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International Socialist Review, Winter 1958


As Advertised in Life


From International Socialist Review, Vol.19 No.1, Winter 1958, p.15.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Can conformity be carried too far? Apparently so, for even Life magazine decided to say a few words against it and challenge the “Silent Generation” of American youth to “Arise” and do something rebellious. Among the indictments cited by the editors June 17, two vividly describe the America of today.

One is an attack by Yale’s President A. Whitney Griswold on

“the endless, sterile, stultifying conferences held in substitution ... for individual inventiveness; the public opinion polls whose vogue threatens even our moral and esthetic values with the pernicious doctrine that the customer is always right; the unctuous public relations counsels that rob us both of our courage and our convictions, the continuous daily deferral of opinion and judgment to someone else ... It conjures a nightmare picture of a whole nation of yesmen, of hitch-hikers, eavesdroppers and peeping Toms, tiptoeing backward offstage with their fingers to their lips ... Symptoms of a loss of self-respect by people who cannot respect what they do not know [and] do not know themselves because they spend so much of their time listening to somebody else.”

The other is a denunciation by Brandeis University’s President Abram Sachar of “a growing cult of yesmanship” in which

“security becomes a craven disguise for servility ... To Thoreau’s charge that most men lead lives of quiet desperation we answer; ‘Good enough! Anything for quiet!’ ... There are many young people today who will not sign a petition for pink raspberry ice cream in the dining hall commons for fear that some day they may have to explain their color predilections to zealous congressional committees. It would be interesting to know how many would sign a piece of paper setting forth the principles of the Declaration of Independence ... Isn’t is better to Sign Nothing, Say Nothing, Resist Nothing, Pledge Nothing, even though it may end up in the corollary, Be Nothing?”

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