Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - March 6, 1971, Lethbridge, Alberta
Book Reviews The Mayans and their civilization "Art of the Maya" by Ferdinand Anton: with MS 111* stratum* Including 37 color photoi (Thamei and Hudson, $21, distributed by Oxford Press). ABOUT two million Maya Indians, descendants of those, who created one of the greatest artistic cultures of the ancient world, still live in the jungle lowlands or the arid bush-covered terrain of Central America. For the most port the modern Mayan shows little sign of his ancient proud heritage. His Spanish conquerors were mainly interested in gold, They had little interest in his culture and none at all in him, as a human being, other than as a body encompassing a soul which might be accepted by their own God. And so the conquistadores passed by the massive monuments of the past, leaving them to be swallowed by voracious Jungle growth, entwined and choked by massive roots, crumbled by the blazing heat of the sun, washed by the pelting tropical rains. It was not until 1839 that John Lloyd Stephens, a New York lawyer ami inverterate explorer, with his artist friend, the Englishman F r e d e r ick Catherwood, discovered a large number of the old sites, that public attention was drawn to the Central American treasures. But the interest was comparatively brief and it was not until forty years later when Alfred P. Maud-slay, another Englishman, revived it, that real scientific study of the Mayas began. Almost daily, new discoveries of Mayan history and culture are coming to light. Museums, archaeological founds t i o n s, anthropological associations and wealthy private citizens, most of them American, have poured their money and their expertise into the work of solving the Mayan riddle. What happened to a people whose art and civilization flourished for nearly a thousand years of the early Christian era? Why did they abandon their temples, their centres of civilization and culture to disperse and almost disappear in the jungle hinterland? The answer is not to be found In this book;' but much of the fascination of Mayan' civilization is shown. Accompanied by a well - put - together explanatory text, the plates in black and white and color are of splendid quality. Admittedly "the Art of the Maya" is not everyone's cup of tea, but for those who have the slightest inclination to know more about a civilization which existed on this continent before the white man came, it has absorbing interest and value, Thousands of Canadians travel every year to the southern part of Mexico and to Guatemala. They could hardly do better before they go than to buy a copy of this book, which tells in text and picture something of the marvels awaiting them. As a kind of footnote, it is interesting that an exhibition with the somewhat formidable title "The Art of Maya Hieroglyphic Writing" is currently on view in New York in a mansion that used to house the Soviet mission to the UN. The art critic Karl E. Meyer writes that the show "looks suspiciously like that rare thing-a genuinely intellectual event." The exhibition has gathered together all the key materials available concerning the bizarre and yet undeciphered Maya script in the hope that it will spark further interest and eventually provide the key to the inscribed tablets. None of it might ever have been collected if it had not been for the efforts of another American lawyer, Edgar Brenner, who became fascinated with the � subject seven years ago after a visit to the ceremonial cities of Chichenitza and Uxmal. Be that as it may, the Art of the Maya, is a rich and rewarding volume, beautiful in itself, an elegant wedding of text and photograph, JANE HUCKVALE. miisiii >, , ' -fa'*- s * mm pii flfrfrllftiijlll it* �dir time WWt � &ntmy1wSB>n f. - 'HfuSn.Mimtkiumitti J Clay pot found in the ruins ot Kaminaljuyu, a Mayan religious centre of the pre-classical period, on the outskirts of modern Guatemala City. Reproduced from the book, Art of the Mayas by Ferdinand Anton. Journey through hell: the Russian-German war "The Forgotten Soldier" by Gny Sajer (Harper and Row, 485 pages, $11.25). WORDS cannot describe the " apocalyptic-like piling of horror upon horror that is war -�t least what was the war fought on the eastern front by the Germans in the Second World War. Certainly the word "horror" did not seem adequate to the author of this book for expressing what was experienced at the siege of Memel on the Baltic Sea near the end of the war. It was Guy Sajer's impression that "all words and syllables were perfected to describe unimportant things." There are words that point to intense feelings but by the time this sol- dier had related his experiences during the previous three years he had exhausted the vocabulary. Early in the book he prepared the reader for this to happen. "It is a mistake," he wrote, "to use intense words without carefully weighing and measuring