Ibrahim Anis, Leslie Pafrath, Dean Rusk

The Fate of Western Values

VTR Date: August 31, 1958


August 31, 1958
NBC Television

Moderator: Richard D. Heffner
Guests: Dean Rusk, Dr. Ibrahim Anis, Leslie Paffrath

ANNOUNCER: The Open Mind, free to examine, to question, to disagree. Our subject today, “The Fate of Western Values.” Your host on The Open Mind is Richard D. Heffner, historian, teacher, and author of A Documentary History of the United States.

HEFFNER: Sometimes picking a subject for a discussion program, such as The Open Mind, is rather a difficult one. Sometimes one just works up a subject and assumes that guests have certain ideas, certain attitudes toward the subject, and then finds frequently that one’s attitudes are mistaken. I think that the subject today, “The Fate of Western Values” is rather thought of in terms of this being a bewailing and bemoaning session. There are a number of people — very well educated people, in our own times — who feel that the western values that we have known, let’s say the Enlightenment, are rather going by the board. And that with the rise of the East and of nations that have not had a commonality of experience with western values, these values may disappear. Now let me introduce my guests and let them speak for themselves. My first guest is Mr. Dean Rusk, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and former assistant Secretary of State, both for United Nations affairs and for Far Eastern affairs. My second guest is Dr. Ibrahim Anis, United States ambassador from the republic of the Sudan. And my third guest is Mr. Leslie Paffrath, secretary of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mr. Rusk, when we talked on the telephone, you referred me to the charter of the United Nations, and said that I suppose we shouldn’t think of western values inherently as separate from eastern values; and you did take a much more optimistic point of view about this seeming conflict that some of us think about. And I wonder if you would address yourself to that subject.

RUSK: Well, Mr. Heffner, I didn’t feel any sense of alarm when you posed the subject “The Fate of Western Values”; for two main reasons: one is that the western discussion of values is a part of a very old discourse. We’ve been talking about it in the west for at least 2,000 years, beginning with the great period of Greek philosophy. In that discourse we have been speculating about the nature of man and such questions as the political implications of the nature of man. We’ve talked about it in terms of natural law, of social contract, of individualism, of the rule of law–but always the question keeps going back to what does the nature of man require of us in our moral and political institutions. And it would be rather extraordinary if in that 2,000 years of discourse we had not come into some ideas, which were pretty fundamental to man as a being, caught up in this great physical universe in which we live. The second reason is that there is a geographical extent in these values which is very impressive. I happen to be in an organization which for the last 50 years has had men visiting or living in at least 100 different countries and territories. And it’s rather extraordinary to look back on that experience to see what the great common factors are in men’s values. We never run across people who would rather be hungry than fed, or who would rather be sick than healthy, or who would rather be ignorant than educated; we never run across men who would not like to be able to raise a family under conditions… reasonable security, who would like to be able to anticipate what tomorrow will bring forth. So that one is impressed with the great common values which men as men share. Now it’s true that there are dozens and dozens of ingredients in what we call values. And that we tend to make up our own recipes variously. So that although there are a great many common values we put them together in somewhat different combinations. Some people would include more action and less contemplation; some more contemplation and less action. Some will have a deeper respect for law; some will have a more intense interest in the great questions of religion.

But despite this infinite variety, there are great common ideas about values which arise perhaps from the fact that homo sapiens lives rather on the globe, and that we are indeed much the same kind of people.

HEFFNER: Well, I think I would ask Dr. Anis whether this notion that–and I think Mr. Rusk you may feel that I’m paraphrasing this inaccurately–that basically our values come from human instincts shared by all mankind–whether from the East or the Near East we find this just simply a consolidation of values in a different way, to make up for a different form of society. Or do you feel that—

ANIS: Of course, every part of the world has got its own values, its codes of morals, and so on. And the Middle East and Africa and Asia are not devoid of these basic values. In my opinion, these values which have been in the society, when westernization came into these areas, was a great help to build up the new democracy which came from the west. And the people therefore were not absolutely starting from scratch, even in Africa, and in our own country–in the south–we find people who have got their own ways of democracy, the system of the chiefs, the system of the elders. And they have got their moral codes, although they are pagans. And so in places like my country you are building democracy on very good bases. But it is very important in places like the undeveloped countries that if you want to build democracy you have also to legislate for the economic standard of the peoples. You see if the people have the political right, they must also have the basic right of a good living standard. And unless you combine the two democracies with the raising of the living standards there is apt to be a totalitarian system, which of course is contrary to real democracy. And so I think perhaps you may add from this matter to your own experience. Perhaps you know the situation in the undeveloped countries–

