Frank E. Wolfe Talks About The Tribulations Of Job

If Job Harriman had been elected mayor of Los Angeles in 1911, he would have rode into office with his own slate of councilmembers. His slate was “diverse” before the term was used in politics. One of the council candidates was a black, another was a talented newspaper editor who threw his lot with Job Harriman and the socialists. He later went on to become a pioneer filmmaker as the director of the pioneering “From Dawn To Dusk” in 1913.

Wolfe was giving a speech at Rhodes Hall at 56th Street and Moneta Avenue, his topic “Los Angeles The Holy City.”

He began by insisting he did not mean to be sacrilegious, and insisted that he wasn’t saying anything that hadn’t been said from the city’s pulpits.

He was playing off of Job Harriman’s first name, referring to one of the most enigmatic of the great Biblical characters. The original Job, if you read the Jewish version and far less so the King James version of the Bible, argued with God in favor of justice. He was the pioneer advocate of  social justice. Interestingly, Job’s origins are buried in antiquity. Most of the bible comes from Greek, Jewish and Arabic sources for that matters. But Job is an older story than even Babylonia. It might have been the story of the first revolutionary.

Wolfe’s speech was about the candidate’s first name.

“There dwells in the land of Uz a man of the name of Job. We are told he was perfect, upright, feared God and eschewed evil. Throughout the centuries this man has been held up to the people of nations as a man of infinite patience and upon reading the stories of the tribulations of Job, I am inclined to think he was somewhat strong on forbearance.

“I am moved to compare Job who dwelled in the land of Uz to Job who dwelt in the land of Los. With all seriousness I can say that when I see him day to day, throughout weary hours crowded with multitudinous cares, I am impressed with the wondrous patience of the modern patriarch.

“Now, we are told that Job was a powerful and influential man in Uz and I have no doubt he was. He had a town house and a county place. He probably didn’t dash out of the counting house at 3 p.m. when the stock exchanges closed and leap onto his six-cylinder car and beat it for the golf links. All the autos those days are hay burners and the speed limit was six miles an hour.

“Job of Uz had three daughters and seven sons and from what I can learn they were all what would be called in modern parlance ‘high rollers.’ This is where Uz has it on Los by a score of nine to one. Job of Los has no such family.

“Job of Uz was possessed of 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yokes of oxen and 500 she burros. Therein Uz lays it over Los again by a mile and three laps. Job of Los hasn’t a single camel, nor a sheep, only one small horse and a muley cow. Thus we are skinned by Uz, backed off the score board and beaten to a pulp.We can’t hope to break into the 3000 camel class. There aren’t 200 camels nor 500 she burros in all the land of Los or in the domain of Watts that lies over against Los.

“But Job of Los is in the running in other ways as we shall presently see.

“We learn that Job of Uz was hopefully pious; that Satan chose him for a shining mark and by some weird alchemy expropriated him and threw him down all the way from the capitalist class into the bourgeois, thence down into the toiling, moiling proletariat and then into the disemployed down and outers.

“On his  uppers Job showed wisdom and philosophy that was rare and astounding. He simply said that the system had got him. He explained that the mutton market had gone off forty-four points over night and he was off cruising on a camel , out among the haut ton of Uz.They couldn’t get to the ticker  over there in Uz at that time and the wireless had not yet been rigged to the ships of the desert. He said that his sheep were mostly lambs and had no businesses on the stock exchange and that after the brokers of Uz  got through with them the meat trust had them eat chops and fries before he could get into the pit.

“Down and out, posted at the club for nonpayment of his dues, not enough credits to buy a pint of gasoline and every banker in Uz cutting them cold, Job still kept his nerve. You see he wasn’t running for office and polls and wasn’t up against the real thing.

“The wonderful thing of it all was the patience of the dear old chap when a delegation from the M&M came to him to have a talk about the situation. These men were eminently respectable and they didn’t like the way Job was littering up up the landscape with his sackcloth and ashes. The secretary of the M&M was at the time one Bildad, The Shulimite, the others were the governors of the Uz Golf Club.

“These fellows get in on a line of talk that was calculated to make the Wizard of Uz forget forget even that whale of a one on the back of his neck. But Job didn’t get piping mad. He kept his nerve and taking a swig of boil medicine from a bottle he calmly asked Bolded a question:

“‘When a man is out of a job, has a wife and children to support, can’t find work, the kids  are starving, what’s he going to do?’

