the benefits of nuclear energy and biologicalnengineering. Rifkin believes thatn”instead of using knowledge to increasenour rule over, we might just as easilynuse knowledge to become a partnernwith the rest of the earthly creation.”nWhat this means is never spelled out.nDoes Rifkin mean, for instance, thatnpolio microbes should remain undisturbednby Salk vaccine?nRifkin’s simplistic “empathetic approach”nto science is riddled with inconsistenciesnand telling omissions.nWhile Rifkin argues for “the sacrednessnof life before all other considerations,”nBetween Conquistadorsnand CommissarsnMexican poet Octavio Paz is thenrare Latin American writer whondoes not carry a banner for somenrevolutionary political movement.nAuthor of The Bow and the Lyre,nThe Labyrinth of Solitude, andnother widely acclaimed works, Paznhas apparently decided to pass upnhis chance for the Nobel. In hisnlatest book of cultural and polihcalncommentary, One Earth, Four ornFive Worlds: Reflections on ContemporarynHistory (Harcourt BracenJovanovich; San Diego; S14.95),nPaz assesses the modern worldn— Latin America, Europe, thenUnited States, and the SovietnUnion — with remarkable insightnand independence from politicalnorthodoxy of every stripe.nProfessing allegiance to neithernpolitical party nor religious creed,nPaz writes simply from the perspectivenof “an independent writer fromnLatin America.” His observationsnare “not theory, but testimony.”nSurveying contemporary LatinnAmerica, Paz calls for “changes andnreforms, at once radical and innaccord with the tradition of eachnpeople.” Yet finding an inspiringnand appropriate model for thesennecessary changes proves difficult.nIn the Soviet Union, he sees antotalitarian despotism threatenednwith petrification or explosion.nWestern Europe is free, yet stagnatesnin the “polihcs of complacency,”naiming at nothing more thann”another year of tranquil diges-nhe somehow neglects to say anythingnagainst abortion. Once mankind seesnitself as an “indivisible whole” in whichnevery living thing is accountable tonevery other living thing for its existence,n”war will become obsolete.” No matternthat collectivist movements in this centurynhave been remarkably bloody. Rifkinnsees Gandhi as the avatar of “groupnconsciousness” and natural harmony.nYet in crediting Gandhi with bringingn”the Empire to its knees” through hisn”respect for the sanctity of life,” Rifkinnfails to discuss why passive disobediencencould win concessions from the BritishnREVISIONSntion,” content with “a prosperitynwithout grandeur . . . and a hedonismnwithout passion and withoutnrisks.” In Europe’s radical terrorismnand its gullible pacifism, Paznsees but “two contrary expressionsnof the same nihilism.”nConvinced that democracy isn”the least bad” form of government,nPaz admires the political achievementsnof the United States andnmarvels at its remarkable capacitiesnfor self-renewal. But for a numbernof reasons, Paz doubts that LahnnAmerica can or should model itselfnafter the U.S. Whatever naturalnattraction Latin Americans mightnfeel toward their northern neighbornhas been seriously eroded by thenwillingness of American politiciansnand businessmen to prop up archaicnsocial and political structures quitendifferent from those found in America.nPaz finds American hegemonynfar less oppressive than Soviet imperialismn(the U.S., he points out,nhas never reduced any country tonthe misery of Soviet-manipulatednCuba), but Latin resentment ofnAmerican dominance and interventionnis still widespread.nBeyond the tensions of powernpolitics, Paz points to the culturalnand religious diflferences separatingnLatin America and the U.S.nHispano-American peoples, Paznobserves, are tied to the past, whilen”the conquest of the future is thenUnited States’ tradition.” Indeed,nPaz cites as the great failure ofnAmerican intellectual life its completenseparation of morality andnhistory, except in isolated groupsnnnbut could do nothing to mitigate thenbloody religious war between Hindusnand Moslems.nMy guess is that Rifkin will suffer thenfate of other prophets who win celebrityhoodnby publicizing their formula fornsaving the world. Who, after all, nownknows or cares about the whereaboutsnof Charles Reich or Theodore Roszak?nHerbert London is dean of thenGallatin Division of New YorknUniversity.nsuch as the Southern Fugitives. Becausenreligion is the “hidden taproot”nof life in the U.S., Paz believesnthat American democracy isnthe direct offspring of the Reformation.nIn contrast, Latin Americanndemocracy struggles to survive becausen”there was no religious revolutionnto pave the way for politicalnrevolution.” And while LatinnAmerica tries to find its way tonmodern democracy, the UnitednStates appears to be losing—as partnof the general repudiation of thenpast—the religious heritage thatnmade democracy workable. In thenU.S., Paz fears that the experimentnin privatizing religion is failing andnthat the country is being “eatennaway by doubt, undermined by ansuicidal hedonism, and dazed bynthe ranting of demagogues.”nPaz affirms his hopes for a democraticnfuture for Latin America, althoughnthe presence of Cuban andnSoviet agents in Nicaragua unsettiesnhim. He fears that he is seeingnyet another country traveling thenpath followed by “other revolutionsnthat have ended in totalitarian petrification,”nand he wonders why sonfew intellectuals and journalists innMexico, Europe, and the U.S.nshare his concern. It is a strangenworld—or a strange set of four ornfive worlds—in which an agnosticnMexican poet sounds a solitarynwarning against the collapse of faithnand against communist aggressionnwhile leading American clergymen •nturn their backs on sin and apostasynso that they can make pilgrimagesnto the newest workers’ paradise, ccnfEBRUARY 1986 / 37n