A friend named Pat Brown invoked G.K. Chesterton’s “paradox of the gate” in a comment to something I posted on MeWe (I’m exiting Facebook).
Here it is in Chesterton’s own words from his 1929 book, The Thing, in the chapter entitled, “The Drift from Domesticity”:
“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”
Basically, Chesterton is saying when you run up against a barrier that someone has erected, it is best not to assume just because you can’t see the necessity for a barrier, that there is no necessity or use for the fence or gate. It is better to understand why it was put there in the first place rather than setting about destroying it based on your own short-term observations and judgment. The progressive left has a penchant for jumping in with a sledge hammer and tearing down barriers they deem unnecessary.
Think religion, guns, SUVs, sexual biology, supply side economic principles – you name it. The problem is that it is much easier to ban, confiscate, restrict and forbid things you PERSONALLY don’t like or use than it is to do such with things you do. Take guns vs. pot for example – these two things are on opposite paths and there is some logic in considering that progs like and use pot and hate and don’t own guns.
OK, it is a generalization – but I wanted to make a point. The same could be said of trucks and SUVs vs public transportation and bullet trains. The left doesn’t use the former but because most progs live in urban areas, the favor the latter.
Several years ago, Ace at the blog Ace of Spades HQ brilliantly wrote of progressivism – it “is not merely a culture, with its own mix of arbitrary class prejudices and class beliefs, but the culture, the plainly superior one, the one that is so demonstrably correct that one should have no trepidation whatsoever about attempting the mobilize the coercive powers of the government to make their culture the legally mandated one.”
Aspects of society and culture that have been built over centuries are also things to be respected and should be given due consideration before assembling the Huns and breaching the walls. There’s a reason they are there. A definite connection can be drawn between the decline of civility and the decline of religion in our public spaces. I think a similar connection can be drawn in the case of marriage and societal breakdowns.
People who are hell bent on “reforming”, i.e. “tearing down this wall” should understand that barriers have two purposes that may or may not be in play at the same time.
The whole point is that you should well consider the wall before you take a hammer to it. From your side of the wall, it may look as if it was built to constrain you, to keep you in, when in fact, it may well have been built by the bloody hands of your forebears to keep a greater evil at bay.