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Montgomery College Rockville, Md. Sur-Response to Betterly, Frank & Rislov Some thirty-odd years ago when a course titled "Western Civilization" was still taught, I was asked a question that made me think. "What is the 'Western Tradition?'" I finally took a stab at it, but it took a bit of thought. How does one summarize the linkage that exists between cultures in the past and those of the present? I finally answered as follows: "The Western Tradition is a continuing debate between those who hold that it is possible to achieve a society without any form of coercion and those who diagree." Of course that leaves a lot of room between the two extremes: more, less, possible, how about progress?, etc. And since there is room for argument the debate spans centuries. The jury in 2001 A.D. is still out, so to speak. Thus when Rislov states "The world religions have lived in peace all over the world for many years at a time without resorting to such claims as moral authority" I have to ask, What period of history is Rislov talking about? Was there indeed a time when the Roman Catholic church did not claim moral authority? Was there a time when Judaism did not claim moral authority. Do the Jews not now claim that Palestine is theirs, including the Holy Sites? Do they not base that claim on moral authority? And do they not seek to impose their claim based upon moral authority by force? And was there a time when the believers of Islam did not claim that their faith was the one true faith? And did they not feel some obligation to spread their faith, by force (only when "necessary" mind you). Was there something in the history of the Mediterranean world that I missed in the 8th and 9th centuries? Was it when the Ottoman adherents of the Islamic faither later enslaved Christian boys and turned them into Janissary warriors? If not, when was it? My response is that what precious little peace is to be found can be attributed to something other - perhaps the geographical isolation of the cultures spawned. Thus when Rislove sees "Signs of superpatriotism" in the degree of public support for the president, or the sales of flags or when Betterly sees this in the wearing of lapel ribbons, I wonder how close the lessons derived from history hae been absorbed. Wearing ribbons and flying flags appear to be rather peaceful activities. My wife has a bumper sticker on her car from the Maryland State Troopers Assn. Does it mean she supports the FBI at Ruby Ridge or at the Branch Davidian Compound? Compare these entirely symbolic expressions to the show of the "superpatriots" in Western Europe during the Crusades, when affirming one's belief in his cultural/religious superiority included killing Jews while en route to the Holy Lands, sacking cities held by Eastern Orthodox believers and physically exterminating all "infidels" once one arrived at the Holy Lands. Which of the two - the display of symbols or the physical massacre of "others" was a more compelling display of "superpatriotism?" And how does Rislov find a quantum of superpatriotism in the statements of the American president? Right or wrong the statements of a political leader shoud not be confused with the degree of public support behind the goal stated. N'est pas? Thus: "Present world systems..." The roots of an imagined world system go far beyond nasty British imperialism during WWI. If my understanding of history is correct, the Mongols had a keen sense of universal monarchy as the desired "world system" in the late 12th century A.D. And they tried to impose it. Unfortunately this required just a bit of physical coercion. The historical conclusion to be reached is that every social system relies upon force.Let me rephrase this: all known social systems have relied upon force. Persuasion has proved it's limitation in every social system. Thus we have police, courts, marshalls (all armed) as well as armies and navies (equally or better armed) to achieve the same result - survival. Of course this does not mean that somewhere in the near or distant future it might not be possible to arrange a universal system that does not rely upon force, or to mitigate the degree and incident of force, but this is not where we PRESENTLY find ourselves in the WESTERN TRADITION. It's a debate, nor a reality. Unfortunately for those who take the pro side in the debate there are some immediate issues that hold center stage, such as self-preservation. When 747 planes hit skyscrapers and when letters filled with anthrax arrive in the mail, it is hard to concentrate on the WHAT MIGHT BE. The old adage applies: "It's somewhat difficult to remember when you are chest deep in water, fighting off the allegators, that your primary function was to drain the swamp." Thus: "...the resources of humanity are not presently distributed in such a way that children born in countries not of their choice would be only minimally penalized. It means many adult humans do not presently acept a responsibility to recognie that none of us chose our parents, our century or our country." Now if there is one set of assertions that lends itself to a reasonable solution, I would not recommend the above. I think the author was referring to what others call the "Human Condition." I personally did not choose which century I was born in. I did not personally choose my parents. I did not choose the cultural values of the society into which I was born, reared and acculturated in. I also did not choose my rather mediocre looks, physical attributes or intellectual ability. Woe is me!!! I also do not choose to die, but am rather reconciled to expecting this. What a miserable condition I find myself in. I am without meaningful choices. So, let's redistribute the human choices. Excuse me. Something must have been lost in the translation. Thus: 'It is perfectly possible for human beings to create laws, systems and economics which strive to continually reduce human violence, continually increase economic justice and assume adult responsibility..." I agree that this SHOULD BE. Whether it WILL BE is in doubt. But again, we are back to the WESTERN TRADITION. I do humbly suggest that what SHOULD BE is not "perfectly possible." But then the author of this belief may want to present further argument, including a few FACTS to support that belief. (Make that BELIEF - all in caps) On Yes! There is Oxfam and the Friends Service Committee. I assume that if I send a contribution to either organization, none of it will be used to cover the COLAs of its members, but that the entire contribution will be sent to the "others." Perhaps so, perhaps not. But then once upon a time I actually met a Professional Basketball player under 5'10' in height. I also ran into an AMTRAC employee who was polite. I hesitate to generalize here, and likewise hesitate to make public policy based upon these novel experiences.