LITERATURE: Confessions – Again, the more things change…

Laughed aloud at this one:

My studies which were deemed respectable had the objective of leading me to distinction as an advocate in the lawcourts, where one’s reputation is high in proportion to one’s success in deceiving people.  The blindness of humanity is so great that people are actually proud of their blindness.  (III.6)

While I can certainly relate to the first sentence, it is not an uncommon belief, and in fact has become a joke about the legal profession.  But even I know that this is a generalization as well as an effect of the practice.

Augustine is guilty here of stereotyping; no worse, it would seem to me, than any other based on age, religion, ethnicity or gender.  Yet as I’ve always believed, there is a seed of truth within the exaggeration–and it should not be necessarily considered a bad thing if there is a logical reason of history behind it–in every statement that becomes a generalization.  I would think that the most important thing to remember is that maybe a majority, but certainly not all members of the group may have some trace of the tendency, trait, belief, etc. that the stereotyping targets.  Then too, as we merge and diversify our cultures, these may no longer hold true in any realistic acknowledgment.

The second sentence of Augustine’s statement, "The blindness of humanity is so great that people are actually proud of their blindness." reminds me, in these current times and affected by contemporary language and viewpoints, of political correctness, though I’m sure that this is not what Augustine is referring to, but rather a more mob mentality, ostrich-like behavior that excuses the reluctance to search for truth. 

Was there more honesty in Augustine’s time?  Likely so, and just as much deceit.

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