Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
Concerning Moderation

By Lafcadio Hearn

(A writer of Irish and Greek parentage, 1850–1904; became a lecturer on English in the University of Tokio. Japan’s ablest interpreter to the western world)
PERMIT me to say something in opposition to a very famous and very popular Latin proverb—In medio tutissimus ibis—“Thou wilt go most safely by taking the middle course.” In speaking of two distinct tendencies in literature, you might expect me to say that the aim of the student should be to avoid extremes, and to try not to be either too conservative or too liberal. But I should certainly never give any such advice. On the contrary, I think that the proverb above quoted is one of the most mischievous, one of the most pernicious, one of the most foolish, that ever was invented in the world. I believe very strongly in extremes—in violent extremes; and I am quite sure that all progress in this world, whether literary, or scientific, or religious, or political, or social, has been obtained only with the assistance of extremes. But remember that I say, “With the assistance,”—I do not mean that extremes alone accomplish the aim: there must be antagonism, but there must also be conservatism. What I mean by finding fault with the proverb is simply this—that it is very bad advice for a young man. To give a young man such advice is very much like telling him not to do his best, but only to do half of his best—or, in other words, to be half-hearted in his undertaking.… It is not the old men who ever prove great reformers: they are too cautious, too wise. Reforms are made by the vigor and courage and the self-sacrifice and the emotional conviction of young men, who did not know enough to be afraid, and who feel much more deeply than they think. Indeed great reforms are not accomplished by reasoning, but by feeling.  1

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