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In choosing significant quotations regarding society, perhaps the student may wish to turn to the great minds who wrote specifically about society: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Stuart Mill, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
In his essay "Self-Reliance," Emerson wrote of the importance of individualism as opposed to being addicted to "the opium of custom" and the "conspiracy" of society against them:
Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company in which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrend the libery and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is it aversion.
Emerson believed strongly that each man must trust himself and should not seek outside himself for happiness and satisfaction. Great minds have always done this, Emerson contends.
Another quotation very relevant to modern times are the words of Henry David Thoreau writes of what John Stuart Mill called "the tyranny of the majority":
...when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majorityare permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule, is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest....
Further, Thoreau contends that "we should be men first, and subjects afterward." This statement is of the thought of Emerson who felt that society prohibited individualism. Of course, one of Thoreau's most famous lines is his encouragement of those who do not follow society, but live their lives as men who "march[ed] to the beat of a different drummer" and forge their own individual existence:
I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,...he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
Much like Emerson, Thoreau feared that the mass of men are not individuals; instead they serve the state not as men, but as machines.
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