W-26  Politics of Protest



R-27  Limits of Logic, Dangers of Emotion

          #2 (much reading)


M-1  Realist/Existential Test




#1  Politics of Protest


          At the end of World War II, several German officials were brought to trial at the city of Nuremberg, and charged with war crimes--especially the murder of the Jews.  The officials pleaded that they only did their duty by following orders.  The verdict declared that this excuse is no longer good enough.  It is the duty of each person to obey his own mind and conscience.


          This showed a drastic change from what had been taught a few years before.  It marked the beginning of a new age.  How did it happen?


          Part of the thinking developed in the French underground resistance to their German conquerors.  The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (ZHONG-pall SART) argued that people still had choices.  Everything a person does or does not do is a choice between many alternatives.  Sartre urged people to be aware of their alternatives, and not let other people tell them they had no choice.  And they should be aware that each choice has consequences.  He reminded people that what they do determines what they will become.  He called his idea Existentialism (from the word "existence").  Until someone comes up with a better name, we will use it to describe this type of thinking which became worldwide by the 1960s.


          One day, an ordinary middle-aged American woman named Rosa Parks got on a bus.  All her life, she had automatically moved to the back of the bus, where people with black skin were expected to sit.  But this time she made her stand: she refused.  Word spread.  Her quiet decision electrified a lot of other people who had just about reached the same conclusion.  Soon most of the black people of the city refused to ride the bus; they walked instead.  A young minister named Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr. put their concerns into words which attracted worldwide attention.  The bus boycott succeeded; people, listening to their conscience, had changed the world in which they lived.


          This was the typical pattern of existential change: many people making private decisions at the same time.  Politicians of the Realist tradition bustled around looking for organizers of Communist plots.  They could not understand that the new age was personal and spontaneous.


          Other minorities began to find their voices.  Mexican-­American grape pickers refused to be herded around like cattle, living In sheds, and having no schooling for their children.  They found inspiration in the quiet courage of Caesar Chavez.  They called on the rest of the American people to boycott grapes and lettuce until the big producers had to give in.


          And personal protests began from the largest underprivileged group of all--women.  Many demanded their right to become a full person--not just a convenience for men.


          One new type of music that caught the spirt of the new age was folk-protest.  It was sung in a simple folk style by a single singer who also wrote the song.  The earliest of these composer-performers included Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seegar, Bob Dylan, and Buffy Sainte-Marie.


          Around the world, political leaders began to realize that they had entered a new age of active citizenship.  In the United States, for instance, so many citizens protested against the Vietnamese War that the president did not dare to run for re-election.  And the next president had to resign when citizens grew outraged at his lies.


          Martin Luther King often reminded people that he had learned the moral power of civil disobedience from reading Thoreau and Gandhi.  King received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts before he was assassinated.  Here is what he said when thousands of citizens gathered at Washington D.C. to dramatize the need for racial equality




            In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check.  When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.  This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


            It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned, Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."  But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.  We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.  So we have come to cash this check--a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice....


            But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice.  In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.  Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.


            We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.  We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.  Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.  The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed  the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably* bound to our freedom.  We cannot walk alone....


            I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.


            I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."


            I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.


            I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.


            I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.


            I have a dream today.


            I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullifications,# will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.


            I have a dream today....


            This is our hope.  This is the faith with which I returned to the South.  With this faith we will be able to hew out of  the mountain of despair a stone of hope.  With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.  With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day....


            And if America is to be a great nation this must become true.  So let freedom ring from the prodigious@ hilltops of New Hampshire, Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.  Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!


            Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!


            Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!


            But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!


            Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!


            Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. 

From every  mountainside, let freedom ring.


            When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet,* from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last!  free at last!  thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"



#blocking and stopping


*few houses





#2.  Limits of Logic, Dangers of Emotion


          It is too early to tell who are the great Existential artists and writers and musicians.  It takes many years to sort that which speaks to the moment from that which speaks to all time.


