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December 12, 1984 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-12-12

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4

OPINION

Page 4

Wednesday, December 12, 1984

The Michigan Daily

Moving product X from point A to B

By Robert Honigman
My closest friend in graduate school
was a Brazilian who, for the sake of
privacy, I'll call Augusto. We used to
walk across the campus on snowy
December evenings, and Augusto
would talk about Rio and that certain
spot on Copa Cabana beach where he and,
his friends would meet every day after-
work to talk and watch the girls.
Augusto was a graduate student in
business, getting his MBA under the
sponsorship of a large American
multinational corporation that had a
branch down in Rio. Augusto was older
than me by a few years and was like an
older brother. He was brilliant, spoke
German and Portugese fluently, had a
good sense of humor, and was well liked
by everyone. But he used to irritate me
with his left-wing views, criticizing the
United States and its large companies.
Finally, I asked why, if he disliked big
business so much, was he studying so
hard to become a businessman.
"I'M NOT A businessman," Augusto
answered. "I'm a technocrat. I move
product X from point A to point B in the
most efficient manner. If there's a
revolution in my country, they still need
people like me to move products from
one place to another."
It seemed odd, but my friend was
right. He wasn't training to be a
businessman in the old fashioned sense
of opening a store or fixing sinks. He
was going to work for a large company
as a cog in a wheel all his life. He wan-

ted to live well, but not necessarily be
rich.
I thought of Augusto last year when
an article in the Daily reviewed the
career of Robben Fleming, the Univer-
sity's president from 1968 to 1979. When
you try to describe Robben Fleming's
career, the idea of a technocrat
naturally suggests itself. He was a very
warm and courageous man who steered
the University successfully through
some perilous times. Yet in reviewing
his career, it's difficult to remember
anything meaningful that he ever said.
ALTHOUGH FLEMING was per-
sonally a warm man, in his relations
with students he never seemed to lose
sight of the fact that students are ex-
tremely dangerous - and I think he
never completely trusted them or felt
the University owed them anything.
Certainly, under Fleming, the worst
housing crisis in anyone's memory en-
dured for a decade - and Fleming fir-
mly vetoed any additional student
housing which might have driven prices
down, student referendum to the con-
trary notwithstanding.
It wasn't that Fleming was heartless,
it was rather that he was a technocrat.
He had no firm convictions that a
university was anything to anyone ex-
cept an institution that was supposed to
take product X from point A to point B.
He was there to make sure the job got
done.
If Fleming, or other university
leaders, were an isolated case,it would
be of interest historically - but it
seems to me now that Fleming was far

from an isolated case. Rather, I would
say that the people in the university and
the people it encourages are exactly
like my friend Augusto - people who
are out to make their way in the world,
who are willing to work for any boss as
long as the company is large and suc-
cessful, and whose only concern during
their workday hours is moving some
product from point A to point B
THAT'S NOT exactly news. Herbert
Hendrin, a psychiatrist, surveyed

assertion and survival. Thus, people
see the world only from the point of
view of their own self-interest and build
ideologies to sustain and rationalize
this view. And in a sense, that's the
technocrat - a selfish rational
machine, rather like Hal the computer
in 2001.
Yet, while we admit that there are
people like that, there is something
profoundly wrong with becoming and
remaining a technocrat. If one's only

'When an institution becomes populated
with technocrats who all share the in-
stitutional obsession with success and sur-
vival, then the institution becomes like
Godzilla turned loose and human reason is
powerless.'

