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Western Press Review: The Impact Of Two Prominent Women

  • Breffni O'Rourke



Prague, 8 September 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The recent deaths of two prominent women, Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, continue to dominate much of the world's press today.

Commentators are seeing many parallels in the lives of the two, although the contrasts could not be greater: one was young, immensely wealthy, renowned for her dazzling beauty, the other worn and aged, dedicated to a life of poverty.

NEW YORK TIMES/INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: People are desperate for evidence that goodness matters

In a commentary, appearing today in the "Tribune," Flora Lewis writes that "together, in their contrasting ways, the young idol and the old nun became emblems of goodness. Their importance is that the response they drew from so many millions is an urgent signal of how desperate people are in our time for evidence that simple goodness matters, how they yearn for warmth in a cold, technical, bewildering world....."

Lewis continues: "There seems to be a new trend among philosophically minded intellectuals to talk of the need for 're-enchantment'. I am not sure what that means. It seems to have something to do with religion and the loss of secure, revealed foundations for moral guidance in an age of science and social fragmentation."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: The two women offer examples of the possible paths in human existence

In an editorial, Heinz-Joachim Fischer writes that the two women who are now united in the tears and sadness of countless people could not have been more different. But, he says, they offer two examples of possible paths in human existence, they have become two focal points for modern women. Fischer recalls the picture of Diana and Mother Teresa hand in hand outside a house for the poor in New York.

CORRIERE DELLA SERA: Mother Teresa submerged herself in an ocean of confusion and violence

Of Mother Teresa's work in the slums of Calcutta, the Milan paper writes that her whole life was a hymn of hope "for the outcast legions of the poor, the ill and the humiliated, which organised civilisation does not see, and does not want to see....she submerged herself in this ocean of confusion and violence, in that she served without pause the people who were suffering all possible maladies. She thus became the Queen of an Inferno that we try with all our might to ignore".

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Diana's death brought the problems of celebrity culture into sharp relief

Of Diana's deep involvement with hundreds of charity causes, Katherine Graham, "Post" executive committee chairwoman, writes in an article carried today:"She was a star from the beginning. She brought something to royal behaviour: touching people and speaking frankly, both major contributions. But we all soon learned that the fairy tale had no happy ending. Diana, Princess of Wales, evolved from the beautiful young bride into somebody with a mature heart and interests... Diana had the courage to step out publicly and support causes that were risky and misunderstood".

Turning to the alleged press role in Diana's death, Graham writes: "One point we will all have to keep clear is that the paparazzi are different from the news media and most other photographers. The problem the paparazzi present will not be solved by abridging press freedoms in an understandable upsurge of the desire to protect privacy. Diana's death has brought the problems of celebrity culture and its coverage by all of us into sharp relief. We all need to think hard about how to solve them. This tragedy need not and should not have happened. The world should not have had to suffer the extinction of a real star".

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: William bears the burden of incarnating the spirit of Diana

Diana's life and death also have implications for the British monarchy, which was so eclipsed by her popularity, and which was perceived as having shown her an icy front during and after the break-up of her marriage with Prince Charles. Suzy Menkes writes today that "once the mountains of flowers have been removed and the miles of newsprint have yellowed, the tangible legacy of the incandescent, mythical Diana will be her two boys. And since royalty is about dynasty, it is the elder son, William, who now bears the awesome burden of incarnating the spirit of Diana and raising the monarchy from the ashes."

NEW YORK TIMES: The monarchy has no moral suasion or popular touch

Maureen Dowd, writing says of the royal family: "The stiff upper lip may have been good enough for the Battle of Britain, but for the feel-my-pain age of Diana, some lip biting was required."

She continues: "The Firm, as the monarchy is known, was clearly out of its depth...now the royals were being rousted out of their country estates and forced to publicly emote about a young women who had infuriated them with her refusal to play the game, who had tried to destroy them with stories about how horribly they had treated her...."

"When the Queen, Phillip and Charles finally appeared for a photo op to look at the flowers left for Diana outside Balmoral, they looked as if they were judging a dog show. The monarchy has no moral suasion and no popular touch".

Mideast



FINANCIAL TIMES: The bomb attacks in Israel highlight the power of extremists

Another theme occupying the press today is the Middle East, ahead of the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. An editorial says that as she prepares for "her first visit to the Middle East this week, the circumstances could scarcely be less auspicious".

The editorial continues: "Last week's suicide attack on a west Jerusalem shopping precinct by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamists, highlighted the power of extremists to sabotage the peace process.....Before the latest bombs, the U.S. appeared to be readying itself for a balanced mediation effort. This would put pressure on (Israeli Prime Minister) Netanyahu for the first time to freeze Jewish settlement building, the main cause of the current breakdown, and force Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, to renew security cooperation with Israel. Mrs Albright must not hesitate now, on either front."

NEW YORK TIMES: Albright will read the riot act to Yasser Arafat

In a news analysis, Steven Erlanger writes: "Under pressure from Congress and domestic U.S. politics, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will head to the Middle East on Tuesday ready to read the riot act to Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, about cracking down on terrorism, senior U.S. officials said....She must ensure that Arafat commits himself wholly and publicly to the pursuit of peace with Israel and -- in the phrase of an unnamed U.S. official -- 'stops trying to have it both ways'.

"But she must also ensure that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 'does not use security as a pretext' -- in the same official's words -- to avoid talking about Israel's own responsibility for the breakdown in mutual confidence with the Palestinians and the larger Arab world".

TAGESZEITUNG: Arafat is a prisoner of Hamas

The Berlin newspaper writes in a editorial that "the great loser in the Hamas attacks in Jerusalem is Arafat. The Israeli government's propaganda campaign to make him responsible for the attacks is having its impact. Arafat's attempt to move Hamas towards non-violence, and to bind it to the political process, now appears to be a boomerang".

The paper concludes: "the conscious political demolition of Arafat robs the peace process of its only creditable Palestinian partner. And it makes Arafat a prisoner of Hamas...."
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