Such, writes Dalrymple, is what the student prig, in his self-importance and complacency, wishes to communicate.
The student prig’s chief aim is to convey
the militant purity of his heart and soul. The world is rotten, he is saying—but I am not. I am pure. If the rottenness continues, it won’t be because of me.
Awareness of his virtue shines from the student prig’s face.
He glows with it, virtue for him consisting of the public expression of the correct sentiments. Virtue requires no discipline, no sacrifice other than of a little time and energy, instantly rewarded by the exhibition of his goodness.
The painlessness of virtue as the expression of correct sentiment is its chief attraction for the student prig.
Who would not wish to achieve goodness merely by means of a few gestures, verbal or otherwise? In that way, you can avoid genuine self-examination.
The student prig
feels a youthful impatience with the intractability of the world, hence a desire that its problems should be solved by symbolic means. This desire partakes of magical thinking: incantations will bend reality in the desired direction.
The student prig’s
moral grandiosity has a coercive quality. His virtue gives him the locus standi to dictate to others for the good of humanity. The expression he wears is that of someone who has liberated his inner totalitarian.
Well, much may be forgiven youth, says Dalrymple. But what is craven is
for older people in positions of responsibility to surrender to youth, even if the once in their lives that they were young happened to be in the 1960s.