October 29-November 4, 2001
volume 12, no. 154

The Egalitarian Revolution    part four

The Cultural Revolution

    If we understand the revolution as the abolition of a natural and good order of things so as to re-place it with the opposite, we can begin to analyze the cultural revolution that has changed the customs, habits and ways of being of modern day man. The cultural revolution includes a revolution in style, in which a new "loose," "relaxed," egalitarian and vulgar type of clothing and way of being came to replace the existing or-der and values that had been cultivated by Christian Civilization.

    The Sorbonne revolution of May '68, which found its correlation in the students' revolt at the University of Berkeley in the U.S., was an explosion in the cultural sphere of a type of egalitarianism as radical in its own sense as Soviet Communism. The revolutionaries of May of '68 took over the University of the Sorbonne for some days, rebelling against all the established cultural and moral patterns. They declared themselves free of every restriction and control. "It is forbidden to forbid" was the maxim that summarized the movement. The student there created a model that would be repeated by rebellious youth in universities around the world.

    These young men and women were not demanding political power, but a cultural revolution. For example, they advocated total sexual freedom, complete egalitarianism between the sexes and social classes, the end to all inhibitions and prohibitions. As a consequence of the impact of the Sorbonne revolution, the garb and customs of decency and propriety that demanded effort or austerity gradually disappeared -- to give way to "casual" clothes and manners, which became the symbols of the hippie and punk styles. Some of those styles came to be accepted by the general public, such as the miniskirt and Bermudas, which are subtle invitations to nudism, which also was being rejected less and less every day. Earrings for men, beaded necklaces and bracelets, long hair and the consequent ponytails: these radical symbols of the revolution in style in the '60s, today have become commonplace on the streets and even in churches. These once shocking customs today are even considered mild next to the body-piercing, tattoos and other up-to-date punk styles. Some of the men who adopt these "new" styles have a clearly dirty and savage look - they are the direct heirs of the hippie revolution. Others, adopting many of the same customs, present themselves as clean and effeminate. The general tendency, as far as I can observe, goes and comes between these two poles.

    To take one more example, an important symbol of this revolution of the '60s was the now common blue jeans. Before this cultural revolution, jeans were common work clothes for cowboys and ranchers because of their practical durability. The '60s transformed the blue jean into a symbol of the egalitarian and "democratic" tendencies of the age. Faded, torn, tight-fitting, unisex, they became the uniform for the student revolutionary. In his book, The Empire of the Ephemeral, French writer Gilles Lipovetsky reports, "The movement toward jeans anticipated the eruption of the counter-culture and the generalized spirit of contention that dominated from the end of the '60s." (Paris, Gallimard, 1987, p. 95). The revolution of May '68 expressed itself more by ways of dressing, feeling, and spontaneous ac-tion and thinking than by explicit indoctrination in the theories of Marx and Freud. A consequence: today, jeans are tranquilly worn not only by the youth, but by men and women of all ages and on all occasions. That is, this symbol of the revolu-tion has come to be a custom, almost a tradition… This is just one example of a subtle and profound imposition of the Cultural Revolution.

A profound transformation in clothing and a way of being

    Now, some thirty years after, we can see that this egalitarian revolution has produced profound transformations in the mentality of modern day men - even of those who call themselves conservative. Dress began to change in a way that increasingly accentuated the idea not only of equality among sexes - with increasingly unisex clothing - but also the notion of equality among social classes. The differentiation in dress that still remained in the '60s to indicate a class or office of life has largely disappeared. The business-man and lawyer are removing their suits, the professor looks like the student, the doctor like his gardener. In effect, the consequence of the underlying philosophy of this revolution was the creation of an egalitarian, vulgar and sexually liberated culture to replace the Catholic culture characterized by harmonic inequalities and chaste customs.

    To illustrate what I am saying, consider the man in the second picture and try to guess his profession. I will not hazard an opinion here for fear of denigrating any worthy occupations. In fact, he is an "in-demand" computer engineer, a professional who chose to be photographed like this for an article in Time magazine (July 3, 2000 "Is this the", p. 44). What mentality do these clothes and jewelry reveal? Certainly not a sense of the dignity, responsibility and elevation of spirit that one would expect from a professional man. The new "anything-goes" dress and way of being gives no opportunity for souls to mirror the moral values and notion of hierarchy necessary for good ordering of any sound society.

A Restoration of Customs

    Many young men and women today have become admirers of Christendom and they seek its restoration, which deserves all praise. But it will not be by restoring the Latin Mass alone, combating abortion, or relearning Catholic Doctrine that Christendom will be remade. These are laudable efforts that must be made and have my entire support, but they do not comprise the whole picture. For Christendom has always been understood as a projection of the Catholic principles into every aspect of the temporal sphere. Therefore, it becomes established to the degree that the principles of Catholic Doctrine also shape the customs and ways of being of the peo-ple. This obviously includes the clothing of a man. The more a civilization becomes Christian, the more the clothing of men will be virile, dignified, noble - from the highest dignitary to the lowest worker. They will wear dignified clothing befitting their office and station of life not only at Mass, but wherever they go. This is what one notes in the dress of former times.

    Am I suggesting here that to be Catholic we have to return to the styles of the Middle Ages? Obviously not. But it is necessary for today's man to understand and respect the principle that underlies the idea that clothing should reflect the proper diversity of situa-tion and class that exists in all well-ordered societies, instead of unconsciously adopting the revolutionary styles of our days that stress comfort and ease. It would help for a man to analyze carefully how much this revolution in customs has infiltrated his daily ambience, and perhaps his own wardrobe and bearing, so that he can begin to counter this insidious affront to good Catholic customs. This will de-mand from modern man a great self-discipline, a great love of grandeur and hierarchy, a great love of seriousness, and most of all, a great love of God. But the result, as history has already shown, will well be worth it.

Next Issue: Part Five

Marian Therese Horvat, Ph.D.

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For past columns by Dr. Horvat, see Archives of Echoes of True Catholicism

October 29-November 4, 2001
volume 12, no. 154
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