INTOLERANCE

AN ACADEMIC DRAMA IN NINE ACTS




Extract from the STUDENT COURSE GUIDE, page 27, Humanities Div:


Humanities 304, Studies in the Humanistic Tradition, Prof. X.

We interviewed the Professor about Humanities 304, and quote a few of his remarks:

"The college teacher in the present century has assumed varied roles. Some feel it is his responsibility to present to the students in a "lecture" (Latin lectura "a reading") what he has read in summary form, so that they will not have to read it all through. Some assume that students cannot really read texts accurately, and go over the reading point by point to ensure comprehension. Others do nothing more than attend the class and encourage discussion, withdrawing their presence in favor of student participation. But a few, like myself, believe that:

1) A Professor should have something to profess, a point of view, a set of ideas which emanate from years of lucubration and experience.

2) The Professor should set forth in his best and widest-ranging scope the Whole of the Argument, howsoever tortuous and inter-concatenated it may be, because this gives a keyhole view of the way his mind works, which may be the most important thing a true Professor has to offer. Information may well be lost a few years out of college, but that inner view of the operation of a teacher's mind and how it works --- this is often something which forms the student for life."




Comment from the Student Editors:

Prof. X. is given to complex lectures which are the desperation of congenital note-takers. Often he seems to ramble, he may be incomprehensible to those used to coaching or linear progressions. Such students should avoid this course like the plague, it has just one huge paper and a final exam for grades. For the student who wants a challenge, this course is recommended strongly, but only if there is patience and perseverance.




SCENE: Room 231, Third Floor of Wallaby Memorial Hall

TIME: Seminar starting at 3 PM each Thursday, a break at 4:15, and resume until 6 PM.




Professor X. enters the crowded classroom at 3:12 PM, late as usual, and begins:

Act I: Introduction.

"The title of this lecture " Christian and Communist," may seem to contain an unlikely association of names, but bear with me as I unravel a rather tortuous argument, and come finally to a set of conclusions which are disturbing to hear, even more disturbing to make peace with later. I must progress through the stages of this process in detail, going from point to point, even though some of you may fall asleep or question the course before the hour is out. Whether you follow me exactly or not, you will come at the end to a serious and surprising conclusion. Give me a moment to get my get my notes in order, and we can begin..............

" How I came to be involved with this problem:

"I think it is important to indicate my position right away, since I am, involved with the subject personally. This topic is one which has been with me for the greater part of my teaching years. It was in l951 that I emerged from the graduate curriculum of a prestigious Eastern University, holding a fresh parchment page in Latin with my name on it, which entitled me to "enjoy" the right, duties and privileges of said Ph.D. degree. I never thought of really enjoying these things as I went through decades of life in academic institutions, any more than I enjoyed looking at my photograph on my Driver's License. To get to my first teaching position, I bought large, much abused International Harvester truck, put my worldly belongings (consisting of a piano, some woodworking tools, and many, many boxes of books) into it, and started out on the primitive network of roads which then connected Boston with the State of Washington. Driving that route now on super-highways you can hardly imagine dilapidated, two lane roads constructed in l928, but the journey was done and I at last arrived at the college which had engaged me as a teacher for less pay than a bookkeeper who has managed to get a high school equivalency diploma.

"After cleaning up at the motel, I presented myself to the President of the college, who greeted me warmly and immediately took me into a small room where lay open on a desk an large and imposing Register, which he asked me to sign. That was my first meeting with the Loyalty Oath!

"In those days I was unpolitical, my only contacts with the government were a few years with the army and several years in graduate school funded by the government. I was a student of times past, of the flow of humanistic thinking, of literature and art. And a young veteran of a major war, I was surprised to be asked to demonstrate my Loyalty to my country, with my signature in the big book. I was shocked, I thought it over for a few minutes, but I did it, since I had nothing to hide, and two weeks driving the truck back East was not a consideration to be taken lightly.

