1.Hi, Is the article below non-fiction or creative non-fiction? What makes it either of these titles?
By: Tomson Highway
By: Tomson Highway
Should Only Native Actors Have the Right to Play Native Roles?
Deep in my Cree heart of hearts, I had two-millennium projects on the go, though this only in hindsight. One was for the year 2000, the other for 2001, and thus just to make sure I had the right year for actually beginning this brand new, and incredibly exciting, millenium. Those two projects? For the year 2000, an English language production, in Toronto, of the third play in what I call my “Rez Septology,” a play called Rose. And for the year 2001, the Japanese-language premiere, in Tokyo, of the second play in the septology, a play called Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing. And this is how the two projects affected me and my life:
When it dawned on me, one cloudy day, that my career as a playwright had been destroyed by political correctness, I just about died. I wanted to throw myself under a subway train and just call it a day. I was horrified! After all that work? After all those years of struggle and of hope and of prayer and of pain and of tears and of more struggle, against odds that were impossible to begin with? But how can it be? How can the voice of a playwright be silenced? By a method so brutally effective as political correctness? In a country supposedly as civilized as Canada? Questions like this, and others like them, resounded through my brain over and over and over again. As they do to this day. Permit me, therefore, to start off with the “backdrop” before I go into “the projects,” please:
First of all, I don’t happen to have the good fortune of coming from a city such as Montreal or Vancouver or Toronto or Ottawa or New York or any other major city where educational (and employment) opportunities, right from age one, are virtually unlimited (believe me, you can be a movie star by age one in such cities!). And I don’t come from a city where English (or French) is the language of the day. I come, instead, from one of the tiniest, most remote, most inaccessible, most underprivileged and most troubled Indian reserves in the country, Brochet, Manitoba, population 700, one thousand five hundred kilometers directly north of Winnipeg (further than Churchill but on the opposite side of the province). I come from a place where the language spoken is Cree. AND Dene, incidentally; because we are located so far north, we spill over into the land of such sub-arctic peoples as the Dene (linguistically speaking) to the Navajo and other southwest Native nations. In fact, to fly from Toronto (my home until recently) to Brochet costs more than a ticket to Sydney, Australia or to Rio de Janeiro. To fly home to visit my family (which I do regular as clockwork), I could fly from Toronto to London, England and back - three times each way- for the same amount of money, easy. No jumping in a taxi or a car or on a bus or a train or a “seat sale” seat on a plane from Toronto to Vancouver for the likes of us, not to go have lunch with Mom, not to go to a funeral. Plane ticket prices for Canada’s northerners? Brutal. Brutal, brutal, brutal. And that’s just the distance barrier, never mind the linguistic. For Cree is as different from English as English is from Cantonese; not one shred of resemblance exists. In fact, the two languages are often completely at odds with each other. In one language, for instance, God is male, in the other, female. And that’s just the start…
So along comes this little Indian boy from one such remote northern Native community and into the big, big city of Toronto and he dares to dream of a career in the theatre, or, at the very least, in the world of Canadian letters. Fat chance, baby! Forget it.
He doesn’t listen. He goes ahead anyway. “No matter how they laugh, let them laugh. I can do it,” he says to himself. And he puts his shoulder to the grindstone, as they say in movies.
People always say The Rez Sisters was my first play. That’s not true. It’s not true at all. It may have been my first play to be successful with the general public. But there were five plays that came before that, every one of them self-produced, with money from my very own pocket. And some of these plays were awful, some of them were good, at least two of them were very, very good. But only with The Rez Sisters did my work suddenly, finally get noticed by, as I say, a wider public. By which time, I was almost forty. And what I had to go through to get those first five plays self-produced, you don’t even wanna know! How do you make money standing with your back against the wall in some big city, downtown back alley? Late, late at night? Guess.
When it came to that “first” play, however - and I speak here about The Rez Sisters, which, in fact, was my sixth - it was the fall of 1986. In those days, of course, you could count the number of professional Native actors in this country on the fingers on one hand alone. In my wildest dreams - keeping in mind that my work was totally unknown then - I dared to write this play for “them,” meaning for those four or five professional Native actors then in existence. The reason? I adored them. I just absolutely adored these people AND their work. They were my heroes. They kept my dreams alive.
So it came to the casting of the show. Finally, my play was going to get done! I was so excited I could hardly sleep at night. So then I approached them, these Native actors, for you see, as always, I was the producer, again, or at least in this case, one of the two co-producers, god bless the other co-producer, may he rest in peace. These Native actors, however, all said “no.” They were all too busy working on other projects, many of them on Native subject matter written by - horrors! - white people! I pleaded with them and pleaded with them and pleaded with them but, still, they said “no.” God bless them and their courageous careers but they made me cry. They made me want to give up and die.
