Sneering at Virtue and Beauty

“[We must] instill in our students the easy habit of sneering at virtue and beauty. I say it is an easy habit, because a little veneer of intelligence will usually suffice to persuade one that all the people in the world who lived before one’s time – say, all the people who lived before two in the afternoon on July 2, 1965 – were knaves an fools. They all believed the world was flat; they kept slaves; they burned witches; they smoked cigarettes; whatever easy stupidity or immorality can be pinned on them, we pin it. They cannot answer the charges themselves, and students ignorant of history can’t answer them either. So we talk glibly about traditional manhood and traditional womanhood, with a knowing wink – meaning brutality and idiocy. That such men and women, possessed of virtues we ignore, tamed a continent, is not to be considered.

Have children understand that manliness and womanliness are contemptible. The true man is a cartoon figure, a crazy mixture of steroid-exploded muscle mass, grunts, and a bad shave. Otherwise men are fat, sloppy, and stupid. They paint their bellies for football games and drink beer. They are incompetents in the workplace. Their conversation revolves around fast food and fast women. For their part, the women are skinny to the point of emaciation. They wear clothes that would make the whores of old blush. They are fussy, snappy, and feline. They enjoy humiliating men, who always come back for more anyway. They have studied martial arts, and can be choreographed into delivering a backhand slap from a thin-wristed arm that will defy all the laws of physics and send a 250-pound man reeling. They have foul mouths, but they do not come by the foulness honestly; a sort of sneaky, sniggering arch foulness.

Let these be the creatures held up for our children’s emulation. They cannot excite the imagination, no more than cardboard can excite the appetite. They may possess a lot of money, a sharp wardrobe, and a glamorous job, but those things are the false goods that glut the soul rather than whet its longing for what is beyond our immediate range of sight. They not only possess no virtue; they corrode what virtues are left in the young. They leave children with the cynicism of a twice-divorced harridan or cad. Men are not worth looking for, women are not worth looking for. Feed young people enough of that, and you will not only ensure that they lose the ideals of manhood and womanhood. You will go far toward making their souls incapable of any real virtue at all.”

– Esolen, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (pp. 196-197)

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