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Classical Examples[edit | edit source]

Many of the great teachers of human civilization have been stigmatized or silenced at some point in time. Here are three well-known examples that may be considered notorious instances of stigmatization.

In the Story of Galileo and the Catholic Church, the upstart scientist was condemned by the Inquisition for contravening the teachings of the Church. The effort of the Church to stigmatize Galileo backfired in this case, as Galileo's theories were scientifically sound and very significant, unlike many others condemned and killed or stigmatized by the Inquisition, and the Church ended up embarrassing itself (not for the first or last time).

In the Story of Darwin and his Detractors, the biologist's work was reviled for undermining the biblical account of creation and being an "abuse of science". The effort of Darwin's detractors to stigmatize Darwin backfired, and his Detracators ended up making themselves look foolish and backward.

In the Story of Martin Luther King and the FBI, the young African-American preacher was targeted by the FBI and numerous southern jurisdictions who sought to criminalize and stigmatize him for what they perceived were his ties with Communism. Despite the support of several prominent officials (President Johnson, for example, called King a "hypocritical preacher"), their efforts backfired. King became venerated as a great American civil rights leader, and the governmental authorities who used the violent power of the state against King lost their claim that this was a legitimate use of governmental power.

Disputed Examples of Stigmatization[edit | edit source]

The following examples are disputed as examples of stigmatization. Please discuss here.

In the Story of Socrates, the aging Greek philosopher was condemned for corrupting the youth of Athens (by teaching them his philosophies). He was ordered to commit suicide by drinking Hemlock; he complied. He later became a venerated figure, and the culture that sought to repress Socrates ended up degrading itself:

  • Is Athens usually praised or condemned for this act?
  • Is Athens usually praised or condemned for its application of absolute democracy (as was the case here)?
  • Is Athens usually praised or condemned for its treatment of philosophers when compared to its contemporaries (Sparta, Persia, etc.)?

In the Story of Thomas Becket, the radical Archbishop of Canterbury was condemned by King Henry for being a "meddlesome priest." While King Henry succeeded having Thomas Becket killed (as appears to have been his intention), some argue that King Henry's reign ended up degrading the Monarchy.

  • Did King Henry's reign degrade the monarchy? In what ways?
    • Were any of these ways a direct result of Henry's treatment of Becket?
  • Would Henry be viewed differently had he not had Beckett killed? In what ways?
  • Are these issues inherent to monarchies, or were Henry's choices to blame?
  • Do historians specializing in the matter condemn Henry for his actions?

In the Story of the Witches of Salem, many members of the Puritan colony condemned many innocent members of their community to death.

  • Has the account of the Witch Trials increased, or decreased awareness of Salem?
  • Has it increased or decreased general awareness of Puritanism and its practices?
  • Has it increased or decreased the influence of Salem via the spread of stories or via its tourism industry?
  • Has Puritanism been stigmatized as a result of this?

In the Story of Thoreau and the State of Massachusetts, the radical scholar was imprisoned for civil disobedience (i.e., not paying his taxes).

  • If you were familiar with who Thoreau was, were you familiar with this event before reading it now?
  • Does this event change your perspective of the state of Massachusetts?
  • Do you support or condemn the state in imprisoning Thoreau for not paying his taxes?

In the Story of Gandhi and the British in India, the pacifistic activist was frequently jailed by British magistrates. In the end, however, the British stood down from their policies and the governance of India was changed.

  • Gandhi was imprisoned, but was very popular throughout his life as an activist. Was he ever truly stigmatized?
    • Is stigmatization the same if it comes from a group one does not belong to (at all)?
  • Does anyone support those who imprisoned Gandhi?
    • Were they stigmatized as a result of their actions?