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While window is still open

Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Open Forum:

“Gorbachev world needs you.”

Gorbachev we miss ya...?  But push Putin to do the right thing anyway.
Gorbachev we miss ya…? But push Putin to do the right thing anyway.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9-15-1989

While the window is still open, FORUM

Dwayne Hunn

Gorbachev  has  opened  a window of opportunity to  the  world.   His changes give all politicians fewer excuses to not redirect military spending to pressing  social and humanitarian needs. While the window of  opportunity  is open,  we must establish programs that will open so many windows  that  the fresh, warm  air of new ideas will never again be closed by cold or hot wars.

One means of doing that is with an American-Soviet Peace Corps.

An American-Soviet Peace Corps would act much like the American Peace Corps established by President Kennedy in 1961.   Soviet  and  American volunteers  would  train for at least three months in  language,  custom, and work  skills  essential to their job performance.  From the  start  of  training until completion of service (usually two years later) a Soviet and an  American would  be roommates and workmates. This small program difference from the American Peace Corps could make a world of difference.

The results should be clear to all of us who have experienced living and working alongside strangers on projects that we knew were  worthwhile endeavors.   Interpersonal bonds will be built between the Soviet and  American volunteers as well as with those in whose nations the work is done.

From  their  time of service onward, each volunteer’s  “working  bonds” will allow all involved to more easily “reach out and touch someone” who  may be  half way around the world.  The world will more quickly become a global village of friends.

These working bonds will make it more difficult for radicals or  narrow minded bureaucrats to develop national hatred for nations  whose  volunteers have  worked at the grassroots level with their people.  The world  will  more personally  understand national needs and desires  because more people  from the  world’s  most  powerful nations will have worked face-to-face with  the people of nations in need.

Since 1961 approximately 125,000 American Peace Corps have served  in underdeveloped  nations  around the world.  Millions of people in underdeveloped nations  have  been  touched by the  efforts  of  those  volunteers. Without those efforts and resulting relationships, many of those nations would probably have more antagonistic policies toward America.

Consider this.  The Peace Corps was withdrawn from Nicaragua in  1979, as  the  Sandinistas  wrenched  power away  from  the  American  supported President  Somoza; and from Iran in 1976, as the Ayatolla’s  campaign against the  American supported Shah began toppling the Shah’s regime. An  American Peace Corps may not have been wanted in those countries during those troubled periods, but had an American-Soviet Peace Corps been in existence then, an option other than military support could have been added to the means  of reducing tensions in those areas.

Neither the American Peace Corps nor the American-Soviet Peace  Corps should  be  a  tool  of  diplomatic  policy.   It  is  obvious,  however, that international  crisis most often stem from the failure to provide  unmet  basic needs  — such as food, sanitation, health and literacy.  The state of today’s world does not presage that delivery of those needs is about to drastically improve.

  • The Green Revolution that started boosting world grain production in the late 60’s peaked in the mid-80’s. Consumption and population has continued to increase and carryover stocks of food have been falling.
  • Each year land area 6.5 times as large as Belgium becomes so impoverished  that they are unprofitable to farm or graze.  Desertification  marches on  as people in need cut trees for fuel and heat; erosion results from  the lost  root structures; rains erode fertile lands; rangelands for grazing are reduced and what remains is overgrazed.
  • Global temperature records spanning the last century show that the five warmest  years have all occurred in the eighties – 1980,1981,1983,1987,1988.   With  global  warming  comes  the  depletion  of  the  ozone    Scientists tell us that restoring the lost rain forests is one of the means of checking the disasters global warming and ozone depletion bring.

Of course, the profligate lifestyle lead by those of us born into the rich nations  of the world — carbon dioxide spewing automobiles for  the  shortest trip; chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs, alias freon) dumped into the atmosphere  from  air  conditioners,  refrigerators,  aerosol  sprayers  and  fast  food  carryout containers;  plastic, aluminum and convenience throwaways substituted for the most  minor social inconvenience polluting our shrinking landfills;  these  acts do  more  to  ravage  the  atmosphere than do  the  forest  cuttings  of  the struggling,  uneducated  and  unaware poor.

