H. L. Mencken's View of the Average Man's Desire to Be Safe and Its Application to Modern Society

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Although some may see freedom as the most desired, safety is considered a privilege because it is not always promised. The words spoken by the American essayist and social critic H.L. Mencken, “The average man does not want to be free. He simply wants to be safe”, applies to contemporary society because one would rather have their safety ensured under regulations instead of risking their lives for freedom. When fighting for one’s freedom, safety is at risk and your life is threatened. What does it mean to be free? To be safe? Can a balance be found between both?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, freedom is the condition or right of being able or allowed to do whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited. While safety is the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss. How can one live a life of freedom, without the worries of being endangered or threatened? Individuals who have declared they are free, have obtained their freedom through constant resistance and sacrifices. One example from history is America’s founding fathers securing independence from Britain. Initially, Britain protected the American colonies from experiencing hardships and attacks. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, the colonies decided to pull away from Britain and create a life of their own. This meant that their safety would be at peril just for the price of freedom. The iconic words, spoken by Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death”, serve as an example of those who believed that safety should not be valued over freedom, expressing that some were willing to die for their rights. A country has the right to be influenced by safety and protected to any great extent. In some cases, responsibility and safety are the United States’ main concerns over freedom. School shootings have become a main focus regarding the issue of safety for children attending school. In February of 2018, Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida experienced a school shooting leaving 17 people injured and 17 dead. There is no doubt that a child spends a significant amount of time at school when in comparison to their time spent at home. Attending school and receiving an education has the largest influence on a child’s development throughout their lifetime. A parent will not feel safe sending their child to school if safety is not the main priority. Becoming aware of these issues calls members of the community to take meaningful action to keep our schools safe and address the issue of gun violence in America’s schools. In regards to the use of guns, laws being put in place will limit an individual’s freedom and bring assurance to children’s safety.

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Another great example to prove the quote that people would rather choose safety over freedom is Lois Lowry’s novel ‘The Giver’. Throughout the novel, citizens were forced to surrender their memories of their experiences. In doing this, it prevented members of society from engaging in situations that could result in serious emotional effects. By sacrificing their freedom of choice, they are withheld from the opportunity to experience happiness, which is essential to a human being. Therefore, the people in this book would rather live under an oppressive regime that controlled their personal actions and relationships to be safe and secure. This proves the quote to be true, showing that people would rather be safe than given freedom.

“The average man does not want to be free. He simply wants to be safe”. These words spoken by H.L. Mencken not only display the beliefs of contemporary society but manifest our morals and overall ideals. Safety is sought out over freedom because it's important to find structure within one’s surroundings. Feeling safe in society means feeling self-assured and stable. Therefore, when we feel safe, we are confident in ourselves and our environment. We must sacrifice our freedom to prevent any harm and live a just life.

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H. L. Mencken’s View of the Average Man’s Desire to Be Safe and Its Application to Modern Society. (2024, January 04). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/h-l-menckens-view-of-the-average-mans-desire-to-be-safe-and-its-application-to-modern-society/
“H. L. Mencken’s View of the Average Man’s Desire to Be Safe and Its Application to Modern Society.” Edubirdie, 04 Jan. 2024, edubirdie.com/examples/h-l-menckens-view-of-the-average-mans-desire-to-be-safe-and-its-application-to-modern-society/
H. L. Mencken’s View of the Average Man’s Desire to Be Safe and Its Application to Modern Society. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/h-l-menckens-view-of-the-average-mans-desire-to-be-safe-and-its-application-to-modern-society/> [Accessed 13 Apr. 2024].
H. L. Mencken’s View of the Average Man’s Desire to Be Safe and Its Application to Modern Society [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2024 Jan 04 [cited 2024 Apr 13]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/h-l-menckens-view-of-the-average-mans-desire-to-be-safe-and-its-application-to-modern-society/
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