PAFFRATH: Yes, Mr. Heffner. I should like to return to the economic factor, the basic factor of human want in a moment, for a number of reasons, including an assurance to Dr. Anis that people in this country are keenly mindful of these needs. Mr. Rush spoke earlier of the principal contribution to human welfare and human rights in terms of constitutional government, constitutional structure. I think we are living in an era that may very well be…future historians by an accent on agreement on human rights between peoples. In 1945 when the UN charter was drawn up, we saw a monumental reaching across of boundaries and agreement on certain precepts, something that had never effectively been done before.

HEFFNER: But don’t you think that in a sense when you gentlemen referred me back to the charter of the United Nations, here was a reading into the world situation of western–I’m sorry to be so provincial–but of western values. Do you, Mr. Paffrath, feel that this is provincial, isn’t true, this was truly an expression of values coming from all parts of the world?

PAFFRATH: I think you expressed, if you will forgive me, one of the stereotypes of our time. We found at San Francisco actually that there was a greater commonality, a mutuality of beliefs than we had ever envisioned, Now since then we’ve had the declaration of human rights adopted as a declaration, not yet as a… this country by the United Nations. A declaration which assures equal rights of the most personal nature as well as of a political and economic and social character to the people of the world. Now in direct answer to your moderate allegation that the principles adopted through the United Nations charter are really unique to the west, I should say if that is true and it’s a very great “if”, it’s significant to note that since the declaration of human rights has been adopted, and of course since the UN charter, we’ve had a significant influence on the new constitutions of governments in many parts of the world, irrespective of boundaries-¬ Jordan, India, Cambodia, Haiti, El Salvador, among others. I think this indicates the reaching across of the principles which heretofore in our times we’ve regarded as very much our domain in the west.

HEFFNER: Mr. Rusk.

RUSK: I’m not a trained philosopher, so that I can’t deal with your question about the UN charter as a philosopher, but I suggest there’s a very interesting way to get another answer to it. I think we could have put tongue in cheek in 1945 in terms of whether the charter was drafted as a western instrument. Because, in fact, the west had taken the lead in the drafting or the terms of the charter. But if you back away now, several years later, and raise the question what do people think is important, based upon what they’re doing, and not what they’re saying, my guess is that if you try to generalize about what they’re doing you would come to a document which is very close to the UN charter, as it was originally drawn. I’m thinking now of the specialized agencies of the United Nations, all of those dozens and dozens of activities in which people from every nation and every cultural group are spending time and energy and resources trying to accomplish the purposes laid down there in the charter. Now this isn’t simply through courtesy, I suggest, Mr. Ambassador —

ANIS: No, no.

RUSK: (continuing) –but it’s because people in all parts of the world think these things are important. And out of what they are doing one can derive, I think, a fair conclusion that the preamble and articles which went into the charter are not just a western superimposition upon a general society,

ANIS: No, I don’t think so, I don’t think they are only completely western. As I said before, I mean everybody has got his code, and even I think it has got also an Eastern, not only Western—

HEFFNER: What do you mean by that, sir?

ANIS: I mean it’s always…I’m not splitting the east from the west; both are tending to contribute to each other, I mean you get ideas and philosophy from the west, and you get philosophies from the east. And we claim that even the basic philosophy came from the east, so it’s always a combination of the human thrust through centuries, which brings about all these results.

HEFFNER: Well you gentlemen seem to me to be talking largely about political and then about economic factors. And do I read you correctly that you feel that these either are symptoms of basic values, or that they in turn create values?

PAFFRATH: I think they’re the trunks, Mr. Heffner, and the foliage of the roots that Dr. Anis has been speaking of and Mr. Rusk has been alluding to also. We have found similarities in the philosophical roots between what we refer to as the east and the west. I think there is a great deal of material to be usefully, and–with stimulation–explored in comparing some of the early Chinese philosophy, for example, with Christian doctrine. Now it doesn’t mean that these are interchangeable or that one shall be supreme over the other; but the common and the basic roots expressed in the poetry of Lao Tse, for example, one can find a doctrine of simplicity, of strength through weakness, of gentleness that would mean a great deal, I think, to the Christian doctrine–has meaning to the Christian and to the advocate of nonviolence that we’ve seen become so effective in Asia and other parts of the world.

