Urban Confrontation; 9; Dr. Benjamin Spock
The judge and jury system send you to jail. They indicted you recently you got off easy you appealed to a higher court the decision was reversed with regard to conspiracy to incite people to burn the draft card etc.. You're nevertheless willing to trust the same judge and jury system with Yes I don't think any society can exist without laws and with machinery to administer the laws and I'm not saying that I agree with every judge I certainly didn't agree with the judge who thought that we in the lower court who thought we were guilty. But I think my faith in the judicial system was substantiated by the fact that the court of appeals said that the lower court was in error that we had the right of free speech for everything we said. Confrontation. An analysis of the continuing crises facing 20th century man in the American city.
Today's Record guest is Dr. Benjamin Spock author and pediatrician. Today's program Dr. Spock straddling the generation gap. Questions I asked in the following program are merely the moderator's method of presenting many sides of today's topic. Here is your host Joseph R. Bader. We're speaking with a man first known for his book Baby and childcare and most recently known as a protestor against the Vietnamese War and now a spokesman against some aspects of the new morality or is it the old obscenities. Well we'll get to that in a moment Dr. Spock. Your name has been used as an adjective to describe the younger generation the Spock generation is what they call it some social commentators criticize this generation as being too impatient feel that the young generation the protests too much and wants change too fast What is your reaction to this kind of indictment.
My own position is just about the opposite I think that the only. Thing to be thankful. The only hope that America is going to be saved from internal chaos is the fact that there are more and more young people who are idealistic enough to be willing to devote at least part of their lives to improvement of America who Akim in their analysis of the situation willing to think radically to analyze the present problems of America and who have the courage to demonstrate and if necessary get their heads knocked in in order to make a point with the public so I would say it's time we had impatient young people it's too bad we don't have impatient more impatient older people the two you would feel oh this is one of the finest generations of Americans and I certainly would hope. But cos I quickly want to defend myself by saying I don't mean that I think that the delinquents ought to be praised all that we have to be proud of them as lot of delinquency and I'm not talking about the radical use here.
And of course there are extremists among the radical us with HUS. Good intentions I have no argument. I'm sure they're just as sincere as I am but I think that there are some other methods or at least mistaken those that antagonize so many people. I want to cobble off those make sure that nobody thinks I'm trying to defend or glorify those groups. But I think generally the radical kids are the ones who are against the war in Vietnam willing to go to jail if necessary to make the point that they will not fight in the illegal immoral war. The ones black youths who take a relatively militant position and are hounded by the police. I think such groups like these are wonderful. Too bad we haven't had them before. You would not agree that perhaps there might be some credibility Nevertheless to the charge that we as Americans have reared an impatient overindulged generation of a very materialistic generation.
What was the first word that you use there I agreed on that one. Impatient impatient right impatient. That's good. Indulged. I don't know whether they've been indulged. I don't think that they're acting like indulged individual I don't think that's selfish. I don't think that they're after their own materialistic advantages. I think one of the most significant characteristics of them is that they're anti materialist. You know for an example the recruiters for industry who come to universities to try to interest graduating seniors in positions in industry and dangle beginning positions beginning salaries of $10000 a year. They are not making their quotas because so many graduating seniors say well I'm more interested in doing something for people. Another example is that the some of the brightest law school graduates from the most distinguished law schools the kind that usually could count on and would certainly take positions from the most prestigious law
firms those law firms at the present time having trouble recruiting those most brilliant students because those students. I would rather get into the law that helps the poor rather than law that helps the industrialist all the rich. The idea of an impatient generation didn't come out of a vacuum. There are a lot of men just as intelligent as you Dr Spock who have made this indictment of the generation they feel there seems to be some sort of childishness about a generation that is so unrealistic or so naive as to believe that the gap between the ideal of the American dream and the reality of our poverty and our inability sometimes to come through and fulfill a Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and all those things we stand for that gap be overcome overnight is unrealistic that the impatience that it desires to have it overcome overnight is naive and that there is something a little peculiar about the generation that continually insists on things being done over well. I see the United States permitting. Horrible injustices
injustice to black people injustice to poor people poor education for a majority of children poor education poor medical care for a majority of their people in the Onan days such things couldn't be prevented because there wasn't enough food there wasn't enough goods there wasn't enough education enough medical care enough medical knowledge to go around. These are not the problems today. We have the knowledge we have the means with the richest country that the world has ever known by far and the shocking thing is that we go a long complacent way permitting these things in spite of the fact that the evidence is that black people are getting angry or poor people are getting angry young people are getting angrier and I think that the impatience of young people was long overdue. I would say it was a great misfortune that throughout the 50s the great majority of young people like the great majority of older people thought it was fine just as long as you got a good income that this took care of
