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5/29/02

VIEW FROM THE MOUNT

Sober Thought Provoking Essays
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and the TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE . . .

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"What I understand is splendid; and I think what I don't understand is so too -  but it would take a Delian diver to get to the bottom of it."  - Socrates (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, II 22).

The Season for Graduates

" . . . the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of evil have begun their decisive offensive. You can feel their pressure, yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?" - Alexander Solzhenitsyn

When the time of the year turns to honoring the graduates that will become the hope for our future, we sometimes forget what we should be celebrating. From the age of Heraclitus we have been faced with a condition that change is one of the few constants. Today the form of that change may well have forgotten from where we have come and what we have endured. The titanic struggle of the last century has transformed into a different version of the same beast. What happened to all the hope and promise of a mere half century ago?
 
For those old enough to have viewed the first television mini-series - Rich Man, Poor Man, you should remember the tone of the commencement speech, as a proud graduate Rudy Jordache takes inspiration of all things possible. The prospects for wealth, success and happiness was the vision that those 50's graduates saw and wanted. But the acute disappointment of the conflicts in reality proved to dampen that bright attitude in the promise of America. Author Irwin Shaw was a master story teller, but even he did not capture the essence of the clash that grips us as we struggle to make our way in a very confusing world.

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Harvard Speech 1978

It took the wisdom of a Soviet dissident to raise the consciousness of our country. Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn's message in his famous commencement address delivered at Harvard University on June 8, 1978 still applies today, while changing into a slightly different appearance.

"The anguish of a divided world gave birth to the theory of convergence between the leading Western countries and the Soviet Union. It is a soothing theory which overlooks the fact that these worlds are not evolving toward each other and that neither one can be transformed into the other without violence. Besides, convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side's defects, too. and this can hardly suit anyone."

Convergence is a fools game when the euphoria of the 'so called' winning of the cold war has created the false illusion of defeating that same age old despot. The overt level of imminent violence may no longer be staring ourselves in the form of the Soviet Bear, but the ongoing crisis in America is that her direction has been suicidal - thinking that any form of Socialism can be an acceptable way of life.

In his speech, Solzhenitsyn refers to a lessor known fellow dissenter, Igor Shafarevich that makes a definitive case against Socialism. In his great book, The Socialist Phenomenon  - Shafarevich not only exposes the cultural nihilism behind its hostility to property, hierarchy and individuality but also emphasises the theophobia of collectivist revolutionaries and the link between their loathing for religion and their compulsion to reduce human society to the level of an ant-hill.

Our flawed archetype, Rudy, in Shaw's drama operates under the deception that he is living the American dream.  His rise to the top is not from the fruits of a capitalist achievement but from the maneuvers within an emerging socialistic structure.

Solzhenitsyn continues to his crimson audience:

"It is almost universally recognized that the West shows all the world the way to successful economic development, even though in past years it has been sharply offset by chaotic inflation. However, many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of no longer being up to the level of maturity by mankind. And this causes many to sway toward socialism, which is a false and dangerous current."

What we have is the perverted convergence where both the power seeker and the disaffected are seeking comfort, fortune and relief in a failed system of social organization. It's downfall is not from a lack of mastery in practice. Most of the world knows no other system. But its systemic fault lies in the despair that it ultimately brings to society as it’s true nature engulfs mankind. Solzhenitsyn explains further:

"This tilt of freedom toward evil has come about gradually, but it evidently stems from a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which man - the master of the world - does not bear any evil within himself, and all the defects of life are caused by misguided social systems, which must therefore be corrected."

How many graduates will hear this message as they enter the world, while at the peak of their enthusiasm? Did anyone of them ever hear this version of modern life while engrossed in their studies? And who among them will ever avoid the shortcoming that destroyed the life of our fictional graduate, Rudy?

When we analyze the meaning of Heraclitus, we can reduce his philosophy of change down to: "You cannot step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you." For him the world was in a state of permanent flux. In him are the seeds of an unstable world that opens the door to the modern day desperation that Solzhenitsyn warns. This imaginary void is the excuse used by the misguided to embrace Socialism.

The fact that most of our reputed leaders of commerce and government are disciples of Heraclitus, wearing a designer suit of a Rudy Jordache - does not give promise to the commencement invocations that our graduates will experience. The assurance of a brighter future are suspect as long as society continues on its collision course of convergence. The reality of our common condition is that the entire world has accepted some framework of Socialism as an acceptable practice.

Is this the legacy and future we want to give to our children? Don't they deserve better? As a society we collectively failed to provide the wisdom of a classical education to the last few generations. Look at the results we now endure and contemplate the prospect of the impending changes that will come. If Solzhenitsyn was to give his address again in today's environment, would anyone understand what he is saying? Few of us listened and acted upon his admonition the first time. Our graduates have been cheated and they will be left to pay the price of this deceit. Remember when you attend the ceremonies, your children are the test of our own success . . .

SARTRE - May 29, 2002

Positiveness is a good quality for preachers and speakers because, whoever shares his thoughts with the public will convince them as he himself appears convinced.
Jonathan Swift

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