HEFFNER: Well, Mr. Rusk—

RUSK: I wonder if I could put a question to Dr. Anis, which might link the political and economic aspect here. One of the ideas on which the rest, I suppose, has made a very important contribution, has been the notion that the right of a government to govern rests basically upon consent. And in reducing that idea to institutions, constitutional processes, legal limitations–upon governments, the presumption of innocence when governments move in upon a citizen, and so forth, that has been, I think, a very great contribution. Now Dr. Anis spoke of the importance of economic factors. I think all of us feel interest and compassion in the fact that governments in the non-west, in the so-called underdeveloped countries, are under great urgency to move quickly to meet the great expectations of their people for economic and social improvement. Now the great question is whether that urgency is so great that they may not be able to have the time, the patience, to move toward those needs through democratic processes. And if one wanted a little area of alarm about your topic, Mr. Heffner, I must say that this to me is the principal point of alarm: how do you marry the deliberate processes of democracy with the urgencies of the expectations of the people in your part of the world?

ANIS: Yes, Well actually democracy, even in European countries, as you say, did not develop overnight.

RUSK: That’s right.

ANIS: I mean it had to go through considerable stages. For instance England, the experience after the last war and the war before, became more of a socialist type of government. I mean this is a development of democracy. And you see we don’t think you can teach the people the democratic method overnight. But what I try to say, that you have to use both systems, so that the people will not be caught in a trap in the means of introducing democracy. And then they will lose faith in democracy. So you have to ask both things, I mean a leader, say, in the Sudan, or in any country, who is going to get his fact by election from a man in the street; I mean, that man he never thought of as deciding on his own ruler, or bringing his ruler to him, which is quite a big step. Well, when he goes, this man goes to rule him, he expects to do something else, not just to…so I think the democracy if it wants to be worked out, it has to be worked out by all the systems. And at the same time, not only that, you have also to make legislation in a primitive society with democracy. You have to build legislation which will make democracy a force, and gradually working these things together, you see, making legislation so you get the people acting in a democracy, and at the same time raise their standard of living, and then they will think this is the best way of government.

HEFFNER: May I ask a very practical question Dr. Anis, and that is whether the present plans that have been put forth, the one suggested by President Eisenhower and then the contemplated United Nations activities in the area of the Arab countries, whether you feel that this is a step in the direction of which you’re talking about?

ANIS: Well, that is a step, of course, but it is not the answer for all the problems in the near east. I mean that should be steps forward, but there are many outstanding problems in the Middle East, as you probably all know, which unless they are solved, they will not be great use in just trying to solve the problems around the corner.

PAFFRATH: Doesn’t that bring us back, Dr. Heffner, to the role of the United States as one of the leading western powers, the leading western power, today… surely the most positive factor in international life today is the common dilemma in which all nations and all peoples of the world today are embraced-¬ simply the dilemma of possible annihilation with nuclear power. I was a little bit concerned that the subject today might in fact be an abstraction; and as I tried to think through this it seemed to me actually that we had a political reality by the tail. Agrarian societies in Asia and in Africa, struggling, and–some of them–enabled beyond their control as Dr. Anis has suggested, are reaching out for solutions. The United States is in a unique position with a complex of contributions, I think, to help these people chin themselves up out of economic despair. A complex which includes the scientific know-how, or economic strength, and certainly, not least, plausible dogma, plausible democratic doctrine, much of it now expressed in documents which these nations have accepted as their own on the international plane.

HEFFNER: I suppose I’m just basically, and at heart, a pessimist; but I think I sense this…, if there is such a word, and as you know, Mr. Paffrath, I invent words on the program if they don’t exist–there seems to be an assumption that a kind of determinism is functioning here, that a political form leads–possibly necessarily–to development of certain attitudes for the good; that the political form needs certain economic factors running along side by side with it. Do you think that these are sufficient? Do you think that we’ve added up enough factors? Peoples in other parts of the world, are they necessarily going to react to this magic equation of democracy and the economic wherewithal to make democracy work, pay-off–to be perfectly blunt–for the man on the street?

RUSK: I would say that people out in those parts of the world are turning perhaps, not as a matter of doctrine, but as a practical matter, to some notion of progress, to the notion that people can do something about improving their position. Now the philosophers sometimes, some of them are, at least, a little disdainful or this idea or progress, but the idea that one can improve one’s position over time, and that an entire people can improve its position over time, is moving now through much of the world. So it seems to me that determinism, as such, is not the dominant feature of their situation.

