per page, with , order by , clip by
Results of 0 - 1 of about 0 (0.001 sec.)
PERCEIVING WHAT IS THERE
@author: Manas Reprints
@digest: e72c57850fab6cdc6eb20bf6a45eb72f
@id: 2626
@mdate: 2004-12-06T17:00:00Z
@size: 56451
@type: application/pdf
author: Manas Reprints
creator: Microsoft Word
producer: Acrobat PDFWriter 3.02 for Windows
#keywords: horton (38805), stereotypes (22417), franco (19035), mccarthy (16406), spanish (14044), macdonald (9003), brother (8512), slogans (7466), russians (7295), americans (5166), 1959 (5012), judgments (5010), stories (4812), reprint (4055), american (3708), volume (3634), countries (3383), manas (3011), the (3009), getting (2929), nations (2900), people (2753), against (2664), united (2643), country (2436), cultural (2423), which (2391), about (2364), their (2283), world (2192), another (2145), with (2105)
VOLUME XII, NO. 21 MAY 27, 1959 PERCEIVING WHAT IS THERE THE ideas of Dr. A. H. Maslow, quoted in a recent (May 13) MANAS, are helpful in thinking about the problem of forming judgments. Forming judgments is of course a personal problem, but it is also, today, an obvious social or human problem, since the way in which people form their judgments about other nations, cultures, and political systems is one of the major obstacles to world peace. We should add that Dr. Maslow's "ideas" on this subject include his findings in a research project involving as subjects people of a certain sort or character. They were people who, as he said, "live more in the real world of nature than in the man-made mass of concepts, words, abstractions, expectations, beliefs, and stereotypes that most people confuse with the world." Such people, he added, are "far more apt to perceive what is there than their own wishes, hopes, fears, anxieties, their own theories and beliefs, or those of their cultural group." Obviously, an enlightened nation needs people of this sort to make its foreign policy. Apart from issues of peace or war, pacifism or militarism, nothing is so important in international relations as the capacity to see directly—in Maslow's words: "to detect the spurious, the fake, and the dishonest in personality, and in general to judge people correctly and efficiently." It is not a matter only of being able to recognize insincerity in personal attitudes. When it comes to relationships between nations or peoples, there is also the question of what Edmund Taylor named "cultural delusions." American visitors to Russia come home amused, bewildered, and frustrated by the cultural delusions about the United States they have encountered in otherwise well-informed Russian citizens. From a variety of causes, the Russians have built up a number of stereotyped judgments about all "capitalist" countries, and about the United States in particular. This is also true, of course, of typical American ideas about the Soviets. These ideas are largely composed of stereotypes molded by the press, magazine articles, and political speakers. American stereotypes about the Russians are not, of course, all the same, or even similar. People like the late Senator McCarthy subscribe to and spread one set of stereotypes, while emotional sympathizers with the Soviet socialist system give currency to quite another collection of views. Anti-Stalinist radicals and Marxists make still another class of judgments, affected, in some measure, by their feeling that Stalin was a symbol of the great betrayal of the revolutionary movement. Before we go any further with the identification of "stereotypes," it would probably be a good idea to ask what is the "ideal" attitude toward another country or people. Of course, an important distinction must be made between people and their government, and still another distinction between a democratic government and an authoritarian government; again, there is the question of how the malfunction of democracy affects the decisions of a democratic government, and how, on the other hand, the human element qualifies the brittle authority of the totalitarian facade:—so that whatever we speak of as an "ideal approach" will have to include awareness of all these subtleties. In fact, the definition of an ideal attitude is probably so difficult that it ought not to be attempted. Instead, we might look at some of the insights it would naturally include. For example, any judgments about a society as a whole would move from the assumption that MANAS Reprint - LEAD ARTICLE 2 its members have the same human nature as ourselves, that they feel the same longings, cherish the same basic hopes, and fear the same threats and dangers. To illustrate this approach, we need look no further than MANAS for April I, to the quotations from Cyrus Eaton. After a visit to Moscow, which included an interview with Nikita Khrushchev, he said that "the most marked characteristic of the Russians is their friendliness." He saw this quality as the world's best hope for peace, since, as he put it, "I believe the people of America match the Soviet populace in capacity for friendliness and in love of peace." In another place, Mr. Eaton founded further analysis on his belief in the basic similarity between Americans and Russians: I would not know where to look for the American who would want to trade our system for the Russian way. On the other hand, I think we Americans must take full cognizance of the fact that the Russians are enthusiastically sold on their system. In the 40 years since their Revolution, they have made immense material and intellectual progress on a mass scale, and they are determined to continue to get ahead. Furthermore, they are as embued with devotion to Mother Russia as we are with respect for our beloved Stars and Stripes. The nation that succeeds in launching the first Sputnik must be taken as seriously as the countries in whose laboratories the first nuclear chain reaction was produced. You could almost say that Mr. Eaton would feel that there was something wrong with the