The Most Materialistic Age

In this excerpt from Winesburg, Ohio, published almost a century ago in 1919, Sherwood Anderson predicts the future with a depressing degree of accuracy:

That is what Jesse hungered for and then also he hungered for something else. He had grown into maturity in America in the years after the Civil War and he, like all men of his time, had been touched by the deep influences that were at work in the country during those years when modern industrialism was being born. He began to buy machines that would permit him to do the work of the farms while employing fewer men and he sometimes thought that if he were a younger man he would give up farming altogether and start a factory in Winesburg for the making of machinery. Jesse formed the habit of reading newspapers and magazines. He invented a machine for the making of fence out of wire. Faintly he realized that the atmosphere of old times and places that he had always cultivated in his own mind was strange and foreign to the thing that was growing up in the minds of others. The beginning of the most materialistic age in the history of the world, when wars would be fought without patriotism, when men would forget God and only pay attention to moral standards, when the will to power would replace the will to serve and beauty would be well-nigh forgotten in the terrible headlong rush of mankind toward the acquiring of possessions, was telling its story to Jesse the man of God as it was to the men about him. The greedy thing in him wanted to make money faster than it could be made by tilling the land. More than once he went into Winesburg to talk with his son-in-law John Hardy about it. “You are a banker and you will have chances I never had,” he said and his eyes shone. “I am thinking about it all the time. Big things are going to be done in the country and there will be more money to be made than I ever dreamed of. You get into it. I wish I were younger and had your chance.” Jesse Bentley walked up and down in the bank office and grew more and more excited as he talked. At one time in his life he had been threatened with paralysis and his left side remained somewhat weakened. As he talked his left eyelid twitched. Later when he drove back home and when night came on and the stars came out it was harder to get back the old feeling of a close and personal God who lived in the sky overhead and who might at any moment reach out his hand, touch him on the shoulder, and appoint for him some heroic task to be done. Jesse’s mind was fixed upon the things read in newspapers and magazines, on fortunes to be made almost without effort by shrewd men who bought and sold.

Winesburg, Ohio, and most other Sherwood Anderson works, are in the public domain and may be downloaded freely from Project Gutenberg, HERE.

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Pillars of the Community

“To steal from a brother or sister is evil. To not steal from the institutions that are the pillars of the Pig Empire is equally immoral.”  ~Abbie Hoffman

The city in East Texas where I live has over 100,000 people, but we only have two grocery stores to choose from: Walmart, and Brookshire’s.

Brookshire’s is ungodly expensive, and I believe that has more to do with the local social strata than anything else. There’s a saying here, only partly in jest, that if you’re less than third-generation then you’re still the new kid. Brookshire’s customers are willing to pay more not because of better quality or better choices, but simply because the higher prices keep out the riff-raff.

So those of us in the working class don’t really have a choice. We have to go to Walmart because it’s the only place we can afford.

The local Walmart recently remodeled, and only have three manned checkout lanes now. All the rest are self-checkout. The cashier told me that the last remaining three are going to be phased out, and everyone will have to scan and sack their own groceries.

I asked about my 88-year-old father. She said he’d have to learn to do it himself. I said he can’t. She said he’ll have to.

Walmart is one of the most profitable chains in America, and they’re going to lay off their most underpaid workers.  They are counting on their customers to do their work for them, for free, so the stockholders can enjoy larger dividends.

Be super careful as you check out your own groceries. You sure don’t want to make a mistake.

Me and Sherwood and Billy Pilgrim

From Malcom Cowley’s introduction to the Penguin Classic’s edition of Sherwood Anderson’s Windesburg Ohio, © 1919:

One characteristic of the subconscious is a defective sense of time: in dreams the old man sees himself as a boy, and the events of thirty or forty years may be jumbled together. Time as a logical succession of events was Anderson’s greatest difficulty in writing novels or even long stories. He got his tenses confused and carried his heroes ten years forward or back in a single paragraph. His instinct was to present everything together, as in a dream.

I have the same problem.  Time just doesn’t seem linear to me.

I’ve had the experience more than once of finding a date on a ticket stub or an old letter which proves conclusively that the order of things as I remembered them could not be true.  It’s always a little disorienting.

I’ve thought of making an autobiographical blog, but it couldn’t possibly be chronological. The memories would be more like a series of colored panes that wouldn’t necessarily fit together to make a stained glass window.

Most of Sherwood Anderson’s novels and short stories are in the public domain, and can be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg, HERE.

 

I’m very leery of the movement to legalize marijuana.

The same people with the power to improve our lives are instead offering to sell us– at a substantial profit– a few moments relief from the world they have created.

That’s not nearly good enough.