Thursday, February 10, 2011

Just a quote today

No great curiosities worth noting today. However, recently I was reading an essay a friend offered to me and it reminded me of some of the resounding themes in Utopia by Thomas More. Moreover (no pun intended), this particular paragraph from Utopia has always stood out to me as timeless. It was written as a passive critique of English bureaucracy under Henry VIII, but is applicable to most governments around the world:
If you cannot pluck up bad ideas by the root, if you cannot cure long-standing evils as completely as you would like, you must not therefore abandon the commonwealth.
Do not give up the ship in a storm because you cannot direct the winds. And do not arrogantly force strange ideas on people who you know have their minds set on a different course from yours. You must strive to influence policy indirectly, handle the situation tactfully, and thus what you cannot turn to good, you may at least make less bad. For it is impossible to make all institutions good unless you make all people good, and that I don’t expect to see for a long time to come.
 This is a modern paraphrasing of the actual translation from Latin. The literal translation of Raphael Hythlodaeus' diatribe is:

    "Therefore go through with the play that is acting, the best you can, and do not confound it because  another that is pleasanter comes into your thoughts. It is even so in a commonwealth and in the councils of princes; if ill opinions cannot be quite rooted out, and you cannot cure some received vice according to your wishes, you must not therefore abandon the commonwealth; for the same reasons you should not forsake the ship in a storm because you cannot command the winds. You are not obliged to assault people with discourses that are out of their road, when you see that their received notions must prevent your making an impression upon them. You ought rather to cast about and to manage things with all the dexterity in your power, so that if you are not able to make them go well they may be as little ill as possible; for except all men were good everything cannot be right, and that is a blessing that I do not at present hope to see."

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