The Life and Times of Robert Owen

Discussion Report

http://diepresse.com/images/uploads/4/4/c/472140/oegb_bruckberger20090420201450.jpgVienna, 2002 - Railway Trade Union Building
A lecture presented by Hugo Pepper
Austrian Author
musical interlude by Vienna Stadtpfeifer

this text is written by DKav for zebras54 (2002)
photographs: Internet Archive

Life and Times of Robert Owen introduced by Hugo Pepper

This page was originally written in May 2002, and redesigned in September 2002
This is a summary of a reading made by Austrian writer Hugo Pepper, in April 2002 author of Der Rote Hund, who is amongst other things knowlegeable about the welfare state.

The welfare state has to feature on our Bohemian tales, because the word welfare - as akin to the meaning to fare well. Fare ye well meant in the old days to go through a journey unharmed. Farewell means bon voyage. As we are, this is not a metaphor, all journeying through life, it is essential that there are safeguards to make sure this is possible in the best conditions. A good education, a rewarding work, leisure time, health service, and income support for the weak and the old.

http://www.freiheitskaempfer.at/site-old/gifs/hugo_pepper.jpgIn Austria there has been a debate about the welfare state. In April 2002, Austrian writer, Hugo Pepper, who wrote the "Rote Hund" introduced the audience its origins, focusing on the works of Robert Owen, who was born and raised in Lower Scotland.

 




http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_6omiPd6Gn9E/SfsT8vN__HI/AAAAAAAAKWc/3HtTQ3v_u2A/s400/b0c2648ad5ec.jpgThe evening started with an excerpt from Little Lord Fauntleroy, 1980 (w. Bonnie Bedelia, Alec Guinness), after the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, underlaid with the traditional folklore song the Foggy Dew interpreted by the Stadt Pfeiffer. It showed the slums in the shadow of the castle in the North of Britain.



http://www.prometheusbooks.com/images/modestproposal.jpgAfter this, Hugo Pepper read from "A modest proposal" by Jonathan Swift, which was meant as a satire - the dean from St. Patrick's in Dublin was concerned with social misery, and juxtaposing this text with an excerpt from Thomas Malthus, which was not a satire but a dry report that advocated the reduction of population to solve the problem of poverty. Pepper explained how upset he was when he came across this cynical work even knocking on a table to show how he felt. Nowadays, he is upset when he hears words along the same line. Malthus said "social progress is not possible." Indeed he represents that kind of people who like quoting Saint Paul: "Those who do not work, shall not eat". The French social-reformer Proud'hon had a bitter comment about Malthus: "There is only one person too much on this earth: Malthus."

http://homepage.newschool.edu/het//profiles/image/owen.jpgRobert Owen was a different character. No bitter satirist, and certainly no cynic. He was a philanthropist from Lower Scotland who wrote "About a new moral". And he set to put his ideas into practice for he created the coop-movement. Something which still exists these days. Social reform was necessary because the work conditions in factories were horrendous, Friedrich Engels is only one of them depicting a textile factory.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_XeRnkgFEHn8/RjEdyRI4l3I/AAAAAAAABUg/H-fhWM8QNCQ/s400/grosz9greyday.jpgThis is also a question of human dignity. George Grosz drew a caricature where one sees a confident well-off man, nose-up, and, standing next to him another man, eyes downcast, humbled, wearing rags. This is a stricking picture, because too often this is just how some people feel .


http://www.dasrotewien.at/bilder/d25/Head_Hanusch_OEGB_Archiv.jpgTherefore, the Golden Age, as the 19th C and the beginning of the 20th were called, were not so for some people. Things were slowly improving. In Austria too. Ferdinand Hanusch is said to be the greatest social reformer in Austria. He was born near Cracow, at the time still in the Habsburg Empire, and became a member of the government. He believed that "Ruhe durch Erholung, Körper und Geist kultivieren" - Rest, and be able to cultivate body and mind." Hanusch explains that all this should be accessible to everyone. Hence the avaibility of education, health service, culture...




http://lh6.ggpht.com/_-RmoCU6Rm24/SoVSHLS04YI/AAAAAAAAOdg/m8VdauCx_e0/s800/brecht.jpgBerthold Brecht in his poem "Wessen Strasse ist die Strasse, Wessen Welt ist die Welt" (Whom does the street belong to, whom does the world belong to) explains that charity should not be mistaken with solidarity. Charity is helping, but solidarity is necessary.



