2015: You Would’ve Hated Your Heroes

In Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” the film’s protagonist finds himself transported back in time to the Paris of the 1920s, where he rubs shoulders with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Picasso. Thrilling, right? Who wouldn’t love traveling into the past, and meeting one’s heroes? In truth, you’re much better off not meeting your idols from past decades or centuries — for the simple reason that, in all likelihood, they were probably assholes. More precisely: Your historical heroes would have seen the world very differently from you and me. In particular, they probably harbored an array of unpleasant prejudices: Idolize Winston Churchill for standing up to Nazi Germany? Great, but best to ignore his views on those further to the east: “I hate Indians,” he wrote.  “They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” Virginia Woolf is a literary hero – but better not dwell […] Read More

The Fall of Ideals

Alas, whether we turn East, West, North or South, it is but a contrast of externals; whether one observes life among Christians or Pagans, worldly or religious men, everywhere one finds oneself dealing with man, masked man – only MAN. Though centuries lapse and decades of ages drop out of the lap of time, great reforms take place, empires rise and fall and rise again, and even whole races disappear before the triumphant march of civilization, in his terrific selfishness the “man” that was is the “man” that is – judged by its representative element the public, and especially society. But have we the right to judge man by the utterly artificial standard of the latter? A century ago we would have answered in the negative. Today, owing to the rapid strides of mankind toward civilization, generating selfishness and making it (mankind) keep pace with it, we answer decidedly, […] Read More