Anthony Esolen

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Anthony M. Esolen is a writer, social commentator, translator of classical poetry.


  • What is the worst thing about living near an open sewer? It is not that you sicken at the stench of it every time you leave your front door. It is that the noisome vapors are so pervasive, and you have lived with them so long, you no longer notice it. What is the worst thing about living in the rubble of a civilization? It is not that you shed a tear for the noble churches and courts and town halls you once knew, as you recall years filled with religious services, parades, block parties, and all the bumptious folderol of an ordinary civic life. It is that you do not even suspect that such things existed.
  • If you are a really serious student, you will be in science, or finance, or politics—you will be in the business of money or power. Everything is about ourselves. We don’t want to study other cultures. We want to make other people study about us, and from our preferred point of view. I say to students, “Here, let me teach you about Milton,” the author of the greatest poem in the English language. The students reply, “No, let us teach you about us.” Dear Narcissus, there is a great and beautiful world beyond that pool.
  • Like anything else that man makes, culture is nowhere pure, and is often shot through with dreadful evil. But it is in a way natural to man to cultivate a way of life that transcends the generations in time, and that in being reaches out to God himself. I suggest that the unnatural is to the natural as mass phenomena are to culture —especially the mass phenomena such as they are now.
  • The academic politician is interested in victory. He has the moral code of Machiavelli, but, because he is too impatient to submit to the instruction of history, he has not the old master’s shrewd sense of human limitations and contradictions. He makes the worst of rulers: he is neither a lover of truth, nor a practical man of the world, nor an habitual examiner of his all-too-human and persistent failings.
  • A nation of lost and fatherless boys and drifting young men is terrified that we have too much patriarchy. Why, it reinforces my belief in the existence of demons: unassisted man could never be so blank and stupid as to fear that fathers have too much authority when boys and girls by tens of millions grow up with none at all. Only Beelzebub can explain it. A nation of fornicators, sodomites, divorcees, pornographers, and users of pornography, a nation of casual obscenity, erupts in wrath against boorish flirting. A nation of cultural amnesia tears down memorials. A nation that murders a million of its children every year is full of benevolent neighbors who have the social workers at your door if they see your child riding a bicycle without a helmet. A nation of the religiously indifferent, ruled by innumerable and anonymous puppet-masters of bureaucracy, suspects a theocrat around every corner.

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