George Walford: The Steady State

IC has been running, intermittently, a series of short pieces under the heading ‘Yesterday’s Solutions are Today’s Problems.’ In the TLS of 16 January Edward Norman offers a different and perhaps a better formulation of the same perception:

There is a kind of ‘steady state’ of injustice in the world: as soon as one set of grievances is cleared away, social values change and human expectations shift and a whole new batch is lined up.

He instances the changing relations between races in South Africa. A recurrent disaster of the 19th Century was destruction of the way of life native to a region by the incursion of a colonial power, and it was to guard against this that the missionaries in South Africa introduced the idea of separating the races. It was, Norman suggests, as much a desire to preserve the existing native culture as the intention of subjugating the blacks, that led the Afrikaners to develop apartheid. But by the time they succeeded in doing this (in 1940) expectations had shifted and they found themselves in conflict with the prevailing world ethos. Norman suggests that had it not been for events outside South Africa normal social development would have brought out “the incompatibilities and practical injustices” of apartheid (and he seems to mean by this that it would have been greatly softened, perhaps done away with) but the tensions that have now arisen can be resolved only by a cataclysm.

from Ideological Commentary 28, July 1987.