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November 17, 1983 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-11-17

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4

OPINION
Page 4 Thursday, November 17, 1983 The Michigan Daily

Freedom and

the fear of

nuclear war

I have full sympathy for all champions of
freedom. I have seen many forms of unfreedom
and oppression in my life-time. When I was 121I
joined the freedom fighters in Nazi-occupied
Poland. I was 14 when I took part in the War-
saw uprising. I have seen and experienced
various forms of suppression many times sin-
ce. So it goes without saying that freedom is
precious to me.
Yet of late I have seen curious contortions of
freedom. The notion of "freedom" has been
used as a football field of politics and all kinds
of vested interests. When I hear Soviet
dissidents talking about freedom, it rings
genuine. When I hear the President of Harvard
University defending freedom of research
against possible limitations of military resear-
ch, it rings less genuine.
WHY? Mainly because the president of Har-
vard is not free to express his own personal
opinion but rather must voice one that agrees
with the vested interests of the university. He
speaks not as a human being but as a head of a
corporation. He thus speaks out of his essential
unfreedom: He says what the corporation wan-
ts him to say. This is not a genuine voice of
freedom.
So I reason: A stand for vested interests and
a stand for freedom are two different things.
We should not confuse the two. The first con-
clusion therefore is that those engaged in
military research, and who derive huge
benefits from it, speak not on behalf of
freedom, but on behalf of their vested interests.
Yet the issue is not so simple. We all know it.
The issue of freedom is one of the most impor-
tant, and one of the most delicate in our times.
Let us approach it with caution and prudence -
without assuming that any of us is a unique
spokesman for freedom, or the sole repository
of truth regarding freedom. For this reason, I
am not especially impressed by the opinion of
the president of Harvard, or president of any
other university for that matter; for each
represents not so much his individual voice of
conscience but more likely the vested interests
of the institution; and none is necessarily more
valuable than an individual opinion of a

student. Let us be clear about it: We do not
have experts on freedom - academic or
otherwise. Freedom is part of a larger perspec-
tive on human life within the context of a
society.
JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU proclaimed in
his famous treatise The Social Contract that
"Man is born free and wherever we look we see
him in chains." Rousseau was a loveable
romantic. Yet, we have to disagree with his
concept of freedom. No, we are not born free.
We are born bound. Life is a journey out of bon-
dage. Freedom is not given to us on a silver
platter. We have to win freedom to possess it.
And then we must continually demonstrate that
we deserve it.
During the last seven centuries, the univer-
sities have demonstrated that they deserve
freedom. The universities from the start were
the cradles of Enlightenment, resolute seekers
of truth, originators of knowledge which is life-
enhancing. These were the premises and, by
and large, the universities lived up to them. We
have inherited the platform of freedom
because of what universities have accom-
plished historically.
Let me repeat, the traditional function of the
university - and its most important function -
has been the generation of knowledge that is
useful, that is life-enhancing. In this sense the
university is a nurturer of life. It has never
been a part of the university's agenda to con-
tribute to death. The freedom of the university
must be seen in the context of life, and not in
the context of death.
WE MUST NOT be duped by any coercive
ideology while pursuing our quest for
knowledge, truth, and enlightenment. We have
too often seen the tyrannizing clutches of the
Marxist ideology suppressing freedom in the
Communist countries not to be alarmed by the
sight of any creed that wants to curtail our
freedom of research and expression. While this
is unquestioned, let us examine what students
and protests against military research are
saying. They are not against academic
freedom. They are not against any other
freedom. They are for freedom. They cham-

By Henryk Skolimowski
pion the most important form of freedom - the
freedom to live. This we must examine with a
due care.
They are saying that insofar as we are
engaged in creating weapons of mass destruc-
tion, we are not nurturing life; we are working
toward the destruction of life - maybe of all
life on the planet. Such a destruction is con-
sidered criminal by many. Insofar as we are
'The students are really
telling us (if we have the
patience to listen) that
they think they have two or
three years to live. And
some of them are convin-
ced of that. It is therefore
the highest imperative for
them to stop this destruc-
tive Moloch of the
machinery of nuclear
war.'
(or may be) contributing to such a destruction
we are (or may be) contributing to criminal ac-
tivities.
And here is the crux of their argument:
There should be freedom for all who contribute
to the riches of life - however eccentric their
research; there should be less freedom for
those who engage in potentially criminal ac-
tivities aimed at the destruction of the human
race. They point out that there is no freedom
for criminals in the society at large. Those who

