I’ve always thought the best definition of a sophomore (literally, a “wise fool”) is that he or she glibly pronounces judgment against others while lacking the sense to see or say anything positive. I’ve also thought, especially these last few years, that most journalists are simply too young to know what they are talking about.
Today on the Net I saw some reference to Downton Abbey and followed it up in order to expand my own knowledge and wisdom. (An outside observer might have though I was just killing time but what do I care? I’m retired!)
The obviously very immature writer of the article was really slamming the PBS series for glorifying the pre-WW I way of life for the wealthy English lords. I found myself searching the article carefully for some sign that the show is actually and fairly accurately reflecting a crucial time in the history of England and, by extension, all of Western civilization. No, he had no sense of history at all, merely a sophomoric sense that the old British aristocrats weren’t like contemporary Americans and therefore were awful people.
Lacking a sense of history, the writer apparently also has little feel for today’s realities, which — like the realities of all peoples in all times — are marked both by strengths and weaknesses. We are proud that individuals in our day feel less social pressure to conform to this particular standard or that particular value. What we seem not to measure is the awful degree of loneliness and shallowness and aimlessness that characterizes our rudderless society.
As Tevye put it in “Fiddler on the Roof,” tradition tells us who we are and what God expects of us. It does so very imperfectly, of course, but at least it gives each person a context and a starting point in life. Periods of great freedom like we think we’re experiencing now do not last long. They are just transition periods from one set of traditions to another.
Paying careful attention to Downton Abbey is one good and enjoyable way to examine just such a transition period in the not too distant past, childish critics aside.