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HOW MUCH SOCIAL WORK CAN A COMMUNITY
POINT OF VIEW
Jane Addams, Hull House, Chicago
There is no doubt that there are two sides of the question, "How much social work can a community afford?" The community has at last definitely included social adjustment as one of its essential functions, and expects to pay for it-to pay reasonable sums, so to speak-but still to pay. The community long ago learned that it must take care of the sick, the dependent, and the aged, and many charities dealing with them are now passing into the realm of taxable services. The community has incorporated them politically into its permanent arrangements. But the other is still so new that the social workers are constantly being challenged, as indeed we ought to be. This challenge has been organized and vocalized most definitely by the community chest in its various forms. The chest hopes to eliminate waste in the collection of funds, including the waste of the business man's time, and also to eliminate waste motions on the part of the social worker. I think we would all be happy to have the Taylor System applied to our work so that we too might get rid of wasted time and effort. It is quite possible that there are too many kinds of social service, or too many forms of any one kind, and we welcome any effort which would rectify this. But there is one danger involved. It is to look at social work too steadily from the business point of view, to transfer it into the psychology of the business world, and to subject it to tests which are totally irrelevant to its purposes. We have in social work, of course, a very large business aspect. An old friend of mine attending this Conference is responsible for the welfare of nineteen thousand people living in five different communities. She has on her staff 268 workers; she knows the exact nutrition status of every child. If he falls below 7 per cent of the standard he is immediately put in the nutrition class. The large corporations who engage her find it a fine business investment, and continually say so. On the business side we could probably prove our case.
Are we doing our duty on the ethical side? Are we giving the community a chance to judge day by day what we are doing in that field? In one direction we are certainly failing, for social workers are constantly required to meet situations which could never occur if the ethical standard of the community were higher. If we were more alert on the ethical side we could save vast areas of life from becoming absolutely brutalized or sinking into a hard indifference. Many of us have been stirred recently by reading what one woman did who had an intolerable curiosity about the lives of the poor and made an unremitting effort to understand them. Beatrice Webb so analyzed the sweating system as to make clear that the purchaser of a sweated-made coat became a pauper-he was pauperized by the husband of the woman who supported her while she made the sweated coat at half price, just as truly as if he had taken the wages out of
the husband's pocket by holding out a begging hand on the street corner. It became an ethical question then for the purchaser of a sweated garment as well as for the employer of sweated labor, and also for a right-minded community which objected to subsidized wages on the ground of simple justice. If enough people had arrived at that sense of unwillingness to be pauperized, or to make paupers, the whole question of sweated labor would have been taken care of because the ethical standards had been raised.
We can take another matter which was recently brought to our attention in The Survey by a study of the number of young people between the ages of sixteen and eighteen who meet with accidents in industry because they are bungling and do not give attention to monotonous work. These accidents are an attempt on the part of nature itself to protect them, strange as it may seem. In the minority report on the English poor law, made twelve or fifteen years ago, all the English-speaking world was told that it was a mistake to put young people between sixteen and eighteen at work which did not have some educational content; that England was preparing for herself a new crop of dependents and unemployables because she was not educating her working population during those years when they might most easily be educated and when they revolted most desperately against the type of work to which so many of them were doomed. If we had applied that ethical suggestion to America as well as England many terrible accidents would have been avoided. Young people would have been protected by legislation which reflected a standard accepted by the entire community. We want them to work, we want them to learn to work, and to bring wages home to their families, but certainly a community should have enough ingenuity to provide its young people with work that has some educational value, and not tire them out before the long life of labor that is before them has fairly begun.
We can no longer challenge the social worker for not being a fact-finding agency; that task has been taken out of our hands by the universities and other research bodies, one of which has just been quoted to us as a fine example in determining the economic value of social work. But the social worker still has a burden laid upon him, of making clear his special human experience, the reaction which comes to him who is brought close to ignorance, poverty, disease, and crime. If he fails to formulate those in such wise as to add to the ethical resources of the community, in my opinion he has failed.
