Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Laudator Temporis Acti

History is not the melodrama of faceless collectives, but a tragedy of complexities.  We should not go quietly into the night and allow a current affluent, leisured and pampered generation to hijack the past, and damn it to perdition. Given the present’s own meager achievements, it has not earned the right to rename, cancel, and Trotskyize those of the past who won Gettysburg, or built the Hoover dam, or produced a Liberty ship every week (a “racist” society who named some of those ships the “SS Harriet Tubman”, the “SS Marian Anderson” and the “SS Booker T. Washington”.) 

Today’s Pentagon (still the world largest office building, completed in just 16 wartime months) is not that of the likes of Leahy, Marshall, Arnold, or King in 1943-5. Today’s undergraduates would have real trouble with the 1965 curriculum of Harvard and Stanford. I doubt our geniuses could design—or rather would be allowed to design—and build our equivalent of a B-29 in three years. NASA of the 1960s and 1970s was not like that of the 21st-Century. Hollywood’s comic book movies are not the “Wizard of Oz”, much less “The Best Years of Our Lives”, or “How Green Was My Valley.” Al Sharpton is no Bayard Ruskin, just as Ta-Nehisi Coates is no Ralph Ellison, and Colin Kaepernick is no Jim Brown. I don’t think the 21st century has produced a group of novelists comparable to contemporaries like Faulkner, Fitzgerald , Hemingway, Wolfe, or Steinbeck. What is needed in these bleak times is a little humility, from a generation who will not necessarily age well and whose record will not be remembered by those to come as particular worthy of respect.

Aetas parentum pejor avis tulit nos nequiores, mox daturos progeniem vitiosiorem (Horace, Odes, III., 6, 46-8.)

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

19 Thoughts on “Laudator Temporis Acti

  1. Walter Pazik on April 8, 2021 at 6:40 am said:

    Yes, the 50s and 60s produced a more educated lot than those of today; the latter are given social promotions and social graduations from K12; then they are whisked into some college to study some nonsensical major such as ethnic studies or Black studies that give one no advantage for gaining employment, but in the end, rack-up an unpayable student debt. We are living in an era of hoaxes. The cause: Perhaps it is our demographic – 61% White and 39% “people-of-color”.

  2. Jim Shirey on April 8, 2021 at 6:43 am said:

    Thank you Victor for reminding us of our heroic and contributing past history. The clarity and vision you bring to all the topics you engage in is an inspiration to this “old man.” The world has not passed me by but slowly leaving me in the dust and you help close the distance with true accurate knowledge and reporting.

  3. Jeffrey S Sheff on April 8, 2021 at 7:23 am said:

    Thank you for another call to action. One comment: a deservedly honored man spelled his name “Rustin”

  4. Dr. Hanson:

    Wisdom through disciplined study and observation, that is what I see in your writing. I own and have read several of your books.

    Your latest, “Laudator Temporis Acti” is a perfect and brilliant summation.

    My father, a child of the depression, joined the Merchant Marine at age 17. While on the Liberty ship SS Thomas Pinckney, with an engine room fire somewhere off Cape Hatteras, the captain told him to get a life boat ready as he had a life boat “ticket”. “The old man came to me at my life boat station and said, ‘Slim, when you get in the water steer 270 degrees. The Carolinas are over there and you’ll hit them in a couple of days.” (The fire was brought under control and they did not abandon ship.) by then he had been a “man” on a Georgia mountain side farm for years. He turned 18 off Okinawa serving on a T-2 aviation fuel tanker.

    I have read of your uncle on Okinawa and your father flying B-29s in the Pacific. Sometimes I think my “boomer” generation started the great “throw it all away.” I fear for my children and grandchildren.

    Please continue to share your thoughts, your wisdom.

    Thank you,
    A.P. A.

    P.S.
    I am twice retired: Marine pilot, and airline pilot.

    Born, literally, to south Georgia share croppers. I worked 40+ hours a week while at the University of Georgia to pay my way. My future wife was a witness to it.

  5. Steve Astrachan on April 8, 2021 at 9:11 am said:

    Dear Professor Hanson,

    Thank you for all that you do, but this tie a translation of the quote might be in order. Take care.

  6. Miles Dee on April 8, 2021 at 10:32 am said:

    VDH,

    One of your best short synopsis’ I have read, and I’ve been reading you for years. You have properly and concisely laid out the pathetic excuse of a generation (or two) of our young wokesters and their utter lack of adding to the generational advancements each generation prior to them have added to the human experience.

    Thank you~

  7. Carolee Wilson on April 8, 2021 at 10:50 am said:

    Great quote from Horace. I must admit I had to look up the translaton. Thanks for helping me accomplish my goal of “learning a little something every day”.

