Recently in AP United States History, we were discussing the era of the 1890s when middle-class reformers called Progressives were trying to change society and make it better for those in need. One of these reforms was the regulation of food, specifically meat. Upton Sinclair, a socialist author of the time, saw firsthand how terrible the conditions were and wanted to do something to change them, so he wrote The Jungle. This novel brought to light the horrors of the meat industry and how unhealthy it was for the workers and the consumers. I’m actually a little leary about reading this book because I have heard it is stomach-churning and vomit-inducing, something we should not be proud of as Americans. During the time before this book was published, the general public had no idea that their meat that they consumed was handled in grotesque, horrifying ways. They were oblivious to the fact that rats occupied the same space as their Sunday dinner. Upton Sinclair brought all this to light after the meat-packers union in Chicago went on strike and his editor said he should write about it. Nobody probably had the notion that this would lead to social and ethical reform. The things he witnessed were appalling and downright disgusting. You can read about some of the conditions of these meat-packing plants here, it’s too gross and time-consuming to type out. Sinclair published his book and the public was outraged; this was the food that they trusted workers with, stuff they were putting into their bodies with the illusion that it was good for them and safe as well. This led to major reform with President Teddy Roosevelt. the trustbusting man who reformed the corporate business world. He passed the Pure Food and Drug Act as well as the Meat Inspection Act that led to inspections of work places and the foundation of the FDA, with laws and regulations on the quality of food. Sinclair’s novel changed the way we eat, resulting in a change in the way we live, literally. Stay tuned for my next post of my review of The Jungle.
The ideas of socialism contained the blue prints for a so-called perfect society, or a utopia. Socialism is based on the simple idea of sharing: share what you have with the community and you will benefit. This societal structure was coined in the 1800s by Charles Fourier and Robert Owen who actually planned model communities based on their blueprint of socialism. Basically, labor is a big part of the socialist community. Everyone needs to contribute their talents and skills to the greater good of the people. Everybody supports everybody in this type of society. When the idea of socialism came across Karl Marx, he switched up some of the important aspects of the original plan and came up with communism. At first, communism had two basic groups, the capitalists, or the people who controlled the means of production, and the proletariats, or the wageworkers who made up most of society. So really in a way, communism is a twisted version of socialism that got blown out of proportion when people like Lenin and Stalin controlled and dictated the Soviet Union, causing many deaths and hard times. Doesn’t really sound like a utopia, does it?
If you have ever read The Soul of a Man Under Socialism you will understand that Oscar Wilde REALLY HATES SOCIALISM. He argues that socialism is next to communism and it is too rigid of a lifestyle. Wilde says beauty is lost with socialism and critics who follow socialism are harsher and not as open to new things. Being a Protestant, baptized Catholic, Oscar Wilde states that Jesus Christ was far from being socialist, the socialist mantra being, “Know thyself!”, whereas Jesus and everyone else who is not a socialist mantra being, “Be thyself!” Socialists criticize new art when they see it and find it terrible to look at, asking why the artist doesn’t paint like another, but if the artist did that they wouldn’t be able to call themselves an artist and their work would be unoriginal. Socialism also isn’t a friend of marriage, family, and property owners. First, it makes property cumulative, with everyone sharing it, kind of like communism. Therefore, individualism which is brought on by socialism ruins marriage and family life. France, a non-socialist nation is seen by Wilde as a more proper nation by the way they keep things discrete. Socialism puts things out there for everyone to see because it is a collective society. Wilde sees socialism as a revolution which is seen as vulgar to him. Wilde believes more in the concept of individualism, where no one can have a big ego and no one will be selfish. He sees the world as a happier place when the individual believes in themselves. Personally, I agree with this: you can’t be happy with others until you are happy with yourself.