Let us take, for instance, this whole question of bootlegging. Some of us from communities in which bootlegging is practiced-sometimes flagrantly, and always clandestinely. We discover two things-that there are the economic aspects and the ethical aspects. In its economic aspect we see a great industry, formerly carried on in factories—as we may designate the distilleries and breweries-becoming decentralized and going back into the home-industry stage. This is just the reverse of what has happened in other industries. It is now, however, emerging from the home and gradually entering a second period in
which we find the exploiter trying to get control of all the stills within a given area. It is like the situation in the Pennsylvania oil fields years ago, when almost any man who had a piece of land where a well could be dug could produce oil. As one man got more than his neighbor, they began to fight each other, and gradually a certain man gained control in his section, and finally came to control a large part of the entire industry. We have men in the bootlegging industry who are quite determined to obtain control of a given area, and who offer to any man who is discovered within that area a fifty-fifty proposition. They give police protection and selling advantages in return for half his output. If he declines his still is broken up, or, if he is persistent, his head may be broken open, but he is in the end obliged to conform or to go out of business, for a monopoly is always ruthless. Then there is the larger fighting going on between two sets of exploiters. In Chicago it happens to be a fight between a Sicilian gang and another which shall be nameless. The two organizations trying to gain control are carrying on a purely economic rivalry, but the whole situation is complicated and taken out of business into ethics because the entire manufacturing and selling processes are illegal and, more than that, are dependent upon methods of successful corruption. The situation in the old days was typified by the whiskey ring bringing influence to bear directly and indirectly upon state legislatures, and rumors came to us of some such attempt in Congress itself. The corruption has now been dissipated and is brought to bear upon the patrolman on the beat and on his police superiors. The social worker is often conscious of this double development going on all about him. I hope no one will understand me as in favor of the present attempt to modify the Eighteenth Amendment because it is not being enforced. Its present' failure is like the failure of the first attempts in the South after the abolition of slavery. The southern people did not believe slavery should have been abolished. They did not believe the United States had the right to legislate about it, and so the slaves were barely free, when they lost their votes, they fell into peonage, and all sorts of things happened to them; yet in three generations no one would venture to say that the descendants of slaves are not enormously better off than if that legislation had not been passed. We will have to watch and see the larger aspect of this amendment which is not being enforced where communities are not trying to enforce it. Here is a distinct ethical situation. Are social workers trying to analyze it? If we undertood it, that alone might make us worth our salt. There is obvious need for the application of a tireless intellectual effort there.
Year ago, in the nineties-by that I mean the last decade of the last century, before many of you in this audience were born-we used to have at these meetings almost always a sharp challenge as to the construction of society itself. It was said that certain social mechanisms and arrangements were so awkward and so unfair that they almost automatically produced poverty; they destroyed individual effort and cramped native energy; but if these social conditions could be changed s as to foster personality, then such individuals would
thrive, and in the end would produce for themselves a better social order. I remember at one meeting a socialist made a long and rather tiresome address. When he sat down, one of the men in the audience arose and said, "Well, that was a pretty sweeping speech you made. You act as if you thought socialism would cure the toothache." The socialist replied, "Of course it would cure the toothache. If every child were looked after by the state, and his teeth attended to from infancy, of course toothache would disappear from the world." Is it not true that in the years since that happened we have dropped more or less the discussion of social theories and paid a good deal of attention to toothache? I am sure that in most cities, with their nursery schools, their nutrition classes, their school nurses, and their dental services sustained by the city health departments, toothache is being abolished. But this effort is quite divorced from any social theory. Indeed, if a social theory were to be attached to it, social workers would probably be frightened away and feel they must drop it. We are willing to work hard at definite social tasks, but we are not quite willing to discuss social theories. Proud as we are of the toothache achievement, we would almost rather have the children go about with poultices tied around their heads than to have the result called socialism, and if a powerful newspaper called a dental clinic bolshevism, I venture to predict that social workers could be found who would say, "We don't really approve of dental clinics. We are only experimenting with baby teeth." We share a certain desire to conform and be safe. This tendency has been registered most conspicuously in the field of politics, but it spreads over into other fields. We, too, are living on accumulated capital in spiritual and ethical affairs. Whether it is a passing phase with us, something we are sharing with the rest of the world, I am not wise enough to say. I merely call your attention to it as an interesting situation.
