Winston Churchill’s quote is meant to disparage liberals because the implication is that as a person gets older they get wiser and conclude that conservative policies make more sense.
But an alternative way of looking at this quote is to realize that conservatives have no gust and take the path of least resistance. After all change is hard; it is difficult to adjust to new customs of life after many years. But the fact of such difficulties simply highlights the laziness of people who embody Churchill’s quote. If it made sense to embrace and master progressive ideas and new ways of thinking at 25, it still makes sense at 45 and to not try to embrace progressive ideas is to be idle and be complicit in having the world move on without you.
The idea of the world moving on should not be dismissed. Most popular culture targets and is consumed by teenagers and young adults. Marketers are generally tailoring their message to the 18-34 demographic or trying to make people feel like they should be in that demographic. But then you turn 40 and all of a sudden the messages are not for you; the references fly over your head. Society is ignoring you. This is a change you did not ask for and do not want to try to overcome.
Two options present themselves at this point. 1. Continue to adapt to developments in society even if everything is not centered around people in your demographic group. 2. Resist change and proclaim how everything was better 5, 10, 15, or 20 years ago when you were in the demographic sweet spot.
This makes sense in the realm of popular culture when you consider that most parents dislike the cultural forms of their children. It can’t be that every decade culture gets progressively worse. To the contrary the generation gap is a label on the unease of a group realizing the world is moving on from them.
And just as this is true in popular culture it is also true with social issues and to a lesser extent political and economic ideologies. The social issues that were considered radical to my parents, interracial relationships for instance, are now seen as commonplace. By contrast my children will probably look at homosexual relationships as normal. At some point you have to accept these developments or society will have passed you by.
There are not so many new political or economic philosophies however the same general rule applies. Ideas that are outside of the common perspective (usually liberal) should be embraced and incorporated into the way we operate. We must continue to have the heart (in Churchill’s words) to consider the liberal perspective as a viable option or become outdated.
The other aspect of Churchill’s quote is about the wisdom of liberalism. Admittedly liberalism is not easy which is why it takes not only heart but intellect as well. From the point of view of enacting change or maintaining the status quo, liberalism is the choice that requires brains while conservatism requires no effort.
Auto pilot is no way to stay vibrant.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.