" Now that we look back on those Congressional Committee days, it all seems very bad. If some of our people felt there was Communist danger behind every pumpkin shell, most of us now know that McCarthy and his committee were flagrantly breaching the very basis of democratic procedure and law. Nowadays you can see on late-evening TV the filmed record of those times, the distasteful harassing of bright people who had read Marx, gone to a Party meeting to see what it was like, or just had friends who believed in an improved social order. This was not far different from the New Order which Roosevelt was fighting bitterly through the recalcitrant Supreme Court in the l930's. But Marx had gone sour through Lenin and turned criminal with Stalin, all of which was not to become clear until decades later. In those days many bright minds looked at the new social doctrine from Russia, just looked at it ........and most went away fast. But it was that look that was to incriminate them later, costing thousands in the academic world, in the arts, in government their very right to work.....for some forever. This was a bad time, but back then the implications passed me by, as I signed the register in the college President's walnut lined office, thinking of what teaching would be like in the coming weeks."

Act II

"A few years later, teaching Classics students at another university, I was reading with students the letter of Pliny the Younger which discusses"The Christian Problem", which is #96 in Book 10 of his collection of Literary Letters. There is much historical value to all of Pliny's Letters, they record the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. with astonishing reporterage, they supply material to his friend Tacitus for use in the histories. But the last book, that odd Book X, is quite different. It is a the record of a series of matters on which Pliny, now in charge of judicial proceedings representing the government (imperium) in Asia Minor in 111-112 A.D., consults with the Emperor Trajan, whose answers were pertinent and clear, and also de facto points of Roman Law as "responsa" from the supreme authority. In Letter 96 Pliny summarizes his questions about the "Christian Problem", and in the following letter we have the Emperor's succinct answer.

"McCarthy-ism was still functioning in my early teaching days, reading the pages of this two thousand years old Latin, I saw immediately that what we were doing to suspected Communists was virtually the same as what the Romans were doing to Christians. It was not a general similarity of situation, in fact there were many details which seemed similar, often parallel and at times identical. This document still seems to me so important that I have decided to write out for you a new translation of Pliny's Latin, aiming for legal clarity with no fudged wording, so we can try to draw our deductions from this amazing document, and compare it with what we all now know about he shameless and illegal McCarthy episode in our own history.

"Please pass around the class the handout of my translation (Pliny Book X, Letter 96/7), you take the right side, and will you please take the left? Thank you!

Since the letter is only a few pages long, why don't you read it through now, think about it a few minutes, and I'll be back presently.




Act III

Gaius Plinius to the Emperor Trajan

"It is for me an important point of responsibility to refer to you as Head of State, things about which I have questions, since you are the person best able to set straight my hesitations and correct my lack of information.

"Actually I have never been present at a Examination (cognitio) of Christians, so I do not know what punishment is required or how far it is to be carried out. Nor do I understand the legal grounds for a prosecution, or how stringently it is to be prosecuted. I am not clear about prosecutions in respect to the age of the persons, whether no distinction should be made between the young and the old, and furthermore whether a pardon should be granted in cases of recanting, or if there is no advantage for a person completely ceasing to be a Christian. Or is it the name "Christian" which is prosecutable, even if not involved in criminal actions, or is that "criminality" is automatically attached to the name?

"In the meantime, I now handle it this way with those who are turned over to me as Christians. I ask them directly, in person, if they are Christian, I ask a second and third time to be sure, and indicate to them the danger of their situation. If they persist, I order them led dispatched (= executed). I have had no trouble with this, since whatever it was they admitted or professed, I decided that their obstinacy and unyielding inflexibility should be sufficient reason for punishment. Some others who were virtually insane with this cult, but Roman citizens, I sent back to Rome for trial.

"As I continue with this handling of the situation, as often happens, the numbers and kinds of incriminations are becoming more widespread. An anonymous List has been brought out which contains the names of a great many persons. I decided to dismiss charges again any on this list who stated that they were now not, nor had ever been Christians, if they repeated after me a prayer of invocation to the Gods, and made an offering of wine and incense to your statue, which I had brought in to the court along with the statues of the Gods, for this purpose. And in addition they were to formally curse Christ, which I understand true Christians will never do.

"Other named by the anonymous List said they were Christians, and later changed their statement. Some said that they had been and then stopped, some three years before, some longer, some even twenty years before. All these reverenced your statue and those of the Gods, and cursed Christ. They stated that the sum total of their error or misjudgment, had been coming to a meeting on a given day before dawn, and singing responsively a hymn to Christ as to God, swearing with a holy oath not to commit any crime, never to steal or commit robbery, commit adultery, fail a sworn agreement or refuse to return a sum left in trust.

