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Chapter 4: Public Opinion


Nero really played a kind of harp, not a violin, should anyone ask. Query: Was Nero's act a "nondecision" decision, since he didn't like his city much? If so, then of course he wouldn't exemplify Proposition IV.


e students might be asked to jot down how much time their closest relatives spent on what subjects during their last conversations. Tabulate the results. Do they support the proposition?


Principle IV signals an eternal breech between what people are interested in and what government should concern itself with. Can we say then: "Good government must be elitist (in the school teacher and disciplinarian senses of the term)?


The desperate hypocrisy of politicians creeps into these fictitious letters. Let the students exercise their own cynicism on the suggested letter-topics that follow them. (The blank in number 8 is for any kind of large-scale organization--college, YMCA, etc., as well as city and country.)

I think the President Nixon's Inaugural Address of January 20, 1973 could add something to our list. He talks about continuing "our" achievements toward peace, how we can make life better than ever, and the solution of the great social problems by each individual making a "solemn commitment in his own heart" to do so, so that in the end, with God and our splendid track record in history to enthuse us, we are embarking on a new era of successfully meeting challenges. If the daily newspapers haven't been enough, this should finally convince us that "truth is stranger than fiction" and that "you should never try to promote a promoter."


Incidentally, you may wish to put this rebellious French student poster expression on the blackboard:

Conjugation of participer

je participe nous participons
tu participes vous participez
il participe ils profitent
I participate we participate
you participate you participate
he or she participates they profit

It is a good melding of disillusionment or disenchantment with the call for greater participation (look back at the Chester cartoon and contrast its cynicism with my bombastic exposition of the need for increased participation--it's that old love-hate attitude to politics).

I don't mention the subject in the text, but in class I usually get around to attacking the "drug" of the daily newspaper and weekly magazine. One is at the mercy of a series of signals from a single source, focused almost entirely on the immediate small event. At best, the mass media give us a conversation piece, to make us all feel that we are in the same boat. What to do? How should the student or citizen keep up with Cosmos and Chronos?

In the game of musical chairs that was played in the aftermath of President Nixon's mudslide victory, Elliot L. Richardson moved from Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to Secretary of the Department of Defense. On January 18, he gave some parting words to the HEW staff and the press. What he said was a shocker, but the New York Times, in the Spirit of Proposition IV, carried it on page 39.

He said that "a crisis which may challenge the fundamental capability of our society to govern itself" was at hand. "To extend the present range of H.E.W. services equitably to those in need would require seemingly impossible allocations of resources--an additional 20 million trained personnel and an additional $250 billion, a sum equal to the entire Federal budget."

He went on: "The Legislative process has become a cruel shell game and the service system has become a bureaucratic maze, inefficient, incomprehensible, and inaccessible."

(You may find these remarks useful in the context of policy VII regarding the negative traits of governmental activity and, later on, in the context of the urgent need to reform the income and tax systems pursuant to Policy IX. George Romney made similar comments on housing programs and urban reform as he was resigning as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.)


The expanded definitions of "drugs" in the Romeoff and Juliet cartoon may be worth some discussion, as, of course, may be the religion of communism (George Dimitrov is similarly embalmed and enshrined in Bulgaria).


We come to censorship, and tackle the most sensitive area of mass concern--"feelthy pictures." A parallel question of liberty occurs in proposals for gun control. The Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but a widespread loathing for violence counters that right. Liberals now seek weapon prohibitions; conservatives and extreme libertarians oppose them. Perhaps guns should be given up by everyone--police and civilians, as well as the military except in certain enclaves.


Are the "causes of events" ever known" How could the point be qualified--by preponderance of evidence? by expert opinion?


Nixon's attack on the commission report was well received; the Senate could hardly wait to do likewise. On October 13, 1970, only 13 days after the 995-page report was issued (with 10 supporting volumes yet to come), the Senate voted 60 to 5 (with 35 abstentions) for a resolution rejecting the findings and recommendations of the Commission. (Eli Oboler writes on the incident in the Library Journal, December 15, 1970, 4225-28.)


The President's (or his ghostwriter's) remark on "great books, great paintings and great plays" is unbelievably misinformed. Does he mean the Bible, the Vedas, the Iliad, Flaubert, Gide, Proust, or Albee, the Rubens of many breasts? So far as "the wellspring of American and Western culture and civilization" is concerned, we have a typical remark that is both culturally chauvinistic and dead wrong; that particular wellspring was "warped and brutal" in its very beginnings, thousands of years ago, not only as regards sex but also war and government, and we've been trying to analyze the "poison" ever since.


However, returning to the theme, we begin trying again to clean up the wellspring (buried in our minds) and advise everybody to hang on for a little longer--be open, be positive, be educable, and hope for the best.


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