Not a few readers and editorialists have posed a popular question: What will it take to make things better in Pine Bluff? This is obviously a very complex question. It is also predicated on several subjective assumptions, chief among them the ability to tell when "better" happens.

Not a few readers and editorialists have posed a popular question: What will it take to make things better in Pine Bluff? This is obviously a very complex question. It is also predicated on several subjective assumptions, chief among them the ability to tell when “better” happens.

Even so, the question deserves consideration. While we offer no sage pronouncements in this forum, today’s date provides food for thought.

Exactly 239 years ago today (April 27, 1773), the British Parliament passed the Tea Act, legislation intended to save the failing East India Company from bankruptcy by reducing the tax it paid to the British government. This Act effectively granted a monopoly on American tea trade. Due to the fact that all legal tea entered the colonies through England, the East India Company enjoyed two benefits: It paid lower taxes in Britain; and it could then sell tea more cheaply in the colonies. Colonists deeply resented the Act and viewed it as just one more example of British tyranny. In colonists’ eyes the Act retained a duty on tea entering America, while removing the duty on tea entering England. Eventually, colonial ire came to a head in the now famous Boston Tea Party where Samuel Adams led 60 members of the radical Sons of Liberty on a raid to dump £18,000 worth of British tea (almost $1 million today), into the harbor.

In response, the British government clamped down with passage of the Coercive Acts, known to colonists as the Intolerable Acts. This closed Boston to merchant shipping, established military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America and required colonists to quarter British troops. In response, the colonists called the first Continental Congress to address what they regarded as British oppression.

Of course, we in modern Pine Bluff do not live under the yoke of an oppressive government. We have many well-enshrined Constitutional freedoms. The tax laws, while at times opaque, are arguably less draconian — though some may dispute such a charitable characterization.

What we have in common with those colonists are intolerable conditions facilitated by detached leadership. We all too often speak of our communal malaise as something that has been done to us, rather than something we can combat. While we are not immune to the larger forces of the economy, we have far more control over our ship of state than we recognize.

Unlike the colonists, there is no great boogeyman across the water. As Walt Kelly’s famous cartoon opossum, Pogo, wryly observed, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” No one makes us tolerate crime, abandoned houses, faltering schools, noise, litter, incivility and their kin. Yet, we have grown so collectively inured of the their omnipresent din, we take them to be foregone price for living here. They are not. They are slave chains that we fasten to ourselves.

The idea of self-imposed prison is not new. Millennia ago Socrates while awaiting execution clings to his pursuit of the truth in all matters. Refusing to accept either exile from Athens or a complete censor as his penalty, Socrates argues that public discussion of life and virtue are a necessary part of any valuable human life. As he states, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

So too, is it here in River City. Unexamined, we are doomed to the fickle winds of local leadership and the fairy tale that someone is waiting to come save us. We must examine our communal life and summon the strength to revolt against the malaise. Just as we are the enemy, we are also the champions.