Conservatism proper is a legitimate, probably necessary, and certainly widespread attitude of opposition to drastic change – F.A. Hayek, from his essay “Why I Am Not A Conservative.”
In my last post, I shared a quote from Russell Kirk’s essay “The Essence of Conservatism.” I’ve since revisited some of his other observations in that piece, along with related commentary from others on similar themes such as the one expressed above, and found more than a few worth sharing.
For starters today, the first is from Kirk:
[I]f humanity is to conserve the elements in civilization that make life worth living, some coherent body of ideas must resist the leveling and destructive impulse of fanatic revolutionaries.
The modern conservative stands with Burke, holding that the real rights of man are rooted in custom, tradition, and faith-that reform is essential, but that wholesale change is catastrophic.
One obvious similarity jumps out at the reader [my emphasis]: “opposition to drastic change”; “the destructive impulse of fanatic revolutionaries”; “wholesale change is catastrophic.”
Quite dramatic! Quite overblown, too.
ALL OR NOTHING
But in keeping with the all-or-nothing tendency of the conservative personality, as I’ve touched upon in recent posts, there is not a lot of room in the exchanges for nuance or any of dozens of other assessments several notches below “drastic” and “destructive” and “fanatic” and “catastrophic.” Much easier to keep loyal followers attentive to the messages conveyed by the prominent public voices if word choices convey a “just-this-close-to-Armageddon” anxiety about any breaks from tradition and the familiar and the tried-and-true preferences of those on the Right.
There’s actually a fairly broad gulf in most instances and for most left-leaners between characterizations of the everyday progressive and the extremist fanatic! The same can surely be said for the divide between the “traditional” conservative and today’s more extreme Tea Party/Christian Right membership.
Of course, the fear-inducing drastic-fanatic-destructive liberals/progressives message is much more effective than suggesting that those on the Left have concerns and are willing to openly and honestly discuss them, Right? And in keeping with the inclination to arrive at quick, no-looking-back conclusions, simply defining policy proposals from the left as “just-this-close-to-Armageddon” upheavals is a fine tactic!
Misleading and usually quite false, but effective, especially if actually having honest discussions to try and find meaningful solutions is not a high priority. What’s to be gained by achieving compromise and resolution? There’s not much room for keeping the faithful stirred and shaken if that’s where both sides wind up.
Duly noted that the entire approach is a quick and easy justification for refusing change at all, which of course serves to … well … not resolve anything. So there’s that.
KEEPING THE DOORS CLOSED
Blind acceptance of custom and tradition saves thinking time! Whether “tradition” has some or any application in any particular instance is open to debate, but if debate is also not on the agenda in order to keep everyone stirred up so as to benefit … well, certainly none of them, then there’s no point in having the debate. Seems to be working out swell for all us!
I’d like to think that the large majority of those of us on the left side of the widening cultural and political divide aren’t any more interested in supporting “fanatic revolutionaries” or “wholesale change” than those on the Right. But we never even get to that point early in the conversation because conversation might lead to information and understanding and respect/appreciation for different perspectives, which would make each side realize the other is not actually composed of Satans-in-training.
Can’t risk that, Right? It’s best to keep supporters focused on “wholesale” and “catastrophic.” That leaves little time or room to consider both the inevitability of change and meaningful participation in how to best effect and adapt to life in the 21st Century.
In a world this complex, every change can be artfully defined as drastic! Why not try toning down the rhetoric just a bit? That risks compromise and a more peaceful, cooperative citizenry seeking to better themselves and others in the process.
Actually, that might not be such a bad idea after all….
~ My Photo: Contrasts At Sunset Along The Coast – 05.15.16 ©
Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows
Be the change you want in the world – Gandhi
The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because
of those who look at it without doing anything – Albert Einstein
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As I state in the “About Me” section, I’m driven by an intense commitment to learn why those on the conservative side of the fence view so many matters of great importance to us all so differently than do those of us on the progressive side. Those contrasting behaviors, beliefs, and ideologies are contributing factors to the very problems we’re trying to solve—the ones we must solve if our own ambitions and our hopes for a peaceful and prosperous world we leave to our children are to be well-served.
If we don’t recognize and accept that bitter partisanship is not always the wisest or most beneficial strategy, the goal of a better future will forever be as far away tomorrow as it is today.
The late Senator Paul Wellstone’s observation continues to hold far more truth and power than we give it credit:
We all do better when we all do better
Why make setting up inevitable and enduring conflict the primary objective of policy and planning?
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Life Will Answer – Thought-provoking inquiries & observations about how (and why) Life does … and does not, work for everyone. [Inspired by my book of the same name].