leader teams, local craftspeople, storytellers,rnand folk poets continue to be arnvital source of cultural material. Thernfolk churches are flourishing and full,rnand the exposed peccadilloes of theirrnpastors testify, oddly, to the vitality ofrnthe cultural energies they exploit. Localrnand regional peculiarities and dialectsrnpersist. The popular culture is also relativelyrnsound, despite or perhaps becausernof its inherent limitations—the compromisesrnrequired for a mass audience,rnthe need for profit, the rarity of truernconnoisseurship in a busy workingrnpopulation, and the compromises ofrncommercialization. The public-servicernculture is partly healthy, partly sick—therncynicism has penetrated government,rnthe press, and the public-service unions,rnespecially secondary education, but hasrnnot deeply affected law, medicine, orrnthe military. Even within the mostrndeeply infected areas—journalism,rnteaching, politics, and the “helping professions”rn—a large number of workers inrnthe field maintain high standards of culturalrnintegrity and creativity. But it isrnthe brahmin culture—the very peoplernwhose social function is to guide, inspire,rnenlighten, and challenge theirrncommunity—that has let us down.rnEven here all is not lost. The sciencesrnand the technological disciplines are asrnyet largely untouched by the infection,rnand will be one of the most importantrnsources of cultural renewal. The secondaryrnschools, which have always rightlyrntaken their lead from the brahmins,rnhave, however, fallen victim to the disease,rnas have many of the mainstreamrndenomination clergy, who, though formerlyrnthe cultural leaders, now strugglernto maintain their status by followingrnavant-garde trends. The basic source ofrnthe problem is the academic humanitiesrnand the avant-garde arts; yet even herernthere are enclaves of healthy and creativernwork. It is in the official academic culturernthat the sickness is at its worst.rnTragically, some of the antielitism thatrnHenry attacks is justified in practice, ifrnnot in theory, by the elite itself.rnBut why should it matter to societyrnwhat a small group of alienated intellectuals,rnin their airtight hothouse of ressentimentrnand arrogance, should choose asrntheir current fashion? Have not avantgardernthinkers always sought to upsetrnsolid citizens with their posturings, andrnshould not the rest of us tolerate them,rnbecause of the occasional miracle thatrnthey seem to produce from time torntime? Erom a practical, social point ofrnview, the function of the humanities isrntherapeutic, normative, and visionary—rnit helps heal the pains of life, encouragesrnus to virtue, and sets up ideal goals tornguide our aspirations. Might it not bernargued that contemporary egalitarianrnpolemic is bitter medicine for our ills, arnchastisement for our complacencies andrninjustices, an unrealistic and exaggeratedrnbut liberating vision of human freedom?rnWe can cite countless examples of discomfortingrnsocial criticism, from the indignantrnpoetry of the Old Testamentrnprophets and the sacrificial violence ofrnRoman and Greek sculpture, that remindrnus how terrible and tragic is the divinerneconomy, through the humiliatingrndepiction of human frailty and corruptionrnin medieval theater and theology,rnto the vicious but cleansing satires of thernEnlightenment and the moral questioningsrnof the Romantics.rnThe situation now, however, is differentrnfrom that which produced thernJeremiads of the past. Much contemporaryrnavant-garde theory does not healrnbut rather wallows in the disease, andrntakes money for the exhibition of itsrnsores. Its effect is to produce rage, despair,rnracial and ethnic hostility, sexualrndisgust, and hatred between the sexes.rnIt does not encourage us to virtue, but tornactivities and attitudes that have alwaysrnbeen considered harmful to society:rnviolence, cynicism, a sense of the meaninglessnessrnof everything, sexual promiscuityrnand perversion (however we definernperversion—I do not consider homosexualityrnin itself, for instance, a perversion),rnimmediate sensation rather thanrnforesight and self-restraint, and disrespectrnfor the dead, for the family, forrnhard work, for innocence, for heroism,rnfor science, and for religion. It does notrnin fact contain any visionary ideal of thernfuture or of a better world than this one,rnthough its apparatus of social theory stillrnfaintly echoes old modernist ideas of arnsociety of perfect equality, total freedom,rnlove, and harmony with nature.rnThough to the citizen the effects ofrnsuch academic polemics and apologeticsrnmight seem safely confined to a smallrncircle of aficionados, such is not the case;rnindeed, this confinement is a dangerousrnillusion. Avant-garde fashions affect universityrnstudents through their professors,rnand university students become thernelites and alumni of the future. Thosernwho do not inhabit the academy canrnhave no idea of the thought-control, therncensorship, the paranoia, the terrifyingrncruelty that are common there, becauserntheir results appear so trivial: an academicrnsuspension, the suppression of a publication,rna bad tenure decision, the hiringrnof a second-rate member of a preferredrnethnic or sexual category over a firstraternmember of one of the pariahrngroups. But it is not only students whornare corrupted by postmodernist theory;rnwealthy patrons of the humanities andrnthe arts, wishing to appear au fait withrnwhat is going on, adopt the styles andrnattitudes of their academic proteges;rnand everybody else who wishes to bernrich—which is almost everybody—thenrnimitates them. Thus avant-garde ideasrntrickle down to the population at large,rnwithout improving in subtlety, decency,rnor breadth of tolerance as they do so.rnThe universities are the nurseries of culture,rnand what happens there will affectrnall of society in the future.rnThe effects are tangible. The primaryrnand secondary educational system, desperatelyrnlooking for ways to justify itsrnfailure to educate an increasing fractionrnof our population, has seized upon secondhandrnpostmodernist notions of cultural,rnethical, and sexual relativism as arnmeans of justifying the collapse of itsrnstandards. If present trends continue,rnwe will end up with two systems of education,rnone funded at great expense torngive the illusion of democratic trainingrnand accreditation to the masses—breadrnand circuses—and the other for thernelites, the Grand Inquisitor caste, thernchildren of the avant-garde mandarinsrnthemselves.rnThe problem with books like WilliamrnHenry’s is that they are strong on symptoms,rnweak on diagnosis, and weaker stillrnon cure. We need a positive vision of thernnext phase of cultural history. It is notrnenough to complain about the abuses ofrnthe present and indulge in an ahistoricalrnnostalgia for the past. The past, properlyrnunderstood, is a fiercer and more shockingrnspiritual challenge than any rightwingrnconservative can imagine. I am notrnalone in seeing a huge and wonderfulrnopportunity even now for our societyrnand our culture, but it depends uponrncoldly recognizing the mistakes that wernhave made. The potential gains, intellectualrnand artistic, are worth the risk.rnWould it indeed be so bad once again tornabandon a worldview and reach out forrnanother? Would it not be in the bestrnand boldest spirit of modernism itself torndo so? ^?rn32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn