Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Some Thinking Points for 2006

As the Old Man of '05 dodders off the stage and pink-cheeked Baby New Year crawls into the spotlight, I would like to offer a few observations on facts that, halfway through the first decade of the Twenty-first Century, I truly believe we must face.

The Sixties are over. This seemingly-obvious point cannot be overemphasized. We seem, as a society, to be permanently stuck in the 1960's, and we are obsessed with endlessly rehashing them. Not only is that decade long past, but -- flash bulletin! -- the entire Twentieth Century is over. You wouldn't think this would be news to people, but evidently it is.

Not only are the Sixties over, but they are not coming back. You cannot step into the same river twice, and whatever similarities might exist between then and now, we now live in what, in many ways, is a different world. You can take comfort in this if you found that decade traumatic, because the sort of radical change that took place then has just as radically been repudiated. The Age of Aquarius so many graying flower-children are trying to conjure back will never happen again, because so many other people are determined not to let it. Take a moment or two to mourn this fact if you don't like it, and then get on with your life.

Unlike many of the Grandchildren of Aquarius who like to play hippie, I am old enough to actually remember the decade. It was a frightening time to be a kid. I am glad that some positive change came out of it (as a lesbian, how could I not be?), but I am equally glad that it is over, and I have no wish to see it return.

Positive change does not need to come at breakneck speed. The conservatives are right about that. But positive change is still sorely needed. The liberals are right about that. The moderately-paced, thoughtful change conservatives used to claim they believed in would serve quite nicely, and in fact looks like what -- whether we like it or not -- we are going to get.

We're all "Centrists" now. It's quite the fashionable thing. I'm not sure I know exactly what a "centrist" really is, but it's what the opinion polls are telling us the majority of Americans are calling themselves. I am a left-leaning Libertarian, which means that I favor bringing about peace, justice and harmony without tyrannizing people to do it. As far as the old Left/Right labels go, I'm neither fish nor fowl; even a liberal Libertarian is certainly far more conservative than what passes for a liberal-liberal these days. Because we still have that outdated Left/Right model stuck in our heads (see my previous Thinking Point), we insist on consigning people who think like me to the vast wasteland called "the center."

Truth be told, the center has no more relevance anymore than do Left or Right. All it actually is is a dumping-ground for fresh ideas and independent thinking. If you still fancy yourself either a liberal or a conservative, I've got a constructive suggestion for you. Shut up. Just shut up long enough to listen to some of the folks you think you disagree with. Their ideas might make more sense than you think they will.

And if you are one of those hot-and-trendy centrists, be sure you listen to those of us who are in "the center" not by choice, but because the loudmouths on "the sides" refuse to listen to us. It's where you'll find the independent thinking and the fresh ideas.

We all need to grow up. All of us. Conservatives are fond of accusing liberals of having done something they call "infantilizing" society. And, indeed, there is plenty of legitimacy to the charge. But it isn't liberals, per se, who have done this. The real culprits are the big-government nanny-statists on both sides of the aisle. The liberals may have run ahead on this score at one point, but the Right Wing has now certainly caught up with them.

We simply cannot go on behaving like bottle-babies who blame Mommy, Daddy and siblings for all our problems. It's depressing and disempowering. The truly hopeful truth -- that each of us is responsible for his or her own life, and that it is strictly by virtue of this fact that we can change our lives for the better if we don't like them -- needs to be shouted from the rooftops. This does mean we must shoulder the blame for much of what's wrong in our lives. But it also enables us to take credit for a lot of what's right. Statists both liberal and conservative persist in the fantasy that they can somehow have the latter without the former, and unless we stop them, they will imprison us all in the nursery with them forever.

The century is young. We still have a good chance of heading it in the right direction. The fact that so many people are willing to think outside the "Liberal versus Conservative" box is a very hopeful sign. The real political clash of the titans, in the Twenty-first Century, will be between statist tyrants and lovers of liberty. The tyrants want us all in the nursery. Real liberty requires real responsibility.

Saving our long-cherished freedoms is not work for the lazy or the cowardly. Nor is it a task you send a child to accomplish. And next time someone tells you they're are on the Right, Left OR the Center, ask him or her "Excuse me, but what does that mean?" They might actually have to think about it, and they're very likely to give an answer that makes you think, too.


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