Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira


The Rooster, the Duck,

and the Decadence of the West


"Catolicismo", January 2002 [*]

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For you to understand the process of decay experienced by the West in our days—a discoloring process running alongside a centuries-old Revolution aimed at making all things “gray”—I will employ two color-inspired metaphors: gold and brown.

 To be well understood, I need to properly adjust the metaphors: one thing is to wrest away goldenness; another is to communicate a gray, drab color to things. For example, one could say that the golden color is to the gray more or less as a cock is to a duck.

  The rooster is golden. The duck is a gray rooster, deprived of elegance, lordship and poise. The duck would be the yard’s bourgeois, while the cock is the noble, the aristocrat.

 In its blandness but also in the honesty of his shape, the duck is a bird friendly to man. It strolls innocuously through the spaces given to it, neither bothers anyone nor radiates a minimum of poetry or elegance; but it is good to eat.

*    *    *

We could imagine a thinking cock that was struck with admiration for the duck and listened to what the latter told him: “I am a useful animal; you are just decorative. Men eat me, while you are not meant to be eaten. Therefore, you are not productive. You are just a being that walks around here and helps populate the henhouse. But I am the tasty one, the banquet bird. You are king in the chicken coop, but my dead body is highly appreciated at the table of men, for whom we were created, a table to which you are not admitted. You go to waste; I go to men’s stomachs, am digested by them and become their flesh. And you?”

 And let us imagine that the cock –in a moment of weakness so common among those placed at the top of the social hierarchy— began doubting his own splendor and asked: “Would it not be better if I turned into a duck? Would that not mean an upgrade? Would that not bring me more into the real world? Should I not ‘duckify’ myself?”

 Let us assume that a cock became convinced of that. It would be almost unimaginable for him not to seek, ipso facto, to lose something of his elegance, distinction, and deep down, of his morphology.

 His head would feel heavy and he would seek to shave off his crest, seen as useless. His neck would lose its movements. His tail would drop and he would become a kind of second class duck: As useless as so many decorative things, and furthermore without beauty as so many useful things. He would join the useless with the unpleasant.

 He would be reduced to absolutely nothing.

*    *    *

That process would be comparable to the one suffered by governing elites from the Middle Ages to the present day. It is literally a process of discoloring in which ever fewer elites show their golden hues. They increasingly lost the glitter that characterized them.

 All the gala, protocol and pomp of the Middle Ages were much greater than the gala, pomp and protocol in the Ancien Régime. [1] If we then compare the Ancien Régime to the society after the French Revolution we see that everything declined throughout the nineteenth century all the way to the Belle Époque. [2] Indeed, the nineteenth century ended in 1914 with World War I– yet another drop. And finally, World War II -- the last great fall – brings the age of roosters to a close!

 The rooster became convinced that it was better to turn into a duck...


[*] Excerpts of a lecture by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira for TFP members and volunteers, December 7, 1973, unrevised by the author.

[1] Historic epoch spanning from the end of the Middle Ages to the French Revolution of 1789.

[2] Historic epoch encompassing the last years of the 19th century until the First World War (1914-1918).