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Albert Camus believed that "without work all life goes rotten; but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies." Imagination, and a measure of risk, are needed if work in America is to be elevated beyond just an endurance of drudgery. Little is accomplished when candidates bemoan the loss of "the work ethic," as if the loafing ethic is threatening the Republic, or when they incite businessmen with reckless talk that the Government is the enemy. The pat answers need to be scrapped, along with those providing them. We are not bucking up against unknowns; the work world is not a mystery world. We have found some solutions, many places like the Bolivar, Tenn., plant, or in the sparkle for life in the pastry, golf and bicycle shops along Wisconsin Avenue. The trouble is, we keep letting opportunities pass by, as though productivity and profits are on assembly line that can't be stopped for a moment's worth of reflection.
But not everyone is letting the opportunities go by, starting with three ever-alert McCarthy boys. When they go in for ice cream cones at University (not often. only afternoons), they know that the men who made it are also behind the counter to talk of it. The emperors of ice cream are relaxed and joyful in the domain of their workplace, proving that Mark Twain may have had it backwards, or at least sideways: Work, when the whole self is engaged, is what you do when nothing else that you could be doing is as exciting.
How else has Julius Andracsek been in the same shop since 1930? And how else has he persuaded three young ones, increasingly knowing of cons, that only the authentic man can create an authentic product, however modest a quart of vanilla may be?
2. "A STUDY IN CONTRASTS," BY HENRY OWEN, THE WASHINGTON
POST, SEPT. 4, 1976, PAGE A17:1
[From The Washington Post, Sept. 4, 1976, page A17:1]
A STUDY IN CONTRASTS
(By Henry Owen)
The writer is director of foreign policy studies at the
During the Republican convention, most Americans probably learned more about Kansas City than they wanted to. They were told variously that it is crude and sophisticated, boisterous and placid, friendly and greedy. But few reports focused on the most important fact of all: That it is successful. At a time when most American cities are in trouble, it is thriving. Construction is booming despite high building wages. Downtown is alive and well. Employment is high.
There are lots of reasons, but one of the most important is underlined by a comparison with the other great Missouri City: St. Louis, which is doing less well. Both cities are on rivers, both are surrounded by rural areas, and both are heavily Democratic. But the resemblance ends there. And the differences may tell us a good deal about what makes not only Kansas City but any successful city tick.
When as a boy I used to visit my grandfather in St. Louis, I heard Kansas City referred to much as a New Yorker might mention Newark. St. Louis had been founded by French fur traders in the early 18th century, when Kansas City was just a bluff at the bend of the Missouri River where Indians congregated. By the Civil War, St. Louis was a thriving cosmopolitan city with cathedrals, French governesses and a bustling river trade. A post-Civil War boom had made it the second largest American city, and by the turn of the century it was also one of the oldest American cities. Its "ruling circles" as the Soviets would say, were clearly recognized as such: They lived in large beautiful homes along treelined avenues; their money, which was carefully and conservatively tended for them by others (notice how almost all St. Louis banks have the word "trust" in their titles), was being used to create eminent local education and artistic institutions; and one of the best newspapers in the country had taken local root. Sustained and diverted by these activities, the St. Louis upper class began to lose its zest for business or at least for the hard and risky business of entrepreneurial innovation. No new downtown St. Louis building was put up from 1900 until well after World War II. The city stopped growing. The emphasis was on conserving money, putting it to good uses, and risklessly passing it from one generation to another. As the city stagnated, it began to run gently downhill. By the 1960s its decline had reached frightening proportions, and St. Louis had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.