Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Post #100

According to my blog managing software this is my 100th post for this blog. It has been interesting to record my musing, speculations, and chai-induced thoughts for the 99 posts. It has also been interesting to get feedback from different people in real life about what they read in my blog. I love how blogs create community in ways that extend beyond church walls, city lines, and so on.

Yesterday while listening to the radio I heard an interesting assessment of the struggle between Israel and Palestine. The commentator was asserting that Israel was one of the most successful examples of a group struggling for independence and nationhood while Palestine was one of the least successful. His theory on the subject was that Israel's success came from a willingness to take the small gains that were offered and continue to build towards its goals. Palestine on the other hand has gotten locked up in an all-or-nothing struggle. Often the small gains offered in carefully negotiated compromises have been rejected by the more extreme factions who want it all. So how does this apply to other areas and other struggles? What is more important, success or principles?

Looking at the civil rights struggle of the '50s and '60s, the goal was basically all-or-nothing, bu it was done in a steady systematic fashion. The Montgomery bus boycott did not seek to end all segregation in one fell swoop, but instead to change one small area of injustice. Gradually it moved towards the larger goal. Ultimately the movement was successful, at least at getting rid of legal segregation and discrimination, though the case can be made that they still exist in other forms. Would it have been acceptable to stop short of this goal? If the strategy is to work on small gains, it seems there is a risk that one can hit a point where more progress cannot be made. As Xeno's Paradox points out, if we are constantly moving half-way towards our goal we will never reach it. Are there some issues were partial progress is not acceptable for moral reasons? Would it have been acceptable to only partially eliminate slavery? While compromise is a good thing, are there some times we must fight for everything, no matter the costs? Does the chance of success need to be a factor in the discussion.

Looking again at the issue of slavery, what if freeing the slaves had not been so easy? Certainly right after the fracturing of North and South, it was possible to eliminate slavery in every state that remained in the Union, and even to protect the rights of any escaped slave who made it across the line into the North. However, the majority of slaves would have remained enslaved. If the roles were reversed and the South was more powerful than the North, should the "war to free the slaves" have taken place? Should the freedom of some slaves in the North have been risked in order to free more by going to war? My instinct is that it is important to risk everything to battle injustice, but are there points where it is best to simply remove some injustice for now and wait until the time is right to remove other injustice later? How gradual can change be before it becomes too slow for issues like injustice and oppression? I guess my struggle and the source of all my questions and preponderances on this topic is that my gut instinct is that there are a number of issues around injustice that in the end really are meant to be all-or-nothing, but does this mean that simply seeking partial gains along the way is bad? Is it wrong to settle at times for something less than total justice? How long is too long to wait for change? I cannot find answers in this today, but I want to keep asking the questions and pushing for what are the best ways to work for change in the world.