The Progress of Congress
“If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.”
– African Proverb
To get a grasp on the meaning of ‘The Progress of Congress’ it helps to look at the root word ‘gress.’ Gress derives from the Pre-Indo European (PIE) ‘ghredh’ which translates today as ‘to walk, go.’ The word ‘progress’ originates from the Latin ‘progressus’ meaning ‘a going forward, an advance, with the prefix ‘pro’ meaning ‘forward.’ Progress is to walk or go, forward. Congress is a deviation from the more original comgress with the prefix ‘com’ meaning ‘with, together.’ Congress is to walk, go, together. The Progress of Congress is to walk, go, forward, together.
Comgress, i.e., congress, is not as much concerned with going forward as it is with going together. Going together necessitates collaboration, not just going together, but working and living together as well. Congress is also a word used to describe animal groups. For example, some refer to a group of baboons as a congress of baboons, though others will use the term ‘troop.’ Many animals have collective noun group names such as a squadron of pelicans, a herd of buffalo, a school of fish, a gaggle of geese, a pod of whales, a colony of ants, a swarm of bees, a band of gorillas etc. The human species has so many subgroups, such as tribe, class, gang, club, congregation, that no single one works for all. There is hardly a satisfactory single collective noun to represent all humans, except, perhaps, ‘a people.’ A people of humans.
Regardless of the collective group name for a species, both congress and progress are concerned with going, not staying, nor coming. The issue between congress and progress would appear to be the rate and distance of movement, of going. To go fast, or to go long? To go alone, or go with others? They each have their own optimal pace. That is, you can’t go fast for long and if you want to go long, go slow. This becomes a rather critical decision for both individuals and social systems. If the race is a marathon, a different pace is required than if it is a sprint. A sprint race at a marathon pace is not a winner. A marathon race at a sprint pace is not a winner.
Since a people of humans are inherently social creatures, going together is often preferred; but, how does a people of humans make decisions as a people about how to go forward together? How does a people of humans decide to make collective decisions and act upon them so as to benefit ‘we the people’? It is a heated process of forging consensus much more complicated and much slower than any one individual making decisions for the people, which is referred to as authoritarianism. An authoritarian is like an author who writes their story, using others as characters in their story. A captivating story requires conflict; a satisfying story concludes with conflict resolution. That resolution may be tragic, or comedic. The tragic character, as it is with the comedic character, be it a singular person or The People of Humans, is predicated on a pivotal decision. Generally, trajedy is an emotional decision in a critical situation, comedy a reasoned decision. Both tragedy and comedy evoke tears, the former through sobbing, the latter through laughing. Both sobbing and laughing are characterized by abdominal contractions which is a form of ‘release’ not unlike ‘orgasm.’ The heavy tension built up from conflict in a riveting dramatic story is released through a sequence of events that unfold from a tragic or comedic decision resulting in tears of sobbing or tears of laughing. The heavy weight of a sobbing tragedy can be transformed into the laughing lightness of levity. It is, largely, a matter of perspective. If comedy enables stupidity, it morphs into serious tragedy; if tragedy enables insight, it morphs into funny wisdom.