high desert sketches
The constancy of change, a universal blight
By GEORGE A. COVINGTON
How do we poor humans reconcile the old platitude that the more things change the more they stay the same? The question becomes even more confusing when you throw in the philosophical musings of old Heraclitus of Ephesus (500 BCE). More than 2,500 years ago the old Greek wrote, “The only thing constant is change.” My older readers will remember that unlike many of the youth of today, the ancient Greeks invented sex, not the miscreants of the 1960s. Those Greeks were a bothersome lot who spent too much time thinking and not enough time explaining; look at Socrates, he got so uptight asking questions that he drank himself to death.
After deep meditation and contemplation of shallow philosophical things on the astral plane, I have come to the conclusion that the conundrums can be reconciled. “The more things change the more they stay the same,” refers to human attitudes, while “the only thing constant is change,” refers to what we consider human progress. After a century of sociological surveys resulting in countless PhDs, it has been conclusively proven that parents think their children are more immoral and have more fun than they did at the same age. These same parents know in their heart of hearts that their children’s choice of music is senseless and without redemption. Grandparents feel that somebody got switched in the delivery room and that hospitals are to be blamed for the mix up that would certainly bring the fall of western civilization. You may think my deductions are rather colubrine (look it up) but in fact change is frightening to most people, and trying to explain change can be downright dangerous.
Karl Marx once wrote, “Religion is the opium of the masses,” in “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,” in 1843. Every cleric since then has come down pretty hard on Marx with condemnations not printable in a family newspaper. Today, however, if Marx were to write, “Social media is the opium of the masses,” he would be hailed (instead of helled) as a prophet of modern decay. It’s all a matter of perspective. Some people appear to live in a world of intoxicated positive mindset. For instance, they look at the difference in the pay between men and women doing the same work and say, “the pay gap is lessening.” If they took a different perspective they would realize that men’s wages have decreased in buying power and thus the pay gap hasn’t really shrunk. The story goes that once an old Russian peasant was asked by a commissar, “ Your neighbor has two cows and you have only one. How can we help you? The old farmer replied, “Shoot one of my neighbor’s cows.” It’s all a matter of perspective.
In our modern economy we often hear the phrase “we must level the playing field.” This is obviously a reference to male-dominated athletic events and totally inappropriate after the introduction of Title Nine. It would be more appropriate to simply say, “Pay all the same wages for the same job.” However, a change in perspective can be dangerous. Remember that one of the charges against Joan of Arc was that she dressed like a man when going into battle against the English. In those days, women who dressed like men under any circumstance were considered “unnatural.” She was burned at the stake. If that perspective had not changed, today in West Texas would have no dark skies but be illuminated by continuous flames.
As a child I remember hearing that, “You should not judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.” I was certain that the story had some deep philosophical meaning on judging. From my perspective it told me two things. Some guy has a new pair of shoes and a mile head start. It’s all perspective.
George A. Covington has worked in the fields of law, education, journalism and disability rights. He considers himself retired from every one of them with the possible exception of journalism. He is a graduate of the University of Texas schools of journalism and law. He moved to West Texas – Alpine – in 1997 after a 20-year career in Washington, D.C. where he once served on the staff of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (Democrat) and shortly thereafter served as Special Assistant to the Vice President of the United States (Republican) 1989 to 1993.