them, or they will have already been used when one needs them later. It's a mistake, for instance, to use the word 'frightful' to describe a few broken-up companions mixed into the ground: but it's a mistake which might be forgiven." Despite the limitations ot language, the reader who is durable enough to finish this sustained assault on his sensibili- ties will feel that Sajer was nci too hampered. A harrowing experience lies in wait for anyone who picks up this book because even if he quits part way he will have had an emotional clobbering. I can't remember a book that left me as limp as this one. While it is a shocking book, I believe it ought to be read. Without intending it, Sajer has. written a devastating polemic against war: He rarely philosophizes; he simply tells the story of his three years as a German infantryman. There is one place, midway through the book, where the author does make a pitch against war. He says, "It often strikes me with horror that peace is really ex- Canadian community colleges "Community Colleges In Canada" by Gordon Campbell (Ryerson Press-McGraw Hill Company of Canada, 346 pages $6). JT is unfortunate that the particular value for the average reader of a research book on Canadian colleges is rather small, because Mr. Campbell's book is genuinely interesting. Designed primarily as a reference work for libraries, educational institutions and related users in Canada and in other countries, Community Colleges In Canada still provides a solid volume of information for anyone interested in higher education. The book is a rarity m more ways than one: the Canadian publishing industry is under attack from all sides for its lack of Canadian texts; and yet here one is. And it is also one of the very few reference books available detailing the operations of community colleges in Canada. It defines many terms often bandied about in the usual vague jargon of academe, pinning them down once and for all. For example: a community college is not a "dwarf university" offering partial university programs; it is not a second-rate educational institution. But it is "a new social invention, whole and legitimate Frustrating search I "Search for Franklin" by Leslie H. Neatby (Hurtlg, 280 pages, $7.95). JT is doubtless merely a happy coincidence that two Canadian publishers have recently brought out books dealing with Arctic exploration that are complementary in their subject matter. Winnipeg-er Paul Nanton dealt with Franklin's three expeditions in his book, Arctic Breakthrough (Clarke, Irwin and Company). Saskatonian Leslie Neatby follows up with the story of the twelve-year search to discover the fate of Franklin's last expedition. Unless a person was keen to read the accounts of Franklin's first two expeditions in some detail he would not need to bother with Nanton's book because Professor Neatby covers the same material much more briefly in the first third of his book. He has been able to provide all of the story in this compact form simply by refraining from the quoting of passages from Franklin's journals. The story of the search for Franklin is almost incredible to a modern reader. It seems nearly unbelievable that men would be willing - some of them repeatedly - to go and sit in the frozen seas in their ships for months and years just to learn what had happened to Franklin and his men. Even in those days, more than a century ago, the frustration must have been almost as unendurable as the hardships entailed. Today the thought of whiling away months on end in the cold and darkness without communication and comforts, is itself unendurable. Professor Neatby does more than tell the story of the s e a r c h. He passes judgments on the principal characters involved and does so with a bit of humor. This greatly enhances the interest in the book. I liked Nanton's book but I like Neatby's even more. DOUG WALKER. in its own right. Its uniqueness stems in part from its liberal admissions policy. Its doors are open not only to the university-bound but also to those seeking vocational training in preparation for a career . . . Colleges try to lower the sociological and psychological barriers which deter some students from acquiring further education." Mr. Campbell, a University of L e t h bridge education professor and an authority on college education systems', which he says can generally be thought of as all non-university post-high school education, has now been retained by the Maclean-Hunter Publishing Company to edit a 12-part series in a professional education magazine. His wide knowledge is illustrated in an able book, which will certainly see extensive use among college - bound high school students and school counsellors. One hopes Mr. Campbell will keep the book up to date with revisions from time to time. Each Canadian provincial college system is analysed, and the specific data including programs, admission requirements, fees and costs, financing, administration, enrolments and other information is provided for each of Canada's 119 English and French colleges. An extensive bibliography is also included, for people interested in pursuing the community college movement in further detail. Community Colleges In Canada shows how important colleges have become and are becoming as the most resoon-sive form of post-secondary educational institution. JIM WILSON. tremely monotonous. During the terrible moments of war one longs for peace with a passion that is painful to bear. But in peacetime one should never, even for an instant, long for war!" The rest of the time the horror story itself speaks against war. Guy Sajer had a French father and a German mother. He joined the Wehrmacht in July, 1842 at the age of sixteen, : Adventure, not ideology, motivated him. There was some resistance to him because he was not a true German but he stubbornly persisted in trying to be a good soldier and actually qualified for the "Gross Deutschland" an elite division. His service in the German army on the eastern front was an almost unbroken three-year nightmare. The story tells of the torture of trying to survive frigid winters; the terror of being under massive bombardment while attempting to cover for the retreat of the main force; the trial of existing without food; the torment of cruel officers- the training for the Gross Deutschland was almost equal in frightfulness to combat; the misery of. having uncontrollable dysentry and having to ride for hours sitting in the mess; the tragedy of watching women and children suffering the same fate as soldiers - "I watched them," Sajer says, "in hideous loneliness weeping internal tears as heavy as mercury." If the story can be said to be bearable at all, it is because Sajer does not often linger over anyone's death. One exception is that of his friend Ernst, another French-speaking soldier. He was hit when a plane strafed the truck he was driving. The bullet reduced his lower face to a bloody pulp. Guy was forced to push his friend away from the wheel and take over the driving with Ernst gripping his arm in agony, unable to speak, only blowing huge bubbles of blood and saliva. Guy appealed to God to help. "But God did not answer ... In the cab of a . . . truck, somewhere in the vastness of the Russian hinterland . . . one man struggled with death, and the other with despair, which is close to death. And God, who watches everything, did nothing." This is an extraordinary memoir. Nowhere is the suspicion aroused that it is in-authentic but it does have to be recognized that somo of the detail has had to be constructed. A man living under the condition* of the kind of war fought on that eastern front could not have kept a diary. Whatever fiction there may be -as, for instance, the speech of a beloved officer - is so close to actuality that it rings with the truth. Generals write about wars but they never give sufficient expression to the wretchedness of soldiers. To correct this imbalance was Sajer's purpose. He says he never had more than an approximate idea at movements and centres of operation but he did know what it was like to be cold and hungry and filled with fear. It was "the cries from the slaughterhouse" that he sought to reanimate. Who could doubt this to be an authentic description of men in that awful sector that claimed over ten million Soviet and German lives? "We felt like lost souls, who had forgotten that men were made for something else, that time exists, and hope, and sentiments other than anguish; that friendship can be more than ephemeral, that love can sometimes occur, that the earth can be productive, and used for something other than burying the dead." In the middle of the book this passage appears: "Too many people learn about war with no inconvenience to themselves. They read about Verdun or Stalingrad without comprehension, sitting in a comfortable armchair, with their feet beside the fire, preparing to go about their business the next day, as usual. One should really read such accounts under compulsion, in discomfort, considering oneself fortunate not to be describing the events in a letter home, writing from a hole in the mud. One should read about war in the worst circumstances, when everything is going badly, remembering that the torments of peace are trivial, and not worth any white hairs. Nothing is r e a 11 y serious in the tranquillity of peace; only an idiot could be really disturbed,by a question of salary. One should read about war standing up, late at night, when one is tired, as I am writing about it now, at dawn, while my asthma attack wears off. And even now, in my sleepless exhaustion, how gentle and easy peace seems!" Even if we do not take his advice about how to read his book, it can be a salutary experience to read it under any circumstance. Not to be grateful for the absence of war or to devoutly hope for the end of all war is