So what choice did I have? Either I forget the play and kill myself. OR I go right ahead and hire - horrors! - white actors! Which is what I did, exactly. And these white actors, they were SO generous, they were so kind, so supportive, so confidence generating that, with their help as with that of those Native actors who did say “yes,” god bless them - I simply bloomed. The play opened. The play was successful. And it has never really stopped playing ever since, somewhere in the world, giving continued employment to many, many, many actors both Native and non-Native. As it will do probably forever - your grandchildren will be playing in The Rez Sisters! - something that would NEVER have happened if not for the help of extremely generous people who happened NOT to be Native, actors who happened to be white!
Several years later, I experienced a similar situation. This time, it was with a play called Rose. Again I wrote it for Native actors - of which, by this time (1991), there were many more - actors whom I absolutely adored, whose work I absolutely adored. And again, for some strange reason, they said “no.” They were NOT interested. I couldn’t get them interested. If their objective was to make me cry, then they were certainly utterly successful.
So then I waited ten years. Ten years! And by this time, I’m almost fifty years old, okay? Until some incredibly generous non-Native person comes along and offers to produce it, albeit, in a university setting, that is, a non-professional (i.e., non-paying) setting. I was thrilled. I was so thrilled I could have danced myself to shreds!
So then they went to work on it, this group of “white kids,” none of whom was older than twenty-five. And they worked. And they worked and they worked and they worked and they worked. Never seen such a group of people work so hard. And with so much faith and so much conviction and so much love. It was a blessing from heaven to be sitting there beside them, to be in the same room as them. They glowed, they glowed like lightbulbs. You’ve never seen people so happy, so high. And by the time the show opened, you couldn’t get a ticket; it had been sold out way before opening; hundreds of people were turned away. On virtually no advertising; it all happened by word of mouth. And, to me -as to most people who saw it - the production was FANTASTIC! It was rich, it was beautiful, it was spectacular, it was moving, it was...miraculous! Not perfect, perhaps, but pretty gall-darned good.
But these were the things about this experience that most struck me, that most stayed with me:
Not one of these actors got paid; they were students; in fact, because they were students of the drama programme at the University of Toronto, they were paying for the experience through their tuition fees which, if I understand correctly, can be as much as $8,000 a year at that particular institution. Pardon me - ONE of those actors DID get paid, a little girl we needed who, of course (being little), came from outside the drama programme. And she, by the way - and god bless her - was the only performer in that production who was Native. But how many Native actors do YOU know who would be willing to pay $8,000 to be in a show? Any show? That question stunned me.
All the other performers? Well, we had French-Canadians and Anglo-Canadians and
Dutch-Canadians and Polish-Canadians and Ukrainian-Canadians and Jewish-Canadians and Peruvian-Canadians and Lebanese-Canadians and Portuguese-Canadians and god only knows what else! And none of them have even met a Native person, up until then. They pretty well all came from the city of Toronto, or somewhere very close by (such as Barrie, or Sudbury) so they had never, ever been privy to any even remotely “Native experience” in their lives. Now, for the first time, in their third year of university, at ages 21-25, here they were getting this heavy-duty immersion course in “Native Studies,” meaning Native culture, Native history, Native spirituality, Native language - they were learning to speak Cree for god’s sake, something you can’t get Cree kids to do these days! - Native art, Native music, and just generally, Native life in this country, today. And you know what? They all fell in love with it. Now, as the direct result of such an experience, what they have for Native culture and people and languages is endless respect, even awe. And love. And what’s more, they will pass on that knowledge and that love and respect - and wisdom - on to their children and their grandchildren and their great grandchildren, etc., etc., etc…. The experience changed their lives. And both communities - Native AND non-Native - will benefit from it, both in the long term AND permanently.
The experience certainly changed MY life. It shocked me. The shock? That generosity and kindness and love know no racial boundaries. And that, contrariwise, UN generosity and lack of kindness and just plain cruelty ALSO know no racial boundaries. Coming out of Rose, I ended up with the immense gift of, minimum, 30 gorgeous, fantastically kind new friends, people whose friendship and generosity - and laughter - I will cherish right up until the day I die.
And the icing on the cake? A show was born that otherwise would never have been born, that otherwise would have died forever. A show was born that will give useful, meaningful, enriching employment - and enjoyment - to many, many people for many, many years. Like, I say, the whole thing was a shock. And it took ten years!
