24 June 2007

Sunday Debs

It is at this point that Chicago particularly prides herself upon her “charities,’ hospitals and eleemosynary endowments, all breathing the sweet spirit of Christian philanthropy—utterly ignorant of the fact, designedly or otherwise, that these very institutions are manifestations of social disease and are monumental of the iniquity of the system that must rear such whited sepulchers to coneal its crimes.

I do not oppose the insane asylum—but I abhor and condemn the cutthroat system that robs man of his reason, drives him to insanity and makes the lunatic asylum an indispensable adjunct to every civilized community.

With the ten thousand “charities’ that are proposed to poultice the sores and bruises of society, I have little patience.

Worst of all is the charity ball. Chicago indulges in these festering festivals on a grand scale.

Think of cavorting around in a dress suit because some poor wretch is hungry; and of indulging in a royal carousal to comfort some despairing woman on the brink of suicide; and finally, that in “fashionable society’ the definition of this mixture of inanity and moral perversion is “charity.’

Fleece your fellows! That is “business,’ and you are a captain of industry. Having “relieved’ your victims of their pelts, dance and make merry to “relieve’ their agony. This is “charity’ and you are a philanthropist.

In summing up the moral assets of a great (?) city, the churches should not be overlooked. Chicago is a city of fine churches. All the denominations are copiously represented, and sermons in all languages and of all varieties are turned out in job lots and at retail to suit the market.

The churches are always numerous where vice is rampant. They seem to spring from the same soil and thrive in the same climate.

And yet the churches are supposed to wage relentless warfare upon evil. To just what extent they have checked its spread in the Windy City may be inferred from the probing of the press into the body social to ascertain “what is the matter with Chicago.’

The preachers are not wholly to blame, after all, for their moral and spiritual impotency. They are wage workers, the same as coal miners, and are just as dependent upon the capitalist class. How can they be expected to antagonize the interests of their employers and hold their jobs? The unskilled preachers, the common laborers in the arid spots of the vineyard, are often wretchedly paid, and yet they remain unorganized and have never struck for better wages.

Eugene V. Debs; What's the Matter with Chicago?; 1902