Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Good, the Bad, and the Perfect

A week or so ago I posted this status on Facebook:

The perfect is the enemy of the good.  

In the context of Facebook most folks assumed that the target was myself, my writing, and my insecurities.  They were partly right.  The target was myself and my insecurities, but not my writing.  The post was meant to relate to politics and criticism.  

I don’t talk much about politics, not because I don’t care, but because I care too much--or too much about the wrong things.  I care too much about being right and not enough about doing right.  In cases of conflicting opinion I take the safe route and stay mute.  If I don’t think I can convince someone else of my position I don’t articulate it.  Why, after all, would I speak when I believe that my words aren’t worth my breath?  

The biggest danger for me is criticism.  An example: I want to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the US in 2020.  But there’s a problem.  Women’s suffrage was made possible through the actions of some people who were racists and used explicitly racist arguments to make their case.  Should these people--their achievement--really be celebrated?  

Or another: Argument in politics is irrelevant.  There is some reason to think that, when it comes to politics, no one is listening.  Positions are simply a reflection of basic values, impervious to argument.  Worse, arguing might be counterproductive, missing its target and causing folks to dig in their heels.

I can see the easy path laid out before me:  Say nothing; do nothing.  

But how seriously should I take such statements?  What should I do in the face of them?  There’s simply no way to deal with any complicated issue--and all issues are complicated in politics--without running into truly legitimate criticism.  So here I return to the slogan I started with:

The perfect is the enemy of the good.  

Perhaps there is a single right answer and someday, far in the future, I’ll achieve it.  But for now, something has to be done.  With that in mind I’m headed to the Women’s March here in Vancouver. I don't know about its efficacy or legitimacy, it’s surely not perfect, but it’s an effort to do some good.  

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