Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on May 23, 1976 · Page 99
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 99

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 23, 1976
Page 99
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Page 99 article text (OCR)

SPEAKING OF BOOKS The Rockefeller dynasty "THE ROCKEFELLERS," by Peter Collier u4 Divid Horowitz, Holt, RiMhart, WlutM, $15. When Nelson Rockefeller appeared before the Senate committee for approval prior to becoming vice president of the United States, he opened his testimony with a 72 page history of the Rockefeller family. in describing Ms Great-Grandfather William Avery Rockefeller he painted a picture of "a gregarious, adventuresome, and fearless man who worked hard and paid his debts promptly. Among other things he got interested in botanic medicine, the selling of which occupied an increasing amount of his time." . In reality, William Avery had begun his career as a con-man who traveled about the countryside peddling an exlixir for cancer for the extravagant sum of |25.00 per bottle. A two month average wage at that time. Pre-figuring Hadacol, the old man went on to bigger and better things. Peter Collier and David Horowitz do a breathtaking job of depicting this giant of a man who became the progenitor of a string of Rockefellers, all clonned from his side. The 746 pages of this book are dominated by the Rockefeller men. Beginning with William Avery and continuing through the present generation of Jay, Steven, Rodman, Abby, Neva, Winthrop Paul, and company, the overpowering presence of the male image is documented with care. There was little room for female presence in the powerful world of the Rockefellers. From the very beginning, it was the maleness, the aggressive, pragmatic and unemotional work ethic that prevailed within the family. Early in the book the character of William Avery is set. The mold . created becomes the model from which each Rockefeller in turn is required to emulate. The form becomes the norm from which any deviance is judged and penalized. William Avery is described in detail. In reading the early chapters it becomes evident that the myth he is busy creating has its beginning in two myths of their own. They are the Darwinian myth and the Protestant Work Ethic myth. Rockefeller senior was driven by the Darwinian myth of his time. Life was viewed as a struggle. It was a struggle to be experienced at every level of life, economic, personal, and biological. Out of the struggle, it was believed, would come the fittest creature of all. The strongest would survive, the cream would rise to the top to be rewarded with a blue ribbon. It seemed just plain natural that a lion would make it in the jungle and William Avery roars from every page. His testimony is vindication of goals set around progress and promotion, two inevitable ingredients of a Darwinian world view. The second shaping influence on Rockefeller was the myth of. the Protestant Work Ethic. Reared in the Baptist tradition he fell heir to a view of life that saw riches as the reward bestowed by God upon the hardworking and well meaning man. Wealth became the crown of glory and the means of propitiation as well. "Charity shall cover a multi- 6m CHARLESTON. W.VA. tude of sins," became the proof text of repentance for whatver penance might be necessary in dealing with "tainted money." The guilt offering took the form of multitudinous philanthropic good works. One of the most interesting aspects in the forging of the Rockefeller myth is the way in which William Avery kept the recipe for success away from the common man. Like the inventor of Coca Cola, he never let the powerless in on this unlikely concoction brewed with the seemingly unmixable ingredients of Darwin and Jesus. This is seen in the Ludlow tragedy where Rockefeller power was unleased upon the 9,000 striking miners and families of the Rockefeller owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. The miners were being paid only $1.68 per day. They were being exploited by the company owned stores. They were forced to live in substandard company owned housing. Most interestingly they were controlled by a company-paid clergy that preached the Protestant Work Ethic and (here it comes!) a company-owned school where subversive literature like Darwin's Origin of the Species was forbidden. Dozens of lives were lost in this battle in Colorado. The lessons to be learned and the truth suppressed was even later to erupt at Attica Prison. William Avery was to become Nelson, the miners were replaced by inmates, but the score and choreography were similar. The brutal ballet of oppression and liberation continued from generation to generation. The son, John Davison, is portrayed in a tragic tone. He tries desperately hard to establish his own identity within the Rockefeller mold already set. The Ludlow scandal became the event around which he attempted to protect the image and project the value of his own identity. Using Ivy Lee, the