Baltimore Evening Sun (24 August 1912): 6.
A set of Swedenborg’s works to any Christian Scientist who can cure my cold-in-the- head without the use of a Bunsen burner.
STOP! LOOK! LISTEN! [The Hon. Rudolph Blankenberg, reform Mayor of Philadelphia, in The Sun of last Monday.] The curse of the American nation is the politician who has turned contractor. His ring is kept alive with the people’s money. Pity the city that is governed by contractors!
That clergyman who writes me down in today’s Letter Column is an extremely plausible fellow, and so he seems to make out a very good case against me, but all the same that case of his is based upon a wholly gratuitous and erroneous assumption: to wit, the assumption that I hold the war against political chicanery and buffoonery to be certain of success; or, at any rate, that I hold it to be more likely to succeed than the war against poverty. In point of fact, I cherish no such theory, nor have I ever cherished it, nor have I ever said that I cherished it. On the contrary, my private view is that political chicanery is is nearly immortal as thirst or mendacity. It will last as long as civilization lasts, and maybe two or three days longer. The difference, in tenacity of life, between it and poverty is a difference no greater than that between tweedledum and tweedledee.
But why, then, waste time heaving chunks of onyx and porphyry at politicians? Why bawl so lustily against the irremediable? Why roll such nauseous pills for the incurable? The answer is simple and shameless: because it is good sport. Political mountebanks are ferae naturae. They lurk in every bramble bush and people every copse. What is more, they are sound in wind and limb, and so make graceful and amazing jumps from clod to clod. Therefore, it is pleasing, on a fine morning, to whistle for the dogs and go in pursuit of them. Their leaps are agreeable to the eye. Their yelps are music to the ear. They show fight. A gallop after them stirs the blood and sharpens the appetite. I know of nothing in the world more stimulating, save perhaps Florestan cocktails and laparotomy.
Beside, the chase has its high uses, its social value. Unless politicians were regularly hunted they would multiply enormously and grow too bold. As it is they invade our corncribs and raid our henroosts. Unchallenged and unpursued they would chew up the washing on the line. Therefore, it is not only extremely diverting, but also very virtuous to go after them with hounds and slings. The man who brings one down is soothed by the thought that he has done a good day’s work. He has rid the world of one pest more--and he has had a high old time at the business. If, in addition, he happens to be a hired professional, if he is paid for his work by people too fat or too lazy to take the high fences themselves, then his satisfaction is all the greater. Imagine, dear friends, the delights of an enterprise which is both virtuous and entertaining–and lucrative to boot!
Is all of this cheap cynicism? Bilious pessimism? Not at all. It is merely elemental determinism. The politician is inevitable and inexplicable, and so is the man who hunts him. You can’t tell me why one exists and you can’t tell me why the other exists. They are both immemorial figures in a world made up wholly of incomprehensible reactions. That I myself happen to be a newspaper reporter and not a politician is an accident ut,terly beyond my control, and even beyond my understanding. All I know is that newspaper reporting comes naturally to my hand, while politics excites my aversion. To take orders from the super-Mahon or any other such political manipulator would cover me with shame. But don’t forget that the super-Mahon would die of it if he had to take orders from the proprietors of The Evening Sun! So goes the world.
But determinism, like free will, is only a half truth. Most of the things I do are forced on me: I couldn’t avoid doing them if I tried. But over the way in which I do them I seem to have some control. (Notice that I say seem: here I merely accept the report of my consciousness, which may be a liar.) In brief, I may do my work with good will or with bad will, willingly or protestingly. It is easier and more satisfying to do it willingly. If my job is to heave bricks, why not choose hard bricks and heave them with a glad heart? Why not get as much pleasure as possible out of an incomprehensible necessity? Why struggle against fate? Why not yield to it, ratify it and give three cheers for it?
But this conception of necessity, let me here point out, is by no means a conception of divine inspiration, of transcendental duty. If I myself were to cut my throat tonight the trade I pursue would probably be carried on Jjst the same tomorrow. And its progress through all future time would be unchauged. The individual is nothing in such great affairs. He is part of the process, he may even be necessary to the process, but the final issue of that process does not depend upon his volition. The politician is just as inevitable as the anti-politician; disease is just as natural as health. What such combats of yes and no may mean I don’t know, but I do know that they exist, and I do know that their course is just as incomprehensible and just as much beyond human influence as their beginning.
Such, at least, is my view at the present moment--to wit, at 11.45 o’clock A. M. of Saturday, August 24, 1912. I hope to get around to its application to the Hon. Charles J. Ogle some time next week. But by that time, of course, it may be considerably changed.
Anyhow, them ex-sheriffs take better care of the money than what the State would have took of it.
Contributions to the Dashing Harry monument fund to noon today:
|The Hon. Edward Hirsch||............||2.25|
|One who heard the Hissing||............||.32|
The Hon. Mr. Hirsch, having contributed $5 to another fund earlier in the week, is temporarily embarasseed, but he hopes to raise $40 before long on his famous sea-going diamond Gompers II, and if the deal goes through he will put up $10 additional.
Don’t rush the can to strange kaifs! Burns is a snake!