          Existential literature first flowered in France.  Jean-Paul Sartre wrote plays as well as philosophy.  His friend, Albert Camus (ka-MOO), wrote the play, The Misunderstand, in which a man is mistakenly murdered because he never got around to declaring who he was.  Eugene Ionesco (in-NES-ko) and others wrote a new kind of drama, called "Theatre of the Absurd."  They demonstrated that scientific logic is all very good, but it is not adequate.  For all of life is not logical.  Many things happen which cannot be logically explained.  In Ionesco's play, The Bald Soprano, the doorbell rings but no one is there.  This happens three times, and the characters logically conclude that when the doorbell rings it means that no one is there.  It represents scientific logic gone haywire--perhaps the same thing that has gone wrong with the real world.  In The Chairs, Ionesco shows the absurdity of modern communication: no one listens, the characters do not know how to express themselves, and they really have nothing to say anyway.


          Here is an example of the breakdown of logic:




PROFESSOR:  Let's return to our matches, miss.  I have four of them.  You see, there are really four.  I take one away, and there remain only...


PUPIL:  I don't know, Professor.


PROF:  Come now, think.  It's not easy, I admit.  Nevertheless, you've had enough training to make the intellectual effort required to arrive at an understanding.  So?


PUPIL:  I can't get it, Professor.  I don't know, Professor.


PROF:  Let us take a simpler example.  If you had two noses, and I pulled one of them off...how many would you have left?


PUPIL:  None.


PROF:  What do you mean, none?


PUPIL:  Yes, it's because you haven't pulled off any, that's why I have one now.  If you had pulled it off, I wouldn't have it anymore.


PROF:  You've not understood my example.  Suppose that you have only one ear.


PUPIL: Yes, and then?


PROF:  If I gave you another one, how many would you have then?




PROF:  Good.  And if I gave you still another ear.  How many would you have then?


PUPIL:  Three ears.


PROF:  Now, I take one away...and there remain...how many ears?


PUPIL:  Two.


PROF:  Good.  I take away still another one, how many do you have left?


PUPIL:  Two.


PROF:  No. You have two, I take one away, I eat one up, then how many do you have left?


PUPIL:  Two.


PROF:  I eat one of them...one.


PUPIL:  Two.


PROF:  One.


PUPIL:  Two.


PROF:  One!


PUPIL:  Two!


PROF:  One!!!


PUPIL:  Two!!!


PROF:  One!!!


PUPIL:  Two!!!


PROF:  One!!!


PUPIL:  Two!!!


PROF:  No, No. That's not right.  The example is not... it's not convincing.  Listen to me.


PUPIL:  Yes, Professor.


PROF:  You've got...you've got...you've got...


PUPIL:  Ten fingers!


PROF:  If you wish.  Perfect.  Good.  You have then ten fingers.


PUPIL:  Yes, Professor.

PROF:  How many would you have if you had only five of them?


PUPIL:  Ten, Professor.


PROF:  That's not right!


PUPIL:  But it is, Professor.


PROF:  I tell you it's not!


PUPIL: You just told me that I had ten...


PROF:  I also said, immediately afterwards, that you had five!


PUPIL:  I don't have five, I've got ten!...


PROF:  Listen to me, miss, if you don't achieve a profound understanding of these principles, these arithmetical archetypes,* you will never be able to perform correctly the functions of a polytechnician.  Still less will you be able to teach a course in a polytechnical school... or the primary grades.  I realize that this is not easy, it is very, very abstract...obviously...but unless you can comprehend the primary elements, how do you expect to be able to calculate mentally--and this is the least of the things that even an ordinary engineer must be able to do--how, much, for example, are three billion seven hundred fifty-five million nine hundred ninety-eight thousand two hundred fifty one, multiplied by five billion one hundred sixty-two million three hundred and three thousand five hundred and eight?                   *basics


PUPIL:  (very quickly):  That makes nineteen quintillion three hundred ninety quadrillion two trillion eight hundred forty­-four billion two hundred nineteen million one hundred sixty-four thousand five hundred and eight...


PROF:  (astonished):  No. I don't think so.  That must make nineteen quintillion three hundred ninety quadrillion two trillion eight hundred forty-four thousand five hundred and nine...


