Essay:The big picture

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People sometimes have the attitude that it's best to invest in long-term, big-picture change rather than getting caught up in small details. Perhaps they, like Henry David Thoreau, lament that "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root."

At the same time, this can sometimes be a cop-out. Suppose you are walking down the street and see someone getting assaulted. Does it make any sense to say to yourself, "Well, I donated to the anti-crime fund this year, so I don't need to intervene"?

To some people, it would. They carry division of labor to that extreme. The problem is, we don't really know how much good that donation to the anti-crime fund really does, or whether there will be enough donors to achieve the desired goal. Undoubtedly, there were a lot of people who voted against Hitler and said "Well, I did my part." What if that doesn't succeed in removing him from power? Might it not be good to go a step further, as Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg did? True, he didn't achieve his goal, but at least he tried; he didn't have to live afterward with the memory of having been a mere bystander or, worse, a co-conspirator in evil.

Or is it better to remain at one's keyboard and merely type out, "This isn't fair" while thinking to myself, "Wow, millions of people could theoretically read my blog, if they wanted to! Even though the hit counter says only 7 so far have, and those 7 were mostly me and perhaps a few web crawlers, the fact remains, my words are on record in the Internet Archive for posterity!" Or the person may think to himself, "Look, 2 people who already agreed with me hit the 'Like' button after I posted that anti-government status! I'm making progress!" Those people will have a rude awakening if their self-delusion is ever shattered.

Those same people will say, "Don't break the law, because you'll end up sitting in a prison cell in obscurity. No one will care and you'll be forgotten." Not everyone who stayed out of prison became famous and not everyone who went to prison failed to achieve fame. The fact is, public apathy and antipathy toward liberty have been facts of life for a long time, and it's a rare person who is able to make much headway against that inertia.

Yeah, it's great to donate a few bucks to some think tank that puts together a nice-looking website, publishes reports, etc. At the end of the day, though, the question still arises, "Where is my liberty? Where are the people who care?"

It all comes down to the same three choices. (1) Obey the law, and recognize that options for changing it are limited and will take time. (2) Break the law in an effort to do one's utmost, and go to prison. (3) Commit suicide so as to avoid having to deal with the unpleasant aspects of either of the first two choices.

Most people in first world countries go for the first option. Yet even in the first world, there are some miserable folk who just can't find a decent niche in society, and they end up going for the second or third options. Not very many, though.