I had the privilege of visiting Wisconsin this week. I was blessed with extraordinary weather while there which is a pleasant surprise since cool, clear days in August is not exactly the fare for most of the US this year.
Wisconsin is a fascinating Prophet state. While they are not quite as historically verbal in their Prophetness as Massachusetts, South Carolina and Ohio who each contributed mightily to some awful wars due to their strident rhetoric, the state has been defined by being innovative, playing some serious football and by their labor wars.
An Aussie named John Kohler who lived in Wisconsin had the whimsical notion to take a hog scalder and slap a coat of enamel on it to make a bathtub. In the day of tin tubs, this was a massive leap forward for consumer plumbing products.
That one concept effectively redefined the industry and launched the career of an iconic Prophet company that has persistently added new paradigms and products to the world of indoor plumbing.
They also hold some records for legendary anti-union battles which lasted for years and polarized entire communities for generations.
The more recent union battles in the legislature were another version of Prophet intransigence on all sides, with the resulting lines drawn in the sand producing fierce passion and unending exaggerations by all parties.
One of the less knows seasons of Prophet extremes was the season of “sewer socialists” who took over the government of Milwaukee in the 1910s. They brought some truly radical ideas to city government:
-Politicians and bureaucrats should be absolutely honest in all things having to do with government money;
-All city departments should be run in an efficient manner for the good of the people, not for the comfort, convenience and graft of the city staff;
-City infrastructure should be run with an eye to economic efficiency like any business.
These seemingly ludicrously impractical ideas were pushed by the elected officials for a season. They earned the nickname of “sewer socialists” because they were more concerned with functional things like a well run city sewer system than they were with the fluff and frill normally associated with city office holders.
Many who had gotten rich off graft in the city hated the fact that this group of politicians couldn’t be bought and looked askance at bureaucrats who could be!
Eventually McCarthyism succeeded in beating them into submission because even though they were more populists than socialist, the socialist label sank the ship of their public perception.
The halcyon days of Milwaukee’s government and social order are long past. It is the fourth poorest city in America at present, overall. And those stats are misleading because it is a Teacher city which means there are two sides to the community.
When you average the affluent side with the other side, it comes out as the fourth poorest. But the poor side, taken by itself is one hurting unit.
But, where darkness abounds, the King’s social entrepreneurs emerge with the light of the King’s passion driving them into the trauma of a broken society.
I had the immense pleasure of meeting with a group of people from sundry backgrounds, as we explored strategies for dealing with the high murder rate in the ‘hood. It brought hope as I shared what different groups around the world have done to address this issue successfully.
One of the worst seminars in our company’s history ended with the speaker going to eat with the leadership team of the host church. In the hour of Q & A that followed, not one single church leader asked a question about the sheep they were caring for. They had no passion for the people who were their responsibility. They only asked questions about how to better their own lives.
By contrast, I was energized by a group of highly individualized people who come together with blood, sweat and tears because they choose to own responsibility for a whole neighborhood to see it transformed for the King.
It was a special trip.
And just for the record, while Milwaukee has a couple of unresolved issues, their Teacher gifting for fine cuisine is utterly intact. I ate well!
They also still make the ultimate motorcycle!
Copyright August 2012 by Arthur Burk
From the Quarterdeck, gratefully