Helen Keller Reference Archive
First Published: Justice (Pittsburgh, PA), October 25, 1913
Source: Helen Keller: Her Socialist Years (International Publishers, 1967)
Transcription/Markup: Anonymous/Brian Baggins
Online Version: Helen Keller Reference Archive (marxists.org) 2000
I have visited sweatshops, factories, crowded slums of New York and Washington. Of course I could not see the squalor; but if I could not see it, I could smell it.
With my own hands I could feel pinched, dwarfed children tending their younger brothers and sisters, while their mothers tended machines in nearby factories.
Besides the advantages of books and of personal experience, I have the advantage of a mind trained to think. In most people I talked with thought is infantile. In the well educated it is rare. In time their minds become automatic machines.
People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions; and conclusions are not always pleasant. They are a thorn in the spirit. But I consider it a priceless gift and a deep responsibility to think.
When we inquire why things are as they are, the answer is, the foundation of society is laid upon a basis of individualism, conquest and exploitation, with a total disregard of the good of the whole.
The structure of a society built upon such wrong basic principles is bound to retard the development of all men, even the most successfulones because it tends to divert man's energies into useless channels and to degrade his character. The result is a false standard of values. Trade and material prosperity are held to be the main objects of pursuit and conquest, the lowest instincts in human nature — love of gain, cunning and selfishness are fostered.
The output of a cotton mill or a coal mine is considered of greater importance than the production of healthy, happy-hearted, free human beings.
Crushed, stupefied by terrible poverty, the workers yet demand that they shall have some of the beauty, some of the comforts, some of the luxuries which they have produced.
The time of blind struggle is drawing to a close. The forces governing the law of the survival of the fittest will continue to operate, but they will be under the conscious, intelligent control of man.
In all my reading I am conscious of a multitudinous discontent. Slowly man is waking up. The people — the great "common herd" are finding out what is wrong with the social, political and economical structure of the system of which they are a part.
This is not a time of gentleness, of timid beginnings that steal into life with soft apologies and dainty grace. It is a time for loud voiced, open speech and fearless thinking; a time of striving and conscious manhood, a time of all that is robust and vehement and bold; a time radiant with new ideals, new hopes of true democracy.
I love it, for it thrills me and gives me a feeling that I shall face great and terrible things. I am a child of my generation, and I rejoice that I live in such a splendidly distrubing time.