THE LIBERAL ARTS AT LUTHER COLLEGE
LUTHER COLLEGE, DECORAH, IOWA
A young Norwegian woman sails around the world 100 years ago
THE LIBERAL ARTS AT LUTHER COLLEGE
Martin Klammer, editor
FALL 2016 VOLUME 29 NUMBER 1
Judy K. Boese, production editor
Agora, an interdisciplinary journal grounded in the humanities, is a project of the Luther College Paideia Program. Paideia consists of many activities and opportunities, including a three-course interdisciplinary core curriculum; performances and events, including an annual lecture series; library acquisitions; student writing services; networked computer classrooms; and a faculty development program that includes sabbatical grants and summer workshops. All these activities receive support from the Paideia Endowment, originally established through National Endowment for the Humanities grants matched by friends of Luther College. To see the current issue and archival issues on-line, go to <http://www. luther.edu/paideia/agora>. The primary Agora contributors are Luther College faculty; writing is also solicited from other college community members and, occasionally, from outside writers. The journal was established in 1988 by then Paideia Director Wilfred F. Bunge, Professor of Religion and Classics. Mark Z. Muggli, Professor of English, was the editor from 1998-2004 and Peter A. Scholl, Professor of English, from 2004-2014. Agora is distributed to five hundred on-campus faculty and administrators and to another five hundred off-campus friends of the college. Anyone wishing to be included on the mailing list should contact the editor. phone: (563) 387-2112 e-mail: email@example.com
Contents In Memoriam Lawrence Williams 1943-2016 Martin Klammer............................................................................................................ 3
Essays: Remarkable Norwegian Women Mormor Sails Around the World: Karoline Saanum’s Sea Journal Nick Preus with translations by Kari Grønningsæter....................................................... 5 Ironies and Surprises: The Legacies of Linka Preus and Elisabeth Koren Gracia Grindal............................................................................................................. 12
Sabbatical Reports Journey to the West, and the Highest: a Reflection on Sustainable Tourism in Tibet Hongmei Yu.................................................................................................................. 20 Wildlife, War, and Rural People in the Borderzone of Southern Mozambique and Southeastern Zimbabwe, 1950-2010 Richard Mtisi............................................................................................................... 24 Creative Possibilities at the Intersection of East and West Xiao Hu....................................................................................................................... 29
2016-17 Paideia Texts and Issues Lecture Series: Who Do You Trust? Civility and Trusting God: Thoughts on Risk and Society Storm Bailey................................................................................................................. 30 Trust in the Commons: On Interdependence and Saving the World Rachel Brummel........................................................................................................... 36
Reflections Decorah in 2050: A Vision for Resilient Sustainable Community Development Craig Mosher................................................................................................................ 42
Cover: Karoline ‘Ninna’ Saanum. Photo submitted by Kari Grønningsæter.
Introduction by MARTIN KLAMMER, Professor of English, Agora Editor
Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and China, respectively. Among these, Richard Mtisi’s report bears directly on the question of whom to trust in the shared responsibility of living together in the commons. Richard writes that in the development of a huge transnational park created by Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa, the local people most affected have largely been left out of the planning process. The result—quite the opposite of what
Study Away—far away—is also the theme of the two essays at the front of this issue. In the first, Nick Preus tells the story of Karoline ‘Ninna’ Saanum, Kari Grønnigsæter’s grandmother ‘mormor,’ who sailed around the world as a 22-year-old with her father Johann, the ship’s captain, more than 100 years ago. In the second, Gracia Grindal writes of the broad educations of the extraordinary women associated with the founding of Luther College—Linka Preus and Elisabeth Koren—as well as of a remarkable Lutheran women’s seminary in Red Wing, Minnesota that flourished briefly in the first decades of the 20th century.
Storm argues for a civility of disinterested inquiry that flows from Christian faith—trust in God—but that regardless of one’s faith convictions civility should also grow out of our commitment to a “morality of public discussion” called for by John Stuart Mill in his 1851 essay On Liberty. Rachel argues that trust in our fellow citizens is not only the right thing but the smart and necessary thing to do if we are to live fully and responsibly in “the commons.” Luther students march with children in Cape Town, South Africa in support of an organization that provides free meals My brief synopses here to the community. hardly do justice to these two fine lectures. But I mean to commend these to you and to thank Storm and Rachel for bringing civility and trust to our public discourse at Luther College. (The rest of our nation should be so lucky!) Craig Mosher’s brief essay at the back of this issue, which he gave as his retirement speech last May, provides a hopeful, even utopian, picture of what life in Decorah could look like if we would trust each other to do the right thing for the common good. Sabbatical reports by Hongmei Yu, Richard Mtisi, and Xiao Hu all testify to the value of ‘study away’: Tibet, 2
Rachel Brummel shows when people trust each other to work for the good of “the commons”—is that the park’s planners “ignore how [the new park] denies access to water, forests, and land to rural populations living inside and adjacent to the park.” Fortunately, such study itself can benefit the commons. Richard hopes that his research leads to a new understanding of the importance of community involvement that can form the basis for “intervention strategies that would benefit not just the wildlife and the camera-wielding tourist, but the poverty-stricken people who live in the area.”
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY MARTIN KLAMMER
fter a tumultuous election that seems to have further divided rather than healed our country, the Paideia Text and Issues lectures by Storm Bailey and Rachel Brummel in this issue feel especially welcome. I leave it to readers to enjoy the intellectual and ethical depth of these two lectureessays on the question of “Who Do You Trust,” but for me each points to ways we can and should live in community, whether that be the college classroom or the national polity.
The women featured in these two essays demonstrate to me the best qualities I have seen in the Luther students I have taken on study abroad courses during J-terms in South Africa—namely, a passionate commitment to service and a life fully engaged in community. Taken together, the ‘Study Away’ essays in this issue illustrate what our mission statement calls “a way of learning that moves us beyond immediate interest and present knowledge into a larger world—an education that disciplines minds and develops whole persons equipped to understand and confront a changing society.” Addendum: We mourn the deaths of A. Thomas Kraabel (1934-2016) and of Russell Ross Rulon (1936-2016), each of whom died this November in Decorah. Tom Kraabel (’56), Qualley Professor of Classics Emeritus, was Vice-President and Dean of the College 1983-1996, then taught until 2000. Russ Rulon (’58), Professor Emeritus of Biology (1963-2000), taught physiology and mentored countless graduates in health-related professions.
Lawrence Williams 1943-2016 by MARTIN KLAMMER, Professor of English
This past July 31 the Luther community lost our dear colleague and friend Lawrence Williams who passed away in Louisville, Kentucky at the age of 72. On October 23, the college held a memorial service for Lawrence in the CFL Recital Hall. Many of Lawrence’s friends and colleagues attended, as did Queen and members of the Williams family who drove up from Louisville, where Queen and Lawrence moved to after his retirement in 2009. The service was a beautiful tribute to Lawrence and a fond recalling of him. Campus pastor Mike Blair officiated. Miles Wilkie read from Psalm 119 and Luke 4, Jackie Wilkie read excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and a student group performed a musical tribute. Phil Reitan and I spoke. Phil offered memories of how Lawrence came to Luther and of his early years here; I shared my memories of almost 20 years of knowing Lawrence as a colleague and friend. I did not think to include my tribute in Agora until Lise Kildegaard encouraged me, saying that the passing of Lawrence Williams was “an important moment in the life of the college.” It is in that spirit that I offer it here.
hen I think of Lawrence, one image that comes to mind is of him walking up Leif Erikson Drive at a steady pace, his shoulder tipped to one side, his leather briefcase tapping a rhythm against his leg. If I passed him in my car he’d wave, and if I caught up to him walking we’d talk all the way to the steps of Koren, and then some. Oh how Lawrence loved to talk! If you needed to get going and told him so, he’d say, “Well, to make a long story short,” and then he’d continue talking. The story would not actually be short, but it would be shorter than the long version. PHOTO BY MILES WILKIE
But this image, so fixed in my mind, of him walking to work is what I think of when I think of Lawrence: a man who was faithful—faithful to his work as professor of Africana Studies and History at Luther College, faithful to his family through the joys and challenges of life, and faithful to his calling as a minister of the Gospel.
When Lawrence came to Luther in the mid-1980s, the African/African-American Studies Department, or AAAS as it was known then, had already gone through a series of ups and downs. Organized in the late 1960s and early 1970s largely in response to African-American students who wanted the college to teach their history and culture, the department began ambitiously with course offerings in political science, economics, and sociology, as well as history and literature. But with declining black enrollments at the college in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and a sort of swinging door of adjunct African-American faculty who taught here briefly then left, the department was compelled to pull back until finally it was built on two strong legs: Dennis Jones teaching African and African-American literature, and Lawrence, with his broad PhD background in American Studies from Iowa as well as his seminary degree, teaching African-American history and courses on the Black Church and the Black Family. At a time when we in higher education are becoming increasingly specialized in our fields, it’s good to remember that Lawrence offered courses in history, African-American studies, religion, and sociology. Lawrence was a popular and well-respected professor. When I first came to Luther in 1991 after the unfortunate passing of Dennis Jones, Lawrence’s courses in African-American history and Martin Luther King Jr. & the Civil Rights Movement routinely enrolled 25 or more students, sometimes up to 40. These days the college is making an effort to increase our studentfaculty ratio to 13 to 1! As I say that, I can almost hear Lawrence laughing that wonderful big laugh of his. Along these lines, in Paideia now some us lecture to the first-year class once a year. Lawrence lectured on the African-American unit five times in three weeks each spring! And he brought to these lectures not only his deep knowledge of African-American history, but also his experiences as an African-American born and raised in the Jim Crow South and as a student activist who was once arrested during the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960s. Let’s not forget, too, that Lawrence single-handedly organized the Martin Luther King Jr. Day lecture each year for the benefit of Luther College and the wider community, bringing in prominent civil rights activists, historians, and ministers—sometimes all three in the same person. In gratitude to Lawrence and Queen for all they did, when Lawrence retired his colleagues and Fall 2016/Agora
former students established a fund in Lawrence and Queen’s names to sponsor this event each year. Our first speaker under this newly endowed fund was yet another first-rate Civil Rights activist, historian, and minister—none other than Lawrence Williams himself ! As you would expect, Lawrence gave a first-rate lecture and was warmly received. I could say much more about Lawrence’s life as a teacher and scholar at Luther College: about his prominent role in Paideia, or his initiation of a J-term Civil Rights travel course that took students to important speakers and sites in the South, or his steady outpouring of scholarship in the form of articles and reference entries over the years. I could mention, too, his mentoring of many African-American and African students for whom he served as a support and role model, or the way he gracefully negotiated his situation as the only tenured African-American professor at an overwhelmingly white college for more than 20 years. But beyond all this, what I think every person at the college who knew him would say is that Lawrence was just a wonderful colleague—a person you could speak with and—yes—listen to, a person with whom to share a laugh or two, a person who could always, always be counted on. What some of you might not know is that during his time at Luther College Lawrence was also pastor of a small Baptist Church in West Union, about 30 miles south of here. Each week Lawrence would write a sermon—I think on Friday nights so he could relax and enjoy his Cincinnati chili and beer on Saturday nights. Queen and he would get up on Sunday morning and drive down in all sorts of weather for the 9:00 a.m. service. The 10-20 congregants, mostly older and all of them white, were grateful to Lawrence for leading them in worship and the Word. The service would open with Lawrence reading the opening Bible passage, Psalm 118:24, which I have come to understand as a motto for how Lawrence and Queen lived their lives: “This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Following the service Lawrence would lead five or six adults in Bible study while the few kids were in Sunday School class in the balcony upstairs. Lawrence and Queen did this week-in, week-out, for more than 20 years. When Lawrence retired, Jackie Wilkie and I gave the tribute at the retirement dinner. I was so grateful it was a team effort, because I knew if I had done it alone—and perhaps Jackie felt this way too—I couldn’t have done Lawrence justice, just as we’re honoring Lawrence with several tributes here today. Now at these retirement dinners the retiree is given the opportunity to give a speech, and most often I’m grateful to hear the story of the retiree’s life at Luther. But sometimes, frankly, a retirement speech can go on a little too long. I wondered, given Lawrence’s joy of talking, just what would he say—and for how long? It didn’t take me long to find out. Lawrence’s speech was one of the most gracious retirement speeches I have ever heard. Instead of talking about his career, of which he might have said many things, he simply thanked the various people at Luther to whom he felt indebted. It was an absolute model of humility and grace. And it showed me, once again, of what was foremost in the heart of Lawrence Williams: Christian love. We miss you, Lawrence.
Mormor Sails Around the World: Karoline Saanum’s Sea Journal
by NICK PREUS, Professor Emeritus of English and Education with translations by KARI GRØNNINGSÆTER, Visiting Instructor in Scandinavian Studies
Svaland’s captain was Johann Saanum, a lifetime veteran of the Norwegian merchant service, sailing out of Kristiansand, but this time his 22-yearold daughter Karoline, known as Ninna, was going along. For the young woman, who had spent her life to that point in the small coastal town, a chance to get away and see the world must have seemed like a wonderful adventure. Kristiansand was small, but it was a seafaring community and hers was a family of sailors. She had heard stories of visits to far away places, and probably had even known some women—wives, sisters, daughters—of captains who had travelled on the full-rigged ships. The voyage with her father must have seemed like a socially acceptable way to have some excitement before settling down to the domestic life that lay ahead of her. There was certainly excitement at sea, but there was also tedium, danger as well as routine. We know this because Ninna kept an epistolary journal of her voyage, and took pictures onboard with her Kodak bellows camera. She recorded her experiences to share with her relatives when she arrived home, but she could hardly have imagined one
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY NICK PREUS
n October 28, 1913, Svaland, a three-masted sailing ship of Norwegian registry, left Søderhamn, Sweden, bound for Australia. The 300-foot vessel was carrying a cargo of Scandinavian timber from the North Sea, down the Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope, and across the Indian Ocean to the subcontinent. The ship was then to return with its load of Australian wheat, across the Pacific, around Cape Horn, and north up the Atlantic to her destination in Britain. The circumnavigation of the globe would take nearly a year. Svaland, a three-masted Norwegian ship which sailed around the world 1913-1914 relative’s response to her account—two generations later. Ninna is Kari’s mormor, or maternal grandmother. Kari, who teaches Norwegian at Luther, is my colleague and her office was down the hall from mine in Main. One day I stopped in and noticed a picture on her wall: a woman in 19th-century dress at the huge wheel of what could only have been a sailing ship. “What is this picture,” I asked Kari. “That’s my grandmother,” she replied. Seeing my expression, she added, “It was taken during her voyage, sailing around the world in 1913-1914 with her father.” I had to know more, and that became a research project that Kari and I are working on, which we hope will contribute to the catalogue of stories of women at sea during the age of sail. In recent years interest has grown in recovering the voices of women who wrote about living and working aboard sailing vessels. These documents, previously overlooked
or unknown, are now beginning to get the attention they deserve from scholars and other maritime writers. Our project—a full translation of the journal with accompanying research and commentary—will make available the story of Mormor’s1 voyage, which occurred exactly as World War I was beginning, and sailing ships were fast becoming an anachronism on increasingly dangerous seas. In addition to her father, there were 24 crew members who were collectively responsible for bringing the cargo safely to Australia. This would have been considered a skeleton crew in years gone by, but by the early 20th century, steel full-rigged ships had been engineered to require fewer hands. According to those who sailed on them however, the size of the crew was often barely sufficient. Profit was the main consideration: fewer crew, larger cargoes, and sailing ships that used no fuel increased owners’ margins. During World War I, Svaland’s owner, The Stray Shipping Company,2 Fall 2016/Agora
saw their sailing fleet bringing in more profits than their steam vessels.3
around the rudderpost were broken. We supposed that this damage happened when we were running before the wind near the Shetland Islands, when we heard a loud bang under the stern.
transit was completed in 70 days from the Lizard, the southernmost point of England, to Newcastle, Australia, a very fast time, and possibly a record for a sailing ship. In Australia they were loaded with 60,000 bags of wheat, and Svaland left Sydney bound for Britain via Cape Horn. Again they ran into heavy weather. Mormor’s journal begins after they have crossed the Pacific and she looks back at the transit they have completed.
Svaland left Sweden and headed across the North Sea, where the ship ran into a tremendous storm that lasted for three weeks. Captain Saanum refers to it as an “orkneyvind” or a hurricane-force storm, and since he was only able to make eight sights with his sextant during the storm, his knowledge of his position was intermittent at best. At one point, off Scotland, they met a steam vessel that offered a tow into port, but the weather was too violent to get the towlines connected. The seas were so high Saanum had to order 20 fathoms [120 feet] of heavy chain trailed off the stern to steady the vessel and oil to be poured on the water to suppress the breaking waves. He writes in his summary to Stray: … 26 November, we tried to get in the lee of land, because the sea was too big, and under the ship’s violent rolling the rig had loosened so much that we feared it would fall onboard. At 4:00 in the afternoon on the same day, our position was North of Unsth [The northernmost island in Britain] … Still storm with hail. High sea and severe rolling. Only when they arrived in Australia did they find how much danger they had been in during the storms. Saanum reports, After we had arrived at the dock, we saw that the bolts in the plate 6
Throughout it all, Mormor was in her bunk below, hanging on. When Kari interviewed her years later for a school project, and asked, “Were you not afraid, Mormor,” she replied, “No, because father was onboard.”
Since we left Australia there has been lots of bad weather, headwind gales, and storms, and sometimes calm sea, but so far our journey has not been very fast. After passing New Zealand, a terrible storm occurred, which destroyed lots of things on the deck, including a kitchen door, and the pots and pans ended up among the albatross, so now the food has to be cooked in buckets and tubs, the cook told me.
Her father, Captain Saanum, was a devout Christian, and in his effects Kari’s family found an unusual flag showing a white dove on a blue background. The flag was flown in port by ships whose masters were members of the Seamen’s Christian Brotherhood, and when it was flown, it signaled that devotions would be held on board for likeminded sailors. No doubt part of Mormor’s confidence in her father was based on his religious faith.
Using buckets might not have actually bothered the cook, whom Mormor describes as “good at keeping himself dirty.” However later two crew came down with dysentery, and one wonders if the hygiene in the galley—or lack of it—was a cause.
But the ship was so damaged in the storm that it had to put in to port for repairs. After the work was completed, Captain Saanum abandoned the North Sea route and headed into the Atlantic through the English Channel.
Flag of Peace We do not have Mormor’s record of the first half of the voyage, but the summary Saanum prepared for the ship’s owner, Stray, gives us details of the stormy beginning, damages to the ship, and eventual arrival in Australia. The
When Svaland finally arrived at the tip of South America, and was preparing to round the Horn, Mormor explains how dark and cold it was:
The captain’s summary understates the peril they were in. In a storm of that magnitude without a rudder, the ship would surely have foundered and been wrecked off the Shetland coast.
We just had a storm and the crew found it really harsh, poor guys. The downstairs looks like a real “Shetlandsmørke” (dark as the Shetlands), so we use a lot of oil. The skylight is almost covered, so that the lounge is as dark as in a cellar, and then … the stove sends out smoke and soot. And in the same entry, Mormor says, “The ship was hardly recognizable. Completely covered with snow! … This morning I was on deck and threw snow balls, ‘snøblegte’ as we say, at Cape Horn.” Then she adds wryly: “It is just as cold as the Norwegian snow.” As it happens the date was June 28, 1914, the day Archduke Ferdinand was
Yesterday afternoon we saw a steamboat, heading the same direction as us. It came closer and we had our flags out to signal that we wanted a report. Then the steamer asks: “Where are you going”? “To Queenstown.” The steamer [replies]: “War is declared—England, France, Russia, Germany, Austria. Be aware of ships looking like ordinary cargo ships, they may be our enemies.” “Thank you,” we said of course, and the steamer wished us a pleasant journey and disappeared. This was our first report from Europe. I was heartbroken. Oh, what a terrible message. Is it really true? Only time will tell. Where are my hopes now? I’ll tell you—they are almost gone. If we just could make it to the harbor with our important cargo. If a ship that is an enemy of the English appears, we will be taken. Norway is probably neutral, so our flag will be respected and we will not be injured, but anybody may take our cargo. This is really too scary. Maybe nothing will come out of this, but as I have said, this is all we know. We just can’t get all this into our heads. If it is true, then there certainly will be massacres in 1914. Think about all of Europe’s powerful countries going to war. It is terrible. Mormor’s fear was justified. Germany quickly declared the Atlantic a war zone and began attacking ships of enemy registry, including cargo ships. Arguments raged over whether this was permissible under international law, the question revolving around the
definition of “contraband.” Cargoes that were of assistance to an enemy could be considered contraband and the ships carrying them be seized or sunk. But did that include cargoes that were destined for humanitarian, civilian use, such as food? Svaland was carrying many tons of wheat to Britain, Germany’s enemy, making her a potential target for its warships, under the German interpretation of “contraband.” A further complication to the contraband issue had to do with ships registered in neutral countries, such as Norway. Could they safely carry non-military cargoes to combatant countries? There was no international agreement on these questions as war broke out. Fortunately for Svaland, Germany did not decide until February, 1915, that its U-boats could attack the slow sailing wheat ships, which it did with particular viciousness.4 Mormor’s brother, who was also a sailor, wrote to their sister, Hanna, from Prince Edward Island about the dangers facing shipping in the Atlantic. Oh Hanna, I would do anything to be able to be with you now during these unstable times … May God keep his protecting hand over our dear old Norway, and over all of you, my dear family. I am thinking about Svaland, which carries our dear father and sister Ninna. All lighthouses are of course black, sea markers are deleted, and floating mines are to be found in the ocean. Oh, I am really scared.
We do not know for sure whether Mormor, or Captain Saanum for that matter, was aware of the extent of the danger as they approached Great Britain. Coastal defenses had extinguished lighthouses and either removed or relocated navigation markers to confuse and destroy the enemy. But Svaland encountered an English ship. Then later on, the same day, an English man o’ war appeared, heading straight toward us and signaled our name. Then it pulled up next to us and a boat was launched, filled with warriors! Their belts equipped with bayonets! They lay next to us and two officers and two sailors came onboard. (I had quickly tidied up the saloon a little bit.) Sure enough, they wanted to take a look at our documents and asked about this and that. One of the officers even went down to take a look at our cargo! There he became aware of the donkey [engine housing] and asked if it was a mine? “Sure,” replied the mate, “it is a German canon!” ( Just kidding, of course). We got lots of news about the war. They told us that this area was safe. At least we would not be captured by the Germans. That is probably true. If we had been an enemy ship, they would have captured us and towed us to England with our valuable cargo, which is especially needed there now. We should look out for mines, they
Mormor and her father,Captain Johann Saanum
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY KARI GRØNNINGSÆTER
assassinated in Sarajevo, the start of World War I, and Svaland was over two months away from her destination in Britain. Between June 28 and August 28, events in Europe cascaded toward war, which was fully declared in Europe by the end of August. On Svaland, Mormor worries about a possible war in Europe, but it is not until they are in the North Atlantic that they ‘speak’ a steamship and find out that the war has begun.
told us, which might be planted in these waters. That is of course impossible to look out for! German ships were patrolling the north Atlantic, and the British navy had shut off entrances to the English channel and the North Sea with vast mine barrages, so it was with considerable trepidation for the safety of Svaland that Mormor and the crew approached Queenstown, Ireland, the first destination for their cargo. Nearing the safety of the harbor, Svaland had to lie offshore. If you could imagine how tired we are of being right outside of Ireland, tacking back and forth toward mainland. At noon we were 4 miles from the Daunt Lightship, which is located near Queenstown harbor. We had the pilot flag out—but neither the pilot nor the pilot boat were to be seen! How awful is that? They can see us struggling and going nowhere! Uff, I am dead tired of this. Once again we are heading toward land and if a pilot does not show up, well, then I do not know what will happen. They made port eventually. We have arrived safe and sound! Oh, you would not believe how happy we are. We finally got a tugboat from near the Lightship. The pilot boat is not allowed to go farther out than the harbor entrance in these times of war, so they may be excused. It is blowing and raining and here is thick fog. The anchors were lowered at 6 pm. Luckily 8
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY KARI GRØNNINGSÆTER
Captain Saanum and Mormor take sights with sextants
we made it in since no one is supposed to approach the dock after sunset. It would have been awful to be left outside the whole night, uffda! Even in port however, the war affects Svaland’s crew. We overheard people talking about us on the tram, assuming we were Germans! Oh, our German, Willi (Bill) was taken this morning and is now in prison. But I do not think they are suffering. There are apparently many. Two of our Australians have been conscripted by the English navy, so they will soon be skipping off the ship. Europe had changed dramatically from the place Mormor had left nearly a year before, and of course her worst fears about the war were to be far exceeded by the events of the next months and years. As for her voyage, seen from the vantage point of the present, Kari and I could imagine Mormor and Svaland, isolated at sea, without communication, totally dependent on the vagaries of the winds, and making at best about 10 knots an hour, while the storm clouds of conflict built to a crisis in Europe, and warships plied the Atlantic. Violent storms and war at sea are staples of maritime literature and they attract many readers; both of these appear in Mormor’s letters. But her journal also contains compelling accounts of the daily routine aboard ship, and reflective moments when Mormor becomes rather lyrical about life at sea.
On Svaland there were two pigs, shipped aboard to supply fresh meat during the voyage, and there was a flock of chickens that provided eggs for the crew. Mormor seems to have had more appreciation for the chickens. The pigs are doing better but they are such abominable creatures. One day, when airing the bed linens, a woolen blanket was blown on the deck, and the pigs tore it in half. They don’t behave! I do not know how many of the crew’s clothes they have “eaten”… On Friday we slaughtered one of [them], so you can imagine that the steward is now making exceptionally good food. So now we are eating like royalty every day, and I eat too much … The hens started laying eggs at Cape Horn, aren’t they clever! … Unfortunately 2 hens died on us. We have no clue why. Another one was taken by a wave a while ago. They are laying lots of eggs, which we often eat. The crew of young men that Mormor sailed with seems to have been a competent and generally content group. Captain Saanum’s regime on board was probably more humane than that of other captains in this tough trade, but it may also be that Mormor’s presence insured better behavior on board. In any case, she enjoyed the crew’s antics, and also felt sympathy for them when their work was exhausting and dangerous. She tried to lighten their spirits, and to do little jobs for them. We see her appreciation for the men in several journal entries. On May 17th we were still not far from Australia and I had some fireworks that we, of course, ignited in the evening. Father contributed a blue light and a distress flare that we had onboard … From the deckhouse we listened to music that we had not heard before. That same evening I thought the marching band of Kristiansand had entered the ship: Violin, flute, harmonica, a marlinspike, and tin can. Boy, were they able to play, they marched around the
The yearning for landfall and arrival in port increases as Svaland sails slowly toward Europe. But it is still a long way off.
I am just so happy. This morning, at 5 am, we passed the two northern-most Azores Islands, Flores and Corvo. Through the porthole, I saw land for the first time in 102 days at sea. Supposedly we were about 20 minutes from land, so we could easily see them. The islands are very high, about 3000 feet. The morning fog was like a veil all over, but I was able to see them. We are having a strong breeze and that gives us all a sense of exhilaration. We are heading home at full speed, and we are not far from our goal.… I long so much for letters and I just wish that the wind would stay for eight more days, then I think we will reach England. That will be a happy day! SUBMITTED BY KARI GRØNNINGSÆTER
Mormor describes the phenomenon of sailing north from the southern hemisphere and for the first time in many months seeing the northern skies. For her, as for many sailors, this
Equator, so now we are going “downhill,” as the boy put it. Yes, I think three boys climbed the mast and lifted “Svaland” over. But I was sleeping … We received the first greeting from home last Wednesday, and that was when The Big Dipper appeared in the sky. Of course I was so happy. The Southern Cross descends a little bit each day. Soon we can say—“goodbye” —to that as well.
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY KARI GRØNNINGSÆTER
deck in honor of May 17th 1914 transit takes the metaphorical form [the 100th anniversary of Syttende of a homecoming, a return to familiar Mai when Norway ratified its celestial landmarks after a long voyage Constitution]. in southern seas. Her description Last Sunday the crew made has a lovely spatial quality in which a terrible noise. They held a sack she provides a sense of Svaland’s race competition and they also moving over the rounded globe. As did a lot of gymnastic exercises they sail north toward the equator, and we doubled up with laughter the constellations of the southern sky watching them. It is so much fun descend and those of the north begin when they are all in a good mood to rise. At the equator the North Star … The [crew] are cheerful. In the appears for the first time on the northern evenings they sing and play on horizon, and this marks for Mormor a the bow of the ship and they are return to her home neighborhood. often having so much fun and making so much noise that the entire ship rocks. Some enormous waves came gushing and foaming over the deck. It is not easy being a sailor when salt water reaches your knees, cold as ice. We are so grateful that everyone is doing fine and staying healthy. I can lie in my bunk and listen to the water foaming above my head, back and forth on the deck, but then I feel anxious for that poor mate who is standing up there, with the bitter end Life on board with chickens and pigs of a rope attached around his waist. … I have been knitting socks for the four younger boys The strangest thing that has in the deckhouse and they all happened on this journey is the were very grateful. fact that we have had two Fridays in one week. That is funny, yet On a sailing vessel, tedium can last for understandable, when you are days when there is no wind, and when doing a circumnavigation. the breeze finally picks up so does the If we keep this wind we’ll mood on deck. soon greet “The Big Dipper” Just think, we are having a strong (“Karlsvognen”) again, and how breeze from the southwest; it fun that will be. It will be, in a just feels like we have entered a way, our first greeting from home. different world. When you have I am so happy because I been in calm waters for so long, almost recognize where we are. and the sun has set into a red and Yesterday morning we passed the cloudless sky every night—that is the sign of no wind, you know— and our moods have been very low, and then all of a sudden the wind appears and moves us two degrees forward, well then we are full of joy.
The journal of Ninna Saanum during her circumnavigation of the globe, 1913-14 Fall 2016/Agora
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY KARI GRØNNINGSÆTER
Captain Saanum and his mates on Svaland Mormor’s time estimate is optimistic since the Azores are about 1400 miles from Britain. Still, they have almost completed their circumnavigation, and Mormor recognizes her new status as a veteran sailor, with, of course, a customary touch of irony in her comments. If we do make it to the Equator, then I will have made a trip around the world, which in fact will make me an efficient deckhand, I think. Well, can I not now claim to be fully experienced since I have completed a circumnavigation of the globe? And now I have proven that the earth is round, if anybody has. But in the end Mormor also seems to be ambivalent about her experience at sea. On the one hand she is aware that the age of sail is really finished, as steamships take over transoceanic trade and heavily armed warships, including U-boats, seek targets to attack. Sailing vessels are too slow, inefficient, and unreliable. On the other hand, Mormor has many moments of appreciation for the beauty of the sea, seen from the deck of a wind-powered ship, and for the process of sailing itself. It is Sunday, just after coffee time. We had fresh kringle with sugar and cinnamon, but even better, we have breeze. The whole morning has been more or 10
less dead calm, and in addition to that, there is the silence of Sunday! Oh my, do you know what? I feel as if I have been transported back to the old days, and am not part of this busy and active year of 1914. Here we have to accept lying around and drifting, waiting for the wind to come, as if we had plenty of time, and today we have been at sea for 87 days. Can you imagine what kind of feelings we have to deal with? The 2nd mate admires my good mood on this long journey but today he did not understand what had happened to me. I looked so melancholy, he told me. Then I had to ask him, you know, if he found that to be strange. If only a letter would come sailing along! To really complete our misery, we saw a steamboat far to leeward. I suppose it is on its way to America, steaming happily along under all its power. Oh! I am so rebellious today. No, sailing ships do not belong to our time. Unfortunately, this month, the trade winds are very unpredictable. We can hardly feel that “Svaland” is moving at all. Quiet and warm, it is burning hot and the sea is a sparkling surface. Not a ship to be seen, so I agree with the mate, it appears that we are the only ones at sea. Isn’t that strange? We meet no one and no
one meets us. No, here is nothing you can rest your eyes on, but this boundless ocean. It is also very quiet onboard, and despite the monotony of creaking and squeaking in these calm winds it all seems very quiet onboard. What could be more boring than this. You have no clue. And yet sailing ships also provide Mormor pleasant times at sea. Mormor recollects a painting that used to hang over the piano in her parlor at home. Today we are having a nice gentle breeze, almost “ladylike.” I wish you were both here when the weather is so good and I am sure you would like it. Birds are rarely seen, but quite a few racing pigeons still follow us.… We are having wonderful clear nights with a full moon. I am thinking of the picture, Mother, “Moonlight at Sea,” yes, that’s exactly what it’s like. It is beautiful to sail in such weather and to be on such a marvelous ship. She comments on the appearance of Svaland when, after rounding the Horn, the crew had replaced the heavy weather sails with its usual ones. “Svaland” is back to its “fine clothing.” I wish we could sail directly to Kristiansand so you could see how majestic it looks, when everything is shining and looks so pretty.… The ocean is white today (which it usually is not), and it splashes on the deck, so that the sail maker who is sitting there sewing, has had to move around the whole ship with his work. I am so happy! But the troubled times also create in Mormor a sense of contrast between the world at war to which she is returning and the vast ocean she has crossed in Svaland. Her tone here is almost elegiac. Think about all of Europe’s powerful countries going to war. It is terrible. We talk, of course, back and forth, but nothing really comes of it. The ocean, “the blue
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY KARI GRØNNINGSÆTER
Mormor at sea, years later
moor,” lies calm and smooth as usual and we have a fine, light wind. The sea appears to her as a highland moor, undulating toward the horizon, blue and endless: the enduring grandeur of nature contrasted with the human world of politics and war. Kari and I wondered if Mormor ever thought about her trip and longed to be at sea again—back on the “blue moor”—or whether this was simply an episode of her youth that especially because of the war was best left behind. Mormor had apparently thought about the possibility: Oh yes, the ocean, the unpredictable ocean. When you are at sea, “a thousand miles from land, a thousand miles from the bottom, and a thousand miles from the shining stars,” as I just read, then you sometimes feel lonesome and lots of thoughts come and go … if it wasn’t for the long journey at sea, I would keep sailing the rest of my life.
oceans. This richness, we think, is a reason to appreciate what she says from the past to her descendants and to us. In Mormor’s words from Cape Horn: Life is quite something. Notes 1. Kari and I refer to her as “Mormor,” even though at the time of her voyage she was only 22 years old. This is how Kari knew her, and for us it brought our two eras closer together: our present and her voyage at the end of the age of sail. 2. Stray had purchased the ship, Scottish Moors, from British owners, and renamed it Svaland.
3. Johnsen, Berit Eide. “Cooperation across the North Sea: The Strategy behind the Purchase of Second-hand British Iron and Steel Sailing Ships by Norwegian Shipowners, 1875-1925.” International Journal of Maritime History, XVII, no. 1, ( June 2005) 155.
4. U-boats typically surfaced near a sailing ship, gave its crew two hours to get off into lifeboats, and torpedoed the ship, leaving the sailors adrift in the ocean. Patriotic postcards from Germany document this practice.
There may be nothing particularly astonishing about Mormor’s voyage or about the journal she wrote, or about the pictures she took. But we think that her writings are a rich evocation of an important moment in history. They weave together the narrative threads of the impending world war, the end of the era of sail, the condition of women at sea, and above all the personal reflections of a young woman whose voice conveys an individual sensibility as she crosses the world’s Fall 2016/Agora
Ironies and Surprises: The Legacies of Linka Preus and Elisabeth Koren by GRACIA GRINDAL, Professor Emerita of Rhetoric, Luther Seminary
The following was given as the featured address October 1 at the Phi Beta Kappa Symposium on the Liberal Arts, presented by the Eta of Iowa Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Gracia Grindal is Professor Emerita of Rhetoric, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, and a former professor of English at Luther College. Her lecture is based on the work she did for her book, Unstoppable: The Norwegian Pioneers Educate their Daughters. MK
Preus, along with their diaries and Linka’s sketch book, it was for me the beginning of a life-long calling. Every summer and most every sabbatical I returned to the study of “my ladies” as I began to call them.
LUTHER COLLEGE ARCHIVES, DECORAH, IA
All of these women were pastors’ wives, trained in Norway for their work here. Most of them were pastors’ daughters. Their educations in Norway had prepared them to run a household of some moment—a parsonage—which was really a farm, or living, with servants, and extended family around them. As they were learning these domestic tasks, they were also being educated in the finer arts as well, preparing to take their place as refined ladies as wives and mothers in their own homes. This meant they were also being trained to be teachers of their children, especially their daughters.
The Nils Brandt family outside the campus parsonage, which is now Campus House, home of the Communications Studies department 12
Over the years, the Lutheran parsonage tradition had developed from the lives of Martin and Katie Luther. Their example as the most famous pastor and wife in the Lutheran tradition became the model for
COURTESY OF THE NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION, NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA
irst of all, thanks to Wilfred Bunge and the Phi Beta Kappa chapter for inviting me to give this first lecture in what will become a distinguished series. It is a great honor and I am grateful to be able to share with you the culmination of my study of the Luther College tradition which began over forty years ago. Corinne Nelson, then working for Development, asked me to help find materials in the archives that would help celebrate the 125th anniversary of the college. When I discovered the riches there, the troves of letters between the pastors’ wives, especially Elisabeth Koren and Linka
Linka Preus Lutheran parsonage dwellers from that time. Katie provided a helpful model for succeeding Lutheran pastors’ wives. She had to farm to provide food for the family and the many guests who appeared at their home. In addition, she provided medical care and herbal medicines from her garden as the convent where she lived had done and which people expected pastors’ wives to know as well. She also had to help her husband teach the children the faith, their hymns, Scripture and catechism. Finally, she provided Luther a colleague the likes of which he had never imagined. Although theirs was not a great love story at the beginning, they grew to love each other and enjoy their different and complementary personalities. Norwegian Lutheran parsonages took their example seriously. We can see it in the diaries of both Linka Preus and Elisabeth Koren, whose early lives as pastors’ wives were much taken up with
The Home School When Linka Preus (1832-1880) announced that she was going to be a pastor’s wife, she knew exactly what that meant. For her it was the family vocation. Her father Christian Keyser (1798-1846) had been a pastor before he became a theological professor in Christiania in 1840. Her grandfather, Johan Michael Keyser (1749-1810), was also a pastor and later bishop in Kristiansand. Linka had received a good primary education at a local school when her grandmother, Doris Carlsen (1783-1853), took over Linka’s education after her mother, Agnes Louise Carlsen (1799-1840), died. Linka’s grandmother made sure the young girl began learning the languages she needed to know: German, French, and English. She provided for her education in the other arts necessary for a lady to know: fine handiwork— knitting, tatting, embroidery; sketching or drawing, something her mother, father, uncles and others helped her to learn; music, especially playing the piano, and singing; reading the literature of Europe in the original languages; drama, history, geography, the Bible, the catechism, and hymnody. Like many Norwegian pastors’ daughters, when she reached puberty she was sent to her aunt, Rosa Christie (1815-1898) in Askevold, a small town north of Bergen. For Linka this was especially necessary given the untimely death of her mother, but it was also the tradition of these families. Just when the tensions between mother and daughter grew most intense, they would send the young girl off to live with her aunt and uncle, usually in another parsonage. There she would
learn more domestic skills, especially the management of the household, further her education with her aunt and uncle in the finer things, and also be prepared to be catechized and confirmed by her uncle. During this time of instruction, she would also help her aunt by caring for the children as well. In doing this she would learn to teach and be prepared for the time she became a mother. In addition, she might also meet her future husband who could well be a vicar for the pastor during that time. In 1845 at age 13, Linka left her family in Christiania for her aunt and uncle’s parsonage in Askevold. The first task Linka was given by her aunt after she arrived was to grind the meat for hamburger. How much of the process of butchering she participated in at that time she does not tell us, but later in a drawing she makes clear that as pastor’s wife she would not be spared any part of the process. In order to manage a household, she had to learn how to butcher and preserve the meat of any animal. In 1863 she sketched a humorous scene of her and the governess and good friend of the family, Henriette Neuberg (1840-1879), themselves cleaning the intestines during the slaughter. Her education in her grandmother’s and her aunt’s home had prepared her for such work in the new world. Without these skills, she and her family would never have survived
on the much more primitive frontier in Wisconsin. In like manner she had also been taught to educate her children in what we would call a home school. Her sketch (p. 14) shows many of the complications of such an effort, as any one-room school teacher or home schooling mother would know. While the room is filled with women doing handiwork of a variety of kinds and she is spinning wool at her spinning wheel, she is also teaching her children at their different levels: Rosina is learning world history, which she despairs of; Anga is doing her sums; and J.W. (Doktor) is learning the fourth commandment, Honor Thy Father and Mother. It is a nice dramatic touch—the little boy at his mother’s feet learning the commandment most salient to the scene. Linka’s contemporary and good friend Elisabeth Koren was similarly valued as a teacher-mother, as we see in this poetic tribute to her by husband Vilhelm on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary: I see in my mind, when they were all still small, You bore one in your arms, another at your breast. And when they soon were older and we wondered what was best. What we should do to teach,
Linka Preus's 1863 sketch of herself, left, and Henriette Neuberg cleaning animal intestines Fall 2016/Agora
LUTHER COLLEGE ARCHIVES, DECORAH, IA
housekeeping and raising and teaching their children. My focus will be on the education that they received and learned to give to their children, especially their daughters, as they grew up, culminating in the acceptance of co-education at Luther College in 1936.
to which school they would go, Your love, it found the answer—I’ll teach them all myself. It is like a fairy tale to think of how you did, You gave them all your time, and you offered them your strength. A better faithful teacher has never yet been found, One sat upon your lap, the other on the floor, And tried to find out whether his little wooden horse Could stand on only three legs. Two studied German, yes, and English, one learned the alphabet, And one learned to your joy that two and three were five, But first of all you taught them to know their Lord.
The Parlor As the children approached puberty, the boys were sent off to school to learn Latin and Greek and other languages and subjects necessary to their further work at seminary. Luther College was the school the Norwegians established in this country to educate their boys which Latin schools in Norway had done for centuries. Hermann 14
Preus’s father, Paul Arctander Preus (1779-1867), was the rector at the Cathedral school in Christiansand where Hermann and Laur Larsen, future president of Luther College, also attended. As they had in Norway, the girls would continue their educations in the evenings in the parlor as the extended family and others living in the home sat around reading and writing letters, learning languages, singing together, practicing piano, guitar, etc. Each young student could get help from an aunt or uncle, cousin, or other adult in the family. Even in the New World where the families were more separated than they had been in Norway, the girls would be sent to an aunt or good friend of the mother’s for further education in housekeeping and the finer arts. Christiane Ottesen Hjort (1833-1873) in Paint Creek was the most sought after “aunt” to teach the girls, especially in music. Christiane and her formidable double cousin Diderikke Ottesen Brandt (1827-1885) had both attended the school in Christiansfeld, Denmark. Established by the Moravians, who believed that if one taught a girl one ended up teaching an entire family, Christiansfeld continued the courses the girls had begun to study at home: languages, literature, history, geography, the Bible, Luther’s Small Catechism,
LUTHER COLLEGE ARCHIVES, DECORAH, IA
Linka Preus’s sketch of the complications of the one-room school
music, drawing, handiwork and other fine arts. Living together in small “choirs” they developed conversational and writing skills in German, especially, but also French. They listened to great literature and music as they worked together on their various kinds of handiwork. The list of students shows that many daughters of the leaders in Norway studied here and made friends for life. This school was a model for both Christiane and Diderikke when they were talking about further schooling for their daughters on the frontier. Those who had not gone to Christiansfeld, women like Linka, saw at first hand the development of another school in Christiania: the Nissen School for Girls, which was opened in 1849. Hermann Preus taught there while finishing university and awaiting a call. He was also engaged to teach Linka’s younger sisters. Linka’s uncles, Rudolph Keyser (1802-1864) and Fredrik Wilhelm (1815-1901), watched closely the education of their fatherless nieces and made sure they received good educations. No doubt Linka and Hermann spoke frequently with the family about the kind of education the girls received at the Nissen School for Girls, the first of its kind in Norway. Nissen wanted the girls to receive essentially the same education as the boys, excepting Latin and Greek, so they could converse with their husbands and teach their sons and daughters as they grew up. Hartvig Nissen was an innovator who had picked up the best ideas of education in Denmark. Norway, like many countries in Europe at the time, was exploring and debating the kind of education its own children should receive. Nationalism, especially the search for a usable past throughout Europe and especially Norway, made the question especially pressing for the small country. How much of their own culture should students learn? What languages should they know? Should they study stories from classical antiquity or the myths of the Old Norse gods and goddesses? Nicolai Frederick Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872) in Denmark had argued that teaching
the stories and language of Greece and Latin were the “schools of death.” The “schools for life” were those that taught the Nordic language and traditions. These ideas were the genesis of the folk high school movement which thrived in both Denmark and Norway for the next century. The Luther College curriculum included these ideas when it offered Old Norse as one of its many languages. Nissen’s school for girls granted an Examen Artium (something like the Associate of Arts degree), the first school to do so for girls in Norway. Nissen was a typical man of his day and shared some of Rousseau’s thoughts on women’s education. As Sophie in Rousseaus’ book Emile existed to make Emile’s life more pleasant, so did the girls Nissen educated. For that reason, the girls should be taught almost everything the boys were with the exception of the ancient languages. They needed to know what the men knew to be good partners at home and to help raise their own sons and daughters to know these things as well. This was good for the girls as far as subject matter went. Nissen wanted all the students to know what their culture was, the geography of their country, its literature, and its culture. Once as Linka was lamenting that her education had not been all that it could have been, she echoed Nissen’s idea that women should know their history: “Won’t it be useful for a woman to know something about the world, its past and present history, about human beings, their customs through different times, etc., etc.”1
institution equal to the education their sons were receiving at the college. In November 1872, Rosina Preus, Linka’s older daughter, was in Decorah studying music and French with some of the college teachers, privately. The Larsen girls lived there with their parents in the college building. Margrethe Brandt lived in the Brandt parsonage on campus. The Koren girls, Henriette and Caroline, lived a few miles from the college with their parents Vilhelm and Elisabeth at the Washington Prairie parsonage. Lulla Hjort was there, too, in order to further her studies, but these were individual arrangements. Then, on a Sunday night, as the Korens were enjoying the late evening together, fire broke out in the parsonage. They barely got the family out alive. Farmers came to help when they saw the blaze, but to no avail. With few warm clothes, they drove into Decorah and took up residence in the apartments in the main college building. Now, as Mrs. Koren and Mrs. Brandt, with their children and spouses around them, sat in the parlor sewing and talking together, they began wondering what they could do for their daughters’ education. Mrs. Koren’s father had been the rector of the school in Larvik and had asked the teachers there to teach his daughter courses she wanted
to take. She very likely remembered that. Together they realized they had a wonderful opportunity for their daughters: they were a group of about ten—the teachers at the college who were teaching the boys might be persuaded to teach their daughters classes they needed, rather like the curriculum at Christiansfeld or Nissen. How they persuaded the very busy professors—Jacobsen, Siewers, Landmark, Brandt, and Larsen—who were already teaching twenty hours a week to do so is not clear from the records. But very soon—as early as mid-December before the Christmas holiday—their daughters were in a class together taking world history, English composition, French, Norwegian— many of the courses they had studied in the parlor, but now with regular teachers at a school. They came to call themselves Comitia Dumriana—assembly of the silly fair ones. For the next two years, until the spring of 1874, these young women lived together, studied and played together, apart from the boys. Elisabeth Koren wrote many letters to Linka, Rosina’s mother, describing the lives of the young women. In many ways what their life together resembled was the parlor system writ large. The girls all took the same courses and studied
As their daughters approached puberty, the pastors’ wives in the Luther College community began wondering what further education their daughters could receive that matched what they might have gotten at the Nissen School or Christiansfeld. Most of their daughters would return to Norway to stay with their aunts or grandmothers for some time, like their mothers had. Now in the New Land, in an increasingly better time for women’s education, their mothers knew their daughters needed a more formal education. They had no
LUTHER COLLEGE ARCHIVES, DECORAH, IA
Luther Faculty 1869. Standing: Friedrich A. Schmidt, Nils Brandt, seated : Gabriel Landmark, Lyder Siewers, Knut A. Bergh, Laur. Larsen Fall 2016/Agora
together in the same room in the evening. They all experienced the same devotions and, as H.B. Thorgrimson wrote later in his memoirs, it was in the parsonage parlor of the Brandt’s that many of the students learned what a cultivated pastor’s life and home was like, and how parsonage life was to be lived. Evening devotions made a particular impression on Thorgrimson, who thought that here one experienced the best of Norwegian American parsonage life.2 One sees in these descriptions how fundamental music, especially the piano, was to the development of the young girls. Lulla Hjort, Rosina Preus and her sister, Anga, all went on to study further in Milwaukee with a piano teacher before they married.
Red Wing Lutheran Ladies Seminary Some time in the 1870s, when his daughter Rosina was studying at the college, Hermann Preus made the proposal that there should be a girls’ school built in Red Wing. What he had in mind, exactly, he did not explain, but when he said “girls’ school” (pige skole), he and his audience had some idea what he was talking about. Given his teaching experience at Nissen Girls’ School, one could easily see that he wanted such a school for his daughters and the other daughters of the pastors in the Norwegian Synod. It is tempting to wonder what incentive he had acquired because of the efforts of Bernt Julius Muus (1832-1900) to build a school in Northfield that would educate both boys and girls. This would directly compete with Luther College. Preus was not one to miss such a challenge. While Luther served the boys of the synod, Muus had seen a real opportunity in the need for girls to be educated as well. Because Luther had been designed to be a prep school for pastors, coeducation had not crossed the minds of the leaders at the college. This was not because they were against women getting higher educations. Because of their tradition of single sex education in Norway, and their sense, implicit, and not fully expressed, that the Latin 16
school prepared boys to be men in a way that had been the pattern since GrecoRoman times, they naturally thought in terms of single sex schools. Walter Ong in his book Rhetoric, Romance and Technology argues that such an education for the young boys moved them from the family to the tribe, and prepared them for leadership in “the extra-familial world in which they would live.”3 The 1870s were relatively placid in the life of the churches. The Norwegian Synod, the largest of Norwegian Lutheran churches in America, was doing very well. In December 1874, it dedicated the south wing of the Main building at the college. This work took much effort and many of the resources of the young church. In 1876, the church opened a seminary in Madison, Wisconsin. The leaders, now in robust middle age, had every reason to feel proud of their accomplishments. The beginning of the 1880s, however, brought strident theological disagreements into their midst. Among many of the great conflicts, including the place of women in the church, the worst was the controversy over predestination. The debate became so heated that in 1888 several Norwegian Synod pastors associated with St. Olaf College seceded, calling themselves the Anti-Missourians. They would soon join with the churches around Augsburg Seminary to form the United Norwegian Lutheran Church in America in 1890. This schism left the leadership of the Norwegian Synod exhausted and beginning to feel their age. Despite this, in 1889 a small group of business leaders and pastors in Red Wing organized to build a girls’ school in Red Wing. Plans began and the vision took hold among those in Red Wing. However, just as they were getting ready to break ground in May 1889, the Main Building at Luther College burned down. This took the wind out of the sails of the group planning the girls’ school. They accepted the fact that the church would now be completely focused on rebuilding Luther’s Main building. They even gave generously of their own funds to help
rebuild the school. Not surprisingly, the question of rebuilding Luther raised two questions: Where it should be rebuilt and whether or not to introduce coeducation. Laur Larsen (1833-1915), who had once taught girls in Norway and had thought he could do so in the New Land, by this time was so devoted to the notion of the school as a boys’ school that he opposed the idea of coeducation. When the decision was made to rebuild in Decorah, the question of coeducation seemed to close, maybe because the plans for the school for girls in Red Wing were still going forward. In any case, after the dedication of the new Main building in 1890, the group in Red Wing under the leadership of Pastor Knut Bjorgø resumed their plans to build a girls’ school in Red Wing. They bought some of the most desirable land in the city, high atop the hills surrounding it, with scenic lookouts over the river and the woods in Wisconsin and Minnesota. They continued to raise money for it and hired St. Paul architect Augustin F. Gauger (1852-1929) who had designed the new Main building in Decorah. Things went slowly. Not until Ascension Day, May 13, 1893, did they lay the cornerstone of the building. Vilhelm Koren, the vice-president of the synod, gave the address. He dwelt for some time on how this school was to prepare ladies to be cultivated wives and mothers who could raise children in the faith, especially daughters to be pastors’ wives. He was especially exorcised against the feminism of the suffragettes of his day. He had just read an article by Ruth G. D. Havens, “The Girl of the Future,” suggesting that a woman could be president of the United States.4 He found that laughable as well as unseemly. For him a woman fulfilled her destiny as a mother in the home raising her children. In this he was joined by his wife, Elisabeth. She also believed that a woman’s greatest authority was a leader in the home.5 Unfortunately, almost the day of the festival event, the economic depression known as the Panic of 1893 began. They had expected to open the doors to the school in the fall of 1893, but the resources to finish it simply were
LUTHER COLLEGE ARCHIVES, DECORAH, IA
The Lutheran Ladies Seminary students, Red Wing, Minnesota going to church not there. It was not until late fall 1894 that the school opened with 86 students enrolled. At the dedication service on June 8, 1895, the first graduation ceremony of the first class, all of the speeches continued in the vein of Koren. Their graduates were to be cultivated wives and mothers, well trained in the fine arts and liberal arts—languages, history, literature, handiwork, art, religion, commercial courses, as well as a normal course preparing students for teaching, but most importantly music. Pastor Andreas Sagan echoed Koren’s address in his speech at the festivities: A true lady is nothing but a true woman, a woman who can make a home. And the woman who will do that will be the crown and the glory and the sunshine of mankind; she will be the blessing for which men willingly will shed their heart blood. Such a woman will be the sun from which good morals, lofty sentiments, purity and happiness are radiated.6 By 1906, the seminary would also include a conservatory of music, with vocal, piano, and organ lessons for those taking the musical line of courses. Once again these courses were also the same as those offered in the parlor, at the Nissen school for girls, and Christiansfeld. It was an elegant finishing school for ladies, many of whom aspired to being pastors’ wives. Todd Walsh, historian of the school, named it as a factory for pastors’ wives. At its height almost 250 girls attended the school, a beautiful building of 125
individual rooms, including rooms in which two or three girls could bunk. The school was fortunate in its president, Hans Allen (1863-1934), who spent his life raising money to pay off the debt and probably more importantly keep enrollment suitably high. In 1906, the school hired a Missouri Synod Lutheran musician, Bernard F. Laukandt (1870-1958), to teach in its newly established conservatory. He took the place of the well-educated Jacob Hjort, son of Christiane and Ove Hjort. Laukandt, as a German Lutheran, was instrumental in attracting German American girls to study at the school. By the outbreak of World War I, 30 per cent of the students were of German background. As the war was raging in Europe, Americans were rather unsure which side they supported and voted in Woodrow Wilson because he had kept them out of the war, thus far. With the bombing of the Lusitania in May 1915, opinion began to turn against the Germans. This was felt in the Midwest, especially with its large German population. Allen grew disgusted with the prejudice and resigned, probably as weary from his twenty years of running the school as anything. His successor, Ditlef H. Ristad (18631938), who had been president of Park Region Academy in Fergus Falls, thought the school would sell itself. It did not. Laukandt resigned to move to Mankato. There he presided over a girls’ school for Germans which would later be sold to the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and become Bethany College and Seminary.
