Year's challenges are only regressionTo the Editor:
I have recently returned from a year and a half in Japan and, of course, have found that quite a few things have changed over that period of time. Some of these changes I think are good changes ("progress" perhaps), but what is distressing to see is some of the changes that in my mind represent only regression.
Perhaps I can begin with an example.
Frankly, I was a little surprised upon my return to find the subject of pornographic in such heated discussion. Apparently, over the past year and a half, quite a fuss has been raised about the Lecture Series Committee's traditional practice of showing sexually explicit films one or two times during the semester.
I found this interesting because I personally find absolutely nothing good and almost everything that I don't believe in wrapped up in pornography. Could we have made some progress in this area at last? Could it be that the student body had finally scrutinized their own feelings about the issue, found that pornography usually only leads to a very artificial substitute for those relationships, and decided to do away with the stuff?
And sure enough I've found that it seems to be that the fuss stems from a few people and administrators who wave their banners high.
I certainly can understand their concern; to me the degrading influences of pornography are something I will not tolerate in my own life, but the key elements here are "to me" and "my own life."
The decision must be made on a personal level. What really surprises me is the notion (apparently even somewhat supported by the administration) of banning these options in the lives of others as a solution to some kind of problem.
As I hear most contentions of those who would ban these films, I've noticed that the primary arguments seem to be centered around the debasing nature of such a practice. I can certainly understand this concern but I really don't feel that a couple of movies a term are really contributors to this moral conciousness but more of a reflection of a conciousness that already exists.
In other words, the sad truth is that if these movies were not met with such popularity, I'm sure they would not be shown. Hence the real question, for someone genuinely interested in improving this situtation, is how to bring about a change so that the films lose popularity and naturally are not shown anymore.
One possible solution might be a "moral screening" process before admission to MIT. Questions concerning one's background (especially matters pornographic) and moral convictions could be analyzed and candidates accepted on a basis that ensured only the most virtuous and morally upright became students. Perhaps an affidavit similar to one signed by dormitory residents, which says they will comply with the Basic Regulations, could be required before final acceptance.
My point is simply that an institutionalized policy will either be foolish (like the preceding pornography) or sidestep the real problem (as would banning flicks).
Unfortunately, the above is only one isolated case of the many I've noticed since my return. I use it only as an example of a growing tendency I see to deprive the individual of something most fundamental, his his need to be able to choose freely.
We seem to be losing hold of one of the most cherished values in either democracy, religion, or philosophy, namely the virtue of individual choice. In denying people the right to think and choose, we also deprive them of the even more basic important chance for growth.
So finally, to those who would wave their banners of truth, justice, and virtue in support of one cause or another, I would pose one question. Isn't it about time that we begin to really deal with these issues by directing our lives to helping others direct theirs; by example, kindness, love, and a few of the other ideals that we probably embrace? Won't this result in actually changing what we are, instead of simply what we say we are?
Jay L. Verkler '87->