Change

Presumably liberals are, by definition, progressive in that they push for the new and regard change in and of itself a good thing. So I’ve been told. I must conclude, then, that I am not a liberal, since I do not think change is a good thing, necessarily, and am not “progressive” in my thinking. Rather, I am “old-fashioned.” I am more Tory than Whig on many topics, especially education and child-rearing. Not so much on social and political issues, however. My conservatism, if such it is, does not extend to wealth and power, which I regard as something to be divided rather than hoarded. I have always thought people were more important than profits. I worry that ethics get lost in the frenzy to make more profit.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that progress in medicine has prolonged life and, indeed, made my so-far long life possible. I have had a number of surgeries in my lifetime and am currently dealing with several medical complaints. Years ago I would be dead by now.

But aside from that, I can’t think of any changes in my lifetime that suggest progress, which is to say, movement forward, an improvement in the hurly burly of everyday life. Instead I see around me people in a tizzy, lost in their electronic world pushing buttons and ignoring the real world around them which, if they looked up, they would realize can be quite stunning. The artists among us, and there are still a few, keep reminding us; but increasingly their pleas fall on deaf ears and blind eyes.

The steam engine found itself squarely in the middle of the garden during the industrial revolution, and the noise it made drowned out the sound of the birds and the gentle stream at our feet. Our ears can no longer pick up the soft sounds of the real world that surrounds us. Then came “progress,” and now we wallow in noise and confusion, dizzy and disoriented. The steam engine has run amok.

But, one of the most insidious factors in the brave new world in which we live is the entertainment industry. I have come to fault that industry, among others, for many of the ills of present-day society. It creates a make-believe world that invites people to escape from reality which, generally speaking, they have a weak hold upon to begin with. And that hold weakens as time goes by. This has allowed so many people to buy into a flawed presidential candidate who promised them the power they feel when they play video games, folks who feel a deep need to build up their tottering self-esteem as they admire a president they can identify with and attend occasional religious ceremonies that assure them they are really good people.

But, ignoring for the moment the deluded state of such people, think about it. Things happen faster these days and so many us fail to see what’s going on around us. We don’t even look around. Moreover, we are convinced bigger and faster are good things when, in fact, slower and smaller are often to be preferred. I am fond of quoting a passage from one of George Eliot’s novels in which she says she sometimes prefers when:

“reforming intellect takes a nap, while imagination does a little Toryism by the sly, reveling in regret that dear, old, brown, crumbling, picturesque inefficiency is everywhere giving place to spick-and-span new-painted, new-varnished efficiency, which will yield endless diagrams, plans, elevations, and sections, but alas! no picture.”

That pretty much sums it up. We simply assume that the new is better and that progress inevitably follows upon change of any sort. This is surely not the case. At times we need to stop and look around and think about the “crumbling, picturesque inefficiency” we have lost sight of in our hurry to get somewhere else.

I am fully aware that “the good old days” were full of pain and suffering. But, then, so are the good new days. And the really sad truth is that we are now much more aware of the sufferings of others, not to mention the planet itself, and we simply look away because we are too self-involved to care. It is not a formula for happiness.

4 thoughts on “Change

  1. When I think of the word “progress”, I think of it in terms of people progressing toward a more humanitarian view of the world. To me, progress would be people putting bigotry in all its ugly forms away and learning to care about others, regardless of skin colour, religion, or who they choose to love. Progress in my world would be people finding ways to clean up our environment before we destroy it. Progress would be those who have ‘more’ sharing with those who have ‘less’. In that sense, I do consider myself a progressive and a liberal-thinker. But if progress means inventing more toys and gadgets for the sole purpose of making a relative handful of people uber-wealthy, then no, I am not in favour of it and consider that perhaps the human race deserves the extinction it seems determined to bring about.

  2. Hugh, words like progressive and conservative are used in a binary fashion. I think many people are conservative in some areas and progressive in others. I fall into that category. I want to help people climb a ladder, but I want them to climb with me. I cannot push them up the ladder. I also feel it should be conservative, to want to take care of the environment. This should not just be a progressive idea. Yet, it has gotten politicized by monied interests, as most things are.

    At the end of the day, we do have to pay for things. So, any progressive idea needs to consider such. This is where the GOP has flown the coop, in my view. They used to be the party of fiscal responsibility, but they are represented (and now we) by a morally and fiscally corrupt man. Keith

  3. ” But aside from that, I can’t think of any changes in my lifetime that suggest progress, which is to say, movement forward, an improvement in the hurly burly of everyday life. Instead I see around me people in a tizzy, lost in their electronic world pushing buttons and ignoring the real world around them which, if they looked up, they would realize can be quite stunning. The artists among us, and there are still a few, keep reminding us; but increasingly their pleas fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. ”

    That entire paragraph is special — first because there is a tone of loss, as if a voyeur watching another planet from afar… and then you add that final thought, and yes, many times that happens. Like those few seeds that regenerate forests after wildfires, perhaps there’s enough for hope that things might change for the human species, and those souls who are caught in the whirlpools of distractions – and of greed.

    Good people have to stay positive and hold their lights, and maybe those who are lost will find their way?

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