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Class Supplement (早稲田国際AO入試 Extra Material, Social Media)

2011年10月8日

Read the following excerpt and answer the questions.

The Conquest of Happiness, Chapter Nine: Fear of Public Opinion, Bertrand Russell

In the Modern world, owing to the swiftness of locomotion, people are less dependent than they used to be upon their geographically nearest neighbors. Those who have cars can regard as a neighbor any person living within twenty miles. They have therefore a much greater power than was formerly the case of choosing their companions. In any populous neighborhood a man must be very unfortunate if he cannot find congenial souls within twenty miles. The idea that one should know one’s immediate neighbors has died out in large centers of population, but still lingers in small towns and in the country. It has become a foolish idea, since there is no need to be dependent upon immediate neighbors for society. More and more it becomes possible to choose our companions on account of congeniality rather than on account of mere propinquity. Happiness is promoted by associations of persons with similar tastes and similar opinions. Social intercourse may be expected to develop more and more along these lines, and it may be hoped that by these means the loneliness that now afflicts so many unconventional people will be gradually diminished almost to vanishing point. This will undoubtedly increase their happiness, but it will of course diminish the sadistic pleasure with the conventional at present derive from having the unconventional at their mercy. I do not think, however, that this is a pleasure which we need be greatly concerned to preserve.

Fear of public opinion, like every other form of fear, is oppressive and stunts growth. It is difficult to achieve any kind of greatness while a fear of this kind remains strong, and it is impossible to acquire that freedom of spirit in which true happiness consists, for it is essential to happiness that our way of living should spring from our own deep impulses and not from the accidental tastes and desire of those who happen to be our neighbors, or even our relations. Fear of immediate neighbors is no doubt less than it was, but there is a new kind of fear, namely, the fear of what newspapers may say. This is quite as terrifying as anything connected with medieval witch hunts. When the newspaper chooses to make a scapegoat of some perhaps quite harmless person, the results may be very terrible. Fortunately, as yet this is a fate which most people escape through their obscurity; but as publicity gets more and more perfect in its methods, there will be an increasing danger in this novel form of social persecution. This is too grave a matter to be treated with disdain by the individual who is its victim, and whatever may be thought of the great principle of the freedom of the press, I think the line will have to be drawn more sharply that it is by the existing libel laws, and anything will have to be forbidden that makes life intolerable for innocent individuals, even if they should happen to have done or said things which, published maliciously, can cause than to become unpopular. The only ultimate cure for this evil is, however, an increase of toleration on the part of the public. The best way to increase toleration is to multiply the number of individuals who enjoy real happiness and not therefore find their chief pleasure in the infliction of pain upon their fellow men.

1. This passage was written around 1930. The author says, “Social intercourse may be expected to develop more and more along these lines, and it may be hoped that by these means the loneliness that now afflicts so many unconventional people will be gradually diminished almost to vanishing point.” Has this prediction come true? If so, how?

2. Has social media such as SNS increased the “fear of public opinion”?

3. The author says that doing what you really want to do will lead to real happiness and, in turn, tolerance to others with different tastes and opinions. Do you think globalization of communication will contribute to this process?

4. What aspects of society other than friend-making and bullying has social media had its influence on?

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