"When all this was finished, it was their custom to go their separate ways, and later re-assemble to take food of an ordinary and simple kind. But after my edict which forbids all political Societies, they did in fact give this up.I thought at this point that it was necessary to get information from two slave women, whom they call Deaconesses (ministrae) about the actual truth, by means of torture. I found nothing worthy of blame other than the blind and over-wrought nature of their cult-superstition.

"I have therefore postponed further Examinations (cognitiones) and made haste to come to you immediately for consultation. This situation seem to demand serious consultation, especially in view of the large number of people falling into this danger. A great many persons of every age, of every social class, men and women alike, are being brought in to trial, and this seems likely to continue. It is not only the cities, but also the towns and even the country villages which are being infected with this cult-contagion.

"It seems possible to check and reverse this direction at this point, for it is quite clear that the Temples of the Gods which have been empty for so long, now begin to be filled again, the sacred rites which had lapsed are now being performed and flesh for sacrificial rites is now sold again at the shops, although for a while nobody would buy it. So it seems reasonable to think that a great many people could be persuaded to reform, IF there were a legal procedure for Repentance."




The Emperor Trajan to Pliny

"You have done the right thing, my dear Pliny, in handling the cases of those who were brought to you under the charge of being Christians. But it is not possible to make hard and fast rule with one specific formula. These people must not be searched out, if they are brought before your court and the case against them is proved, they must be punished, but in the case of anyone who states that he is not a Christian and makes it perfectly clear that he is not, by offering prayers to out Gods, such a one is to be pardoned on the grounds of his present repentance, however suspect he may have been in the past. But anonymous lists must not have any place in the court proceedings. They are a terrible example and not at all in keeping with our times."




INTERMISSION at the mid-seminar break. Dr X. leaves the room, the class reads the handout, and the chorus of student voices ensues:

First Student:
I haven't the slightest ides of what he says, he is......

Second Student:
No, there is something there, I have it in my notes,
Later when I read them, I think I will find.......

First Student:
.....nothing. There is nothing there, he's senile now,
Should have been retired five years ago, but he won't go.

First Student:
My question is: What are we responsible for in this course?
He doesn't seem to be leading to a final exam at all........

Chorus: The Strophe

Foolish his wisdom who dotes on things long dead,
Dreaming of aeons gone and men who are memories
Forgetful of life and the living world, he is indeed
Blind of eyes and ears and mind who sees all thing
Backward. He has not learned
One lesson from history
That all things, all things pass.
Since time past is gone and the future not arrived,
We live on a thin edge of ignorant anticipation
But we must try, in vain, to divine the future way.

Chorus: Antistrophe:

Yet he who closes off the deeds of famous men
His ancestors of the mind, of his actions, generals
Of the future, guiding through the doubts of ages past,
He indeed is foolish, of mind, of soul,
Wandering, seeking in the glass thin glaze
Of his briefest moment the answers yet to come.
Time is a long thread which we must unravel first,
Then we can learn to weave the future fabric right.




:

Act IV

The Professor speaketh: "Alright, you have had a chance to look over the paper, let us go on.

"The parallels between Roman world in the 1 st century A.D. and the United States some l900 years later are obvious. Anonymous lists, questions about past behavior and past history, fear of an unknown and unknowable "cult" brought forward with a foreign accent from an extraneous source, and above all fear of open opposition to the established government -----these things are present in both camps. Pliny initially had no hesitation about having suspects executed, it was the numbers rather than the executions which gave him pause. In our times the investigations were done in a Congressional Committee, without a proper legal courtroom process, which the law-conscious Romans were wise enough to include. In this century nobody was executed, but the means of earning a livelihood were taken away, which means a slow death by personal deterioration. The Christians won out in the end, they persisted as the religious zealots in many nations always do, and there was no stopping them.

