Monday, February 25, 2008

Such is our dread of authority

"Such is our dread of authority that we like not old things; hence we are always a-changing. Our house must be new, and our book, and even our church. So we choose a material that soon wears out, though it often outlasts our patience. The wooden house is an apt emblem of this sign of the times. But this love of change appears not less in important matters. We think 'Of old things all are over old, of new things none
are new enough.' So the age asks of all institutions their right to be...

There are always some men who are born out of due season, men of past ages, stragglers of former generations, who ought to have been born before Dr. Faustus invented printing, but who are unfortunately born now, or, if born long ago, have been fraudulently and illegally concealed by their mothers, and are now, for the first time, brought to light. The age lifts such aged juveniles from the ground, and bids them live, but they are sadly to seek in this day; they are old-fashioned boys; their authority is called in question; their traditions and old wives' fables are laughed at, at any rate disbelieved; they get profanely elbowed in the crowd — men not knowing their great age and consequent venerableness ; the shovel hat, though apparently born on their head, is treated with disrespect. The very boys laugh pertly in their face when they speak, and even old men can scarce forbear a smile, though it may be a smile of pity. The age affords such men a place, for it is a catholic age, large-minded, and tolerant, — such a place as it gives to ancient armor, Indian Bibles, and fossil bones of the Mastodon; it puts them by in some room seldom used, with other old furniture, and allows them to mumble their anilities by themselves; now and then takes off its hat; looks in, charitably, to keep the mediaeval relics in good heart, and pretends to listen, as they discourse of what comes of nothing and goes to it; but in matters which the age cares about, commerce, manufactures, politics, which it cares much for, even in education, which it cares far too little about, it trusts no such counsellors, nor tolerates, nor ever affects to listen."

Theodore Parker, "The Political Destination of America and Signs of the Times," 1848

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