Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
Beyond Human Might

By Björnstjerne Björnson

(Next to Ibsen, the greatest of Norwegian dramatists, 1832–1910. In the following scene, from a two-part symbolic drama of the problem of labor and capital, a young clergyman is speaking to a crowd of miners in the midst of a bitterly fought strike. The masters meet in a great castle, the home of one of them, to plan the destruction of the labor unions; whereupon a group of conspirators blow up the castle with dynamite. In the scene following the author gives his reflections upon this event, in the words of the grief-stricken sister of the chief conspirator)
HALDEN:—Suppose what has happened should arouse the conscience of the people?
  RACHEL:—Why, that’s what he was saying—his very words, I think—Arouse the conscience of the people! After all these thousands of years that we have been subject to the influence of the family and of religion, can it be possible that we are unable to arouse the people’s conscience except by—O ye silent and exalted witnesses, who hear without answering and see without reflecting what you see, why don’t you show me how to reach the upward road? For in the midst of all this misery there is no road that leads upward—nothing but an endless circling around the same spot, by which I perish!
  HALDEN:—Upward means forward.
  RACHEL:—But there is no forward in this! We have been thrown back into sheer barbarism! Once more all faith in a happy future has been wiped out. Just ask a few questions around here!… And then the sun, the spring—ever since that dreadful night—nothing but fine weather, night and day—a stretch of it the like of which I cannot recall. Is it not as if nature itself were crying out to us: “Shame! shame! You sprinkle my leaves with blood, and mingle death-cries with my song. You darken the air for me with your gruesome complaints.” That’s what it is saying to us. “You are soiling the spring for me. Your diseases and your evil thoughts are crouching in the woods and on the greenswards. Everywhere a stink of misery is following you like that of rotting waters.” That’s what it is telling us. “Your greed and your envy are a pair of sisters who have fought each other since they were born”—that’s what it says. “Only my highest mountain peaks, only my sandy wastes and icy deserts, have not seen those sisters; every other part of the earth has been filled by them with blood and brutal bawling. In the midst of eternal glory mankind has invented Hell and manages to keep it filled. And men, who should stand for perfection, harbor among them what is worthless and foul.”

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