The Ghost of Ivan Illich (in Puerto Rico)
While doing a quick background check, I came upon the Wikipedia entry of "Ivan Illich", thinking he was somehow related to either the composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky or in some way a person who formed the model for Leo Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Illyich" (1888). Russian probably, and equally likely "artsy" (painting, poetry, music) as well. Much to my surprise, nothing of the sort was the case. It turns out "Illich" (not Illyich, with the "y") was a priest who had served the Puerto Rican community in New York, and later moved to Puerto Rico in a higher administrative capacity. What was particularly striking was that, after his island stay, he served in the "Alliance for Progress" in the 1960s Kennedy Administration--but only in order to undermine the purposes of the project which he perceived as an example of "industrial hegemony". In what today we would call a rather blatant example of passive-aggressive behavior, Illich served as director of the Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC) in Cuernavaca, Mexico, continually disrupting its role until he was finally "caught" ten years later. Rather than openly confront the Alliance and voice his criticism publicly, Illich took the backroad. Wow, how pitiful.
When you contemplate much of what goes on in the Puerto Rican politics, academia, and public discourse, it is clear that Ivan Illich never left the island after all. In the local war between liberals and conservatives, the greatest casualty has been what is typically referred to as "the the rule of law" and decency in administrative spheres; we might refer to it as "the rule of truth" and honesty in the academic sphere. While one may or may not agree with either of these agendas, the pervasive use of passive-aggressive tactics gravely undermines the fundamental purpose of higher education and public administration. The search and acquisition of truth cannot exist if actions are undertaken outside public debate in order to undermine opponents (whomever the might be); the full forces of facts and reason have to clash directly head-on in the open forum of debate--leading the final decision that has to be agreed upon by everyone, whatever that might be. Ever seen debates in the British House of Commons? Only through this vehicle can decisions be arrived at that are in harmony with the greater good of society--which applies to both liberals and conservatives. For upon undermining the strict use of logic and evidence indirectly via 'the social sphere', one destroys the possibility of a genuine dialogue and consensus. One destroys the opportunity for a truly moral and just society.