Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion
Book Four - The Church of the Slaves
A four years' war was fought in America, a million men were killed and half a continent was devastated, in order to abolish chattel slavery and put wage slavery in its place. I have made a thorough study of both these industrial systems, and I freely admit that there is one respect in which the lot of the wage slave is better than that of the chattel slave. The wage slave is free to think; and by squeezing a few drops of blood from his starving body, he may possess himself of machinery for the distribution of his ideas. Taking his chances of the policeman's club and the jail, he may found revolutionary organizations, and he has the candle of hope to light him to his death-bed. But excepting this consideration, and taking the circumstances of the wage slave from the material point of view alone, I hold it beyond question that the average lot of the chattel slave of 1860 was preferable to that of the modern slave of the Beef Trust, the Steel Trust, or the Coal Trust. It was the Southern master's real concern, his business interest, that the chattel slave should be kept physically sound: but it is nobody's business to care anything about the wage slave. The children of the chattel slave were valuable property, and so they got plenty to eat, and a happy out-door life, and medical attention if they fell ill. But the children of the sweat-shop or the cotton-mill or the canning- factory are raised in a city slum, and never know what it is to have enough to eat, never know a feeling of security or rest -
We are weary in our cradles
The system of competitive commercialism, of large-scale capital industry in its final flowering! I quote from "The Jungle":
Here in this city tonight, ten thousand women are shut up in foul pens, and driven by hunger to sell their bodies to live. Tonight in Chicago there are ten thousand men, homeless and wretched, willing to work and begging for a chance, yet starving, and fronting with terror the awful winter cold! Tonight in Chicago there are a hundred thousand children wearing out their strength and blasting their lives in the effort to earn their bread! There are a hundred thousand mothers who are living in misery and squalor, struggling to earn enough to feed their little ones! There are a hundred thousand old people, cast off and helpless, waiting for death to take them from their torments! There are a million people, men and women and children, who share the curse of the wage-slave; who toil every hour they can stand and see, for just enough to keep them alive; who are condemned till the end of their days to monotony and weariness, to hunger and misery, to heat and cold, to dirt and disease, to ignorance and drunkenness and vice! And then turn over the page with me, and gaze upon the other side of the picture.
There are a thousand - ten thousand, maybe - who are the masters of these slaves, who own their toil. They do nothing to earn what they receive, they do not even have to ask for it - it comes to them of self, their only care is to dispose of it. They live in palaces, they riot in luxury and extravagance - such as no words can describe, as makes the imagination reel and stagger, makes the soul grow sick and faint. They spend hundreds of dollars for a pair of shoes, a handkerchief, a garter; they spend millions for horses and automobiles and yachts, for palaces and banquets, for little shiny stones with which to deck their bodies. Their life is a contest among themselves for supremacy in ostentation and recklessness, in the destroying of useful and necessary things, in the wasting of the labor and the lives of their fellow-creatures, the toil and anguish of the nations, the sweat and tears and blood of the humin race, it is all theirs - it comes to them; just as all the springs pour into streamlets, and the streamlets into rivers, and the rivers into the ocean - so, automatically and inevitably, all the wealth of society comes to them. The farmer tills the soil, the minor digs in the earth, the weaver tends the loom, the mason carves the stone; the clever man invents, the shrewd man directs. the wise man studies, the inspired man sings - and all the results, the products of the labor of brain and muscle, are gathered into one stupendous stream and poured into their laps!
This is the system. It is the crown and culmination of all the wrongs of the ages; and in, proportion to the magnitude of its exploitation, is the hypocrisy and knavery of the clerical camouflage which has been organized in its behalf. Beyond all question, the supreme irony of history is the use which has been made of Jesus of Nazareth as the Head God of this blood-thirsty system; it is a cruelty beyond all language, a blasphemy beyond the power of art to express. Read the man's words, furious as those of any modern agitator that I have heard in 20 years of revolutionary experience: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth! - Sell that ye have and give alms - Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of Heaven! - Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation! - Verily, I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of Heaven! - Woe unto you also, you lawyers! - Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"
"And this man" - I quote from "The Jungle" again - "they have made into the high-priest of property and smug respectability, a divine sanction of all the horrors and abominations of modern commercial civilization! Jewelled images are made of him, sensual priests burn incense to him, and modern pirates of industry bring their dollars, wrung from the toil of helpless women and children, and build temples to him, and sit in cushioned seats and listen to his teachings expounded by doctors of dusty divinity!"
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