Russians—something that should cause us real anxiety—if they did not feel as they do about their system and their motherland. His is a tolerant but hard-headed American businessman's approach. Agreeably to a well known American tradition and to Viceroy smokers, Mr. Eaton thinks the Russians ought to think for themselves, and he is willing to reconcile himself to the way they decide to live. It is nonsense, he might say—has virtually said—to argue that the whole world has to be capitalistic, or has to be socialistic. It is quite feasible for both economies to exist side by side and even to cooperate and learn from each other. After all, Volume XII, No. 21 some of the best "free-world" economists have already come out for a "pluralistic" economy—a system which includes various types of ownership, public and private, and if one country—say, the United States—can be pluralistic, why not the world? There is another approach to the question— the historical approach. No one can study the revolutionary movement from, say, the time of the French Revolution until the present without gaining both understanding and a profound sympathy for the human intentions of the struggle which eventuated in the Communist revolution. We hardly need point out that this sympathy for humanitarian intentions does not necessarily indicate agreement with the theory of the Communist revolution, nor approval of means employed by the revolutionists to gain and maintain power. The point is, that it is sheer foolishness to have assured opinions about the international political issues before the world, today, without any knowledge of the great historical forces which produced the contemporary situation. It is for this reason that, from time to time, MANAS writers urge the reading of such books as Edmund Wilson's To the Finland Station, Irving Stone's Adversary in the House, and Dwight Macdonald's The Root Is Man. To understand the crystallized political slogans of an ideological system, it is necessary to go back to the origin of the slogans and to see what they meant when they were not yet slogans, but living ideas filled with the moral energy of men of imagination. If we do not have slogans in common with other people—if our ideology seems at war with theirs—the least we can do is to get back to a level of common values, and to see why the slogans we don't like became popular with people who, admittedly, are very much like ourselves in so many respects. Of course, the study of slogans cannot be pursued in one direction only. If we are to understand the communist slogans, we shall also MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 3 have to understand our own. In both cases, however, we shall get back to their original moral dynamics, and then we can begin to think of both the Russians and ourselves as human beings, and not as unalterably opposed political stereotypes. It is true that the stereotypes exist, that they exercise great power, and that they are reduced in that power only by the slow erosion worked by active human intelligence—by the thinking and decisions of people who "perceive what is there," instead of "their own wishes, hopes, fears, anxieties, their own theories or beliefs, or those of their cultural group." But if we care about peace, if we want it and are willing to work to get it, we shall see that we are not at cold war with people but with stereotypes—our stereotypes against theirs. The obvious thing to do, in this case, is to find areas of relationship where the stereotypes do not exist, or are at least weak, and cooperate in those areas for all we are worth. The more we can establish immediate human relationships with others—ignoring the stereotypes—the more we shall see how much we have in common with those others, and how little, actually, we are opposed. That is why the Olympic Games, in which both the United States and Soviet Russia participate, are probably a greater force for peace than all the summit conferences ever held or to be held. That is why the idea of appointing Louis Armstrong as Secretary of State is considerably more than a gag. We have the impression that Americans are getting a little bored with the infinite variations on the hate-and-fear Soviet Russia theme. It isn't that very many Americans are developing a serious, "objective" interest in the Russian system and its possible merits. If we are right, and we think we are, they are just getting bored with all the sound and fury about it—bored with the war scares, with the pumped-up excitement about Mr. Khrushchev's latest Machiavellian move, and the dark dangers which are said to haunt our surroundings, up to and including outer space. Volume XII, No. 21 Meanwhile, we need to do what we can to break up, wear away, and expose the stereotypes. Anything that will bring Russians and Americans together as people, and not as representatives of alien powers, will help. Perhaps Mr. Eaton, who has already done a great deal in this direction, through his sponsorship of the Pugwash conferences, could be persuaded to arrange annual or semi-annual tours of Russia by American businessmen, with similar trips to the United States for Russian technicians and plant managers. Doubtless several groups are already working on the idea of exchange students, such as was proposed last fall in "American in Moscow" (MANAS, Oct. 29, 1958). The problem is to get rid of "the man-made mass of concepts, words, abstractions, expectations, beliefs, and stereotypes that most people confuse with the world." We can't get rid of all generalizations, of course. We shall always need, develop, and use generalizations. But what kind? Right now, we need a rest from the generalizations which make us prejudge the future behavior of great masses of other human beings. Even if they are stuck with their cultural delusions, their stereotypes, so are we. The more free we become of ours, the less force and reality they will have. Somebody may say that we can't "take chances" with our future, but have you read anything about fall-out, lately? The argument that we have to be ready to destroy half the world with nuclear war heads, and ready to start in doing it with about ten minutes' notice, is making less and less sense. Getting ready for peace, getting ready to get along, may be a big jump into the unknown, but getting ready for war—total war, the only kind of war that will be fought in the future—is not even a jump into the unknown: It's certain death, immediate or lingering, for practically the whole world. MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 4 Letter from SPAIN A TOWN IN SPAIN.