I was a philosophy major in college, and I still read philosophy from time to time because, although it’s tough reading, there are incredible insights in philosophical works that you can’t find anywhere else.
I just finished reading Human Nature and Conduct by John Dewey, the great American philosopher, and it is amazing how some of his thoughts apply to politics in Brockport and Sweden today.
And it is amazing how easy it is to read Dewey. It isn’t like reading Aristotle, Kierkegaard or Schopenhauer. Reading John Dewey is almost like reading an editorial in the newspaper. That’s the way he wrote.
You have to excuse Dewey’s consistent use of male pronouns, because he wrote Human Nature and Conduct in 1922, and in 1922 few if any people considered the possibility of using he/she instead of he. So please look past his use of the male pronoun he and get to the kernel of Dewey’s ideas.
You also have to keep in mind that the rules of grammar have changed since 1922, and that is why he phrases things in a different way than we would now.
To look at Dewey in relation to Brockport today, you have to recognize that there are a lot of idealistic people working incredibly hard to make things better in Brockport, and considering Dewey’s ideas just might help them to continue to succeed.
In Human Nature and Conduct Dewey wrote, “The realistic man of the world has evolved a regular technique for dealing with idealistic outbursts that threaten his supremacy.”
Isn’t that the truth! The powers that be in the Town of Sweden have definitely evolved a technique for dealing with anyone and everyone who threatens the way they rule the town, no matter what.
In Brockport, read what Dewey wrote as, “The slumlords, who control politics in the Town of Sweden, have evolved a regular technique for dealing with idealistic outbursts that threaten their profit margins.” They rely on the voters in the Town of Sweden to vote Republican no matter what, and that’s the way works.
In other places, it’s the Democrats who work that way. For years in Chicago, the Cook County Democratic Party used political patronage jobs to dominate Chicago politics. From the 1930’s to the dawn of the 21st Century, the corrupt Democrats in Chicago controlled everything and didn’t worry about the Republicans.
In the town of Sweden it is the other way around, the Republicans use patronage jobs to control everything and they don’t worry about the Democrats, and they don’t worry that Sweden voters will get upset about the $375,000 wasted on the empty firehouse on Owens Road, even though that fiasco will win the golden turkey award for municipal spending.
But, what’s past is prologue, and Dewey suggests that we concentrate on the present if we want to make a better future.
In Human Nature and Conduct Dewey also wrote, “And is there, again, any intelligent way of modifying the future except to attend to the full possibilities of the present?”
Further down that same page Dewey added, “Note that the present activity is I the only one really under control.”
We can’t control what the Town of Sweden politicians do in the future; we can only control how we react to their actions now.
Three pages later, Dewey wrote, “Activity should be productive. That is to say it should have a bearing on the future, should effect control of it.”
Can anyone say that the activities of the Sweden Town Council are productive? The Town Council meetings are so short that you might ask “Can anyone say that the inactivity of the Sweden Town Council is productive?
At the same time, shouldn’t were ask ourselves if our activities are productive? Are we planning for the future or are we just letting things go along as they have been assuming that things will turn out okay?
Dewey gets to that point a few pages later in Human Nature and Conduct when he wrote, “The formation of plans do in some instances determine a course of events… But our choice is between the development of a technique by which intelligence will become an intervening partner and a continuation of a regime of accident, waste and distress.”
Earlier this month, the Village Trustees faced just such a choice when they decided to create a comprehensive plan that is specific to the village rather than adopt the flawed 2013 revised joint comprehensive plan that the Town of Sweden wanted the Village to adopt.
Adopting the flawed 2013 revised joint comprehensive would have been “a continuation of a regime of accident, waste and distress.” The members of the comprehensive plan review committee should be ashamed of themselves for presenting a plan with so many errors in it.
The activities of Trustee Val Ciciotti prior to that vote by the Village Board were extremely productive and ultimately swung the votes of everyone on the Board. Change takes that kind of dedication in order to have, a bearing on the future, as Dewey put it.
But Dewey cautions us not to sit on our laurels.
“No matter what the present success in straightening out difficulties and harmonizing conflicts, it is certain that problems will recur in the future in a new form or on a different plane.”
Keep in mind that, that the slumlords, who control politics in the Town of Sweden, have evolved a regular technique for dealing with idealistic outbursts that threaten their profit margins.
They are not going to stand idly by as village leaders push forward, trying to make things better in the village. Don’t be surprised if the slumlords increase their efforts to dissolve the village rather than cleaning up their act.