on science, morality, and the human condition, but Shelley uses it also to present the reader with how opportunity and decision of this era often exclude women.  Frankenstein is a man brought back to life by another man.  The character is a symbol of  man’s pursuit of dominating nature which also fails to include a feminine perspective.  Misogyny and limited opportunity for women exist to this day in the workplace and within the scientific field based on the percentages of male versus female scientists, but Frankenstein forces the reader to acknowledge a contemporary perspective of a masculine need for dominance over feminine views or even nature itself.  This novel through its narrative of Dr. Victor Frankenstein exposes the reader to a feminine perspective that is under attack by the dominating masculine view that was often utilized throughout the industrial revolution.  Europe had been transformed and sold on the progress of this massive change while Shelley forces the reader to revisit the true existence of benefit or progress in society that often excludes a feminine perspective.

The animation of Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s monster is a symbol of undeclared abhor toward the opposite female sex.  Mellor in her critique of the novel describes how the feminine hold of natural reproduction is taken and portrayed in Dr. Frankenstein’s nightmare.  She writes: “The natural mode of human reproduction symbolically erupts in his nightmare following the animation of his creature, in which his bride-to-be is transformed in his arms into the corpse of his dead mother” (274).  Mellor adds that Dr. Frankenstein did not only take reproduction away from women, but that his intentions are to create other men that are created by men.  He refuses to create a female version of his creature.  He strives to build a society limited to the male sex.  It is not only rage that Victor feels toward other females, but his character is also full of fear and mistrust of “the feminine”.  Women are not considered by the central figure of the novel.   Frankenstein’s nightmare clearly demonstrates that he fears or is threatened by the female sex, therefore his mind must destroy it while at the same time giving strength to his sex.   His fear is derived from a fear of dependency of other females.  His narrative implies that he wishes to mute other women from having their own independent arguments or desires that might run counter to his own.  Frankenstein fears that if he creates an ugly female creature that the male monster might refuse to mate.  Mellor writes about Frankenstein’s fears in the following:  “He is afraid of an independent female will, afraid that his female creature will have desires and opinions that cannot be controlled by his male creature” (279).  The scientist fails to take into account the perspective of a female creature reacting unfavorably to the hideous sight of the male monster.  Shelley uses Frankenstein’s fears as a way to demonstrate a double standard in her own society.  She expands on this misogynistic world view as females are almost regarded as pets where they are not allowed to travel with men or be expected to be able to complete similar occupational tasks, especially in those in the scientific field.  The singular advantage of being able to procreate is abducted by Frankenstein while reducing female reproductive power.  Shelley puts a mirror in front of her readers to examine how their own gender views might have been influenced by external societal influences.

Frankenstein deems himself as a God with the power to separate the natural roles of both males and females.  As with all human beings he was born from another female, but wishes to disturb this natural order.  Frankenstein hold many double standards in his arguments for both creating and destroying the creature he creates.  On such fear is that a female creature could potentially raise an entire race of similar creatures.  He goes one step further in that he fears that a female creature could more sadistic or evil than the male version.  Most of the female characters in Shelley’s novel are maids or nurses instead of doctors or other professionals.  Shelley through Frankenstein’s narrative coupled with the absence of occupationally strong female characters paints a picture of male dominance in a clear and engaging way with the reader.  Additionally, the love interest of Dr. Frankenstein named Elizabeth is also intentionally treated as possession in order to drive this point.  Shelley effectively writes about a man that is undone by his own fear and desires, many of which run counter to a feminine perspective of life and gender roles.  Her criticisms are still as much relevant today as they were in the early 19th century when she completed the novel.