—After Mr. Dulles visited General Franco in December of 1957, he said that the Spanish Caudillo was a genuine representative of the "Free World." But if "free elections" are considered to be characteristic of a Free World, then Mr. Dulles was not quite right. There is in fact a Parliament in Spain; one third of the members are nominated by the Government, the second third by the fascist unions, and the last third is elected by all married men, women and unmarried men having no franchise. The Parliament, however, has no real importance. And yet, among a people as freedomloving as the Spanish, real freedom has not perished, even under a dictatorial regime. Visitors coming from modern countries are amazed about the backwardness of Spanish life, especially in technical things. Recently, a writer in Madrid made a joke which amused all Spain. He wrote: "Our engineers are the best of the world. They have invented wonderful devices, which are the admiration of mankind. Now they have a new farreaching plan: they are going to design door-handles by which the doors in our houses can really be opened and closed! " How is this possible? The Spanish people are not less intelligent than other peoples. But they do not get the education and training which a working man is given in more modern countries. As the schools are entirely under the domination of the Roman Church, all practical things rank last, learning prayers by heart first. I knew a man who had been a lieutenant in the Army and later wanted to learn bookkeeping. But his teacher had to dissuade him from such an endeavour, since the man did not know what a decimal fraction was. It had never been mentioned to him in school. For any career whatsoever, a young boy or girl must pass an examination in the Catholic religion. Other qualifications are neglected. When you consider the necessity in this country of having friends with influence in order to obtain any position at all, it becomes evident that young people who are not agreeable to the almighty clergy have no chance to rise, regardless of their talents. Volume XII, No. 21 But while in practical things Spain is one of the most backward countries of the world, in another aspect she is so far advanced that many other peoples could learn a lot from Spanish life. Our world is, as we all know, not suffering from a lack of clever technicians. The weakness is in human relations, in the living together of people. Franco's regime stands firm, but few people are satisfied with it—very few. Even most of that minority of the Spanish nation who fought for Franco's victory in the horrible years of the Civil War, now openly confess, "This is not what we wanted." And yet, there is no chance for the people to get rid of their dictator in any foreseeable future, i.e., as long as Franco lives. There are two reasons. (1) The Civil War was so cruel in both its physical and moral effects that nobody, not even the fiercest adversaries of Franco, want a repetition of those horrors. (2) The Americans are in Spain. They brought with them their favorite hobby—building military strongholds against what they consider to be the "Communist danger," which in fact lies, if anywhere, more in the inner than the outer circumstances of Spanish life. And as long as the Americans are here, no attempt to overthrow the Franco regime can have the slightest chance of success. Franco would cry out as loudly as possible, "I am menaced by Communism!", and then the U.S.A. with all its tremendous power would help Franco to subdue the revolt. This makes Americans very unpopular here, as the vast majority of the Spanish nation is solidly against the regime. But Spaniards are very realistic. In the years of the Civil War they tried to defend their liberties against their own rebellious generals plus two great powers, Italy and Germany. Never will they attempt to fight against Franco plus the United States. Still, they have found a way to get along under any regime. Those who live in the country, not too near to Madrid, do not feel all the hardships of the dictatorial government. During the Civil War, when all passions were aroused and hatred swelled high on both sides, ugly things happened. Good friends, even blood relations, shot at each other, informed against each other, and the MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 5 once harmonious Spanish life entirely disintegrated. This is over. The sentiments of the Spaniards toward Franco and his government range from disappointment to contempt. And an attitude which prevailed before the Civil War is even more strongly established, now: Denouncing others to the State is an indecent act. In a cinema at Barcelona, when Franco appeared on the screen, a man lost his temper and hurled a shoe at the General's figure. The shoe was left up there on the stage and the police, who happened to be present, barred the exits in order to catch the man who had but one shoe. But that did not work. Some two hundred others took one shoe off and limped home with only one! When, in 1867, Karl Marx split the Workers International and founded the second, out of which later the third International developed, the Spanish workers did not follow him. They remained loyal to the first, the anarchist International. They never wanted to conquer the State in order to use its