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January 15, 1985 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-01-15

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4

OPINION

Page 4

Tuesday, January 15, 1985

The Michigan Daily

r

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Wasserman

Vol. XCV, No. 86.

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

1i1E MARTIN LUTEk KING WJLIWA\IIS A
YtW~oL

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

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A sfar as rental space in Ann Arbor
goes, it is a landlord's market.
Housing is scarce, and students
wishing to live off campus often must
compromise rental rates, location, and
convenience in order to reserve a place
to sleep in the crowded market.
This is to be expected. In any
business transaction, such as leasing a
house or apartment, there is a certain
amount of give and take. But with a
transient student population working
within a market controlled by the lan-
dholders, those landlords must be held
responsible for the conscientious
upkeep of their properties. Tenants
who rent for a year at a time should not
be held responsible for installing
permanent cost-saving measures.
A group calling itself Weatherization
as Responsible Maintenence (WARM)
has petitioned successfully for
Proposal A, a weatherization package
which will appear on the April Ann Ar-
bor ballot. If passed, the proposal will
mandate minimum standards for
weatherstripping of doors and win-
dowframes, caulking, and ceiling in-
sulation.
Landlords argue that the proposal
would be unnecessary regulation and
that, because it is in their best interest
to spend the estimated $250 to $500 to
make their properties more cost-
efficient, the free market will sufficien-

tly enforce weatherization.
But there is no free market for ren-
ting a place to live in Ann Arbor. The
vacancy rate, the amount of unrented
space in relation to the space
available, is currently estimated at
one percent. Decent housing is scarce
and students are likely to take what
they can get-with or without weather-
stripping.
There is no incentive for landlords to
do anything beyond what is required of
them by law. The fact is, when spring
comes and the housing market tightens
up, students are in no position to
demand that their prospective lan-
dlords take measures to lower their
heating costs.
Two-hundred and fifty dollars is not
a lot for a landlord to pay compared to
the thousands of dollars of valuable
energy that will be saved as a result.
Landlords are in the minority on this
issue. The community cannot help but
benefit from such legislation. The only
sound argument posed by the op-
position is that the rental industry is
already over-regulated. But in a
market with no other course of enfor-
cement, legislation is necessary. This
proposal deserves strong support from
student renters. If Proposal A is
passed, Ann Arbor will be able to sleep
better-at least warmer-in Michigan
winters yet to come.

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Propaganda A merican-style

He had a dream

Today marks what would have
been the 55th birthday of Martin
Luther King, Jr. Locally, com-
memorations have already begun,
most notably at yesterday's rally
sponsored by the Second Baptist Chur-
ch of Ann Arbor which attracted over
200 participants. King's birthday,
which becomes a national holiday next
year, is a good time to reevaluate the
status of the civil rights movement and
recall his dream for a better world.
In 1964, King wrote Why We Can't
Wait, in which he put forth his dream
for a world free of racism. He asked
that even as Americans struggled for
civil rights at home, they look toward
the entire world in hopes of ending in-
justices everywhere. He believed that
the situation in South Africa, among
others, was serious enough that we as
citizens of the world would have to
work immediately and ceaselessly to
insure an end to the atrocities there.
Ironically, 20 years later it is ap-
parent that Americans believe they
can wait. There have been few gains in
domestic civil rights and some of those
earlier gains have been challenged.
The situation in South Africa continues
to be one of undistinguished oppression
on the basis of race. In Western Africa,
poor horticultural planning worsened

by religious bigotry is causing coun-
tless thousands to die of hunger.
Although Americans think they can
wait, they must not. On King's birth-
day, all should loin with University
Political Science Prof. Ernest Wilson, a
speaker at the Second Baptist Chur-
ch's rally, in calling for continued ac-
tions toward greater local, national,
and global justice.
Aid to the famine-afflicted countries
of Western Africa must be continued.
For the present, this aid would be used
to save the lives of individuals, and in
the future, it would be used to bring
about improved agricultural con-
ditions.
Marches and other actions which
level public criticism at the Reagan
administration's South African
policies must be supported.
People must be educated to the
dangers of the international arms
race.
Adventurism in the United States
troops in Central America and
elsewhere must be protested.
And Americans once again must
familiarize themselves with King's
dream: an entire world in which all en-