PAFFRATH: Do you feel, Mr. Rusk, that with the economic elevation which we will undoubtedly see where common sense and integrity, as well as economic resources, come to the aid of a country, that with these factors we may also see the coming to life of inherent but dormant values in lands that, in a sense in the west we have written off as being either without values or without values similar to our own?

RUSK: Well I think that this 2,000-year difference, or course, that I mentioned earlier, will mean that when those peoples, some or them almost for the first time, begin to ask the same questions they’ll inevitably begin to come to something like the same answers because they’re human beings; and I think, as I said earlier, that some or these basic ideas come out of the fact that we’re humans, not that we’re western.

ANIS: I am very optimistic, myself; I think you see all these peoples just emerging as independent countries have got their constitution based on the highest morals and modes of the west. Of course they are handicapped economically… and culturally. But I am sure if they grow in the a same way– I mean they are trying to develop their political institutions and the economic side, and at the same time they get rid of what I call mental unemployment, so that everybody will be able to read and write, and everybody will recognize the advantages of the culture which these constitutions are trying to put–they will be in a position to have an institution which they are going to fight for.

HEFFNER: I wonder when you say “mental unemployment” whether there isn’t a connection between that and what Mr. Rusk was saying about the idea of progress. Do you think this means that if men can assume, let’s say, that they are the masters of their own fate, to come back to the word that we started with–that this is the key, and that we in the west have, thanks to an abundance of natural resources, been able to develop, a faith in our own capacity to progress?

RUSK: Well that depends upon not only their but our ability to keep in mind the partnership between rights and duties. Because the notion of individual rights and democratic notions, embraces some very, very heavy duties upon the individual citizen

PAFFRATH: That’s right.

RUSK: And this takes some getting used to it seems.

ANIS: Yes, and you have to be educated to take advantage. You can’t put a burden on people without education.

RUSK: Dr. Anis, I think that as one American I might say that the primary interest in a substantial American foreign aid program is to do what we can to reinforce efforts that are made to build constitutional societies-

ANIS: That’s right,

RUSK: (continuing) –in other parts of the world. I don’t think there is any other issue so important to the American people than the question as to whether by and large this world will be made up with constitutional governments 25 or 50 years from now. Because if we wind up 25 years from now with the United States and the English speaking members of the British commonwealth as the principal democracies, this will be a rather chill and lonely world. And to help some of these governments meet these urgent economic and social questions through democratic forms seems to me compelled by our most elementary self-interest in this country.

HEFFNER: Do you think we’re doing enough in this direction?

RUSK: I think we’re perhaps doing enough in magnitude; but I think that we can do what we’re doing better-¬ this is not a partisan remark; I had my chance to participate in the process once upon a time–and I know that regardless of the administration we can always improve many of the detailed methods which we use in our foreign aid program,

HEFFNER: Then you wouldn’t advocate more money?

RUSK: Not necessarily in magnitude at this stage; I’d want to think about that one a long time,

PAFFRATH: This brings us back, I think Mr. Heffner, to foreign policy, The United States today is in the position that perhaps no other leading power in history has ever been in. The people of the United States, who must take stock constantly of their own interpretation of values are so to speak, living in a vast living room with a… plate glass window…no vines; every one of their enacted value in life is witnessed by most of the world. We may not want it this way; it may not be right and it isn’t comfortable. But it is the way it is. And I think that to a discussion that relates to an audience in the United States would be incomplete if it didn’t entreat the people of the United States to constantly take stock of their own values. There are values, which are not checking out as securely and as happily as they need to in order for us to continue to take our position of leadership. And one has only to look at the blight of the city, and some of our state laws, the fact that I think today that only in 15 of our states is there an anti-discrimination law against employment. I think we do need to inventory the factors which are significant in redefining our own values without which we can hardly go and speak abroad with respect to values elsewhere.

HEFFNER: Dr. Anis–and we have about 30 seconds left–let me ask this question: do you think that we are sufficiently enough aware of this in this country?

ANIS: I think you are. I think you are and since I came here I saw lots of difference. I mean there is a great improvement in the attitude of the Americans. And I think you have your own home problems, and I think you are doing very well in solving your own home problems. And I am very optimistic here, too.

HEFFNER: Thank you very very much, gentlemen–Mr.Rusk, Dr. Anis, Mr. Paffrath. We’ll be back on The Open Mind next week. Our subject will be ”Israel and the Arab World.” See you then on The Open Mind.