A commentary on C. Wright Mill’s “The Promise”
Sept 28th, 2013
Aaron J Schieding
In one’s daily adult life, there is good and bad, and the normal personal troubles. Perhaps there has been a layoff at work, and the threat of eviction looms near. I have been there myself, and it brings a whole new meaning to uncertainty, as well as being reminded of my position in society. In “The Promise” the author, C. Wright Mills, observes that in America we tend to see our personal problems separately from the larger issues of society. One gets so caught up in the schedule of daily life, and dealing with family, work, or school, there becomes a kind of blindness to the overall societal picture. Mills argues that in order to truly understand where we are in society, why, and what our prospects are, that we must each develop our own sociological imagination. The author’s keen insight, although poised over half century ago, is just as relevant today.
When considering why one’s life operates as it does, it is important to understand the ways in which society influence it. For instance, historical changes and the decisions by those in power in one’s local area affect what kind of jobs are available today. Explaining what the shift in thought is, that he is calling sociological imagination, the author states that it “enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals” (Mills). As time goes by, changes will occur in the local and national economy, oftentimes because of multinational corporations and chain stores. Those in charge of the corporations have their own values and influences, and their biographies matter. A CEO regularly will make a decision that reaches a local arm of the company, one that can influence lives. If one is an employee of the business, it could be that the company’s quarterly earnings are down, and some workers will be let go.
In discussing the relationship between people and overall society, Mills highlights the fact that people normally have certain values that are held dear. In an ever-changing society, individuals will feel for the most part that their personal values are respected, and will be fairly content. However things can sometimes change, where one feels their values being infringed upon. Tensions can rise in small or large groups, as there are feelings of uncertainty, possibly from the sense of being exploited or abused by those in power. In the past these changing tides have lead to uprising and revolution. It all falls in line with another sociologist that Mills has referred to, Karl Marx, the creator of Conflict Theory. In a description of Marx in the academic book Essentials of Sociology, it is said that he “influenced not only sociology, but also left his mark on world history” (Henslin 6). In an ironic sense, Marx had that sense of imagination that Mills focuses on, awoke to see the connections between his own life and that of society, and made an impact on the latter. Today most of the uprisings or revolutions happen in the Middle East, it is rare when they happen in a country like America or Britain. However, in America today there are some examples of sociological imagination in use, in a peaceful manner. One group that comes to mind are people that refer to themselves as “tea partiers.” Some major areas of concern among those identifying with the tea party movement are usually; wasteful spending of taxes from the poor and middle class, the changing makeup of society through immigration, and the government’s altering of the health care system. These overlying issues revolve in societies, which is why Mills considers it important for individuals to have an understanding of history.
It is clear that the concept of sociological imagination is still alive and well, although just as it was in the 1950s there are still Americans that feel they are between a rock and a hard place, many times not seeing beyond their individual lives. I have personally felt that way before, but as I delve into the ideas of sociologists such as Mills, I feel I now have a better sense of my connections to society in the big picture. There is also no denying that our daily lives are just as busy, if not more so, than before. Other than the influences of technology, the issues our society faces are basically the same as they were 50 years ago. There are still troubles in marriages and at work, and larger issues dealing with war and government. By understanding the link between national and world history, and importance of biographies, one can realize the promise.
Henslin, James. Essentials of Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. Boston: Pearson, 2013. Print.
Mills, C. Wright. “The Promise.” SOCN101, Blackboard. 26 Sept. 2013. PDF file. Citation in text: (Mills)
If you’re freaking out right now, you should be, sort of. No gas did not go to $5.75 overnight, but if you’re living in America and you drive a car, you should be aware that this could be a reality at some point. How far ahead into our future will this happen? No one exactly knows right now, although you know who might have an idea, the scoundrels in the Mid-East selling us the crude oil.
I recall a few years back in New England when the price of gas hit $4 per gallon, that was shocking! At least back then it was, now, not so much. Right now we are only about twenty-five cents away from that. It seems that when consumers have been paying a fairly steady rate to fill up their gas tanks, over time, they become complicit. When the price of gas goes up they adjust their weekly budget, and that becomes the norm. Of course for a lot of low-income people, at some point mathematically they cannot adjust their budget without some serious cutback in another area. This cutback could be in bill payments, food, or even medication. For someone living paycheck to paycheck they need to get to their low wage job to try to make ends meet. One of the major problems with this type of scenario is that over recent years, inflation has outpaced the rate of change in income for most people. The conclusion is that their will be an amount that gas prices will hit, which will inhibit low wage earners effectively from livability in the American economy. What we need are new ideas and action!
