As I age (imperceptibly! gracefully!) the world seems a more and more ambiguous place — a place brimming with moral dyads of every kind. In the mists of my youth, I was certain that most people were prone to what I can only call an unhelpful preference for complexity, particularly regarding difficult moral and political issues. Right was just right, right? But I feel as though something has changed or is changing within me in this regard, and so I offer these tentative, personal, theses:
I am not always required to fight for my beliefs
The senses of the young strain for any hint of hypocrisy. while their minds seek out arguments and debates of every kind. And while those who know me might observe that both of these tendencies haven’t entirely departed from me, both have been somewhat tempered by the knowledge that not all people who think or feel something — even strongly — must act on those feelings. Of course, sometimes a failure to act is bad. Fascist regimes should be resisted, racists, sexists and homophobes opposed. But also, or so I’ve discovered, some fires must be allowed to burn themselves out, some changes of general opinion (see the legalization of gay marriage which gave me a bunch of civil rights thankyouverymuch) must be allowed to ripen on their own.
I need not defeat all evil, nor must I support all good
We all remember Ralph Nader right? Many of us agreed with much or all of his proposed policies, and were tempted to vote for him. Some 5% of Americans actually did (I didn’t but more than one person I love did.) We all know the result, and should bear it in mind, particularly in this year of wide choice in presidential candidates.
Realpolitik is a normal characteristic of the human universe, and one that I increasingly tolerate and am aware of.
while it is likely to be inconsistent to act as if A&~A, it is possible to act as if A&B where B makes A more likely to be true.
For example, I have come to believe in the power of open source software, some of which I have helped build in one way or another. Thus, there is a non-zero chance that someone with whom I violently disagree is at this moment using my code for evil. For that matter, since by profession I help maintain a large internet platform (itself based on open source) I therefore enable the actions of anyone who uses it. This most certainly includes many folks whose aims I consider to be completely immoral. All of this is to say, I believe in things like open source enough to tolerate the fact that my code or efforts might be used for ill.
TLDR … As I age, I’m less likely to fight every battle, less likely to oppose every monster, less likely to support every angel and more likely to tolerate, and sometimes welcome, inconsistency.