The New Gotha Programme
Things are tough all over. In New York, the brokers are trading pieces of worthless paper that represent people's life savings for pieces of worthless paper that represent Gerry Ford's tenuous goodwill towards the Big Banks. In London, people are asking for a "table away from the windows." At Harvard, Henry Rosovsky is about to conduct the largest experiment in Ice Age studies ever. Everyone seems about ready to pull out the plug. Worst of all, this winter we can't shift all the blame on to the Arabs.
Yet out of all this evil, major religions tell us, comes good. Take for instance the cast of royalties on Mein Kampf. They are collected each year, in the English speaking world, by the London literary agents Curtis Brown. And each year, these honest Englishmen bring the money over to the German Embassy. The canny diplomats of the Bundesrepublik refuse to accept it (as do the Argentines). Brown's therefore use it to pay the rent. Their landlords: The Jewish Charities of London, Ltd.
Time magazine, for instance, just published a call to look outside the usual political arena for our next Chief Executive, listing five university heads among the stoutest Presidential timber--our own Derek Bok, sadly, not among them. We could read this as an affront to the dignity of Harvard. Instead, we should be thankful that the name of Harvard will not be dragged through the mud of a Presidential campaign.
But let's be serious. We don't have much time left. Some of us can already feel the clammy tide of revolution lapping around our portfolios, making it more and more certain that our little villas on Nantucket will be confiscated as soon as Fred Harris becomes president.
In the early stages of such a dismal winter, a reviewer's heart naturally turns to Ten Best lists. But it's hard to think of ten best movies when there weren't even ten good ones. And while there were ten good books published last year, who had time to read them? So one is forced back on enumerating under one's breath the minor pleasures in life, the things that--if they bring no new thrills or reasons to go on living--at least stay predictably comfortable. The rich nap of carpeting in Hilles as one crams for an hourly. Nothing to cry Hosanna about, just stray bits of civilization left stranded in an increasingly decivilized world.
The end of a bad year also summons up thoughts about where institutions are heading. I note with approval the spread of an apresnous-le-deluge attitude toward life, at least among those segments of the undergraduate body not paralyzed by sugar plum visions of stethoscopes. The tumbrils of '69 proved to have no permanent legacy, except perhaps by introducing Marx on a large scale into the social science curriculum. That neutralized the old specter alright. Henry Kissinger has already been summoned to Moscow to take over the reins for ailing Leonid Brezhnev.
Four years ago those entering Harvard could savor the lingering aftertaste of five years of revolution. (Well, attempted revolution.) Now, as distinguished professors freeze slowly into grotesque shapes in Widener studies, they need not worry about students storming their sancta. As students thaw out their textbooks before beginning an evening of problem sets, they no longer have to worry about being disturbed by the sounds of peers capturing the commanding heights of capitalism. As always, in such transitional periods, literature often reflects the fledgling zeitgeist. The other day I found the following ballad aerosolled on the columns of Widener and hurriedly copied it down before a cadre of stocky B&G men erased it:
Pour the sack and pop the bubbly Slosh the Chivas and slosh it doubly. On Dancer, on Prancer, on Donner, on Blitzen.
Join the tables at the Ritz in Decadence of all description.
Marx and Orwell--up the chimney! Bellos of Lowell, not of Rhymney.
Put Gramsci and Jaures back on the shelf;
Or better, tell Jeeves to do it himself. Get some trimmings, trim a tree:
Castro no, convertibles si!
Give Prince Borbon a blank check, Unleash Scrooge and Chaing Kai Shek. Women's Lib is no dilemma--Forget Krupskaya and Red Emma.
Restore the regime of Old King Cole! The days of wine and molossol.
Trash Engels and Tawney under your feet,
Pass the '29 Lafitte.
Ring in Friedman, ring in Hayek-- It's your road to serfdom, you should like it.
Drink a round to the Kruggerrand, Even, God help us, to Ayn Rand.
Ditch your Lenin, ditch you Che-- Give us pheasant, peasant and pate.
Bakunin, Kropotkin--sweep the slate clean!
God's in his heaven and He'll save the Queen.
Drink a toast to Widow Clicquot.
And bonds from tax-free Puerto Rico.
Let Stalin and Trotsky enjoy their Big Snooze;
Pass the Hine and Montecruz.
God bless Moet, God bless Chandon Let's get drunk with wild abandon.
Throw left and right and tertium quid o'er--Ring in Harvard's happy Thermidor. With a wreath to the Left and a wreath to the Right, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.