“Bildad paused for a moment, rolled his eyes heavenward, and said, ‘God Knows!”

“So you seem by beloved Bildad the Fleabite, was not the inventor of that powerful ambition of all modern or ancient problems: he was not the discoverer of the remedy for the agony of the ages.’

“Then each of the three took a shot at Job, telling him that no man ever goes down and out without good reasons. He is fraudulent, he is improvident he drinks too much redeye, he doesn’t want to work; there is plenty of work for all at good wages; that the competitive system is necessary for the incentive thing to work and a lot more like that which is sprung on every adult. Job then waited for them to finish and then slipped them this:

“‘No doubt you are the wise people and that vision shall die with you.”

“Then Bildad or one of the other wise guys said: “Doth the wild bray when he hath grass loveth the ox over his fodder.

“They gave Job a bundle of grass and a modicum off fodder and cranking up their 30 horsepower hay burner camels departed.

“Job got back into the market, so the story goes, and hung it all over the Bildad bunch, on Consolidated Camels of Uz, preferred, and he and he won back so many of the sheep, oxen and other things that the meat and transportation trust became alarmed and urged Job to pool his stock and become a good worthy member of society. Job even got back his sons and daughters—which shows that his luck didn’t hold every day. A specialist fixed up the boils and Job lived 140 years.

“Now Job of Los can’t come up with that record. He can’t hope to get on the right side of the camel market. But there are plenty of things he can do. He is going to have quite a lot to do with the Bildads and other shulimites over there at City Hall. There will be plenty of opportunity to show his infinite patience there.

“You good citizens of this sainted city came here under the impression you were hear someone talk about Los Angeles, the Holy City. It is a lovely city, to me the finest place on earth. Situated between mountains and sea, in a shinning valley of untold wealth, where the earth returns a millionfold to the seed, where the fecundity of the soil is immeasurable; here where we have all that is needed to feed, to clothe, to shelter, to educate, to instruct, to amuse, to please the eye by art, the soul by music. Here where every prospect is pleasing we have men whose souls are steeped in sordidness, in selfishness, in greed, in avarice that at times and places makes this spot a whited sepulcher. We have millionaires and pulpers; we have 10,000 collie dogs and women’s souls bartered for food;we have wantons spending fortunes on suppers and babes starving at their mothers’ withered breasts; we have club women discoursing learnedly on ethics of social life and working girls ruined by brothels west of Figueroa Street; we have merchant princes building hilltop mansions and spending fabulous sums on their dogs in their kennels and girls who work for them and have out of their flesh and blood made the fortunes are committing suicide rather than to enter lives of shame or to starve in their garrets.

“Here in this sainted city where dwell the truly good, the anointed of Jehovah–here dwells a Hamon who is building a scaffold for Mordecai. We warn them of the fate of the builders of high scaffolds. The plot to take away the lives of men whose bodies were stolen by the hired man stealers of the oppressors. The higher they build that scaffold the higher will swing the bleaching bones of the Haman of plutocracy which seeks to destroy the Mordecai of Labor.

“Labor is a giant that stupidly throughout the ages, has blinked at the light, and on and on in his unworthy task. How long will labor  continue to grind  in the mills of the Philistines of capitalism? When will this great Samson of labor arouse and open his unseeing eye and grope for the pillars of the temples? This Samson who the Delilah of capital hath shorn with the shears of the wage system.  When the host comes the Philistines will feel the crushing weight of the walls they have builded.

“When the workers awake! Here you thought, my comrades, of that day? Have you thought of the wonderful days after the Reconstruction of the Brotherhood of Man?

“There is a voice crying in the wilderness. Oh my comrades, have you not heard it here? The voice says, ‘Make straight the way of the coming of the New Order!

“You hear it and the people of all the nations of the earth hear it!  It is the voice of Socialism. We have come to tell of the brotherhood of man; the day of the glorious cooperation that shall make men free; the day when no man shall live by the sweat of the brow of another man; when little children shall be free and their blood will no longer splash upwards and their sobs shall not break the silence of the night.”

About Lee Boek