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really to do anything but just sit and be big."
"Then you don't think there will be any more permanent world heroes?"
"Yes--in history--not in life. Carlyle would have difficulty getting
material for a new chapter on 'The Hero as a Big Man.'"
"Go on. I'm a good listener to-day."
"People try so hard to believe in leaders now, pitifully hard. But we
no sooner get a popular reformer or politician or soldier or writer or
philosopher--a Roosevelt, a Tolstoi, a Wood, a Shaw, a Nietzsche, than
the cross-currents of criticism wash him away. My Lord, no man can stand
prominence these days. It's the surest path to obscurity. People get
sick of hearing the same name over and over."
"Then you blame it on the press?"
"Absolutely. Look at you; you're on The New Democracy, considered the
most brilliant weekly in the country, read by the men who do things and
all that. What's your business? Why, to be as clever, as interesting,
and as brilliantly cynical as possible about every man, doctrine, book,
or policy that is assigned you to deal with. The more strong lights, the
more spiritual scandal you can throw on the matter, the more money they
pay you, the more the people buy the issue. You, Tom d'Invilliers, a
blighted Shelley, changing, shifting, clever, unscrupulous, represent
the critical consciousness of the race--Oh, don't protest, I know the
stuff. I used to write book reviews in college; I considered it rare
sport to refer to the latest honest, conscientious effort to propound a
theory or a remedy as a 'welcome addition to our light summer reading.'
Come on now, admit it."
Tom laughed, and Amory continued triumphantly.
"We _want_ to believe. Young students try to believe in older authors,
constituents try to believe in their Congressmen, countries try to
believe in their statesmen, but they _can't_. Too many voices, too much
scattered, illogical, ill-considered criticism. It's worse in the case
of newspapers. Any rich, unprogressive old party with that particularly
grasping, acquisitive form of mentality known as financial genius can
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