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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 18, No. 10. July 15, 1954

Today's Burdens

Today's Burdens

There are paradoxes here, and it is not easy to resolve them. If it is difficult to find extenuating circumstances, it is not difficult to find at least partial explanations. First, we must remember, we are suffering from over-rapid growth. We have taken on what seems like too much: we have been asked to bear burdens not greater than we can bear, but greater, so many of us think, than we should be asked to bear.

It took the English a century to learn to act as a world power; Germany, France, Russia, Italy and Spain never learned. Suddenly we found ourselves thrust on to the very centre of the world stage implacably required to take on chief responsibility for war, then for peace, then for arming the West. This was asking more than had been asked of any other people in so short a time. It is no wonder that many Americans, even upright and virtuous Americans, reacted convulsively to these demands.

The hatemonger's of our day speak in voices that are strident and raucous; what they say has a peculiar ugliness because most of them are well groomed, respectable and self-satisfied members of our society. The upsurge of hatred and fear in our own day differs in this marked way from similar outbreaks in other days—that it comes from the upper-rather than from the lower-income groups. It is not, now, the oppressed workers, the down-trodden farmers, the starving intellectuals who are joined in desperate revolt. Quite the contrary. It is the well-padded, the well-heeled, the respectable, who spearhead the present movement for suppression and persecution; It is the middle-class reactionaries who are the revolutionists.

Not only is there a reversal of social and intellectual backgrounds, but of argument as well. For the paradox of middle-class revolution extends to philosophy and to the very language that is employed. Almost everything has been turned inside out and upside down. Now it is unconstitutional to invoke the Constitution: now it is un-American to emulate the example of Founding Fathers like Jefferson or Franklin. Now it is not the function of colleges to disturb the minds of the young, but to put them to sleep. Now it is not the function of the churches to agitate moral issues.

Subversives Cartoon

The readiness of so many editors, churchmen and educators to tolerate McCarthyism raises this question. We have had rabble-rousers before, men who appealed to the mob spirit and the lynching instinct, but never before have such men operated on the highest level, so to speak . . . How after all explain the wide following or at least tolerance, that the Senators from Wisconsin and Indiana and Nevada command? How explain our failure to reject reasoning that is so clearly spurious, to repudiate policies and programmers so clearly designed to poison our society?

To say that an attack on civil liberties does not matter if it is not successful amounts to saying that attempted rape is no crime if the girl is lucky enough to fight off her assailant.

The press has a heavy responsibility in all this. It is not so much that the press has failed as that it has allowed itself to be confused; it is not so much a failure in morality as a failure in selectivity. For in one sense journalism is the victim of its own standards of honesty and objectivity. How many of those who read on page one that Fort Monmouth is (so a Senator alleges) riddled with spics and traitors read the next day on the editorial page that it is not so?

But the difficulty, it must be admitted, is deeper than this.