If they choose to forego their work—say it is screenwriting—in favor of sitting around the Algonquin bar, they do not then wonder bitterly why the Hacketts, and not they, did a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues.
The measure of its slipping prestige is that one tends to think of it only in connection with homely children and with United States senators who have been defeated, preferably in the primary, for re-election.
inequality, it is also an age of great inequality of knowledge or, more exactly, factual information.
For all its democratic potential, the fact-filled internet has only heightened the pre-Google asymmetry between those, on one side, loyal to Baconian methods of patient, inductive gathering of facts — the ways of the card catalog and the archive, of the analysis and evaluation of empirical data — and those, on the other side, who didn’t need to read Foucault or the Frankfurt School to nurture a suspicion that positivist orders of knowledge mask a hierarchy of power in which they are meant to occupy the lowest rungs.
Nonetheless, character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.
Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about.The charms that work on others count for nothing in that devastatingly well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself: no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions.With the desperate agility of a crooked faro dealer who spots Bat Masterson about to cut himself into the game, one shuffles flashily but in vain through one's marked cards—the kindness done for the wrong reason, the apparent triumph which had involved no real effort, the seemingly heroic act into which one had been shamed.Didion wrote the essay as the magazine was going to press, to fill the space left after another writer did not produce a piece on the same subject.She wrote it not to a word count or a line count, but to an exact character count.It’s the Republican Party’s deliberate disinformation strategy, more than any properties inherent in so-called information technologies, that has created these two parallel Americas.In one of them, weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, climate change is a patent hoax, and the Laffer curve is the most basic truth of economics.I lost the conviction that lights would always turn green for me, the pleasant certainty that those rather passive virtues which had won me approval as a child automatically guaranteed me not only Phi Beta Kappa keys but happiness, honour, and the love of a good man (preferably a cross between Humphrey Bogart in and one of the Murchisons in a proxy fight); lost a certain touching faith in the totem power of good manners, clean hair, and proven competence on the Stanford-Binet scale.To such doubtful amulets had my self-respect been pinned, and I faced myself that day with the nonplussed wonder of someone who has come across a vampire and found no garlands of garlic at hand.Although to be driven back upon oneself is an uneasy affair at best, rather like trying to cross a border with borrowed credentials, it seems to me now the one condition necessary to the beginnings of real self-respect.Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception.