Archive - November 3, 2016

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Mark Walker Comment on Paul Theroux’s Insights On Self-Radicalization
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# 8 Mad Men on the Peace Corps Staff (Washington, D.C.)
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# 7 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Med Bennett (Washington, D.C.)

Mark Walker Comment on Paul Theroux’s Insights On Self-Radicalization

Paul Theroux’s Insights On Self-Radicalization By Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971-73) • Theroux’s article is one of most informative and insightful pieces written on the self-radicalization to terrorist groups like ISIS and the Taliban. He harkens back to his own Peace Corps experience as a young volunteer unaware of what he was getting into by supporting an opposition group in Malawi. He compares this experience to that of John Walker Lindh who has been called a traitor when his idealism, according to Theroux, is deep in the American experience. Theroux compares his naivety at 24 with that of Lindh who converted to Islam when he was 16 and after studying at a madrasa in Pakistan joined the Afghan Army in 2001.  In the case of Theroux’s misdeeds he was threatened with detention, expelled from the country as an undesirable alien, thrown out of the Peace Corps and fined. In both cases . . .

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# 8 Mad Men on the Peace Corps Staff (Washington, D.C.)

The first staff at the agency came to D.C. from all walks of life, and with all sort of interests and passions. They were skiers, mountain climbers, big-game hunters, prizefighters, football players, polo players and enough Ph.D. (30) to staff a liberal arts college. They included 18 attorneys, of whom only four worked as attorneys in the General Counsel’s office and the rest (including Shriver) worked elsewhere in the first Peace Corps office, the Maiatico Building. Nevertheless, it was a small staff. In WWII 30 people were required to support every soldier in the front lines. Once out of war, one person in Washington was needed for every four overseas. Shriver set up the agency in the early years so that the goal was ten Volunteers on the job for every administrative or clerical person in support, and that meant everyone-secretaries and overseas staff included. By keeping the staff small . . .

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# 7 Mad Men of the Peace Corps–Med Bennett (Washington, D.C.)

I mentioned that in those early days of 1960s the agency was full of Mad Men (and a few Mad Women) who were living in a world-of-work atmosphere very much like the provocative AMC drama Mad Men. They were wonderful characters, some charming, many nice, and a few not very… One terrific guy was Meridan Hunt “Med” Bennett. He was sort of a  ‘Peace Corps Jimmy Stewart.’ I met him in Ethiopia in, I think, ’65. He was totally unlike the smooth types that crowded Shriver’s big conference table back in D.C., but he was smarter than most, a writer, and a farmer who had grown up in the Canadian Rockies. It was so remote a farm, he said, that he had to ride three miles on a horse to attend a one-room schoolhouse. He farmed when haying was done with horses and a beaver slide stacker. He rode the range, raised vegetable . . .

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