FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Chicago: the Stupid Experiment

by GREG MOSES

Chicago is bleeding, and the Mayor has called the citizens to action: “I don’t want people to wait for Mayor Daley to call a meeting. I want you to call a meeting in your home with your children and loved ones. I want you to go next door and talk to those children next door. I want the parents of the block to say ‘This block will be free of violence.’  Suddenly, all voices converge upon the insight that if nobody else actually provides time or space for youthful thrills, the gun industry will.

Ninety nine years ago Jane Addams wrote about “the stupid experiment” of American life that she saw all around her in Chicago.  The adult world had thrown together a city based on round-the-clock work.  Impressive piles of cash were daily stacked and sorted.  In the hustle-built streets meanwhile stood all the children dropped and stranded by a colossal shift of economic priorities.  Stranded youth were symptom to a deeper cause, argued Addams.  In modern life the whole spirit of youth has been exiled and detained.

“This stupid experiment of organizing work and failing to organize play has, of course, brought about a fine revenge,” wrote Addams in 1909, pre-dating by a full decade the better known thesis of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents.  Adults were damming up their own “sweet fountains” of pleasure, “but almost worse than the restrictive measures is our apparent belief that the city has no obligation in the matter, an assumption upon which the modern city turns over to commercialism practically all the provisions for public recreation.”

Public recreation?  “Only in the modern city have men concluded that it is no longer necessary for the municipality to provide for the insatiable desire for play.”  SWAT teams and jobs programs are what headlines call for today; more “restrictive measures” and “organizing work.”  According to the Addams formula, these can only add up to another “fine revenge.”

Cromwell’s Puritan dictatorship stripped communal life of adornment and joy, recalls Addams. Then the liquor stores stepped in.  As a result, people in the modern Anglo city work to make money, then spend their money buying liquor.

Young women in this new economy could be turned into one of two things: working hands by day or working bodies by night.  Bitches or hos.  Missing everywhere now was joy.  And the young men under this new regime?  Well, there was one sanctioned public endeavor that would guarantee them some hope of adventure.  Didn’t Addams virtually predict a century of war?

As the pleasure intensity of adult play grew, so did the distance between adult society and children.  Is the Playboy mansion the kind of place one brings actual boys?  Communal festivals used to be different, argues Addams, where adults and children could dance together.  If children obviously get lost in this new industrialized strandedness, adults also fail to find refreshment from an authentic “spirit of youth.”

Everyone fails to listen to the one voice capable of instructing Socrates. It was Diotima, recalls Addams, who said that love is an attempt to give birth to beauty.  There is an essential lesson here for any republic that wants to be something besides ugly.  When we have come to a crisis where men chase killer kids with SWAT teams and jobs, it may be time to follow the example of Socrates.  There is a woman here talking about city-centered love and joy.  Shut up and learn.

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. He is a contributor to Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, to be published by AK Press in June 2008. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net

 

 

 

 

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Obama’s Legacy
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Christopher Brauchli
Parallel Lives: Trump and Temer
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail