Dallas,” that bastion of academic civil liberties, the AAUP, refusedrnto defend him, Oliver is a major scholar, an expert on,rnamong other things, the textual tradition of Tacitus, and whilernhis dislike for Jews and Christians has induced him to sayrnmany foolish things, he has not, so far as I know, lied about thernsubjects on which his academic reputation is based. He is arnman honest in his prejudices, frank in his follies; most liberalsrnare as incapable of his dignity as of his erudition.rnLiberalism is a term that is used to cover a multitude of sins.rnThe doctrines were corrosive from the very beginning, but thernliberals themselves were typically honest and civilized men, fairmindedrnto a fault, moderate in their projects. Enormous contributionsrnto economics and law were made by such British liberalsrnas Adam Smith and Henry Sumner Maine. But the logicrnof liberalism is a historical dialectic in which each generation isrncompelled to undermine the certainties that its ancestors tookrnfor granted. The target, as it turns out, is always the same:rnChristendom, and not just Christian faith and Christian institutions.rnThe whole of civilization, the Christian bricolagernmade out of the ruins of classical and Judaic antiquity has beenrnunder attack, and each generation of liberals stands in thernsenate of fashionable thought, ending every oration on nornmatter what subject with the clausula Christiniatas delenda est:rnclassical art and “classical” music, stable marriages and goodrntable manners (“He ate his dinner like a Christian,” they usedrnto say), Aristotelian logic and Ciceronian rhetoric—as well asrnthe languages of Cicero and Aristotle. All must go, because allrnhad been used in the construction of a world that was shotrnthrough with the Christian revelation.rnSince the 15th century, when skeptics first began to boast ofrntheir infidelity, down to the time of the Enlightenment, whenrnself-righteous immoralists like Voltaire taught the educatedrnclasses to despise the world of their fathers, and right into ourrnown era of monotonous and ritualized whining chantedrnweekly in the pages of the New Republic, the progress of liberalismrncan be measured by the loss of faith, the collapse of everyrnethical, aesthetic, and intellectual standard, the regress ofrnlearning. (For perspective, just compare the evil but dignifiedrnWalter Lippmann with Michael Kinsley, too frail and insubstantialrnto be capable of evil.)rnTo combat this malady of liberalism, we must refresh ourselvesrnat the springs and fountains of our civilization, even thosernsecondary springs that spouted up after going underground forrncenturies. We live in an age far more barbarous than thernearly Middle Ages, erroneously called dark, and sitting likernsavage children in the ruins we might begin the recovery byrnreacquainting ourselves with certain old friends of the familyrnwho have known us all our lives, even if we have never heardrntheir names before: Homer and Vergil, Plato and Cicero,rnSophocles and Seneca.rnPetrarch, one of the great refounders of our civilization, hadrnno printed books and no real library to rely on most of the time;rnin fact, he and his young friends had to spend much of theirrntime ferreting out manuscripts of ancient authors that were lyingrnneglected in monastic collections. But to spend a fewrnhours with Petrarch is to rediscover what our civilization isrnabout: a lyric ability to make words sound Mozartean, a temperamentrnpassionate in carnal love and Christian faith; wise inrnmorals, at home in the literature of his world, with one eye castrnlongingly into the next. Although Petrarch, in discoveringrn”the Dark Ages,” may be accused of beginning that reactionaryrnrevolution against the medieval order that issued, ultimately, inrnthe liberal counterculture, he was himself a staunch defenderrnof Christendom, supporting both Italian Popes and Germanrnemperors.rnThat counterculture has not been, to say the least, all bad.rnMozart was an Enlightenment free-thinker, and Coethe himselfrnwas deeply infected with the same disease that corrupts thernmind of rationalists and romantics alike. The critic’s task, thernreader’s task is to appreciate rather than to deprecate their accomplishments.rnBut let us not deceive ourselves. It is far toornlate to attempt to go back to some comfortable and creative periodrnwhen the virus of liberalism seemed like consumption,rnwhich, in its eariy stages, seemed to stimulate the sensibilitiesrnof Romantic poets. The patient is now in the terminal phase,rnwasted, wracked, and coughing blood. To return to health requiresrna change of climate, the clean air and bright sunshine ofrna life rooted in the ages of faith and in the brilliant childhoodrnof our culture, the classical past.rnGo, if you must, to some finishing school like Yale to collectrna degree and meet the future colleagues who will make a professionalrncareer possible, but do not imagine for a moment thatrnyou will have the opportunity to be educated there. Of coursernthere are eminent specialists on the faculties, and some ofrnthem, no doubt, are men of sound learning, but whateverrntheir politics or philosophy, such scholars arc undercover agentsrndoing their best in a hostile environment; as covert reactionariesrnthey constitute a fifth column against a liberal regimernthat is making war on every fact and honest thought it can discover.rnTruth is treason in the empire of lies.rnIn our age, every learned man or woman is an autodidact,rnand the only real schooling for most of us will be homeschooling.rnBecause we frequently receive letters from subscribers whornwant to know how to begin their lifetime course of homernlearning, we asked our regular contributors to send in a list ofrnthe books they regard as most important. Our intention hadrnbeen to publish a Chronicles booklist from their recommendations,rnbut there was so little overlap, the task proved impossible.rnAfter a period of more work, we will produce a pamphlet to distribute,rnbut in the meantime my advice is to begin at the beginning.rnThe central works of ancient literature are available inrnbilingual Loeb editions from Harvard or in inexpensive paperbacksrnfrom Penguin, and one could do worse than “The GreatrnBooks of the Western World”—as silly and pretentious as thatrnseries is. My personal advice is to start with some great periodrn(the eariier the better) that catches your fancy—fifth-centuryrnAthens, Rome in the Late Republic, Florence in the Renaissance,rnEngland under the Stuarts. Read everything you can,rnpoetry, history, philosophy, speeches, letters; in other words,rnread yourself into the imagination of another age, and whenrnyou are exhausted, move on. Inevitably, you will forget the details,rnbut your own imagination will never recover: some part ofrnyou will always be Attic or Tuscan, and you may need that partrnsome day, when the idiots have you where they want you.rnThe drug addict Alexander King used to say that the onlyrnthing that consoled him, when he was arrested and forced to gorncold turkey, were the hours and hours of poetry he had memorizedrnin a variety of languages. Short of a memory transplant,rnthey cannot take that away from you, not even with a thousandrnhours of CNN coverage of the House of Representatives, notrneven if you are condemned to Duke with a sentence of a Ph.D.rnin English literature. When the scholars arc ignorant liars, it isrnour job to be educated and honest, “like old Boethius, bidingrnhis time among suspicious Goths.” crnSEPTEMBER 1994/15rnrnrn