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September 26, 1984 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-09-26

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OPINION

Page 4

Wednesday, September 26, 1984
Defenders of the asensual life

The Michigan Daily
style

By Brian Leiter
It is time that we stop giving the anti-
abortion movement the undue advan-
tage of language. It is time we stopped
calling them "pro-life" for they are not,
to put it simply, pro life. Perhaps they
are "pro human genetic structure" or
pro human physiology"; many are
certainly "pro Reagan" and even more
are "pro God." But they are not pro
life.
In fact, it is far easier to say what
they are against. Most obviously, they
are anti-sexuality. For, indeed, the
fundamental message of the anti-abor-
tionists is "If you are going to indulge
your sexual desires, then you deserve to
be punished, burdened etc." For the
anti-abortionists human sexuality is in-
separable from the purposes of
procreation; and in an effort to enforce
this decadent norm on society as a
whole they seek to set up a deterrent to
sex: namely, if pregnancy results, abor-
lion is not available as an escape from
its ensuing burdens (notice too that,
ultimately, this deterrent only operates,
upon women and their sexuality!).
BUT CONFRONTED with the
behavioral norm of the anti-abor-
tionists (that non-procreative sex
merits punishment), one feels com-
pelled to ask the Nietzschean question:
What sort of people would propose such
a norm? The most inviting answer is:
people who experience their own
sexuality as alien, as an abomination,
as a disaster. In short, people,
possessed of a crippled andthwarted
sexuality. People possessed of such a
sexuality would, first, experience no
loss in the implementation of a;
deterrent to sex, and second, find
recourse for their envy and resentment:
in the attack upon the thriving sexual
lives of others.
Now anyone who has not had their in-
stinctual life weighed down by religious
}morality (or any secularized version of
the same)-and there are probably not

many who haven't-will admit (gladly)
the importance of sexual fulfillment to
a normal human life. Yet the anti-abor-
tionists implicitly stand for a norm con-
trary to life: a norm which condemns
human sexuality.
One should not be mistaken, here, as
to the thrust of the argument. The-
argument is not that the human sexual
life justifies any consequence. Rather
one must examine first what con-
sequence the anti-abortionists see
themselves as defending against.
ANTI-ABORTIONISTS believe they are
defending "life." Yet one might ask,
what is "life?" Here is one very broad
account: life is the sensuous experien-
ce of the world. This is, I think, what
constitutes at base life's significance
and value for most of us.
Now by sensuous, one should not
merely understand "sexual," though
the sexual experience of the world is no
doubt an important part of life. The
sensuous experience of the world is the
experience of the world as a place for
the joy of success and the sadness of
failure, a place for the fulfillment of ex-
pectations and the dashing of expec-
tations, for the gratification of instincts
and the thwarting in instincts. Life is
the sensual (and perhaps I should add
by way of clarification, "emotional")
interaction of the self with the world.
So what is the "life" the anti-abor-
tionists defend? It is a life which is
characterized by a distinctly non-
sensual experience of the world; a life
which experiences only a womb. It is a
life whose primary attribute is the
requisite characteristics of human
physiology and genetics. It is a life for
which the conception of a self-under-
stood as something capable of cognitive
and emotional activities in any of the
ways familiar to us-hardly makes any
sense.
YET IS THIS any suprise? Is it any
surprise that the anti-abortionists
defend a life which is fundamentally
asensual? Isn't it to be expected that

the violation, the terror of being s
cruelly overpowered, the anxiety o
what is to happen now-is irrelevant t
the anti-abortionist. But this is to- b
expected from those who conceive-o
life's ideal as anti-sensual and anti
sexual-for them, such sensual trauma
is meaningless for life as a sensual
phenomenon is meaningless. And in the
religious context, we are told that man
brings his sin upon himself(hence the
familiar comment that "she was asking
to be raped") and that what happens"in
this life is insignificant anyway.
Even in a much more general
way-for example, in their oppositio
to abortion on demand-this orientation
to life makes itself apparent. In this
case, what the anti-abortionists require
is that the needs and the interests of the
emotionally and cognitively aware
lives, the sensual and thriving lives (the
life of the potnetial mother, her mate
etc.) be sacrificed to that which has an
almost completely antithetical existen-
ce to theirs. But such a proposal must
appear as the most peculiar inversib
to anyone who identifies life, and life's
values, with a sensual and vital ex-
perience of the world. To such a person
what matters is the life that is sensual
and vital-and all moral values are
derivative on that life. To suggest that
sacrificing and hindering such a life has
value appears as an absurdity.
It should not be assumed of course
that those who represent the "pro-
choice" position embody the opposite
life ideal-many adopt this'position fo4
other reasons. Yet it should be clear
now what irony is embodied in the
name "pro-life." In fact, this
movement implies (and sometimes
openly advocates) and ideal that is anti-
life. To persist in calling the anti-abor-
tionists "pro-life" gives them an 'un-
deserved-and even quite distor-
ting-advantage.
Leiter is a graduate student in law
and philosophy.

