Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Too Old Or Too Rigid?

The Pope's retirement led Gautam Makunda to write that it's dangerous to allow the old too close to power:

Power itself has profound, and usually toxic, effects on those who have it. CEOs are so pampered that comparing them to babies is surprisingly illuminating. What is true for a CEO is, in this case, even more true for the men and women who lead nations and can literally have power over life and death. Over time this authority is likely to have profound effects on most people’s personalities. It would be remarkable indeed for any person treated with deference and pampering for years, even decades, to not be affected by it.

Lord Acton's maxim still holds true. Power corrupts. And the longer one has it, the more it can corrupt. However, as the current Senate controversy suggests, you don't have to be in power long to be corrupted.  More importantly, while youth usually has vigor, it does not always possess wisdom. As proof, I offer the Honourable Pierre Polievre, who has a lot to say, but who says very little that is either useful or wise.

Polievre  thinks in terms of categories, not people. He -- like so many of us -- has forgotten what Atticus Finch taught Scout:

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

To Kill A Mockingbird is all about walking around in someone else's skin -- not just the martyred Tom Robinson's or the feared Boo Radley's, but also the tragically ignorant Mayella Ewell's.

What matters is not whether a person is too old or too young. What matters is whether or not he or she is too rigid. Getting  inside someone's skin teaches us to think beyond categories and stereotypes. We learn to see the infinite variety in nature and not to fear people who are not like us.

And, finally, we come to the realization that it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.


Lorne said...

What some would call the simple wisdom of Atticus Finch is indeed profound, Owen. When you cut through all the verbiage and all of the false pride and condescension that permeates our 'leaders' psyches' thee is one irreducible truth: without empathy, a person is unfit to govern a nation or to run a popsicle stand.

Owen Gray said...

Having lived for awhile in the South, I have come to love the book, Lorne. And I have taught it several times.

Atticus speaks truth to power -- even as he loses the battle.