power to bring about the social changes they longed for. Their ideal was—and is—not the strong but the weak State, as weak as possible, and better no State at all. And this tradition is alive today, even, I dare say, growing stronger. When the State tends to become totalitarian, the tacit but very effective Spanish resistance to it also becomes totalitarian—that is, uniform. Spain is the country which was virtually untouched by the two great movements at the end of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Reformation. But the present great movement, Bureaucratism, also has passed by. There are not so many "authorities" in Spain as in most modern States. People depend to a high degree on their own initiative. They simply have to help each other; this is what they have learned, and what they do. all that is due to the State would be called a fool. "How can you pay so much to the biggest robber on Earth?" people would ask. What can the State do against this? Appoint more clerks to control the people? It would not help. Still more clerks would soon have to be appointed, in order to watch and control the first lot, lest they cooperate with offenders in that human solidarity for which Spanish life is famous. And so long as human solidarity exists—during the Civil War it broke down, only to revive, afterwards, and become even stronger than ever before—no regime, however totalitarian its character may be, will be able to break this spirit of the Spanish people. They will live their own lives, as they always have, while Madrid is far away. And what about ourselves, we of the countries of the "Free World"? Yes, we have a better constitution, we have our famous "free elections," and we have, now and again, a new master to govern us, not always the same one, as the Spaniards. And yet, in many of our "free" countries, there are institutions, as for instance the American "Committee for Un-American Activities," which depend upon an enormous army of informers who are willing to denounce their neighbors or anybody else. I know of no Committee for Un-Spanish activities in this country. It would not be able to work, for utter lack of people willing to inform against anybody, even against a political adversary. That is why the Spaniards enjoy a certain freedom under this totalitarian dictatorship. CORRESPONDENT IN SPAIN When I said that creating military strongholds is the hobby of the Americans, I should have added that the Spaniards have a hobby of their own. It is cheating the State! They do it under any regime, but under the present one, which is thoroughly unpopular, it has become a real hobby. The man who has managed to outwit the Customs regulations, smuggling whatever he can into the country, or he who avoids paying his taxes, may openly boast of his achievements. People will praise him for being clever and will never betray him to the police. A man who would punctually pay Volume XII, No. 21 MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 6 Here the reviewer comments that "the same could apply to attitudes toward obscurantist poetry and hazy Zen philosophy." REVIEW THE MINDLESS MOOD Two American writers, both learned, both articulate, and both essentially concerned with the meanings of things, have recently written critically of American culture. One of these works, a book by Jacques Barzun, we know of only fleetingly from an excellent review in the Wall Street Journal. The book is The House of Intellect (Harper, 276 pp., $5). The other work is an article, "The Triumph of the Fact," by Dwight Macdonald, contributed to The Anchor Review (No. 2), an Anchor Books paperback. These discussions are illuminating disclosures of the superficial side of American culture. Just the few words quoted from Mr. Barzun by the Wall Street Journal reviewer (Joseph E. Evans) are enough to start a long train of reflective thinking. The Barzun book is described as an attack on intellectualism, on the ground that many who like to consider themselves "intellectuals" are far from doing with the mind the work of the mind, which is to think clearly and unsentimentally about the things which matter. Barzun writes: The intellectual class, which ought always to remain independent, even of Intellect, has been captivated by art, overawed by science, and seduced by philanthropy. . . . In the modern riot of art and science and loving-kindness, Intellect has seen decline the virtues which make it what it is: unity, concentration, communicativeness, and knowledge of itself. The author is obviously not engaging in an attack on the non-linguistic arts, such as painting and music, but he sees the literary craze for these activities as an escape from precise communication—the calling of the writer—to the ambiguous and the diffuse— at bottom love of confusion—confusion sought as a release from responsibility. . . . The abandonment of Intellect in favor of communion through quartetplaying and amateur ceramics has bred a race of masochist-idolaters, broken up into many sects, but at one in their worship of the torturing indefinite. Volume XII, No. 21 Mr. Barzun practices a sort of generalization which throws considerable light. Speaking of modern education, he says that the greatest enemies of the Intellect are now seated in full control in our schools. There is a chapter on "Education without Instruction" and another on "Instruction without Authority." Barzun reveals his own feeling toward contemporary educational orthodoxy in the area of "permissiveness" and "life-adjustment": Nobody wants to return to the school run like a bad prison, by terror and flogging. The question is not about kindness but about instruction: Is the school a place of teaching or of psychologizing? Is it to prolong vicariously the parents' love of innocence and to act out their dream of a good society, or is it to impart literacy? Quite obviously, Mr. Hutchins has an effective colleague in Mr. Barzon. Macdonald's article, subtitled "An American