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By Tracy Lee Simmons, The Federalist, July 11, 2022
Tracy Lee Simmons has written widely for the National Review, Washington Post, New York Times, Weekly Standard, New Criterion, Crisis, and Sewanee Review, along with other newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Climbing Parnassus,” a best-selling case for classical education in America.
We are living in an age when civilization itself is under attack — or at least Western civilization, which has made the fruitful lives we lead today possible.
What is Civilization? Let’s consider this a meditation on an idea.
Henry James, in an early novel called “The Europeans,” records a brother and sister, both Europeans, visiting America for the first time in the early to mid-19th century. The brother lights out in search of distant American relations, and upon his return his highly civilized sister enquires into what he discovered: “Are there symptoms of wealth?” she asks. To which her highly civilized brother acerbically replies, “I should say there was wealth without symptoms.” …