Watching the World
Religion and World Crises
◆ How do secular leaders view religious interference in programs to combat the crises facing mankind? Derek Davies, editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review, told a “Population and Economics” seminar audience in Hong Kong that ‘the time for intellectual debate, for gentle persuasion, has come and gone.’ He said that “the problem has reached such proportions that governments cannot afford to preserve the people’s freedom of choice. Direct official sanctions against large families are regrettably necessary now.” Citing as examples the Moslem ‘right’ to four wives and refusal to eat pork, Hindu veneration of the cow, and the Catholic stand on birth control, he asserted: “Many years ago, the civil governments . . . should have begun the process of over-riding the archaic laws and morality structures erected by the world’s major religions. . . . we must use what tools we have in a war which we cannot afford to have limited by archaic religious laws and by the theology of celibates.”
Governments in Crisis
◆ All nine presidents and prime ministers of the European Common Market have changed at least once during the past year and a half. Additionally, governments have toppled or experienced crises in Canada, Australia, Japan, India, Israel, Portugal, Iceland, Ethiopia and Niger. “The generalized collapse of so many incumbent governments is real enough and cries out for some rational hypothesis to account for it,” editorializes the Washington Star-News. “At this point, however, there is no convenient and tidy theory to explain the unprecedented political upheaval,” it adds.
◆ “The days are gone when docile workers in Europe accepted a certain degree of self-discipline and moderation in the hopes of speeding economic recovery,” says one of Europe’s leading economists. A German analyst believes that a demanding “society of irresponsible men” is emerging, while government ability to satisfy them is shrinking. And a European specialist on social economy forecasts that “all of these problems could suddenly join together and push Western countries toward authoritarian rule. . . . because the sense of responsibility, the kind of civic spirit that made democracy and free enterprise work so successfully after World War II, are being lost.”
The “Real Plague”
◆ Europe’s business magazine Vision says that the crises dominating newspaper headlines “have masked one of the real plagues of industrial Europe: absenteeism.” Sweden’s projected absentee rate of 400,000 per day for 1975 is nearly four times that of 1960! Those reporting “sick” in West Germany nearly tripled from 1966 to 1972, to 11 percent. Italy’s absenteeism tripled, to 15 percent, during the same period! Vision notes that “a large percentage of ‘illness’ is curiously benign,” as indicated by the “number of ‘sick’ people who attend a midweek football match, picnic, go shopping or fill the betting-shops on most afternoons.”
◆ An Adrian Dominican nun, Therese Golden, campaigns against the alcoholism and drug addiction plaguing U.S. religious orders. She says that, though about 10 percent of social drinkers develop alcoholism, the National Clergy Council on Alcoholism estimates that “Among the clergy, this rate increases to one out of every eight or nine.” She asserts that the pressure on nuns to live up to their ‘mythical image’ produces tensions that cause a ‘tragically high percentage to choose alcohol or [prescription] drugs’ for relief. Longer-than-usual treatment periods for alcoholic nuns are required, she says, because “the frightening discrepancy between this image and the reality of her alcoholism is extremely hard to reconcile.”
Oil Crisis—Plus and Minus
◆ About a fourth of those who would have died in U.S. auto accidents during the first part of 1974 are still alive, thanks to reduced speed limits since the oil crisis, says the National Center for Health Statistics. On the other hand, bicycle deaths are up well over a third since the beginning of the energy crisis, according to a Department of Transportation panel. The number of bicycles sold annually has quadrupled since 1960. The panel recommended that highway planners consider cyclists when designing roads.
Methodists on “the Road”
◆ The new 1974 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches reports that most of the large mainline Protestant denominations are losing membership. United Methodist Church (UMC) Bishop W. McFerrin Stowe warned: “If we go on the way we’re going, the road we‘ll be going won’t be the road to God, but the road to hell.” He lashed out at church leaders for not providing moral leadership when “the hungry sheep are looking up and not being spiritually fed.”
Religion and Famine
◆ What has the Ethiopian Orthodox Church been doing to help her hungry millions? After five weeks in the area, Martin Walker, columnist for England’s The Guardian, writes: “Drought or no drought, the church, owning one-third of all the land, has demanded its rents from the impoverished peasants. . . . The peasant farmers . . . have paid about 90 percent of their crops in rents and taxes.” Walker’s report, as published in the New York Times Magazine, said that a provincial governor “persistently refused to distribute any of the aid food until every last bushel of his own harvest had been sold at three times the normal price. . . . The Governor had been donating $500 a month to the church, and the priest had threatened the townsfolk with mass excommunication if they attacked the Governor.”
◆ “At a time when buyers all over the world are looking to Canada’s prairies as a source of badly needed wheat, it now appears that this year’s crop will be no better than average at best,” reports the New York Times. Heavy snow, then rains delayed seeding. The crop is expected to be as much as 20 percent lower than last year. Canada exports about four fifths of its wheat.
“Most Deadly Drug”
◆ Dr. Robert Dupont, director of the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse, classed tobacco with heroin as a hard-to-control addiction. He branded it “probably the most deadly drug in our society . . . People who use cigarettes have the same problem as heroin users,” in that they have great difficulty exercising self-control over their problem.
◆ Simon Winchester, writing in Britain’s The Guardian about the shocking murder rate in Detroit, Michigan, provides a European perspective for Americans: “This year alone Detroit, which has almost exactly the same numbers as Ulster [Northern Ireland], will casually eliminate 850 of its citizens; and in 1975, there is little doubt, it will kill 1,000, the same number as in that hugely publicised tragedy in Ireland, but in one-fifth the time.”
“Human Kindness Day”
◆ Annual “Human Kindness Day” festivities on the grounds of the Washington Monument in the U.S. capital ended in “rock and bottle throwing, looting of concession stands and beatings as a crowd which had numbered in the tens of thousands turned angry,” reports a United Press dispatch. Earlier a free concert, dancing and celebrities began the festivities, but after many attending “smoked marijuana and drank liquor,” the crowd became unruly. “We have had police officers assaulted with rocks and stones and surrounded, and rescued by other officers,” said the U.S. Park Police captain.
◆ End to end, the paths of more than 90 tornadoes that struck the U.S. in just one day last April would extend over an astounding 2,000 miles, compared with 5,300 miles for all the record year 1973. Tornado expert Dr. Tetsuya T. Fujita says there is no other outbreak in recorded history that compares. In the aftermath, a grateful victim wrote Tennessee’s Louisville Courier-Journal that, among those who helped, “outstanding were those Jehovah’s Witnesses who came with their crews of men equipped with chain saws and trucks early Thursday morning to assist . . . These men are skilled in the building business but left their jobs to offer their services free of charge. They worked with such organized precision that onlookers seemed astounded.”
◆ Locating water by means of sticks, rods or pendulum devices is called “dowsing” or “water witching.” A letter recently printed in Ohio’s Buckeye Farm News calls attention to a letter from the president of the American Society of Dowsers. He took exception to an article in The Watchtower that linked dowsing with spiritism and that recommended abstinence from the practice. However, he did acknowledge: “The point of the article is, perhaps, well taken. We agree with the theory that dowsing is a form of ESP and that engaging in any form of ESP can lead to ‘possession’ or the involvement with wicked spirit forces, unless precautions are taken.”
Appearance and Travel
◆ “American visitors can be jailed for up to life in Tanzania for wearing miniskirts or tight trousers, wigs or long hair,” says a United Press International report. Scanty shorts for women, also tight dresses and some kinds of makeup, and bell-bottom slacks for men are also illegal since last October. In Uganda, visitors with hippie-type clothing and hairstyles are refused entry or are detained until they correct the violations. Men with long hair and women wearing miniskirts or pants can get into Libya and Saudi Arabia only if they get a haircut or change clothes. Singapore does not tolerate long hair on men.
Witch Doctors and Sports
◆ Kenyan sportswriter Hezekiah Wepukhulu estimates that 90 percent of that country’s leading football (soccer) clubs hire witch doctors to help win games. He says: “Sometimes before a match, soccer teams will picket the stadium to prevent their opponents from bewitching the field. . . . players will avoid the official gate in case a spell has been placed there. . . . Balls suspected of containing charms have been split open during a game.” East Africa’s best known sports charmer Shariff Omar wrote offering to cast spells for England’s team to ensure a World Cup victory. He asserted that “they ignored it and paid dearly for it” when they lost.
Drink to Death
◆ Two Florida men settled their long-standing argument about whose drinking capacity was greater—permanently. After a contest in which each consumed between a quart and a quart and a half of gin in less than an hour, both died within two days. Doctors said that that amount of alcohol was “more than enough to be fatal,” able to cause death by paralyzing the heart or respiration, or causing the brain to swell.
◆ The psychiatric unit of the Ohio State University Hospitals has apparently successfully treated 18 schizophrenic patients by adding “feeling-heart dogs” to the usual therapy. The patients were allowed to play with experimental dogs housed on the same floor in the hospital, and were observed by a videotape camera. “The pet seemed to add a great deal to the development of a humanizing atmosphere on the ward,” says the director of the experiment.