“No group of idealists can easily move the pattern of history toward the desired goal of peace and justice,” wrote the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. “The recalcitrant forces in the historical drama have a power and persistence beyond our reckoning.”
To acknowledge this is not a brief for quietism; by no means does unblinkered realism absolve us from acting against suffering, cruelty and injustice. Nevertheless, we are Sisyphus, forever condemned to push the rock of righteousness up the mountain, only to see it roll back down, perpetually. The world is not redeemable, but individuals are.