When we are young we lack awareness of how much awareness we lack.
We see all the faults, stupidity and pure viciousness embedded in the system, and we have a vision of a system without all these faults. We see it so clearly! Why shouldn’t we tear out the faults, or even dismantle the system and rebuild it more purely and on cleaner ground?
We would — if it weren’t for the powerful. They will not yield their place. They insist on blocking the way for those who wish to change the world for the better. They have power and wish to keep it, enjoy it and multiply it.
So think the powerless. So think those who have lived under the shelter of other people’s imperfect (sometimes bungled) efforts to make order from the chaos of reality. So think those who have benefitted so much from this orderly sheltering that they believe order, equality and justice is the natural default state and that these defaults persist unless some wicked person disrupts it.
When something goes wrong this must have been inflicted by some other person. They cry out in indignation: “Who is responsible for this?”
It does not occur to them to notice when things go right, and even less when things stay right for long durations. It does not occur to them to cry out in gratitude: “Who is responsible for this?”
Humility develops when one actually takes responsibility for one these sheltering layers. Failure is inevitable and imperfections turn out to be ineradicable. And gratitude grows with awareness of how much sheltering is still happening.
One begins seeing life against the background of chaos.
Health happens against a background of decay and death, and only with effort does health expand out by decades.
Reason happens against a backdrop of insane passion, and only with effort does it expand further and further out into the inexplicable, arbitrary and meaningless.
Justice happens against a background of inequality, coercion, physical violence snd terror.
Leisure happens against a background of toil.
Contentment happens against a background of discomfort and deprivation.
In this age, a great many old people make it to then end of life, never having given shelter to anyone, and without developing humility or gratitude. They still think, had the world been more just and reasonable, they could have done it better. Entire professions exist that permit people to grow old without ever maturing. (Can you guess what these are?)
Entire generations can live under the shelter of ancestors, whose accomplishments were so effective the generations following them are not even aware of the stormy skies outside the azure ceilings under which they have lived. Instead of repairing leaks, they curse those responsible for the leaky roof that is the very bane of their existence.
I am a liberal, but a weird liberal. Through my own persistent trying and failing, I have come to appreciate what a monumental but fragile accomplishment liberalism is. Even under the many superstructural roofs and substructural ceilings over my own head, I still struggle to keep the modest ceilings for which I am responsible intact and dry.
I do not want to surrender this imperfect but mostly-good order to naive idealists who credit themselves (and their kind) for a sunshiny faith that people are innately good, that the world itself is innately good, that order, benevolence and fairness is the default state of things — unless someone makes it otherwise. I do not want to put people in charge who feel that their responsibility is only to prevent wicked people from introducing wickedness into what would otherwise be an automatic paradise.
These idealists feel that all that stands in the way of possessing the order, goodness, reason and justice to which they are entitled is to displace those responsible for this flawed system that deprives them of perfection — and, of course, to replace them with less biased, more aware and more morally awakened people who, on this basis, deserve power. I do not want to live under the rule of innocently ambitious, naive ingrates. It was not their fault that they were badly parented and miseducated — but who (besides them) says that not being in charge is a punishment? They are simply unqualified. They see only the dark side of responsibility.
Perhaps I have become a conservative liberal. So be it.