No Keith, It's Just Growing Old
Tuesday, 26 November 2002
Ken Parish has blogged on this profile of Keith Windschuttle, author of a refutationist history of white settlement in Australia. I was particularly taken with Keith's remark that:
In the '70s I was a Marxist, in the '80s I was a social democrat and in the '90s I'm a conservative: it's called growing up.
It's fairly common to hear this sort of remark from committed conservatives who used to be committed leftists in their youth. For some reason, the progression from doctrinaire Marxism to an equally doctrinaire Toryism is always depicted as a normal process of personal maturation, with the implication that those who haven't made this intellectual journey by the time they reach middle age are probably suffering from arrested development.
It's certainly true that personal values, tastes and opinions can change over a lifetime: for example, ABC Radio, which in my youth played the sort of boring old fart music my parents liked, now plays the sort of boring old fart music that I like, which in some cases, is the same boring old fart music my parents liked thirty years ago. And listening to radio talk back, I often hear callers of approximately my generation expressing opinions which, if expressed by their parents in the 1960s, would probably have sent them into paroxysms of adolescent rebellion.
So I can understand how Keith Windschuttle has come to revise his opinions on many issues as he has aged: but I'm not sure that he should congratulate himself on growing up. To exchange one set of intellectual foes for another, without a little opening of the mind in the interim can hardly be called maturation.