"You could say that many in this country soon sense an imminent danger from Communism, that turning our law aside and proceeding much as Pliny had done, they disgraced the mainstream of our national history. In the process we lost a whole generation of thinking persons whose inputs would never be recovered, and the stamp of being marked politically out-of-line still hovers in the air. Under the name of National Security, or The War on Drugs, we have become accustomed to processes which do not match our prized democratic heritage. But this lurks so secretly in hidden files, with so little public notice, that is has probably become a normal, unsaid part of the way we conduct our political business."




Comic Interlude, in the manner of a Greek
SATYR PLAY

Professor: "Perhaps I should ask at this point, do any of you have questions, is there something you would like to ask?

Student in the front row, rising:
"Sir, I wonder if you could sign my drop card now? I thought this course was Humor in American Film, my coach said it would be a good course for me, but............I don't know about that!"

Student at far left, holding a sheaf of note pages:
"I think I don't understand anything that you are talking about, I thought I could write it all down, but it isn't making sense to me. Our minister talks about all the Apostles, but he never talked about this Pliny, it's all interesting but I am sort of lost.........Maybe I should get a book and read it first, but I am on scholarship and I had better......."

(Signatures on forms amiably completed, the class continues.)




Act V

"Before we go further, there are two important matters of scholarship which we should go into, the evidence about the tenth book of Pliny's correspondence, how it came down from the Roman period, and the authenticity of the text as we have it from its first appearance in the l5th century. These may seem minor matters, but for serious study of the materials on the handout I just passed around, you must know more about its origins and about some complex text problems. We must document the authenticity of our source, which can be a tedious process indeed, or we have nothing authentic to work with.

"Pliny's Letters Books 1-IX are based on current historical events, and generally accepted as decent reporting overall. However in Books I-IX they have clearly been touched up as little Essays in Epistolary Form, and as a result the style has been rendered uniformly excellent, clear and most readable, perfect for an educated Roman reader. Book X is quite different, it is an interchange of letters between Pliny, then representing Roman authority in Bithynia-Pontus in what is modern Turkey, and the Emperor Trajan. It is virtually a record of administrative business in the government. Pliny raises a question or outlines a problem, which the Emperor adroitly answers, it being understood that an Imperial Responsum or Answer has de facto the force of law. So this is an administrative-legal file in the clearest sense. The writing is direct and clear rather than elegant, and certainly has not been touched up. So Book X is a very important historical document with the true ring of authenticity about it.

"But there are problems for us. Between l499 and l506 the Italian engineer Iucundus discovered somewhere near Paris a manuscript which contain all the ten books of Pliny's letters. He made a complete copy of this MS which he gave to his friend Budaeus (the name is as familiar as the Bude' Series of the Classics). The previous editions of Beroaldus in l498 and that of Avantius in 1502 had various missing sections, which Budaeus copied out from Iucundus' handwritten copy of the entire, complete manuscript, and had these bound in with the previous editions to make a complete copy of Pliny's letters for himself. Iucundus had apparently intended to publish a complete Pliny's Letters himself, but was pressed by his other duties, and finally turned over his handwritten copy of the manuscript, which appears to have been a sixth century work, to Aldus Manutius the printer and publisher, who used it in preparing his 1508 edition. In the meantime one Aloisius Moenicius brought the original 6th c. MS which he had in his possession to Aldus, who was already setting up type and may have used it occasionally in preparing his edition.

"But the original MS was somehow lost, and our knowledge of it and of the important text of Book X are derived from the copy of Iucundus and the printed editions of Budaeus and Aldus! Aldus has the best chance of authenticity since he alone had the 6th c. original of Iucundus in his hands, but it must be noted that he was less a scholar than a publisher, and his attention turned to providing a sensible and readable printed text, rather than a scholarly edition fraught with text-problems. There is a second source for the book which contains the letter on the Christians we are concerned with: We have on the one hand the so-called Leander MS, on the other Iucundus' copy of the 6th c. original which went to Budaeus, while the original which was subsequently lost, was at least seen by Aldus as he published his own edition.

"Why mention all this in detail? Because when we examine a book we must be perfectly clear about its authenticity, that there are no text problems, that it has not be edited or abridged or interpolated or cleaned-up. In the case of Pliny's letters, we have the odd situation of a nine hundred year old manuscript turning up, being read and copied, being used by editors in eagerly preparing incunabula editions with the new typographical technology, and then inexplicably being lost. It has never turned up, there have been no traces of its later life, and that chapter in the history of Pliny's manuscript tradition seems permanently closed. But the copies and printed editions offer a coherent text, and we have no reason to suspect massive corruptions, word substitutions, or heavy editing by the Classically respectful men of the early Renaissance."




