This I Believe

Wallach, Sidney


  • Sidney Wallach describes his belief in the golden mean, reasonableness, democracy, and the protection of the minority, especially the individual.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Sidney Wallach is the Director and Executive Vice President of the American Institute for the Tropics. A graduate of City College in New York, he has been active for many years in public affairs organizations. He has written and lectured in the United States, Europe and in Latin America. Two of his major interests are his son Don and his daughter Rosie Anne, who's a sophomore at Bennington College. Here now is Sidney Wallach.
I am aware that we are living in a confused, deeply troubled age. In such times, there are few familiar signposts. Established values are misted with new uncertainties. The lights from ancient wisdom seemed blurred or even fully extinguished.
This has compelled me to set up signposts anew, for without them, I cannot even hope to find the road to the good life.
However, one echo of the truths of the past has been confirmed sharply and unmistakably by my experiences: the concept of the golden mean. Because of the golden mean, I can contest the diabolic without morbidity, and aspire to the divine without arrogance. It puts my failings in balanced perspective and enables me to accept with understanding the failings of others.
I believe I must make every effort to bring to life reason, and its hand maiden, reasonableness. For without it, I am completely lost in and destroyed by the human contradictions inherent in me, as in all of us. This does not mean that I make of reason a fetish for abject worship. On the contrary, the very nature of reason makes me conscious of the many unknowns of life, so vast,
complex, and awesome, as to compel an overriding humility.
Out of respect for reason, therefore, and the sense of humility that it inspires, I have come to know something of the compelling quality of our human interdependence. I know I cannot survive or develop without mutual, interlocking strengths, sharing in and contributing to the strengths of others of the human family. And so I am led to acknowledge my individual need, and the universal need, for sympathy, fellow feeling, and cooperative striving.
By the same guidepost, I am led to a determined preference for a democratic society. This I define as a society guided in the main by the ascertained wish of its majority, but with important reservations. It must respect the mystic reaches of the individual and
always keep freely available the instruments of persuasion, so that the minority of one day can become the majority of another day. Such a society, I feel, I must help maintain and expand.
I believe with special strength of feeling that we must all abide by a single standard of judgment. To apply a double standard—one for ourselves, our family, nation, religion, or other devotions, and another for those who differ from us—would corrupt us completely and make harmony impossible. A double standard seems, to me, to mean a submission to the idolatry of egoism, to the cardinal sin—the worship of self as God.
This, too, I believe: that a decent society with its roots in the rational limitations and possibilities of man, and with humility
in the face of cosmic unknowns, imposes upon me the obligation to help maintain a special sanctuary for the minority spirit. The uniquely precious quality of the minority has meaning for me and for all of us. For each one of us is of a minority in one or anther of the myriad aspects of our biological, religious, political, and cultural variety. The ultimate minority is the individual, the eternal minority of one. These are my guideposts.
That was Sidney Wallach. He is currently working on a compilation of autobiographical material concerning the impact of this country on immigrants to America. He believes that the discovery of America in this way is a continuing process.