Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

The morality of debt is an interesting topic I hadn't gotten around to writing anything on. Dal Timgar's essay on Economic wargaming is the essay I never got a chance to write--and better, because he has a deeper understanding of the economics. Speaking as someone who is also relentlessly solicited by Providian Bank, and whose Visa bill often arrives bearing a zero minimum payment, I found it fascinating.

Like many other articles in the Spectacle, it came in unsolicited. Ben Price, Peter Bearse, Bob Wilson are all people who just sent me an article one day. My commitment is to continue making the Spectacle available as a forum for all points of view. I am highly pleased and flattered by the quality of the submissions I get.

Similarly, your email reacting to what you read here keeps life interesting; you can reach me as always at jw@bway.net.


My Twentieth Century


Dear Jonathan:

Thanks for another fine issue. Just another small qualifier: The correct reference to the outcome of "complete entropy" is that is it is the most likely, by far, but not the "only possible."

Peter Bearse MAXIMUSMAY@aol.com


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I was born in nineteen thirty-six, so my century is a little longer than yours. It doesn't get any better going back. From what I know of this and previous centuries, I would rather be alive right now. The past holds everything except hope.

When I was a child I would look through my father's binoculars. Looking through the small lenses brought everything closer - sharp and bright. My parents chose to ignore my near-sightedness so this was my only way of seeing distant things clearly. When they caught me, they put them away on a high shelf I couldn't reach. Once I tried looking through the big objective lens rather than the small ocular, but this made everything seem small and distant. At the time, I thought that the big lens should give me a wider view of the world than the little lens, and I still feel that way fifty-odd years later. We look through the small lens into the past, but we have only the objective to peer into the future. Still, I would choose a far glimpse into what will be over the magnified vista of what has been.

I hope you are not as sad as the feeling your life story evokes in me. As I grow older, I seem to fear the future less than the past. With about as many years before as behind, you may have very good reason to distrust both.

Happy new year and enjoy your tuna. I'll have paper towels, which can be used on (and in) any extremity, and Bourbon whisky. I won't give a damn if the icemaker works or not.

Daniel A. Deadwyler ddedwylr@email.uncc.edu


Bob Wilson on Woodstock
Jonathan:

In last month's letters column, Ben G. Price criticized my essay regarding Woodstock 99 as just "a whinny complaint about people (I) didn't like." OK, I accept his criticism...considering the rest of his letter.

Ben inferred that my essay was misguided, saying " Not everything done with heroic intent would have had a heroic outcome if permitted to descend to logical outcomes, such as the National Security State's policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). If Bob spent a lot of time preparing for this outcome, I for one am glad his mission remains unfulfilled. I don't wish him harm or ill, just glad the agenda he was trained to enact was a failure."

Ben has obviously lived his life in a lead mine. Our mission was fulfilled. Furthermore, what happened as a result of my "heroic intent" was indeed quite logical. In reality, we won the Cold War by maintaining what he terms a "National Security State" composed of people like me who stood alert with loaded weapons (of mass destruction...) ready to retaliate if our "National Security State" was attacked. The enemy...whom Ben no doubt believes to be the good people of the Soviet Union...which, I am sure Ben thinks didn't operate a "National Security State" collapsed attempting to match our military might...and also feed its "non-disenfranchised" (Ben's socialistic phraseology) masses.

My "whinny" lament was that the ground we "dug into" in our successful mission was being defiled by mindless morons who (like Ben) haven't a clue as to what took place there. For that, Ben was right when he said I didn't like them. Duh! Ben.

Bob Wilson


Dear Bob:

Thank you for agreeing with my conclusion that your essay The Woodstock Debacle was, as you write: "just 'a whinny complaint about people (I) didn't like.' OK, I accept his [Ben Price's] criticism...considering the rest of his letter."

It was more than I expected by way of a retraction. However, I was dismayed by the personal attacks that followed. I'm not going to claim that you misunderstood my message, but I'm not sure you understand the message your diatribe sent out. Maybe you meant to shame irreverent youngsters into a more respectful demeanor when it comes to world-shaping policies and the sacrifices people make to improve life for everyone. That's my benefit of the doubt talking. On the other hand, maybe your real intent was to preach to an audience of like-minded Cold warriors, to reinforce walls of separation between the "hawks" and the "doves."