Tragedy," is a similar appeal for the use of the mind as the mind, instead of as a kit or a hamper carried about by collectors of "facts." Like many of Macdonald's articles, this piece will bear actual study, and since the quality paperback stores all undoubtedly stock this second issue of Anchor Review, we urge its purchase. The article relentlessly examines the American preoccupation with, intoxication by, and submission to, "facts." The substance of his contentions lies in the first paragraph: Our mass culture—and a good deal of our high, or serious culture as well—is dominated by an emphasis on data and a corresponding lack of interest in theory, by a frank admiration of the factual and an uneasy contempt for imagination, sensibility, and philosophical speculation. We are obsessed with technique, hag-ridden by Facts, in love with information. Our popular novelists must tell us all about the historical and professional backgrounds of their puppets; our press lords make millions by giving us this day our daily Fact; our scholars—or, more accurately, our research administrators—erect MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 7 pyramids of data to cover the corpse of a stillborn idea; our TV and radio go in heavily for quiz shows; the most popular new game is Scrabble, where success depends upon treating words as isolated Facts, mobilizing them in non-meaningful contexts; our way of "following" a sport is to amass an extraordinary amount of data about batting averages, past performances, yards gained, etc., so that many Americans who can't read without moving their lips have a fund of sports scholarship that would stagger Lord Acton; our politicians are mostly former lawyers, a profession where the manipulation of Facts is of first importance; we are brought up according to Spock, Gesell, and other Aristotles of child care, we make love according to the best manuals of sexual technique, and before we die we brief our wives with Donald I. Rogers' Teach Your Wife to be a Widow (Holt, 1953, $2). In general, Macdonald's point is the same as Barzun's. They both regard the mind as the sole organ of man's independence, and they find bondage of the mind to fads, crazes, authoritative posturings and pompous certainties completely intolerable. The educational value of the writings of such men is immeasurable. Macdonald documents his thesis with endless "data" drawn from the contemporary scene, with much space given to Henry Luce's Time magazine as an obvious symbol of a truly imperial command over marshaled regiments of facts, which every week march out to conquer the American mind. There is this comment: If the kind of curiosity Time exploits is not functional, neither is it exactly "idle" (which implies a kind of leisurely enjoyment). It is, rather, a nervous habit. As smoking gives us something to do with our hands when we aren't using them, Time gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking. This sort of mental indulgence—most of the daily papers should also be included—is considered a sensible use of time, as against "wasting" it on movies or detective stories. Only the honorific status of science can explain why the enjoyment of trivial and debased art products is looked down on while acquiring data in similarly trivial and debased forms is thought admirable. Macdonald is very nearly the most quotable writer alive today, so far as we are concerned, and it is difficult to stop reproducing passages like the one above. Its value, of course, is in the parallel drawn, and in the resulting conclusion, which becomes obvious, needing no argument. The article under discussion is filled with such parallels, all of them as revealing. Volume XII, No. 21 MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 8 COMMENTARY NO STEREOTYPE HERE Now and then we come across a man in public life whose record makes many of the critical generalizations about contemporary politicians sound pretty silly. Take for example Governor Michael V. DiSalle of Ohio, who was Federal Price Administrator during World War II. Governor DiSalle has constituted himself a oneman crusade against capital punishment. Last March he appeared before a judiciary committee of the Ohio legislature to support three proposals to abolish capital punishment. While the committee rejected the proposals, Mr. DiSalle's testimony will be long remembered. According to a New York Times (March 25) account of the hearing: Governor DiSalle showed that he practiced what he preached. He pointed out to the committee that nine of the ten persons on the household staff of the Executive Mansion were convicted murderers. He asked: "Do you think my family is less dear to me than yours? "We sleep without fear. The mansion workers have had years to reconstruct their lives. "I look around at these men and ask: 'What would have been gained if these men had been electrocuted?' " It is not entirely clear from the Times whether the practice of hiring convicts was Mr. DiSalle's own idea, but however it began, he backs it one hundred per cent. "By tradition," the Times says, "the mansion is staffed with convicts who have set outstanding good behavior records at Ohio Penitentiary." Among them, today, are six firstdegree murderers and three second-degree slayers. The Times continues: The Governor usually commutes their sentences after a couple of years. At present three of the men stay at the mansion overnight. The other six commute to the prison in a trusty-driven truck. Quite obviously, there is at least one man in American public life who is totally unimpressed by the stereotype of opinions about men who have run afoul of the law. _______________ Volume XII, No. 21 Some four months ago, in Frontiers, we printed extracts from Richard Rovere's Encounter article on the late Senator McCarthy (MANAS, Feb. 4). Dwight Macdonald's article in Anchor Review has some passages on McCarthy which should be similarly remembered. For example: The puzzling