My mother grew up during the Great Depression. Her family was not affected by the disaster. In fact, they could help the less fortunate and did help.
I have fond memories of my mother. She was raising four children and was therefore kept very busy. Four children had survived and fourteen had died. We were a Quebec family.
Every day she sat at her Art Deco dressing table and put cream on her face. She also dressed very well. Always.
I remember that she and Mariette, her Belgian friend, often got together to make lovely dresses for the three surviving girls. We loved Mariette. She and her husband were our best friends.
In fact, we were always together. Mariette had been the wardrobe mistress for the Brussels Opera company. Henri was a jeweller and a clockmaker.
Mother and I spoke together a great deal. She told me about the 30’s, the 40’s, as well as the 50’s. She was a singer, a mezzo-soprano, the perfect Carmen, and had had her own radio program. She would play records and make little comments.
She liked classical music, my father’s passion, but she was especially fond of a lighter kind of music. Lighter, but beautiful.
So let me close the day by playing one of the songs she loved, a love song. She so loved my father.
Mother, you have been dead for 9 years and I still miss you. I even need you. Obviously, I’ll never make it to adulthood.
The Kiss, by Gustav Klimt, 1907-1908 (Photo credit: Wikipedia, all)
Tomorrow is Austrian Symbolist Painter Gustav Klimt‘s birthday. He will be 150 years old. Artists do not die. Hence my featuring his most famous painting: The Kiss, and a second painting, his first portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.
Featuring Gustav Klimt may seem totally unrelated to a post on the Economy of the United States. But it seems everything is related. In fact, I once knew at least one member of the Bloch-Bauer family and it could be… Enough!
I will simply dedicate this post to Gustav Klimt (14 July 1862 – 6 February 1918).
The Treaty of Versailles was pitiless on the German people. It demanded reparations totalling a punitive $31.4 billion. As a result, the Treaty made it possible for Adolph Hitler to trap Germans into the dictatorship that led to World War II and its atrocities. That war could have been been avoided.
Fortunately, at the conclusion of World War II, the United States and the world did not replay a Treaty of Versailles scenario. The Marshall Plan was put into place and Europe was rebuilt. The plan went into operation beginning in April 1948 and the task was a four-year effort. Japan also received the assistance it required to rebuild.
However, let us return to the 1920s. As the proud, industrious and inventive people of Germany paid and paid, Americans danced the charleston and the very rich indulged in the lavish but ultimately meaningless life depicted in Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald‘s (24 September 1896 – 21 December 1940) Great Gatsby. The novel was published in 1925, during the “Jazz Age,” when rich Americans travelled to the Paris and French Riviera of the roaring 1920s, years when Fitzgerald often joined Americans living in France. The charleston was all the buzz and France was enthralled by Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes.
“Black Tuesday” and the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act of 1930
The bubble burst. They danced all the way to 29 October 1929, the day the stock market was allowed to crash, Black Tuesday, and, unlike President George W. Bush who listened and had the decency to sign TARP into law, in 1930, President Herbert Hoover (10 August 1874 – 20 October 1964) did not veto the Smoot-Hawley defective remedy to the crash, but signed it into law: the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. It could be that he signed out of ignorance, but whatever his circumstances, when President Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, he plunged the world into an economic depression, the Great Depression, that lasted until World War II. The Stock Market had crashed on 29 October 1929, Black Tuesday, but the Depression did not spread into a worldwide tragedy until the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
The people had danced and continued to dance, but this time they danced not until a drunken stupor, clad in silk and Italian wool, but until they not only dropped, but dropped dead. What had been a fad in the 1920s, the dance marathon, had become a way of life.
