We humans have so many preconceptions about everything that we have all too easily come to assume that past experience is inevitable future fact. As much as this is a measure of prescribed or automatic reality, it is also indicative of a resignation to seeming impotence – a conditioned helplessness at both collective and individual level. Panic, paranoia, denial, second-guessing, rushing to control an outcome: all ensue until we have ignorantly engineered and so reap prefabricated consequences. Thus, through laziness and fear, we tend to stay in place and stagnate.
Obviously I’m not suggesting that experience counts for nothing, or that the past has nothing to teach us – far, far from it. Rather, I’m suggesting that it doesn’t count for everything; that it’s not the only source or type of wisdom we have and that it can even be a hindrance to movement and potential progress. Besides, it’s not always right or even complete. History should be seen as a supportive old friend, not an overbearing governess who inhibits new ideas, thoughts and questions. If we only ever imagine the future in black and white inevitabilities, so often based on the descriptions of long-dead people and the prescriptions of living but dubious vested interests, then we are truly arguing to limit our capacity for common sense and creative vision.
But we seem to have default reactions to everything. Where the line is between the agents of influence – the old do we make society or does society make us kind of question is pertinent but unhelpful, being as it is symbiotic, dynamic and eternal. We still have Free Will, or at least the access to it, in spite of how easily the climate can make that seem false and despite what some theorists would have us believe.
Sometimes we have to be more philosophical in our approach; more pragmatic. We need to accept that it’s possible to have myriad conflicting emotions and thoughts about an issue; that it is good to wear them, one at a time and in combinations until we know what best suits us. We have to accept the polarisation within our own selves as well as country and allow for the likelihood of movement in our emotional reactions but not be so prey to them in the forming of opinions that facts and reason are constrained or dismissed altogether.
The gap between identifying the problem and finding its solution is where we always mess up and, because of our capacity to be herded by our peers, the media and that toxic blend of political cowardice and hubris, we always miss the point and squander our opportunity. That is why we keep coming back to the same, desperately similar place. We cannot be grown up and awake and actually consent to this. To know it and carry on anyway is unconscionable collusion.
I may be wrong, but I’m quite sure that space in which to absorb information and concepts would produce a higher standard of questioning and that the depth of the question indicates the depth of belief and concern (and one of the reasons I despair at political interviews). Perhaps we are not so different from the child that deserves an honest answer to her difficult question because the question is sound and she is clearly conscious and curious enough to have asked it. We need to ask better questions. I think that if the problem or objective is identified clearly and honestly, unfettered by all agenda other than that which aspires to true altruism, then the solutions become apparent – they reveal themselves.
We can be in too great a hurry to know the answer; to find solutions which serve only as costly quick fixes or the narrow and therefore distorted agenda of powerful but unrepresentative groups. We constantly focus on some small detail which would have been solved naturally if we had just given ourselves the space in which to find ideological consensus on a larger principle and then confronted it head on.