Act VI

"There are more problems with the text of the letters we are examining, but they date from a far earlier time, they have been examined and re-examined in nauseating detail by scholars for the last two hundred years. The church advocate and writer Tertullian, who was born at Carthage around 160 A.D. and died at a considerable old age, had read this letter of Pliny, and abridged it in his Apologia 2,6 in such a manner that it is clear he read the original in pretty much the same form as we have it. One modern scholar believes parts of the letter are forged interpolations by an unknown 2 nd c. Christian, perhaps the martyr Apollonius (?). Another thinks that parts were inserted from earlier prosecutions of the Bacchanalian cult of a much earlier date (?). Others believe interpolations were drawn from some of the Apocryphal additions to the new Testament. (?) A vast commentative literature has grown up about this two page letter, mainly because it is the earliest Roman account of the Christian group and as such of great important to Established Christianity. But for this same reason, it is an open field for unfounded and imagined problems, for which Classical and Biblical scholars are famous.

"In short, despite shelves of critical opinions both pro and con, regarding the text and authenticity of Pliny's Book X and Pliny himself as a reliable witness of historical events, it is now generally accepted that the text of Pliny in Book X on the Christians stands essentially as written by the author, and despite copies of copies and the lost manuscript mystery and various hands involved in the earliest printings, it is still reliably the very same text as Pliny wrote regarding the event of 111/112 A.D. With this we can end our investigation on the reliability of our source material, which comes out clean and perfectly readable. So we may continue on with the major contours of our argument."




Act VII

He continues, ignoring the large clock on the wall which has been the focus of student attention for over half an hour:

"At this point I believe we should think about reversing the whole situation and try to understand the other side of the coin. This may take an effort, but let us try to grasp the position of a Roman judge at proceedings which are new and unfamiliar, furthermore in Bithynia in Asia Minor, a site far removed from the center of imperial power which resides at Rome. The Empire or Government is working smoothly throughout the Mediterranean area, ships are regularly bringing to Italy from southern Russia quantities of grain which are needed for the constantly increasing population of Italy. Not too many years later the right-wing Satirist Juvenal would say : The Tigris if flowing up the Tiber, which in American 19th c. terms might be something like this : The ports of Europe are flowing right into the New York harbor.

"Immigrants always move in regular directions, usually to places where there is social change, industrial growth, and a seat of finance and power. Asians have traveled this route in the United States since l970 with success, but always with the threat of ostracisation as "dangerous aliens". The Irish went this route after l840, the Italians and Jews after our Civil War,. This first-generation immigrant population was always seen as alien and un-assimilable. Pliny is in a similar situation, working in an unfamiliar Near Eastern milieu, where a new cult of ex-Jewish zealots is proclaiming a new front, with tenets like these:

1) " "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, to God what is God's." Now just what is this likely to mean in financial terms, and the revenues from taxation?

2) "When Christ said in the famous prayer: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive the debts of others", he used the Greek word opheilemata, which is a clear financial word from Plato on through thousands of inscriptions. This statement must have meant a general Cancellation of Debts or seisachthea,in other words a mass remission of sums due, which had been practiced before in the Hellenistic world. If Christians took this seriously, they would be seen as saboteurs of the extensive Roman banking system. (Later the churches switched the meaning of this text to "trespasses, moral delictions", but that was not a possible meaning in early Christian times.)

3) "These people will not give the tokens of loyalty, which are a very nominal formula for honoring the President's statue, doing a service to the standardized Deities, and forswearing any other allegiance, such as Christ's. All that was required was a mere formula, which they purposely rejected. Hence they can be legally termed "enemies of the people", a term which appears later in the annals of Roman law..

4) "They will not serve in the Army, so they are a new breed of "consciencious objectors", as unheard of as the consciencious objectors in the U.S. in l940. They oppose the nation's views and actions, and refuse to do their duty in the society.