unthinkable after reading such a book. DOUG WALKER. Focus on the University - By J. W. FISHBOURNE Dangerous words Jj^ CHARCTER IN "My Fair Lady" asked rather querulously, "Why can't the English learn to speak?" I gather he meant "properly" and he used up several verses railing about the variety of peculiar accents he found so disturbing to his ear. I agree that the question is a good one, though lacking his patrician ear I'm less upset by the sometimes curious sounds made by my fellow man. (I'll admit some pronunciations are a bit hard to swallow, if I may mix up my physiological metaphor- or metaphorical physiology, whichever it may be.) It's the words they use that bother me. My complaint, which I would like to register as vehemently if less musically than did Professor Higgins, concerns those popular cateh-phrases with which our senses and sensibilities are assaulted as often as some benighted word-spoiler can think of them. "Establishment" and "charisma" are examples, mercifully now out of fashion except by the most nearly hopeless. And "gaps." Ever since some yahoo (look it up-it's a really apt word) made the dazzling discovery that mundane lying sounds almost statesmanlike when dressed up as "credibility gap," and that communications gap" provides a sort ot absolution for political-and other-fraud, gaps have yawned everywhere. The so-called generation gap, to wit. That nauseous example of phrase-making is especially deplorable, not simply because it's rotten English, but because of the use to which it is put. We have a nasty habit of using catchy labels like that as automatic and infallible "reasons" for all the disagreements or nusimderstamdingg, the outrageous demands or denials, that arise between any two individuals or groups who can discern between them a significant-appearing age difference. The mouthing on that simple, unreasoning phrase is a pat excuse for doing nothing about the problems of anyone whose age differs from ours. Worse, it's an alibi-and an acceptable one, unfortunately-for either party refusing even to look at any question that appears difficult or uncomfortable, a license for smugness about failing to understand another point of view. Generation gap-indeed! An absurd and dangerous fiction, contrived by a liar for the comfort of cowards. There is no such thing. There are fools, exploiters, lickspittles, sycophants, crooks, liars and bul- lies, and plenty of exemplars of all the other traits that contaminate relations between people. But they exist at all ages, and have nothing to do with generations. A stupid father forty years old almost certainly was a stupid teen-ager at one time. There are octogenerians who have perfect rapport with the young; there are teen-agers who can't get along with anyone, including other teen - agers. There are young people respected and welcomed in eventide homes, and inhabitants of those homes despised by all the other residents. In educational institutions, there are professors near retirement who are truly close to students, while some of their younger colleagues are abrasive and uncommunicative; the converse is true, as well. Some students are regarded by their elders as respected colleagues, some as damned nuisances. (And vice-versa, I don't doubt.) Generations have nothing to do with understanding in a family situation, either. There are families in which mutual love, respect and tolerance are the essence of the family relationship. There are others in which so-called family life is almost intolerable. I know of no real evidence that free communication, in an atmosphere of respect and trust, is necessarily impeded by difference in age, unless one party or the other wishes it so. Age difference has no more to do with problems of communication than height, or hair color. But now that someone has invented "generation gap" or "never trust anyone over 30"-and may they wither in hell - those who fit any of the uncomplimentary terms used above have a handy and acceptable exculpation for the rotten little games they play, and the rest of us a tailor-made excuse for copping out of any discussion that make* us feel uneasy or Inadequate. There's some hope, I suppose, in the weB-known fragility of "in" words. We had "establishment," "meaningful dialogue," and their ilk until I for one became heartily sick of them (my health in that respect is fragile, perhaps) and finally they seem to have passed from the lexicon of all but the sloppiest of writers. Perhaps the spate of "gaps" will diminish soon, as well. Sadly, this Mke all other poisons will leave a residue behind it, a habit of dismissing the viewpoint of others, simply because of their age, and with a respectable-sounding reason for doing so. Habits like that are hard to break-at any The Voice Of One -By DR. FRANK S. MORLEY Making and believing lies A wise man once warned against the danger of lying since there was an inevitable tendency to believe