I hope I was clear about not finding fault with the superficial message presented by your essay. You may recall that I wrote: "Please understand that I admire and congratulate Bob's commitment to principles. We must all come to some judgement about what we would and would not 'die for.'" What really aggitated me about your essay was its actual opposition to the principles it superficially purports to advance. Instead of defending liberty, freedom, and the rights ostensibly protected by the silos full of nuclear warheads aimed across the earth's pole at Soviet opponents, you lambaste exhuberent youths (yes, perhaps ill-mannered and offensively dressed) in your own land who have no reverence for the policies of past regimes, with which you were involved in a service capacity. You seem to assume their reverence would be just deserts for your service. It is on this point that I hope my criticism of your essay speaks loudest.

My assertion is this: if you choose a master to serve, you may not presume the fealty of others to that same master is their duty, not if choice and liberty truly exist. If it existed for you; it justly exists for them as well.

Your assumed moral authority to conscript the next-generation's attitudes about the military is first on my list of ideas presented by your essay to be challenged. The arms policy that saw the credible threat of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) as a "controversial" stance (that is the kindest term that I could use) was realized and paid for against the will of many American citizens. I don't just damn the American adoption of such a policy; I judge the Soviet's leveraging of taxes from their citizens to support the same foolish policy to be equally reprehensible, stupid, and immoral. The real Cold War was a propaganda war waged by the American and Soviet governments against their own people to fund the Military Industrial Complex (as Eisenhower dubbed it) on an over-heated war-footing in a time of domestic peace.

Despite borders and flags, it is people and communities who deserve to be held in reverence as sanctuaries for our best intent. We should not memorialize sites once consecrated to the immanent destruction of hundreds of millions of lives. Instead, we should spend our human capital, our empathy, to value people individually. The policy that funded and built military complexes integrated into a political philosophy that could discount millions of people and demote them statistically to the level of potential "collateral damage" in a globalized culture war should have no honorific monuments.

You have characterized my attitude in defense of "the good people of the Soviet Union" as somehow suspect. It has been no insult to be accused of loving your enemy for nearly two millenium now, although I claim no formal conscientious moral status with regard to an association with established religion. Simply put, I have no more nor less desire to see the people of Russia or any other country harmed than I have to see you harmed, or my next-door neighbor. You may call it unpatriotic, "socialistic phraseology" to express thoughts unidentical to the prevailing political/military agenda, or to uphold the rights of "the masses" over those of the generals. The habit of personal attack and guilt by association drummed up by doctrinaire nationalism strikes me as a microcosmic re-enactment of the mindset that supports empire building on the corpses that get in the way. Knowing that your core beliefs must be in support of community and democracy, I am sure that with greater reflection on the issues you'd abandon such a stance.

We can debate the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union ( I welcome such a discussion, and I welcome the collapse of any regime like it that is unresponsive to individual human needs!), yet we need more immediately to address the falsification of history and the desire by some to create a mystic sense of purpose not experienced by all in the project advanced by those who go about inventing spiritual sanctuaries out of military bunkers.

I called your essay "whinny" because it seemed to demand general reverance for icons representing something not generally recognized as deserving reverance, except, perhaps, by generals and those who served them, and those who have preserved some sense of having done well in performing a weighty duty they dared not question. Questioning the mission is the duty of free people and citizens, but is, alas, a right stripped from the soldier.

It wasn't stupidity, and it wasn't fear that made some of us call the bluff of the nuclear terrorism perpetrated on both sides of what was called The Cold War. If you think it was just Ronald Reagan's arms race that ended that debacle, may I suggest that perhaps it was you and not me who spent too much time in a lead mine. I would concede that unless Ronald Reagan had chosen to spend whatever it took to fake an at-that-time impossible "Star Wars" defense system and goad the Soviets into an equally impossible counter-measure, the Soviet empire might still exist (at least on paper). Reagan didn't fight them on the field of battle, however. He just made them overdraw their checking account.

I will not recount here the social misery, the "collateral damage" created in America by Reagan's policies. In brief, there was a social cost to "winning" the Cold War that was felt by people not in uniform, not in bunkers hunkered down against machines that only insanity could command into action. The repercusions of these sacrifices are still with us. In unschooled and crumbling inner cities. In government take-backs and institutional reneging on social programs. In Savings and Loan bail-outs. Throughout South and Central America democracies were toppled. The bombs may not have fallen, but the rubble and debris of a gutted social infrastructure at home and abroad attest to there having been a war.