5) "There are clear ordinances against public congregations or collegia in Rome, just as public meetings in our cities must secure a permit before being allowed to meet in numbers or parade in public. We are more liberal although this device has been used to prevent public meetings in the Civil Rights days, whereas the Romans felt "meetings" were fearsome especially if composed of foreign elements (like the German-American Bund in WW II), and if done before daybreak in the dark.

"Proposing such trenchant measures would inspire fear and retaliation in any sector of the modern world, so let us please try to understand Pliny's administrative and moral plight.

"Since Christianity has survived and expanded through large sections of the world to become the dominant Faith in many countries, it is hard to consider it in the same class as ancient Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, or any of the Christian Heresies which were early stamped out. Success has a tendency to tilt the scales heavily in studying the growth of any social phenomenon. The sharp edges of a New Doctrine are rounded, the basic tenets are sutured into the social and economic structure of a working government, and we forget the fear and hostility with which Christianity was faced when it appeared as an anti-Roman, socially divisive cult."




Act VIII

The Prof. is continuing inexorably....

"Now let us turn out attention to the modern world as it emerged from the catastrophe of World War II. Harry Truman was suddenly escalated from a compromise VP to the Presidency. He was a man of no special talent or education, on the other hand one who had climbed into the Senate on unsavory, political recommendations, surviving quietly while picking up the tone of governmental politics, and unexpectedly thrust into the front office at Roosevelt's death. As a WW I Captain of Artillery with a rough bunch of soldiers, he was tough and patriotic, much like my father who was decorated in that same war for gallant action with the Marines, a confirmed if thoughtful patriot. In the Second War, which was so long, costly and confusing, a general sense of Necessity prevailed and we went about the war with a dogged sense of it simply having to be done. But it was in Vietnam that the American people began to question the phenomenon of Foreign Wars seriously and actively. Tens of thousands left the country in protest, demonstrations in every metropolis were constant, with the end result that the War was stopped without being won in any sense. At last Americans seemed to have learn several lessons firmly:

a) Don't trust your leaders who can lead you in direction you don't want and can't support honestly.
b) Don't be led into any belief which says that outsiders are aligned against you, that your only course of action is Opposition or Containment. There may be force aligned against you, and you may have to deal with them as post-Nixon policies have cautiously dealt with the People's Republic of China. But you must deal through discussion, understanding, arbitration and concession.

"The post-WW II arbitrary and un-legal actions against supposed Communists and "pinkos" is partly understandable in the setting of the postwar mind-set. There were in fact Communists agitating here, there were those who stole and sole secrets, but we have by now learned that each case must be prosecuted in accordance with our legal procedures, carefully and dispassionately. Pliny started out trying to stay within the prescribed framework of the Roman legal system, it was only when he was repelled by what struck him as the "degenerate and unyielding superstition" of the Christians, that he became a fore-runner for McCarthy. Except for the words "degenerate and unyieldingly rigid cult-religion" he could be seen as just doing his official duty, following the prescribed line of the law. The thin line between Duty and Hate is easily crossed, especially in politically explosive situations.

"Could we ever go back to a neo-McCarthy situation? Of course we could, especially if it were against White Supremacists, Militia Men or Neo-Nazis. So far we have been careful, but the numbers of the people we object to have been low. What if they escalate? Remember it was the actual number of people coming into the court's review that alarmed Pliny. He suggested a gentler way only when he perceived the escalating flow of the Christian zealots. Is this a question of ethics, or of numbers and the practicalities of the situation, in the last analysis?




Act IX

The first class bell ring loudly, student look to the wall clock in vain
"To many it may come as a shock to find that the largely Christian population of the United States, a vocal and dominant majority in many ways, traces its roots back to a nascent body of suspect and disenfranchised zealot-believers in the ancient world, who were as disobedient and determined as any minor group of non-standard thinkers in this century. Since the times of the Communist scare of the l920's, and especially again in the paranoid l950's, we handled our Communist suspects with the same fears as Pliny handled the Christians.