thing about McCarthy was that he had no ideology, no program, not even any prejudices. He was not anti-labor, anti-Negro, anti-Semitic, anti-Wall Street, or anti-Catholic, to name the phobias exploited by previous demagogues. He never went in for patriotic spellbinding, or indeed for oratory at all, his style being low-keyed and legalistic. Although he was often called a fascist and compared to Hitler the parallel applied only to his methods. Not only was the historical situation hopeless for a radical change like fascism, the country being unprecedentedly prosperous, but McCarthy never showed any interest in reshaping society. Half gangster, half ward politician, he was simply out for his own power and profit, and he took advantage of the nervousness about communism to gain these modest perquisites. The same opportunism which made him dangerous in a small way prevented him from being a more serious threat, since for such large historical operations as the subversion of a social order there is required—as the examples of Lenin and Hitler showed—a fanaticism which doesn't shrink from commitment to programs which are often inopportune. The contrast in demagogic styles between Hitler and McCarthy is instructive. Hitler exploited the German weakness for theory, for vast perspectives of world history, for extremely large and excessively general ideas; McCarthy flourished on the opposite weakness in Americans, their respect for the Facts. A Hitler speech began: "The revolution of the twentieth century will purge the Jewish taint from the cultural bloodstream of Europe!" A McCarthy speech began: "I hold in my hand a letter dated . . ." He was a district attorney, not a messiah. The extraordinary vulnerability of Americans— some through fear of him, some through admiration—to a man like McCarthy gives importance to understanding the basis of his career and behavior. Normally, MANAS does not interest itself in personal criticism, but McCarthy, even in his lifetime, was more of a legend than a person. Macdonald's analysis is without animus and makes a useful supplementary note to Richard Rovere's more extended discussion. MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 9 congregation, desiring to please, say that they do know what he has in mind to say, but the Hodja then rejoins that there is no need to waste time in duplication. The tale concludes: CHILDREN . . . and Ourselves STORIES RIDE WITH THE SUN is a collection of folk tales and stories from all countries of the United Nations. Edited by Harold Courlander for the United Nations Women's Guild, these sixty-one stories introduce the reader to the folk background of many strange climes, showing, as well, the psychic similarities of widely varied cultures. Whether from Saudi Arabia or from Norway, Greece or Peru, one encounters identical preoccupations with humor and tragedy, nor are the symbols used in the stories very much unlike. On the following Friday, Nasr-ed-Din Hodja again mounted the pulpit and saw that his mosque was so crowded that not a nook or corner in it was empty. He addressed his congregation in exactly the same manner as he had before. Each story has been approved by the United Nations delegation of the country which it represents, and the illustrations, by Roger Duvoisin, are both simple and "universal" in style. The United Nations Women's Guild is devoted principally to the relief of stress among the dispossessed children of the world, and this particular book displays a warm-hearted feeling of "one brotherhood" in the human family. All royalties to be derived from the sale of the book will be devoted to humanitarian work. An appendix to the volume, published by Whittlesey House at $3.50, provides historical notes on each story, sometimes suggesting that there is a universal symbolic language. And the other half of the congregation rose and said, "Oh Hodja, effendi, how could we poor ignorant people know what you intend to say to us?" We select passages from two of the stories to illustrate the quality of these tales. From Turkey comes an example of Turkish wit, although a similar Tslamic mood appears in only slightly different guise in both North Africa and in the United States. The Hodja (read "minister") has apparently decided that the pulpit is the occasion of too many unnecessary words. One day he addresses his congregation by asking them if they already know what he is going to say to them, and when they reply that they cannot possibly know, he remarks that he won't talk to them at all, since what would be the value of discoursing on an entirely unknown subject? The next week, the Volume XII, No. 21 "Oh Brethren, oh True Believers!" he said, "I ask you to tell me truly if what I am going to say is already known to you." And again the answer of the congregation had evidently been prepared beforehand, for one half of them rose and said, "Yes, Hodja, we do know what you are going to say to us. The Hodja answered: "It is well said. And now if the half that knows would explain to the other half what it is, I would be deeply grateful, for, of course, it will be unnecessary for me to say anything." Whereupon he descended from the pulpit and left the mosque. "The Emerald Lizard" from Guatemala is a tale of kindness, nature-love, and self-abnegation. The wise Brother Pedro had no problems of his own and devoted his energies to elevating the conditions of less fortunate persons. But he had no wealth with which to succor the distressed, and so when Jurakan tells of his great need for money to meet the requirements of his family, Brother Pedro picks up a small green lizard which, in his hand, immediately turns to emerald. The sale of this treasure enables Jurakan not only to save his family but to prosper. But the once poor Jurakan does not waste his wealth. Instead he saves toward the time when he can purchase the emerald lizard so that Brother Pedro, too, may become as wealthy as his kindness deserves: A day came