In one of the essays he composed in the paralysis that preceded his death, Tony Judt described himself as a conservative because he was a leftist. That has stuck with me since I first read it. His idea was that radical changes are often worst for those at the bottom of society. Those with means can usually weather them. Even in a revolution, they are able to emigrate. Justice can never wait, but in every advance and every seeming progress, we should be aware of what may be lost and who may be harmed.
I think about that partly because we have spent several decades worshiping disruption and innovation as if they were good things and as if those harmed by the new were responsible for not having kept up and now would just have to learn to live in the altered landscape. Learn to code!
I’m thinking about it particularly these days because I think we are on the cusp of the kind of massive disruption that changes everything. If COVID-19 is as bad as the models predict we are going to come out the other side into a very different world as different, I think, as the world of 1920 was to the world of 1914.
If that happens—or even if it doesn’t—those of us who come out relatively unscathed have an obligation to look out for and take care of those who are not well fit for what follows. It may well be a wild ride; we need to make sure everybody gets to the end.