- There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires. [Jawaharlal Nehru, The Unity of India: Collected Writings 1937-1940; later quoted by Nelson Mandela.]
- . . . politics as the art of the possible. [Otto von Bismarck]
Which is better: steadfast scrupulousness or flexible compromise? The question defies a definitive answer. Without Nelson Mandela’s unwillingness to yield to the injustice he experienced, over decades in prison, South African apartheid might not have been dismantled when it was. On the other hand, Barack Obama presided over the passage of national health care legislation in the United States, producing legislation that was less ambitious than could have been achieved a generation earlier through compromise.
Choosing between steadfastness and flexibility requires wisdom, the ability to read people and situations, and a solid set of values. These two virtues, which are also shortcomings in some situations, must be considered together.
The political battle over slavery in the United States is often cited as an example of principle versus compromise.
- Fergus M. Bordewich, America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union (Simon & Schuster, 2012): “The final resolution of the twin problems of slavery and nationhood would not come until it was written in blood.”
- Allen C. Guelzo, Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction (Oxford University Press, 2012): “With standoffs looming on several fronts, we cannot know at present whether meaningful compromise can be reached, and whether reason or passion will win the day.”
Most of the works by and about Nelson Mandela illustrate steadfastness but the book by John Carlin shows how Mandela became a crafty political leader who understood and practiced the value of compromise.
- Nelson Mandela, No Easy Walk to Freedom (1973).
- Barry Denenberg, Nelson Mandela: No Easy Walk to Freedom (Turtleback, 1991).
- Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (Little, Brown and Company, 1994).
- Tom Lodge, Mandela: A Critical Life (Oxford University Press, 2006).
- Nelson Mandela, An Illustrated Autobiography (Little, Brown and Company, 1996).
- Anthony Sampson, Mandela: The Authorized Autobiography (Knopf, 1999).
- Nelson Mandela, Conversations With Myself (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010).
- David James Smith, Young Mandela: The Revolutionary Years (Little, Brown and Company, 2010).
- John Carlin, Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation (Penguin Press, HC, 2008).
- Sean Wilentz, The Politicians and the Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics (W.W. Norton & Company, 2016). “His thesis is easily stated: Politicians serve the country best when the learn the art of compromise through party-building and not when they stand, prophet-like, outside the fray delivering secular, and sometimes overtly religious, sermons.”
- John Avlon, Lincoln and the Fight for Peace (Simon &. Schuster, 2022): “In this elegant, almost conversational, exposition of Lincoln the ‘soulful centrist,’ the 16th president appears as the reconciler in chief, who not only saved democracy from destruction in war but also pointed the way to saving it from inertia and futility in peace.”
- Nelson Mandela
- Umberto Boccioni, Elasticity (1912)
Film and Stage
- Sergeant York, the biographical drama about Alvin York, a conscientious objector who became the army’s most decorated soldier in World War I: some people may think pacifist and skilled killer to be incompatible ideals but apparently York saw a deeper principle in defense of country.
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence: a Western in which a political figure philosophizes on the compromises necessary to bring order to the Old West
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Along with others, swing-era jazz trumpeter Buck Clayton earned the title “mainstreamer” by straddling the line between swing revival and modernism. He in particular struck this balance creatively and intelligently.
- “How Hi the Fi” album (1954)
- “Basel 1961” album
- “One for Buck” album (1961)
- “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” album
- “Copenhagen Concerts” album
- compilation of tracks
- The Huckle-Buck
- Robbins’ Nest
- All the Cats Join In
- Outer Drive
- All of Me
Richard Strauss, Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (1912, rev. 1916) (approx. 122-140’) (libretto) (score), consists of a prelude about staging an opera, and the opera itself. “Ariadne auf Naxos is perhaps the ultimate opera about opera. High art versus low art, lofty creative goals versus the demands of a wealthy patron, clashing divas, last-minute changes … all are encapsulated in the two and a half hours of Strauss’s prologue plus opera-within-an-opera.” The inducement to compromise – typical of Romantic opera – is romantic “love”, i.e., sex. The composer and his librettist also demonstrated the art of compromise, by “fiddl(ing) around with their creation”. “The version that premiered on Oct. 25, 1912, was actually little more than a 30-minute version to accompany a lengthy play by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. But it proved an unsatisfactory arrangement and in 1916, the composer, at the suggestion of his beloved playwright, composed a prologue for the work and the first performance got its due on Oct. 4, 1916.” Here is a link to Hofmannsthal’s play. Performances have been captured on video at the Royal Swedish Opera (Gilbert); with Gundula, Janowitz, Gruberova, Schmidt, Berry & Kollo (Böhm); with Jurinac, Hillebrecht, Grist, Schoffler & Thomas (Böhm); and with Davidsen, Cutler, Devieilhe, Brower & Wagner (Albrecht). Top audio-only-recorded performances feature Reining, Noni & Seefried (Böhm) in 1944, Schwarzkopf, Seefried & Streich (Karajan) in 1954, Della Casa, Schock & Güden (Böhm) in 1954, Zadec, Streich & Jurinac (Keilberth) in 1954, Janowitz, King & Geszty (Kempe) in 1967, Janowitz, King & Berry (Böhm) in 1976 ***, and Voigt, Dessay & Heppner (Sinopoli) in 2000.
- Dinos Constantinides, String Quartet No. 2, LRC 62, “Mutability”
“Mix a dose of klezmer with a pinch of jazz, add a shot of Balkan and a smidgen of Gypsy, et voilà, you’ve got the recipe for Amsterdam Klezmer Band.” The group adheres to Klezmer tradition, while bringing in other influences. Their albums include:
- “Fortuna” (2020)
- “Szikra” (2018)
- “Benja” (2015)
- “Blitzmash” (2014)
- “Mokum” (2014)
- “Katla” (2011)
- “Zaraza” (2008)
- “Son” (2005)
- “Man Bites Dog Eats Amsterdam Klezmer Band” (2004)
- “Katakofi” (2003)
- “Limonchiki” (2001)
- Samuel Leipold, “Viscosity” (how thick is your compromising fluid?)
- Raphaël Pannier, “Faune”: a jazz musician with a distinct point of view, adaptable in several genres.
- Matthew Shipp Trio, “Elastic Aspects”