Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Old South as a Schoolmarm

...Victims of the confusions and frustrations of our own time turn with live interest to that fulfillment represented by the Old South. And it is this that they find: the last non-materialist civilization in the Western World. It is this refuge of sentiments and values, of spiritual congeniality, of belief in the word, of reverence for symbolism, whose existence haunts the nation....

Looking at the whole of the South's promise and achievement, I would be unwilling to say that it offers a foundation, or, because of some accidents of history, even an example. The most that it offers is a challenge. And the challenge is to save the human spirit by re-creating a non-materialist society. Only this can rescue us from a future of nihilism, urged on by te demoniacal force of technology and by our own moral defeatism.

The first step will be to give the common man a world view completely different from that which he has constructed out of his random knowledge of science....What man thinks about the world when he is driven back to his deepest reflections and most secret promptings will finally determine all that he does....

Distinctions of many kinds will have to be restored, and I would mention especially one whose loss has added immeasurably to the malaise of our civilization - the fruitful distinction between the sexes, with the recognition of respective spheres of influence.

The Old South may indeed be a hall hung with splendid tapestries in which no one would care to live; but from them we can learn something of how to live.

Richard Weaver, The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, reprint ed. (Washington D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1989)

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