Commonplace Book #134

“I don’t care what they think” has become public currency with us; saying it, we always mean to imply that we are persons solemnly devoted to high principle–rugged individuals in the somewhat fictional sense Americans usually give to that term.  In fact, this ready defiance of the opinions of others is a rhetorical fossil from our frontier experience.  Once it meant that if our neighbors’ opinions were repugnant to us, we were prepared either to kill our neighbors or to move west.  Now it doesn’t mean anything; it is adolescent bluster.  For when there is no frontier to retreat to, the demands of one’s community will be felt, and ways must be found to deal with them.

Wendell Berry, “Discipline and Hope,” in A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural, 153.