now. Matthew Arnold suggested it powerfully in “DoverrnBeach.” What he eould not yet see was the evolution—or therndevolution—of intellectuals, convinced as the latter were thatrnthe superiority of culture over civilization was represented byrntheir superiority over the philistines. Yet we can see that intellectualsrnmay become, or indeed be, even less civilized thanrnare philistines. (Especially when intellectuals promote allrnkinds of barbarisms of their own.) In any event, American intellectualsrn—perhaps particulariy because of their feeling of isolationrnfrom other Americans—were especially inclined to acceptrnand propagate this culture-civilization antithesis: yes,rnAmerican civilization may have been the most advanced in thernworld when it came to housing, heating, plumbing, transporting,rnproducing; but American culture had yet to catch up.rnWell, American civilization is no longer the most advanced inrnthe world, while—or, perhaps, because—^American culturernhas caught up. Intellectuals have often lamented the inadequacyrnof American culture, while they surely knew how to profitrnfrom American civilization. Among other things, theyrnwished that there were more Greenwich Villages in this country.rnWell now there are—sordid enclaves of barbarism, most ofrnthem.rnYes, you cannot have civilization without some culture.rnBut when civilization breathes and lives and is strong,rnculture will arise, it will take care of itself. This essay is not anrnetymological treatise. Its purpose is to insist on the priority ofrna preoccupation with civilization, at the expense of the preoccupationrnwith culture. The signs of the breakdown of Americanrncivilization are all around us. Their illustration would requirernan encyclopedic jeremiad. More and more people, allrnkinds of people, recognize what is going on. Sensitive peoplernalready exist whose experiences lead them to use the properrnterm—as, for example, James Prothero, a public schoolrnteacher in Southern California, in a recent article in the NewrnOxford Review: “Civilization has ceased to exist in the urbanrnarea around my high school.” (This in the principal state ofrn”multieulturalism.”)rnUnlike in the case of Greece or Rome, the barbarians are notrnat the gate (though some of them are pouring through). Theyrnare inside, and I do not only mean those coming up from thernsubway. Readers may now suppose that I am thinking only, orrnmostly, of blacks. I am not. The barbarism burgeoning acrossrnthis country has been propagated by the culture of whites, andrnI do not mean slavery. That is long gone. What are not gonernare movies, television, talk radio, books, magazines, music,rnart—yes, art—propagating juvenility, irresponsibility, loudness,rncorrupt language, sexual prowess, physical brutality, andrnpornography and leading to a widespread decay not only ofrn”values” and of standards of behavior but of imagination. Thernworst barbarian talk I have ever listened to was the selfcentered,rnendless monologue of an Italian-American taxi driverrnfrom Brooklyn to Manhattan. In 1870, William Dean Howellsrnwelcomed Italians to America: “a race that is immemorially civilized.”rn”Scratch the mask of a modern Italian,” he wrote, “andrnyou will find a polite pagan.” The Irish were the barbarians:rn”Scrape one of these Yankeefied Celts and you’ll find a savage.”rnHe could not have been more wrong. He may have been rightrnabout those poor Italian immigrants 100 years ago. WhatrnAmerican crowd culture has made some of their descendantsrninto is another story.rnNeither rock nor porn was invented by blacks. (Nor werernblues and jazz: those were fusions of black musical talent andrnsensitivity with Anglo-Saxon forms of harmony and modernrnsyncopation, at a time when the ambition of American blacksrnamounted to more than emulation of whites, when their ambitionrnwas to acquire their rightful place within an Americanrncivilization.) The pictorial and popular culture that celebratesrnphysicality, sexuality, juvenility, self-indulgence, and primitiveness,rnwhether in high art or low (including actors andrnsingers and rock groups who call themselves “conservatives” orrnwho arc taken up enthusiastically by “conservatives”) are producedrnand represented and consumed by whites. (Thinkrnonly of the happiness on Richard Nixon’s face when he had thernprivileged moment of welcoming Elvis Presley in the OvalrnOffice.) So are advertisements produced by whites, includingrntheir half-naked and stubble-faced vitelloni. (It is interesting tornnotice that no black models are ever pictured unshaven.)rnWhen priniitiveness is prized, need one be surprised thatrnblacks prove to be good at it and that whites are afraid ofrnthem in the streets—which, of course, is the obverse of whatrnwhite “racism” is supposed to be?rnThere is plenty of “culture” thrown at children in ourrnschools, but very little of civilization. We now have hordes ofrnyoung people to whom not only the notions but the veryrnwords “civilization” and “civilized” are hardly known—at arntime when more people mouth the word “culture” than everrnbefore. And this has a special pertinence to the United States,rnwhere our forefathers were convinced of their duty to bring civilizationrnto the New World—a greater task even than its preservationrnof the Old. (I read the diary of a Southern gentlemanrnwho, in 1818, referred to “my forefathers,” to “their duty ofrnbringing civilization and Christianity to a new country”rn—and that was a public duty, too.)rnWhen a civilization functions, so do its public institutions.rnA hundred years ago, American public schools, public hospitals,rnetc., were among the best in the world. Since that time thernvery sense of what is “public” has decayed: our public schools,rnpublic hospitals, public transportation are avoided and shunnedrnby many people. But at least in one important respect there isrnno difference between those public schools where the youngrnmaim and occasionally murder each other and the most expensivernof private institutions. All American schools arernhardly more than custodial institutions now—to keep youngrnpeople off the streets and away from home, and not only in thernevent that both of their parents are at work. (Why marriedrnAmerican women discovered the desire to seek an outside job,rnsomething that began only after I960, is an allied question, becausernat that time there were no financial reasons for most ofrnthem to do so. What they found was that all of the “culture”rnavailable to them in their suburban lives—magazines, books,rnthe stereo, the radio, the television, the occasional art class atrnthe community center—meant nothing: what they grew tiredrnof was loneliness, compounded by the surrogate “civilization”rnin the suburbs.) Whether in an inner-city school or at Harvard,rnthe young are not taught civilization. I do not mean thernteaching of good manners—that disappeared some time ago.rn(Though Goethe was right: there are no manners which do notrnhave a moral foundation somewhere.) Nor do I mean thernolder American public school practice of teaching good citizenship.rnI mean a respect for life, for an orderly life that is inseparablernnot only from a respect for learning but from a respectrnfor one’s provenance, for language, and for the ability tornread, write, and listen. Almost half of our young now spendrnSEPTEMBER 1994/17rnrnrn