Volume 11, Number 1
The Summer of Our Discontent
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream... Fortress?
Mickey Mouse Media
South Africa: Living in the Fault Lines
Let Them Eat Stones
For Services Rendered Unto Caesar
Catholic Social Teaching: A Daens of Anger
Capitalism and Industrialization in the Third World
Political Faux Pas
Inside the Walls of the Master's House
The Summer of Our Discontent
Those of us, faculty and students, who resist the temptation to enjoy the summer in the heart of rural Indiana, have become accustomed to finding an altered landscape on the campus upon our return - buildings demolished, others erected in their place, new walkways, holes in the ground, that sort of thing. But some of us have also noticed that the summer recess seems to be the preferred time for operations of a more disturbing kind, administrative decisions and changes which, if introduced during the regular school year, could be expected to arouse strong adverse comment and criticism. In this respect this past summer was no exception.
Towards the end of last spring semester we in the Department of Theology were asked to consider a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross Indiana Province, recently graduated with a doctorate from Duke University, for a position as assistant professor. This was not a normal situation since the candidate did not emerge from a departmental search and, in any case, there was no available opening in his area. But given the university's preferential option for suitable Holy Cross candidates where available, not a contentious issue at all in the department, the process went ahead in the normal manner.
The outcome was not reassuring. In the opinion of most of those present the candidate's oral presentation was very unsatisfactory, the vote of the Appointments-Tenure-Promotions committee was unanimously negative, and the Department Chairman also recommended against the appointment after submitting an eight-page, largely negative evaluation of the candidate's dissertation. All of this was made public knowledge at a special meeting called on June 27 to which all members of the department were invited and at which sixteen were in attendance. It also appears that both the Dean of Arts & Letters and the Provost at that time supported the departmental decision.
It was therefore disconcerting to learn that some time around the first week in June the President of the University unilaterally appointed the candidate to a three-year visiting assistant professorship in the Department of Theology. The manner in which this was communicated to the interested parties was no more reassuring than the decision itself. The Department Chair heard of it via a telephone call from the Dean's office, was instructed not to communicate with the candidate, and received the letter of appointment, dated June 14, on June 27. On the same day, at the meeting mentioned earlier, he happened quite by chance to hear from a department colleague, also C.S.C. Indiana Province and closely associated with the candidate, that the latter had already signed his contract and mailed it to the university. The message writ large in these proceedings was that neither the chair, nor the relevant committee, nor anyone else in the department, had any part to play except to acquiesce in a decision already made.
It may need to be said that this is not an incident in an anti-C.S.C. campaign. On the contrary, some of the strongest repudiations of this mockery of academic procedure have come from members of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Also, the department has an unimpeachable record in appointing and promoting members of the Congregation of Holy Cross, though in the case of the promotion of the President from associate to full professor it was not given the opportunity to participate. Perhaps inevitably in such a situation, allegations of unfairness and manipulation of faculty opinion have been voiced. These have not been substantiated in spite of an administration-mandated investigation, in itself insulting to the integrity of the department chairman, the members of the ATP committee, and the rest of us who care about our department.
As reported in the current number of the Notre Dame Magazine, a recent National Research Council survey ranked the Department of Theology twelfth among similar programs in the U.S. It is therefore hardly another one of those depressing cases of a mediocre department rejecting an outstanding candidate.
In the section of the Faculty Handbook dealing with academic freedom we are told that the university is to pursue the highest scholarly standards, promote intellectual and spiritual growth, respect individuals as persons, and maintain the tradition of Christian belief. It is difficult to see how any of these ends is served by this most recent example of disregard for faculty opinion at every level. We do not need to be reminded that the University President has the last word in appointments to the faculty, but we also know that no university can function adequately, let alone flourish, without respect for procedures and for the academic integrity of departments and their faculties. Faculty and student colleagues in other departments who care about these things would therefore do well to take note. Tua res agitur.
Joseph Blenkinsopp is John A. O'Brien Professor in the Department of Theology at Notre Dame.
Art, Capitalism, and the University: An Interview with Douglas Kinsey
Douglas Kinsey is a professor of art at the University of Notre Dame, where he has taught for 28 years. His main teaching and research areas are oil painting, monotype, drawing, etching and watercolor. His work has been shown in over 100 solo, group, and competitive exhibitions in the US, Britain, Sweden, and Japan, and he has won numerous awards. Eleven public collections have examples of his work, and he has published illustrations in several books and magazines. Neve Gordon interviewed him on the relation between art, capitalism and the University of Notre Dame.
Gordon: At a Sotheby's auction last year an anonymous caller bought a small painting by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-54), and paid over two million dollars. Taking into account that Kahlo was a poor Marxist, I found this incident revealing, particularly regarding the relation between capitalism and art. Could you comment on this relationship?
Kinsey: The goals of art are totally different from the goals of capitalism. Let's face it, the main goal of capitalism is to reach power through economic means, which is practically anathema for an artist. This essentially means that within the capitalist system, people, spirituality, and aesthetics are irrelevant when put next to the bottom line -- next to money. When capitalism turns around and cashes in on art, making it into a commodity, it creates a conflict of values. The mentality that was behind the creation of the piece of art consists of values which conflict with the mentality behind selling a piece of art.
G: On the one hand, you say that spirituality contradicts capitalism, that capitalism doesn t really care for spirituality. On the other hand, you imply that capitalism needs spirituality.
K: I don t think capitalism is interested in spirituality, per se. Capitalism is interested in any kind of commodity that many people want. So if there are a lot of people who want spirituality, and there is an object that is perceived as being spiritual, then capitalism can use it. It doesn t care about the spirituality of the thing per se. It is interested in the popularity of it and therefore the commercial value of it. Capitalism is interested in spirituality only insofar that it can make money from it.
G: Couldn t I argue that your approach is an idealistic way of looking at art and that many artists, at least today, have become part of the capitalist world and they re creating art primarily to sell it?
K: Even if such a claim were true, it does not disprove what I said because within a single person there often are conflicting values. One person can be doing contradictory things. In such a case the person is confused. Probably some of his or her values are stronger than other values. The capitalistic system influences an artist insofar as he or she is interested in making money.
You suggested that I had an idealistic point of view, and you re probably right; I have that luxury because I make a living at a university. But every time I ve been in contact with a gallery, the gallery favors certain aspects of my work. The gallery manager leads me towards the direction of, let s say, the decorative aspects of my art -- it's art that is less confrontational which is more comfortable to most people and therefore easier to sell. Once an artist follows such dictates he or she is in the grasp of capitalism, and so is the art he or she creates. But I think the person who has a real drive to say something will fight this temptation. The issue becomes whether my motive is to put across a certain point of view, or to make money from my art.
G: Have you been pushed in the past to go beyond what your conscience would permit?
K: No. I really haven t because I have not been very commercially successful. I have not had much dealings with galleries. I tend to show more in universities and colleges, which are not a commercial venue.
G: Why haven t you been commercially successful?
K: Well, because in order to do that, it takes a great deal of work to promote oneself and I already have two different jobs. Being an artist is a great deal of work. Being a teacher is totally consuming, and of course all of the administrative work adds up. To do that, and then to be my own promoter, would be spreading myself very thin, and so I ve tended to cheat on the self-promotion side, which hasn t helped me too much I guess. But as far as what I m doing, I feel comfortable.
G: About two years ago the Metropolitan Museum of Art had an exhibition of a big private collection. Beside every picture where the name of the artist and the name of the painting are written, the curator also chose to write the original price the collector paid for the painting. So you browse at the pictures in the gallery and you see, lets say, Degas' Dancers, and you are told that in 1920 it was bought for $200,000 or so.
K: I m really shocked, absolutely shocked, it s disgusting.
G: Why is it disgusting?
K: I think that there can be a more complex way of interpreting what the money means, but the fact that it s written next to the painting is in effect reducing everything to money, which undermines the basic values for which the work was made. I mean, it s an anti-aesthetic point of view, it s an anti- spiritual point of view -- it s a capitalistic point of view. The museum is reflecting the culture.
G: You re a professor at Notre Dame, and Notre Dame is essentially a capitalist institution. How does the capitalist system affect you as an art professor?
K: In effect you are questioning who makes judgments about the quality of one s work, and on what basis is a judgment made. I think the people making judgments at universities feel pretty inadequate -- and rightly so, they cannot be experts in every field. As an academic, I find that administrators really do not want to make judgments about the quality of art, and so they usually count shows, or, if they re a little more sophisticated, they ask other artists to tell them which are the most important shows, and then they count those. The commercial part of one s art dictates to a certain degree the evaluation of an art teacher, so that if I were willing to play the game with the galleries and actually aim at a lower taste, and an easier taste, I might do better in my promotion at the university. In these positivistic days, one says about an artist that he or she has managed to show 150 shows and move 10,000 people. It s reduced to numbers. It s quantified (look at how I am introduced at the beginning of this interview). It's part of the marketplace. And the market s not very strong at getting the values that are really behind the work, at least those which I hope are behind mine. So yes, the judgment is made for reasons many of which are totally apart from the motive for making the work. It s subtle.
G: Is it that subtle? If we look at salaries, what is the difference between a tenured professor working in the art department with twenty-five years of experience, and a tenured professor working, let s say, in another department?
K: In business administration, I understand, the starting salary can be in the low seventy thousands, while I don t know of any full professor who teaches studio art, no matter how many years he has been here, who s making over sixty thousand. This means that the university is in the marketplace. It s not making value judgments of its own, but rather buying people in competition with the outside world. Since there s not much commercial competition for artists, the university can pay the artist just about anything it can get away with. Notre Dame is no different than any other university in this regard.
G: Would you expect something different from a university?
