Page 11


capita income has risen. Henry Schechter, director of housing and monetary policy for the national AFL-CIO, noted that “during the period of high interest rates, there was a dampening of economic activity in Arkansas, and some of the funds flowed out of the state. But, on the other hand, as the business cycle hits bottom and recovers, there tends to be a lower rate of bankruptcies. Economic growth is faster there than in the rest of the country and this is due to some extent to the fact they don’t have to meet high debt service payments.” “When a consumer or a business takes out a loan at very high interest for 30 years, don’t forget that leaves less purchasing power for the years when the debts have to be paid off,” he adds, noting that even Sears and Roebuck, after threatening to leave Arkansas, continues to make loans at the state-mandated rate of 10 percent. Keep the Ceiling While the lending lobbyists are scampering around Texas trying to badger the legislature into canning a 150-year-old financial policy, there is a growing movement around the nation seeking to do just the opposite: put controls on interest rates, especially for some industries, in direct contrast to the across the-board high interest rate policies of the Federal Reserve Board. Jim Boyle, legislative director of the Washington-based Consumer Federation of America, for example, argues that high be applied to the housing and automobile industries because of the severe dampening effect on consumers. On the other hand, says Boyle, “For the purchase of yachts, recreational land, beachfront condominiums, gambling casinos and other nonessentials, the down payment requirement should be increased substantially perhaps to 50 percent of the purchase price. This would have the effect of considerably drying up loan demand while at the same time freeing more money for the ailing housing and automobile indusries.” Roger Hickey, assistant director of the National Center for Economic Alternatives, agrees. “The Federal Reserve Board should set up two different windows one for the buyers of homes and farmers and the other window for the people building luxury homes or investing in the silver markets. “People are mad at the banks and at interest rates,” Hickey says. “We hope to see a revival of the populist spirit campaigning against the Federal Reserve Board. What we have to go to is a national credit policy. We’re demanding a national usury law.” TRAMONTANE/Julius Lester This Is Not About John Lennon This is not about John Lennon. Too many words, some eloquent, most pornographically bathetic, have been written. Most were not about him, but his name was invoked to mourn the passing of something childhood, idealism, fantasies of a world in which peace would have a chance. This is not about John Lennon. I did not know him or listen to his music with more than casual disinterest. His death saddened and angered me, but not more than the black men being murdered on the streets of Buffalo, New York, or the black children dead or missing in Atlanta, Georgia. This is not about John Lennon, a solitary individual whom millions transformed into “the symbol of an age,” as I tired of reading. This is about Brooke Shields. And People magazine. And Barbara Walters interviews. This is about that deep and desperate hunger for someone to embody an ideal without which our lives are like hard clay. Americans are losing the capacity to live their own solitary lives and are seeking increasingly to live the lives of others. That is why People, a more sophisticated version of The Enquirer, is so popular. There are heroes for every strata and race of our culture: Burt Reynolds, Sally Fields, Billy Dee Williams, Andrew Young, Henry Kissinger, Cheryl Ladd, Willie Nelson, Oscar de la Renta, Richard Petty, John Lennon. “What is he really like?” “What is she really like?” It doesn’t seem to be enough for an individual to give of him or herself: We want the person, too. It is as if no boundaries are to be permitted between the public and the private anymore. “What is he really like?” “What is she really like?” As if that is any of our business. We are not satisfied with the gift of the offering. We feel that we have a right to the personhood of those with whom we have a relationship of intimacy through their records, films, books, or television appearances. Americans should be frightened by the public demonstrations of bereavement after John Lennon was murdered. To be affected so profoundly by the death of one we did not know 4 JANUARY 30, 1981 personally should give us pause and make us ashamed. What grateful for the offering of Lennon’s music and leave him alone to live his life? Would the music have had the same impact on people’s lives if its composer had remained anonymous? I doubt it. To so deeply identify with someone we know only through records and magazines is a violation of that person, and, ourselves. The extent to which we so identify is the extent to which we abdicate responsibility to identify ourselves for ourselves. People used John Lennon to voice the aspirations and idealism in their own souls. They uncovered their identities in him. If they had used their own voices to sing their soul’s song, John Lennon would be alive. This is not about John Lennon but a society that suicidally persists in being swallowed by childishness. Childishness is the refusal to assume responsibility for the care of one’s soul. That’s why this is about Brooke Shields, because when a child is accepted as the new image of the feminine, the society is fast losing even the means of knowing what it is to be a woman, or a man. When Lennon was murdered, memories returned of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and other cultural heroes who destroyed themselves because in living the lives of millions, they could not find the means to live the life of one. So this is about Mark Chapman. To hate him is to indulge in childishness. He is not different in kind from anyone else who found their soul’s identify in Lennon. He is different in degree, an important degree, but still only a degree. Until Americans are content to accept the gifts that others bestow on us without also needing to know what they ate for breakfast and what their bedrooms look like then it will continue to create cultural heroes and, inevitably, they will die killed by bullets, drugs, or the burden of being forced to live for the millions who refuse their solitary responsibility to and for the wondrous terror of being human.