The Hapsburgs, Victorians And Us

I think the following, which I found in my notes, comes from Stefan Zweig: “Since it [public morality, one assumes] searched without interruption for all that was ‘improper’, it found itself in a constant state of alert; to the world of that day ‘decency’ was always in mortal danger, in every word and in every gesture.” That Decency was precisely like its modern descendant, political correctness, in two ways, both contained in the quote.

Firstly, you do not wait until indecency comes to you, you “search” it out incessantly. Being offended, shocked or made indignant by a sin of indecency (political incorrectness) is not a misfortune that happens to you, it to be embraced as a source of brownie points. Being offended, shocked or made indignant proves to others (or in the worst case, to yourself alone) what a superior person you are.

Secondly, sin can smoulder beneath the surface and rot society if not searched out. Although you get esteem and self-esteem for detecting and rebuking it, this is a virtue of necessity, as it needs to be done anyway. Decency is always in mortal danger, as he says. You have no clear idea what the world will be like if indecency (incorrectness) is allowed to flourish under the bed, but you do not want to find out. So your inquisition is at once a duty and a pleasure. Eternal vigilance!

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