PUPIL:  ...No...five hundred and eight...


PROF:  (more and more astonished calculating mentally): Yes...you are right...  the result is indeed...  (He mumbles unintelligibly:) quintillion, quadrillion, trillion, billion, million... (Clearly:)  one hundred sixty-four thousand five hundred and eight... (Stupefied:)  But how did you know that, if you don't know the principles of arithmetical reasoning?


PUPIL:  It's easy.  Not being able to rely on my reasoning, I've memorized all the products of all possible multiplications.


PROF:  That's pretty good...


(The pupil complains of a toothache; the professor ignores her interruptions.  Soon she is writhing in pain; the professor continues the lesson as long as he can.  Finally, in exasperation, the professor kills the pupil and takes on another pupil who looks just like her.  And the lesson begins again.)



          All through the Realist period, politicians, businessmen, and church leaders of most nations emphasized conformity.  At the beginning of the Existential period, American humorist Alan Sherman poked gentle fun at their narrow thinking:




Now the commissar in this story is Russian.

But that's just for purposes of discussion.


One finds this type no matter where one lives.

We call them junior executives.


And the thing about these people that's such an awful pity,

Is they forget that they are people; they're parts of a committee,


With committee-shaped souls and committee-shaped hearts,

Like interchangeable auto parts.


It's a shame, because, one by one, they might

Invent something colorful or create something bright.


That's how anything that's beautiful always gets its start:

In a single human brain--in a single human heart.


For no matter how small or unimportant you are,

There is something inside you that can reach a star.


But these people on committees, they sit there all day,

And they each put in a color, and it comes out gray.


Gray is a nice color--but not if you've ever seen

Orange, or red, or yellow, or blue, or green,


And we've all heard the saying, which is true as well as witty,

That a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee.


          In the 1960s, young people called Hippies started choosing their own colorful clothing and hairstyles.  Women insisted on making decisions about their own bodies--such as when and if to have babies.  Many women began careers.


          With the founding of the United Nations, people had hoped for a new era of peace and international understanding.  Conservatives at first resisted the idea that anything could be stronger than their own nation's laws.  Then businessmen began seeing advantages to globalization.  They could save money by moving their factories to countries with very low wages.  They could also move away from health regulations they didn't like.  When one country banned their dangerous products, they could peddle them somewhere else.  By  the early 1990s, most nations of Europe united to form the European Common Market.  The three North American countries followed with their own Free Trade Association.  But some people began to ask who was benefiting from globalization.  How had the idea of international peace been turned into uncaring international corporations?


          Another surprise was happening in the churches.  During the Realist period, science had reduced the most old-fashioned religions to the butt of jokes.  But now in an age of emotional thinking, conservative church groups started to grow again.  Other "New Age" religions sprang up with little regard for scientific logic.   And these things were happening all over the world.


          Fundamentalist Muslims started blowing up buildings.  They seized control of the government in Iran, where they forced women to wear heavy veils, and the religious law ruled everything.  In Afghanistan, the fundamentalists went even farther, making television illegal, burning musical instruments, outlawing education for girls, and forcing all men to wear short hair and beards.  They made Hindus wear badges, just as Hitler had done to the Jews.  And the world watched in horror as they blew up their world-famous Buddhist statues.


          Yet Buddhist fundamentalists in Sri Lanka had recently persecuted the Hindu minority there.


          Meanwhile, Hindu fundamentalists were rewriting the history books.  They insisted that things had always remained the same in India, and that the Greeks, the Buddhists, the Muslims, and the British had had no effect on the culture.


          Some Christian fundamentalists tried to get the science books rewritten—leaving out all mention of evolution, or giving equal space to the Bible story.  They tried to stop sex education, and made abortion an explosive political issue.

          Though they had long hated each other, some of these fundamentalists began to realize that they shared several political beliefs.  Many of them wished to go back to a time just before Existentialism.  Some fundamentalists even suggested going back to a much earlier time before the Enlightenment, with its rise of science and democratic ideas.  The return to emotional thinking was producing some surprising results.



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