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About Oregon daily emerald. (Eugene, Or.) 1920-2012 | View Entire Issue (May 21, 1947)
Postgraduate Course for the Class of ’47 ...
What Is Our Future Survival ?
Less than a month from now the Class of ’47
will have left the incubator. Armed only with a
diploma and whatever knowledge and attitudes we
have acquired during our four years in the com
paratively insulated security of campus life, most
of us will, for the first time, try standing on what
jive ourselves are.
What is ahead for the Class of ’47?
For most of us, life after college will consist of
£ series of postgraduate courses—courses not listed
in any academic catalogue. We will be doing a lot
of lab work—in how to get along with people, how
to “adjust,” how to be “happily married,” how to
hold a job, how to contribute fo “the life of a com
munity,” how to be "good citizens, and finally,
perhaps, how to die.
The Class of ’47, and this entire generation, will
need another postgraduate course—also not listed
in university catalogues. This course is called “Sur
vival I and II.”
And a certain O. Istris, in an article, parts of
which are here reprinted from the June issue of ’47
The Magazine of the Year (Copyright 1947 by
Associated Magazine Contributors, Inc.) gives us
a short introductory seminar on the subject: (Re
printed courtesy of Walter Ross; publisher, ’47)
* * *
It is almost impossible, is it not, for you even
to play with the possibility that, for some ages to
come, yours may be the last generation of civilized
man. Yet unless you play with that possibility and
incorporate it into your thinking, you are unpre
pared for life.
Jt does not matter that you are a Phi Delt or a
Theta. It does not matter that your father is hold
ing ready a desk for you in his brokerage house.
It does not even matter that you are an All-Amer
ican fullback (much less, of course, that you are a
Phi Beta Kappa). Unless you realize that you are
part of a civilization, which DURING YOUR
OWN TIME must either change or die, you are
unprepared for life, and your college career has
been a waste of effort and money.
You are young ... It is easier for a young man
to accept the possibility of a basic change in his
club regulations. So 1 will now repeat what a IT iWb
icqually platitudinous predecessors on the platform
have always said: You Are The Hope Of The
Here, as some see it, is one possible future,
sketchily outlined in three general statements:
1. A fairly large proportion of the world’s in
habitants will during the next decade or two die
premature and unnatural deaths.
2. The technical and industrial base on which
“advanced” people like ourselves rest will be grave
ly and perhaps fatally disrupted.
3. The system of ideas and incentives (call it
Western Civilization) which is what really
tains us will be wrecked, to be replaced by a new
system. This new system will offer the richest
nourishment to near-paranoiacs and human auto
Toward these three statements—actually they
are indivisable—you may adopt one of these atti
MARGUERITE WITTWER-WRIGHT, Editor
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Entered as second class matter at the postoffice, Eugene, Oregon.
FIRST, YOU MAY REJECT THE STATE
MENTS AS ABSURD.
In that case you will endeavor to lead much the
kind of life that our present culture holds out as
desirable. You are probably familiar with the main
features of this kind of life: commercial competi
tion ; the accumulation of money, objects, and in
surance policies; the pursuit of passive diversion
(spectacle-sports, movies, radio, etc.); clique-gre
goriousness (the club, the fraternity house, the
labor union, the church); attainment of respecta
bility (well-dressed wife, well-mannered children,
well-invested securities); the shunning of political
activity together with a liking for political conver
sation; a preference for angle-figuring over rational
thought; respect for law', automatic gear-shifts,
order, cleanliness, mother, individual initiative,
business, people like ourselves and all successful
folk like radio comics and any kind of leader with
top-flight Neanderthal minds.
There is nothing harmful about this life. There
is only one thing the matter with it: unless the evi
dence is false, you will not be allow'ed to live it
* =i= *
SECOND, YOU MAY ACCEPT ' THE
STATEMENTS WITH RESIGNATION AND
If yrou are resigned, your cue is merely to drift
along in a kind of mild coma.
If you should welcome these statements, not
with resignation, but with approval, you need have
no fear of standing alone. There are quantities of
people, known as realists, in all countries who have
already in their minds written off one or more
atomic and ultra-atomic wars to come.
It is a grave error to assume that all men love
freedom. Many have a deep passion for dictator
ship. Many more have a deep passion for servility'.
The first group loves irresponsibility; the second,
no responsibility. Both groups—how expensively
this was rehearsed for us in Germany' between 1933
and 1945—MUST hate detached thought and wmat
is loosely' called culture.
The reason is clear: if one thinks long enough
one is bound to conclude that freedom is good.
