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Dartmouth’s Only Independent Newspaper
Volume 28, Issue 11
January 23, 2009
The Hanover Review, Inc.
P.O. Box 343
Hanover, NH 03755
—Special Book Review Issue—
—MLK Jr Day Absurdities—
—Forever Poor: Wright’s Tenure—
—The Second Great Depression—
— and much more—
Page The Dartmouth Review January 23, 2009
Alexie Keys Off MLK Day Celebrations
resolution among family and intimates without including the be remembered as titans of our history for having finally
powerful role of humor in resolving conflicts in our personal secured for a huge swath Americans the full rights that ac
What can a college campus expect from an MLK Day lives. As mentioned above, Alexie was beautifully elegant company the special title of citizen of the United States.
keynote speaker? Should the audience expect to be enter- and honest in his recollection of his father’s ability to wash
Not that MLK Day is just about them; after all, we are
tained? Hopefully. Should they leave with a better under- away hurt with humor.
still not at the mountaintop. It will always be possible for us
standing of King’s message, and its continuing importance Despite this, the overall message came up desperately short to climb higher. And at the risk of seeming (gasp!) earnest
today? Absolutely. King once said, “an individual has not because of its inherent limitedness. Alexie’s over-reliance or serious, our keynote speaker could have gotten around
started living until he can rise above the narrow confines on his comedic talent, while it established a rapport with to surveying the mountainside, and taken note for us of
of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of the audience, proved ultimately to be a handicap in a set- some of our less fortunate fellow human beings around the
ting that demanded more gravitas than Alexie was willing world, and in our own country, who live lives so marred by
injustice that the vast majority of us here at Dartmouth can
One might suspect that the bulk of the scarcely begin to imagine it.
et Alexie, for all his wit, was unable to deliver
than two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times published
what one should expect from this type of speech: student audience, when asked to name some- Less
thing specific about Alexie’s talk, would recall his an editorial about the persistent presence of international
a motivating, central narrative that reminds us again declaration of sexual interest in various guys and slavery in the United States. Today, remarkably, in the
girls seated in the front rows of the auditorium, twenty-first century, the Department of Justice estimates
of why we honor Dr. King’s life every January.
rather than what he had to say more broadly that slave trafficking is still flourishing to the tune of 14,000
about gay marriage. A mind as deft as Sherman to 17,000 people per year, who are forcibly brought into this
On January 19, the Native American fiction writer and Alexie’s is certainly capable of finding a less ham-fisted and country as participants in the sex trade or just as ordinary,
comic Sherman Alexie delivered the keynote address for more tactful way of making his point.
old-fashioned manual laborers.
this year’s MLK Day celebration at Dartmouth in Spauld-
Consider Shyima Hall, who was shipped to the United
And what points could have been made! It’s rather
ing auditorium. Alexie was funny, certainly. He kept up a remarkable that in this world full of injustice, the injustices States at age ten to serve in the employ of a wealthy family
fantastic patter, paced the Spaulding auditorium stage, and Alexie chose to highlight were often the most trivial, on a living in Irvine, California. Little Shyima slept in the garage
engaged the crowd as well as any stand-up comic.
day when we commemorate a most monumental judicial and stayed home scrubbing floors when she should have
His talk even ascended into poignancy when he re- triumph. Carrying “the burdens of my people,” he seemed been at school.
counted his father’s joking last words. There was
Worldwide, the State Department estimuch to admire in his able description of the
mates that something on the order of 800,000
bizarre contradictions and complexities of life on
people are trafficked as slaves between internathe reservation; it’s not for nothing that he has got
tional borders each year, and this says nothing
a National Book Award under his belt. Yet Alexie,
of those many more who are trafficked within
for all his wit, was unable to deliver what one should
expect from this type of speech: a motivating, central
That’s just one example. There are also the
narrative that reminds us again of why we honor
campaigns of government-organized violence
Dr. King’s life every January.
against groups of people whose only crime is
The theme of this year’s celebration is “Gettheir religious or ethnic identity.
ting to the Mountaintop: Working through Conflict
Darfur’s just the most recent and well-known
toward Resolution,” an admirable message, to be
iteration of this habit. Then there is the syssure. Since Alexie’s address was billed as the keytematic oppression of women all across the
note event of this celebration, one might reasonably
Middle East and the practice of female genital
expect that his speech would hew to that theme,
mutilation throughout most parts of Africa.
with variations for his well-reputed comic relief.
And of course, there are the campaigns of
Preceding remarks from President Wright
violence which lack the imprimatur of governand Anna Bofa set the stage nicely by referencing
ment backing, but which are no less harmful to
the impending inauguration of Barack Obama as
their victims, the most recent and spectacular
president, and discussing at length the long distance
example of which were the coordinated attacks
toward resolution that America has traveled since
King’s death in 1968. Although both took careful
And this is merely a quick review of the bestnote of the discrimination and inequality that still
publicized instances of man-made injustice.
exist both here and abroad, they also gave the audi So, after considering just a few of the
ence a chance to exult in the profound symbolism
alternatives, the audience might ask how
of an MLK celebration held on the eve of the first
Alexie’s talk fits into the context of an unjust
black president’s inauguration.
world. One would be challenged to identify a
Alexie would have none of it. Instead, he raised the
definite message from Alexie other than the
topic of Obama’s inauguration by promptly making
following: keep your sense of humor sharp,
fun of those who, like Wright and Bofa, could not
and life’s conflicts will be eased.
stop paying tribute to America’s big moment. He
For an audience like Dartmouth’s, it’s
quoted himself, drawing attention to a recent compretty good advice on a personal level. And for
ment that appeared in the New York Times.
Ezell Blair, David Richmond, Joseph McNeil
“He’s [Obama] still a politician and I’m still
and Franklin McCain, the four black North
an Indian...they all look like treaty makers to me.”
Carolinian college students who started the
He jokingly elaborated on this comment, but the
sit-in movement just forty eight years ago at
underlying message was nevertheless deadly serious.
a lunch counter in Greensboro, no doubt a
Racial progress? What’s that? Obama’s still a part
good dose of humor helped to alleviate their
of the Establishment. Only The Man’s skin color
societal predicament. But it is hardly sufficient
—Sherman Alexie laughs at his own jokes—
advice for those who are interested in engaging
These first barbs should have been a giveaway of
the world and righting its wrongs.
what was to come: what Alexie ended up delivering
A distinctly and earnestly directed moral
to be most agitated by the clueless sympathy of WASPy
was a cynical and often narcissistic message, punctuated by
message is needed, and on that count, Alexie simply was
types who apologize for their ancestors’ wrongs, or by the
attempts at larger meanings that fell flat. What did Alexie get
not up to the job.
Indian logos of various teams at all levels of sport.
most worked up about during our soiree in Spaulding?
When we consider the foci of
The audience learned how much Alexie hates it when
Alexie’s lecture against the backdrop
strangers try to talk to him on airplanes. Or, while enjoying
lexie simply was not up to the job. There are not
of the Reverend Martin Luther King
hors d’oeuvres at parties, Alexie prefers not to talk about
Jr’s accomplishments and the civil
many opportunities for the Dartmouth community
his Spokane heritage. What the audience ended up getting,
rights movement generally, we might to come together as it does on MLK Day to celebrate
in other words, was a full dose of trivia about Alexie and
discover that Alexie is focused on
his family, strung together by the thesis that humor has the
phantoms. What is the justification the potential of goodness on this earth. Perhaps in future
power to heal our conflicts.
for replacing our commemoration of years, Dartmouth can find a keynote speaker capable of
To be fair, anyone who has ever read the Onion (Postthose who stood at Selma, of those
meeting the magnitude of that unique moment.
