Thursday, 5 April 2012

An Hour of Work

I spent an hour yesterday....digging down into this new online 1940 Census data.  So I drilled down to my grandfather's era....1940....rural Bama.

1940 was the last full year of an era.  The nation had stumbled its way out of the depression which had taken pretty much the entire decade.  1940 wasn't that great of a year, but it was better the previous years.  The Nazis were invading various countries in Europe, and most folks were in the mind that something would eventually happen....like it did in 1917, and pull us back into a European war.

This was the era when the county fair actually meant something.  This was the period when you still walked two or three miles to school.  Most everything you ate....came from the farm.  With the exception of coffee and sugar....you just didn't buy that much.  When someone got bad off sick....it was a fifty-fifty shot if they survived.

There's a map to each county and I could clearly draw upon how many houses were actually on the main road from town A and town B.

The Census itself?  You can run down the local area and note various folks that I grew up around.  Most are gone today.

It'll be another decade before they release the 1950 Census, and you could probably look through it and note some things had occurred.

The amazing part to this story?  That written commentary with the names listed....was probably the only such listing in the United States.  There was no Goggle or computerized listing in existence....so these Census books were it.

"Social Darwinism"?

The President waved around a $12 word phrase called "social Darwinism" over the last couple of days.  It's supposed to be a negative phrase over the Republican budget that has been laid out by Representative Paul Ryan.

I've seen "social Darwinism" used twice now by the President, and since I am a Louisiana Tech graduate....I had to look up the word.  It's not the kind of word that 4.8 million Alabama residents would use....ever in their entire life.  It's not the kind word that 751k farmers would ever use in their life (the actual number of farmers in America).  It's not the kind of word that would ever be used by propane salesmen, septic tank installation folks, martial arts instructors, Rush Limbaugh, a NCAA football coach, or meth lab technicians.

The meaning of the word?  Well....it's twisted.  If you try to look it up and get an understanding.....it means visiting twenty-five different sites....most run by elitist intellectual free thinkers....who spent some time at $25k a year college tuition operations.

It goes back to the 1880s....when Charles Darwin was at the end of his career....writing up the Descent of Man, and getting free thinkers and intellectualism folks into a big huge argument over the evolution and progression of life.  "Social Darwinism" was supposed to be a negative term....where you'd sling some mud on some guy.  You'd look at some group of people and say that they used some special traits, special characteristics, and special advantages.....to move ahead in life.  A second group of folks.....didn't have special traits, special characteristics, or special advantages....thus they were losers in life.  The "social Darwin" crowd were unfairly leaving the other folks....standing there.....as losers.  It was unfair, unjust, and just plain not right.

To put this into real world prospective?  "Red" Forman kicks Eric's ass on a daily basis.  Get good grades in school....don't smoke dope....don't drink beer....support the Packers....drive at a safe speed....do honest work....earn a honest paycheck....go into life with a positive attitude....and eventually, you will be a winner. "Red" has put the "social Darwinism" boot into the rear of Eric, and imposed a desire to get ahead.

Sadly, down the street....some other father hasn't done what "Red" insisted on.  That kid can't be a success in life....because "Red" unfairly set up a pattern of evolution, where Eric cannot fail.  Because of this unfairness...."social Darwinism" kicks in.

I sat and pondered at this point.  I went back and reviewed the use of "social Darwinism".  Frankly....it was a dandy word for about twenty years, and then around the 1920s....it just plain dried up.  No one much used the word in any publication....anywhere.  By the late 1930s....it started to return.  It was again used as a negative term to talk about the unfairness of life....where one crowd had an unfair advantage to get ahead.

So I'm left with this image in my mind.  "Red" Forman and Charles Darwin meet in some bar in Wisconsin.  "Red" would have noted that Charley was a foreigner, with a funny accent.  The discussion between the two would have drifted back and forth....the Packers, changes in life, improvements in hot water heaters, evolutionary phases of teenage punks, and natural process.

Eventually, Charles Darwin would have left the bar....wandered around town for an hour....mostly drunk....and sitting at a bench to settle upon this theory in life that if you kicked a kid's ass enough and made them have a positive attitude....then that kid would advance further in the natural process of life, than the punk who who just sat and waited.  Charles Darwin would have written this down....published a book called "Social Darwinism", and made a major discovery of what life is all about.  He would have only noted this.....after sipping a beer with "Red" Forman and getting a prospective from a guy who didn't know any flowery talk or fancy intellectual phrases.

So here we are.....flowery talk and fancy intellectual phases from the President in an election year, and two hundred million Americans sitting there watching nightly news....and wondering what the heck is "social Darwinism".....thinking it must mean something awful bad.

Next week?  "Social Churchillism", "social Reaganism", and "social Washingtonism".  Trust me....they can only mean something awful bad.