...the freedom at the root of all freedoms [is] the freedom to repent."
- Oliver O'Donovan, The Desire of the Nations (CUP, 1996), 14.A new article in Southern Cross by Jeremy Halcrow reflects upon the US Presidential Election and the apparent preference of voters for political newcomers (Obama, Palin, also Premier Rees in NSW politics), who arrive untainted by any experience in power. Experience is here seen as a negative, rather than as the possibility of having learned from previous mistakes.
Does this preference for the newcomer amount to an expression of mistrust in politicians' ability to learn? Or simply in their willingness to repent? The media and political opposition usually paint any repentance in negative terms as a 'flip-flop' (or in Oz, as a 'backflip'). Our leaders, like the rest of us, must be allowed to change their mind when they become convinced through good reasons (not simply through populist pressure) that the common good lies elsewhere. Consistency in unpopular policies can be a virtue when there is no good reason to change (just a popular mood). Conversely, fear of being branded "indecisive" ought not prevent policy change in light of superior evidence or arguments.
I have reflected previously on the "politics of change", in which the present must be painted in terms of crisis in order to justify (any) change. It is this devaluing of the concept of crisis (crying "wolf!") for political gain that leaves us more exposed to the arrival of a real lupous predator.