Not waiting for Godot

Samuel Beckett was born a century ago: supposedly on April 13 1906, but typically, there’s some doubt about the actual date. It’s not as well known as it should be that he joined the French Resistance very early – formally in September 1941 but de facto sooner. He aided Jewish friends, translated messages, acted as a courier, and stored weapons. A citizen of neutral Ireland, he could easily have stayed clear, or written long-windedly about the moral dilemmas involved without doing anything much, like Jean-Paul Sartre.

It take a particular kind of moral courage to do the right thing at great personal risk in the total absence of hope.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

2 thoughts on “Not waiting for Godot”

  1. One critic claims that the situation in Godot derives from Beckett's Resistance experience: meetings were hard to arrange; there was no way of communicating that one had been delayed; to leave promptly after the arranged meeting time if the other party didn't show risked not being able to connect at all, perhaps with disastrous consequences for the other party; but waiting, in addition to its tedium, risked being found by the SS.

  2. Given Beckett's carefully self-established literary image as a despairing nihilist, he seems to have been remarkably world-engaged in his nonwriting life — he was also a cricket fan to the point of actually getting onto Ireland's Olympics team once.
    of course, no Beckett life is complete without his reply to a friend who once told him that a particularly glorious spring day made "one glad to be alive." Beckett: "Oh, I wouldn't go quite as far as all that."

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