K: I ve been around universities for a while, and I know they operate as businesses. But I think most students would be very shocked to hear this, because they think people are hired for some kind of intrinsic value. The university stands for intellectual excellence, but it is hiring faculty in the same way that it is building buildings. The message the university is giving to the students is that the most important thing is money. It also teaches the student that the university is a bedfellow of commerce, and that a major goal of the university is to help students make money, so it develops their professional life as opposed to developing a spiritual life or an intellectual life. This kind of activity is inconsistent with the liberal arts. But on the other hand, the university would argue that it has to survive.
G: What do you mean? Do you work less than a person in the business department?
K: I certainly don t think so.
G: But the message is that you re worth less than a neophyte professor just out of a Ph.D. program who has joined the business department. Why does a fledgling professor in your department make thirty-five thousand, while a fledgling professor in business makes seventy thousand? Isn t the university, as a capitalist institution which functions within a capitalist system, making a value judgment which is essentially against the arts?
K: It means that universities are no different from the rest of society. I was disillusioned when I was young. I thought the university was holding values different from society on what is important and what is good. It doesn t. It reflects society, while neglecting to take a leadership role. If it were taking a leadership role it would decide what was important and pay for that. But it s not. One should also remember that the university is pushed around by alumni. There is a constant friction. The university is serving a particular class, and it is becoming a professional training place as opposed to a place that s generating real creativity and values. Sure, many parents who send their kids to Notre Dame are outraged when the kids come home. The parents discover that their children have different politics than they had when they left for college, and they accuse the university of turning their children into radicals. I ve heard this a lot. But it seems to me the university helps maintain the status quo. One must remember that talking about a university like Notre Dame is a little bit like talking about our culture. Art is not terribly important in our culture.
G: Capitalist culture?
K: We re talking about the capitalist culture, but I d be hard-pressed to know what to compare it with, in what culture has art been very important?
G: How about the Greek culture? The Greeks saw art as some kind of excellence. But if art is not important in our society why do CEOs buy a forty million dollar Van Gogh for the lobby of a company? Do they feel that it is some kind of symbol for excellence?
K: Art in this case is a symbol of power. Most of these people who make such a decision are people who have spent their entire life making money. They haven t had time to cultivate themselves. It s almost as if you have a choice of whether you re going to make money or whether you re going to learn how to use money if you had it, but you ll never have it. The people who know how to make money often don t know how to use it, they use it symbolically. So they try to figure out which art is important, but they have to rely on ideas of other people. I m an example of a person who has little idea of how to make money, I don t really care about making money, but I have some of the characteristics of a person who has lived a cultivated life.
It's really ironic, isn t it, buying a painting for that amount of money, and buying something that s totally safe, and by safe I mean that there is a large group of people who think this is a very important painting. It s not individual taste, it s not individual judgment at all. It s just latching onto something. So it s an investment, that s what it is. Art can be an investment that shows that you have a great deal of power because you have money.
Neve Gordon is a graduate student in the Department of Government.
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream... Fortress?
Socialists once used the term common interest to define needs, rights, and programs for all citizens. Now that the same term has been turned on its putatively collective head and plunked down on a green field site down the road. Commo Interest Developments (CIDs) are the latest guarded, gated, and exclusionary suburban fortresses produced by the developers to keep the world at bay. More than 32 million Americans- over eleven percent of the population, now live in them, and the numbers are growing.
If the right s delegitimation of public action leads Americans to private solutions, a house or a condo in a community in which almost all services-roads, recreation, shopping, education, are privately provided-for a price-makes much sense. But it may be a citizenship of, by, and for the market.
This latest elaboration of a long trend towards suburbanized class and race separation in the United States has profound implications for politics, and the physical landscape. These common interest developments have contributed a significant proportion of the growth of private security guards, who now exceed in number public police officers in America. CID residents have less interest in general provision of public goods: parks, transport, public schools and the like, with structural and economic incentives to keep taxes for those kinds of services as low as possible. One extreme example is seen in the private, pay- as-you-go fire department in a Paradise Valley, AZ CID. If you don t subscribe, the roofs of your paying neighbors get doused with water, and your house can burn down to the ground.
These Rainbow Acres, Whispering Pines, or Frog s Hollow adspeak evocations of pastoral security usually require large amounts of land. CID s exacerbated post-war, federal mortgage and highway subsidized deconcentration of cities and inner ring suburbs. Some use cluster housing as a marketing tool to sell communal open space within developments, while making the region ever more dependent on the automobile and further disconnected from the urban core. Few countries, San Diego being a partial exception, do any overall coordination to insure mass transit or employment access between old and new centers.
Evan McKenzie, an academic observer of these common interest develpoments, views them as the norm for much new housing, particularly in the fast-growing sunbelt: In California, nearly all new residential development is within the jurisdiction of residential community associations. As older housing is replaced by new CID housing, consumer choice will be restricted, since most homebuyers will be living under the rule of these private governments, regardless of their preferences. Currently, 36% of these developments are in the West, 33% in the South, 21% in the Northeast and 10% in the Midwest.
Even conservative Charles Murray sees the growth of these private cast enclaves as total social separation of the rich from the rest of society. Cities will come to be viewed as internal Indian reservations- places of deprivation and dysfunction for which they have no responsibility. The logical outcome of Robert Reich s Secession of the Successful.
Clarence Stone, a political scientist, notes the political advantages these private associations have in possessing ready channels of political mobilization. Most residents are united in protection of the common investment, and can be reached through association newsletters or their own cable tv systems. Outside forces are restricted in gaining door-to-door political access to these developments, and the courts have not yet ruled that there is a general right to access as they have in the case of shopping centers- although that is being challenged.
CIDs have emerged as significant forces in state and local politics, and have a strong Washington lobby. Which is not to say these communities have recreated the New England town meeting internally; most decision-making is left to professional property managers employed by the association. However, association office-holding by homeowners has become a visible path of recruitment for public office in some states.
While CIDs, the post-modern equivalents of medieval walled towns, are mostly in sub- and ex-urbia; although center city America now has its rough counterpart:Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). These quasi-public entities have the authority to tax area businesses to privately provide what a municipality or state is seen as no longer capable of delivering: police, sanitation, maintenance, sometimes even transport. There is little public input into these cities-within-cities, and most are run by corporate representatives of those capitalists unable to decamp for greener, or non-union, or low-tax, pastures; often large real estate operators with immobile assets.
The same corporation that lobbied furiously for the tax cuts and absolute freedom of movement that has resulted in dying inner cities and major instigators of BIDs. Our New York City BID, the Grand Central Partnership, was accused of empire building and got in trouble for exceeding its statutory authority in taxing unwilling small businesses- which frequently have only somewhat greater one dollar/one vote input than the general public. And for moving undesirable elements, homeless people for instance, into adjacent neighborhoods- thus conveniently dispatching the unsightly and achieving the desired result within the BID area of interest. Another triumph for private initiative. This is the distorted, downtown version of noneteenth century arcadian town advocate Ebenezer Howard s government by a corporate technocracy- although Howard s Garden City movement at least made noises about democratic control.
In a 1970's New Yorker essay, Michael Harrington predicted that Disney World in Florida (itself a sponsor of many residential communities and presently taking control of the redevelopment of part of New York s Time Square) might be the undemocratic land baron/ corporate urb of the near future. Beyond the high-tech amusement parks, Harrington noted that the country surrounding the complex was in the corporate thrall of Disney Corp., and the local Congressman very responsive to the Giant Rodent s wishes. He saw the Disney statelet as gaining more actual statutory power that the surrounding country. And so it has.
I recently attempted to take a bike ride around an aunt s aesthetically micromanaged, Disneyesque Florida CID, Lake Hills (no lakes, no hills) where I was an invited guest. I couldn't. Even though the development covers over 2,300 acres of private bike paths and elaborate recreation facilities, I, as a visitor, have no status. I don't own, therefore I don't exist. Guarded gates, patrolling sentries, walls amd toll-booth-style barriers prevent a casual ride around this former wetland. I have to carry a special I.D. issued on weekly passes so that I don't get tossed out altogether. Since the development is 100% elderly, and closely stratified by class. I m often stopped and questioned by the property s gendarmes since I am non-elderly and don t carry golf clubs.
Even ownership in these communities forces accession to many Mao-like rules. Aunt Sylvia s petotion to the Lake Hills Uniform Environmental Standards Board (exactly what it s called), to paint her house off-white instead of regulation beige, was summarily denied. Easy to be radical in this private land of the free.
Jeffrey Gold is a DSA activist in New York City.
Mickey Mouse Media
Most summers, I head back to England (my place of birth) and each time I am surprised by culture-shock. Perhaps it is the jolt that comes from moving from a global superpower still flexing its muscles, to a country whose imperial past is fast becoming an historical footnote, even a source of embarrassment to those younger than eighty. I am also sure, that for an old Leveller like me the idea of being back in a kingdom doesn't sit well. "Long live the republic," I mutter as I de-plane. (So out of favor are kingdoms in our household, that the spouse won't even use the term in the Lord's Prayer. That particular petition was a mumbled elision until he came up with an alternative: "Thy Commonwealth come...")
It takes several days of going cold turkey before one gets the US out of one's system and begins to appreciate those institutions that have (I believe) the cultural edge over their counterparts in the States, most notably BBC radio and to a lesser extent BBC television and the commercial Channel 4. Then, too, there is a quality press which includes a couple of national newspapers, The Guardian and The Independent, which are not fawningly in the free-market's corner. The deplorable Rupert Murdoch has not succeeded in suborning the British media altogether: neither does General Electric, Archer Daniels Midland ("Supermarket to the World") or Mickey Mouse supply the only lens through which news must be filtered.
All of which is anomalous because the UK is every bit as grubbily materialistic as the US. Nevertheless, news presentation has a more astringent quality. Take for example, BBC radio's "World at One," three-quarters of an hour of news and interviews presented each weekday by Nick Clarke. Clarke's interviewing style is a sophisticated blend of lese` majeste and terrier-like tenacity. He is well informed, having done his homework, and knows that it is his job to make shifty politicians (up to and including Cabinet ministers), come clean - to tell the truth. Of course they rarely comply, but then their prevarications and evasions under this sort of pressure sound foolish. Orangemen in full drag - mawkish suits, Chaplinesque bowlers and brocade stoles - set on marching provocatively through Catholic areas in Northern Ireland this past summer, were grilled like schoolyard bullies caught by the headmaster doing something nasty behind the bike-shed.
Later in the evening, BBC television serves up another three- quarters of an hour of news analysis in Newsnight. One of the host-presenters, a dangerous, handsome Scot, Kirsty Wark, hair tucked fiercely behind her ears, interrogates so briskly that the interviewee is left no wriggle- room. Her alternate, Jeremy Paxman (the thinking woman's crumpet), succeeds by conveying a languid sense of the absurdity of society's powerbrokers - the certainty that most are fools or knaves. Many was the time I fantasized about having Paxman or Wark put the Christian Coalition's odious Ralph Reed on the stand. His glib Trollopian sanctimony would soon crumble under such no-nonsense, politically savvy cross-examination.
Much of what is wrong with US media analysis is discerned in an invigorating essay by Joan Didion in The New York Review of Books (Sept. 7, '96). Her target is the consummate inside- the-beltway journalist/writer, Bob Woodward, of The Washington Post and Watergate fame. The title of her piece, "The Deferential Spirit," captures nicely Woodward's relationship with the Washington power elite. His vapid reportage is meant to convey the impression of being untainted by bias or ideology; but, as Didion shows, it is a devious strategy to protect the status quo while claiming to reveal the inside story. Didion writes that she once heard "a group of reporters agree, that there were at most twenty people who ran any story. What they meant by 'running the story,' was setting the terms, setting the pace, deciding the agenda, determining when and where the story exists, and shaping what the story will be." She also unmasks Woodward's obsession with so-called fairness. The fairness doctrine in American journalism (print, radio or TV) has become a way of defanging the Fourth Estate, limiting its potential for uncovering the truth and at the same time excluding any left of center analysis. The genuflection towards fairness, Didion says, "is a familiar newsroom piety, the excuse in practice for a good deal of auto-pilot reporting and lazy thinking..." For those who manage the news, fairness has all too often come to mean "a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story, not as it is occurring but as it is manufactured."
With politics tamed, if not altogether gutted, a deceptive journalist like Bob Woodward is free to present everything in terms of an apolitical human interest story. So, for example, the treasonable Iran-Contra scandal "reflected not a structural problem, but a 'human-story,' a tale of how one man's hubris (the CIA's William Casey) could have shaken the solid foundations of the established order, a disruption of the status quo that will be seen to end, satisfyingly, with that man's death." Didion concluded her essay with the withering judgement that Woodward is writing "political pornography."
This past Labor Day there were several examples of how radio and TV can be harnessed to de-politicize a story. Ray Soares, on NPR's Talk of the Nation, looked all set to examine the history of labor and capital's relationship in the context of Catholic social teaching. But the deck was stacked from the beginning with two capitalists, one enlightened one not, against one representative to present labor's side. I was flabbergasted when the person wheeled out to defend labor was Monsignor Jack Egan. Now Egan is a veteran of decades of involvement in social justice crusades. He is a man of unimpeachable decency and commitment. However, he is very old and has always performed best when on the stump - in the thick of things. He was no match for the quicker, slicker defenders of the free market, although he did his valiant best. But why no trade unionist?
Later in the day, PBS's The Lehrer Report made its obeisance to Labor Day by way of a panel discussion with so-called experts - two Presidential historians, Michael Beschloss and Doris Kearns, one far-right political operative, William Kristol, and a solid middle-of-the-road journalist, Haines Johnson. Kearns was the only person with anything good to say about labor. The two guys were curiously unwilling to counter the line Bill Kristol pursued, namely that for much of its existence organized labor has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mob. There was a great deal of tut-tutting about labor's financial contributions to the Democratic Party and its role as a "special interest group." However, nothing was said about infinitely larger monies handed over by the capital-owning class to lobbies and to the Republican Party. Nor did we get a spirited defence of labor's role in facing down the over-class on environmental degradation or workplace safety. Do we believe that even the most basic protections, like child labor laws, were ever capital's contribution to the humanizing of society? Left to capitalism's goodwill, the country would be one vast toxic dump.
Finally, a story from a recent issue of The Nation (Sept. 30,1996) illustrates the extraordinary defensiveness the folk who own the US display when confronted with the seamier side of the country's history. Writer and indefatigable gadfly Gore Vidal, tells of having written and narrated three half-hour programs on the American Presidency for Britain's Channel 4. Vidal chronicles the story that court historians and the hacks shilling for corporate America would like to erase from the record, namely "the imperial aspects latent in the office (of the Presidency) from the beginning, and ending, currently, with our uneasy boast that we are the last great global power on the.... well, globe.' The British, by all accounts, liked the programs. (Next month they will get the dirt in a new series on a home-grown imperialist, Cecil John Rhodes. This is not the Rhodes of scholarship fame, but the mendacious, greedy Victorian villain with a closeted penchant for very young men.) However, after their successful showing in Britain, cable's History Channel over here bought Vidal's series. What followed was a shameless attempt by the owners of the History Channel - ultimately Disney, via General Electric, via NBC - to sabotage his presentation. Corporate hired guns, like TV journalists Roger Mudd and Sander Vanocur, were on hand to conduct a post-mortem. This did not deal with the facts of the history presented, but launched instead a full court press: an ad hominem attack on Vidal's "bilious look" at American history and his possibly "Commie" slant. "Scribble, scribble Mr. Gibbon," said mad King George mockingly to the 18th century Whig historian who so elegantly described the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. "Scribble, scribble Mr. Vidal," says Mickey Mouse to the chronicler of the decline and impending fall of the American empire. As things stand, even the splendid 1st Amendment is no match when it comes to the Mouse's marketing of American history and politics.
Ann Pettifer is an alumna of Notre Dame and a regular contributor to Common Sense.
South Africa: Living in the Fault Lines
Serious demands come with the invitation to deliver the key note address at this conference. As the event is titled Fault Lines -- Inquiries Around Truth And Reconciliation, I am required firstly, to address the question of defects, the flaws, that underlie inquiries into questions of truth in this country. Secondly, I am charged with supplying a key which may unlock things which could give meaning to this conference within the context of a people reeling as we try to come to terms with 350 years of colonialism. I do not hold "the key". Who can, at a symposium that aims to provide a platform for confronting a wide range of topics that include personal and collective memory, confession, loss and mourning, therapy and catharsis, retribution, amnesia, nostalgia and the construction of multiple truths?
What I can offer, is something personal: it will deal with memory, it will be part confession, it will affect and effect loss and mourning, it will be part therapy and part catharsis, and it will expose through itself the complex nature of truth- telling.
What I say will cause anger and pain, confusion and any number of other valid responses. It will be drenched in shame. But it seems hollow for me as a citizen of this country, living in 1996, to contribute to this event, or any further public event, without speaking these things.
It is with the profoundest imaginable regret that I acknowledge that as a university student I worked as an agent of the South African security establishment. From the end of 1986 to 1990 I received money for reporting mostly on the activities of the student organisation, NUSAS, at the university of Stellenbosch. In 1990 I brought this to the attention of the ANC in Lusaka and from then, until the end of 1991 I gave the ANC whatever information I gained access to.
At the age of 22 I was approached by what was probably a well- meaning relative who was a high ranking officer in the South African Police Force. What motivated my acceptance of the offer was certainly having my studies paid, but having been through the training of the South African Defence Force, and having been extremely proud of my officer status, there must have been some political motive as well. There could also have been a misguided design at imitating and becoming part of the masculanist codes which I, since childhood, had both loathed and adored. Yet, in matric I had also written an essay which exhibited a clear awareness of the absurdity of the group areas and immorality acts. In the army, particularly during a short period in the Angolan war, there was also a certain insight, not political, but psychological rather, that led me to understand that I didn't want to be bound by a system of such authority and violence. This disenchantment did not translate into national political terms and I was certainly no political animal when the approach was made.
Whatever my mental and political frame of mind at the time of recruitment, I am certain that I knew from the outset that something was wrong with my involvement with state security. One had to be either an idiot or a psychopath not to be aware of that. What did elude me, initially at least, was the magnitude of what I was getting myself into. This realisation came fairly early on in my career as an agent when it became clear that progressive student organisation was no side-show; it was a salient part of what I began to grasp as a momentous struggle for power and justice in South Africa. I knew that by working for the state I had made an active decision to support one side of that battle. That I eventually found my position morally untenable was due to a number of factors:
While Stellenbosch University was very white, and progressive organisation virtually entirely so, many of the small group of people involved were dissident thinkers who were committed to acting on the moral outrage they felt at apartheid and the way in which the entire system impeded people's freedom. I soon liked some of these people, they were original and courageous, and they affirmed my own shaky libertarian spirit that had on occasion surfaced at school and in the army.
Secondly, I began reading literature and political philosophy which had a profound impact on my various world views, texts that shattered any beliefs in absolutes and forced me to acknowledge that power, rather than nature, frequently determines our reality.
Finally, we occasionally had contact with black and white activists from other campuses amongst whom were people who had been detained and tortured under the very system that my individual agency now supported. It was not possible for me to see this, hear these people speak, experience their humanity and remain politically and personally unchanged by it.
With time, and particularly after I had been elected to the Stellenbosch SRC, had initiated two trips to meet with the ANC in exile, and after Stellenbosch had its share of protest during 1989, the police were convinced that I had become a force of agitation, doing more to conscientise white students than for my job as an informant. Now being a liability, I was told that other arms of the security establishment, notably National Intelligence and Military Intelligence, were about to expose me politically as well as my history of closeted gay experiences.It was decided that I would be involved in a fake shooting incident which would make my departure from campus believable without putting my political credentials at risk. Obsessed by the fear of both personal and political exposure and knowing that familial links could do nothing to ensure the secrecy of my position, I acquiesced, doing as instructed. I left Stellenbosch and remained uninvolved for months as I pondered my future. I then left South Africa and consulted with the ANC. In this meeting a programme of action was decided on which I stuck to until I was informed by the security branch that in line with political developments in the country by the end of 1991 my work was no longer of value to them. I informed the ANC of these developments. I recently informed the ANC of my intent to speak about this publicly.
Why, if it is true that I had, very early on realised the moral decrepitude of working for the state, did I continue? Moreover, why did I not speak sooner to one of the trusted activists, moral or progressive leaders I had the privilege of meeting? I had had ample opportunity. Backed by the power of the state I lacked both the moral courage and the will that would compel me to find the words to admit to what I was involved in. As the enormity of it dawned on me, I realised that around everything I had become, lay coiled an awful lie. I was and am a friend, a son, a curmudgeon, a lover, a comrade, a liar, a satirist, a mentor, a disciple, a loudmouth, a reader, a walker, a sulker, a loner and all the many things that make up an identity. Yet I knew, as I know today, that to say that one has been payed for working secretly against the struggle for justice in South Africa would reduce one at once to one thing: an agent of the South African regime. I have always suspected that the only voice people will hear from that moment on -- in spite of the complex vicissitudes of self, is the voice of betrayal: a voice that cannot be trusted, that is incapable of truth. Having seen the way in which other informers had been publicly exposed, and having myself reached a point of comprehending why the act of espionage was shameful and utterly devoid of defence and why informers were publicly humiliated and suspected informers on occasion even killed, I would not speak.
There was never, and there will never be a way of correcting what I know and knew I did wrong: I must accept responsibility. Ultimately I did not have what hundreds of thousands of South Africans did: the strength to refuse to offer my body and my mind in service of that system. I did, willingly, support a system that not only denied people's most basic rights and freedoms, but a system which divided, tortured, murdered and assassinated human beings, backed by precisely the security system I was involved in. It is that same system that gagged the media, and misinformed the public to further its own manipulating truths. Also to that I am complicit. While I have not murdered or tortured, and while it is unlikely that my activities on a campus like Stellenbosch led directly to any such atrocities, I must and do take responsibility for my contribution to making "the system" work. There cannot be, and will not be any justification for this.
In speaking about systems like colonialism, slavery, nazism, the holocaust or apartheid, we frequently speak as though events have a velocity of their own: we look back in horror and disbelief. While it is true that systems and events can grow into aberrations that take immense human effort to halt, all schemes whether they are good or bad, are implemented and underpinned by human beings and by human agency. Yes, certainly we are also products of our environment, but to deny our impact on our environment and our limited ability to influence our environment is to deny even a measure of autonomy. In a place like South Africa that would make all people equally guilty, and, preposterously therefore, non-one is guilty.
The writer, the academic, the soldier, the doctor, the journalist, the lawyer who has worked for the system, and who is now concerned with addressing the fault lines, speaks in words more broken and more suspect than others', he has no authority other than the authority of a tainted and manipulative witness. It may also be that the more he tries to open things for understanding, the more awful the horror will become. And if he discovers that the internal horror is the greatest, in what language does he dare say that? But language is all we have with which to think; without it we are again silenced. Like all human faculties language is an instrument of enormous power: it can be used for betrayal and untruth with far greater ease than it can for justice, or for love or for beauty. And once it has been wilfully abused the hands of the abuser are never again clean: neither a statement like this, nor any work of literature or art that I may produce, any words I may say, can ever remedy the hurt and the despair and the confusion and the anger of those around me. How does one apologise, now, at this point in South African history without robbing victims or the offended or the shamed of their right to anger?
Over the past months I have witnessed in newspapers, on television, on the radio, the events at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: I have seen women and men, and grandfathers and grandmothers talk publicly about their agony. While feeling huge empathy, I remain peculiarly caught in a silent world where my solidarity and outrage are forever clouded by the knowledge of personal betrayal. I have been forced through that, and through many conversations and through much fear and untold uncertainties, to begin talking, to no longer reserve for myself the right to speak only through literature. And by doing this, perhaps to begin also a process of self-integration.
While I realise I have no moral authority to judge who is guilty and not, I do not lie when I say that the vast majority of white students, academics, lawyers, journalists and activists involved in the struggle were firmly committed to justice and to the principles of human equality. I do not have words to express my regret at the slighting of their commitment which may be inferred from my duplicity. It is with huge sadness that I can not claim a part of their humanity. It is from these personal, political and academic relationships that I have learnt to read, to argue, to think, to write and to embrace liberty. But across the heart of these is inscribed a fundamental fault; a secret life with all the possible compromises to personal integrity that none were aware of.
No single story can assert a complete truth or establish closure, but multiple voices and testimonies can bring us closer to some sort of understanding of what occurred here: each of us will face ourselves and the world as citizens, as artists, as victims, as perpetrators: in the language of the courts, of the media, of the truth commission, of fiction or historiography, of anthropology, of etching or carving or satirising or documentary, of dialogue, of laughter, of conversation, or, of silence. All of this must be witnessed, to begin dredging the depths of the fault lines that quarry their way through our history and into our future. From multiple stories, the many representations, the affidavits and oaths we might be able to achieve something shared, some understanding of pain, perhaps only of the certainty of doubt.
Today I begin a public confrontation with that fear of shame that induces silence as it feeds relentlessly on its own juices. Like my betrayal, the speaking here today publically, again constitutes a selfish act aimed at some form of self-integration, ending or shattering an autobiography of denial. I can only hope that this is a more warranted and justified form of selfishness. I do not believe that there is redress for the past; but in as much as many people in this country believe in unearthing and telling pasts in a bid to begin the painful process of creating something better, I am willing to live, to write, to speak, and to listen.
Mark Behr is a graduate student in the Department of English.
Let Them Eat Stones
John Mihevc, The Market Tells Them So. The World Bank and Economic Fundamentalism in Africa, Third World Network, Penang and Accra, 1995.
John Mihevc formerly a Canadian university lecturer and currently coordinator of the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa, has written an erudite and prophetic book - a lucid expose of the demonic power of unrestrained market forces unleashed on Africa by the World Bank. As the peoples of that continent cry out for broad, they have been given stones. Whereas the predicament of Sub-Saharan Africa calls for empathy, moral vision and a long- term commitment to meeting basic human needs, the World Bank has insisted on short-term palliatives.
Above all else, World Bank policies are designed to ensure that African countries do not default on their enormous foreign debts. According to the World Bank, the disciplines of the free market ought to be used to generate enough foreign exchange to service these debts. The author's convincing counter-argument is that the market has become an idol, worshipped with the intensity of a religious fundamentalism by transnational corporations, the government of the United States, its industrialized partners and the World Bank.
Mihevc has the economic expertise and moral insights of a biblically grounded liberation theologian to expose this situation. I have not read a more succinct presentation of the ethical crisis facing our planet as we witness the polarization between rich and poor being pushed to new extremes by untrammeled market forces which support the greed of economic, military and political elites. The book's focus is Africa, but the urgent need to name evil, condemn its works and struggle for a moral vision of human community has global implications - not least for Christians.
Let me set the scene with greater care. Africa is trapped in uniquely difficult historical circumstances. It is having to absorb in decades the complex modernizing forces that over more than six centuries gradually prepared Europe for its industrial revolutions. Africans are trying to create a supra-ethnic or supra-tribal sense of nationhood within the artificial boundaries of their post-colonial states. Under the impact of market forces, their traditional cultures are unraveling. They are burdened with soft-serving elites given to the appetites of western consumerism, determined to avoid taxation and quite prepared to defend their privileges with force. Africans are ill-served by deteriorating educational systems and unable in their poverty to generate an economic surplus (savings) for investment in the continent's meager and dilapidated infrastructures. Tropical Africa is also carrying a crushing debt burden - the equivalent of 110% of its gross national product (in Latin America the figure is 48%) - while its terms of trade have deteriorated very sharply. The region continues to pay more and more for its imports while earning less and less for its exports. Foreign aid, particularly from the United States, has been declining to risible levels. All this is daunting enough, but the continent is also experiencing the highest population growth in human history. For tropical Africa the rate is 3% per year and rising. (By contrast, lower rates are declining in Asia and Latin America.) The consequences are crippling, with populations doubling in under twenty years (Nigeria with 100 million people will have approximately 500 million in 2,050). Cities are doubling in size every ten years. The most rural of continents has generated the world's most rapid rates of urbanization - and all this with diminishing resources.
It is in this context that Mihevc's analysis carries weight. His target is the World Bank's prescription for Africa's ills - Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). In essence SAPs set out to discipline Africa's governments. Loans are made on condition that currencies are devalued, taxes raised, deficits cut, state corporations privatized, protective tariffs eliminated and the continent exposed to the hurricane winds of the global free market. Some of these disciplines are appropriate, but they go hand in hand with the insistence that social services are slashed, particularly in the fields of education and healthcare. It should also be noted at the resulting loans are not sufficient to restore let alone enhance existing infrastructures, nor are they designed to transform and diversify African economies. Rather, World Bank loans are to boost established exports of cash crops and raw materials, the purpose being to earn more foreign exchange with which to service past and new debts. Export-led recovery does take place, but it is not sustained. World markets are soon glutted with cocoa, coffee, cotton, copper etc., prices tumble and the increased volume of exports generates diminishing foreign earnings. In the meantime, Africa s already crumbling school systems degenerate further and preventative health measures are abandoned. Literacy rates decline, infant mortality rates rise and old scourges gain ground, for example malnutrition, malaria and tuberculosis. Outside the narrow export sector, unemployment escalates and the reform of peasant food production is ignored. In this context, while the vast majority of Africans find themselves in desperate straits, it is women who bear the heaviest burdens as they scramble to survive yet find themselves unable to meet even the most basic needs of their children.
Mihevc is meticulous in tracking World Bank policies and presenting the results - drawing extensively on the Bank's own reports and those of its critics. There are chapters on the inflexible, fundamentalist theology behind SAPS; the West's Ideological model of modernization; Africa's debt burden; its crippling terms of trade; and the simplistic assumption of comparative advantage which provides a self-serving rationalization for the economically advanced countries' insistence on free trade. There are also chapters on the environmental impact of SAPs - for example distorted land usage as export crops divert acreage away from staple food production - and the threat posed by agribusiness (using biotechnology) to the livelihood of Africa's family farms.
To illustrate the false promises of SAPS, Ghana is presented as a case study. Hailed by the World Bank as its great success story, Ghana's short-term, export-oriented recovery in the 1980s and its subsequent economic malaise, highlight the missing components: its SAP was not concerned to diversify the economy, enhance infrastructure or provide basic education, health and housing. The evidence really is in. The World Bank enhanced Ghana's capacity to service its international debts. In other words, SAPs pre-eminently serve the interests of international banking; countries are saved from defaulting on their loans. It really is time for a more humane vision at the World Bank - time for radical reforms.
The concluding chapters develop Mihevc's refrain, namely that theology and economics must go hand in hand if justice is to be served and human community nurtured. As someone who studied the emergence of a prophetic voice within the South African churches as the increasingly brutal enforcement of apartheid created a Kairos moment (a moment of discernment, grace and danger demanding a response from Christians and all persons of good will), I find it fascinating to see another Kairos developing in tropical Africa. This time it is the harsh economic conditions imposed by SAPs that are arousing a prophetic response in the form of a movement for self-reliance. Mihevc sees this as a search for dignity and cultural continuity, particularly among church-based women's organizations, in the leadership of the All Africa Council of Churches and in lay centers of education for transformation. In these centers, biblical values, liberation theology and interdisciplinary social analysis strive for an alternative vision of the future - one that respected traditional communal norms. Africa, Mihevc tells us, is not down and out. The future does not have to be a lengthening series of tragedies: Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Zaire, Nigeria. Some of the continent s people are beginning to stir once more, graced with the energies of wholesome discontent, anger and compassion.
The Market Tells Them So deserves a wide audience, not only because of the light it sheds on Africa's agonizing predicament. This carefully argued book Is also an effective assault on the idol of the free market which now threatens our sense of community and well-being in North America. It is time to foster political movements that will set limits on market forces, restoring to the center of national and global debate that old concept - the common good. The current ideology that the hidden hand of the market will solve our problems, is a snare and a delusion. That this is so, can be seen with starting clarity in the suffering of Africa's peoples.
Peter Walshe teaches in the Department of Government and is a member of Common Sense.
For Services Rendered Unto Caesar
Rep. Patricia Schroeder, the Colorado Democrat who is leaving Congress this year, has nothing personal against evangelist Billy Graham. It s only that she doesn't think Congress should be in the medal-bestowing business. By those reasonable lights, Schroeder opposed a proposal to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Graham. The House vote was 401-1.
For being the lone dissenter, Schroeder has been showered with scorn. Letters of venom have poured into her office. Rush Limbaugh took a predictable whack.
It is blasphemous, apparently, to have even a marginally dismissive thought about Billy Graham. Political correctness is nothing compared with religious correctness. Accordingly, secular power recently convened in the Capitol rotunda to give the gold to Graham and applaud itself numb agreeing with Rep. Charles H. Taylor (R-N.C.), who proposed the award: Rev. Billy Graham s character and strength have made him America s most admired man. He has used his immense popularity to confront major social problems such as racism, the homeless, and hunger.
As personally gracious as Graham surely is- I played golf with him once and felt blessed by his conceding all my three-foot putts- there remains a record of his standards on public issues that documents a reality at odds with the haloed image that Congress was giddily shining with the gold medal bit.
Graham has confronted racism?
In the civil rights offensive of the 1960s, several religious leaders saw the moral urgency of standing with Martin Luther King Jr. Graham did not. Instead, he criticized from the sidelines: I am convinced that some extreme Negro leaders are going too far too fast. While King was being jailed, Graham comforted the jailers by preaching civic rectitude: I do believe we have the responsibility to obey the law. No matter what the law may be - it may be an unjust law - I believe we have a Christian responsibility to obey it.
Years after King s death, Graham the righteous was still putting down his fellow clergyman: Yes, he had his demonstrations in the street, while I had mine as lawful religious services in stadiums. After King s 1963 Lincoln Memorial I have a dream speech, Graham dismissed it by taking the messianic high ground: Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children.
And only when Christ comes again will wars, poverty and crime vanish. Meantime, have faith that Caesar- this American president or that- knows best how to face these passing problems. For preaching this support message, one president after another has made Graham his court chaplain.
The grateful Baptist delivered what was expected. For Dwight Eisenhower, Graham could say in 1960 with the Cold War in full swing: Christianity needs a show of strength and force.... We must remain the strongest military establishment on Earth.
For Lyndon Johnson, he twice toured Vietnam and as late as 1969 was effusing: There is no question- the war is already won militarily.
For George Bush, Graham came running to the White House for an overnight in January 1991 when the assault on Iraq commenced with the greatest bombing run in history. Graham held a prayer service in Washington to announce whose side God was on: There comes a time when we have to fight for peace.
After presidents, the temporal powers Graham has most sought to please have been corporate executives. He sounded the message early in his ministry by describing paradise as a Garden of Eden with no union dues, no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease. In a 1954 sermon-essay for Nation s Business, he wrote: Thousands of businessmen have discovered the satisfaction of having God as a working partner. It puts integrity into their organizations, sincerity into their sales, and spiritual and monetary profits into their hearts and pockets.
This otherworldly, risk-free style of religion has little in common with the ministries of Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Romero, the slain Maryknoll sisters, A.J. Muste, Diana Ortiz, David Dellinger, Geno Baroni, Helen Prejean, Abraham Heschel and other who threw themselves into the dirty messes of this world. Nor were they ever seduced by gold medals with which power rewards its fawning reverends.
Colman McCarthy is a columnist at the Washington Post and lectures periodically at Notre Dame.
Catholic Social Teaching: A Daens of Anger
A recent trip to the Morris Classic Video undertaken to avoid the Doldrums of the Republican convention left me reeling over the meaning of politics and Catholic identity. Belgian director Stijn Coninx' film Daens, based on Louis Paul Boon's historical novel Pieter Daens, tells the story of plural (adult male) suffrage, the foundation of the Christian Democratic party and the origins of separate Catholic social institutions in late nineteenth century Belgium. The film has particular immediacy in these days of NAFTA and downsizing, the more so in the hothouse world of Notre Dame Indiana, this little fiefdom of separate Catholic institutions
The eponymous hero, Adolf Daens, was a priest and professor. Inspired by Rerum Novarum, Leo XIII's encyclical on the condition of the workers, Daens left his teaching position and refused a parish assignment in order to work and live with his printer/publisher brother Pieter in the industrial Flemish city of Aalst. Their reporting and editorials on the desperate situation of the workers of Aalst led them to activism; Adolf became a spokesman for suffrage, founded the Christian People's Party and ran for Parliament. Coninx lets us in on the structures behind Aalst's poverty through a painfully familiar conversation among the nineteenth century CEO's and the president of the Catholic party. Assuring themselves and each other that in order to "compete on the international market," workers must be forced to accept wages below the level of subsistence, they embrace employers' agreements and "the Scottish method" -- using three workers to four machines and substituting the labor of women and children for that of men. Swasti Mitter's Common Fate Common Bond (London: Pluto Press, 1986) has demonstrated how well this approach has worked for transnationals in recent years.
The real heroes of the film are Nette Scholliers, a young woman millworker who becomes a leader among the Catholic Flemish workers, and to lesser degree the socialist agitator who courts her with loaves of bread and painful but gallant reading sessions. As a foil to their courage and enthusiasm, Coninx offers her older brother, a thug among "the bucks" -- Flemish skinheads (with hair) whose anger impels them to agitate against their own interests -- and the unappetizing foreman Schmitt who takes his vengeance on his rebellious co-workers by sexually harassing the women and raping Nette. A larger scale villain emerges in Woeste, the lay leader of the conservative Catholic party who opposes suffrage and tries to get Daens defrocked. Coninx uses Nette's ardor and persistence, her mother's generous and stoic dignity and the common sense decency of the factory director's wife to underline the gender issues of the labor struggle.
The film is imbued throughout with real "Catholic character"; its many moments of extreme poignancy and irony are wrought from Catholic experience. A scene in which the foreman Schmitt presides over the factory workers' compulsory and perfunctory recitation of the Hail Mary is cut into glimpses of the pregnant teenager Nini "of the wet cherry," who drifts through a life of insults and deprivations to her death by freezing. Bishop Stillemans offers his ring to his obsequious secretary, suggesting that he keep it for a week so as to be able to kiss it whenever he likes. When Woeste lobbies to get Daens defrocked, the Belgian hierarchy conducts their delicate and ambiguous negotiations with his emissary over a game of billiards. The King of Belgium reassures his female dining partner that the Congolese who serves them at table was especially chosen for him by the Cardinal and not only "not dangerous" but even "a better Christian than some whites." The child laborer Jefke, disappointed in his attempt to replicate the multiplication of the loaves, is killed by a circus tiger whose meat he tries to steal.
