Sunday, February 17, 2013

System of Compromise

There's been much ado about the stupid article written by the president of Emery University, James Wagner. Aaron Bady has a characteristically excellent piece on it at The New Inquiry. I don't have much else to add personally, but all the talk about "compromise" (and that, as Aaron writes in his piece, "Politics trumps principle") has reminded me, again, as so much does, of James and Grace Lee Boggs and their remarkable book, Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century (1974). In particular, their brilliant survey and assessment of the American Revolution and American history in general. I recommend tracking the book down and, if nothing else, reading this section in its entirety. But for the purposes of this post, here is a short excerpt from pages 175 and 176:
A nation which has compromised so often, which has taken the road of opportunism again and again, no longer has the same options as it had two hundred years ago. Its people are no longer the same people as they were at the time of the American Revolution. Too much water has flowed under the bridge. With each compromise they have been more deeply incorporated into the system of compromise. With each evasion of political and social responsibility, their political backwardness and their irresponsibility have been intensified. So that not only their political institutions but they themselves are now embarked on a road accelerating and worsening their political irresponsibility, their powerlessness, their unreadiness to reverse the direction in which they are moving.


There is no simple solution. It is this naked fact—that no simple solution exists—which torments United States citizens, be they black or white. The people of this country have for so long believed that, if things were just left to the politicians while they pursued their own individual wants and desires, somehow, some day, some leader would come up with the necessary answers. Now that the working out of solutions depends increasingly upon the people themselves, there is widespread confusion and demoralization.

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