Moliere: Of Yichus and Hypocrisy  

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Don Luis: Are you not ashamed, to be so unworthy of your origins? What right have you now to take pride in your birth? And what have you done in the world that would prove you a gentleman? Do you think that it suffices to bear the name and the coat of arms -- that we may glory in our noble blood and at the same time wallow in infamy? No, no, birth is nothing if virtue doesn't attend it. We share the glory of our ancestors only in proportion as we strive to resemble them; and their splendid deeds, which shed a lustre upon us, oblige us to honor them in kind -- to follow in their footsteps, and not to forsake their fine example if we wish to be their true descendants.

~Don Juan, Moliere. p. 115

I think most of us have heard the idea that our yichus is like a string of zeroes, and if we have nothing with which to recommend ourselves, it is worthless, while if we are the 'one' in front of all those zeroes, it amounts to a lot.


Don Juan: It's no longer shameful to be a dissembler; hypocrisy is now a fashionable vice, and all fashionable vices pass for virtues. The part of G-d-fearing man is the best possible role to play nowadays, and in our present society the hypocrite's profession has extraordinary advantages. It's an art whose dishonesty always goes unchallenged; even if the whole world sees through the imposture, no one dares denounce it. All the other vices of mankind are subject to censure, and anyone is free to upbraid them roundly; but hypocrisy is a privileged vice which knows how to silence every tongue and enjoy a perfect impunity. The hypocrite, by means of pious pretenses, attaches himself to the company of the devout, and anyone who then assails him is set upon by a great phalanx of the godly -- wherein those who act sincerely, and have a true religious fervor, are always the dupes of the others. The true believers are easily hoodwinked by the false, and blindly second those who ape their piety. I can't tell you how many men I know who, by means of a feigned devotion, have glossed over the sins of their youth, wrapped themselves in the cloak of religion, and in that holy disguise are now free to be the worst of scoundrels! It makes no difference if their intrigues are sometimes exposed and their true natures laid bare; they don't cease, on that account, to be respected, since by soulful groans, and bowings of the head, and rollings of the eye toward Heaven, they can readily persuade the world to excuse whatever they do.

I propose to take refuse in this modish style of deception, and thus protect myself and my interests. I shan't give up any of my cherished pursuits, but I'll be careful to pursue them quietly and on the sly. If ever my secret life is discovered, I won't have to lift a finger: the whole cabal of the pious will take my side, and defend me against all corners. In short, I've found the ideal way to do whatever I like and go scot-free. I'll set myself up as censor of the conduct of others, I'll condemn everybody, and I'll approve of no one but myself. If anyone offends me, however slightly, I'll never forgive him, but shall nurse instead a secret and implacable hatred. I'll appoint myself the Avenger of Heaven, and with that convenient pretext I'll harass my enemies, accuse them of impiety, and stir up against them a swarm of ignorant zealots, who'll assail them in public, heap them with defamations, and officiously doom them to Hell. A clever man will thus explot men's follies, and adapt his style to the vices of the age.

~Don Juan, Moliere. pps. 135-136

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 21, 2010 at Sunday, March 21, 2010 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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