Associated Press
Are these anti-abortionists rallying in Washington really pro-life, or are they in fact denying a sensuous experience
of the world?

those who stand opposed to sexuality
should hold up as the "ideal" of life a
life that is characterized by a non-
sensual, non-emotional, even non-
cognitive experience of the world? One
might surmise, in fact, that the hostility
to sexuality is only a constituent part of
this generally anti-sensual orientation.
But once again one feels compelled to
ask: Who would regard life as being
"anti-sensual" except the person whose
experience of life is anti-sensual, the

person who experiences life as a burden
and thus withdraws from it sensually.
Here, then, the connection between the
anti-abortion movement and religion
becomes apparent. For the religious
world view-in its postulation of an af-
ter-life and its attack on the instinctual
life of man-leads naturally to an ex-
perience of sensuality as alien. "Sen-
suality, especially sexual sensuality, is
evil," the religious world view tells us.
Hence, men come to experience their

sensual life as an evil burden. "And
besides," this view continues, "this life,
whatever its sensual component, does
not matter at all by comparison to the
life that is to come.''
Now, of course, we can understand
some of the extreme positions of the an-
ti-abortionists. For example, consider
the person who opposes abortion even
for the teenage girl who has been raped.
The reality of the girl's sensual ex-
perience of the world-the trauma of

__ _

&te I~itlijgau an ailQ
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Making right history by right choices

Vol. XCV, No. 18

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

A legacy of literature

By Henryk
Skolimowski
I was in England during the
month of August this year. When
the news from the Republican
Convention in Dallas started to
reach London, my friends were
seriously alarmed. They could'
not believe that a group of highly
reactionary thinkers in the
Republican Party, who obviously
want to turn back the clock of
history, would completely
dominate the convention and
make their half-baked philosophy
the official platform of the
Republican presidential ticket.
My friends in London told me:
"This is unthinkable. This is a
counterreformation. This is like
returning to the cave. How can
the American people tolerate
this? After having worked for
two centuries in the name of
liberty and justice for all, they
cannot now turn back the clock of
history and endorse the rich
man's ideology according to

which the rich will get richer at-
the expense of the poor.
CHEAP patriotism cannot be a
substitute for a real political
vision. The greatness of the
Founding Fathers of the United

'We are pawning our future to Star
Wars maniacs. . . America awake.
You have nothing to lose but your
blindness.'

Upon my arrival in the.U;S in
September I was struck by the
quiescence and apathy of the
peoplenwhodseemed almost
resigned. We are pawning our
future to Star Wars maniacs and
we are not aware of the fact.

and our children, will have top
in the future-make no mistake~
about that. Further, it means
driving a deeper wedge between
the privileged-wealthy and the
growing underclasses which are
treated as disposable people; ir
sum, it simply means that the
American dream of justice, fair-
ness, and building a better future
for all is being shattered. We
simply cannot afford this
thoughtless, happy-go-lucky,
para -military, pro-rich ex-
travaganza.
Therefore, we have to think
twice before the election .in
November so that we make:
responsible choice, the choice
that will be beneficial to all, not to
the privileged few. The stakes
are really high at this point in
time. We must act-jointly and
responsibly, for we are respon-
sible eeople who make right
history through right choices.
Skolimowski is a Professor
of Philosophy at the Univer-
sity.

ARL PROFFER died Monday of a
/cance he had been struggling with for
almost two years, leaving behind him a
legacy of something he termed
"Russian madness." This "madness"
led him to the Soviet Union more than a,
dozen times to pursue his love of
Russian literature, first cultivated at
the University where he received his
bachelor's, master's, and doctoral
degrees in Slavic languages and
literatures. Later he would return
what he learned to this community by
becoming a University professor.
During a trip to Moscow, Proffer met
the widow of one of that country's
premier poets who he says "turned the
literature from something academic to
fire for (him and his wife)." Upon his
return to the United States in 1971,
Proffer and his wife Ellendea founded
Ardis Publishers-one of the foremost
Russian language publishing houses in
the West-drawing on the manuscripts
that they had managed to sneak past
Soviet sensors. With the help of news
correspondents and diplomats, the two
began a network where censored
Russian writers could have their works
considered for publication in the U.S.,
and then possibly have them smuggled
back to the Soviet Union.
"Originally the notion was to bring
Russian culture to America, but the
reverse is probably much more impor-
tant-bringing Russian culture to
Russia," said Proffer last year in an
interview And that hcnme h duty

keeping their eye on him, thinking that
he was supported by the CIA or the
FBI, but American officials suspected
him of an association with the KGB,
the Soviet secret police.
The political attacks did not deter
Proffer, or the Russian writers who
depended on him. Many Russian ar-
tists and writers looked upon Proffer
as a hero and were surprized that an
American would take such a great in-
terest in preserving Russian culture.
-"They question us like, 'You're an
atheist, why are you giving us bibles?"'
Proffer once said.
Proffer has made invaluable con-
tributions to this community by
making it a center for Russian emigre
intellectual activity. Last March, he
organized "Russian Culture and
America: An Open Forum" which
brought to Ann Arbor six leading
representatives of Russian culture, in-
cluding ballet dancer Mikhail
Baryshnikov, poet Josef Brodsky, and
novelist Sasha Sokolov. Proffer is
famed with discovering Sokolov who is
now an internationally acclaimed
author.
Brodsky, whom Proffer was in-
strumental in bringing to the Univer-
sity as a poet-in-residence, told the
Detroit News in 1983 that "From the
point of view of Russian literature, the
existence of (the Proffers' publishing)
house is the second great event in
(Russian) literature, after the inven-

States lay in their universalism,
in the capacity to embrace all. It
would be sad indeed if this
heritage were thrown out." This
is what my dismayed British
friends were telling me. I was
dumbfounded too.

America awake. You have
nothing to loose but your blin-
dness.
Reagan's regime in power for
the next four years means further
deficit to the tune of hundred of
billions of dollars, for which we,

LETTERS TO THE DAILY

Where punishment rules over education

To the Daily:
I question the validity of the
student code of non-academic
conduct on the grounds that a
Michigan Student Assembly vote
against the code may be
disregarded in order for the code
to be implemented. We as
students of the University pay
tuition in order to "educate our-
selves." I think a poll of most
students will reveal that their
main priority is education
although some have differing
reasons for it. By this very fact
the University invturn has an
obiation to give us quality
education and so called
"academic freedom." Yet
shouldn't this obligation also con-
sist of listening to student's
criticisms and allowing students
to make decisions that count on
how their lives here should be
controlled? Our obligation does

by providing greater protection
in the form of an escort service or
even more security officers will
ensure that all parties will act
accordingly. Do not wait until the
offense has occured to take ac-
tion, but rather provide services
that will minimize the chance of
such a violation taking place.
Who pays for the hearing of-
ficer's wages or the whole
judicial proceedings? Ultimately
the money will come from the
students. This leads me to grave
concerns when the University
continues to cut educational
programs such as the Geography
Department, the School of
Education, and parts of the
School of Natural Resources.
BLOOM COUNTY

The whole debate and process
of making the code has also taken
up time and energy that could be
reallocated. Perhaps a revision
of the existing laws would be
wiserinstead of a complete
alteration of them. The code
producers could channel their
zealous energy to productive ed-
ucation. These producers see a
necessity for stronger University
authority against student offen-
ses, but the issue as it exists
merely takes away from some
deeper issues on campus: that of
educational tools, financing the
University, and providing
students with the right to
establish their own opinions.
How can opinions be formed if

educational needs are taking
second priority to a more
stringent punishment code?
Codes do not provide the tools for
learning. Money used for the
code and its judicial system do
not provide the tools for
academia.
When I say "No Code" I am
saying that my money, which
supports the University, should
not be used to add a judicial
system within the University, but
rather to support the education-of
students and the ability to
acquire and maintain our own
principles of conduct.
-Claudia B. Grossman
April 6
by Berke Breathed

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