  8. John Trauger on April 8, 2021 at 10:57 am said:

    It’s not that *we* are a lesser nation but that we are choosing our leaders based on other criterion than competence. Democrats have become radicalized and Republicans have become risk-adverse and promote their leaders based on these values. This is mirrored out in the rest of American life where businesses have either drank the Woke Kool-Aid or are so scared of a bad quarterly report that they endlessly appease Wokeness.

    That’s not a recipe for greatness, though you can still find it in corners of the SU. Several private companies have space programs rivalling the best communism ever achieved.

  9. Enrique Arias G. on April 8, 2021 at 1:34 pm said:

    I lack the words of appreciation for the article, other than Thanks a Millon youngsters.

  10. B. Oder on April 8, 2021 at 1:53 pm said:

    EN FUEGO, Professor! Hit ’em again! 🙂

  11. Kmbold on April 8, 2021 at 1:59 pm said:

    O tempores, o mores!

  12. Patricia Koenig on April 8, 2021 at 2:10 pm said:

    I admiringly wish I had Victor Davis Hanson’s incredible brain and powerful thought processes.

  13. Alex Krasnitz on April 8, 2021 at 2:38 pm said:

    Dear Dr. Hanson,

    I completely share your view: rampant dismissal and demolition of the past does not reflect well on our contemporaries, who are engaged in it. At the same time, we also should not dismiss achievements of the present, some of which are truly remarkable. Advances of molecular biology and biotechnology of the last couple of decades have been nothing short of astonishing. They are exemplified, among other things, by the development, at a lightning speed, of vaccines against the coronavirus, based on an entirely novel principle. The same can be said about progress of information technology, much of having taken place in the last decade. These accomplishments, perhaps, are less tangible than the Hoover Dam, but they are a tribute to the human genius, just as much.

  14. Starboard on April 8, 2021 at 3:51 pm said:

    I don’t disagree with you that the Woke religion has many willing if ironic converts. Not only does no one want to be an object of the Black Veto in America’s public discourse, but it’s so much fun to clothe oneself in the righteous garb of ally to the sacred black.

    But in the case of corporate converts like Mr Bastien, you may want to take a more practical view. Some of the biggest shareholders in Coca Cola and Delta are the massive pension funds of the teachers’ unions and the public sector employee unions. The boards of those pension funds are loaded with the Woke, who have quietly organized and campaigned for those seats of power very deliberately, while conservatives blathered on talk-radio about their own impotence. Having won power, the Woke now exercise it to get people to do what they want. What a novel idea!

    CEO Bastien is duty-bound to listen to his stakeholders, especially those as big as the SIEU or the CalTeachers. If you were him wouldn’t you — no matter what your religion?

    These are the consequences for trusting in rules and ignoring the reality of power. If you put a weapon down, don’t be surprised when someone else picks it up.

    And aims it at you.

  15. laudator temporis acti
    Latin phrase used of one who looks to the past as better times, 1736, from Horace’s laudator temporis acti se puero “a praiser of times past when he was a boy” [Ars Poetica, 173], from laudator, agent noun of laudare “to praise” (see laud).

    I burn with a terrible nostalgia for the rapidly receding past populated with the giants of my youth. The football coach who was a West Pointer artillery captain in Europe. The Scoutmaster who was a Marine DI. Dan O’Conner who went Over There with the Old 69th and knew Kilmer. ( he used to take me to the stables to visit the horses after church when I was 5 or 6) Jack Harsh who captained a B-24 over Ploesti and taught me how to be an honorable businessman. Romeo, my old barber, who stood up and cut hair until just shy of 90, and who was the humble New Jersey Italian boy and who was one of the teenaged Marines who humbled Japan. And Grandma, who left home as a teenager and crossed the ocean alone. I asked her, why didn’t you go back to Ireland? She replied, “I’m a Yankee now.” They were strong, they were good, they loved this country, its people and its history with a passion.

    I bitterly resent every attack on our history, our culture, our flag as a deep insult to their memory and coming from people unfit to tie their shoes.

  16. jason brando on April 8, 2021 at 9:05 pm said:

    The Great Minds of Today have within the Last 5 Years invented and marketed a New Multi Trillion Dollar Financial Instrument Exchange which Will Fundamentally Change Commerce and Human Interaction.

    It would be rather Elitist and Fog Headed Not to Give Attention to a Social Media Phenomena which is changing Human Interaction.

  17. I have always enjoyed your writings, Mr. Hanson and agree wholeheartedly with your take on the need for humility. Understanding ones limitations are the beginning of wisdom. Until this hubristic motley crew of wannabe adults realize this, they will fail miserably. Pity is the innocent suffers with the guilty.

  18. Lance on April 9, 2021 at 10:23 am said:

    Alright, Victor Davis Hanson! I have been waiting for you to make this statement!
    We must fight these miscreants and crush them!

  19. Geo Milo on April 9, 2021 at 9:59 pm said:

    so true and bleak is the right word for these times….

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