Rlato said it long ago: "As there are misanthropists
or haters of man, so also are there misologists, or
haters of ideas." And the two, you might add, are
Perhaps you are such a misanthropist-misal
ogist. Do not hesitate to confess it, for you will
find yourself in the company of some of the greaa^
est and most famous men in history. Indeed, the
world has been owned and operated by such men,
the power men, the strong men, the shrewd men,
the angle-figurers, the accumulators.
If you feel in yourself an irrepressible dislike of,
or contempt for, the people who do not resemble
you in race, color, religion, manners, economic back
ground, social behavior; if you are confident that
the application of sufficient force will solve any
problem; if the idea of violence subtly fills some
of your unconfessed dreams; if the notion of obey
ing a “superior" supplies you with a secret comfort;
if in your judgment mankind has worked itself into
such a complicated mess that salvation can come
about only through the imposition of “orderif
you are heartily sick of the words nobody under
stands, such as democracy, freedom, justice; if you
are intrigued by the words everybody understands,
such as success, power, security; if in the depths of
your heart you feel that the ideal men. from Socra
tes and Jesus down to your own philosophy pro
fessor, are a procession of futile windbags—then
you will probably be a happy and useful citizen of
that future state so well characterized by H. G.
Wells as a human termitarium.
In that case I would urge you to work as hard
as possible to bring the next war about, making
sure that the “victory" will be ours. And you must
fight the enemy at home—that enemy is the de
You must, for example, vigorously attack those
men and women who are subject to the absurd de
lusion that there is some nobilitv in every indi
vidual. You must—but you hardly need specific
counsels; your own sound, healthy instincts will
tell you which side to choose, which men to cul
tivate, which measures to support. And should the
atomic bomb miss you, and the killing emanations
and germs and poison gases and clouds of fire—
should you survive all this, I predict for you a bril
liant future. Yoy will end up as master or slave,
and in either case you will feel jyst dandy.
* * *
However, it may turn out that you wish to serve
as neither master nor slave—for both are servile,
each being the prisoner of another unnatural rela- ■
tionship. Schooled, as I presume you have been, in
the methods of inquiry, you may prefer a third
alternative. You may prefer to INVESTIGATE
You will then seek to determine, first, the de
gree of probability of their truth; and second, the
methods, in case that degree is found dangerously
high, of averting the catastrophe they picture.
Very well. We will start with some dismal
news. You have just spent four years in an atmos
phere of books and studies, at least in part. You
are doubtless eager to step into what is loosely
called “practical life.”
There is a catch to that eagerness. To determine
whether or not that “practical life” is to continue
(otherwise there’s not much sense in rushing into
it) you will have to go back at once to the verv
thing you have just left behind: the world of
There is nothing harder than fundamental think
ing and that is the requirement for this course,
which we may call Survival One and Two. Those
who do not care to elect this postgraduate course
need listen no longer.
To the die-hard rest of you : first you must stud^
something you cannot see, touch, taste, smell, or
hear: the atom. To do this read Selig Hecht’s book
EXPLAINING THE ATOM (The Viking Press,
18 East 48th St., New York). After 12 hours of
study you will know more about atomic energy
than virtually all of our representatives in Congress,
most of our other officials, and most of our militarv
leaders. For you will know that there is unfor
tunately no "secret,” as supposed, to the manufac
ture of atomic bombs.
Next you must study Hiroshima, You must study
the meaning of the event which newsreels and pic
ture magazines, since they do not make a specialty
of reflection, are not quite able to convey to von.
^ our study of the meaning of Hiroshima can best
be started by dropping a postcard to the National
Committee on Atomic Information, 1749 L Street,
N.W Washington 6, D.C. asking for a list of their
As a consequence to your reading you will come
to many conclusions about the bomb.
One of these conclusions will be that it is less
a weapon of war than a method of genocide. ’K’Tfo
tie research into the history of inventions will show
you that the atomic bomb is merely one of a serje*
of more lethal weapons to come.
This is the preliminary work required in our
course. The curriculum of advanced studies are for
you to decide. I will, however, outline two general
conclusions that your elementary studies are apt
to suggest to you.
hirst, Hiroshima symbolizes one of the most
crucial events in recorded history: man’s formal
announcement of his ability and apparent willing
ness, to make an end of himself.
Tou will conclude that, if suicide is to be avoid
ed, a fundamentally new relationship will have to
be established among men, nations, and the phy
sical energy that science has released. That new
relationship you yourself have to determine. This
will take laborious reading, plus a great deafTr un
compromising thought. There’s no easy way out.
^ our second general conclusion will be that the
most sensible—if also the most frightening—state
ments about the meaning of Hiroshima seems to
have been uttered by the “impractical’’ men, suclt*r
as scientists, educators, philosophers, and writers.
By the very nature of their jobs (research into
(Please turn to page seven)