Enrollment plummeted when the Germans left and the school looked to be losing support and energy. After the war, an energetic pastor who had been a chaplain during the war in France, Thoralf Anderson Hoff (1879-1947), took over as president and the school began to recover its enrollment. Things were looking good as the next decade opened. However, on December 5, 1919, fire broke out. The building sustained much damage, but Hoff quickly took charge. The school was quickly repaired and ready to open in January. Once again things looked promising. Graduation exercises were planned and the next year looked exciting, with good enrollment. Still it was not to be. On June 7, 1920, the night before graduation, once again fire broke out. A boat on the Mississippi saw the flames and alerted the fire department, but it did not arrive in time. The building burned down completely. Graduation was held before the smoking ruins of the building. As Hoff and the board assessed the damages and their assets, they found themselves hopeful that they could rebuild soon. The property was a prime attraction and the community eager for the school to be rebuilt. As the newly merged church, the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America (1917), began to discuss whether or not to rebuild, it became obvious to many that the day of such a school had passed. Coeducation was now the wave of the future. Furthermore, the church had an empty building in St. Paul, the old Hamline campus of Luther Seminary, that could serve very well as the location Fall 2016/Agora
Efforts by the Red Wing community to rebuild another kind of school met with failure as well. Walsh suggests that the finances had been mishandled so that little could be salvaged. Finally, as the Depression hit, the property was sold and the hopes for any new project dashed.
Coeducation at Luther College That left the new church with three coed senior colleges, St. Olaf, Augustana, and Concordia, and one school for men, Luther. In the late 1920s, the president of Luther, Oscar Olson, pushed for coeducation. As the Depression deepened, coeducation seemed to him the only hope for the school to attract enough students for it to survive. In an effort to make the school attractive to more young men, the faculty under his leadership had changed the curriculum so that it was no longer a Latin school. That, in fact, had prepared the way for women to study at the school because it made the curriculum more appropriate for women students. They could attend the school now that the rigor of the classics as a kind of male puberty rite that made men out of them was abandoned. Olson, on making the proposal to the faculty that women be admitted, found the faculty to be open to the idea. However, he was opposed by the head of the Education Board of the church, J.C.K. Preus (1881-1983), son of President C.K. Preus (1852-1921), and brother of the incoming president, O.J.H. Preus (1880-1951). When O.J.H. began his term as president on August 1, 1932, the school’s debt and financial condition were so dire that the very survival of the school was in question. The day he arrived, a group including T.A. Hoff, pastor at First Lutheran Church in Decorah, established Decorah Junior College for Girls. Preus had supported the idea for many reasons. Luther College faculty could 18
teach in this school and the facilities of the school, especially the library, could be open to the girls. The church in convention had approved his call to the presidency with the proviso that he be given the authority to decide about women’s enrollment. He began a long process to make that happen, but he was met by considerable opposition from the church and alumni who fiercely opposed the idea of coeducation. The Decorah and surrounding communities, however, were eager for coeducation to begin. They saw it as saving the college as well as the community by bringing more students to the school. Many expected that the 1934 convention of the church would approve coeducation. Once again, the Board of Education, led by J.C.K. Preus, opposed the idea. Finally, after the church made a shocking proposal to merge St. Olaf and Luther and move Luther Seminary to Luther College, making Augustana and Concordia junior colleges, Luther’s alumni association came to life. Luther College alumni paid off the debt and made ready to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the college’s founding. At the 1936 convention of the church, a resolution was passed authorizing Luther to begin to enroll women. By most people’s reckoning, it saved the college with its infusion of students and funds. Furthermore, when World War II broke out, women once again saved the college as young men answered the call to serve in the military.
Observations: Ironies and Surprises We must be careful about assuming the Luther College community did not want to have coeducation because it was sexist. Its leaders had done very well in educating its daughters. They did not believe that coeducation was the better way to educate their sons and daughters. Their belief that single sex education was superior for both men and women made them eager to educate their sons and daughters in traditional and time honored ways. The school they finally built for the daughters as Red Wing Lutheran Ladies’ Seminary was peerless in the education it gave
young women at the time. It did operate with the assumptions of what made cultivated ladies, mothers, and wives. These assumptions would be seen as inappropriate as the first feminist movement gained strength—as promoted by the suffragettes—and probably too elitist. The reluctance of President Stub to support rebuilding the school is never explained, but one can read between the lines that he no longer thought it was a good idea. Nor did others.
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for the school. As discussions continued, neither the leadership of the church, presided over by Hans G. Stub (18491931), nor the board, could recommend it be rebuilt.
Henriette Naeseth We should also be careful not to listen to what the pastors said about women and women’s place in the society without watching what their daughters and granddaughters did. Laur Larsen appreciated women, but did not think they should work in the professions. His three daughters, Karen, Marie, and Hannah became professors, missionaries, and leaders in the Scandinavian American Foundation over their lifetimes. Vilhelm Koren, who always regarded his wife Elisabeth as his colleague, strongly opposed women working outside the home. His son-inlaw, Christian Naeseth, in considering the question of women’s emancipation in a long article for a conference on the topic in 1906, came to the conclusion that Scripture said a women’s place
Hermann Preus, who railed against women leaving their place in the home and forbade the women in his congregation in Spring Prairie to found a women’s organization, watched as his wife gently teased him about women disagreeing with him on slavery and showing their theological acumen. His great-granddaughter Mary Preus, the daughter of a pastor, married a pastor. In addition, she earned a Ph.D. in classics and taught Greek and Latin at Luther Seminary and St. Thomas University. While Linka Preus found herself wondering why she had been educated if she could not use it in her domestic work, Elisabeth Koren was said to be entirely against the women’s movement and thought her place was ruling in the home, which she no doubt did with a gracious, but firm hand. Both women, however, made sure their daughters were well educated. Their diaries and sketches and many letters have left a legacy for us today gathered around the college that is immediate and vivid. The colleges the Norwegian Americans established, and a rich variety there are, came about because of strongly held theological positions that clearly opposed the convictions of the other colleges. Augsburg Seminary, for example, opposed Luther’s “elite humanistic” education; St. Olaf disagreed with the Missourian influence of predestination at Luther. Today these theological convictions are still hotly debated in seminaries, but the colleges have pretty much left those debates behind. All of the ink spilled on making these theological positions crystal clear to those who eagerly and knowledgably supported their positions is now fading on brittle pages stored in dusty old journals and microfiche in archives. What is still living and vital are the diaries and letters of Elisabeth Koren
LUTHER COLLEGE ARCHIVES, DECORAH, IA
was in the home, not in public. Yet, his daughter, Henriette Naeseth, earned a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, and taught in the English department at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois her entire life and raised up generations of women scholars, among them Mary Hull Mohr who taught at Luther College for many years.
Elisabeth Koren to Linka Preus and Linka’s diary and sketches of the early days of the college and church. They give us lively pictures of their world which none of the theological papers do. These are the domestic lives most people still understand, even if they can no longer slaughter a pig or sew a gown without a sewing machine. These accounts are interesting to anyone in and of themselves, and grow more interesting as we learn more about them. Recently, 150 more letters of Elisabeth Koren to her father in Norway about the establishing of life here have been discovered. As her clear and calm voice describing such events as Vilhelm wandering the land around Decorah to find a perfect place for the college is made known, people will want to know more about what she can tell us about the founding of Luther College. She gives us pictures we have not seen before about what happened at the beginning. Oddly enough, these accounts still shape the lives of people in the area as they seek to find out what it was like in the beginning.
discovers them. The more we read them, the more present they are in our lives and community. It has been my pleasure to help make their work more and more available to English readers. I hope more and more will study to do the same. Thank you. Notes 1. Linka’s Diary: A Norwegian Immigrant Story in Words and Sketches. Tr. Marvin G. Slind (Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press, 2008), 259. 2. H. B. Thorgrimson, Lutheran Church Herald, XVIII (February 19, 1935): 187.
3. See Walter Ong, “Latin Language Study as a Renaissance Puberty Rite,” Rhetoric, Romance and Technology: Studies in the Interaction of Expression and Culture. (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1970.)
4. See my book Unstoppable: The Norwegian Pioneers Educate their Daughters (Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press, 2016), p. 281, for the full argument. 5. See the eulogy given by C.K. Preus at her funeral in Lutheraneran ( July 3, 1918): 562, also quoted in Unstoppable: The Norwegian Pioneers Educate their Daughters, p. 329. 6. Unstoppable: The Norwegian Pioneers Educate their Daughters, p. 299.
Decorah, I have always thought, is a civilization. People who come here are taken with it, they understand it as a place. Even high school students whose writings I used to read have a very clear sense of it as a place. Even though the writings of these women are from a completely different time, they helped to make this place, and continue to do so as the next generation reads and Fall 2016/Agora
Journey to the West, and the Highest: a Reflection on Sustainable Tourism in Tibet by HONGMEI YU, Associate Professor of Chinese
“Journey to the West” in China today also refers to the journey to Tibet, because Tibet in Chinese is the two-character word Xizang 西 藏, in which Xi means the west. Tibet is a geographically large but sparsely populated region, about three times the size of California, with just over 3 million people. In September 2015, supported by a sabbatical leave grant, I made my journey to Tibet, partly for the sake of preparing a Paideia 450 study abroad course entitled “Dao, Mao and Now: Chinese Perspectives on Change,” and partly to fulfill my long-time dream of visiting “the roof of the world.” One of my friends, who had visited Tibet several times, was able to accompany me for this adventure. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has an average elevation of around 4,500 meters (14,700 ft), and many tourists can get altitude sickness caused by low levels of oxygen. So instead of flying directly from Beijing to Lhasa, the capital city of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), we decided to fly to Xining, the capital city of Qinghai province, where we could spend two 20
days to cope with an average altitude of about 2,200 meters (7,200 ft), then take an overnight train to our final destination. This precaution turned out to be a wise decision, which I will mention soon. Xining has been a commercial hub along the Silk Road for over 2000 years. While Han Chinese represent about 74 percent of the total population, Hui or Chinese Muslim (16 percent) and Tibetan (5.5 percent) are the main ethnic minority groups in the city. Consequently, the city holds two sites of religious significance to Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists respectively, Dongguan Mosque and Ta’er Monastery. A major religious assembly was taking place in Ta’er Monastery during my two-day stay in Xining, which made the monastery “people mountain people sea,” a Chinese idiom meaning overcrowded, so we visited the comparatively quiet Dongguan Mosque. Although surrounded with tall buildings, three crescent moons, one on top of the main worship hall and two on towers each side, it dazzled
in the morning sunshine, securing a patch of peaceful sky. It seemed to me that the growing tension between the Han Chinese and the Uyghurs in neighboring Xinjiang had little echo here. Strolling in the square, I wondered how the mosque could accommodate 40,000 worshippers for a prayer service. We spent the second day touring Qinghai Lake, the largest inland salt lake in China, also a holy lake for the Tibetan Buddhist faithful. The lake is 80 miles away from Xining, at an altitude over 3,000 meters or 10,000 feet, which was high enough to give me altitude sickness. While taking time to adjust myself to the thin layer of oxygen, I saw a few Tibetan Buddhists performing Kora, the Tibetan word for pilgrimage along the lake. Some of them made full body prostrations every few steps, and others were spinning prayer wheels and chanting mantras. Later I learned that a circumambulation of the lake would take 18 days on horseback and 23 days of walking to complete. The lake itself is a great venue to observe the dynamic between two forces: the religious and
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ourney to the West is a well-known Chinese novel of a Buddhist monk, accompanied by his three disciples, one of whom was an almighty and mischievous Monkey King who traveled to India to obtain Buddhist sacred texts during the Tang Dynasty (618-970). This adventure of 14 years started from the Tang capital Chang’an (today’s Xi’an), then followed the Silk Road to Central Asia, including today’s Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, and finally reached India. Such a detour was made, as many believe, due to the difficulty of climbing the Himalayas. Few knew that constant warfare between the Tang Empire and the Tibetan Kingdom also made the route impossible.1
White yak at Lake Nam
Potala Palace but many historical sites have to face. While the government has invested millions on the Potala Maintenance Project, it is still difficult to measure how conservation can benefit from tourism. During my onehour tour of the Potala, I was in a hush and somehow feeling guilty. I entered through the so-called White Palace, which consisted of government offices, seminary rooms, and the living chambers of the Dalai Lama. The Red Palace, standing on top of the White Palace, was originally built as the tomb of the fifth Dalai Lama. Most rooms are closed to visitors. While the whitewash is a symbol of peace, the red color symbolizes authority. For people who have a great interest in Tibetan Buddhism, one gate or one statue is worth lingering at for hours, not to mention the magnificent Mandala of Samvara and Stupa, the shrine built to house the holy relics. Fortunately, most visitors, including myself, were shallow tourists so we did not put too much burden on the ancient building. WIKICOMMONS
In addition to the load-bearing issue, another major threat the Palace has to work on is the deterioration of mural paintings by humidity and smoke from yak-butter lamps, as well as lacquer varnish, which have caused flaking of the surface and decoloration, according to a UNESCO report.4 The concern from the report did not sound shocking until I was standing in front of those heavily damaged murals. Those restored
Corner of the White Palace Fall 2016/Agora
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the economic. Many Tibetan people The streets in Lhasa were in a have been taking advantage of growing celebrating mood with red flags because tourism and have set up small businesses 2015 was the 50th anniversary of the along the lake, including colorfully founding of the Tibetan Autonomous decorated Tibetan tents offering Region. Tibet’s incorporation into horseback or yak rides. After a quick the People’s Republic of China is a bargain with a 14-year-old Tibetan controversial issue, both within Tibet boy, we paid 20 yuan (around $3) to and worldwide. Critics, especially in the ride his beautiful 2-year-old white yak part way into the lake where the water came up to my knees. We were told that a white yak is worth around 20,000 yuan, four times more than a black yak because white is considered a sacred color by the Tibetans. The boy brings his white yak The Potala Palace in Lhasa to the lake to make some extra money on weekends. West, consider the continued Chinese presence in Tibet as an occupation by Before this trip, during my short stay a foreign power. The Chinese, on the with my parents, we watched the daily other hand, believe that Tibet has been TV news on how tourism boosted the a rightful part of China for centuries. local economy, and every time I couldn’t The propaganda poster featuring five help asking: Is tourism a sustainable generations of the CCP (Chinese approach, and at what cost to the Communist Party) leaders was a region’s cultural heritage? This was the distinctive Tibetan scene I’d never seen question I had in mind when I boarded in other cities. Otherwise, Lhasa is just the train to Lhasa. another city with busy traffic and many Tibet has been a top tourist destination new flats for sale.2 because of its unique Buddhist culture The Potala Palace in Lhasa is usually and stunning landscape. In the past, the No. 1 must-see site for all tourists. the road trip to Lhasa via the QinghaiConstruction of the palace began in Tibet highway was exhausting and 1645. Built upon a hill, the 13-story challenging to many, especially those Potala contains over 1,000 rooms, who could not afford air tickets. The 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 Qinghai-Tibet Railway was completed statues. The palace is a typical Tibetan in July 2006, setting a new record architectural structure of timber for the world’s highest railway, 1,956 and clay, which means it cannot kilometers in length. The advent of the accommodate too many visitors at the railroad has made Tibet more accessible same time. After the completion of the to tourists young and old. Our train Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a quota of 2,300 passed Tanggula Railway Station, the visitors per day was set for the busy world’s highest train station (5,068m) season, but it was gradually increased around midnight while I was breathing to 4,000 before my arrival, with the heavily next to the oxygen supply requirement that each visit only can last outlet. It took us 21 hours to arrive in for one hour.3 Tourism or conservation Lhasa. is the dilemma that not only the
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pieces, no matter how advanced the technology is, no longer carry the aura of authenticity.
Of all the murals, I got interested in a simple piece that features an elephant standing under a fruit tree carrying a monkey, a hare, and a bird on top of each other. As my tour guide explained, the mural is about how the four animals live together in harmony: the bird drops a seed, the hare digs a hole to plant it, later the monkey takes care of the sapling by building a fence around it, and the elephant waters it using its trunk. When the tree finally bears fruit, they help each other harvest it. So they are referred to as “the four harmonious friends.” What a sustainable ecosystem! There is indeed nothing new under the sun, because there are always connections between contemporary problems and ancient wisdom. The mural does not feature human beings at a position of dominance over nature. As a matter of fact, there is no human interference at all. If we compare this mural with Chinese landscape painting, as well as the indigenous Daoist tradition, we find that they share the theme of viewing human beings as a small, even negligible part of the natural world. However, what we have more of today is insatiable human desire backed by often-unsustainable modern technology, which partly explains the appealing charm of Tibet, a land where people wish to bathe their exhausted mind with inner peace. Another must-see place in Lhasa is Barkhor. Located in the old part of the 22
city around Jokhang Temple, the most sacred temple in Tibet, Barkhor is an area of many shops and street markets, so it is always packed with tourists and pilgrims.5 Walking in the colorful flow of people under the scorching sunshine, one can physically feel the vibrant pulse of the city. While the pilgrims are exclusively Tibetans, tourism has brought in more opportunities for both Tibetans and many Han Chinese, especially in the service industries. For example, our tour guide and driver were both Tibetans working in the same Tibet National Tourism Company, and the Dekang Hotel we stayed at for the first three nights was also run by a friendly Tibetan boss with whom we successfully bargained for free breakfast. Although our tour guide complained about tight government control—he was not allowed to travel abroad—he was quite satisfied with his current job and his family of two kids. He had just ordered a ruby ring for his wife, and he was eager to discuss with us the possibility of buying a used jeep from Beijing. Later we moved to a hostel run by a Beijinger in order to experience the backpacking culture in Tibet, and the boss, an ex-serviceman, told us that the business competition was so fierce
that both the central and the local governments have prioritized political stability and economic development above cultural protection. Tibetan culture is distinguishable mainly because the remoteness of the area has preserved it well from outside influences. On the one hand, it is unethical and impossible to maintain such isolation; on the other hand, as the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) has claimed, “the commoditization of Tibetan culture and promotion of ‘Tibet chic’ by government and business coincides with a trend towards repression and, in fact, the weakening of Tibetan identity.”6 Such a paradox occurs not only in Tibet. The advent of global capitalism puts a price tag on every ethnic culture. But the situation in Tibet is worse than many cases because what Tibet needs to deal with is twofold, the political and the economic. One may argue it is actually threefold with climate change. Glaciers in Tibet have been melting faster than ever. On our way to Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet, our driver showed us that a few years ago visitors could touch glaciers at the foot of Mt. Nianqing Tanggula, but now it barely covers the peak of the mountain. Research has proposed to develop
that his hostel neon sign got sabotaged several times. As he said, it was a purely profit-driven incident that had nothing to do with the Tibetan independence movement. It is obvious, however,
Tibet into a Special Sustainability Zone (SSZ) that integrates economic, environmental, social and cultural sustainability.7 Will it be too late when such a proposal is put into action? And
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A store in Barkhor how far will it go? I have to admit that I am not optimistic about it at all. With all these gloomy thoughts, the free admission at the Tibet Museum sounded like a good surprise, although its most valuable Thangka collection was closed for national touring exhibitions. I also visited Lake Nam, the “Heavenly Lake” in Tibet, and the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse. Founded by the first Dalai Lama, the monastery now is the largest functioning religious institution in Tibet. How will Tibet achieve sustainable tourism? I came with this question and left with no answer. As I always remind my students, asking good questions is more important than finding easy answers. During my seven days in Tibet, altitude sickness did not bother me when I stayed below 5,000 meters. Whenever I felt dizzy, I knew it must be above 5,000. The lesson here is, people have to learn how to adjust to the environment, not vice versa. After recovering from an “oxygen drunk,” my journey continued in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan, to explore more monkeys and pandas, and also Daoism, which was a more fun part with delicious Sichuan food. It was unfortunate that our Paideia 450 course did not get enough students to take off in summer 2016. Hopefully, we will find a chance in the future to make this course a wonderful adventure.
Notes 1. Editor’s note: Source: www. britannica.com/place/Tibet
2. But when they returned from India, they decided to climb over the Himalayas since the two sides had called a truce and started negotiation.
3. Back in 2003, the quota was 850 per day. While the ticket price has been doubled (200 yuan since 2008), it also requires a visitor to book the ticket one day earlier with a valid photo ID. Ridiculously, my Chinese passport did not count as a valid photo ID, so I had to book my ticket through a travel agency, and a tour guide was mandatory. 4. “State of Conservation of the World Heritage Properties in the Asia-Pacific Region: Potala Palace in Lhasa,��� p.170. Available at <http://whc.unesco.org/archive/ periodicreporting/apa/cycle01/section2/707summary.pdf.> Last accessed on Oct. 20, 2016. 5. Jokhang Temple was built in 652 to house two statues of Sakyamuni Buddha, which were brought in by Princess Wencheng of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal when both married Songtsen Gampo in 640. Later, the statue brought in by Princess Bhrikuti was moved to a nearby Ramoche Temple.
6. “Tourism in Tibet.” <https://www. savetibet.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/ Tourism_Tibet.pdf.> Last accessed on Oct. 20, 2016.
7. Tarja Ketola. “Developing Tibet into a Special Sustainability Zone of China?” <https://www.case.edu/affil/ tibet/tibetanNomads/documents/ DevelopingTibetintoaspecialsustainability zoneofchina.pdf.> Last accessed on Oct. 20, 2016.
Wildlife, War, and Rural People in the Borderzone of Southern Mozambique and Southeastern Zimbabwe, 1950-2010
by RICHARD MTISI, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History
In 2002, the Zimbabwean, South African, and Mozambican governments committed themselves to incorporating close to 3.6 million hectares of land where the three countries meet into the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP), a wildlife park bigger than New Jersey, Rhode Island and Hawaii put together. The park is composed of three previously separate national parks: Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, Kruger National Park in South Africa, and Coutado 16 in Mozambique [coutadas are Portuguese for wildlife utilization areas]. Establishment of GLTP highlights a convergence of interests around reestablishing ecological “integrity” across frontiers. Political boundaries, drawn in late 19th century, had little regard for ecological consequences. Boundaries were sketched on a map to suit strategic defense needs and to capture mineral riches and other valuable resources. The three governments acknowledged that they shared common ecosystems and needed to establish a wildlife park that crossed national boundaries. The objectives for the creation of the park 24
were to promote trans-border ecotourism and to emphasize community participation and development. Despite the claims to community participation, I argue that the park has largely been justified in terms of the needs of wildlife; its planners ignore how it denies access to water, forests, and land to rural populations living inside and adjacent to the park. By studying the shared environmental spaces in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, blending history and ethnography, I hope to demonstrate how wildlife park policies can decisively interfere with rural land-use practices and other natural resource uses in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Through interviews and observation at village meetings, dispute resolution structures, water collection points, farming plots, household visits and similar social spaces, and supported by archival work, I intend to show how conservation measures have reinforced unexpected continuity with colonial conservation strategies based on evictions and denial of land-use rights. My interviews with rural populations involved “oral history” in which individuals spoke not about themselves, but about events or changes necessitated by wildlife conservation policies. My study is confined to the Sengwe area in southeastern Zimbabwe and Chicualacuala in southern Mozambique, for it is primarily in these two areas that I can consider whether GLTP represents continuation of colonial conservation strategies that emphasized eviction and denial of land-use rights. While South Africa is part of the GLTP project, the Makuleke communities that were evicted from Kruger National Park in the 1960s reached a negotiated settlement in 1994 which recognized their land rights. The rural communities in Sengwe and Chicualacuala remain
Photo 1. Broken bed in Chicualacuala, Mozambique. With nowhere to spend the night, a Good Samaritan offered us her small bed so my assistant and I could get some sleep. Unfortunately, the bed broke and we ended up sleeping on a bare concrete floor. Photo 2. Made for the terrain? Traveling in Mozambique is tortuous, involving poor infrastructure and long distances. Here is the 4 x 4 Land Rover which my assistant, Nelton Tiago Gemo, and I used before it broke down while crossing the Limpopo River. threatened, however, with eviction. For example, when Gonarezhou National Park was created in the 1970s, villagers were evicted and their access to critical resources such as grazing, water, land and forests was curtailed. Similarly, the creation of Coutada 16 as a hunting concession in the 1970s ensured that only elites with hunting permits could get access to wildlife resources. As in many parts of Africa, the collection of firewood became wood theft, the hunting of animals became poaching, and pasturing cattle became trespassing, with all the
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broken down Land Rover Defender. Almost getting shot by Mozambican security forces. A broken bed. Sleepless nights. Eating wild meat. Lots of data. Stranger than fiction, these events sum up my time in Southern Africa where I spent part of my sabbatical leave during fall 2015 followed by another two-month stint in summer 2016. The two stints enabled me to finish the research for a book project entitled “Wildlife, War, and Rural People in the Borderzone of Southern Mozambique and Southeastern Zimbabwe, 1950-2010.” This book project explores the impact of wildlife conservation policies on rural populations in both Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
I argue that the park has largely been justified in terms of the needs of wildlife; its planners ignore how it denies access to water, forests, and land to rural populations living inside and adjacent to the park. The first chapter of my book examines the conflicting ways of seeing and acting on the landscape before the advent of colonial game preserves in the 1950s. In Chicualacuala (southern Mozambique) and Sengwe (southeastern Zimbabwe), just as in many other colonial contexts, Europeans sought to tame or protect threatened wilderness. To both the Portuguese and British colonialists visiting nineteenth century Chicualacuala and Sengwe, this arid environment appeared to have no history at all. It was dry and only lightly inhabited by Hlengwe villagers who depended heavily on hunting for subsistence. The region the Portuguese and British divided into Portuguese East Africa and Rhodesia concealed a lot of human history. For the Shangaan-speaking societies of southern Mozambique and southeastern Zimbabwe this “empty” land was rich with meanings and memories.2 Its occupants expressed their relationship
to the land in ways that were not static, but rather reflected the changing political and ecological circumstances. In this sense the region that is Chicualacuala and Sengwe must be understood as a product of social history.
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY RICHARD MTISI
ramifications for state violence that these meanings imply.1 For example, I questioned villagers about the impact of GLTP on agricultural activities, livestock husbandry, access to forests, sacred spaces and labor migration to South Africa, and in my research I demonstrate why and how the new park has raised the specter of colonial conservation strategies that emphasized eviction and denial of land-use rights. In focusing on the years 1950-2010, I highlight villagers’ perceptions about late colonial game policies and examine the changes and continuities associated with independence in both southern Mozambique and southeastern Zimbabwe.
Aptly dubbed “A National Park with No Elephants,” The National Park with No Elephants: The skull of a dead Chapter Two elephant, Macandezulu Village, Mozambique discusses Instead, the emergence of nationalism the creation of both Coutada 16 simply allowed the different segments (now Limpopo National Park) and of rural society to pursue their longGonarezhou Game Reserve (renamed standing, but limited, grievances Gonarezhou National Park in 1975). against the colonial state. To these I argue that while the rural people different segments of Sengwe society, were allowed to live off the land in the activities of nationalist leaders and around Coutada 16, as opposed such as Joshua Nkomo and Josiah to the evictions that happened in Chinamano offered an opportunity Gonarezhou Game Reserve, both to regain extended and uncontrolled systems were used to support exclusion hunting rights, the cessation of onerous policies which denied humans access veterinary restrictions on the keeping to hunting, fishing, and farming. Also, of cattle, and access to lands they still the establishment of both preserves considered to be theirs but which disrupted chiefly authority, contributing now formed part of the Gonarezhou to anti-state sentiments that eventually Game Reserve. Provocatively entitled led many villagers to participate in “Turning Back the Clock,” the final the armed struggle, which resulted in chapter explores the contradictions of independence from colonial authority national independence. Contrary to in Mozambique in 1975 and Zimbabwe local expectations, independence in in 1980. However, these anti-state Zimbabwe and Mozambique was not sentiments were sharper in Zimbabwe accompanied by a return of ancestral than in Mozambique. lands and hunting rights. In fact, Chapter Three turns to the implications the reverse has been true. With the for nationalism of the establishment of creation of the GLTP, thousands of game preserves. I will demonstrate that rural people faced violent evictions, thus the influence of urban nationalist leaders legitimating the colonial instruments and guerilla campaigns of political of dispossession and subjugation— mobilization and education on rural demonstrating a continuity of policy populations has given some historians between colonial and post-colonial the impression that the nationalist governments. agenda was much more important in By studying socio-economic issues rural Mozambique and Zimbabwe than that cut across political boundaries, was actually the case. I argue that, in my study will prod environmental both areas, rural participation did not historians to study wildlife conservation necessarily reflect a radical nationalist policies in a new way. Historical studies agenda and that participation was not dealing with southeastern Zimbabwe just a question of urban influences. and Mozambique have not taken Fall 2016/Agora
Contrary to local expectations, independence in Zimbabwe and Mozambique was not accompanied by a return of ancestral lands and hunting rights. In fact, the reverse has been true. Through archival documents and oral testimonies, my research will shed light on how colonial and national environmental interventions have been perceived by the rural populations. These insights should do more than reveal an alternative view of colonial and post-colonial environmental interventions: they should shed light on how rural populations in Sengwe 26
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY RICHARD MTISI
advantage of the opportunity to gain a new perspective on national parks by studying connections between people living in border areas. For example, a recent work by William Wolmer 3 focuses on the Gonarezhou National Park on the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, but does not address the dynamic livelihood strategies of people living in the border areas and how these activities might influence national parks policy in Zimbabwe. And yet, the overriding image of the poacher presented to the public by the Zimbabwean government and conservation organizations is of “poor” Mozambicans assisted by the corrupt practices of their post-independence government. But while poachers are most often characterized as citizens of neighboring states, they are found on both sides of the border—and, in fact, are one and the same people, the Shangaan of Mozambique and Zimbabwe who share a language and culture. Thus, the history of displacement and close ethnic and cultural affinities in this region make it quite likely that poaching networks straddle the political boundary. These connections between Mozambique and Zimbabwe also often fall between academic boundaries of areas studies or disciplines.
Collecting oral testimonies in Macandezulu, Limpopo National Park, Mozambique and Chicualacuala have responded to environmental interventions—including conservation efforts—and also show why these interventions elicit conflicts. An analysis of community participation will offer a more dynamic view about the perceptions of rural populations. Beginning in the early 1990s, park managers and conservationists asserted that they had shifted away from colonial models of conservation focused on exclusion, to an indigenous communitybased model of conservation focused on human benefits through sustainable utilization. Are these claims based on historical fact? My book allows us to look historically and critically at these claims of community-based conservation. Through interviews and observations with men and women of different social standing, my research tackles how this shift to community likely creates a new form of “homogenization.” The discourse of community conservation blurs the heterogeneous nature of the local communities which are divided along economic, ethnic, gender and social lines. As Brockington states, rural African societies may be hierarchical, and may exclude women, the landless and the uneducated, and ethnic minorities from political decisionmaking. Participation is open to takeover. Power offered to a group will tend to become concentrated into the hands of a few—often government officials working in collaboration
with local chiefs at the expense of ordinary people.4 Moreover, the lack of consultation and top-down process that characterized the establishment of GLTP tended to confirm the local population’s fears that the project would displace people living inside the game corridor between Kruger and Gonarezhou, thus awakening memories of displacement in the 1950s to the 1970s, and a broader history of colonial land alienation. My work on this manuscript is the culmination of a research program that began with my doctoral dissertation (completed in 2008) and that has generated much of my scholarly activities, including an article which came out in 2012.5 My sabbatical enabled me to complete interviews and see colonial records I did not have access to in the dissertation. It was necessary to access the few written records that survived Mozambique’s civil war which raged from 1975 until about 1992 to properly understand the evolution of game reserves, the multilayered meanings elicited by this state intervention, the impact of these state projects on villagers’ perceptions about their history, and individual and group responses to this state intervention including participation in the wars of liberation.6 Fortunately, most of these gaps will be filled by research I was able to do at public offices located at Xai Xai (Gaza Province), an area that
I never visited during the previous period I was doing fieldwork in Mozambique. Similarly, I am convinced I will be able to reconstruct a better picture of the colonial period on the basis of evidence provided by local populations and former Portuguese officials whom I did not interview during my fieldwork, including Eduardo Ruiz whose father was given proprietorship of Coutada 16. Indeed, in writing my dissertation and crafting its argument, I realized the potential of non-documentary sources to expand the scope of our understanding of the interaction between the environment and Shangaan-speaking culture, so the sabbatical leave allowed me to gather more testimonies. I am absolutely convinced that this work will not only contribute to the literature on environmental history of Southern Africa, but will make me a more effective teacher. I am particularly interested in using this text in my course “History 291: Environmental History” (taught every other year to about 25 students from multiple departments including History and Environmental Studies). Most students arrive in my course with skewed ideas of the African landscape, as their visual images represent extreme situations rather than typical scenes. Many students equate Africa’s environment with images of tropical jungles taken from Tarzan movies or National Geographic specials on wildlife. Indeed, national parks are emblematic of conservation as a venture in the mind of many students who arrive in my course. They tend to perceive and present them as its purest and most altruistic expression. Similarly, many students come to class with the long tradition of western intellectual thought which sees rural Africans as living in some kind of harmony or balance with nature. This idea has taken different forms—disapproving, as in the proverbial “uncivilized and idle savage” who fails to capitalize on natural resource potential, or quite approving, even reverential, especially with the recent embracing of green ideas.7 These skewed ideas are rather difficult to overcome. Yet game reserves, national parks and similar wilderness areas are systematically and sometimes
intensely managed spaces subject to a wide variety of crosscutting interests. For instance, many Africans have seen them as exclusive spaces catering to the cultural and recreational tastes of the monied and mobile middle classes. As many students who took my fall 2013 course on Environmental History have testified, the portions of my manuscript that I asked them to read gave them a unique opening and compelling pedagogical opportunity to challenge the assumptions they had brought to class. In addition to integrating my text into Environmental History (H291), my text is also relevant to Afrs/Hist 371: Topics in African History, Afrs/ Hist 171: African History to 1880, Afrs/Hist 172: History of Modern Africa, Afrs/Hist 239: Victim or Villain: Contemporary Crises in Africa, and Paideia 112. In fact, the research unit for my section of Paideia is directly related to my dissertation and to the papers that I have delivered at conferences. The
fact that I have been able to integrate and balance my research and teaching enriches the learning experience for the students, provides me with extra material for discussion and examples, and allows me to serve as a model for students. My passion to present wildlife conservation as a complex phenomenon embedded in the politics of land use drives this project. For supporters of the game reserves and national parks, the prohibition of hunting and the confinement of game within the reserve promised to save wild animals and generate tourist revenue. Yet for the European cattle ranchers, game brought disease, destroyed fences, and competed for valuable grazing land. For many Africans, national parks threatened their livelihoods. For students in history, the study of this part of Africa’s past and present is a necessity. But students from across the disciplines (ranging from Religion to Environmental Studies) Fall 2016/Agora
would also benefit immensely from an introduction to it, for it challenges their preconceived view of wilderness and conservation. Finally, there are several ways in which this work has and will continue to put Luther on the map. In addition to delivering papers at all-college events such as the Nobel Peace Prize Forum and Black History Month Conference, I was invited to give a guest lecture on environmental issues in Africa at Valparaiso University, Indiana. Titled “Triumph of Game over People: Challenges and Opportunities in the Great Limpopo Trans-frontier Area of Southern Africa,” my lecture examined the drawbacks and opportunities necessitated by the creation of GLTP. I argued that our new understanding of the implications of this trans-boundary initiative and the level of community involvement form the basis upon which society can come up with intervention strategies that would benefit not just the wildlife and the camera-wielding tourist, but the poverty-stricken people who live in the area and who will be affected by the project. With its emphasis on trans-nationality, the publication of a monograph by one of the college’s own professors will be highly beneficial to our students, but will also show the world that Luther College is at the forefront of new approaches to studying the burgeoning field of Environmental History. Notes 1. Roderick Neumann, Imposing Wilderness: Struggles Over Livelihood and Nature Preservation in Africa. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 34.
2. Terence Ranger, Voices from the Rocks: Nature, Culture & History in the Matopos of Zimbabwe (London: James Currey, 1999). See also, Tamara-Giles Vernick, Cutting the Vines of the Past: Environmental Histories of the Central African Rainforest (Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 2002). 3. William Wolmer. “Wilderness gained, wilderness lost: Wildlife management and land occupations in Zimbabwe’s south-east lowveld,” Paper presented to the African Studies Association-UK Conference, Birmingham 9-11 September 2002. See also, William Wolmer, From Wilderness Vision to Farm Invasions: Conservation & 28
Development in Zimbabwe’s South-East Lowveld (Oxford: James Currey, 2007).
4. Dan Brockington, Fortress Conservation: The Preservation of the Mkomazi Game Reserve, Tanzania (Dar Es Salaam: Mkuki Na Nyota, 2002), 9. 5. Richard Mtisi, “They Promised that the Game Fences Would be Torn Down: Nationalist Politics and Contested Control on Natural Resources in Southeastern Zimbabwe, 1960s-1970s,” International Journal of African Historical Studies, 45. 3 (2012), 427-448.
6. While a return to a full-blown war seems unlikely, Renamo, Portuguese acronym for Mozambique National Resistance, and Frelimo (Mozambique Liberation Front), the ruling party, have been involved in military clashes and ambushes that have killed hundreds of civilians and have displaced tens of thousands. The protagonists have plundered the wildlife of the region. 7. William Beinart and Peter Coates, Environment and History: The Taming of Nature in the USA and South Africa (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 3.
Creative Possibilities at the Intersection of East and West
y sabbatical project was to research and study Chinese music in the hope of gaining knowledge of both traditional and current Chinese musical styles. I was especially interested in finding suitable chamber pieces for piano with guzheng, a Chinese zither. I also hoped to look for more teaching and performing repertoire written by Chinese composers, past and current. The guzheng is a traditional Chinese instrument with more than 2500 years of history. It is a plucked string instrument with 21 movable bridges. The body of the instrument is very ornate, and is typically constructed of wutong (Chinese parasol tree) wood. The performer wears four picks in the right hand, and uses a circular finger motion to pluck the strings on the right side of the bridges. The left hand is used to press down the strings at the left side of the bridges, controlling pitch ornamentation and creating vibrato. Right and left hands often join forces in glissandos by sweeping rapidly up and down the entire instrument.
In the month of April I went to Yangzhou, China, where I met and rehearsed with Li Cheng, a traditional Chinese guzheng player. We spent several days together preparing for a joint concert at Yangzhou University. Li is a lovely young lady, and also a beautiful guzheng player. I learned a lot from practicing with her, watching her hand gestures, understanding her body language, and trying to be in sync with her, which proved to be more challenging than I expected. As many passages are very free and improvisational in guzheng repertoire, represented by numerous glissandos up and down the strings, it was rather difficult to decide the exact moment for my entry sometimes. It took a fair amount of practice for us to feel comfortable and confident as collaborative partners.
SUBMITTED BY XIAO HU
In the concert, I also prepared some solo repertoire. One of the pieces was a Chinese composition named Hundreds of Birds Worshipping the Phoenix. I was especially drawn to this piece because of its folk origin and the vivid depictions of nature and bird calls. Hundreds of Unlike western string instruments which Birds Worshipping the Phoenix has a are always tuned to a set of fixed pitches, long and interesting history. It has the guzhengâ€™s 21 strings can be tuned long existed in Chinese folk repertoire, to a variety of pentatonic scales in a and was later transcribed for another four-octave span. It is impractical for the Chinese instrument, the suona. The performer to tune all 21 strings prior to suona is a double-reed horn instrument each piece during a concert; therefore, with a rather high and piercing timber, it is common practice to use several often featured in a Chinese folk band instruments in one concert, each tuned to at wedding celebrations. The Chinese the pentatonic scale for the chosen piece. composer, Jianzhong Wang, arranged the main melody for piano in 1973, and Hundreds of Birds Worshipping the Phoenix has remained one of the all time favorites of Chinese piano repertoire. The composer utilized Xiao Hu in concert with Li Cheng in Yangzhou
SUBMITTED BY XIAO HU
by XIAO HU, Associate Professor of Music
The guzheng various ornaments and short trills in creative ways to imitate the original instrumentation, as well as mimic bird calls on the piano. The result is fascinating and intriguing. This piano arrangement is built mostly on pentatonic scales, yet western scales are used and incorporated, forming a unique blend of both eastern and western influences. Another excellent Chinese two-piano composition I identified was Suite from China West, written by composer Chen Yi, which my husband Du and I plan to feature in our February 2017 faculty recital on the Luther campus. Suite from China West is written in four movements, each inspired by authentic folk music drawn from the western region of China. My concert at Yangzhou University was a success, with a cheering full house at the Lecture Hall. I felt grateful and truly enjoyed this opportunity to come to China, study traditional Chinese music, and explore the differences and similarities between Chinese and western music. As western classical musical compositions focus more on tonal and structural developments, traditional Chinese music is more atmospheric and freer in structure and is meant to evoke and inspire through sonic poetry. I hope my endeavor in this project will enhance this learning communityâ€™s awareness of music from the Far East and the creative possibilities of the intersections with western concert formats. Fall 2016/Agora
Civility and Trusting God: Thoughts on Risk and Society by STORM BAILEY, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Because as a philosophy teacher, I see the significance of these questions as a practical problem. The stakes are so high on these questions that it can be difficult to study them in the manner which I believe genuine inquiry requires. In my view, the kind of reflection that must be encouraged in college and university classrooms requires a certain sort of freedom—a freedom to open the mind to any possibility, to view one’s own deepest commitments from the counterfactual vantage of other commitments, and to ask and to entertain any genuine question about the matter at hand. In order to create the conditions for this sort of freedom in thinking, the classroom must be artificial in certain sorts of ways. One of these ways entails pulling the discussion back from pressing concerns— insulating the inquiry from our actual commitments and needs. Doing this makes it possible for people to try on ideas and perspectives without changing their own, to consider the implications of ideas under entirely different 30
assumptions about which consequences matter most, and to understand the inner consistency or even elegance of radically opposing intellectual systems by inhabiting them—by trying them on for a time. But doing this requires that in that learning space we let go of the extrinsic ends—personal and societal— for which we seek knowledge.
…We don’t try to solve the problems or save the souls or promote justice in our classrooms. This is not dictated only by the problem of what position the instructor ought to take in designing or leading the class. More importantly, it is that people are prevented from learning in some real sense when the inquiry is, at that moment, tied to an end. Let me hasten to say that I believe that liberal education is vital for the solution of pressing social problems, for the edification of souls, and for the promotion of justice and virtue. But we don’t try to solve the problems or save the souls or promote justice in our classrooms. This is not dictated only by the problem of what position the instructor ought to take in designing or leading the class. More importantly, it is that people are prevented from learning in some real sense when the inquiry is, at that moment, tied to an end. In order to have liberal learning take place, we must set aside those ulterior ends—not because we dismiss them as unimportant, but because they
PHOTO BY KATE KNEPPRATH, LC PHOTO BUREAU
s a philosopher, I deal with questions whose stakes are ultimate—as high as can possibly be. I realize that may strike you as flamboyantly overstated or some form of disciplinary megalomania; after all, engineers or biomedical researchers deal with matters of life and death, and chemists or ecologists or social scientists with whether we live or die and how. But doesn’t the significance of those concerns depend on the goodness of life and the badness of death? What is the value of life, and does conscious life have any meaning? Can consciousness and personal identity transcend death? Is goodness real? Those philosophical questions seem bigger, but nothing I am going to say here depends on your believing that. I’m just setting up a starting analogy.
are too important for the classroom. This seems wrong-headed to some, and it may actually be morally wrong in time of crisis to do it. But I don’t think so. “Is this going to be on the test?” may have a different (and less admirable) ulterior motive than “Is this going to help the poor?”, but those motives do not have a different pedagogical effect. I am agreeing here with John Henry Newman, who says “Knowledge is one thing, virtue is another”(91). Heightening our personal stake in the outcome of inquiry clearly has the potential to distort—or even block— that inquiry. This is not a groundbreaking pedagogical insight. I am after all only describing the familiar concept of disinterested inquiry. That is not to say it is simple or uncontroversial, considering the many factors (unacknowledged assumptions, structural conditions, relations of power) which complicate any effort to make such spaces of inquiry. And there is a real tension between engaging questions of pressing importance while making a space for students to set aside their immediate commitments for the purpose of reflection. Those are issues that are worth tackling, and the pressure today to make college classrooms engaging by
making them “more real,” in the sense of being more overtly connected to actual personal and social problems, seems to demand that we engage those concerns if we want robust liberal education. But what has all this to do with public discourse and civility? Notice that if the ideal liberal classroom is suitably insulated from commitment to ends in the sense I’ve suggested, then civil discourse seems to be a natural feature of such environments. Having a stake in the outcome crucially affects our tendency toward incivility. That stake can be personal (something trivial like reputation and status or something significant like virtue and salvation), or the stake can be extrinsic (prosperity, or justice). The metaphorical language about “stakes” illustrates my point. Consider what it means to have “a friendly game” of cards (or soccer, or checkers), and about how the friendliness is connected to the absence of stakes. Of course one can be friendly, or civil, in a high-stakes game, but that requires a discipline which much be cultivated with some rigor and intentionality. My point about the classroom is that, in the circumstances of disinterested inquiry, civility may well be a natural consequence—not just a hard-won discipline.
Is there an analogue to disinterested inquiry from which civility flows naturally in the public arena? I suggest that Christian faith, or trust in God, can and should play this role. But our concern is with public discourse, and my point about liberal classrooms is precisely that they be insulated in a sense from public concerns; I believe that’s the basis of Cardinal Newman’s famous distinction (in The Idea of a University) between Liberal Knowledge and Useful Knowledge. Is there an analogue to disinterested inquiry from which civility flows naturally in the public arena? I suggest that Christian
faith, or trust in God, can and should play this role. Having gotten, at last, to the starting point, let me offer some qualifications and disclaimers. First, there are many things that people mean by the terms “faith,” “Christian faith,” “God,” “trust in God.” I’ll say as best as I can what I mean, but I’m not claiming that’s the only way these terms might be used. I’m going to make claims or ask questions about trust in God, understood in one particular way. (My sense isn’t idiosyncratic, but it isn’t universal either.) Second, I am not claiming that this particular sense of trust in God is the only commitment that can lead to these results (civility in public life). I will focus on this version of Christian faith because I know a little bit about it, it is relevant to our current circumstances, and I am a Christian in this sense myself, but—leaving aside other kinds of considerations for the moment—many religious traditions may have this public function (Buddhist traditions are a powerful example). Next, although I have some things to say to people who are interested in this sort of Christian faith, I do not assume everyone’s interest—far less do I assume that everyone shares those commitments. I hope that I do have something to say to everybody, and that this analysis will help us all to think fruitfully about risk, society, and trust. Finally, a lot turns on what we might mean by “civility” and “incivility,” and I am aware of the potential for silencing and other abuses under various deployments of these ideas (we may get to some of that below). I do have demeanor in mind, and though I do not think that being calm, for example, is always appropriate, it is often helpful. But underneath demeanor I suppose something like respect. (It is certainly possible to be angry while acknowledging a person’s worth or value.) On this account, civility requires that we listen openly, that we present opposing views in their most favorable light—or at least fairly and in a way in which their opponents would acknowledge “that’s my view”—that we apply judgments and criteria to others that we are openly willing to
have applied to ourselves and our views, and that as best we can we adopt a tone of discourse that encourages or makes space for these practices. That’s civility. What about faith?
Civility requires that we listen openly, that we present opposing views in their most favorable light—or at least fairly and in a way in which their opponents would acknowledge “that’s my view”—that we apply judgments and criteria to others that we are openly willing to have applied to ourselves and our views, and that as best we can we adopt a tone of discourse that encourages or makes space for these practices. Out of a number of shades of possible meaning of “faith,” in this context I mean active trust or dependence. People practice or embody this all the time. Suppose you trust someone to make travel arrangements for you. What happens to you in that case depends upon them. (Note by the way that such trust can be straightforwardly rational or irrational, based upon evidence and argument.) And we can take this trust right up the line from dependence on minor things to dependence on really important—even ultimately important—things. That is where we get to the realm of Christian faith, my initial focus (with the qualifications noted above). By such faith I simply mean trusting God—an existing person with the will and causal power to take care of one’s ultimate interests. I will venture to offer illustrations of such faith from the Christian scriptures, before trying to say how it might have an effect on contemporary public life. (I have illustrations from the Hebrew Fall 2016/Agora
Bible as well, but in the interest of time, I’ll give just a couple from the life and teaching of Jesus.) He counsels against worry about food and clothing for his followers. Your Father, he says, knows that you need them, so seek God’s kingdom first. Less drastically, but actually more relevant to our purpose, Jesus advocates that his followers forgo praise for noble actions—actively depending on God for reward by acting in secret. These ways of living express an active dependence upon God for one’s life and well-being. (Note that the dependence is real—if God doesn’t exist and take of these things, the loss is permanent.) Consider Jesus’s own actions before Pilate. The synoptic gospels record the Roman governor’s amazement at the calm silence of a man on trial for his life, and the gospel of John elaborates: “You do not speak to me?” asks Pilate, “Do you not know that I have authority to release you, and I have authority to crucify you?” Jesus answers, “You would have no authority over me, unless it had been given you from above” ( John 19:10-11). Let me pause to emphasize—while I am wandering in the fields of biblical exegesis and interpretation— that I see no indication that God’s preservation or protection of someone’s ultimate interests necessarily involves protecting their temporal interests. In the most famous New Testament passage concerning faith we see the proclamation that some who trusted in God were delivered from the sword, and others died by the sword; some, it is claimed, received back their dead by resurrection while others were tortured, stoned, sawn in two or wandered in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground (Hebrews 11:3438). This point is crucial to what I am proposing: on this account our temporal interests are not our ultimate interests. In the example of Christ before Pilate we see active dependence upon the providence of God visibly affecting Jesus’s actions and the manner of speaking in temporal conditions of great significance. Can we in any way draw parallels to persons embodying Christian faith as they engage in public 32
discourse about the matters, great and small, which concern them and their neighbors? In suggesting that we can, I am affirming an account of social engagement which echoes the image of Christians as resident aliens in the kingdoms and societies of the world. The Hebrew scriptures contain a vivid account of the people of God as exiles in this sense when the prophet Jeremiah addresses the (literal) exiles residing in Babylon ( Jeremiah 29:5-10). We see a parallel in Augustine’s account of Christians as pilgrim souls, serving the cities and societies in which they live out of love for neighbor. The city of God, of which they are true citizens, is not of this world, and its fate is not shackled to the fate of any temporal kingdom.
I am affirming an account of social engagement which echoes the image of Christians as resident aliens in the kingdoms and societies of the world… It seems to me that this understanding of the lives of Christians in the world liberates the person of Christian faith from ultimate concern about the affairs of the world. It seems to me that this understanding of the lives of Christians in the world liberates the person of Christian faith from ultimate concern about the affairs of the world. Such liberation can of course be distorted and abused, but first consider the liberation. I am suggesting that this understanding is the grounds for a kind of disinterested participation in public life. Not because issues of justice, peace, suffering, or prosperity are unimportant, or that these matters do not bear upon the wellbeing of other persons—persons of incalculable value. Rather, it is because the fate of nations ultimately depends upon the providence of God—exercised through humans to
be sure, but since it is God who brings about the fruit of human work, persons of Christian faith need not labor with that combination of fear and desire which so easily gives birth to vicious self-regard. Even more importantly, the ultimate fate and the deepest interest of pilgrim Christians is neither decided nor fulfilled by the kingdoms of the world or the social systems within which they and their neighbors live and die. Here, then, is the ground of disinterested participation which may be the analogue to disinterested inquiry in ideal learning environments. Is it fair to use, again, the analogy of a lowstakes game? In one sense, plainly not. First of all, the wellbeing of people is directly affected by the social policies we publicly debate. Lives are literally at stake. Second, leaving aside the notinsubstantial consideration of privilege, it isn’t just the lives of others that are at stake, but that of pilgrim Christians as well. But both of these circumstances are addressed above: it is God (according to pilgrim Christians) that is at work in the world, and whatever is at stake in life governed by social systems is not ultimate for pilgrim Christians— the highest stakes are just not on the table. And what this means for public discourse is straightforward. Christian faith means that none of this is personal. And that common phrase really says a great deal about the roots of bitterness and acrimony in our public discourse. If the model of civil exchange among disinterested inquirers is captured by the metaphor of a “friendly game,” the key image I am proposing for civil exchange in society generally is that the participants not take it personally. Christian faith is not the only ground for such an attitude, but it is a rich and fruitful one. But is that sort of attitude authentically Christian? Is genuine caring compatible with the sort of principled aloofness here commended? This objection can be illustrated by linking the discussion to a contrasting moral attitude: indignation. I think there are reasons for caution about embracing this attitude, and yet— sometimes at least—it seems we should. My reasons for caution: Indignation
embodies moral judgments about its objects, but the nature of this attitude is such that those moral judgments cannot be tentative—it seems impossible to be indignant and at the same time genuinely entertain the possibility that one’s judgment is mistaken. Given that our society’s most important public discussions are informed by varying conceptions of the good, it seems evident that the sort of disinterested engagement I am advocating rules against indignant participation. Pilgrim Christians must be willing and able to distance themselves from their own deepest beliefs in some sort of emotional sense. And yet indignation is certainly a characteristic of God. Admittedly, God’s moral attitudes are infallible and God has no need to ever question them. But, some suggest, there are times when people ought to be indignant—on behalf of others if not on their own part. How can emotional detachment be virtuous from a Christian perspective?
Whatever is at stake in life governed by social systems is not ultimate for pilgrim Christians—the highest stakes are just not on the table. I’ve noted that indignation presumes certainty about the justice or injustice of an action or policy. And it may be a moral failing to lack such knowledge in some cases. But indignation also seems often to suppose knowledge of the motives or ends of the wrongdoer. I question whether the realm of public discourse about issues of common concern is an arena in which that level of intimacy or knowledge is a reasonable presumption. In any case it is not a useful presumption. Assuming an opponent’s good intentions (publicly at least) is not only loving, but persuasively effective, and persons embodying Christian faith should commend this approach by example—to the extent that conscience allows. Pilgrim Christians may certainly set aside attachments to their own interests—
including the interest in being seen as right. This may leave room (or necessity) for passionate concern, or indignation, about the interests of others but that should be tempered by humility and will in any case represent a substantial calming of public rhetoric. Let me address another potential objection. Some may connect a lack of personal attachment in the emotional sense with a lack of attachment in the physical or economic sense. Surely there is no Christian virtue in being levelheaded and detached because—due to accident, privilege or injustice—the social issues at hand are someone else’s problems. But that needn’t be the case. Consider again the example of Jesus. In the last hours of his life, we have seen that Jesus is unmoved by the power of Pilate, believing as he says that only God rules his fate. But far from being insulated by privilege in this profession, he declines to petition the governor for relief and is in fact soon executed. The night before, the same gospel text recounts that as a result of knowing “that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come forth from God and was going back to God,” Jesus laid aside his garments and did the house-servant’s job of washing the feet of dinner guests ( John 13:3-17). His dependence on the providence of God was not a shield for privilege, but liberated him from interest—not just against the more powerful, but also against the less powerful, whom he served. Pilgrim Christians can and should be equally liberated. Such freedom does contain an element of the claim that “these are not my problems”—but that is not a privilege reserved for the rich, the healthy, or those with unearned benefits of race and class. Citizenship in an enduring and imperishable kingdom is professed to be open to all, and the poor and broken find it most easily. That’s the message to be proclaimed—and lived— by pilgrim Christians. If God exists and in providential sovereignty—mysterious because of the prevalence of pain, brokenness and evil—oversees the worlds, the pilgrim Christians’ part must surely be to live what they profess to be
true, and to love the good even if they imperfectly comprehend and reflect it. The profession of such Christians is that their interests are not ultimately governed by the social systems in which they live and work. This does not mean that those systems are unimportant, only that in discussions and debates about them the contributions of pilgrim Christians need not be governed by defensive fear or desire for goods, reputation, status or influence. “If my kingdom were of this world,” said Jesus to Pilate, “my servants would be fighting” ( John 18:36). If it is not, they need not. That’s how trust in God promotes civility (or how it should). I’m suggesting that a certain kind of principled disinterest can change the tone of one’s participation in contentious public policy discussions. I’ve located one source of such disinterest in trusting God—understood as active and actual dependence upon a transcendent and personal power to protect one’s ultimate interests. To the extent that such trust is well-placed, one’s ultimate interests are not at risk in the discussion at hand. This removes grounds for fear about the outcome and that’s what quite naturally changes the tenor of one’s participation. Now as I’ve said, I do not assume that all of us here believe that any such
Who Do You Trust? Paideia Texts and Issues Lecture Series 2016–17 October 4, 2016
Civility and Trusting God: Thoughts on Risk and Society Storm Bailey, associate professor of philosophy
November 1, 2016
Trust in the Commons: On Interdependence and Saving the World Rachel Brummel, assistant professor of environmental studies
February 14, 2017
The Racialization of Trust: Who Have We Been Taught Not to Trust? Michelle Boike, assistant director, Diversity Center Wintlett Taylor–Browne, interim director, Diversity Center
March 14, 2017
Set in Stone? Trust and Authenticity in Memorials and Museums Nancy Gates Madsen, associate professor of Spanish Lea Lovelace, adjunct faculty in art
Lectures are in the CFL Recital Hall at 7 p.m. with receptions following in Qualley Lounge.
transcendent and personal power exists, or that it is rational to assume that whatever ultimate powers do exist protect anybody’s ultimate interests. It isn’t my goal to try to persuade you otherwise now. Let’s take God out of it and see if any helpful aspects of the analysis remain for us all. (I will acknowledge that there may not be any aspects of the analysis which are helpful in that way, and I welcome candid arguments to that effect. The goal here is to provoke a fruitful discussion.) Our lives together are affected by the ways we deal with interest, risk, fear and trust. I’ve argued for reducing fear about temporal interest by trusting God. But what if we consider temporal interests—that is, the characteristics and needs of our current personal lives—as the only ones that are real or important? Is peace possible? What could make appeals for civility reasonable? How do we reduce fear of loss because our interests are not protected? Who do we trust? One thing to do when faced with a daunting question is try to figure out how many options there are. In this case there seem to be three: 1) Trust everybody, 2) Trust nobody, 3) Trust some and not others.1 Trusting Everybody: Surely we have to deal with the fact that not everybody is trustworthy in all things. And our trust localizes or instantiates our risk. So, unlike the discussion above, trusting each other keeps that risk in the game. So, especially where trust is unreasonable, that heightened risk isn’t going to encourage civility in the sense I’ve described—even if this trust is necessary (unavoidable). So I don’t really know what to do with this one, but just for a second let me pose a different kind of argument for expanding trust. When you trust somebody, you put your interests in their power. This might well be part of an unsentimental definition of love, and it isn’t always a bad idea to think about ways of loving more and more broadly. But surely love also seeks the good of another—and giving others responsibilities that they are manifestly unsuited to discharge does not seem to be promoting their good. (And so I move on, but I may actually end up here.) 34
Trusting Nobody: Here, to the full extent of our power, we watch out for our own interests and assume that others do likewise for theirs. On this road, even if we manage to avoid some terrible Hobbesian war of all against all, there is still the problem of the commons—in which prudence or self-interest, pursued rationally, leads to destructive outcomes that are irrational to bring about. We’ll hear a good deal more about this in the next lecture of this series.
I want to suggest a sense in which an element in the theistic picture seems crucial: the idea that our temporal interests are not ultimate. But we don’t need to go back to theism to make this case. We can go to Socrates. Maybe even better, John Stuart Mill. That leaves us with: Trusting some and not others. Which one’s? Those that deserve trust? Those whose duty it is to protect our interests? Here we might consider how our attitudes and beliefs about who deserves and who protects are shaped, and, again, I believe that the upcoming lectures in this series will help us to think more deeply about these matters. How have we been socialized to trust, or not trust, members of groups which are seen as different, or other? How do we tell the stories of past violence or trauma or evil, and how does that shape our attitude toward ourselves and our present systems of justice? More generally, this question of which people to trust, and which not and how to collectively and systematically manage the risk of that trust, is simply the heart of political philosophy; political theorists grapple with these questions and alternatives, and always have. A good deal of that discussion is practical; game theorists, for example, have shown that trust-enforcing cooperation turns out to serve both individual and collective interest, and we
can identify potential mechanisms for that and seek to build them; again, that’s at least part of what our future lecturers are out to do. But there may be some sense in which the way risk gets managed in these various schemes falls short of what is needed for civility—especially if risk to our immediate interests is the center of our attention. So let me go back to civility, and say something about our demeanor and behavior as we seek to organize our life together to put risk and trust in the right places. I want to suggest a sense in which an element in the theistic picture seems crucial: the idea that our temporal interests are not ultimate. But we don’t need to go back to theism to make this case. We can go to Socrates. Maybe even better, John Stuart Mill—since Mill talks explicitly about what I’m calling civility, and he calls “the morality of public discussion.” In his 1851 essay, On Liberty, Mill argues at length for full freedom of expression—he famously says that restricting what people can say is never justified. At the conclusion of that argument, he pauses to address an additional objection or qualification— one that brings us to the issue of civility. “Before quitting the subject of freedom of expression,” he says, “it is fit to take some notice of those who say that free expression of all opinions should be permitted on condition that the manner be temperate, and do not pass the bounds of fair discussion”(50). Mill’s rejection of this restriction will resonate with those who note how, in our own day, calls for civility can shield attempts to silence unwanted voices and opinions. Mill says that the label of “intemperate” appears to be assigned just when and just because an opposing argument is telling, powerful and difficult to answer. So he doesn’t want to protect that form of dodging those arguments: dismissing them because they are intemperate. Mill does think that there is a morality of public discussion and that certain behavior is obligatory. But the most common forms of wrongfully intemperate discussion cannot be remedied by enforceable legislation, nor even be given the moral censure which Mill admits they deserve. These
actions and attitudes include sophistical argumentation, suppression of facts or arguments, misstating the case or misrepresenting the opposite opinion. Such acts might be done by persons in good faith, says Mill, and even if done with malicious intent it would be nearly impossible to show it. He concludes that law could never “presume to interfere with this kind of controversial misconduct”(51). Even where incivility is obvious and overt, Mill declines to legislate against it. In what seems (alas) to be a timeless observation about intemperate public discourse involving “invective, sarcasm, personality and the like,” Mill notes that “the denunciation of these weapons would deserve more sympathy if it were ever proposed to interdict them equally on both sides”(51). This isn’t just a matter of fairness for Mill; he suggests that when such methods are used, they are most likely to benefit the prevailing opinion. (They may even earn their devotees praise for their righteous indignation.) And Mill’s reason for not giving advantage to the prevailing opinion is his desire to make it as likely as possible that true beliefs prevail and that those beliefs be held with genuine understanding—not by mere habit. For Mill, the pursuit of truth serves civility. Mill concludes this discussion by addressing what he claims to be “the worst offense of this kind,” which is “to stigmatize those who hold the contrary opinion as bad and immoral men”(51). Again, Mill supposes that this tactic is likely to benefit the prevailing opinion more than dissent, though it is offensive to justice and to truth wherever it is deployed. His conclusion bears repeating at length; reasoned opinion, he says, should condemn ... everyone, on whichever side of the argument he places himself, in whose mode of advocacy either want of candor, or malignity, bigotry, or intolerance of feeling manifest themselves; but not inferring these vices from the side which a person takes, though it be the contrary side of the question to our own; and giving merited honor to everyone, whatever opinion he
may hold, who has calmness to see and honesty to state what his opponents and their opinions really are, exaggerating nothing to their discredit, keeping nothing back which tells, or can be supposed to tell, in their favor. This is the real morality of public discussion. (52) I have a good deal more to say about Mill’s argument and have done so elsewhere, but this is more than enough for present purposes. Those purposes are to say: 1. Mill is offering an account of civility that is close enough to mine as makes no difference. 2. Mill shows why civility of this sort cannot be enforced by rules. 3. This form of civility is nonetheless demanded by respect for persons and necessary for the pursuit of truth. But look at where that leaves us. My individual, temporal interests are not necessarily aligned with what is true, so it can be beneficial to me, here and now, for the truth to be hidden. In the absence of enforcement of some rule to even the field, civility can make me suffer and another benefit at my expense. So the question is whether I value the truth more than my own interests—my immediate interests at least. This is of course the very question that Socrates posed to the powers of Athens. You don’t have to be a Christian to think the answer should be “yes” (though if you are, you should think so). And you don’t have to be a Christian to think that other people are as valuable as you, therefore should be treated in the way that you want to be treated. What this means (among many other things) is that some things are more important than your immediate interests; and that’s why you put those interests in the hands of your neighbors—whether your neighbors are trustworthy or not. Let me be clear here. In her kind introduction, Professor Sullivan characterized my talk as asking “Does civility require trusting each other?” Since civility requires each of us to act in ways that we cannot ensure by
enforcement that others will act, and therefore that we put our interests in the hands of others, the answer to her question is: yes. That might be easier for many religiously committed people (and Christians certainly ought to be doing it), but if enough people do it— whether in the footsteps of Jesus or of Socrates—could it be enough to allow a culture of trust and cooperation to grow? (Maybe that’s part of what Jesus meant by saying that his followers were the salt of the earth, or part of what Plato meant when he said that justice, being good in itself, brings immediate temporal benefit.) So maybe the civility of a few can be the seeds of a culture of trust and cooperation. Or maybe you’ll just be killed like Jesus and Socrates were. Either way, if the truth is more important than our temporal interests, then seeking truth—like trusting God—can promote civility in our public discourse. But then, wait, maybe where I started—college classrooms—wasn’t just an analogy. What if, whatever we learn there, we become more disposed to love the truth, to subordinate even our own immediate interests to the pursuit of it? I’m not saying it’d save the world. But it would make people who could be trusted. References Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. Elizabeth Rapaport, ed. (Indianapolis: Hacket Publishing Company, Inc., 1979)
Newman, John Henry. The Idea of a University. Martin J. Svaglic, ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982)
Notes 1. My friend and colleague Gereon Kopf has pointed out the oversimplification here. Of course he is right that trust isn’t allor-nothing and we might trust nearly everybody to some degree, but might trust very few people with, say, our lives. This preserves, but complicates, the breakdown. I don’t suppose it changes the kind of relationship trust or its lack entails, but it puts degrees on it.
Trust in the Commons: On Interdependence and Saving the World by RACHEL BRUMMEL, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
Saving the World
s someone who teaches environmental policy, I often hear questions in the general vicinity of “How do we save the world?” Saving the world is often the implicit motivation for newly minted Environmental Studies majors, or it is mentioned sarcastically by my seniors to characterize how naive they were when they first started out. So I include “Saving the World” in the title of this lecture as a somewhat tongue in cheek reference to that “thing” that is not one thing, to which there is no one answer. But, I also want to take it on, and grasp for the common thread that might unite all of our “saving the world” activities to argue that we won’t save the world without building trust and embracing our interdependence. When the organizers of this series communicated with us lecturers on the question of “Who Do You Trust?” for this year’s Paideia Texts and Issues series, they noted overlap in our proposals and asked us to collaborate and connect our talks. So when my colleague Storm Bailey stood on this stage a month ago to present his ideas about “Civility and Trust in God,” making arguments about the merits of setting aside temporal or “real world” interests in the classroom in pursuit of civility, I admit I started to sweat a little. Temporal, earthly interests are pretty much what I do. So I will preface: I am going to ask you to muck around exclusively in the world of earthly interests. Even more, I’m going to ask you to examine the nature of those earthly interests— access to clean water, certainty in our environmental status, quality of life— as uniquely tied to and interdependent with others in our communities and on Earth more broadly. But I find, to 36
quote Darwin, “there is grandeur in this view of life.” I ask you to think of the fact that we share the same air, water, and climate—not as a limiting factor to achieving our individual temporal interests—but as a beautiful thing, as an element of possibility. Ultimately, I ask you to embrace the idea that my care for a resource in one place can lead to your benefit in another.
I ask you to think of the fact that we share the same air, water, and climate—not as a limiting factor to achieving our individual temporal interests—but as a beautiful thing, as an element of possibility. When I first started thinking about saving the world sometime in the early 1990s, the big issues were tropical deforestation, saving the whales, and “the greenhouse effect,” which we were just starting to talk about. Saving the world, to me at that time, meant protecting nature from humans— creating massive parks, banning logging. Since then, I have come to understand that saving the world is a deeply human endeavor. Rather than just protecting nature from humans, we need to change the ways we relate to each other, with our governments, and with our environment. And trust—and in particular building trust in our communities, between citizens and their government, and in our own environments—is critical to saving the world.
The Commons When Storm set the framework for the talks in this lecture series to follow, he laid out three models of trust in the world: 1) Trust everyone, 2) Trust some people and not others, 3) Trust no one. And he talked about how the problems of the commons—which I’m going to talk about tonight—often fall in this third, untrusting category. But, first what do we mean when we talk about “the commons”? Often, when we discuss “commons” we are talking about a particular property regime���a bit of land, for example, that is collaboratively, commonly, or publicly owned. I ask you to broaden that definition and to also think about the commons as the fluid and boundaryless things that unite and connect us in often unseen ways: our rivers, our groundwater, our air and our atmosphere, and our soil. An academic definition of a “common pool resource” recognizes particular characteristics of this kind of environmental system: 1) it is difficult to prevent or exclude others from using this resource, and 2) the resource is subtractable or exhaustible. This means that when one person uses that common resource, there is that much less of that resource available for others who share it. By way of example, imagine a lush, beautiful little river valley, with a collection of cozy little homesteads. In this river valley, each homestead extracts water from the river for irrigation and personal use. The people in these homesteads benefit from that water: they are healthy, they can have more animals, they make more money from selling those animals. There is only a little reduction in volume, the negative impact is shared across users and across scales, and often the impacts aren’t immediate.
While scholars have been thinking about the challenge of governing common resources for quite some time, Garrett Hardin is best known for a 1968 paper in which he called our individual and collective relationship to the commons a “tragedy.” In the dynamic Hardin describes, individual actors in the commons are inherently incentivized to act in their own interest to the detriment of the collective interest. In the context of our example, the benefit that an individual actor reaps from extracting or polluting that water is greater than the negative impact, because that negative impact is shared across all users in the system. Everyone gets just a little less water, or a little dirtier water. But, in Hardin’s argument, this incremental degradation continues and our environmental problems get worse: first, because of the nature of our commons’ resources—they are large, transboundary, and difficult to monitor and enforce violations against; and second, because of the inherent tension between the interests of individuals and the collective interest. In Hardin’s language, actors in the commons will always “maximize their own personal utility”—they will always do what is in their own best interest, and this will continue to occur until the environmental system collapses. This model is predicated on the idea that we cannot trust that others in the commons
will act in a way that conserves environmental quality for all.
PHOTO BY NATHAN RILEY, LC PHOTO BUREAU
Thinking about the commons in terms of a resource that can be extracted or taken out—like fisheries or water mining—is a good way to get our minds wrapped around the concept. However, many of our most challenging commons’ problems have to do with pollution, or putting something into the commons. So return to that river valley and imagine there is a landowner in that valley who has household chemicals she really should correctly dispose of, but simply dumps them in the river instead. She saves the money and the time it would take to dispose of them properly. And again, her benefit of that action—using the river to carry away her pollution—is bigger than the cost that is shared by each of her neighbors, especially those that are downstream.
Hardin used the image of an open pasture to illustrate this tragedy. In Hardin’s example, herders would be continually incentivized to add more animals to the detriment of the environmental quality of the pasture and the herders who share it. To quote Hardin: Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit—in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all. The takeaway here is that our world, and our environmental systems in particular, work as one big commons. Many of our human institutions, such as private property, are organized around boundary creation and aren’t particularly well suited to deal with the physical reality of an environmental commons that spans those boundaries. Because common pool resources are often large and transboundary, we don’t feel the impact of negative environmental actions immediately—or sometimes even at all—because they are shared across actors in the commons. And even when we understand this dynamic, we are unlikely—as individuals—to change our behavior because we don’t trust that others will change their behavior either. We don’t trust that others will do anything other than do what is cheap, easy, profitable or convenient for them. But is this really how the world works? Indeed, there are certain environmental and social contexts where Hardin’s tragedy seems to hold. International negotiations regarding climate change, for example, are one of those situations where commons’ dilemmas can ring true. Until quite recently, a commons’ dilemma captured the nature of climate change politics between China and the US. In the late 1990s, the United States refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol
because China—categorized as a developing country—wouldn’t be held to the same standards as the United States. Meanwhile, China and United States—two countries responsible for over 40% of global CO2 emissions— continued to increase emissions, while many other countries undertook greenhouse gas reductions in good faith. While governments can organize and regulate actors in the commons to prevent “tragedies,” challenges of governing the commons are amplified in international contexts due to the voluntary nature of international treaties. Thus the tragedy of the commons can be reflected in large, complex commons’ systems and, in particular, commons’ problems related to pollution. But there are times that the tragedy doesn’t occur—even without governmental intervention—and the times when it doesn’t are usually on local scales where there is a high degree of face-to-face interaction among users and high levels of trust among community members. Elinor Ostrom was a behavioral economist who won a Nobel Prize studying contexts where actors in the commons were cooperating for their collective interest and ultimately showed the world that Hardin’s “tragedy” wasn’t inevitable. While Hardin’s ideas were primarily theoretical, Ostrom traveled the world, gathering data on communities who were—contrary to Hardin’s predictions—sustainably managing common pool resources. Across all of the cases she examined—from communal grazing in Switzerland and Japan, to collective irrigation systems in Spain—she found that high levels Fall 2016/Agora
of trust, as well as collective rules and policies that sought to reinforce trust, were central to the success of their sustainable commons’ management. Not all of what Ostrom learned is applicable to the complexity of our modern commons’ challenges. But her work does tell us something about the importance of building trust among actors in a world where our environmental fates are intertwined. So I want to spend some time exploring three forms of trust that are important to saving the world, and take stock of how we might be doing with regards to each of those kinds of trust.
