Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

OBITUARY MUSINGS

Those of us in what is sometimes referred to as the twilight of life are prone to read the obituaries each day in the NY TIMES. Whom have I survived? Is this a day when all the dead notables are younger than I, or have they all -- rather promisingly -- managed to last at least a decade longer than I have thus far? As the years pass, the first group grows and the second group shrinks, needless to say.

Today, after reading Paul Krugman's minatory piece and Ross Douthat's feeble effort at philosophical depth [he makes David Brooks sound profound, an accomplishment roughly the equivalent of making Jeff Sessions sound intelligent], and doing the crossword puzzle [always embarrassingly easy on Mondays], I turned to the obituary page, and there read a lengthy remembrance of Lincoln Gordon. You probably won't recall him -- I had trouble placing him, despite the fact that I lived through the entirety of his adult career. He made it to ninety-four, a safe eighteen years beyond my own soon to be seventy-six.

As the first sentence of the obit tells us, he was a diplomat, an educator, the President of The Johns Hopkins University, and LBJ's Ambassador to Brazil. He was a lifelong Democrat who played an important role, after the election of Jack Kennedy, in the formulation of what became known as The Alliance for Progress. He wrote a number of books on foreign affairs, mostly with relation to Latin America, none of which I have read. All in all, I thought, a long and honorable life of public service.

Then , in the midst of the fourteen paragraph obit, I read the following:

"Dr. Gordon took up the ambassadorship in Brazil in 1961 at a time of high inflation and just as a left-wing president, Joao Goulart, took office. President Goulart was deposed in a right-wing military coup in 1964. Accusations that Dr. Gordon, his staff and the Central Intelligence Agency had been involved in the coup were repeatedly denied. But in 1976, nearly a decade after stepping down as ambassador, Dr. Gordon acknowledged that the Johnson administration had been prepared to intervene militarily to prevent a leftist takeover of the government."

And there it was. An honorable life of public service, devoted, when necessary, to overthrowing a popularly elected president on behalf of a gang of brutal thugs, all to avoid the disaster of another government in the Western Hemisphere more concerned with the welfare of the people than with the profits of American companies. By a liberal democratic administration!

No, I don't think the revolution will be coming any time soon. The rapture would be a better bet.

2 comments:

Rodrigo said...

The militaries had a great power in Brazil's politics. They overthrew the emperor and implanted the republic, also overthrew Goulart and started the dictorial period. USA supported the militaries for some time, the latter were liberals and assured the former interests.
Goulart was not a declared communist, but he had some connections inside the marxists parties. He tryed to make some reforms (educacional, land, urban, tributary and electoral), like you said it, but was exiled. He died in 1976 and was granted amnesty in 2008.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you for that, Rodrigo. Although Brazil is a very large country with an important role in Hemisphere politics, we in the United States tend to know very little about it.