PHOTOGRAPHS REINFORCE DISTRUST
Two months early for Halloween, the September-October issue presents thoughtful readers with both a trick and a treat. The treat is Professor Pratap Mehta's considered analysis of the recent nuclear tests in India and Pakistan ("A Nuclear Subcontinent," page 42). The trick is deciphering the issue's cover. At best, it seems to be a too-subtle and self-defeating attempt at irony; at worst (and more likely, we suspect), it demonstrates a jaundiced insensitivity to Mehta's main contentions.
The phrase the editors use as a rubric over Mehta's article and as a label on the cover is "A Dangerous World." Mehta is appropriately critical of the Western perception that the world is disproportionately more dangerous now that South Asia has nuclear power. He notes that India and Pakistan made their security decisions based on their vulnerability in a dangerous world--a world that is at least as dangerous for them as it was for the Western powers that chose to secure nuclear capabilities.
Your photographs, both on the cover and within the issue, make no attempt to illustrate the dangerous world in which South Asia is situated. Instead, these images depict India and Pakistan as the danger: jubilant women, men, and children rejoicing at the possibility of war. The raised fists, the bared teeth, and the face of a child above a bloodthirsty banner all suggest that India and Pakistan are less trustworthy than other nuclear powers; this is exactly the sort of propaganda that Mehta rightly decries.
The cover image serves to reinforce rather than probe cultural stereotypes and distrust. If everyone who saw this cover could be expected to read Mehta's piece, the choice of photographs might be less egregious.
Alice Ristroph '96, GSAS
Jameel Jaffer, 3L
THE HUMAN-RIGHTS MARATHON
Professor Henry J. Steiner's "Securing Human Rights" (September-October, page 45) is an excellent survey of the half-century of progress and lack of progress since adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly. He conveys an acute sense of the heartrending cruelties that governments regularly inflict on people, as well as the complex interplay of institutional and individual actions needed to punish these wrongs and deter others.
A great lesson of the international human-rights movement, like the domestic movement on behalf of civil liberties, is that change usually takes place slowly, except for such rare moments as the approval of the first International Criminal Court by 120 countries in July.
Human-rights work is a marathon, not a sprint. The good news is that there are apparently more and more young men and women, from all parts of the world, who are prepared to make the necessary effort to realize the glorious goals of the 1948 Universal Declaration.
Norman Dorsen, LL.B. '53
Stokes professor, New York University
School of Law, and chairman, Lawyers
Committee for Human Rights
New York City
The United States is not party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. There are 137 states that are party to the Covenant, including all the large democracies except the United States.
It may be, as Steiner says, that the Covenant is "not treated seriously by most of the West." Isn't it interesting, though, that the one developed country that is not a signatory--the United States --also has the highest infant-mortality rate, the highest child-poverty rate, the highest percentage of population incarcerated, et cetera, of all developed countries? Perhaps the connection between our social disorder and our lack of interest in economic, social, and cultural rights merits a look from the Law School's Human Rights Program.
Karl W. Hess '57, M.D.
SEEK EMOTIONAL EQUANIMITY
Craig Lambert's "The Emotional Path to Success" (September-October, page 60) is a nicely written expatiation on the concept of emotional intelligence propounded by Daniel Goleman. Goleman should have learned more from India. While "emotional intelligence" explains many things, it smacks of competition and one-upmanship. Excellence comes out of actions performed not with emotional intelligence, but emotional maturity or emotional equilibrium or equanimity.
There is indeed a connection between emotions and intellect. The Bhagavad-Gita says that "emotional outrage destroys the intellect." He who has emotional equanimity (who is defined as the Sthitha-prajnaha by Gita), and who sees the stone and gold with the same detachment, will be able to reap all the positive externalities of those high achievers who do the emotional management better. Thus, emotional maturity and a sense of detachment seem to be better keys to excellence in action than emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence may manipulate a success, but emotional maturity will yield excellent action, unsullied by selfish goal seeking.
Professor, Indian Institute of Management,
Bangalore, and visiting professor,
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
In his fine article, Lambert refers to Zinedine Zidane and his "fit of pique" against an Iranian opponent in the second game of France's World Cup run. Unfortunately, France's second game and Zidane's fit of pique came against an overmatched Saudi Arabian squad. The Iranians were in an entirely different grouping, and spent their second game stomping the American squad.
WAS JESUS A FEMINIST?
