Waugh's first column for The Catholic Herald (the first column he ever wrote for anyone) appeared on February 1, 1963, when he was 24
IN MY VIEW
The distorted image
By Auberon Waugh
DEL IGIFIED and flattered as I am to be asked to write this column, which has known such a distinguished predecessor [Michael de la Bedoyerel I am uneasy on one point. So much has been said about Youth in a well-intentioned, muddle-headed way that its image has been distorted.
Youth, from being an exact description of a certain phase of man's development, has become a moral and social quality to which even the middle-aged and senile must aspire. By one remove, it has now evolved into one of those words "self-determination", "national consciousness", "human rights" that have been used in so many slogans and platitudes as to be meaningless outside them.
If, by virtue of being younger than my predecessor, I assume such a mantle for my readers, I hope they will be disappointed. Anybody who claims to speak for youth, or to know what youth is thinking, must be either a fool or a villain. Youth is not an entity capable of independent thought. Young people do not, even nowadays, think more clearly than their elders, nor
are they less swayed by base motives. It is extraordinary that the older generation should need this testimonial from a young man, but since they have taken such a drubbing recently, and seem reluctant to speak for themselves, I give It.
In Turkey there are a few seats in the new national assembly for students' representatives. It may seem halfwitted, but at least it puts the matter in perspective.
Here, we see otherwise astute people debating in all seriousness before a middleaged electorate their rival claims to appeal to youth. To one unencumbered by so many years, the debate seems puerile.
Having said that, I must try to overcome the proper diffidence of youth in the greater interests of readability.
Facing up to France.
General de Gaulle's intransigence has had one result in this country which is entirely to the good.
People who have been talking in a patronising way about the advantages of our entry into Europe are now affronted to find that we cannot get in even if we magnanimously decide that it would be to our advantage to do so.
This has channelled all the insular conceit which formerly worked against our entry into a determination to get in even if only to spite the French "Whatever happens we have got The Hydrogen Bomb, and They have not."
I remember at the outset of negotiations talking to a Catholic layman of great age and immeasurable wisdom who shared my misgivings about the seriousness of the English intentions and the willingness of the French to welcome a Trojan Horse. The conversation took place after dinner, and I announced my belief that the seeds were now sown for a war with France, that historians of the future would appoint the year 1961 as the one which finally made war inevitable.
My companion had obviously considered the possibility already. "The French won't fight," he said.
I should like to think that the General only intended to strengthen our resolve by his attitude. His grand design cannot intend to exclude Britain indefinitely, and he is, after all, an old man.
But while we are kept out of Europe we shall suffer, and only a saint or a lunatic could be so unworldly or so patronising as to welcome the prospect of greater harmony among the other races the
French Germans at the expense of his own country's comfort.
The issue is simple. While De Gaulle is keeping us out, even if, as I believe, it is in the interests of both France and the Community to do so at this stage, he is to that extent our enemy.
As soon as he lets us in, he will be an invaluable friend. In the meantime, we must by pressure from here and from America on the Germans, make it plain that the price of our prolonged exclusion will be nothing less than the political collapse of the Six.
To welcome a FrancoGerman pact as a guarantee of peace between two turbulent nations while disregarding the obvious and immediate threat to ourselves would be to carry complacency to its final absurdity.
Chang_e versus truth
On the few occasions I heard Cardinal Godfrey speak, I was as impressed as everyone else by his quiet assurance and dignified authority. Never once did I hear him utter the sentiment that is a commonplace among less thoughtful and less scrupulous men, that "the Church must move with the times".
It seems to say that there is an irresistible force for change in our destiny, moving without help or hindrance from mortal beings. But the times are what we make them. With over 500 million members, the Church is a fairly substantial part of the times.
If a survey shows that teenagers are more immoral in their sexual behaviour than previous generations of teenagers, must the Church alter its teaching to accommodate their proclivities?
If "the Church must move with the times" is treated as a bald statement of fact, then it is obviously ludicrous. The Church has no existence outside its members, both clerical and lay, who are all moving with the times by the fact of living in them. A Trappist monk moves with the times as much as a television pop-singer. But to use "the Church most move with the times" as an injunction, with the suggestion that a voluntary effort is needed, is surely not only nasty and stupid but also wrong.
It is nasty because all injunctions which have no reason are nasty, stupid because the Church and everything else which continues to exist must move with the times in any sense that the times can be said to move and wrong because of the implication that the times have some truth of more