success and survival, then the in-
stitution becomes like Godzilla turned
loose and human reason is powerless.
Institutions really believe that
whatever is good for them is good for
everyone. But over time, all in-
stitutions evolve into organisms that
feed off of people in order to grow and
survive - until only the people at the
top are left. The people at the top iden-
tify with the institution to the end, trot-
ting out old cliches and stale slogans,
shutting out criticism, and turning in-
stitutional goals into implacable gods
who must be fed.
During the Industrial Revolution,
large scale organizations broke down
skilled jobs into simple units of work
and reorganized the work force -
making the average worker's job dull,
narrow and repetitive : making the
worker's life meaningless except for
the paycheck at the end of the week.
The institutional needs of efficiency
dictated the sacrifice of individuality to
the needs of the organization. But why
does anyone imagine that what was
rational and necessary to do to blue
collar workers isn't just as rational and
necessary to do to white collar
workers? Now that blue collar workers
are being swallowed by a vortex of
robots, top management can turn its at-
tention to the next echelon of em-'
ployees. You can see it around you,
even in the university. Everyone is
becoming more specialized and we are
all becoming more or less inter-
changeable parts. A technocrat is a
tool that the institution wants and needs

for its own efficiency. It values the
tool until the tool is broken or a better or
cheaper tool is available. But anything
human is not what the institution wants
- humans are messy, they break
down.
So it seems to me that every student
in the university has a choice between
becoming a technocrat or becoming a
full human being. The latter is a much
more difficult and painful route - for it
involves realizing that self-interest
alone in the interest of self-interested
institutions is beneath human dignity,
and that human lives are interconnec-
ted by a web of feelings that transcends
institutions and selves.
We all have to live with and within in-
stitutions. And every institution is a
Big Brother with its banal institutional
beatitudes and its boring rituals of
obedience. "Kadavergehorsam" - the
obedience of a corpse, Bruno Bet-
telheim calls it. I used to call it
"placing the body." You have to place
the body where they tell you, for hours,
days and even years. Not that life in a
large institution is so hard. Sometimes,
for long years it's as pleasant as a
summer day - for the institution will
feed us, protect us, give us friends and
things to do, just as our parents once
did in the nursery. And outside life
rages in a senseless storm, beating
against institutional windows - a
soundless laughter and music. It's hard
to open the windows and listen.
Honigman is a University alumni
and attorney in Sterling Heights.

4
I

students of major universities in the
mid-seventies and found that they truly
wanted to become machines. "It is not
the idea of being programmed that
bothers them, but of being badly
programmed. They envy machines."
There's a German theory of the
sociology of knowledge which posits
that man is essentially an instinct-
driven animal, for whom intelligence is
only a means of achieving his goals of

allegiance is to an institution that wants
to move product X from point A to point
B, does the technocrat ever ask
whether the product is human beings
being loaded on cattle cars, bombs
loaded in rockets, chemical defoliants,
or tissue paper and cosmetics? Does it
make any difference?
WHEN AN INSTITUTION becomes
populated with technocrats who all
share the institutional obsession with

I

LETTERS TO THE DAILY

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Criticism of MSA almost meaningless

Vol. XCV, No. 80

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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

Action on Apartheid

INETY percent of the South African
population is not any better off
than they were four years ago. Ninety
percent. of that country is black and
therefore subject to a racist policy
written and enforced by the remaining
ten percent.
* None of this should be at all sur-
prising. Since he took office in 1980,
President Ronald Reagan has publicly
Apposed South African apartheid rule,
but has made no attempt to sanction
that policy. As the situation in South
Africa deteriorates, it seems no one
can convince the Reagan Ad-
ministration that there is a problem.
2Last week, Reagan met with South
African Bishop and Nobel Peace Prize
winner Desmond Tutu in Washington.
After listening to the bishop's sharp
driticism of his policies for about half
an hour, Reagan came to a charac-
J ristically optimistic conclusion: that
his current policy is actually doing
some good in South Africa and that
there is no need for change.
Like many in both countries who ac-
tively oppose South Africa's racist
laws, Tutu was astonished by Reagan's
comments. After meeting with the
'resident, he remarked, "It is quite
clear that we are no nearer to each
9ther that before I entered the White
House."
- Recent developments suggest that
Reagan's policy is anything but suc-
cessful. A report by the South African
Bishop's Conference states clearly that

