Tilting at Windmills

Politics is the gizzard of society, full of grit and gravel, and the two political parties are its opposite halves – sometimes split into quarters – which grind on each other. Not only individuals but states have thus a confirmed dyspepsia. ~ Henry David Thoreau

One of the microphones came on prematurely during a performance of Cirque du Soleil‘s “Ovo” the other day, revealing someone’s stage directions to the entire audience. It was just a momentary lapse, but it’s effect was powerful.

The recent posts by Wikileaks rocked the international community in a similar fashion. The door was opened a crack by Julian Assange and his shadowy associates, revealing confidential statements and communiques that were never intended to be seen by the general public and the effect is chilling. The show behind the show was revealed, if only for a moment.

The question that comes to my mind, as Assange works assiduously and at great personal risk to reveal secrets about government and private enterprise, is why? What is the point? In a recent Forbes interview Assange himself answered “I don’t know.” Whether it is to promote greater transparency in the management of human affairs or the result of a deep-rooted aversion to secrecy, the revelations are polarizing the world community.

It seems strange to me that while most corporations appear to be moving toward greater transparency, inclusion and conversation, governments seem to be moving toward greater secrecy. The US Government creates over 16 million new secrets per year, according to a Project on Government Secrecy estimate and the over-classification of documents continues to be a problem in government, one that drives up costs while obfuscating the undoubtedly real need to protect truly classified information. History shows us that governments that hide behind too many secrets are a dangerous thing indeed.

One lesson I’ve learned from this is that there is never good reason to disparage another – personally, privately or otherwise. It inevitably comes back to haunt you. Disparagement amplifies the very thing you wish to be free from and diminishes its source much more than it does its target.

Gustave Dore's "Tilting at Windmills", Image by Wikipedia

I firmly believe in and have witnessed the power of the approach outlined in the brilliant injunction: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you…” So few human beings have come to the point of understanding the power inherent in this approach to living yet it is the key – the one and only key – to unlocking the veil of secrecy that Assange is presently attacking head on, like Don Quixote upon his faithful steed Rocinante.

Those who contend that such an approach (“Love your enemies…”) is foolish and weak never give it a chance, while those who espouse it tend not to hold fast to the spirit of the words in life’s trivial situations (in traffic, when confronted with a pet peeve, etc) and they therefore cannot be expected to be in position to wield its power when the greater challenges in life come their way.  The point is that very few people have really given it a shot, let alone everything they’ve got and we have the world we have because of it.

While I imagine that whistle-blowing has its place, it is ultimately only a short-term solution. New heads grow into the place of the old if the body itself is not transformed and I would venture to say that the regular beheadings that have occurred throughout history – politically, scientifically, religiously and commercially – are nothing but red herrings that have kept perfectly capable people from addressing the root problem with the only remedy effective against this chronic, yet curable dyspepsia.

When, o when, dear readers, will you stop tilting at windmills?

18 thoughts on “Tilting at Windmills

  1. Yes I have heard of that but I don’t go along with it. There are many things that can and should be forgiven along the way but some things just can not. There are evil ones who will never change. They show no remorse at all. Jesus turned people away whom he knew were not going to change. He dosn’t offer blanket forgiveness, you have to want it and ask for it. The statement I was trying to make earlier is: There is mercy in repentence and justice in rebellion. Rahab repented and asked for the help she knew she needed and was shown mercy. The people of her village did not.


  2. Joshua

    How about right now!
    I’m in with the Loving my enemies part and turning my back absolutely on the unproductive alternative!
    Thanks Gregg,
    Your Timing is impecible!


  3. how about, there is mercy in repentence and justice in non-repentence. sorry i forgot what the last part was! memory problems. anyway i was thinking of people like the lady who let two men rape and kill her young stepdaughter who had a prosthetic leg, and hearing aids because she had had cancer. people like that? hmm. can’t really go there with forgiveness.


  4. jaymorrow

    Reminiscent of the situation between Shirley Sherrod and blogger Andrew Breitbart when he posted excerpts from her speech that resulted in her losing her job, President Obama’s embarrassment and a host of others with their lives and careers in shambles. After reading the entire speech, you could see the selected excerpts made it look exactly opposite of what Ms Sherwood was saying. So all that hoopla; over what proved to be fiction. What did that accomplish for anyone? Where does it get us?
    Here we are again with the Wikki Leaks. I for one will forgo thinking I understand after only hearing what Julian Assange chose to “leak”.


  5. Doug

    My grandmother used to say, ” two wrongs won’t make a right”. As Mr. Assange doesn’t even know what the point was for his actions it seems an even greater tragedy. Lives ruined or maybe even lost and diplomacy being judged by, in many cases, with one e-mail or one side of the e-mail. With the complexities of international diplomacy how incredibly irresponsible.
    This is no way to fix our problems and I wonder if that was ever really the concern.


  6. N Kolya

    I love this post!! There are so many people who are quick to point out who and what they hate, whether it’s a flashy proclamation, bitter jibes or just a molten smoldering, but in the end, hate destroys its bearer. Has this approach really worked? I’ve never seen it.

    To cynics and skeptics, these thoughts may seem outlandish, impossible and irresponsible. To me, it seems that although we’ve already lost so much, we still have a chance to gain and turn this world around by giving this approach a chance in the very details of our lives.


  7. Foxglove

    On thinking about what you wrote, I can see your proposed solution to be the only root answer to these political troubles we face. And for our personal troubles, well that’s where the larger troubles must come from. A collective responsibility you are outlining here – makes perfect sense.


  8. Colin

    The idea that we can change the face of government without changing what lies behind it sounds ridiculous when you say it, but it’s exactly what happens every time someone is ousted by a whistleblower. The fundamental cause of these problems is really just a symptom of humanity’s problem in general. “Love your enemies” was not just an unattainable idea, it’s a way to fix the fundamental problem that we have in the world. It’s a way to fix the body, not just a way to replace the head.


  9. Mac

    “One lesson I’ve learned from this is that there is never good reason to disparage another – personally, privately or otherwise. It inevitably comes back to haunt you. Disparagement amplifies the very thing you wish to be free from and diminishes its source much more than it does its target.”

    Why is it that we are so conditioned to take offense to anything that doesn’t measure up to our own belief systems? This keeps us walled of from really making a difference in the world! Maybe today we can begin anew and as you mentioned “love.”


  10. Flow

    ” The point is that very few people have really given it a shot, let alone everything they’ve got and we have the world we have because of it.”

    Appreciate this post! Letting love flow through in every moment, in every situation can change the world in which we live in.


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