Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Death Itself And The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

The aftermath of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. This is the police removing the bodies from the north side garage. About the aftermath of the ‘massacre,’ John Russick writes:

“The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre became a symbol of the unbridled violence and ruthlessness of Chicago’s criminal underworld, especially Al Capone.”

“...a symbol of the unbridled violence and ruthlessness of Chicago’s criminal underworld” — This is true. In pop culture history the event has become a symbol of wild violence. But in the context of its own time, was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre even an example of excessive violence?

Knowledge is contextual . . . By “context” we mean the sum of cognitive elements conditioning the acquisition, validity or application of any item of human knowledge. Knowledge is an organization or integration of interconnected elements, each relevant to the others . . . Knowledge is not a mosaic of independent pieces each of which stands apart from the rest . . . .

In regard to any concept, idea, proposal, theory, or item of knowledge, never forget or ignore the context on which it depends and which conditions its validity and use.

Contextfrom the Ayn Rand Lexicon

In the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, seven people died—six were established members of the ‘Bugs’ Moran gang and the seventh was a guy who enjoyed hanging out with gangsters.

In the decades leading up to the massacre, the citizens of Chicago had witnessed a lot of violence and death. Outside of the frantic headlines and editorials about gangsters designed to sell newspapers—consumerism—would ‘normal’ citizens really have invested much emotion in the deaths of seven underworld figures?

* * *

In 1919, a black child was drowned by white children at a segregated beach. The killing led to many days of rioting. The riots became so intense that the police were overwhelmed and the state militia was called in to restore order. Estimates are that more than 36 people were killed and hundreds were injured.

Thirty-six deaths is more than five times as many as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Interestingly, these deaths and these events have never taken on in pop culture history a catchy name and there is no widely known ‘mythology’ associated with them, i.e., there is no general knowledge of any of the specific names or specific circumstances associated with the events. They are simply known—when they are remembered at all—as the Chicago Race Riot of 1919.

* * *

In 1905, the Teamsters took up sides with striking workers protesting conditions at the Montgomery Ward, Co. The Montgomery Ward, Co., hired replacement workers. Conflicts between Teamsters and replacement workers turned into weeks of street battles and wide-spread rioting. Reports of the number of deaths and injuries vary widely, but John Russick puts the number of deaths at 105 with many hundreds more injured.

Again, even though a hundred and five people died—or more!—the events have acquired no catchy pop culture name and very few people remember any of the individuals involved or the specific circumstances of the rioting. They are simply known as the 1905 Chicago Teamsters' strike.

* * *

In 2008, a very, ummm, credentialed writer named Nicholson Baker wrote a book with the title, “Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization.” The book never really lived up its title, but I thought its title was very good. I was especially interested to see a very successful and widely accepted contemporary writer put forward the view that there weren’t winners and losers to World War Two, but rather that the war may have signaled something like the start of the end of civilization.

Two years earlier, waaay back in 2006, I wrote and posted a short story where I put forward my strongly held belief that World War One was, in fact, the start of the end of human civilization:

Free Energy! Light Without Heat! Lifts And Separates! #1: Grandma Laura

Free Energy! Light Without Heat! Lifts And Separates! #2: How It Works

Free Energy! Light Without Heat! Lifts And Separates! #3: The Paperclip Nazis

Free Energy! Light Without Heat! Lifts And Separates! #4: “Let Me Tell You The Good Life”

That’s what I think was really going on in Chicago after the turn of the century — Just some minor skirmishes as elements of human civilization fought to defend themselves against the inhuman mess that was creeping around the globe and making itself at home.

Tomorrow I’m going to talk about politics and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and some violence that occurred after the events in that north side garage. Friday will be a St. Valentine’s Day story I wrote this week, “Ballad of Little Red Riding Hood in Blue.”

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