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11/09/2005 Archived Entry: ""The wisdom to know the difference" (James Leroy Wilson)"

"THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. Once more, a big amen to James Leroy Wilson's new, more reflective turn of blogging.

I haven't quite reached his state of eqanimity. I would still like to be able to heal the riots in France. I still want somehow to ensure that the to ensure the the Pentagon really means it when they instruct their interrogators not to use torture. If I could, I would stop the war in Iraq and smash the CIA's new gulag-in-the-making. I'd undo the San Francisco handgun ban.

But I have to issue daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes even minute-ly bulletins to myself: "You can't change the whole world and to try is simply to run in a perpetual hamster-wheel."

It's odd, though, that the thing we have the greatest power to change -- our own lives -- is the thing we're often most resistant to change. This is a good-old/bad-old human trait in general; we don't want to give up our grudges or our self-destructive habits (because after all, they're ours). But especially we don't want to practice our "political" ideals in our own lives because it's risky and uncomfortable to personally resist the evils we claim to oppose.

We want to stop the war but we won't do it by refusing to finance the war. We want to stop the invasion of our privacy, but we won't do it through non-cooperation with the database makers or through smashing the surveillance systems. We don't wish to reduce our dependence on heavily regulated and taxed products. We cooperate, we collaborate, then we complain.

It's so comfortable to complain. So familiar. So us. And it is so easy just to blame the entire loss of freedom on them -- whoever they may be today.

So the one part of the world that we're best positioned to "do something" about is the one thing we often do the very least to change. The one place we really, truly can oppose evil -- right at our own doorsteps, right in our own hearts -- is the one place where we perpetually surround ourselves with excuses for inaction.

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

-- Stephen Crane

Posted by Claire @ 08:13 AM CST

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