>Western Tribune column March 25 2009

>This is not really the column I had hoped to print this week, but **** happens. You will just have to wonder what that implies.

Column

As the economic recovery continues we have to be mindful that hardship continues for some. As the stimulus creates jobs by helping some industries to thrive, others will be slower to respond and people may still lose their jobs.

Some will find other means of work although this often occurs at a lower rate of pay than they are accustomed to, so changes in their lifestyle may be in order.

But we hope that our government sponsored safety nets and charitable enterprises will keep those who are experiencing any degree of hardship from really suffering.

Some who read this experienced the difficult times of the Great Depression, and the rest of us probably heard about it from our parents. But even those tough times did not reflect true misery.

The type of misery I am referring to is what Johann Peter Frank described in his address to the medical graduates of the University of Pavia in Italy in 1790. The situation in the Austrian Empire that year was somewhat like the situation here in the United States today. Great social reforms had been promised including impartial justice and equitable taxation along with freedom of thought and religious tolerance. The nobility and clergy felt threatened and the reforms were revoked by the leader who had proposed them.

Today the Republican nobility certainly feels threatened and many in the clergy disapprove of the religious tolerance that seems to be advancing.

The type of misery that Frank was referring to was a direct result of the extreme poverty that the laboring masses lived under, and which resulted in increased levels of crime and disease.

“The misery of the people” was described as “the most fertile mother of diseases” in his address. Certainly, live birth rates were markedly different from what we know today, and early childhood death was common. This resulted in part from forced servitude with little or no compensation and starvation was not unusual.

Frank proposed reforms in his address that would do away with servitude and allow for farmers to own the land that they tilled. Better nutrition and health would result, and misery would be expelled from the provinces.

The standards under which we live today would not let us even consider returning to such conditions. The safety nets will prevent such. But just as important, the compassion and caring attitudes of friends and neighbors will see us through. Let’s be sure our neighbors are taken care of during the upcoming months.

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