everything. I see our country drifting toward internal chaos and alienating the rest of the world. All was drawing closer to the brink. Nuclear annihilation because we challenge other nations I think it's long overdue a radical new approach and an impatient. We've asked this question of a number of recent guests. Do you think that there will come a time when we'll read in our history books about the second American Civil War is the society moving toward that kind of a tumultuous climax. I don't see it you know there are some young radicals who say revolution is the only thing that will save us and let's pursue potatoes. I see the overwhelming majority of the American people much prefer to keep the injustices and at the end adequate situations even from their own point of view rather than trifle with anything that's very different. So I think that the idea here that we're anywhere near ready for a revolution is to me in comprehensible I'd say if anybody started a
revolution now a few radicals a few black people a few young people a few poor people they'd find three quarters of the American people violently opposed to them. All the governments local and national all the armed forces all the police on the other side in other words they'd be. Reduced to a grease spot in no time at all. Then it's this group of people this minority of people it gives the generation this general image of being impatient whereas it's actually a very small group of people. No I know I disagree with you there I say that in the region to the point of actually contemplating revolution I guess I should add dots and dots in significant numbers I don't think there are more than two or three hundred or at least a thousand in the United States but I think that a quarter to a half of all undergraduates and increasing proportions of high school students are impatient and they're impatient in a realistic way. They're not talking about a revolution they were talking about the fact that using the democratic
method we've got to improve our country. Dr. Spock we should pause at this point in the program to allow those in the audience to hear a portion of the speech which you gave here adoption College in Wellesley Massachusetts a portion of his speech which was very provocative for the audience listening. Dr. Spock I think you can see my feeling my government's got a nerve to say that the young men who have resisted fighting killing and being killed in a war that they considered totally illegal and immoral. My government has a nerve calling these people like criminals and trying to make the Boston five the criminals when they've been carrying out completely Bob Barrett criminality on such a titanic scale. Actually you know what we did to the so-called Boston five we signed a document mimeographed document that was circulated in academic circles back in the summer of 19 67 call the resisting legitimate authority and merely said young men who have refused to kill and be killed in a
war that's illegal and carts that constitute crimes against the peace and against humanity that they are within their rights according to the Nuremberg principle Nuremberg principle is that principle by which the United States and its allies tried and put to death Germans and Japanese when those Germans and Japanese said we were only a babe in the orders of ASA period as I just told them that's no excuse. If you knew that these were crimes against humanity you were obligated to refuse to obey those orders. And yet our government has the nerve to say that it is entitled to put Germans and Japanese to death but the Americans. Who refused to commit crimes against humanity have no right to do so this is absolutely preposterous it seems to me. This is not the kind of morality that I was taught. This is not the kind of country that I was taught in American history I was a citizen. Well.
Let me back away now from Vietnam and talk about dissent from another point of view and this is what is the law. You must obey the law especially establishment types. Tell us willy nilly you must obey the law. What is the law. There's a very good article a year ago in September 28 in the Saturday Review written by Professor Joseph Sachs a professor of history at the University of Michigan. And I found very comforting Sachs says most lay people outside the law have the idea that the law is a very neat circle of integrated laws dovetailing with each other that clearly specify what's legal and what's illegal. He says no such thing in the first place says a great majority of the laws are never being enforced at any one time it really comes down to the discretion of the cop or the discretion of the prosecutor who is bothered by something that somebody is doing and then he nabs them and then he can always find usually you usually can find a law
that seems a clickable Sachs says. That a great majority of our laws conflict with other laws and you often have to fight your case through a whole hierarchy of caught. If you think you're right before it's finally settled he makes the interesting point that even after you get to the Supreme Court even those justices have difficulty deciding what's the law and what isn't the law because a majority of their decisions as you know are split decisions. Judges on both sides find justification for their particular point of view. Then he makes the further point that it's a great comfort to me. He reminds us that the Supreme Court reverses itself in a later generation gives the example of the earliest Supreme Court that said separate schools for black children are equal. And then in 1954 a somewhat more honest and sophisticated Supreme Court says obviously this isn't a variation of cost separate schools are an equal and unfair just in the fact that they established.
