I usually don’t wait until the end of spring to do spring cleaning. I usually don’t do spring cleaning at all. It just so happens that I came across a forgotten bunch of saved clippings from an era when people still read newspapers — the 1970s — and I happen to be someone who hates to toss things out before finding a use for them….even when the chance of that happening is about as remote as finding a use for the clearing on top of my skull where dense foliage once grew. Oh, if only I’d kept it (that lush growth, not my skull), because what I’ve saved by not needing hair tonic has been more than offset by the need for sun screen.
Anyway, I know that the only way I can bear to part with these historic paper documents is to preserve them here in paperless form, which makes the spring chickens among you the beneficiaries of the ancient wisdom you were deprived of. I only regret that time and space preclude more extensive excerpts than the quotations which follow.
One of my favorite scribes back then appears to have been the somewhat somber syndicated columnist, Sydney J. Harris:
The best argument for democracy is not that we are morally good enough for it, but that we are not morally good enough for anything else.
No class, as a class, is to be trusted, whether it is a class of color, or religion, or economic level. The excesses of the French proletariat in the Revolution were as great as the ferocities of the aristocracy. Stalin’s regime was worse than the Czar’s he supplanted. The Christian church under Constantine persecuted the “pagans” as viciously as the Romans had persecuted early Christians. Etc.
One reason — perhaps the chief reason — that governments of all kinds go bad is that, with a few notable exceptions, the men who get political power are those who want it the most. The only man who can be trusted with authority, said Plato, is the man who does not want it; but his opposite is almost always the man who gets it.
It is the image we pay homage to, more than the substance. In Shakespeare, nobody takes the fool seriously, even when he says the wisest things in the play. Dress him in judicial robes, and when he opens his mouth, no dog dare bark.
Next is an uncredited article dated June 1, 1978 titled College Students Treat Religion Sardonically, which reported some of the classifications listed on religious preference cards turned in by students at U. C. Berkeley. These included: Seventh Day Agnostic, Frogonian of the Latter Day Saints, Hedonist, Porsche Fanatic and First Fundamentalist Christian Church of the Prolonged Suffering and Gooey Death. It would be interesting to learn, 36 years later, how many of those responders remain faithful to the religion of their student days.
Finally, there is this from a 1978 article by Harold C. Schonberg titled Elitism Is Good For The Arts:
Intellectual activity, of which the arts is one manifestation, is and always has been elitist. Demagogues and yahoos do not like this; they would like to drag us down to their own level. We live, after all, in democratic America, where all men are created equal. But surely the Founding Fathers did not expect that phrase to be taken literally. They meant that all men are entitled to equal rights, which is a different proposition entirely. For all men are not created equal, and the Founding Fathers, a group of elitists themselves, knew this perfectly well. If all men were created equal, we would all be Newtons, Einsteins, Beethovens or Rembrandts.
NOW I can pitch those old newspaper clippings. Well, maybe I’ll still save that last one.