Of airs and affectations.

character of vanity

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Ecclesiastes 11:7-9.

I never read the book, but I am watching the video version on Amazon and, as a major fan of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, am enjoying it immensely, though hardly for any cultural or noble reasons. Whether or not it’s a realistic portrayal of life of British high society during the Napoleonic Wars, I don’t care. It’s immensely funny to watch people with minimal self awareness making asses of themselves while they are drunk with their own virtue. Now you know that such an introduction could equally apply to the high society of our day. Who are they? Well, who does the bold sentence remind you of? Hint: some recently elected young skulls full of mush–thanks again, Rush–to the United States House, and their minions. Airs and affectations are still as funny and obnoxious as they were in the early 1800’s, whether they on the Continent or here. It was all about wealth, status and virtue, as it still is.

Of the three, only wealth is not the product of Airs and affectations. Notice the cover of Vanity Fair. After watching a few episodes, it’s apparent to me that he’s married to another woman, but is whispering lewd suggestions, and she, after shamelessly flirting with him in front of his wife, is pretending to be suitably shocked. Airs and affectations! His fancy uniform is an empty suit, though it should be red if he is supposed to be British–the French wore blue uniforms–but no matter, they are each playing their part in the drama according to the standard of their society and times. To the extent they judge themselves at all, they are judging their behavior according to….what? They readily identify the sins of others that they themselves are committing, and absolve themselves when they believe their status is enough to shut down criticism. But if their status is lower than the critic, they grovel. With no absolute standard, what else is there?

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”- Matthew 7:1-5. Jesus is clear that right judgment requires you to confront your own sin before trying to confront the sins of others. This truth was rejected by the “good and the great” of Thackeray’s time, just as it’s rejected by the virtue signalers of our time.

This program is worth seeing, for a laugh and a perspective.