Azerbaijan International

Volume 15.1
Page 24

Letters to the Editor
Moyers and Heyerdahl - On Target

Thanks for the great new issue of Azerbaijan International! The quotes from Bill Moyers and Thor Heyerdahl are so timely and true. The write-ups on Heyerdahl and his adventures and philosophy are very impressive. As always, the photos throughout are clear, bright, and appropriate. Thanks again for another wonderful issue. You continue to demonstrate what high standards you've set for yourself. Congratulations!

Dr. Robert Georges
Professor Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
English and Folklore Departments
April 11, 2007

Moyers and Heyerdahl - Missed the Mark
I continue to enjoy the magazine, find it very interesting and informative, and believe it is a very good way to learn more about what makes the Azeri people who and what they are (editorials aside).

However, your Editorial in the Winter 2006 (AI 14.4) issue seemed to include an item that was quite out of place. I believe that the perspective that we have an administration that is "hell-bent on dropping a nuclear bomb on Azerbaijan's neighbor to the south" is very, very mistaken. The administration you refer to is really not the threat. If there's anyone around that's as "hell-bent" as that, it perhaps may be someone "to the south", and, yes, their actions would indeed "have catastrophic consequences for the entire region".

Besides being off the mark, the comment seemed way out of place in the middle of a discussion of Thor Heyerdahl or Bill Moyers, although there's an attempt to justify the sidestep. Please don't take such an original, unique, and informative publication as this and taint it with the unnecessary.

Bill Abernathy, Tennessee
April 26, 2007


Editorial in Question: Winter 2006 (AI 14.4)
Excerpts from: "Discovering: Marvels & Mysteries at Sea" by Betty Blair

One of America's most distinguished journalists - Bill Moyers (born 1934) - recently mused about his type of journalism in front of a distinguished audience of 150 guests who had come to honor him for "extraordinary contributions to public cultural, civic and intellectual life.1

"We are often asked whether our kind of journalism really matters," he began. "People are curious about why we give so much time to novelists, playwrights, artists, historians, philosophers, composers, scholars, teachers - all of whom we view as public thinkers. The answer is simple: They are worth listening to."

"Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?" Moyers continued. "Reading Shakespeare does not erase the budget deficit. Plunging into the history of the 15th century does not ease traffic jams. Listening to Mozart or reading the ancient Greeks does not repair the ozone layer.crime is still rampant, the divorce rate continues to soar, corruption flourishes, legislatures remain stubbornly profligate."

And, we, at Azerbaijan International magazine might add that thinking about Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002) who dared to sail 4,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean on a raft made of balsa logs in 1947, or the recent Tangaroa raft expedition led by Torgeir Higraff, which was based on Heyerdahl's experiment, doesn't alleviate tensions in the Middle East. Nor will it lessen the brutal nightmare in Iraq of occupying forces and suicide bombers. Nor is it likely to deter what seems to be an administration hell-bent on dropping nuclear bombs on Azerbaijan's neighbor to the south, which, if carried out, will have unprecedented catastrophic consequences for the entire region.
In his speech, Moyers went on to quote award-winning novelist Maxine Hong Kingston: "All human beings have this burden in life to constantly figure out what's true, what's authentic, what's meaningful, what's dross, what's a hallucination, what's a figment, what's madness. We all need to figure out what is valuable, constantly. As a writer," Kingston continues, "all I am doing is posing the question in a way that people can see very clearly."

It's an understatement to say that we live in dangerous times. But Thor Heyerdahl, too, carried out his experiment, on the heels of World War II, which at the time had been the most devastating man-made disaster known to modern man. He knew what war was all about. He himself had been drafted as well.

In Constantine Pleshakov's obituary,2 summarizing the legacy of Heyerdahl, he observed that the Soviet Union was one of the nations that loved him most and the crazy imaginativeness of his seemingly flimsy expeditions at sea always inspired and gave hope. He was the David daring to stand up against Goliath.

"Somehow, no matter what happened in the Kremlin or in the White House, the ocean, with its waves and riddles, was still there. The coral reefs were just as beautiful as ever. And life went on."

And maybe that's the most important lesson for today - "Life does go on!" Perhaps, that's the most essential message "worth listening to". And if it is true, then we all must take responsibility for our tomorrows.

1. Excerpts from Bill Moyer's acceptance speech for the Frank E. Taplin Jr. Public Intellectual Award given to him and his wife Judith for "extraordinary contributions to public cultural, civic and intellectual life" by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. New York City on February 7, 2007.

2. "Thor Heyerdahl: "Adventurer's Death Touches Russia's Soul," by Constantine Pleshakov. Japan Times on May 5, 2002. [See Azerbaijan International 10.2 (Summer 2002)]"


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