when he went to the merchant in the market and bought back the emerald lizard, and then he set out in search of Brother Pedro. MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 10 When at last he found Brother Pedro, he was greatly surprised. Brother Pedro was now old and gray, and his clothes were as ragged and worn as they used to be. The Indian greeted him, saying, "Greetings to you, Padre. Don't you remember me? I am Juan Manuel Jurakan. I am the one to whom you gave the emerald lizard many years ago, and now I have brought it back." Brother Pedro searched in his mind, trying to remember the incident. "Take it, Padre," Juan Manuel said. "It brought me much good fortune. Take it, and rest from your labors now. It is valuable and will make life easy for you." He opened the cloth in which the emerald lizard was wrapped, and he took the jeweled object and held it up for Brother Pedro to see. Smiling now, Brother Pedro remembered and received it. Gently he set it down on the earth, and instantly it turned again into a live green lizard, which scurried off and disappeared in the tall grass. In recommending Ride With the Sun for children of almost any age, we speak with an assurance born from a little direct experience. Above all, the idea of reading stories from "all over the world"—even though there are no clear distinguishing marks in story-telling as we pass from one culture to another—encourages the child's natural feeling of belonging to one human family. . . . Yes, there are stories both from Russia and from Russian "satellites." * * * To pass from the symbolic to the ridiculous, we have finally struck up a friendship with one of Dr. Seuss' creations. Previously not too enthusiastic about the grotesque drawings of the Seuss books, we were entirely captivated by Horton, the elephant, as he first discovers the "Whos" and then defends them with his life. The Whos are so small that they are able to construct their city on a speck of dust, and Horton hears a voice from this tiny planet as it drifts by in the breeze. Only Horton, however, of all the jungle creatures, can hear the Whos speak—perhaps Volume XII, No. 21 because only Horton is the sort of humanitarian who is sympathetic to "every creature no matter how small." Here we have the expansion of a thought which must have occurred to most young children of the world—usually expressed by, "What if our whole world were only a speck of dust on another world?" Even children are drawn naturally to an idea of relativity, and this may be evidence that every person is born with a capacity for philosophy. When one does begin to think in these terms, it is much easier to say, with Horton, "I believe in you all! A person is a person no matter how small!" But Horton, of course, along with the dangerously broad-minded of any age, annoys his fellow creatures of the jungle. They don't believe that the "Whos" exist and they don't seem to like the idea that Horton enjoys a sort of communication of which they are not capable. So "the Wickershams"—the monkeys—and a kangaroo with overbearing manners, try to interfere: "Humpf!" Humpfed a voice! "For almost two days you've run wild and insisted On chatting with persons who've never existed. Such carryings-on in our peaceable jungle! We've had quite enough of your bellowing bungle! And I'm here to state," snapped the big kangaroo, "That your silly nonsensical game is all through!" And the young kangaroo in her pouch said, "Me, too !" "With the help of the Wickersham Brothers and dozens Of Wickersham Uncles and Wickersham Cousins And Wickersham In-Laws, whose help I've engaged, You're going to be roped! And you're going to be caged! And, as for your dust speck . . . hah! That we shall boil In a hot steaming kettle of Bezzle-Nut oil!" MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 11 Well, Horton finally saves the Whos from extinction and justifies his faith in their existence after trials both heroic and amusing. The "Whos" prove that they are persons, "no matter how small." Horton Hatches the Egg is another gem, for here the kindly elephant agrees to sit on the nest of a lazy bird who wants to take a Florida vacation. Winter comes and with it storms and snow: But Horton kept sitting, and said with a sneeze, "I'll stay on this egg and I won't let it freeze. I meant what I said And I said what I meant . . . . An elephant's faithful One hundred per cent!" When the egg hatches, in the presence of the mother, who doesn't quite deserve her child, what comes out is a little elephant with wings, to Horton's great delight. He has infused so much of his love and care into the nest that, without any thought of doing so, he becomes the true father of the fledgling—which is what they say about the wise and kindly teacher who takes up where parents sometimes fail to carry the burden. Volume XII, No. 21 MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 12 FRONTIERS The Morality of Fun AN article by Daniel Lerner in the Spring, 1958, American Scholar further explores the plight of the "lonely crowd." Mr. Lerner writes: The living generation of Americans has quietly acquired a new human right—the right to be constantly entertained—which is conferred upon us by the mass media and underwritten by the business structure of radio, movies, picture magazines, digests, book clubs and, surpassing all others, television. This is a quiet right because it has not yet figured in any ideological manifestoes. The Atlantic Charter, the Four Freedoms, and the Declaration of the United Nations are all equally silent upon the right to be continuously entertained. But this does not impede the rapid spread of this particular right, which is quietly working the largest sort of transformation possible in the affairs of any society—by altering the levels of desire, the categories of contentment, and the criteria of judgment among its citizens. Mr. Lerner does not view this state of affairs with anything like the alarm felt