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Your Sense of Values May Need Revising
Condensed from the Woman's Home Companion (April '26)
An Interview with Dr. F. Williams. Reported by Mary B. Mullett
R. FRANKWOOD WILLIAMS, a
Dosychiatrist of acknowledged rep
atation, and I were lunching at a famous New York hotel. Almost from the moment she came in we found ourselves watching a woman at the table next to ours.
"She is a very common type," Dr. Williams said. "Ever since she sat down she has been trying to get things done as she thinks they ought to be done. She has moved the dishes around because she didn't like the way they were arranged. She has told her husband not to talk so loudly and not to tuck his napkin into his waistcoat. When he ate his soup he got off on the wrong spoon, and she called him down for that.
"She hasn't discussed one thing that didn't involve little details about what 'ought' to be done; what time they 'ought' to have dinner tonight; what they 'ought' to wear; just when she 'ought' to do her packing; whether she 'ought' to report the chambermaid for not cleaning their room as it 'ought' to be cleaned.
"Imagine what she must be when she is at home. She is the type of woman whose house will always be Beat; even painfully neat. Everything runs like clockwork; or if it does not she is miserable. If she
gives a luncheon she wears herself out getting ready for it. Her mind is so occupied with the mechanical details of entertaining that she can't devote herself to the human side of it. She is busy thinking about doilies and dishes; hoping the cook won't burn anything; watching the maid; wondering whether goblets would have been correct rather than glasses. She is missing the only really vital thing in the whole situation. Unless the guests supply their own happiness and gayety and mental enjoyment all they get out of the affair will be a meal. They may go away and say she is a good housekeeper. But they won't say she is a charming woman and that they have had a wonderfully interesting time.
"As a homemaker she is a tragic failure. She hasn't the right sense of values. She has missed the allimportant thing! She is not a human being, opening her heart and mind to her husband, exploring life and hav. ing a wonderful time with him.
"These over-precise women began to 'get that way' when they were children; but not all from the same causes. Some of them, for example, are the results of the training given them by a mother who, herself, was over-precise. The little girl who has
been taught that disorder is almost a crime may grow up to be incorrigibly fussy in her own affairs.
"Of course this does not always happen. Two children having the same training may react to it in entirely different ways. Nevertheless, over-fussy mothers do succeed in training at least some of their children to be over-fussy men and women; missing the inner fruit of life because they are so busy with its outer husk. "If an overly precise woman realizes her failings she can overcome them. A psychiatrist could help her by showing her how she 'got that way;' but she can help herself to be different if she really cares about it. She should try to see her life as if she were outside of it. Which is more important in her home? Is it hearthappiness? Or is she absorbed in managing mechanical details? Does she laugh with her children-or only look after their diet? Does she know what they are dreaming, or only what they are doing? Does she have their confidence or only their obedience?
"When the family goes for a motor ride, does she help to make it a happy, amusing, entertaining experience? Or is she too busy thinking about the picnic lunch she is taking, the extra wraps, the scratch on the front seat, the squeak of an axle, the way her husband drives and a hundred other things which are not vital to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness?
"These women who are irritatingly precise and conscientious need one thing: a better understanding of life's values? Companionship, sympathy, affection, poise, mutual tolerance, freedom of expression-these are incomparably more important, than all the thousand little things on which many women concentrate.
"We must live and let live. We mustn't be so frightfully serious about every little thing. Do the best we can-and then accept the consequences with satisfaction if they are good, or with good-humored philosophy if they aren't what we hoped for. We must learn to smile at our own mistakes and at those of the people around us. A sense of proportion, a sense of ordi
nary human weakness, a sense of humor-well, taken together these make common sense. They would help these over-particular women.
"Suppose that a mother sees her child developing traits we have discussed. For instance, suppose the child won't let other children touch its playthings, is too fussy about its clothes, irritatingly methodical and exact. If a child shows a tendency to keep its playthings sacred, hides them from other children, is a little miser about them, find out what is back of all this. It may be a 'defensive reaction.' A brother or a sister may be trying to 'hog' the child's playthings. A boy's new electric train may have been broken by the boy from across the street. A little girl's doll, the pride of her heart, may have been messed up by the baby.
"Patience and a calm determination to get at the root of the matter will unearth the cause. And when it is found the mother can set things right. If the child is simply defending himself she must see that he doesn't have to do it. And at the same time she can explain to him something about the give and take of life; something about the need of friendliness tolerance; something about tact and how to manage people; something about how to defend himself and his rights.
"This can be done. It needs patience and understanding; but it may mean the difference between happiness and unhappiness when the child grows up. Not only its own happiness but that of husband, wife, children.
"It is curious-isn't it-to think that this man at the next table is reaping a harvest whose seeds were planted when his wife was a child. She is probably making his life miserable with her everlasting ought to do this' and 'ought to do that.' It could have been prevented, if her mother had seen this tendency toward overconscientiousness, had got at the cause of it and had helped her to a better sense of values. The woman could get this proper sense of values even now if she could see herself as we see her."
