AFTERWORD I BY ROGER SHATTUCK The Texas of My Mind The following essay was written for the December 27, 1974, issue of the Observer, in honor of the magazine’s 20th anniversary. We publish it here in its entirety in honor of the late Roger Shattuck. Parts of the essay are obviously dated. Most significantly, unionized labor has long ceased being “the most powerful organized sector of the country,” as Shattuck described it more than 30 years ago. But his probing questions about the role of profitthe emphasis on corporate quarterly results and the all-consuming role of money in our political systemhave taken on a greater importance in the years since this essay was written. n retrospect it’s clear. Everything I have written for the Observer has to be classified either as a jeremiad or as a crackpot proposal. There was a piece on nationalizing telephones and railroads; a diatribe called “The Great Travel Hoax”; an ominous debate with John Silber on nuclear policy; and a proposal of a year’s universal substitute for the draft. I wonder how the Observer ever survived on such fare. Yet it has thrived for all of us to see and read, and is now coming of age in America. In fact, for all its youthful energies and occasional raunchiness, the Observer seems to have been here much longer than 20 years. Our children always look younger than their years; our institutions look older. Let’s keep our illusions. Happy Twentieth, Observer & Co. But don’t expect silver and gold. For you, every anniversary is paper. Not a bad thing all around, For the occasion I have found a quote that applies not to the Observer, thank God, but to some of us who, after making our home in Austin and Texas with every expectation of staying on, felt obliged to leave after the Great UT Regents Rumble of four years ago. Pop music turns up some great nuggets: They’ve forgotten your name In Johnson City And left you in the Texas of your mind. \(“The Invisible Man,” Joe Byrd’s For the past three years, the Texas of my mind, of my family’s mind, has been a log cabin in Vermont with adjacent mountains, a bigger potato patch every year, and no institutional connection to protect and define our existence. A good life? Yes, truly, even though I have now returned to teaching by choice and by necessity. Out of that interim come two thoughts about the world that confronts all of us. I cannot change my tune: more jeremiads and crackpot proposals. Even an anniversary needs all kinds. My father was a reasonably successful doctor in New York City. He gave half his time to unpaid hos pital work and still survived the long drought of the depression. When he died a couple of years ago in his eighties, he left a small nest egg. After taxes and division among heirs, the capital I received, conservatively invested, yields enough income to help substantially with the education of four children, but only a fraction of what a family needs to live oneven with simple tastes and a garden, in Vermont. Furthermore, I didn’t earn the money; it isn’t mine to squander. It represents an inherited investment in our society and its future, and, willy nilly, in the capitalist system. By living within their means, my parents could place this small bet on our way of life. Unless I am incapacitated and need the money, it should remain in a kind of escrow, administered by me in such a way as to improve and if necessary modify the system which permitted its accumulation and inheritance. Otherwise, I should renounce it. Many people must find themselves in a comparable situation. Yet we easily forget the responsibilities of money because we are constantly prevented from discharging them. The banking systems and the stock market drug us so effectively that we do not expect anything more of our money and ourselves than to earn more. Our tablet of the law shows only one commandment: Thou shalt show a profit. Marx never spoke about his form of alienation from self and from worldly possessions. Abdication may be a better word. It afflicts us without our even knowing it. For how can I invest that money in the future of anything? \(One could give it all to a carefully chosen charity or foundation. But that would mean turning over one’s responsibility to othtwo recognized ways to invest a nest egg: for long term gain, and for current income. In either case, most investment counselors will advise diversification in order to hedge bets and spread losses. What is the consequence? The investor, small or large, comes to own no identifiable thing or property. He has a “portfolio”samples of wall paper and no room to live in. Absentee ownership could not be carried further. Even institutional investors exercise few genuine powers and limited responsibility of ownership. The final demonstration occurs when the proxies arrive. Management asks us all to vote for the present regime, along with salaries and pensions that stagger the imagination. Occasionally in the notice of the annual meeting one finds a proposal from one or two obstreperous stockholders \(they never seem to own many practice. Management makes them JANUARY 27, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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