Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 27, 1975 · Page 56
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 56

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 27, 1975
Page 56
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Otherwise.. Tom Fesperman A M * By Tom Fesperman AMA was meeting in Loss Vegas, a Middle American town in lower Nevada. Diana and I attended. The AMA is the American Masochists Assn. An American masochist is one who gets his kicks out ot being offended, insulted, mistreated, mugged by chrome one-armed monsters glutted with cherries, k lemons, watermelons. Our AMA holds it annual year-long convention in Loss Vegas (they spell it Las on billboards to make it look un-American) because we know the odds will be against us. A Masochist Meets His Loss Vegas Fate If we switched to another town, where some odds may favor us, then we'd be up the widely-known creek, wouldn't we? The meeting is well attended this year. With reason. In our home villages we have been slapped with hidden taxes, burglarized, re-zoned, sideswiped, and heard prophets predict we won't make it to the Bicentennial. This has whetted our appetitles. So, mouths watering over the taste of crow pie, we head across the hot sands, past the pleading arms of Joshua trees, so we can get the full pie in the face. All goes well. We go to dumpy motels, shrinking satellites of marble Strip palaces. Clerks, faces cast in ivory, eyes focused on something beyond us, tell of no vacancies. More alert masochists have beaten us to rooms where the lamps are bulbless, the bath towels smaller than napkins. This improves our appetite. Near the Strip's end we find a room. It looks out on a horse corral. It has a queen-sized bed, designed for the queen of the Lilliputians. All is going fine. We go to a casino. We study the chrome monsters. Some eat quarters, some eat dimes. Others are nickel nibblers. We pick the nickel nibblers. It takes twice as long to lose one's future security in them as in dime swallowers, and we want to prolong the exquisite feeling of loss. The cherries, lemons and watermelons roll by. Our nickels disappear with marvelous regularity. It is like feeding peanuts to orangutans. We tremble in ecstasy at the creeping bankruptcy. Suddenly three chocolate bars line up on my mugger. It begins to regurgitate nickels. The trough fills with nickels. Lights flash. A floor man comes up. The casino owes me $20 more than the hundreds of regurgitated nickels. He hands me the money. The total is $60. A feeling of disaster overwhelms me. It is a violation of the bylaws. I will be thrown out of the AMA. The thought of excommunication is too much. Who wants to wander the wilderness alone, past the pleading arms of Joshua trees? I step up my pace, in panic. I turn to the chrome mugger, whisper an obscenity to it, and shove the nickels back in. Finally, they're all gone. I sigh. I am my old self again. Whatever the Secret, It Works for Chinese By Will Grimsley PEKING (AP)-Two young Americans struggled clumsily with chop sticks in the second floor dining room of the modernistic Peking Hotel and groped for an insight to this vast country of 900 million people-one-fourth of the world's population. "They are beautiful," said Terry Porter, 23, of Wharton, Tex. "They don't have much by our standards but they all seem happy. If I didn't have some problems to clear up back home, I wouldn't mind living here for a while." "But their life is so drab," said Roland Carter, 28, of Houston. "They all dress alike, the men and women both, with those blue and gray Mao jackets. They are pleasant enough but they seem so programmed. There seems to be no individuality or incentive to their lives." Here were two men of similar cultures from the same Texas--and with a common competitive aim--to pole vault in the 1976 Olympics. They spent two weeks getting a close look at the People's Republic of China, but they saw through different eyes. · "ACHIEVEMENT IS THE NAME of the game in this world," Carter argued; "I am reading a book about that. Man was put on earth to strive and achieve. 1 admire what the Chinese have done for the people generally but I think their lives are too patent. They are denied enterprise. All their efforts are funneled into the state." "But," interceded Porter. "They have managed to keep 900 million people fed and clothed. That's something in itself when you consider how many people are starving in India and Africa and idle in the big Western countries like Britain and the United States." Such discussions have been commonplace among Americans who have visited China this year. They certainly were among the 94 Americans--64 members of a track and field team, coaches, managers, physicians and other official personnel--who visited Canton, Shanghai and Peking recently at the invitation of the Chinese. Almost unanimously, the visitors were impressed by what they saw--masses turning red clay beds into green farmlands, once rusting factories into bustling