Tuesday, January 15, 2008

They Changed Their Minds

The Edge's Annual Question for 2008 was "What have you changed your mind about? Why?" In this remarkable listing, dozens of great minds (including Esther and Freeman Dyson, Sam Harris, Howard Gardner, Janna Levin, Steven Pinker, and Robert Sapolsky) explain where and why they - God forbid! - changed their minds. Certainly not a popular action in today's political climate. No, it's usually better to revise your own past, rather than explain why you changed your mind on any given matter.

Anyway, I find myself agreeing whole-heartedly with Brian Eno's thoughts on politics:
Maoism, or my disappointment with it, also changed my feelings about how politics should be done. I went from revolutionary to evolutionary. I no longer wanted to see radical change dictated from the top — even if that top claimed to be the bottom, the 'voice of the people'. I lost faith in the idea that there were quick solutions, that everyone would simultaneously see the light and things would suddenly flip over into a wonderful new reality. I started to believe it was always going to be slow, messy, compromised, unglamorous, bureaucratic, endlessly negotiated — or else extremely dangerous, chaotic and capricious. In fact I've lost faith in the idea of ideological politics altogether: I want instead to see politics as the articulation and management of a changing society in a changing world, trying to do a half-decent job for as many people as possible, trying to set things up a little better for the future.

Perhaps this is why I've increasingly come to regard the determinedly non-ideological, ecumenical EU as the signal political experiment of our time.
And that's why I'm liberal, progressive, or whatever, but not a Democrat. It doesn't mean I don't want a revolution; I just suspect it's never going to happen at the rate I'd like it to.

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