Handy Sunday reading tip for you here: read books that are older than you. WAY older. Why? Because books are guideposts to history. Like art, they’re reflections of the historical contexts in which they were written. Authors are products of their historical contexts, as well, and of their cultural and geographical environments. Writers capture their surroundings, whether they write fiction or nonfiction, and through older books, you can get a snapshot of cultural and sociopolitical moments that play into larger trends and patterns.
So, given our current situation, with rampant corporate corruption and greed and how profit-driven mentalities can affect and hurt every one of us, have a look at Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
This is the 1906 cover:
Upton Sinclair was a muckracking journalist, and spent time undercover in 1904 in Chicago’s meatpacking plants. The results of his investigation were first published in serial form in Appeal to Reason, a Socialist newspaper. [before you get all bent out of shape, check this definition of Socialism.] What he saw in the plants will turn many stomachs still — the unsanitary and horrible conditions in which American meat is butchered and packed. But Sinclair also revealed the horrific conditions in which the workers at these plants toiled, and the circumstances of their lives and the industries in which they worked that kept them virtually enslaved.
As a result of this book, sweeping changes were made to the meatpacking industry to safeguard the health and safety of consumers and workers (Food and Drug Act, anyone?). However, Sinclair also wanted to draw attention to American poverty, the treatment of immigrants, and how the lack of social programs hurt not only workers, but a wider array of Americans. This book demonstrates how corporate (and government) corruption and wage slavery damage the so-called American dream and the economic foundations of this country. Sinclair shined a light on the dark side of capitalism, and it’s not pretty. Unchecked corporate capitalism, he warns, benefits no one but the corporate and government elite. There is no “trickle-down.” There is only the haves, who keep getting more, and the have-nots, who keep getting screwed.
So read it and see if you notice any similarities between what’s going on now and what went on just over a hundred years ago. I think you’ll be surprised.
Happy reading, happy writing, happy thinking!