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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 12. July 3, 1952

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

An Apology

Sir.—I notice that in your note on the front page of your latest issue you state. "We presume the following report to be substantially correct as it was handed to us by Mr. Patterson's publicity manager (Mr. Patterson himself)." In so doing you omit to mention that the report in question was prepared by me at the request of your reporter. Mr. Cody. As this omission might create an erroneous impression ni the minds of your readers I would ask that you rectify it forth with.

—Yours faithfully.

J. F. D. Patterson.

[We regret the omission and apologise for any "erronrous impressions" which might have been created in the minds of our readers. Mr. Patterson has so often complained about mis, quotation of his specches that we solicited his own report from him.—Ed.]

Undemocratic Vote

Sir,—I would like to protest against the undemocratic method of voting used at this college.

Democracy depends on secret ballot. The ballot in this college is not secret, as the voter's number is written on the back of his voting paper. This is, apparently, to prevent plural voting—an unnecessary precaution, since the name of each voter is crossed off the roll as he receives his paper.

If this system of voting is constitional, surely it is time the constitution was amended.


D.L. is not the only person to question the practice of putting the voter's number on the voting paper. It is hoped that a statement on this will be issued by the executive next issue.—Ed.


Sir,—As one who has reported de bates in the past. I realise full well the difficulties of producing a tolerably balanced and accurate account of what each apeaxer has said, as well as providing interesting reading.

However, in the case of your report of the debate on Birth Control and Asia, I must protest against the remark attributed to me. Debating from the negative. I endeavoured to show that birth control was neither a simple nor an immediate solution, that population-growth in proportion to total population was relatively small in Asia, and that institutional (and particularly land tenure) reform was of prime importance.

I then said that Miss Munro's argument implied sending shiploads of contraceptives to Asia, which. I argued, was not a palliative, let alone a solution to Asia's problems.

I regret, sir, to have taken so much of your space, but the Asian problem is an 'extremely important one, on which I do not care to have myself fundamentally misquoted.—

Yours. etc.

Doug Foy.

Where's My Salient?

Sir,—As I believe the editorship of your paper has recently changed hands, you cannot be held responsible for the mismanagement of "Salient" in the past, but no doubt you will welcome suggestions which might eradicate some of the past faults in the future.

I intend to deal specifically with the distribution of "Salient" among subscribers. When freshers enrolled we were persuaded by enthusiastic types to pay a subscription to "Salient," which the majority seemed to do. However, imagine our disgust when we found that those responsible had no intention of saving copies each week for subscribers, and the fact that a subscription had been paid did not mean that a copy would be available each time "Salient" is published.

In the issue of the 24th April a special eight-page issue was advertised for the following week. It was duly published, but when subscribers applied for their copies they were Informed that the issue had sold out, without copies having been set aside for those who had paid their sub-scriptions. Surely it is an elementary principle of running any publication that this should be done.

By not doing so "Salient" publishers have breached their contract with subscribers. It would seem that the only way to ensure obtaining a copy la to claim one as soon as they appear on sale. But this is impossible because the time of sale seems to vary greatly. Would it not be possible for "Salient" to be on sale at approximately the same time each week; the time to be advertised. Then a subscriber might have a chance of receiving a copy regularly.

It would seem that your advertisement on the top right hand corner of the front page—"Buy Salient"—every week might have been of more use to freshers than the obtaining of subscriptions from them. Then they would only have to pay for the issues they receive.

I have heard much indignant comment among students concerning the missing eight-page issue they never received. Is not an explanation called for?


[Yes, an explanation is called for. Of that issue there were five hundred copies printed—these sold out in two nights. Our subscription list la somewhat fluid in nature. Just because we have so many subscriptions it does not follow that that number of papers will be collected. We print slightly over the number of subscriptions, bat when the cash sales are higher than usual, as was the case with that issue, tardy subscribers lose out. "Salient" is on sale when, ever there are people to sell it between lectures, mostly on Thursday, Friday and Monday evenings. Space does not permit me to answer "Contract's" criticism in full; if be would see me I would be happy to provide any Information.—Ed.]