Most of all in this year of the US elections, Daens provides terrible parable of the extreme ambiguity of "Catholic social teaching," particularly teaching by institutional example. Neither the Belgian hierarchy nor the Vatican proves willing to support Daens' application of Rerum Novarum and the gospels to the poor and the Christian bourgeoisie of Belgium. Nor, on the other hand, will they jeopardize the allegiance of the Belgian workers by condemning him. Instead, they play a waiting game. The Belgian hierarchy at first withholds support from Daens, but also resists Woeste's demands that Daens be defrocked. When Cardinal Goosens tells Woeste that there is nothing in canon law that permits him to forbid a priest from running for parliament, I was visited with foreboding and regret. Now of course, there is. Daens becomes the precursor of Robert Drinan, forced to resign his seat in congress to remain a Jesuit; the brothers Ernesto and Fernando Cardenale, excluded from the priesthood for their role in the Sandinista government; Jean- Bertrand Aristide, laicised for his political leadership of the poor of Haiti. For me, Woeste played a role even closer to home: that of the lay "pro-life"organizations that have urged the bishops of South Bend and of Hartford to excommunicate my colleague Richard McBrien (a priest of the Hartford Archdiocese as well as a theologian).
As a favor to Woeste, Leo XIII calls Daens to Rome, but never deigns to see him, finally rewarding his patience with a letter that neither supports nor condemns his efforts, but only demands unity and opposition to the socialists. Dissembling this papal fence-sitting, Daens struggles through a first term in parliament, claiming Rerum Novarum for the poor of Belgium, while Woeste taunts him with inside knowledge of his humiliation at the hands of the Pope. Forced to choose between priesthood and parliament, he wins a second term without the protection of the cloth. Daens died in 1907, the year that Pius X's encyclical Pascendi condemned a wide range of theological thinkers under the dubious label of "modernism."
Events of recent weeks have kept the film's representations of the ambiguous politics of "Catholic social teaching" forward in my consciousness. The highly ambitious Archbishop of Philadelphia, Anthony Bevilacqua, has staked another claim on national attention by joining three of his red-hatted henchmen to oppose Cardinal Bernardin's attempt to inspire dialogue among Catholics. They're afraid that Bernardin might foolishly give the impression that Catholics are allowed not only to think but, worse yet, to talk about their faith. Friends in Philadelphia (my former diocese) tell me that this summer Bevilacqua required that parishes pass out postcards with which the parishioners could protest Mayor Rendell's decision to give domestic partner benefits to people who work on his staff. This extremely minor and admittedly political gesture on Rendell's part applied to fewer than five hundred people, most of whom are married to their domestic partners anyway. But apparently, Catholic values and the family are threatened by making it easier for maybe twenty gays to get health insurance. Did Bevilacqua require parishes to pass out postcards asking Clinton to push for universal health care? To sign the minimum wage law? Not to sign the welfare bill?
The U.S. bishops did mount a significant lobbying effort against the so-called welfare reform bill. But at present they seem to have forgotten it and reverted to safer politics. As I write, the Observer reports that Notre Dame Right to Life is participating in a postcard campaign organized by the bishops to protest Clinton's veto of the bill banning the rare, urgent procedure that has been villainized as "partial birth abortion." Clinton has virtually invited congress to reintroduce the bill with a provision for safeguarding the mother's health. So political energy expended in the postcard campaign will have little effect beyond placing the bishops behind the anti- abortion, anti-gay "family values" agenda that has proved so successful at distracting the populace from the upward distribution of wealth carefully orchestrated by the economic gurus of the right.
Watching Daens, I was stunned by its relevance to the politics of 1996 and mightily puzzled by the question of what had inspired Coninx to make the film in 1992. "What was going on in Belgium in 1992?" I asked myself; and "how much of this was directed actually to ecclesiastical politics?" But the answer was not in Belgium in 1992, but in Rome in 1991 - the hundredth anniversary of Rerum Novarum. Centesimus Annus, the encyclical that celebrated this occasion, showed the present pope to be a worthy successor of the Leo XIII who left Daens cooling his heels in the splendiferous Vatican antechambers. While calling for solidarity with the poor, the encyclical claimed that "Exploitation, at least in the forms analyzed and described by Karl Marx, has been overcome in Western society" (42, p.59). Hello? Where was I when that happened? Endorsing economic freedom of the market, the letter took to task "the Social Assistance State" which "leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies," offering in its place"volunteer work." It seems to have been written for the aid and comfort of preachers of the free market faith like Jack Kemp and Archer Daniels Midland, while tossing a few crumbs to Bread for the World and Pax Christi. It all helps to explain the place of the church's employment practices in "Catholic social teaching."
See Daens if you want to get fired up about these dreary elections. Suffrage, schooling and unions were worth the fight; what we need is the energy to make them work again -- and for the rest of us.
Mary Rose D'Angelo is an associate professor in the Department of Theology and teaches in the Gender Studies Program.
Capitalism and Industrialization in the Third World
The industrialization that has been achieved in the Third World during the postwar period has taken place for the most part under the aegis of extensive state involvement in the economy. Now, however, that situation has changed: more free markets (and less state involvement) are trumpeted as the appropriate environment for new forms and higher levels of industrialization. What are the prospects for this new industrialization? Can it be successful? Is there space within the global capitalist environment for the Third World--or the Fourth, Fifth, etc. Worlds--to industrialize? If not, is there an alternative?
It is, of course, ironic that the idea of free markets-- together with privatization, deregulation, and so on--has acquired such prominence at this point in time. And not only by the usual suspects (the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the economic advisors in the East who, we are led to believe, had been secretly reading Hayek and Milton Friedman under the noses of the central planners): many on the Left now come forward and, in the form of personal confessions, disavow the "excesses" and "mistakes" of their political youth and proclaim their allegiance to the eternal verities of the market.
The ironies abound. First, the Americanization of world economic thinking has taken place precisely as the economic and social situation in the United States has rapidly deteriorated. Not for everyone, of course: recent figures show that the richest one percent of Americans reaped three-fourths of the gain in income during the past decade and a half. By the beginning of this decade, the net worth of these same households--all of them millionaires at a minimum--was greater than the bottom 90 percent of Americans. "We're number one" now means: highest levels of drug abuse and addiction, percentage of the black population incarcerated (higher than in South Africa!), economic and social infrastructure in disrepair (not only bridges and roads but also the 2-parent household enshrined in American sitcoms). The sight of Range Rovers being maneuvered by American yuppies through city streets is reminiscent (albeit without the bulletproof plating) of chauffeur-driven all-terrain vehicles in San Salvador or Djakarta. In this case at least, the least developed have shown the most developed their future.
Another irony of the political triumph of free-market economics in the 1990s is that, at the same time, there is growing trend in economic analysis to show that markets "get it wrong." The case for government intervention is now ubiquitous: linkages are important for economic development, coordination failures play a key role in business cycles. And now the "new trade theory" demonstrates the significance of non-comparative advantage trade: countries do not necessarily specialize and trade in order to take advantage of their (given) differences; they also trade because there are increasing returns, which makes specialization advantageous per se. Thus, most goods that enter international commerce are produced by imperfectly competitive industries. What this means is that the pattern of specialization and trade around the globe is arbitrary: who produces what is the result of history, "accidents," and past government policies; it is not dictated--as the free-market, comparative-advantage theorists would have us believe--by given tastes, resources, and technology. The so-called new trade theory is buttressed by the "discovery" that the industrialization success of the East Asian countries owes little to free markets and is mostly the product of active government involvement.
What is not ironic is that the export-oriented path of industrialization advocated by free-market economists and policy- makers is the only viable path to industrialization left for much of the South (Third World countries). The changes that have occurred over the past decade--as a result of "solving" the debt crisis, with the depression in the North (industrialized countries) and the decline in the rate of growth world trade-- have decimated domestic markets in the Third World. The IMF's recent revisions of national income figures on the basis of "purchasing-power parities" have lessened the gap between the North and the South. But the growth of poverty and income inequality within Third World nations have all but eliminated the possibility of relying on domestic mass consumption as the impetus for industrialization. The only remaining market for the growth of manufacturing and other industries lies outside the South.
The absurdity, as the World Bank itself has shown, is that it would only require a transfer of x% of private consumption to the y% of the people whose incomes place them below the poverty line ($350 in 199z) to lift them all above that line. So near yet so far! But the freeing up of markets will, if anything, shift assets from the poor to the rich. Or, with current privatization efforts, from the state to private hands. In this case, however, as state enterprises are sold to private--domestic and foreign-- investors, both sides gain: the state succeeds in eliminating an important source of fiscal deficits and in filling, on a one-time basis, state coffers while wealthy individuals and corporations acquire assets for much less than it would cost them to build them up over time. Part of the reorganization of the newly privatized enterprises involves laying off employees who are then forced to have the freedom to join the ranks of the reserve army- -or, as it is now referred to in development circles, the informal sector. The result is to further shrink that part of the domestic market devoted to mass consumption. What then are the prospects for Third World industrialization? The other side of declining real wages and impoverished informal sector incomes is the growth of profits: both those that are retained by the enterprises and those that are distributed to company officials, bribed politicians, and investors in the rejuvenated or newly created stock exchanges. These profits are, of course, a source of demand, but rarely for the products of domestic industry. Instead, they are used either to employ personal servants (to cook, to clean, or to stand guard) or to import luxury goods from abroad. Wage-earners and those in the informal sector are, in turn, reduced to participating in mass consumption via television commercials--or actually purchasing goods in the cottage industries of the informal sector and food from the countryside. The only market for industrialization that remains is the international one.
