David Samuels: Where does the ethos of a class come from?
Angelo Codevilla: Here I speak with the prejudices of an academician. Because the ethos of the academy changed, evolved. And what drove the change was the growing contempt of professors for our civilization. And you Jews ought not to feel that you are any less the enemy of these people than we Christians.
I should say the defining feature of the ruling class is a certain attitude. And that attitude developed in the academy, and that attitude became uniform throughout the country because of the uniform academy. The uniformity of the academy transformed itself into the uniformity of the ruling class.
Because that was the institution that credentialed the otherwise uncultured American masses?
It credentialed the mind and the habits. The habits of the heart. It credentialed the habits of the heart. The habits of conversation. The habits of work. The habits of logic. The habits period.
Can you imagine a bright kid coming in contact with that kind of intellectual fraud? The smartest ones will say, “hey, I don’t want to be part of this.” He’ll do something else. He won’t be taken in. Which means that this class will continue to degrade itself.
Just as it would be wrong to understate the importance of who has dinner with whom in Washington, it would be wrong to understate the extent to which the class you dislike is moved by an idea: The rational scientific functioning of the bureaucratic state. That’s their God. I may find this attachment emotionally bizarre, but that doesn’t make it any less real.
You’re saying the same thing in two different ways. Why is it that they have dinner together? It is that they believe that they share something terribly important. And that is precisely what they believe to be their stewardship of all things good.
Once upon a time, thus moved, they believed that they were holier than thou. Now they simply believe that they’re trendier than thou. In other words, they share the most valuable thing, which is not devotion to God but devotion to their own corporate mission. Their own corporate status. Status and mission. Status being the priests of the salvific religion of science and progress.
Remember that concept The Priesthood of All Believers, brought in by Moses (Exodus 19:5-6), and expanded on by the Apostles Peter (I Peter 2:4-8) and John (Revelation 1:4–6, 5:6–10, 20:6)?
Bright young men who loathe intellectual frauds may want to look into this.
But there is a price to be paid, for an independence of mind.
That is my job. I am young, I am supposed to rise.
I am supposed to rise in my life, how can I do that? And I in good conscience explain to them that the paths are there and the ladders are being provided. And they will take you to these places. You will, however, have to adapt yourself to the mindset of these folks.
Now, if you insist on being independent minded, don’t bother. But if you do insist on being independent minded, also realize that these ladders will not be available to you.
A lot of kids will come and tell me how much they enjoy my classes and how much they like the ancients, the way I taught the ancients. And I said to them: “Look. There is no future for you in following the likes of me. I cannot give you the kinds of internships and prospects for employment and writing that others can.”
There are real comforts, real benefits, to Pleasing the Powerful People.
The High Road is often the Hard Road. There is no getting around this.
But if you want to build something that will endure, that will command respect in the long term, it’s going to cost you.
Still… it’s nice to have some distance between you and a degrading Ruling Class.