The foolishness of neutrality

 A reader emails to admit that his past belief in political neutrality was incorrect:

I pray your readers can get some benefit from how wrong I was about being politically neutral. 

See, I was always taught to keep politics out of business conversation and to keep a reasonable face on. So for 20 years, I assumed if the day came when we had to take a stand, friends and family would view us as just that… the ones who would speak out politically only if it was absolutely necessary. Something like the voice of reason.

Then the pandemic happened, and now the election. With these, my eyes have been opened.

When we express an ounce of skepticism, about anything… BLM, Covid, voting, media, global corps… we’ve been immediately denounced as ring-wing Nazis. I wish I could say I was joking or exaggerating. This is true of friends we’ve had for decades. In some cases, they’ve flipped on us in seconds. It’s obvious these people are so beside themselves, they’ll end up turning us in one day, if we let them.

For those of you who believe you can remain neutral, you’re fooling yourself. Whether you know it or not, you’ll always find a reason to excuse yourself from the fight. However, sooner or later you’ll have to stand, and don’t think they’re going to give you a pass for your past neutrality. You cannot reason with evil, and they do not care.

A quote from Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy seems apt here.

It was therefore necessary, if Rome wished to remain free amid the corruption, that just as the city had created new laws in the course of its existence, it should also have created new institutions, because different institutions and ways of life must be established for a subject who is evil rather than good, nor can similar forms exist in completely different substances. But since all these institutions must either be reformed all in a single stroke as soon as it is discovered they are no longer good, or little by little before everyone recognizes they are bad, let me say that both of these two alternatives are almost impossible. 

The wish to reform them little by little requires a prudent man to come forward who sees this problem from some distance and in its initial stages. It is very likely that an individual of this type may never emerge in a city, and even if one were to emerge, he might not be able to persuade others of what he himself has come to understand, because men used to living in one way do not wish to change, and all the more so when they do not see the evil for themselves but must have it demonstrated to them through abstract arguments. 

As for changing these institutions all at once, when everyone realizes they are no longer good, let me say that this ineffectiveness, though easily recognized, is difficult to correct, because to do so ordinary practices are no longer sufficient, once ordinary methods have become wicked.

It’s been fascinating to see how much less radical and how much less insane I am presently perceived to be than I was 15 years ago. And yet, my observations and positions are virtually unchanged.