Election Day headline: Black Man Given Nation’s Worst
who braved the jail time and police
Job) or watched The Colbert Report will understand that
beatings and water cannons, of those
satirists, deploying a sharp-edged talent for funniness, are
courageous students (our own age at
There are not many opportunities for the Dartmouth
often able to more deeply penetrate the truth of the matter
the time) who sat in at segregated lunch counters through- community to come together as it does on MLK Day to
than eager and earnest commentators.
out the South with tirades against silly party hostesses and celebrate the potential of goodness on this earth. Those
Moreover, it would be impossible to talk about conflict
opportunities, when they come, cannot afford trivial and
The mere memory of the heroes of that era is usually self-directed tirades. Perhaps in future years, Dartmouth can
Mr. Dameron is a sophomore at the College and
enough to raise the neck-hairs of those who hear their stories find a keynote speaker capable of meeting the magnitude
contributor to The Dartmouth Review.
well told. These individuals (often anonymous) deserve to of that unique moment.
By Charles S. Dameron
January 23, 2009 The Dartmouth Review Page
Greg Fossedal, Gordon Haff,
Benjamin Hart, Keeney Jones
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win
great triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than
to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy
much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray
twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
Weston R. Sager
Michael C. Russell, A.S. Erikson
William D. Aubin
David W. Leimbach, Jared W. Zelski,
Christine S. Tian
Mostafa A. Heddaya, Tyler Brace,
Katherine J. Murray
Nicholas P. Hawkins
Cat D. Amble
James T. Preston., Michael R. DiBenedetto
Nisanth A. Reddy, Michael J. Edgar
Blair Bandeen, Kathleen Carmody, Michael R. DiBenedetto, Peter Blair, Cathleen G. Kenary, Ryan Zehner,
Charlie Dameron, Brian C. Murphy, Fernando RodriguezVilla, Lane Zimmerman, Ashley Roland, Erich Hartfelder,
Brian Nachbar, Andrew Lohse, Michael Randall
Mean-Spirited, Cruel and Ugly
The Review Advisory Board
Martin Anderson, Patrick Buchanan, Theodore Cooper
stein, Dinesh D’Souza, Robert Flanigan, John Fund,
William Grace, Gordon Haff, Jeffrey Hart, Laura
Ingraham, Mildred Fay Jefferson, William Lind, Steven
Menashi, James Panero, Hugo Restall, Roland Reynolds, William Rusher, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Sidney Zion
Freshman girl emeritus
The cover image is courtesy of the Dartmouth Library
Special Thanks to William F. Buckley, Jr.
The Editors of The Dartmouth Review welcome correspondence from readers concerning any subject, but
prefer to publish letters that comment directly on material published previously in The Review. We reserve
the right to edit all letters for clarity and length.
Submit letters by mail, fax at (603) 643-1470, or e-mail:
The Dartmouth Review is produced bi-weekly by
Dartmouth College undergraduates for Dartmouth
students and alumni. It is published by the Hanover
Review, Inc., a non-profit tax-deductible organization.
Please send all inquiries to:
The Dartmouth Review
P.O. Box 343
Hanover, N.H. 03755
The Dartmouth Review
P.O. Box 343
Hanover, N.H. 03755
Fax: (603) 643-1470
Contributions are tax-deductible.
Let the Market Decide
The free market has been getting a lot of bad press
these days. However, as a publication that prides itself on
the slogan that any publicity is good publicity, it is only
natural for us at The Review to appeal to the free market
to solve the College’s economic woes.
Universities and colleges like our own are increasingly
running on a business model. With endowments that range
from Brown’s 2.8 billion dollars to Harvard’s 28.8 billion
dollars, the how and when of spending those bucks efficiently
is a matter of market principles. And efficiency is the name
of the game, especially these days—Dartmouth must cut
budgetary expenses by 40 million dollars in the next two
fiscal years. This is because its endowment dropped by 220
million dollars as a result of the economic downturn.
Given everything that has happened on Wall Street
and Motor City, the thought of fixing Dartmouth’s financial
woes by using free market principles may seem ludicrous,
but bear with me. Putting aside the issue that a distortion of
free market values—not the values themselves—is causing
what people are now calling the second Great Depression,
the College should appeal to the most simple and basic concept of a market economy to guide it through its enormous
budget cuts: supply and demand. To what ends? We’ll get
College leaders are facing the question of where and
how the financial cuts should
be made. We know where
they won’t be made, thanks to
President Wright’s “Forever
New” report: the College won’t
skimp on financial aid and
academic expenses. He writes,
“The Board agrees that we
need to protect financial aid,
our academic strengths—of which the core is the tenuretrack faculty and our overall educational environment—and
we need to do all we can to support Dartmouth’s employees.
We will look to identify adjustments that are sustainable
rather than temporary, and we anticipate making specific
reductions that reflect our institutional priorities.”
Institutional priorities. As a liberal arts institution,
Dartmouth’s institutional priority is educating undergraduates in the, well, liberal arts. Here are some attending factors:
prominent faculty, good courses, and plenty of opportunities
for students to expand intellectually outside of the classroom
(this means foreign study, research grants, and the like).
Some departments on this campus are better at meeting
these demands than others.
Consider a quote from a former Dartmouth professor
of English. In his article on Western Civilization (in our
Book Review issue) Professor Michael Platt writes: “To
all visitors to Dartmouth, the green in the middle suggests
‘Here is innocence, here is happiness, and here is peace,’
but the reality is the war of all departments against all others. Crossing the green one day, the head of Comparative
Literature jested to me: ‘I’ll meet you here and duel it out
Some departments consistently win that duel, while
others consistently lose. The departments that consistently
lose—those whose courses are under-enrolled, those whose
faculty members are not inspiring, those that exist simply as
vestiges of the 1970s academic revolution—should be cut in
their totality or drastically down-sized. The understandable
fear here is that departments of real value—think the small,
vibrant Philosophy Department, not the dull, flaccid Women
and Gender’s Studies Department—might lose out.
But the evidence at a peer Ivy League institution suggests otherwise. At Brown, the free market determines which
courses and departments remain on the payroll and which
ones do not. There, the liberal arts courses are thriving.
Brown’s Professor of Political Science, John Tomasi, is
using a market-driven curriculum to his advantage. Brown
has an open curriculum, which means that students can
pick whatever courses they like, without the restrictions
of “distributive requirements,” which Dartmouth has, or a
“core curriculum,” which Columbia has.
Professor Tomasi founded and is running the Political
Theory Project. The Project is devoted to promoting courses
on Western Thought and American Civics. It runs like a
center, much like the Rockefeller Center, and sponsors
lectures and seminar classes for undergraduate and gradu-
ate students. Some of the classes taught are: Conservative
Thought in America and Classical Liberalism.
Aside from its many problems, an open curriculum
leaves the education that a student receives completely in
the hands of that student. Professor Tomasi’s program wins
through “choice.” Since a Brown student chooses which
courses he takes, he is also deciding which courses the
college will teach: successful, over-booked courses (such
as Tomasi’s own Introduction to Political Thought) will
continue on, while less successful courses will be cut from
the curriculum for a variety of pragmatic reasons.
Short of a core curriculum, which is the standard of an
ideal, classical education, the next best option is an open
curriculum like Brown’s. There are two things Dartmouth
should do in this regard: first, Dartmouth should first adopt a
market based, open curriculum. Second, the College should
use enrollment statistics to dictate expenditures. This way,
the question of where to cut funds becomes almost moot:
the market will give a natural answer. Successful courses
and departments will thrive naturally; unsuccessful ones
should wither away as funding for them reduces to a trickle,
or even dries up altogether. This is one way to streamline
the College’s expenses.
