Brain Dropping #125
One way to cheat oblivion is to have an imposing structure carry your name whether you were or are famous, or infamous. The Great Pyramid of Cheops, the Trajan Column, the Eiffel Tower, the Washington Monument – all serve the purpose of perpetuating the memory, for good or bad, of someone designated, by himself or others, as being of historical or social significance. It seems to me that today, we are living at a time of shameless, philanthropic narcissism, when egotists pay big bucks to see their names emblazoned on towering buildings or cultural institutions. The ubiquitous Koch Brothers apparently have an urgent need to shore up their fragile egos, and to impress the gullible public with their munificence.
This name game is an age-old tradition exercised with great relish by bloodthirsty tyrants and power hungry thugs. A good example is the disgracefully named, J. Edgar Hoover Building – headquarters of the FBI. Not only does honoring the name J. Edgar Hoover correctly elicit anger and revulsion ( the man was the personification of power hungry thuggery ) but it is a flagrant attempt to alter history. Hoover was a hit-man for an oppressive government caught in the foils of an insane “red scare.” He falsified evidence, violated the Constitutional right to privacy by illegally bugging people’s phones and bedrooms. He authorized a campaign against Martin Luther King to drive him to suicide. He was reported to have referred to King as Martin Luther Coon. He persecuted homosexuals as security risks, although he himself was reputed to be in a long-term gay relationship with his inseparable partner, Clyde Tolson.
Another dramatic example of expiation by edifice is that renowned cultural icon, Carnegie Hall. Along with the endowment of libraries across the country, Carnegie Hall is essentially brick and mortar propaganda, whose “sotto voce” purpose is to distort the truth about a man who viciously accumulated wealth at the expense of dead workers. While Carnegie Hall has hosted legions of great performers – Gustav Mahler, Yehudi Menuhin. Artur Rubenstein, PyotrTchaikovski – to those not suffering from historical amnesia – entering its hallowed halls brings a deep sense of irony. If truth is the cradle of history, then Carnegie Hall would be more appropriately named Peter Ferris Hall, or Henry Striegel Hall, or Thomas Weldon Hall etc. or any one of the strikers murdered by Pinkerton mercenaries during the Homestead, Pennsylvania strike by the Amalgamated Association of Iron & Steel Workers – murders perpetrated by Carnegie’s hired man Henry Clay Frick. Yes, that Frick, whose loyalty to his boss’s brutality, gave us the Frick Collection , housed in his opulent mansion with three Vermeers. Seven dead workers versus three Vermeers – do we need a cost /benefit analysis?
Many of us have watched Tina Fey do her stuff in the TV sitcom hit “30 Rock” – the “30 Rock” being the address of the studio at Rockefeller Center. If the historic record had not been largely forgotten, “30 Rock” could have been “30 Bart,” or “30 Costa” – or “30” any one of the 26 strikers in their tent camp, including 2 women and 11 children, machine gunned by the Militia in Ludlow, Colorado in 1914, called in to suppress the strike against the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company owned by the Rockefellers. I think that the names of both the Carnegie Endowment and the Rockefeller Endowment, to those of you who believe in divine justice, should be stricken from the philanthropic record and replaced by the names of the murdered workers whose labor and sacrifice created the Carnegie and Rockefeller fortunes. It was not nothing that earned these creeps the name “Robber Barons!”
All this preposterous speculation was triggered by a local example of pathological egoism, here in Vermont. Driving past the Boys & Girls Club in Burlington, I saw that it was now called “The Pomerleau Family Boys & Girls Club. The YWCA I observed is now “The Pomerleau Family YWCA. The police building is “The Pomerleau Building.” Can we expect that the reach of this shameless process of self- glorification will extend to renaming the city -“The Pomerleau Family City of Burlington.” Talk about the critical need to bolster low self-esteem – how pathetic! But why quibble, everything is for sale. Just consider the “SOLD” sign in front of the United States Supreme Court.