Hunches, 2-18-37

Can public ethics be changed by powerful leadership in some dominating school of thought? That is an interesting question in these days when we see the powers that be, throw out prohibition, for instance, because it violated the will of the masses; and this same leadership turns around and imposes a whole series of pet theories on the long suffering public--all, of course, in the name of uplift. I'd like to use the word "fundamentally" in my next sentence, but that would sound too much like a congressman (who, by the way is fundamentally concerned with how to get elected next time); so we won't get down to fundamentals. However, I have my doubts. It is conceivable, for example, that if a boy who has swiped an orange is forced to share a prison cell with a criminal, he may degenerate if kept under this influence very long. On the other hand, I wonder if the generalization is true that the character of the nation will never be greater than the average of the individuals who comprise it. There may be exceptions which prove the rule. In Christian nations, at least, I don't see how we can get away from the fact that Jesus was forever gunning for individual reform. And the presumption is, collective reform will follow.

 Did you notice what they did to poor old Edwin Markham? They made that noble soul stand up in court and defend his personal competency. Regardless of the supposed legal merits in the case; is there any mere money value of his estate which can pay for the humiliation of this practical idealist in the last few hours of a splendid life?

 The world is sick. And its illness is as old as the hills. The disease is called intolerance. It doesn't need any particular prescription of "ism". It needs: live and let live. We fought a war to make the world safe for democracy: it didn't work. We need a world safe for differences, and free from the shackles of hate.

 There is one redeeming feature of the present administration; provide enough mental distractions to keep the public from worrying too much about their troubles. At the psychological moment when the automobile strike threatened to become a public obsession, the Supreme Court message gently glides out of the White House, and newspaper editors change headlines. No doubt Edward Windsor has heaved a sigh of appreciation, also.

 If Jay House were still banging out his daily column, he would be having a grand time referring to the "abdominal investiture" of those who would pack the Supreme Court. And I wonder if he has finally attained the "sartorial perfection" he craved in this world.

 A utility company man was telling me the other day what he thought of the death sentence in the holding company bill passed by congress. It seems the preamble to the bill comes right out and says that inasmuch as there are certain abuses affecting the public interest in certain holding companies, these may be removed by the simple expedient of eliminating holding companies. He went on to say that it is just as logical to assume that inasmuch as there are many husbands who abuse their wives, and this can undoubtedly be presumed as detrimental to the public interest, it behooves us members of an enlightened civilization to hereby and herewith and hereafter abolish the institution of marriage.

 Those who have had close contact with the pioneering era are apt to judge the present generation as a bunch of "softies". And if we judge ourselves on the basis of modern advertising, it looks as though our staple diet is "mush and milk". But I think we can feel justly proud of the efficiency of modern commerce and manufacturing, as opposed to the inevitable wastefulness of pioneering. However much we may have gained in convenience, on the other hand, we have sacrificed much in individual initiative in overcoming obstacles. And that tendency is growing.

 Are you a yes-man?

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