You may have heard that the Eastern Shore is full of old crackers, but every time I've visited there I've marveled at the equal-footing interactions among Blacks and Whites alike. This might be due to the fact that relative to someplace like Annapolis or greater Montgomery County, Chestertown is tiny, backward, and somewhat poor in median income. It may be due to the fact that many people work in agriculture or bringing in the fish and shellfish bounty of the Bay.
Chestertown was not named, albeit with erroneous spelling, for G.K. Chesterton. Chestertown is not the font of Christian or Roman Catholic thinking on theology, mankind, or what it means to be human. It's just a town on the Eastern Shore, a place where people tend to know they have more in common with each neighbor despite different last names, different skin tones, or different jobs worked.
Chesterton is a different topic.
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”
This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.
The quote above is from G.K. Chesterton, and the idea quoted above has come to be known as "Chesterton's Fence."
You can find all sorts of discussions of Chesterton's Fence if you do an internet search of the phrase. One such discussion had these pithy words to say:
Smart young lawyers (and stupid older ones as well), filled with passion and vigor, want to remake the legal world to cure all the problems they see. With their zeal, they rush to tear down fences they see only as blocking their path to Utopia, oblivious as to why that fence could possibly be there. It seems so pointless to them. Knock it down!
There are fences whose utility has come and gone, that are ripe for demolition. There are fences that were built as well as they could be at the time, but can now be built better. And there are fences that better be left alone or really bad things will happen. Knowing which fence is which before doing the damage is critical.
That's from a lawyer who operates what he calls "a criminal defense blog." I didn't read elsewhere on the blog so I can't say whether I agree with his self-description of the blog.
However, I can say that I've seen such "smart young lawyers... filled with passion and vigor, want[ing] to remake the legal world to cure all the problems they see." I've also seen the "stupid older ones" who do likewise.
More importantly, I've seen the notion pushed outside law practice into socio-political discussion -- for example, when a legal ignoramus and/or layperson asserts that the role of the SCOTUS is to be a mediator of social friction and, more particularly, one who is attuned to the fad-bubble meme-du-jour in Social Justice Warrior banter.
In my personal life I often encounter people, among whom are some of my friends, who have little shame when offering a thought that is completely unformed and untutored or unexamined.
There's nothing wrong with doing this as a conversational staple, sometimes a person needs to vent, sometimes a person needs to plant a seed for further discussion, and sometimes a person simply cannot stand moments of silence.
What is galling is when someone offers an idea with great conviction and certitude, and defends it with an appeal to authority or any other logical fallacy.
"But Huffington Post said...."
"I watched a documentary which showed...."
"Last night on Fox News, ____________ said ______________. Can you believe that ____________ objected to ___________ on the ground that _____________ is going to happen as a result of this major decision on ___________?"
The foregoing examples are scaled in complexity, but each rests upon logical fallacy and a gullibility arising from confirmation bias.
Chesterton's Fence prompts one to first ask why a certain notion or thing was created.
If you don't ask that question, whatever reform you undertake after clearing the landscape of the existing notion or thing, it's going to be ill-considered and may even result in a worsening of the problem.
In the case of Brexit:
If you assume the Yes vote by the UK is horrible, did you bother investigating why the EU was formed?
Have you examined the ways in which EU membership has wreaked havoc on member nations' domestic economies?
Do you just automatically assume globalizing means social progress?
Have you ever asked yourself why you assume that?
Have you ever looked into the possibility that change is not progress, it's just change -- and change can be positive, negative or neutral?
I'd suggest trying some of these challenges yourself. Learn a little more about what you pontificate on. Understand the background of events and ideas and things before you assume they need to be changed. Understand holistically how these events, ideas and things have performed/worked since they were introduced.
Ask yourself how well Greece fared as a result of EU membership.
Ask yourself how well Ireland fared as a result of EU membership.
Ask yourself these things even if you're not Greek or Irish yourself, even if you don't have any connection back in your family tree to either nation's people.
Ask yourself why you have assumed "globalization" is best.
--Chet Redweld, who cannot imagine practicing law at anything above a gutter level without using Chesterton's Fence as a strategic reminder.