The Truly Mature Person

“At present our society is in most serious economic difficulties. The truly mature person, bred in the Great Tradition, could at any time have reached into his accumulation of experience and found a match for each one of these difficulties, and for every circumstance of each, every sequence of cause and effect. The happenings of the last eight or ten years have simply added another set of stereotyped registrations to his stock of experience. There is nothing new about them, nothing strange or unpredictable. Yet I am sure you have remarked, as I have, the extraordinary, the unconscionable incompetence with which these happenings have been met by those whom our society regards as its “leaders of thought.” Indeed, the universality of this incompetence and its incredible degradation are perhaps all that puts a distinguishing mark on the circumstances of the period. I may give one example. One of the men most in the public eye holds a high place in industry and finance. All his sayings and doings are made much of in the press, which represents him as a person of almost unearthly wisdom. His prominence in some international transactions a short time ago made his name a household word. I think, though I am not quite sure, that he holds an honorary degree from Columbia University. After the depression had been running for about a year, a friend of mine who knows him very well met him, and said, “I suppose you have learned a good deal in these twelve months; tell me what you have learned.” “Yes, indeed,” he replied. “We have learned that it won’t do to reduce wages.” Think of it! To have gone through a year of economic convulsions of catastrophic importance, and to have learned that! One might suppose that the survivor of a deluge, say some Hasisadra or Noah, or one who had lived through the subsidence of Atlantis, as Plato describes it, would see point to digging into the natural laws that govern such happenings and finding out all he could about them, in the hope of turning up something that might be useful in the event of their threatened recurrence. Suppose you met one of these survivors and asked what he had learned from his experience, and he told you with a great air of finality that he had learned that it is a good thing to go in when it rains! A most incompetent answer, you would say, a childish answer, the effort of an immature, ineducable mind. Yet not one whit more so than the answer given by this person, to whom the nation, in a sense, looks up.” (Albert Jay Nock, Theory of Education in the United States)