Century Marks

Century Marks

Occupy success

Critics of the Occupy Wall Street movement say it failed largely because of a lack of organization and focus. Jeff Madrick argues that the movement was a success not so much in changing policies as in raising public awareness of inequities. “We are the 99 percent” will remain a political slogan every bit as galvanizing for its time as “Hell no, we won’t go” was for the antiwar protesters of the 1960s and 1970s, he says. Civil rights demonstrations and antiwar movements were criticized in their day for being unfocused, but they led to enduring change (Harper’s, March).

Papal powers

Liberal Catholic theologian Hans Küng points out the Ro­man Catholic Church got along without the papacy as we know it today for a millennium. It was Pope Gregory VII in the 11th century who gave Catholics three enduring elements of the Roman system: “a centralist-absolutist papacy, compulsory clericalism and the obligation of celibacy for priests and other secular clergy.” Küng argues that the church needs a pope who knows how deep the church’s crisis is and how to lead the church out of it. He calls for the church to hold another council along the lines of Vatican II, this time gathering a “representative assembly of bishops, priests and lay people” (New York Times, February 27).

Protest in the academy

Marshall Sahlins, a highly regarded anthropologist at the University of Chicago, has resigned from the National Academy of Sciences in protest. He objected to military-related research projects done by the academy and the election of anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon to the NSA. If it is involved at all in military-related projects, Sahlins said, NAS “should be studying how to promote peace, not how to make war.” Sahlins accuses Chagnon of having “done serious harm to the indigenous communities among whom he did research.” Chagnon has just published a new book, Noble Savages (InsideHigherEd, February 25).

About face

S. Brian Willson’s parents were conservative Baptists in upstate New York. His father belonged to the John Birch Society and gave money to the Ku Klux Klan. Willson became an airforce officer and served in Vietnam, where he came upon a South Vietnamese village that had just been napalmed by American forces. Most of the victims—dead or lying in pain on the ground—were women and children. He began to sob and gag at the scene. This experience turned him into a war resister. He lost his legs while lying across a railroad track in the U.S., trying to block a train carrying munitions. Willson, who is also dedicated to ecological concerns, has ridden 60,000 miles on a handcycle since 1997 (Sun, March).

Outsourced weddings

A focus on elaborate wedding ceremonies has led to the quest for the perfect wedding and rising employment for wedding planners. Wedding planners often play the role of pastor and therapist. Expensive weddings cause some wedding guests to joke that they hope the marriage lasts long enough to pay off the wedding (Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of The Outsourced Self, interviewed by Mars Hill Audio Journal, vol. 115).