son of a liberal Georgia preacher, and Mackenzie , King, a Canadian liberal, John worked toward public relations. The brilliance of these two PR men was utilized to cover the warts and convince people of the goodness and tightness of Rockefeller power and prestige. The use of Standard Oil under father and son is vividly described by Collier and Horowitz. Dismantling all competition, by April, 1878, Standard had come to control 33 of the 36 million barrels of oil produced per year. By 1880,95 per cent of the oil produced in the nation was controlled by Rockefeller. The family had become the only dinosaur on the block. The major section of the book (322 pages) deals with "The Brothers." This is by far the most interesting part. In it, John D. the third, Nelson, Laurance, Winthrop, and David are portrayed. Their father, John D. Jr. is cast in his role as father to the sons. The struggle within the family is fascinating. It is a struggle that sees Nelson emerge" as the giant among the brothers. Among the other four, John the third comes off as the heir most like his own dad, most eager to continue the manifest destiny of the family. Full of personal self doubt and carefully controlled emotional response he becomes a faithful servant but never the master of the destiny. Neither his nor. the family. Laurance exhibits an idealism that is captivating and commendable. The reader cheers his concern for environment and social reform. His daughter Laura is left to inform us, however, that he never made it. "I feel sad for him in a way. He missed the boat. Daddy could have been creative." Winthrop becomes the scapegoat, the failure. Out of family struggle there seems to emerge a pecking order and Winthrop becomes the last in line. Weakness was never tolerated among the Rockefellers and so the tears of a child named Winthrop became the point of vulnerability he was destined to have violated the remainder of his life. Nelson dominates. The authors focus on him with real intensity and it is an interesting and insightful character that commands our attention. The book is worth its price just to get a glimpse of Nelson. The men dominate, but the women quietly emerge as the humanizing influence in the saga. William Avery had his Eliza and John D. Jr. had his Abby Greene. In a family that attempted to relegate the passion of emotion to the parlor where the women gathered and not to the den where men isolated themselves to consider the. "important matters," there women were key. They planted'the deepest seeds of all, which the author shows us took root interestingly enough in Nelson and came to full bloom in his son Steven. It is a truly green revolution at work in the male, grey Rockefeller world. There are serious lessons to be learned from this magnificent book. They are lessons about power. To begin with, power is not chiefly money. We:naturally associate the Rockefeller name with money, but the really significant power is evidenced in the aura and position of the Rockefellers. It has been in their connections that real power has been generated. In the Acts of the Apostles we've been told that the Holy Spirit came as power upon the people gathered: We've come to attribute significance to the noise and fire and dra- Victory over blindness "OUT OF SIGHT: Ten Stories of Victory Over Blindness," Al.Sper- ber, and others, Little, Brown Co., $7.95 The author of this book heads a large telephone sales promotion organization, hosts a New York City radio show for blind listeners and is, himself, blind. The book is a series of first-person accounts by the author and nine other, men and women who became blind and succeeded in America. The contributors are an accountant-comptroller, a social worker who directs the New York City Office of the Handicapped, a New York State Supreme Court judge, a sculptor, a blind golf champion and sporting goods salesman, a married couple who are New York City civil servants, an author and poet, and a nun who teaches. The book's forword is by Sen. Jennings Randolph, who is active in private and governmental programs for the blind and who has been a leader in developing federal legislation for the handicapped. Randolph, himself, has suffered from visual problems. The stories are all articulately presented and of interest to the general reader. The book is less a technical discussion on the problems and services for the blind than a series of personal stories. One does learn about some problems faced by blind people. For example, many had already suffered severe visual loss before they knew _ they were doing so. The loss of vision comes slowly and the victim is hot always aware that it is taking place. "'.