“A curse on this lying father-nation/ Where thrive only shame and degradation”
With a great deal of good always comes a fair amount of bad. So when the Industrial Revolution took off, along with the economy and development of machinery, the poor treatment of workers came to light. This neglect for the welfare of laborers is brought to attention by Heinrich Heine, author of “Silesian Weavers”. In this poem, Heine uses strong negative diction to impassion his audience, in turn sparking the development of a constitution for Prussia. Particularly striking word choices include the repetition of the word “curse”, “gloom-enveloped eyes”, “funeral shroud”, “dank rot”, and “cheerless”, among others. Heine uses these negative words to illustrate the mistreatment of laborers during the time. He points a finger at the government, in particular the king himself (“A curse on the king…/Who was not moved even by our grief”), in order to draw attention to the main cause of this degradation of workers. The quote at the very beginning of this post highlights the sentiments of Heine and his supporters during this time of ill-treatment. This particular line suggests that the nation has been reduced to a country that can only host shame and degradation, and no longer has a place for honor and respect in its labor system.
This situation was not exclusive to Silesia, but was prevalent throughout Europe during the Industrial Revolution. The poor treatment of workers ignited a revolution within the Industrial Revolution, a revolution of workers seeking respect. It inspired workers to pursue better treatment, working conditions, and rights.
Although in America and many parts of Europe, people work in the presence of humane conditions, American and European corporations run countless enormous factories in third-world, developing countries in which the workers are exploited, similar to what occurred during the Industrial Revolution. In these establishments, workers are paid close to nothing for hours of grueling, tedious labor. We do this because it ensures greater profit for our corporations. Obviously it is unjust, but why do countries repeat mistakes that have been made in the past? Is it because we have the power to domineer over less fortunate nations? Do these workers have the capability to ignite a movement against exploiting corporations, such as what occurred in Prussia? Why aren’t we taking more action against this exploitation of foreigners working for our companies? Is it because we feel removed, distant, and unconnected to these people because they are working thousands of miles away? We certainly have the resources and power to end this exploitation, but no great measures are being taken to end it.