enterprises, and cities which once reeked with dope peddlers and prostitution into metropolises of respectability. "I can't get over how friendly everyone is," said Jane Frederick of Goleta, Calif., a high jumper whose father is a retired professor of political science at the University of California. It's so different than the trip we made to the Soviet Union. The people there seemed so grim. I notice so many children playing in the streets here. I never saw that in Russia." Others who had made similar trips to Russia were struck by the sharp contrast in the receptions. "There was no intermingling with the Russians," said Frank Medina, a trainer from Austin, Tex., "The Russians were ill at ease. They kept their distance. The reception was very stiff." *· THE AMERICANS FOUND an absence of red tape and a seemingly genuine warmth and hospitality in all of the three cities they visited. People lined the sidewalks and formed human corridors outside the stadiums, smiling and clapping as the visitors entered and disembarked from their buses. Never during the trip did the Americans experience a feeling of being under surveillance. Army men, in their loose-fitting green uniforms, could be seen strolling the streets but few wore guns'. They never presented themselves as a barrier, not even at the border where the group changed from a Hong Kong train to a clean, air- conditioned streamliner for Canton. The train was crowded with Chinese, some of them families, returning from Hong Kong. "They have been to Hong Kong on business or to see family or friends," one of the Chinese welcoming delegation said, as if there was little restriction on passage in and out of the country. This was doubted. As the train rumbled along toward humid, subtropical Canton, passengers looked out upon acres and acres of beautifully terraced farmland, tilled by countless workers in broad-brimmed straw hats. "Do you have many cows?" an American asked one of the Chinese delegation. "No, only many water buffalo," came the reply. "Water buffalo not only are beasts of burden but the main source of milk. The milk is much sweeter than cow's milk." The Americans chose not to drink milk, on the fortnight's visit. An American schoolgirl, who had been Sunday Gazette-Mail Charleston, B . I n . , July 27, 1975 Page 3E studying Chinese history, asked if it were true that the Chinese buried their dead vertically instead of horizontally to conserve burial space. This amused one of the Chinese interpreters. » "NOT TRUE," he said,. "You see, we have no organized religion in the People's Republic. We do not believe in it. We cremate our dead." Feeling that this answer possibly opened the door to another unexplored avenue, the Chinese man added. "That is not to say we do not permit religion. There are various sects in the People's Republic -- Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Confucians, all a small minority. They are permitted to worship as they wish." In Canton, a city of 2.5 million, the visitors were astounded to see the main streets swarming with bicycles, thousands of them as thick as ants. They appeared to have right-of-way over the few buses and automobiles, which moved slowly through the morass only be- f cause the drivers kept their thumbs on * constantly honking horns. "Did you ever hear of noise pollution?" an American asked one of his Chinese guides. If the sly dig hit home, the guide gave not the slightest indication of it. "There are 500,000 bicycles in Canton -one for about every five people," he ex- plained politely. "It is our main means of transportation. No one is allowed to own an automobile -- only the government for official business and taxicabs." For the Chinese, a shiny bike is like an automobile to an American. A good one costs $75, about twice the average monthly salary of a worker or farmer. Hundreds of the bicycles are parked at shopping centers or at the big stadiums where athletic events take place. "Lock them? No, there is no need to lock them," the guide replied to an obvious question. "No one would ever think of riding away on another's bicycle." CHINA PRIDES ITSELF on the absence of crime. One sees no beggars or derelicts on the streets. During their two weeks in the country, the Americans saw thousands of Chinese but never a drunken or disorderly person. Shanghai once was the sin capital of the Orient. Dens of iniquity beckoned sailors and vagabonds. Prostitution thrived. Slave peddlers, dope merchants and smugglers operated openly. Today, the city of 10 million is one of the cleanest and most sophisticated in the world. The U. S. entourage visited a kindergarten school in Shanghai where deaf and mute children of preschool age were being treated with acupuncture. Nurses with the long, sharp needles entered the room and signaled to the tykes to put their heads over their desks. They responded in unison. Then the needles were applied. There wasn't a single whimper. "This treatment has been successful in about 80 per cent of the cases," a physician