Between Sebbo’s digression into the Bloggerhans triumphalism that really isn’t the point of my homeschooling post below at all, and this genteel dustup over in Johnathon Delacour’s always-excellent journal, I’ve found myself falling backwards into thoughts of generalizations, and why we do them, and when, and how, and when they’re well done, and when they aren’t, and how, and why, little stuff, you know, so instead I’m going to talk about this quote, and this bit from the Tao Te Ching, which maybe have something to do with generalizations, what doesn’t, after all, but really they more sort of back into some really big stuff that kept trying to squeeze its way into the aforementioned homeschooling post no matter how many times I tried to wave ’em off, since, you know, really fuckin’ long, and if after reading this the connection isn’t so clear to you, keep in mind it’s only rather moreso to me; my muse, it sems, is a magpie. (Ooh! Shiny!)
Anyone who is not a liberal at 16 has no heart; anyone who is not a conservative at 60 has no head.
Which has been said in a lot of different ways by a lot of different people at a lot of different times, so let’s take it, glib though it is, as if there were hidden inside a kernel of truth. —Because I’m starting to think there is, and not of the liberal-who-gets-mugged or the liberal-who-pays-property-tax-for-the-first-time variety. (After all, what of the conservative who gets arrested? —But are they really becoming liberal? Or have they merely found something new to conserve?) Let’s take as our text “Freedom,” the 80th chapter from Ursula Le Guin’s rendition of the Tao (she doesn’t call it a translation, and we might as well respect that):
Let there be a little country without many people.
Let them have tools that do the work of ten or a hundred,
and never use them.
Let them be mindful of death
and disinclined to long journeys.
They’d have ships and carriages,
but no place to go.
They’d have armor and weapons,
but no parades.
Instead of writing,
they might go back to using knotted cords.
They’d enjoy eating,
take pleasure in clothes,
be happy with their houses,
devoted to their customs.
The next little country might be so close
the people could hear cocks crowing
and dogs barking there,
but they’d grow old and die
without ever having been there.
And the 60-year-old says after a thoughtful pause, yes, I can see: this would be the best of all possible worlds; this is the solution at the other end of the moral calculus; this is the good life for the greatest number of people, with a minimum of pain and suffering. Utopia. Nirvana. On a clear day, you can just barely see it from here.
The 16-year-old? The 16-year-old blinks and shrugs and says, yeah, sure, but what the fuck do you do on a Saturday night?