There is a fine line between being a skeptic and being a reactionary. A skeptic's motto is "I hear you but prove it to be true." A reactionary's motto is "I will resist all change until it is shown to be in my personal interest."
Last evening this differentiation became quite clear as I sat in a meeting of my local civic association. The key part of the meeting was a presentation of a proposal for a large new development on the periphery of my neighborhood. The land in question is currently an ugly wasteland of outmoded industrial abuse. A cement plant, an abandoned office building, a derelict warehouse, etc.. The proposed development is a shiny new complex of retail stores, overhead residences, broad pedestrian pathways and landscaping.
My neighborhood is populated in part by an old guard of property owners who have never lived anywhere else. Their world view is demonstrably narrow, perhaps the length of their own streets. I am a gray-hair myself, however I do not identify with these reactionaries. I have lived in my house for 3 yrs.. I am viewed by this old guard as an intruder, an interloper. This is occasionally made clear to me by comments made shamelessly in the civic association meetings.
There are many new arrivals in the neighborhood. It is becoming a prime location for commuting professionals who like to bicycle or use public transit. The neighborhood lies very close to Boston's downtown by bike or transit. I can and do walk into the city center in twenty-five minutes. These residents tend to be rather uncommitted to the neighborhood as a concept of community. They are not highly visible at the civic association in numbers.
I am a skeptic. Last evening I listened to the presentations by the city authority overlooking the development and the developer. It would have been a very pleasant experience, if the reactionaries had not interrupted, railed and accused. Reactionaries react, until their bone is firmly inserted between their jaws by the change-agent they are hassling at any given moment.
As a skeptic with 65 years under my belt, literally, I have the advantage of patience. I have been in screaming meetings many times before. A developer once built a 12-story hotel behind my tiny 950-s.f. house despite months of screaming civic meetings. It put a big dent in my privacy and ruined the ambience of my large garden, but it was, in retrospect, a community improvement. I sold that house, my first, before the construction of that hotel began. It was a sad time for me, but twenty years later I feel it helped me grow up considerably.
The timeless dance between progressives and reactionaries has led to general discord, inequality, wars. Being a skeptic is a life between these two camps. It gets loud, and occasionally I have to duck to avoid being hit by crossfire. But I will remain a skeptic because I know it serves me best when dealing with change, which is an inevitability in life.