Previous epochs had their axioms: “Know thyself” and “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” The motto of the twenty-first century is “Do something.” A variant on Nike’s “Just do it.”
With astonishing vagueness, leaders and populace alike seem to believe that doing something, anything whatever, about the events that distress us is always and in every way preferable to doing nothing at all. Such is modern faith—not simply leaping into darkness, as Kierkegaard once described it, but leaping in any direction.
Thank God we are not beings capable of reason, which would only complicate matters.
To date, the “something” we have done includes invading Afghanistan, giving the President unimpeded war powers, invading Iraq, renaming French fries “freedom fries,” justifying torture, relinquishing civil liberties in travel and communications, selecting Sarah Palin as a running mate, bailing out lending agencies (with no or few strings attached), taking bids on seats on the U.S. Senate, and now bailing out the American automobile industry.
Recently, December 10th, queers were asked to “disappear” for the day as a protest (!) against the limitations on gay rights and legal privileges in states like California, Florida, and Arizona—a purely symbolic gesture (but “something” still) that, as a tactic, seems more in line with Fred Phelps than Harvey Milk.*
I fully understand the potential destructiveness of immovable idealism—certainly I wouldn’t say that we should wait on the best or perfect solution—or even a “sure thing”—before taking any action at all.
And I understand the concept of “analysis paralysis.” Only I don’t see much analysis at all—just a lot of hand-wringing—“To do nothing … would be irresponsible” (PM Gordon Brown, 11/24/2008)—and empty gestures which, as even the folks who propose them admit, do little or nothing to solve our problems in the long run.
*And same-sex marriage itself sometimes appears to be just “something” to struggle for in opposition to general discriminatory practices still in effect five years after the Supreme Court threw out states’ unconstitutional sodomy laws—not to mention the disturbing upsurge in anti-gay violence (which Governor Mike Huckabee, on The View, had the nerve to equate with some gays’ busting some pro-8 woman’s tacky Styrofoam cross during an anti-8 protest—after, reportedly, she had pushed a disabled guy down to the ground in her push to get up close to the speakers—yeah, Mike, clubbing to death and damaging a tsotski, pretty much the same thing).