· The contributors uniformly describe prejudice and discrimination against them. They found it difficult to locate jobs and when they did, they often had to prove that they were not only as good as but better than sighted persons. They resent organizations that use sighted persons as advocates for the blind rather than the blind, themselves, who better undersfrpd the issues. They resent waitresses in restaurants who treat blind customers as if they were nonexistent and ask others at the table what the blind person wants to eat. They want people to understand that they prefer being taken by the arm than taking the arm of those who guide them. They resent service organizations for the blind that insist on lengthy training programs, when all they might want is instruction in Braille. They resent the lack of job placements by those agencies and the low wages paid for some of their own industries. Most, perhaps, they resent being identified as blind, as if that were all they were. For example, the sculptor, Lucille Spiro-Smith, says her exhibitions are always billed as those of a blind person, rather than those of an artist whose, works are 'of general interest. But these are not bitter people. In fact, they are pleased with themselves and the lives they have lived. One is intrigued by the variety of means they use to cope with the sighted world. Some use guide dogs, all use canes, sounds, and occasional helpful people. It is' unfortunate that this book and most like it say little about the thousands of blind people who are not as extraordinarily talented as these ten men and women. They have succeeded in a sighted world, while thousands of other sightless persons cannot overcome all of the handicaps placed upon them in a world where most people can see. ·Perhaps this book will help the nation know more about blindness and its effects on the people who face it. Knowing might lead to a more tolerant sighted world and a more humane environment for those who lack the capacity to see, that most significant of senses. Leon H. Ginsberg Dr. Ginsberg is dean of the school of social work at West Virginia University. ma of that event. The real power, however, lies in the littte-focused- upon truth that people from Parthia, Mesopotamia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Judea and other various places were able to make connection with each other. Real power lies in connection, established communication, privileged entree. Therein lies the Rockefeller power around the world. Secondly, real power has the capability of producing a hybrid product that can act as an extension of its own life source. Kissinger comes to us out of the Rockefeller pea patch and need any more be said about that? Thirdly, there is the subject of the inherent guilt produced by the acquisiton of wealth and power. Ironically enough, power has this monkey on its .back named "guilty." Each Rockefeller wrestles with the shame of inheritance. Nelson's real power and success lies in the fact that of all the family he alone is able to win this battle. The authors write: "Nelson was a paradox; of all the brothers, he was most in touch with his impulses and desires and least affected by the guilt that seemed as much a part of being a Rockefeller as the money." The filial observation about power must center on the irony of its unleashed force. Power, let loose, has a strange habit of coming back upon itself, in boomerang fashion, to swat itself in the head. The very philanthropic foundations created by the Rockefeller family were destined to come beating on the mansion door protesting the benefactor. . Laurance involved with environmental concerns (while Rockefeller investment went to nuclear energy) was responsible for funding environmental groups (who would later challenge nuclear energy plants). ' ; ' · Funding Union Seminary in New York, the Rockefeller family would later reap a strange return on its investment. Union would have, through its faculty member Reinhold Niebuhr, a radical influence on Steven Rockefeller in his challenge of the Rockefeller myth. The final section of the book deals with "The Cousins," the children of the five powerful Rockefellers . This section will be; of interest to West Virginians because we find Jay here. ,A reading will assist us in discovering more about the man eager to be our next governor. Most important in the last section is the story of Marlon, Steven and Ahby and all the other children who are no longer wearing the myth but have chosen to cast it off. The section at the end of the book by Steven is full of excellent quotes, the last of. which reads "The dynasty stuff -- that's all finished.' The authors conclude, "The Rpckfeller dynasty ends neither with a bang or a whimper, but with a shrug and a smile."'. This book is not the complete story. How could it be since there are papers and letters still unavailable within the Rockfeller estate. The book does contain more than 200 hours of interviews with "The Cousins" and a magnificent reliance upon innumerable resources. Despite the fact that the dynamics of Watergate are neglected as well as the interplay between Nelson and Robert Kennedy in New York, this is a great book, an important book. Rev. James Lewis Mr. Lewis is rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, Charleston.

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