Any civilization, by contrast, has as its foundation some system of restraints upon the conduct of the individual, restraints which operate to the benefit of the group. Some of these restraints, like manners and pride in one’s personal appearance, are simply efforts to make life a little pleasanter for everyone else, serving the same purpose, for instance, as putting the trash in the litter bag. The individual makes a small sacrifice so that living can be a little more livable, for everyone. Other restraints, like the laws against stealing, are required if the people are to be able to do anything other than stand guard over their belongings.
A broad segment of vocabulary has simply become obsolete because the concepts which it embodied have been rejected. Modesty, decency, probity, rectitude, honor, politeness, virtue, magnanimity, chastity, piety, righteousness, propriety – these and many other terms of approved behavior have been consigned to limbo. They don’t even enter into the calculus of public discussion and decision-making. Naturally, their opposites have suffered the same fate, terms such as vile, licentious, malign, dissolute, roue, shame, disgrace, evil, sin, stigma, ostracize, iniquity, and so on. Those designations and the concepts they represent have also been cancelled.
Leopold’s life in its personal and professional and artistic dimensions, was intensely devoted to exposing the evil and the rot in our culture, and to disinterring our heritage of civilized ideals and shedding wholesome light on them.
It is, I think, true that we have moved from a reasonably solvent, generally self-reliant and self-respecting patriotic nation to a debt-ridden, quarrelsome, self-doubting, meddlesome welfare state in which the militant concern for the citizen’s rights and benefits seems to have overwhelmed and nullified the concern for the responsibilities which the citizen must bear.
Solzhenitsyn is the voice of conscience. Without condescension, but firmly and forthrightly, he applies his immense powers of perception and dramatic expression to challenge people everywhere to anticipate the consequences of their acts and accept responsibility for those consequences. His message is particularly poignant in our era when the distinction between right and wrong has been twisted and obscured by passion, avarice, cynicism and scorn.
In a successful free society, a responsible free society, the citizens voluntarily abide by a great number of informal codes of conduct. In the free society, the do’s and don’ts are voluntarily observed by the people who respect those codes as cherished ideals. Those codes of conduct are manifold.
Using Federal Subsidies To Fund Higher Education Is Not A Good Idea Remarks prepared by Dr. John A. Howard, President of Rockford College, for delivery at the Illini Union Great Debate Forum Wednesday, April 3, 1963. It is remarkable how swiftly history is moving in our time and how rapidly the tides of opinion can reverse themselves. Fourteen years ago
The mere flow of Federal money has silenced the opposition….Is it possible that all faculty members in that day will feel some obligation to vote for whichever party promises the largest amount of additional educational subsidies regardless of other partisan differences?…Money is a good servant but a dangerous master.
The regulated society on the other hand may shield each person against his own and others’ failings, but it circumscribes his creative impulses and represses such characteristics as responsibility, initiative, and integrity. The free society is predicated on the predominance of the affirmative qualities in man’s nature. Its byword is opportunity. The controlled society, even in its best form, assumes the ascendancy of man’s baser motives. Its byword is protection. Unfettered opportunity or protection — they do not lie in the same direction. When we move toward one, we depart from the other.
The educational system prefabricates the national mind and spirit; it forms political and economic attitudes; it either fosters or smothers such personal qualities as initiative, courage, self reliance, pride, patriotism, and resilience.