ustxtxb_obs_1986_11_07_50_00028-00000_000.pdf

Page 22

by

A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co.Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Peace It Can Be By Bernard Rapoport The following is a speech made to the Waco Peace Alliance in June 1986. Dove or peacenik, hawk words that categorize categorically and are mutually exclusive. I know them well. I was in the Oxford Peace Movement and then along came the Spanish Civil War and I was hawkish for the losing Loyalists. Then back to being a dove. Now Hitler and World War II I was a totally committed hawk. Then Korea and I was half and half. And then Vietnam I became a dove. Then comes Afghanistan and Hungary and Czechoslovakia and I sat atop the mountain and wondered what the heck I really was. I know that I was searching for a moral position and I just couldn’t find it. In this searching, I came’ across a book entitled Moralism and Morality in Politics and Diplomacy by Kenneth W. Thompson and these words helped my understanding: “Practical morality involves the reconciliation of what is morally desirable and politically possible. It offers at most a few absolutes but many practical possibilities. Prudence is the central precept in the ancient tradition of moral reasoning. It recognizes the need for the moral man in an immoral world to find his way through ‘a maze of conflicting moral principles’ no one of which reigns supreme.” I think it perhaps began with the Greeks, probably long before them, but Plato, Aristotle and Socrates with their dialogues put us in quest of universals and we have been searching for clear, simple answers ever since. The deeper we search, the more elusive those answers become and I guess it is because, again, as Thompson said, “Morality offers at most a few absolutes but many practical possibilities.” That is what I would like to discuss with you this evening some practical possibilities. As many of you know, I am an expert in Russian affairs. I recently spent four days there and I think that given the nuclear age in which we live and the understanding of those who seek knowledge that it can be compacted in two and a half days which is the length of time necessary to be known as an expert, so I had a day and a half to spare. I, therefore, would expect you to take what I have to share with you as expert and divine revelation. I am sure that you will. I am for peace because there is no alternative. I returned from Russia on a visit that was much too short but of sufficient length to have some opinions that give me cause for great concern. Having a mother and father who both came from Russia in their 20s, I was reared in a Russian culture. I went with a feeling of nostalgia to visit a place that I felt like I had visited many times and that I knew firsthand even though it was, of course, my very first visit. What I found was almost diametrically the opposite of what I had expected. Sure, I read books and I have read the papers, but I thought that much of this was propaganda. There are certain things the Russians are nice people; they are very hospitable. Truthfully, I don’t think I have ever visited people anywhere that weren’t nice as long as I was nice to them. What concerned me more than anything, however, was that they were, indeed, the most propagandized people I have ever seen in my life. I have visited many countries including China and the efficiency of the Russian propaganda machine is certainly unmatched anywhere where I have been. Sure, those of us who are interested in political, academic and philosophical pursuits know that we are propagandized in our country. We certainly have a press that propagandizes, but we have one thing going for us. John Dewey once remarked that every government needs a minister of irritance and in the state of Texas, you can have a paper like the Texas Observer. In our nation, you can have magazines such as the Progressive and Mother Jones, The Nation, and The New Republic. You can have think tanks from the left and from the right. We have plenty of ministers of irritance in our country. In Russia, there is but one propaganda machine. The two most salutary aspects of Russian life as I viewed the situation was full employment. Every person that wanted to work could work. And second, the care and sensitivity that they exhibited toward their children and especially toward the education of their children. When talking with the Russians, they brought up the point of how much unemployment we have. “We read about the poor condition of your schools.” At first, I was stumped for a response. But then I went back to my Marxist learning and remembered for Marxists, the ends justify the means. How they got to their full employment concerned me a great deal. It was not through the freedom of choice that we have in America. With us, process is more important than the end result. If we want freedom of the press, we are willing to pay for it even if it means putting up with insidious pornographers. In our group, for example, were some of us who would have enjoyed having a drink of vodka in the evening. But their dictator had said there would be no drinking in the evenings by government officials. I explained to them, for example, about the smoking situation. In their country, they could issue a decree that there would be no more smoking. In our country, five or six senators could prevent the passage of this through the filibuster. They could not understand this at all and I had to explain that in a democracy such as ours, it is not so much the majority having its way, but that the emphasis was rather on protecting the rights of minorities. I was very much taken with an article by James Fallows in the July Atlantic entitled “The Spend-Up.” He pointed out that a defense consultant during a congressional hearing refused to talk about the military buildup. . He said it should be called a spent-up because this particular witness had asserted that no buildup had occurred and that the gap between the spend-up and a real buildup reflected the gamble on which the modern military policy was based. In other words, we are spending a lot more money on each particular weapon and it is becoming increasingly complex. 28 NOVEMBER 7, 1986