Sunday, February 05, 2006

A thoughtful post (as usual) ...

... from Maxine at Petrona: Things to say, and Wordsworth & co. (Funny. Just the other day I was blogging about Hazlitt myself.)
My gloss on what Maxine says is that youthful radicals ought really (usually) to be described as adolescent reactionaries -- i.e., their positions tend to be adopted in reaction to whatever views seem currently established. (As Maxine notes, "when people are young, they are 'against' the established order, wanting to bring it down to create something better.")
True radicals are much rarer -- after all, the word derives from radix, meaning root. Few people, it seems to me, have the energy, inclination, and doggedness it takes to think down to the roots of things.
Every morning, on my way to work, I walk past this city's University of the Arts. The students standing outside seem remarkably alike to me. They remind me (perhaps unfairly) of the lines from Yeats's "The Scholars":

All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.

Yeats, of course, was writing about much older people. But the need to conform is greater among the young. (Which may also explain why some retain their "youthful radicalism" -- as a way of feeling forever young.)

I confess that my own youthful conservatism was in part a reaction to all the liberalism around me (there is also a real thrill in dissenting from your age peers). But I also have have always tried to think things through. Thanks to which, I have learned that the more carefully you think about things the more mysterious they become and the less likely you are to settle for simple explanations or solutions.


  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this, Frank. Re. your last sentence, I agree. When I was at school (high school you would call it I guess) we had a debating society and issues always seemed so straightforward. (Abortion, religion, centrefolds, etc). The older I got, the more I thought about these things, or the more experience I gathered of the world, the less certain any of these topics seemed to me. I now feel that I'm terminially indecisive about the "big picture" subjects. I feel unsophisticated about politics, philosophy and so on. This is why I like books, articles and blogging -- becuase there is something to react to, usually on a relatively small scale so one can organise one's thoughts crisply without having to get too cosmic about it. Otherwise, when I try to think about fair societal and political structures, let alone articulate a position on them, I dither hopelessly. At 18, I would have put the word to rights with no problem!

  2. (Freudian typo there, I meant put the "world" to rights, not "word". Although as I ended up becoming an editor, "word" is actually the more accurate.)