October 19, 2007
Dreiser’s Tragic America

I have somewhere here a copy of Theodore Dreiser’s Tragic America. Don’t confuse this book with his earlier one that was made into a movie several times over. Fortunately someone has transcribed a portion of the book to the web. Published in 1931, the book received terrible reviews and even more terrible sales. The book is long on facts and figures which don’t stand the test of time. Nevertheless, the book does have its fine points. For all you fans of fhe Apple computer, Dreiser also had much to say about AT&T, Apple’s new marriage partner. As soon as I can find my copy, I'll be transcribing portions of it here. Stay tuned.

I decry the power of the Church and its use of that power, in America in particular! Throughout the world, as all know, the churches are so organized as to have the wealth, size and formation of a great corporation, a government, or an army. And in America, the wealthy individuals who rule in corporate affairs appear to be attracted to the church by reason of its hold not only on the mind but the actions of its adherents. Politically, socially and otherwise, they count on its power and influence as of use to them. And not without reason, since especially among the ignorant and poor, its revealed wisdom counsels resignation and orders faith in a totally inscrutable hereafter. In short, it makes for ignorance and submission in the working class, And what more could a corporation-minded government or financial group, looking toward complete control of everything for a few, desire? .......

But what are the aims and methods of procedure of these missionaries who proceed from America into China, India, Siam, and elsewhere? These are interesting, for, as you will see, they have their roots in something very peculiar here. In China, for instance, our missionaries — those of the Protestant persuasion, at least — work with the government there just as closely as do the corporations that have their origin in this land. And with the corporations there also. And are frequently as much the emissaries of American trade as of religion, and even more so. For whereas formerly the missionaries used to go to convey a spiritual message, to-day at least one very important phase of their purpose is to effect as well as share material or economic “blessings” for the natives, such blessings, for instance, as our ‘Very material corporations manufacture and seek to distribute as widely as possible; bathtubs, sewing machines, electric lights, or, refrigerators, or in other words, anything and everything that our modern corporations make. In other words again, "Make ‘em modern!” That means more business for home corporations, doesn't it? And I am not talking wildly, for only read, as I have done, the writings of our very up-to-date missionaries of this hour. And furthermore, most missionaries now believe that they should be protected with gunboats — they who supposedly represent that Jesus who taught peace! And to show the growth of our missions, the American Baptist Missionary Union, which was organized in 1846 and had nothing to go On, in 1893 had an income of $485,000. And now ....!

I would also note that a Wikpedia entry tells me that “[i]n 1935 the library trustees of Warsaw, Indiana ordered the burning of all the library’s works by Dreiser. ” The best books may very well be the ones that have been ordered burned .



Posted by Buck Batard at October 19, 2007 06:47 PM
Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):


I didn't know Dreiser had written nonfiction. Give us more.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on October 22, 2007 11:46 PM
Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember info?