The question is not whether we should or should not preserve the past, but what kind of past we have chosen to preserve. – Professor John Urry
I’ve known for a while that I am not a Conservative, but I have recently discovered that I’m not a conservative either, at least in my head. There have been a few changes in my life recently, all stemming from my decision at the beginning of the year to move out of my parent’s home. The way that decision came about leaves me convinced that the Lord has some purpose, yet to be revealed, in this happening, and I’m kind of excited to see what’s coming.
One of the changes is that I will no longer attend the congregation where I (both figuratively and literally) grew up. This means that the responsibilities that I had at that congregation have passed to another. I met with him on Tuesday to have a handover. He was one of my assistants before I left and so knew most of what I would pass on already, and I had witnessed his progression in the past couple of years. I came away from that meeting knowing that the Lord had put in place exactly who he wanted at the time he wanted it. One of the principles taught in the church is that one of the purposes of this life is to learn and grow by experience, and that our progression would be stopped if our circumstances stayed static. It’s interesting in this context to note that the Mormon definition of damnation is simply the cessation of progression.
As I consider these changes in my life and the troubles that we face as a people, it seems to me that we have imposed upon ourselves damnation of our society, and that conservatism is the root. We have a tendency as a culture to not just respect and learn from the past (there’s nothing wrong with that – indeed the ability to remember is, I would surmise, a fundamental prerequisite for intelligence), but also glorify it. Some hark back to the days of empire, others dream of old pastoral England. I’m sure we all get nostalgic. It is important however, to see the past as it really is. It’s very tempting to see the past (and the present) as the way things should be in the future, especially when we find that past comfortable personally. The simple fact, however, is that change is the nature of life itself. No moment is quite like another. Your children will not be quite like you, and they will face a different situation than you did and will respond differently.
Indeed, we always subconsciously fight against this conservative notion. We always have something we want to change, some way in which our lives can be improved. To achieve it though requires the abandonment of the status quo. In order for something to change, you must change something! It seems absurd to say that in all its tautological glory, but it is a lesson often forgotten, not least of all by me.
So how do I think we damn ourselves as a society? Here’s some suggestions:
- We despise our political system and yet reject electoral reform.
- We place the historical character of our towns and villages above the actual housing needs of people actually living.
- We refuse to end the systemic robbery on which our economy is based, invoking the spectre of people possibly finding they need to move house.
- We give people perpetual monopolies on our culture, in the name of protecting a cartoon mouse.
In order to progress, we’ll need to let go…