your own lie. Some years ago I was lecturing in a third year psychology course at a Canadian college. I had a visit from a McGill student who proposed to make psychology his life vocation. I asked him what he thought of a certain world-famous McGill psychologist. To my astonishment he had never heard of him! I remarked that the psychologist was remarkable as I had never expected to read a book on psychology today that did not even mention Freud. A few years later this student, now a full-time psychologist, recalled his visit to me, but completely reversed the story, making the remark regarding the McGill psychologist his own and the ignorance mine! It was a frightening illustration of how an educated and intelligent person could make and believe a lie. Hitler claimed that, if a lie were repeated often enough, people would come to believe it. He illustrated this, and it has been amply documented since, in his lie of race. The notion that one race is inherently and by its very nature superior or inferior to others is a lie, yet millions believe this lie and it has been the excuse for the most abominable cruelty and oppression. Racism has been deliberately promoted for political, economic and social reasons. Count de Gobineau, the notorious apostle of racism, frankly admitted this in his case, fabricating a race called "Aryan" to protect the artistocracy in their privileges against the rising tide of democracy. The inter-mingling of races in Western Europe makes nonsense of his theory. It is even difficult to define and justify a "Jewish race." Anti-Semitism is an expression of nationalism, and, on the individual level, a psychological scape-goat for personal failure. It is a fact that the worst haters of Negroes are found in socially inferior groups. Racial myths are responsible for the lie that diversities of conduct, character, and achievement, are due to inherent natural differences of racial heredity. The lie has been responsible for tragedy in other fields. Ignaz Semmelweiss discovered that puerperal fever was due to infection of patients by doctors. Before entering the maternity ward in the General Hospital in Vienna he made it a rule that doctors had to wash their hands in chlorinated lime water. Infant mortality fell from one out of 8 to one out of 30, then next year to one in 100. The medical profession hounded him out of Vienna. Meeting the same treatment in Budapest he went insane and died. Scientists have been as much In love with falsehood and bating truth as any religious bigot. The history of science is full of persecution. Robert Neryer, a discoverer of the Principle of Conservation of Energy, also went insane because of the easy rejection of his discoveries. The Michelson-Morley experiments, subsequently confirm* ed by D. C. Miller, would have discounted Einstein's theory of relativity, but ad* entists were loath to renounce their exerting, beautiful theory. The Royal Society described Watarston's molecular theory of gases in 1845 "nothing but nonsense." The opposition of factory owners, pulp mills and mines, airlines, and automobile manufacturers to anti-pollution measures has involved them in a most depressing story of falsehood and suppression of truth. To be informed in this subject read "Vanishing Air," by John C. Esposito, which is Ralph Nader's Study Group Report on Air Pollution. The proudest achievement of Western European Society was its unique elevation of the virtue of truth. Bismarck was one of its great destroyers. He enlarged his country's boundaries by a strategy of deliberate falsehood and by falsehood tricked France into war. Since Bismarck the whole tradition of diplomacy lapsed into falsehood or, at best, suppression of truth. Stalin openly stated that good diplomacy had to be a cloak for bad deeds. West-em nations fell into line. Nowhere has the supression of truth been more disastrous than in Vietnam under the monstrous lie of fighting Communism. Disastrous in more ways than one, economically, politically, and morally. A young man returned from Vietnam told me of his revulsion in the torturing of prisoners by American troops. A remarkable interview with Jane Fonda in the February McCall's tells of the effect of the horror on youth, the atrocities of My Lai which brings the defence that it is the policy of the American military, the generals who exchange transistors for the cut gentials or cut ears of the Viet Cong, or Viet Cong thrown from helicopters. But people believe the lie that these things are not really happening. Lying has become a way of public life in every field. Cabinet ministers in Ottawa make shocking statements. A minister in the B.C. Legislature is accused of lying, but the case brings no consternation. Premier Ross Thatcher in the Saskatchewan legislature is accused of "deliberately misleading or lying" in his statements regarding the dealings of the Manitoba government. What's happening to our country?