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The Spirit of X By Bernard Rapoport For the next few minutes, I want to walk down memory lane with you. Perhaps some of the scenes to which I will allude are as poignant in your memory as there are in mine. This business of remembering brings to mind the story of a 74-year-old man who went to the pro in the golf shop and said, “I want to be a caddie.” The pro looked at him and said, “In order to be a caddie, you have to have good eyesight and know where the ball is. That is probably as important as carrying the clubs.” The old gentleman looked at the pro and said, “Let me tell you something, I have 20-20 eyesight.” The pro said, “Let’s go out to the tee and I will hit the ball and we will see.” The pro hit the ball about 250 yards, turned to the old gentleman, “Well, did you see it?” The old man replied, “I saw it perfectly.” Then the pro said, “Well, where is it?” The response was, “I can’t remember.” Well, I hope my memory is better than that. Today, we worry about inflation and with good reason. One proposed solution it seems is unemployment. Remember when unemployment was a problem and not a solution? Remember when for years and year, the standard of living of the American worker increased each year and productivity also increased, when better tools were put into the hands of the workers. Some say those were the good ol’ days. I say and I know you agree if the good of days aren’t tomorrow, there is something terribly wrong in our economic system and what is wrong is going to need a lot more patchwork than any politician is currently proposing. Remember when we were not willing to settle for less; yes, we wanted more. The Japanese workers want more, the German workers want more and they get more, all because they have better tools put into their hands so they can produce more. You know and I know there are no better workers this isn’t just bravado than Americans. The question is posed, “What is necessary for dramatic growth of the labor movement?” I don’t purport to know the answer, but I know one thing there is an old saying, “To thine own self be true.” Perhaps within that wisdom may lie the problem. The working people of our nation do not have the appreciation they should of what they contribute and the worth of what it is they do. In this increasingly materialistic world in which we live, it almost is a tritism to remember the old slogan, “One for all and all for one.” I remember so vividly several pictures my father had on the wall when I was growing up. One was of a great labor leader behind bars exhorting his comrades to keep up the fight and pointing to himself and saying, “I am in here so you can be out there.” I wonder how long it has been since any of us have attended a union meeting where someone would pull out a package of cigarettes ,made in a non-union factory and another member would grab the pack and tear it up. It signified an indignation on the part of the member doing the tearing up that the one who carried the Camels was injuring all members in the union movement. There was that spirit of X. I am reminded of that wonderful analogy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace where he talks about the spirit of X and pictures it in this way. When the French army met the Russian army in Austria, it was soundly and totally defeated. These same armies met a few years later in Russia. Yes, the same armies, but the result was just the opposite. The Russians soundly defeated the French and Tolstoy poses the question, “How did this happen?” The same armies, different time, different victors and he calls that the spirit of X. It is indefinable but it is what is required for the success of any venture or movement. What it really means is that the individual thinks first about the movement, in this case her or his union, and in so doing is, in fact, benefiting themselves. What is the major ingredient in the spirit of X? For the Russians, it was an understanding that individually they were free to do what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it. But if they were imbued with the spirit of X, while they recognized this freedom, they possessed a mature understanding they were fighting for their homeland and because of the spirit of X, they freely gave up their so-called freedom and had to impose upon themselves a discipline which enabled the Austrian experience to be reversed. So it is with those of us who are concerned with the amelioration or betterment of the labor movement. Every union member is free to vote for whomever she or he wants in an election, but truly for those union members imbued with the spirit of X, they would not give themselves the freedom to vote, for example, for Ronald Reagan. The spirit of X does require a limitation of our individual choices so secularly or in the long run, we all can enjoy a better life. Then we can experience the wisdom that results when “to thine own self be true.” Take, for example, you want to purchase a new car so you start looking. For a moment, you decide you will buy a Japanese car and you are free to do that. But for a union member imbued with the spirit of X, she or he feels this limitation on individual choice and says, “If I do that, I might deprive some UAW member of a job.” The spirit of X requires an understanding that there are 17 or 18 million union members involving perhaps 65, 70 or 75 million people. Any group of 75 million people imbued with the spirit of X is absolutely, positively an unrestrainable force. 14 OCTOBER 18, 1991