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Walt Whitman Foresaw
Rise of Ugly 'Corporate Democracy'

Poet of Democracy Scathingly Denounced American Society

Harsh Blasts, Fresh and Modern, Were Issued 128 Years Ago

Compiled by GayToday

whitmanpicture.jpg - 15.67 K Walt Whitman Walt Whitman, the Poet of Democracy, slammed America's blithe, blind misuse of its courts, legislatures, business ventures, cultural venues and religious organizations during the year 1873.

In his famed prose work, Democratic Vistas, Whitman's anguish flowed undisguised. In a statement that now seems eerily modern, he proclaimed:

  • I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness of heart than at present, and here in the United States.

  • Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the states are not honestly believ'd in, (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screamings,) nor is humanity itself believed in.

  • What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The spectacle is appalling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout. The men believe not in the women nor the women in the men.

  • A scornful superciliousness rules in literature. The aim of all the literateurs is to is to find something to make fun of.

  • A lot of churches, sects, &c, the most dismal phantasms I know, usurp the name of religion.

  • Conversation is a mass of badinage. From deceit in the spirit, the mother of all false deeds, the offspring is already incalculable.

  • An acute and candid person, in the revenue department in Washington, who is led by the course of his employment to regularly visit the cities, north and south and west, to investigate frauds, has talk'd much with me about his discoveries. The depravity of the business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater.

  • The official services of America, national state and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood and maladministration; and the judiciary is tainted.
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  • The great cities reek with respectable as much as non -respectable robbery and scoundrelism. In fashionable life, flippancy, tepid amours, weak infidelism, small aims, or no aims at all, only to kill time.

  • In business (this all-devouring modern word, business,) the one sole object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The magician's serpent in the fable ate up all the other serpents; and money-making is our magician's serpent, remaining today sole master of the field. The best class we show, is but a mob of fashionably dress'd speculators and vulgarians.

  • True, indeed, behind this fantastic farce, enacted on the visible stage of society, solid things and stupendous labors are to be discover'd, existing crudely and going on in the background, to advance and tell themselves in time.

  • Yet the truths are none the less terrible.

  • I say that our New World democracy, however great a success at uplifting the masses out of their sloughs, in materialistic development, products, and in a certain highly deceptive superficial popular intellectuality, is, so far, an almost complete failure in its social aspects, and in really grand religious, moral, literary and esthetic results.

  • In vain do we march with unprecedented strides to empire so colossal, outvying the antique, beyond Alexander's, beyond the proudest sway of Rome. In vain have we annex'd Texas, California, Alaska, and reach north for Canada and south for Cuba.

  • It is as if we were somehow endow'd with a vast and more and more thoroughly anointed body, and then left with little or no soul.

    Walt Whitman
    Democratic Vistas, 1873

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