I read Christopher Hitchens notes on Robert Conquest a month ago. A few lines stuck with me, so I went back and read it again over the weekend. I was deeply impressed with Conquest's humility when asked about the War in Iraq. He has opinions on the matter, but doesn't feel that he knows enough to comment. Robert Conquest knows more about world events than any thousand people you know put together.
Well I stand humbled, then. If Conquest doesn't believe he knows enough to have a public opinion, what am I blathering on about?
I have kicked the American tribes, particularly the A & H Tribe, for adopting political views as a fashion accessory, a method of declaring the sort of person one is. My unstated claim was that this of course is not true of me. Yet I wonder if any of us do better when publicly declaring our beliefs than simply declaring: "See, this is the sort of person I am."
Our day-to-day activities have a much more profound effect on the world than our political actions. A single vote has little effect, and is more a ritual of tribal unity. Few of us persuade many people more than incrementally. Moving to another place, taking a different job, having children, making an act of generosity - all these have much more effect on the world.
Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, saith The Preacher.