One more story before I close off on my point, the story, that is of my second “millennium project,” so-called. As it turns out, I’m writing this from Japan, specifically Tokyo, where the Japanese-language production of another play of mine, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, just opened.
It was awesome. And, again, it wasn’t so much the production - which was absolutely stunning! Imagine, if you will, the Seven Samurai doing Dry Lips.. - that move me so much as the generosity of the cast and crew, Japanese every one of them. That generosity, that kindness, that largeness of heart, just astonished me. It made me cry. To be the beneficiary of kindness on that scale is a gift one could easily die for. As a result of just that one project, I now have a hundred friends, easy, in Japan. For the rest of my life! I LOVE Tokyo!
And again, none of these people had ever met a Native person - well, two had, but…- much less knew anything about Native culture first hand. By the end of the six-week rehearsal process, however, some of them were speaking Cree AND some Ojibway. And let me tell you, to hear your own Native tongue being spoken with a Japanese accent is a bittersweet experience indeed. (I mean, come on, folks! To be unilingual in a language that’s not even your own? If the Japanese can learn Cree, YOU can learn Ojibway!) And, again, these people will pass their respect for Native people and culture on to their children, their grandchildren, their great great grandchildren etc., etc., etc…. The experience changed their lives. It changed mine.
The one question I kept being asked over and over? How does it feel to have Japanese actors playing Native parts? (In the aforementioned Canadian production of The Rez Sisters, it was more like, “how dare these two white women STEAL Native parts from Native actors!” Well, good grief! The show would never have been born without them in the first place!) Anyway, my answer to the question in Japan was this:
1) These Japanese actors, they’re human beings, for god’s sake. What they are, first, foremost and last, is real-life, flesh-and-blood human beings with feelings, human beings who happen to be incredibly talented. And incredibly generous. If they hadn’t agreed to do it, it would never, EVER have happened.
2)To me, saying that only Native actors have the right to play Native roles - on stage, anyway, as opposed to film, which another thing entirely and not at all what I’m talking about here - well, that’s like saying only Italian actors have the right to play in Romeo and Juliet, or only Danish actors have the right to play in Hamlet, or only Spanish actors have the right to play in Blood Wedding. It would be like saying to someone like Canadian film-maker Atom Egoyan, “you have the right to work with Armenian actors only,” which, of course, would automatically bring his career to a standstill; it would destroy it, it would kill it, right there on the spot. Or as I asked, one sunny day, a respected, much admired Jewish theatre artist, “how would you like to work with no but Jews for the rest of your life?” You could almost see his hair stand on end; the very thought horrified him.
My argument with someone else at that same summer gathering? “Theatre is about illusion, the better the magic, the more profound the experience.” Besides, working in a situation of cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity can be the most empowering, most liberating, most exhilarating experience in anyone’s life. Working in a pressure cooker environment by comparison? Working in the context of a “ghetto” of any kind whatsoever, be that “ghetto” Native or black or French or English or Jewish or female or male or gay or…? Remember the expression, “familiarity breeds contempt”? Well, only too frequently, such a working environment can only mean THAT kind of disaster. Or one of plain, out-and-out hatred. And hatred, as who doesn’t know, kills and kills completely. It kills relationships, it kills communities, it kills love. Look at what the Argentinians did TO EACH OTHER during the so-called “dirty war” of the 1970s. Look at what the Spanish did TO EACH OTHER during the Spanish Civil War. Look at what the Chileans have done TO EACH OTHER. Look at the Irish in Northern Ireland. Look at the Balkans, at Cambodia in the ‘80s, at Haiti, at Rwanda, etc., etc., etc…. Does anybody out there actually want to live like that? Internally directed hatred, internally directed violence - which, in essence, is what civil war is - well, there is nothing more destructive, we all know that. Diversity! What we all need is diversity! What we all need, desperately, is room to breathe! That’s what makes Canada work as a society; precisely its diversity. If we - all of us - were Cree, I would have had my head macheted off a long, long time ago!
All by way of saying the following: “Only Native actors have the right to play Native roles?” Music to Native actor’s ears, perhaps, yes, god bless them. But death to a Native playwright’s career. Because chances are that the show will NEVER, ever get done. No producer in the country has balls that size, balls big enough, that is to say, of going against the political grain. Not today. Not tomorrow.
Stop it, you people! It’s killing us!
