Posts Tagged ‘society’

Anthony Esolen writes, in Lemmings Unite! Be True to Yourself?:

“This above all,” says the old counselor to his son, advising the lad before his departure for France to play the young aristocrat on tour, “to thine own self be true.” Maintain that truth, he says, and then it will follow, “as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Shakespeare, alas, is so great a poet that his readers sometimes mistake deliberate banality for wisdom. This famous line is a case in point. It is uttered by Polonius, a shallow, prating, tedious old man, who is anything but straightforward in his behavior. He encourages his daughter Ophelia to play hard to get, to land the prince who loves her; he sends a servant to France to spy on his son; and he is slain while hiding behind the curtain in the Queen’s room in order to eavesdrop on her conversation with Hamlet. “Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell,” says Hamlet, “I took thee for thy better.”

Shakespeare is deeply suspicious of people who are true to themselves, and not to God or to their country: such, in his three parts of Henry VI, are the proud self-absorbed villains Suffolk and Richard of York, responsible for instigating the civil wars that embroil England during the fifteenth century. But this suspicion seems not to have entered the minds of the leaders of the Girl Guides of Australia, who have recently revised the oath the girls must take. From now on, instead of swearing loyalty to God, to the queen, and to Australia, each girl will swear, “I will be true to myself and to my beliefs.”

It’s easy enough to enjoy a hearty laugh at the stupidity of the change. Indeed, the oath is not an oath at all, but rather implies the repudiation of all oaths. To say, “I will be true to myself,” is equivalent to saying, “I will do just as I please,” nor does the addition of “my beliefs” provide any limit to the narcissism, since what is emphasized is not the objective truth of those beliefs, or their transcendent authority, but merely the fact that they happen to be mine. When they cease to please me, then, I am free to alter them, to “believe” something else, to “bend with the remover to remove.” When the wind turns, so does the weathervane.

Read the whole thing. Do. He goes on to discuss why it’s really not a laughing matter, after all.

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Samuel Gregg provides some background to our present cultural/political situation, in a post called Mitt de Tocqueville.

…if the liberal commentariat deigned to pick up a copy of the second volume of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and read the chapter entitled “What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear,” they’d find the link between creating tame citizens and a state that generously volunteers to do everything on their behalf spelt out quite gracefully…

hat tip: John Couretas

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… on the role of the federal government in building this country (or the Golden Gate bridge, for that matter.)

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T.M. Moore writes:

One area of conflict that arises between the Christian and other worldviews relates to the great hope of each. Increasingly, in our society, the highest hope and fondest aspiration of the secular and materialist worldview is a world without want, where each person is free to prosper according to his desire and ability.

Prosperity within the secular worldview is defined in individual and material terms – as much of the good life as any person might be able to enjoy without obstructing others in their quest for the same. This is the hope of people who live, in Solomon’s words, “under the sun.” They can envision nothing higher than personal material prosperity, and they will be wary of any worldview which insists that there are other, higher aims in life, the attaining of which demands sacrifice and self-denial.

If the secular worldview takes as its highest hope the glorification of man – again, defined in strictly personal and material terms – the Christian worldview hopes in the glory of God, and adherents of that worldview will make any sacrifice and endure any trial in order to ensure the realization of that great hope.

It’s not that the Christian worldview despises things and wealth. It doesn’t. It simply insists that these be kept in their proper place, “under the heavens,” and that the pursuit and use of material prosperity be subject to the demands of the Gospel. Love for God requires that Christians hope to please Him, not themselves or any other man, and that they not hold their material possessions too tightly, lest they fail to love their neighbor as themselves. But in the secular worldview, in an economy of getting-and-spending, such things as self-denial, sacrifice on behalf of others, and giving generously and consistently to relieve the distress of others do not constitute a driving force or defining motif. Instead, they are more on the order of something to make us feel good about ourselves.

Read the whole thing.

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… it can become ridiculously hard to get help.

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From Ignorance to Mastery at The Common Room looks at the surprising ignorance of some folks caught in the social safety net.


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Anthony Esolen has a few wise and wonderful things to say about solitude, community, love, truth, and friendship, in “Solitude and Political Friendship” (Public Discourse, December 2, 2011).

hat tip: James M. Kushiner, at Mere Comments

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