Trust in the Commons As I’ve already discussed, when we act within the commons, we carry the risk that others might not do what is in all of our best interest. Trust, in this context called “trust in action,” acknowledges that my fate is linked with yours and that your actions could, in fact, negatively impact me. But when we trust each other, we hold the belief that perhaps others in the commons will move beyond each of their own individual interests to do what we all know will be good for us in the long run. We are more likely to cooperate if we trust each other. Let’s use our river valley to think about trust in the commons with a new issue in mind: flooding. The floodplains in this river valley have cycles of periodic flooding, historically. However, flood frequency has increased—both due to climate change and to broader landscape level change. We have less tallgrass prairie, we have drained wetlands, and we have fewer forested lands. All of these ecosystems are important for pulling water into the soil and holding water on the landscape, so their removal means more surface runoff in intense rain events. In this hypothetical situation, let’s assume that the folks living on the landscape know that removing some of their productive cropland to put in wetlands, or prairie strips, or riparian forests will make a small contribution to the collective problem of flooding, but it will also cost them in terms of lost productivity and the cost of installing that practice. 38
In a high trust situation, the burden of research shows that landowners are more willing to take the individual risk of acting toward the collective good, particularly if we have institutions that facilitate that transaction. Plenty of sociological and political scholarship has demonstrated that social trust and trusting our neighbors makes our communities safer, more efficient, more prosperous, and more resilient. Trust gets things done. Trust makes us more likely to cooperate, rather than go it alone. Trust, by that measure, decreases the potential for the tragedy of the commons. The greater trust that we have of our neighbors or just generalized social trust in the person on the street, the more likely we are to take on the individual burdens to reduce collective burdens. I am, as a landowner, more likely to remove productive cropland to put in wetlands that might buffer my downstream neighbors against flooding, if I think that my neighbor up river might do the same in a way that might have a positive impact on me. While we know trust is important to the ways we behave when the collective is at question, trust in our fellow citizens and neighbors is declining. The Pew Research Center, which has gathered data on trust over several decades, shows a slight downward trend in our generalized trust in others. But most notably, surveys show generational cohort declines. Less than 20% of Millennials, for example, feel that “most people can be trusted.” Similarly, Pew’s most recent polls show that collectively, that just over 50% of Americans trust all of their neighbors. Those who are wealthy, white, and educated are more likely to trust their neighbors. There is clearly a racial component to trust; Michelle Boike and Wintlett TaylorBrowne will give the next lecture in the
series entirely about the racialization of trust.
But why this decline in trust? Political scientist Robert Putnam writes about declining trust in communities and links this to—among other things—reduction in engagement in our communities. We’re less involved. In Putnam’s book Bowling Alone he documents declines in multiple aspects of collective life in the second half of the 20th century. While some claim that his analysis is informed by a healthy dose of nostalgia, his work highlights several stark facts about changes from the 20th to the 21st century: we are less likely to spend a social evening at our neighbor’s house, we are less likely to be members of community groups, and we are less likely to be politically involved— especially in those activities that require face-to-face interactions. In short, we spend less time with our neighbors and members of our community, and we especially have trouble reaching out to those of differing racial or socioeconomic groups. We don’t know or understand each other, so we don’t have a basis for trust. Public trust in government is also critical to questions of the commons; the state is capable of organizing to promote public and environmental health in ways that neither the market nor private citizens can. But the trend here is
much more stark. Across three parallel surveys, less than 20% of Americans trust the federal government to “do the right thing just about always or most of the time.” Moreover, some communities have even less reason to trust the government to protect environmental and public health than the general public. We saw this in the water crisis in Flint, Michigan—a city with 65% of the people of color and 41% of its population under the poverty line. Thousands of kids in those communities were exposed to drinking water with elevated lead levels for over a year. Emails exchanged among local, state, and federal environmental regulators during that time reveal startling indifference to the concerns of community members.
In short, we spend less time with our neighbors and members of our community, and we especially have trouble reaching out to those of differing racial or socioeconomic groups. We don’t know or understand each other, so we don’t have a basis for trust. The final locus of trust I want to explore is trust in our own environments. We’ve come to expect a certain predictability through the history of our own environmental experiences, as well as through patterns set through longitudinal data—the first frost, the timing of our spring forest wildflowers. We do, of course, recognize some environmental uncertainty is part of living on Earth and that extreme events will occur. But we are starting to see environmental patterns and change that are out of the range of “normal” or “expected,” and models predict more of the same. We don’t have to look further than flooding on our own Upper Iowa River for a case study. Analysis by Professor Richard Bernatz of the Luther College
mathematics department shows that this September was the wettest year on record for the 123 years for which records have been kept. July through September was the wettest three-month interval on record. Decorah received 34.71 inches of precipitation, which is 22.92 inches more than normal. September was also 4.7 degrees F warmer than normal. And it isn’t just us. Scientists from the Iowa Flood Center have looked at patterns of flooding over the central US and have confirmed that our floods aren’t bigger, but flooding is occurring more often. So in short, we can’t necessarily trust our previous experiences and historical patterns to predict what our future environmental experiences might be.
The Effects of Declining Trust in the Commons So what happens when we see declining trust in the people who share our common resources, declining trust in government that is charged with protecting public and environmental health, and declining trust in the predictability of our environment? What are the implications for the commons? And for us? Well, there are a several possibilities. And, one of them is to confront those issues of trust and work to save the world. But I’m going to keep that one for the end. Another possibility is to retreat—to insulate ourselves from the inherent interdependence of the commons, and from the environment itself. Sociologist Andrew Szasz describes the underpinnings of this type of individually-focused environmentalism in his book Shopping Our Way to Safety: How We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves. He describes an environmentalism in which people buy bottled water or install water filters to protect themselves from declining water quality rather than working collectively to promote clean water across our communities. It is an environmentalism that is based upon protecting oneself from existing tragedies of the commons through buying things that we hope will make us safer and healthier. He calls this phenomenon “reverse quarantine”: in
conventional quarantine systems, we isolate individuals to protect the health of the collective. In reverse quarantine, individuals self-isolate to protect themselves from the environment. But if we don’t trust our neighbors—our partners in the commons—to act in our collective interest, and we don’t trust the government to take care of our environmental welfare, and we don’t trust what we see as an increasingly unpredictable and risky environment, you can see that reverse quarantine might seem like a reasonable response. Perhaps my characterization of this individualistic environmentalism sounds a bit harsh, and I understand if people may prickle at that critique. And in full disclosure, if you visit my house, you’ll see that I choose to drink from the filtered faucet that the previous owners installed. But the true critique to level at reverse quarantine is that engaging in it limits the range of actions we might take to address an environmental problem. Further, isolating ourselves from environmental problems just doesn’t work. Collective Fall 2016/Agora
problems—such as water pollution— need collective responses. And bottled water—in particular—is often no cleaner, and sometimes more polluted than what you might get out of your tap. Buying into this type of “reverse quarantine” gives us what Szasz calls “political anesthesia.” So it isn’t necessarily that fancy water filters are bad in themselves, but bad because they numb us from imagining and acting upon a political or collective response to our commons’ problems. While Szasz primarily discussed this concept at the level of individuals and consumerism, reverse quarantine is also in play in how we manage our common landscapes and waterscapes. Let’s return to our flooding river valley for an example. In this iteration, imagine that a town has popped up and this town, like many others, has installed a levee system to protect its inhabitants from increasingly frequent flooding. Thus, levees, in this case, act as a form of reverse quarantine on the broader landscape. They buffer the community from flooding, a result of at least two different commons’ issues—climate change and the loss of native ecosystems. However, levees also have a tendency to make flooding worse for those who are downstream. Levees keep floodwaters in the channel and prevent that water from dissipating over the floodplain. So the water that is in the channel is higher volume and moving more rapidly than it would had there not been levees. This increases the impact of flooding from the levees on the communities downstream. So while levees might be quite good at protecting one community from floods, and might even be necessary for insurance purposes, they may numb us to actions that might better and more comprehensively address flooding. In this way, levees encourage us to focus more on reducing risk for some than building resilience for all. I want to emphasize: I’m not saying we get rid of the levees. But I am saying that we should be doing things that enhances trust across our landscape and recognize and build on our interdependences, which brings me to the final portion of this talk. 40
On Interdependence & Saving the World
a culture and enhances public trust in our shared environmental commons.
So what should we do? In short, we need to build trust and build upon our interdependences, rather than rejecting, reducing, or obscuring them. At the beginning of this talk, I planted a seed: that our environmental interdependence might be a strength, rather than a tragedy. I hope I’ve shown you how trust is important—it makes us more likely to cooperate to more sustainably manage our shared resources. I want to end with a few thoughts that might bring us a bit closer to this goal of saving the world:
• Go outside: To borrow from Bryan Stevenson, “get proximate” to natural places, build your trust in the environment and your sense of possibility by witnessing nature’s resilience, and see that there is so much out there that is a part of our commons to save.
1. Connect, participate, and engage
2. Shift from individual risk reduction to collective responsibility in our environmental politics
We’ve had several wonderful speakers on campus over the past year or so who have emphasized the importance of connecting and engaging to build empathy, understanding, and trust. Bryan Stevenson talked about the need to “get proximate”—to get physically closer to our problems in order to understand them. Karen Joy Fowler emphasized our innate empathy and need work to extend it to others whom we may not immediately see like ourselves. My contribution is to simply underscore these charges and tell you that engaging in community is good for the environment, too. • Do one of the following things: join a community group or association, set a monthly rotating dinner with a group of friends, sit on your front porch in nice weather instead of your backyard, go visit your local party’s office rather than signing that online survey, volunteer on a board of a non-profit. Put yourself in places and with people who take you outside of your daily routine. Make connections and build trust—not with any particular goal in mind. • Act in community and practice your environmentalism with others. I’m going to pose to you that perhaps the most impactful things you can do for our shared commons aren’t things like changing all the lightbulbs in your house to LED or buying green cleaning products. Do things that are visible in your community, and even better, do them with others. This builds
Without trust in our neighbors and in our political institutions, it is difficult to maintain hope. Without hope, we aren’t likely to act. Hope is grounded in community.
Most of our environmental problems— whether flooding, water quality, or climate change—are commons’ problems. We need to encourage models of environmental management and environmental politics that recognize our interdependence and incentivize collective responsibility. See reverse quarantine as a first step, not a final step. A New York farmer I interviewed for research a few years ago expressed this lived-expression of interdependence when talking about envisioning himself in the context of his broader watershed: The water from that creek [on our land] ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. We are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed so if we pollute the water here on our farm, that affects hundreds of thousands of people along the way. So it was an eye opener to see that one person can make a difference, positive or negative. Whatever we can do, if that was our part, that’s what we should do. But we need to do more than just expect individuals to bear burdens for the collective good. We need to build institutions and embrace ongoing efforts to encourage collective responsibility for our environment. We need to provide regulatory and incentive-based policies for actors in the commons. Our policies—in the context of flooding, for
example—need to work to encourage those landowners to reconstruct wetlands or put in prairie strips on their land and support those who do act with those downstream in mind. Our governments and communities need to commit to creating funds and opportunities for incentivizing these practices that seek to mitigate flooding. We need to think beyond flood relief and flood risk reduction to flood resilience. On the global level with regard to climate change, the idea of living interdependence and collective responsibility might take the form of the much discussed “loss and damage” fund. Developed nations most responsible for climate change would contribute to a fund that is available to nations that are experiencing the disproportionate impacts of climate change. Again, this shifts the burden of the impacts of climate change—a commons’ problem—from individual nation-states that are particularly vulnerable. Finally, we need to think about interdependence not just as an attractive or ethical idea to guide our decisions, but as a strategy in itself. The fact that we rely on each other can be a strength. This deep interdependence and dense networks of interactions can be huge sources of power and the basis for collective action. Community-based energy systems and local and regional food systems are critical to this type of interdependence. The more closely our fates are tied, the more likely we are to act when a chain is broken.
3. Make building trust an explicit goal of our environmental politics and policy If our environmental problems in the commons come—at least in part—due to a lack of trust, we need to make building trust an explicit and stated goal of our environmental policies. As I wrote this lecture, I took breaks to check in on coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock Sioux protests. I asked myself how this deep conflict might fit into the model of trust and interdependence I’m presenting. It is clear the native communities driving this protest
have hundreds of years of history that scream “do not trust.” Research on environmental racism and injustice has documented the ways native communities are often more vulnerable to environmental problems, as well as the ways that environmental problems are often under-regulated and underenforced in native communities. And this is a situation with complex and deep rooted relations of power and marginalization. There is much more than just trust at play. I want to clarify that building trust is one of those “necessary, but not sufficient” steps toward saving the world.
We need to do more than just expect individuals to bear burdens for the collective good. We need to build institutions and embrace ongoing efforts to encourage collective responsibility for our environment. Yet the Standing Rock Sioux protests also illustrate the way we need to incorporate trust-building practices into the fabric of our environmental politics. Our policies need to provide due processes and assurances that the government is weighing the multiple and often competing interests in the commons in good faith. We shouldn’t trust our government blindly, but we should seek environmental policies that demonstrate public trust in government is warranted in our often contentious environmental commons. This means purposefully designing policy processes and mechanisms that build trust among actors in the commons and that provide assurances that collective environmental interests are prioritized. We should seek an environmental politics where no group should bear disproportionate environmental burdens, especially when they are not the beneficiaries of resource extraction or degradation. Accountability, monitoring, opportunity for public influence and engagement, and transparency should be key
elements of an environmental politics that seeks to enhance trust in the commons. I’ll end by way of analogy, because discussions of complex things like saving the world often benefit from a bit of imagery to provide cohesion to one’s ideas. For this, I draw from ecologist and writer Sandra Steingraber, who has said: We are all members of a great human orchestra, and now is the time to play the Save the World Symphony. You do not have to play a solo, but you do need to know what instrument you hold and find your place in the score. At first take, the symphony analogy seems a bit trite. But if we dig in a bit and extend it, there is more there. Rather than thinking of our shared environmental fate as a tragedy waiting to happen, imagine it as a symphony waiting to be written. In this symphony, trust between the musicians is imperative; an orchestra is more than a room full of soloists clamoring for the showy solo. There is beauty in this interdependence, but individuals do recognize the need to sit and count the measures until their next phrase. This analogy also allows us to think about how change happens in our commons. There might be dissonance, the cellos might miss their cue or there might have been extenuating factors that prevented the trombones from rehearsing sufficiently. But we are linked—whether through a shared score or a shared environment. The more we practice and build upon our interdependence, the more we trust we’ll get it right. And that should give us hope.
Decorah in 2050: A Vision for Resilient Sustainable Community Development by CRAIG MOSHER, Associate Professor of Social Work 2006-2016
Imagine what our small town, Decorah, might be like in the year 2050. A lot has changed in 35 years since Ronald Reagan was elected President—back before desktop computers and cell phones. A lot can change in the next 35 years. But I need a dream to stimulate my thinking and action. So here’s my vision for Decorah in 2050. Imagine that we’re there, in 2050. Our municipal utility and smart grid make Decorah self-sufficient in energy with wind turbines, solar, and pumped storage of electricity. Most counties have government funded energy districts— modeled after the Winneshiek Energy District—to assist families, businesses, and farmers in becoming more energy efficient and installing renewable energy (wind/solar/geothermal). Few homes have air-conditioning anymore; we rely on whole house fans, shade trees, and lemonade for cooling. In the terrible summer of 2019, three massive hurricanes destroyed New Orleans, Miami, and parts of Boston; hundreds of tornados devastated parts of the Midwest and South; and wildfires ravaged the West. This crisis, like Pearl Harbor, galvanized Americans and created the political will to implement a carbon tax that led to the phasing out of fossil fuels, and led people to rethink consumerism and 42
the large corporate perpetual growth economic model. Riding out into the countryside on our many bike trails in 2050 we see a cornucopia of rotating crops on much smaller farms—fertilized mostly by livestock manure. The country churches are thriving again with all the young families moving into farming. In town there is a creamery and several food processing businesses. All the neighboring towns have farmers’ markets now.
Imagine that we’re there, in 2050. Our municipal utility and smart grid make Decorah self-sufficient in energy with wind turbines, solar, and pumped storage of electricity. Luther College thrived in the 1920s and 1930s, as the Center for Sustainable Communities seeded regional communities with Luther interns who worked on resilient sustainable community development projects. And Luther began a major in Sustainable Agriculture and an incubator where people learned organic farming. As we bike around Decorah in 2050 we see mostly electric vehicles due to the very high price of oil. Only larger trucks and buses still use biodiesel. Bike racks, car charging stations, and hitching posts line Water Street downtown. People rent electric cars when needed but few own their own cars anymore. Electric trains crisscross the country, often using the roadbed of one side of an interstate highway, and a maglev [magnetic levitation] bullet train stops in Decorah on its way from St. Louis
Bicycles behind Farwell Hall to Minneapolis. People don’t fly much anymore due to high fuel prices and escalating taxes on airline tickets. Communities connect with each other in regional networks linked to hub cities for economic, cultural, health, and educational benefits. Churches and other local volunteer organizations have continued their important work responding to local needs and making their communities stronger. Many people have moved from large cities to repopulate vibrant small towns where they live simpler life styles growing much of their own food, making more of the things they need locally—including energy—and consuming much less from the global economy. Many economic transactions are conducted in local currencies, thus keeping money circulating in local economies. These changes were a challenge for global corporations whose markets began to shrink as people bought more of what they needed locally.
PHOTO BY MARTIN KLAMMER
lobal warming and climate change are changing our world. Scientists say we need to leave 80 percent of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we hope to stay below a 20 C global temperature rise and avoid runaway global warming. This will change our economy and our life styles. Developing resilient sustainable communities that are relatively selfsufficient may be one of the ways we can best handle these changes. How might this happen?
Local economies thrived as small businesses developed to meet local needs, creating jobs in small towns. Counties and cities put more of their economic development efforts into stimulating the growth of small local businesses that produced goods needed in the local area. Civic pride and the economic multiplier effect helped keep those dollars circulating in the local economy, benefiting the entire community. How did all these changes happen so fast? Part of it was the sense of crisis created by the weather disasters of 2019. Part of it was the Democratic landslide in 2020 that carried Democrats, including many women, into control of Congress. President Elizabeth Warren and the Democratic House and Senate passed many economic and health reforms, along with a carbon tax and campaign finance reform. Warren’s three appointments solidified a progressive majority on the Supreme Court for years to come.
Here in 2050, small towns have been growing again all around the Midwest with young people wanting to raise their children in safe, friendly regional networks of resilient sustainable communities. In these communities people care about each other, some live a more modest life style, often work at home or nearby (including telecommuting), and grow and make much of what they need—while sharing the joys of living and working in a close community of people, and living more in balance with nature and their neighbors.
As we bike around Decorah in 2050 we see mostly electric vehicles due to the very high price of oil. Only larger trucks and buses still use biodiesel. In 2036, with wars over water rights and climate refugees cropping up around the globe, Illinois Governor Malia Obama became president—on a platform that appealed to both liberals and conservatives—calling for family friendly policy changes and resilient sustainable community and neighborhood development. She led a worldwide women’s movement that reformed and strengthened the United Nations, which took over most global peacekeeping, thereby allowing nations to redirect much of their military budgets to social needs and combating the effects of climate change. Truth and reconciliation approaches were widely used to moderate ethnic, racial, and religions tensions. Fall 2016/Agora
Find the current issue and back issues of Agora online
ou can read the current issue of Agora online and you can also find and search all back issues by first going to our webpage: search “Agora” on the Luther College homepage. The current issue can be viewed right on that page. For back issues, click on the link that takes you to the webpage titled “Luther College Publications Archive.” Enter and then “select publication,” to search either Agora or The College Chips—the complete files of both Agora and the campus newspaper are available. You can search using names, words or phrases, and dates. You can read online or download as a PDF.
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The image above illustrated early issues of Agora. The journal was established by the Paideia Program, and paideia translates as education. The image shows a teacher with his tablet on his lap and stylus in his hand.
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