In French, it’s “C’est la vie.“ In the Bible, it’s “reap what you sow.” To Buddhists, the phrase is “Life is suffering.” and to grandma, it’s just “You get what you give.” All these phrases mean something similar- that life is hard and you’ll only get out what you put into it. This is why ideas like those in “Life in the Iron Mills” make me roll my eyes. Why is it that people still cling to the idea that somehow the system is set up to ensnare the poor to benefit the rich? It’s a ridiculous assertion no matter how many different ways it’s stated.
While crossing Forbes Ave after leaving our last class, I saw another of those ubiquitous “A revolution is possible in America!” signs put up by people that should be ashamed of themselves. Every time I see one, my red, white, and blue blood boils with rage. Particularly, this sign said something like “Society takes money from the masses and give it to a rich few.” I scratched out parts and changed it to “take money from willing consumers and give it to those who worked for it.”
“Life in the Iron Mills” shows how one can become enslaved. The workers are stuck in this hot, dirty mill doing a job for little pay over long hours. Somehow I’m supposed to feel sorry for these people? They’re not SLAVES, they’re doing a job! They’re producing something meaningful! If they don’t like it, they can quit or run away. Why don’t they? Ah yes, my point exactly…they need food and shelter! I suppose the authors of the sign on Forbes and of “Life in the Iron Mills” is arguing that someone should just give these people food for free, manna-from-heaven style.
I feel this claim could use elaboration. I need to eat. Therefore, I want food. To get food, I need to either gather it or make it. If I can’t, I need to trade for it. If I decide to trade you for your surplus, I need something to give you. Therefore, I need to MAKE THINGS to trade with. It doesn’t matter how you slice it, you need to WORK to get things like food. If no one works, there won’t be anything to eat.
The people in the mills are enslaved, I don’t argue that. What I take issue with is that the story tries to say they’re enslaved by other people. That not true at all, they’re a slave to their own hunger! Nature is the one that traps us. These mortal coils, as Shakespeare puts it, are the ones doing the trapping, not Mitchell and the other wealthy citizens. The story doesn’t convince me that life is unfair, it only convinces me that life sucks. All the proverbs listed above show that it’s a moot point.
Marcuse said “Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.”, implying that our bosses are our masters. In actuality, it’s nature and the physical world which master us. The “Plight of the working class” is a plight of being human. I have no idea how anyone in the 21st century can still think that socialism, aka “getting things I didn’t earn”, somehow overcomes the universal laws of “You can’t get something for nothing”. I feel it’s my job as an American citizen to take up the war path against the something-for-nothing ignorance that socialism, Marcuse, and Life in the Iron Mills profess. Thus the title of this blog.
P.S. As for "The Future Doesn't Need Us", http://xkcd.com/251/