are harming us are kept out. And it should be so
with the universities as well.
LET US EXAMINE the argument a bit more
closely for on the surface it sounds overly
dramatic. Are researchers who contribute to
weapons of mass destruction really to be
viewed on par with other criminals? This is not
how the present penal code views the situation.
Yet let us remember the Nuremberg Trial.
Those who contributed to the Nazi machine of
destruction were found guilty and treated as
criminals regardless whether they were or-
dered to participate in atrocities or whether
they did them on their own accord.
The students are really telling us (if we have
the patience to listen) that they think they have
two or three years to live. And some of them
are convinced of that. It is therefore the highest
imperative for them to stop this destructive
Moloch of the machinery of the nuclear war,
which is relentlessly pushing us to the abyss. It
is the imperative of life that guides them (the
imperative of your life too!). They contend that
freedom to live is the most important form
of freedom. And who of us is going to deny
that?
Therefore a new situation has arisen
whereby we must view the freedom to research
vis a vis the freedom to live. All freedom is con-
textual. Any form of freedom entails a
corresponding responsibility. And the question
is: how do we judge and assess the respon-
sibility to research vis a vis our responsibility
to life? The question is by no means academic.
We fool ourselves if we think that first of all we
are academics and our responsibility is
primarily to research. First of all we are
human beings. If we are all dead as a race,
there will be no research to carry on. Then the
issue of our responsibility to research will not
be so much academic as dead - in the most
profound sense of the term. That is what the
students are telling us.
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW has said,
"Freedom means responsibility, that is why
most people dread it." Though facitious the ex-
pression is, it makes us aware how subtle and
difficult the notion of freedom is. For this

reason it must be constantly re-examined, par-
ticularly as we find ourselves in new conflicting
contexts. Our friend Socrates has said
"Unexamined life is not worth living." We
could add to this: "Unexamined freedom is not
worth having."
We are at the threshold of the events which
have a momentous importance. When the
human race is imperilled (as it is at present,
all notions must be re-examined - so that we
do not go pseudo-rationally to our inevitable
doom. Our rationality must be re-examined
too. For it must not condone the quest four
death.
Here therefore are my six-propositions, as an
offering to the discussion of freedom:
* Those who are unfree, because of their
vested interests, cannot proclaim themselveh
as champions of freedom. Their voice is not
genuine;
* Freedom is not given to us but is won ano
deserved. We must justify freedom that is tern-
tatively given to us by our action. Our action
means responsibility. Responsibility anti
freedom co-define each other.
" The implicit assumption of freedom in a11
civilized societies is that it is the freedom to act
for the betterment of humanity, and not against
it;
- Unexamined life is not worth living..
Unexamined freedom is not worth having. The
imperative of research must be respected. The
imperative of life must be respected even more
so. And the two must be judiciously weighted
against each other;
* All freedom is contextual. Freedom is not
an abstract logical category but one that ex-
presses the prerogatives of human beings to
live more amply and with more dignity than
they would otherwise. The context of freedom
is bound by the larger human context which
determines the validity of our -notion of 4
freedom;
" Freedom to live is the most fundamental
form of freedom.

Skolimowski is a professor in
engineering humanities department.

the

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Stewart

Vol. XCIV-No. 62

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
A crumbling tenants union

/r'
.
I, __

LOOK- YOU GUYS
WERE FUNNY, HA , NA-
BUT NO\N IT'S TIMe
TO LEAVE !

O NCE one of the strongest tenants
unions in the nation, the Ann Arbor
Tenants Union is now in shambles. And
as things stand now, students are going
to pay to straighten the mess out.
They shouldn't have to. The
Michigan Student Assembly should
continue to withhold the union's $7,300
allocation from student fees. If the
tenants union needs money, it should
have to approach the assembly for
funds on a project by project basis, just
as most other groups on campus have
to do.
In the last several years, the tenants
union has crumbled. The staff has
shrunk to just a handful of people, and
some of them have not even been able
to spend more than a few hours a week
working. So far this term, there have
not been any housing workshops, no
lobbying, and very little counseling -
no one seems to be able to know exac-
tly how much - all things a tenants
union should be doing.
The union has also been hampered
by internal disputes. Recently, two
members of the Tenant/Landlord
Resource Center, an offshoot of AATU
which was supposed to cooperate with
the union, tried to convince MSA to

give AATU's money to the resource
center instead.
The incident snowballed into a
rather amusing display of name
calling and locking each other out of
the AATU office. Amusing that is, until
one realizes that students could pay
$7,300 for this type of behavior.
A strong tenants union once was, and
still could be a great benefit for studen-
ts. There is lobbying which could be
done, and tenants who do need help.
But the tenants union is not doing the
job, and there is no evidence to suggest
it will begin to in the future.
In the last few years it has become
a hole into which thousands of student
dollars get sucked and little if anything
comes out. Because of this, the tenants
union should lose the privilege of
automatically receiving funds each
year.
If it needs money for a workshop, or
a specific lobbying project, the union
should approach MSA. And if MSA
deems that project worthwhile, the
union should get money to carry it out.
The tenants union, however, is sim-
ply not effective enough to warrant a
blanket allocation. Until members can
pull the organization back together,
MSA should cut them off.

.;
'"

-9

,,i RFALLY WANT
YOU GUYS TO LEAVE/
THIS IS GETTING Sf-
1 IOUS-- YOU'R E ALL
IN BIG TROUBLE
I'M GONNA'
E3PCIALLY TME PRO-
TPHET PROFESSOR STUFF?
INELL, T. DON'T TMH IN,,
S--HEY YOU'RE. GETTING
BEAN DIP ON NW
MODEL. TET FIGHTER!

I4

4

/z:

HELLO, HAROLD-
WHAT SHOULD I DO
WITR THESE "NUGLEAp
SAINTS" PEOPLE ?,,,
NOTHING ?, YOU THINK.
ITS KINDA' CUTE7,,,

ev

I4

14

i

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:

And where is your labProf. Einhorn?

Undefendable prices

NTERESTED in making an 8 million
percent profit margin on a cheap
wrench? If so, the Pentagon is the
customer for you.
That's.the percentage profit General
Dynamics made by selling a 12 cent
wrench to the Department of Defense
for $9,609. General Dynamics can get
away with charging such gross prices
because the Pentagon never asks any

private industry.
The bill makes quite a bit of sense in-
the face of a record peacetime defense
budget that somehow leaves current
U.S. forces spread thin. A big reason
why is the lack of competition among
defense suppliers. The current policy
allows Boeing to charge $1,118.26 for a
plastic cap to protect the leg of a stool
in the AWACS radar plane. The policy
Pyinnc wy a,, a n i,, i U qr fnr

To the Daily:
I would like to respond to
physics Prof. Martin Einhorn's
letter ("PSN aims at 'ill-
conceived goals,'" Daily,
November 9).
As I am to understand, his op-
position to the recent sit-in staged
by the Progressive Student Net-
work is based on the notion that
such protest is far-fetched and
misconstrued. Let me say that,
with ill-respect for Professor
Thomas Senior's research on
electromagnetic pulse (EMP),
his work directly contributes to
the military build-up machine. It
is fact that his research, and
research of this type also being
conducted on this campus, is fun-
ded by the Department of Defen-
se, an organization whose in-
terests lie not in furthering the
transmission of knowledge, but in
maintaining a national security

United States to destroy all of the
Soviet Union's 7,500 land-based
nuclear missiles instantly (it
seems ironic to me that a small
truck loaded with dynamite is
able to penetrate American for-
ces with such ease).
When research with obvious
militaristic intentions is taking
place on our own campus, funded
with our own tax and tuition
dollars, I feel one must actively
question such research and its
value to the people by which it is
funded. It is sad that our
legislators and pedagogues con-
tinually insist that such research
may have civilian application in
light of the corruptness of the
BLOOM COUNTY

government that uses it and its
obvious militaristic intentions.
One even directly contributing
to this unleashed insanity,
already blown out of proportion
(pardon the pun) by the billions
of dollars spent, is guilty of
ignorance of the most important
problem citizens of the world
must address today. I laud you
for initiating a course on nuclear
weapons and nuclear war, but I
question your sincerity in this at-
tempt to educate the student. It is
this frustrating hypocrisy that
provokes such recent events as
the sit-in. The intent of this
"normal, healthy student ac-
tivism" is not to overthrow, as

you imply, but to firmly and
peacefully regain the rights as
human beings to live without the
constant fear of a nuclear war. I
should hope that such activism
prompts the minds of students
and professors feeling indifferent
about the perils of a nuclear
holocaust and that it encourages
an active participation in the
decision-making process here at
the University.
Now where did you say your 4
laboratory is located?
- Stephen Lantos
November 11
by Berke Breathed

l /

ATTENTION, INTRV17ER
'(H15 15 1HE CENTRAL I.R.5.

WAT.. 16 Y
HecR Utz (AL CCT 115'

i

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