The Entering Wedge

Yesterday at work, I had the opportunity to choose my eleventh desk location there from a series of options, and I chose the one that was furthest away from the door where I sat, in visible discomfort, for some months [1]. So, while I was at lunch yesterday, my computer was moved and when I came back from lunch I finished the process of moving my things to a new desk that was within sight of the other door into the large cube farm, but was in a pleasant and bright and warm and sunny cul-de-sac that was otherwise safe from travel. As it happens, though, although my desk location was originally isolated in a fairly quiet and empty area of the office cube farm, it became an opening wedge for a much larger move of my old neighbors into the same new neighborhood. Instead of being an idiosyncratic move of just myself personally, I ended up being a harbinger of many other similar moves, as my entire neighborhood was relocated into an area that had, until then, been extremely quiet. I’m not sure how I feel about being such an opening wedge. To be sure, a few of my coworkers had moved at almost the same time, as their desks had been set aside for studying, but the massive and wholesale move of my coworkers to exactly where I was going was a bit unexpected. Yet this sort of move is not particularly unusual. For example, when people move from one country to another, they generally like to stay close to people from the same general area in their new land, to feel more at home even in strange environments. Even in sports, there are often moves taken in parallel, such as the way in which NCAA conferences routinely raid several times from the same conference when realignment time comes. In this case, a team with a high degree of success and popular appeal is invited along with a few of its similarly qualified teams to replace those teams that a conference has lost to another conference. In this way teams rise up the food chain, seeking more money and more respect as they go from an FCS team to a member of a conference like the Sun Belt, then to Conference USA and finally to the American Athletic Conference, with ambitions for joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, should it be available, to give but one example of how this process works.

In some ways, therefore, being part of an entering wedge is a good thing, being a pioneer, being a leader among your peers as you all seek to rise together. While not everyone would be comfortable in a position as a vanguard of a group, at the same time it is generally widely recognized that such a position is a good one. There is excitement and adventure and a feeling of progress in being part of the open wedge. There is also a great sense of freedom, as the status tends to include a certain amount of liberty to act in the ways that would best ensure success for any who come along afterward. One can set precedents, one can settle old scores, and one has the chance to live outside of the confining strictures of more established institutions. To be sure, not everyone may be so thrilled about it. There are many, for example, who do not wish to risk their current position by venturing somewhere else. There are others, particularly those in the places where someone is an opening wedge, that may feel rejected and left behind by others who left in turn. To give but one example, the departure of a great many migrants as part of the opening wedge of Korean-based settlement of Japan appears to have weakened the home area of the Goguryeo or other related peoples back in Korea to such an extent that it led to defeat by a combined alliance between some local rivals, the Silla, and the T’ang dynasty of China, making the opening wedge into Japan successful and leading to the displacement of the Ainu and the other native Japanese to ever remote areas, while weakening the area back so that it lost its freedom to other rivals.

Yet in some situations the open wedge can be a matter of extreme alarm, to which hostility is assured. Supreme Court decisions, by virtue of the unelected nature of justices and their sometimes dubious commitments to justice and virtue, tend to be viewed with a great deal of accuracy as opening wedges of one kind or another. For example, the case of Marbury vs. Madison served as the opening wedge to establish a firm claim of Supreme Court authority in declaring federal laws unconstitutional if it conflicted with the worldview of a majority of Supreme Court justices. The Dred Scott decision, similarly, was an attempt by the Supreme Court, then under the control of pro-slavery advocates, to put slavery beyond the reach of any electoral majority to restrict or abolish. The Plessy vs. Ferguson decision in the 1890’s sought to do the same with the issue of segregation, the Roe vs. Wade sought to do the same with regards to abortion, and the recent Supreme Court decision on gay marriage sought to do the same with that evil. In all of these cases, the Supreme Court, under the control of people who were not committed to a just and decent moral and legal order, sought to use their offices to create an opening wedge for evil that would be protected from any hostile electoral majority, thus ensuring the presence of that evil within our Republic and granting it legitimacy through covering it with the borrowed dignity of their judicial robes of office. This sort of behavior ought not to be seen as very surprising, but it is a characteristic means by which evil is spread, through beachheads in areas that are resistant to moral appeals and which are not considered to be subject to popular scrutiny.

What determines the nature of the opening wedge, therefore, is a complex matter that depends on several factors. For one, much depends on perspective. What is to one side a sign of progress can be to others a sign of decline, based upon their standards and experiences. Ultimately, truth claims are not subject to the vote either of people or of judges, but rather exist in reality whether we admit them or not. Human beings are not under any coercion to accept truth claims, although there may be times when social pressures either inhibit or support various truths, in some admixture, depending on the particular mix that is present in a given society at a given time. Likewise, beyond the perspectives of the different people or groups of people involved, the actions that serve as the wedge, or what the wedge is supposed to help in, are also moral questions that require judgment. As a patriotic American, for example, I am a descendant of many colonists who left their homes in Europe and traveled here to start a new life for reasons of religious, political, and economic freedom, at least one of whom was transported here as a prisoner in lieu of execution as an anti-authoritarian troublemaker who had participated in a revolt in Europe. While for them, in the main, their transportation was in search of better opportunities and a better life, other ancestors of mine, like the Cherokee tribe, did not find this opening wedge to be so beneficial, as it led to a shameful exile from their homeland and a legacy of fear of government transportation that has remained an underlying anxiety-inducing issue in my family up to the present day, almost two hundred years after the initial evil in the Trail of Tears. How often do we stop to consider if the wedge we seek to drive is a good one, and if it is done in a just and equitable way, so that our honor and reputation will endure in future days when people see things differently than we ourselves do.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Musings, Sports and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Entering Wedge

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