The story goes as follows. Gloria Beatty and Robert Syverten have danced for 879 hours in a dance marathon, when the woman, Mrs. Layden, whose favorites they are, is shot and killed by a stray bullet. Participants are given $50.00 and Gloria takes her gun out of her bag and begs Robert to shoot her, which he does as a merciful gesture. When the police ask Robert why he has shot Gloria, he says “They shoot horses, don’t they?” This novel clings to the human imagination as does its film version, a 1969 film by Sydney Pollack starring Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin and Gig Young. (Wikipedia)
Cutbacks and Unemployment
And now, as I browse through online newspapers and other sources of information, I keep reading and hearing that cutbacks are taking place and that people are losing their jobs, jobs they need so they can put bread on the table, spend money, and be tax-payers, thereby ensuring a functional economy. There has to be money in the public purse to put into operation and keep in operation the social programs that guarantee not only the wealth of nations, coincidentally the title of Adam Smith’s epochal book (1776), but also the welfare of nations.
The Welfare of Nations: taxes, social programs and Job Creation
It will take money and all citizens will have to pay their fair share of taxes, but if jobs are not created, the US and its financial partners could well be on the road to a financial demise. TARP was not enough. Jobs have to be created so a catastrope is averted. A very short time ago and very late into President Obama’s current term, the American Supreme Court ruled, by one vote, one vote only, that the President’s health-care reforms were constitutional, as though they could be otherwise!
Now that President Obama seems to be looked upon as credible, as if matters could be otherwise, let him, and help him, create jobs, even if he is a person of colour. Because of the voter purge currently taking place, I suspect a degree of racism that may extend to the White House. However, this is mere speculation and, be that as it may, it remains that among the victims of the wars waged against Iraq and Afghanistan, one must include the citizens of the United States, whatever their ethnicity, and its financial partners, again, whatever their ethnicity.
The US has to help Iraq and Afghanistan, but it must also help itself and patriate, metaphorically speaking, a Marshall Plan, no matter who inhabits the White House. To its immense credit, the US voted President Obama into office, which was the right thing to do, and, to what would again be to its immense credit, at the moment, the US could and should help the leader they chose. The Obama administration has changed the face of America. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has worked diplomatic wonders. She has ushered in a new age of diplomacy. But now everyone must pay taxes and people need jobs.
So let my conclusion be that the US needs a Marshall Plan so it can rebuild.
In the article I posted on 16 June 2012, I stated that Claude-Henri Grignon’s Un Homme et son péché was not altogether a roman de la terre, or novel of the land. In this regard, I must be more specific.
To make my text a little clearer, I have added a sentence underscoring the presence in Grignon’s novel of real-life characters such as François-Xavier-Antoine Labelle (24 November 1833 – 4 January 1891) le curé Labelle and Arthur Buies. Le curé Labelle and Arthur Buies were advocates of colonisation, making land (faire de la terre), the patriotic choice. Claude-Henri Grignon would not have inserted these characters in his novel for decorative purposes.
You are already familiar with this story. Québécois had run out of land to cultivate. By the middle of the 19th century, the thirty acres of land allotted them in the seventeenth century, when the SEIGNEURIAL system was put into place (1627), could no longer be divided and French-speaking inhabitants of Quebec were not ready to move to cities as they had not been raised to be merchants and industrialists.
We know that the land was shrinking, but compounding the problem was the lack of professions. In Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau‘s Charles Guérin, upon completion of their études classiques taught in a Petit Séminaire, a private institution,and the one course of studies allowing admission to a university , Charles and his brother Pierre realized that the only professions French-Canadians could enter were the priesthood, law and medicine. French-speaking Quebecers could also be teachers, which was the preserve of religious orders.
Containing the « exode »
Consequently, not only were Québécois cultivateurs increasingly landless, but lawyers were also facing unemployment. Therefore, preventing French-speaking Canadians from moving to the New England states was well-nigh impossible. There were factories in the Eastern Townships, an area settled by United Empire Loyalists, but by and large Quebec had very few factories.
As for going north to “make land” (colonisation), it made sense. However, just how much land could one make? Furthermore, just how many French Canadians wanted to be like Samuel Chapdelaine?