And I hope myself that someday maybe between Was us a Supreme Court of the United States will have the courage to take up this question whether the Nuremberg principle applies to them Ricans as well as Germans and Japanese. Well Sachs in making these points isn't implying for a second and I'm not implying by quoting him that we can get along without laws. All societies have to have laws or you have to have respect for law. He's only making the point that it's not neat. That it's a very messy situation and you don't need to be intimidated by an establishment person on official who says you don't disobey Anguilla maybe you aren't. And it's a good idea to consult a lawyer I think I'd be a little more careful myself. The next time to quit BS find out an opinion from within the profession. I don't mean that I would have necessarily decided differently all I mean is you want to be in possession of all the facts not only what you believe is right or wrong but what your lawyer thinks the court so that you can be
prepared for what happens. Dr Spock your speech was well received by the audience at Babson College. Let's talk a little bit more Dr. Spock about this younger generation you've obviously aligned yourself with over the Viet Nam war but many other members of the generation are also in favor of something else I guess could call the relaxed moral standard relaxed moral code a little or no censorship for movies and plays and television and why don't you join the younger generation on this issue. Well I think that the young are always almost always the generation that are most impatient of restraints of any kind. And that I as well as an overwhelming majority of the liberals and the radicals of the older generation are all at the present time anti censorship anti. Pornography laws obscenity laws. This is the style. This is the style that we're in this mood. I think myself that one way of explaining it is that
it's a it's a reaction still going on to the prove or a of the Victorian period that that prudery went so far in the other direction that it created an impatience a revulsion that is still being felt anyway just because all the people that I associate with and I'm considered a friend in other respects. You know you know honestly I agree that there should be no sense to me is not a reason for not questioning this. I would say I and certainly they consider me very old fashioned even reactionary and this civilization has always been built I believe on a partial repression OBF sexuality a partial role repression of aggressiveness and a sublimation that is these crude drives refined and directed in socially useful and autistic really creative directions I believe from my psychiatric psychoanalytic training that
literature or poetry. Painting sculpture invention scientific investigation these are all in part manifestations of crude sexual and rivalrous drives that have been refined and civilized. I do not believe that civilization can keep going without these restraints. And I think that it's a purely temporary fashion for people to think let's get rid of all restraints. I think it's a hope some impulse on the part of the young to say let's question everything. The questioning I think is good but certainly it's overwhelmingly believed by the young and by the liberal that we should get rid of all censorship that this is the way to get. I hope some the sensibleness back in that if you just remove all the laws. All of the enforcement of the laws pretty soon everybody will be disgusted with nakedness and pornography and we'll all be wholesome again. I don't believe this or not we give you a couple of examples.
You think that liberals aren't being selective enough with regard to the way they go along with younger more militant people. They tend to indorse just about any reaction to the older liberals are different in this respect than the young people I think there is a pendulum swing that's accumulated to reflect momentum of the present time. And on another way of putting it is that all the anti restraint people have got the bit in their teeth and they won't listen to anything else than the general rule. Let's get rid of all restraints because they equate this with the pop hypocrisy. Well I also seem to think we've outgrown our need for any new social code. I don't. I think about Broadway show in which all the actors male and female are naked and going through motions suggestive and accost and other sexual intimacies to me this is not sophistication this is not liberality. I think that this is. Ah a brutal Hosh
attempt to destroy all restraint. And I don't think that the society can stand out. You're speaking of the Broadway play old Calcutta riot and I don't want to pick out one but that's the one in the back of my mind. Let me give you another example. About a year ago they a caught of a federal court of appeals passed on a movie imported from abroad on the theme of delinquency. It was a story about Quincy which it said showed see a various perversions. The three the two of the three judges of the Court of Appeals said they could not call it obscene because it was not too hopeful A. Prurient and was not totally without redeeming social significance I suppose this is because you could say it's to educate people about delinquency but said the judges they were revolted. Well I think we're all mixed up when judges say they have to pass it as non obscene but they're revolted. Yet they're missing the whole point the point of
obscenity laws is to keep judges more importantly children from being revolted and having that tastes COS and OB Well that's the question. The crux of the matter why should there be censorship. Who are you trying to protect by censorship. First of all children. But I think we also have to admit that in any society there are the less disciplined the more crude people who have to be restrained by laws. Most people are restrained by their own consciences that have been instilled in them by their parents. You're a liberal thinker will say to that. Who are we. Who is any man to judge that he should presume to restrain a man in a personal question. Of course I'm not talking about what an individual should do in the privacy of his home I don't believe this should be legislated and I think even private groups I should be able to get hold of. Obscene movies it what I'm talking about is what shown in movie houses. What shone in the windows of magazine story was
what shown on television during children's viewing hours. I think our society has asked to say there are certain standards otherwise we bring up our children with a brutalized Hosh concept of sexuality and it makes it more and more difficult for parents with idealized const concepts of sexuality to make these stick with their children. In your book decent and indecent do you state I believe that judging obscenities on the basis of whether a book or a play or a movie has a redeeming social value is not sufficient that's not enough. Well I think not just a technicality I could see why the Supreme Court at one time said maybe this is a good rule but when judges say we have to pass it on that basis in spite of the fact that it's revolting then I think this just shows to me that it isn't a very effective rule. Well is it wise to turn over this kind of a censorship judgment to the state. I mean isn't this again only an individual question.
