Friday, January 18, 2008

The Pursuit of Change

The undercurrent raging in this country at the moment is that of change. Democratic candidates and even some Republican candidates have picked up on the consensus feeling of the nation and have incorporated populist rhetoric into their stump speeches and campaign proposals. Most likely, whomever we elect will make changes to the status quo, but questions always remain: To what extent will he/she be successful? What will be the nature of this change? Will the change made be beneficial or harmful in the long run? Will change on any large basis be accomplished, or will its scope be far more modest? Will change be made at all?

An appropriately analogy I would use regarding these matters is that of steering a battleship. The craft is so massive, so heavy, so immense in size that turning it around is an endeavor that happens only with great force and the process itself occurs quite slowly. The larger the country, the larger the battleship. Our government, as most of us are aware, has never been willing to adopt reform in as timely as fashion as we would like. Indeed, the larger we grow in population, diversity, and in sheer scope, the larger our battleship grows in turn.

We are collectively frustrated when reforms do not happen soon enough or in rapid succession to each other. I hear evidence of this from many bloggers. We note a problem or a social injustice. We propose a solution. We note many problems. We proposed many solutions. We are frustrated when government either turns a deaf ear to our concerns or proposes solutions that are insufficient or ineffective. We then feel powerless and disenfranchised.

Change is needed. Social justice is a valid concern. Reform is a necessary component that must be implemented to address changing times. However, we could learn from history in this regard, particularly by contemplating the French Revolution. Then, as now, the population clamored for change. The government responded. Changes enacted in that period were frequent, radical in scope, and quick to take effect. Instead of improving conditions for the French, their country instead plunged into turmoil. After ten years of chaos, the ultimate result produced by all of this modification was the establishment of a dictatorship under Napoleon Bonaparte, which absolutely defeated the purpose and stated goals of the Revolution.

Instead, let us understand that slow, steady, constant change is the best process. None of us will get 100% of what we want accomplished in the next several years, even with the combination of a Democratic majority Congress and a Democratic president. Mistakes will be made. Efficiency will suffer. A few important matters will be dealt with if the elections in November come out in our favor, but I would strongly caution getting our hopes up or expecting too much. In saying this, I am not defending the Pelosi/Reid approach of surrender and acquiescence, rest assured. I do want to see strong legislative stances and more than empty promises. However, knowing how government functions, particularly ours, I know that we should take care to keep things in proper perspective.

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