With feminists like Jesus and Paul, who needs male chauvinists? Drawing on the work of Harvard Divinity School's Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Cullen Murphy suggests that Jesus's encounter with a non-Jewish woman shows a particular respect for women because Jesus spoke with a woman in public and considered her plea--a somewhat egalitarian deed for a first-century Jewish man ("Was Jesus a Feminist?" September-October, page 50). This story is told twice in the Gospels (Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30), but the full text, as distinct from hermeneutically annotated partial text, does not support Murphy's and Schüssler Fiorenza's inference. Consider the first telling:
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon." But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus told her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
Here the woman was granted a miracle in exchange for accepting the status of a dog. In the second telling, Jesus made the exchange aspect more specific. Referring to the woman's submission about dogs and crumbs, he replied: "For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter" (Mark 7:29).
The notion that Paul wrote "the Magna Carta of Christian feminism" in Galatians 3:28 is an even more tenuous stretch. Paul thought that a married woman should accept her legal status as her husband's servant (First Peter 2:18-21; 3:1-6). Paul's message to wives, "be the hidden person...be submissive...endure pain while suffering unjustly," is predicated on the assertion that there is pie in the sky and a big piece is reserved for women who know their place and stay in it.
When a large audience wants an argument to be true, even contradictory evidence can be presented as confirmatory. Fortunately for those who prefer their truth sans varnish, and unfortunately for redactors like Murphy and Schüssler Fiorenza, the Bible itself is clear on these matters. What defines a feminist is less clear, but Jesus and Paul did not qualify.
John Hartung, Ph.D. '81
So Jesus is now a feminist. When I was in school, he was an SDS-style revolutionary. What is there about Jesus of Nazareth that makes people see in his life and teachings a perfect reflection of their own? Nobody reads Marxist or feminist subtexts into the sayings of Buddha, Mohammed, or Confucius. But it seems all of us--rich or poor, liberal or conservative, believer or atheist--crave the approval of this first-century Galilean carpenter.
Maybe Jesus was a feminist. After all, it was a woman who posed the ultimate question, "Could this be the Messiah?"
Robert T. Ahlin '72
I was excited to find an article about feminist theology, ostensibly promising a presentation of Schüssler Fiorenza's work. Upon reading further, however, I discovered a truth far too familiar and disappointing in "media" reports on feminist academic scholarship. You chose a secondhand report, despite the fact that Schüssler Fiorenza has written numerous books on the subject at hand, as have many other feminist scholars in religion. You found it worthwhile to explore this area only in light of a recent publication and overview of the field written by a male journalist, who himself is not an expert in the field. Once again, it seems that feminist work is validated and taken seriously only if a male journalist recognizes it or a male academician chooses women as a subject matter for his area of inquiry.
Second, with reference to the manner of Murphy's presentation of Schüssler Fiorenza's work, I found a serious lack of specific content: no extensive quotations or clear delineation of where her words end and his interpretation starts, almost no direct mention of her multifaceted, richly textured, and complex publications, and a complete failure to represent her theoretical approach, which is the most unique and rigorous aspect of her contribution to the field of feminist studies in religion. The only mention of her critical approach is found in the author's biographical and comical observations of her use of daunting theoretical terminology in the classroom. I find this journalistic move not to be a gesture of "personalizing" a scholar. Rather, it seems a means of undermining such work, particularly in the case of women scholars, where academic rigor is often questioned.
When I point out that Murphy focuses mostly on his more personal impressions of Schüssler Fiorenza, rather than on her work, I do not want to give the impression that I am against exploring the generative conditions that inspire someone's intellectual pursuits, particularly feminist work, which very often arises out of women's struggle within the academy. Yet, it is all too typical that a woman's sophisticated and important theoretical work is eclipsed in favor of a "personalized" portrait. This approach renders women scholars and their intellectual contributions as in some way different from, and thereby inferior to, their male colleagues' works and accomplishments.
Emily Neill, Div
HOW AGASSIZ FOUGHT DARWIN
David B. William's "A Wrangle over Darwin" (September-October, page 47) brought back into focus the epic battle between Asa Gray and Louis Agassiz over what to think (and say) about the most important new idea in biology of that era (some would say of any era).
One or two additional vignettes might be offered. Scientific authors often use their bibliographic references to court friendship (or, by omission, arouse irreversible anger). Darwin, knowing of the accomplishments (and respecting the public reputation) of Agassiz, made a special point of referring to Agassiz's work on the South American fossil fishes, as being supportive of an evolutionary sequence. His hope (possibly forlorn) appears to have been that these references might coopt Agassiz onto his side in the forthcoming controversy.
Louis Agassiz was the 1860 version of a TV anchorman, Hollywood spellbinder, and Walter Cronkite, bringing science home to the masses through his lectures. His support would indeed have been helpful to Darwin. But Agassiz did not opt to be coopted. In fact, in fighting Darwin he retreated from his widely respected scientific point of view to the most abject of pseudo-biblical creationism's. He joined ranks with very conservative church people on both sides of the Atlantic to oppose any concept of evolution, and indeed to oppose much of late nineteenth-century science. He continued to espouse this point of view until he died in disgrace. In disgrace? Well, in the opinion of some of his colleagues.
