The all-knowing Google alerted us today to a new document that contains some quite personal, unedited observations of Illich in action. The title: "In Conversation with John Ohliger and Ivan Illich — April 8-10, 1978." The author: Jeff Zacharakis, of Kansas State University.
The paper is available for download in PDF at the Adult Education Research Conference site.
John F. Ohliger (1926-2004) was a friend of Illich's, a prolific writer, and a radical activist. He was perhaps best known as a sharp critic of adult education, whose social functions and myths he analyzed and dissected largely using the insights of Illich's deschooling argument. Ohliger occasionally collaborated with Illich and, long before the Web was available, helped to disseminate his ideas in a newsletter. An official site devoted to Ohliger and his work is here.
The new paper we cite here recounts Ohliger's account, as recorded on the scene, as it happened, of a visit he made to Cuernavaca 2 years after CIDOC closed. He went there to work with Illich and Valentina Borremans on a bibliography of Illich's writings. Zacharakis has listened to Ohliger's tapes, summarizes their contents, and sometimes quotes long, often emotional passages verbatim. The tapes offer a highly personal view of Illich, whom Ohliger finds to be quite intimidating and frustrating. (Ohliger recorded the tapes as an audio diary, kept for the sake of his future wife who stayed back home in Wisconsin.) The author also provides some good background on Ohliger.
A sample, in which Zacharakis quotes Ohliger's talking into his tape recorder:
[This] fatigue leads to depression. It always seems to get to me. I can also say that something that attributes to this is a feeling of inferiority to Ivan and Valentina....they are so adept to making a life. A good life in terms of economics at writing and speaking and I suppose this is something I would like to be able to do. That is just depressing to be around. They are so facile with words, and so mildly aggressive. I guess it is in an OK way. I don’t know. At this point I’m ready again to start walking to the airport in Mexico City. I could take a taxicab or hitchhike...
Another: "Throughout these conversations there is tense intimacy where John wants to finish the annotated bibliography and Illich wants to discuss new ideas, as well as take John to the marketplace and introduce him to other friends. John is the taskmaster while Illich is relaxed and enjoying each minute of the day. Though they are friends with mutual respect, Illich controls the pace and is the dominant partner."