From Salmon Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”:
What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damn fool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.
Play close attention to the phrasing. The prompt does not ask whether you tend to compromise or not. Compromise, dealmaking, and survival mean and imply different things when an idea is at issue. Therefore, before jumping into your response to this prompt, you should consider reflecting on what it means for an idea to compromise (etc.) and how that might translate into human actions.
I don’t fit in a category. Not me, not my ideas. The concept of “compromise” as wrong bothers me. Not because I “go with the flow.” I have no idea what “the flow” is. Or who is doing the flowing. I’ve never been in touch with popular thought because I don’t care what’s popular — or unpopular — or even hated. What I believe is subject to lots of varying forces. What you might call compromise, I call being in touch with reality.
The world and I have undergone dramatic change with the passage of time. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to me? Is not life a learning process? If life does is not growth, what is it? If my ideas are fixed and cannot change, they will become ridiculous. Irrelevant. Stupid. And so will I.
What might make anyone think their idea is “The Idea?” Or that it will be adopted by the “world?” (Whatever that is.) What historical thing, event, process, cultural trend, would make someone expect righteousness (as they perceive it) to prevail? Throughout human history, exactly the opposite has been the invariable human experience. I don’t see it changing.
When reality bites, I don’t stand around waiting for it to eat me. I think. I test my ideas to see if have legs to stand on. If not, I try to figure out what can I do to make them sturdier.
Some call it compromise. I call it smart. I know people who can not change. Refuse change. Are stuck in a fixed belief system. Maybe their system made sense. Then, not now. Today, they are relics. Laughable parodies of who they once were. We find them pitiable, that they can’t let the light in. They’ve locked the doors and drawn the shades of their minds. So sad, we say.
For most of my life, I believed everything could be fixed if we kept trying. Fifty years later, the world is no better.
My generation is weary. Our children are trying not to drown. Their children — the grandchildren — are even more cynical.
So what kind of idea am I? What kind of idea are you? I am not an idea. I’m alive and constantly changing. If that makes you judge me weak or unrighteous, too bad. Holding to ideas that don’t work renders them meaningless. Ultimately, renders us meaningless. Written or shouted from a rooftop, it is just noise.
Rigid ideas of good, bad, right, wrong, evil, and righteousness are the problem. They will not save the world. Not now, not eventually. Not. Ever. Nor will they lower the heat of hatred and rage threatening to engulf us.
Rigid ideas are destroying us, marching us in lock step to nothing and nowhere.