Friday, April 13, 2012

OWS Arab Spring Agenda 21 and more.... a 1932 time warp

From  an article by George S Counts in 1932.....some things that seem much too prophetic, his 1932 sounds like today, the cries of OWS, the ideas of Agenda 21, etc....
Bear with me as a give a smattering of lengthy verbose quotes from the article, without commentary...but I feel if you take the time to read them, they speak for themselves.

The need for the founding of Progressive Education on an adequate social theory is peculiarly imperative today. We live in troublous times; we live in an age of profound change; we live in an age of revolution. Indeed, it is highly doubtful whether man ever lived in a more eventful period than the present. In order to match our epoch we would probably have to go back to the fall of ancient empires, or even to that unrecorded age when men first abandoned the simple arts of hunting and fishing and trapping and began to experiment with agriculture and the settled life. Today we are witnessing the rise of civilization quite without precedent in human history -- a civilization which is founded on science, technology, and machinery, which possesses the most extraordinary power, and which is rapidly making the entire world a single great society. As a consequence of forces already released, whether in the field of economics, politics, morals, religion, or art, the old molds are being broken. And the peoples of the earth are seething with strange ideas and passions. If life were peaceful and quiet and undisturbed by great issues, we might, with some show of wisdom, center our attention on the nature of the child. But with the world as it is, we cannot afford for a single instant to remove our eyes from the social scene.

In this new world that is forming, there is one set of issues which is peculiarly fundamental, and which is certain to be the center of bitter and prolonged struggle. I refer to those issues which may be styled economic. President Butler has well stated the case: "For a generation and more past," he says, "the center of human interest has been moving from the point which it occupied for some four hundred years to a new point which it bids fair to occupy for a time equally long. The shift in the position of the center of gravity in human interest has been from politics to economics; from considerations that had to do with forms of government, with the establishment and protection of individual liberty, to considerations that have to do with the production, distribution, and consumption of wealth."


Consider the situation in which we find ourselves today. How the gods must laugh at human folly! And who among us, if he had not been reared among our institutions, could believe his eyes as he surveys the economic situation, or his ears as he listens to solemn disquisitions by our financial and political leaders on the cause and cure of the depression! Here is a society in which a mastery over the forces of nature, surpassing the wildest dreams of antiquity, is accompanied by extreme material insecurity; in which dire poverty walks hand in hand with the most extravagant living that the world has ever known; in which an abundance of goods of all kinds is coupled with privation, misery, and even starvation; in which an excess of production is seriously offered as the underlying cause of severe physical suffering; in which breakfastless children march to school past bankrupt shops laden with rich foods gathered from the ends of the earth; in which strong men by the millions walk the streets in a futile search for employment and, with the exhaustion of hope, enter the ranks of beaten men; in which so-called captains of industry close factories without warning and dismiss the workmen by whose labors they have amassed great fortunes through the years; in which automatic machinery increasingly displaces men and threatens the economic order with a growing contingent of the permanently unemployed; in which racketeers and gangsters, with the connivance of public officials, fasten themselves on the channels of trade and exact toll at the end of the machine gun; in which economic parasitism, either within or without the law, has become so easy for the cunning and the ruthless that the tradition seems to be taking root that "only saps work"; in which the wages paid to the workers are too meagre to enable them to buy back the goods they produce; in which consumption is subordinated to production and the science of psychology is employed to fan the flames of desire; in which a governmental commission advises cotton growers to plow under every fourth row of cotton in order to bolster up the market; in which both ethical and esthetic considerations are commonly over-ridden by "practical" men bent on material gain; in which the dole to the unemployed is opposed on the grounds that it will pauperize the masses when the favored classes, through the institution of interest, have always lived on the dole; in which our most responsible leaders, not knowing what to do, resort to the practices of the witch doctor and vie with one another in predicting the return of prosperity; in which an ideal of rugged individualism, evolved in a simple pioneering and agrarian order at a time when free land existed in abundance, is used to justify a system, which exploits pitilessly and without thought of the morrow, the natural and human resources of the nation and the world. One can only imagine what Jeremiah would say if he could step out of the pages of the Old Testament and cast his eyes over this

and yet some more....yes, I bring in education here....

