“He had also taken too much in the shape of muddy political talk, a stimulant dangerously disturbing to his faming conservatism, which consisted in holding that whatever is is bad, and any change is likely to be worse.”
- Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot
Middlemarch is a fictional 19th Century English town created by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans. There exists among the provincial, narrow-minded gossips of the town a few persons who see beyond the smallness of their environment.
A much-disliked businessman takes it upon himself to build a new hospital for both the treatment of and research into fevers. He engages a progressive young London doctor who gains the trust of some townspeople when his treatments prove more effective than those of his medical peers.
The young doctor, devoted to research, has dreams of medical breakthroughs which will benefit his profession and his fellow man.
Most of the townspeople abhor change, and the rumor mill is set in motion to destroy the new doctor’s credibility. The purpose of the new hospital, one persistent rumor claims, is to allow the doctor to kill people so that he might cut up their bodies.
Later, when railways are being built across the countryside, we find that “In the absence of any precise idea as to what railways were, public opinion was against them, for the human mind in that grassy corner had not the proverbial tendancy to admire the unknown, holding rather that it was likely to be against the poor man, and that suspicion was the only wise attitude with regard to it.”
2009: Absent the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of progress will always be impeded by such stagnant, fearing minds.