Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Anyone totally committed to a single purpose almost inevitably becomes the propagandist of his own effort. As a nation of specialists, we have become a nation obsessed with self-justification. When we don't have it, we make it. And we are by now familiar enough with the make-work of manufacturers who need products, scholars who need projects, politicians who need issues, generals who need armies. We speak the language of a people bent on justifying everything we do or want to do, whether it is justifiable or not.
This preoccupation, with its consequent language of self-praise, is epidemic. It is chronic at the highest levels of government. Much of the blame for the erosion of our idealism must be laid to the government, because the language of ideals has been so grossly misused by the propagandists. The liars of policy and public relations are addicted to the rhetoric of high principle. Our political ideals fill their mouths as unctuously, and will as little involvement of conscience or intelligence, as so many pieces of fat meat.
-Wendell Berry, excerpted from his 1969 collection of essays, The Long-Legged House