the country's police are killing and
beating demonstrators indiscrimina t.-
ely in an effort to forcefully quell
unrest. Several concerned U.S.
citizens, including Colorado Senator
Gary Hart and many other
congressmen, have shown their
disdain for racist apartheid policies in
the form of speeches, protests, and
demonstrations. The South African
government recently lifted detention
orders on 12 activist opponents of apar-
theid - only to arrest six of those per-
sons again on charges of treason and
violating security laws.
The lack of human rights in South
Africa warrants a concrete response
from the Reagan Administration. But
such a response is not on the
president's agenda. Though a concer-
ned minority of people in the United
States continue to voice their op-
position to Reagan's policies, the Ad-
ministration is as deaf to the screams
of protesters in the United States as it
is deaf to the cries of an oppressed
majority in South Africa.
In two successive elections,
American voters have shown their
support for an optimistic ad-
ministration. But when human rights
violations and racist rule become ac-
ceptable, it is time to take off the rose-
colored glasses. Things are not any
better now for the Blacks in South
Africa than they were four years ago.
Disinterested diplomacy is outdated -
it is time for action.

To the Daily:
I am writing in response to
Charles Thomson's letter
"Daily editorial board lacks
courage" (Daily, Dec. 8) concer-
ning ADVICE, and more
specifically, alleged financial
irresponsibility by the Michigan
Student Assembly.
Thompson states that "the
mandatory funding scheme used
at the University to support
MSA...is designed to encourage
the squandering of student fun-
ds." This could not be further
from the truth. Both Student
Legal Services and the Ann Arbor
Tenants Union provide services
for students only because of the
responsible budgeting of student
funds to them by MSA. Through
the Budget Priorities Committee,
MSA also funds many worthwhile
programs organized and run for
students by students which
otherwise may never have the
funds to occur. This year the
MSA has provided funding to run
the all-campus blood drive, Con
sider, The Latin America Studen-
ts Association, the University
Engineering council, Michigan
Journal of Economics, Abeng,
Michigan Journal of Political
Science, etc. to name only a
very few organizations. The
student funds collected at the
beginning of the year are being
used responsibly to enrich.
educate, and enliven the Univer-
sity community, and especially
the students on campus.
Thompson points out that
"students...choose to ignore
these 'governments' rather than
lend them legitimacy...." I
assert that this attitude is one of
the major problems with the
Unionized
To the Daily:
When I read about labor union
news I read of the following: bit-
ter strikes, personal and public
vandalism, psychological and
physical threats, pension fund
fraud, connections to organized
crime and radical left political
-organizations, internal mail ad-
dress "Dear Brothers and
Sisters," exorbitant wage
demands that destroy com-
panies, a spirit of confrontation
instead of cooperation, animosity
between co-workers (look at Yale
University), paying of dues and
service fees, dues increases
made by a minimum of the
bargaining unit, losing your job
to someone with more seniority,
restrictive job descriptions, etc.
Problems like the above are

University student body. If
students would participate in
their government, rather than
being apathetic, perhaps MSA,
with students' support, could bet-
ter acheive our goals of represen-
tation, education and service to
the student body.
Finally, I would like to issue a
challenge to Thompson. I am
truly glad to see that he is con-
cerned enough to act on his belief
that MSA is "squandering funds"

'Beefcake mentality'still sexist

To the Daily:
I would like to compliment An-
dy Weine on his article "Strip
show is porn, not art" (Daily,
Dec. 4) that came in response to
Dennis Harvey's article "World
Series strippers score" (Daily,
Nov. 30) on the male strip show at
the Michigan Theater. I, for one,
do not consider male por-
nography a triumph for women
or a "post-liberation women's
revenge fantasy come true," as
Harvey characterized it. In-
stead, it is just another example
of how exploitative our society
can be toward anyone - male or
female-merely for a buck or a
thrill.
Unfortunately, the idea of
"Playgirl equality" seems to be
gaining more and more accep-
tance. Although feminists have
spent many years fighting for
genuine equality as well as
against the exploitation of
women, their message has been
perverted (by Harvey and
others) to imply that women
should have the "equal right" to
exploit men in the name of fun or
losers
historically poor clerical support
for unionization here, having a
union will only be an additional
source of stress. This was cer-
tainly the case when the UAW
was here.
In the last union election, AF-
SCME did not want the vote of
some clericals to be counted.
Any organization whick excludes
some of us, while saying it wants
to help us, is not to be trusted. We
need to vote no in large numbers.
If the union gets in, all of us
(clericals, students, and the en-
tire university community) will
be losers.
- Marina Seeman
December 5
BLOOM COUNTY