explained through an interpreter. Later the visitors were to witness a singing performance by some of those who had been cured. As Chinese officials haul their guests by bus to various points of interest -- a model commune, a factory, a children's palace, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall -they follow a fixed routine. "They Are Beautiful People," U.S. Track Man Says Terry Porter Attracted to Chinese in Canton Tse-tung. First, the guests are brought into a large reception room and are seated at long tables with cups of green tea and small packages of cigarettes in front of them. Then, through an interpreter, the director of the particular project explains how the common people are abused by the land barons and rich owners before the revolution. Finally, he relates the great changes that have been made by Chairman Mao ALWAYS A GIANT PICTURE of the chairman, with a mole on his chin, looks down from one of the walls. On an opposite wall hang side-by-side pictures of Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin, the father and one of the chief exponents of communism. The Chinese continue to honor Stalin although the Russians refer to him as "a comrade who lost his mission." One of the visits was to a special school for unusually talented children. These institutions are called Children's Palaces and the students are chosen for concentrated attention after exhibiting extraordinary skills in the arts or sciences. The h a n d - p i c k e d children, ages 6 through 13, wear red bandanas around their necks. They are called "Little Red Soldiers." "These children are told stories of how the people have been persecuted for centuries," the director of one of the Children's A Federal Program That May Work By Neal R. Peirce NEW ORLEANS - The outstanding mayor and bright young professionals who run this Gallic-flavored old river city are turning out to be pioneers in attacking some of the toughest urban problems of the 1970s -- providing competent city management, learning to live with revenue that can cover only a fraction of real needs, and giving citizens a real say in how their neighborhoods are run. The leadership of Mayor Moon Landrieu and the management reforms he instituted are central to New Orleans' success. But a vital new impetus is the way the city has seized on the block grants it receives under the 1S74 Federal Housing and Community Development Act to develop a priority-setting system, with full citizen input, to decide which city and neighborhood problems should be addressed first. *· THE AIM OF THE 1974 bill was to take from federal and local bureaucrats, who are elected by no one and responsible to the public in only the vaguest way, the power to make decisions that can spell an^thing from prosperity to destruction for city neighborhoods. A plethora of so-called "categorical" federal aid programs, in such fields as urban renewal and model cities, were abolished. In their place, elected officials in cities and big urban counties were invited to make a single application for an annual community development grant, equal to or greater "than what they got under the old programs. Under broad guidelines, they can use the money as they see fit, in projects ranging from neighborhood parks to low-interest home improvement loans. There's a requirement for full citizen input before mayors and councils decide which projects to fund. In effect, that puts a heavy onus on local politicians to achieve broad consensus on how they'll divided the money between neighborhoods and projects. The Community Development Act is still in its early, experimental stage. But if the New Orleans experience is any guide -- and reports from a number of other cities indicate it may be -- it could have a profound effect op urban America. Culturally, New Orleans has always been a place to set apart. Mardi Gras and jazzjf rench Quarter and Garden District, a gumbo-melange of French, Spanish, African, Italian. Central American and Eng- lish ancestry - they all make up, as civic leader Helen Mervis puts it, "a fantastically strange town/' In another sense, New Orleans is typically American. The corrupt old political machine that ruled the city for generations has passed into oblivion. A "do-little" city government that traditionally disregarded the needs of its poorer citizens finds itself immersed in delivering social services -- and fending off citizen demands for more. Moon Landrieu, first elected mayor in 1969 on a reform impulse, (and heavj black support), averted fiscal disaster ir his first years as mayor through properh tax reforms, getting more state aid and taxes, and most importantly, by obtaining a dramatic increase in federal aid. The narrowly defined, "categorical' federal aid programs of the late "60s anc early "70s created havoc with sound ad ministration, however. There were massive amounts of redtape in grant applications. Federal programs written for all cities often failed to fit New Orleans needs very well. But the "biggest