(July 2, 2012)
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Suicide Launch Sites: Jonah Raskin's Picking Up The Pieces
To the Editor:
The Golden Gate Bridge has to be world champ as a suicide launch site. Jonah Raskin's review of John Bateson's The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge (Swans, June 18), also suggests that the Bridge tops competition in the diversity stakes. The names of its high-steppers read like a United Nations' roll-call. It's democracy in action, if not grass roots, at least relying on humanity's commonest friend, H20. Italy's island city of Venice is another capital of what Hamlet called "self-slaughter." In the Turin medical journal, Minerva Psichiatrica, of June 2001, a study appeared of 25 cases of attempted suicide by foreign tourists in Venice. It concluded that a "Lagoon Syndrome" did exist. Prices being what they are, there's no chance for a democratic way out in Venice. If not of the elite, these one-way visitors were all a high-art crowd. Their diversity, moreover, was limited to the U.K., U.S., Germany, France, and Spain. Several were admirers of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice or Luchino Visconti's movie thereof. Others admitted to finding motivation in Pirandello's story The Trip. Drug overdoses were favored or a jump from a five-star hotel suite. One Frenchman slit his wrists while waiting in line for a tourist treat. Many threw themselves in the canals, which underlines the fact that no Venetian was among the aspiring self-snuffers. Venetians know what goes into the canals and wouldn't dip a big toe in them. In any case the natives are too busy living their lives and griping about their city to cut their time there short. The tired romantic myth of Venice's dedication to death has never entered their heads. It's a bauble for the tourist of exquisite taste.
Lecce, Italy - June 19, 2012
A Response to Raju Peddada's A Man Who Influenced The Influencers
To the Editor:
Raja Peddada observes that a "blood-thirsty, narcissistic, ruling and warring elite" exists, but sadly fails to draw the obvious distinction between this blood-thirsty elite and the rest of humanity whom he (mis)characterizes as "unequivocally, a warring species..." Standing in stark opposition to this Hobbesian nightmare, Peddada continues by glorifying one great man's "solitary journey against the grating grain of our carnal impulses," that man being the "redoubtable vector of wisdom: Swami Vivekananda."
However, while there is no doubt that Vivekananda was wise, and that he exerted a powerful and positive impact on many peoples lives, this makes it is all the more crucial that we understand his not insignificant faults. For a useful critical overview of some of these faults one could start by turning to Meera Nanda's book, Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodernism, Science, and Hindu Nationalism (Permanent Black, 2006). Here Nanda observes that one of Vivekananda's most questionable achievements was his contribution to breaking down the dividing line between mysticism and science by "subsuming science into the Vedic tradition of Hinduism."
"Instead of an uncompromising self-critique of the inherited worldview in light of reason and improved knowledge of the world, intellectuals [like Vivekananda] beat a hasty retreat into the comfort of tradition. Nationalist pride and (in most cases) unconscious or conscious caste-belongingness, overcame the demands of reason. Consequently, a myth was created that the original doctrines themselves had nothing to do with innumerable popular superstitions and the social customs of caste, patriarchy, and deeply ingrained authoritarian anti-individualism. This is a deeply conservative myth for not only does it protect the core of the tradition from demystification, it also presents the revival of the tradition as the solution of present-day ills."
It is also significant to note that Vivekananda's work popularized the reading of Hinduism as a universal religion. Such a reading raises problems because as Nanda clarifies: "All religions are equal in worth in so far as they are so many attempts to get to the unity of the divine and the cosmos already contained in the Vedanta. 'Tolerance' of others then simply becomes a way of asserting one's own superiority."
London, England - June 18, 2012
Nothing New: Manuel García's Why Republicans Crashed The US Economy
To the Editor:
It's been done before -- 1929-30.
Or so it is alleged. Certain parties in Wall Street did it to bring Hitler to power in Germany (to save us from Bolshevism), by the recall of all the loans from Wall Street to Germany.
The only trouble was that it backfired. The American economy collapsed. And Hitler could not be controlled and be dependent.
The "mistake" by the Federal Reserve some people argue was not a mistake.
Sheffield, U.K. - June 19, 2012
War and the Walking Time Bombs among us
To the Editor:
What does war do to one's faith? A Vietnam Veteran once said to me, "No God would allow that to happen." What does war do to one's mind? I once said to another Vietnam Veteran, "What I don't understand is why you haven't all gone stark-raving mad." His reply was, "I am stark-raving mad." What can war do to people? I think that war can cause people to abhor life itself and be determined to destroy it. These people do not want to exist. They do not want life to exist. Such people are walking time bombs among us. We need to hear their stories, and the sooner the better.
Mount Vernon, Washington, USA - June 28, 2012
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