It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones who win in the lifelong race.
It was at a conference in Cyprus in 1976, where the theme was the rights of small nations, that I first met Edward Said. It was impossible not to be captivated by him: of his many immediately seductive qualities I will start by mentioning a very important one. When he laughed, it was as if he was surrendering unconditionally to some guilty pleasure. At first the very picture of professorial rectitude, with faultless tweeds, cravats, and other accoutrements (the pipe also being to the fore), he would react to a risquÃ© remark, or a disclosure of something vaguely scandalous, as if a whole Trojan horse of mirth had been smuggled into his interior and suddenly disgorged its contents. The build-up, in other words, was worth one's effort.
For years, I declined to fill in the form for my Senate press credential that asked me to state my 'race,' unless I was permitted to put 'human.' The form had to be completed under penalty of perjury, so I could not in conscience put 'white,' which is not even a color let alone a 'race,' and I sternly declined to put 'Caucasian,' which is an exploded term from a discredited ethnology. Surely the essential and unarguable core of King's campaign was the insistence that pigmentation was a false measure: a false measure of mankind (yes, mankind) and an inheritance from a time of great ignorance and stupidity and cruelty, when one drop of blood could make you 'black.
What does seem to me poisonous, what breeds a type of patriotism that is pernicious if it lasts but not likely to last long in an educated adult, is the perfectly serious indoctrination of the young in knowably false or biased history - the heroic legend drably disguised as text-book fact. With this creeps in the tacit assumption that other nations have not equally their heroes; perhaps even the belief - surely it is very bad biology - that we can literally 'inherit' tradition.
In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth -- only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.
Miss Tick sniffed. 'You could say this advice is priceless,' she said. 'Are you listening?''Yes,' said Tiffany.'Good. Now ... if you trust in yourself ...''Yes?''... and believe in your dreams ...''Yes?''... and follow your star ...' Miss Tick went on.'Yes?''... you'll still get beaten by people who spent THEIR time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy. Goodbye.