“Toutes choses sont dites déjà; mais comme personne n’écoute, il faut toujours recommencer.”
De André Gide / Traité du Narcisse
Now wouldn’t that mean that like the Red Queen we are always running in place, never going anywhere? Not listening? While that is clearly true of President Donald Trump, and it was true of Paul Ryan until he finally did something and resigned. And while it’s still true, by the way, of Mitch McConnell, although he never runs and at best is only walking in place, it’s not at all true of America, the country, nor of much of the developed world.
Why our ancestors did listen to those to led them into the new world, and once there continued to listen to those among them who came from afar where they weren’t free and settled the land here and knew freedom for the first time, and set out to protect their new freedoms. And we listened to those who began the fight for the human rights of the former slaves, for the native Americans and other minorities, for the rights of women and now for the rights of the LGBTQs.
So was André Gide mistaken? In a literal sense, yes. For we are beginning to listen to one another and are beginning make progress. And yes, especially in respect to our defense of human and civil rights. But up until modern times humanity’s, our progress has been a slow walking or at best a running in place. We really haven’t moved all that much. Why for tens of thousands of years homo sapiens, while walking our of Africa to the other continents, brought along with him pretty much the same way of life, the sameness and closedness of views, the same limitations and prejudices, and evidently only rarely listened to the wisest among them, to those who probably always knew, and perhaps even said, that things could be done better but were not listened to.
I would like to think now that the 18th. century Enlightenment is not dead, that we are learning new things almost daily about ourselves from evolutionary science, and that today, unlike during earlier times il ne faut pas toujours recommencer. And in fact aren’t we, some of us anyway (although not the Republicans in the House and Senate) more and more aware of where we have come from, and of just how much we are standing on the shoulders of the giants who have come before.