Yet, it may  be  that  only  by working  with the poor on their needs can we learn enough to make the  rich and  the poor more aware of the care needed to preserve our  fragile  planet. Watching the destruction of our environment on the television news or reading about  solutions in a newsmagazine will never foster the lifestyle change  that results from working on and against the problem.

Returned Peace Corps volunteers often say that the Peace Corps experience “taught them more than they  were  able  to teach.”  The same lessons would be etched into the American-Soviet  PCVs character.  Coming from the classroom of the world where needs and desires are more basic, their experiences would help change the wasteful lifestyle that harms the environment and harmonious social progress.

While attending Cleveland’s St. Ignatius High School, the Jesuits had me reading books by Dr. Tom Dooley and Albert Schweitzer.  Thoughts about the authors’ work among the poor in less developed areas of the world never left some  corner  of  my mind.  Years later I was part of a  Peace  Corps  Urban Community  Development Group working in the slums of Bombay where  maimed beggars,  poor  people  scavenging  garbage piles for  food became common sights and where rats  outnumbered  the population 5-1.

Years later, from comfortable Marin County California, those memories prompted me to try to start a model Soviet American  Peace  Corps  with  foundation funding.  Failing to raise the needed funding, I sought Congressional support.

In the spring 1989 session of Congress, Congresswoman Boxer introduced HR 1807 requesting:

“… the President to conclude agreements with the appropriate representative of the Government of the Soviet Union to create the United State-Soviet Peace Corps.”

A United States-Soviet Peace Corps could give the world cleaner skies under which fewer hungry and fewer angry people could sleep.


And Where’s India’s Future Leadership?

Glendora Press  October 12, 1969

And Where’s India’s Future Leadership?

(Editor’s Note: For two years prior to joining the faculty of Glendora High School, Dwayne Hunn served the U.S. Government as a member of the Peace Corps. For the next sev­eral issues the Glendora Press will carry articles by Mr. Hunn in which he vividly describes the stark reality of teeming India and some of his experiences there during his Peace Corps duty.)

         By DWAYNE HUNN

For division’s sake we could make four qualitative divisions of the Indian school system. In ascending order, the lowest is the village school. This is not based on experience, but merely on reasoned comparisons at the low quality mu­nicipal school, and their teacher attraction over that at of village school.

The second rung is filled by the municipal schools and Catholic orphanages. Then follows the semi-private and Catholic schools. The pinnacle is possessed by completely private schools and especially well-endowed Catholic schools.

Months ago the government was talking of replacing these pinnacle schools with neighborhood schools. The lan­guage teaching medium, the student quality difference, and the exodus of teachers were some of the problems this would cause.

But it is to these schools that the upper class elite sends their sons and daughters. Chauffeured to and from school, brought warm lunches from home by one of their many serv­ants, placated by most of the teachers due to the power their parents possess — school to these students usually contrib­utes to their spoiled, spineless, undirected qualities.

When they are chauffeured through the poverty surround­ing then they never think of it as their future responsibility. At this pinnacle only a rare Indian teacher will teach them to be observant, thoughtful and critical. Rote memory, para­phrasing of the textbook and unimaginative homework are the standard methods of education. Athletics provide little in the way of character formation through discipline, sweat and grime. Lack of fields and unaggressive coaching are a major part of the reason.

Their vacations, weekends, etc., are spent in air-conditioned homes, restaurants, parties and country clubs. Part-time work they do not think of, probably even if there was a labor market need, which of course there is not.

High school graduation, after their keen pursuit of grades for grades sake, will find all seeking studies abroad. Some already with the intent of staying abroad, most unwilling to say but ready and willing to sway in that philosophy. Most feel little patriotism in their country, feel they owe it little and feel it offers them little compared to what is offered else­where.

This is the class that is being trained to take over the chairs of its society’s leadership. They can get by with shallow education — as their success in foreign universities proves. But can their societies of tomorrow get by without feeling the pulse of the masses’ needs below them?

Without them feeling responsibility toward those needs? Can they feel that pulse without now becoming more in­volved, in some small way, by volunteering their time and effort in teaching, building and experiencing the life of the 95 per cent below them?

Are our affluent, middle class students different enough, when the worthy passions of our time seem to be misplaced from constructive civil rights work, headstart programs, etc., to constant good-time parties, uncivil demonstrations, etc?

Those being educated at the pinnacle will inherit the few spots of authority that exist in the political-economic infras­tructure of their developing economies. Those in the lower di­visions of schools are inferiorly educated, partly due to the environment they live in. They are groomed to fill the dreary, routine jobs. From these jobs, which comprise the bulk of their societies system, an outsider experiences just what their environmental life and rote memory learning situation results in.

Almost all of the civil servant employees, firm managers, indigenous engineers, teachers, etc., have been groomed on being told an answer, or on finding it in a book. When situations, which you unfortunately may be the instigator of, present themselves and call for a self-imitated course of action – you are in trouble. You may be left waiting for hours, days or weeks over what by our standards, would be considered an inconsequential act.

During this time one of the above mentioned being dealt with will search policy manuals for the patented answer. Or seek higher authority so as to dodge personal responsibility.

It is considered culture when things do not move fast in many Latin American and Asian countries. But today it is part of the weak system of low quality education and thought which seems to be institutionalizing this type of action in those places. Due to the surplus of problems and dearth of resources to deal effectively with this low quality education system, it becomes more institutionalized and less susceptible to future change.

The upper class student can thwart the low quality educational system because they have the means to remain near the scientific-technical revolution. They have access to radio, books, travel (though exchange restrictions are forcing many more Indians to remain provincial in their outlooks), etc., with which to stay abreast of the world. In fact due to the low economic position of the teacher the students are often more abreast of the modern world than are they. The teaching profession does not attract the better qualified and upper class people. This scale will give an idea why

Rs. 7.5 — one dollar.

Starting Salary

Teacher- (municipal) Rs. 64-month

Teacher- (private) 180-month

Stenographer- 250-month

Stewardess- 400-month

Businessman- 1000-up

Thus if you are especially qualified, you must be very dedicated to pursue this profession.

I could go on. But perhaps enough known problems of In­dia along with a few more complexities, hopefully revealed here, has served a purpose. As most media viewers know, In­dia for the past few years has been in a position of strain. Due to this her political structure is also being strained to reduce the other social strain. The Congress party is no long­er monolithic. She is bitingly chastised by the middle class, business dominated Swatantra party, by the wings of the Communist party, by the conservative and often chauvinistic Jan Sang party.

The strains and criticisms have focalized many inadequacies and corruptions in India’s means of development. Hopefully this atmosphere will mean a more efficient path to change. But, at this possibly crucial stage, a major change in our foreign policy could be a catastrophe.

I can look back to a personal level for enforcement here. Orphans in India go unclaimed for life. Catholic institutions care for them. Yet the price of administration determines the amount of care available. Were it not for the free aid of pow­dered milk and wheat supplied by the U.S., rice supplied by Spain and canned goods (produced by the U.S.) supplied by Holland; the 150 orphans I worked with would be a smaller and physically weaker number.

This goes on through the system, right down to the grains we supply the masses. Granted, much of this is pil­fered by men with connections, amazing amounts are eaten by rats (some figures claim 20-25 per cent of the gross sup­ply); but without that amount that trickles down to the right­ful, needy sources what would happen?

An Indian stare commissioner once told me. “If America was really our friend she would cut all foreign aid, leave us to flounder, suffer and face up to our problems alone in our own way.”

Their own way would possibly mean a shaking out of their lethargic, apathetic frame at mind. But it would also possibly mean revolution, bloodshed, mass starvation, dis­ease, etc. The experience, if our Western, Christian mentality could sit through the bloody coliseum, would be ugly and in­humane. A consequently ugly, inhumane government could be the result.

The walk through the chawls was ugly. But without our understanding of its life and its causes, our aid and patience in changing these — it could he much uglier. One of my favorite quotes concludes and applies just as well to India and our relation to it. It concludes and applies just as well to our affluent society’s responsibility to the development of quality at home. Albert Schweitzer once said:

And for those who have more,

Those who need not struggle for existence,

It is for them to set the example.