Not surprisingly, the prophets of the "new competition" are waiting on the doorstep, with their transparencies of new forms of organization and slick speeches about "flexible specialization" and the importance of CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) and CNC (computer numerically controlled), to advise enterprises about the best way to break into world markets. Some enterprises will, in fact, become successful exporters on this basis--but mostly in countries where industrialization and the technical and social infrastructure have already reached a high degree of sophistication. For the rest, low-cost (low-wage, assembly) production is the only "arbitrary" advantage that can serve as a platform for export-oriented industrialization.
The fact is that, subject to the usual fits and starts and unevenness of all kinds (from individual industries that will be destroyed by import competition and others that will never get off the ground to the emergence of low-wage "maquiladoras" and high-tech "growth poles"), Third World industrialization will continue to proceed apace. Then under the "hot house" for industry created by protectionist barriers and state ownership, now under free markets and more private forms of capitalism. The question is not whether such a strategy can be successful but, instead, what are its effects and are there no alternatives?
The economic and social punishment meted out in the name of industrialization has been well documented. The devastation of the rain forests and other ecological disasters, women and children toiling in multinational sweatshops, men swelling the parking lot for the poor in Third World cities. It is increasingly difficult to argue that more industrialization is better than less--at least if it is the same sort of industrialization that has taken place in the past and that continues to be proffered as the only possibility today. What, then, is the alternative? The first step in the direction of formulating an alternative is to challenge the limits within which current economic thinking is confined. For example, introducing class into the analysis of industrialization disrupts the limits imposed by forms of economic discourse that moves back and forth between structures and human nature, governments and markets. Then it is possible to "see" the existence of exploitation--and, of course, to begin to imagine alternatives to that exploitation. And when class is brought in, it is necessary to carry out the investigation at all social sites: not only in offices and factories but also in other areas of social life, such as households. Only on this basis can we begin to recognize the labor of women and, even more important, the radical class restructuring within households that is currently taking place as a result of the process of Third World industrialization.
It may then be possible to challenge the limits within which economic policy is currently confined. For example, to the simple choice between carrying out a competitiveness-enhancing strategy on the basis of government involvement or free trade it is possible to create a strategy of taking particular areas of economic and social life out of competition altogether. Rather than being structured according to the dictates of competition-- whether foreign or domestic--areas as diverse as health care, housing finance, and manufacturing production can be reorganized as community activities. Or, on a national level, a tariff structure can be devised to govern the terms of trade between countries on the basis of various criteria of social welfare such as human rights, environmental protection, and the like. In both cases, the effect is to recognize the alien power that is created by both state-centered and free-market forms of capitalist industrialization and to move beyond it, to begin to create the conditions for alternative, communal or collective, forms of industrialization.
David F. Ruccio is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Notre Dame.
Political Faux Pas
Everyone agrees that politics in an election year are especially dirty, negative and morally corrupt. This year has been no different with candidates slinging mud at every opportunity. However, in some circumstances, injustices are committed by both parties and remain virtually unscrutinized by the public. I had the opportunity to attend the Republican Convention in San Diego and the Democratic Convention in Chicago and besides the sickenly sweet made for TV scripts, there were some disturbing events that occurred.
In San Diego the controversial political issue is illegal immigration. In 1992, President Clinton started Operation Gatekeeper which was designed to prevent poverty stricken hispanics in search of economic empowerment from entering this country. Although still held up in the courts, California passed Proposition 187 in 1994 which prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving benefits such as education and medical care. The Republicans passed their platform at the Convention and did not hesitate to show disdain toward immigrants, legal and illegal.
Interestingly enough, more than 80% of the wait staff at the Republican Convention comprised legal and illegal hispanic immigrants who spoke no English. Also, an overwhelming majority of the housekeeping staff at the hotels inhabited by the Republicans during the week were Mexican immigrants. The delegates were content to have their beds made, coffee served, and dishes washed by these same immigrants who in their opinion have no right to be here in the first place. But, they still had enough gall to demand that English be proclaimed the official language of the United States.
The more multi-cultural conscious Democrats did not make the same blunder at their convention, but they too could not make up their minds on certain issues. Just days before the Convention, President Clinton declared war on tobacco companies. He called for a ban on cigarette machines accessible to minors and severe curtailment of advertisements by limiting Joe Camel's wardrobe to black and white in the pages of magazines and keeping him at least 1000 feet away from any school. Vice President Al Gore also told a heart wrenching story of how his sister died of lung cancer due to cigarette smoking.
The first gala of the Democratic Convention was held at Navy Pier in Chicago for all the delegates and media representatives. There was free food, beer and wine along with Ferris wheel, carousel and boat rides. There were four different stages of live music and 20,000 people enjoying themselves immensely. At whose expense? Philip Morris Company was one of the main sponsors. Apparently, money donated by tobacco companies must not come from the sale of cigarettes to minors because if so then the Democrats enjoyed themselves heartily at the cost of addicted teenagers.
The politicians campaigning in this election year have assailed the American people because of our declining moral values. They charge that crime is too high, drug use is on the rise, those on welfare are too lazy to work, and our families are breaking down. Moral rot has not just affected the common people, but the political elite as well. Maybe when political parties give up their paradoxical behavior and practice what they preach, the public will begin to take action on some serious existing problems.
Molly Gavin is a senior in the College of Arts and Letters.
Inside the Walls of the Master's House
No organization, or member of any organization on behalf the organization may encourage or participate in any activity which contravenes the mission of the University, or the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.
The Source: Student Organization Handbook, University of Notre Dame, p. 26
Something quite extraordinary, maybe even criminal, happened recently at Notre Dame: feminists met and talked about abortion from both sides of the issue at a University organized and funded event. Extraordinary, yes, but criminal? Well, according to The Source, this event should not have happened because it was against the University rules of organization . However, it did happen. But I'm quite not sure which part of this occasion was most the extraordinarily criminal: the fact that 1) there are quite a few courageous women at Notre Dame willing to come out as feminists, 2) there were enough feminists at Notre Dame to hold a conversation , or 3) there was at least a two-sided 'conversation' about abortion funded by Notre Dame?
For those of you who missed this near miraculous event let me explain. During the week of September 1, Women's Resource Center, Feminists for Life, the Gender Studies Program, and the Center for Social concerns organized a two-part program titled: Life/Choice: Rethinking Feminist Conversations on Abortion. Part I: The Challenges of Intra-Feminist Dialogue consisted of three faculty members for History, English and the Peace Institute speaking on how feminists and women in general might come back together to work for necessary social change despite their real and divisive differences on the issue of abortion. Part 2: Feminist Reflections on Abortion: Understanding Difference brought in two outside speakers on either side of the abortion issue to present the larger social investments and effects of the life or choice positions.
I guess what I think is so extraordinary about this event is that it took place at Notre Dame. The first reason for my wonderment is that there is little practical support, if not down right hostility toward women, on this campus for trying to achieve even the most middle-of-the-road feminist s goals, i.e., equal representation in the exercise of University power. The second reason is that Notre Dame is a Company town whose parent corporation is the Catholic Church. Therefore, the everyday lived practice of voices of its residents are limited to the Church Choir.
Even conceding the historical lag in progressive institutional change resulting from the fact that Notre Dame went coed in 1971, Notre Dame s record on attending to the specific living conditions of women, let alone feminist goals, is bad. Look at the facts:
A) It took a successful class action suit to get Notre Dame to hire, promote, and tenure women professors. And, the institutional success of this class action suit has recently been called into question by the frighteningly disproportionate number of negative tenure decisions among women faculty--one of which has resulted in a new suit.
B) While some may say that the litigious road to equality was a national trend, Notre Dame stands out of step nationally in that it only started a Gender Studies Program here in the very late date of 1988. Then it was funded provisionally by a Lily Foundation Grant, and since the end of that funding the Gender Studies Program--the fastest growing program at the University-- has had to fight cut backs in its already woefully inadequate staff and monies every year. To this day, its academic and support scope is limited severely by this lack of consistent University funding, and lack of University respect for its status as an important research and campus life operation--something all of Notre Dame s peer institutions have acknowledged with funds and institutional sovereignty long ago. Oh, yes...Peer institutions are those other universities by which Notre Dame measures its accomplishments nationally; they are the institutions that Notre Dame administrators see as the university s present and future parallels.
C) But the lateness and the ill-treatment of the Gender Studies program is only one part of the story of neglect that includes the even-later installation of a Women s Resource Center. This group came into existence only two years ago--again another campus facility that was a reality at our peer institutions years ago--and is so ill-funded and ideologically restricted that its voice has been allowed barely above a whisper. Indeed, the University keeps is The Women's Resource Center limited by insisting it be a student activity, instead of what it is most other schools, a University sponsored facility bringing together and attending to the needs and demands of all the women of the University. And even this whisper is only possible in large part by a generous and anonymous contribution of funds from the budget of a chaired professor. Without this extra-funding, The Women s Resource Center would have to change its name to A Woman s Resource Center for all the outreach its University limited budget and status allows.
These three facts of life at Notre Dame manifest a deep institutional disregard for women in the academy in general and on the campus in particular even without the taking into account the echo of feminism that resounds in each of these events. The problem with feminism on this campus, is really a problem with the religious mission of the University. No less than the Pope, his holiness himself, has targeted feminism as antithetical (most likely soon to be heretical) to the mission of the Catholic Church.