The achievement of this goal, however, would seem to require fundamental changes in the economic system. Historic capitalism, with its deification of the principle of selfishness, its reliance upon the forces of competition, its placing of property above human rights, and its exaltation of the profit motive, will either have to be displaced altogether, or so radically changed in form and spirit that its identity will be completely lost. In view of the fact that the urge for private gain tends to debase everything that it touches, whether business, recreation, religion, art, or friendship, the indictment against capitalism might well be made on moral grounds. And these are the grounds on which the attack has commonly been made in the past. Today, however, capitalism is proving itself weak at the very point where it has generally been thought impregnable – in the organization and the maintenance of production. In its present form capitalism is not only cruel and inhuman; it is also wasteful and inefficient. It has exploited our natural riches without the slightest regard for the future; it has made technology serve the interests of the profit motive; it has chained the engineer to the vagaries of the price system; it has plunged great nations of the world into a succession of wars, ever more devastating and catastrophic in character; and only recently, it has brought on a world crisis of such dimensions that millions of men in all of the great industrial countries have been thrown out of work and a general condition of paralysis pervades the entire economic order. Obviously, the growth of science and technology has reached a point where competition must be replaced by coöperation, the urge for profits by careful planning, and private capitalism by some form of socialized economy.
Changes in our economic system will, of course, require changes in our ideals. The individualism of the pioneer or the farmer, produced by free land, great distances, economic independence, and a largely self-sustaining family economy, is already without solid foundation in either agriculture or industry. The free land has long since disappeared, the great distances have been shortened immeasurably by invention, the economic independence survives only in the traditions of our people, and the self-sustaining family economy has been swallowed up in a vast society which disregards the boundaries of nations. Already we live in an economy which, in its function, is fundamentally coöperative. There merely remains the task of reconstructing our economic forms and of reformulating our social ideals so that they may be in harmony with the underlying facts of life. The man who would live unto himself alone is now a public enemy; the day of individualism in the economic sphere is gone.

To those who fear that the development of a coördinated, planned, and socialized economy may be accompanied by a severe curtailment of personal freedom, there are several things to be said. That under such an economy the actions of the individuals in certain directions would be limited is fairly obvious. No one would be permitted to build a new factory or railroad wherever he pleased; also no one would be permitted to amass great riches by manipulating the economic institutions of the country. On the other hand, by means of the complete and uninterrupted functioning of the economic system the foundations could be laid for the a measure of freedom in the realm of personal life that mankind has never known in the past. Freedom without a secure economic base is simply no freedom at all. Thus, in comparison with the right to work and eat, the right to vote is but an empty bauble. Today only the plutocracy have freedom with an economic support; and even in their case this freedom may be rather precarious. If all of us could be assured of material security and abundance, we would be released from economic worries and our minds set free to grapple with the really important questions of life – the intellectual, the moral, and the esthetic. The point should also be made that the full utilization of modern technology, a condition on which our entire argument rests, requires the planning and coördination of economic processes. We might, of course, resolve to retire into the simple agrarian society of the past; but we could scarcely hope to persuade many of our fellow men to follow us. And, no doubt, those few who might make such a resolution would like to take with them certain of the fruits of industrialism – bathtubs, electricity, and various labor-saving devices.
The problem of the reconstruction of our economic order, however, is not the only problem that we face. Profound changes in this realm are being accompanied and must be accompanied by equally profound changes in other fields. Life cannot be divided neatly into a number of separate compartments. The reduction of the hours of labor and the ushering in of an age of material abundance must have severe repercussions in the spheres of art, government, morals, and religion. Indeed, we see this very thing happening in contemporary society today. And while in the present paper attention is centered on the economic question, our educational theory will have to embrace the entire range of life. It will have to deal, not only with labor and income and property, but also with leisure and recreation, sex and family, government and public opinion, race and nationality, war and peace, art and esthetics.

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