As it is, Dartmouth’s distributive requirements distort
the market picture by forcing
students to enroll in classes
that they would otherwise
never enroll in. Dartmouth
has seven distributive requirements—among them are Art,
Social Analysis—and three
World Culture requirements.
The latter are, “Non Western,”
“Western,” and “Culture and Identity.”
Many times, students will take “easy distributive classes”
simply to get them out of the way. Those “joke classes,” like
“Rocks for Jocks,” are of little educational value. Given that
students are paying for their educations, those classes are
literally a waste of money.
Take the requirement for a “CI,” or “Culture and
Identity” class. A look through the course catalog suggests
that most CI classes are have a distinctively PC element to
them, with topics so obscure that most students only enroll in
these classes only to fulfill their distributive requirement.
Caribbean Literature and Contemporary Playwrights of
Color are just two of the CI classes listed on the registrar’s
website, but their themes are consistent with most of the
other CI classes. Each of these two classes has an enrollment
of eight students, though the cap is thirty students. This is a
pattern among CI classes. Looking at the registrar’s list, 95
percent of the CI classes do not meet their caps and many
of them do not even meet the half-way point. One of the
only CI classes that was over-enrolled (204 students with a
cap of 200), interestingly, was Classical Mythology. Classical
Mythology is also one of the only classes on the CI list that
aspires to be educational rather than political.
Dartmouth should abandon distributive requirements,
create a natural market for classes, and allocate expenditures accordingly. Though CI classes have low enrollment
numbers, they would be lower still without Dartmouth’s
requirement. What does that say? That there is very little
demand for most CI-type classes and their respective departments—like African American Studies, Women and Genders
Studies—should be receiving less money and possibly no
Adapting an open curriculum, though it is the opposite
of a core curriculum, will not diminish a student’s education
in the liberal arts. As Professor Tomasi’s program shows, in
spite of an open curriculum, students are drawn to the liberal
arts and liberal thought. Dartmouth’s primary priority is to
cater to that fact. There is a demand for liberal learning, but
supply is not there to meet the demand; rather, the supply
pool is distorted with CI-type classes that drain funds. This
is not economically sustainable.
If President Wright is sincere and truly wants to restructure the College’s finances efficiently and sustainably,
he should look at market forces on campus and ask, when
looking at which courses and departments to cut, “is there
a market for this?” If the answer is no, then it should be
lined out of the budget.
Page The Dartmouth Review January 23, 2009
The Week In Review
Students Speak, To Be Ignored by Administration
In tough economic times, Americans have historically
shown a remarkable ability to come together and agree upon
collective priorities prior to the requisite belt tightening; can
the Dartmouth College of the twenty first century do the
same? In the results of a Student Assembly survey released
on January 8, it appeared that such a consensus had been
found, and the College might be able to trim the required
forty million dollars.
Unsurprisingly, students ranked Off Campus Programs,
Traditions (Homecoming, Winter Carnival, etc.), and
Dartmouth Dining Services most important to their College experience, and the Office of Pluralism and Leadership
(OPAL), Center for Women and Gender, and the Native
American Program least important. Equally unsurprising
has been the reaction to what should be a clear indicator
of which programs can be cut or trimmed with minimal
impact: the Student Assembly recommended eliminating
or restructuring OPAL, petitions were circulated, emotions
were unleashed, and a sufficient fuss has been made by
the bureaucrats in charge of OPAL to effectively tie Dean
Crady’s hands in the matter.
For all the talk that OPAL provides “invaluable services”
to the Dartmouth campus, and is essential for a “vibrant
community,” the Administration of the College finds itself at
a crossroads that talking alone will not resolve. The economy
no longer allows for limitless spending on areas that have
less and less to do with the College’s mission, and devote
an inordinate amount of resources to a minority of students.
Dean Crady must choose between the voices of the students
and common sense on one side, and entrenched administration officials who believe that their prolonged sociological
experiment upon the student body is more deserving than
the fundamentals of academic instruction.
Athletic Director to Retire
On January 13, Dartmouth Athletic Director Josie
Harper announced that she will retire in late June. Appointed
in 2002 as Dartmouth’s seventh Director of Athletics and
Recreation, Harper has presided over a period of ambitious facilities construction and upgrades. These include
Burnham Soccer Field and Sports Pavilion, the Corey Ford
Rugby Clubhouse, and the recently award winning Floren
Varsity House. Concurrently, the teams that use these facilities have been experiencing seasons that are markedly
less successful results of Harper’s tenure. Recent success
by Indian Rugby and Hockey cannot obscure the winless
season for the football team, or the baseball and basketball
More than lackluster to mediocre teams and expensive
new buildings, Harper’s legacy may be best remembered by
her preemptive apology to the Dartmouth community about
the impending arrival of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux
hockey team. Her remarks that the mascot would “understandably offend and hurt people within our community,”
received national attention, and were regarded by many
as either condescending and rude towards North Dakota,
needlessly inflammatory, or as a pointless distraction. The
Review wishes Harper success in her future endeavors, and
hopes her chosen replacement focuses more on winning
games than carrying water for the omnipresent grievance
Choose Your Score!
There was a time when conscientious high school students worked their hardest to learn the material in their
courses and prepare for the standardized tests without
paying any heed to gaming the system and learning the
now commonplace “tricks of the trade.” For those readers
who would prefer an incoming class of freshman that was
more talented in math and reading than in managing the
byzantine bureaucracy of college applications, the College
Board has announced discouraging news: the Score Choice
Program will allow students to hide unflattering scores from
their official College Board transcript at no additional cost.
In an age when educational professionals are hyper-aware
of self-esteem and fairness, it was determined that students
became nervous when they were faced with actual repercussions from their performance on test day. In order to
shield students from the results of their own actions, Score
Choice was developed.
The humor arises when the fine print is exposed: colleges may request the additional scores whenever it suits
their fancy, essentially rendering the whole choice null and
void. While Dartmouth has not yet announced whether it
plans to take advantage of the loophole, it has the potential
to both save parents in competitive Connecticut communities hundreds of dollars in test fees, and perhaps to spare
many of us at the College from hearing about a freshman’s
perfect scores come next September.
Geithner Evades Taxes
Ever mindful of the need to have capable people in
his Cabinet, President-elect Barack Obama has nominated
Timothy Geithner ’83 for Treasury secretary. The fact that
this nominee, who will, if confirmed, oversee the IRS, did
not pay over 34,000 dollars in taxes between 2001 and 2004
might bother some people. Mr. Obama, however, remains
undeterred, for Geithner’s delinquency, it appears, was not
intentional. He meant to pay all his taxes, but could not
quite figure out how to do so. It seems there is an unusual
payroll system at the International Monetary Fund, where
Geithner worked during the period in question, and this
system deeply confused him. The tax code, it turns out, is
a very difficult to understand, even for someone possessed
of Mr. Geithner’s obvious financial brilliance. Still, we need
not be worried, for Obama has offered us these reassuring
words: “Look, is this an embarrassment for him? Yes. He
said so himself.” Geithner has admitted his tax violations,
and has been, according to Senator Charles Grassley, “very
sincere” in accounting for them. Obama’s nominee, in addition to being financially gifted, is also very sincere. The only
question that remains, then, is this: why wasn’t Geithner
appointed to a Cabinet position years ago?
or What Else is New
Students are paying more for their college educations,
but get less and less for their money. The Delta Project on
Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., released these findings last week, based on a
study of public universities from 2002 to 2006. The study
found that many state and community colleges are using
increased tuition costs to offset decreases in state funds, and
to pay for overhead, new buildings, and administration. The
study also found that the schools with the fewest resources
attract the largest amount of poor students, amplifying the
comparative strain on those least able to pay for college.
We had expected such mismanagement from the greedy
private sector, but administrative bloat and inattention to
the poor at the hands of the government? No!
Death by Book-Licking
As with everything the federal government does, the
unintended consequences of the feel-good Consumer
Product Safety Improvement Act may prove more deleterious than the problem lawmakers rushed to remedy. In
an effort to seem tough on the soulless toy conglomerates
that had allowed toys with high lead counts to be imported
from China over the summer, Congress passed a law that
demands such rigorous testing of all products children come
into contact with, that public libraries may have to close their
doors to children if the law isn’t changed. Set to take effect
on February 10, the legislation requires all books, old and
new, to be tested for lead, a practice that critics point out
could cost between 300 dollars and 600 dollars per book, and
would likely damage many of the books in the process.
To ensure that this overreaching act had sufficient
bureaucratic bona fides, a commission has been established
to oversee its implementation. This provides a convenient
lobbying target for the American Libraries Association,
which wants exceptions for public and school libraries so
that their doors may stay open for the sought-after under
12 demographic a while longer. One wonders how many
children were licking the ink in old library books in the first
place, but thank goodness we had a federal government that
was willing to confront this silent killer.
OurGreen Is Your Green
By William D. Aubin
The Dartmouth community is about to get a major
upgrade in the realm of Internet connectivity. OurGreen,
a website designed by a group of College students, promises
an easy interface for student groups to build professional
looking websites and for students to keep track of groups
and events which are of interest to them. According to
Jason Laster ’11 and Michael Edgar ’10 (Edgar is also Web
Editor for TDR), the website has enormous potential.
“One of the great things about the project is that it began
as Travis Green’s idea,” said Laster. “We’ve been working
with student leaders and the administration each step of
the way to make it tailored to the Dartmouth campus.” He
estimated that 95 percent of College recognized groups
don’t have a website, and of those that do have websites,
many have not been updated in years.
On the site, students have the option of creating and
joining groups, signing up for notifications from the groups
they care about, selecting events they wish to attend, and
Mr. Aubin is a sophomore at the College and
Managing Editor of The Dartmouth Review.
managing the privacy level of all these actions. Students
and groups will be able to allow either the whole campus,
students only, or just group members to view any of the
information posted. After perusing the different organizations and selected a level of involvement, a student has
merely to glance through their personal profile to see an
automatically updated calendar of all the events and groups
they have selected.
“Our biggest challenge isn’t attracting the all-campus
events planned weeks in advance—it’s the parties that get
blitzed out a day ahead of time,” Edgar said. “That’s why
we’ve made it so it’s even easier to put something on OurGreen than it is to send a blitz.” Between events that are
announced ahead of time and forgotten, and those that are
formulated late on a Friday evening and either reach few
people or come into unknown conflict with other events,
there is an acknowledged need for an element of central
organization. OurGreen allows even the laziest of Social
Chairmen to get the word out quickly and clearly, which
in turn allows all Dartmouth students the luxury of having
a complete, if piecemeal, calendar readily available.
Dartmouth’s official calendar is notoriously difficult
to follow; relevant information concerning both start and
end dates of seemingly important things like course selection, NRO availability, P.E. selection and pretty much all
other services are announced through different services if
at all, and last minute reminders are virtually unheard of.
OurGreen will prevent this vital information from getting
lost in the shuffle, and it will show up with just as much
prominence on students’ personal calendars as the current
swarm of PoliTALK announcements does on Blitz.
The two main focuses of Laster, Edgar, and the rest of
the team are: 1. getting all college groups to use the service
by Winter Carnival, and 2. expressing to the student body
the many steps taken to ensure the security of data on the
site. OurGreen uses Dartmouth Web Authentication, so the
company has no access to students’ password information.
The site is pursuing variety of hosting options, including
working with the College to put OurGreen on its server. If
OurGreen chooses to work with the College, the site will
be subject to the same rules and regulations that apply to
all College internet services. For the time being, however,
OurGreen is hosted privately.
The potential exists to protect our inboxes from hundreds of unwanted mass Blitzes; that’s change even we at
TDR can believe in.
January 23, 2009 The Dartmouth Review Page E1
Dartmouth’s Only Independent Newspaper
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January 23, 2009
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Page E2 The Dartmouth Review January 23, 2009
Rome and Jerusalem at Odds
By Aditya A. Sivaraman
The destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman emperor
Vespasian was a turning point in Jewish history. The absolute destruction of the both the city and the Temple began
the long diaspora that would not end until the re-creation
of the Jewish state in 1948. Martin Goodman’s Rome and
Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations investigates
the history of the relationship between the Roman empire
and the Jewish state and seeks to trace the roots of Western
attitudes towards the Jewish people to the role played both
culturally and politically by Jerusalem and its culture in the
formulation of a Christian Roman empire.
Rome and Jerusalem
Goodman begins his investigation with the original
introduction of Roman yoke to the Jewish state by Pompey.
The Roman policy of imperial integration allowed the Jews
a measure of political autonomy as well as freedom to follow their own faith. Goodman argues that the juxtaposition
between the Roman and Jewish worldviews set the foundation for the development and direction of both Judaism
and Christianity within the Roman Empire, and thus, the
To this extent, Goodman’s book delivers admirably. His
account of the history of the political manifestation of the
Jewish faith is comprehensive without being dull. Parallel
to the story of the Jews, Goodman explains the relevant
features of contemporary Roman society, with a particular
emphasis on the imperial court and the developing economic and geopolitical realities of managing a vast empire
from the perspective of Rome. Finally, Goodman adds in
enough description of the geographic landscape of both
—The Arch of Titus in Rome—
urban centers to help readers understand and appreciate
the parallels between the two great cities.
One cannot help but feel, however, that some of
Goodman’s arguments exist coherently only insofar as they
are framed; that is to say, the author’s attempts at drawing
both parallels and distinctions between the Jewish and Roman worlds at ever important levels often seems forced.
Imagining a titanic struggle between the secular, pagan
empire of Rome and the spiritual monotheist Jerusalem
may be an interesting thought experiment, but readers are
often left with a bitter anachronistic aftertaste.
Outside of Mr. Goodman’s impressive knack for historical analysis, the facts remain unchanged: Jerusalem and
the Jewish state were dominated by a Roman empire that
effectively ruled the world as a lone superpower. Jerusalem’s power, by contrast, was nothing even comparable to
Roman might. As King Agrippa II himself incredulously
asked his subjects, “will you, I say, defy the whole Roman
Mr. Sivaraman is a junior at the College and a contributor to The Dartmouth Review.
As it turns out, this is the most damning critique of the
The events surrounding Vespasian and Jerusalem copremise of a titanic historical/cultural struggle as imagined incided with another force within the Empire: the growth
by Goodman. Realistically, to what extent could Jerusalem and spread of Christianity. As a growing cult, the Christian
attempt to resist Roman hegemony? Very little at all, as it movement had already been striving to distinguish itself
Further, the idea of a cultural
polarization is undercut by the reality of statehood in antiquity. Then
much more so than now, the gap
between the state and its subjects
was such that the only real actors
were leaders. Goodman himself argues that the only leg the Jews had
to stand on politically was by virtue
of a series of leaders (such as Herod
the Great and Agrippa I) and their
relationship with Roman emperors.