In conclusion: Philosophers have interpreted the world in different manners, now it is important to change it


Further reading:
Jonathan Swift: A modest proposal/ein bescheidener Vorschlag
Robert Richard Wagner: Robert Owen

Social reformers:
J.S. Mill, Edmund Burke, Auguste Comte, Ferdinand Hanusch. later: J.M. Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith, Karl Popper



my comment

Thanks to Hugo Pepper for the autograph and the speech! It was not very long and therefore skimmed over its themes and did not quite adhere to its original subject, furthermore I did not quite understand why "The Foggy Dew" was soundtracked over the Fountleroy clip - perhaps because it is in the Stadtpfeiffer's reportoire. Nethertheless, what I like about the speech : It does not recite political programmes but invest own thoughts. For many know this well: it is not because you are from a social-democratic party that you must be a social reformer, and not because you are a christian-social that you should know about social reforms either. A party member card does not make you into anything, it is your humanism.

For we learnt here that in order to be a social reformer, you have to be a humanist, as in Humanitoria (cf Erasmus of Rotterdam in Adagia) That is to have respect for your fellow men and women, regard them as equal in dignity to you. We learnt that once you see a human being as a mouth to feed, a mean of production or a provider, the gates are open for you to mob the parasites away by cutting means, rationalising etc. And the silent majority, those ones who feel safe in their cocoon, with all sorts of worries imaginary or not, they do not feel concerned by the matter. The less they think about it, the more they shall be convinced.

What's the secret of my success? Well, get up early in the morning, work hard all day till late, and strike oil !" Paul Getty on the secret of his success. This quote is spot on because it emcompasses that that no matter how hard you work yourself, it takes a fluke of luck/Hand of fate (*Delete according to personal belief) to actually make it in this world. Still waiting for mine!" says Sergio Campanale, who is articulating a perenial truth we learnt here that in order to be a social reformer, you have to be a humanist, as in Humanitoria (cf Erasmus of Rotterdam in Adagia) That is to have respect for your fellow men and women, regard them as equal in dignity to you. We learnt that once you see a human being as a mouth to feed, a mean of production or a provider, the gates are open for you to mob the parasites away by cutting means, rationalising etc. And the silent majority, those ones who feel safe in their cocoon, with all sorts of worries imaginary or not, they do not feel concerned by the matter. The less they think about it, the more they shall be convinced.

People can believe in what they want, in a democracy the integrity of each and everyone has to be respected, unless these people oppress, suppress, repress;  society cannot thrive without solidarity





Solidaritätslied

text: Berthold Brecht
Music: Hans Eisler
Fassung 1931

Kommt heraus aus Euren Trümmern
Kriecht hervor aus Eurer Not
Erst wenn wir uns selbst drum kümmern
schmeckt uns wieder unser Brot.

Vorwärts, und nie vergessen
Worin unsre Stärke besteht!
Beim Hungern und beim Essen
Vorwärts, nie vergessen
Die Solidarität!

Das die lange Nacht vergehe
Die uns so mit Blindheit schlägt
Auch für alle Menschen stehe
Jetzt was Menschenantlitz trägt.

Vorwärts, und nie vergessen
Worin unsre Stärke besteht!
Beim Hungern und beim Essen
Vorwärts, nie vergessen
Die Solidarität!

Unsre Herrn wer sie auch seien
sehen unsre Zweitracht gern
Denn so lang sie uns entzweien
Bleiben sie ja unsre Herrn.

Vorwärts, und nie vergessen
Worin unsre Stärke besteht!
Beim Hungern und beim Essen
Vorwärts, nie vergessen
Die Solidarität!

Auf ihr Völker dieser Erde
Einigt Euch nur eins hat Sinn:
Daß sie jetzt die Eure werde
Und die Große Nähererin.

Vorwärts und nie vergessen
Und die Frage konkret gestellt.
Vorwärts nie vergessen.
Wessen Straße ist die Straße
Wessen Welt ist die Welt?


http://i.ytimg.com/vi/972kYyRySEw/0.jpg


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