Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Modest Proposal Revisited

While I do not always agree that “history repeats itself,” in certain respects it does. You may know from reading your history (you did read your history did you not) that when the great transformation occurred from the previous agrarian medieval system to the industrial system that was driving people from the land and into the cities, there was a terrible problem of unemployment and poverty. The streets were full of beggars, mostly women begging food for their children. We do not have women begging in the streets much (at least not yet) but we do have a terrible problem with children in poverty. It is said that one child in five is now living in poverty and often does not have enough to eat, we have increasing numbers of families on food stamps, unemployment is rampant, and there is no solution in sight. Looking back in time I remembered there was once a solution offered that seems to me perfectly suited to our present condition:

A Modest Proposal
For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland
From Being Aburden to Their Parents or Country, and
For Making Them Beneficial to The Public

This was written by Jonathan Swift in 1729 who reported:

”I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled ...”

So, you see, this might be the very solution we have been seeking. It fits in perfectly with the Republican program for America: no unemployment insurance, no minimum wage, no universal health care, no Social Security, no abortion, no planned parenthood, no day care for working mothers, no pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and basically (if possible) no free elementary education, and according to some, no birth control. While Republicans are vitally concerned with the well-being of the fetus, and perfectly adamant that women must bear their children to term even in cases of rape and incest, after the birth of the child it is clear they have little or no further interest in its well-being. I suggest, just as Jonathan Swift did, that rather than let these children go to waste they could be eaten…”stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled.”

It is rare to find a previous solution to a problem, especially one almost 300 years old, that seems as suitable for the present as this one. Jonathan Swift, it is true, thought he was writing a satire about an unprecedented problem brought about by massive sociocultural changes, little did he know the same problem would endure for so long. I think he rather naively thought someone would do something about it.

I regard myself as being unusually cynical and pessimistic, although I would like to be different. Today I ran into one of my friends whose ideas about the United States and the world made me feel like Pollyanna. I confess to being susceptible to such predictions of gloom and doom. It seems to me true that gobal warming is not only real but also importantly man-made, and also true we seem to be doing little about it. It seems to me true we are witnessing the failure of our much vaunted capitalism and the inevitable collapse of our current economic conditions. It seems to me true we are now engaged in endless “wars,” that seem to have no useful purpose other than supporting a massive military/industrial/political system that is destroying the middle class and the poor in favor of the rich and the giant multinational corporations. It seems to me true that our members of Congress, as well as those in the Executive and Judicial branches of government, being bribed by those that have, have no longer any interest in protecting ordinary people and that our democracy has become a sham, a charade, a bad joke. I do not believe it is even theoretically possible to find (or “create”) jobs for some 18 or more million people under our current economic system. As meaningful change seems unlikely, at least in the near future, if ever, I suggest eating our children may be a useful strategy. Cannibalism is by no means unknown in human societies. You can probably develop a taste for it, just as you have for spinach and broccoli, or even pickled pigs’ feet and head cheese, maybe even limburger cheese, lutefisk and haggis. If you do not like this idea, please advise.

W. C. Fields, when asked how he liked children, reportedly answered, “parboiled” (actually he was very fond of children even in their natural condition).

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