FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Chicago: the Stupid Experiment

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

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 19, 2020
Ishmael Reed
Social Media: The New Grapevine Telegraph
David Schultz
Bernie Sanders and the Revenge of the Superdelegates
Kenneth Surin
Modi’s India
Chris Floyd
Which Side Are You On?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Hysteria Isn’t Killing Nuclear Power
Dave Lindorff
Truly Remaking Social Security is the Key to Having a Livable Society in the US
ANIS SHIVANI
Bloomberg on Bloomberg: The Selected Sayings of the Much-Awaited Establishment Messiah
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Occupations: The UN Business “Black List” and Israel’s Settlements
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Case: Critical Moment for the Anti-war Movement
Howard Lisnoff
The Wealth That’s Killing Us Will Save Us: Politics Through the Looking-Glass
Yves Engler
Canada, Get Out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS
Nick Licata
The Rule of Law Under Trump
Sam Gordon
A Treatise on Trinities
Nino Pagliccia
Open Letter to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Lima Group Meeting
John Kendall Hawkins
Just Two Kings Talking
February 18, 2020
John Pilger
Julian Assange Must be Freed, Not Betrayed
Peter Harrison
Religion is a Repeating Chapter in the History of Politics
Norman Solomon
The Escalating Class War Against Bernie Sanders
Conn Hallinan
Irish Elections and Unification
Dean Baker
We Shouldn’t Have to Beg Mark Zuckerberg to Respect Democracy
Sam Pizzigati
A Silicon Valley Life Lesson: Money That ‘Clumps’ Crushes
Arshad Khan
Minority Abuse: A Slice of Life in Modi’s India
Walden Bello
China’s Economy: Powerful But Vulernable
Nicolas J S Davies
Afghan Troops say Taliban are Brothers and War is “Not Really Our Fight.”
Nyla Ali Khan
The BJP is Not India, and Every Indian is Not a Modi-Devotee
Binoy Kampmark
Buying Elections: The Bloomberg Meme Campaign
Jonah Raskin
Here’s Hoping
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Herakles in the Age of Climate Chaos
Bob Topper
The Conscience of a Conservative
John W. Whitehead
We’re All in This Together
Gala Pin
Bodies in Freedom: a Barcelona Story
Laura Flanders
Democracy, Dictatorship and Bloomberg
James Chandler
Among Cruel Children
February 17, 2020
Sheldon Richman
Anti-BDS Laws Violate Our Freedom
John Horning
NEPA is Our National Defense System

Evelyn Leopold
How the UN’s Middle East Peace Plan Was Trounced by Its Own Members
Stephen Cooper
“Just Mercy” and Justice Don’t Exist in Alabama
Patrick Cockburn
Sinn Fein’s Victory is Ireland’s ‘Brexit Moment’ When Left-Out Voters Turn on the Elite
Ralph Nader
“Democratic Socialism” – Bring it on Corporate Socialists!
Phillip Doe
Every Day’s a Holiday for the Oil Business in Colorado
Binoy Kampmark
Fashion Fetishism, Surgical Masks and Coronavirus
Cesar Chelala
The Democrats’ New Chapter
Robert Koehler
The Wall: Separating Democracy From Voters
Peter Cohen
Time to Retire the “He Can’t Beat Trump” Trope
Sr. Kathleen Erickson
Lessons From Ministering on the Border
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail