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Discuss sensitive topics

Guest Column/Douglas Sweetser


I never thought I would flame to The Tech, but I'm so mad at Baron von Harkonnen that I was forced.


If a thousand sunrises blind a thousand eyes, should we not ask a thousand times why?

A Bene Gesserit riddle->

Dinner steams on the table. Butter melts on sweet corn. Plates glide from hand to hand.

The four children go to four different schools. My parents work in different fields. I fear my brother is partial to Reagan, but we all talk, exchange stories.

The conversation bounces from subject to subject. Sex comes up. My sister tries to kill the topic. "Let's talk about airplanes." If that fails, she heads for her homework.

I never did understand her reaction. My mind enjoys questioning things -- tinkering with ideas, problems. Sex can represent so many things: love, a sacrament, an act of violence, a good time, a brutal industry.

The debate in The Tech on pornography wound through these views on sex. A disturbing fraction of the letters began with an apology. People stooped to writing in The Tech! Why did these people feel compelled to beg for our forgiveness?

At MIT, students pick apart the mechanical world and put it back together again. A friend of mine dreams of making a more efficient computer data structure (I have no idea what he's talking about, but it's his vision).

When those same students focus on social or world issues, they are accused of "flaming," rambling out of control about a problem they know little about. Points of view glide by each other because definitions differ. As an engineer trained to seek clear and elegant answers, I find the nebulous nature of social topics frustrating. However, we should not put down anyone struggling with such issues. The hardest working, most dedicated student I knew never took Unified: she was in Urban Studies and Planning.

Other people tire of all the letters on pornography. "Enough has been said." But every year women in the MIT community are hurt while others pay for porn. Every year a new crop of freshmen arrive who need to learn what has been learned before. The scope and intensity of feeling on pornography can't be put in a binder and passed down from generation to generation like problem set solutions.

I worry about my sister and the people who avoid prolonged discussions of serious, sensitive issues. They wrap themselves in cocoons, but when they break out of their shells, will they be caterpillars or butterflies?