In a measure never quantified by military researchers, because they couldn't conceive it was a factor, people who refused to believe in the core myths of the Cold War played a greater role in ending it than did any other factor, military, economic, or strategic. No monuments or sanctuaries will be built to commemorate their role in thwarting voluntary human extinction. Their lack of faith in the logic of destruction was an incalculable boon to humanity.

And it's okay. No one's asking for laurels. Now and then, a letter to the editor will do.

Sincerely,

Ben G. Price NebecirP@aol.com


Dear Ben:

I accept your criticism because, considering the rest of your letter, it really doesn't carry much weight, Ben. Look, it obviously took you some time (several days in fact) to dream up that verbose and predictable reply, and I don't wish to seem unappreciative that you put so much time and effort into it, but based on what I saw in your first letter, I could have written it for you. You need to narrow your focus, and try not to unload your entire liberal litany of nonsense in one letter... You fired all your guns at once Ben...

You see, I know how you think. You are just a predictable liberal mindless mush-head (I mean that in an affectionate way) who obviously doesn't have ANY experience in the world, other than movies you have seen and books you have read. You were "educated" (indoctrinated) by similar people, (call them "fellow travelers")and what you say is simply a regurgitation of pop-media/socialist/academia liberalism. Virtually none of it is based in reality, and therefore, any attempt on my part to educate you or argue with you is pointless. So, I accept you. You can't help it. It's not your fault, Ben. If you ever get to experience any part of the real world, you might find some basis to deconstruct your own poisoned liberal mindset, but I don't hold much hope for you. I feel sorry for you. So, I won't bother to de-bunk your letter, it isn't worth the time...nor would it make any impression on you.

If you would like to pick just one or two (any, it doesn't matter) "points" you think you made, and engage me, I would be happy to help you get straight...but you seem so messed up, I doubt if I am up to the task.

In sympathy,

Bob Wilson


Dear Bob,

Thanks for so eloquently addressing the issue of your personal dislike of people like me.

As for issues, whenever you want to back off from jingoism, I'm prepared to debate you.

Thanks again, Ben


An Auschwitz Alphabet
Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am leaving on a trip to Prague on October 13th and will join a small study tour group sponsored by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum on the 17th of October in Berlin for a tour entitled "Lest We Forget Memories of the Holocaust in Central Europe." We will spend time in Germany, Hungary and Poland. Although I have studied Holocaust history and literature for much of my life, grew up in a small town in NJ where my closest childhood friends were children whose parents survived concentration camps, and have lived in and visited Israel, I have never visited the places where we will be going, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, Krakow, Warsaw, Maajdanek, Treblinka, and Sachsenhausen. Although I do not think it is possible to "prepare" oneself for such a journey (either emotionally or mentally) I went onto the internet and came upon your site. I just want you to know how much I appreciate your work, your effort and the information and conclusions you offer there.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Dale V. Atkins daledoc@sprynet.com


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I stumbled upon the Auschwitz Alphabet when I was searching for Alphabet posters to add to my collection. I have a collection of alphabet posters that I use at the language center where I am the director. This is a brilliant, horrifying and informative alphabet. If I could find this as a poster, it would be very provocative and educational for the numerous students from all over the world that pass through our institute. Is this published as a poster, or book? Some of the pictures could be used with the letter to show (though in not as much detail as the writing) the essence of each term. Thank you for keeping us informed about this terrible episode in our history.

Daniel Niles
Director, INTERLINK Language Center
Colorado School of Mines
Golden, Colorado
dniles@mines.edu


Dear Mr. Wallace:

This is definately the best homepage about Auschwitz and the holocaust that I have visited!!! Im a teacher working as a teacher of media at a school in Varberg, Sweden. On saturday me and a collegue are going to Auschwitz with 30 students and after the trip these students will go out to the all schools nearby to talk about the holocaust. We are also making a homepage about the trip to spread information about what happened. Id like to have your permition to have your site as a link on our page.

Please let me know if it is allright.

Steve steve@lbs.se


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just want to know what do You think about the project of removing all crucifixes from Auschwitz. Should they be removed? Even the one Pope placed there?