problem" according U Landrieu, "was our lack of a comprehen sive planning and management capacity." Thns in 1972. New Orleans engaged a national management consulting firm to design a modern management scheme tc clarify lines of authority among city hall officials. Anthony Gagliano, the former Loyols medieval scholar who is Landrieu's executive assistant for policy planning and ad ministration, says the management reforms proved a godsend when Congress passed the 1974 Community Development Act. New Orleans' first-year allotment was only $14.8 million and presented whai Gagliano terms "a terrible political anc economic problem -- how to satisfy the legitimate demands of the deprived Mode' Cities neighborhoods for programs prom ised them through the old categorical pro grams, and at the same time address th other neighborhood concerns in a city half of whose neighborhoods are poor?'" · NEW ORLEANS' solution had twc thrusts. First, the mayor's policy plannin§ staff, headed by Emmett Moten, a brilliant black administrator, used census data and other indicators to develop an "urban blight index." This made it possible to rank neighborhoods on the basis ot comparative need, and led to the eventua; selection of 20 of New Orleans" 62 neigh borhoods for community development aid Simultaneously. Landrieu and his aides eisbarked on an extensive set of citywide aiw neighborhood hearings, to explain the whole process and receive citizen feed back. Through the hearings, citizens began to get some idea of the immense restraints under which the city operates, and the need to address most pressing problems first. The New Orleans plan allocates monej for a carefully chosen list of projects in recreation, housing rehabilitation, neighborhood health clinics and multiservice centers, trash removal, street improvement and beautification. Politically, it's feasible because at least some of the blighted areas selected fall into each councilman's district. The exciting breakthrough in New Orleans, though, is that consensus could be formed about a city's most pressing neighborhoods needs through diligent research, careful political homework, and government operating in the sunshine of public participation and scrutiny. Landrieu is now considering applying the same process to the entire city budget. The scale of the community development program ($8.6 billion in three years) is not enough to make much of a dent on the cities' vast reservoir of unmet physical and social needs. But if the program can foster a response as creative as New Orleans' in a broad number of cities, it ny one day be hailed as one of the most constructive pieces of urban legislation ever passed. Palaces in Shanghai said. "They are taught about the revolution. They are disciplined to become activists in the revolutionary movement so that they may return to their regular schools and make other activists." There were 800 in this particular school. They were cordoned off into separate school rooms according to their particular skills. Some played the violin, others performed in an orchestra. Another group sang and danced, still another became versed in the theater. Some made model airplanes, some model ships, some tinkered with computers and electronics. However, they presented a contradiction. Almost from birth, the Chinese child is drilled not to be selfish, to share with playmates, to be friendly and not to strive for superiority. Yet in the Children's Palace there are obstacle courses and games with a premium on skill and strength. Disappointment showed in the faces of youngsters who were outshone by fellow students. A thread of militancy runs through China's doctrine of friendliness, selflessness and honesty. When a Chinese youth finishes middle school-equivalent to American high school -- he or she must work in a factory or go to a farm for two years before entering upon a career. "The purpose is to avoid the establishment of an urban class,'' a Chinese spokesman explained. EVEN UNIVERSITY STUDENTS and professors are required to do farm and factory work periodically lest they grow fat and contented--losing concern for the ordinary worker--in their citadels of learning. At Tsing Hua University in Peking, the Americans met a little electronics professor named Dr. Tung Shih Pai who had earned a Ph.D. at the University of Illinois in three years and had taught at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute before returning to China in 1955. An old Dodger fan. he was distressed to learn of the death of Jackie Robinson and the demise of Ebbets Field. He was anxious to hear about New York's teeming subways and fender-scraping ta)icabs. Someone remarked that it was marvel- ouus that the professor could attain a Ph.D in three years. "That is easy." he replied solemnly, "Learning the truth is hard." He did not elaborate. g. Then an American asked him if he |jhought capitalism and comm^sm could 'ever be compatible. ( "History will tell." he said.

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