Often, even if we cannot prevent something from happening, we can do something about how it will happen. I think Alexis de Tocqueville had the right idea about this.
The particular spectacle that held him in a trance of fascination was the world-wide disappearance of the old social order with its inherited social ranks, and its replacement by a new social order with equality of social ranks. We democratic souls are hard on the vices of the old order, and nearly blind to those of the new. With a clearer vision of the virtues and vices of both orders, Tocqueville was tempted to nostalgia for what was passing.
Yet he thought it would be both futile and impious to seek the old order’s preservation, because he believed that for reasons obscure to us, God had ordained its demise and replacement.
What then? Did he say, like the Stoics, that we are helpless to choose what happens, free only to choose our attitude toward it? No, Tocqueville was a Christian. He reasoned that although we cannot prevent disappearance of the aristocratic social order even if we wanted to, it does lie within our power to decide which form the new order will take: Whether we will pursue our desire for equality of ranks by pulling down the high, or by raising up the low.
Extend that thought. In every age of society, known goods and evils are disappearing, while new and perilous potentialities are arising. What emerges from these chances, for good or ill, is not fixed. It is always possible to choose the pure, the true, and the beautiful. And though more difficult, it is always possible to refuse complicity in their opposites.