Well certainly I would agree that you don't want a police chief to be deciding what books can be read and what shows can be shown. But when you make it a matter of obscenity laws then the person who produces the book or produces the show runs the risk and if the authorities think that this is obscene then they hail him and to call in the people who decide not to police chief but the people who decide are I that the judge is all a jury. And I think guy's a rough indication of what's revolting. I'd be willing to take the word of judges judge and jury system send you to jail. You got off you appeal to a higher court the decision was reversed with regard to conspiracy to incite people to burn the draft card etc.. You're nevertheless willing to trust the same judge and jury system with Yes I don't think any society can exist without laws and with machinery to administer the laws and. I'm not saying that I agree with every judge I certainly didn't agree with the judge who thought that we in the lower court who thought we were guilty. But I
think my faith in the judicial system was substantiated by the fact that the court of appeals said that the lower court was in error that we had the right of free speech for everything we said. Let me tie together your recent book and your ideas in regard to obscenity and censorship and your protest against the Vietnamese War. You describe the enemy's war as being immoral that's the word you use to describe certain books as being obscene. Now these are broad gawds broad based indictments that sort of invoke the full power of the whole Judeo-Christian tradition of angel and devil good guy bad guy heaven hell this kind of a traditional can't we get away from using words like this obscene immoral and appreciate the nuances of life. Well I think I'd want to say from your tone of voice that I want to plead innocent of wanting to spoil people's fun I think this should be fun. And I think this should be a little naughtiness of one kind or another. I think that. It was
necessary for America to move away from its puritanical past. But I think that you will hear a tentacle words to protest this and you call something immoral when you call something obscene there is a complete undercutting of the position of the object of those words those words amid a very few nuances very few degrees and you are asking me Do I believe in morality I believe in morality. And I don't believe that Asa society or any other society can exist without morality any more than it can exist without laws. And I think laws are merely a more mechanical way of trying to reinforce certain model concepts there and general acceptance. We have to emphasize morality I think even in the universities where it's bizzare and stylish and almost unheard of for professes to emphasize the moral aspect of the subject that teach they teach. I believe that we have to emphasize some morality even in the university. Let me put it this way. We have made enormous technical progress we could
solve America's and the world's problems the thing that's keeping us from doing that I believe is a lack of strong moral conviction. Let me pursue this just a wee bit more here at the very end of the program Dr. Spock you would agree that though of morality we need morality is ultimately not susceptible to being based on logical proof or objective empirical data that alternately there's a leap of faith involved here in terms of what moral standard you endorse. I don't think you have to get mystical about it doest say that it's derived from a mountain top or in grave a non-nut. I think human beings generally have agreed through history that certain things are model and certain things are immoral and I think at the present time what we see is that my role ascents has been I would say even atrophied where technological advance has been greater and greater and I think that we're not going to make a safe world let alone a good world unless we emphasize morality and human
relations to bring them up on a par with technical advances. Dr. Spock I think in the past 30 minutes the audience had listened not only to our conversation but to the speech which we put into the middle of our interview that would agree with me that whether they agree with you or not. You're a scholar and you're a courageous man of principle and we appreciate your coming on this program. The views and opinions expressed on the preceding program do not necessarily represent those of the program host. Joseph R. Baylor Northeastern University for the station's questions I asked were merely the moderators method of presenting many sides of today's topic. Northeastern University has brought to you Dr. Benjamin Spock author and pediatrician. Today's program Dr. Spock straddling the generation gap. Your program host has been Joseph R. Bayer Director
Department of video production. Urban confrontation is produced for the division of instructional communications of the nation's largest private university. Northeastern University comments on this program or requests for a recorded copy of any program in this series may be addressed to urban confrontation. Northeastern University Boston Massachusetts 0 2 1 1 5 in cooperation with Babson College. This week's program was produced by Carolyn Gartrell and Jeffrey Feldman and directed by Lenny Camacho technical supervision by John Bach. The executive producer for urban confrontation is Steve Friedman. Your announcer Dave ham. This is the national educational radio network.
- Urban Confrontation
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- Dr. Benjamin Spock
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- Urban Confrontation is an analysis of the continuing crises facing 20th century man in the American city, covering issues such as campus riots, assassinations, the internal disintegration of cities, and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. Produced for the Office of Educational Resources at the Communications Center of the nations largest private university, Northeastern University.
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Producing Organization: Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
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- APA: Urban Confrontation; 9; Dr. Benjamin Spock. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-bv79x387