Looking at the phrase “our past” or “our culture” the reader is entitled to ask: “Who is we?” That is for each person to decide. It is a sign of present disarray that nobody can tell which individuals or groups see themselves as part of the evolution described in these pages.
This state of affairs has its source in that very evolution. Our culture is in that recurrent phase when, for good reasons, many feel the urge to build a wall against the past. It is a revulsion from things in the present that seem a curse from our forebears. Others attack or ignore selected periods. In this latter mood, national, religious, or cultural ancestry becomes a matter of choice; people who feel the need “dig for roots” wherever they fancy. The storehouse of traditions and creeds offers an over-abundance, because the culture is old and unraveling.
–written by Jacques Barzun