Marcin Szuberla mszuberl@umich.edu


Dear Mr. Wallace:

Could you please tell me why Auschwitz was located where it is why not in any other place? Why nazis had that camp there, this my question which bothers me. Thank you very much. Your work is really great very interesting. Very good job.

Eve


Hi Jonathan:

I like the way you think about questions the holocaust raises--not that I agree with all of your views.

Have you read Kitty Hart's book about her holocaust experience? I happened to buy her book in England--I suspect it hasn't been distributed in North America. She survived Auschwitz, and says in her book that, since the terrible thing called the holocaust did occur, she was glad to have experienced it. Of course, she'd rather that it hadn't, or couldn't have, occurred.

Mainstream Christianity is full of Paganism, but Judaism has absorbed a lot of Pagan ideas, too. The dates for Hannukah coincide exactly with the dates for Saturnalia.

To me it is frustrating that mainstream Christians throw out the teachings of the Old Testament and replace them with unbiblical things like Christmas and Easter and licensiousness, while mainstream Jews don't recognize that the Messiah has already made a visit, and is due to return more convincingly in the future. (I say mainstream Jews because in the New Testament, the followers of Christ were considered true Jews--but they weren't mainstream Jews, they were the minority.)

Anyway, I do appreciate your site.

B. Jane Crawford bcrawfor@cgocable.net


Miscellaneous
Dear Jonathan:

I've just spent a few hours getting through all of your site, Jonathan. Excellent job! Thank you for doing that.

Jeff Mitscherling jmitsche@arts.uoguelph.ca


Dear Mr. Wallace:

Re the prisoner's dilemma issue.

Thank you very much, that was a rich experience.

Consider a prisoner's dilemma between an individual human and God as the only proof of our mutual existence. p=y/f

A prisoner's dilemma between an individual human and Occam's definition (God is just a word) will produce either a true Saint or a pure Scorpion.

If everything I c is sequence past then I am one move ahead of my environment, but that necessitates a collapse within.

The Saint who casts the longest shadow fully occults the light of creation. The Scorpion, transparent, is bound only by nature.

Which is Golden, which is Mean?

The switch, the stitch that lies between?

As we stand fast on the event horizon, must we dwell on this fear together to dwell on this sphere together?

Simon Gray simongray@home.com


Dear Jonathan:

May I intrude on your time and ask for a minor clarification?

If your answer is yes, as I hope it will be, would you please refresh your memory of your not too recently written "A Shaggy God" story?

I have a problem with your purported solution of the paradox of, for lack of a better term, a "Shaggy God" who cares not.

The answer to the seal's dilemma is given by the blue-footed booby, another resident of the Galapagos. This large, awkward seabird always lays two eggs in its nest among the rocks. But it only ever raises one offspring. The first hatchling to emerge, blindly programmed for this behavior, always kills the other. Without exception. Every adult booby killed a brother or sister in the nest. [...]

Neither here nor later do I come across an answer to the seal's dilemma. The one thought that comes to mind is, what do you mean by "upstream" and is that your gripe with Gawd? Because if the river is begining in my heart, then who says that "I" am not Gawd? Would I not be responsible for atrocities happening on "My" world in that case?

I feel I may be close to grasping what you are trying to say, but either you have masked it somewhere or I am unable to. Or, possibly, I may be focusing on the wrong question... :-)

Buzzaz Zahir" buzzaz@hotbot.com


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I stumbled on your web site today, looking for campaign finance reform info on the web.

I just wanted to compliment you on your bio. It is not only interesting, but well-written.

Jennifer Nelson jln@warpnet.net


Hi All:

A shameless plug:-). Newton's Baby Press is offering Janet I. Buck's first print collection of poetry at the discount price of $10.00 (includes postage and handling). _Calamity's Quilt_ is 90 pages, perfect-bound, with cover art by Cheryl Haight Carle and an introduction by Thomas Fortenberry. The book includes both award-winning poems and new material on disability, grief, and love. To order, send a check or money order for $10.00 and your postal address to:


Calamity's Quilt
Newton's Baby Press
788 Murphey Street
Scottdale, GA 30079
http://www.newtonsbaby.com/calamity.html

Janet Buck JBuck22874@aol.com