By Brian Leiter
In Russia they have Tass; in
America, we have Time
magazine. Both,hto use a
somewhat startling idiom, are
propaganda instruments of their
respective ruling elites.
For the student of history, it is
an elementary fact that ruling
classes-whether their power
derives from political or
economic structures-will em-
ploy the media to generate beliefs
and attitudes favorable to the
maintenance of their power. As
the elite in America are those
who control the private
economy-e.g. the wealthiest five
percent of the population which
owns 67 percent of all corporate
stock (National Bureau of
Economic Research)-it is to be
expected that their propaganda
tool would itself be part of this
privately owned economy-the
Mammoth Time, Inc. (The same
of course is true of the other
ideological media-all are
ultimately the property of large
corporations with vested in-
terests in the current order.)
The recent Man of the Year
issue of Time (Jan. 7) is a tour-
de-force in American propagan-
da. Publisher John Meyers says
the Man of the Year is the one
who "has most significantly in-
fluenced the events of the past
twelve months." Peter
Ueberroth, who organized the
Summer Olympics, clearly was
not chosen for that reason; he
ran a widely-watched sporting
even, and that's all. He was
chosen, as the subsequent ar-
ticles make clear, because he
"most significantly" symbolized
Time's ideological picture of
events of the past year: a
renewed "entrepreneurial"
(capitalistic) spirit and the value
of such as integral part of
patriotism, freedom, goodness,
etc.
This is old hat for ruling classes
in capitalistic society. If the
population is to tolerate dramatic
inequities in wealth distribution
perpetual classes of
dispossessed, and the general
assault on peace of mind and
health of body bred by the uncer-
tainties inherent in the free-
market game, it must come to
believe that the mechanism by
which all this is achieved is
something of value to all in-
dividuals, something desirable
and good. In Marxist ter-
minology, the interest of the
ruling class must be portrayed as
universal interest. Propaganda
used to this effect necessarily
engages in significant distror-
tions and simplifications as I
shall try to illustrate in what
follows.
The prime metaphor for'
Time's ideological effort is
'summer olympics as microcosm
of capitalism': "The Los Angeles
Olympics became a spectacular
dramatization of a renascent
American entreprenourial
energy and optimism." The in-
tended effect: the transference of
our good feelings about olympics
to caDitalism in general. The

"essence of freedom"?) It mat-
ters not that in the whole corpus
of Western political philosophy
freedom is nowhere defined as
"all light and air and flashing
motion." Such a definition is a
better characterization of a
typical T.V. commerical and the
commercial hype which surroun-
ds material goods (all part of the
effort to generate ever-ready
markets for capitalist production
regardless of real utility or
need). To equate commercial
hype ("flashing motion") with
freedom again serves to transfer
the positive value of freedom onto
the commerical sphere.
Or similarly: "In Reagan's
America, the value of freedom
(over equality) has reasserted it-
self, sometimes at the expense of
the gentler instincts. The Olym-
pics express the preference per-
fectly: the freedom to
win-athletics as Darwinian
theater." As Marx was the first to
comment, what capitalists mean
by freedom is the freedom to
privately control large amounts
of wealth and property (a
freedom irrelevant to the 90 per-
cent of the population which does
not make capital investment
decisions). There has certainly
been more of this freedom under
Reagan. Of course, it isalso
patently obvious that substantial
redistribution of wealth and
regulation of investment-a
restriction of this capitalist
freedom-would increase
freedom for the poor (to name
but one group) : they would be
free to learn, to pursue cultural
activities, hobbies-in short, all
the freedoms that require in-
come, leisure, etc.
The "Darwinian theater"
metaphor is, of course, the old
Social Darwinism of the robber
barons revived. Two questions
must be posed: 1. Olympics may
be "Darwinian theater," but are
Olympics therefore a good model
for the functioning of society?
Would we apply this model to the
operation of our family relations?
2. If capitalism promotes the
"survival of the fittest" it is
clearly only those who are "fit'
to function within capitalism that
survive: namely, those with
competitive commerical instin-
cts. But why is that the criteria
for fitness? Is that the ideal
human we wish to breed? By and
large the outstanding cultural
and intellectual figures of history
were unfit to be managers in
capitalist society. Therefore,
what?
BLOOM COUNTY

