Couldn't agree more.
You'll probably catch some flak for this piece -- but it needs saying.
If for no other reason, to ease the heartbreak and disillusionment of young activists who hurl their youthful energies and hopes against The System expecting to make it move -- or even to make a dent. Have you ever tried to pick up a moving box that you thought was empty, but in fact was full of hardback books?
When I was twenty I thought the Revolution might actually happen next year, or within a year or two.
Change is bloody hard work. Human nature is crooked timber. And the results we get from that work are not at all proportional to the effort we put in. It's more of a Hundredth Monkey problem -- an idea has to spread far enough, get enough traction, and then suddenly it seems to take "just one more push" to become mainstream.... and the people who make that last push think that it was their activism that caused the change.
But they forget all the people who were pushing before, and how futile their (sometimes lifelong) crusades were or seemed to be. And they also tend to forget the pushback. Power resents changes that shift the balance of power, and it pushes back. Hard. We're living in an age of pushback, revanchism, a determined and bitter campaign to undo all the activist "victories" of the last few decades.
A while back a lone guy stood in Tiananmen Square defying armed power, and he became for a while a symbol of hope, a hero, even a legend. I salute his courage. But I don't think China today is any less authoritarian than it was when he made his brave stand against repressive force.
I don't think all this means we shouldn't try, and keep trying, to move the needle of culture further towards kindness and fairness, and away from barbarism and cruelty. Just that we shouldn't think that this makes us insta-heroes, or that the story will end well for us just because our intentions were good. There's also the matter of being born at the right (or the wrong) time.