I find that I am sick unto death of this incessant mewling about “how we are achieving change”.
Change? What change? Kindly allow me to share with you the following, by the end of which I sincerely hope the point will be self-evident.
In his essay, “Of Vanity“, father of the essay form, Michel de Montaigne reflects (in part) as follows:
Whoever would look direct at a cure, and well consider of it before he began, would be very willing to withdraw his hands from meddling in it. Pacuvius Calavius corrected the vice of this proceeding by a notable example.
His fellow-citizens were in mutiny against their magistrates; he being a man of great authority in the city of Capua, found means one day to shut up the Senators in the palace; and calling the people together in the market-place, there told them that the day was now come wherein at full liberty they might revenge themselves on the tyrants by whom they had been so long oppressed, and whom he had now, all alone and unarmed, at his mercy.
He then advised that they should call these out, one by one, by lot, and should individually determine as to each, causing whatever should be decreed to be immediately executed; with this proviso, that they should, at the same time, depute some honest man in the place of him who was condemned, to the end there might be no vacancy in the Senate.
They had no sooner heard the name of one senator but a great cry of universal dislike was raised up against him.
“I see,” says Pacuvius, “that we must put him out; he is a wicked fellow; let us look out a good one in his room.”
Immediately there was a profound silence, every one being at a stand whom to choose.
But one, more impudent than the rest, having named his man, there arose yet a greater consent of voices against him, an hundred imperfections being laid to his charge, and as many just reasons why he should not stand.
These contradictory humours growing hot, it fared worse with the second senator and the third, there being as much disagreement in the election of the new, as consent in the putting out of the old.
In the end, growing weary of this bustle to no purpose, they began, some one way and some another, to steal out of the assembly: every one carrying back this resolution in his mind, that the oldest and best known evil was ever more supportable than one that was, new and untried.
Seeing how miserably we are agitated (for what have we not done!)
That was 1877… speaking of documented history (Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, xxiii. 2-4) from somewhere around 218BC.
Change, you say? What change?
The entire discourse of American politics is no less mired in dichotomy and extremism than the above outlined; there is generally very little interest or willingness toward political pluralism; we have not as much “become” adherents of the “all or nothing” stance as we have allowed ourselves to be deluded into thinking that such a thing is (or ever has been) possible. Not unlike the citizens of Capua, we polarize on single issues and vociferously support dichotomy as if it can possibly do more than divide. Pluralism is effectively non-existent (political, cultural, or otherwise, frankly).
Some solace may be found in that this, obviously, is neither new nor surprising. But it does seem to underscore a notion that “what it will take” is likely far greater than merely time. If one goes by our collective human history, it all but confirms that the ultimate issue may well be sheer physiology; that we simply have not yet evolved to the point that we can consistently (or even willfully) overcome our own mammalian being.
As Montaigne so adroitly demonstrates, we are and always have been, collectively, the most arrogantly vain creatures when it comes to our capacity, consistency, and competency – be it at progress, at fellowship, or at the greater concept of genuine, global pluralism. Also, that, as we read in the above, we will support any collection of activities (no matter how acrimonious or divisive) to avoid the feeling of frustration or self-loathing (depending on where one prefers to turn the spotlight).
We regularly and seemingly willingly “hide” it under all manner of finger-pointing and argument to avoid the painful admission:
We are animals and we do not know how to do more than postulate at how to consistently manage better for ourselves.
It is, of course, comforting that it does appear more humans are developing an awareness of the need for such a thing (even if it cannot yet be realistically realized). Perhaps that evolution is slowly unfolding? (I am, of course, being unbelievably optimistic in the face of all known human history; but, hell, what else do you do except fall into complete, utter despair?)
Suffice to say, each successive “election season” is borne here with something akin to a weary resignation; I am no [insert party label here]. I’m just a silly human who can see the seemingly endless pattern, repeating, and remains no less mired in her humanity than anyone else.
To those who will (inevitably) say, “But at least we’re trying!” I can reply, “Are we? Truly? Can you look at this long path of human history and genuinely say you find that statement possessed of any credibility whatever?”