Most people know Upton Sinclair for his “muckraking” novel, The Jungle, and now a few more know of his novel Oil! which was made into the critically successful movie, There Will Be Blood, but very few people know just how prolific Sinclair was: he wrote fiction, essays, even a few dramas. To give you an idea of his impressive output, here is the list from Wikipedia:
Reading a passage from The Jungle I suddenly realized what the real problem with this country and its beloved capitalism actually is. In the passage a saloonkeeper admits to seeding the clientele with needy looking street people who encouraged the more affluent customers to buy them a few drinks: shades of dancehall girls. The saloonkeeper posited that if he didn’t do it, someone else would.
Then the narrator expands the thought to manufacturers who adulterate or otherwise cheat on the ingredients in their products (a good example being canned meat … don’t ask what’s in it … ever). Hey, if one huge agribusiness corporation doesn’t do it, another big agribusiness corporation will.
That’s the rationale behind our greedy corporations: if they don’t cheat you, someone else will … so they are justified in cheating you.
It’s so simple and conveniently avoids moral considerations. Where can I get the bumper-sticker?
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.
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