Darwin was proposed for membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was opposed by Agassiz. That is, until Agassiz died in 1873. Darwin was then, promptly, elected to membership.
Williams's fine article makes it clear that divisions amongst Harvard's leading biologists on the interpretation of evolution and its two primary determinants, natural selection and sexual selection, are of long standing. Now to these fossil arguments have been added the genetic inheritance of behavioral traits (sociobiology), and the modus operandi of evolutionary change in the chemistry of molecular genetics. These divisions continue and are of very long standing: about 138 years, and counting.
Francis D. Moore '35, M.D. '39, S.D. '82
Moseley professor of surgery emeritus
Harvard Medical School, Boston
GERTRUDE IS THE CATS' MEOW
I have come across Richard Marius's "Vita" on Saint Fiacre (July-August, page 46) in my extensive research on him and others of the more "interesting" saints.
|The real patron saint of cats © A.C.L. BRUSSELS|
Virtually all of my references indicate that Gertrude, not Genevieve as Marius maintains, is the patron saint of cats. As I am slogging in search of any accuracy in a field of fantasy, I would appreciate it if Marius would let me know how he arrived at Genevieve. Perhaps it was her connection with plague prevention?
Royal Oak, Mich.
Richard Marius replies: alas, Patricia Banker is right. My memory played a trick on me. I plunged into the Bibliotheca sanctorum, and there was my error, as plain as the mice (or the rats) on the robe of Saint Gertrude of Nivelles. Yes, that Saint Gertrude is the patron saint of cats, though why she should be pictured with mice crawling over her robe is one of those medieval mysteries I cannot solve. Now I know why we recently found mice in our kitchen cupboard. Saint Gertrude of Nivelles has a right to be annoyed.
AMERICAN OF MIXED LINEAGE
Reading Tara Purohit's essay ("The Undergraduate," July-August, page 73), I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Harvard's obsession with "diversity" has given this poor woman a sense of guilt about not having an ethnic identity to celebrate. She's just a rootless, drifting American of mixed lineage. Think what her children may suffer--total confusion of ethnicity! Will they be able to get into Harvard without an ethnic pedigree?
Gee, Harvard, if you will really work at it, maybe we can bring the joys of Bosnia, Ulster, and Quebec to our shores. Whatever happened to E Pluribus Unum?
Shane E. Riorden '46
NO SPECIAL DEALS IN AID
It is clear to me that the New York Times article "Universities Giving Less Financial Aid on Basis of Need" (June 21, 1998) provided just enough information to its readers to mislead them. Rupert Wilkinson '61 read the article and, in his letter to Harvard Magazine (September-October, page 6), came to the conclusion that "Evidently Harvard has been doing special deals for students whom it really wants, who conceivably need some financial aid, and who can document big offers from elsewhere."
The case used as an example by the Times was that of our daughter, Joyce Keck, class of 2002. Whereas it would be lovely to think that she was on Harvard's Most Wanted List, and whereas our pocketbook would be in much healthier shape if bidding was indeed the game, the truth is very different. In point of fact, the change in our daughter's financial-aid package was a result of the very process that Wilkinson acknowledges as standard procedure.
In his report, the author of the Times article neglected to mention that we provided expanded financial information to the Financial Aid Committee in our financial-aid appeal. As a result of this information, the committee increased the Harvard Faculty Scholarship by approximately 10 percent. The reporter also neglected to mention that our daughter had received about $8,000 in outside scholarships, information also provided to the Financial Aid Committee in our appeal. Because of these outside scholarships, Joyce's loans were decreased by the standard rubrics of the committee. And, perhaps most interestingly in light of Wilkinson's conclusions, the reporter neglect- ed to mention that the cost to us of having our daughter attend Harvard after the financial-aid adjustment was approximately three times more than the cost to have her at Rice, my own alma mater.
Does that sound like a special deal? Wilkinson has been sorely misled by the Times to believe that we "got Harvard to increase her scholarship by 'thousands' on the strength of a merit-scholarship from Rice." The changes that resulted in our daughter's final aid award were a result of standard and fair procedures, not bidding. Perhaps Wilkinson will feel a little happier about Harvard's financial- aid policies. The flip side of this is that he, like us, may now read the Times with a little less confidence in the inferences we quite logically draw from a given report.
Patricia Cigarroa Keck
So I went to buy a car--first class this time. Picked out a nice one. Asked the salesman how much; he said, "All you can pay." And to find out, he put me through the wringer: tax records, investments, the whole bit. Was I holding out on a vacation home, by chance? Not to worry, I was told; what I paid went to a good cause and "let" the car dealer charge someone else less.
