I read the news today (oh, boy) and what caught my eye was this story about the protests in India over corruption, and more specifically, the protests over the arrest of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare.
According to the Wikipedia article, Hazare started a fast in April of this year to protest the Indian government lack of movement on the Jan Lokpal Bill, a piece of anti-corruption legislation. The Indian government announced the bill would be re-introduced into Parliament and Hazare ended his fast.
However, when the Indian Parliament introduced a watered-down version of the bill, Hazare, in a symbolic gesture of protest, set the bill on fire and stated his intention to start another hunger strike. It was before this latest act of non-violent opposition that Hazare was arrested and why protests are happening around India at the moment.
It seems as if the work of a reformist is never done, which reminded me of this ceditra entry that I wrote on June 1 of this year. Its start is the following quote from the English writer William Hazlitt…
It is essential to the triumph of reform that it should never succeed.
How frustrating it would seem to engage in an endeavour that is never completed successfully. Similar to Sisyphus rolling his boulder up the hill eternally only to see it fall all the way down just before making the top, it would appear that Hazlitt’s quote condemns the reformer to the same frustrating fate.
However, it can be argued (and I will) that true reform is not be measured by its completion, but by how much has been accomplished. Here, the Greek to use is Achilles, who in Zeno’s Puzzle, races a turtle but the animal has a 100-yard head start. A logical leap is made that Achilles can never overtake the turtle even though the human is ten times faster because…
Achilles runs 100 yards and reaches the place where the tortoise started. Meanwhile the tortoise has gone a tenth as far as Achilles, and is therefore 10 yards ahead of Achilles. Achilles runs this 10 yards. Meanwhile the tortoise has run a tenth as far as Achilles, and is therefore 1 yard in front of him. Achilles runs this 1 yard. Meanwhile the tortoise has run a tenth of a yard and is therefore a tenth of a yard in front of Achilles. Achilles runs this tenth of a yard.
…and so on and so on. The conclusion is made that the goal (overtaking the turtle) is never reached, but Achilles does continue to cover more and more (albeit shrinking) distance.
Such is the way with reform. Reformists, whether it be for worker’s rights, civil rights, public education, safety, etc., all start out and make gains that are monumental. Instead of resting on their laurels, these activists continue to press their case to make things even better for their groups. They don’t rest because they realize there is always more work to done. To claim victory is to become stagnant and complacent. To claim victory is to ignore the fact that the group that had been doing the oppressing does not rest and will work to overturn all the gains previously made.
Back to August and the above also reminds me that the person who starts the dream doesn’t necessarily see it through to its end…but that doesn’t mean they quit. Moses was never able to enter the Promised Land, but he still slogged through that desert for forty years.
Slog on, brave reformers.