nowhere man (budhaboy) wrote,
nowhere man

There is hope for the future people. There is hope.

In the past six months or so I've been working my way through the collected works of Sinclair Lewis. Other than my FIL was a fan of Aerosmith, I can't really say why I started. I've kept with it, because of his adherent to early 20th century progressive thought. If you haven't read him lately, seriously Re-read Aerosmith, Babbitt, Main Street, Free Air or The Job (one I'm likely sure you've never read, but it's truly fantastic). Anyway during the course of reading these books, I've taken to reading excerpts to the boys after dinner just to remind them that their father is something of an excentric... Astonishingly they are more than just patient, can follow along, and actually join in on the discussion aftwords I have with my wife.

I say all that to set the stage... Recently, looking for a bit of a change, I started reading 'the abyss' by Jack London (yet another lynchpin in fiction that supported the progressive movement... If you haven't read it, do so.), and I decided to read them this passage (I'm cutting it short, the setting is a Salvation Army in which Jack London has gotten a free breakfast that is intended for homeless people and is trying to leave to go look for a job):

No sooner was breakfast over (and it was over almost as quickly as it takes to tell), than the tired heads began to nod and droop, and in five minute half of us were sound asleep. There were no signs of our bening dismissed, while there were unmistakable signs of preparation for a meeting. I looked at a small clock hanging on the wall. I indicated twenty-five minutes to twelve. Heigh-ho though I, time is flying, and i have yet to look for work.

"I want to go." I said to a couple of men near me. "Got ter sty fer the service." was the answer.

"Do you want to stay?" I asked.

They shook their heads.

"then let us go and tell them we want to get out." I continued. "Come on."

But the poor creatures were aghast. So I left them to their fate, and went up to the nearest Salvation Army man.

"I want to go." I said. "I came here for breakfast in order that I might be in shape to look for work. I didn't think it would take so long to get breakfast. I think I have a chance for work in Stepney, and the sooner I start the better chance I'll have of getting it."

He was really a good fellow, though he was startled by my request. "Wy" he said, "we're going to hold services, and you'd better sty"

"but that will spoil my chances for work" I urged. "and work is the most important thing for me just now"

As he was only a private, he referred me to the adjunt, and to the adjunt I repeated my reasons for wishing to go, and politely requested that he let me go.

"but it cawn't be done," he said. Waxing virtuously indignant at such ingratitude. "the idea" he snorted. "The IDEA."

"Do you mean to say I can't get out of here?" I demanded. "that you will keep me here against my will?"

"yes" he snorted.

I do not know what might have happened, for I was waxing indignant myself; but the "congregation" had "piped' the situation, and he drew me over to a corner of the room and then into another room. Here he again demanded my reasons for wishing to go.

"I want to go," I said, "beecause I wisht to look for work in Stepney, and every hour lessens my chance of finding work. It is now twenty-five mintues to twelve. I did not think when I came in that it would take so long to get a breakfast"

"You 'ave business, eh?" he sneered. "A man of BUSINESS you are, eh? then wot did you come 'ere for?"

"I was out all night, and I need a breakfast in order to strengthen me to find work that is why I came here."

"A nice thing to do," he went on in the same sneering manner. "A man with BUSINESS shouldn't come 'ere. You've tyken some poor man's breakfast 'ere this morning, that's wot you've done."

Which was a lie, for every mother's sone of us had come in.

Now I submit, was this Christian-like, or even honest? after I had planely stated that I was homeless and hungry, and that I wished to look for work; for him to call my looking for work "business," to call me therefore a business man, and to draw the corollary that a man of business is well off, did not require a charity breakfast, and that by taking a charity breakfast I had robbed some hungry waif who was not a man of business.


I went on to note that it was astonishing that this was written in 1902, back when they actually taught rhetoric in the public schools (it was of the three R's after all).

Later that evening, Oliver had asked me who Rush Limbagh was. I tried to sumarize by noting that he'd made popular for Conservatives a method of using manipulating language to create straw men arguments that were made it impossible to disagree with them. Oliver, not missing a beat suggested that he'd done what that Salvation army guy had done by calling Jack London a 'BUSINESS MAN..."

Astonished as I usually am when confronted with the big O's extraordinary ability to cut to the chase, I agreed.

There is hope for the future people. There is hope.
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