by Marya Mannes in More in Anger. And he thinks that men like Erich Fromm and David Riesman may be more anxious about the future than they need be. The final attainment of leisure and material comforts— such as men of other generations have only dreamed of—would inevitably result in emphasis on individual pleasure. But Mr. Lerner feels that it is possible to widen the conception of pleasure in cultural terms, just as every normal child does in passing from adolescence to maturity. There is an interesting counterpart of this development, however, which Mr. Lerner points out—the idea of the "struggle" as a necessary prerequisite to fulfillment of self is rapidly disappearing. He expands this idea: The theory that every man has a right to comfortable conditions of life is the economic counterpart of the theory that every man has the right to be continuously entertained. Comfort and fun go together. This leads to a quite different perspective than that which has governed most societies in the past. We appear to be, as a nation, committed to the lifeways of nonadversity. The Spencerian gloss on the Darwinian doctrine has lost its claim to credence. Volume XII, No. 21 We no longer believe that life needs to be a struggle in which only the fittest survive. On the contrary, we seem to have become convinced that life can be relatively pleasant for all and that all may survive at a rather high level of contentment. This, right or wrong, is a revolutionary new idea in the world. It directs effort toward creating those conditions of life which enable people to "take things easy." The old puritan ethic (or perhaps, more exactly, simply "Protestant"), with its emphasis on effort, ambition, achievement, struggle and success, has yielded to a whole new array of words expressing the new conception of right conduct and the good life. The shift is from "getting on" to "getting along." The emphasis is on "being nice." While Mr. Lerner will make no value judgments on the ultimate meaning of this transition, there are inchoate protests against the aimlessness of the pleasure-directed life— especially when those pleasures are neatly packaged by professionals who make our "pleasure" their business. When a man can do whatever he wants, yet without the background of an ethos which proclaims the need for reaching more meaningful values, he may find himself surprisingly dissatisfied, because there is not enough challenge. James Jones' Some Came Running can hardly be defended as great literature or as particularly enlightening. But we do find an interesting portrayal of the predicament of the fairly intelligent, "liberated" man who seems to have every opportunity for "fun." But then there arises a contradictory wish for a way out of the environment in which familiar satisfactions can be sought. Given all the "good things of earth," "Dave Hirsh" unaccountably discovers mystical leanings! At least, this is what Jones seems to suggest: For a moment a pointless, wholly object-less, confused anguish filled him unbearably. And almost like a revelation, which he seemed to see so clearly and so tantalizingly and still could not reach, he thought he could see that for a man to be himself, become himself, was really a very simple thing: The simplest thing in the world. All he had to do to become himself was to cease to be himself. All he, MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 13 Dave Hirsh, had to do to become Dave Hirsh, was to not be Dave Hirsh at all. has done than with the failure to become a whole human being. And just how did you go about doing that? Outside of dying. Ha! yes, how? The whole thing, the whole laborious edifice he had erected to lead him to what he thought to be some portal, collapsed like a card house in a sneeze and descended into gibberish and unintelligibility leaving only the unbearable hungry anguish, which was so strong it made him want to squirm and twist and strain his belly muscles till they ruptured. Yes, it was simple all right; it was so very simple it became the most complex thing in the world. And nothing was left but paradoxes. Give up Pride and Vanity—(even if you could)? But Pride and Vanity were the only things that made men men, made anybody accomplish anything. They were not vices—at least, not solely vices; if they were it would be easy. Give up the love of life that made you love everything you saw, every hill, every tree, every woman—(even if you could)? And where would you be? You'd be nothing. Dead. And so where were you? Nowhere. And the argument with yourself became perpetual. Oh, if just once—Oh just once, to shuck off this gross slow ugly body that hampered and held and hemmed you in. But more than that, to sluff off and be rid of this personality. This personality which was you, and which restrained and hampered and locked you out from everything more than your body ever did, and which you detested. It may be that this "detesting," which finds expression in a good deal of current fiction, springs from a special sort of "guilt-feeling." The original sin doctrine of old-time theology certainly provided a basis for guilt, but it is likely that the majority of men didn't quite believe this religious explanation of such feelings. If the guilt one actually feels and the additional guilt one is supposed to feel are mixed up together, it may be easier to forget the whole thing, except during moments of religious repentance. But there are no such moments for the Dave Hirshs of our time. If they feel guilt, it can only be because they have somehow failed to fulfill themselves according to their own ideals. The "detesting," then, might conceivably lead in a constructive direction, if one realizes that it has less to do with the "evil" one Volume XII, No. 21 MANAS Reprint May 27, 1959 ...
http://manasjournal.mrwconnected.info/pdf_library/VolumeXII_1959/XII-21.pdf - [detail] - [similar]
PREV NEXT
Powered by Hyper Estraier 1.4.13, with 2096 documents and 94562 words.