Agrippa particularly is not a very
good representative of the Jews of
antiquity; in fact, his rise to power
is due more to his relationship to
the Emperor than to any personal
cultural or religious qualifications, to
say the least. The autonomy of Judea
was maintained not because of the
clash between Rome and Jerusalem,
but as a result of Jewish leaders who
acted pragmatically in face of the
reality of Roman hegemony.
The history of Jews within the
Roman Empire, both before and after
the destruction of Jerusalem, is the
story of a defeated people. The true
clash of civilizations happened far
before the Romans arrived with the
defeat of Judea by the Babylonians.
The real contest, then, was cultural,
and in this respect Goodman’s analysis is effective and persuasive.
He argues that the Roman
elite, when confronted with
Hellenic culture, were forced
to concede the shortcomings
of their own culture, and as
a result adopted the ways of
the Greeks. In this sense, as numerous scholars have from simply being labeled as a splinter sect of Judaism. In
argued before, it seems that the true battle was not light of the growing anti-Jewish sentiment in the Empire, it
between Rome and Jerusalem; rather, the battle was would have seemed pragmatic for early Christian leaders to
between the Jewish and Hellenic worldviews. After distance themselves from their Jewish heritage, especially
all, a comparison between Rome and Jerusalem is given that the spread of Christianity resulted in a rapidly
like comparing apples to oranges, with Rome pos- expanding portion of the faith with no hereditary ties to
sessing infinitely more imperial power and Jerusalem Judaism at all. The intersection of a young, growing faith
being blessed with a culture far more sophisticated seeking acceptance within a state (and eventually becoming
the state’s primary religion) and a political climate in which
than any the Romans produced organically.
Rome and Jerusalem truly shines in the analy- Jews had become politically and socially marginalized is
sis on the events surrounding the destruction of both a cohesive and logical narrative that explains European
Jerusalem and how they coincided with the rise anti-Semitism very well.
However, the very arguments that Goodman hinges
of Christianity within the Roman Empire. Good-
man frames the historical context of the origins of on to make his broader claims about historical anti-Jewish
European anti-Semitism by portraying a dynastic sentiment undercut his larger claims about a showdown
Imperial court in which personalities mattered just between the West’s founding pillars. The historical events
as narrated by Goodman indicate that were it not for a
as much (and sometimes more) as realpolitik.
It is in this context that the emperor Vespasian peculiar series of events the fate of Jews within the Roman
saw his rise, the first Caesar without any significant Empire (and therefore Europe) may have been very difmilitary credentials in need of securing his claim to ferent. There was not a great ideological showdown, nor a
titanic battle of worldviews.
the seat of Roman power. Mr. Goodman
effectively argues that the timing of the
Jewish revolt presented an easy opportunity
he historical events as narrated by Goodman
to secure his regime by crushing an uprising
indicate that were it not for a peculiar series of
and literally earning the new Emperor his
events the fate of Jews within the Roman Empire (and
Students of statecraft in a dictatorship therefore Europe) may have been very different. There
will appreciate what followed. The destrucwas not a great ideological showdown, nor a titanic
tion of Jerusalem was a lynchpin event in
the political career of Vespasian. As such, battle of worldviews.
the Jews could not be allowed to simply fall
back in line under Roman authority and
The story of the fall of Jerusalem and the rise of antireturn to their own devices, as was the modus operandi at
has everything to do with those lowly matters of
philosophy. Goodman (perhaps unintentionally)
Instead, Vespasian’s effort to legitimize himself necessitated a campaign to portray the destruction of Jerusalem as showed that the dynamic between Rome and Jerusalem was
an intrinsic good, and thus, the Jewish people more or less one between a global superpower with no cultural base and
as outcasts within the Empire. The story of an unpopular a militarily irrelevant state where man could meet God. The
regime creating enemies both within and without to manu- resulting history was not preordained or fated due to any
facture consent is one that has been told and retold since fundamental clash. Rather, as often happens, it was simply
the product of timing and circumstances.
January 23, 2009 The Dartmouth Review Page E3
Wood Comes Down Hard
By A.S. Erickson
The English critic James Wood has carved out a peculiar place in literary criticism. His essays (on this side of
the pond, first in The New Republic and now in The New
Yorker) straddle the extremes that literary criticism was
slowly separated into over the past century, on the one
hand the academic articles and books replete with “the true
scholastic stink” in Joyce’s wonderful phrase, and alternately
the short book reviews that appear with declining regularity in our nation’s newspapers. The former are, in a certain
sense, supremely uninterested in fiction, often reducing
it to naïve nonsense; the latter are often little more than
glorified blurbs, which shallowly trade on cliché and reveal
little other than the reviewer’s ineptitude.
How Fiction works
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008
It goes without saying that there are exceptions within
both of these groups; but Wood has carved out a special
niche in between these two groups, a niche that one hopes
others will fall into over time. His long essays attend upon
style and theme as well as the book’s place in what other
writers call the Great Conversation—that curious highway
between the present and past.
Wood’s newest book of criticism is entitled
How Fiction Works. The wonderfully ambiguous
title pithily summarizes the book’s project: only
by examining the mechanical and engineering
feats of fiction can we come to understand how
it is that fiction clicks with us, the reader. It’s
purpose is in many ways similar to E.M. Forster’s
Aspects of the Novel, that source which unleashed
‘round’ and ‘flat’ characters upon generations of
adolescent English students. Wood, of course,
tackles character as well as a host of other common literary devices.
Wood begins How Fiction Works with an
extended discussion of point of view. In particular, he focuses on a particular method of
the omniscient third person narrator known as
free indirect style. This section of the book is
one of its great discussions. Using examples of
his own and those from writers like Flaubert,
Adams, and Joyce, Wood explores how free
indirect style exploits the ever-present tension
between narrator and character.
As an example of free indirect style, Wood
introduces the sentence “Ted watched the
orchestra through stupid tears.” In this case
the omniscient narrator is not simply using
standard reported thought; the addition of the
word stupid is the clue that he has gotten inside
Ted’s head. Ted is thinking, according to Wood,
something like “Stupid to be crying at this silly
piece by Brahms.” The narrator has reported
both Ted’s action (his watching the orchestra)
and his thought without having to clumsily resort to directly reporting his thoughts: As Ted
watched the orchestra through tears, he thought
it was stupid of himself to be crying at this piece
Free indirect style, properly executed,
effortlessly drops the narrator into the unreliable characters head for a few words before
lifting him back to the plateau of omniscience.
Yet there is an inherent tension in this balancing act: “Can we reconcile the author’s perceptions and
language with the character’s perception and language?”
ood is decidedly a fanatic at the altar
He does not hesitate to admit this.
If the author swerves too far in one direction, consistently
over-writing his own characters, the reader encounters the
“cold breath of an alienation over the text, and begin[s] to
Mr. Erickson is a junior at the College and an Executive Editor of The Dartmouth Review.
resent the over-‘literary’ efforts of the stylist.” Wood calls
Adam Kirsch, another excellent reviewer himself, of
this the domain of aestheticism—the author is constantly the late New York Sun and now of The New Republic said
getting in the way of his character.
of Wood: “Most reviews simply present an opinion, and it’s
More contemporary writers, such as the recently de- easy to dismiss contrary opinions—everyone has the right
ceased David Foster Wallace, have taken the little ambigui- to an opinion, after all. But Wood raises the discussion to
ties of earlier free indirect style and massively
expanded them to exploit the inherent tension
ames Wood’s newest book doesn’t disappoint. He
in the opposite direction from the stylist. Wood
quotes from a Wallace story called “The Sufbreaks down literary conventions with startling
ease, allowing the reader to peek around inside and
to become better idea with their inner workings. One
can’t help but come away a better, closer reader.
Atwater was one of three full time salarymen tasked to the WITW feature, which
received .75 editorial pages per week, and
was the closest any of the BSG weeklies got
to freakshow or tabloid, and was a bone of
contention at the very highest levels of Style. The staff
size and large font specs meant that Skip Atwater was
officially contracted for one 400 word piece every three
weeks, except the juniormost of the WITW salarymen
had been on half time ever since Eckleshafft-Böd had
forced Mrs. Anger to cut the editorial budget or everything except celebrity news, so in reality it was more
like three finished pieces every eight weeks.
Wallace’s narrator relates the events as the journalist Atwater
himself would, or at least as those in Atwater’s community
would. The paragraph from Wallace is a perfect example
of anti-aestheticism, i.e. where the character utterly dominates the story.
a higher level, which forces people to question and rethink
their own understanding of literature.”
That higher level may fairly be described as the concepts behind the words on the page. In the preface Wood
summarizes his project in this book: “I try to ask some of
the essential questions about the art of fiction. Is realism
real? How do we define a successful metaphor? What is a
character? When do we recognize a brilliant use of detail in
fiction? What is point of view, and how does it work? What
is imaginative sympathy? Why does fiction move us?” This
last question is tied intimately with Wood’s concern with
reality in fiction.
Wood has long been a defender of ‘the real’ in fiction.
The introduction to his first book, The Broken Estate, began
with the following paragraph:
The real is the atlas of fiction, over which all
novelists thirst. The real is contour, aspiration,
tyrant. The novel covers reality, runs away with
it, and, as travelers yearn to escape, runs from it,
too. It is impossible to discuss the power of the
novel without discussing the reality that fiction
so powerfully discloses, which is why realism, in
one form or another and often under different
names, has been the novel’s insistent preoccupation from the beginning of the form.
As simple as Wood makes free indirect style sound, it
is surprisingly difficult to pull off convincingly. The ledge
between the anti-aesthete and the stylist is a narrow one.
Authors often overwrite their characters,
of fiction. giving them thoughts or speeches they
could never possibly think or say, or they
completely surrender the story itself to the
Throughout How Fiction Works Wood’s discussion of
various literary techniques, like free indirect style, is always
accompanied by choice passages from excellent writers.
He is decidedly a fanatic at the altar of fiction; he does not
hesitate to unblushingly exclaim “What a piece of writing
that is!” before he proceeds to break down and explicate
what it is exactly in the passage that moves the reader.
Wood has made a career out of defending realism
in fiction from its critics, both philosophical and
temperamental. This is a concern in How Fiction Works too. He draws a distinction between
the realism of great writer’s and what he calls
“commercial realism,” the kind of genre writing
abused in much modern fiction.
Wood has his share of detractors, as any
critic must. He is commonly tweaked for, what
his opponents call, his conservative aesthetic
tastes. But the kind of fiction his opponents
critique is a bit of a straw man, it is commercial
realism. Wood, his critics say, allows for a very
constricted view of reality: a view that takes
many contemporary novelists to task for their
resistance to emotional engagement.
It is true that Wood takes a dim view of
what he called in his second book “hysterical
realism,” as practiced by writers like Thomas
Pynchon, whose “massive turbines of . . . incessant story-making produce so much noise that
no one can be heard. The Nazi Captain Blicero
in Gravity’s Rainbow, or the ruthless financier
Scarsdale Vibe in Against the Day, are not truly
frightening figures, because they are not true
figures.” Hardly the stuff blurbs are made of.
Wood’s detractors object to the normative claims
he expresses, i.e. that certain characters are not
true or that a certain author fails to inhabit his
Yet, for all of this, he leaves it no secret that he thinks
postmodern questions (like addressing the fictionality of
characters) can be asked more effectively, as in the work
of Jose Saramago. A writer like Saramago is more successful where others fail: “we feel a strange tenderness” for his
character because we are “aware of something that he does
not know, that he is not real.”
Don’t let Cynthia Ozick’s inane praise on the back
cover dissuade (“It is not enough to have one Wood. What
is needed is a thicket—a forest—of Woods.”), James Wood’s
newest book doesn’t disappoint. He breaks down literary
conventions with startling ease, allowing the reader to peek
around inside and to become better idea with their inner
workings. One can’t help but come away a better, closer
Page E4 The Dartmouth Review January 23, 2009
Summertime in Siberia
By William D. Aubin
Ronald Reagan in 1984: their children have no idea what turies old people, got caught up in the promise of Marxism
was at stake during the Cold War, what it meant to live in as a teenager, and rediscovered his faith and commitment
The Soul and Barbed Wire is billed as “the first and an age of fallout drills and bomb shelters, or why it was so to freedom in the bitter enslavement of a labor camp. He
only book to offer both a detailed biography and a compre- important that the United States prevail rather than strike helped his people by forming an occasionally uneasy allihensive appraisal of the literary achievement of Aleksandr up an uneasy balance with a power that violated natural ance with secular, Enlightenment-inspired thinkers to rid
Solzhenitsyn.” Its publication is timely, coming during both law and human rights on a daily basis. The public school
the year in which its subject passed away and an age that system makes little room for this kind of instruction,
he volume contains none of Solzhenitsyn’s
has been in danger of forgetting the importance of his life preferring curricula filled with the poetry of South
American ‘freedom fighters’ and screenings of The
actual work, and so is useful as an introducMotorcycle Diaries, the story of communist guerrilla
tion to his world, by way of a biography that does
Ernesto “Che” Guevara told in flattering, romantic
a good job of immersing the reader into the
The other result of the concerted effort to mitigate pains and joys Solzhenitsyn and his countrymen
our victory against totalitarianism is one that Edward
tHE soul and barbed wire
endured for nearly a century, in preparation for
Ericson and Alexis Klimoff are eager to point out in
The Soul and Barbed Wire: the very real threat that the reading of Gulag Archipelago or The Red
Edward E. Ericson, Jr. & Alexis Klimoff
the genius of Aleksander Solshenitsyn will be lost Wheel, his famous long works, or One Day in
forever. The Nobel Prize winner became an interthe Life of Ivan Denisovich, the short story that
national symbol of opposition to the Soviet Union’s
The works of Solzhenitsyn fell from the foreground brutal policies after his stories, poems, novels, and first one him fame and KGB scrutiny.
in the literary world just as the Cold War struggle against histories were published in the 60s and 70s, exposing
totalitarianism was relegated to dusty memory in the realms the cruelty of Stalin’s gulags (with Khrushchev’s blessof political thought and academia. Ours is a culture that is ing) first and then moving into what Ericson and Klimoff his homeland of this universal destroyer of human rights.