revenge. True feminists
recognize that sexual ex-
ploitation is harmful, degrading
and offensive whether it involves
males or females. Feminist
theory is based upon humanism,
and thus feminists would like to
eliminate all exploitation, not
just that which is directed solely
at women.
What I cannot understand
about the "beefcake mentality"
is why treating someone like a
piece of meat (instead of as a
human being) is considered to be
such fun in our society. It sounds
rather sick to me. Furthermore,
to those women who think that
male strip shows are okay
because "we deserve a little
The feeling at
To the Daily:
So they marched out in front of
a gate for less than five minutes
holding a sign that says "Work
for Peace." But did anybody
really listen? The workers kept
on driving through the gates, sip-
ping their coffee if they were
delayed for a bit, and the
policemen did what they were
being paid to do, and the suppor-
ters sang (not Christmas carols),
and the photographers took pic-
tures. The reporters asked
questions and then we all got in
our cars and drove away. Just
like a perfectly acted scene from
a play. But it wasn't a play. The
people weren't acting, they were
living their parts.
I suppose we all felt it was real
when we saw the pictures and ar-
ticles in the paper. The quotes
really livened things up. But the
fact remains: most people just
don't realize what went on at
Williams International. Sure,
they know the facts and the
reasons for what happened, but
they just don't feel anything.
What went on at Williams Inter-
national on Monday morning was
a feeling, a hunger, a need. And it

revenge; it's only fair," I say:
attitudes like yours are not only
horribly sexist but totally
illogical as well. If every black
person were to grab a white person
and exploit him or her in the
name of historical revenge, I
doubt you would call it "only
fair" or think it was "okay."
Finally, to Dennis Harvey, who
purports to speak for all women
on the issue of pornography, I
say: if you want to be a credit to
the Daily, you had better demon-
strate a great deal more prudent.
objective and analytic reporting
than you did in this past article.
- Phyllis Zarren
December 8
Walled Lake
was not transmitted through the
newspapers, or radios, or any of
the media at all. The facts were
put in front of the public, and
basically the public put them
away.
Anyone who got up that mor-
ning and stood in the bitter cold,
realizes that the media failed to
show what the point of this
demonstration was all about.
Sure, it is to make a statement
and open people's eyes. But
people close their eyes as fast as
they open them. So the question is
how to open people's hearts, how
to make them feel, not just see
what it is that is going on.
Perhaps Shakespeare was
right, "We will strut and fret our
hour upon the stage and then be
heard no more." But maybe, justm
maybe, more and more people
will stop and feel and then pass on
the feeling by actively trying to
stop so much madness.
I think the people who were
arrested successfully passed on
the feeling; now it is time for
their supporters and the general
public to grab the baton and cross
the finish line. -Missy Billmayer
December 6
by Berke Breathed

*,.

by expressing his views in the
Daily. This, at least, is more
commendable than the popular,
non-active apathy common to
most-of the student body. I would
like to challenge Thomson to fur-
ther act on his beliefs, and invite
him to make an appointment with
me to discuss this
"problem." Somehow, I don't
think he will. Like most,
criticizing is easy for Thomson,
but action or even re-action in-

volve too much self-less effort.
As long as MSA is active, the
majority of the student body will
find it very easy to criticize. But
without action, criticism is next to
meaningless.
- Kurt Muenchow
December 10
Muenchow is chairman of
MSA 's Budget Priorities
Committee.

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