At The Heart

At the heart of every world-weary conservative is a person who came into life with a fairly positive attitude and a belief that people are pretty much all decent and reasonable. If humanity would just recognize the value and sensibility of each other, and put forth a good faith effort into building something that works for everyone, then things would be okay. Such people live conscientiously, assuming others do as well.

Later on, as time establishes to these people that others really are different, that we want different things and have different values and visions, the discordant reality sets in. It’s a reality coated with medicine at first, as we give thanks for the structures, traditions, and creativity of past generations that built what we call “society” and set the precedents that make life livable. Eventually, the revulsion at purposeless rebellion that once seemed brave or entertaining comes at the cost of public appearance: this world expects rebellion, builds rebellion into its image of youth and vitality, so all that does not rebel seems elderly and on the verge of dying.

Demands for discipline that comes easy to you become fascism to others, and valuing accountability seems to be a clear statement of misanthropy. Since these people have said discipline, they frequently end up with systematic power, and the kids don’t understand why that power isn’t used to make their lives better. Loneliness comes on, bit by bit, as you realize that your identity is built on how you define the exchange between the self and the rest of the world. It isn’t about stuff or cheap thrills; the substance of respect comes from relationships in all cases, and you must build a case for your own value, in self-defense.

Then you know: it’s all about expectations. That’s always been what you were fighting over. It’s all we’ve ever been fighting over.

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