The editors do another great service by compiling
content to write off the death of the Soviet experiment as call “open defiance,” delivering an inescapable argument for
happenstance or the result of a few bad men squandering the end of communism, based on the tradition of a strong sources and criticism directly addressing Solzhenitsyn’s
a noble ideal (ideas that are still found in both high school Russian identity and Christian faith. He drew upon his own political philosophy, in an effort to make the man useful on
and college classrooms, should any eager student have the experiences as the son of disenfranchised landowners, a different levels to different readers. The collection of essays
prisoner in a labor camp, and a lifelong victim of official on his individual works is useful when determining an order
desire to seek them out).
in which to read the stories (I’ve been persuaded to start
The volume contains none of Solzhenit- where most of the world did, with Ivan Denisovich) or to
n late 2007, when the book went to press, Russia
syn’s actual work, and so is useful as an intro- amplify an individual reading with the collected wisdom of
had not invaded Georgia, and the biographers duction to his world, by way of a biography that international scholars.
believed that Solzhenitsyn’s final wishes were being does a good job of immersing the reader into the The editors point out that Solzhenitsyn deserves to
and joys Solzhenitsyn and his countrymen endure, because his writing is true literature; his characters
heeded by President Putin: a strong Russia without pains
endured for nearly a century, in preparation for are real, his stories can find a place even in a distant future
dictatorship or empire thriving through introspec- the reading of Gulag Archipelago or The Red that may have the great fortune to have no other memory
tion. May the readers of the world have the good Wheel, his famous long works, or One Day in of the gulags. Their prognostication and interpretation of
Life of Ivan Denisovich, the short story that contemporary Russia are a bit problematic, however.
fortune to rediscover the literature of a genius, and the
In late 2007, when the book went to press, Russia had
first won him fame and KGB scrutiny.
the diplomats to unearth the meaning of the life of
Georgia, and the biographers believed that
A reader learns that it was not historical
accident that this man became the voice of his Solzhenitsyn’s final wishes were being heeded by President
a departed hero—before history repeats.
people; it took a work of true literary greatness Putin: a strong Russia without dictatorship or empire thriving
to break the silence in his country and expose through introspection. May the readers of the world have
Russia’s prison system to the outside world. We the good fortune to rediscover the literature of a genius,
One result has been obvious and no doubt causes some
learn that Solzhenitsyn’s life mirrors that of his beloved and the diplomats to unearth the meaning of the life of a
amount of consternation to the fifty four million who elected
country; he was born with the Christian tradition of a cen- departed hero—before history repeats.
Science Fiction for the Family Man
By William D. Aubin
itself, skewers a thinly disguised United Nations as impotent,
and based on consultations with real soldiers from the Iraq
and frequently casts the most brilliant characters as both
For the countless fans of Orson Scott Card who have war.
religious and patriotic.
This book, like the rest of the Ender series, deserves
been stuck in the Battle School universe since Ender’s Game
Several of the books show a detailed story of conversion
was originally published in 1984, the new year brings an early recognition beyond that usually afforded science fiction
Christian faith, and a man who can finally come to
blessing: Ender in Exile has finally arrived, tying up loose ends novels. It is popular fiction, certainly, and will never be
the imbalances of life by recognizing the need for
from both the original series and the companion Shadow classified as literature or taught in any school. But Card
The visions are not the impossible utopia of a
novels. It is just as difficult to put down as the original novel, has accomplished something that is equally important,
and its characters are exactly as you remember them from producing writing that is enjoyable to
read but gives an audience plenty of
his book, like the rest of the Ender series, deserves
whichever book had been your last.
worthwhile things to ponder.
recognition beyond that usually afforded science fic
In the series, a young boy named
Ender is recruited by a future inter- tion novels. It is popular fiction, certainly, and will certainly
national government to be the military never be classified as literature or taught in any school. But
genius capable of protecting the huCard has accomplished something that is equally imporEnder in Exile
man race from destruction by hostile
tant, producing writing that is enjoyable to read but gives
Orson Scott Card
From this simple concept springs an audience plenty of worthwhile things to ponder.
Tom Doherty Associates, 2008
forth a careful treatment of a myriad
of topics: religion, military statecraft,
politics and demagoguery, sacrifice,
world without money, class, and prolonged human conflict;
This latest book deals with the years immediately folresponsibility; the more one reads, the more an ostensible
instead, Card recognizes that our failings make us human,
lowing the title character’s wartime triumph, and is a timely
children’s story becomes a meditation on humanity itself,
and that it will never be the proper role of government to
and not a sappy one either.
dictate human passions. It is a future in which citizens take
A reader does not come away feeling
for themselves, and Utopia is defined not as
everal of the books show a detailed story of con- as if clichés have been co-opted to sell a responsibility
the absence of bad but the existence of the freedom necesversion to the Christian faith, and a man who can modern day Buck Rogers, but rather gets sary for true goodness.
sense that the child-like framework of
These are books for young people without relying on
finally come to peace with the imbalances of life by the
giant monsters and spaceships is a jumpgeneration gap tropes; these are books for bright, optimistic
recognizing the need for sacrificial love.
ing off point for a greater purpose. In this,
readers that don’t resort to disparaging the foundations of
Card achieves something akin to Arthur C.
society. This is science fiction written by a family man, and
Clarke’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey;
I cannot recommend the whole series strongly enough. If
look at a soldier irrevocably changed by the realities of battle. what begins as science fiction turns out to be the cover for
you’re caught up so far, Ender in Exile is a worthy successor
His struggle between guilt and responsibility is enlightening, much deeper musings.
to the work of the past quarter century; if not, please track
What is so attractive about the way Card manages this
down Ender’s Game for yourself or a family member. It’s
Mr. Aubin is a sophomore at the College and
is his willingness to buck political correctness. He seriously
not often that an easy read leaves one better for it. n
Managing Editor of The Dartmouth Review.
calls into question the validity of democracy as an end in
Cribs: The Gulag Edition
By John N. Alekna
When Arthur London was pulled screaming from his
car in the middle of a Prague street it was broad daylight.
That year, 1951, he had been the Czech undersecretary of
foreign affairs for less than two years. But Party credentials
could not save him. London was taken, blindfolded, to the
infamous Ruzyn prison on the outskirts of the city, near
the airport. There he was tortured, over and over again,
until he confessed to collaboration with the enemy. He had
never confessed before, not to the Vichy counter-insurgency
troops, nor to the Gestapo at Mauthausen concentration
camp. The Nazis, he wrote, were “child’s play” compared
to the Communists.
From the Gulag to the Killing
Fields: Personal Accounts of
Political Violence and Repression
in Communist states
Edited by: Paul Hollander
ISI Books, 2007
Indeed, while London’s “child’s play” metaphor isn’t
intended to diminish in any way the horror of Nazi atrocities, on a purely mathematical level it may be appropriate.
Whereas the Holocaust claimed 10 million lives over the
course of roughly five years, Communist states caused the
deaths of over 100 million during the course of decades. And
yet the “Western awareness of repression in Communist
states remains very limited,” especially when compared to
the Holocaust. In the introduction to his anthology From
the Gulag to the Killing Fields, Paul Hollander attempts to
One explanation he puts forth is “cultural remoteness”
of most of the societies where these atrocities occurred;
events occurring in the rice paddies of China or Cambodia
are simply not as relatable to a Western audience as atrocities
closer to home in Europe. Second, the methods of execution
employed by the Nazis and Communists differed. While the
Nazis used advanced technology to facilitate mass slaughter,
Communists generally preferred to let people go the old
fashioned way, through overwork or starvation. Additionally,
the Communists did not try to eliminate a particular race.
These distinctions are important psychologically for many
people, Hollander writes.
The most unjustifiable cause for this apathy toward Communist atrocities, however, was the “public questioning” of
the “defectors’ and refugees’ accounts of Soviet repression
and the camp system” by Western Communist sympathizers. Hollander cites as examples Noam Chomsky, who in
the 1970s “scornfully dismissed” accounts of the Khmer
Rouge’s killing fields, and Jean-Paul Sartre who spoke in
support of Stalin and the Soviet Union.
