I used to be a bit of a left wing idealist. But these days I’m a bit of a right wing conservative.
It’s a common transition. And I’ve been wondering whether it’s something that is inherent in the passage of a life.
A life might be represented as a succession of events that take place within the frame of a single lifetime, with a length of some 70 or 75 years:
At the start of life, you have no history, but you have a whole unknown lifetime in front of you, to make of as you will. You look to the future. So you tend to dream about what the future might bring. You become an idealist and a dreamer. You make plans. And you are largely indifferent to the past.
Midway through life you have built up a stock of experience, but you still have half a lifetime in front of you.
And at the end of life, you have the unalterable history of your life behind you, the totality of your experience – but you have no future at all. And so you can only look back on what happened. Instead of looking to the future, you gaze back at the past. You become a conservator, the curator of a museum. You seek to preserve the past. And you tend to stick with what is tried and tested, and do things the way they were done in the past.
And while you learn your own history as you age, you also learn the history of the society in which you live, the world in which you live. The conservative takes an interest not just in his own past history, but in all History.
While you are trying to build the future, you belong to the Left. And when you are seeking to conserve the past, you belong to the Right.
For the Left, the future is everything. And it’s always a golden future. For the Right, the past is everything, and it was always a golden past.
I became a right wing Conservative with the imposition of the smoking ban 10 years ago: the convivial smoky past was so much better than the heartless “smoke-free” present. It was a veritable golden age – which I hope to help restore.
There are variations. If you believe that you will live for ever, if you just eat the right diet, and do the right exercises, then you may imagine a limitless future before you, and you will dream appropriately limitless Leftist dreams of the future.
Equally, if you expect to die at any moment – from plague or famine or war -, you will see no future before you, and you will try to cling on to the past.
This is just a sketch outline of an idea of how political orientations change with age, and perhaps must change with age. As in:
If you’re not a leftist or socialist before you’re 25, you have no heart; if you are one after 25 you have no head.
I hope it made a tiny bit of sense.