Part 2: Justice Is the
Means to Our
In a recent
consultation we said to a young woman, Laura Key: "If you really
felt the main thing in your life was to have
seen truly by yourself and other people, you would feel unified."
This is the purpose in life which every woman needs to have, or there
be a constant, painful fight between two hopes in us--the hope to like
the world, which is our greatest hope, and the hope to have contempt
There was a desire in
to have the truth seen by people, and the two books of permanent value
she wrote came from this desire in her. Ida Tarbell was 8 years old in
1865 when Lincoln was shot, and it affected her tremendously as it did
thousands of people across America. As a writer for McClure's
magazine when she was in her 30's, she began to research his life:
The more I
knew of him,
[she writes] the better I liked him and the more strongly I felt we
as a people to know about how he did things....He had come to mean more
to me as a human being than anybody I had studied. I never
his motives.... The greatest regret of my professional life is that I
not live to write another life of him. There is so much of him I never
This moved me very
much. It stands
for a hope women have had always--to meet a person in this world we can
truly respect in a very big way.
for Lincoln had a powerful good effect on her and encouraged her to
more for her whole country. "The four years I put in on The Life of
Abraham Lincoln," she writes, "aroused my flagging sense that I had
a country, that its problems were my problems." I believe it was
Lincoln's passionate fight against slavery that gave her the courage to
fight injustice she had seen growing up.
Miss Tarbell writes
of the outrage
in her father and many other people when they discovered that John D.
had struck a secret bargain with the railroads to give Standard Oil
rates and charge others much higher rates to transport oil. "In
through the world there is a choice for a man to make," she writes with
choose the fair and
open path which sound ethics, sound democracy and the common law
or choose the secret way by which he can get the better of his fellow
was born in me a hatred of privilege--privilege of any
as it did the principle of consideration for others...
The choice she is
describing here about
economics is the choice Aesthetic Realism describes every person has,
respect and contempt. Eli Siegel writes in TRO #262:
In 1902 Ida
Tarbell began the
series of articles for McClure's that would later be her book,
evidence of the secret bargains
made to control the supply and raise the price of oil. She wrote:
solve our life problems
through the honoring of contempt or the honoring of respect.
is easier in this world, though the results are hurtful. When
is seen as not only more desirable, but in the long run also easier
contempt, we shall have a different world.
For many in
the world it
is a matter of little moment... whether oil sells for eight or twelve
a gallon. It becomes a tragic matter sometimes, however, as in
when, in the coal famine, the poor... depended on oil for heat (and)
the hard winter...the price of refined oil advanced.
Her criticism of both
ethics and the cruel motives of the owners of Standard Oil was powerful:
The History of
Standard Oil had
an immediate, far-reaching effect, and was respected and rightly
by many. But Ida Tarbell would suffer because she didn't see that
"secret way by which he can get the better of his fellow man" was in
too, as she criticized it so usefully in others.
here in the United
States allowed men practically autocratic powers in commerce... the
of a necessity of life within the control of a group of 9 men...as
as any nine men the world has ever seen.
Part 3: The Hope for Praise--and the Hope to Deserve It