Of Fence Sitters and the “Man in the Arena”

A particularly distinctive feature of the political discourse in the english language media and its new anarchic cousin social media is “fence sitting”. On issue after issue the “fence sitter” pretends to assume the moral high ground while shying away from calling things the way they really are. So pronounced is the urge of the “fence sitter” to occupy the high ground that one begins to wonder if they are actually levitating in thin air several feet above while being disconnected from stark ground realities.

Make no mistake fence sitting is not a Left versus Right phenomenon or a Liberals versus Nationalists malady.

Fence sitting manifests across the political spectrum depending on the issue at hand.

The Indian OpEd Pundit’s penchant for fence sitting reminds me of this speech from 1910 on the “Man in the Arena”.

It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and
who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.