Politics, Philosophy, Polemics

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Champagne Socialist

In Intellectuals on April 30, 2014 at 10:29 AM

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone in the world were absolutely equal,” late novelist Mary McCarthy said to me in her last years, with as close to a dreamy look as that literary lady ever displayed. “What do you mean ‘equal,’ I said, always picky. “I mean equal,” she replied with some impatience. “Everyone living in exactly the same material circumstances.”

A Vassar graduate from a very social family, Mary McCarthy had been living in Paris for years in very genteel circumstances indeed. Quails’ eggs and that sort of thing. “Well, you’d have to give up a lot, Mary,” I said, thinking of the descent from quails’ eggs served on silver platters to the life of a Chinese peasant. “But it would be worth it for the intellectual excitement!” Miss McCarthy exclaimed enthusiastically.

How long would that intellectual excitement last? Two days? Two minutes? Perhaps until she used the giant communal ladies’s room in Tiananmen Square, an interesting Socialist institution, whose odor, if you were downwind, could be discerned from half a mile. Also, naturally, no one would call Mary McCarthy on her wish. No one would ever say, “Okay, that’s it! No more quails’ eggs! Off to a peasant commune with you!” Miss McCarthy (Mrs. West), a dear person in many ways, could babble this nonsense of hers all day and all night without changing her life by an iota – while gaining in her own eyes, it was evident, a distinct moral superiority to those selfishly unwilling to live like Chinese peasants.



Richard Grenier, “Equality of Intelligence,” The Washington Times, May 29, 1995, p.A21.