Letters to the Editor

Why should Internet millionaires date gold-diggers? Plus: The Irish still suffer; Horowitz is no conservative!


Letters to the Editor
September 7, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

Desperately seeking Silicon Valley studs
BY JANELLE BROWN


(08/30/99)

Janelle Brown mentions the "hordes of
women" that "Silicon Valley's men are really looking forward" to meeting
at American Singles' "annual convention" (read "sales pitch"). However, at
the group's Web site, a search for single women in
their 20s turns up a list almost exclusively composed of women living
in the former Soviet Union, their profiles undoubtedly submitted by one of
the many mail-order bride services.

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If there are so many unmarried men in Santa Clara, one has to wonder why.
Perhaps it's because few computer programmers are athletic enough to be
referred to as "studs." Or perhaps they're looking for something other
than the gold-diggers who "want to meet one of those Internet
millionaires."

-- Benjamin Geer

Teen transsexuals
BY MARIA RUSSO

(08/28/99)

If the Internet had been available when I was a teen in the '70s, I
would have been able to transition then, and my life since would have been
very different. As it was, I thought of myself as a freak and lived with
terrible shame and guilt for more than 20 years. It was only after my own
suicide attempt that I finally decided to go to the Web to research the
subject, and I was amazed to discover thousands out there like myself. Far
from the serial killers and prostitutes the public most often sees as
transsexuals in movies, I found we are doctors, lawyers, engineers, cops,
artists, ordinary decent people, just like everybody else. Thus empowered,
I was finally able to start my own long-overdue transition.

When I saw our suicide statistics I was appalled, and reflected on just
how close I had come to becoming one of them myself. The Transgender International Rights and Education Day
project was started to promote public education about transsexualism in
hopes of countering the shame, guilt and humiliation that is responsible
for our suicide statistics. If we can save a single transgendered child
from this fate, it will have been worth all the effort.

-- Sarah Marie Scott

Director, Transgender International Rights and Education Day

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There is enough medical evidence to make a strong case for a biological
cause, for the feelings of "true" male-to-female transsexuals.
They have no choice other than to either accept their condition or go into denial and in all probability commit suicide.
The arguments against transsexuals made by some members of the lesbian
and gay community, as quoted by the author, are reflective of their own emotional concerns
and are both frivolous and groundless. I have heard them all before: "If gender roles are relaxed and no longer policed, no one will want sex changes," etc. Nonsense. Real
transsexuals will tell you it has little or nothing to do with gender
roles, but rather a strong aversion to possessing the physical
characteristics of the sex they apparently were born into, and a need to have a normal female phenotype. A large portion of the male-to-females I know, are
surprisingly normal women, given the fact they were raised as boys.
You cannot transform a man into a woman, but appropriate sexual
reassignment surgery is not an attempt to do so.

-- Natasha Lumna

Walnut Creek, Calif.


The suffering Irish

BY DANIEL REITZ
(08/31/99)

Daniel Reitz writes almost with regret that the new Ireland is less
poverty-stricken and miserable than it once was. This is no loss. Although
it behooves Reitz to write disparagingly of "yuppies." "cappuchino bars"
and "Jag drivers," the real effects of Ireland's economic upturn have been
the staggering declines in emigration and unemployment. A few have gotten very
wealthy, but the bulk of the poor have gotten decidedly less poor. This is a
positive development.

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The fact that Ireland's literature often spoke of experiences under the
grind of poverty, clericalism and deprivation was simply a result of the
fact that, for many, the Irish experience embodied those things. Now that
circumstances are different, this will, no doubt, be felt in the country's
literature.

But the alleviation of poverty is not a threat, and it should not be
presented as one. Change has happened fast, and more will come, but
Ireland's literary tradition will continue.

-- Ben Walsh

San Francisco

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It's obvious that Daniel Reitz is only talking about the southern part of
Ireland in his article, and not the North. If he had ventured into that war
zone, he would see that there is still much suffering taking place. It's amazing
how the British, who won't carry guns in England, have no problem firing
plastic bullets at people in Ireland. (Plastic bullets are banned as a
means of crowd control in England, but authorized for use in Northern
Ireland -- primarily in the Catholic, "presumed nationalist" communities).
Ireland is the poorest community in Europe, with the poorest housing
conditions. Maybe on his next trip, Reitz should visit Falls Road in
Belfast, the Bog Side in Derry City or any street in Coalisland -- he'll come
home with a very different view of the Irish condition.

