Monday, March 3, 2008

Parasites of Consequence

Lacey is the latest city around here to extend their anti-panhandling ordinance. Apparently, cars were stopping short to offer money, thus posing a collision hazard to other drivers. Among other provisions, the existent ordinance barred panhandlers from intentionally coming within three feet of the person solicited. But I guess that wasn't stringent enough.

Among the 224 comments on the story in The Olympian was George Milburn's Two Bums, from The Hobo's Hornbook, published in 1930. I found the original at the Utah Phillips site, and have included his commentary.
This is a poem from George Milburn's book, The Hobo's Hornbook. You can also find it in a lot of old I. W. W. pamphlets and literature. It sums up a great deal of what I feel. It talks about the bum on the rod and the burn on the plush, which is just a simple way of saying that the kind of system we live in now demands that there be a poor people, demands that there be people out of work so that there will always be people willing to work for any wage.

Sure, a lot of railroad burns are parasites, but, like the poem says, they're just fleas who get an occasional bite, and you look at what those parasites at the top are chewing off. I know that there's a lot of talk these days about the welfare Cadillac; middle class people talking about those welfare gobblers down on the bottom who are afraid to do an honest day's work, and they're all driving big Cadillacs. And you hear over and over again, "Nobody ought to get something for nothing. " I've got to agree. You've got to work to eat.

I look at a factory. I see that everybody associated with that factory puts something in and they take something out. The workers put in their sweat and their skill, and they take out wages. The salesmen put in their skill and ability, and they take out commissions. The managers and foremen and people in the offices put in theirs, and take out salaries. But there's one group of people who take out more than they put in, and that more is called profit. I can't think of any other way to define it. That's a bunch of people who are getting something they didn't work for, and it's a whole lot.

If we're really concerned about people getting just what they earn, if we're really concerned about people not getting something that they didn't put in time and sweat for, let's start with the major offenders, and get rid of them. Then we'll gradually work our way down to the petty chiselers. It just makes sense.

The bum on the rod is hunted down
As the enemy of mankind;
The other is driven around to his club
And feted, wined and dined.

And they who curse the bum on the rods
As the essence of all that is bad
Will greet the other with a winning smile
And extend him the hand so glad.

The bum on the rods is a social flea
Who gets an occasional bite;
The bum on the plush is a social leech,
Blood-sucking day and night.

The bum on the rods is a load so light
That his weight we scarcely feel,
But it takes the labor of dozens of men
To furnish the other a meal.

As long as you sanction the bum on the plush,
The other will always be there,
But rid yourself of the bum on the plush
And the other will disappear.

Then make an intelligent, organized kick,
Get rid of the weights that crush;
Don't worry about the bum on the rods,
Get rid of the bum on the plush!

There is an amazing benefit concert to help raise money for Utah Phillips' medical expenses this Sunday, March 9, at 7 pm., at Seattle's University Unitarian Church. Information here.

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