"Put into closer perspective in the current scene, why did we illegalize, confront and finally destroy the religious band at Waco? We had one illegal parameter to work with, they had lots of guns and ammunition, an excuse parallel to the Roman action against illegal Secret Societies or collegia. But in this country there are millions of guns, most of them illegal and many used in clearly criminal activities, whereas the Waco-ites thought of guns as their only protection in a hostile world. We might disapprove of their sexual arrangements, of their role of the leader as Divine Person, of their severance from our well-connected industrial world (some of these were the same charges as were leveled against the early Christians) but we could have left them alone to their own fate. Instead we became agitatedly paranoid, viewed them as an infection to society (like Pliny's contagio), a possible model for other cults springing up everywhere. And in our fear we executed them all, not by our gunfire but through incessant pressure, so in the end they died by their own hands.

"Are there lessons in all this, or is it just the way the world turns? It doesn't help much to get in trouble with a decade of McCarthy-ism and then salvage ourselves out by the hindsight of history. At the core there seems to be a deep distrust of anything that is new, anything that is unknown, and anything that sound foreign to our norms. Although we march well in societal step in our highly organized, honey bee mega-society, there are infinite differences between each of us and the next one in line. We have different genetic codes, different configurations of the billions of brain connections, different experiences and personal histories, and a strong will to see ourselves as different, as individuals. But we learn early the codes of a common language, we organize common experiences in our schooling, and develop through the media a wide-reaching common understanding, which are necessary items for the large-scale handling of Man in the mass.

"In so doing we lose touch with the individual person inside each of us, and imagine that our brothers, comrades, fellow citizens are totally in tune with us. This makes possible a work-force and a feeling of societal security. But it also makes us turn against anyone who loses the lock-step, and those who step out of our rhythm easily become our enemy, soon our public enemy. This is a great human tendency and a great human error, because it is just those ones who dare to move out of the marching line who become our new scientific thinkers, our social heroes, our philosophical giants. And even more they become our great religious leaders, thinkers who find new veins of thought, who mine new materials out of the human consciousness, and construct for a while a dream of some new and beautiful dimension. Often this first generation of innovative thinkers is followed by lesser spirits who fortify the Word but lose the essential meaning. Religions and societies fossilize quickly, and then the ancient drama starts anew: Root out the discordant voices, stamp out the heresy, condemn the new view, the new industry, the new science.

Students for the next class are entering at the rear, unnoticed by the speaker.

"So in the final analysis, that intelligent, well educated man Gaius Secundus Plinius in the second century A.D., as well as that fervent band of Americans who also thought they were saving our country from a dangerous outside contagion, were in large part inspired by the same motives. Both were entirely wrong, as we review them in the glaring after-light of history, but the mechanisms which put both into action are certainly due to rise again, stemming from the self-assurance of people in position of authority, who feel they have much to lose if the well-constructed political body which they operate should be threatened. This is especially true if they have none of the talents and vision needed for gaining new goals, looking into the future with positive eyes, and absorbing change as part of the process of an on-going process.




The second bell rings authoritatively, the new class is assembling.

"Now, class, before you depart, let me give you two instructions which I would like you to follow:

"First, I would like a one page extension or development of this lecture, in which you use my talk as a base only, and develop from it an idea or ideas of your own which go beyond the scope of what I have been talking about. That is not an easy matter, in fact I am asking you to go around me, as it were, and come out the other side with something I have not said, even better something I do not know. If a teacher cannot get his students to reach beyond his knowledge and his scope, he is a failure as a teacher. Not that you can count on successfully doing what I am asking, but I insist that you try. It is the trying that is the essential element of learning.

"Second, I would like to talk with each of you about your personal sense of the situation we have been discussing. Make an appointment with the secretary, and let us sit and talk for half an hour together. I have no set plan in mind, but I do believe that there are some things which come out of a dialogue quite unexpectedly, and that these are the materials out of which the pearls of wisdom are formed. Not that you or I will dispel much darkness or sprinkle light on dark corners of the mind. But we can both spare half an hour easily, and see what comes out of it. We may find nothing new, or we may both be surprised.

CLASS IS DISMISSED.




It is now exactly 5 P.M., the college carillon has done its fifteen second song, and the class is just leaving the college building, when a group of Christmas singers with bells in their hands crosses their path in the snowy campus landscape.

GOD BLESS YOU MERRY GENTLEMEN

LET NOTHING YOU DISMAY




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William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris