From the Archives: On Being Happy

By Robert Whitaker
An image of two men shaking hand in front of a picture of the world with the IWW label in front and the words "workers of the world unite!" underneath the label.  The three stars "education", "emancipation", and "organization" surround the men.  The picture is captioned "an injury to one an injury to all".
An image that appeared in the One Big Union Monthly in 1920.

This poem appeared in the October 1925 edition of the Industrial Pioneer. Note that this was written before the Great Depression.


How can a man be happy when the world is so awry?
When strong men beg for work to do and unfed millions die?
When little children lift their heads and plead in vain for bread?
How can a man be happy if he isn’t worse than dead?

What if the fates have favored us and we have bread to spare;
A decent roof to shelter us, and what we need to wear;
And friends to love, and work to do, and joys we cannot tell;
How can a man be happy when his brothers live in hell?

Alas for those who are content with preachments, prayers, and psalms;
With nicely ordered charities, or with spasdomic alms;
Alas for creeds, and cults, and schools, describe them as you will,
That make us self-complacent if we only have our fill.

It isn’t outright wickedness that wreaks the human race;
It’s the shallow, selfish goodness that we glorify apace;
Our mean self-help philosophies, our honor and success;
Our skill at being happy when the world is in distress.


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