Plato Re-Plated

Sir,—I feel that although there is some justification for "Aristotle's" criticism of the Staff Student Debate remarks which appeared above my name. I feel also that that criticism applies less strongly when it is realised that, far from being intended as an accurate report of the proceedings, the article—for such I shall call it for want of a better title—was written solely for the purpose of conveying an impression. In a note to the Editor which accompanied the piece in question I specifically referred to it as such. I shall say nothing about "Aristotle's" charge of turgidity—a quality which has before now been attributed to my writings and which I am coming slowly to believe they may to some extent display. I would point out, however, that I am not entirely unaware of the defects (other than turgidly, perhaps) which the article had in common with the debate. To quote again from my note to the Editor. "If this seems a little rambling, so was the debate."

To come to "Aristotle's" main points, however. First of all, he says that I made a "peculiar statement that the debate was not well attended."

I did not. I wrote. "It is fairly safe to predict that audiences will once more be small if we cannot do better than that....."

And that is exactly what was printed. Surely, that cannot be construed to mean that the audience in question was small? Rather, it seems to me to imply that the audience on the particular night was quite satisfactorily large. It was, of course, much larger than it has been on many occasions before. In any case I made no "statement" to the effect that the "debate was not well attended." It is possibly not a Pythagorean system of mathematics which is to blame for Aristotle's puzzlement. Perhaps English is a strange language to him. With "Aristotle's" Judgment of Mr. Milburn's speech I cannot but agree. I confess to having made no mention of it—an omission I am ashamed of. But I would point out once more that I was writing not a report but an impression. The impression was one of disappointment in the low standard of the debate and in the flippant approach. Since Mr. Milburn's speech did not suffer from these disturbing defects I made no individual mention of it. "Aristotle" will, perhaps, recall that I did write that the "students ... did at least give an impression of sincerity and earnestness."

At the risk of becoming tedious I will repeat that I wrote an impression; in the light of tins is "Aristotle's" charge that I "appear to be more exercised in aiming my own opinions about the subject" not somewhat unfair? I was not so doing. I mentioned a few points of view and an approach which were entirely neglected by the principals in the debate, and which appeared to me to have sufficient bearing on the subject to have warranted their inclusion in the discussion. I may also mention in passing that the "opinions" are by no means peculiar to me.

Finally. "Aristotle" suggests that I may have been influenced in my choice of name by my "distrust of equalltarian democracy." To begin with I do not distrust it. The properly educated man, the (dare I say" so?) cultured man, is one who is among other things, able to see a question from several different "frames of reference." in terms of different relative points of view. Thus, in terms of building up a respect for the University as an institution and as a body of teachers and students equalitarian democracy 'is distinctly unhelpful. From many other points of view I should be prepared to defend and support It. In any case, If my memory does not fail me, Aristotle was even more distrustful of equslitarian democracy than was Plato.

One last word on the choice of a suitable name under which I might cover from the onslaughts of my brother (?) philosophers. I have always been intrigued by the name of Plato, possibly because of the sternly suppressed connection it always has in my mind, which I admit is rather inadequate, with Pluto. Aside from this which is very dating I'm afraid, and extremely puerile. I have always understood that Plato was an admirer of the dialectic; a form which in sufficiently close to debating to lead me to use the name I did. By the way, I was most certainly there from beginning to end of the proceedings. In fact I arrived at ten to eight, and am prepared to answer any questions which "Aristotle" may care to put to me concerning the evening. It is highly probable that "Aristotle" saw me: but it is just as well that he did not recognise me. When Greek meets Greek.....


Read This!

Sir,—May I comment—I hope briefly—on the note by "Spectre" published in your last Issue. It is not my wish to criticise cither him or the student body whose apathy he deplores, but rather to outline the position as it appears to me.

The comparison between the Spanish Civil War and the Korean War is not, I feel, a very happy one, and failure to recognise the distinction may account for inability to understand the present apparent apathy. It seems almost superfluous to mention that the Spanish Civil War followed a period of world economic crisis, the effects of which were so Intense that they could not fall to mould the thought and actions of a whole generation. The failure of capitalism was apparent, and the necessity for some form of democratic socialism obvious. True freedom could only be achieved if the vagaries of a free market, so manifestly disastrous to the welfare of humanity, could be overcome, for freedom without economic security was meaningless.

Put into its historical context, the tremendous social awareness of students in the 'thirties can be seen to have had its roots in an international catastrophe the impulse or which was so powerful that there was only one answer to any further threat, as in Spain, to freedom. Communism and democratic socialism were strongly allied in what was almost a common ideal. Poetry was close to events. Up-to-date in language and imagery.

The issues seem to have been so clear-out then that the action of students is not surprising. Today however the position is not quite the same. The alliance between Western socialism and communism has broken; there is no common aim, the lessons of the thirties and the last war instead of being sharpened are being dulled. A common impulse such as that given by the depression does not exist. What then is the position? As far as one can generalise from personal experience, it is this:

In the mid-thirties communism and democratic socialism seemed but two not very dissimilar means to the same end. However the Stalin purges of 1935-36 put rather a different complexion on things; the means to the end seemed less attractive to the eyes of Western communists and socialists. Spender is one example of the many disillusioned. But the recognition of the need for social reform based on economic planning remained.

I myself was far too young to remember vividly the effects of the depression, but I could not escape the influence which it had on those most closely connected with me. I remained convinced of the failure and utter Inhumanity of capitalism, but at the same time disgusted with the methods which communism openly claimed were necessary. "The ruling class will never give up Its power without a struggle," said Marx. ("Without a bloody straggle," said Lenin.) But if my aim were the welfare of humanity, I could not morally condone the creation of misery to achieve this end.

And compromise such as accepting the lesser of two evils could never be morally satisfying. The conflict would always remain and unless it could be completely resolved there could be no assured crying out for or against.

The confusion created by this division of loyalties is increased when we consider the preaent war in Korea, and behind it the whole question of [unclear: East] and the treatment which it has received from capitalist hands.

Perhaps even "Spectre," while, deploring, racial segregation In South Africa, would Imitate to allow unlimited immigration of Chinese, Indians and Japanes into this country. I may be doing him a groan Injustice, but our own very strict laws regarding Asiatics show how very Concerned we sure with maintaining our own comfort and bow little the social fate of, for instance, the Chinese, matters to us. As long as we aspire to being democrat such views are morally untenable.

One is therefore in the awkward position of probably having to fight, on the one hand, against a movement whoso final alms one considers morally justifiable but whose means to achieve those aims seems crude, inhuman and indefensible, and at the same time, on the other hand, for the maintenance of a capitalist economic order which one is convinced can never bring world-wide economic security and the true freedom which so much depends on it The issue in Spain must have been crystal-clear by comparison.

[unclear: Also m] too experienced a propagandist myself—having lived by writing propaganda dally for the last three years—not to know how to read a newspaper, and I have learnt too much from Machiavelli to disregard the background to statements made either by so-called democratic or by communist interests. The difficulty of getting the facts is too great for one ever to be completely sure of a situation.

Hence in my own case a reluctance to make a final decision about some things, and therefore without such a decision an Inability to take action. As I said, I do not wish to generalise too much from personal experience, but I feel that the conditions outlined may be the cause of a great deal of what appears to be apathy. Because of the confusion and the lack of a social referent poetry has been taken into the individual and there has been a divorce from social realities. Many no doubt would disagree with me and it is of course impossible in such a short space to outline the relations which one thinks do or should exist between a society and its literature. It think it is a question which could well be thrashed out in the pages of Salient, but I do not wish to enter into it here. I have a great faith in humanity and very little—if any—in God, and such a movement away from the social to the introspective is not to ray mind for the best.

Moreover, my purpose in writing was to explain my reason for the apparent apathy and the difficulties which have to be overcome before decisions can be made and resultant action taken. So long as the world political situation remains unclarified, so long will the confusion exist. There will be a great deal of conflicting shouting, but no universal enthusiastic movement such as in the thirties, for there is no such common impulse.

I am sorry my letter is so long—I had hoped to keep it brief. However Salient has so often asked for letters and contributions that perhaps this one despite its length will be acceptable. If, in the discussion which I hope ensues, anyone can point to an acceptable way out of the difficulties which I have described, I—and I feel many others—shall be eternally grateful, for now we are like Hamlet.


[Although we must ask contributors to restrict letters to 250 words in the future, we must admit that it is a pleasure to receive such well-written and thought-provoking letters as above, and we regret that as we were overset we could not publish it sooner.—Ed.]