Civilization as the Imposition of Tastes
John Rosemond offers a reminder that surprises most especially in the degree to which it reads as revolutionary:
A child, lacking farsightedness, does not know how to govern himself. He does not know what is in his best interest. He is apt to prefer that which is bad for him and reject that which is good for him. Thus, he would rather drink a soda than a glass of water, eat a bowl of ice cream than a helping of broccoli, play video games than do chores, stay up than go to bed at a decent hour, disobey than obey, and so on. His parents and teachers must provide the restraint and direction he cannot provide himself.
To be sure, one can trace this problem beyond the bounds of adolescence. Rosemond quotes Flannery O’Connor’s insight that a student’s “taste should not be consulted; it is being formed.” The reason our society has lost this proper sense, I’d suggest, is that adults do not wish to admit cultural claims against their less refined tastes; if a society has no grounds to impose behavior on adults, then adults have scarcely more grounds to impose behavior on children.
And various powers — from government, to the entertainment industry, to promoters of certain ideological flavors — have found it to be in their interest to encourage disregard for cultural refinement. After all, those not guided by a transgenerational consensus on standards for quality and etiquette will be guided by simpler lures.