It doesn t take much U.S. History to figure out why this is so, but for those of you who missed that chapter on the rise of contemporary, or second wave feminism the reason is simple. Contemporary feminism has taken as its political standards the personal is political and Your body is the battleground . These two rallying cries unite in the radical political practice of allowing a woman to make informed decisions around the fullest set of choices possible in our democracy about her body--its sexual practice, its reproductive life, its medical treatments, its economic relations, and its work possibilities .
We all know that the Catholic Church would have little problem with the feminist voice around economics and work (unless that work happens to be the priesthood). However when it annexes those concerns away from the other issues, it annexes itself from feminism. Simply put, this means that when a feminist voice speaks for broad and open sex education and reproductive rights, as well as a socially realistic range of responsible choices in the practice of sexuality, the Catholic Church not only refuses to listen, but works to silence the voice. So when speaking about abortion as a feminist on the Notre Dame campus, you are speaking in an already pitched discussion.
The pitch of the discussion is heard in the restrictions on The Women s Resource Center noted above in The Source: Student Organization Handbook. This rule for student organizations means that the Women s Resource Center cannot have a discussion in which a pro-choice position is offered as a responsible opinion about abortion. It also means that the Women s Resource Center cannot have a discussion in which artificial birth control, or, the full range of safe sex choices are promoted as a responsible part of the practice one s sexuality. Nor can it have a discussion in which gay, lesbian, or bisexuality is treated as a positive practices of sexuality. In effect the Women s Resource Center cannot voice the feminist position regularly heard in the nation today.
The pitch of the discussion can be heard in the fact there are already two student organizations that take as their sole mission the promotion of a federal ban on all abortions: ND Right to Life and Feminists for Life. While I applaud student organizations working on issues that take them beyond campus life and into life of the nation, given the institutional restrictions noted above there could be no ND satellite of NARL or Planned Parenthood. I ask myself where is the balance of opinion here? Where is the balancing of voices on the issues here? Where is the principle of free discussion in this institutional regulation?
And, finally, the pitch can be heard in the institutionally organized discussions on the Catholic Character of Notre Dame which would have the limitations established in The Source for Student Organizations extend rigorously to hiring, tenuring and promoting faculty, administrators, and staff. And, if it is true what I have been told off-the-record that recently during the review of a woman candidate for a senior faculty position, objections were raised about her qualifications for a job at Notre Dame based on the Catholic Character issue which was determined in this case by her stand on abortion: personally pro-life, but civically pro-choice. Though these questions were set aside and in the end did not derail the appointment, the fact that a woman s position on abortion comes up at all in the consideration of her qualifications for a University appointment suggests that there is a discussion with a very decided tone about this issue going on somewhere and among some people.
There is another kind danger around the work of feminism at this University that this mini-conference exposes. It is the more complicated issue of what should been said first, or, in terms of TV's hospital dramas, TRIAGE, what condition needs to be treated immediately. I guess my final concern is that sitting around talking about abortion in general among ourselves is a being a little tone deaf. As noble as this exercise is, ultimately this largess keeps the sounds in our own house free and safe from political dissonance.
Let me explain. What you read above was not supposed to be part of the feminsts rethinking abortion conference. It was not what I was asked or expected to talk about. I was suppose to talk about ABORTION and FEMINISM on the Capital and National scene. What you read was what I eventually felt I had to talk about. Specifically, my change of topic was prompted by the planning meetings in which I participated where there was a great deal of discussion about the balance of both opinions and speaking power, that is, what got said and who got to speak officially, but no discussion of where we were speaking.
These issues of balance came to the fore because even after the best laid plans of all the women involved, the official panel was composed of three variously styled pro-choice faculty. Thus, the responsibility for voicing the official pro-life opinion was left to the students from the Feminists for Life. This seemed a problem because of the way the panel presentations were planned the student speakers had no offical voice. The student representatives from both The Women's Resource Center and Feminist for Life were being included only to introduce the conference and locate its source as a result of their own difficult efforts to talk to each other. We all realized that the students were being made to take on the responsibility for the occasion, while remaining somewhat sidelined with respect for its content.
I was worried about these kinds of issues around balance too, especially since I was taking the spot made vacant by the absence of a pro-life faculty speaker. As a teacher, the power dynamics of speaking at a university event are always something I consider. In a sense I think of these events as part of my teaching function. Indeed, my name was advertised with my departmental affiliation as the marker of my authority. However, after a week of understandably hurried and catch-as-catch-can meetings, I realized that even after a great deal of consideration of these two kinds of power imbalances--opinion and student-to-teacher--still I was feeling like there was another imbalance and I was on its down side.*
I realized that in all our dicussions about balance, we never considered the institutional structure of our discussion--The University of Notre Dame. Here was the reason for the obscured imbalance that I felt as a pro-choice feminist talking about abortion. I realized that not considering the institutional blueprint of Notre Dame, I was operating in a fantasy of a free opinion and a plurality of voices. Once I stopped to consider the fact that we were going to be talking in the hallowed walls of Notre Dame, I realized that we were getting ourselves involved in a healthy and ongoing discussion about abortion in which there are rules of order that have already determined who gets to speak and who gets listened to. We were ignoring this other discussion--its source and its real effects. So, when I sat down to write my talk about how and where feminists could come together on the abortion debate at Notre Dame, I realized that speaking as if my words were free was at best a naive utopian effort, and at worst a sci-fi scenario of life at another university.
I became concerned that we were proceeding according to the simple belief in the transparency of truth, but this time around we were operating under the assumption that orality and aurality, that is, speaking and hearing--are free. With our top heavy title of "The Challlenges of Intra-feminist Dialogue", we were proceeding as if a feminist discussion on abortion at Notre Dame could happen outside any larger institutional, ideological, or socially unconscious frame. We were acting as if coming together as feminists to talk about abortion choices there would be no echo, no in-house acoustics. In other words, we were just giving voice to a topic that for no reason in particular no one had got around to discussing before.
Actually, what was implied in the title and throughout the planning sessions of which I was a part, was that the reason for the obvious absence of this discussion on the Notre Dame campus was that feminists were divided on the issue themselves, and so they could not talk to each other. So, no one was talking about abortion on the Notre Dame campus because of the acrimonious division between philosophies on life among feminists ourselves. In effect we were saying that we were silencing ourselves and everybody else with our own supposed failure to come to terms with ourselves. The proof of this is that the stated goal of the mini-conference was to rethink the dialogue among feminists.
At this time and in this house, taking feminist self-review as one of our primary goals sounds like guilt, sounds like we are taking the responsibility for the sounds of silence. To reject these sounds of gulity feminism, we have to reject the myth of liberal pluralism that gave the logic to the mini-conference itself. This is hard because very idea of a University and its mission of truth telling is founded on the belief that it is the place of the free expression and open analysis of many voices. Therefore, as University professionals we were acting as if an intra-feminist dialogue would make feminist change at Notre Dame because the simple voicing of many opinions leads to truth, and then, if ncecesary change.
However, let's look at what else is implied about the idea that the University is a place of free exchange. In this myth of free or freed dialogue, the absence of any particular voice and opinion is due to a self-imposed silence produced by either a lack of courage or self-consciousness on the part of the silent or silenced ones. In this myth, the nation and the University are just waiting benevolently--all be it a little tone-deaf--to hear what we, feminists, have to say. So, if they have not been listening to us, it is because we have not been talking, or, more to the point, not talking well. Therefore, in the spirit of femininsts-heal-thyselves, we tell ourselves and the University that we need elocution lessons at the least, and international conflict resolution skills at the most.
As meritoriously pluralist and liberal as this goal of intra- feminist dialogue was, I m not sure that a discussion on abortion on the Notre Dame campus should have been seen as primarily correcting a problem with the exercise of the feminist voices on this issue or any other. I mean, when in the recent history of Notre Dame have feminists been primarily responsible for silencing themselves? Isn t the real problem around intra- feminist dialogue at Notre Dame best expressed by the trope of the town gossips in which women are depicted as endlessly chit- chatting among themselves about matters of little concern to the really important issues of living one's life. In the same way, whenever feminists talk to themselves at Notre Dame, the institutional structures that exsist reduce that talk to little more than gossip. A case in point was last year's Gender Studies' Roundtable on Sexual Harrassment at which there was only one member of the University Adminstation present, though all RA's, deans, provosts, and assorted policy makers were invited. So, while I think self-review and critique is necessary for any movement, I don't think that is the most obvious or necessary activity here.
Really...in the end I don t think the silence or acrimony among feminists at Notre Dame on the abortion issue is an problem with our hearing, or even the real problem for us at Notre Dame. We must confront the real problem with our hearing which is where we are doing our talking. Black feminist thinker Audre Lorde has called this the problem of difference in the master s house which has built into to all of us, old blueprints of expectation and response, old structures of oppression through which we keep our voices down and directed against ourselves.
Lorde's caution makes me think that the problem of constructing a balanced discussion among feminists on abortion at Notre Dame begins when we first discuss the fact that we are speaking in a house whose acoustics are engineered to echo our Master s Voice--The Catholic Church Choir. The discussion continues by working to find strategies to "talk" to the powers that be about our issues as we live them in their house. It succeeds when we get them to 'listen' to us. Therefore, the practice of our feminist voices must be to alter the very walls of Notre Dame so that Gender Studies, Women s Resource Center, and a woman s character can sound catholic--with a small c.
* It needs to be made clear that this spot was made vacant not for lack of invitation or failure to utilize a good size list of such faculty composed by the Feminists For Life. By all accounts, the planning committee acted in good faith. In the end, it was scheduling problems that created the vacancy. It should also be noted that this event had been in the works since last May, and the dates set in stone at that time. The dates and time of the conference never changed, only the schedules of the variously invited speakers.
Gloria-Jean Masciarotte is a professor in the Department of English.