-- Caitlin McCarthy

Seattle

Daniel Reitz brilliantly encapsulates one aspect of my impression of
contemporary Dublin, where I lived from 1994 to 1998. Dublin was still shaking off the shackles of the past when I first moved there; by the time I left, the culture had been thinly
veneered with cell phones, Harley-Davidsons, fashionable nightclubs and
housing prices that made any U.S. boom I've experienced seem trivial. The
opening of a Planet Hollywood on Stephen's Green seemed an emblem of
this material success. However, the infrastructure of the city seemed
to be collapsing under the weight of sudden prosperity, not to mention
the interpersonal infrastructure of society.

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-- Susan Jordan

Washington


Sharps & Flats: "Burn to Shine"

REVIEWED BY SETH MNOOKIN


(09/01/99)

Ben Harper fans will be satisfied with "bursts of delicious promise." I agree that Harper's acoustic work is more appealing than the electric stuff. But look around -- is
creation perfect? Of course not. Yet there are moments in a day, places on earth that
are soul-reviving -- just like the music of Ben Harper.

-- Bill Ginevicz

Watauga, Texas

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Fiction, 9 to 5
BY IAN MCEWAN

(08/30/99)

I appreciated McEwan's choices -- they are a rich and meaty bunch -- but the list felt incomplete without Nicholson Baker's "The Mezzanine." In my experience, no book has ever captured the simple rhythmic inanity of office work like Baker's tiny debut.

-- Nick Taylor
<brWashington


With conservatives like these, who needs liberals?

BY DAVID HOROWITZ
(08/30/99)

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It sounds like David Horowitz may be on the verge of another sea change in
political philosophy. Apparently it's just beginning to occur to him that
many, if not most, "conservatives" have no genuine affection for either
liberty or democracy. They like their freedom to be sure, but the masses are
another issue altogether. And, of course, like the ideologues of the left,
conservatives presume they will be ones to supply the class of "philosopher
bureaucrats" to "guide" the rest of us--with the full backing of the police
power of the state, if necessary.

I'm looking forward to the libertarian, as opposed to conservative (and they ARE
opposed), Horowitz very soon.

-- Mark Bonacquisti

The desire to control other people's
behavior by means of law -- specifically, the desire to impose what nowadays
passes for Christian morality on all Americans -- is definitive of American
conservatism. It is therefore hardly surprising that conservatives are in
favor of censorship. Horowitz has aligned himself with the likes of Bill
Bennett, Pat Robertson, Dan Quayle and Gary Bauer. Is it conceivable
that he doesn't understand what these people are trying to do? If it were
possible, his intellectual fellows would gladly junk the Bill of Rights in
favor of the Ten Commandments.

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What is surprising (and saddening) is that liberals would join in with such
behavior. But then, ever since Ronald Reagan turned "liberal" into a
pejorative in 1979, our so-called liberals have been running from their own
honorable values. The separation of religious and moral issues from
government has been the heart of liberalism for its 300-year existence, and
is the very foundation of modern culture and society. The shame is that
Bill Clinton, Al Gore and our congressional Democrats, with their plainly
anti-liberal stances on drugs, guns, tobacco and other things, are falsely
called "liberal."

-- Brian Marasca

Despite the fact that I am a card-carrying member of the "Christian right," I
largely concur with David Horowitz. The fact is, we need more freedom of speech, not less. We need people to feel free to speak out on behalf of moral and biblical principles
such as the need for male leadership in the family and society, the damage
done by divorce, the pure evil of abortion and assisted suicide, the scourge
of free sex and homosexuality, the spread of occult practices and symbols,
and the sanctity of work without being labeled as "religious extremists."

Years ago, although censors were active, there was not as great a need for
their services because of a basic acceptance of standards of behavior and
morality. The sex and violence that now pollute the large and small
screens and the Internet would not have found an audience, because they would
have offended those standards, and the justices of the New Jersey Supreme
Court who wrote that scientific studies undergird the morality of
homosexuality would have been driven out of their profession.

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But today, what were once mainstream values now dare not be spoken because of
the fear of offending some interest group or "imposing one's belief" upon
society. Tenets of faith once freely expressed in the public square and in
the schools now spur litigation and judicial sanctions, while the rights of
gays, Satanists and New Agers to infiltrate the schools and public
institutions are routinely upheld.

If more leaders had the courage simply to speak out against evil, and men and
women of faith enjoyed their own full First Amendment rights to share their
beliefs, there would be no need for censors. The sad truth is that we
already have censors, and they have forced people of faith and other moral
spokesmen to cede the marketplace of ideas.

-- Robert Maistros

Ashburn, Va.

Misadventures in Marxism
BY LAWRENCE OSBORNE
(08/30/99)

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Osborne overlooks completely the impact that Marx had,
which goes far beyond the notion of socialism as a political cause. Marx
gave us a new set of tools with which to analyze the societies around us --
the notion of an economically based set of classes in structural conflict
with each other that drives history. His theories, much like those of
Freud, have provided us with terms and concepts that are now in everyday use
and seem almost obvious.

-- David Garth

As a college instructor at the New School and at the Borough of
Manhattan Community College, I teach Marx both as a grandfather in the
canon of sociology and as a thinker of some contemporary relevance. So
naturally, I took some issue with Lawrence Osborne's "Misadventures in
Marxism," an anti-Communist treatise that relies heavily on a familiar
and self-serving species of an ad hominem attack all too common among
critics of Marx and the Marxist legacy.

As someone concerned with
intellectual rigor and good thinking, I sharply caution students against
the easy reduction of Marx's philosophical, historical and aesthetic
achievements to the historical record of communism. Just as Christ and
the Christian tradition cannot be judged solely on the record of the
Inquisition and the genocidal ravages of the conquistadors, just as
Einstein's atomic physics cannot be judged by the suffering of the
people of Hiroshima, so Marxism cannot be held solely to the tribunal of
the Gulag, Stalinism and Pol Pot. The same applies to the more virulent
tendencies of Marxist scholars, who would litmus test Adam Smith and the
ideology of the free market on the steel mills and coal mines of the
industrial revolution, the banana plantations of Honduras or the Nike
plants of Vietnam.

This lapse of critical intelligence is unfortunate, since Osborne's question is basically a good one: How should the political reality of 20th century communism shape
our reading of Marx? Of the two most brazenly vulgar responses one might
imagine from either end of the political spectrum (from the right, that it
should extinguish it entirely; from the left, that it should have no effect
at all), Osborne and the editors of Salon comfortably and easily slide
to the first.

The other failures of the piece could be piled high: Berman's vagueness
concerning the contemporary identity of the bourgeoisie is not,
actually, part of a "pseudo-scientific hate theory" that prefers to keep
its enemies creepy and ubiquitous, but consistent with Berman's
interpretive exegetical approach, which deals more with the metaphorical
content than the empirical accuracy or Marx's works. What stands out,
however, as the uniquely annoying aspect of the piece, is the delight Osborne takes in
an ironic trivialization of Berman's attempt to engage "the problems of modern spiritual life"
through an in-depth reading of Marx as a aesthetic and spiritual
visionary. By quickly eliding Berman's discussion of the personal
dimensions of Marx's dialectics with clichis of '60s narcissism,
Osborne gets away with what is at best a cheap shot, and at worst a
reactionary distortion. Osborne compares Berman's suggestion that
capitalism causes us to "freeze [our] feelings towards each other" with
the experiences of inmates of the Lubyanka -- as if the hardships of
Soviet prison life somehow prove that capitalism doesn't deform
emotional life after all! To dis Berman's subjective, emancipatory
"adventures" with Marx as Prozac advocacy and "virtuous rolfing" is, by
the late 1990s, about as daring and original as shooting goldfish in a
barrel.

-- Sam Binkley

Department of Sociology, New School University

New York

Can Berman's Marx be the same
character as Stalin's? Sure -- just as Torquemada and Saint Francis
could both refer to Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. It
seems elementary to say this. Osborne might have at least reflected
that Marx was not a devil but a human being who wrote stuff in a
certain time and social context -- stuff which was later interpreted
in various ways by various people for various purposes in various
situations. Not all of them were evil, even by American upper-middle-
class standards. What is truly remarkable about Marx is his survival
as a bogeyman who has to be killed and buried over and over again.

-- Gordon Fitch

Lawrence Osborne misses the salient reason why American academics remain so
embarrassingly attached to Marxism: They have no other way to express their
concern over the poverty and social inequality in this country. In America,
the right continually insists that welfare, universal health care and
minimum wage increases are anti-capitalist, anti-democratic and
un-American. We are told implicitly that the price of freedom is injustice.
People who still express concerns are silenced and discredited by being
labeled socialists or communists. Is it any surprise when these people then
say, Huckleberry Finn-like, "All right then I'll be a communist?"

-- Savannah Jahrling

Osborne gives us a glimpse into the problem with American
universities today. They are awash in a form of group think in which one
must not question the revolution. The Marxists residing behind the ivory
walls in the United States today don't seem to understand that the very
system which they condemn, democratic capitalism, is the only system
which allows them to engage in the social criticism they love so much.
Marxism, by its very nature, is undemocratic and contradictory to the
very notion of free thought and action the United States enjoys because it is based
on democratic capitalist system. American academics would be wise to
take Osborne's article to heart and begin listening to our neighbors
across the Atlantic who have suffered under the atrocities Marxism has
wrought.

-- Daniel Crandall

Berkeley, Calif.


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