December 4, 2002: Letters

Mystery man

Mideast message

Dean of what?

It’s come to that

For the Record

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Mystery man

The article about Jim Thompson ’28 (cover story, October 23) brought back fond memories of my brief work and friendship with Jim.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand from 1964 to 1966, and in 1965 I was asked to help set up a community development effort in northeast Thailand that would include silk production and distribution.

I had heard of Jim as the legendary founder of the Thai silk industry, and ended up meeting him on several occasions. He talked about Princeton, Thailand, the OSS, and the country’s silk industry.

He also went out of his way to help us launch the new initiative. He spoke to the volunteers, inviting them to his store, his house, and the silk production facilities. He also arranged for us to meet business people, government officials, and producers in the silk trade.

Of all the Westerners I met in Thailand, none had a stronger affection for that country and its culture than Jim.

Mel Horwitch ’64
Cambridge, Mass.


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Mideast message

Two poorly reasoned critiques of Bernard Lewis appear in the October 23 issue (Letters).

Richard Cummings ’59 claims that Western colonialism justifies Muslim rage, and, by implication, its terrorism. Many peoples, however, suffered under colonialism, and have not resorted to mass murder.

Bernard Lewis suggests (cover story, September 11) that the imposition onto a modern world of a seventh-century desert law characterized by a lack of rights, cripples Muslim civilization, making a once-great people insecure about their failures. Randolph Hobler ’68 rebuts that if the treatment of women were important, why is Japan successful? But in Japan, women vote, serve in parliament, speak their minds, create art, run companies, and are not forced into unwanted marriages or pregnancies. Even during Japan’s terrible recession, the 2001 female unemployment rate was 4.7 percent and, as of 1997, women comprised 41 percent of the workforce.

Matthew Schwartz ’00
New York, N.Y.


With incredulity and a strong sense of irony, I read Randolph Hobler ’68’s letter accusing Professor Lewis of bias against Arabs. He complains that Lewis’s observation — that the Arab world is, essentially, what we used to call “backward” in the areas of free expression, economics, science, and fairness — lacked merit, because Lewis “is simply stating a truism about the entire Third World, of which the Arab world is a part.”

Hobler did not recognize the irony of his own claim of bias. Anyone with any familiarity with Lewis’s work, or even the article in question, understands that Lewis’s thesis is that the decline of the Arab world is remarkable because, centuries ago, the Arab world was at the forefront of progress in every area (save women’s roles) in which it now lags so far behind.

It is this contrast that Lewis urges us to consider, not as an inherent inferiority but as a demonstrated capacity for a kind of national greatness. The same cannot be said of the rest of the Third World, if such a gross term — meant to encapsule scores of nations, ethnic groups, and political, religious, and social systems – is indeed of any use at all in analyzing history and world events.

Ronald D. Coleman ’85
Clifton, N.J.


The hypothesis that the backwardness of the Islamic world is principally due to the low cultural status of women is nothing but a politically correct calumny used to make our anti-jihad jihad palatable to the liberal segment of our intellectual classes.

This is not supported by historical analogy. Our own Western world had its renaissance, age of discovery, industrial and scientific revolutions, all without measurable direct input from women.

The Western world’s leading classes until recently had been quite content to exclude women from political life, economic entrepreneurship, and scientific research.

Andrew C. Janos *61
Berkeley, Calif.

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Dean of what?

I suggest that the title of the head of the admission office be changed to the dean of rejection.

For many years I have heard that there are many qualified applicants for each slot available in the freshman class, so it doesn’t seem to be so much a question of who will be accepted, but rather of how thousands of applicants can be rejected on anything approaching a rational, defendable, and explainable basis.

If any of the thousands could matriculate at Princeton if there were the places, then the one admitted could be selected by the toss of a dart.

Jonathan F. Swain ’57
Sudbury, Mass.

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It’s come to that

When we chose a prez named Shirley

Very few were surly.

When we named a lady provost

We raised a welcome toast.

A lady head for W. Wilson School

We mostly thought it cool.

BUT PAW’s football writer is now a female

And that, for sure, is far, far beyond the pale.

Is this great university

A bit short on diversity?

Jim Kerrigan ’45
Naples, Fla.

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For the Record

In our cover story about Jim Thompson ’28 (October 23), we wrote that his sister had been murdered near Chicago. Thompson’s great-niece wrote us, noting that in fact Thompson’s sister had been killed in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. PAW regrets the error.

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