True story? Not a chance; imagine the uproar that would result from such blatant price discrimination for such an important purchase. After all, it's not like I was buying a college education or something.
Carl Danner, Ph.D. '86
Editor's note: for new developments in financial aid at Harvard, see "Autumn Windfall".
SOLD: THREE PAIRS OF SHOES
I was shocked and offended when I read "The Art of Ownership" (May-June, page 69). In a caption to a photograph of two Fogg Art Museum curators and the van Gogh painting Three Pairs of Shoes, you note that the painting was bought by my father, Marcel Kapferer, in 1925 and sold by the New York dealer Georges Wildenstein in 1943 to Maurice Wertheim, who subsequently gave it to Harvard. You quote a November 1997 article in the Boston Globe by Walter Robinson and Maureen Goggin, who reported that my father sold paintings through Wildenstein during the war for insignificant sums of money to support himself and members of his family who were living then in southern France. According to the Globe, this erroneous information was supplied by my niece, Francine Legrand, who was born in November 1939. She could not possibly have firsthand knowledge of the circumstances in which the paintings were sold.
The facts are these. In 1939, my father felt that war with Germany was imminent. He had met several Jewish émigrés from Germany who told him that they had been forced to leave everything they owned behind them to secure passage out of the country. He did not want the same thing to happen to him and his family. By February of 1939 he had asked his future son-in-law, Daniel Wildenstein, to send four paintings in his collection--two Renoirs and two van Goghs--to the United States. His intention was not simply to put these pictures out of the reach of the Germans--who were not to invade France until May of the following year; he meant for them to be sold. The paintings were thus consigned to the Wildenstein Gallery in New York, and they were sold on my father's instructions at what were then fair market prices, not at "spoliation prices," as the Globe and then you quoted my niece as saying. The van Gogh netted more than $30,000, a sum that far exceeds the prices being paid at the time for works by van Gogh, according to Gerald Reitlinger's The Economics of Taste.
Martine Kapferer Martin
West Palm Beach, Fla.
BUNDY AND McCARTHYISM
The premise of Kai Bird's comments about Harvard's response to McCarthyism ("Open Book," September-October, page 31) appears to be that greater militancy on the part of Dean Bundy and President Pusey would have put McCarthy and millions of McCarthyites to flight; the Foreign Service would then have had the prestige needed to attract able people into the study of East Asia, and our experience in Vietnam might have been very different. Hypotheticals can never be finally refuted, but the flimsiness of this chain is apparent. The fact that it is used to suggest moral failure on the part of the University and its leaders makes it an excellent example of the pitfalls of revisionism.
While Bundy "seemed to stand on principle," Bird tells us, "what Harvard said was not necessarily the same as what Harvard did." For instance, it did not appoint known Party members to the faculty; those accused of security violations were left to mount their own defense; it required tenured members to be candid with University officials; it discouraged resort to the Fifth; junior faculty who defied investigators were not reappointed; and the University responded to legitimate FBI inquiries. Only those whose political awareness begins with the cultural revolution of the 1970s will fail to understand that such policies were essential to the defense of academic freedom in the 1950s.
No one who lived through the McCarthy years can possibly imagine that if Harvard had "adopted a policy of forthright resistance...this might reasonably have created a different political atmosphere." What is easy to imagine is that such a course would have made the political climate yet worse, demonstrating to an anxious nation that its preeminent university was, indeed, deeply involved in a Communist conspiracy as charged.
McGeorge Bundy, Nathan Pusey, and Harvard University acted wisely and bravely during those sad times, and deserve honor for helping to turn the tide, rather than the opprobrium Bird offers.
Retired director, Harvard University Center
for the Behavioral Sciences, Cambridge
Bravo to Claudia Cummins '88 for "Why I'm Not Coming Back" (July-August, page 81), explaining her decision not to go to reunion. Measuring your life according to how happy you are, rather than by other people's institutionalized grading systems, is a difficult choice. Reporting it to the Harvard community is all the more so.
Harvard Magazine is complicit in this artificial gauging of people's lives by printing each alumnus's graduation distinction in the obituaries. After a long life in which somebody may have married the perfect mate, raised children through heartbreak and elation, perhaps accomplished something meaningful in the world, or simply charmed hundreds of other people with his or her amiability, does it really matter whether he or she graduated cum laude? Or is this just one more opportunity for showing off from beyond the grave?
John Rosenthal '87
New York City
The painting in "Chaos, Culture, Curiosity" (September-October, page 20) issue should have carried the caption: The Goddess Bhairavi, attributable to Payag, Mughal, circa 1630-35, courtesy of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, private collection.