We need to progressively ditch the old combustion engine that drive almost all cars in the US. Personally I spend approximately $2,000 per year on gas for my car, but a lot of people in my area spend more than that. Imagine if you could free up most of that money. You could use it for anything you needed! There are some electric hybrid cars available now in the US, at least twenty actually. Of course there is an added cost to buying them versus similar gas models, so initially you would not actually be freeing up that money for probably a couple years. Now the car manufacturers and gas companies clearly go hand in hand because they need each other, although it would be safe to say that it is the latter that relies more on the other. If battery technology progressed to the point where an electric car could go 300 miles on a charge then the car companies could effectively ditch the gas companies. As it stands now, the hybrids being manufactured can go about 125 miles on a charge. This is actually fine for someone living in a city or anyone that isn’t going to drive more than that in a day. Therefore as things are now with the alternative cars today, it makes sense to get a hybrid, but one that is at least 50% electric. It seems to me that approximately 125 miles on battery and another 125 miles on gas would be a good mix, pun intended.
Here in America at least, the changes in the quantity of alternative energy vehicles must come from the car manufacturers, those based in and outside of the country. Of course it will take some nudging from us the consumer at the same time. If you are browsing cars at your local dealer you could always ask them what options they have for those looking for hybrid/electric vehicles. Chances are most of them will have around two to ten available models. If the company does not have a strong foot in the door, it is as easy as letting the dealer know you and others you know would love to have more of a selection of hybrid/electrics, and they will at least be able to mention it to others higher up the food chain. It is uncertain what effect this can have on upper management, but if enough people are asking about these alternative cars at dealers, you would hope that they will listen to what consumers (future customers) want.
It is easy to continue driving a gas guzzling SUV around while you can still afford it, but eventually everyone needs to realize that oil supplies will slow and prices will increase. Also for those conscious of our environment, as I am, it is everyone’s responsibility to do what they can even if just a little to be good stewards of it. The country will be better off without all the oil, without the burden it brings. Now you may ask do I drive a hybrid? The answer is no I do not, because I can’t afford one! But when I am older and hopefully have a better financial grounding in this economy, I plan to buy one. Because I have seen the promised land, and it is free of gas stations dotting every street.
Early in the evening
The clouds lay low
Fading into darkness
To a place no one knows
Rays of the sun
Stretch out once more
The valley floor
An eagle flies down
From its perch up high
Scouring the land
Where its prey may lie
The forest goes silent
As the beasts fall asleep
Dreaming of adventures
That tomorrow will reap
This concert special was released in 1995. I have been watching it tonight for the first time after I just saw the documentary “It Might Get Loud” starring Jimmy Page, Edge (U2), and Jack White (White Stripes). This special is fantastic, the music is top notch, and Page and Plant put their heart and soul into the music. Led Zeppelin officially disbanded in 1980 after the death of John Bonham. I guess they felt it would not be the same band, which is technically correct, but a decision which I think was the wrong one at least in the longterm. At least back in 1995 it is clear they still had it, and could’ve been touring with their original bassist, if he wanted to.
It is fascinating to watch the dynamic between the two men. It is clearly what makes up the majority of what are the Led Zeppelin songs. What makes their music so special is the fact that Page plays the guitar, whether acoustic or not, using feeling rather than simply basing it on chord progression or timing. The same is true for Plant, and if you watch him watch Page when they are playing he is really relying on the emotional reaction he gets from the sound of the guitar.
In the special which is now on DVD, they play on stage as well as on location in Morocco. They play around town for people on the street, and they really connect with them on a deep level, which I think is what intrigues Plant and makes him happy. It seems to me that Page mainly is satisfied with making people happy with the beautiful music he makes, which in the concert is done with various guitars. Single neck, double neck, and even a triple neck acoustic! The songs they play are so complete sounding. You have the accurate timing of the fill in bassist and drummer that really back the song and complete them musically. But really what is important is the story being told in the songs and the emotion Plant pours into each one and how he connects to the audience. Of course the other part of it is the back and forth of Page’s playing with the vocals and how the timing is so intertwined that it feels organic rather than timed on purpose.
The music is inspiring, and well worth the cost of the rental. I would highly recommend anyone interested in Led Zeppelin or music in general to watch this dvd. It is an experience that you won’t forget, and will give you a renewed look at the legacy of Led Zeppelin. Peace, Love, and Rock N’ Roll.
- Aaron J Schieding
Lead Singer/Bassist for 3rd Take