“The Western land, nervous under the beginning change. The Western States, nervous as horses before a thunder storm. The great owners, nervous, sensing a change, knowing nothing of the nature of the change. The great owners, striking at the immediate thing, the widening government, the growing labor unity; striking at new taxes, at plans; not knowing these things are results, not causes. Results, not causes; results, not causes. The causes lie deep and simple—the causes are a hunger in a stomach, multiplied a million times; a hunger in a single soul, hunger for joy and some security, multiplied a million times; muscles and mind aching to grow, to work, to create, multiplied a million times. The last clear definite function of man—muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond the single need—this is man. To build a wall, to build a house, a dam, and in the wall and house and dam to put something of Manself, and to Manself take back something of the wall, the house, the dam; to take hard muscles from the lifting, to take the clear lines and form from conceiving. For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments. This you may say of man—when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic,grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back. This you may say and know it and know it. This you may know when the bombs plummet out of the black planes on the market place, when prisoners are stuck like pigs, when the crushed bodies drain filthily in the dust. You may know it in this way. If the step were not being taken, if the stumbling-forward ache were not alive, the bombs would not fall. The throats would not be cut. Fear the time when the bombs stop falling while the bombers live—for every bomb is proof that the spirit has not died. And fear the time when the strikes stop while the great owners live—for every little beaten strike is proof that the step is being taken. And this you can know—fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.” ~John Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath)
Beginning Change in the Dust Bowl
Wow! Just Wow! I don’t think I have ever read a more powerful paragraph that this quote from The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. I usually wouldn’t use such a long quote to start a post, but I didn’t want to leave out any of it, even the parts that could be misconstrued as support for war (more on that later).
Steinbeck is writing about this mostly from a material sense, but it is equally powerful when we look at the spiritual side of it. And while Steinbeck was writing about the conditions during the Dust Bowl, he could have been writing about our time.
Nervous Owners, Nervous States
We get a better understanding of what this means if we replace Owners with Corporations and the Wealthy class, and States with governments at all levels. This also we see today.
The governments are “nervous” because they seem to, on one hand, be losing the ability to control some people, while on the other, being controlled by the wealthy individuals and corporations more than they are comfortable with. They are realizing that as people awaken to what is happening, they will turn against those in government who pretend to represent the people, when they really don’t.
The “Owners” are nervous because they too realize that there trickery for keeping people under control is not working as well as it used. The wealthy used to be able to prevent the “peasants” from turning on them by getting various peasant groups to turn against each others. The Jews against the Christians, Blacks against whites, North against South, and so on. While they are still having some success with such methods, more and more people are turning away from it and catching on to this form of manipulation.
They are also finding their ability to control governments fading. While there are still plenty of government officials who will gladly be owned by the highest bidder, some are not. While we are going through a horrendous period in the United States with a federal government where President Trump has created a cabinet of the most divisive and unqualified people he could find, it is serving to push this behavior into the limelight which will likely lead to its end.
Causes and Results
Once again we are seeing people striking back at taxes, government regulations, and organizations that try to protect our individual rights. Again, they don’t see that they are attacking the results of the problem, not the actual problem.
When people refuse to behave in a civilized way and in a way that protects the environment for future generations, it is the duty of government to step in and regulate. If companies treat employees like slaves, it is the duty of good government to regulate. Yet people blame regulation rather than the cause of the regulation. They blame the result, and therefore the real problem doesn’t get fixed.
Steinbeck says the causes are a hunger in the stomach and a hunger in the soul. He is correct in both. For the more materialistic person, having a good job, a home, a reasonable amount of creature comforts is the goal. When that goal is stifled by the greedy wealthy class, the people understandably are unhappy. They don’t like it and they seek solutions. This is the sort of thing that has in the past led to revolutions, and it may happen again. This is why the wealthy individuals and corporation are so nervous.
Bombs and Wars
Part of the quote makes it sound as if Steinbeck is defending wars, bombings, and killings as a good thing. I don’t see it that way. I think what he is saying is that when such things occur, it shows that we have not yet been conquered. We are not defeated by the burdens of the rich and the controls of the government. Fighting back means we haven’t given up. That is what Steinbeck means.
But bombs and wars, killing of any sort is not a solution. It is, in fact, playing into the hands of the wealthy who need to keep the populations of the common folk in check. The more people they are, the more likely they will revolt against the controllers. A better solution is a change in people, all people.
Spirituality VS Materialism
We need to face up to one thing: materialism is a failed paradigm. It hasn’t made s happier or healthier. The most materialistic countries are among the least healthy. And they are not full of joyful people either. Even the most wealthy keep trying to get more, because material wealth doesn’t satisfy, and never will. We are living in a spiritual dust bowl that is just as devastating as the material one.
The solution is to develop our spiritual side rather than concentrate entirely on the physical and mental. We have spent centuries trying to make material live as pleasant as possible. Brilliant inventors have come up with one labor saving device after another to make life easier for us. Yet we remain unsatisfied. Medical researchers have found wondrous medications for us, yet we are not healthy. that is because we are trying to fix the problem on the wrong level.
We need to awaken our spiritual faculties. We come into this world with those faculties in a dormant state, and each of us is responsible for awakening them when we are ready. If we fail to do so, we will likely remain miserable and unsatisfied through our entire life.
There is much talk about spirituality these days, and many refer to themselves as spiritual with little idea of what that means. You can’t really be spiritual if you haven’t actually awakened and began to develop your spirit and soul. As long as your concept of spirituality remains in the mind only, you haven’t become spiritual. There are good spiritual schools available to help those who truly want to become spiritual. You should consider joining one. Help bring an end to the spiritual dust bowl now.