The leaders in this field of careful individual study are the psychiatric social workers. They are the newest and the most popular group among us, and perhaps we can ask a favor from them: that in time they go beyond this individual analysis and give us a little social psychiatric work. The newspapers bring us every morning-certainly they do in Chicago-information concerning many crimes. We would like to have them tell us what the effect upon the community is, for instance, of a case of capital punishment. Does it deter crime, as so many newspaper editors seem to think it does, or does it not deter crime? More people in this world have been executed because of their heretical beliefs than for any other reason in the world's long history of executions. That is a situation that is well over, certainly as it concerns the witches. Perhaps psychiatric workers will tell us whether, in those places where witches were executed, other ladies were deterred from becoming witches. If we can find that out perhaps we shall have more light on this very vexed question of capital punishment.
They might, in time, venture to tell us that it was a very bad thing to have a state's attorney get great acclaim and many votes according to the number of men he had prosecuted and "sent to the chair," as they say in New York, or "to
the noose, as we refer to it in Illinois. I am sure they would say it was not a good thing for a policeman to gain promotion according to the number of arrests he made. I am sure they would say all of those things had a sadistic (you see I am trying to acquire the language of psychiatry) effect upon the community. We now ask them to get back a little from a purely individual study into something which considers the many, and give us some conclusions which may clear our poor bewildered minds. I am saying this, not as a social worker, but as an old woman who is perplexed by a situation such as we have in Chicago. At the present time we are astounded by the spectacle of an assistant state's attorney being shot in an automobile in company with a man whom he had prosecuted for murder. We are startled by a curious connection which appears at times between the forces which have been elected to take care of the public safety and the elements in the community which are engaged in breaking down public safety. We see it whether in connection with the enforcement of the Volstead act or whether with those older laws meant to preserve and cherish human life. This entire situation challenges the community to make an ethical analysis of itself and of its needs. We may perhaps be presumptuous in saying that social work has any special ethical contribution to such an undertaking. We can base that claim only on the old belief that the man who lives near to the life of the poor, near to the mother and children of the man who is to be hangedhe who knows the devastating effects of disease and vice-has an unrivaled opportunity to make a contribution to ethics. We will certainly fail to meet our obligations if we throw away that opportunity, either because we shirk intellectual effort, because we lack courage, or because we fail to see our obligations.
The greatest moral effort in the world at the present moment is perhaps being made in India, where they are breaking down the long-established caste system which condemned millions of people to the life of the "untouchable." They have a caste system which is buttressed by thousands of years of habit and the sanctions of religion. Not only Gandhi but many others in India are making this determined effort. It comes, as always, from those who are closest to the poor, those who carry on their activities in touch with those who are on the margin of society. Such an effort demands more than ethics. It is religion, which has been defined as ethics touched with emotion; drenched with emotion would better describe this movement in the East.
Shall we paraphrase those fine words of Booker Washington's: "I will permit no man to make me hate him," into "I will permit no situation to make me bungle it," adding, "nor will I be frightened by what those on the outside may think about me. ." So we come back to the place from whence we started-how much social work can a community afford from the ethical point of view? Perhaps we need more "sea room," to refer to Dr. Crothers' whale story. We had a similar story at the Settlement conference, of a boy who dreamed he was being pursued by three social workers, all dressed in black and wearing glasses; just as