There are two very American books that (to me) present a fundamental problem: one is The Jungle (Upton Sinclair) and the other is Jack London’s Iron Heel. Both novels present the evil greed that men are capable of and both offer a solution or at least direction for improvement based on the ideals of socialism. Neither makes the United States, even a fictional America, very appealing. It’s interesting to recall that these novels, especially the dystopian Iron Heel, represent or project bad times for an era that is now behind us: look at George Orwell’s 1984 … not even Apple Computer can erase that future, even though it is now past due.
Having studied literature for over a century I have encountered socialism in many authors (G. B. Shaw comes to mind) and living in the United States I grew up on the understanding that socialism was the same thing as Communism and you were better off dead than Red. Now that my life is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf, I clearly understand that the fear and disgust surrounding socialism is and always has been created to perpetuate the rich and elite oligarchs who manipulate and control this country and have done so almost since its beginning. In the fifties we sneered at the dishonesty of the Soviet propaganda, little realizing the our country was the champion at spreading lies and deceit … is that why they refer to American Exceptionalism?
This is the message I get out of The Jungle. All those horrific and disgusting descriptions of the meat packing industry are surely punctuated by the breakfast sausage I had this morning and the sausage machine is definitely more frightening than The Creature From the Black Lagoon, but it is the greed and corruption of the meat packing industry and the knowledge that such industries and corporations still control this country that is truly and lastingly scary.
Today we have new, 21st Century issues and the current international corporations are, as has been historical shown, continuing to mendaciously encourage what is often referred to as “wage slavery” and at the same time foisting dangerous products or processes on the public which has neither the power, the money, nor the audacity to confront these modern day robber barons. Let’s face it, the corporations are out to maximize there profit and are not terribly concerned about how their actions effect the country or its ordinary citizens.
Let’s list just a few things that are in the news now—things which inevitably will be approved or overlooked by a well-paid politician or two—
- Monsanto and their GMO foods which they don’t want unsuspected humans to know about in their diets
- Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup which it is conjectured to be causing many of the health problems that have been exploding in the last forty years
- Products from a burgeoning China that might not be as healthy or substantial as they are advertised
- Oil companies that rape the coastlines of the country and destroy wildlife and wildlife habitat in pursuit of more petroleum to boost their profits (and the government that grants them the rights)
- Major corporation receiving huge government handouts and crying that they could not survive without them, despite the billions of dollars they make each year
- Obscene amounts of money being spent to assure the election of compatible candidates or to assure the passage of laws and regulations that are favorable to those with the money (and usually not good for the country)
- GM closing in on the singular distinction that they may recall ever car they made in the last ten years
- The unmistakable bias, if not total corruption, of the main stream media (we won’t even mention Fox News)
- Anything that comes out of Sarah Palin’s mouth, including drool
This inordinately short list (it could have been so much longer) is a reminder that no matter how horrific novels such as The Jungle might be, they continue to represent the activities of industries and corporations that are not much different than the big meat packers in the Chicago stock yards a century ago. And remember, there are many reactionary voices insisting on removing the government regulation that reined in most of the abuses of industry. These voices may be throwing a lot of money around, buying elections, buying politicians, buying favorable legal rulings, buying favorable laws, but we know it is the contract we have with the Federal government that will keep them at bay … but for how long?
Do the Koch brothers have enough money to bring back the unregulated abuses like those so vividly described in The Jungle?