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I have read and heard it said that the fact and specter of the Holocaust have rendered morally obsolete the traditional notion of Tragedy, once considered mankind's most painfully noble mode of art. Tragedy assumed a morally ordered and rational universe—so the argument goes—which contained and structured in some ultimately reassuring way our reactions to the tragic event, no matter how painful. The Holocaust has destroyed that universe, or that orderly conception; consequently, Tragedy cannot speak to us of our particular dislocations, the Holocaust included. Individual works may work for us, but as something other than Tragedy: melodrama, minor psychological intuitions, pure form moving like music, If they work as Tragedy, they do so as the still-pleasing archaic form of another age, revealing that older peoples had their depths too, even though they hadn't experienced the terrible knowledge we have.
The Café Zoracabana sits off the Plaza Libertad in the center of downtown Montevideo. With nineteenth-century decor and white-smocked waiters, it is one of the city's last remaining traditional cafés. Here old friends meet and talk for hours while nursing a cup of tea or cafe con leche. I have come here this evening to meet a former correspondent named Paco, to whom I have been referred by an exiled Uruguayan congressman.
From time to time my companion interrupts our conversation to greet friends who pass by our table. Late in the evening he rises to hug yet another person in a traditional Latin American abrazo. His friend squeezes his hand, speaks for a moment, and moves on. After a discreet pause Paco unfolds a small piece of paper that had been placed surreptitiously in his hand.
Violence and instability, punctuated by terrorism and subversion, characterize political life in many nations today. Throughout most of the postwar period few countries, and this includes the liberal democracies, have been spared the many faces of violence and terrorism, whether from the Left, the Right, or both.
With the continuing spread of terror and counterterror, with increasing violence and instability, personal insecurity and fear become widespread. Then hard-won gains in human rights come under heavy attack. In this situation violence and terror become self-justifying because through them society will be purged of its alleged evils. Or so it is argued.
Yet the moral conscience of the Americas originates in, and is built upon, respect for human rights. Our Hemisphere differs in a privileged way from other regions of the globe in that this is the guiding principle under which our nations came into being.
Recently a flood of articles on Tibet has appeared in the New York Times and other newspapers throughout the world. Many of these articles contain patently false information about the situation in Tibet and the position of the Tibetans in exile. I feel, therefore, that it is time I contributed a brief article toward clearing up some of these misconceptions.
Tibet is geographically, racially, and culturally different from China. Historically, too, Tibet has always been an independent country and has never been “an integral part of China.” The very fact that it has to be referred to now as “part of China” is a clear indication of its separate independent status in the past. If it had always been a part of China, what was the need of changing the boundaries in the maps of Central Asia prepared after 1959? Another indication of Tibet's independent status is the great pains taken by the Chinese Communists in explaining to the Tibetans the status of Tibet. They make a distinction between China and “The Middle Kingdom”: Tibet is not a part of China, but it is under the Middle Kingdom, just as China is. Tibet and China, they explain, enjoy equal status, and both are parts of the Middle Kingdom.
I am essentially a village boy; I did not see the city until I was well over twenty. Now I am receiving my advanced education overseas. It is exciting, but it also involves tremendous emotional and cultural risks. How it all ends up is yet to be seen.
One thing has always been important since the day I began to dream of an intellectual, academic, and political experience beyond the borders of Zimbabwe: A man like me, whose parents never saw a school door, must ask himself if he can really justify such a risky and expensive investment in education. My parents and my brothers and sisters ask the same question, and they are right to ask it.
September 26, 1977, marks the eightieth birthday of Giovanni Battista Montini. This does not make him the oldest pope of this century by any means. The first pope to die in the twentieth century was Leo XIII, who was ninety-three and who finished a good part of his well-known work after eighty. No man, fortunately, knows how long he will live, and Paul VI has mentioned several times that he cannot expect to be about for long. But this is mostly the wise insight of any elderly human being. (I myself have no doubt that the character of Paul VI is such that he would resign were he seriously incapacitated.) In any case, change of power, not least that of ecclesiastical power, remains one of the most fascinating of cultural questions. And Paul holds whatjs by far the oldest continuing office in the world.