February 12, 1934
Atlantic had no use for my "Engineers are human"; so I rewrote it in two parts, "Encouragers" for the American, and "Industrial Rehabilitation and Social-consciousness" for the Forum. No doubt the end of the week will afford these the same fate as their progenitor. A third theme may be extracted from the X Club paper, which would discuss a general philosophy of depressions. Having shot my initial bolt, my future literary efforts are now in the balance, with the odds favoring retrenchment. What is needed now is a little material encouragement.
As I was mailing the Forum mms, I happened to run across the younger Hollingsworth, the robert-styled inferiority complex lawyer. Apparently Clausen is still snarled, for he has asked Jim to give the next paper. Jim has it in for the club because "they do not define their positions clearly in the discussions, and do not reason inductively". He likes to "give basic facts without the trimmings"; which means, if I guess right, that he does not relish contradiction. I gave him a glimpse of my "fundamental errors of industry", and with that bait got him up in the sanctum for a "no I'll not take off my coat, for I must leave immediately." After an hour and a half we both had our feet on the table, and the coat was still on. The method was simple: I would make a brief inquery, and forthwith would flow a conclusive explanation in best court room style. In this manner I learned that human nature is based absolutely and finally on the survival of the fittest, and that social reform will never change the set-up of an aristocracy of the powerful; Keokuk is not a factory-slum-town, but rather a hard nut to crack socially, because of long established traditions incidental to a very pure breed of American stock, immigration never having diluted the pioneer blood; commercial law courses can do more harm than good, and no business is safe unless it has professional legal advice; Hugh L. is a crook, as well as an engineer; the best young blood of Keokuk has left town, with a few notable exceptions, such as he whom modesty----; a certain law firm does not accept retainers; etc. He impresses me as a typical vindicative, bombastic, genial, machine politician. Nevertheless, I like him first rate, and am sorry I shall miss his paper.
Wayne's second New Morality sermon, presented human nature as essentially that of wanters or needers; the instinct of survival of the individual makes us seek beauty, or the pursuit of the ideal; even the gangster has such impulses according to his lights - his motives may be high. These ideas will have to be related to the drift of the series. In S. S. he related Lincoln's standard basis of conduct; act as if in mother's presence.
In order to bring out Belt's character I have indulged in some violent arguements with him, a thing which I usually avoid with uneducated men. He is a mechanical genius who follows no rules, but whose imagination enables him to construct with crude tools his original designs in firearms, in spite of his one useless wrist. His political views are anarchistic: all politicians are crooks; and he offers no cures. He is a hang-over from the wild and wolly west, of the days when all questions of right and wrong were settled with a six-shooter. His bark is pretty loud, but he had some of his bite taken out of him when the company let him go a few years ago. He is a caged lion, and will die denouncing. On the positive side, he has shown a fine paternal attitude towards his family, and a willingness to do a favor. Since nothing that is written is true, he scorns reading even the opinions of others: bights off his ear to spite his nose.
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