On the '84 election: "It was not
the Americans disapproved of the
goals (justice, compassion for the
poor); many simply felt that the
old Democratic ways of reaching
those goals no longer worked." Of
course, the truth or falsity of this
"feeling" is beside the point; also
never mind that the Reagan
"way" (more capitalism) was
what created the problems to
which the "Democratic ways"
were responding in the first
place.
Who knows what would happen
if anyone in the media had ac-
tually read Marx? "In its -new
and frank acceptance of
economic incentives, China took
another historic turn away from
Marx and Lenin and toward, in a
sense, Peter Ueberroth." Of
course, the existence of material
incentives is not what is distin-
ctive of capitalism in the Marxist
critique (Marx clearly thought
that communism was in the
material self-interest of the
dispossessed working
classes)-rather, it is the private
ownership of the means of
production and the bulk of capital
available. China has not tam-
pered with this aspect of their
system at all; Marx, himself,
says he favors "the right of per-
sonally acquiring property as the
fruit of a man's own labour."
This portrayal of capitalism
would not be complete without
rationalizing the all-too-apparent
defects. So "The nation goes im-
perfectly on" (oh well...); "Many
Americans have been left out of
the economic recovery; on the
other hand, it would be utopian,
or typically American, to think
that all could be included." What
a claim! All efforts to really rec-
tify social inequities are good-
naturedly labelled utopian and
implicitly unworthy of serious at-
tention (no doubt because real
remedies would require tam-
pering with the free market). It
matters not that with the current
abundance of wealth and
technology, poverty, et. al. could
only exist with mismanagement
bordering on idiocy and/or
management based on un-
mitigated greed of those who con-
trol the economy.
There is a continuous attack on
selflessness: quoting pollster
Yankelovich: "There is no moral
virtue today attributed to self-
denial." One needn't advocate an
ascetic ideal to see through this

routine. The only "self" catered
to in capitalism is the self which
craves material goods (27 brands
of deodorant, home computers to
balance your checkbooks, autos4
with racing stripes, and sun
roofs), a self which is brought in-
to being in a large part by a
barrage of advertising which
proclaims our vital need for these
goods. A self interested in
cultural and intellectual enrich-
ment and opportunity, spiritual
exploration, increasing leisure
and personal time, environments
for healthy and honest human
relations, would be hard pressed
to have its interests served in the1
currentratmosphere of non-stop
commerical hype.
"The American renewal (of
capitalism) is a reassertion of
man as shaper of the world
rather than... as victim or passive
partner"-Time. "The attain-
ment of conditions in which man
could shape his own life...
(require) no longer subori
dinating his life to the
requirements of profitable
production, to an apparatus con-
trolled by forces beyond his con-
trol"-Herbert Marcuse. There
are volumes of historical,
philosophical, and sociological
literature defending Marcuse's
point, yet Time, as in most cases,
blithely makes its pronoun-
cement as though the making of it
settled the issue for good.
One needn't have a conspiracy
theory to believe that Time is
a propaganda instrument com-
mitted to the perpetuation of the
existing economic order. Since
Time, Inc. is part of that order,
since publisher John Meyers is a
wealthy elite in that order, it is to
be expected that they will
promulgate views favorable tc
the system in which they thrive
not, in all likelihood, with intent
to deceive, but out of sincere
belief that the virtues of a system
that serves their interests must
be general and apparent virtues
for all. That explanation,
however, does not change the fact
of their narrowness of vision and
shallowness of intellect.

joy the basic rights
equality, and justice.

of freedom,

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Leiter is a graduate student
in law and philosophy.
by Berke Breathed

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