It’s a play by Eugene O’Neill. I don’t know about O’Neill and I’m not a reader who often catches subtley, so maybe I missed the point but in any case, ugh. The play revolves around a guy who works on a ship who feels insulted by a passenger. The other men working on the ship, those working below decks, are portrayed as animals, very explicitly particularly in the stage directions. The ostensible protagonist, “Yank”, is the biggest and baddest animal of them all. Throughout the play Yan asserts that he belongs and he fits in the world, being of steel and blood, but others do not – the rich etc. He has a brief encounter with some IWW members at their hall, which he goes to because has heard they’re violent bombthrowers and that’s something he wants to be part of. Thinking him an agent provocateur, they throw him out of the hall. The play is sometimes described as a protest against industrialization and capitalism, and in a sense it is, but it’s a reactionary one. The play holds that their lives dehumanize and animalize workers, not unlike Adam Smith’s lamentations about the effects of production on workers, but what good is that? Little, if any, particularly when it completes at the level of thought what is – at most – a tendency in the world. If the workers are less than human and humans are the only agents, then this is a tremendously anti-worker outlook. That strikes me as common to many criticisms of society based on scope (just too big such that it’s impersonal, ecologically damaging, etc), which also involve a nostalgia for a prior time when things were at or had the possibility of being at the proper size.

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