Grignon’s letter to André Laurendeau
Claude-Henri Grignon had the highest regard for the land: le sol. In a public letter[ii] to Joseph-Edmond-André Laurendeau (21 March 1912 in Montreal – 1st June 1968 in Ottawa), published in L’Action nationale (June 1941), Grignon wrote that if he accepted the word culture in the “broad and particular” meaning Laurendeau gave it, he believed that there was a French-Canadian culture and that it was a culture of the land, i.e. agrarian: « Notre culture sera paysanne ou ne sera pas. » (We will be farmers or we will not be [we will cease to exist]: that is our culture). My translation is not a literal translation, but it is accurate.
It should be pointed out, however, that in his letter or article, Grignon expressed reservations. He had this warning for the very prominent André Laurendeau: “But be careful, we will end up losing it in the same manner we have suffered other losses, because of our indifference, our timidity and, [let’s call a spade a spade], because of our “avachissement” (total spinelessness: we’re cows).” This is again my own accurate, but not literal translation.
Let’s continue reading:
“As I have often written, and will repeat,” writes Grignon, “our survival remains inextricably linked to the land, i.e. le sol. The word « sol » (three letters) contains the entire past, all of our traditions, our customs and values (mœurs), our faith and our language. If you take away sol from our social life, our economy, our political life, there is no French-Canadian culture.”
« Je l’ai écrit souvent et je le répète: notre survivance reste intimement liée au sol. Le mot ‹ sol › (trois lettres) contient tout le passé, toutes nos traditions, nos moeurs, notre foi et notre langue. Retranchez le sol de notre vie sociale, économique, politique et il n’est point de culture canadienne-française. » (p. 315)
A “Mystique” of the Land
Grignon goes on to write, that what French Canadians lack, and lack sorely, is a mystique [ideology] of the land. “Nothing is more durable, sturdier and healthier. There are nations of industrialists, nations of merchants, and agrarian nations.” In other words, Grignon was banking on the land: where there is land there is bread (« là où est la terre, là est le pain »). And he wrote that if anyone spoke to the contrary, he would ask that person the following question: “Why is it that our English gentlemen are rushing to purchase the land?” (for the original French, see the very end of the following quotation)
« Ce qui nous manque, ce qui fait douloureusement défaut dans les racines les plus profondes de notre peuple, c’est le sens d’une mystique véritable, d’une mystique paysanne, d’une mystique de la terre dans ce qu’elle suppose de plus durable, de plus fort, de plus sain. Il y a des peuples industriels, des peuples commerçants, des peuples agricoles. Pourquoi ne pas continuer les traditions de la vieille France par un attachement plus intime à la terre qui demeure selon les économistes les plus avertis, la seule richesse qui ne peut périr, même aux heures les plus difficiles, les plus angoissantes. Inutile de nous le cacher : là où est la terre, là est le pain. » (pp. 315-316)
« Comment se fait-il qu’au moment où j’écris ces lignes, messieurs les Anglais, gens pratiques, par excellence, se ruent versnos terres et s’agitent de toutes façons pour s’en procurer? » (p. 316)
The Great Depression
We must take into account that Grignon wrote the above article, in 1941, as North America was recovering from the Great Depression. During the Great Depression, the only asset that remained valuable was land. There is something artificial about money, but land is realestate, including the small city lot on which your house is located, if you have a house. According to Grignon, the English knew this, but the French-speaking Québécois did not.
Grignon was both right and wrong. Of course, one holds on to the land, but Quebec also needed its merchants, its industrialists, its engineers, its architects, its economists.
Moreover, Grignon stringed together land, language and religion. For him, the three were inseparable. In this regard, I believe Grignon faced an obstacle, at least where French Canadians living outside Quebec were concerned. Outside Quebec, there was a separation of Church and State. A Catholic school was a private school and that was not about to change.
I will close by repeating that although Un Homme et son péché is not a mainstream roman du terroir, or novel of the land. It features three real-life characters who were advocates of colonisation. But we have now seen that Claude-Henri Grignon himself was a proponent of an economic system based on agriculture. He realized that land was “real” estate.
However, those who went to the United States did so because they had to put bread on the table that very day. Where food is concerned, one does not have the luxury to wait. They were not traitors. They were victims.
Didn’t anyone have the foresight to prevent the worst tragedy ever to befall French-speaking Canadians? It seems to me that no one was minding the store.