Tuesday, March 19, 2019

An account of life

As part of my relentless search for free books on the internet my most recent discovery is the autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States from 1901 - 1909. The book was first published in 1913 (though the E-text was prepared from a 1920 edition published by Charles Scribner's Sons). In many ways the chronicle is anachronistic; but one marvels at its continued relevance.

Make no mistake, Roosevelt was from the "silk stocking" district of Manhattan. Yet he always disapproved equally of demagoguery and corruption no matter whence it derived.

I enjoyed the life to the full. After the first year I built on the Elkhorn ranch a long, low ranch house of hewn logs, with a veranda, and with, in addition to the other rooms, a bedroom for myself, and a sitting-room with a big fire-place.

There are many debts that I owe Joe Murray, and some for which he was only unconsciously responsible. I do not think that a man is fit to do good work in our American democracy unless he is able to have a genuine fellow-feeling for, understanding of, and sympathy with his fellow-Americans, whatever their creed or their birthplace, the section in which they live, or the work which they do, provided they possess the only kind of Americanism that really counts, the Americanism of the spirit. It was no small help to me, in the effort to make myself a good citizen and good American, that the political associate with whom I was on closest and most intimate terms during my early years was a man born in Ireland, by creed a Catholic, with Joe Murray's upbringing.

Roosevelt, Theodore. “Theodore Roosevelt - An Autobiography.”

The determination to stand up for what is right is a mission peculiar - at least on a demonstrable level - to the politician.  Meanwhile the private battle for goodness waged by everyday people is far less evident. Assuming that the proclivity for righteousness is equally manifest in both arena one may question the seeming paramountcy in the public venue. Somehow the vehicles of law and commerce come to enjoy greater effect on the public rails - and often for what proves to be the favour of wickedness. This may in turn lead one to conclude that the dominance of interest is in the hands of certain powerful men and women who succeed to surpass the motivation of others more attuned to fairness and equality. Indeed Roosevelt (himself a law student graduate of Harvard) questioned the utility of law to serve the practical purpose of justice - to the extent of challenging the highest court of the land on constitutional issues.

For those of us who are bloody-minded and insistent upon doing what we perceive to be the proper thing to do, we are likely to escape the value of accommodation and cooperation, a posture to which Roosevelt unquestionably allied himself. Notwithstanding his readiness to acquit both himself and others of steadfast beliefs, he was nonetheless guided in the end by his own sense of propriety. This meant at times that he faced defeat from which he had the privilege of arising because of his general fortuity (a bonus he willingly confessed). He as readily acknowledged the right of another to carry the torch after himself having run the first leg of the race. This beehive commitment to the corporate good is the lesson.

It is this larger view of industry which now governs thinking minds throughout the world. The notion of aristocracy and imperialism is utterly out-dated. Nor does its higher purpose necessarily diminish the pragmatism of working together. The presumption that universal medical care and education will lead to the militarism of socialism or constitute the overthrow of capitalism is absurd. Our similarities far outweigh our differences.

No comments:

Post a Comment