Indeed, “to condemn the Soviet Union too thoroughly
would be to condemn a part of what the Western left once
held so dear.” Consequently, these and many other intellectuals’ reputations did not suffer damage for their defense
of Communism. If they had supported the Nazis before the
Holocaust, Hollander asks, who they have emerged similarly
he lesson: Communist states can never
be trusted with the welfare of its people.
The warning: no authoritarian state should
ever be trusted with the same today.
Hollander, a professor at University of Massachusetts
Amherst, uses the rest of From the Gulag to the Killing
Fields to remedy the woeful lack of first-person narratives
describing Communist repression. It is a weighty tome
stretching over 750 pages, containing forty-five accounts of
imprisonment, torture, and persecution. It is nothing if not
comprehensive. The collection, organized by country, begins
with the Soviet Union and journeys through an additional
fifteen Communist authoritarian states. Though the greatest
space is devoted to the former USSR and Eastern Europe,
smaller, more obscure countries like Albania, Cambodia,
Nicaragua and Ethiopia are given no short shrift.
Mr. Alekna is a junior at the College and a contributor
to The Dartmouth Review.
January 23, 2009 The Dartmouth Review Page E5
While this comprehensiveness must be admired,
and may on some level represent the monolithic scale of
Communist atrocities, the tales of imprisonment can be at
times repetitive. For this reason, one must treat From the
Gulag to the Killing Fields as the anthology it is and read
selections. This should pose no problem for the unguided
reader, however. Nearly every entry is profoundly revealing
and beautifully written, a testament to the wide reading and
superb taste of the editor.
Among the accounts of Soviet repression, one story
jumps out. “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” by
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is famous for both its depiction of
interminable drudgery of gulag life and its literary quality.
This seminal work was the first realistic account of the
inhuman prison system published in the Soviet Union.
Solzhenitsyn followed it with his internationally renowned
Gulag Archipelago in 1973. It was “Ivan Denisovich,”
however, that the Nobel Prize committee cited when they
named him Nobel Laureate for literature. The work remains
a must-read for anyone interested in the Communist system.
Hollander abridges the novel-length piece to an easy ten
pages without losing much of the original’s power. Indeed,
the abridgement only whets the reader’s appetite for more
of this revolutionary author.
The Chinese narratives are remarkable for the ubiquity
of thought reform through “group struggle.” In these sessions,
people gathered in order to confess their counter-revolutionary sins and to accuse others of the same. If one failed
to condemn themselves thoroughly enough, or if the group
leader seized on an accusation, the transgressor was subject
to intense verbal and physical abuse from his comrades.
Showing leniency while beating or berating a comrade was
a sign of counter-revolutionary sympathies. People were
made to turn on co-workers, friends, and family.
In the memoir “Born Red,” Gao Yuan recounts denouncing his own professor, who he admits “always spoke
to me in a kind and gentle way” for the simple reason that
he “had grown weary of her lectures about being red.”
Anecdotes such as this exist in every one of the Chinese
accounts and, admittedly, it is easy to see why the practice
became so widespread. The Party didn’t need to solely
rely on torture and signed confessions to root out political
enemies; the psychology of fear, panic and paranoia could
make the populace do it for them.
The stories of Chinese oppression are also distinctive
for the length of time served by most of the chroniclers. The
texts give the stories of men who were sentenced to hard
labor and held for nineteen, twenty-six, and even thirty-two
years. This astonishingly long length of time was served
by a Tibetan monk, Palden Gyatso. He was arrested at his
monastery by the Chinese military police, who had heard
rumors he participated in spontaneous anti-Communist
protests in Lhasa.
The authorities “wrenched [his] arms from their sockets” and beat him until “[he] could no longer hear anything
beyond [his] own screaming and the thuds of the guards’
fists landing on [his] body”. After two years unsuccessfully
trying to extract confessions, the Party sentenced Gyatso to
a seven year prison term. That was in 1959. The monk was
not released until 1992. Gyatso credits his survival to his
religion, reminding himself for those thirty-two years that
“physical restraints [are] only the outward sign of imprisonment; I still [have] the power to give my thoughts free
This meditation by Gyatso exemplifies the lesson,
demonstrated on some level in all the accounts of this
anthology, that the ultimate human liberty—freedom of
conscience—can never be eliminated, no matter the length
or severity of punishment.
Indeed, authoritarian communist states have been
repressing political dissidents for lifetimes now, much
longer than any fascist state ever lasted. In fact, dissent
and rebellion persist so long and so strongly that most of
the Communist states described in From the Gulag to the
Killing Fields have either collapsed or substantially curtailed
their political repression.
Today, China tolerates public protest to a certain extent, though it still imprisons political activists from time to
time. (Recent reports of trouble-makers being committed to
mental hospitals and drugged are particularly disturbing.)
But by far the worse offender today in terms of depravity
is North Korea, a nation Hollander describes as “the only
remaining truly totalitarian state in the world.”
Remarkably, a country that has operated dozens of
gulags for a period of near six decades now has produced
only one English language account of its egregious prison
system—Kang Chol-Hwan’s unique “Aquariums of Pyong-
yang.” Kang was imprisoned at the tender age of nine
because of a “crime” committed not by him, or even his
parents. His grandfather, an ethnic Korean living in Japan,
had emigrated back to his homeland because of his strong
yatso credits his survival to his religion,
reminding himself for those thirtytwo years that “physical restraints [are]
only the outward sign of imprisonment; I
still [have] the power to give my thoughts
communist sympathies. This was rewarded with persecution. His ties with the outside world, however meager, were
intolerable. Kang’s entire family was shipped to what can
only be described as a concentration camp. Rations were
below sustenance level.
Catching rats for food was not only tolerated but admired
by those without the skill. One man prepared a winter’s supply of salted rat flesh. Though located close to the Russian
border, none of the prisoners’ quarters had any heating.
During winter when nearly the entire camp population
suffered from frostbite, many resorted to ripping rags off
corpses to wear themselves. The prisoners were regularly
treated to the public executions of “traitors”—mostly failed
The indignation felt while reading this story turns to
utter horror when one realizes that the concentration camp
described in “Aquariums of Pyongyang” is still fully functional. Yodok reeducation camp, where Kang was imprisoned
from 1977 to 1987, still holds approximately 45,000 prisoners, two-thirds of whom are held for life. The remainder are
held in the “revolutionizing zone.” These consist mainly of
the relatives and acquaintances of the lifetime prisoners.
Kang was one of these. In the late 1990s the more lenient
“revolutionizing” section, by one estimate, killed off 20
percent of inmates every year. And this is only one of many
camps maintained by the Democratic People’s Republic of
From the Gulag to the Killing Fields stands as an
indictment of authoritarian Communist states and their
crimes. Perhaps even more importantly, however, it is a
stark indictment of those who would minimize the horrors
Communist states committed by passively accepting (or even
admiring) these regimes. There were once Americans who
thought that Communist regimes acted benignly, if firmly,
on behalf of their people.
Finally, Hollander’s book has finally removed any remaining vestige of credibility from their position. The apologists’ willful ignorance prolonged the suffering of untold
millions. The men and women who endured cold Siberian
gulags, genocidal Ethiopian red guards, and Cambodian
killing fields did not suffer for any greater good. They died
because a tyrannical ideology denied them their most basic
freedoms—life and liberty. And while today many of these
regimes no longer exist, some of them, as Kang Chol-Hwan’s
story shows, are still committing unspeakable atrocities.
They must be spoken out against.
In the end, these forty-five accounts of repression, imprisonment and torture leave us with a lesson and a warning.
The lesson: Communist states can never be trusted with the
welfare of its people. The warning: no authoritarian state
should ever be trusted with the same today.
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