"If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain."
Most people falsely attribute this quote to Winston Churchill, but he never said it. Actually, variants of this quote were translated from Francois Guizot (1787-1874) and later John Adam quoting Thomas Jefferson in 1799.
But not truer words could be said more than 200 years later.
When we are adolescents, we seek freedom and independence in things we do apart from our parents. We want to chart our own course and find an idealistic view of society. Its kind of opposite day to our parents. Most of us love our parents, but at the time, some of us didn’t.
When I was a kid, I always looked up to my parents and thought they knew everything. I always did, so maybe I was in the minority. When I went to college, I would debate ideas from philosophers I read and other questions I had about life. Eventually, I started to think I knew more than my parents. They wouldn’t let me own a car. They wouldn’t let me move in with my friends. There was so many restrictions that I didn’t want to have. I still obeyed, but I wasn’t happy about it.
A few years later, I was married, I was renting an apartment, and I was working while in graduate school. Let me sidetrack to graduate school. When you are writing a thesis or dissertation, you are supposed to delve into a topic that nobody else in the world has ever considered. It was supposed to be original research. So to do that, you have to pigeon-hole yourself into a specific category. What you realize when you do this is, you are very smart in that little crack in the sidewalk, but there is so much more in the world to be known. The smarter you get, you come to the reality that you know nothing. Through this process, I found I was always asking my parents for advice. I started to realize the wisdom they have. Its that reality that makes me take back ideas of independence and freedom.
When you are living in your parent’s basement, you don’t have to pay homeowner’s insurance, utilities, property taxes, and, for me, I ate their food. I had the right in my mind to be free. But when I finally got out on my own, freedom isn’t what its cracked up to be. Instead there is Responsibility. When you are responsible, you have to pay your taxes, you have to vote, you have to take care of kids and pets, and a huge mortgage that will take a lifetime to pay off.
There is a good book that says, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded". When I was a kid in high school, all I had to do was study and take a test. I had very few real responsibilities. But today, the amount of responsibility can be amazing. Even overwhelming.
A metaphor for life is your home. Since you spend a lifetime to pay it off, you want to maintain the value of your investment. Renters can’t possibly understand this completely. You replace your roof, you keep the paint from chipping, and you maintain or improve its curb appeal. If you don’t, the value of your house goes down. This includes the quality of your neighborhood. In fact, you don’t buy a house, you buy a neighborhood. If you live in a good neighborhood and it becomes over-run by gangs and drug dealers, the value of your house greatly depreciates. So you care about your community.
Now, imagine I don’t lock my door and someone goes inside and takes my hard earned belongings. They take my cute little doggies. Or they just destroy the memories I have inside. Maybe I don’t have a fence and someone decides they want to take my babies. Maybe someone decides to put a pile of trash in my front yard. Maybe someone even decides to camp out in my yard. Nobody wants that kind of invasion into your home.
I won’t spell it out for you, but now think about a country under the same expectations I have for my home. That’s where a little wisdom and real knowledge takes place. Thailand just two days ago arrested 1,800 foreigners who were working jobs illegally that are meant for the Thai people. They deported 1,500 of them. When I travel, I always have a passport. I need a visa in some cases. I haven’t been to a country where this is not required. It isn’t about hating someone, or being racist, or being heartless. Its about common sense. I can’t budget to feed and house a complete stranger in my house. There has to be a lot of trust and payment on their part to do that. Otherwise, I’d go broke. Its common sense.
I still make mistakes at my old(er) age. And I keep learning from my mistakes. When you think about 50 years of doing stupid things, you end up trying not to make those mistakes again. Its monumentally more experience than a 20 year old. You can afford to be idealistic at a young age because you have no responsibility. Just wait. It will come. And then you will see clearly.