Shattered 20th Century Sundays
Overcast and dreary here in the Insurance Salesman's Graveyard. BTW, the city of Hartford would like to extend its appreciation to the American taxpayer for bailing out its key industry!
We were planning a trip to Portsmouth today, for lunch and some early snaps of the New England leaves turning, but I think we'll pass on that. Maybe a quick trip over to New Haven for some Pepe's pizza!
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight
In his opening to The Wasteland, Eliot provided a frantic sled ride as a metaphor for life in the post-WWI 20th century, with the rapid shattering of the formerly-unified western world view, a theme echoed in many of the works of the "Lost Generation." While this world view consisted of many elements, including the unifying aspects of Christianity, a secular part of it was the whole idea of multi-culturalism, as the war had just destroyed the two great multi-cultural empires, the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian. But did it in fact signal the end of American multi-cultualrism as well?
Long ago and far away, I was taught of America, the "melting pot," wherein all immigrants were welcomed and magically transformed with the desire of a 30 year fixed, 2 station wagons (it was a while ago), and 2.1 darlings. Textbooks boasted of the welcome of this lady...
with her welcome to the world...
We were rightly told of the mass waves of Irish, Italians, Poles, etc. who came here fleeing poverty, famine, or repression of the Old World to savor the taste of freedom and the potential for prosperity.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Yet was the great Melting Pot ever a reality, or if it was, was it a more restricted reality than we acknowledge? What, for example, of the great waves of Chinese who were arriving not at Ellis Island, but on the other coast? Were they given the same access to the American dream as the Irish Potato(e) Famine refugees?
However, my purpose here is not to discuss wrongs (real or imagined) in American history, but rather to explore the broader question of multi-culturalism, hopefully from a non-political view (no Rs and Ds, please). Therefore, after a prologue lacking in the soul of wit (or even in the soul of lingerie), here's ....
TOTD: Given the premise that WWI shattered the West's vision of multi-culturalism, is this good or bad? Did multi-culturalism ever exist? Is it an attainable goal? Is it a goal worthy of striving to attain?
My own opinion is that it has never truly existed. While the Ottoman Empire acknowledged differing religions -- Constantinople was inhabited by Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, and Muslims -- the legal system made clear distinctions amongst those groups. It was essentially a society of multiple cultures stratified by religion. Similarly, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, praised so eloquently (along with the Ottoman) by Dame Rebecca West in her magnificent tribute to multi-culturalism, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, was a society of multiple cultures stratified by national origin.
And, since I have allowance for one more picture, I'll end with a totally gratuitous picture of ...