Thursday, April 19, 2012

Petty barriers


It is sad to consider how much first-rate courage must be devoted in this world to struggling out of the toils of sheer pettiness.  The Saudi women who first drove automobiles risked and suffered penalties, overcame inhibitions, and shattered norms, heroic in their defiance of an absurd convention.  We have our own Rosa Parks.  That such great courage should have been required to challenge such petty barriers is a demonstration of the power of social consensus.  How many minor coercions are required to sustain similar customs and usages?  How aware are any of us, absent direct challenge, of how we also deal in trivial coercion?

Marilynne Robinson
"The Tyranny of Petty Coercion" in The Death of Adam
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