The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

From Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s The Fatigue Artist (1995)

“In the gatherings Tim has taken me to, sooner or later, after discussing the number of miles they log each morning to outrace mortality, or the relative merits and demerits of butter and margarine, people get around to “serious issues”—the destruction of the rain forests and the depletion of the ozone layer, the aimlessness of the younger generation illustrated by examples from their own children, the scourge of illiteracy, and, inevitably, why is it that some ethnic groups, e.g., Koreans and Jews, have been able to lift themselves out of poverty onto the plateau of the middle class while other ethnic groups… have not?

“Four possible approaches are taken to the issues, and they generally appear in fugue-like form: Bemoaning is the opening theme, followed by Blaming the parties involved; next comes Defending the parties involved by examining the problem in its social context—a kind of counterpoint melody—and finally, some form of Temporizing, usually offered by a peaceable person thus far silent. The four themes can go on indefinitely until they’re resolved in the harmony of grateful good-nights. I’ve often thought that on arrival the guests might choose placards representing their positions—for in the nature of things these positions are fixed in advance.”