The Political Decline of America
Condensed from Harper's Magazine (December '25)
Frank R. Kent
INCE the founding of the nation various persons, at irregular intervals, have felt it was headed downhill and could not be stopped. Somehow or other, it has managed to pull through, even growing bigger and more indecently rich. Probably it will continue to wobble along in spite of its present disgracefully diseased political condition. However, there is no reason why the significant symptoms of the present should not be pointed out. For one thing, it may help a little in the eure. For another, some time or other one of these prophets of disaster is going to be more or less right.
Speaking not at all from the party but wholly from the public angle, this country is in a sorry, soggy, sloppy state, politically. It is hard to tell which is more discouraging: the issues that do interest the people or the issues that do not interest them.
Take first the issues to which they do respond-you can go across the country from coast to coast, stopping in each state to talk and learn, as I recently did, and you will strike are only when you touch one subjeet-Prohibition. No man not openly professing to be a dry can be elected to any conspicuous office in dry territory, and none not howling wet can successfully aspire in the wet centers. The most degraded dry can still beat the best wet in some sections, and the most assinine wet can still overwhelm the most deserving dry in the others. The merits of the men, their character and intelligence, their records and views on every other issue are subordinated to this one and every man in politics knows it. Prohibition is the
one thing which really stirs public sentiment.
That is, it was the one thing until a short while ago. Now we have another, and capable of even more deeply stirring men and women-to wit, the Bible issue. Perhaps it would have come into politics without the Dayton trial. It was on its way, but the Bryan-Darrow trial has thrust this issue deep into our politics. Few political observers doubt that we are at the start of another such fight as we had over Prohibition.
It is hard to see how it can be other than disheartening to thoughtful persons to grasp the fact that these two issues, neither one of which has the slightest business in politics, are the only ones capable of striking a spark from nine-tenths of the people of the country today. Any politician in any state will tell you that on the World Court, the tariff, the League of Nations, the railroads, water power, agriculture, or any other item of foreign or domestic policy, there is among the masses a complete and profound indifference. They don't know about them and they don't care. If that is not a disheartening situation to those who look ahead politiccally, what would be?
Equally discouraging is the apparently unshakable determination of half of the qualified voters not to participate in the election of its government. The United States, in the inatter of voting efficiency, is practically at the very tail of the long list of civilized nations. Forty years ago 80 per cent of the American voters went regularly to the polls and we were in the first column in point of voting efficiency. Now we are last.
In the 1924 election for the House of Commons in England, 76 per cent of the total electorate voted-in the preceding election 82 per cent went to the polls. In Germany in the 1924 election the vote exceeded 80 per cent. A 20-year average for the Australian and New Zealand States shows approximately 78 per cent voting. Belgium, Holland, and Denmark have an average over 20 years of 75 per cent. In Norway and Sweden approximately 76 per cent of the men vote consistently. On an average, the French vote is slightly above 70 per cent. In Switzerland the record for years shows better than 75 per cent, and in Canada the average is 70 per cent.
It is not a pleasant thing upon which to meditate that we, who started out to show the world what a Democracy really ought to be and how beautifully a great people could govern themselves-should fall back so far that fully half of our population is so little concerned about its government that it does not go to the polls at all.
It isn't only that our people do not vote in the general election, but, what is worse-in very much greater numbers they do not vote in the primaries, which, under our political system are infinitely more vital. The primary in this country is really the key to all politics. It is the gate through which 99 per cent of all candidates must pass in order to get on the ticket. Control of the primaries is control of politics-it really is control of the country. Those who thus control are in a position to limit the choice of the general election voter to their choice in the primaries. And for the most part, primaries everywhere are a fareea mere ratification of a machine's choice, made by an absurdly small number of machine men. Thus is the country run-not by the people but by the politicians.
Our political inertia can be blamed on the movies, on the newspapers, on the politicians, on the
general prosperity, on sports, on any number of things. But the basic fact is that there is in the English people, the French, the German, a political consciousness conspicuously lacking in the United States. The average European considers politics more seriously. There is inherent in him a deeper respect for law and a stronger desire to have some part in the selection of his government, some say as to whom shail run things and how. We, too, had a real political consciousness once. Up to about 1890 the average American's conception of political duty and his interest in his government, city, state, and nation, left relatively little room for criticism.
Whatever the reasons, of this we can be sure the evils of politics in every community are exactly equal to the indifference of the voters in the primaries. That is a provable proposition and it is about all you can prove regarding the situation except that it exists.
Actually, when the vital nature of politics to every individual is considered, when it is reflected that it touches the lives of us all directly and indirectly in scores of ways, and that there is no possible escape from its influence and effect, the steady lessening of political interest and activity among the masses of people, and the unfavorable light in which the voting figures show us in comparison with other nations, are a distinct reflection upon our intelligence as a people. There isn't
any doubt about that. Of course, there is going to be no collapse of governmental machinery and, of course, no one need feel unduly alarmed about the country's future. It will wobble out of these depressing conditions as it has wobbled out of many others. However, these facts do make a joke out of the old doctrine that "the people rule." Also, they render rather ridiculous the idea that this is the most enlightened nation of them all.