Myself, I had to move out of the country, finally. I could no longer live there, not really. I kind of live, well...all over the world now. I do where I can find work. Because I certainly am NOT finding it in my own country. I go where I can find the kindness, I go where I can find the generosity, I go where I can find the friendship and support. The working situation in Canada, for someone like me? Well, it has simply become unworkable. I find it stultifying, asphyxiating. I CAN’T work under such artificial constraints. No one can. Sooner or later, it will drive you crazy. Not to mention kill your imagination. AND your career. All as you watch, with envious eyes, the careers of your non-Native playwright colleagues (whom you love) bloom like a garden everywhere around you…
It seems to me that what we have here are two distinct choices: a) either we cast a show politically correctly (meaning only Native actors play Native parts) and the show never, ever gets produced (trust me; I waited ten years for Rose to happen, more for others which will NEVER get done), or b) cast it any way you want, in whatever way you can afford it budget-wise (plane tickets are a waste of money, trust me), let the show be born, let the show become successful, and THEN it will live on forever to employ many, many, many more actors, Native and otherwise, for many, many, many more years. And the upshot of the latter arrangement? Having Native and non-Native actors working side by side like that? There is no better healing agent for bringing two only-too-frequently disparate, disharmonious communities together. And, in the process, making our country an even better, richer, healthier country than it is already.
The life of an artist is so incredibly challenging, after all, a Native artist’s most especially, in Canada today, or anywhere in the world. Everywhere you turn, insurmountable obstacles meet you square in the face. Everywhere you turn, events, or people, conspire to bring you down, to destroy you. What those artists need, and need most desperately, is as much breathing space as you can give them, the freedom to create, the freedom to employ, the freedom to fly with their souls and imaginations. Don’t hold them down. Don’t shoot them down. You will kill them. Or drive them away. They need all the help they can possibly acquire. They’ve already almost killed themselves just to get to where they are today.
Someone said to me one day: “Artists are here to break down barriers, not to create them.” So, myself, I’ve moved away. I’ve left my own country, to continue helping to break down barriers in whatever way I still can, at my age, in the only way I know how, and to have a good time doing it. The thing is, I can do that. I can take it. I’ve had, as they say in the business, my “fifteen minutes of fame.” Enough already. I’ve been very, very lucky (not to mention being the beneficiary of extraordinary teachers, absolutely extraordinary parents and many dear, dear friends). And I’ve moved on, to other things. I have had, after all, no choice.
The sad thing is this: what about the next generation of Native playwrights? Will they, too, one day find themselves standing on that subway platform - late, late at night, stoned, drunk out of their skulls, not a penny in their pockets, no future in sight - and those long, silvery tracks down below gleaming up at them in a manner most, most enticing?
4.In a national radio speech on February 23, 1934, Huey Long unveiled his “Share Our Wealth” plan, a program designed
a program designed to provide a decent standard of living to all Americans by spreading the nation’s wealth among the people.
Long proposed capping personal fortunes at $50 million each (roughly $600 million in today's dollars) through a restructured, progressive federal tax code and sharing the resulting revenue with the public through government benefits and public works. In subsequent speeches and writings, he revised his graduated tax levy on wealth over $1 million to cap fortunes at $5 - $8 million (or $60 - $96 million today).
The full text of this speech, as printed in Long's official Share Our Wealth pamphlet (see right), appears below.
“EVERY MAN A KING”
Share Our Wealth Radio Speech by Senator Huey P. Long, of Louisiana, February 23, 1934
s that a right of life when the young children of this country are being reared into a sphere which is more owned by 12 men than it is by 120,000,000 people?”
Ladies and Gentlemen: —
I have only 30 minutes in which to speak to you this evening, and I, therefore, will not be able to discuss in detail so much as I can write when I have all of the time and space that is allowed me for the subjects, but I will undertake to sketch them very briefly without manuscript or preparation, so that you can understand them so well as I can tell them to you tonight.
I contend, my friends, that we have no difficult problem to solve in America, and that is the view of nearly everyone with whom I have discussed the matter here in Washington and elsewhere throughout the United States—that we have no very difficult problem to solve.
It is not the difficulty of the problem which we have; it is the fact that the rich people of this country—and by rich people I mean the super-rich—will not allow us to solve the problems, or rather the one little problem that is afflicting this country, because in order to cure all of our woes it is necessary to scale down the big fortunes, that we may scatter the wealth to be shared by all of the people.
We have a marvelous love for this Government of ours; in fact, it is almost a religion, and it is well that it should be, because we have a splendid form of government and we have a splendid set of laws. We have everything here that we need, except that we have neglected the fundamentals upon which the American Government was principally predicated.
How many of you remember the first thing that the Declaration of Independence said? It said: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that there are certain inalienable rights for the people, and among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;" and it said further, "We hold the view that all men are created equal."
Now, what did they mean by that? Did they mean, my friends, to say that all men are created equal and that that meant that any one man was born to inherit $10,000,000,000 and that another child was to be born to inherit nothing?
Did that mean, my friends, that someone would come into this world without having had an opportunity, of course, to have hit one lick of work, should be born with more than it and all of its children and children's children could ever dispose of, but that another one would have to be born into a life of starvation?
That was not the meaning of the Declaration of Independence when it said that all men are created equal or "That we hold that all men are created equal."
Nor was it the meaning of the Declaration of Independence when it said that they held that there were certain rights that were inalienable—the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Is that right of life, my friends, when the young children of this country are being reared into a sphere which is more owned by 12 men than it by 120,000,000 people?
Is that, my friends, giving them a fair shake of the dice or anything like the inalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or anything resembling the fact that all people are created equal; when we have today in America thousands and hundreds of thousands and millions of children on the verge of starvation in a land that is overflowing with too much to eat and too much to wear?
I do not think you will contend that, and I do not think for a moment that they will contend it.
Now let us see if we cannot return this Government to the Declaration of Independence and see if we are going to do anything regarding it. Why should we hesitate or why should we quibble or why should we quarrel with one another to find out what the difficulty is, when we know that the Lord told us what the difficulty is, and Moses wrote it out so a blind man could see it, then Jesus told us all about it, and it was later written in the Book of James, where everyone could read it?
I refer to the Scriptures, now, my friends, and give you what it says not for the purpose of convincing you of the wisdom of myself, not for the purpose, ladies and gentlemen, of convincing you of the fact that I am quoting the Scriptures means that I am to be more believed than someone else; but I quote you the Scripture, or rather refer you to the Scripture, because whatever you see there you may rely upon will never be disproved so long as you or your children or anyone may live; and you may further depend upon the fact that not one historical fact that the Bible has ever contained has ever yet been disproved by any scientific discovery or by reason of anything that has been disclosed to man through his own individual mind or through the wisdom of the Lord which the Lord has allowed him to have.
But the Scripture says, ladies and gentlemen, that no country can survive, or for a country to survive it is necessary that we keep the wealth scattered among the people, that nothing should keep the wealth scattered among the people, that nothing should be held permanently by any one person, and that 50 years seems to be the year of jubilee in which all property would be scattered about and returned to the sources from which it originally came, and every seventh year debt should be remitted.
Those two things the Almighty said to be necessary—I should say He knew to be necessary, or else He would not have so prescribed that the property would be kept among the general run of the people, and that everyone would continue to share in it; so that no one man would get half of it and hand it down to a son, who takes half of what was left, and that son hand it down to another one, who would take half of what was left, until, like a snowball going downhill, all of the snow was off of the ground except what the snowball had.
I believe that was the judgment and the view and the law of the Lord, that we would have to distribute wealth ever so often, in order that there could not be people starving to death in a land of plenty, as there is in America today.
We have in America today more wealth, more goods, more food, more clothing, more houses than we have ever had. We have everything in abundance here.
We have the farm problem, my friends, because we have too much cotton, because we have too much wheat, and have too much corn, and too much potatoes.
We have a home loan problem, because we have too many houses, and yet nobody can buy them and live in them.
We have trouble, my friends, in the country, because we have too much money owing, the greatest indebtedness that has ever been given to civilization, where it has been shown that we are incapable of distributing the actual things that are here, because the people have not money enough to supply themselves with them, and because the greed of a few men is such that they think it is necessary that they own everything, and their pleasure consists in the starvation of the masses, and in their possessing things they cannot use, and their children cannot use, but who bask in the splendor of sunlight and wealth, casting darkness and despair and impressing it on everyone else.
"So, therefore," said the Lord in effect, "if you see these things that now have occurred and exist in this and other countries, there must be a constant scattering of wealth in any country if this country is to survive."
"Then," said the Lord, in effect, "every seventh year there shall be a remission of debts; there will be no debts after 7 years." That was the law.
Now, let us take America today. We have in America today, ladies and gentlemen, $272,000,000,000 of debt. Two hundred and seventy-two thousand millions of dollars of debts are owed by the various people of this country today. Why, my friends, that cannot be paid. It is not possible for that kind of debt to be paid.
The entire currency of the United States is only $6,000,000,000. That is all of the money that we have got in America today. All the actual money you have got in all of your banks, all that you have got in the Government Treasury, is $6,000,000,000; and if you took all that money and paid it out today you would still owe $266,000,000,000; and if you took all that money and paid again you would still owe $260,000,000,000; and if you took it, my friends, 20 times and paid it you would still owe $150,000,000,000.
You would have to have 45 times the entire money supply of the United States today to pay the debts of the people of America and then they would just have to start out from scratch, without a dime to go on with.
So, my friends, it is impossible to pay all of these debts, and you might as well find out that it cannot be done. The United States Supreme Court has definitely found out that it could not be done, because, in a Minnesota case, it held that when a State has postponed the evil day of collecting a debt it was a valid and constitutional exercise of legislative power.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, if I may proceed to give you some other words that I think you can understand—I am not going to belabor you by quoting tonight—I am going to tell you what the wise men of all ages and all times, down even to the present day, have all said: That you must keep the wealth of the country scattered, and you must limit the amount that any one man can own. You cannot let any man own §300,000,000,000 or $400,000,000,000. If you do, one man can own all of the wealth that the United States has in it.
Now, my friends, if you were off on an island where there were 100 lunches, you could not let one man eat up the hundred lunches, or take the hundred lunches and not let anybody else eat any of them. If you did, there would not be anything else for the balance of the people to consume.
So, we have in America today, my friends, a condition by which about 10 men dominate the means of activity in at least 85 percent of the activities that you own. They either own directly everything or they have got some kind of mortgage on it, with a very small percentage to be excepted. They own the banks, they own the steel mills, they own the railroads, they own the bonds, they own the mortgages, they own the stores, and they have chained the country from one end to the other until there is not any kind of business that a small, independent man could go into today and make a living, and there is not any kind of business that an independent man can go into and make any money to buy an automobile with; and they have finally and gradually and steadily eliminated everybody from the fields in which there is a living to be made, and still they have got little enough sense to think they ought to be able to get more business out of it anyway.
If you reduce a man to the point where he is starving to death and bleeding and dying, how do you expect that man to get hold of any money to spend with you? It is not possible.
Then, ladies and gentlemen, how do you expect people to live, when the wherewith cannot be had by the people?
In the beginning I quoted from the Scriptures. I hope you will understand that I am not quoting Scripture to you to convince you of my goodness personally, because that is a thing between me and my Maker; that is something as to how I stand with my Maker and as to how you stand with your Maker. That is not concerned with this issue, except and unless there are those of you who would be so good as to pray for the souls of some of UK. Rut the Lord gave His law, and in the Book of James they said so, that the rich should weep and howl for the miseries that had come upon them; and, therefore, it was written that when the rich hold goods they could not use and could not consume, you will inflict punishment on them, and nothing but days of woe ahead of them.
Then we have heard of the great Greek philosopher, Socrates, and the greater Greek philosopher, Plato, and we have read the dialogue between Plato and Socrates, in which one said that great riches brought on great poverty, and would be destructive of a country. Read what they said. Read what Plato said; that you must not let any one man be too poor, and you must not let any one man be too rich; that the same mill that grinds out the extra rich is the mill that will grind out the extra poor, because, in order that the extra rich can become so affluent, they must necessarily take more of what ordinarily would belong to the average man.
It is a very simple process of mathematics that you do not have to study, and that no one is going to discuss with you.
So that was the view of Socrates and Plato. That was the view of the English statesmen. That was the view of American statesmen. That was the view of American statesmen like Daniel Webster, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, and Theodore Roosevelt, and even as late as Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Both of these men, Mr. Hoover and Mr. Roosevelt, came out and said there had to be a decentralization of wealth, but neither one of them did anything about it. But, nevertheless, they recognized the principle. The fact that neither one of them ever did anything about it is their own problem that I am not undertaking to criticize; but had Mr. Hoover carried out what he says ought to be done, he would be retiring from the President's office, very probably, 8 years from now, instead of 1 year ago; and had Mr. Roosevelt proceeded along the lines that he stated were necessary for the decentralization of wealth, he would have gone, my friends, a long way already, and within a few months he would have probably reached a solution of all of the problems that afflict this country today.
But I wish to warn you now that nothing that has been done up to this date has taken one dime away from these big fortune-holders; they own just as much as they did, and probably a little bit more; they hold just as many of the debts of the common people as they ever held, and probably a little bit more; and unless we, my friends, are going to give the people of this country a fair shake of the dice, by which they will all get something out of the funds of this land, there is not a chance on the topside of this God's eternal earth by which we can rescue this country and rescue the people of this country.
It is necessary to save the government of the country, but is much more necessary to save the people of America. We love this country. We love this Government. It is a religion, I say. It is a kind of religion people have read of when women, in the name of religion, would take their infant babes and throw them into the burning flame, where they would be instantly devoured by the all-consuming fire, in days gone by; and there probably are some people of the world even today, who, in the name of religion, throw their own babes to destruction; but in the name of our good government, people today are seeing their own children hungry, tired, half-naked, lifting their tear-dimmed eyes into the sad faces of their fathers and mothers, who cannot give them food and clothing they both need, and which is necessary to sustain them, and that goes on day after day, and night after night, when day gets into darkness and blackness, knowing those children would arise in the morning without being fed, and probably go to bed at night without being fed.
Yet in the name of our Government, and all alone, those people undertake and strive as hard as they can to keep a good government alive, and how long they can stand that no one knows. If I were in their place tonight, the place where millions are, I hope that I would have what I might say—I cannot give you the word to express the kind of fortitude they have; that is the word—I hope that I might have the fortitude to praise and honor my Government that had allowed me here in this land, where there is too much to eat and too much to wear, to starve in order that a handful of men can have so much more than they can ever eat or they can ever wear.
Now, we have organized a society, and we call it "Share Our Wealth Society," a society with the motto "Every Man a King."
Every man a king, so there would be no such thing as a man or woman who did not have the necessities of life, who would not be dependent upon the whims and caprices and ipsi dixit of the financial barons for a living. What do we propose by this society? We propose to limit the wealth of big men in the country. There is an average of $15,000 in wealth to every family in America. That is right here today.
We do not propose to divide it up equally. We do not propose a division of wealth, but we propose to limit poverty that we will allow to be inflicted upon any man's family. We will not say we are going to try to guarantee any equality, or $15,000 to a family. No; but we do say that one third of the average is low enough for any one family to hold, that there should be a guarantee of a family wealth of around $5,000; enough for a home, an automobile, a radio, and the ordinary conveniences, and the opportunity to educate their children; a fair share of the income of this land thereafter to that family so there will be no such thing as merely the select to have those things, and so there will be no such thing as a family living in poverty and distress.
We have to limit fortunes. Our present plan is that we will allow no one man to own more that $50,000,000. We think that with that limit we will be able to carry out the balance of the program. It may be necessary that we limit it to less than $50,000,000. It may be necessary, in working out of the plans that no man's fortune would be more than $10,000,000 or $15,000,000. But be that as it may, it will still be more than any one man, or any one man and his children and their children, will be able to spend in their lifetimes; and it is not necessary or reasonable to have wealth piled up beyond that point where we cannot prevent poverty among the masses.
Another thing we propose is old-age pension of $30 a month for everyone that is 60 years old. Now, we do not give this pension to a man making $1,000 a year, and we do not give it to him if he has $10,000 in property, but outside of that we do.
We will limit hours of work. There is not any necessity of having overproduction. I think all you have got to do, ladies and gentlemen, is just limit the hours of work to such an extent as people will work only so long as it is necessary to produce enough for all of the people to have what they need. Why, ladies and gentlemen, let us say that all of these labor-saving devices reduce hours down to where you do not have to work but 4 hours a day; that is enough for these people, and then praise be the name of the Lord, if it gets that good. Let it be good and not a curse, and then we will have 5 hours a day and 5 days a week-, or even less than that, and we might give a man a whole month off during a year, or give him 2 months; and we might do what other countries have seen fit to do, and what I did in Louisiana, by having schools by which adults could go back and learn the things that have been discovered since they went to school.
We will not have any trouble taking care of the agricultural situation. All you have to do is balance your production with your consumption. You simply have to abandon a particular crop that you have too much of, and all you have to do is store the surplus for the next year, and the Government will take it over.
When you have good crops in the area in which the crops that have been planted are sufficient for another year, put in your public works in the particular year when you do not need to raise any more, and by that means you get everybody employed. When the Government has enough of any particular crop to take care of all of the people, that will be all that is necessary; and in order to do all of this, our taxation is going to be to take the billion-dollar fortunes and strip them down to frying size, not to exceed $50,000,000, and if it is necessary to come to $10,000,000, we will come to $10,000,000. We have worked the proposition out to guarantee a limit upon property (and no man will own less than one-third the average), and guarantee a reduction of fortunes and a reduction of hours to spread wealth throughout this country. We would care for the old people above 60 and take them away from this thriving industry and give them a chance to enjoy the necessities and live in ease, and thereby lift from the market the labor which would probably create a surplus of commodities.
Those are the things we propose to do. "Every Man a King." Every man to eat when there is something to eat; all to wear something when there is something to wear. That makes us all a sovereign.
You cannot solve these things through these various and sundry alphabetical codes. You can have the N. R. A. and P. W. A. and C. W. A. and the U. U. G. and G. I. N. and any other kind of dad-gummed lettered code. You can wait until doomsday and see 25 more alphabets, but that is not going to solve this proposition. Why hide? Why quibble? You know what the trouble is. The man that says he does not know what the trouble is is just hiding his face to keep from seeing the sunlight.
God told you what the trouble was. The philosophers told you what the trouble was; and when you have a country where one man owns more than 100,000 people, or a million people, and when you have a country where there are four men, as in America, that have got more control over things than all the 120,000,000 people together, you know what the trouble is.
We had these great incomes in this country; but the farmer, who plowed from sunup to sundown, who labored here from sunup to sundown for 6 days a week, wound up at the end of the time with practically nothing.
And we ought to take care of the veterans of the wars in this program. That is a small matter. Suppose it does cost a billion dollars a year—that means that the money will be scattered throughout this country. We ought to pay them a bonus. We can do it. We ought to take care of every single one of the sick and disabled veterans. I do not care whether a man got sick on the battlefield or did not; every man that wore the uniform of this country is entitled to be taken care of, and there is money enough to do it; and we need to spread the wealth of the country, which you did not do in what you call the N. R. A.
If the N. R. A. has done any good, I can put it all in my eye without having it hurt. All I can see that the N. R. A. has done is to put the little man out of business—the little merchant in his store, the little Italian that is running a fruit stand, or the Greek shoe-shining stand, who has to take hold of a code of 275 pages and study it with a spirit level and compass and looking-glass; he has to hire a Philadelphia lawyer to tell him what is in the code; and by the time he learns what the code is, he is in jail or out of business; and they have got a chain code system that has already put him out of business. The N. R. A. is not worth anything, and I said so when they put it through.
Now, my friends, we have got to hit the root with the ax. Centralized power in the hands of a few, with centralized credit in the hands of a few, is the trouble.
Get together in your community tonight or tomorrow and organize one of our Share Our Wealth Societies. If you do not understand it, write me and let me send you the platform; let me give you the proof of it.
This is Huey P. Long talking, United States Senator, Washington, D. C. Write me and let me send you the data on this proposition. Enroll with us. Let us make known to the people what we are going to do. I will send you a button, if I have got enough of them left. We have got a little button that some of our friends designed, with our message around the rim of the button, and in the center "Every Man a King." Many thousands of them are meeting through the United States, and every day we are getting hundreds and hundreds of letters. Share Our Wealth Societies are now being organized, and people have it within their power to relieve themselves from this terrible situation.
Look at what the Mayo brothers announced this week, these greatest scientists of all the world today, who are entitled to have more money than all the Morgans and the Rockefellers, or anyone else, and yet the Mayos turn back their big fortunes to be used for treating the sick, and said they did not want to lay up fortunes in this earth, but wanted to turn them back where they would do some good; but the other big capitalists are not willing to do that, are not willing to do what these men, 10 times more worthy, have already done, and it is going to take a law to require them to do it.
Organize your Share Our Wealth Society and get your people to meet with you, and make known your wishes to your Senators and Representatives in Congress.
Now, my friends, I am going to stop. I thank you for this opportunity to talk to you. I am having to talk under the auspices and by the grace and permission of the National Broadcasting System tonight, and they are letting me talk free. If I had the money, and I wish I had the money, I would like to talk to you more often on this line, but I have not got it, and I cannot expect these people to give it to me free except on some rare instance. But, my friends, I hope to have the opportunity to talk with you, and I am writing to you, and I hope that you will get up and help in the work, because the resolutions and bills are before Congress, and we hope to have your help in getting together and organizing your Share Our Wealth Societies.
Now, that I have but a minute left, I want to say that I suppose my family is listening in on the radio in New Orleans, and I will say to my wife and three children that I am entirely well and hope to be home before many more days, and I hope they have listened to my speech tonight, and I wish them and all of their neighbors and friends everything good that may be had.
I thank you, my friends, for your kind attention, and I hope you will enroll with us, take care of your own work in the work of this Government, and share or help in our Share Our Wealth Societies.
I thank you.