First up, my friend Magister Christianus, who has written an eloquent post about what it's like to be a serious Christian teaching in a public high school:
As I walked the halls of the public high school where I teach Latin, returning to my room after submitting six failures from Latin I to the guidance office, I felt the weight of an elephant on my chest and burning tears around the rims of my eyes. It was not the six failures that produced these sensations, but they contributed to a cumulative, crushing effect. Perhaps it was that one of our students was raped on her way home earlier this week. Perhaps it was the cheating scandal that has rocked our school, involving a young man who photographed with his phone a final exam and sold it to students. This same young man was discovered to have stolen multiple tests and quizzes from another teacher during the teacher's absence. Perhaps it was a colleague's discovery that a student had gotten onto his computer and changed grades. Perhaps it the sadness I have felt for some time and that hit critical mass yesterday over a former student who is a friend on Facebook. This student, who must be in her late twenties by now, was a dark, edgy girl as I recall her. Now, she works at a local bar, and the vast majority of her body not covered by clothing is decked out in tattoos. I do not want to know what a former student looks like under her clothes. She friended me a long time ago, and I accepted, but now I see frequent updates of her in all manner of undress at her work, which seems to promote such appearance. I am praying the Lord will draw her to Him and out of the life she is living. [...]Go and read the whole thing here.
Yet today as I walked the halls, I felt oppression. My school is above average in academic, athletic, and artistic/musical achievements. We have the awards and statistics to prove it. We are, however, feeling the crushing weight of the immorality and despair that seems to be sweeping the nation, if not the world. I found myself wanting to get out, to leave, to do anything but bear the burden of this weight.
And then I thought of Mother Teresa and of Jesus. How long did Mother Teresa work in the slums? What oppression did her soul suffer? What weight of sin did our Lord have to carry in the moral sinkhole of the 1st century Roman empire? In the garden of Gethsemane, He asked our Father, "Let this cup pass from me," but added in His typical, faithful way, "nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done."
The thing is, culture matters. When you have a nation that scorns chastity, shuns morality, and decides that the only virtue is pleasing one's own self, that is reflected in our youth, and wreaks a terrible human toll.
Next up: I don't agree completely with Patrick Archbold here, but this is a pretty thought-provoking piece of writing:
Once upon a time, women wanted to project an innocence. I am not idealizing another age and I have no illusions about the virtues of our grandparents, concupiscence being what it is. But some things were different in the back then. First and foremost, many beautiful women, whatever the state of their souls, still wished to project a public innocence and virtue. And that combination of beauty and innocence is what I define as pretty.
By nature, generally when men see this combination in women it brings out their better qualities, their best in fact. That special combination of beauty and innocence, the pretty inspires men to protect and defend it.
Young women today do not seem to aspire to pretty, they prefer to be regarded as hot. Hotness is something altogether different. When women want to be hot instead of pretty, they must view themselves in a certain way and consequently men view them differently as well.
As I said, pretty inspires men’s nobler instincts to protect and defend. Pretty is cherished. Hotness, on the other hand, is a commodity. Its value is temporary and must be used. It is a consumable. [...]
Our problem is that society doesn’t value innocence anymore, real or imagined. Nobody aspires to innocence anymore. Nobody wants to be thought of as innocent, the good girl. They want to be hot, not pretty.
Last, but not least, Rod Dreher has written the customer service rant par excellence:
I no longer fear Hell, for I have spent two days dealing with AT&T customer service.
Honest, I cannot remember the last time I was so angry. It was the kind of experience that makes you think this must be a movie, or the Soviet Union. And it’s still not over! How are these people still in business? [...]
Well, the deadline came and went, and no phone service, and no Internet. I phoned AT&T myself. It took four minutes and 56 seconds of navigating through the automated customer service system before I finally got put through to a human being. And off we went again. It was as if the entire set of conversations Julie had had the day before had never occurred! After 45 minutes or longer on the phone with this particular person, and getting absolutely nowhere, my head was throbbing, and I lost my temper. I asked to be put through to a supervisor … and was transferred back to the automated system, at the very beginning.
I really do lack the words to describe how incandescently angry I was at this point. I had to give the phone to my wife to handle from that point on. I heard her say the words, “What do you mean it won’t be on till Friday?! That is unacceptable. You all have had over a month to make this work!”
I took the phone at that point. At least 30 minutes later, and three different customer service representatives (“Sir, I don’t know why they transferred you to me; this is not my area”), I reached the end of the line. The man told me there was nothing to be done. He said if it didn’t come on by midnight, that I should call this particular number. I realized there really was nothing else I could do at that point. There was no one left to talk to. He told me he lacked the authority to transfer me to a supervisor. I believe he was lying, but at that point, all I was capable of was screaming. (Julie had already asked me to go to the back of the house to carry on these conversations, because I was frightening the children). I gave up.
Of course, the real problem is that we now live in a culture that values low-cost goods and services and high returns for the stockholder over such old-fashioned notions as quality, customer service, and standing by one's words or promises. These days, an overseas customer service person can assure the irate American on the other end of the phone that tomorrow or the next day the problem will be fixed--and then, to all extents and purposes, the irate American ceases to exist, as far as the ironically-named customer service specialist is concerned. It is not the job of the customer service person to waste company resources and drain stockholder value by actually, you know, fixing the problem. And when the even-more-irate American customer calls back tomorrow, well, maybe he'll call at a different time and someone in a different country will answer the call; the odds are against getting the same person twice, especially given the automated maze at the beginning of the system.
I'm not (of course) the only person out there who writes cultural laments, and I'm glad to have this opportunity to share three really good ones with all of you!