Perhaps it is our perennial fate to be surprised by the simultaneity of events, by the sheer extension of the world in time and space. That we are here, prosperous, safe, unlikely to go to bed hungry or be blown to pieces this evening, while elsewhere in the world, right now in Grozny, in Najaf, in the Sudan, in the Congo, in Gaza, in the favelas of Rio....<br/><br/>To be a travelerand novelists are often travelersis to be constantly reminded of the simultaneity of what is going on in the world, your world and the very different world you have visited and from which you have returned home.
The standard that a society should actually embody its own professed principles is a utopian one, in the sense that moral principles contradict the way things really are --- and always will be. How things really are --- and always will be --- is neither all-evil nor all-good but deficient, inconsistent, inferior. Principles invite us to do something about the morass of contradictions in which we function morally. Principles invite us to clean up our act; to become intolerant of moral laxity and compromise and cowardice and the turning away from what is upsetting: that secret gnawing of the heart that tells us that what we are doing is not right, and so counsels us that we'd be better off just not thinking about it.